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


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


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.


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.

Blueberry Chicken Salad Croissant

I've been on a blueberry kick lately, even though they aren't in season. I've made these fabulous blueberry muffins, blueberry cardamom smoothies (I'll be sharing those soon), and my all-time favorite lunch— blueberry chicken salad.

This delicious dish was one of the first I discovered when I came to visit my husband in Wisconsin (he lived there for nearly a year before we got married.) I came up to visit every opportunity I could, but I was working two jobs, finishing up my my senior thesis and catching up on work from the leave of absence I took the previous semester. My time to visit was both sporadic and limited, I'd often come up for a day or two at a time before turning around and making a marathon sprint back home (hopefully arriving in time for my first class on Monday.)

While I waited for him to get off of work I would walk over to the coffee shop near his apartment, grab a bite to eat, and attempt to get some work done. My favorite menu item was called the bluebird, a chicken salad made with dried blueberries, walnuts, and white cheddar served on a locally made baguette. It was delicious, addictive, and I knew I had to figure out a way to have it more often. After toying around with different ingredients and proportions for a few weeks I finally came up with something that tasted even better than the original. Seven years later it still remains one of my favorite things to make for lunch and since it uses dried blueberries it can easily be made year around.

Do you have a favorite go-to lunch item? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section below.


Blueberry Chicken Salad
makes 3 - 4 sandwiches


16 ounces chicken breasts
sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup chicken broth or stock
¼ cup dried wild blueberries
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup celery, diced
1 Tablespoon shallot, diced
 cup walnuts
mixed spring greens 
3-4 croissants


  • Lightly season the chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper, then place in a skillet with chicken broth or stock. Bring the stock to a simmer, cover the skillet and cook for 10 - 15 minutes on medium-low or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160°F.
  • Dice chicken, add dried blueberries, and cover while the chicken cools. The steam from the cooked chicken will rehydrate the blueberries.
  • Once the chicken has cooled add mayonnaise, celery, shallot, and walnuts. Mix well, then refrigerate overnight.
  • Serve on a croissant topped with mixed spring greens. Enjoy!


This dish is best when prepared in advance and allowed to sit overnight, but will be ready to eat after about 4 hours of refrigeration. It can be stored in a sealed container for 3-4 days.

Choose Your Own Grilled Cheese Adventure #ZPocEating

When the world is coming to an end and there are zombies everywhere you don't have time for anything fancy. Grab the first can of tomato soup you find, a baguette, Velveeta cheese slices, and some butter then make up a batch of mini grilled cheese sandwiches. They're a great on-the-go snack and when the zombies attack you'll need something to munch on as you run for your lives. I know you were smart enough to pack a cast iron skillet in your bug-out bag— they do double as a weapon after all. You should probably also pack a copy of Lauren Wilson's new book The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: A Cookbook and Culinary Survival Guide for some handy and hilarious survival tips and culinary suggestions such as today's choose your own grilled cheese adventure. I hope you enjoy today's recipe, check back tomorrow for a full review of the book.


Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


1 Baguette, thinly sliced
Velveeta or Kraft singles
salted butter
1 can of tomato soup or tomato sauce


Cast iron skillet


  • Slice the baguette into small rounds, butter one side, add ¼ of a Velveeta cheese slice and top with another buttered baguette slice. Place in a cast iron skillet and grill on medium heat until golden-brown.
  • Flip the sandwich and repeat until both sides are browned and the cheese is melted.
  • Serve immediately with a side of tomato soup for dipping, or eat as-is.


If you don't have a can of tomato soup we've found that tomato sauce works well for dipping, plus it doesn't contain the artificial ingredients you'll find in a can of condensed soup (Not that it will matter during Zpoc, I'm pretty sure healthy eating will go right out the window once you have a hored of zombies chasing after you.)

Here are some helpful tips from The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: A Cookbook and Culinary Survival Guide by Lauren Wilson (reprinted with permission from BenBella Books, Inc)

Choose Your Own Grilled Cheese Adventure

When the power goes out and you are looking for a way to use up bread and cheese, I mean, really—duh. Could there be a more perfect initial outbreak survival food? Grilled cheese sandwiches have it all—they are high in calories, and they contain fat, protein, and carbs. An ooey-gooey grilled cheese is one of the few foods that can remind you that life is still worth living and comes together in less than 10 minutes.

Plus, they offer an excellent opportunity for culinary improvisation. Along with the cheese, you can shove almost any ingredient between those two slices of bread. When melted, the cheese will act as a binder, making it a self-contained zpoc superfood. And if before biting into your perfect sandwich you happen to get distracted by the ever-growing number of biters outside, don’t fret! Virtually all grilled cheese sandwiches will taste just fine cold.

Many of the ingredients here might challenge your preconceived notions of “grilled cheese”—but hey, preconceived notions are so pre-apocalypse. It’s supposed to be a grilled cheese adventure, right?

Quick Tips

According to grilled cheese guru and James Beard Award–winning author Laura Werlin, there are a few foundations any grilled cheese adventurer should know:

  • Grate your cheese—to achieve consistent and quicker melting.
  • Get the right cheese-to-bread ratio— more cheese than bread, or “thick cheese thin bread.” Trim your bread down if you need to.
  • Spread the bread, not the pan— whether using butter, oil, mayo, bacon fat, what have you, spreading onto the bread directly will ensure better and more even crisping.
  • Use a nonstick pan—cast iron is great, but who has time to waste with sticking during the zpoc?
  • Flatten while cooking—use a light weight (a foil-wrapped can works great) or you can simply press with the spatula when you flip.
  • Go slow—keep the heat at medium or lower to allow the cheese to melt before the bread burns.
  • Cool it—let the sandwich cool for at least a few minutes before eating, it will taste much better this way.

To these most excellent tips I would add one further consideration of proportions, particularly when it comes to strong flavors. Strong cheeses like blue or Parmesan, sweet additions like jam, or strong mix-ins like bacon, kimchi, or olives can quickly overpower other flavors in the sandwich, so use them sparingly. Try to give thought, even if cursory, to achieving harmony in your GC—a happy ending to your adventure, so to speak.

Inspiration for Building a Great Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The categories here are by no means exhaustive, but use them as a jumping-off point to mix and match according to what you have on hand and your own personal apocalyptic flair.


Bagel, Baguette, Brioche, Challah, Ciabatta, Classic white Wonder, English muffin, Multigrain, Olive (or any flavored!) bread, Potato roll, Pumpernickel, Rye, Sourdough 


American, Blue (like Roquefort, Stilton, or Gorgonzola), Brie, Cheddar, Cream cheese, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyere, Havarti, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Parmigiano, Reggiano, Pecorino, Ricotta, Taleggio

Textural Enhancers

Blanched fresh veggies (like broccoli rabe, green beans, peas, and/or Brussels sprouts), Chips! (Corn, potato, whatever you’ve got), Pickled cukes, jalapenos, or banana peppers, Seasoned crushed instant ramen noodles, Toasted chopped nuts

Flavor Bombs

Bacon, Browned and seasoned ground meat, Canned tuna, Caramelized onions, Cold cuts, Fried Spam

Huitlacoche, Minced fresh herbs, Prepared horseradish, Sauerkraut, Sauteed mushrooms, Sauteed or roasted garlic, Sliced hot dogs


Adobo, BBQ sauce, Creamy salad dressings, Harissa, Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard (grainy, Dijon, yellow, Deli, etc.), Salsa, Sambal Oelek, Sriracha


Canned fruits (esp. pineapple and peach), Dried fruits, Fig jam, Honey, Maple syrup, Marmalade


This book was sent to me for review by BenBella Books, Inc. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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