I have been on what we call a “basic bitch” marathon the last couple weeks. Ogling comfy, over-sized sweaters, squealing anytime I see a pumpkin, and praying for overcast days perfect for a warm cup of tea. I even bolted to my closet Saturday night excitedly throwing on my most broken in sweatpants to enjoy the 60-degree night. Those broken-in sweatpants for the record, are Green Bay Packer fleece pants that are three sizes too large because I had to emergency purchase them 5 years ago at one of the coldest games on record back when I lived in Wisconsin. Worth it though, because I didn’t get knee frostbite at the game, and they are peak coziness when there is a slight chill in the air (even in San Diego).
I never used to be this bad, when I lived in the Midwest, the only saving grace of the colder months were the holidays (Halloween especially). But I could never quite get excited about anything other than spring and summer. Probably because jeans, and two pairs of sweatpants (including the a fore mentioned emergency sweatpants) weren’t enough to keep me warm at a football game. To be fair, that game was one of the coldest on record for that year. If memory serves, it was a warm 9 degrees. Despite not feeling my thighs for about three hours, it was an incredible experience and it didn’t dull our enthusiasm as you can see from the grainy five-year old picture of Jake and I below.
It has only been two years, but that bitter cold still is burned (ironic, right?) into my memory. So, I feel like I am finally allowed to enjoy all the things that autumn brings. Toss those pumpkins my way fellow spooky friend, watch me decorate my door with bats, and relish in over-sized sweaters without having to wrap myself in a down coat by Mid-October.
I even thought about going apple picking. But let’s not get crazy here guys. I am not what you would call “an apple picking girl”. I am more of a “let’s obsessively talk about how cheese is better at room temperature” type of girl. Which, we will discuss at some point soon, because it is a topic I am quite passionate about.
Like this fall salad. This salad is literally fall in a bowl, not just in taste. It even includes two of my favorite fall wardrobe colors, cranberry red and forest green. It is unstoppable. Moist, mustard crusted chicken provides the protein and smoky addition to this bowl of autumn. All of your taste buds will be working overtime to capture all the different notes in this healthy but simple dinner. Sweet dried cranberries swirl with the ever tart and controversial blue cheese, who mingle with the crunchy, nutty, almonds. To ensure that the blue cheese and sharp vinaigrette do not overpower this hearty but delicate salad, we have slices of the season’s sweetest apples. Feel free to pick the apples yourself. But make sure you enjoy them while they are in season!
For a completely biased, and pretentious opinion, I do believe that apples are much like tomatoes, I do not eat them unless they are in season (with the exception of jarred tomatoes). When you scoop up an apple in peak season, the skin is less waxy and tough. You don’t bite into a “mealy” one as often, and the overt sugariness is perfectly welcome. Biting into an in-season honey crisp can blow any doughnut out of the water.
Finding ways to enjoy them can be difficult outside of apple pies, or dipping them in peanut butter (or god forbid caramel). But including apples in a savory outlet? That is my specialty. I love eating them with a thick, delicate slice of brie, or a wincingly sharp cheddar. Tossing them in a salad also is a way to make them shine, especially when they have all these show stoppers to elevate them!
But before you panic, you do not have to use blue cheese in this salad! I conducted a poll among some of my co-workers the other day and was shocked to find out that not everyone is a blue cheese connoisseur like myself. Which is a shame, but I understand (even though you should try it again just to be sure), and I would suggest goat cheese as a substitute. You really need a nice tart, creamy cheese to create the same co-mingling of ingredients in this recipe. You will NOT be disappointed.
As a nudge to have you make this recipe, Jake, the love of my life and resident salad hater was actually excited to eat this (every single time). Which is shocking when it comes to anything that has a base of lettuce. That is my ultimate salad test, and it passed. He just required less blue cheese because he isn’t the biggest of fans. But he did admit it was a good way to enjoy blue cheese for someone that doesn’t particularly like it (or as he put it “hates it”).
That is a very clear win in my book.
Fall Apple Salad with Mustard Crusted Chicken Breast
Author: Allie Brendel
The most incredible fall flavored salad, bursting with juicy apples, sweet cranberries, almonds, and mustard chicken as some of the star ingredients.
Makes: 6 servings
- 1 pound of chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup whole grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 8 cups of romaine lettuce (or spring mix)
- 2 cups of kale
- 3 large sweet seasonal apples sliced (1/2 apple per serving)
- 1.5 cups of almonds (whole only 1 cup if sliced)
- 1.5 cups of dried cranberries
- 5-6 ounce package of blue cheese (not smoked)
- 1 tablespoon of sherry or red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Prep the chicken, lightly oil a 8x8 pan (or whatever deeper pan you have), mix the salt, pepper, and garlic powder together, rub it over the chicken, then smother the chicken in the mustard.
- Cover the pan with tinfoil, and baked until cooked through, about 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness. Mine took about 30 minutes. I suggest always checking the meat after 20 minutes.
- Remove chicken from the pan, place on a plate, pour the pan juices over the breasts and let rest while you build the salads.
- If you are making one large salad for serving, toss the kale and lettuce together, and evenly distribute the rest of the ingredients tossing.
- For individual servings, each salad should have about 2 cups of lettuce, and about 1/3rd cup of kale (a handful) as the base.
- Then 1/4 cup almonds, 1/4 cup dried cranberries.
- Then add the sliced apples, each salad should receive about half of an apple.
- Sprinkle about 1 ounce of blue cheese per salad or a little less depending on your preference. Goat cheese can be subbed if you are a not a blue cheese lover.
- Slice the mustard crusted chicken, and distribute an even amount amongst the salad portions.
- Serve with a simple vinaigrette of 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil (shake oil and vinegar in small container). Season with salt and pepper.