I apologize to those of you in the Northeast who might’ve logged on today in hopes of seeing a recipe that falls under the warm-and-cozy category, and not a dutiful looking kale salad studded with wheat berries. The truth of the matter is, the warm-and-cozy stuff happened yesterday in our house, as soon as school sent word of early dismissal due to the impending storm. I crammed in a little work at home (operative word = “little”) then embraced the day off like a kind of maniacal kindergarten teacher. Abby, whose favorite activity when she was six or seven, was “Restaurant” begged her sister and me to turn the living room into “Cafe Juno,” and before I knew it, she was strapping an apron around my waist, table-cloth-ing a coffee table, typing up a menu, and asking for the daily specials. Phoebe ordered the fried chickpeas with yogurt and tamarind sauce, Abby went with a “baked ravioli melt” (think baked ziti but with ravioli) and in addition to the 85% tip the girls left me in the fake billfold, I got to gorge on all the food left over in both pots. Score!
Next up: Cookie baking. I wasn’t involved in that project, but I did somehow show up just in time for bowl-licking, and again, 8-10 minutes later, for cookie-testing. (Phoebe was making the “playdate cookies” from Dinner: A Love Story, replacing the M&Ms with dark chocolate chunks, so naturally they tested and tasted amazing.) An hour or two, and a cup or two of hot chocolates with whipped cream later, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Cider-braised Chicken was simmering on the stovetop for dinner, Andy’s broccoli was sizzling away in a hot hot oven, and I was assembling a little cheese plate for everyone to nibble on, complete with fig jam. There may or may not have been a bag of Trader Joe’s cheese puffs on the counter just for good measure. For dessert, more of Phoebe’s cookies. Plural.
What is it about Snow Days that wake up the holiday indulgence gene? I have to say, it’s kind of great.
But it’s only great for a day or two before I start to feel like I need to reign it in a little, to get back to my weekday eating routine, where it’s not entirely normal to go through a four-pack of butter in one afternoon. (The bag of cheese doodles, those are another story.) I woke up this morning realizing I have a relatively new philosophy for weekday eating that I haven’t really shared with you, so figured now was as good a time as any. It boils down to this:
Eat a Salad Every Day.
My friend Lia gave me this advice last fall, after I asked what she was doing that made her look so great — right down to her awesome haircut — and I immediately embraced her words as my new worldview. You know me, every few months I’ll convince myself to omit gluten, or go Vegan, or forgo all carbs, but these all-or-nothing deals never stick. All I have to do is log onto instagram — I don’t know about your feed, but mine is an endless stream of salted caramel baked goods — before I’m raiding the fridge. I’m weak. I know this about myself now, which is why Lia’s salad line made so much sense to me. It meant that one meal, usually lunch, would be plant-based and feel-good, and wholesome with enough redemptive power to, say, erase whatever transgressions may be forthcoming at dinner. It’s not a “plan” or a “diet” or a “program,” exactly. It’s more like a forgiving and folksy philosophy about staying healthy. I love these mini-philosophies. In fact, I’ve amassed a lot of them over the years, and together I like to think they add up to the official DALS guide to healthy eating. Like Lia’s, all came from friends:
1. From Cynthia: Health is not a number, it’s a feeling.
2. From Rory: Don’t worry about calorie counting, just worry that everything you eat is healthy and wholesome. (And yes, dark chocolate counts.)
3. From Tiffani*: Nothing else really matters if you don’t get enough sleep and water.
4. From Lee: Giving in to temptation is fine. Just not every single time temptation is presented.
I’d like to emphasize that just because these are the philosophies that have stayed with me, and the ones I’m doing my best to pass down to the girls, it doesn’t mean I am faithfully sticking to the script every minute of every day. That’s just silly. Today, though, today I am sticking to the script. Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting be damned.
A Few Salad Ideas that Fit the Bill
– Way up top is chopped kale with wheat berries, shredded beets, raisins, with a citrus-y dressing. I found it in my iPhone photo library so forgive the fuzziness. I’m pretty sure it was assembled at the Whole Foods salad bar.
– Shown right here is one of my favorites: A mix of greens (Bibb & baby arugula) with beets, feta, scallions, cukes, fresh dill, and (not shown) pistachios or pepitas. The dressing is a simple white balsamic-olive oil emulsion. Followed by lots of freshly ground black pepper.
– I am a huge fan of chopped kale, raw unsalted almond slivers, and raisins. Olive oil and red wine vinegar. So simple, so satisfying.
*OK fine, this “Tiffani” is Tiffani Thiessen, who is not necessarily a “friend” per se, but I did read once that she liked my book enough to buy two copies: one for her LA house and one for her NY apartment. So I’m pretty sure that comes close to counting.