Category Archives: Salad

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Almonds & Pomegranate Seeds

I feel like I’ve been gone for so long and yet I’ve gone absolutely nowhere at all. I’ve been here, working hard.

With Robert’s crazy-long hours at work this time of year, I often revert back to my single gal meals. Soup, soup, and more soup. These gluten-free waffles, a fried egg (he’s not a fan of breakfast for dinner so I eat it a lot when he’s not around), and green juice. Roasted salmon and sweet potato. Not exactly exciting.

BUT. This salad got me excited about experimenting in the kitchen all over again. It came at a time when I had had it with soft food. I have eaten all of the soups, stews, and slow cooker meals I can possibly handle for a good, long while. I just can’t take it any more. I want light, crisp, and juicy! Food that requires molars!

The only problem? It’s still not warm enough to feel satisfied on raw veggies. That’s why this salad was exactly what I needed. The shredded brussels are sautéed, but still maintain a bit of crunch. Toasted almonds? More crunch. Pomegranate seeds? Crunchy and juicy. I made this salad with my absolute favorite vinegar that I discovered on our honeymoonFustini’s fig balsamic vinegar. I’ve gone through two big bottles since September and find a way to put it on everything. However, I’ve also made this salad with regular balsamic vinegar and it’s still totally delish.

I haven’t made an all Trader Joe’s recipe in a while and this is definitely one (not to worry– you can still find all of the ingredients even if you don’t live near a TJ’s.)  I love the packages of pre-shredded brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds, which make this a super-quick,  superfood-packed easy weeknight (or any night) salad.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Almonds & Pomegranate Seeds

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 10 oz shredded brussels sprouts (about 3 cups)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fig balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar (feel free to taste & add more as you like)
  • 1/3 cup raw slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Preparation:

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and sautee about 1 minute. Add brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, until leaves turn bright green and are slightly softened. Add vinegar and toss to coat. Remove brussels sprouts to a bowl. Allow them to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add almonds and pomegranate seeds.

Healthy Winter Detox Salad

Winter Detox Salad

I realize this is the least festive thing you could lay your eyes on right now, but hear me out. If you’re like me then at some point during the holiday season you’re going to be aching for something that’s not coated in sugar, sprinkles, or sauce. And if you could somehow fit some kale and omega-3′s in there, well, it would be a Christmas miracle. I hear you.

So that’s exactly what you see here. Wintery roasted veggies–brussels sprouts, beets, butternut squash, and turnips–with a healthy filet of roasted salmon all served atop raw kale with a citrusy vinaigrette. And don’t forget about the pomegranate seeds!

There are a lot of different components with this meal, but you can essentially stick the veggies in the oven and forget about them for a little while. And if you want to take an even simpler approach,  grab a package of pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe’s so you don’t have to deal with peeling, slicing, and dicing one of those buggers.

So while this plate of health may look a little insane at the moment, I promise that at some point over the next few weeks you’ll be begging for some good clean food. When that time comes, I’ll be right here. Until then, let’s savor every cookie and every moment we get to spend with the people who matter most to us.

Happy holidays!


Winter Detox Salad

Winter Detox Salad 

Serves 2 with leftovers

  • 1 12 oz. package peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 16 oz. package brussels sprouts, ends removed and halved
  • 2 turnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 large beet, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • (2) 6 oz. salmon filets
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Generous squirt of honey
  • Splash balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and turnips on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (about 1-2 Tbsp). Mix with your hands to ensure everything is lightly coated

Separately, place beet pieces in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Mix with your hands and fold the edges of the foil together to form a small packet. Place on a separate baking sheet.

Place both baking sheets in the oven and cook about 40-50 minutes until everything is cooked through and starts to brown.

When vegetables are almost ready, prepare the salmon. Drizzle with olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.

Once vegetables come out of the oven increase the heat to 450 degrees. Remove the package of beets from the baking sheet and place salmon on the baking sheet. Roast salmon, skin side down, in the oven 12-15 minutes until cooked through.

Whisk salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

To prepare the salad: Place kale at the bottom of a big bowl. Massage leaves with your hands until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Top kale with roasted vegetables. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Add as much salad dressing as desired (you might not use it all) and toss until evenly coated. Divide salad ingredients into two bowls. Top each with salmon filet. Add additional salad dressing if you like.

Cranberry Orange Salsa

Cranberry Orange SalsaIf you’re like me then you sat down to your Thanksgiving feast, dove into the cranberry sauce and asked yourself, “Why on earth do we eat this goodness just one day a year?” Well, you don’t have to! Especially with this delicious variation I made that works with practically anything. Roast turkey? Sure does. But also: baked chicken, fish, roast pork, and definitely by the spoonful. It’s the ultimate (healthy) sweet to complement your savory.

I’m a huge fan of salsas all summer long like pineapple and peach, and this cranberry orange salsa is their wintertime counterpart. (Clearly I love the cranberry orange combo.) There are just a few ingredients: pulverized cranberries, orange zest and chopped segments, a tiny bit of red onion, and fresh mint. Yum. Whether you’re prepping menus for the next flood of holidays (hello Christmas and New Years…I can’t believe they’re almost here) or are looking for something to brighten up a wintery weekday evening this salsa aims to please.

Cranberry Orange Salsa

Ingredients

  • 20 oz fresh cranberries (or frozen and thawed)
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion (about 1/4 of a big red onion)
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh mint (or more), chopped

Preparation

Pulse cranberries in food processor or blender (I used the Vitamix) until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Zest 1 orange directly into bowl. Peel all 3 oranges so there’s no white pith. Using a sharp knife, cut between membranes and chop orange segments into small pieces. Add to cranberries. Add sugar, red onion, and mint. Stir to combine. Taste and make any adjustments such as adding more mint, if desired.

Adapted from Bon Appetit 

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

If I had to list them, the very best parts of this meal–in no particular order– include:

  • It cost $15.16 total or $3.79 per serving.
  • It’s deliciously crunchy, peanuty, and the slightest bit spicy
  • It’s healthy (veggies, mango, and chicken breast…hello!)
  • It requires zero cooking, almost no chopping (veggies are pre-cut) and takes about 3 minutes to prepare.

When I dreamed up this meal I knew it could do no wrong and boy was I right.  Just like Tuesday’s post all ingredients are from Trader Joe’s. This makes me exceedingly happy because some grocery shopping days I can hit up to FOUR DIFFERENT PLACES for ingredients. Yes, you read that right: The farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Stanley’s Produce. Four…count them….four. There goes my Sunday! Yes, I realize that’s insane. So the idea of going to just one place is kind of life-changing to me.

Let’s break down what you see on this plate of chopped healthiness: Trader Joe’s chopped veggies, which includes of mix of eight different items including broccoli, carrots, green and red cabbage, jicama, green bell pepper, radish, and celery. The 16 oz container was on sale for…drumroll please…$2.99. Boom! A package of boneless skinless roast chicken breast (picture rotisserie chicken, but no skin, no bones, and white meat only). Sliced mango. Chopped cilantro. And a generous drizzle of TJ’s Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Get your hands on it ASAP. You’re going to want to dip every single item of your fridge into this dressing. Trust me. And when your fiance is traveling for work so there’s no one to witness, absolutely no one will know. Unless you confess it on your blog….d’oh!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

We’re off to New York tomorrow for a dear friend’s wedding and we’ll get to see my family, too! I hope you all have a lovely Labor Day Weekend!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main course

Ingredients

1 (16 oz) package) Healthy 8 chopped veggie mix

1 (16 oz) package sliced roast chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 mango, cut into chunks

1 handful cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (optional)

Spicy peanut vinaigrette

1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, chopped

Preparation

Combine veggie mix, chicken breast, mango, and cilantro in a bowl. Pour on desired amount of peanut vinaigrette and mix to combine. Top with chopped peanuts.

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad via ABalancedLifeCooks.comHere’s how I know spring has finally arrived here in Chicago: On one of the first non-30 degree days I stepped outside, pointed my face toward the sun, and basked in its warmth. It has been a long, cold, grey winter and I’m so ready to finally emerge from hibernation.

Sometimes I like to coax the next season with the food I make. I love roasted veggies as much as the next gal, but it’s time for something a little lighter. What you see here: Raw organic arugula with yellow bell pepper, boiled and seasoned baby potatoes, steamed asparagus with shallot vinaigrette, and marinated flank steak. Can I get an OH YEAH? The perfect meal to bridge the seasons: light and fresh flavors with a few hearty slices of steak.

The great thing about this meal is you can serve it so many different ways. Check out the fixins’ below:

DSCN2202You prepare each component separately, which means you can pile everything together into a salad like I did or place each item on a different part of your plate if you’re not into your food touching. Either way it’s a tasty and refreshing way to celebrate the start of spring!

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad

Since there are several different parts to this meal I offer instructions below on how to prepare each one so you can make it all or pick a few. 

Marinated Flank Steak

To a bowl or baking dish combine: 1 pound flank steak, 2 Tbsp olive oil,  juice of 1 lime, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped jalapeño (remove ribs and seeds), 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Refrigerate for 1 or more hours.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak and cook 5 minutes (or more depending on desired degree of doneness) on each side. Remove steak to a plate and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. Slice into thin strips.

Steamed Asparagus & Shallot Vinaigrette

Steam 1 bunch asparagus. Drain and place on a plate. In a bowl whisk together vinaigrette: 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp chopped shallot, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Pour vinaigrette onto asparagus.

Arugula Salad

In a bowl combine: 7 oz bag organic arugula, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 Tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

Baby Potatoes 

Boil 1 pound baby potatoes until fork tender. Drain. Remove to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Peach Salsa

Walk into any farmers market, produce store, or supermarket and it quickly becomes clear that stone fruit–especially peaches–are having a moment. Last weekend we stocked up at a farm stand on our way home from a trip to Michigan and this weekend we bought about a dozen softball-sized peaches at the Green City Market here in Chicago. Even before unloading our bags I knew that some of our bounty was destined to become peach salsa.

I had never made peach salsa before, but I’m a huge fan of homemade mango salsa and I knew this would be just as good. (Funny side note: Salmon with mango salsa is the first thing I ever cooked for Robert. It was also the first time I ever made mango salsa, which happened to be in January…with rock-hard, flavorless mangos. Perhaps I should’ve known then and there that it was the beginning of a lifetime in which he’d happily eat both my cooking successes as well as my flops. I’m sure the homemade margaritas didn’t hurt either….)

But this isn’t about mangos in the winter, it’s about fresh, juicy peaches in the summer! Is there anything more perfect? 

We ate the salsa alongside pan-seared salmon (that technique never disappoints) and raw baby spinach. Of course, I’d be lying to you if I told you I ate it as seen in the photo above. No ma’am. My plate looked like this: 

You know how I love a big bowl of food. Meanwhile, Robert’s peach salsa feast looked like this:

Just keeping it real around here.

Of course, you can serve the peach salsa countless different ways–on top of chicken, shrimp, tacos, or scooped up in a crispy tortilla chip. In other words, what are you waiting for?

Peach Salsa

Ingredients
3 ripe peaches, pits removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Sprinkle of sea salt

Preparation
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust any quantities as desired.

Source: Eat, Live, Run

Chicken Cutlets with Wax Bean, Arugula & Avocado Salad

I have a confession to make. When I lived in my old apartment I’d cook dinner in the evening and then photograph the leftovers the next day, when the light was just right, and post the images here. Then the food would go back into the refrigerator and I’d eat it for dinner again the next night or two. But there’s this thing I’ve learned since moving in with a boy: They eat a lot. Especially when they get home from work and go for a run that’s farther than all of the distances you’ve ever ran in your life combined.

As a result, I’m never really sure how much food I’ll have left to shoot. And since my guy loves leftovers more than anyone on the planet the leftovers usually become his lunch the next day. Now don’t get me wrong–I’m not complaining one bit. The fact that he loves to eat as much as I love to cook and the fact that he’ll eat anything I attempt to make (including the flops) is more than I could ever want. And since we’ve been living together I’ve tossed out about 100 percent less food than I used to. Did I mention he does the dishes? Yes, these are all very, very good things.

So I’ve decided to say screw it. Screw what those blogs on food photography say about shooting in the daylight. The point of this blog has never been perfect images. It’s about delicious, inspiring food! So I don’t want to not post something just because the exposure (whatever the heck that is) isn’t quite right. Especially when I make a ridiculously simple meal like this one that made our taste buds do a happy dance and caused us to exclaim between bites things like “it tastes like summer!” and “I can’t believe this is so healthy!” and “I knew there was basil in the salad!” and “do you think we can get the first few episodes of Breaking Bad on Amazon Prime Instant Video?” Okay, that last one had nothing to do with this salad. But we are currently slightly obsessed with Breaking Bad and didn’t DVR the first few episodes of the current season because we were busy doing things like moving, going on vacation, working, editing books, shopping for furniture, and getting engaged : )

Before we sat down to dinner last night I pulled out my camera and took a few shots of the meal because it would’ve been just plain wrong to withhold it from you. The entire concept came from the fact that I had fresh wax beans from a farmer’s market we visited in Michigan this weekend, but I’m sure green beans or haricots verts would work great, too.

And while I’m in the spirit of confessing things to you today I’m going to admit that my dinner didn’t actually look like the plate you see above. You see, I love one-bowl meals where you can toss everything together and get a little bit of everything in each bite. So my dinner looked like this, below. It contains all of the components above plus wild rice and sliced peaches. Because when you have farm fresh peaches in August you find a way to put them on everything.

Chicken Cutlets with Wax Bean, Arugula & Avocado Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 lb wax beans, ends trimmed and beans cut in half
5 oz bag of arugula
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1 tomato, diced
13.4 oz box of garbanzo beans such as 365 Organic from Whole Foods or one 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 basil leaves, chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp walnut oil (optional)
1 lb chicken cutlets
Salt and Pepper

Directions
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add wax beans, cook for 30 to 60 seconds, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. In a large bowl combine arugula, avocado, tomato, garbanzo beans, and basil. Add wax beans. Top with lemon juice, olive oil, walnut oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with tongs to evenly coat.

Heat oil (such as olive oil or grapeseed oil) in a large skillet on the stove. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook on the stove, about 5 minutes per side. Serve alongside salad.

Source: MarthaStewart.com 

Spicy Chicken Meatballs & Raw Kale Salad

It never ceases to amaze me how the brain can juggle two seemingly opposing emotions at once. A huge part of me is so excited about the fact that in six short days my sweetheart and I’ll be cohabitating in our cozy new apartment in Lincoln Park.

And yet another part of me is deeply sentimental about wrapping up this chapter of my life as a single 20-something living alone in her Lakeview apartment. As cheesy as it sounds I feel like I’ve become myself in this apartment over the past two years. Living alone has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. The experiences and lessons I’ve gained about taking care of my own health and happiness are priceless. And I know it’s these experiences and lessons that have brought me to a place where I’m ready and wanting to share a home with my guy.

I’m sorry if they look like boobs. Perhaps not the classiest goodbye I was looking for from my kitchen.

When I think about the many ways in which this apartment has helped shape me they always lead back to my tiny kitchen. I believe our passions help define who we are. Read no further than a post or two on this blog and you’ll see my passions are simple: writing, cooking, and yoga. While writing and yoga have been by my side for years cooking is a relative newcomer to my internal matrix. Yet the way it has transformed my life in the past two years is really remarkable.

When I consider the different thoughts that occupy my mind space on a day-to-day basis, food was barely a speck on my radar just a few dozen months ago. It was a means of survival, pleasure, and connection, but I only thought about food when I was around it. Now, I think about cooking nearly on a moment-to-moment basis. And if our thoughts help shape who we are, too, then the number of brain cells now devoted to food means I’ve changed as a person as well.

Yet food and cooking have changed me on a much deeper level than that: It’s how I care for others. It’s a language that allows me say things words cannot. This is above all the most transformational piece to come out of the hours I’ve spent in my apartment’s galley kitchen. Most of the time I’m propelled into that space not only in search of the simple joy cooking brings me or the peace I feel when lost in the flow, but also because it’s an opportunity to speak from my heart. For this, I’m humbled and grateful.

The final meal to come out of my kitchen and onto the blog is a simple one, yet perfectly represents my journey in so many ways. The chicken meatballs are packed with protein while the raw kale salad is brimming with countless nutrients. Just as I use food to care for others I use it to nourish and show myself love, too. What better way to do just that than with this hearty, healthy dinner during such a hectic time in my life? (Did I mention I’m simultaneously moving and editing a book manuscript— both happening/due on the same day?) The meatballs are also my very first 100 percent original recipe. Only weeks ago I was lamenting how I wasn’t ready to remove the recipe-less training wheels, but it finally and successfully happened.

I’ve also discovered that as my cooking skills have expanded so have my tastes. The meatball recipe involves an ingredient you’d never have seen me use two years ago: hot sauce. Thanks to a guy who puts the stuff on nearly every food imaginable I’ve learned to appreciate the unique kick. I found a way to work it into this recipe as a nod to my newfound tolerance for heat and the fact that I’ll be seeing a lot more of it in my near future.

The kale salad is a nod to a food I love and eat so often, but in a preparation I’ve never tried before. When the warm summer weather keeps you away from your oven try this method: simply massage the dressing (yes I said massage the dressing) into the leaves and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or longer so the kale becomes tender enough to eat. Top with avocado chunks because avocado makes everything better.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. It means so much to me and gives me even more purpose for chasing my passion in the kitchen. I always come out of it with much more than dinner. It may be a week or two before I’m able to post again. We’re taking a short vacation the day after we move, but as soon as I dig out my knives and a pot or two I’ll be cooking again in my new (non-galley, gas-stove) kitchen. Except this time, happily, it’ll be for two.

Spicy Chicken Meatballs
Makes about 15 meatballs

Ingredients
.75 lb ground chicken breast
2 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
¼ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp hot sauce (such as Sriracha) plus extra for topping
1 egg

Preparation
Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, green onions, breadcrumbs, and hot sauce. In a separate small bowl beat egg and add to chicken mixture. Use your hand to combine all ingredients.

Spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with cooking spray (you can also use a baking sheet). Taking one heaping Tbsp of chicken mixture at a time, shape into meatballs and place into baking dish. Cook for 15 minutes. When done cooking, top each meatball with one squeeze of hot sauce. Serve hot or room temperature.

Raw Red Kale Salad

Ingredients
1 bunch red kale (or any kind), ribs removed & leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp walnut oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, cut into chunks

Preparation
Prepare kale and use a lettuce spinner to remove any remaining water. The drier the leaves the better the dressing will adhere to them. Place kale in a large bowl.

Combine remaining ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour dressing onto kale. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves. Allow kale to sit for 15-20 minutes so dressing can soften the leaves.

Add avocado before serving.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

There’s a part of me that wants to jump up and down because I finally created my own recipe! But there’s another part of me that reminds myself that for countless years before I learned (or was even interested in) how to cook all I made were salads. (Don’t worry, I ate other stuff, too.) So if there’s one thing I really know how to make it’s a salad. (I did, however, create my very own non-salad recipe this week that I’m over-the-moon pumped about and plan to recreate and photograph very soon. I had no clue it would be a success when I made it, but if you like spicy foods get excited!)

This whole-wheat orzo salad is the third and final recipe from our Mediterranean picnic. And I must say it was pretty darn tasty. I packed it with lots of fresh veggies: red and yellow bell peppers, cucumber, red onion, arugula, olives, and artichoke hearts as well as fresh basil and mint, which also appeared in the Chickpea Salad. On a whim, I tossed some sliced salami in there and it’s no surprise that it totally stole the show. Kind of like how bacon does in everything. I may or may not have fished out individual salami pieces from the leftovers while standing with the refrigerator door open. True story.

When it comes to the dressing, I have to apologize because my measurements are estimates. I can’t believe I’m becoming one of those people who doesn’t measure! Those people drive me crazy! I’ll try to keep the habit to a minimum around here. Just taste as you go (I dipped pieces of arugula into the dressing to taste it) and tweak however you see fit.


Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Serves: A lot (about 8-10 servings)

Ingredients
For the salad:
12 oz whole wheat orzo pasta
1 Persian/hothouse cucumber, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and sliced thinly
1 can pitted green olives, rinsed and sliced thinly
12 oz package salami, each piece thinly sliced (I stacked and sliced several at a time)
1/2 bag of arugula
About 6 fresh mint leaves, chopped
About 4-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste (use plenty of freshly ground black pepper)

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp jarred minced garlic
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain.

Combine orzo in a large bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and stir to keep pasta from sticking to other ingredients.

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Add all of it to salad. Toss to combine. If you need more dressing, add additional fresh lemon juice and olive oil and toss to coat.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

In psychology, there’s a mental state known as flow. You’ve probably experienced it before. Flow occurs when you’re completely immersed in the moment, your mind and body are engaged on the same task, and you lose all sense of time. As a yogi, you’d think this would be a familiar state for me, but that’s not always the case. In yoga, I’m often so focused on my alignment and movements–making minor adjustments as I transition from one pose to the next–that it’s difficult to let myself go completely. But recently, I’ve been able to find my flow with increasing regularity while cooking in the kitchen. This dish is a perfect example.

This weekend Robert and I joined friends for picnics at Ravinia (an outdoor concert venue just outside of Chicago), both Friday and Saturday night. I decided to make one big picnic to last throughout the weekend. Not to get all Martha Stewart on you here (trust me, I’m the furthest thing from Ms. Stewart), but I like to choose a theme for my picnics to help me narrow down my food choices and ensure they’ll go together. (Otherwise who knows what will happen!) While talking to my mom last week, she reminded me that last year I made a French-themed picnic and then Robert and I went to France earlier this year. “So choose where you want to go next,” she joked. Done: The Mediterranean. Greece, Spain, Italy–I’m not picky. From there, the pieces fell into place and I spent one night late last week simultaneously putting together several items for the picnic including this chickpea salad (more recipes to come this week).

The thing is, I don’t remember making it. (And no, I wasn’t drinking : ) ) I know it sounds bizarre, but that’s how I know I was in the flow. Juggling different recipes at the same time and allowing myself to focus fully on what I was doing meant the experience imprinted in my mind more as a feeling of fluidity than a distinct memory. The cool thing about flow is the more skilled you become at performing a certain task (such as playing an instrument or running) the easier it becomes to find your flow. I still have so much to learn when it comes to cooking, but it’s really neat to notice how in just two years I’ve gone from being clunky and awkward in the kitchen to perhaps a little graceful at times. Sure, there are still plenty of spilled things, the occasional (small) fire, and full-out flops. But when the stars align and I put all of my attention on what I’m doing, the success of the experience can be even more fulfilling than the final product. (Although this recipe did not disappoint.)

Although I may not remember chopping the mint or slicing the scallions, I definitely remember eating this light, yet satisfying salad at our picnics. I’d also suggest making it as a great summertime lunch–especially with the fresh parsley, mint and basil–or served alongside some lemony grilled fish.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Ingredients
8-10 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
1 hothouse or Persian cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 can (12 to 16 oz) of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Juice of 4 lemons
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Feta cheese

Preparation
Combine the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large bowl and toss.

Whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with feta. Serve with pita chips.

Source: Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?