I started grad school year two of five last week. It felt like I was going into battle with not enough time to prepare.
In an effort to hold onto some semblance of control in my life I started running 2-3 days a week. I've had a love hate relationship with running since childhood. My family is runners, I'm a runner, and I've turned to running in an addictive way many times throughout my life. I've started again after a couple years of hiatus and it feels SO GOOD. Something about working at a hospital all day, sitting with people through their pain and suffering, holding it together to offer them some bit of understanding and support leaves me feeling cooped up and emotionally drained. And when I run I let it all out, I sweat, I race to Kelly Clarkson and all the other female-power artists in my spotify library and it feels so good. Yes, the idea of burning some calories and loosing some of the first-year-of-grad-school weight sounds appealing but even if I don't loose a pound I know that running makes me feel good on the inside. Mentally it feels so therapeutic.
I always remember learning in teacher training years ago that after animals experience a stressful events they run and shake and move their bodies as a way of releasing that tension. Humans just hold it. For me running seems to release it all in a way nothing else does. This morning I listened to an episode of NPR's "On Being" called Running as a Spiritual Practice and it resonated so strongly with me. I've been listening to this song that repeats the lyrics "slow down" as I run, and even though my body is going fast I find that my mind is able to let go, slow down, and connect to all of the sensations of the present moment in a way that feels so healing.
I made this quinoa salad a couple weeks ago. It's my nod to the end of summer. Hearty whole grain salads have always filled me up and made me feel nourished in a way lettuce never quite could. This quinoa salad is no exception. The juicy sweet pluots offer the perfect nod to summer while the warm toasted hazelnuts seem to welcome fall. The basil keeps it fresh and the balsamic vinaigrette adds a zingy bite. It's really so good.
Feel free to skip on the goat cheese for a dairy free option, or substitute regular plums if you can't find pluots. This salad is intended to be simple and fuss-free.
Serves 2 as a main, generously
Adapted from: The Year in Food
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 small shallot, diced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey (or agave/maply syrup if vegan)
pinch of salt & pepper
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (about half a can)
small handful basil
1-2 small pluots (or plums)
salt + pepper to taste
Place the water in a small saucepan over high heat, rinse the quinoa then add it to the water. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat but keep covered for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork then toss with a generous amount of salt. Set aside to cool.
Make the dressing. Combine shallot, olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar (I use a mason) and shake to combine.
In a small saucepan toast the hazelnuts over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, tossing & watching regularly to ensure they don't burn. Once slightly browned and fragrant remove from heat. Thinly slice the pluots and the basil.
In a medium bowl combine the quinoa, hazelnuts, goat cheese, chickpeas, basil and dressing and toss. Gently stir in the pluots and serve.
I may or may not have googled "how to survive a long dark winter" the other day. I normally love Fall, but after struggling through said long dark winter last year, coupled with a tough first year of grad school I am dreading busy schedules, early sunsets, and the closing of Chicago farmer's markets this Fall. Towards the beginning of August I totally panicked, thinking I had not taken advantage of summer the way I should have, and filled my calendar with summer music and film series in the parks, food festivals, and long family walks with pumpkin. We've been savoring this weather and biking all around the city for date nights in neighborhoods far from our own.
We've become religious about our Saturday morning farmer's market trips. I think I bought close to 10 pounds worth of peaches last week, blanched them, peeled them, sliced them, and then froze them. I've been adoring Chicago summer, humidity and all. I worship these warm summer nights and hours of day light. Seriously, the summer can't end, I haven't even made zucchini bread yet!
This pasta is light, summery, and creamy but dairy-free. Once you've soaked the cashews it comes together so easily and celebrates the simplicity and freshness of summer produce. We've been buying zucchini in bulk for what feels like pennies every week at the farmer's market and this veggie-heavy pasta is the perfect way to use them all. It also just so happens to be packed with plant-based protein (thank you nuts) and reheats great.
Adapted from: The Kitchn
1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4-8 hours
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds zucchini, diced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
large handful of basil
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (optional)
salt + pepper to taste
Combine soaked cashews, water, nutritional yeast, and salt in a blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside - note, this step can be done up to two days in advance.
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, followed by the garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic has softened then add in the zucchini and toss to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the zucchini has softened and released some of its liquid. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once the water is boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente (keeping in mind angel hair cooks very quickly). Reserve about half a cup of pasta water, then drain, and add the pasta to the sauté pan and top with the cashew sauce (you probably won't use all of it), and toss over low heat. If it looks to thick, use pasta water to thin. Then top with zucchini and toss. Add in lemon zest and juice, basil and pistachios. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!
My husband spent a month in southern Spain at the beginning of the summer so I flew out and joined him. Our favorite part of Madrid (aside from the tortillas which I'm a bit too intimidated to attempt!) was the tintos. I hate to admit it but we downed at least 2-3 of them a day with lunch and dinner. I was initially prepared to drink lots of sangria until I read that sangria is what the tourist drink and all the real locals drink tinto de verano, literally "wine of summer".
Almost all the of red wine we ordered in Spain was served chilled. Seriously, why don't we do that in the states? It was SO GOOD. Tinto is simpler than sangria with only two ingredients: half chilled red wine and half lemon soda. Literally that's it. And it is so so good. And a glass will cost you only around 2-4 euros. Cheap.
When we got back we couldn't wait to make it ourselves. We typically don't ever drink soda, and we definitely don't keep it in the house, so after splurging on some lemon flavored San Pellegrino, I figured couldn't I make this simpler at home with ingredients I already have on hand. I thought about making my own lemon soda with simple syrup but the idea of sitting over a stove dissolving sugar then waiting hours for the liquid to cool felt counter the the simple nature of this drink. So we ended up going with sparkling water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a bit of agave, no stove required. We bought cheap Spanish wine from trader joe's, mix it all together and poured it over ice. The result is the perfect summer drink that transports us right back to our favorite tapas bars. The best part is, this slightly more natural version, keeps with the simplicity of the drink and literally comes together in 3 minutes.
It's helping me savor these last precious weeks of summer before grad school starts again.
Makes 2 drinks
1 1/3 cup sparkling water, chilled
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons agave
1 1/2 cups Spanish red wine*, chilled
Mix together water, lemon juice, and agave. Pour in red wine and stir. Serve over ice.
Notes: From what I've read tinto is usually made with Spanish table wine, so no need to splurge on something fancy. I recommend a lighter juicer wine like pinot, nothing too rich and tanine-y.