The Pittsburgh Salad

IMG_8242

The summer before my senior year of college, I took a leadership class required for my degree. Our main text was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and from it we created a personal mission statement as one of our first assignments. I created a poster-size version of my mission statement at the time and I’ve since carted it around from home to home, always finding a special place to make it visible. This morning, the poster fell off the wall and I picked it up, re-read those words and realized, despite the distance of years, I would not change a single thing about the mission I crafted for myself that summer.

IMG_8255

I was gently reminded in re-reading that no matter my fears and unknowns, if I’m living my mission, I’m on the right track.

  • Listen to God. Live His plan.
  • Be active. Think healthy.
  • Cherish family. Do small acts to support positive, loving relationships.
  • Be a role model. Help others to achieve personal success.
  • Be a supportive and giving friend.
  • Appreciate nature. Do small tasks to ensure long-term ecological health.
  • Live in the moment. Right now. Enjoy it!

IMG_8252

Have you created a personal mission statement? If so, what is on it?

IMG_8241

The Pittsburgh Salad, serves 2 as a main dish

Last week, I was in Pittsburgh for a nutrition educators’ conference. It was the first time I had traveled long distance in years, spending several days with neither car nor kitchen, and I wondered how I would find the food options given my dietary constraints and vegetable-heavy tendencies. Within a few blocks of the conference, I discovered not one but two AMAZING salad bars. Normally, when I envision a salad bar, I think of Subway without bread–iceburg or romaine lettuce concoctions with pale tomatoes, dry shredded carrots, processed meats, and sketchy dressings. This was not the case. There were a gajillion freshly prepped and creative toppings to fit all sorts of eating preferences and lonnng lines out the door around lunch time. I found myself returning three days in a row because I only wanted to eat these salads. Without further going on about my hippy-dippy affinity for kale, quinoa, and beets, I’ve reconjured a variation of my favorite Pittsburgh Salad. Enjoy!

2 cups chopped kale

2 cups mixed greens

1/2 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

1/2 cup finely diced raw beets

1 medium yellow zucchini, chopped small

1 medium carrot, shredded

Grilled Tofu (below)

1/4 cup Honeyed + Spiced Pecans (below)

2-3 Tbs. Honey-Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette (below)

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the greens, quinoa, beets, shredded carrots, grilled tofu, and pecans.
  • While the grill is still warm from the tofu, toss the chopped yellow squash in the container that the tofu marinated in, gently moisten with the remaining marinade, and slide onto the grill. Cook until just beginning to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the grill and toss in the salad bowl with the remaining ingredients.
  • Toss the salad ingredients with the desired amount of vinaigrette and serve.

Grilled Tofu

6-7 oz. extra firm tofu

1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

3/4 tsp. honey

1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika oil (or  use a mild-flavored oil and a dash of smoked paprika)

  • Wrap the tofu block in several sheets of paper towels and set on a cutting board near a sink. Stack several heavy objects on top to press the extra water out, and let sit for 30-45 minutes.
  • Unwrap the tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • In a glass container with a lid or tupperware, gently mix the vinegar, honey and oil. Toss the tofu cubes into the marinade, close the lid, and shake to coat. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Heat a stovetop grill, slide tofu cubes on, and close the lid. Grill until char marks begin to form, about 4-5 minutes. Quickly turn the cubes to grill the other side and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

Honeyed + Spiced Pecans

1 1/2 cups raw pecans

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

pinch of cayenne powder

pinch of dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. honey

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread pecans on a large baking pan and roast until fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly.
  • In a small bowl, combine salt, thyme, pepper and cayenne.
  • In the baking pan, drizzle the pecans with oil and honey and toss well to coat completely. Sprinkle with the spice mixture and toss again.

Honey-Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. whole-grain mustard

1 Tbs. finely diced fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small container and shake to mix thoroughly.

Miso Quinoa Polenta

IMG_7741

 

The other day, a girl in my high school group asked what I was like when I was her age. She asked what I did when upset, my teenage equivalent to eating a tub of ice cream in front of a sad movie. I thought a moment and suddenly remembered sitting on the floor in my room with the green carpet and sea foam walls, back pressed up against the bed, journal out and angry music turned up loud. I’d write poetry.

 

I wrote a lot of terrible poetry. I also wrote some poems that were quite good, words that I still have and to this day, can bring chills in their ability to convey a feeling, to put me back in the exact moment of their writing.

 

IMG_7756

 

My AP English teacher singled out a particular poem one day during my senior year. Standing at his podium, he read it aloud to the class. I still recall the moment because I was incredibly embarrassed. I mostly reserved my poetry-releases to funny bits in birthday cards, never sharing the serious ones. Though he didn’t say my name, I sat there petrified, afraid I’d be called out. I don’t know why I’d chosen that particular poem to submit for a class assignment; perhaps because it was powerful, those words having been torn from somewhere I didn’t know existed. Having them on paper was a vulnerability and the very act of sharing with my teacher was scary enough; having them read aloud to a room full of peers was unnerving. If only those words were safer, lighter-hearted, less mature, I would have been more fine in sharing.

 

Mr. Colley having done reciting, he and the others praised those words, commending their particular arrangement. As I listened, I allowed myself to momentarily separate, treating the words as if they were the work of another. In some ways their ownership wasn’t mine as in the throes of writing, I never really had a choice in putting them down.

 

IMG_7731

 

I share this memory because it’s exactly what I felt in writing and sharing my last post.

 

I cannot begin to express what it is like to sort through all the words, thoughts, and feelings inside and pull them out, one by one, getting them down on a page exactly as they were meant to be, and then having them composed, opening a window and flinging them out to the world haphazardly, not knowing why or what will become of them, knowing only they need to be flung.

 

I’m only just recovering from the result.

 

I am overwhelmed by the response; by the amount and depth of public and private messages received. The summary, if I can summarize, is that it is important to be real, to be vulnerable, to share the highs and the lows and to help each other out in our improving.

 

IMG_7748

 

My dear friend Kari shared a mantra on her blog that she spent a year striving to live by. I was so inspired by Kari’s mantra that I wrote it down and plastered it to the back of my phone. When it wore off, I tucked it away in my purse. On the days I am furthest from living by them, I seem to randomly pull that wisp of paper out and gain an instant paradigm shift.

 

Kari’s words:  Be brave. Be kind. Be true.

 

I don’t have preconceived notions that anything I say here is particularly important in the grand scheme of things or even inspiring to others, but I do know that Kari’s words stuck with me. I’ve been pondering them, applying them, being brave with them. In passing them along, I hope Kari’s mantra can serve as a guide for you, just as it has guided me. In whatever ways that apply, I hope you can be brave. I hope you can remember to be kind. And when life brings little nudges, I hope you can be true.

 

IMG_7713

 

Miso Quinoa Polenta, serves 3-4

I’ve been making a mess of polenta this spring and one day, realizing I was short on cornmeal/polenta, I grabbed the quinoa and my coffee grinder and inspiration was born. The result is a nice change from both quinoa and polenta, and combines the best of both. I used a tri-colored quinoa, so the result is a touch gray, but any type will do. Grind it down to a fine meal in batches. As for the miso, I have only tried this with a soy-free chickpea miso that I purchase from a big bulk container at the co-op. I think it is this kind, but I’m not entirely sure. Regardless of what you choose, I recommend a lighter type. 

1 cup quinoa

2 + cups broth of choice or water

1 Tbs. light miso

1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

3-4 spring carrots, finely grated

a big handful of salad greens

spring onion greens, sliced

4 eggs, fried, or protein of choice

sunflower seeds for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

  • In a medium pot, bring water or broth to a boil. Slowly, whisk in the quinoa polenta, making sure no clumps form, and turn down to medium-low. Cook until it is as thick as you desire, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more liquid as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in miso and salt and pepper to taste.
  • While polenta is cooking, prep the vegetables and fry the eggs.
  • Spoon the polenta into plates or bowls, toss on the vegetables, sunflower seeds, and eggs. Enjoy!

Winter Roast Roots, Black Rice + Figs

IMG_7309

 

That evening I lay down, propped

across his chest,

tears.

A comforting thing

his cool expanse of breath. With each

release

hope transferred, at-home

my soul.

Solid centering root,

sea uncertainty,

life dance.

 

IMG_7301

 

Winter Roast Roots, Black Rice + Figs, serves 6 or so, as a side

Some weeks feel inextricably more difficult than they need to. This dish is the sort of winter tonic to show the negative energies I’ve a bit of sassafras yet. Moody, dramatic, a touch sweet, earthy. Roast up any combination of winter vegetables. Parsnips and celeriac are January favorites. Kohlrabi are clever, if elusive. They’re best found in a winter garden round these parts. Ask a farmer. Or your eccentric neighbor with a fondness for funky purple vegetables. Mushrooms make a lovely addition. Don’t forget the figs. They add just the right touch. 

 

IMG_7311

 

2-3 parsnips, roughly chopped

2-3 carrots, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped

3 kohlrabi, stems removed, peeled and roughly chopped

4-5 stems thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried

1 tsp. salt, plus additional salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil

1 cup black rice, rinsed

2 1/4 cups water

1 small bunch kale, destemmed and chopped

1/2 cup dried figs, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prep the roots and toss them with the salt, a dash of black pepper, and olive oil. Roast until tender, 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, combine the black rice and water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Turn down to low, cover and cook for 40 minutes.

While rice and roots are cooking, dice figs, and prepare the kale. A couple minutes before the vegetables come from the oven, toss in the kale and allow to wilt. Then, remove the vegetables from the oven, toss with the rice, figs, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.