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.
First I want to say thank you for all the love and support we've received regarding our move to Chicago. Seriously, thank you. We are so excited. Other than that, we've had a pretty low-key week. Pumpkin and Nate ordered coats that arrived in the mail yesterday, pretty cute.
Over the past couple of weeks I've attempted meal planning, where Nate and I tag-team meal prep and we buy all the ingredients sunday afternoon. You know, plan ahead so we don't end up saying "screw it, lets go to Sharky's". Dinner gets complicated when you work 3 nights a week. Is it weird that I gauge success based on how many meals we've cooked at home that week? Thank you, Pinterest.
I tested these fritters several weeks ago but perfected them last night. I'm a big fan of fritters. They are an especially tasty way to eat vegetables and whole grains. They make a tasty little appetizer for a crowd, or a perfect meat-free main for a week night. I'd imagine they'd also be a pretty easy way to sneak a pound of broccoli into a kid (shhh, I won't tell!). They also feel very springy, if artichokes don't qualify as a meal, I assure you artichokes with a side of fritters definitely do!
So these guys are about 80% broccoli and quinoa which means they are loaded with health benefits. Hello fiber. Hello protein. They have chopped green onions for zest and lightness and crumbled feta for salty creamy flavor. Serve them with a few generous slices of avocado, a dollop of greek yogurt, and a sprig of fresh cilantro and you've got dinner.
New to cooking with quinoa? Check out this great article to learn more about the science behind this super food.
Broccoli, Quinoa + Feta Fritters
Makes about 12; serves 4-6 as a main
For the fritters:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 2/3 cup water
1 pound broccoli
4 spring onions, diced
6 oz (~1 heaping cup) crumbled feta
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or flour of your choice)
3 large eggs
coconut oil for frying
Warm water in a small saucepan, meanwhile using a fine mesh strainer rinse your quinoa. Place quinoa in water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking prepare the other ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Chop broccoli into 1/2 inch florets. Cook broccoli in the boiling water for 4-5 minutes until bright green and a fork easily pierces through the pieces. Remove from water immediately as not to over-cook and transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toss cooked quinoa, spring onions, feta, parmesan, and salt with the broccoli. Add eggs and flour and stir until completely combined.
Pour just enough coconut oil to very thinly coat the bottom of the cast iron skillet. We're talking 1-2 tablespoons max. By now your skillet should be very warm. You can test it but splashing a little drop of water in the hot oil - it should sizzle. Scoop a heaping 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet and using a spatula, shape the batter into patties, then press down to compact the batter as it cooks. Repeat with remaining fritters.
Only when the bottom of the fritter is very dark brown, almost burnt, flip it over and cook the other side; cooking about 4 minutes on each side. If you flip it before this it will probably fall apart and the inside will be soggy. You want to get that nice crispy dark sear. Once both sides are cooked, remove from skillet and place over a paper-towel to absorb any excess oil (if your pan is hot enough, there really shouldn't be much).
Repeat with remaining batter, adding oil as needed. Serve fritters with a dollop of greek yogurt, sliced avocado, and a few sprigs of cilantro.
Gluten-free option? I see no reason why you couldn't use gluten free flour instead of all-purpose. Whole wheat could even work, though it may affect the taste. As you probably know, in addition to its many qualities, quinoa is naturally gluten-free!
These are definitely best on day 1. If you are going reheat them, avoid the microwave and either warm them in a frying pan or wrap them in foil and throw them in the toaster.
I came home from teaching a private Sunday morning craving something hearty, healthy, maple syrupy and very Fall. This salad is epic and checks all of those boxes. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I've never been much of a "salad person", but I'm trying to be. And I'm finding the more things you put into a salad, the tastier it usually is.
This salad celebrates Fall in a big way. It's apple-forward, with a cozy maple-y dressing, crunchy warm toasted almonds, tart dried cranberries, hearty quinoa and creamy goat cheese. And let's not forget the king of the health food world, Kale. Oh hail Kale. But seriously, this salad is just lovely. It's definitely making it onto my Thanksgiving table and I hope it makes it onto yours.
On another note, I'm taking the GRE tomorrow. And not to sound desperate, but I could use all the prayers/positive vibes/well wishes I could get. You see, there's math on the GRE, and I have to write, you know, academically for TWO essays. All I know how to write about is FOOD! So writing this post is my attempt at procrastinating on those last couple pages of vocabulary words. But seriously. Send those good vibes my way. Thank you!
Autumn Kale Salad with Quinoa, Almonds, Cranberries, Apples & Goat Cheese in a Maple Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
Serves 4-6 as a side
For the Salad:
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 large bunch of Kale, (12-14oz)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 very large Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced
For the Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Rinse your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and add to boiling water. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until water is completely absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in a large pinch of salt, fluff with a fork and set aside.
Preheat the oven (I use my toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Toss almonds with olive oil and salt and cook for about 5 minutes until almond skins begin to crack and turn a dark brown color (watch carefully so they don't burn). You want to bring them right to the edge of burnt so they are crunchy and extremely fragrant. (Note: these make a fantastic snack on their own!) Roughly chop and set aside.
Wash and de-rib your kale. The central rib of the kale is very bitter, discard the ribs or save them for juicing. Chop the kale into bite-size pieces.
Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients into a airtight jar (I use a mason) and shake until combined. Pour the dressing over the kale and using your hands, massage the kale and dressing together for a good 3 minutes until the kale becomes limp and the pile decreases in size. Add dried cranberries, almonds, quinoa, apples, and goat cheese. Toss and serve.
Notes: Because of it's sturdiness kale salads actually make great left-overs. The kale does a great job of holding its shape and doesn't get soggy.