Warm Spinach Salad with Sweet Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette

Hey there!  Did everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving? 
Did you stuff yourselves silly like we did? 

We have been nursing our sweet little boy back to health so I wanted to make something fast and light today.  Although, with a stick of butter in the vinaigrette, I’m not sure it’s light on calories.  But hey, all the healthy fruit and spinach cancels that out, right??  The warm vanilla bean vinaigrette is what makes this salad so special and I could seriously just drink it by itself.  It’s that good. 

Also, this salad is a good way to get some veggies into your kiddos because of the sweetness of the dressing and the fruit added.   It’s really a simple recipe and so yummy.  If you like vanilla or vanilla bean, you will love this salad.  Here’s what you need for the vinaigrette.

Melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan.

To that, add 3 TBS of brown sugar and 2 TBS of honey.  Then scoop in the pulp of a vanilla bean and stir together until brown sugar is melted.  Now, I know vanilla beans are pricey, however, I buy my vanilla beans in bulk from ebay for about $15 including shipping.  I get about 30 beans and if you wrap them up tightly and store them in an airtight jar, they will last forever.  I use vanilla beans a lot so this is a pretty good bargain for us.  Much better than paying 10 bucks for 2 of them in the grocery store. 

Transfer entire mixture to a blender.  If you don’t have a blender, just whisk for several minutes.

Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and pulse (or whisk) until combined (about 2 minutes).  While pulsing, add 3 TBS of olive oil continuing to pulse to incorporate.  Pour into a small pitcher and keep warm.

I’m telling ya, I could drink this stuff without any salad.  Look at all those yummy vanilla bean specks.  So much goodness!  Set this aside and grab a 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, toss them onto a small baking sheet and toast in the oven at 375 degrees for 5 – 8 minutes checking frequently.

Set aside to cool while you assemble your salad.  For the salad you will need a regular sized container of baby spinach, 3 oranges segmented (or a can or mandarin oranges, drained), a couple large handfuls of red seedless grapes and 2 red apples quartered and then cut into bite size pieces.  You could also add blue cheese crumbles if you like those, we do not, so I leave that out.

Combine your salad ingredients and drizzle the warm vanilla bean vinaigrette over the top.  Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

Warm Spinach Salad with Sweet Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette
For the Vinaigrette:
1 stick melted butter
3 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS honey
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBS olive oil

Melt butter in small sauce pan and then add brown sugar and honey, stirring until melted.  Add the pulp of a vanilla bean.  Transfer to blender and add vanilla extract and olive oil.  Pulse until combined.  Keep warm.

For the Salad:
1 package baby spinach leaves
2 handfulls red seedless grapes
2 red apples, quartered and cut into bite size pieces
3 oranges segmented, or one can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl and drizzle warm vanilla bean vinaigrette over the top.

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