Satsuma, Red Onion and Pomegranate Salad

satsuma, red onion and pomegranate salad

I know I could write this post about our holidays—our first Christmas traveling to both Ohio and Chicago; our first year of giving gifts as a couple; our first Christmas stretching between two families because we are our now our own. I could tell you about all the food we ate—the amazing, high-quality, enjoyable meals of homemade braciole and fork-tender pot roast and filet mignon kabobs. I could tell you, the way I’ve told Tim, how humbling it is to be outgiven, the way we were by both our families, who generously, thoughtfully gave us with gifts far beyond our needs or expectations.

But the truth is, the only thing that keeps coming out when I try to write this post is something much more simple, something much less interesting or profound. It’s the thing I can’t stop thinking about lately, the reasoning behind purchases and lunches and a fridge stocked with greens:

I love salad.

satsuma

I know, I know, this isn’t the kind of revelatory factoid you want someone to drop on you at a dinner party. It doesn’t provoke much response or invite lengthy discussion. Salad is boring. What’s there to say about it? We eat salads before we do something interesting, like, say, have a chicken dinner. Yet nonetheless, I love it, I really do. I love the way I feel when I eat salad, particularly afterwards, so light and refreshed and, I don’t know, clean. I started craving it in the midst of our holidays, probably when my digestive system was so overloaded with back-to-back-to-back delicious meals that it didn’t know what to do with itself, and I’ve had one almost every day since.

And lately, there’s been one ingredient in particular I’ve been especially loving on my salads: pomegranates. Tim showed me how to harvest the seeds—arils, they’re called—and our local Aldi sells them for less than a dollar a piece, so we’ve had pomegranates on our salads like routine.

(Our method, if you’re curious, goes like this: cut off the tip of the fruit and carefully slice four or five indentations, top-to-bottom around, as if you’re cutting it into wedges. In a bowl filled with water, separate those chunks under water and pull apart the seeds. Everything but the seeds floats to the top and can be discarded; the water can be strained. Once you get the hang of it, it takes 10 to 15 minutes. And in the end, you have a bowl full of juicy red jewels to enjoy.)

separating pomegranate seedsstraining pomegranate seeds

pomegranate arilspomegranate arils

On Sunday, for our weekly dinner with friends, which this week fell on New Year’s Day, we brought the salad pictured in this post, one that combined pomegranates with sweet satsumas and thin pieces of red onion.

assembling the salad

I love how colorful it looks, how reminiscent of other seasons, the kinds filled with flowers and farmers markets, and I love how it pairs different flavors and textures: crunchy pomegranate seeds that burst into juice, sweet citrusy satsumas, spicy red onions.

satsuma red onion pomegranate salad

Oh salad. There’s just nothing like it. And while you could say it’s just that crazy salad love talking, after three helpings, I could have had more.

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roasted tomato toasts (+ an update on self-employment!)

roasted tomato toasts

Somewhere in the midst of the last two weeks—nestled right in amongst planning a wedding, looking for a place to live, climbing (up ropes! for my first! time! ever!) at Cummins Falls, watching fireworks, meeting and spending time with the very lovely Joanna and Brad (and feeling like we’ve been friends a long time), attending a Vitamix party, getting my car’s brakes fixed, and making two batches of coconut macaroons—I hit a pretty important milestone:

For those of you who’ve been with me on this entire journey, you’ll know it’s something worth celebrating, which is exactly what I intend to do with this post: as of this month, I’ve been self-employed for an entire year.

take a tomato and chop it up

Milestones have a way of making you think about things, if you know what I mean. You look back, you look forward, you compare where you are with where you’ve been, with where you thought you’d be. A year into something, you have a better perspective than you did two months in. And so, a year into working for myself, I say this more confidently than I could last summer: the last twelve months have been pretty amazing and truly a gift.

It was because of self-employment that I could move to Nashville, right in the beginning of February, without needing to quit one job and find another. It was working from home that’s allowed me to take trips back to Chicago almost every month since then—a rare blessing when living far from your family. And while it’s true I make less money than I did in my office job, I’ve still had every need supplied. What’s more, I’ve learned (and am learning) a lot about dependence through this variable income, things I didn’t know I needed to learn—and while I might not have chosen to learn them this way, I’m thankful for them, too.

fresh tomatoes

During the first ten months of the last twelve, there were times when I felt the insecurity of a changing income, sure, but overall, I saw amazing things happen, and these things helped me grow in trust: when one client would leave, another would come; when one project ended, another would start; businesses approached me with work. I’ve told so many people, I had known it was God providing for me when I had regular paychecks every two weeks; but in this new lifestyle, I’ve really felt it.

roasted tomatoes

The last couple months, though, have been stretching in an entirely different way, as work has slowed down and my income along with it. I’ve prayed. I’ve been tempted to worry. I’ve prayed more. Then I’ve been asked to give and, in faith, I’ve tried to open my hands, albeit grudgingly, and I’ve realized how much I still need to learn about trusting God—my provider when I have money to spare, but still my provider when I think I don’t.

roasted tomatoes on toast

Looking back at the last year and all the blessings and struggles and lessons it’s brought, I’m hit with the same things you’re probably hit with when you reflect on the last year of life or, marriage or, work or, something else. I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for the providence that’s brought me up to this exact point, today, where I sit, rich in time and rich in love, loving working from home but willing to return to an office. I’m thankful for the sovereign hand that’s been overseeing this whole process, overseeing me, using all of these things for good.

And I’m thankful for how looking back makes me more excited about looking forward—to whatever the next year will bring.

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Grass-Fed Sloppy Joes

I like lists. Maybe you can relate?

I make grocery lists and client lists and spreadsheets detailing my purchases for the month. I keep mental lists of reasons I like things, reasons I don’t like things, situations that felt awkward with a particular person. I think these lists (1) help me process things, (2) help them make sense, (3) give me a way to hold onto knowledge better.

I also think, that sometimes, (4) it’s hard not to think in lists.

sloppy joe meat

So when a person like me relocates, she thinks in constant comparisons, weighing City B against City A in ever-expanding lists that consider everything from demographics to the cost of living to the way the grocery store feels at 9 PM (I try to avoid it, in case you’re wondering).

garlic gold

So far, Nashville has better weather (hello, 68 degrees yesterday afternoon!) and worse traffic (especially in the middle of the afternoon anywhere near Whole Foods). Cost-wise, it’s about the same—having roommates helps; being far away from your family doesn’t.

garlic gold on salad

As another item to note about my new hometown, it’s where founder of the Exodus Center, Dr. Josh Axe, is from. If you don’t already know about his site, check it out for great information about whole foods and all-natural nutrition. His cookbook, The Real Food Diet Cookbook, is where the idea for these sloppy joes came from.

sloppy joes

Made with a pound of grass-fed beef (which, incidentally is about $3 more a pound here!?), these sloppy joes were hearty, messy, just slightly tangy—all the things good sloppy joes should be. We ate them alongside a big salad dressed with Garlic Gold’s garlic-infused organic extra-virgin olive oil (which the company was nice enough to send me a sample of, in one of my first packages in Tennessee). And we did it on the same day we made these ice cream sandwiches.

Meals like these can offer real clarity, you know? Because as valuable as lists are, at some point, even the most die-hard among us have to surrender all charts and tables and logic and just look at the plate or place before us and go, man, I like this. This is good.

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The Best Pumpkin Bread You’ll Ever Have

Remember what I said before about pumpkin being the kind of fall you could eat? Well, it’s still true—only, OK, listen: this hasn’t just been any fall.

This year in Chicago, fall’s gone above and beyond. Literally. Yesterday was the third day in a row where temps soared into the 70s. Yes, you read that right: 70s! In late October! While the trees are already ten shades of orange and red! I went somewhere last night and had to take my sweater off, that’s how warm I was. It’s the kind of thing people talk about wherever you go—church, the grocery store, chatting on the phone—as if, no matter what your feelings or indifference about this crazy gorgeous season that transitions from the long daylight of summer into the snow and frost of winter, one thing remains, at least this year, at least where I live: autumn’s got your attention.

loaf of the BEST pumpkin bread

I guess the same could be said of many things, from football to TV shows to the pleasure of reading a good book: the die-hard lovers will take the good and bad alike. They’ll cheer for their losing team. They’ll watch when no one else is. That’s like me and fall: rain or sun, cold or warm, thick and thin, I’m already sold. It’s many of us and pumpkin, especially this time of year, when we can have the pancakes and the muffins and the carving and the Jack O’ Lanterns. But just like it’s more fun to watch a winning team and just like some Octobers are easier to love than others, some pumpkin recipes are more impressive, more endearing, more oh-my-gosh good.

Like the best pumpkin bread you’ll ever have for example.

pumpkin squash bread

I am so excited about this pumpkin bread. To put it another way, if pumpkin is fall, this pumpkin bread is these last few days of October. It is weather warm enough to mean no jacket. It is driving home with the windows open. It is comfort and daylight and the best of summer with the best of the months after, where the lawns are covered with crunchy leaves and you just step outside and feel the sun on your face.

It doesn’t last long, despite yielding two loaves, but that’s only because it tastes so good and maybe because that’s how the best things go. And over the next few days, as the weather returns to low 40s (or lower! did someone say snow?), I’m going to hold onto the last few slices, savor them the way I do October, and enjoy every bite.

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(My Kind of) Curried Chicken Salad

chicken salad sandwich

Chicken salad is the #1 thing I don’t order at restaurants.

And I think this makes perfect sense.

I mean, first of all, who wants chicken salad when you can get a tomato mozzarella panini or a sandwich with basil pesto or heck, a juicy burger made from locally sourced meat?

But second, and even more importantly, chicken salad is what you call a risky food. Trust me: bad chicken salad is bad. Like, rip-your-mouth-out bad. B-A-D bad. Three years ago, the last time I ordered it in a restaurant that I remember, I was up the whole night afterward, sick. Violently sick. And the next day, when I called the manager of said dining establishment to let him know, he didn’t believe me.

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