Spinach Strawberry Salad with Coconut Quinoa and Honey Lemon Dressing

The first few days after my last exam over are a weird time for me.

Each exam looms large and foreboding in the distance, like an obstacle I just can't see behind.  But then, one blessed day, I'm done. DONE. But what now?

One day of totally vegging out in front of the t.v. is fine. One day of deep-cleaning my entire house is usually in order too, but then what?

I've been longing for free-time all semester, but now that I finally have it, I don't know what to do with myself.

I think part of the reason I find this so problematic is that I know I am part of a culture that is plagued by the disease of being busy

I've told myself that my busyness is just an inevitable part of being in law school and that once I'm back in the working world, I'll have more ability to incorporate rest and free-time into my schedule. 

But here I am with tons of free time, and you know how it makes me feel?  Antsy.  You know what it makes me want to do?  Plan things. 

W.B. Yeats once wrote that "it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield."  This is why we like being busy. Busyness distracts us from the unanswered questions in our heart, the nagging doubts about a decision we made, the guilt we feel about letting a friendship slip away. 

Those thoughts are starting to slip in for me now, mostly in the form of uncertainty about what happens when I graduate next year.  In a couple weeks, I will be back to routine and busyness, but in the meantime, I am going to do my best to sit with the uncomfortableness and the angst, to FEEL all the feelings and THINK all the thoughts. 

But, I'll also be drinking lots of wine and making lots of fun recipes for you guys, so there's that. 

Late spring/early summer is the prime time for strawberries in North Carolina.

For the past two years, I've gone strawberry picking in May and then made you a strawberry-inspired recipe.  Two years ago it was strawberry banana walnut bread.  Last year it was strawberry pretzel cheesecake.

This year I'm going a little healthier with this spinach strawberry salad with coconut quinoa and honey lemon dressing.

I was aspiring to make a filling lunch salad with this recipe. I love a simple side salad with spinach, strawberries and almonds, but if a salad is going to encompass my whole meal, I need some cheese and some protein.

Enter the goat cheese and the quinoa.  The tangy goat cheese pairs well with the sweetness of the strawberries, and the quinoa is amped up in both flavor and richness by the presence of the coconut milk.  This salad is filling, healthy, delicious, and just plain beautiful.

It's going to be my sustenance during this period of rest and reflection. Strawberries totally have superpowers, right?

Spinach Strawberry Salad wtih Coconut Quinoa

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup coconut milk
pinch of salt
6 cups spinach or mixed greens
1 pint strawberries, sliced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
handful of sunflower seeds
handful of sliced almonds (you can also toast them for even more flavor)

Add coconut oil to a small sauce-pan. Once melted, add quinoa. Stir for 1-2 minutes to toast quinoa, then add the coconut milk. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool, or place in fridge to speed up the cooling process. (The quinoa can be made ahead-of-time for easier prep!)

In a large bowl, combine spinach, sliced strawberries, quinoa and goat cheese.  Drizzle in some of the honey lemon dressing. Toss salad together and place in bowls or plates. Sprinkle with almonds and sunflower seeds. 

Honey Lemon Dressing

1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice from one lemon
salt and pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for later use.

  • All together, this recipe serves 4-5 people. Feel free to reserve extra quinoa, goat these, and honey lemon dressing in the fridge.


  1. Oh gosh I get the same way - I'm so antsy when I have time on my hands! But it's something I'm really trying to work on!

    This salad looks just wonderful! Where do you guys go strawberry picking around here??

    1. Ashley, we went to Smith's Nursery in Benson. It's about a 30-40 minute drive from Raleigh. I loved it! They sell maple view ice cream, other fruits and veggies from their farm, and homemade pickles and jams.

    2. Awesome, thanks!! Homemade pickles too?? haha I love it! Sold!

  2. This salad is a BEAUTY. I know what I'll be lunching on for the rest of the week...and i think I already have all of the ingredients!! Also, totally feel you on having too much free time...I always feel like I have to be doing SOMETHING.

  3. Spinach and strawberries are a match made in heaven - lovely salad!

  4. Congratulations on finishing your law exams!!!! I know how hard it can be to adjust to life after you're done with something that you've put so much energy and time into! This salad looks so spring like, and since I've been all about salads lately, I'm totally going to have to add this one to my list!