Tag Archives: lavender

So It’s Official

13 Aug

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Not that it ever wasn’t, but today, I changed the radio dials in my car to Jacksonville stations.  Big step, I know.  Driving home from work (yes, I’m working – teaching Kindergarten this year), I looked down and decided I needed to take a stand.  Well, at least a rhetorical one since I was driving, but a stand nonetheless.

Whenever I move to a new area, I tend to hold on to these little propensities that I started in the previous state in which I lived.  For example, the radio.  I leave the dials programed to the old stations, and then just use the “seek” button to find the closest working station.  Not only does this take more time to radio surf, but it probably isn’t the safest thing to do while driving, either (I can just hear my mom now. “Distracted driving! Distracted driving!!”).  Distracted driving aside, why am I still hung up on radio channels rather than just plugging in one i-something or other to play music, you may ask?  Well, if you knew me well, you’d understand.  People, I still buy stamps.

Anywho, Rob and I have been cherishing the last bits of our summer with paddle boarding (yes, Clutz McGee [that’s me] can actually stand up!), shopping, and trying to spend the limited time we have together relaxing.  I have been in my classroom almost nonstop transitioning from the mental programing middle school creates, and adapting to the world of vowel sounds and CVC words (a CVC word is a consonant-vowel-consonant word, i.e. c-a-t.  But I digress).  Rob has been doing night flights, thus has been home during the daytime, and often comes home at hours that are only saved for only the best infomercials.  In fact, there have been a few times that Rob has woken me and I’ve talked with him.  This is unbeknownst to me, as I have absolutely no recollection of the conversation the next day.  Sigh.  But such is life at the moment.

Last Saturday, Rob and I had a day – our day – together.  We slept in, worked out, got dressed up, went to a fabulous coffee shop for lunch, and spent the day blissfully shopping and holding hands.  It was great.  And you know what the dang day did?  It made us really miss Oregon.  Funny, hu?  Maybe because it really was “our day;” the old-hat-type things we did in Oregon that we haven’t yet experienced out here.  So as we drove home from Costco, reminiscing about our 2-hour drive to Costco in Oregon, and realizing that Costco just simply always makes one hungry, we needed a good Pacific Northwest meal.  So I went to my go-to.

This salad is barely cooking.  It is so easy, so flavorful, and minus the strawberries, the ingredients are easy to find year-round.  This dish tastes like the earth, the quintessential 6th taste (I think) that is uprooted in the mossy, fresh, emerald world of the Oregon Coast.  Really, just make this and you’ll understand.

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As this is a warm salad, there are a few keys and tips: sauté the onions first until soft, then add the butter and mushrooms.  Otherwise, the pan will go too dry, and you need the mushroom juice (oh man, mushroom juice) to make a nice dressing.  Also, if you toast the lavender, fennel seed, and paprika before crushing it in a mortar and pestle, the flavors will marry more.  Finally, add the spinach absolutely last, OFF the heat.  It will wilt just enough to let out an almost audible sigh, but still retain its integrity.

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We enjoyed our salad with a fabulous Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir, and ate it overlooking our still-feels-new view.  The humidity didn’t exactly remind us of our old stomping grounds, but it was a lovely compromise of old and new.  Like brand-spanking new stilettoes, paired with an old, classic purse.  Too girly?  Ok, try this: it was like using your grandfather’s tools to build a new dining room table.  Actually, since I don’t own a pair of stilettoes (remember, Clutz McGee?), I think the latter analogy works better all around.

So now it’s official – the shiny has worn off, surfacing memories of old, yet creating a whole new environment.  And when we start to get melancholy about our past digs, we’ve always got a Warm Spinach and Mushroom salad at the ready.  As well as programed radio stations – woohoo!

Enjoy!

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Warm Spinach and Mushroom Salad
(serves 2)

  • 16 oz. crimini mushrooms, stems removed, and sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 16 oz. baby spinach
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (I love Rogue Creamery’s Oregonzola)
  • 3-finger pinch of fresh lavender
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • s&p
  • Handful of sliced strawberries (optional)

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil until warm, and sauté the onions with a bit of s&p until soft and translucent.  Then add the mushrooms and the butter, and sauté until the mushrooms soften, and release their juices. 

Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, crush the lavender and fennel seeds with the paprika.  Add to the sautéed onions and mushrooms. 

Off the heat, add the spinach, and continuously stir until the spinach slightly wilts. 

Serve in bowls, and top with the blue cheese, and strawberries if using.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy! 

Fruit and Veg Therapy

28 Sep

There’s a part in the movie “Up In the Air” where George Clooney’s character comments that he is surrounded, rather than isolated, in the traveling life that he leads.  Physically, yes.  There are people everywhere!  But emotionally?  I think he needed a bit of a reality check.

That’s just what I got the last two days.  I have always enjoyed traveling, even for work.  Educational conferences are usually beneficial and have me leaving with a sense of cognitive renewal.  At 6:17 tonight, I returned from one of those conferences that, while started out a bit rocky, ended up leaving me with some new insight and information.  But the travel?  I needed my own bit of therapy at the end.

It started with a four-hour drive, mostly in the dark with the first Oregon Autumn rain.  Pouring rain.  Then, arriving to our destination close to 11:00pm, I drove up and down the same ½ mile of street looking for the small motel that would serve as our residence for the following two days.  Once the motel (that shall remain nameless due to liability reasons) was found, and we were properly checked in, the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke and pet urine overwhelmed the fact that there were no doors on the bathroom.  I’m not recalling a four-hour rain-soaked delusion – it really smelled.  And had no doors on the bathroom.  Really.

So, with a few quick phone calls and a small argument with the lovely lady at the front desk, another hotel was promptly booked, which, in educational standards “met” (rather than “did not meet,” nor “exceeded”) what we needed for our stay.

After two NyQuil-induced nights, one of which was restless, another four-hour drive home, and the residual effects of conference food (while tasty at the time, you know what I’m referring to), there was something left to be had: my own therapy.  Veggie therapy.

So I whipped up a spesh.  A lovely fruit and veg salad that not only hit the spot, but reminded me that the lovely fall air was still crisp and comforting.  Combined with my favorite sweatpants, a good glass of wine (Oregon’s first Baco Noir), and a DVR’d Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the night erased all travel stiffness.

Please, don’t wait for a memorable travel experience and vegless conference food to make this salad; it’s easy, comforting (thanks to the oh-so-wonderful sharp cheddar cheese), and slightly unexpected on the taste buds.  It’s good for any night, not just a veggie therapy night.

Fruit and Veg Salad with Lavender Balsamic Dressing (serves 2) 

For the salad:

  • 2 c torn baby red lettuce (I prefer the tender tops rather than the inside ribs) 
  • 1 medium sweet apple, cored and diced (I used Gala – their season is just starting up here)
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 c red grapes, sliced
  • 1 med head broccoli (or two small heads), stems removed and cut into florets
  • about 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, diced (really, use as much cheese as you want – the cheddar flavor pairs perfectly with the onion, apple, broccoli, and apple).
  • 1 large sprig basil, leaves removed and thinly chopped

For the dressing:

  • 1 tsp good quality honey
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp fresh lavender buds, rubbed between your hands to release oils
  • 1 ½ extra virgin olive oil
  • s&p

Mix the dressing by adding the honey, vinegar, and lavender buds.  Pour in the extra virgin olive oil while whisking to emulsify.  Season to taste, and set aside. 

Put all of the ingredients for the salad into a bowl and quickly mix to combine.  Pour over the dressing, and toss again, just so the dressing lightly coats the ingredients.  Taste for seasoning (I found I needed more pepper), and serve.

Enjoy! 

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