{Recipe} Cosi Signature Salad Knock-Off

by Sally on January 28, 2015

COSI Signature Salad Knock-Off -- Real Mom NutritionI’ve got a thing for restaurant salads.

But I’ve also got a thing called a budget. So I try not to eat out very often, recreating my favorite salad combos at home instead. At Cosi, the Signature Salad is my go-to order. The salad base is easy: A bed of mixed greens topped with Gorgonzola cheese and studded with red grapes, pistachios, pears, and dried cranberries.

But oh, the dressing. The Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette that’s so good I want to drink it straight from the little plastic cup. I went off the rails trying to figure out that dressing. (The task was made even harder without sherry vinegar. I’m morally opposed to sharing recipes that use ingredients not commonly found at the grocery store.)

An entire afternoon, multiple bottles of olive oil, and too many shallots later, I had mixed up about a half dozen variations, including recipes from copycat Cosi Signature Salad blog posts just like this one. But none of them seemed right.

I became a little obsessed. My kitchen reeked of vinegar. I bumped into a friend at the store while I was carrying a shopping basket full of nothing but shallots. As I looked at her with what I’m sure were those cartoon swirly eyes and explained that I was desperately trying to recreate the Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette from the Cosi Signature Salad, even I heard the cray-cray in my voice. I hit rock bottom when I found myself standing at the stove, caramelizing shallots. Who has time to caramelize shallots for salad dressing? I don’t.

COSI Signature Salad Knock-Off -- Real Mom NutritionI was ready to give up when I stumbled on a recipe for Shallot Vinaigrette from Sarah’s Cucina Bella. In one exhausted, last-ditch effort, I whisked together a batch, making a couple of small modifications. Then I tasted it against the Cosi dressing.

At long last: Yes.

Cosi Signature Salad Knock-Off -- Real Mom Nutrition

Cosi Signature Salad Knock-Off
Serves: 2
  • 2.5 ounces mixed greens (half of a 5-ounce box)
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachios
  • ¼ cup red grapes, halved
  • ¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • ½ shallot, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, combine salad greens, pistachios, grapes, cheese, pear, and dried cranberries.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine minced shallot, vinegar, mustard, honey, and olive oil and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Drizzle desired amount of dressing on salad and toss well to coat.
  4. Store leftover dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

COSI Signature Salad Knock-Off -- Real Mom NutritionFor more recipes using Grapes From California in salads, go here.

Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with Grapes from California as a Blogger Ambassador. I am compensated for my time. All opinions expressed are my own.


Why Students Need Brain Breaks & How You Can Help by Real Mom Nutrition

Kids sit an awful lot in school these days. With some schools in the country limiting recess, reducing or even cutting PE classes, and placing a bigger focus on test scores (and test prep), children spend serious time being sedentary.

Why Movement Matters

Being seated for long periods of time has some major drawbacks for kids. Not only does it make it tough for them to get enough physical activity in the day, but it also makes it harder to actually pay attention and learn.

Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, writes in the Washington Post:

Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”

In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.

Movement actually does “turn on” the brain. Look how activity can literally light up areas of a child’s brain that allow for better learning:

Why Kids Need "Brain Breaks" by Real Mom Nutrition

How Brain Breaks Can Help

It may not be realistic for schools to add in more time for recess or extra PE. But students can easily be given “Brain Breaks” throughout the day. Brain Breaks are short, energizing bursts of activity that boost blood flow, send oxygen to the brain, and help kids better retain information. It can be as simple as taking five minutes to stand up, stretch, and run in place next to the desk. My son’s first grade teacher takes the class on a short walk around the building every day. Research has shown that Brain Breaks increase students’ on-task behavior AND the amount of physical activity they get every day so it’s a win-win. (Read more here.)

Ideally, students should get multiple Brain Breaks in the day and be active in other ways as well. Here’s an ideal schedule for students, compliments of fellow dietitian Dayle Hayes, who presented the information at a workshop I attended at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo:

  • Walk to school
  • Classroom learning with hourly energizers
  • Recess*
  • Classroom learning with hourly energizers
  • Recess
  • Classroom learning with hourly energizers

*It’s been shown that kids waste less food, eat more fruits and vegetables, and have better behavior when they have recess BEFORE lunch versus after lunch. (Read more here.)

What You Can Do

If you’re a teacher, consider incorporating Brain Breaks into the day. If you’re a parent, talk to your child’s teacher about the idea. Here are some resources and videos that make Brain Breaks easy and fun to do. And they’re FREE!

Move to Learn Fitness Energizers: More than 30 fitness videos for students K-8 with routines kids can do alongside their desks.

Energizers for Grades K-2: Ideas for incorporating academic concepts into physical activity, such as games that mix jumping and running in place with learning letters and numbers.

Go Noodle Brain Breaks: Tons of free, short videos to get kids moving in the classroom, including short Zumba routines (my son’s teacher uses these when they have indoor recess and he loves it!).

Time for 10: Free 10-minute fitness videos featuring fitness experts and kids, with themes like kickboxing, core, and flexibility.

Adventure to Fitness: Videos that incorporate physical activity and common core-aligned learning, like jogging (in place) through Yellowstone National Park. Free registration gives teachers access to some videos; more are available with a paid subscription.

Teach Train Love: This teacher has compiled several lists of fun Brain Break videos from YouTube.

Action for Healthy Kids: A Pinterest page full of classroom brain break ideas, including some for middle school.

Big thanks to Dayle Hayes for supplying the brain scan graphic and ideal school schedule. Check out Dayle’s blog School Meals That Rock and her School Meals That Rock Facebook page for ideas, inspiration, and photos of school meals from across the country that celebrate “what is RIGHT with school nutrition in America”.


How to Pack Lunch (Without Losing Your Mind)

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My friend, fellow blogger, and mom of two Brianne DeRosa of Red, Round, or Green packs a good lunch.  So good that her lunches inspired me to write the tongue-in-cheekly-titled Your Child’s Lunch Makes Me Feel Inferior and beg her to pack my lunch every day too (we haven’t figured out those logistics yet). Bri insists that these lunch boxes aren’t hard or […]

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The Truth About Fruit Snacks

January 14, 2015

Fruit snacks are fixtures in lunch boxes and party goody bags. They show up on soccer sidelines and are beloved by kids (yes, including mine). But for something that calls itself “fruit” and a “snack”, they’re also highly overrated. Here are the three biggest misconceptions about fruit snacks–and what ALL parents should know about these ubiquitous little pouches: Myth #1: […]

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10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters

January 12, 2015

My younger son is usually the toughest customer at the dinner table every night. But when he was about five years old, he asked me, “Mommy, what’s a picky eater?” I was glad he didn’t know what it was, because that meant he was never labeled as one. So while I don’t advocate for calling kids “picky”, I do […]

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January 9, 2015

I am so over seeing this headline: “Foods You Should Never Eat!” There’s a good reason I see it so much. It’s effective. It’s just sensational enough to draw you in, just scary enough to make you flip to the page or click through to the article with a single worry: Oh no, could I be eating one of those foods???? Yes, you […]

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My Word For The Year

January 7, 2015

I don’t put much stock in New Year’s resolutions, but I love the concept of choosing one word for the year. I first read about it on the blog InspiredRD, where Alysa Bajenaru links to a site called One Word 365 that encourages people to choose a word they can focus on every day, all year long. According the site, the […]

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Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches For a 40th Birthday

January 5, 2015

Turning 40 didn’t bother me. I jumped the gun and went through all the milestone’s complicated emotions when I turned 39. By the time my 40th came around, I was ready to embrace the next decade and savor the perks. Because everything they say is true: With age comes more confidence, clarity, and a certain je […]

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Last Year’s Resolutions: What Worked (& What Didn’t)

December 31, 2014

I set the same goal every single year: Drink more water. The ugly truth? I never, ever keep it. (It’s my worst health habit. I swear, I’m working on it!) So last year, I went another route. Instead of resolutions, I chose three “themes” for the new year for how I wanted to feed my kids (read: “Feeding My […]

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