Brown Bag Thursday: Fries with that Apple Salad?

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The goal is to bring lunch from home once a week, but there's just so many super-sized distractions. I'll admit it. Yesterday I had lunch at McDonald's. Oddly enough, I found an idea for a seasonal, quick lunch lurking on the McDonald's menu.

The McDonald's Fruit and Walnut Salad is green and red apple slices mixed with red grapes. Two other compartments in the airline food style package provide candied walnuts and vanilla yogurt.

This morning, I'm re-creating this lunch at home. The biggest challenge is to get my yogurt dip to taste as good as the McDonald's version. McDonald's doesn't say where this secret sauce comes from. (We probably don't want to know.)

The yogurt, which doesn't seem to have any healthy active cultures, has a strong, super-sweet vanilla taste with a texture that's truer to instant pudding than yogurt. Does anyone have any other suggestions on how to get that grandma's yellow cake style blast of vanilla goodness without going overboard and adding more sugar to the yogurt?

I tried adding vanilla extract to my Stonyfield Farm vanilla yogurt to dial up the flavor, but that wasn't the flavor McDonald's had. Next time, I'll put some yogurt in a coffee filter to strain over night in the fridge. That should get me closer to the texture of the McDonald's sauce.

McDonald's seals a gas into the pre-packaged salad to keep the apples from turning brown. I'll steer clear of the science and thow my apple corer in my bag with the rest of my lunch. I've heard that you can also sprinkle Vitamin C powder on apples to keep them fresh and crispy.

The crumbs of candied walnut are a treat too. Today, I'm just taking the walnuts plain, but next time I'm up for more flavor experimentation. Instead of making the walnuts sweet, they could be flavored with a mild curry. Might be an interesting flavor against the apples and yogurt?

This McDonald's dish is their take an old-fashioned dish with New York City roots, the Waldorf Salad. For more ideas in this style, check out Vanessa's version using grapes and blue cheese or search Epicurious.