It’s nuts how enjoyable going green can be when you add a little sweet, salty and spice

If you’re feeling a little fluffy after days of nibbling Christmas cookies and candy, sipping hot cocoa and eggnog and dining on sumptuous Christmas meals, you may want to go green for a few days before the next holiday weekend of celebrating with food and drink.

I’ve got just the green salad for you. A bowl of fresh organic green and red leaf lettuces along with some romaine lettuce is far from ho-hum when it is tossed with slices of apples and Bosc pears, dried cranberries and your favorite blue cheese, all glistening with a light vinaigrette.

But what really makes this salad irresistible are the spicy pecans.

A couple of weeks ago my friend, Bobbie, hosted a cocktail party. There was a wide variety of food to nibble as our small group of friends sipped and visited. It was the spicy pecans, though, that seemed to have my name written on them. I kept reaching for a few more and then, just a few more.

I came home with Bobbie’s recipe for the pecans and within a few days I had made three batches of the crunchy, tongue-burning nuts. Well, they don’t have to burn your tongue. You can control how much pepper you add to the sweet, salty, spicy coating on the pecans.

When I was asked to bring a salad to a dinner last week, I decided to toss up one of my favorite green salads and sprinkle it with some of these hot pecans. I’m hooked. I’ve been eating the salad everyday since that dinner. And, I think I’ll be eating it everyday this week, too. It’s nuts, I know. But, believe me — this salad makes it so easy to go green and lighten up before the next major round of food and drink.

The pecans are not difficult to make. They toast in the oven before getting a finish in the pan on the stove with some sugar, salt and some kind of peppery heat. Bobbie told me she and her husband have experimented with different kinds of spicy heat, buying dried peppers and grinding them up before adding to the sweet, salty pecans.

I’ve been using Penzey’s Black and Red Spice, a blend of black pepper and cayenne pepper. A little goes a long way. I use a teaspoon of the blend to make 3 cups of pecans. Whatever you decide to use as the source of spicy heat, start with a light hand. You can always add more.

You’ll want to make plenty of these pecans before the New Year weekend. They will be nice to have out on New Year’s Eve. Put some out during the football games on New Year’s Day. They’re great with beer.

And, you may get on the salad kick along with me. Just keep the prepared pecans, once they’ve cooled, in an airtight container. Keep the container out on the kitchen counter. I forgot to tell you — these pecans are a real kick to add to your morning oatmeal. I know, it’s nuts!

It’s Easy Going Green Salad


  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (my favorite for this salad is Pear Balsamic from Vinaigrette)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 chubby clove garlic, minced


  • Green leaf lettuce (preferably organic)
  • Red leaf lettuce (preferably organic)
  • Romaine lettuce (preferably organic)
  • 1 tart, crunchy apple, cored, diced (mmm-hmm, organic, too)
  • 1 ripe Bosc pear, cored, diced (yup, organic)
  • Sweet, Salty and Spicy Pecans, broken (see recipe below)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Blue cheese, crumbled (My favorite right now is Hook’s Paradise Blue)

Put ingredients for vinaigrette in a jar and shake to blend. Set aside.

Just before serving, combine fresh greens with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour some of the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Remaining dressing can be stored in jar in refrigerator.

Sweet, Salty and Spicy Pecans

3 cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 cup (heaping) sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or sea salt

1 teaspoon Penzey’s Black and Red Spice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast until fragrant, about 25 minutes. Stir a few times so that they color evenly. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir to coat with oil. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat, until the sugar melts and just begins to caramelize and coat the nuts, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Continue to stir until the nuts cool slightly and the sugar stops caramelizing. Add Black and Red Spice to the nuts and toss. Transfer pecans to a plate to cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

  • You may want to experiment with another source of spicy heat, such as chipotle powder, hot paprika, chili powder.

3 thoughts on “It’s nuts how enjoyable going green can be when you add a little sweet, salty and spice

  1. oh my YES! Perfect in many ways. The greens look scrumptious and with the coated pecans enhanced beautifully. We do a similar coated pecan, though, because we are lucky enough to have Maple Syrup from trees here on our farm we use maple syrup as the “sweet coating.” Penzey’s spices are worth the effort to have shipped here. Frank’s sister still lives in Nebraska and occasionally she even gets into Omaha to shop in the Penzey’s store. Oh how we savor the times she does and make her tell us in detail what she sees there. 😀

    • Jane, how lucky you are to have your own maple syrup. For the past few years I’ve been trying to get to a place where I can watch the sap flow and be in on the whole sugaring process. For one reason or another, it hasn’t worked out yet. In the meantime, I buy the most local pure maple syrup I can find. It’s the only kind my two-year-old granddaughter likes on her waffles. Move over, Mrs. Butterworth!
      I am a huge fan of Penzey’s and The Spice House, too. I stop at Penzey’s just about every time I am in the Twin Cities.

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