I just got back from a camping trip. A group of friends and their families headed out towards the Stanislaus River for a weekend of camping, of roughing it, of living, as it was, among the dust and trees. After several weeks of planning with everyone on how to have the best time possible, we left to go.
Only, in the midst of all the planning, I made a terrible mistake of going without Husband, as he was away on business that weekend. In my mind, I knew that I would be alone, but I am alone with Kids so often, how much harder could it be?
The answer to that is MUCH harder. To the point of exhaustion harder. Even with all the friends helping out, assisting, and pitching in, three kids on my own camping was not easy. Sleeping in the tent was fun for the kids so that wasn't hard. The hardest part for me was bathroom time. Every time Daughters had to go to the bathroom, or I had to go to the bathroom, it was an ordeal. Often I felt the need to call ahead to the toilets and make a reservation. "Choi family, party of four, may we have a stall please, in five minutes?" Son and Daughters, being as they were in a new environment, also could not allow ME to go to the bathroom alone. Yes, at home, they often like to watch me as I do my business, but suddenly on the campground, this became their obsession. And as I did my business, I would be barking orders like, "Don't touch that. Don't lean on that. Don't lick that. Don't sit on that. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash them again. Don't open the door." It was insanity. It came to the point where I thought that making everyone wear a diaper, including me, would be the easy solution.
In a moment close to a nervous breakdown, after the umpteenth trek and drama in the bathroom, I thought to myself, I need some civilization. I need to be in a place where I do not have to supervise bathrooms and where I can be calm and in control of things. I need a salad. And suddenly, I found myself craving a salad that there was no way I would be able to make while camping.
As soon as I got home, and began what would be a series of 15 consecutive loads of laundry over two days, I planned my salad. I knew what I wanted in it, and as soon as I had my ingredients I made it. And it was like a balm for my frazzled worn out nerves. Eating it brought such hedonistic pleasure to me, the salad was like my recovery from an overly-hectic weekend.
Don't get me wrong - camping was super fun and awesome and I had a great time. I just needed to have some of this salad there with me. Whenever things got too crazy, this salad would have fixed it for me.
Salad with Cranberries, Candied Pecans, and Blue Cheese
Serves 4 as a first course (or two as a main course)
5 oz bag spring mix
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup blue cheese crumbled (I used Gorgonzola, but a creamy danish blue would be nice as well)
1 cup candied pecans (see recipe below - you'll have leftovers) - or you can buy them.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
pepper to taste
Whisk ingredients together.
Candied Pecans (makes 2 1/2 cups - extras for nibbling)
2 1/2 cups raw pecan halves
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
vegetable spray for greasing pan
Preheat oven to 350.Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable spray.
In a saucepan over medium heat, add sugar, water, honey and cayenne pepper together. Stir until sugar is all melted. Add pecans to the mixture and stir until pecans are coated. Using a slotted spoon (so to drain off any excess syrup) place pecans onto greased cookie sheet.
Discard excess syrup. Roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the pecans are cooking evenly and are getting coated. Roast until golden brown.
On a work surface, lay another sheet of aluminum foil and lightly grease it. Carefully move the pecans from the cookie sheet onto the foil. Sprinkle with salt. Separate the pecans and allow them to cool.(Can be made 1 week ahead. Seal in an airtight container)
In a large salad bowl, toss greens with salad. Add cranberries, blue cheese and pecans. Toss gently. Serve.
For a more elegant presentation, toss greens in dressing and then plate. Top with bit of cranberries, blue cheese and candied pecans.
Where were you when I needed you?