Thanksgiving Salad (Perfect for Holidays … or Any Day!)
~ An incredibly delicious, yet really easy salad recipe! Absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving and the holidays … but quick enough for busy-night family dinners, too! ~
In all this big, wide world, I have two absolute-favorite leafy green salads. (You’ll notice I diplomatically left the door WIDE open for favorite quinoa salads, pasta salads, fruit salads, dinner salads …)
Yeah – when it comes to salads, I have a lot of love to give!
But now you’re dying to know …
What’s green salad heartthrob #1?
Well, if you’re a long-time THKer, you might remember our Salad with Nuts, Feta and Cranberries. Gretchen and I have both been making it for years … long before we’d even met … long, long before THK!
It’s insanely good, and insanely fast! Might take you maybe three minutes to pull together, and that’s only if you take a call from your gabbiest friend part way through making it. Seriously – check it out! It’s a lifesaver everyone should keep close at hand … especially when you’re busy (but wait … aren’t you always!?!?!)! And it’s so good, no one will ever guess you threw it together just as you headed to the dinner party – while you buckled your toddler in the car, put the dog in his crate, and swiped on your lipstick.
But here’s where favorite salad #2 came in …
I’d been making fave salad #1 for so long, and every member of my extended family had (happily!) eaten it at multiple family gatherings. So, last Thanksgiving, I got inspired to concoct something new. I played around in the kitchen a little, and fell in love with salad all over again! Specifically, with this gorgeous salad!
Mmmmhmmm … you can see why! It’s absolutely loaded with goodies! Crunchy candied pecans, sweet and juicy fall pears, wonderfully tart dried cherries, and creamy goat cheese … all drizzled with a luscious maple-balsamic dressing.
Geez oh man – this salad is so good!
… So good that even my daughter, who generally eats salad only because she knows she really ought to, and who doesn’t like salad dressings … even she happily eats this salad (WITH DRESSING!!!! 😀 )! Night after night! We’re talking break-through, folks. Salad break-through.
It’s that good …
… So good that my son gleefully exclaimed, “This is awesome!” as he shoveled in another forkful. (I truly don’t make this stuff up!)
With the pears and dried cherries, it’s a perfect holiday salad for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, but it’s also waaaaaay too delicious to save for only special occasions! I’ve honestly already made it numerous times this fall, just for regular family dinners. It seems fancy-schmancy enough to elevate any ‘ole family meal, and it’s easy enough that I can quickly throw it together on a busy weeknight!
And there’s no shame in shortcuts and make-ahead steps (you know we love those here at THK!).
Yup … to make this ridiculously easy salad even more ridiculously easy … you can buy pre-crumbled goat cheese in a little tub, to save the couple minutes of crumbling it yourself. And you can make the dressing a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge. Oh – and those awesome candied pecans? They take about 5 minutes total, and can be made ahead, too!
Seriously so simple!
At “go time” – you just toss it all together! (And use all the time you saved to sign yourself up for Mom of the Year and Hostess with the Mostess!)
Lucky you … you’ll probably even have time to sign up for my “We Love Salad Fan Club”! After one taste of this one, you’ll want to be a lifetime member!
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Looking for More Great Thanksgiving Recipes? How About:
- Roasted Green Beans with Balsamic-Browned Butter – Best.Beans.Ever. (’nuff said)
- Kale Chopped Salad with Berries and Freekeh (or Quinoa) – bursting with serious flavor!
- Layered Ribbon Jell-O Salad – a traditional holiday family favorite!
- Hearty Fruit and Nut Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing – loaded with the flavors of fall!
- Italian Cannellini Hummus with Basil and Sun-Dried Tomatoes – perfect last-minute appetizer if the turkey’s running late!
- 5 ounces of mixed gourmet/spring greens
- 1 pear (such as d'Anjou), cored and chopped (to equal about 1¼ cups) (see note)
- 1 cup glazed, candied pecans (see note)
- ⅔ cup dried cherries (or cherry-flavored Craisins)
- 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
- a pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) kosher salt
- Place greens in a large serving bowl (or divide it among individual salad plates).
- Sprinkle pears, pecans, cherries, and goat cheese over top of greens.
- For dressing, whisk together balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, mustard, and salt until emulsified.
- Dress salad just before serving, or pass the dressing at the table.
Candied pecans: We definitely recommend using our super-easy recipe for 5-Minute, 4-Ingredient Candied Pecans. They add just the right amount of sweetness without going overboard on the sugar or adding corn syrup, butter, or other less-healthy ingredients. Alternately, if you use purchased candied pecans, be sure to read the ingredient lists and nutrition labels to find the best possible option.
Make-ahead tips: The dressing can be made a day or two in advance and kept, covered, in the refrigerator. If you're planning on making your own candied pecans (using our recipe), those can also be made in advance. For a little extra time-savings, look for already-crumbled goat cheese (which is also a bit less messy), rather than the little 4-ounce logs that you'll need to crumble yourself.
Serving tips: This salad is literally loaded with toppings, which is exactly how my family likes it best. Feel free to tweak the exact proportions to suit your family's tastes. Also, if you're going to serve the salad buffet-style and want to pre-dress it, it's important to add the dressing just prior to serving, so the greens don't wilt upon standing too long. Also, when pre-dressing the salad, you may want to reserve some of the dressing and offer it at the side, as some people prefer their salads more lightly dressed than others.