new food contributor + recipe debut

She approaches love and cooking with Reckless Abandon…our kinda girl. We took one look at Rachel’s blog, appropriately titled Reckless Abandon, and knew we wanted to give her recipes a try…and get to know her with a glass of vino in hand.

That being said, we have some exciting news at Tutto Bella

…{drum roll please}…

Rachel, author and creative cook behind Reckless Abandon, is our first contributor here at Tutto Bella. You will see her recipes here and please browse her site for recipes – your taste buds will thank you.

Her debut recipe does not disappoint…{and our bellies are in need of a healthy salad after stuffing ourselves with turkey, potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie yesterday}!

Spinach Salad with Cajun Pecans and Poppy Seed Dressing
{recipe by Rachel at Reckless Abandon}

2 bags baby spinach salad
8 ounces pecans
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges (or two smaller ones), drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Dressing Ingredients
1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
3 cups (plus 1 Tbsp) vegetable oil
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped white onion
1.5 Tbsp poppy seeds

Make the dressing, which can be made days in advance and kept in the fridge. {You will need a food processor or blender to make the dressing}.
First combine the sugar, dry mustard, chopped white onion, cider vinegar and 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in the food processor.
Process for 2-3 minutes {I know that seems long, but it needs awhile}.

Add the poppy seeds to the mix and pulse a few times.
Slowly add the 3 cups of vegetable oil while the food processor is running. Or just pour some in, process for 20 seconds, add more, repeat, and so on until all the oil is incorporated in the dressing.
Pour in an airtight container. {I used mason jars}.
NOTE: The dressing will separate over time, so just shake again before using.

 In a medium bowl combine the pecans, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning.
Toss with a spoon until the nuts are evenly covered in the spices.
Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes and 375 degrees.
Allow to cool before making the salad. {You can also make these a few days in advance}.

Right before dressing the salad, thinly slice the red onions and drain the mandarin oranges.

To make the salad, in a large bowl, toss together the spinach, pecans, onion, oranges and dressing. {Just don’t forget that you can always add more dressing, never remove it…so I start with less than I think I will need, toss and then add more if needed}.

 In Rachel’s words: The mix of flavors is what really gives this salad the wow-factor.  You have the sweet dressing and mandarin oranges with the spicy pecans and a kick from the onions.  I promise this you will make this salad again and again!

{images via Reckless Abandon}