Quinoa Salad – a Post-Whole30 luxury!

IMG_4521Today, I am making quinoa salad for the first time in a long time; it qualifies, in my mind, as a very healthy food, but it was forbidden based on the no-legumes-or-grains part of the Whole30 experience. My favorite part of it is the fact that, as a person who doesn’t crave meat with every meal, it’s a way to keep getting protein and keep myself full for many hours while still eating something “lighter” than a serving of meat.

Here’s my approach, which stays new to me because I vary up the different ingredients:

  • Start the quinoa: I make about a cup of quinoa at a time unless I’m entertaining other people, because it’s fast and easy to make.
  • Pick the veggies: My favorites, in no particular order are: chopped cucumber, diced tomatoes, cooked spinach, chopped bell peppers, or cooked cubes of squash or zucchini. Husband likes it with broccoli, but that kinda ruins it for me… I cannot help it! Broccoli isn’t my veggie, it seems.
  • Pick the spicing: with tomatoes, I always add basil; with most veggies, I always give a dusting of garlic, pepper, and salt. Lately, I’ve been really entranced by chipotle seasoning, so that gets thrown on anything when I’m feeling like I need a good kick from the salad.
  • Add the garnishes: To add crunch, a few toasted pecans or walnuts are wonderful. I like crumbled goat cheese or feta (don’t overdo it with the salt if you add these though; they seem to add saltiness on their own) to make the salad a little creamy, and if you have enough veggies relative to the quinoa, you can dress it with your favorite ranch or balsamic vinaigrette, though that can be weird if there’s mostly quinoa and not so much on the veggies.

Regardless, this salad is delicious warm when you first make it, and then can either be eaten hot or cold later as a lunch at work. I’m hoping to create one that I enjoy for breakfasts now that I’m trying to not make all my breakfasts pastry-centric (it’s a problem!). It’s not Whole30, but it definitely makes me feel ready to face the day.

50. T’s Chicken Salad

Things don’t always go the way I expect them to. This morning, I expected yet another day of sunny skies and instead, a soggy day rolled in. When we were 17 and  T and I played on rival sides of an ultimate frisbee game, I expected she wouldn’t even want to talk to me because I’d been such an obnoxious guard. When T and I became each other’s long-distance friends for the next 10 years, I couldn’t have predicted that either.

So when, this week, months after the wedding, an email from T revealed a recipe for chicken salad, I had to give it a shot. I’ll start out by saying: I don’t like chicken salad. I always find it cloying and full of flavors that don’t mesh. Granted, I’ve never made it myself, and I’m sure that making it myself would allow for a lower input of mayonnaise, which would make me far happier with it, but it’s exactly the possible serendipity, the chance that it could be delicious, that made me give it a chance. With T, you really never know.

T’s recipe reads more like a poem than a recipe, but I promise it’s worth at least considering her style before you return to your old standard, because let me say, I ate myself silly on this stuff, smeared on cracked pepper crackers while looking out at the rain. It’s worth your trouble. This is the same T who once made biscuits for me purely from feel, with no measuring, so I encourage you to unleash your “inner T” when it comes to measurements, and try to feel the right chicken salad out.

Roast (or let the crockpot do the work) a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with your favorite marinade and whatever chicken-lovin’ herbs you have in the garden. I used rosemary, parsley, oregano.  Let it cool down, and take the meat off the bone, handshredded is best to make sure you don’t have any bones or other skin or fat that you wouldn’t want to eat.  Add a stalk of celery, chopped (I like more, but good to start with just one and keep adding); half of a red delicious or some other sweet crunchy apple chopped; more poppy seeds and black pepper than you would think you need; toasted pecans chopped; and a slice or two of red onion chopped very fine.  Stir in enough Duke’s mayonnaise with some pan drippings, if you dare, to hold it together.  This is Mom’s voice: “”If you like chicken salad, It will make you do the happy dance.”  Duke’s mayo is a must.  Freshly ground pepper is best.  Let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors marinade.  
Serve with anything: make a sandwich on wheat with spinach, croissant if you are feeling fancy, any crackers you like, celery stalks, the rest of the apple, romaine lettuce leaf and roll it up.  Yum.  Make a little bit at a time and make it often.  Pairs great with fresh tomatoes out of the garden cut up with pepper on them.
The main counsel I completely ignored was letting it marinade overnight, but there is some left, so tomorrow I’ll get that glorious aspect. Whatever happens, it will probably be different from your expectations, and it might be worth reveling in that for a little while.

Food Memory: The Best Salad Ever

foodmemory8.jpg

I have tried, extensively, to love salad – it’s good for you and it should just be naturally desired by our bodies, right? No dice for me. Salad is still something I shovel into my mouth to get to whetever else is coming, but occasionally, I find a salad that truly dazzles me. This salad had chicken and champagne vinagrette and ripe tomatoes and chunks of avocado and goat cheese – many things that made the salad less purely good for me, but in this compromise lay the desire that I wanted. If I want to be able to eat a hunk of garlic-and-herb cheese, it’s good that it comes paired with a bunch of mostly-low-flavor greens. This salad reminded me that I can add excitement to the everyday by pairing healthy and mundane things with the things that spark joy in me. I don’t have to love salads to love that.

Making Dinners Out Special

I’ve been trying something new: when Husband and I go out, I am trying harder than before to get something that I have never tried. For instance, last night we got dinner because I was going away for a few days, and I got a grilled pear and goat cheese salad – so delicious and I’ve never had it before. I wanted to remember how nice it was to have dinner with Husband, chatting about our mutually crazy days at work and feeling like we really were getting the chance to unwind.

I’ve now eaten at a lot of restaurants with Husband, to the point where they often blend together. Part of my goal in eating a different thing whenever I go out is to try to “fix” it in my memory: I want to remember really valuable nights out. I remember eating a really amazing burger when visiting Husband in Baltimore, back before we were sure if our long-distance relationship would work. I remember drinking a slushie from a gas station right after we got engaged, when each of us would look at each other and giggle a little, not quite believing  we were getting married. I remember the plate of Indian food (let’s be real… there have been so many plates of Indian food) that I ate after our best date ever, a night at an astronomy observatory looking at stars.

If I can have a memorable meal or a meal that I have had a million times, I want to be the person who chooses a memorable one (I don’t always, though. I’m pretty likely to make a beeline for whatever has avocado on it, if I’m being realistic). These meals help me keep track of all the places we’ve been together, and all the people we’ve shared time with along the way.

Caprese Salad: Eating Salad without the Greens

I have had the goal of eating 4 salads a week, and yesterday, we’d run out of salad greens. What we hadn’t run out of was ripe, delicious, garden tomatoes. Mostly I wanted to use cherry tomatoes, but I caved and used the ripest of the San Marzanos too.

You see, salad is a funny thing: some people consider potatoes coated in mayonnaise to be a salad, and others see only things with lettuce as a base as the healthy form of ‘salad.’ I’ve tried to stick to my belief that anything with a veggie base is salad, and caprese salad (characterized by the combination of tomatoes, basil, mozzerella cheese, and sometimes balsamic vinegar) is a wonderful variation that is filling while still being refreshing. I knew yesterday afternoon that I was in the mood to eat something unhealthy and I wanted to head it off with something fresh and lighter. This worked perfectly.

I sliced all the tomatoes up to bite size (no exact measurements here; just use what you want based on servings you want to have) and tore the basil leaves. I cut the mozzarella down to quarter-inch cubes or crumbles, whichever happened faster, and threw in a dash of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of crunchy salt. The salad worked up well but I got overzealous and added a bunch of dried basil, which rehydrated into a pretty overwhelming level of basil-ness. I didn’t think I could overdo basil, given my love for it, but this was that. Basically: add basil, taste, add more if you want it.

I know a lot of people who like to do the caprese combination on toast, but I would advocate eating it out of the bowl like a regular salad. After all, it’s one less piece of toast in your life, and it’s so tasty even when it’s in a bowl by itself (and even when it has too much basil!). This combo could be stretched to a full meal if mixed with some whole-wheat pasta or quinoa, or it could be served on a pizza/flatbread for a new variation on the timeless margherita pizza. Regardless, it makes me happy my definition of salad is pretty broad. 🙂

The Way Running Makes me Feel about Food

I experience cravings more often than I experience hunger. I’m aware that living in the United States with a good steady supply of food, I generally can get to sustenance if I really need it. Instead, I experience the desire for something specific: a crunch, a sweetness, a richness, or a watery juiciness.

When I’m running, I am usually so focused on not stopping that I don’t experience hunger or cravings. I’m focused on so many parts of my body: knees that are reminding me how many times I’ve already ran this week, a stitch in my side, showing the outlines of all those inner organs I rarely think about, feet that absorb the shock of the hard ground for me. I’m focused on moving forward, and I’m focused on how disgustingly sweaty I am, and once in a while I focus on how much I’d like a cool drink of water. It’s after the run, when I feel like I’ve either quit a little early or I’ve totally used every ounce of energy, when I start to feel like I need some food.

I’ll drink water for a while (there is no worse headache than a post-run headache where you didn’t replenish with water) but then I usually want something fresh and wholesome: a salad, a hearty soup, a sandwich on good, chewy bread. It’s the time when it feels like my body takes over the static of my brain (which wants candy, junk food, soda, quick jolts of good feelings) and really demands nutrition.Running hurts, but it does make me feel pretty alive, and it’s now finally the right temperature outside that one would reasonably want to run outdoors. It’s a nice side benefit that running makes me excited for my butternut squash soup or a good salad prepared by Husband (never with mushrooms though).

 

A daily staple: Husband’s salad mania

I know that the core of most healthy people’s diet is salad of some form – replacing some of those calorie-dense carbs with a bed of lettuce of some kind or another. I also know that I’ve yet to crave such things – I am the last girl to ever look straight at the salads at a restaurant. Still, Husband has been making them for me for years now, so I am very familiar with his way of doing things:

Husband’s formula for salad:

Start with good greens: Husband doesn’t like iceberg lettuce, though more power to you if that’s how you get in some salad time. He tends toward mildly bitter lettuces, like spring mix from the grocery store, though we’ve recently been getting local butterhead lettuce which is even earthier (i.e. dirt-flavored). 

Add all the veggies in the house: his staples are peppers, carrots, bell peppers, and mushrooms.

Dress with balsamic and oil: Husband has a comically huge jug of balsamic vinegar he got on super-sale one time last year, and we always go through a lot of olive oil, so instead of a dainty bottle of dressing he’s always got these two jumbo containers to contend with. 

Add cheese: Husband will put a generous topping of whatever cheese we have in the house, which I always ask him not to do with my salads. Why would I put one of my favorite foods on top of my least favorite? If I have to eat salad, I want to feel like I’ve won a medal for healthy eating. He, on the other hand, actually enjoys it. 

I really love that he can get excited about salad, especially since it gives us nice tasks; if I’m finishing up a pasta dish, he’ll come in to the kitchen and prepare two salads, usually not giving me a choice, one with all his favorites and mine with no mushrooms and no cheese. It’s a labor of love, I’m sure, to get me to eat my raw veggies, but he’s doing it.

 

50. T’s Chicken Salad

Things don’t always go the way I expect them to. This morning, I expected yet another day of sunny skies and instead, a soggy day rolled in. When we were 17 and  T and I played on rival sides of an ultimate frisbee game, I expected she wouldn’t even want to talk to me because I’d been such an obnoxious guard. When T and I became each other’s long-distance friends for the next 10 years, I couldn’t have predicted that either.

So when, this week, months after the wedding, an email from T revealed a recipe for chicken salad, I had to give it a shot. I’ll start out by saying: I don’t like chicken salad. I always find it cloying and full of flavors that don’t mesh. Granted, I’ve never made it myself, and I’m sure that making it myself would allow for a lower input of mayonnaise, which would make me far happier with it, but it’s exactly the possible serendipity, the chance that it could be delicious, that made me give it a chance. With T, you really never know.

T’s recipe reads more like a poem than a recipe, but I promise it’s worth at least considering her style before you return to your old standard, because let me say, I ate myself silly on this stuff, smeared on cracked pepper crackers while looking out at the rain. It’s worth your trouble. This is the same T who once made biscuits for me purely from feel, with no measuring, so I encourage you to unleash your “inner T” when it comes to measurements, and try to feel the right chicken salad out.

Roast (or let the crockpot do the work) a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with your favorite marinade and whatever chicken-lovin’ herbs you have in the garden. I used rosemary, parsley, oregano.  Let it cool down, and take the meat off the bone, handshredded is best to make sure you don’t have any bones or other skin or fat that you wouldn’t want to eat.  Add a stalk of celery, chopped (I like more, but good to start with just one and keep adding); half of a red delicious or some other sweet crunchy apple chopped; more poppy seeds and black pepper than you would think you need; toasted pecans chopped; and a slice or two of red onion chopped very fine.  Stir in enough Duke’s mayonnaise with some pan drippings, if you dare, to hold it together.  This is Mom’s voice: “”If you like chicken salad, It will make you do the happy dance.”  Duke’s mayo is a must.  Freshly ground pepper is best.  Let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors marinade.  
Serve with anything: make a sandwich on wheat with spinach, croissant if you are feeling fancy, any crackers you like, celery stalks, the rest of the apple, romaine lettuce leaf and roll it up.  Yum.  Make a little bit at a time and make it often.  Pairs great with fresh tomatoes out of the garden cut up with pepper on them.
The main counsel I completely ignored was letting it marinade overnight, but there is some left, so tomorrow I’ll get that glorious aspect. Whatever happens, it will probably be different from your expectations, and it might be worth reveling in that for a little while.