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.
Related: Three Steps to Healthier Days
*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.
Had DC gotten hit with that snow, I had planned to stay home and bake those playdate cookies with my son. Alas, just a light dusting.
My go-to healthy eating habits: greek yogurt for breakfast (with fruit and a handful of trader joe’s lowfat granola), and definitely a salad with supper…any kind of salad, but often just lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, with Money-in-the-bank dressing.
“A mix of greens (Bibb & baby arugula) with beets, feta, scallions, CAKES, fresh dill, and (not shown) pistachios or pepitas.” Freudian slip?
I agree that salad sometimes feels incomplete without cake, but I tend not to mix mine in. 🙂
I try to have a salad for lunch every day. Mostly have a grain base and pile on the veg. Only way of getting in my 5+ a day!
Love the “restaurant” snow day activity. Snow days are few and far between here in Scotland but my littlies would love that! One for the next school break!
Love this post!!! As I age, I have to have a salad everyday because…..it keeps things moving. OH I’VE SAID TOO MUCH! 🙂
Ha, that’s funny Taylor. I meant “cukes” but I’m tempted to not fix it!
i routinely employ the “healthy lunch”.. either soup or salad (depending on season).. i’m alone at work, no reason I can’t be responsible.. then supper hits with the kids and suddenly i’m finishing their grilled cheese crusts; last few bites of mashed potatoes or 1/2 eaten cookies (just kidding.. they always finish the cookies). they tease me at work about my ultra healthy lunches, but once they hit 40.. they’ll understand
You crack me up – that totally counts
Definitely don’t fix the freudian slip!
I can definitely see the simple “eat a salad every day” working for me – especially for lunch. I do have a tricky situation though. My job means I’m often out all day, without access to a fridge, carrying everything I bring with me. I do have access to a microwave, in a pinch. Any tips on room-temperature-all-day-salads that won’t get weird and wilty?
I have the same mentality but I try to get the healthy stuff in at breakfast: a smoothie with a cube of frozen steamed/chopped kale thrown into the blender (we do big batches of steamed and chopped kale during CSA season, then we freeze them in ice cube trays and bag the cubes for winter consumption). Then, for the rest of the day, no matter what I eat, AT LEAST I HAD KALE AT BREAKFAST. All sins are forgiven until the next day when I start all over. Much less work than a salad, in my book anyway.
Totally counts!!! 😉
i must be the only person who does not like kale. But I did come up with a new salad recipe yesterday using what I had in the fridge and pantry http://atravellingcook.blogspot.de/2015/01/quinoa-barley-and-pickled-vegetable.html Hope you like it xx
I’m a big fan of a salad philosophy that I read over on the “Can You Stay for Dinner?” blog–she suggests that you take whatever leftovers you have and throw them on a salad. For example, left over peppers and onions? toss them on top of soma romaine and add some salsa for dressing! Left over meatballs? Heat them up, toss them on some arugula and add some extra marinara, etc. etc. It helps you use your leftovers in a healthier fashion!
I’ve followed this “Eat a Salad Every Day” philosophy for over two years. After eating a salad at lunch I feel refreshed and energized for the rest of my work day. No food coma! The way I see it, if I can eat healthy at lunch then I’ve won half the day’s battle.
Sometimes my coworker call me crazy but I never feel that my salads are a sacrifice because they’re loaded with things I love. Thanks for posting!
I would also like to add that I get endless salad inspiration from Caroline over at Devil & Egg (http://devilandegg.com) — her instagram pix of lunchtime grain bowls and composed salads (seemingly always with sliced radishes on top) are particularly mouthwatering. Follow her: @devilandegg!
YES! I love this. I can do this. This is so helpful, Jenny!
I am feeling so aligned with you today! Kids and I all got a snow day yesterday. There was snacking galore and homemade cookies, long baths, and an even longer game of Settlers, hot chocolate with whipped cream . . . though I didn’t quite get around to making dinner. We filled up on popcorn. Popcorn’s healthy, right? I’m back at work now, eating my daily [M-F] salad!
Also, I’m loving that you’re such good friends with Tiffani Thiessen. xox
I like the idea of a salad every day. I’ll have to get through all the soups I have in my freezer first, but then yes, salad for lunch would be a good idea.
As for the snow day, here in VA we have no snow. As far as that goes, I have no kids at home as they have all grown and moved out… however that would not stop me from baking a huge batch of chocolate chunk cookies and snarfing them down (perhaps this weekend) 🙂
Great post and I love that list! Thanks for the chicken recipe too-that sounds delicious.
I love this post, but most of all I love that you are friends with Tiffani Thiessen!
I am trying to make a salad each and every day in this New Year and am thoroughly enjoying each one.
Your salad looks beautiful, healthy and tasty.
I’ve been obsessing over salad/grain bowl hybrid for the last week. I love them for using up leftover bits of food.
By the way you have a typo in your last salad description too “raw unsalted almost slivers”. I’m guessing you meant almonds?
I think Lia is on to something! I asked a colleague how she had lost weight for her wedding (and kept doing so after, seemingly easily, i.e. she wasn’t training for a triathalon) and she said “Honestly? Salad.” In one way, it was like “duh!” and in another it was like a lightbulb went off. I know what I’m having for lunch today (and tomorrow and Saturday and…)
Comment for “Sarah V.” above: Lunch Bots makes a 16-ounce thermos. You could put the container in the fridge to get it cool before dinner (or put in freezer for a short time), and the pack you salad ingredients in and keep in fridge until it’s time to leave for work/school in the morning. I would package the salad dressing in a separate container-/ Lunch Bots and some other manufacturers have various size containers. That way, you will have a fresh, wonderful salad at just the right temperature for 5+ hours! Less guaranteed to be cool and crisp, but still very appetizing, is to pack your ingredients in a quart-size Ball or Weck glass jar and use the same method for pre-cooling and staying cool overnight in the fridge. Lucky you,if you also have a fridge at work! The website “Back to her Roots” has lots of yummy examples of jarred salads. Other comment: soup, for me, is a salad in another form–a great, efficient way to eat a lot of veggies. I like to add a substantial amount of protein to all the greens: hard-boiled egg or two, cheese, nuts and/or a home-baked roll made with lots of good flour, with a 6-7 gram protein punch. I get the best-quality eggs possible, a wonderful, cheap addition, which always makes me feel good! Jenny, thank you for this down-to-earth post–it inspires me to keep up with good eating habits!
Please excuse the typos–I get so dyslexic when I’m tired.
Great article! And I enjoy the way you write! So easy to follow and awesome sense of humor 🙂 haha
I like the term “folksy philosophy”. “Common sense ideas” is another good term, I think. Love (and try to practice) the four ideas from your friends and Tiffany:) One more to add to the list: “tennis ball” and “a deck of cards”, meaning watch your portions.
I am convinced that for the good philosophies to have real value, they need to be applied to what eat throughout the entire day. Justifying bad choices later in the day by eating good once a day is self-deceptive, in my opinion.
Beets are wonderful in salads. We make Russian winter salad with beets, sauerkraut, pickles, etc. (recipe on my blog if anyone is interested). It would keep for a few hours at room temp– another idea for Sarah V.
Jenny, I just re-read the Comments, and I love the ideas for what to use in making salads. It reminds me of the time I was raising my three daughters— we had a garden, and we had salad every day during the growing season. We invented a game, sort of a contest of how many different veggies we could put on the huge platter from which we chose whatever appealed in making our individual salads. That was fun!
Margrit, thanks for the advice!! I hadn’t thought of a pre-refrigerated thermos, but that’s a really good idea 🙂 I’ll check it out! I love soup, too, so good one there. Thanks!
Jenny, this is the first time I have read your blog and I am glad I did. I am a hugh fan of your cookbooks! Over the past month, I have have made 5 recipes from “Dinner the playbook “. My husband & daughters (15 and almost 11) loved the Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas! Even though I work part-time at our local library, dinner time can be challenging due to after school schedules. I use my crockpot to make meals that we love at least once a week. Right now it is 9 degrees outside and I have been caramelizing onions in the crockpot since last night. The house smells so good! We will have caramelized onion soup for dinner tonight from Lora Brody’s cookbook, “Slow Cooker Cooking”. Thank you for your inspiration.
Great philosophy! I do try to eat a salad every day in the summer for lunch. It gets difficult in the winter time. Sometimes I’ll go with a healthy soup every day for lunch then.
Definitely agree with the salad-a-day rule! This looks delicious too! Lauren x
and if you start growing your own lettuce you’ll have to eat a salad everyday lol
I love beets; however, the mess of red hands and cabinet stops me from purchasing them. What is your secret for using beets?