Sunday, April 13, 2014

Avocado Salad and Hearty Beans

Spring has finally appeared in Dayton! After an exhaustively long winter, with cold temperatures and snow persisting even into April, balmy temperatures have finally peaked their head around the corner tentatively and flowers are beginning to peep their heads shyly above the ground.

Never before have I felt such a sense of emergence in springtime - a sense of having endured something Long and Exhaustive and finally coming out into the sunshine, literally. My standard, chronic state of fatigue has been replaced by giddiness at the sunshine and warm breeze. I want to open all the windows, play music, and bounce about with childlike enthusiasm, unable to stand still.

And we have had such wonderful spring meals!!

Spring salad with fresh herbs...

Pickled eggplant!
Spinach salad with fresh tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, and avocado!

Some nights it's still cold, though! No matter, I have stubbornly decided that spring IS here, and I am leaving the windows open, even if Ruby and I still have to curl up under blankets while studying...

And we are still counting on wonderful dried beans for a quick and hearty supper, filled with fiber and lean protein!

For example...
  • Toss a pound of dried legumes into a slow cooker! I used a mixture of pinto beans, kidney beans, and lentils.
  • Add...
    • 28oz canned tomatoes
    • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
    • 4oz andouille sausage OR vegetarian "sausage," chopped
    • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • Cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours, until the beans are tender. Enjoy with some fresh shaved parm on top!

And especially exciting, my first time fixing an avocado tuna salad!

So simple, healthful, light, and fresh! Perfect with chickpeas for a vegan mock tuna salad as well...
  • Mash together:
    • 1 can tuna or 1 can chickpeas, drained
    • 1 avocado
    • 2 stalks celery, minced
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • Salt and pepper and paprika to taste!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Freestyle Asparagus

Canadian Geese on the roof of our apartment building...
My cooking styles have changed quite a bit with all the pressures of work and graduate school in my life. Never for a moment have I stopped cooking - when my stress level climbs and my life is cluttered to the max, literally and figuratively, the kitchen remains my one source of zen and balance, the one place I feel centered and at peace. Mostly, though, I have moved almost completely away from recipes, although I still read them voraciously. I still page through my favorite food magazines, Cooking Light and Bon Appetit, while folding laundry, and I still read my favorite blogs lovingly. But rarely do recipes follow me into the kitchen anymore.
Trying to type with a cat sitting on my hands...
Previously, I would make an effort to measure diligently, so I could reproduce recipes reliably here on the blog. For someone with type-A tendencies such as myself, this became a stressful endeavor in itself. I couldn't dare add an extra dash of smoked paprika without pausing to measure it diligently. It was enough to make my already neurotic, OCD head spin.

Eventually, I had to admit to myself that while I still love the idea of sharing perfectly measured, scientific recipes here on the blog, my life is simply not in a state to be precisely measured and doled out in half teaspoons of basil at the present time. On the contrary, my life much more accurately resembles a blender full of whirling, pureeing soup with the top flown off. My life is constantly exploding, flying up onto the ceiling, and dripping down onto my head again.

Cooking remains my one opportunity to breathe deeply and decompress, not wonder whether I accurately tabulated the amount of juice in the lemon I just squeezed. I am chronically and unsuccessfully trying to tabulate every single other element of my life, so in the kitchen I finally just let go and squeezed the lemon, sans measuring cup.

I have even found baking, in which I have been told so many times one must always measure precisely, to be very forgiving and open to spontaneity. Baking soda and baking powder now get "measured" casually in the palm of my hand, and I pay more attention to the texture of my dough than to exactly how much flour I am adding...

So I humbly beg your tolerance, dear reader, and pray you will accept my more relaxed, free-form style of cooking, filled with exuberant splashes, dashes, and sprinkles. And continued antidotes about soup dripping on my head, of course.

For example, tonight's asparagus...

Steam 1 large bunch of asparagus until crisp tender
Drizzle toasted sesame oil over the asparagus.
Splash on some liquid coconut aminos.
Squeeze on some fresh lime juice.
Sprinkle on sesame seeds, and voila!

Even my beloved grandmother wrote recipes in a rather flowing fashion, rather than a precise list of ingredients followed by an orderly set of steps...

How do you prefer to cook? Are you a measurer, or do you prefer a sprinkle of this and a dash of that?