Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

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For my birthday in May 2006, my college roommate and good friend gave me a paper bag full of apples. To this day, I  consider it to be one of the simplest and most thoughtful of gifts.

Though I tend to avoid using them in recipes (because I eat them all fresh), apples are my all-time favorite food and I tend to be persnickety about what a good apple tastes like. I have a slight obsession with the kind of apples that can’t be found in most grocery stores and with unique names like Zabergau Reinette, Poundsweet, and Sheepnose. There used to be an old-timer named Joe at the Corvallis market this time of year who would talk my ear off about the 100+ heirloom apple varieties in his orchard while handing me slices to taste, each with a different complex flavor. Basically, I looked forward to market day just to hear his apple stories.

 

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When I was working in Ireland several summers back, I traipsed around counting, weighing, and mostly eating berries all day but one of my highlights was the day Andy asked if I’d like a tour of the orchard. I practically jumped in the jeep before the words were out of his mouth. Prior to that, I toured a couple orchards in northern Washington during my experience at the farm & cooking school, Quilasascut. I was the nerdy annoying girl asking too many complex questions the day we visited the apple trees. And before that in pomology, my favorite class at UCD, we visited farmers who, like Joe, had orchards filled with hundreds of varieties. On our farm tours, we walked and talked, eating apples all the while.

Basically, I love any chance to follow farmers around all day letting them share some of their wisdom about apples.

 

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If ever I come into possession of a few acres to plant a gazillion ancient apple varieties, I might be on to a new calling. In the meantime, I’m trying to convince William to tear out all the worthless pretty flowering cherry trees in our front yard and replace them with apples. He’s basically the yard maintenance guy in this household and after all the work he put into those cherries this summer with no payout, he’s mostly convinced.

 

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Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad, serves 4

For this month’s Recipe Redux, we were asked to show what’s in our Plant Protein Power Bowls, or what I refer to as grain salads. Packed with protein, fiber and color, plant power bowls are trendy and delicious. William and I happen to eat some variation of a one-dish grain salad for dinner at least a couple times each week and have been since way before eating plant-based or from a power/Buddha/yoga/nourish/etc.-bowl became a thing. This one, with it’s seemingly interesting ingredient combination, came together out of what was on hand one evening–and because from previous experience, I love the caramelizy-sweet fennel, fresh sage and apple combination. The kale, quinoa, and baby lima beans just happen to be good additions and the pomegranate seeds provide a little festive something extra. I made this twice in a row and much to my dismay and delight, William (who avoids leftovers) took most of what was left for lunch. This little well-rounded salad was so good, colorful, and as I said, festive, that I might just be making it again for some of our upcoming holidays. Enjoy!

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked baby lima beans (or other white bean)
2-3 cups finely chopped kale
1-2 Tbs. fresh sage leaves, minced
1 small apple, sliced thin
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup roasted/toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, use to taste
sea salt + pepper, to taste

  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and then place it, along with the 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a sauté pan over medium-high, heat 1/2 Tbs. olive oil and then sauté the onion and fennel, about 5-8 minutes, until both are soft and golden. Remove from the heat and slide into a big bowl, along with the cooled quinoa, and lima beans.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chopped kale and remaining tablespoon of oil with your hands, gently squeezing the kale to soften it up a bit. Then combine it, along with the sage, sliced apple, pomegranate and hazelnuts, to the quinoa mixture.
  • Add 1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, tasting as you go, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto

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I’m taking a class right now called Redefining Nutrition. One of its texts is Marc David’s Nourishing Wisdom, and I recommend it to just about everyone. Essentially, it backs up a lot of what I already know about food and diets, that there is no one diet for everyone, that we are all especially unique when it comes to food and food preferences, and that our bodies are always changing, and our diets should naturally change with them to reflect the seasons and our changing needs.

 

I recently read too, Gena Hamshaw’s wonderful article, about tuning out the noise around new year’s diets, cleanses, and body-resolutions. It was written specifically for those in recovery from eating disorders and it resonated strongly with me as Gena brought to attention the extemely competitive nature of food and fitness-regimes. Essentially, Gena suggests the often difficult task of tuning out all the hype and just, “you do you.”

 

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Taking into consideration both readings, I sit ill with encouraging you to “go eat this recipe” that I share, because that’s not me. And perhaps it is not the recipe you need right now if you are doing you. I only share recipes here that are essentially what I am eating in this season, for me. William, who generally raves about my cooking, doesn’t always agree with me that he needs to eat another grain and bean bowl, and sometimes, he tells me, he just needs pizza instead of greens.

 

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Specifically, a little more about me: I am cold all winter. I cart my heating pad wherever I go and blast the car-heater for a whole hour on my drive home. I have to warm up my fingers and toes after only short snippets outside and I tell friends I no longer snowboard because it cost too much and is too long of a drive and I hurt my knee on ice that last time and never got over the fear of doing so again, but actually I don’t snowboard anymore because I spent half the day on the lift freezing and I’m actually more afraid of spending hours being cold. So when the new year rolls around, I don’t do smoothies or cold salads. I rarely drink a cold beverage between the months of October and April. I’m not into cleanse diets or “clean-eating”. Mostly, I want to eat comforting, nourishing, warming things that just happen to be good for me, in the way that good food or good company fills you up and doesn’t seem to have any caloric value or nutritional plan attached to it or necessary for its consumption.  This is me tuning out the noise and eating for me. I encourage you to get quiet enough to find out what you need and if you want to make a diet, exercise, or other wellness resolution this year, go for it. But make it one that is true to you.

 

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So as is my usual, I’m eating warm and wintery vegetables this January and this creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto is one I know I’ll be making for years to come during the winter season. I first began making it way back in November and shared it at Thanksgiving with the fam. While I love all risotto, this one uses short grain brown rice, which gives it that creamy risotto texture which usually only comes with arborio or other traditional risotto rice varieties. It features caramelized onions, sage and rosemary, pumpkin puree, a hint of sweetness with a spoonful of maple syrup, and is rounded out with Progresso’s rich and savory vegetable stock. Now available in grocery stores nationwide in the soup aisle, Progresso has officially launched a new line of premium Cooking Stocks, made by simmering real bones, vegetables and herbs to create a flavor that’s close to homemade. I’ve made my own vegetable stock and I can honestly say Progresso’s tastes quite similar to my own version. Since this risotto itself is already more of a weekend endeavor, I like the shortcut of purchasing a nice cooking stock rather than making my own or using water only.

 

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Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto, serves 4

1/2 Tbs. coconut or olive oil

1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 Tbs. cashew cream (see note)

1 Tbs. maple syrup

3/4 tsp. salt

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed and leaves finely diced

1/2 Tbs. finely diced fresh sage

pinch of ground black pepper

3 cups Progresso Vegetable Stock

2 Tbs. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

  1. To caramelize the onion: warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring to coat. Decrease the heat to low and let the onion cook until dark golden brown, about 25 minutes. Stir as little as possible, but enough to keep the onion from sticking to the pan or burning.
  2. While the onion is caramelizing, parboil the rice by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Stir in the rice, decrease the heat to medium, and cook until the rice is half tender and slightly enlarged, about 12-15 minutes. Drain it and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a 9×9 inch baking dish or 2-quart dutch oven.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, cashew cream, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and herbs. Fold in the onions once they are caramelized and the rice. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish and spread it out so the top is nicely level.
  5. In a saucepan, over medium-high, bring the vegetable stock to just below boiling. Put the baking dish in the oven, and then slowly and carefully pour the hot vegetable broth over the top.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes. The risotto will still be a little loose and have a layer of liquid still on top. It will continue to soak up liquid as it cools.
  7. Remove from the oven and top with chopped hazelnuts. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Note: To make cashew cream, soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in water for at least an hour. Drain and add to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add 2-4 Tbs. water and puree until completely smooth. You now have your cream for this recipe and a little extra for another time. The extra freezes well.

As part of The Recipe Redux Progresso Comfort Food Flavor Boost Challenge, I received free samples of Progresso Cooking Stock mentioned in this post at no cost. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Progresso Cooking Stock and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 

for the joy

for the joy

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I went for a run the other day, an easy four miles, and I found myself having to hold back at the end. Again.

 

Several years ago when William and I were first dating, we’d run together frequently, getting to truly know each other over our running-with-another-styles. Will was content to always keep it casual, slow and easy. My competitive streak had me unconsciouslessly always staying one step ahead with random surges thrown in whenever I felt good. I’d often laugh recklessly and pick it up a little more when he wanted to slow down. I tend to get faster as the miles add up while he likes to rush out at the beginning and then slow down. I’m stronger-willed. I usually set the pace. Despite our differences, we got into a habit of finishing each run with a little sprint to the end. It was never a set time or distance, just somewhere close to our finishing point, we’d glance at each other, mutter something like “race you to…” and take off. William usually won. It was so so fun.

 

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Running hasn’t been so easy or joyful this year. I have been battling my body and mind this entire year. I finally figured out my mind has identified its body as perpetually injured. Despite the belief that I will eventually be injury-free, my daily thought pattern does nothing to support this mindset. Any time something new feels off, my mind goes into a two to six day anxiety party, in which I can focus on almost nothing else except the thing that is off, worrying about “what-if it…”, and then after those first few days have past, I accept the off-feeling as the new norm, and it becomes the problem. All of this happens before any doctor can actually identify anything is truly wrong. It is a bad pattern that I’ve finally acknowledged and am attempting to stop vicariously jumping into. I’ve also come to terms with the idea that my mind thrives on (and is perpetually sickened by) a stressful environment. And it doesn’t matter what is actually happening in life, whether my current circumstances are actually worthy of stress, my mind always finds something to be stressed about. For me, the link between mental stress and physical symptoms, in any myriad of ways, is real. I have accurately identified a whole host of physical ills I’ve suffered over the years that are linked to stress. I have a great doctor that supports my theories. It is crazy this mind-body connection. The good thing here is that I’ve finally acknowledged this internal battle and I know it is not the way I want to live.

 

Running is where I seek a lot of mental solace. And since my physical body has been somewhat out of commission all these months, my mind has freely been running havoc instead. After a substantial amount of crying and worrying and praying this year, asking Him repeatedly why he gave me this particular challenge to overcome, I was practically smacked in the face one day in adoration at church with the realization that this has been such a good year. I have had to stop running, at first physically and then mentally, and actually work through the baggage that I had been holding on to. I’ve had to stop, just sit, literally, and simply feel every thing I’ve spent my entire life avoiding feeling.

 

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Deacon Anderson had a Carl Jung quote/paraphrase one Sunday in church that has been my truth this year. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll play with our cell phones, we’ll have sex, we’ll throw ourselves into our work, we’ll exercise until we drop, we’ll buy stuff, we’ll do anything, anything, to avoid this journey and this struggle, to keep from embracing our shadow, he shared.

 

This year, I’ve sat with, cried with, yelled at, wanted to rip out and throw away, run with, forgiven, soothed, gotten to know, and finally, faced my soul. It has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

 

It has been the best thing I have ever done.

 

And it is an ongoing, never-ending, daily practice. It is a complete lifestyle change to know and face my soul, to continue acknowledging it rather than running away. So far, it does not get easier with time.

 

And so, running. Running and work and blogging and food and family and making a home and being a sister, aunt, daughter, wife, cousin, friend, teacher, and mentor. And living. Above all, I want to live and experience peace in each moment, let all my worries and what-ifs and over-whelming, self-imposed schedule go, acknowledge but not engage with those thoughts that will always try to take over, and let them go. And again. Every goddamn day starting over.

 

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When I let all my worries go, I realize I am happy. Despite whatever chaos I’ve brought on myself or the world has imposed, I am happy. There is joy when I write and joy when I pray. There is joy in my interactions, joy in throwing my schedule out and going with someone else’s plans. There is joy in running that has nothing to do with managing my body, that is no longer based on being able to withstand the pain for a little while, but actual joy in realizing that despite whatever might feel slightly off, my body does not have to be a battleground, and the last mile of a four or five or easy six miler feels good and I feel like sprinting it in to the end again–simply for the joy of it.

 

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Big Tasty Winter Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Squash + Candied Hazelnuts

When it comes to holiday gatherings, I’m the salad person in my family. Every year I have somehow shown up to Thanksgiving or Christmas with Brussels sprouts–and then the relatives tell me they’ve spent their entire lives not liking them but they look forward to mine. I guess that is the highest compliment a vegetable-loving, on-a-mission-to-get-people-to-eat-their-veggies lady can receive. Spinning off the sweet dressing and candied nuts in my Pittsburgh Salad, I decided to throw all my favorite wintry salad things in a big ol’ Thanksgiving-sized bowl and feed people greens again this year. And it worked. I’ve made this salad a couple times since and it is tasty enough that I might take it to every social gathering between now and the end of winter squash season (that’s around mid-March for me). It is just that good.

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

1 small or 1/2 a medium winter squash, roasted and then cut into medium-large chunks

a small to medium handful of dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries, or a handful of each

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, bottoms and outer leaves removed and halved, if they are large

1 Tbs. olive oil

 

For the candied hazelnuts:

3/4 cup raw hazelnuts

3/4 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. honey

1/8 tsp. salt

Cayenne pepper

 

For the vinaigrette:

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. whole-grain mustard

1 Tbs. honey

salt and pepper to taste

 

  • On a large baking pan, toss Brussels sprouts with a good drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F.
  • While the Brussels are roasting, prep kale and put it in a large mixing bowl, along with the roasted squash and dried fruits. Once the Brussels begin to soften but still have a little crunch, remove them from the oven, and pour them atop the kale and give it a quick stir. This will begin to soften up the kale.
  • Spread the hazelnuts in a small baking pan or on the same dish the Brussels came off of, and toast until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Then, toss them with 1/8 tsp. salt and a good pinch of cayenne pepper. Drizzle with the 3/4 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. honey. Toss them all into the bowl with the Brussels and kale.
  • Make the vinaigrette by whisking the remaining oil, honey, mustard, and vinegar in a small dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour it in small batches over the salad ingredients until you’ve dressed it with your desired amount.