This sort-of theme of “it’s all about the dressing” is getting a little tired. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to put up this short post. Or maybe I’ve just been waiting for a lightning bolt of whimsy to supply me with something inspired to say.
The truth is, I just wanted to share this “dressing” that’s not really dressing exactly and which was in itself rather inspiring. I discovered it recently when I had the happy chance to test some recipes for a local magazine, including a heaping bowl of fresh, crunchy deliciousness. Just 3 ingredients (carrot, not too much sesame oil and pickled ginger) plus water. I was awed by the power of its simplicity, delivering a punch of flavor that is at once sharp and cleansing. One bite and the taste bud nerve connection impishly sent my mind into overdrive trying to come up with a variety of ways to incorporate this exciting new “dressing” into meals just so I could post it on this blog to come back to in case I ever suffer mild amnesia and forget how easy it is.
OK, so “overdrive” was a little exaggerated. The brainstorming lasted about 5 minutes. But, five minutes fairly well spent, because Easy Carrot Ginger “Dressing” works very well with a light, fresh variation on traditional potato salad; it also fares well in veggie wraps, and is a nice tangy palate cleanser scraped from the bottom of the food processor, too. As long as you like pickled ginger–I do, so added more.
For no particular reason I’m hopeful that this dressing motif will be phasing itself out soon, though probably not for at least another week. There’s a saucy experiment I have in mind that I’m hoping will work out delectably this week. If you don’t see it within another two weeks, you’ll know it crashed in our kitchen (pssst…it’s sweet and sour). More soon. 🙂
- 1 ½ pounds small new potatoes
- 1 large carrot cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup pickled ginger
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks
- 1 cup snap peas, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 3 spring onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- In a steamer set over boiling water steam the potatoes, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just tender, transfer them to a bowl, and let them cool to room temperature, then halve lengthwise (or quarter depending on size).
- In a food processor, pulse carrot, pickled ginger, oil, and ¼ cup water to create a chunky dressing.
- Combine potatoes, dressing, and vegetables in a large salad bowl. Serve room temperature or cold.
May be a trend…another recipe that is all about the dressing. Sort of. That is to say, the dressing is what I most want to remember and share for its uniqueness, at least to me. Until now I didn’t make the tahini-balsamic combo a regular in meal planning. I am definitely going to be making up for lost time moving forward.
There is another beauty of a bonus, too: built-in is a major shortcut if needed. If it’s one of those days when the mere step of whizzing up a dressing has you feeling limp and listless, you can relax and refuel faster knowing this salad is so very forgiving. Just about any dressing will do. Whatever ready-made vinaigrette you wish (just stay away from the sweet ones), Italian,a splash of plain lemon juice and oil, or my personal favorite, the marinade from artichokes. But if you do feel fresh and awake enough to whisk a few ingredients separately in a bowl, or process them till smooth, tahini-balsamic has a simple way of elevating every quinoa seed and spinach leaf with rich, tangy, nuttiness.
Occasionally I have stretches where tahini has a way of breaking me from peanut butter love in a refreshing way. I would almost say the smooth paste could swap in and satisfy every PB craving with the added benefit that I’d never, ever eat it from the jar or have too much. I would lick away each semblance of a pool of tahini dressing on my plate though, and do. And if I’m feeling twinges of guilt over that, I justify by telling myself “zero waste” and also the reminder that sesame seeds contain more calcium, iron, plus other minerals and phytosterols than peanuts do. But I don’t need this self-talk very often. This dish epitomizes how synonymous healthy and delicious truly are. No justification needed, just readiness to enjoy. 🙂
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 (5 oz) package washed baby spinach, kale, or mixed greens
- 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 1 (14 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Cook quinoa: add 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and summer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a large salad bowl.
- Add greens, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, artichokes and chickpeas to quinoa in bowl.
- Prepare the dressing: place tahini, water, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic powder in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss quinoa mixture with dressing prior to serving.
So here’s a quick and simple salad that’s light and fresh and as buoyantly colorful as this past week has been. While it may not exactly be seasonal, it tastes like this warm and vibrant spring week has felt. Sweet with a pleasant tang.
I wanted to stick this up early in the week as something to come back to, but I kept dragging my feet. While the justification of being too busy is true and valid, it wasn’t really truth, I realized. The real issue was, I didn’t have a story to attach. No pensive reflection stirred by the sumptuousness of mango or the bite of lime. Even knowing the whole purpose of this whole blog is really a catalog, I guess I’m attached to the journal aspect. It feels like cheating, or failing, not to be bursting with thought guided by ingredients.
This is in its way a little ironic, as I’ve been striving so hard to cultivate more mindfulness. It’s been a slowly emerging, beautifully enlightening process, if but snail steps. And the most treasured part, embracing peaceful gratitude for each moment for just what it is. Why then so much hesitancy to share something with no purpose other than saying appreciatively, here is something rather nice?
On that note, I don’t usually feel drawn to “here’s what happened this week” kind of posts, but this week has been rather rainbow lovely. The most perfect moments were the simplest and the most vivid, in both the actual colors present and the still life style peace of them. They were composed of the kind of little things that relax you into breathing more deeply and seeing more wholly.
Little F and I shared the best “egg decorating” yet.
And on Thursday, my boys melted and swelled my heart with the most beautiful, quiet birthday day. After a perfect early morning run with a friend, the day opened with the sweetest card depicting our little family team.
I can’t pretend there’s a connection between this salad and this week aside from brightness and color. Except for this: each is worth a little appreciation and a place in a catalog, literal or mental. The other somewhat ironic thing about working so concertedly on mindfulness is how heightened a certain distrust has been of enjoying the perfection of the moment. There’s an inherent fear of being too happy. It only makes sense. Nothing lasts, good or bad. But time to let that go a little.
Today, I was immersed in imaginative play with little F when he suddenly flopped on his back in a way reminiscent of when he was a little baby. “Cover me, Mommy,” he said sweetly, arms open and puppy eyes beseeching. Sometimes he likes me to do that–pretend flop on him like a blank, “covering” him. It won’t last long, and as I bundled him up, reveling in that moment, I couldn’t stop the nagging voice from saying so. But oh am I enjoying it now, in spite of nagging busybody “just you wait” warnings in my head. So I’m sticking the moment here in this post–which has (surprise) taken on tangents it didn’t need to. So I can take heart that I’m doing my best to remember, and get back to being with gratitude.
Have a very bright and happy weekend!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons honey to taste
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups spinach
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and then sliced across to make 1" long pieces
- 1-2 ripe mangos, diced
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shred
- 2-3 thinly sliced green onion (both green and white parts)
- ⅓ cup chopped roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- In a small bowl, whisk the first six ingredients (oil through salt and pepper) until thoroughly combined.
- Mix all remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat just before serving.
It’s St. Patty’s Day week, with official spring just a skip away, and I wanted to share something green. No loosely connected, tangent-riddled stories, just green goodness. Also a few musings on green love. Because, how would you know it was really me writing if I didn’t wander a little in whimsy in what is otherwise meant to be a sensible share?
This recipe is all about the dressing. A dressing so easy (being dressing) that goes atop salad so variable (being salad), you don’t need half the list or even need steps. With a sound go-to Green Goddess like this one, you can go wild and just trust your tangy sauce will hold everything together with a satisfying lip smack. (It goes great with quinoa, too. 🙂 )
It’s funny how ingrained in human nature it is to find fault or focus on the negative. Research shows it takes roughly 25 compliments to take the edge off an insult. Personal experience says maybe quite a lot more. Even something as life-giving and peaceful as green is not immune. A color universally associated with nature, health, and feelings of being renewed is also linked with envy, seasickness, and greed.
But it is St. Patrick’s Day week, and it is almost officially spring, so what better time to practice re-wiring our brains to focus on the positive? Fire and wire. Because green is loveliness and nature, and positive energy will do us good.
Green sings. Green grows, and nourishes. Green is Kermit the Frog, at once awkward and lovable, pure and loyal in expressiveness, determined and adventurous calmly reassuring that not only is it OK to feel sad, everything will be alright.
Green is gorgeous, humble, sustaining life. The world is getting hotter in more ways than one, and sadder. This spring, let’s freshen up and green up where we can. At least let’s love our greens.
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 large ripe avocado, flesh only
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups baby spinach, kale or mixed greens
- 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 1 cucumber, sliced and halved
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup sprouts, for topping
- Combine the barley with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- Prepare the dressing: in a high speed blender or food processor, combine avocado plus next 8 ingredients (through parsley) and process until smooth. Thin with additional water as needed for desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss barley with vegetables. Drizzle with dressing as desired and stir to combine. Serve topped with sprouts. Store leftover dressing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Inspired by a curried quinoa with raisins and almonds that I swooned over at the new local Whole Foods, this salad came together tweak by fortuitously compatible tweak. The dressing began bland. Then each little ingredient, rather than causing cloudy confusion, added something uniquely complementary…pop, zing, tang, or just a bit of niceness. The end result was lovely, bursting with flavor, packed with greens, and satiating with the hearty protein-rich combination of quinoa and chickpeas. That’s really all I wanted to say about this quinoa-kale combo. It’s all about the little things.
That has been something of a motto for me, at least on this blog, this season. The impact and importance of little things. Being a relatively small and prematurely, overly apologetic person, I guess I’ve always had an affinity for small ponds; a fierce faith in the significance of small but steady, well-intentioned steps. But recently, an online professional development class on mindfulness has encouraged pause for reflection that allowed me to call myself out for how indolent–or maybe fearful– I’ve been lately, dismissive of small efforts when it comes to myself. In other words, kind of a hypocrite.
I used to write poetry. A lot. Depending on the situation not everyone wants to admit to this, but in fact I went to graduate school for it. Now, as mama to a very busy, somewhat clingy (but wonderfully so) 3-year old who squeezes work as a freelancer into narrow, awkward hours, any poetic channels I still possess are clogged. My writing gets plenty of enjoyable outlets, and sometimes it even closes in on eloquent; but if I were to attempt poetry it would be obvious and pathetic in its stumbling. I know this, but it isn’t a reason not to try, if only infrequently, sometimes.
I used to play piano a lot, too. Despite being a sing-song, nursery-rhyme style ‘singer’, I will always be so thankful for the salvation music, particularly the piano, has provided during key crossroads, and painful, lost, and lonely periods of my life. The mentors I’ve had have been more impactful than they may ever realize. They’ve nurtured my soul and saved me from drowning in more ways than I’ve ever told them. Now, I’m lucky to pull out old familiar pieces I love or struggle with sight reading roughly ten minutes every other week or so. It’s a temporary state of things, and the music will be there when I return to it. But that’s no reason not to take those ten minutes where they appear and relish them.
The truth is, there are good reasons not to attempt to do these things I love. Mainly, time, or lack of. Sometimes money, too, though not really relevant to those examples. There are always trade-offs, and how privileged to have the luxury of choosing mine. Self-care is not absent in my life, it just looks different than a younger, freer self’s routines, and that’s OK.
But where I’ve been really falling down is the holding back when it comes to reaching out to people because I’m afraid I’m not enough. Because I’m embarrassed…that in my state of too little time or too stretched a budget that what I can offer is not worthwhile. A string of meaningful events has been lighting up our community lately, with babies arriving, life changes to celebrate, and changes to mourn. I have caught myself too many times holding back from reaching out for the weakest of reasons…that the time I can offer would be too short or too inconsistent to be meaningful; the meal I’d offer would be too simple to be sustenance, the gift too small to be appreciated.
Last week we couldn’t fit the “big shop” on a single weekday, and had to arrange the weekend so I could take on the grocery store late Saturday morning. Inside, it was packed with people; outside, the parking lot was packed with slushy, heavy, gritty snow. I was indulging in post-holiday, somewhat fatigued, hormonal, lonely bluesiness, struggling to push my heavy cart over the mini parking lot moguls of gripping, slippery snow-dirt, when a woman rushed over as if out of a dream, grabbed the end of the cart and commanded, “You pull, I’ll push” in such a sunny, efficiently managerial kind of manner, my spirits instantly lifted. After my bags were unloaded and I started to push–with much more ease–my lightened cart over to the dock, an elderly man appeared at my side and insisted in this soft, gentlemanly, kindly voice, “please, let me help you.”
Those two strangers will never know how much those quick, unselfish moments of their time mattered to me. I hope the pay-it-forward effect brings them some solid karma. Because it’s been going on a week, and the lift their combined efforts gave me may have ebbed but hasn’t gone away. Better, it’s opened up a few resolves…’new year resolutions’ I hadn’t made but have already acted on, so that’s something. The little voice that has been holding back good intentions has taken a more optimistic and centered approach, experimenting with new advice: offer the soup; write the poem, or if not, read one; play the music, or if not, listen; visit with the friend, or if not, call…or if not, message; compliment the stranger; thank the friend; say ‘I love you’; wish the Facebook “friend” who’s not really a friend happy birthday (or delete the “friend” if that’s better for the whole, meaningful picture). Because, it’s the little things in the end. You may never know the difference you inspired, but it’s there.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup for vegan)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch ground tumeric
- 1 tablespoon finely minced red onion
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 4 cups shredded kale, ribs and stems removed
- 1 apple, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup raisins
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- Bring the quinoa, vegetable broth, and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the dressing by whisking together the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mustard, honey, cider vinegar, spices and onion in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the kale, apples, raisins and almonds to the cooked quinoa, and stir to combine. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Prior to serving, add dressing and toss to coat.