Monthly Archives: March 2012

Quinoa Salad

I learned an important lesson this week that I’d like to share with you: When all else fails make quinoa. Yep, I’m fairly certain that’s going to be my motto from now on. You see I had absolutely nothing planned for dinner Monday night. And if you know anything about me you know that I don’t do well without plans–whether that’s what I’m doing this weekend (going to California, btw) or what I’m eating tonight. So not knowing what’s for dinner isn’t something that happens very often. There’s also the fact that I didn’t have any time to go grocery shopping this weekend so it’s not like I had a bunch of ingredients on hand that I could easily whip together. Sure, there’s always takeout, but when I get home from yoga I like to minimize the amount of time between when I step out of the shower and when I shovel food into my mouth. In other words, waiting 60 minutes for some greasy Thai noodles to arrive wasn’t an option.

So I opened my refrigerator and stared. Then I opened my pantry and stared some more. Finally, I stuck my face in the freezer and rummaged around. I continued the refrigerator-pantry-freezer routine for a good five minutes. I was this close to reaching for the eggs that were three days beyond their expiration date when, finally, my eyes landed on a gold mine: Quinoa. Then I remembered the bag in the freezer filled with some edamame. And the can of corn in the pantry. And the random assortment of veggies in the crisper drawer. Maybe it’s all of the pinning I’ve been doing (I. Can’t. Stop. Pinning.), but making a quinoa salad was one of the most effortless things I’ve ever done in the kitchen. (I later realized I’ve pinned about half a dozen versions of quinoa salads, yet didn’t think to follow any particular recipe–I’m sure they’re ingrained in my brain after looking at so many.)

Besides being easy to make (duh, it’s a salad) the thing about this dish is that it’s super filling for being a salad. I actually try to avoid eating salads and sandwiches for dinner because I like to eat FOOD and not, um, lunch. The quinoa itself is totally satisfying and the edamame, corn, and avocado definitely up the fill-me-up factor. I also whipped up a brand-new salad dressing using random ingredients on hand (hello half of a cava orange…what?) that happened to rock my world. (Recipe below.) I am completely converted now and will always have quinoa on hand for those planless dinners when I find myself doing the refrigerator-pantry-freezer tango. Bring it on.

Quinoa Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand. I didn’t do much measuring, so these are merely guidelines that can help steer you in a tasty direction.

For the Salad
1/2 cup quinoa (I used tricolor)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed and blanched in boiling water

For the Rice Vinegar-Citrus Dressing
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
Juice of 1/2 orange (I used cava, but any variety will do)
1/2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
salt & pepper to taste

Preparation
Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small container with a lid and shake vigorously until combined. Add dressing to salad (you may have more than you need for this recipe so only add as much as you like) and toss to combine.

Simple Dreams

This blog has nothing to do with food. However, it involves living a balanced life so I figured it’s fair game.

I follow a few blogs where I feel like I’ve started to see the writers’ dreams coming to life right before my eyes. I don’t know any of these bloggers personally, but sometimes I feel like I do. (A sentiment that I think is pretty standard in the blogosphere.) These people’s backgrounds vary widely from a 20-something Chicagoan launching a new website, to a food blogger who recently landed a cookbook deal, to a married team of wedding photographers whose careers are totally taking off (all the way to Australia, in fact). And I have to admit that as exciting as it is to see these strangers’ dreams becoming realities and to also see their dreams growing bigger and bigger, I’ve started to wonder: Are my dreams big enough?

Many people talk about setting goals, reaching for the stars, and aiming farther than you ever thought possible. Watching people—friends and strangers alike—manifest their own dreams is one of the most fulfilling things for me to witness in life. Any time I hear about someone working on a passion project while maintaining a full-time job I always want to encourage them to follow their heart and turn their passion into a career. Hanging on my wall directly above my computer is a hand-stitched sampler that my grandma made for me when I graduated from college. There’s a peach-colored angel with rosy cheeks and a halo surrounded by yellow stars with the letters D-R-E-A-M embroidered in green below it. The only tchotchkes I own (I don’t like clutter) are those that say “dream” because I felt they were worthy of the space that they occupied. For most of my life, dreams powered every decision that I made. Fact is, there’s no way I would have ever been a full-time freelance writer by the time I graduated college if I hadn’t been able to dream it first.

But lately, the idea of dreams makes me want to lie down and take a big, fat nap. It’s exhausting. What else is exhausting? Every time over the past few months when I asked myself to identify what my dreams were I felt like I didn’t have any. And that felt depressing. Or I’d come up with a few things that I thought should be my dreams and they just didn’t feel right. Where did they go? What happened to my mantra? When did I stop wanting more and start selling myself short?

Yet slowly, over time, I realized something: My dreams haven’t gone anywhere. They’ve just changed. And today my dreams seem so much simpler than they used to be. So much simpler, in fact, that I shrugged them off as not being worthy of the label ‘dreams’ at all. Other dreams felt so common—the stuff most people want—that they didn’t feel unique or exciting enough to actually be my dreams.

In some ways I feel so close to achieving some of my dreams that once they were within reach I no longer identified them as dreams. And just because you achieve one doesn’t mean you need to come up with another, similar dream that’s so much bigger, right? Because, for me, that sounds even more nap-inducing. At a certain point I think you need to stop, soak it all in, and admire what you’ve already accomplished. Otherwise, how are you ever going to be content if your dreams just keep expanding?

Not only have my dreams become so much simpler lately, simplicity is exactly what I’ve been dreaming about. Specifically, the time to enjoy the things that make me happiest in life—cooking, practicing and (one day) teaching yoga, and taking my dogs for long walks daily instead of 30-minute jaunts around the block. I also dream about being able to care for others (and perhaps little ones in the future)—a skill I’ve recently identified as something that I love, that makes me happy, and that I’m good at.

Of course I want to continue enjoying all of the wonderful things in my life including my career. But what I truly dream about isn’t all of the books I can one day write, but how can I find a balance between writing, yoga, cooking, and caring? How can I make space in most days for all of these things that keep me feeling happy, healthy, and balanced? What I’m noticing about these people with their big dreams coming true—and I’m sure they’d agree if I asked them—is that dreams often come with sacrifice: Sleep. Health. Relationships. Exercise. And I’m sure if I asked them they’d say it was worth it.

But for me, at this moment in my life, instead of adding more to my plate in pursuit of some wild dream, I just want to soak it all in. I want to ride the waves of what my dreams have already created so I can enjoy them and watch them unfold each and every day. As small and as simple as that may seem, that’s exactly what I’ve been dreaming about.

Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw, Spiced Beans, and Guacamole

I recently wrote an article for a magazine about the science of food cravings. Without giving too much away, one of the many interesting things I learned was just how powerful cues in our environment are for triggering cravings. So while you might think that a desire to eat a certain food appeared out of nowhere it can almost always be traced back to something you recently saw, smelled, heard, felt, or thought even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. Since writing that article I’ve tried to become more attune to where my urges to eat certain foods originate. I’m not interested in controlling cravings (there’s no food that I consider to be off-limits or bad), but I think that understanding cravings is just another step toward building a stronger awareness of my body and mind.

So when I experienced a sudden and very clear urge to cook and eat fish tacos last week I was instantly able to trace it back to a conversation I’d had several days earlier with a friend from yoga teacher training. (Oh, by the way, I’m currently doing power yoga teacher training (!!!) which explains why I’ve been MIA from here and from my kitchen lately.) But I didn’t want to eat just any fish tacos–I wanted fish tacos that had multiple layers of flavors and textures (like what you’d find at a restaurant) and this meal provided exactly that. I like to say it’s a Paige Special since I pretty much winged it. I loosely based the recipe on one my sister and I came up with via e-mail last summer when I made tacos on the grill outside with mahi mahi. But this time I used tilapia because it was cheaper and cooks more quickly–perfect for after a full weekend of yoga classes and training when you’ve got one night to relax and a full DVR.

What I love about this recipe is that most of it’s homemade: I made my own spice rub for the fish, my own guac, my own slaw (though I started with a bag of chopped cabbage), and even my own spiced beans. One day I’d love to make my own tortillas, but for the sake of time I used store bought. This recipe allows for lots of leftovers so after the first night I skipped the tortilla altogether and piled everything on top of chopped romaine lettuce for a fish taco salad, which is one of my favorite things ever. Between the spices and the bright flavors of the cilantro and lime I felt like this meal was a little preview-taste of spring. I’ve started to realize just how endless the potential combinations are when it comes to fish tacos and I’ve already begun  dreaming up different combinations of fish, spices, and toppers.

P.S. If you find yourself randomly thinking about fish tacos during your day I’m pretty sure I know why.

Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw, Spiced Beans, and Guacamole 
Serves about 4

For the fish:
4 tilapia filets
extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
Flour tortillas

For the slaw:
8 oz package of shredded cabbage (it may say cole slaw on the label)
3-5 Tbsp mayonnaise
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

For the spiced beans:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder

For the guac:
2-3 ripe avocados, remove pit and scoop out of skin
1/4 of a large red onion, chopped
1/4 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp kosher salt

Preparation

For the fish tacos:
Combine spices in a small bowl. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Pat fish dry. Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle 1 tsp of spices evenly on each filet. Cook spiced-side down. Brush the opposite side with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp of spices. Cook until slightly blackened about 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. Using the end of a spatula or a knife, gently flake fish into small pieces.

For the slaw:
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. (It’s even better if you make it ahead of time and give it a chance to chill in the fridge before serving, but it’s not necessary)

For the beans:
Combine beans and spices in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until beans are heated through. Remove from heat.

For the guac:
Mash the avocado with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine until desired consistency (I like it super creamy.)

To assemble tacos spread a layer of guacamole in the middle of a heated tortilla. Top with beans, fish, and slaw.