Summer Blueberry Kale Salad has so much good-for-you stuff going on. We’ve got the kale, obviously; blueberries, which we know are packed with antioxidants; plus some healthy nuts and seeds, shredded carrots, and for sweetness a few dried cranberries. Everything is tossed together with an easy peasy honey balsamic vinaigrette.
Some people fear raw kale because on the stalk, it’s tough and you may not know what to do with it. But really, making a raw kale salad is no more difficult than any other kind of green salad, except for this one thing: add the dressing to the greens alone first and mix it well. When I say “mix well” I mean it, no gentle tossing. This isn’t baby spinach or field greens. Your hands are your best utensils so wash up and use them to “massage” the dressing into the greens. The idea here is that by “massaging” the kale with the dressing, the you are breaking down the kale just enough that it becomes tender and delicious. You know you’re doing the right thing when you see the kale turn from a dull, dark green to a bright, shiny green.
I love candied pecans. Are you with me on this? OMG, they are so very very good…and so very very bad for you. I tried to clean them up a bit, cutting out ingredients such as refined sugar and butter and simplifying the process. Making a cleaner, slightly less unhealthy version of candied pecans was fantastic, but I admit that I was driven to make them this way as a direct result of my not wanting to wash a baking sheet. Don’t ask me why, but I hate washing cookie sheets. They are unweildy, they don’t fit well in my sink, and they end up splashing water all over the place. And, in cases like these, they are about 5 times bigger than what I need. So, I fired the cookie sheet for nut toasting purposes and brought out the nonstick skillet. It works just as well and clean up is a bit, well, cleaner.
Recently, one of my sisters came up to visit for the weekend. Not just any weekend, mind you, it was our first ever Harry Potter Movie Marathon Weekend. I know, it’s a fantastic idea. You kind of wish that you could have joined us, don’t you? Don’t feel weird, it was awesome. If we were really committed to the movie marathon, we could have made it through all of them. Shockingly, for the first time ever, my kids wanted to do something other than watch tv. In the end, we got through half of the movies, and that was still plenty of Harry Potter for one weekend. Unlike the kids, Meg and I are well-seasoned when it comes to these things. It is a skill we have cultivated over the past several years while catching up on Downton Abbey episodes. Meg is such a great sport and she has spent several visits here allowing me to fill all of our spare time with the fantastically witty banter of the Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley. I could listen to them all day (or night) long, and indeed at times I have. How often have we said “just one more episode” only end up watching several more? You know how it goes…..unless you don’t know because you don’t watch Downton Abbey, in which case you need to fix that ASAP! The 6th and final season begins the first Sunday in January, so you have time to catch up!
But back to our bark! In anticipation of Meg’s visit, I found a recipe for this Salted Caramel Candy Corn Bark on Pinterest and it looked like something that was absolutely necessary for a movie marathon weekend. The bark turned out to be a definite winner! As we were enjoying butterbeer, jelly beans, oreos (no Harry Potter reference there, they’re just really good), and these tasty little pretzel bites, we started talking about how great they would be with pecans on top instead of the candy corn M&M’s, especially because I used pumpkin spice candy melts in mine instead of white chocolate. The combination of pumpkin and pecans is like peas and carrots, they just go together! That is absolutely the case here. You have a layer of crunchy pretzels, then the caramel, topped with pumpkin spice candies, and covered with toasted salty pecans. How can that be bad? Well, it’s not, it’s delicious! And, consider this your warning — addictive. Meg, these are for you!
These would look nice if you cut them up and served them on a platter with each piece of bark in a mini cupcake liner. Doing so will also alleviate the issue of the bark pieces sticking to the platter or each other. At the very least, place a piece of parchment on top of your platter and stack them on there. I like to cut them in individual pretzel sized pieces, but you could make them bigger. One bag of caramels and one bag of candy melts is just enough for 60 pretzels, but you could easily double the recipe or halve it, as pictured.
Note: The pumpkin spice candy melts I used are made by Wilton and I found them in the cake decorating section at Walmart.
- 60 square/waffle-shaped pretzels
- 2 cups pecans
- 1 T. light olive oil
- 1 t. sea salt
- 11 oz. bag of caramels
- 2 T. half & half or cream
- 10 oz. bag of pumpkin spice candy melts
- 1. Pour pecans in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and stir gently until all pecans are lightly coated. Toast pecans in a large skillet, stirring often over medium-low heat. When I can begin to smell the pecans, I leave them in the pan for another 2-3 minutes and then remove from the heat. Once toasted, set aside.
- 2. Arrange pretzels on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, in 6 rows of 10 pretzels.
- 3. Combine caramels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until caramel is completely melted. Working quickly, pour the caramel over top of the pretzels. It helps to try to pour a little caramel on each individual pretzel to help distribute it evenly. Be careful - melted caramel is VERY HOT!!! Gently spread the melted caramel over the layer of pretzels and smooth it out in one even layer. An offset spatula works really well for this. Allow the caramel to sit for about 5 minutes to cool and harden.
- 4. Once the caramel is dry to the touch, begin melting the candy coating. Again, pour the candies in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave them in 20-30 second intervals. Be careful of heating it for longer than that because the candies will burn easily. Stir the candies after each interval and repeat until the candies are completely melted and smooth. Pour melted candies over top of the caramel layer and even it out with a spatula. Immediately top the melted candy layer with all of the salted pecans, spreading them out in one layer across the top.
- 5. Set the entire tray aside and allow the pumpkin candies to cool and harden. Once the candy has cooled completely, cut it into squares, following the approximate edges of the pretzels.
- Store in an airtight container with parchment paper between layers of bark so they don't stick together.