An easy to make and delicious pomegranate salad — candied pecans, pears, pomegranates, dried cranberries, & feta cheese with a raspberry poppyseed dressing
Last year, we had Christmas dinner at my in-laws. My father-in-law is practically famous for his crazy delicious rolls (top secret recipe of his!) and they are always my favorite. I seriously love those rolls and will admit they take the priority space on my plate. These rolls are no joke — they are quite big and super filling. So, obviously, there has to be some strategy of how you can eat all the rolls and still fit in the other dishes. You know, like NBD but prime rib might also be on the table and I’m grabbing for all the rolls instead. 😂
Anyways, last year, there might have been a contender for those rolls….a very seemingly unpretentious salad. It consisted of mixed greens, canned pears, dried cranberries, candied nuts, and crumbled blue cheese (or maybe feta; I can’t quite remember). With a raspberry vinaigrette to top it off, I seriously had to re-think my strategy. Three rolls and tiny salad….or two rolls and bigger salad…or (😱) one roll and massive salad. I’m definitely being dramatic here, but the point is: amazing rolls AND out-of-this-world salad.
I can’t believe it has taken me this long to re-create a similar salad, BUT I do have it right in time for Christmas! This salad is filled with fresh fruit, crunchy & sweet nuts, and the most amazing raspberry dressing ever. The dressing is an easy blender dressing, but it is packed to the brim with flavor. It’s also super thick WITHOUT using any mayo!
I created this copycat (of my mother-in-law’s Christmas salad) salad as a side for a new frozen food line from the team behind EatingWell® Magazine. My family and I sampled a few of the frozen entrées and they were a huge hit!
Our favorite was hands down the Chicken & Wild Rice Stroganoff. It’s creamy, packed with veggies, has super tender and flavorful chicken, and all around a great meal! EatingWell™ frozen entrées are made better-for-you without preservatives or artificial flavors. PLUS they are so pretty they SHOW you the actual food in the package (you can’t say that about too many frozen meals!).
So; I’ll admit, the ingredient list on this recipe does look a little overwhelming. But I promise you, it is actually a quick salad and well worth the effort! Especially if you are putting on a nice Christmas or holiday dinner this year 🙂
Each component of the salad — the actual salad, the candied pecans, and the dressing each have very simple steps and come together easily. Start with candy-ing the pecans first, work on the dressing next, and lastly: combine all the salad ingredients and toss it all together!
If you are in a pinch for time or don’t have a desire to make a homemade dressing, a good alternative is mixing together (in equal parts) pre-made poppyseed dressing with a raspberry vinaigrette. Another time saver is getting packaged pomegranate arils so you don’t have to deal with removing all the arils yourself. Enjoy!
- 2 egg whites
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 cups (1 pound) pecan halves
- 1 bag (6-8 ounces or about 8 cups) fresh spring mix
- 1 cup heaping pomegranate arils
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 can (15 ounces) pear halves*
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard do not use regular
- 1/2 cup frozen raspberries completely thawed
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil canola or olive oil will work
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, whip together the egg whites, water, and vanilla until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
Add pecans to egg whites, stir to coat the nuts evenly. Remove the nuts, and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring and tossing every 15 minutes.
Thoroughly drain the pear halves and set on a cutting board. Very thinly slice the pears.
Toss together the spring mix, pomegranate arils, dried cranberries, pears, and feta cheese.
Toss to combine.
Combine all of the ingredients except for the oil and poppyseeds in a blender or food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are well combined. Slowly add in the oil in a steady stream. Blend until emulsified and smooth.
Stir in the poppyseeds. This dressing is supposed to be pretty thick -- when you toss it with the salad it does thin out a little with the juices from the salad ingredients.
Toss the dressing and candied pecans with the salad. Only dress and add pecans to what you will eat because leftovers don't do so well! You can store the salad, pecans, and dressing separately for delicious leftovers!
The amounts of toppings are general guidelines -- we like a lot of toppings to the amount of lettuce.
Special thanks to Bellisio Foods for sponsoring this post! They provided me with free EatingWell™ frozen entrées and have compensated me for my time in writing this post. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Chelsea’s Messy Apron going!