our messy table

Category: Salad

a good fight

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After completing a family weekend trip with a toddler and infant this last weekend, my sister told me that she was never going to get married or have kids.

I had to laugh at her honesty. Because I can only imagine what my college-aged sister and high school-aged brother think of my married/child-rearing older brother and myself.

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We had spent two nights in a hotel and were all pretty much at the mercy of the little one’s sleep/eating schedules, which is the norm for my husband, brother, sister-in-law and me. But from where the two bright-eyed youngsters stood, the view of 4 arguing, sleepless young parents probably looked nothing short of miserable.

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I had to laugh because I forget about the perspective of my two youngest siblings. Their oldest sister: cursing her helpless husband for everything from our son’s mismatched clothes to the weather… as I fidget with guilt and strain to make every simple decision.

And I have to love them for it, because I forget.  Meaning, they don’t even let me know how crazy I look because I guess they love me anyway.

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My youngest siblings never avoided the extra responsibility of playing puzzles with my son as I got dressed or look for a room key. If anything, they held the baby, swam in the freezing pool with the water-crazed toddler, and made me very proud to be their older sister.

My message to them: It’s the good fight, young ones. And it is all worth it, regardless of how it looks on the outside, or from the depths of a freezing cold hotel pool.

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Thanks to my mother and father for treating us this weekend, and my mother and father-in-law for watching our naughty dog. We had a very very blessed and memorable Easter weekend (to say the least). And to you readers, I wish you all the same.

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 Deb’s Kale Salad with Apple, Cranberry and Pecans

Adapted slightly from Cookie and Kate

Yield 4 servings

Salad

  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecan halves
  • 8 ounces curly green kale
  • 4 to 5 medium radishes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 medium granny smith apple
  • 4 ounces goat cheese

Dressing

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  1. Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stems and discard the stems. Use a chef’s knife to chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  2. Thinly slice the radishes. Add them to the bowl.
  3. Coarsely chop the pecans and cranberries and add them to the bowl. Chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately, or for even better flavor, let the salad marinate in the dressing for 10 to 20 minutes beforehand.
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service engine soon

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On the current property we are renting, buried deep in one the barns is a lawn mower that works 20% of the time with a blade attachment made for snow removal. Here in the Midwest, when the ground gets very cold, the earth tends to shift. This is a problem. Because in our situation, the winter has shifted a slab of cement in front of the door of the barn so that we cannot open the door to access this mower.

We have a very long driveway, and we have a great many drifts of snow blockading us from the road.

As you may have guessed, this leaves us with no way to remove the snow so we can easily make out way to work every morning.

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My husband has spent roughly 1 hour and 1/2 a tank of gas the last few evenings driving one of our vehicles hap-haphazardly through the snowdrifts (with its blinking “service engine soon” light) to make tracks for his flimsy little car  to make it through in the morning. Then he spent another 20 filling up said flimsy little car’s routinely deflating tires with air.

And sometimes… sometimes it feels like we just don’t fit the mold a smooth-functioning life. Like our life can be summed up to a puzzle with pieces that got sucked on by a toddler then lost under the couch for 8 months. And now we are doomed… doomed to function. Doomed to create a neat and perfectly finished picture.

Sometimes it feels like we are metaphorically my husband’s flimsy little car, and that our life-obstacles are the snow drifts in our driveway and we are just trying to make it through somehow… with a blinking “service engine soon” light and a flat tire.

Its a little scary how quickly the little things can build me up and tear me down. These little things, for me, metaphorically assemble the puzzle of our life;  a finished picture that illustrates where we are. And when it doesn’t come together (which it often doesn’t), I begin to feel defeated. Sometimes depressed. Sometimes angry and like I am completing losing control of myself.

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And sometimes I retaliate against our bad luck. I clear out the basement so our son has a place to ride his bike. I drive to the grocery store and buy ice cream for 3. I paint with my toddler.  I stay home all day making actual meals and spending actual time with my family. I chose to win in the ways that I can.

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Hopefully, with time, the pieces will come together and make sense.

Hopefully, with time, the earth will shift again so we can… you know… get into the barn.

Hopefully, with time, we will get a better grip on things. And when that happens, I sort of hope we miss the old puzzle – the assembled pictures that didn’t quite fit.

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Warm Green Lentil Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, very thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley or cilantro to top (optional)
  • fried egg, to top (optional)

Put a kettle or a pot (containing about 4 cups water) on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Fold in the carrots and celery.

Add the lentils to the saucepan and stir to coat with the onion mixture. Pour the boiling water into the pan and stop when the level is about ½-inch over the top of the lentils (should be roughly 3 1/2 cups of water). Bring back to a good boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook the lentils for about 20 minutes. Stir in the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook an additional 10-15 minutes – or until lentils are tender but still slightly chewy.

Remove from the heat and let sit for ten minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Serve warm – with a lightly-fried egg and a sprinkling of parsley on top if you’d like. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for an additional 4-5 days.

surely

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We are a bit late this year. But finally, our garden had been planted.

We had an incident with our starters (they… um… blew away), and our tiller (it… uh… broke) and then there was the issue of where to plant the garden. We are due to move from our rental home at the end of this month. The question, “where to” still begs an answer. But we needed a garden, I declared. We needed fresh vegetables and something constructive to do under the sun. I wanted my son’s little hands to be busy picking beans and watering tomatoes and nurturing things to life. So, my parents were kind enough to let us use their yard for our mass of summer squash, winter squash, beans, dark greens, tomatoes and peppers. We planted carrots and beets in pots, and our herbs rest along the window sill, safety in my kitchen, away from the maddening winds of Iowa.

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We are treading through a transitional time, which isn’t a comfortable process for me. I like change. But the act of changing throws me off. It makes me feel unstable. Like the ground my feet were planted firmly, the ground that I trusted, split into earthy plates and drifted mysteriously away.

After spending the fall, winter and spring babysitting another little boy, my son and I are home alone for the summer. I have been taking advantage of the flexible time, the ability to just pick up and go. But  my son and I miss his play mate. And I miss the predictable routine we had wrapped ourselves into.

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Also, I plan to go back to school full-time in the fall. I have arranged for a babysitter and have been connecting dots and jumping through the hoops that school and life require. I feel excited and ready, but unsteady at the same time. I want the hoops to be lower. The dots to be closer together. And I want immediate answers to the lingering questions only time can answer.

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. . .

I have been thinking a lot about place lately. How the place you chose to live shapes you.

It is clear that my nearly 18-month-old has lived most of his life surrounded by open space. He knew every farm animal sound before he could talk. When he plays outside, the 30 mph wind flapping around his hair and clothes like desperately floundering fish hardly phases him. To him, large bodies of water are astonishing. Boats are mysterious-looking trucks. And probably, mountains are a little scary.

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I know my son will love this garden. And I am really grateful we don’t have to explain the concept of “moving” to him yet. He is still so resilient. So resourceful. And all he needs are my arms to know where home is.

I want to be more like that… you know, more trusting. More resilient. I want to believe home is where the three of us are together. And I think I am getting there. Slowly. But surely.

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. . .

I am pretty addicted to these lentils. I have made them approximately 4 times in the last 2 weeks… wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, spread over my favorite and easiest bread recipe, and straight from the fridge. My son likes to eat them with a spoon alongside me, but due to the choking hazard, I make sure to leave the walnuts out of his portion.

Lentils folded into Yogurt, Spinach, and Basil

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, chopped to the size of lentils
  • 2 cups baby spinach or arugula
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup Greek or plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • fine grain sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

With a sharp knife, gently slice the spinach and basil leaves into bite-sized pieces without bruising them. Otherwise, tear by hand.

Place the lentils in a bowl and mix in the spinach and basil. Squeeze the lemon into the lentils (mindful to omit the seeds), mix, and then fold in the yogurt. Mix again, and then pour in the olive oil, stirring, as you do, to combine. At this point, taste the mixture, and season with salt, and two good grindings of pepper. Finally, fold the nuts into the dish, and finish with a drizzle of oil.

The lentils and greens will keep in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for at least three days.

When you’re ready to assemble, bring the lentil mixture to room temperature. Give it a taste, and adjust with more salt or some lemon juice. It can go on toasted bread, in a wrap, over salad or plain. Finish with some Parmesan shavings.

with salad

 

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Though buying them in bulk is so much cheaper, I have had my qualms with dried beans. Don’t get me wrong. Grocery shopping feels like a small victory when I slide up the bulk handle and watch hundreds of marbley beans fall into my bag for only a few dollars. But I have learned the hard way that sometimes, when dried beans have been loafing in those bins for too long, the seed membrane can become extremely hard and never, ever soften. Therefore, the battle of crock pot vs. old bean has an unfortunate and predictable end (I’ll give you a hint… crunchy bean chili… crunchy bean tacos… crunchy bean non-paste).

Also, there is all the buzz about soaking your beans… whether or not soaking away the small amount of the phytates and tannins is worth also soaking away the… eerm..  flatulence-related substances.

Whatever, people. Black beans have their value either way. They have an ever-amazing protein-plus-fiber content that helps regulate the digestive process and blood sugar. Black beans also contain an impressive amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients which reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly colon cancer.

Most often, I buy them canned because, as stated before, I have learned to not trust those bean bulk bins. I often wait until I see someone re-filling them , or if I can find a processing date that is fairly recent… like the last six months. But usually, canned beans and I are friends.

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Carrots. I recently learned (from Martha Stewart Living’s May addition, thank you) that Carotenoids, the antioxidant that gives this root vegetable its orange pigment may protect against heart disease, cataracts, and certain cancers. It’s a good thing, too. Because carrots are one of the few veggies I can confidently feed my son without have to guise with cheese.

We have all heard that brown rice is better for us than white… that white rice is just naked brown nice, almost fully stripped of its nutrition. By removing the hull (the outer most layer of the grain), you are also removing almost all of the Vitamin B, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin B6. You also lose half the manganese, phosphorus, iron, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.

I mean, in my house, we still like white rice. We like our Arborio rice made into creamy risotto, a bed of long-grain white rice for grilled meat and vegetables, and Jasmin rice, fluffed with coconut and served with walnuts or cashews. It is hard to beat the easy and fluffy texture of well-prepared white rice. Regardless, with the help of black beans and carrots, the heft and heartiness of brown rice certainly has a place to nutritionally shine in this salad.

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This salad is a really nice one to have around for a quick pick-me-up snack, a filling on-the-road meal, or those its-late-and-I-don’t-want-to-think-about-dinner nights. I have enjoyed it under a fried egg, wrapped in a warm whole wheat tortilla, and cold, straight from the fidget. I think my son likes how tangy the dressing is because he rolls his finger around the bottom of the bowl to collect every drop. I also like how just a little of this salad fills me up for a long, long time.

You could probably substitute the rice for another grain, like farro, amaranth, or quinoa (or, you know, white rice;)). You could also swap the kale for another dark, leafy green or even chopped cabbage. All salads are adaptable! Let me know how your salad adventure goes!

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Black Bean and Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Carrots

Yield: 2-3 servings

  • 1 15 oz. can  black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (approximately ½ cup uncooked)
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • ½ Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ Tablespoon maple syrup
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • ½ small yellow onion
  • ½ large handfuls baby kale
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

Dressing

  • 1 ½ Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 glug (eye-ball a teaspoon) maple syrup
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • Good pinch ground paprika

Cook brown rice and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and remove tops from carrots, but leave the skin on.  Slice them however you like so long as the pieces are the same size so that they can cook evenly. Toss carrots with cumin, olive oil, maple syrup and salt. Lay out on a baking sheet and roast until carrots are fragrant and soft, about 20 minutes.

While carrots roast, prepare the rest of the salad. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside. Fold the cooled cooked brown rice and black beans with kale and onion. When carrots are cool, add them as well.

In a dry skillet, roast pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat until they pop. Allow them to cook before adding them to the salad.

Drizzle dressing over salad. Enjoy.