I adore the Fourth of July. Love, love, love it. It’s my favorite holiday of the year and, in my book everything about it is perfect. Ever since I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait for the day to come around. I loved getting up, putting on a swimsuit, helping my mom make homemade vanilla ice cream (helping means getting to lick the paddle clean!), and packing everything up to head to the lake for a day of swimming. We’d stop on the way, pick the perfect bit of curb on Main Street, wave our flags, and watch the parade.
After a day of swimming, we’d come home, clean up, put on our patriotic best, and head to the park for fireworks. We’d back the truck in and sit on the quilts we’d piled into the bed. I loved the patriotic music and the magical, sparkling bursts that lit of the sky over our little park. Even as a child, I recognized just how pure the moment was when my Pappo and all the other men in town removed their caps and respectfully held them over their hearts as our national anthem played.
These days, my July Fourths are spent in South Carolina with the greatest group of friends anyone could ever hope for. Just like my childhood, we get up, prep the day’s meal, and put on our swimsuits. There’s no lake and no Main Street parade, but the time together is priceless. We spend the day in the water, then clean up and head down to watch the fireworks from the beach. We bring our own music, and when the Star-Spangled Banner plays, I get chills as I say a prayer of thanks for all those who have sacrificed for our country and wish I could have just one more Independence Day to stand next to my Pappo.
We eat pretty well, too. My friends and I all love to cook, so there’s no shortage of food. We’ll usually smoke a pork butt, fix a batch of cole slaw, grab some potato chips, grill some corn on the cob, and cut up a watermelon. It’s delicious, but it’s not entirely healthy.
That’s where this salad comes in. On top of dessert, it’ll be my contribution to this year’s spread. It’s packed with tons of fresh fruit, spinach, and lean protein. It’s easily adaptable for your preferences, so feel free to change up any of the ingredients or amounts. Couldn’t find any good strawberries? Use raspberries or watermelon instead. Not a fan of onion (though you really should give it a shot here)? Leave it off. Nut allergy? Nix the almonds.
Just like so many of you will be on the Fourth of July, this salad is perfectly outfitted in red, white, and blue. I hope you’ll enjoy it with those you love, in good health, and with a heart full of appreciation that, despite our differences, we live in country where each of us has the inalienable right to make our voice heard for our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Strawberries, blueberries, and goat cheese keep your Fourth of July table patriotic and healthy in this red, white, and blue salad.
Red, White, and Blue Salad
an Apple a Day original
For the dressing:
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar (the thicker the better; I used an amazing wild blueberry balsamic from Sedona Olive Oil Company)
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of salt
For the salad:
1 (5 oz.) container baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. chicken or turkey, shredded or chopped (omit for a vegetarian salad)
1 crisp red apple, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
3/4 lb. strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters or eighths
1 pt. blueberries
3 TBSP red onion, diced
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 c. almonds, toasted and chopped
1. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake to combine. Set aside.
2. Assemble the salad by layering ingredients in the order written. Drizzle with dressing or serve on the side for each person to dress their own salad.
Yield: 4 entrée or 8 side servings