Quinoa and Kale Salad

My birthday is coming up next week. I’m turning 31 and starting to wonder how I became a “grown up”. Besides the year I got married, this was probably the biggest year of my life. Since my last birthday my husband and I bought a house, and did a mini-renovation in less than two weeks (they were carpeting our stairs as we moved in), an experience which probably took a couple years off our lives. I never knew I’d want to know so much about the differences between hardwood floors. We traveled to Paris, a city I found hard to leave at the end of our stay, where we fell in love with the architecture, culture and food. We experienced a handful of different regions in Italy, learning that loving food and eating local is the norm and a way of life there. I learned that jury duty–6 weeks of it to be exact–is not as exciting as movies make it out to be. And our new puppy (read starter baby) was born on March 21st, and we bring him or her home on May 18th! We figure if we don’t screw up a puppy, we’re safe not screwing up a human baby. What a year! This time last year I had no idea that these experiences were ahead of me and it’s exciting to sit here wondering what I new things I will learn between now and my next birthday.Kale, quinoa

Now for how this relates to my post: my aunt took me out to celebrate my birthday at a new restaurant near my house yesterday, Fast Food Français, and since we were celebrating, some day drinking and dessert seemed appropriate. So I was ready for something light and healthy for dinner. And since eight out of ten times when I ask Miguel what he wants for dinner he says “salad”, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to make him salad for dinner. This recipe serves 6 as a side, 3 as a main dish. Unlike other types of greens that get mushy, kale salad holds up very well for leftovers.

  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, large stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, diagonally sliced into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa (makes 2.5 cups of cooked quinoa)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, slices
  • Crumbled feta (optional)

Lemon-Tahini Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground finely in a mortar & pestle
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Bring a small saucepan to medium heat. When the pan is warm, add your dry quinoa and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, about every minute or so. After your quinoa has been evenly toasted, add water to the pan. Be careful, I’ve found when I’m adding water to a pan after toasting quinoa, the hot water has a tendency to sputter. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until you can see the white germ around the quinoa, telling you that it’s done cooking. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes when it’s done cooking.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a large saucepan. When you reach a rolling boil, blanch your asparagus slices for 3 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain in to a colander and rinse will cool water to stop them from overcooking.

Put your sliced kale in a very large bowl. Mix the ingredients for your dressing together in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Pour about half of the dressing over the kale. Get in there with your clean hands and literally massage the dressing in to the kale. I know it sounds crazy and weird, but trust me, the kale will better absorb your dressing this way. Reserve the other half of your dressing.

Add your chopped fennel bulb, minced shallots, blanched asparagus, cooled quinoa, toasted almonds, and a couple tablespoons of sesame seeds to the sliced kale. Use the reserved dressing to dress the rest of your salad. Toss to coat. Top with a few avocado slices and some crumbled feta if you’d like. Enjoy!

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Carrot and Beet Salad with Orange-Miso Dressing

When I was first starting to cook, I would spread out about 100 cookbooks around me, Beets, carrots, orange-miso dressinglooking for a recipe that interested me. And, inevitably, I would find some sort of side dish that sounded delicious, but wasn’t a complete meal in and of itself. Then I would spend more time trying to find a main dish that would go with this side dish I had gotten myself so set on. It would drive me crazy and usually got to be a very complicated process (if you can’t already tell).

So I wouldn’t want to post this side dish and have you all think, ‘This sounds great, but what do I do with it!!’ I’ve made this salad a number of times, and most times I’ve served it with quinoa patties or quinoa cakes from one of my favorite bloggers (and one of the nicest people ever), Marin Mama Cooks. For a lighter dinner or lunch, you could even throw in as much cooked quinoa as you’d like in to the salad itself. Or, if you’re not a big quinoa fan, a couple hard boiled eggs in the salad might work well for lunch or a light dinner too. Chicken cooked your favorite way would make this a complete meal, as would a simple pasta with store-bought pesto (or homemade if you’re feeling like it).

  • 1 bunch beets, peeled and chopped in to 1/2” pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled, chopped in to 1/2” slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground peppper
  • Arugula
  • Sesame seeds

Orange-miso dressing

  • Juice of 1/2 a navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey

Preheat your oven to 425˚. Make sure that your carrots and beets are roughly the same sizes so that they will cook evenly and be finished cooking at the same side.

In a 8 x 8 square baking dish, coat your vegetables with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake the vegetables for roughly 40 minutes, until they are crisp tender. Use a fork to test when your carrots and beets are done, the fork should need a bit of force to pierce the vegetables but it should go all the way through.

While the vegetables cook, combine the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk well with a fork. Put as much arugula as you’d like in a bowl, I used about 3 big handfuls of arugula and I still had a bit of dressing left over. When the vegetables are done cooking, set them aside for about 5 minutes to cool before putting them in the bowl with your arugula. Add about a tablespoon of sesame seeds over the top of your salad, and pour the dressing over. Toss to coat and enjoy!

Apple & Barley Salad

I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe because I didn’t think it was “fancy”enough. But Arugula salad, Apple, Barleythen I realized this blog isn’t supposed to be about only “fancy” recipes, but my everyday journey trying to eat healthy and not spending my life in the kitchen trying to do so. What does fancy mean anyways?? So here we are.

When I’m not working, I like to make different things for lunch. Ideas can be hard to come by so I’m always looking for inspiration. In this case, inspiration came while in the check out at Whole Foods. I noticed a banner hanging from the ceiling above me with a picture of barley and apples, or something like that. So I decided to add a couple things and turn it in to a salad. I make this lunch for myself often, and although un-fancy, it’s always super easy and delicious.

  • 1/2 apple diced (I use Braeburn or Honey Crisp, but any kind of apple will do)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup barley (I use Mother’s quick cooking barley for this recipe, but you can use regular barley just the same)
  • 1 medium shallot diced
  • 2 big handfuls of arugula

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the barley, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until tender, which will only be about 10 minutes if you use quick cooking barley. If you’re using regular barley, it will take a bit longer, about 30 minutes. Once the barley is cooked, dump in to a strainer and rinse with cold water to cool.

While the barley cooks, add your arugula, apple, shallot, and pine nuts to a bowl. Add the cooled barley to the bowl. To make your dressing, whisk the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and thyme together in a small bowl. Pour over your salad and toss to coat. Enjoy!

(And I realize I said I would post the recipe from my beet salad but the picture is completely un-appetizing, so I’m going to make it again at some point and hope to get a better picture.)