Meatless Monday – Salad Days

It’s hot, hot, hot this NorCal August and no one wants to cook – oven, stovetop, or BBQ, all Too Much Heat.

Good thing we love salad!

Last week we took a picnic to our small town’s Thursday night summer concert series. A gorgeous salad, a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a fun and quirky 80’s band, and good friends – what’s not to love?southwest salad

The salad tasted even better than it looked. I ate next-day leftovers for brunch, and then again for a late lunch, until it was all gone. I kept the dressing separate and still had a little leftover. This week I’m doubling the recipe and making it again for an end-of-summer Moms-and-Kids overnight camp out.

Southwestern Chopped Salad (from the Change Your Health for Life Facebook page)
Large head of Romaine
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large orange bell pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 cups corn (fresh or frozen, thawed)
5 green onions
Optional: avocado

Dressing:
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 avocado (in a pinch, sub 1/2 cup plain vegan yogurt or Greek yogurt)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime), more to taste
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt

Make the dressing in a food processor or blender. Toss to combine or serve dressing on the side (unless serving a large group, I generally leave dressing on the side).

And a bonus recipe: Asian-inspired Salad Dressing

2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp garlic-chili paste
1 tsp sesame oil
Note: you can add heat by using more garlic-chili paste or subbing sriracha, and you can decrease by using pressed garlic and a dash of dried red pepper flakes (or omit).

Double or triple ingredients as needed. Combine in a jar and shake.

I started with a bag of prepared super food salad (brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale). I added some Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and cucumber, and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and dressing.

So good, so fresh, so quick, no need to cook. Yay for summer!

Generous and Free

warning

Warning: Reading the Bible can lead to unexpected changes in behavior.

“Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Psalm 112:5 NIV

I read this verse in the morning, as I often do, and asked God what He wanted to say. I reflected on our recent generosity; we’re cleaning out the garage and donating wildly to two of our favorite local mission partners, one that ministers primarily to poor children while the other ministers to homeless men. We’ve given sports equipment, games, school supplies, clothes, and home goods. In addition, just last week a home in our small town burned to the ground and the family lost everything. We came up with a stack of clothes from our closets that might fit this family of four, at least one item brand new with tags.

Yet I suspected that wasn’t God’s point in giving me Psalm 112:5. So I waited.

picnic

On our way to one of our favorite Date Night activities, a picnic and a play, we stopped by the market to pick up dinner. Around the corner from the front door was a man with a sign: “Lost my job. Help me feed my family.” His family sat on a nearby ledge. We kept walking.

As we entered the market, I might as well have bumped into a brick wall labeled “generous.” Though I couldn’t remember the rest of the verse, that one word resounded in my ears, bounced around my brain like a physical pain. So as we bought our picnic we bought this family their own picnic.

I’m not writing this to toot our own horn. Honestly, friends, I felt like I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I got to carry out God’s direction.

I’m sure they expected we’d avoid eye contact again, but this time we handed the family a box of fresh Caesar salad and a loaf of artisanal bread along with plastic flatware and napkins. You’d have thought we’d presented them with the king’s own feast. Their faces lit up, betraying their true hunger. I looked into the eyes of this beautiful teenage girl close in age to my own kids, this mama and papa humbled by hard times.

Psalm 112:5 promises “Good will come…” That wasn’t my motivation, but I will tell you this: the good came as the young girl looked at me and said, “God bless you.” I need nothing more.

Meatless Monday – Pressed Tuscan Sandwich

I’m a sucker for a school book fair (truly, a sucker for books in general…). I will invent excuses to buy more books with the overarching excuse that we are supporting the kids’ school!

Usually my purchases are for the kids, birthday and Christmas gifts for family and friends, maybe a holiday/special occasion book for the family. Some years ago I found a book I wanted just for me: Entertaining Vegetarians. Guy laughed, “Well, of course we are entertaining vegetarians!” (meaning that the vegetarians living under our roof are entertaining, just in case you didn’t read his quote with the proper emphasis…)

I love cookbooks. They’re one of the most regular occupants of my library book basket. I pour over them. I study them and learn from them and get very hungry while I page through them.

The Pressed Tuscan Sandwich has me reaching for Entertaining Vegetarians a few times a year, and it’s always a hit. Brown includes this recipe under picnic fair, which would be perfect, but I’ve served it as an appetizer and as a bread-accompaniment to a meal. I made it as part of a Mediterranean dinner menu for a party we hosted last week, and both Guy and I ate leftover slices for breakfast the next day; if you knew Guy and his “Breakfast Nazi” alter-ego – no unapproved breakfast foods! – you’d be convinced already that this has to be good. And it is.

To boot, it’s easy! The filling comes together in a food processor or blender. Slice a loaf of bread down the center, add filling, and set heavy non-breakable items on top to get the filling to soak in to both sides of the bread. After an hour+, slice and serve with extra filling.

Tuscan ingredients

Because I expected a minimum of six adults for dinner (and up to twelve) + children who might nibble, I doubled the filling recipe and used one and a half ciabatta loaves; recipe amounts will depend on the size of your bread loaves. One more note: I always look for whole wheat ciabatta, but I don’t often find it. If you’re gonna splurge on white flour, this one’s worth the splurge.

Tuscan in process

Pressed Tuscan Sandwich
1 ciabatta loaf
1 garlic clove
1 vine tomato, chopped
10 black olives, stoned
2 tsp capers in vinegar, drained
5-6 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
small handful of fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
salt/pepper

Slice loaf in half lengthwise. Put remaining ingredients in food processor/blender and pulse. Spread filling on one half of bread and top with other half.

To press: I slide the loaf back into the bakery bag it came in, and then top it with a cutting board topped with something heavy, such as a large soup pot or saute pan + canned beans or peanut butter jars. Let sit for at least an hour, pressing down occasionally to make sure the sandwich is evenly pressed.

Note: press the sandwich within four hours of serving; the filling can be made in advance.

This recipe is my go-to from this cookbook, but every time I pull it out another recipe catches my eye. Yum!

Tuscan serve