Tag Archives: salad

Making sprouts, if not friends

It is difficult to make new friends in your 30s. I know that to those of you in and past this phase of life have probably already figured this out, but bear with me a moment while I catch up. I’m just not as social as I used to be. In fact I find that I’ve developed a social awkwardness that I don’t remember having in my 20s. Maybe it’s because most of my social interactions then were at a bar, drink in hand?

In any case, I find I still have the human need for friends, but am less adept at interacting with strangers than I once was. So, one solution to this has been to seek out structured activities where I am thrust into the presence of other people, but do not have to make a lot of conversation with them right off the bat. Knitting class, writing workshop, author readings, gardening class, and one class about sprouting. Yes, a class about DIY sprouting given at the local co-op. How’s that for being a crunchy Oregon hippie?!


I didn’t make any friends at the class, but I did learn a lot of fascinating things about sprouting and I have been hooked on it ever since. It turns out there is a lot more to sprouts than the alfalfa variety that I remember from my youth, and that I hated. You can sprout nuts, beans, lentils, seeds, grains, the possibilities are endless! Or nearly so.

And there are some convincing health benefits, at least I find them convincing, that have to do with all the nutrients locked up in the seed of a plant (which is, of course, what all the aforementioned things are). When you sprout a bean or a nut, you release all the protein and vitamins that it was storing to help it grow into a strong, healthy plant. Sprouts are also delicious, and have very different flavors depending on what you are sprouting – something that surprised me because my sprout experience had been limited to the alfalfa variety.


My favorite sprouts so far, and the ones that have been the most consistently successful, are lentil sprouts. So, they are the sprouts featured in today’s recipe. I have also had a few challenges, though, and one sprouting disaster – lest you think my sprouting glasses are a little too rose-colored. The disaster was self-inflicted, really, and involved an attempt to sprout garbanzo beans that I knew were way too old to do anything with other than use as pie weights. Pro tip: if beans are too old to cook, they are too old to sprout.


For the most part though, sprouting has been smooth-sailing, delicious, and nutritious. This recipe is by far my favorite that has incorporated lentil sprouts, but they are supremely versatile. They add a wonderful texture and flavor to salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for just about any quinoa or other grain salad.

finished salad

Carrot, Avocado, Sprout Salad over Quinoa

Barely adapted from DailyCandy (RIP)
Makes four good-sized portions, good for lunch or dinner

Directions for lentil sprouts are below this recipe, but heads up: it takes about 3 1/2 to 4 days to sprout lentils. So, if you want to make this recipe, you best get sprouting!

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tangerines (I used Cuties), halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 4 cups lentil sprouts (directions below)
  • a couple dollops of sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame, but you could use any seeds you want), toasted

Combine quinoa, 2 cups water, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to just what is needed to maintain the simmer and cook until all water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, 15-20 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, turn the oven on to 350° and put a large pot of water on to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the carrots and cook until a knife pierces them easily, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, cumin, thyme, chili, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper in a food processor and pulse until pasty. With the food processor running, add the vinegar and ¼ cup of the olive oil and run until well-mixed. Set aside.

When the quinoa is done, set it aside. When the carrots are done, drain and then arrange them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Spoon the cumin/olive oil mixture over the carrots.

Cut 3 of the tangerines and 1 lemon in half and place them on top of the carrots, cut-side down. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until carrots are golden brown.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze the juice from the roasted tangerine and lemon halves into a small bowl. Squeeze in the juice each from the remaining uncooked tangerine and lemon. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle about half over the roasted carrots, reserving the rest.

To assemble the dish, start with a scoop of the quinoa and top with saucy carrots, then avocado, then sprouts. Drizzle with reserved sauce, add a dollop of sour cream to the top, and then sprinkle with toasted seeds. Serve immediately.

Lentil Sprouts

Directions from Susan Hyne, who taught the sprouting class
Makes ~4 cups

  • 1/4 cup lentils (I used Puy lentils, but you could use Beluga, brown, red, yellow, etc.)
  • 1 quart glass jar with a screw top lid
  • cheesecloth

Rinse lentils in a sieve and then dump into the glass jar.

Fill the jar with water. Cover the opening of the jar with a 2-ply piece of cheesecloth and then screw lid on to hold cheesecloth in place.

lentils in jar

Cover the jar with a kitchen towel to keep out light and soak lentils for 12 hours.

After the lentils have soaked, drain the water and rest jar in a small bowl so that it’s tilted and any remaining water can drain out. Re-cover with the kitchen towel.

draining lentils

Rinse the lentils and the bowl well 2-3 times per day for 3-4 days, each time returning the jar to the bowl so that the lentils can drain and covering with the towel.

day one


day two

day three

The sprouts are ready when they are about 1-inch long.

finished sprouts

Eat right away or store in the fridge. If you are storing in the fridge, do not rinse right before putting them in the fridge (i.e. you want them to go into the fridge as dry as possible to keep them from getting slimy). If you put them in the fridge dry, they will keep for up to 4 days.



Filed under Food, Lunch, Main Course, Odds & Ends

Ruminating on lunch

I recently reread The Wind in the Willows, which you may have seen if you follow me on Twitter because I’ve talked about it a lot. In addition to being just about the most charming, perfectly lovely book I’ve ever read (even better now that I’m an adult), it has several passages of really appealing descriptions of food.

One in particular, near the beginning when we are just starting to get a feel for the friendly, quirky animals that live in this pastoral world, started me ruminating on the topic of lunch:

“…after a short interval [he] reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket… ‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wiggling with curiosity.
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly; ‘cold tongue cold ham cold beef pickled gherkins salad french rolls cress sandwidges potted meat ginger beer lemonade soda water–‘
‘Oh stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstasies: ‘This is too much!’
‘Do you really think so?’ inquired the Rat seriously ‘it’s only what I always take on these little excursions'”

The Wind in the Willows

Image from books4yourkids.com

Yes, I know I don’t even eat many of the things in Rat’s basket, but for some reason this scene just tickles me. And more to the point, it made me realize that I’ve managed, over the last couple years of grad school-induced austerity, to get into a pretty good habit of making my lunch and bringing it with me (to school, or now, work) as opposed to buying it every day like I did for so long. I am quite proud of this habit – and how often can you say that about a habit? – so it seemed like something worth sharing.

The recipe in my lunch repertoire that I’m most excited to talk about is for a lunch salad. Womp womp. Yes, I know, I know, but hear me out. The problem with lunch salads in my experience is that they are either too virtuous – vegetable-only affairs that leave you hungry, or too heavy – sure it has fried chicken, bacon, cheese, and ranch dressing in it, but it’s a salad! And neither of those are what I want for lunch. This salad is different though: it’s healthy yet filling, but not too heavy, and it has lots of different textures and flavors – veggies, protein, salty olives, crunchy pumpkin seeds, creamy avocado. In short, it’s the perfect lunch salad.


Oh sure, I’ll bring other things for lunch as well. I tend to bring leftovers from dinners during the week, mixed and matched together to create something new. Recently I tried this twist on a tuna salad sandwich and really liked it. While working on this post, I found that one of my favorite food websites put together a list of lunch recipes that take 5 minutes to pack, which I will definitely try out. But where my luncheon basket is concerned, I keep coming back to this salad. It hits all the right spots, and leaves me feeling both satisfied and healthy.


An Ideal Lunch Salad

Adapted from 101cookbooks
Makes 4 lunch-sized salads

The key to getting this salad (or any salad, really) to work with me is prepping it ahead of time. So, on weeks that I want to have this salad for lunch, I spend 10-15 minutes on Sunday evening to get it ready. Assuming you may want to do the same, my instructions below are for this scenario. If you are making this salad for lunch on a weekend, or perhaps a leisurely picnic, then you could obviously prep and mix it all up at once – just make sure to wait on the dressing until right before serving, as with most salads.


3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 small head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
15 kalamata or niçoise olives, chopped


1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 small ripe avocado, sliced


1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons (depending on how loose you like your dressing) water or any type of unsweetened milk
a pinch of salt (or more, to taste)


2-3 handfuls of whatever greens you prefer (I’ve tried it with spinach, romaine, arugula, mixes – you can’t go wrong)


Steam the broccoli for about 4 minutes – until it is fork tender, but not mushy.

In a large container, combine all the mix-ins and store in the fridge until ready to assemble your salad.

Toast the pumpkin seeds and store in a separate container on the counter.

Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients until smooth. Adjust the consistency to your liking by adding as much of the milk/water as desired. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Store the dressing in a glass container in the fridge.


In a med-large container (I use one that holds 1 quart), first lay down a bed of greens. On top of the greens, scoop about 2/3 cup of the mix-ins. Top with 1/4-1/2 of an avocado. (I store the other half of the avocado – pit still in it! – in a container in the fridge and it keeps just fine for a day or two).

Bring the toasted nuts and the dressing with you to work. When you are ready to eat lunch, top the salad with about a tablespoon of toasted seeds and as much dressing as you like. Put the top back on your container and then shake it up – I find this is the best way to distribute the dressing throughout the salad. Enjoy!


Filed under Lunch

On life lessons and red cabbage

Phew! What a whirlwind the last couple of weeks have been. A pleasant whirlwind – a trip to a warm place, a lot of good food, many generous gifts, and cherished time with loved ones – but a whirlwind nonetheless.

As a result, I obviously have not been back here to share with you the recipes I promised last time. So much for being optimistic about the amount of time I would have to devote to this blog while on my winter break! Ah well, optimism is better than its opposite, no?

I did make some successful Christmas treats, including the Food52 Pine Nut Brittle (aka object of my obsession), which was just as good as I imagined it would be.

pine nut brittle

Its flavors are a bit unexpected in a brittle, so it might not be for everyone. For me though, the surprise is delightful and the salty, herbal flavor coupled with the toasty taste of the pine nuts sets the caramel sweetness off just perfectly.

Now, the holidays are nearly over though and the time for sweets has come to an end…er, well, at least it has slowed down a little, as we recover from our two months of indulgence. So, I won’t linger on the brittle recipe today. But if you are looking for something sweet to serve at your New Year’s party, I highly recommend it.

Instead, I want to tell you about a warm, complex, soul-satisfying red cabbage salad that, despite some strong resistance on my part, I just love. You see, I have been in a stand-off with a head of red cabbage that has been in my refrigerator for longer than I care to admit. It has taught me things though, this red cabbage, things about life.

warm red cabbage salad

It all started when I bought the red cabbage for a specific recipe that I had stubbornly decided to make, even though I sensed that I probably would not like the dish. I never just have red cabbage lying around; it is not a piece of produce that is in my regular rotation. I happened upon this recipe though and doggedly decided that I was going to give it a try. So, I bought a head of red cabbage that I knew was way too big for what I needed (like, WAY too big…), but it was the smallest head I could find and I was going to make this recipe, dammit!

I made the dish, using just 1/4 of the head of red cabbage, and hated it. Lesson #1: trust your instincts – when it comes to the size of produce and the food you like.

Before we left for our Christmas trip, we of course did our best to eat all the perishable food in the fridge and I managed to use up everything that would have gone bad during the time we were gone…except for the rest of the red cabbage. I couldn’t bring myself to throw so much food away though, so I left it in there, thinking that maybe it would still be good when we returned and I would figure out what to do with it then.

Well, it was. It survived our five-day absence and sat there in the crisper drawer taunting me upon our return. So, this week I have made it my mission to use up the red cabbage that apparently would be left standing, with the Twinkies and cockroaches, after a nuclear bomb.

so much red cabbage

It’s not that I couldn’t find a recipe that used red cabbage, it’s just that I kept thinking back to Lesson #1 and tried to steer clear of recipes that I knew I wouldn’t like given their ingredients and flavor profiles, which, in the world of red cabbage recipes, narrowed things down considerably.

After a half-hearted initial search I decided to do what I have done so many times before when I find myself with a vegetable that I don’t know what to do with, or when I want to do something different and unexpected with it: I turned to Heidi Swanson. You may remember how much I love her cooking from this gushing post a few months ago.

On her blog I found a recipe for a red cabbage salad that seemed, well, weird. But also intriguing.

toasted nuts and salty cheese

I decided to trust Heidi and give it a try. What did I have to lose, after all, besides the cursed red cabbage that I didn’t want to eat anyways?! And I am so glad I did. Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to try new things just because you fail once (or many times!)

The flavors in this salad are definitely not what you likely think of when you think of dishes made with red cabbage. This is, however, precisely why I like it. It is rich, nutty, salty, crunchy and just slightly sweet.

The balance of sweet with the other components is what gets me, I think. Most red cabbage dishes where the cabbage is cooked (as opposed to a raw slaw) are just so sweet, over-the-top sweet. The sweet in this salad is subtle, and it is layered – coming as it does from several different elements: the toasted and caramelized sunflower seeds, the dried fruit, and the balsamic vinegar.

on its way to deliciousness

We ate it served over the nutty, chewy grain farro, and I am sure it would work just as well over another grain such as barley, wheat berries, or even quinoa. I might also try it on top of some creamy polenta. I’ve also been eating it on its own as a light lunch. It is the perfect winter dish and has been particularly comforting upon our return to our cold and wet Seattle home after spending several days in the southern California sun.

And so, Lesson #3: don’t give up and don’t throw away good food (especially a veggie!), because there is always something new and delicious you can do with it. You simply must give this dish a try, whether or not your relationship with red cabbage is as complicated as mine.

winter yumminess

Warm Red Cabbage Salad

Adapted from 101cookbooks
Makes 4-6 servings

The substitutions I made in my version of this recipe were mostly changes of necessity because I didn’t have certain ingredients on hand. The fact that it still came out so well is yet another testament to how wonderful this dish is. As long as you keep your ingredients in the same general vicinity, you can play around with it to your heart’s content – use different nuts, different fruit, different herbs, different cheese, anything that sounds good to you. And let me know if you land on another good combination, I will definitely be making this again soon.

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound head of red cabbage (or 3/4 of a larger head, in my case), quartered and cut into thin ribbons
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries (or another chopped dried fruit – the original recipe calls for golden raisins)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Roast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Sprinkle on the sugar, and a couple pinches of salt. Stir until the sugar melts and coats the seeds. Transfer the seeds immediately to a plate or bowl so they don’t stick to the pan. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes with a couple pinches of salt. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute more until fragrant.

Add the cabbage and a few more pinches of salt. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage softens up just a touch. You don’t want it to get too soft – it should still be a bit crunchy in the final dish – but how long you need to cook it will depend on how thick/thin your cabbage is sliced so it is difficult to give a precise cooking time.

Once the cabbage is slightly softened, stir in the thyme, dried fruit, and the vinegar. Fold in 1/2 cup of the feta cheese and most of the sunflower seeds, then taste. Season with more salt if needed.

Serve garnished with the remaining feta, sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!


Filed under Food, Main Course

Post-Thanksgiving equals salad

Hi friends. Welcome to post-Thanksgiving! Or pre-Christmas, or December, or whatever you call it. I hope that if you celebrated Thanksgiving last week you had a lovely one filled with lots of butter and cream.

I know I certainly did – and loved every minute of it! We are vegetarians around here so our big meal didn’t include the turkey, but it certainly did include plenty of butter and cream.

We had pumpkin soup topped with buttered chanterelle mushrooms and cream biscuits for our starter. If you’ve never had cream biscuits, I implore you to try these. The cream makes them effortlessly flaky and tender. No worrying about cutting the butter in enough and into the right size pieces, no worrying about overworking the dough. Just perfect biscuits. The soup was also to die for, it will be gracing my table many more times this winter.


Then we dove into a host of veggie dishes, starring roasted brussels sprouts with pine nuts and Parmesan, garlicky green beans, ginger-spiked mashed sweet potatoes topped with pecans, and vanilla cranberry sauce. I can never make enough of those brussels sprouts, they are a huge favorite of ours. And the cranberry sauce hit all the right notes – it was citrusy, lightly spiced, sweet and pleasantly sour.


The sweet potatoes really stole the show though. Smooth and creamy, like the best mashed potatoes should be, they were also shot through with fresh ginger – a perfect foil to the natural sweetness of the potatoes. The crunchy nut topping added just the right amount of crunch and didn’t go anywhere near the “candied yam” territory. I would make these sweet potatoes for any winter meal. I don’t have a recipe to link to for those because I kind of made them up as I went along, but maybe I will post about them here in the next couple weeks (oooh what a tease!)


Our main event was a decadent, fancy macaroni and cheese with mushrooms, Gruyère and Emmental, topped with homemade croutons and baked in the oven. Oh boy. This was truly a grown-up version of mac and cheese. I can’t say that it’s something I would make often, given the calorie count, but It. Was. So. Good.

mac and cheese

For dessert, I eschewed the standard pumpkin and apple pies and made instead a maple and nutmeg custard pie, as well as a cranberry upside down cake. Both were extremely tasty, but I have to admit that we missed the pumpkin pie and I ended up making one this week with my extra pie crust.

pumpkin pie

I would definitely recommend the maple and nutmeg pie though. It tasted like pancakes in custard form – so mapley and delicious!

It was a great meal, a great day, and a great weekend filled with people I love and lots of good eating. And I was very thankful.

But man oh man, do I need lots of salad now!

I know it’s not an epiphany that our bodies crave a balanced diet, but it always strikes me how strongly my system pushes me in one direction or the other depending on what nutrients I am lacking.

apple and parsley

The recipe I have to share with you today is not the type of recipe I would normally be drawn to while thumbing through a magazine. Let me tell you though – after last weekend, my body was pushing me towards this salad.

carrots and apple

I don’t generally love things that are sweet and sour, or savory things that have sweet notes. They just don’t do it for me. This salad brings both sweet and sour in spades, but it is so bright and tasty. I couldn’t help but love it. The flavors dance on the tongue. It is decidedly wholesome after a weekend of decadence, and it’s exactly what I need right now.

pretty salad

If you, like me, are feeling a bit weighed down by your Thanksgiving celebration, give this one a try. It will have you ready to take on the rest of the holiday season of eating in no time.

salad on spinach

Tangy Carrot-Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

Adapted from Vegetarian Times
Makes 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1 red apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach

First, start the dressing by combining the cider vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes, or longer if you have the time. The vinegar mellows out the garlic so it’s not as much like you are eating raw garlic.

Next, make the salad. Stir together the carrots, apple, parsley, and cranberries in a large bowl.

After your garlic has mellowed, finish the dressing by whisking the honey and olive oil into the cider vinegar mixture.

Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Ideally, however, you would let the salad sit in the fridge overnight. The longer it sits the more the flavors meld and deepen.

Once the salad has chilled, serve it on a bed of fresh spinach leaves.

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Filed under Food, Sides