Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad

I’m pretty sure talking about salad is a first for me here.  Don’t get me wrong, I love salad.  The closer the warm weather gets, the more often I’m in the mood for one.  But I don’t usually have a recipe.  Like my soup, whatever sounds good gets dumped together and called a meal.  Trust me, it’s more appetizing than it sounds.

This salad came after a trip to Costco.  I had a bunch of ingredients that suddenly sounded delicious together and, for once, I actually kept track of everything I put in just in case I wanted to repeat it.  At this point, I’ve made it many times, so it’s time to pass it on as a tried-and-true recipe.

Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 1
Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 1

For me, the star of this salad is the sugared pecans.  They need to be made ahead of time, because they reach their crispy peak when they’ve cooled completely.

Sugared Pecans

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon water

2 cups pecan halves

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and the mixture bubbles.  Stir in the pecans.  Pour onto a greased baking sheet, spreading the nuts out as much as possible.  Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking time.  Keep an eye on them as they near the end of the cooking time so they don’t burn.  Pour onto waxed paper and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Sugared Pecans - Crafty Staci
Sugared Pecans - Crafty Staci

The next component that gives this salad its character is the dressing.  It’s fairly strong, so a little goes a long way.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 strawberries, mashed

1 tablespoon honey

pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a shaker or jar and shake until combined.  Shake again before each use.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette - Crafty Staci
Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette - Crafty Staci

The remaining ingredients for the salad, in whatever amounts you prefer, are:

fresh spinach

fresh strawberries

feta, blue or goat cheese

cooked shrimp or chicken

Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 2
Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 2

I’ve tried both blue and goat cheese and they were both delicious.  I love shrimp in this, but if you’re not a fan it would also be tasty with chicken, or no protein at all.

This is a perfect bite, with a bit of each ingredient.

Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 3
Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 3

My new favorite lunch.  And while we have some amazing strawberries in Oregon, thank you to California for sending some long before I can pick them here.  You’re my hero.

Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 4
Sugared Pecans and Strawberry Spinach Salad - Crafty Staci 4

Homemade Barbeque Sauce

I know Memorial Day is typically opening day for barbeque season, but with the iffy weather forecast we were looking at we went for homemade pizza instead.  My favorite is barbeque chicken, but we were out of barbeque sauce.  I always love making something that my kids think can only be found in a bottle at the grocery store.

After looking at several recipes, I cowboy’d it and just started throwing stuff into the blender.  Lucky for me, it’s good.  Really good.  Some of this in a bottle with a cute label would make a great Father’s Day gift.

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Homemade Barbeque Sauce

1 cup catsup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon brown deli mustard

1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup corn syrup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground smokehouse pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon GrillMates Smokehouse Maple seasoning

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring

1/3 cup water

Throw everything together in the blender. Blend for a couple of minutes, until everything is well-combined and the onions and garlic are chopped into tiny pieces. Pour into a saucepan. Bring to a boil on the stove. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. Cool.

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This seems very sweet if you taste it right away, but is much better after it’s spent the night in the fridge.  This is another recipe with flexible ingredients.  If you don’t want it as sweet, leave out some of the corn syrup or honey.  Spicer?  More cayenne.  I recently bought some powdered chipotle I’d like to try in it.  The smokehouse maple seasoning is optional.  If you can’t find it, but want the maple flavor, try substituting some maple syrup for the corn syrup.

If I had known it was this easy, I would have made my own barbeque sauce a long time ago.  I may never buy it again!

Jennifer’s Hanukkah Latkes

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a guest.  She is an extremely talented cook, which comes in handy since she’s routinely feeding the nine people who call her house home.  She and her family are gearing up to celebrate Hanukkah, so she’s agreed to share one of her favorite recipes with us.  Meet my sister, Jennifer! My name is Jennifer and I have not only followed Staci’s crafts on her blog since she started, but since I’m her sister I’ve pretty much followed her crafts my whole life. So naturally, I was really excited when she asked me to guest blog for the first day of Hanukkah…

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