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April 27, 2010

Healthy Spring Lunch: Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

It’s that time of year when we pack away our winter coats, turn off our wood stoves, and begin to daydream about the season of fresh fruit and salad that seems almost within reach. Perhaps your friends down south are already enjoying food from their backyard gardens, but Maine’s growing season has yet to kick into gear. While the rest of the country’s got mesclun greens and asparagus, we’re living on carrots, potatoes, and anticipation.

Fortunately, recent warm weather has allowed farmers with greenhouses to get a jump on the season; for the past month, I’ve been able to find local spinach at my natural foods store. I’m craving raw, crunchy meals with bright flavors, so to this spinach I add fruit, nuts, seeds, and a sweet and sour maple mustard dressing.

This salad bursts with nutrition. Spinach is rich in iron, and the vitamin C in pears and cranberries make it easier to absorb. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Pumpkin seeds and almonds are rich in protein, heart-healthy oils, and minerals like calcium, copper, and magnesium. When I eat this salad I can almost feel my body waking up from its winter malaise and saying, “Thank you!”

Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

3 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, chopped
¼ small red onion, minced
1 medium pear, thinly sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
2 Tablespoons sunflower seeds
¼ cup sliced almonds

Dressing:
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
½ Tablespoon maple syrup
½ Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place the spinach in two bowls. Top with onion, pear, cranberries, pepitas, sunflower seeds, and almonds.

Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.

Serves 2.

Mary Lake is a writer, teacher, columnist for MF&L, and vegetarian blogger: Mitten Machen.

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