Creamy and Colorful Raw Kale Salad

creamy kale salad

The other night, when Tim and I ate this salad, we’d just come back from a few hours of driving through neighborhoods. Tim and I do a lot of driving through neighborhoods. You could say driving through neighborhoods is our thing. I guess that’s good—that there’s a thing we have, you know, together. When my friend Julie got married in 2006, I remember the pastor saying something in his homily about how every couple ought to share a hobby of some kind. “Tennis or cooking or sports,” he’d suggested, right there at the front of the church filled with people and flowers and music. I hadn’t yet met Tim that day, standing up there with three other girls in blue dresses with cap sleeves, but I still like to think about the hobbies we were already sharing, even so.

In 2006, for example, I was baking batch after batch of biscotti for favors at that friend’s sit-down wedding reception. Meanwhile, the Ohio man I would someday marry was rolling out and topping homemade pizza crusts to keep in the freezer on hand. “Like frozen pizzas, but better!” he still says to me, describing that long-ago process in step-by-step detail.

Indeed, since we’ve met, Tim and I have had plenty of things, from loving the kitchen to loving quiet nights on the sofa to getting excited about properties we could dream to call home. And so, the night we ate this creamy kale salad, we’d just returned from spotting one particular 1920s treasure of a foreclosure, with cedar shake details and original stained glass. (Too bad it’s already sold!) And when we came back home, to the work we’d abandoned and a house growing dark, big plates of this salad were the kind of thing both of us had in mind.

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Butter Lettuce Salad with Mango and Avocado

Today is Tim’s birthday, which makes it the perfect time to tell you how another year of living life with him—cooking together, working side by side, analyzing the nuanced details of relationships with each other, budgeting, traveling, laughing, yelling, learning about each other and from each other—has been such a gift. What is also a gift is that today’s post is not from me, but from him. He had something he wanted to say, and I cried when I read it. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Avocado and Mango

Today is my birthday. Ordinarily you would be reading a post from Shanna, and so I apologize today, because I know it sucks when you don’t hear from her—I know because I enjoy reading her writing more than you do. But for some reason, every now and again on my birthday I get strange feelings to do something out of the ordinary. I think it stems back in part to the kind of birthdays I had with my mom. My mom always let me skip school on my birthday, and it always felt like such a great gift, since I disliked school so much.

Butter Lettuce

There is something about the security of the ordinary days that gives you the strength to have the extraordinary ones. There is something freeing about structure and rules. My mom was the type of mom that made you feel like you could ask her anything and she would have a helpful response. Even if she didn’t know the answer and said so, it was the manner of her presence that made you feel like she could be trusted with your questions. She cared and, because she cared, the everyday routines and happenings provided a place of safety and growth, with protection for that growth. Self-control is a wonderful gift and parenting in such a way that helps to instill self-control, while also allowing expression, is a balance that comes out of a heart that is balanced–something my mom had.

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A Sunday Salad

A Sunday Salad | FoodLovesWriting

In the time since we last spoke, I did not make black bean soup; Tim and I took a look at our remaining refrigerator loot on Friday and, supplemented by his work lunch and a homemade weekend dinner from friends, spent the next three days eating sumptuously from its contents instead. Sunday, we did not go grocery shopping with the masses; we decided we hate grocery shopping with the masses (so instead we went to Indian food and took advantage of a free museum deal and pushed our weekly shopping routine to Monday afternoons).

But here’s something we did do: Sunday night, lazy and happy and on a mission to clean out our refrigerator shelves before the next day’s shop, we made this large, filling, easy, simple salad—we’re calling it a Sunday salad, because it’s the kind of salad you make at the end of a long week of good eating, merging together all the remnants of the seven days past.

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Avocado Fries + Yogurt Sauce

sliced avocados

Two days into our honeymoon, Tim and I are eating lunch at a taco hut near our condo, a whitewashed building where the windows are always open and the ceiling fans are always moving, and the hot Hawaiian breezes blow in and out leisurely, matching the pace of the island where we’re staying, palm tree branches rustling in the wind.

On the porch in front, there’s a cardboard box set up on a bar stool with a sign that reads, “$0.25 each” and which holds a dozen or so avocados, each of them half the size of Tim’s head, and there’s no one around to collect payments, just a large glass jar, so after looking at each other in disbelief, still amazed that we’re in Kauai, let alone that we’re paying 1/8 of what we’d pay for avocados in the states, we grab a handful of dark green, alligator-skinned fruits, leave our money and go.

bowls of flour, egg, bread crumbs

As far as foods go, avocados are the closest thing I know to magic, and not just when you’re eating them on your honeymoon. They’re cool and creamy, filling, versatile enough to be guacamole and smoothies and salads and rich chocolate frosting atop raw chocolate brownies. They’re filled with vitamins: A, B complex, C, E, H and K. They’re high in essential amino acids and rich in minerals: folate, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium and potassium. But most importantly, avocados are fatty—not just any kind of fatty, but good fatty.

And while I know in this world of low-fat diets and counting calories that putting words like good and fatty together can seem like an oxymoron, kind of like saying gorgeous ugly or smart stupid or transparent Southerner, they’re the fatty that promotes good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad (LDL). The fatty that’s good for heart health. The fatty that makes it easier for your body to absorb and use the good vitamins and antioxidants in the rest of the salad you’re eating them in. The fatty proven to work against inflammation, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In other words, like I said, magic.

making avocado fries with tim

I love avocados because they taste good and because we eat them in Hawaii and because of their health benefits, and I spent a good chunk of time trying to convince my dad (and all men I know) to eat them more often because they’re also shown to reduce risk of prostate cancer, but mostly I love them because they literally amaze me—avocados are one of those rare things in life that regularly make me think, wow, now this is exactly as it should be, and we all need more of those moments.

avocado fries

Because, you know, in this life, it’s not hard to be disappointed. In a broken world of child abuse and poverty and fundamentalism and egos, it’s not hard to put your heart out there and have it crushed, not hard to be hurt, to feel the sting of someone’s words, to be forgotten or ignored or misunderstood. And there are days, I’ll just be honest, when I feel overwhelmed with all the bad things that surround us, enough that writing a little post on avocados seems pretty silly, pretty paltry, pretty small.

chopped cabbage

But here’s the thing I tell myself when those thoughts come: it’s good to see the truth of what is hard and face it, yes, but it’s better to see the whole truth, that hard things are not the only things and that there are good gifts too surrounding us—surrounding me—every day.

avocado fry with yogurt sauce

That’s why it’s blessed to look at the avocados we buy in Nashville and bring back to our gift of a home to cook in our gift of a kitchen, covering in flour and eggs and bread crumbs and sauteing into fries, so we can share them together at the table, dipped in yogurt sauce and eaten while the daylight pours in. And it’s blessed to be in Hawaii marveling at the abundance of avocados and starfruit and bananas, blessed to recognize how produce and vacation and the very marriage that they’re celebrating are gifts to make our hearts grateful and more filled with joy.

So we do, when we slather avocado on toast, when we eat guacamole late at night, when we add an avocado to our salad, when we make avocado fries. We thank God for making a food so rich and nutritious and enjoyable, even as we thank Him for everything else.

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Raw Brownies + Chocolate Avocado Frosting

raw brownies

This past week, Tim and I did sort of a cleanse, wherein we ate mostly raw: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, raw dairy, dried fruit. We added homemade chicken soup, nettle and Tulsi teas and, at a maximum of once a day, roasted vegetables, but otherwise it was, for the first time in our lives, an experience in raw eating.

ingredients for brownie base

It was interesting.

ground up brownie layer

First of all, it wasn’t hard, at least not in the way typical cleanses are. I wasn’t starving, I didn’t get major detox reactions, there was no need to summon all my willpower not to eat a cookie. A couple times, one of us would say to the other, doesn’t a taco sound good?, but, for the most part, we felt like there was so much we still could eat: a bowl of juicy grapefruit; fresh pomegranate arils sprinkled with flax seeds and coconut; caprese salad (tomatoes, raw mozzarella, fresh basil), morning smoothies, giant green salads (and you know how I like those), frozen fruit mixed with nuts in raw milk, homemade pecan nut butter on celery sticks—all along with our soup and roasted vegetables, so, as you can imagine, we were quite full and satisfied.

prepared loaf pan

Also, it was really, well, cleansing, just as we hoped it would be. The week made us feel good—really good—from our skin to our digestion to our energy levels. After the holidays, I had been fighting a little bit of a sore throat/cold/infection, the first one since I changed my diet in 2009. This cleanse week killed it, knocked it right out of me.

chocolate avocado frosting

But there’s one more thing, too, a thing that’s been especially fascinating and something I didn’t expect or plan for: this week has started to open my eyes to the world of raw eating. It’s something. You know, there are raw restaurants, raw blogs (like my new favorite g0lubka), raw cookbooks. And it’s not like you just eat an apple and a carrot and call it a day, either: there are crazy inventive raw recipes for things like raw donuts, raw cookies and chocolate avocado pudding, for example.

pan of raw brownies

I mean, have you ever had a raw brownie?

This was an idea that had never before occurred, let alone appealed, to me.

sliced raw brownies

And I know they say, when you take yourself away from something for a little while, say from sugar, for example, you change your tastes. So I know it’s possible that these brownies won’t seem sweet enough to the average palate or chocolatey enough compared to the typical brownie.

raw chocolate brownie

But to me, they were amazing, enough to make me wonder why I’ve trained my brain to think I need things sweeter than they have to be. I loved them. I made them twice. And both times, when I saw the simple combination of dates, walnuts and cocoa powder make a brownie and the ability of half an avocado with honey, cocoa powder, vanilla and cinnamon, along with just a pinch of salt, to create a velvety chocolate frosting, I marveled. It’s the same feeling I’ve had looking at a piece of segmented grapefruit or the inside of a pomegranate: what amazing foods we’ve been given. It’s good to celebrate them.

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Homemade Chicken Tacos

This is going to seem like a really trite way to begin a food blog post, but nonetheless, here it is:

I am so thankful for food.

taco ingredients

I started thinking about it this month, when Tim and I began doing a weekly cleanse/detox day and I saw, again, how food affects my body. I thought about it when I read some recent posts (which you really ought to check out if you haven’t already) over at Roost and Honey & Salt, which tell the stories of people totally changing the way they eat in order to improve their health.

Also, there have been long conversations about nutrition on Friday nights, random chats on the phone and with roommates about digestion, the ever-growing and expanding sea (ocean!) of food blogs out there, which continually blow. me. away. with the diversity and scope and perspectives and recipes.

taco fillings

But mostly, it’s just been the food itself.

I mean, man.

tacos

Sometimes I’ll look at a blueberry or a lemon or an egg and think, you know, God didn’t have to give us so many different colors and tastes and textures to eat. He didn’t have to design food to provide pleasure or to be the tool that offers nourishment to us. He didn’t have to create natural, whole foods that grow on trees and bushes, or the animals that provide dairy and meat. There could have been a different system—maybe a button to press or an IV line to hook up or, I don’t know, computer-like systems that monitor our levels of things and adapt automatically. Seriously, think of it: There could have been no flavor, no concept of sweet or tart or spicy. No variety in colors, just gray or brown mush.

These are really things I think about sometimes.

But we get juicy red strawberries! And fermented dill pickles! We can make homemade stock and grass-fed sloppy Joes!

It’s so good. I’m thankful.

And right now, I am specifically thankful for these homemade chicken tacos we made recently, stuffed with some of my favorite chicken and a hodge-podge of other ingredients we had on hand, packaged in sprouted taco shells.

I am thankful to eat these things and be full, to be satisfied, and, most of all, to be well.

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an ALT sandwich (with sprouts and cheddar)

Yesterday, I made a sandwich for lunch.

(I also threw away two dozen old magazines. And made a donation pile for Goodwill. And listed things to sell on Amazon and eBay.)

Here is how the sandwich part went.

1. I took two pieces of bread, covered one with sliced raw cheddar and stuck them in the 350-degree oven for a little while (maybe five to ten minutes).

bread and cheddar

2. I sliced an avocado in half, removed the pit, sliced the flesh while it was still inside the skin.

add avocado

3. When the bread was good and toasted and the cheese all melty, I put avocado slices on the plain piece.

building the sandwich

4. I sliced a big, fat, juicy red tomato into slices.

add tomato

5. Lettuce (aka mixed greens) goes on top of the avocado, then tomato, then salt and pepper—they’re key.

add lettuce and tomatoes

6. I wanted to add sprouts, but all I could find at Trader Joe’s were microgreens. They’re fun.

add sprouts or microgreens

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