Thursday
Jul102014

Quinoa, Kale, and Corn Mexi Salad

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I ate this salad with 9 amazing women last week. Standing around with paper plates and maybe wiping a few tears from our eyes.

My colleague Janet Ott and I just finished leading a six-month leadership course for executive women, and we had lunch together after our last session. Some things I was reminded of as we learned together:

  • The world will always need good leaders. And specifically, good managers make an incalculable difference in the lives of their employees. 
  • All the little daily things we do or don't do, say or don't say, have an even greater impact when we're in decision-making roles. We can either embrace that influence and be intentional about it or not. 
  • When we're not leading from a deep place of "okayness" with ourselves, we can do damage. We focused together on the spirituality of leadership--leading from love instead of fear, choosing awe and wonder over urgency and people-pleasing. I can't help but smile when I think about these 9 women and how much more effective and aware they've become in our time together. And how that will translate to their relationships with employees.
  • How gifted all of us are and how listening to one another unearths those gifts.

As usual, I happily took on the challenge of bringing something simple, filling, portable, and gluten-free for lunch. And I promised the recipe.

Here's to you, leaders, and all the good you're unleashing in the world.

Quinoa and Corn Mexi Salad
This makes a huge bowl--enough for 10-12 people to have big portions. It will keep all week in the fridge, but you can also halve it. With cold grain salads like this, they are best served room temperature. If you put it in the fridge, you'll probably want to add a little more salt, lime juice, or olive oil when you pull it out as the grain will soak up everything up as it sits. If you want to add cheese to this, feta or queso fresco would be my choice. You could also serve it with diced avocado on top. Yum. You know how I feel about avocados.

For dressing:
Juice of two limes
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. canola oil
1 Tb. ground cumin
lots of salt and pepper
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced

For salad:
8 c. cooked and cooled quinoa (1 lb. uncooked). I cook mine in the rice cooker.
2-3 large bunches black kale, washed and coarsely chopped
2 c. frozen or fresh corn kernels, briefly sauteed in olive oil (I use the frozen roasted corn from Trader Joes)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
1 bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
handful of fresh herbs (oregano, mint, basil, or more cilantro)

For dressing, combine everything but onions in a large measuring cup or bowl. Whisk to combine, adding more of anything to taste. Add onions and let marinate while you make the rest of the salad.

With your hands, gently combine all salad ingredients (except for sunflower seeds and herbs) in your biggest bowl. Pour dressing over, reserving a few of the marinated onions for the top. Scatter sunflower seeds and chopped fresh herbs over the top with onions. Taste again for salt.

Thursday
Jul032014

Orondo Ruby Bliss

Harvest

In Washington's Wenatchee Valley, there are lots of orchards. Pears, apples, apricots. And cherries. Bing, Rainier (what used to be my favorite) and my new favorite, Orondo Ruby. The family growing Rubies invited some food writers to taste and see. I cleared my schedule because I can't think of anything better than standing in an orchard with my camera around my neck, pulling sun-warmed cherries off the tree and into my mouth. Twist my arm.

Wenatchee Valley

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About 10 years ago, Marcus, the orchardist, noticed one of his Rainier Cherry trees that was not like the others. He had it tested and, sure enough, the cherries were genetically different. They had gone and done their own thing, and the rest is history.

We were shown graphs of the sugar content in Orondo Rubies (high) and the acid content (high), which makes for a magical pop in the mouth. I didn't need the graphs, though. I had 4 pounds of them in the car when I hit the road for home, and hardly enough left to make anything with when I pulled into the driveway!

Rubies on trees

We had a progressive dinner at Pybus Market, an old steel mill turned permanent farmer's market. (So inspiring to see what reclamation of space can do for a community.) Orondo Ruby salsa and martinis at South, pizza with goat cheese, cherries and buckboard bacon at Fire, crispy pork belly with pickled cherries at Pybus Bistro. And the next morning, breakfast on the farm with bowls of cherries everywhere.

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This time of year, I always find myself so thankful for farmers and so in awe of all the work, care, and risk that puts such bounty on my table. Every little detail of these trees is fussed over all year long for three furious weeks of harvest. While I'm sleeping in or taking a little summer vacation, farmers everywhere are losing sleep, crunching the numbers, monitoring each tree or plant or vine for health, readiness, and deliciousness. When I think of how much bandwidth goes to the three tomato plants I have on my deck, I'm even more amazed. I've heard recently of the agrarian imperative, the idea that acquisition of land for farming is in our genes, and that farmers are the only ones left (it used to be all of us) that are still responding to this imperative. And it's stressful! They take risks the rest of us wouldn't because they're driven by that imperative. I adore cooking. I adore being in my kitchen. But none of that is in a vacuum. Everything I chop, saute, or braise comes from somewhere, and it's another reason to know where it comes from and to feel good about my part in the cycle.

Okay. Down from soapbox. I really hate to do much with cherries besides eat them cold from the fridge. But I adored them on wood-fired pizza. And you know me--salad. I did not plan this recipe. It happened because I had a few precious cherries left and I wanted salad for lunch. Thank you, Orondo Ruby folks, for such a fabulous tour. I hope you get to rest soon!

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Bitter Greens with Grilled Haloumi and Orondo Ruby Cherries
Serves one, but of course just throw in more of everything if you want more.

For salad: Heat a heavy skillet up. Lightly brush two thick slices of haloumi with oil oil. Grill until golden and warm in the middle. Set aside. Toss greens of choice (I used endive and kale) with slivered radishes, slivered proscuitto or cooked bacon, and a handful of halved cherries. Set haloumi on top.

For vinaigrette: Combine 1 Tb. white wine vinegar, 3 Tb. olive oil, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp. fruit preserves (I used strawberry). Add salt, pepper, and a haldful of halved cherries. Let macerate for a few minutes, then pour over your salad.

Tuesday
Jun242014

Four Decades In

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I turned 40. I had a party. And there is too much to say to actually say it.

I thought for a long time about what I wanted--a huge party with a keg and dancing? Balloon animals for kids? A favorite restaruant in Seattle?

In the end, I settled on being at home. I invited a small group I knew I could be 1000% myself with, hired an amazing chef, cleaned the house, and then soaked it all up. There was a time in my life when I had the idea that other people should know what I want, especially where birthdays were concerned. (And boy, did this stress Yancey out in our younger years! Poor guy.) At 40, one of the things I've learned is that it's okay to ask for what I need. If growing older also means maturing, sign me up.

My 40th birthday party could stand as a metaphor for some of the things I've learned in the last 4 decades and the things I want to keep learning. (I feel a list coming on.)

  • Thoughtfully prepared food enhances community. (Maybe I should write a blog about that.) The evening was what it was because of Lisa's beautifuly, thoughtful dishes--whole roasted cauliflower and eggplant with tahini sauce, asparagus mimosa with fried capers and olive oil bread crumbs, beet hummus with sheeps milk cheese and homemade whole wheat flatbread. And so much more.
  • Relationships, in the end, are what our lives are about. Not possessions, not even experiences. When I get dramatic about it, I think of myself on my deathbed and how it will be all about remembering and appreciating the connected moments I've had with people I love.
  • Getting over myself is a worthwhile endeavor. See above. The things that hold me back--fear of failure, grudges, envy and comparison--are real, but not worthy. Life is too short to be so caught up in my story that I can't see the love and beauty around me.
  • Express my love every day. Throughout our long meal, people took turns sharing things they loved about me. Certainly every day or event can't be like that, as I cried through the whole thing and that would disrupt my grocery shopping and conference calls with clients. But it's another reminder not to wait. Kiss, hug, cuddle up to, give gifts to, laugh with, go out for coffee with the people you love! There is absolutely no reason to wait.
  • Our true self is waiting in the wings. There's a lot of spiritual frameworks that acknowledge our false self (the ego) and our true self (God-self). It takes the first half of our lives for our false self to recede, stop clamoring, and reveal our true self. And there aren't any shortcuts. I'm looking forward to witnessing how the trappings start withering and falling away in the second half of my life. 

It's back to reality now, and that's okay. Paying bills, commuting to work, cleaning out the storage room, picking up dog poop, buying more laundry soap. It's all sacred work, really, and I'm so blessed to be in community--real and virtual--as I do it.

Wednesday
Jun182014

Curried Basmati Rice Salad

Curried Basmati Rice Salad

If I had t-shirts with all my slogans on them, we'd have to rent a storage unit.

This week's t-shirt would say, "Put it all in one bowl!" I'm a fan of cramming as many colorful and crunchy things as possible into a bowl and then eating off it for as long as possible.

Today, it was a curried rice salad with toasted coconut and almonds, candied ginger, and veggies. I brought it to Amber's School's Out! party, and we sat on her deck drinking gin and tonics, snacking, and crying about our 5th graders moving on to middle school. Wayne, my father-in-law, couldn't believe how sentimental I got at Wyatt's 5th grade graduation. I told him that if they had these events when Yancey was 11 and they played a 6-song slideshow that included Chariots of Fire, he'd cry too.

As Wyatt and Loretta get older and we all keep being present to the ups and downs of parenting, I am so, so thankful for the community of mothers in my neighborhood who help me laugh instead of cry, who watch and watch out for my kids, who remind me that my best is usually good enough. Liz, Elizabeth, Breeze, Amber, Kristen, Michelle, Debi, Kristy, Joy, Jen, Kelly, Teri, Cameo, Kate, Tracy and so many more. It's good to be together.

Curried Basmati Rice Salad
You could add so many other things to this--chopped raw or roasted broccoli or cauliflower, shaved carrots, currants instead of raisins, Asian basil, diced red onions or chopped green onions.

4 Tb. butter or coconut oil
1 c. finely chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 Tb. finely minced fresh ginger
2 Tb. curry powder
2 c. basmati rice, rinsed
1 c. raisins
2 Tb. sugar
1 English cucumber, diced
1 bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
handful fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 red jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 c. toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
2 c. toasted slivered or sliced almonds
1/4 c. chopped candied ginger
salt
juice of two limes

For rice: In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter or coconut oil. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and curry powder and saute until melded, about 5 minutes. Add rice, 4 cups water, sugar, and raisins and stir. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat after 20 minutes and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and pour into a big shallow salad bowl, stirring to release heat and separate the grains.

To assemble the salad: Add cucumber, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, coconut, almonds, and candied ginger, saving a little of each to garnish the top. Mix with salt (keep tasting and add plenty!) and lime juice. Top with reserved ingredients.

P.S. To make this heartier and serve it for dinner, grill some chicken or roast some tofu to go on top.

Saturday
Jun142014

Strawberry Shortcake Forever

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I was born on Fathers Day almost 40 years ago. (I have 26 more hours of being 39. And I'm happy about turning 40. It's much better than the alternative.) So Fathers Day and my birthday have always had blurred lines.

The night after I was born, my dad stayed up wallpapering the closet that became my nursery on Walnut Street. My mom loves to tell that story. Of course my newborn self didn't give a burp about wallpaper. But my anxious, first-time-father needed something to do, so that's what he did. He's been thinking about me and creating loving spaces for me every since. I love you, Papa.

And every birthday I had under my parents' roof, my mom made me strawberry shortcake. We used to go berry-picking in the fields, and my mom has stories of me getting sick with all the sweetness, parking myself betwen the rows and not contributing one single berry to the bucket. And every year, she'd say, "Do you want something different for your birthday this year?" Nope. Strawberry shortcake forever.

Loretta and I went picking this morning at Bellingham Country Gardens. Bellinghamsters, get thee to Kelly Road! What an absolute treasure. Especially Lily, the resident pooch, and Sam, the farmer who showed us around and let me take his photo.

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A light mist, no-spray berries.And my companion? This miracle of a girl who came from my body and from her amazing father. Yancey appreciates that I don't talk a whole lot about him on this blog. So I'll keep it brief and just say that I married a marvel of a man who loves me, loves his children, and models every day what it's like to love life, be curious, and be tender. It's so easy to celebrate him on Fathers Day.

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And guess what we're having for breakfast? Strawberry shortcake. It can certainly be construed as breakfast--not that much different from biscuits and jam. Here, I've combined the strawberries with some raw, macerated rhubarb, but you can leave that out. And I am still in love with this shortcake recipe. Just the right density and sweetness, comes out of the pan in perfect wedges.

Strawberry shortcake (and the love it's made with) forever.

Shortcake with Strawberries and Rhubarb

Make this shortcake
Whip some cream
Very thinly slice two stalks of rhubarb, combine them with 1/4 c. sugar, and let them macerate for 30 minutes. Combine the rhubarb with sliced strawberries and maybe a little more sugar, and serve with the shortcake and whipped cream.