Second Course: Salad and Baby Steps

Whenever I discover something new about myself my first question is always, “What now?” I want to know what to do with this information, how to take the opportunity to change while I can still see that change is possible. If I wait or don’t follow through with some kind of action, it is too easy to slip back in to familiar habits. The way I’ve done things before is so “comfortable.” I put comfortable in quotations because it isn’t really, it’s pretty uncomfortable in a lot of ways, but it is familiar and that makes it not so scary. Well, for the moment when I can see the truth about myself it is really scary. In that moment I realize the funky ways I’ve been thinking or doing things and I think, “What a waste of time!” The rest of the time, when I’m not having some kind of epiphany, change is scary.

In my experience, change requires both action and support. It also takes time and gentleness. I’m not talking about forcing myself to give up certain habits. I’m talking about being aware of my own thoughts and behaviors, and attempting to slowly shift into new thoughts and behaviors. Another key is taking it slow. If I uproot my entire life in one day, there is no way it will stick. If I get very enthusiastic about something like eliminating all grains from our diet or exercising every day, it will never happen. This is where the perfectionism comes in: perfect is the enemy of good. I have read that line or something like it in a few different places, for sure Brene Brown makes that point in Daring Greatly. I absolutely agree. When I decide to do something I want to commit myself to it. I want to be great at it, I want to succeed. However, in certain situations, the standard I have in my mind is not actually good, it’s unattainable, which prevents me from doing anything at all. This is the New Years resolution phenomenon that we are all familiar with. Whatever it is we decide to take on or get rid of seems like a great idea until about mid February and then it falls away until it is a distant memory by summer.

I read an interesting article that talked about this phenomenon as being partly related to the way we think about our future selves. Apparently we think about our future self as if he or she is a stranger. That makes it hard to relate or take action that is uncomfortable in the moment but beneficial in the long run. In order to make choices that are helpful to my future self, but painful or difficult for my present self, I have to feel more connected to the idea that who I will be is the same person I am today. I will still be living in this body when I get to that imaginary time, and I will be the same person I am today in most ways, unless I choose to do something different. I want to take my moments of clarity and rather than get ahead of myself trying to change my whole outlook, choose a small action or thought to remind myself of who I want the me of now and tomorrow to be.

In the case of what I’m working on right now, I am trying to treat myself the way I would treat my child. Since I’m not perfect as a parent or in any other way (what a relief, right!?) I will sometimes be not so nice. Most of the time I hope to be at least pretty nice, and sometimes, I will be extraordinarily kind and patient and appreciate the beautiful qualities in myself, just like I do in my children.

Now that we’ve figured that out, let’s continue with the meal from the party I catered this past Sunday: the salad course!

Rainbow green salad on top and spinach salad with beets and goat cheese on the bottom.

Rainbow green salad above and spinach salad with beets, goat cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds below.

The first salad is a simple mixture of chopped romaine lettuce topped with halved grape tomatoes, sliced Israeli aka Persian cucumbers (those giant hothouse cucumbers work too), yellow peppers, and shredded carrots. I made a tehina dressing for it with my trusty immersion blender. Mix 1/2 cup fresh tehina with 1/2 cup water, then add lemon juice and a little soy sauce to taste. Add a little more water to make it the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. You can blend in any herb you have on hand, such as dill, cilantro, basil or parsley. This dressing looks creamy and adds a real richness to what would otherwise be a really simple salad.

The second salad is also really easy. Baby spinach topped with crumbled goat cheese, sliced beets, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Toasting nuts and seeds is one of those things I’ve heard people say is really worthwhile, but I kind of hate doing it. I have burned my fair share of sliced almonds by putting them in an oven that is too hot and forgetting about them for literally one minute. I need a little more wiggle room than that because most of the time I can’t even remember to set the timer to remind me! I occasionally overcome my aversion to toasting and I’m always glad I did, and I always say to myself that I will toast every nut and seed that enters my kitchen. (You see what I was talking about before!) Of course I don’t do it all the time, just for special occasions. Literally all you have to do is sprinkle whatever you want to roast on a baking sheet and put it in a 400 degree oven for about two minutes. You will know they are done when they get slightly browned and smell AMAZING. Pumpkin seeds even do a nice little trick of puffing up!

Another awesome tip that I learned from my friend Rachel is to put goat cheese (I’m talking about the usual soft kind, chevre, that comes in the plastic tube) in the freezer for a little while before you try to crumble it. Just use a fork and it crumbles as easily as feta, as opposed to how sticky and impossible it usually is.

The beets are easy too, buy small ones because they are less likely to have fibrous stuff inside or be bitter. I dump them in a pot after a quick rinse and boil until they are tender when I poke them with a fork. I let them cool and then peel them while running them under water. This lets the skins slide right off and prevents my fingers from turning hot pink. Then I slice them up and they are good to go!

For the spinach salad I made another dressing with the immersion blender. I use a super simple ratio to make my balsamic vinaigrette: First pour olive oil into a container. Then add 1/3 that amount of balsamic vinegar. Then 1/3 the amount of vinegar, of maple syrup. Then 1/3 the amount of maple syrup, of dijon mustard. Then a little salt. Whisk or blend it with the immersion blender and tada! Amazing balsamic dressing everyone will love.

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5 thoughts on “Second Course: Salad and Baby Steps

  1. That second salad sounds like one I could eat everyday and never get tired of! I usually roast my beets though…I have never boiled them. How much water do you put in–just to cover or they have to be submerged? Do you put them in cold water or wait until the water is boiling?

    • I put them in when the water is cold and bring to a boil. I fill up the pot so they are submerged but I don’t think it matters much. They are so hearty that they end up being super low maintenance.

      • When I think about beets in a pot, I think about the time my college roommate tried to cook beets by putting them in a pot with no liquid. LOL. That pot, and the beets, were a goner!

      • I hear that. The early stages of learning to cook are usually terrible, I definitely ruined some pots. I consider myself an accomplished cook now, mostly because almost everything I make is at least edible.

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