If summer is cobbler season, then fall is definitely roasting season. I've been roasting my way through the beginning stages of our cool weather, warming up the house just enough to take the chill out of the air as it's not quite time to turn on the heat.Read More
We decluttered and reorganized our bookshelf and office last weekend. As a planner and a checklist lover I consider myself an organized person. But I am less enthused by deep organizational work involving tangible objects, such as organizing the bookshelf. It overwhelms me. While no single step is difficult I paint a mental image of the process being messy and chaotic: pulling down all the books, sorting them into piles to stay or be boxed up, oh and while we're at it rearranging some surrounding furniture, cleaning behind the furniture, then cleaning the bookshelf, and finally re-shelving the books.
But at the end of the day I love the feeling after the work is complete and we are enjoying the space. It's a cleanse for the reading nook and once again makes it feel zen and functional, exactly what I like to achieve in our home. This is the end goal I keep in mind and is what drives me to create a plan of attack, a strategy to get off my butt and tackle a seemingly overwhelming project.
This mindset also applies to food shopping and preparation. I don't always enjoy the planning and preparation bit. Do you ever feel this way? But I am deeply nourished and satisfied by home-cooked, plant-based, whole food meals showing up on my table. I value what they contribute to my health, my sense of well-being and lifestyle of wellness. Living and cooking this way is a non-negotiable for me because I see how each step supports my vision of wellness.
By creating this vision of wellness we enable ourselves to rise above the daily, mundane tasks and apply meaning to planning, shopping, and cooking (and reorganizing bookshelves!). When our tasks are aligned with our values, we will value our tasks.
What does your vision of wellness look like? What action steps are you taking to achieve that vision? (For inspiration check out this post, especially Lissa Rankin's health cairn.)
This red leaf lettuce salad is a great example of how preparing a meal does not have to be time-consuming nor complicated in order to align with our vision of wellness. I will often make salad for dinner. For a well-rounded salad, I keep a few things in mind.
Eastern medicine traditions, specifically the ancient science of Ayurveda, suggests that balancing the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter) in a meal supports balance and health in our body, clarity, and helps us to feel nourished and satisfied, thus diminishing cravings. I try to incorporate as many of these tastes as possible and also balance the macronutrients and textures. I've created a quick reference guide for you below. Hope this is helpful when creating your own salads. And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this red leaf lettuce salad!
Constructing a Salad
*examples are not exhaustive
Carbs (greens, fresh fruit, dried fruit, leftover grains)
Protein (legumes, lentils, quinoa, nuts, eggs, tempeh, seeds, cheese)
Fat (avocado, nuts, cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, other cold-pressed oils such as flax)
Crunchy (nuts, seeds, lettuce, some vegetables)
Chewy (dried fruit, some grains, semi-hard/hard cheese, sun-dried tomatoes)
Creamy (avocado, some beans, cheese)
Juicy (stone fruit, citrus fruit, tomatoes)
Sweet (fruit, grain, starchy vegetables, dairy, sugar, honey)
Salty (salt, soy sauce, sea vegetables)
Sour (citrus fruit, pickled/fermented food, vinegar)
Pungent (mustard, black pepper, ginger)
Astringent (lentils, green apples, grape skins)
Bitter (dark leafy greens, sprouts, beets)
Red Leaf Lettuce and Nectarine Salad
1 nectarine, chopped
4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 avocado, chopped
Semi-hard goats cheese
Handful pistachios, shelled
A few handfuls red leaf lettuce, chopped
Whole Grain Mustard Dressing
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
Make the dressing in the bottom of a wide bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add salad ingredients on top*, then toss gently with two forks or salad servers.
*If you want to make this 30 minutes or so in advance, add the salad ingredients to the dressing, layering n the order listed. Then toss with dressing when ready to serve. This way lettuce does not get soggy.
I think red cabbage is often overlooked and underappreciated. It doesn't need to be cooked to death like it often is. It's characteristic crunch is a positive quality in my book, and doing a quick sauté maintains the crunch but removes the rawness and concentrates the sweetness while also addressing the seasonal need for warm salads. And who doesn't like that vibrant purple color on their plate (don't ask me why it's called
cabbage)! The creamy cannellini beans balance the crunch, and the vinegar, honey, and mustard create a nice little sauce at the bottom of the pan. If you're feeling in the mood add an apple cut into matchsticks for another texture and complimentary flavor.
This is a quick weeknight side and if you have leftovers the dish is even better the next day. You could also chop the cabbage in advance to get dinner on the table even faster. I paired the sauté with Heidi's harissa
to make for a very satisfying, but relatively simple, weeknight meal.
Sweet & Tangy Red Cabbage Sauté
Serves 4-6 as a side
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot (or 1/2 small red onion), chopped
1 small red cabbage ( 1 - 1 1/4 pounds)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar or balsamic would also work)
1 tsp. honey (or pure maple syrup)
1 1/2 tsp. grainy mustard
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Quarter the cabbage and cut into each quarter at an angle to remove the tough core. Then slice the quarters into thin ribbons.
Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat . Add the shallot and cabbage and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 - 15 minutes or until the cabbage has reduced in volume and is cooked but still with a bite. During that time you may need to turn the heat down to between medium and medium-high, depending on the weight of your pan.
Turn heat down to medium, add garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook for a minute. Add cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spatula or spoon to scrape up any brown bits at the bottom, then add remaining ingredients over low heat and stir to warm through.
Serve immediately straight from the pan!
Happy New Year! I'm always curious to know what people really think when they enter a new year. Perhaps excited for a fresh start, motivated by new goals or a recent change in their life, relieved to have escaped the previous year, or maybe just straight up ambivalent! These are all valid feelings, none of which I am a stranger to. But I most strongly consider the new year as an opportunity to hit the refresh and cleanse button for my mind and body. I try to make small tweaks that are sustainable and balanced because that's what life is about;
nothing more elaborate than carving out time to reflect on personal challenges and achievements in the last year and uncluttering my mind to refocus and define what is most important to me and where I should channel my energy in the coming year. One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is a little time and energy directed to our personal health and happiness, which will in turn allow us to be more present with each other and more effective and productive citizens of the world.
Hitting the refresh button means something different to each of us. Since we arrived in Switzerland I have been fascinated watching our Swiss neighbors hang their bed linens out their windows in the morning. Whether it's warm or cold out, in the city or countryside, the morning hours promise a show of, at the least wide open windows (no window screens needed here), and oftentimes also comforters, pillows, and even stuffed animals :-[ hanging from the ledge. It's a sensory cleanse, Swiss-style!
Sometimes I feel the need to hit the refresh button on my dinner plate too, especially once winter sets in and simmering soups and stews take over the stove. Winter root vegetables are plentiful now and perfect for roasting, braising, and stewing. But I crave winter citrus as a balanced counterpart, and this pure, cleansing, and fresh citrus black rice salad was the answer recently.
The sweet and tangy citrus combined with substantial, chewy grains and a scattering of crumbly cheese makes for a very happy day.
Black rice can be found at health food stores and on Amazon. However, if you cannot find black rice, pearled barley, quinoa, or farro are equally delicious substitutes. But here are a few interesting facts about black rice that may just entice you to set out in search for some.
Black rice is an heirloom variety from Asia and is also known as forbidden rice, japonica rice, and purple rice. It has been claimed as a superfood and the new brown rice. I love it because it's an all-in-one whole food. It turns a deep purple color once cooked adding a vibrancy to your plate, and it has a pleasingly chewy, slightly sticky texture and nutty flavor. And it is a nutritional powerhouse to boot. It has a superior combination of antioxidants because it is usually sold in its whole grain, unprocessed form which keeps in tact the outer layer of bran. Like brown rice it has comparable fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein content.
Citrus Black Rice Bowls
Notes: I intended to use ricotta salata (a mildly nutty Italian cheese made by pressing, salting, and drying ricotta) in this recipe. But sadly I could not find it. I went with a sheep's milk feta which worked perfectly, but if you have a chance to pick up some ricotta salata please do.
For variations to the salad add toasted, chopped walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts at the end.
- 1 1/2 cups black rice
- 1 grapefruit or pomelo
- 1 large blood orange or regular orange
- 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 small bunch of tarragon (or other herb of choice such as basil, parsley, or dill), chopped
- Handful of feta, crumbled (or ricotta salata)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook black rice according to package directions, but go just shy on the amount of liquid called for so that the grains cook up separately and are slightly drier.
- While the rice is cooking, segment the citrus. Working over a large bowl to catch the juices, cut the citrus segments away placing them in a separate smaller bowl. Once all segments are cut away squeeze any remaining juice into the large bowl. To the juice add olive oil, vinegar, honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the level of acidity and sweetness to your liking.
- Next, prepare the fennel. Remove outer fibrous layer of fennel bulb, halve it, and slice as thinly as possible using a mandolin or a knife. Add fennel shavings to the citrus vinaigrette and set aside.
- Once the rice is cooked, immediately toss it with the fennel and vinaigrette.
- Gently stir in the citrus, herbs, and cheese. Taste, adjust for seasoning, and serve immediately.
What are your motivations for the new year? The word goal does not conjure a meaningful emotion for me, so instead I think in terms of inspirations and aspirations.
Two quotes from the Dalai Lama will continue to inspire me this year.