Candied Walnut Cranberry and Goat Cheese Spinach Salad with a Cranberry Vinaigrette

Who can really count the number of times we daydream or zone out a day?  While we are driving somewhere (which can be quite scary), while we are walking, while we should be working or in class, at the gym, wherever!  Daydreaming, to be quite honest, gets me through the day.  But I don’t just daydream about anything, no. I dream up my next meal, what I am going to make for dinner that night or for the next time I get together with friends.

I don’t know how many people can pinpoint when they developed a certain hoppy or passion but when it comes to cooking I knew it was my passion the moment my daydreams turned into creating recipes and meals.  This is exactly how I came up with the concoction for this post.  Specifically, I was flying back from visiting a friend in Oregon around the holidays that I started thinking about holiday flavors and cranberry instantly popped into my head.  Yes, most people probably associate cranberries with Thanksgiving and the excellent pairing that is turkey and cranberry but for whatever reason cranberry is mostly just a wintery flavor that adds the perfect amount of punch to any dish, savory or sweet.

It was also not until recently that I became fond of walnuts.  For the longest time I stuck only to almonds, and not plain almonds but salted and roasted and delicious nuts that tasted nothing like the plain nut.  And although I have to admit that I am getting used to walnuts by coating them in a layer of sugar, I am getting used to them in particularly the same maner that I eased into almonds.

To me, nothing goes so well together as tart cranberry, creamy goat cheese, bitter spinach, and sweet walnuts.

Candied Walnut Cranberry and Goat Cheese Spinach Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package baby spinach
  • 4 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 tbl olive oil
  • 2 tbl balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  place the walnut pieces on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until fragrant. remove from oven.
  2. in a medium saucepan on medium heat add the sugar.  stir continuously until the sugar melts and forms a syrupy texture.
  3. Add the toasted walnuts to the melted sugar and toss to coat as much as possible. Place back on baking sheet and, using forks, separate the walnuts and let cool.
  4. in a separate sauce pan add the cranberries and orange juice on medium heat.  cook until the cranberries just start bursting, about 10 minutes.  strain the cranberries out and reserve the liquid for the vinaigrette.
  5. While the cranberries are cooling, in a small bowl combine 1/2 c cranberry liquid, olive oil, balsamic and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk together until combined.
  6. assemble the salad with spinach, goat cheese, cooled cranberries, candied walnuts and top with the vinaigrette.  ENJOY!

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