It’s been a bit of a rough week, in terms of stress management. The most frustrating part is that I am not even at the actual busy, stressful time yet–I’m just worrying about it. Anxiety life. Oy. But, if I can just keep on picking away at my assignments and project prep: a little bit of work this evening or that morning, I shouldn’t have any problems at all. I’ve just gotta remind myself that the best thing I can do is to break everything into manageable tasks.
I also have to find some stress relief. That is currently in the form of watching season 1 of Once Upon a Time (I’m behind, I know. But I am also totally over whiny James and would just like him to disappear, please!) and planning a mini patio makeover for us. We haven’t done much with the space in our two years here. We brought a pair of plastic adirondack chairs we found at the curb of our old neighborhood, and purchased an Applaro table + chairs + stools from Ikea when we moved here, which I still love! Every piece folds up, so its a total space saver! Other than that, we have my herb planter and a very old, giant grill that was another curbside find. M and I agreed that we would be getting a new grill this year (possibly even this weekend!) and I was feeling like things needed a little sprucing up, in general. I want to enjoy my time on our patio, rather than simply abandoning it to the bugs. Since the beginning of this year and our grocery budget revamp, I have also been trying (semi-successfully) to purchase our groceries with cash. I almost never carried cash before, so this has been a huge shift for me. But, our ATM only allows withdrawals in sets of $10, so, with my $35 to spend at the grocery store, I’m left with $5 that isn’t budgeted for groceries. It had been easy enough to stash this weekly $5 bill in a jar and forget about it. Now, four months into the year, I have a nice little cash fund that I can use towards a patio update: to get some string lights, pillows, and maybe a lantern or two! Since we are hosting our families for a small Easter lunch, I am hoping to have the patio finished by then! I’ll be sure to share the results when I do get things done.
Today, I am sharing our absolute favorite recipe for kale. This is the only salad that we eat consistently, but it never disappoints, even when it is so simple. It’s gleaned from several different recipes across the web and also from a few kale salads that we have sampled in restaurants. By thinking of this salad in flavor building blocks, rather than in specific ingredients, we always have enough “building blocks” on hand in our pantry to make this salad, and we have endless combinations to try! There are 5 important parts: Sweet (some kind of dried fruit works best), Crispy (breadcrumbs or croutons), Crunchy (nuts or seeds), Salty/Creamy (cheese), and Tangy (vinaigrette). Add each of these elements to some kale and you will not be disappointed! This salad is almost more like a coleslaw in terms of the thinly shredded greens and the ratio of greens to other ingredients.
Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 10 minutes |Cook time: (optional) 3-5 minutes
- 1 bunch curly kale
- 1/2 c. dried fruit
- 1/3 c. tiny croutons (about 1-2 slices of bread)
- 1/3 c. sliced/chopped and toasted nuts or whole, shelled, toasted seeds
- 1/4 c. shredded parmesan or other hard, salty cheese
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 5 Tbsp. vinegar, divided (red wine, champagne, or apple cider vinegar is best)
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 6-8 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. honey
- salt & pepper
Place the dried fruit in a small bowl and add 2 Tablespoons of water and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar. Microwave for 30 seconds and allow to sit while preparing the rest of the salad ingredients. This allows the fruit to rehydrate slightly, making it softer and adding a chewy bite to the salad.
Remove the leafy part of the kale from the stems. Stack the leafy part and slice the greens into thin strips. Add to a large bowl and massage the kale greens. The greens will get softer, will slightly change color, will shrink a little in mass, and will begin to smell like grass. Your hands may even turn a bit green. This breaks down the tough leaf without cooking and makes the raw salad infinitely more palatable! Check out the photos above–can you see the difference? Set the greens aside.
Chop the bread slices into the tiniest pieces that you can manage. I prefer this to breadcrumbs, as it gives a more hearty texture. Plus, then I don’t have to keep GF breadcrumbs around. I’ll be totally honest, we usually freeze the ends of bread loaves for this exact purpose! Place the bits of bread in a skillet with a glug of olive oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until these tiny croutons are a little toasted. Set aside.
Mix up the dressing: add 3 Tablespoons of vinegar, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, 6-8 Tablespoons of olive oil (the usual ratio is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil, but we prefer less oil for a tangier dressing), 2 teaspoons dijon mustard*, and 2 teaspoons honey into a jar. Lid tightly and shake until the dressing is combined. Taste the dressing and adjust as needed–perhaps more honey or more vinegar. If I need more vinegar, I’ll first use the water-vinegar combination from my soaked fruit! You can jazz up this vinaigrette by using different types of vinegar and oil, adding herbs or garlic, etc.
Put together the salad: Drain the soaked fruit and add the fruit to the greens. Add the nuts/seeds, then the cheese. Pour over about half of the dressing. Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the salad, fairly liberally. Toss all of the salad together until thoroughly mixed. Add more dressing if needed. Last, add the croutons, and mix in. This helps to prevent them from getting soggy. Serve immediately or set in the fridge for up to an hour before serving. Leftover can be stored in the fridge tightly covered for up to 2 days, but you will lose a lot of the texture from the nuts and croutons as they soften.
*The mustard helps the oil and vinegar emulsify, so do your best not to skip it!
Some of our favorite combinations are:
–Dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, and parmesan
–Dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and parmesan (in the photos)
–Dried currents, toasted walnuts, and asiago
The weather in my area is unusually extreme this fall, flipping between freezing temperatures (and snow! We had snow yesterday!) and balmy days every few weeks. In some ways, I think this constant roller coaster weather is worse: my allergies go haywire and my sleep schedule is rattled. It isn’t so surprising then, that I’m already craving warm, hearty dishes to ward off the winter that is fast approaching. Unfortunately, with my crazy schedule (more on that later), I’ve had very little time to cook. It takes all my effort to rustle up breakfast and find something pack-able for lunch as I rush blearily through the morning. Dinner is becoming more and more reliant on fast food (a detriment to my wallet and my waist).
Despite the questionable quality of my meals, I’ve also been reminded of how therapeutic cooking became during my unemployment. I am itching to get into the kitchen. On my most recent evening off, what started as a quick look to find something gluten-free to eat in my friends’ fridge turned into twice-baked potatoes for the whole household. I’m craving vegetable chopping, sizzling pans, preheating ovens, whirring mixers. So it wasn’t so much of a surprise that the span of an expected hour at home midday resulted in homemade chicken soup. Even when I had a can in the pantry. Chicken broth rested coyly in my peripheral vision as I peered in the fridge. Carrots waved desperately from the crisper. Spices held their breath behind the cabinet door. How could I resist?
Honestly, I was surprised at just how well this soup came out. I didn’t pull out any measuring cups. A spoon, a pot, and a cutting board were my only company. I tossed in what I wanted and let it all simmer into something wonderfully, unexpectedly perfect. Looking back on it, I’ve done my best to approximate the measurements. Feel free to play with it. Add what you want. Take out what you don’t. Make this yours.
Easy Chicken Soup
- -4 c. (gluten-free) chicken broth or stock
- -4 lg. carrots, peeled & chopped (about 1 c.)
- -1/4-1/2 c. chopped onion
- -1/4 c. chopped celery
- -1 clove garlic, minced
- -1 c. shredded, cooked chicken (I’ll admit, I used chicken from a can, and it turned out just fine)
- -1/2 tsp. ground thyme
- -1 tsp crushed rosemary
- -1 tsp celery seed
- -1/2 tsp pepper
- -1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- -1/4 tsp nutmeg
- -splash of cooking sherry
- -salt to taste
Add ingredients to large pot in order of ingredient list. Allow some time after adding vegetables (carrots, onions, celery) to simmer in the pot and soften vegetables. After vegetables have cooked through, continue adding all ingredients in order. Simmer for 10-15 minutes after final ingredient. Serve.
–Chicken Noodle Soup: While soup is simmering, cook gluten-free pasta according to package directions in separate pot. Drain noodles 3 minutes before cooking time listed on box. Add noodles to hot soup, allow to simmer one more minute and serve.
–Spicy Chicken Soup: (This was perfect to clear up my cold) Add 1/2-1 teaspoon (to taste) of Franks Hot Sauce to each serving of Chicken or Chicken Noodle Soup.