When life takes over…

26 Oct

…try harder to write in your blog.  I must apologize, it has been almost 3 weeks since my last entry.  A lot has happened in that time – life not only caught up with me, but it took over, kicked me in the butt a few times, and then smirked and ran away.  A lot of it has been with my job, which I will not bore you with the many forgettable acronyms the education profession claims they own, and what they all mean, how they all work, and how oh-so-many teachers try to get out of those acronyms by calling 20 minutes extra recess (when they have already had 3 that day) “a social learning experience.”

Anywho, I started this blog not just to share some food and share some stories, but also to give myself an outlet of expression.  Needless to say, the last 3 weeks should have been the times when I should have written the most, rather than the least.

I’ve made some yummy dishes these last few weeks, some of which I’ll include in a future blog (1 ingredient 3 ways), but I’m sorry to say a lot of what I have eaten is I’m-stressed-and-need-some-crunchy-cheesy-comfort-food.  For me, that’s nachos.  Trader Joes Organic Blue Corn tortilla chips, pilled with a pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese (also at TJs), and LOTS of hot sauce (I found living in Southern California that there are two schools of thought for those who buy their own hot sauce rather than making it… there are the Cholula people, and the Tapatio people.  I am a Tapatio gal, could almost drink the stuff from the bottle.  Almost.).  I don’t know how many plates of nachos I have eaten over the last 3 weeks, but it if I was bored and interested enough to count, I’m sure it would be an utterly disgusting amount.  All I really know is, it was enough to make me gain back the weight I lost before my wedding.  Sigh, Zumba classes, here I come.

Off topic again…. so Rob and I have been out of town a lot (traveling to Portland and Eugene), and he has been standing a lot of duty at the air station after taking a week of leave to hike and bike and do other manly things with his guy friends.  Tonight was the first night in a while that we sat down for a nice dinner together.  We had a lot of veg from our farm basket, so I wanted to use as much as I could, making another one of my “hippie salads” as I like to call them.

We have been having some winter storms already, and it has been really damp and cold.  Once that dampness gets to your bones, it just feels like warmth will never come.  I got home before he did, put on the fire, and started cleaning a bit when I heard on the radio that the swells down at Shore Acres (a state park) were up to 30 feet because of the storm.  So when Rob got home, we jumped in the car – there just happened to be a crack of sunlight peeking through the clouds – and made our way to the sea.  That sounds more Hemingway than it should have; the sea is only a stones’ throw away.

When we got to Shore Acres, the sight was unlike anything I have ever seen!  HUGE waves crashing down on these giant jutting rocks, blowing so much white spray and water into the air it looked like a bomb had just exploded.  We were standing on a cliff 50 feet above the base of the beach and the crash of the waves extended way over our heads.  And the sound – it was nothing like those zen relaxing ocean music sounds that are nice but sort of make you have to pee – the noise these waves made was thunderous.  Huge base drums and then the pouring sound of water literally left us open-mouthed and speechless.  That is, until one rogue wave hit a rock opposite the way the tide was pulling and splashed frigid sea water all over us.  It was amazing!

Driving home, we blared the heat and I thought about a warming, yet healthy dinner (I just have to make up for all those nachos).  One of the things I love about Rob is that even though I know he is a genuine meat-and-potatoes guy, he is also open to trying new things, and this one would definitely be new for him.  I used to make this meal on a fall or winter weeknight when I didn’t want to do a lot of work, but wanted something healthy, hearty, and warming.  He was up for it, and I already had all the ingredients!

The key to this hippie salad is the balance of flavors.  The squash is sweet, the chard and spinach gives that slightly bitter tannin mouth feel, the asparagus gives that unique veggie satisfaction, the quinoa quenches the carb craving, and the warm, tangy dressing tops everything off.  The dressing on this salad is really my favorite part, but don’t be too generous with it – you don’t want to over tang or over sweeten your delicate balance of flavors.  After such a healthy salad, I was craving a healthy desert, and my Blueberry Pie Smoothie just hit the spot (Rob didn’t want one and opted for M&Ms.  But then he had a taste of my smoothie and wished he had made a different choice).

This salad may sound different, but it is really fabulous.  Even my former roommates (big meat eaters) loved this one.   The colors alone will make your eyes hungry.  It’s easy to substitute different herbs for the dressing – I have used tarragon and a splash of tangerine juice before (replacing the thyme and white balsamic), and it was equally as good.  And if you make extra quinoa, definitely make some extra dressing… pour some of that over your quinoa with some toasted pine nuts, and make everyone in your lunch room wish they had a hippie salad, too.

Harvest Hippie Salad (serves 4)

  • 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 c water
  • 1 bundle fresh asparagus, cleaned, ends trimmed, and cut in 2-inch pieces on the bias
  • 2 small winter squash, or 1 med butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1 in pieces
  • 2 large handfuls of swiss chard (ripped), and one large handful of baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • s&p

Warm Herb Salad

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons good honey (I found a Sage Honey that tasted fabulous – hitting home the herb flavor)
  • 5 -6 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries
  • 2 sprigs of thyme leaves
  • 7-8 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt

On a large sheet tray, combine asparagus and squash and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with s&p, and mix with hands.  Spread out evenly and put in a 450 degree oven for about 17 minutes, mixing/turning veg twice.

Meanwhile, bring the rinsed quinoa to a boil in the cup of water.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Season with s&p to taste, and fluff with a fork.

Once the veg has browned, take out of oven and set aside to cool a bit while you prepare the dressing.

In a small saucepan over med-low heat, mix the honey and vinegar together.  Use a whisk to mix.  The heat and the mixing will melt the honey.  Add the dried cranberries and thyme leaves, and while pouring, whisk in the olive oil.  The mixture should never boil or get bubbles, but should get warm, and a little clouded.  Taste for salt.

Mix the greens, the quinoa, and the veg in a large serving bowl, and top with the warm dressing.  Slightly toss to coat the salad.


Blueberry Pie Smoothie (serves 1)

  • 1/4 c frozen blueberries
  • 2 tsp Marscapone cheese
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 drop of vanilla extract (about 1/8 tsp)
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a tiny pinch of salt
  • 1/8 c water (just enough to make the blender run)

Mix all ingredients in a blender.  Pour into a glass, and smile.  🙂

NOTE: This would go great with some slightly crushed graham crackers or sweet granola.  Maybe a dollop of fresh whipped cream, too…. but then we are back to the whole nachos dilemma.

2 Responses to “When life takes over…”

  1. Erica Turrell October 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi Jill,
    Dawn sent the PV staff your latest blog so I thought I would read it and see how you are doing. I had no idea you were such an amazing writer and cook! I was engrossed the moment I started reading. It was like reading a book. You could so write a book/novel. I never had the opportunity to get to know you that well at PV, but I’ll probably get to know you now since I just signed up to receive your blogs. They are great!
    Hope you are enjoying Oregon.
    Erica Turrell
    Music Teacher

  2. Sue Tamminen October 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    I love this blog! And what is “quinoa?” Have I ever had it? If it is the small gelatinous looking stuff on the salad in your first picture, I don’t think I could something that looks like that. Sorry! But I still love the blog!!!

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