Spinach Strawberry Salad with Candied Almonds and Poppyseed Dressing

Even though it is technically still spring right now, where I am, the weather has been in the 80’s this week and that makes me think of summer.  Summer makes me think of eating lighter and that’s what led to this summery salad of spinach and strawberries.

To start this salad, I need to make the candied almonds first.  I’ve been trying to find healthier snacks, since summer is approaching.  So, I bought this huge bag of raw almonds.  They are not the tastiest thing compared to roasted and salted almonds, but I’ve come to enjoy the fresher, cleaner flavor.

So, since I have this big bag of almonds, I thought it would be good to add to the salad for a crunchy texture.  But, I couldn’t just leave them plain and naked.  It just wouldn’t stand up to the strawberries or dressing in this salad.  So, I had to dress them up.

So, here’s what I did.  Start by bringing to boil, brown sugar, water and cinnamon.

**The original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, but next time I will reduce that to a 1/2 cup.  It ended up being too much liquid, even after reducing.

Throw in the almonds and let it come back to a boil.

Once it’s rapidly boiling, turn the mixture to medium heat and stir constantly with a spoon.

It will eventually reduce down to a thick, rich syrup.

Spoon the almonds onto a baking sheet with wax paper and allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Now for the poppy seed dressing.  Just throw in all the ingredients and stir until the sugar is melted and combined.

This dressing is perfect for spinach because it cuts through the mild bitterness of raw spinach.  It also just looks so pretty with the stratified layer of sesame and poppy seeds.  Yes, I said stratified!!

Here’s the whole thing all put together.  When you take your first bite, please make sure you get all the components onto your fork in one bite.  You’ll understand why when you combine the bitterness of the spinach, sweet juiciness of the strawberry and crunch of the almond, smothered with poppy seed dressing goodness.  That’s serious YUM!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing and Candied Almonds

 

Salad:

1 bag baby spinach

1 pint strawberries, sliced

Layer spinach, strawberries and candied almonds in a large bowl.  Pour on the poppy seed dressing right before eating.

 

Dressing:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp sesame oil

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a measuring cup and stir until the sugar melts and the dressing becomes viscous.  This will make more than you need, so you can store for future use.

 

Candied Almonds:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups whole almonds

Combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil; add the almonds. Cook and stir the mixture until the liquid evaporates and leaves a syrup-like coating on the almonds. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the almonds onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Separate almonds using forks. Allow to cool about 15 minutes.

This will make more than you need, so you can store in an air-tight container for future use.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Muffins

Before I begin, YES, I do realize this is only my first post of this month and it’s already December 21st.  Does that tell you a little about my busy life right now?

Amongst all the normal preparations for Christmas…………..I’ve hosted and attended several parties……………Helped  my son with his science fair project……………..Attended weekly Bible Study……………..Helped the kids study for Chinese school midterm exams……………….Crocheted like crazy for Christmas gifts……………….Baked for neighbors…………and tried to remember to breathe.  Okay, enough with the excuses.  Let’s get to these muffins!

Is it bad that I hope my bananas go brown and mushy before my kids can eat them, just so I have a reason to bake these?  Well, after tasting these muffins, I would buy perfectly good bananas and let them go brown, just for this recipe!

Talk about moist and fluffy.  This definitely makes getting up in the morning a little easier.  Knowing these muffins are waiting for me in the kitchen, puts a little pep in my step in the morning!

Start by mashing your ripe bananas with a fork.

Mix and whisk all the dry ingredients together.

I felt that my hand mixer was getting a little jealous of my stand mixer, so I brought it out to play today.

After adding the dry ingredients to the wet, slowly fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Fill your paper liners 3/4 full and bake until your kitchen fills with the delectable smell of bananas and chocolate!

These muffins look even better sitting on this beautiful jade-green plate.  I got a set of these beautiful plates when my husband’s grandmother died this past summer.  They remind me of her and the colors of New Mexico, where she lived.

Thank you Grandma Katie, we love and miss you!

Moist Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Adapted from Curious Foodie

 

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup milk

2 small eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 20 muffin cups or line with muffin papers.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Combine bananas, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with hand mixer
4. Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix!
5. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
6. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, fill it till 3/4 full.
7. Bake until muffins are golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, for about 20-25 minutes. (10 to 15 minutes for miniature muffins)
8. Cool muffins in tray for 5 minutes before transferring muffins to cooling rack to cool completely.