Before I tell you what’s in this salad, let me tell you a tale of a Christmas party a couple of years ago. I was assigned to make salad for more than 100 people and this salad immediately came to mind.

“Ooh, I know, I know!” I said. And I told the people in charge what was in the salad.
“Hmmmm…I don’t know…a lot of people don’t like those things…”
“Just trust me,” I told them.
They were hesitant. There was discussion of leaving things off the salad and letting people put the toppings on themselves. Finally, the night of the party came and, as things tend to do at large gatherings like that, it became very hectic and we put everything in the salad, thus eliminating the option for people to top their own salads. And guess what? Every single bite of salad got eaten. There was not enough. This recipe has been requested of me more times than any other recipe I have. So trust me, little chickens–I promise not to lead you astray!

Candied Walnut Salad
2 heads of leafy greens; 1 can be a bag of spinach (I like 1 bag of spinach and a head of Romaine or just 2 heads of Romaine)
3/4 c. Craisins
2 crisp apples
Orange juice (enough to toss apples in to prevent browning and add a little flavor)
2 oz. blue cheese or Gorgonzola (I prefer Gorgonzola; it’s milder, but harder to find and more expensive)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. sugar

1. Wash and chop lettuce. Set aside to drain.

2. Now…Sara’s method for caramelizing nuts is awesome, and it’s especially good for oily nuts like macadamias and cashews. However, walnuts are lower in oil and I like doing them this way because I don’t have to worry about putting them in the oven. Because, you know, one less dish to wash is never a bad thing in my house.
Anyway, to candy the nuts, combine walnuts and sugar in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly. After a few minutes, the sugar will look very fine and then a few minutes after that, it will start to liquefy. This is when you have to be absolutely vigilant about scraping the bottom of the skillet and making sure everything gets stirred around. The syrup will begin to darken and will coat the nuts. When they reach a golden brown color, remove from heat. Stir occasionally as the nuts begin to cool. After a few minutes, spread candied nuts onto a greased piece of parchment or wax paper or a greased cookie sheet and allow to cool completely. Set aside.

3. Chop blue cheese or Gorgonzola very finely. You want crumbles, not chunks.
If blue cheese absolutely gives you the ookies and you CANNOT handle the thought of it (the flavor in the salad will be very mild, I promise!), you can use another strong cheese like feta. But I really, really think you should use the real thing… :)
4. Chop apples and toss in orange juice.

When ready to serve, toss lettuce, cranberries, walnuts, apples, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Add dressing if desired; it really is better all mixed together rather than on top, but the dressing will wilt any leftovers.

So there we have it!

You guys have your work cut out for you, but Sara and I–we’ll be kicking back in our pajama pants with some hot cocoa because we are DONE cooking for December! That’s not entirely true–we’ll be around for the rest of the month, but all the recipes that we post will be easy, low-mess, low-fuss recipes to help you enjoy the craziest part of the holiday season. Speaking of the craziest part of the Holiday season, what are you most looking forward to?

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