Dried Plum + Millet Tabbouleh

 

 

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Disclosure:  I received free samples of California Dried Plums mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Dried Plum Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time. 

 

For me, the spring season means a whole host of grain salads. I tend to eat gluten-free whole grains like millet, brown or black rice, quinoa and buckwheat as the center of many meals year-round, but in the spring, fresh, raw greens and herbs start to take more of the center stage. Inevitably, I end up adding sweet things into these meals, often in the way of fresh or dried fruits.

 

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May happens to be National Osteoporosis Month, and the California Dried Plum Board is hosting a No Bones About It Recipe Redux challenge. As a child with first a dairy allergy and then an extreme dislike for the taste of milk, I was often prompted to drink milk to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Interestingly, it wasn’t until last year that I learned about the many other vitamins and minerals that are also important to bone health like phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins K and D.

 

Dried plums are one of the foods that can help support healthy bones. Emerging research shows that eating dried plums may have positive effects on bone health. Previous studies discovered that eating 100 grams (two servings; about 8- 10 dried plums) of dried plums for one year was associated with increased bone mineral density (BMD) and improved indices of bone turnover in postmenopausal women. At Experimental Biology, March 28- April 1, 2015, a current study presented as a poster, examined whether 50 grams (one serving; about 4-5 dried plums) would be as effective as the larger dose. The results indicated that one serving of dried plums may be as effective in preventing bone loss in older, osteopenic postmenopausal women. There are also natural elements in dried plums which help heighten the flavors of other ingredients in a recipe. They can be used as a flavor enhancer, both in savory and sweet dishes.

 

My grandparents must have had a plum tree because for years, every time they visited, they brought us bags of dried plums. My parents still have a ton of dried plums in their freezer and whenever I visit, I take a package or two, as I love experimenting with less-used ingredients and flavors.

 

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This salad hosts both dried plums and a whole bevy of nutrients essential to bone health. More importantly, with flavors inspired by middle eastern cuisine, it tastes delicious.

 

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It’s definitely making its way to the top of my favorite spring grain salads.

 

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Dried Plum + Millet Tabbouleh, serves 4-6

3/4 cup dry millet

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup dried plums, diced

2 large bunches parsley, finely diced

1/2 large bunch mint, finely diced

1 small red onion, finely diced

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. salt

black pepper to taste

1 orange, finely diced (optional, but not at all necessary)

  • In a medium saucepan, add dry millet, water, diced dried plums, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low heat, and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, and then remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, dice the herbs and onion and add them to a large serving bowl.
  • Toss the millet and plum mixture with the vegetables and stir in the spices and vinegar. Adjust the seasonings to taste and then serve at room temperature.

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Spring Greens + Honey-Grapefruit Vinaigrette, Two Ways

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Kitchen accidents happen. With me, they happen in epic proportions that I wish were captured in slow motion so I could play them back later when in need of a good laugh. I’m talking explosions. All the walls and surfaces and ceilings.

A few weeks ago in a moment of hunger, I popped an egg, broken into a little glass dish, into the microwave. I covered it and carefully checked every 15-20 seconds, as I know how egg-microwaving can quickly turn risky. It was all fine and well until I took the bowl out, carefully uncovered it, and leaned in close to make sure the egg was cooked through. At that exact moment, the egg belched out, blowing apart with all the noise and momentum of a volatile volcano.

I took a step back and blinked, looking around me in shock. Someone made a move in the apartment upstairs as if to look for a window. Or an escape route. No, I silently told my neighbor, you haven’t been attacked. It’s just me, standing in a kitchen on a Saturday afternoon covered in exploded egg.

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Egg in my eyelashes, my hair, in every corner of exposed skin. Thankfully I have the circulatory system of a skinny grandma and wear sweaters year round or I would have needed more than a change of clothes.

Egg on the ceiling. Egg on the living room carpet. Egg on every wall and surface in between.

After clean-up, I wasn’t about to try again. I’m officially cured of microwave-egg-cooking, I thought as I miserably ate the swollen, (seriously-how’d-it-get-overcooked?) half that was left in the dish. And I haven’t had another since.

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Weeks before the egg episode, I was in a similarly messy situation, thinking the exact same thing. I needed red wine for a recipe and in the exact moment of needing to add it to the recipe, I recalled that I had broken our bottle opener and our wine drinking had gotten so lax that it hadn’t been replaced. Recklessly bent on quick results and praying things would turn out right, I squeezed my eyes shut and violently stabbed a knife into the cork.

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Things didn’t turn out right.

Red wine, like the egg, exploded over the entire kitchen. The white walls and white cabinets looked like a three-year-old went to town with a red watercolor and designed something only a kid could qualify as art. I scrubbed until I nearly painted instead. By the end of clean-up, I really needed a glass or two. If only it wasn’t all over me.

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Through other episodes over the years, I’ve acquired scars that I can barely remember the occasion for, save they involved being too confident with hot surfaces or knives slicing through the air to land dangerously close to little toes.

I’m only now recovering from the last kitchen accident, which involved the vegetable peeler, my pinky, a whole box of band-aids, and a lot of blood.

Thankfully, there were no limbs burnt or bruised, no toes carved in the process of creating this post. Instead, the March Recipe Redux theme is Two for One: cooking once and eating twice or ReDuxing leftovers into a new dish. William and I cannot seem to get through a whole bottle of wine these days before it starts to taste off, even when we have dinner guests. Instead of volcanizing it all over the kitchen walls and ceilings, I decided to share how I repurpose wine into vinegar instead.

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First let me say I really love vinegar. I’m one of those people that can go to the oil and vinegar shops and happily forego the oil and bread, and just slurp the different flavored vinegars.

Making vinegar is quite simple. The word itself actually means “sour wine” in French, and when any liquid with less than 18 percent alcohol is exposed to air, the vinegar-producing bacteria will attack it and gradually turn it sour. It simply takes time.

To make vinegar from wine, I often leave the leftovers sitting out on the counter with the cork off. It’s ready when it tastes like vinegar instead of wine, in about two months. Recently however, I’ve done more research and found that if a vinegar mother–the starter used for vinegars–is used, the process is sped up and the vinegar is more consistent in its taste. We have a local brewing supply store–because seriously, Oregon–and they are currently growing a new mother for me. In the meantime, I’m making vinegar the same old way, with patience.

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I tend to splash together vinaigrettes depending on my mood but am sharing two different grapefruit vinaigrettes that use white wine vinegar. These two recipes more or less form the backbone for my vinaigrettes on any given day. Because I like vinegar so much, I tend to go for a one to one ratio of vinegar to oil, which is significantly higher than the standard one to three ratio.

In these recipes, I opted for grapefruit juice in addition to the white wine vinegar and often use other citrus juices like orange or lemon when I’m feeling fancy. Pick one to try and toss together with simple spring greens, herbs, and thin radish or carrot slices. Salad will feel extra special and delicious!

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Grapefruit-Tahini Vinaigrette

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

2 Tbs. fresh grapefruit juice

1-2 tsp. grapefruit zest

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. tahini

1 Tbs. honey

splash of water

salt and pepper

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Honey-Mustard Grapefruit Vinaigrette

3 Tbs. white wine vinegar

3 Tbs. fresh grapefruit juice

1-2 tsp. grapefruit zest

2 tsp. wholegrain mustard

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. honey

splash of water

salt and pepper

Directions for both vinaigrettes: Whisk all the ingredients together and drizzle over greens. The leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several weeks!

The Big Picture + Rainbow Salad

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I’ve been keeping journals since I was at least 10 and I’ve held on to each one, lining them up on a shelf, displayed prominently in our living space. Every once in a while, I pull one off the shelf and read through a few pages. Some are light and comical. Others are filled to the brim with quotes and encouragements, the next with lonely prose. They provide a glimpse into the mind of a typical teenager/21yearold/postcollegegirl. Whatever the mood, they give me incite into the journey towards my present state of mind.

I get a kick out of the 2003-04 journal. Its pages encapsulate the internal chatter of a high school girl–the stream of consciousness about various crushes, the silly happenings that mean nothing and consume her days.

Next there is an entire journal of syrupy poetry that can rival any T. Swift song. It slams me back in the moment of that first year in college, those neighbors and dates I had so quickly forgotten.

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Then there is the 2007 journal and my heart breaks for that girl. One after another, the pages ring out her longing for affirmation, even as the experiences she captured illustrate it was so obviously there, for the taking. That girl couldn’t see her friends, her family, her peers reaching out to her, proclaiming their support, admiration, respect. She couldn’t see past her own insecurities and struggles to figure out where she stood in the grand scheme of things.

Looking back, I feel a world apart from that girl and I’m glad she made it through. As I read through the pages again, I also feel an uncomfortable nudge of awareness. Just as we are all works in progress, that girl of 2007 hasn’t entirely conquered all her battles in the now of 2014.

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I still push and expect too much of myself. I want to accomplish it all, get everything right, make the process seem effortless even though I’ve kicked major ass to get here. I’m overcome by self doubt in the moment of making a decision and put off making big ones, big life changing ones, for months and years, all the while stewing about them. I seek clarification that I am enough.

When I talk to my friends and peers, I am reminded I’m not alone in these feelings. I’m reminded that it is okay to fail, good even, and optimism and determination go a long way in helping to get back to work. Progress is slow and there’s a big picture. Life is lived in each moment on the way to our destination.

You can be transformed. Not overnight, but over time…We strive toward a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move toward that goal. What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.  -Scott Jurek
 

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As I reflect back on the journey–the life phases spilling out over the pages of my journals, I’m better able to see the progress, the intricate beautiful details that make up these moments we are in. I’m better able to pause, grab a deep hug and a cup of tea, and celebrate this phase–this spot in my timeline–and stop worrying so much about the getting there.

Today I’m telling the girl of 2007 and the lady of here and now–and you, my friend reading this: You are loved. You are enough. You don’t have to have it all together. Focus on the step you’re on. You will get there.

You can be transformed. That’s the big picture.

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Rainbow Salad, Inspired by Green Kitchen Stories
This salad is a celebration of what is in season and available where I live right now. I often make salads like this one that contain whatever vegetables are in the fridge or are available at the farmers market. This one has carrots, fennel, and easter egg radishes along with spinach, mint, and parsley. Fennel stalks, left over from another meal, are particulary good when chopped like celery and roasted. Reserve the frilly fronds and use them as a garnish. 
 
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
Stalks from one fennel bulb, chopped into 1-inch pieces, fronds reserved
3-4 carrots, peeled and chunked
1 bunch radishes, quartered
1 drizzle balsamic vinegar
1 drizzle extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup raw walnuts
2-4 cups spinach leaves
large handful parsley
handful of mint leaves
1-2 Tbs. raw honey
1-2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup of quick-pickled red onions
more balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups water and rinsed brown and wild rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 40-50 minutes until cooked. Set aside to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, combine fennel stalks, carrots and radishes. Drizzle and toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until nearly soft. In the last five minutes, toss in the walnuts, and let them roast together with the vegetables. Take from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • In a large serving dish, toss the rice mixture, garbanzo beans, roasted vegetables, and the remaining herbs, leaves, and additions. Add more honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top with diced fennel fronds.
Quick-Pickled Onions
1 large red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar, maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar
  • In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, bay leaf, cloves, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the onion slices, stir, and remove from the heat.
  • Once slightly cool, transfer the mixture to a quart jar or another glass container and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours before using.
  • They will keep for about a week and can add an awesome tangy flavor to all sorts of things!