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Mmmm mmmmm mmmm. This salad is a perfect side dish to any lunch or dinner. I had it with chili…doesn’t exactly go, but don’t worry. I still devoured it.

Sometimes (and this is somewhat of a rarity) I like to cook. Cook, you say? But I run a baking blog. How can I only sometimes cook? I don’t have the patience for it. You have to wait to simmer, wait to boil, wait to cook. I can’t tolerate it. I’m all for the instant gratification.

However, a few weekends ago I decided to brave the cooking waters. I mean it was a salad, so let’s not get too excited. But it was a pretty darn tasty salad at that.

One of my friends recommended this recipe after her aunt brought it to a tailgate. Lettuce, cranberries, and carbs? I’m game.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about this orzo phenomenon that’s sweeping Pinterest, but I see it in far too many recipes. I don’t even really know what it is. Is it a rice? A grain? All of the above? Only one way to find out!

"Image" "Salad" "Food" "Almond" "Orzo" "Cranberry" "Spinach"

Gaaaaaaah! Look at that finely chopped spinach. My hands were a lovely shade of green after that lovely endeavor.

I began this recipe cooking the orzo (turns out it’s a grain). While that was boiling away, I began the laborious process of chopping spinach. One of my friends is a bit of a lettuce snob. It’s got to be so fine, she can barely tell she’s eating lettuce. Something about the texture?

Seeing as this is a salad, it was pretty much toss and serve after that. Throw in a few cranberries and almonds, and we’re good to go!

However, I decided to get a little craftier. If I’m cooking, it’s go big or go home, eh? So, I decided to make my own dressing. Again, let’s applaud my efforts for this amazingly daunting task (sarcasm because it was simply throwing together some oils, spices, and seeds).

This recipe is perfect as a side dish for a chicken for dinner. You can also opt to serve it at lunchtime either solo or alongside a sandwich. Either way, the almonds, cranberries, cheese, and dressing from a borderline obscenely pleasant melody of flavors. Even better, it’s just some toasting, tossing, and then my favorite part eating! Honestly, the hardest part is chopping up that darn spinach. Give it a taste. Try some of the orzo. It’s definitely worth it.

"Image" "Salad" "Food" "Almond" "Orzo" "Cranberry" "Spinach"

You can see the seeds on the dressing, something I felt brought added depth to the salad. ….and now I sound like Rachel Ray.

Spinach, Almond and Orzo Salad with Cranberries

Adapted from: The Family Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat orzo, uncooked
  • 3/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • about 3/4 of a 6 oz bag of baby spinach, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 oz gorgonzola, crumbled

For the dressing:


  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (I toast in a nonstick skillet over med heat for about 5 minutes)
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup light flavored oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook orzo according to instructions on package, set aside to cool completely.
  2. To prepare dressing,  whisk together in a small bowl (or shake in a jar) sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, vinegar, oil and pinches of salt and pepper.
  3. In a large salad bowl combine orzo, almonds, spinach and cranberries. Gently toss ingredients with 1/3-1/2 amount of dressing, add more or less to your liking. (I don’t like my salad overdressed.)
  4. Add crumbled gorgonzola and gently toss again.
  5. Serve immediately at room temperature or slightly chilled.
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