lunchtime glory days & a salad “recipe.”

in college, my favorite lunch spot was Mrs. Green’s. to my great benefit, it was right next to the business school that i spent many seemingly endless days at for 2+ years. had Chick-fil-A been in good old Harrisonburg at the time*, much less fifty steps from my home-away-from-home, i’m not sure how i would have fared. but i digress.

Mrs. Green’s was in the basement of a building, and – maybe for choosing lettuce and vegetables? – the unexpected rewards of lunch there were the sunshine & lake views. the back side of the building was lower than the front, so our tired minds & sleepy peepers welcomed the vitamin D and entertainment from the ducks playing in Newman Lake.

it was a surprise to exactly no one that the easiest part of lunch, for me, was deciding where to go. however, once i was there, all bets were off. the spread of deliciousness to choose from was fantastic. different types of lettuce, spring greens, spinach…endless vegetables & proteins & fruit…toppings, toppings, & more toppings…dressings. all ready & waiting. it’s a good thing we paid by visit, not by plate weight.

those were lunchtime glory days! in trying to channel my inner Mrs. Green, this little ditty has become my faithful go-to. with a little prep (roasting beets & shaking up a jar of dressing) that is mostly hands-off (hooray!), i can throw it together quickly, it travels well, and, so far, it’s been a crowd-pleaser, too.

beets are a vegetable that i first started to explore, basically out of sheer necessity, six years ago. i joined a CSA for the first time, and these little jewels were, shall we say, bountiful. the only thing i connected beets to up until that time were the magenta, pungent pools of pickled, rubbery cubes on salad bars, but i was hopeful. i mean, how could something so pretty (deep purple! gold! striped! even the greens are cool) not have at least a little potential?!

friends, i’m here to tell you that i found their potential. and it’s delicious. just sweet enough, velvety, good both warm and cold, and easy. that’s maybe one of their finer features on the topic of weekend prep for weekday meals. this delightfully thrown together salad has all the right things going on between crisp greens, sweet/savory beets, creamy avocado & feta, fresh berries, and salty nuts all mingling with the maple balsamic vinaigrette.

with beets and greens rocking it in our CSA boxes and berries at the peak of their season, i’ve been a pretty happy camper re-living a little slice of those good old glory days.

*seriously, the pickins were slim in suuuper-small-town VA when i was there. it was a BIG day when we got a Super Walmart in addition to the regular Walmart.

:: roasted beet salad with maple balsamic vinaigrette ::
how to roast beets adapted – barely – from the kitchn

beet salad with maple balsamic vinaigrette

salad recipes sometimes seem a little silly to me because you can throw together whatever you like & happen to have. however, just as quickly as i say that, sometimes i need to see a new pile of goodness to keep my salad rotation – pardon the pun – fresh. with all of that said, the list of ingredients below are the the cast of characters that are often on hand at our house, but sub in whatever you have & love!

i used the kitchn’s recipe for oven roasted beets the first time i made them this way. their instructions are great, but in the interest of keeping things all in one place, i’ve outlined the process with my adjustments below. i roast a bunch in one batch over the weekend, peel & dice them, and they’re read to go all week.

ingredients

salad
1½ cups greens
⅓ cup roasted beets, diced
⅓ cup roasted sweet potato, diced
¼ avocado, diced
⅓ cup cooked chicken, diced/shredded
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
handful of fresh or dried berries
nuts or seeds (sunflower seeds, pepitas, chopped pecans…whatever you like)
maple balsamic vinaigrette

maple balsamic vinaigrette
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

instructions

maple balsamic vinaigrette
add all of the ingredients to a jar of your choice (pint sized or larger) & shake to combine.

roasted beets

  1. preheat oven to 400º.
  2. tear off a piece of aluminum foil that’s big enough to create a little packet for the amount of beets you’re roasting. set the foil on a baking pan/sheet.
  3. if your beets still have the greens on them, cut them off right where they connect to the beet.
    *save your stems & greens! they are great washed, cut, and mixed into your salad greens, sautéed as a side or mixed in to eggs, in smoothies, or lots of other ways. this salad from sara at sprouted kitchen is the bomb.
  4. scrub the beets a little & and toss them onto the foil. no need to dry them; extra water is actually good. it will create some steam in the foil packet & will help the skins slide off even more easily. (before i seal up the foil, i make sure there is a tablespoon or so of water in the packet.)
  5. trim off any rough parts of the beets if you’d like, but even that’s probably not necessary.
  6. roll the top & sides of the aluminum foil to create a little rectangular packet.
  7. slide the pan into the oven & roast for 45-60 minutes (45 for smaller beets, 60 for larger).
  8. take the pan out of the oven & let the beets cool, still enclosed in the packet, for 20 mins or so.
  9. peeled roasted beetopen up the packet, and when the beets are cool enough to touch, apply a little pressure & a downward motion to the skin of the beet, and it should slide right off.

 

 

gratitude, day 11.

This gallery contains 25 photos.

gratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for … Continue reading

gratitude, day 3.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for fall’s harvest.

i have been reminded in the past month how much i adore the pumpkin & squash fall treats us to. we’ve made butternut squash soup, butternut squash pasta, and pumpkin cookies, and tonight we made pumpkin scones. the flavors are so deep, rich, and sweet. as an added benefit, they store super well, so their goodness lasts through the fall into winter. if we can spread them out that long, that is.

all of these recipes could find their way into a post this month or sometime in the future, but the one i want to share today is the butternut squash pasta. the day i made it, with the weather being a little overcast and the feeling of fall blowing in through the wind, i was craving something warm, comforting, and savory. we had gotten our very last weekly CSA box the week before, and i was coveting the butternut squash.

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holding on to summer.

pickle profile

after a picture-perfect weekend of sunny, warm days – particularly at the end of september…in minnesota, no one wants to be the first one to say it. after all, i had just gotten myself warmed up to the idea of fall. and then we had last week in all of its glory, and this morning, we woke up to that chill in the air again. we’re not there just yet – there are sunny days still ahead, but fall is here. in a way, the burst of warm air & sunshine with everyone out & about soaking it all in actually helps the transition. i can’t quite say that i’m fully ready to turn over t-shirts for sweaters & flip-flops for boots, but i have begun the transition a little in the kitchen. we had mediterranean beef stew last week, chili with our small group a few weeks ago, and chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight.

one of my favorite parts of the summer-to-fall season transition is getting to enjoy a little of both. these days, it’s not unusual for me to have a pot of soup simmering and a pile of produce ready to preserve: canning tomatoes, basil, garlic, cucumbers, onion, raspberries. we canned 40 pounds of tomatoes so we can cozy up with warms soups & stews all fall & winter, froze jars of pesto, stashed away jars of jam to open when the first snow flies, and made four pints of a fun, new-to-me version of pickles. the recipe came in one of our CSA weekly newsletters this summer, and friends made them right away. their rave reviews had me slicing cucumbers the next weekend, and here we are. we’re suckers for our CSA’s garlic, so i couldn’t help adding it to the recipe. it didn’t disappoint, and now i can’t get enough of the garlicky, sweet, crunchy little snack.

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preserving our csa: vegetable broth.

so we get this CSA box each week. if you know me or we interact in any way, you are well aware of this ;o) each week’s box is packed with the most delicious fruit, herbs, and vegetables we sink our teeth into all year, and it is undoubtedly one of my favorite experiences of the entire year. to me, it is the epitome of summer: the play of the hot sun on warm days & cool nights creating beautiful harvests, the mouthwatering taste of the freshest, most succulent fruits & veggies, and relationships built with our kind, generous farmers. laura, adam & their staff are truly some of the most joyful people, and they are sold out with passion for all things farming & loving on their members. i’ve said it before, and i imagine i’ll say it for all of my days: we have the very best CSA, and we could not be more thankful for them.

having such an incredible bounty to work with keeps us on our toes as we make sure to take full advantage of it. that is, for anything that isn’t practically devoured on the spot. those mixed heirloom & sungold cherry tomatoes are – no joke – like candy! the carrots are what carrots should really look & taste like. i wouldn’t fathom peeling them – a little scrub, and they are good to go. then there is the garlic; we savor every clove. dustin is convinced it is the best garlic he’s ever tasted (i agree wholeheartedly but love that he’s so passionate about it). at the end of the season, we buy as much garlic as we can to last us as far into fall & winter as possible. we have growing list of go-to recipes that help us maximize every last morsel of the goodness, but there are still scraps, right? peels from cucumbers, discarded carrot tops, garlic & onion skins. it was almost painful to toss them out!

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10 things: 09.2013.

10things_witness

  1. we kicked off this month a little differently than last month. this time, we kicked things off with a 21 day cleanse: smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and a smoothie or raw/lightly cooked veggies for dinner.
  2. we got to meet the precious newest addition to some of our dearest friends’ family. miss lauren elizabeth, you are beautiful!
  3. as silly as it sounds, fall tv shows have kicked off, and we’re enjoying coming home to make dinner & watch a show.
  4. we are so blessed by mentors who are incredibly generous with their time, listening, & wisdom.
  5. it was so fun to get to meet a whole bunch of people in d’s program and from the various hospitals.
  6. saturday mornings at the mill city farmer’s market remains one of the highlights in my week. i love our farmers, i love that we have relationships with them, & i love that we benefit not only from knowing where our food comes from but also get to eat incredibly delicious meals!
  7. gazpacho!
  8. dustin has done a stellar job of helping me to wake up earlier. I could not do it on my own, but it’s so much more doable together :o) it’s also given me the gift of spectacular sunrise views as i drive in to work.
  9. i can’t help but end with a one-two youtube punch. first, the at&t commercials slay me. this one in particular: 
  10. this video made me cry: 

10 things: 08.2013.

10things_witness

  1. we kicked off this month’s dinners making quinoa-beet burgers. and we both liked them!
  2. a special bonus visit gave us the chance to spend more time with the nieces celebrating piper & gabi’s birthdays in minnesota, too :o) and i got to go with on a very special trip to the American Girl doll store.
  3. to celebrate our first wedding month-iversary, we made the most delicious treat: peach dumplings (thank you, smitten kitchen cookbook)!
  4. i felt so special to be able to video chat with miss piper after her first day of kindergarten!!
  5. we had a blast at the state fair – dustin’s first time :o)
  6. dustin started his residency.
  7. our little lemons have started to turn yellow!! i find myself googling “how to take care of a lemon tree” many times a week…
  8. we are slowly finding our new rhythm & routines now that we are both working.
  9. watching dustin & blackjack together every morning is just the sweetest thing.
  10. we have had an onslaught of delicious tomatoes from our produce CSA, so tried a new recipe – a cozy kitchen’s heirloom tomato jam. it’s insanely good. i pretty much wanna spread it on everything.

a happiest place & veggie fried quinoa.

cooking is, and has always been, one of my happiest places. it soothes, refreshes, motivates, & heals me. i like to start with a clean kitchen & open work surfaces so i have a full arsenal of vessels & tools to pick from and plenty of space to spread out. then a little more cleaning – this time the ingredients – before prepping, & chopping. i love the sound of the water, the rhythm of the knife, the colors as the ingredients find their order, & the aromas as it all comes together…mmm.

there are pictures of me in the kitchen spanning almost every age, i think. one of my favorites (that i’m still trying to find) is of me standing on the open dishwasher door, probably not even 2 years old. my mom was making brownies, & i wanted to help mix the batter :o)

my love for the kitchen grew deeper as i grew up. i had cookie parties with friends, i baked with all the kids i babysat ([insert unfathomably messy toddler & kitchen images] – totally worth it), & in college my roommates & i cooked dinner on thursday nights before Friends came on. the connection that cooking creates for me is indescribable. it connects me to deepest places in my spirit that i can forget in the hustle & bustle of a tedious day. it connects me to family & friends. as if that wasn’t enough goodness, over the past 5 months, i’ve been able to experience yet another connection: i’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to share my love of cooking with my most favorite cooking partner of all.

i can’t wait to keep sharing & learning together in the kitchen. cooking through what i can already see will be a growing collection of incredible cookbooks, trying new ingredients, supporting our beloved CSAs, exploring farmer’s markets, gathering loved ones around our table. sharing life, joy, sorrow, celebration, stories.

and, one day, passing our passion on to our own family. what a gift this life is!

:: veggie fried quinoa ::
adapted from peas & crayons

veggie fried quinoa

you can truly make this recipe your own in so many ways. you could simplify everything by subbing frozen veggies. if you pre-cook quinoa & keep it in the fridge or freezer, that makes things even easier. sometimes we soak our quinoa*, and sometimes we cook the quinoa in vegetable or chicken stock to add a little extra flavor.

2 cups quinoa
2 1/2 – 3 cups water or vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 lb chicken, ground pork, shrimp, etc., optional
1 tbsp butter or oil (coconut or olive oil work well)
1 small onion, diced
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup peas or edamame
2 – 3 eggs
2 – 4 tbsp low sodium tamari or soy sauce
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground ginger, optional
1 tbsp sesame seeds, optional

to prepare quinoa
first, rinse quinoa in mesh strainer for a few minutes (to rinse of the bitter outer coating). add rinsed quinoa to medium sauce pan & enough water to cover quinoa by a half inch. bring the water & quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until water evaporates (7-10 minutes). quinoa will be al denté.

to prepare veggies/protein
in a large sauté pan, heat butter or oil over medium heat. add half of the onion & cook 1-2 minutes. if you’re including a protein, add it to the pan with the onions and sauté until cooked through; remove from pan & keep warm in a medium sized bowl.

return pan to heat and add remaining onion, carrots, & celery. stirring occasionally, cook vegetables until they are tender (about 5 minutes). next, add garlic & peas or edamame and cook 1-2 minutes longer. remove sautéed vegetables from the pan, adding them to the bowl with cooked protein.

place pan back on stove. if needed and/or if you want, now might be a good time to add a little more butter or oil to the pan. crack eggs into pan & scramble, cooking to desired texture.

to assemble
once eggs are cooked, you can begin adding everything back to the pan: quinoa, veggies, and protein, if included. add tamari or soy sauce, salt, & pepper. if you are including ginger or sesame seeds, you can add them now, too. mix to combine & warm all the ingredients.

* soaked quinoa has a softer texture, but it also has nutritional benefits. i first learned about soaking quinoa from summer, then read more from the nourshing gourmet. it is an easy, almost entirely hands-off process that includes rinsing the quinoa, covering it with water & mixing in a little lemon juice, raw cider vinegar, or kefir, & letting it sit for 8 hours or so before cooking it however you usually do.

33.

you know how some people turn 29 & hang on to that year for the rest of their birthdays?

not me. mine might be 33.

inexplicably, i have been awaiting 33 with excited, hopeful anticipation. i never knew why, but for years, whenever i thought ahead, the thought of turning 33 made my heart beat a little faster. i always, always looked forward to what would come in my 33rd year.

celebrating my birthday was incredibly special this year. in addition to celebrating on multiple occasions with my fiancé and lots of loved ones, i got to spend time reflecting on the past year and all that God has blessed me with to prepare me for this next year. reflecting on His overwhelming goodness, love, guidance, & provision has been such a gift in & of itself. being able to share it with those closest to me is like getting to open & re-open the most treasured gifts.

in celebration of my 33rd year, here are 33 things i am grateful for…

  1. our incredible Father
  2. my very best friend and forever partner in crime & adventure :)
  3. a strong, healthy body. it’s been almost 2 years!
  4. trader joe’s sea salt & turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds
  5. a warm, safe, cozy little home. granted, i’m only a visitor for the next 5.5 months (170 days…but who’s counting? ;)), but it has been a place of comfort for many years
  6. my loving family
  7. the most wonderful friends to share life with
  8. eden, eli, & tommy! i truly can’t imagine life without them, and more babies are on their way this year!
  9. a fiancé who dreams with me, loves to talk about our future – particularly starting a family one day, wants to & enjoys being involved in everything we do, cooks with me, prays with me, & absolutely treats me like a queen.
  10. soon-to-be in-laws that are so great
  11. soon-to-be nieces that are more fun that i could have imagined
  12. hoodie sweatshirts
  13. mike paschall & ms. patti. two of the most incredible people you will ever meet. and i really mean ever.
  14. the aforementioned mike’s devotionals. powerful, thought-provoking, spirit-stirring good stuff.
  15. doats. the best roomie a girl could ask for, and so generous to graciously, unconditionally open her home to me until the wedding
  16. pinterest!
  17. having a job. jobs are tricky, i think, and can be challenging, but simply having one & enjoying your co-workers is a blessing
  18. deep passions that bring great joy – most notably cooking & creating :)
  19. getting to share my passions with others
  20. being part of the most fabulous CSAs. just signed up for my 3rd year (OUR 1st :)) of produce from loon organics & 2nd season (OUR 1st :)) of meat from braucher’s sunshine harvest farm (the first 4 month 1/2 share has lasted me almost a year!)
  21. travel, a love for the world, and insatiable wanderlust. there is so much to see & do! people, cultures, God’s creation!
  22. summer berry picking…just the thought warms my heart. looking forward to trying this recipe for “christmas cheer” with some of the goodies. looks delicious!
  23. flip flops
  24. garlic & onions. the smell of them sautéing in a pan…heavenly.
  25. my mom’s incredible generosity in buying me my dream wedding dress. i never imagined it actually existed. and i really would have honestly been perfectly happy with another dress; but she insisted. how lucky am i?!
  26. coffee. lattes, more specifically.
  27. homemade chai lattes and the voice of the brilliant sara who writes the blog (sprouted kitchen) that the original recipe i use came from.
  28. grocery shopping. i know, right? but for reals – i love grocery shopping!
  29. laughter
  30. cookbooks. really good cookbooks. oh my – makes my heart go pitter-pat. i read them like novels…
  31. creativity. i would be lost without it
  32. community. there is no more rich, fulfilling, challenging, shaping, loving way to live life than in & with true community
  33. hebrews 11:1 :: now faith is being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see

10 things: 02.12.

need to work on timeliness of posting these :o)

february, 2012

  1. i LOVE celebrating friends.  can’t wait to meet babes youngblood!
  2. i’m not a huge fan of toronto.  yet.  i’ll keep trying.
  3. this month was a toughie.
  4. i got to sign up for my very-very-very-favorite-ever CSA. again!  I’M SO EXCITED!
  5. uber excited for this, this, & this.  from a few of my favorites: her, her, & her.
  6. still camped out with caroline’s message on rest.
  7. i had the BEST valentine.
  8. being with old friends is good for the soul.  even when you’re sleep deprived & chasing 6 kids under 5 yrs old.
  9. loved this from jon acuff: “every day i find a new way to need more grace than the day before. every day God reminds me i won’t exhaust His supply.”  thankful.
  10. “it looked like death had won, but love will last forever” [wish the video was still live]