Spinach Caprese Salad with Sweet Vinaigrette

I've been doing quite well maintaining my healthier lifestyle the past few months—I've even managed to lose a little weight, or at least I had until cookie baking season rolled around. Having cookies in the house is more temptation than I can resist, so I've tried to make eating healthy as simple as possible. My current go-to meal comes in the form of these festive looking salads. I love that they can be made several days in advance and the ingredients kept on hand for those times when I'd rather stand over the kitchen sink and devour my most recent batch of cookies (and lets be honest, we've all been there.) With these salads on hand, no matter how busy I am with holiday preparations I have a healthy lunch at my fingertips and I can't make excuses for eating an entire tray full of cookies during a fit of hunger (or insanity.)  

Spinach Caprese Salad w/ Sweet Vinaigrette

Spinach Caprese Salad with Sweet Vinaigrette
makes 4 servings + extra vinaigrette

Ingredients

for the salad

6oz baby spinach
8oz fresh mozzarella pearls
10oz grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
fresh ground pepper, to taste

for the vinaigrette

¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon minced garlic, dried
¼ teaspoon parsley, dried
⅛ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes, crushed
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil or other oil of your choice

Directions

for the salad

  • Layer baby spinach with fresh mozzarella pearls and sliced grape tomatoes. Top with sweet vinaigrette and black pepper.

for the vinaigrette

  • In a small saucepan combine the cider vinegar and sugar, turn the heat to high and cook until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 - 3 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before continuing.
  • Add sea salt, dried minced garlic, parsley, fresh ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to the still-warm vinegar. Slowly add oil, then stir or shake until well combined. 
  • Vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container for approximately 2 weeks (I use a half-pint mason jar.) The ingredients will separate, so you'll need to shake the jar to combine the ingredients before serving.

Notes

If you want to turn this into a mason jar salad to-go, wash and completely dry your jar. Put a tablespoon or more of vinaigrette in the bottom of the jar. Add enough tomatoes to completely cover the vinaigrette, add a layer of mozzarella, and finally spinach. Don't let your mozzarella sit in the vinaigrette, it will start to form a hard skin and turns somewhat rubbery.

Place a small square of paper towel at the top of the jar to soak up any condensation. This will work wonders to prolong the life of your salad. Seal the jar and refrigerate until you're ready to eat. Mason jar salads are best when consumed in 2-3 days, although a large batch of vinaigrette will stay fresh for at least two weeks.