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.
Advertisements

Roasted Vegetable Pizza with Golden Tomato Sauce

IMG_6711

 

There are few people I respect more than those who live each day in truth with their whole selves. I’m in awe of these folks and admire how they stubbornly live in their brassy, blunt, comfortably imperfect beings.

I am not of those personalities. I tend to be quiet, small, and gauge how much I share with how well it will be accepted. If feathers will be ruffled or judgement passed, I opt to keep my mouth shut. I’m one that avoids controversy and negative attention. I like to be perceived as put together.

 

IMG_6687

 

These last few months I’ve been working on letting go a little: Being me without so much filter. Wearing less camoflouge. Going out in public in whatever I happen to have on. Saying things I mean. Sharing parts of me that I previously shoved away into dark little corners.

 

IMG_6663

 

In my food-world, I liken this process to embracing the ugly vegetables.

 

IMG_6669

 
William is working on an awesome organic vegetable farm this summer and he brings home bags of crooked carrots, too-ripe peppers, and weedy leaves.
 
If truth be known, I have a fondness for the most interesting produce cast-aways. A perfectly straight carrot? An apple that has more beauty than flavor? A purely symmetrical tomato? Perfection in the botanical world is boring, sterile, and dare-I-say-it, industrial. Blemishes have their own unique beauty and the taste, what’s inside that really matters, is rarely sacrificed.
 

If it’s so exciting to embrace ugly produce, why is it like hurdling mountains to get along with personal imperfection?

Tough experiences leave scars which make the good days shine all the more brightly. They leave a life rich with experience. And wisdom.

Exposure to another viewpoint and belief encourages acceptance and understanding.

Having a different opinion is some sort of individualistic awesome.

Critisism can be a catalyst for growth–Or expelling bad juju.

Casting aside worry of another’s judgement is liberating.

Self-acceptance is the best form of freedom.

 

IMG_6670

 

Back in the kitchen, I’m working with golden heirloom tomatoes of an unknown variety–they were too ripe to sell. I’ve seedy, scarred eggplants, and yellow summer squash from my garden. My squash plant is dying so these are likely the last ones for the summer. I’ve Jimmy Nardello peppers that didn’t come up to size and missshapen bell peppers, still green, which came off with a broken stem from overenthusiastic weeding. There are gorgeous red onions too. I’ve no idea why but they didn’t pass the farm’s to-market test.

 

IMG_6672

 

As for me, I’m working on being real,worrying less about measuring up or missing out. I’m working on embracing the ugly vegetables in my personality, the crooked roots and misshapenness. I’m working on letting the unique beauty that is the real me overpower the pursuit of being perceived as polished as a tasteless red apple.

 
 IMG_6721
 
 
 
We are all glorious in our imperfection. Let’s celebrate a little more of that today. And eat pizza loaded with a bunch of ugly vegetable cast-aways.
 
 
 
IMG_6691
 
 
Roasted Vegetable and Golden Tomato Pizza, makes 2, serves 4-6
Roasted Vegetables:
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1-2 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1-2 sweet red peppers, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
8-10 kalamata olives, diced
extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh thyme, optional
 
– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large baking pan lined with parchment paper, layer in the chopped eggplant, squash, onion, and peppers.
– Drizzle the mixture with oil, and toss in the fennel seed, freshly ground black pepper, and salt.
– Give it all a good stir and then roast for about 20-25 minutes.
– When the vegetables are sizzling and soft, remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
 
Golden Tomato Sauce:
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lbs. yellow or golden tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
 
– Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil sizzles, add the garlic and sauté until just golden.  
– Add the tomatoes and spices and turn to low. Simmer for 45-60 minutes.  
– Let the tomatoes cool for a few minutes and then puree in a blender for a smooth, pizza-sauce consistency. If the sauce is still quite thin, put it back on the stove and simmer a bit longer to thicken up.
 
Crust:
The ingredients below make enough for two 10-12″ crusts. Each pizza usually serves two to three. You can refrigerate the dough for the second crust up to two days. Due to the differences in the flours, I like to weigh them with a kitchen scale to get an accurate ratio of 70 percent whole grains and 30 percent starches. I’ve then put those weights into cups so it will be easier to measure without a scale, but if in doubt, I’d use a “short measurement,” rather than an overflowing cup.
 
1 1/2 Tbs. flax seed, ground
3 Tbs. hot water
40 grams (a short 1/2 cup) garbanzo & fava bean flour
80 grams (3/4 cup) brown rice flour
80 grams (3/4 cup) sorghum flour
80 grams (3/4 cup) millet flour
40 grams (1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. tapioca starch
40 grams (1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. arrowroot starch
40 grams (1/4 cup) potato starch
2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
~2 Tbs. olive oil, separated
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/3 cup warm water, divided
cornmeal
 
– Combine the flax seeds and 3 tablespoons of very hot water in a small bowl until a slurry is formed; set aside.
– Combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the yeast, 1 Tbs. olive oil, sugar and 1/2 cup warm water. Allow it to rest for 3 minutes or so until the yeast is activated.
– Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, and stir it all up. Then add the flax seed slurry to the dough and a portion of the remaining water; mix until the dough comes together in a ball. If it is too dry, add enough water to for a tender, pliable dough.
– Cover the dough in the mixing bowl and set it aside to rest for 1 hour.
 
Putting it all together:
– Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Separate the dough into two equal portions. For each pizza, dust your pizza stone or baking sheet with a light sprinkling of cornmeal. Roll one of the dough portions out to desired thickness directly on a pizza stone or baking sheet. 
– Spoon a hefty couple of ladlefuls of the golden tomato sauce over the dough and smooth it out. Then, layer on the roasted vegetables followed by the kalamata olives. If desired, crumble a sprig of fresh thyme over the top. Fold the crust edges in when done, and with your fingers, lightly dab the edges with the last tablespoon of olive oil. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 16 minutes.

Carrot + Zucchini Oat Bran Muffins

IMG_6237

I am a struggling carrot farmer. Packets of seeds. Different locations within the space. Different weather patterns, sowing dates, and groups of planting hands. Gorilla planting at random when watering. Watering frequently. Pre-sprouting. Row covers. Gleaning scraps of information from the successful carrot farmers I know. They’ve all been attempted.

Let me explain. I coordinate a school garden. I plan the crops, the rotations, the amendment schedule and IPM techniques and timing. I coordinate the students, the teachers, the garden club, and the irrigation. Somehow, I can’t quite coordinate the soil to grow a substantial crop of carrots.

The carrots we’ve managed to grow were fat and tasty, and there is a meager amount of later-planted carrotlings still pushing their way through their sparsely sprouted rows. There’s progress. But carrot farmer, I currently am not.

IMG_6169

I see this carrot-failure as a small metaphor for the general way of things lately. I’ve been in a real mental funk, feeling like no matter the new tools I gather and employ, the result is still the same. Lackluster. Not the success I had envisioned.

IMG_6210

In light of the set-backs and failures, both personal and carrot-related, I’ve been taking stock of the situation(s). I have a few more tools up my sleeve, a little more determination and knowledge with each new attempt. I tend to not give up easily. In fact, I’m more likely to summon the kind of rage orange-haired people are known for and use it to my full advantage.

Those carrots will grow in that garden. They’ve got great soil and an ideal microclimate. If they’re willing to grow in my home garden with its frequently neglected and weed-infested clay beds, those carrots must grow in the school’s garden. I’m insistent.

Harvesting at least one substantial row of carrots is my personal gardening mission for the season. We will have a good and healthy carrot crop come autumn. I’ve the rage on my side. :)

IMG_6215

Carrot + Zucchini Oat Bran Muffins, makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular muffins
These muffins are adapted from a recipe in The Sprouted Kitchen that I’ve been slowing adapting and refining for months now. We keep coming back to it and each time the muffins turn out better. They are a perfect way to begin a laidback summer breakfast AND they use up summer squash or zucchini and carrots–because let’s be real, I have five summer squash in my fridge from the last two days harvests, at least six more growing rapidly on the plant, and tons of squash blossoms and bees making more magic happen. I’ve EVEN managed to grow a successful crop of carrots in my home garden. If you’re a gardener, know one who shares, or have a CSA box, you too are probably trying to sneak veggies into anything and everything at this stage of summer! 
 
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbs. ground flax seed + 3 Tbs. hot water)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
3/4 cup grated zucchini or yellow summer squash (about one small squash)
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour with teff (see below) or 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix
3/4 cup oat bran
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, pour in almond milk and vinegar. Whisk and let sit for a couple minutes. Then measure in the oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the carrots, zucchini, and chopped dates.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, bran, sugar, baking powder, soda, xanthan gum, salt and spices. Then pour into the wet mixture. Stir it up until all the ingredients just come together and then let sit for about five minutes.

Scoop out evenly into a prepared muffin pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F.

Gluten-Free Flour with Teff
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can take the flours and measure them out in 1/10’s. I’ve done this before and it works out to be roughly the same (not quite as exact though, due to the different weights of the flours). The mixture measures out to be 1000 grams or 1 kilo, so if you want to make enough for 1 1/2 cups for the recipe above, use slightly less than 1/3 cup each brown rice, sorghum and millet flours, and a little less than 1/6 cup each teff and tapioca flour, potato and arrowroot starches. 
 
200 grams brown rice flour
200 grams sorghum flour
200 grams millet flour
100 grams teff flour
100 grams potato starch
100 grams arrowroot starch
100 grams tapioca flour