My Go To Everyday Salad with Pecans, Dried Cranberries and Feta - Recipe

Go To Everyday Salad - Recipe www.FoyUpdate.blogspot.com

This is one of my back pocket recipes.   The one I turn to if we have a guest drop by and dinner needs to stretch a little farther or I didn't plan lunch or I realize dinner has zero green veggies.  If I have lettuce on hand than I probably have everything else.  It's a nice option for a side salad with dinner or make it a little larger for lunch.  The best part for me right now, is it is diabetic friendly with just 21 carbohydrates in the lunch sized serving. (The full nutritional information is with the recipe.)

That's right with my second pregnancy now in the third trimester(!) I have officially been diagnosed as gestational diabetic.  I failed the one-hour glucose screen just barely with a score of 138 mg/dL.  The cut off is 140 mg/dL, but I asked to be tested early.  Since I've had it before, I'm ready to be diagnosed.

Gestational diabetes will just get harder to control as the baby and placenta get bigger, releasing more hormones making my body more and more insulin resistant.  I've got just under two-months to go and if I'm lucky by controlling my diet and exercise I won't need medication.

I was diagnosed at 33-weeks pregnant when it is still very moderate for me.  I have some time to monitor my blood sugar and figure out how many carbs I can eat and when.  I should able to make small adjustments and keep myself and baby #2 a good weight or if I can't manage with diet and exercise alone, I'll know right away and my doctor can prescribe medication.

I've done gestational diabetes all before when I was carrying Junebug.  If you want the really detailed account of my first round with gestational diabetes you can find it here:  Gestational Diabetes - My Story and Recipes.
Spring Spinach - www.FoyUpdate.blogspot.com
Spinach growing under row cover at Hawkins Family Farm.  Photo credit: Hawkins Farm Instagram

In other news: It's spring, ya'll!  The local farm I volunteer with has lovely lettuce and spinach growing under row covers.  These early harvests are so tender and sweet since there hasn't been any hot weather to make them bitter or tough.  For the last couple weeks I've been eating lots of salads.  It makes me happy after a long winter of frozen greens and cabbage.

However, not much besides the lettuce and spinach are ready to harvest.  The toppings for the salad still need to come from the pantry.  I love the combination of something nutty, something sweet and something salty.  Of the random combinations of these that have come out of my cupboards, my favorite has been pecans with dried cranberries and feta cheese.  Actually, goat cheese has been my favorite, but we don't always have goat cheese on hand; we almost always have feta.  Then I make a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Also an anytime favorite as we always have balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic on hand.

This salad is wonderful as a side for pizza, or pasta, or meatloaf or really any dense main dish that needs a little something light and acidic to complement it.  Or use it as a base and serve a  hunk of meat like steak or a pork chop on top.

As the spring goes forward and moves into summer cherry tomatoes will replace the cranberries and we'll , add in grilled asparagus or leeks and later sauteed zucchini or winter squash.  

I must be hungry, despite just having eaten lunch, I want to eat all of those things right now.

I'm going to make the recipe below for the lunch-sized portion since that's what is in the photos.  If you want to make a side dish out of this reduce all the ingredients by a third.

Salad with Pecans, Dried Cranberries, Feta and Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Yields 2 lunch sized servings
Balsamic Vinaigrette - Nutritional information
from Spark People Recipe Calculator

6 cups of greens (baby, mixed, lettuce or spinach are all tasty)
1/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 ounces feta cheese

For the Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Yields 1 cup, or 8 servings (2 tablespoons each)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (if you have cheep vinegar, add a teaspoon brown sugar or molasses)
3/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


  1. Whisk up the dressing.  I like to use a jelly jar for this recipe because you can easily shake-up the dressing to mix the oil and vinegar together just before drizzling over the salad.  First add the balsamic vinegar to your jar.  If you use inexpensive balsamic vinegar that has a sharp flavor, mellow it out a bit with 1 teaspoon of molasses or 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.  Trust me, it makes a difference.  
  2. Salad without Dressing Nutrition Information
    from Spark People Recipe Calculator
    Mince the garlic with a chef's knife.  Make the garlic into a little pile on the cutting board.  Then sprinkle the 1/2 teaspoon salt over top.  Using the side of the knife blade squish the salt into the garlic.  By pulling the garlic through the salt you are using the sharp crystal form of salt to mush the garlic thus releasing all its garlic oil flavor.  This also prevents any chunks of garlic making a surprise appearance in your salad.  
  3. Add the salt-garlic paste to the vinegar along with the black pepper.  Put the lid on the jar and shake the whole mixture together or you can use a whisk.  Let the vinaigrette's flavors come together while you make the salad.  
  4. Clean your greens and chop them roughly until they are a nice forking size.  Did you know you aren't supposed to cut salad with a knife during dinner, you must only use your fork to fold the greens into manageable bites?  It's true; it's an etiquette thing.  As the cook you should make your salads fork-able.  Also as the dish washer you should be interested in the less dishes to wash aspect of no knives. 
  5. Divide the greens into the serving bowls or plates, whichever you fancy. Top with the pecans, feta and cranberries.  Drizzle two tablespoons of the vinaigrette on the top.
Any leftover balsamic vinaigrette can be refrigerated until the next salad.

P.S.  It also makes excellent bread dipping oil if you aren't a gestational diabetic. I love dipping my pizza crusts in the leftover dressing when the salad is done.