September Harvest Salad: Spinach, Apples, Sweet Potatoes, Crispy Rice, Tofu and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Welcome to my salad meal prep series! If you have followed me for a while now, you know I LOVE a good salad. I also am very guilty of spending WAY too much money at Sweetgreen and Chopt (especially while pregnant I need to stop lol.) But that’s why I created this fun idea of having a salad for every month. This salad is inspired by one of my favorite sweetgreen orders that I actually ate nonstop in the early 2nd trimester days. While I was craving it in August, I figured it would be a perfect September recipe to post. So, what’s in this gorgeous salad?

Spinach, almonds, goat cheese, apples, sweet potatoes, crispy rice (optional, but see my tutorial below on how to make a sweetgreen crispy rice dupe) and a balsamic vinaigrette. For protein, you can meal prep the crispy tofu that I show you how to make here OR you can make a bunch of hard boiled eggs. If you decide to do eggs, I would boil 1 egg per salad (so a total of 6 eggs.)For some reason, I was so averse to animal proteins until I hit mid second trimester in my pregnancy so I got really into tofu! Huge fan of this version here.

meal prep your own sweetgreen crispy rice!
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Ingredients

Adjust Servings
For the crispy rice
1cup short grain brown rice
2 1/2cups water
salt, to taste
1/2tsp garlic powder
1/2tsp onion powder
1/4tsp black pepper, or to taste
For the crispy tofu:
1block extra firm tofu
Avocado oil or olive oil, for pan
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
For the roasted sweet potatoes
3 medium sweet potatoes
3tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
For the apples:
2 apples, peeled and small dice
1tbsp maple syrup or honey
2tbsp lemon juice
1/2tsp salt
2cups cold water
For the balsamic vinaigrette:
1/2cup balsamic vinegar
1tbsp dijon mustard
1tsp honey (optional)
1/3cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
For the salad assembly:
Approx. 12 cups spinach (you can buy 2 6 oz bags or boxes)
Goat cheese, to taste (I bought an 8 oz log)
1cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
Roasted sweet potatoes
Crispy rice
Crispy tofu (or hard boiled eggs if preferred)
1recipe balsamic vinaigrette

Directions

1.

Prep the crispy rice, tofu and sweet potatoes at the same time. First up, for the crispy rice:

Rinse the short grain brown rice thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear. In a saucepan or pot, combine the rinsed rice and 2 1/2 cups of water with 1 tsp of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and let the rice simmer for about 30-35 minutes or until it's fully cooked and tender. Strain in a colander and run under cold water to reduce the temperature quickly.
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2.

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Season the cooked rice with avocado oil, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust accordingly if needed.
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3.

Spread the seasoned rice on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 20-30 mins until golden brown and crispy. Toss every 15 mins to remove excess moisture. The bake time can also be affected by how crowded your pan is. It can take up to 1 hour. Use a large pan and spread the rice out as much as possible for the optimal outcome!
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4.

Cool the rice off on the baking sheet. Once it comes to room temp, place on a paper towel to get rid of excess oil. store in an airtight container to maintain crispiness. Enjoy on salads or dishes for up to 2 weeks! Make sure to store properly!
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5.

NOTES FOR STORAGE: Store the crispy rice in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag with as much air removed as possible to prevent moisture from getting in. Place a small piece of paper towel on the bottom to absorb excess moisture if desired. Keep the container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and humidity. Moisture and heat can make the crispy rice lose its crunchiness and become stale. Periodically check the container for any signs of moisture buildup. Do not store crispy rice in the refrigerator as it can introduce moisture and cause it to lose its crispiness. Before using, give the crispy rice a quick visual inspection and a sniff test. If it looks or smells off, it's best to discard it.
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6.

For the crispy tofu:

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it with cooking spray. Dry off the tofu to remove excess moisture. Cut into cubes. Place on a sheet pan and toss with oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until crispy. Let it cool down before storing.
FOR STORAGE: Allow the crispy tofu to cool to room temperature before storing.Place the tofu cubes in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. To help maintain their crispiness, you can place a paper towel at the bottom of the container or bag to absorb any excess moisture. Seal the container or bag tightly and store it in the refrigerator. Crispy tofu can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Feel free to quickly heat in a pan or air fryer for 5 minutes prior to serving to re-crisp (optional.)
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7.

For the sweet potatoes:

Toss the diced sweet potatoes with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 25-30 minutes or until they are tender and slightly crispy. Set aside. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven while the tofu and rice are baking. Roasted sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
FOR STORAGE: Let the roasted sweet potatoes cool to room temperature.Transfer the sweet potato cubes to an airtight container or resealable plastic bag with a paper towel on the bottom to soak up excess moisture. Store them in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
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8.

For the apples:

Mix together the water, lemon juice, maple syrup and salt to form an anti-oxidation solution. Place the solution in a bag or container. Add the chopped apples to the solution, seal and store in the fridge. Do this while your other ingredients are in the oven for optimal use of time!
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9.

For the balsamic vinaigrette:

In a bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard and garlic. While whisking, slowly stream in the oil until the mixture is emulsified. You can also add all ingredients to a jar and shake it. Add honey if desired along with salt and pepper to taste. Store in a jar in the fridge all week.
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10.

For salad assembly:

Assemble spinach, goat cheese, chopped almonds, tofu, crispy rice, sweet potatoes and apples in a bowl. Serve with balsamic vinaigrette!
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