Oh my. It has been half a year since I’ve written anything here. I have so much respect for those who keep up with a blog regularly–balancing setting aside the time to write posts and take pictures with the ins and outs of everyday life is no joke. It’s not as if I haven’t been cooking for the past six months: quite the contrary. In fact, I played working mom for a family with three girls. I would go to my desk job as an office assistant to a chiropractor in the mornings and then go pick up the girls from school, take them to activities, grocery shop and cook their meals each night as well as prepare weekend meals. So I was cooking. A lot. But the focus completely shifted away from thoughts about artfully combining seasonal ingredients and and taking food photos in the best lighting to finding something the girls would eat that perhaps had a hint of a vegetable or quality protein in it and getting it made, on the table and cleaned up as fast as possible. So not only do I appreciate the challenge of carving out time to blog while keeping up a day job, but I also have tremendous respect for all that parents juggle when it comes to maintaining and nurturing creative endeavors, hobbies etc. I did find time to have plenty of dinner parties for friends on the weekends and sometimes remembered to snap a few photos, making a mental note to blog about it later, but my focus was always elsewhere.
All this being said, I am making another shift in my life. I wrapped up my time in Seattle and am moving back to the Los Angeles area to begin a four year Master’s program in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I am looking to ultimately combine nutritional therapy services and acupuncture in a private practice several years down the road. For the past month, I have been traveling around the country in my very old Subaru Outback visiting everyone in my family before I begin this intensive program. Friends had started to ask me before I left Seattle what happened to my blog and, on my trip, my family has been asking me the same thing. I knew I needed to get back to it in my own time as I settled into a new direction and energy in my life, but I am also grateful for the reminders that friends and family were interested in my recipes and my cooking–this has served as ample motivation.
As I’ve been traveling, I’ve made a point of cooking a big dinner for most of my family members I have stayed with (and they have all been generous enough to let me take over their kitchens for a night). It is the way I best know to show my gratitude for their hospitality and not much gives me more joy than knowing I have created something others can enjoy. Just two nights ago, after cooking for my aunt and uncle in Chicago, I felt a wave of momentum to get back to blogging and sharing recipes. I realized that no matter what I am doing to make a living or what direction my path goes, cooking is something I simply cannot escape. Whether I am cooking for family or friends, whether I am cooking professionally or a hobby, my experiences and connections around the dinner table and my simple recipes, informed by my time spent on farms, at cooking schools and as a student and practitioner of nutritional therapy, are something I want to continue to share for years to come.
The following is hardly a recipe, it’s so easy to throw together. But I wanted to re-start with a pretty picture and something fresh and light. This would actually be more of a winter salad in California, since oranges are in season in January, so I’m cheating on the seasonal thing a bit here…But it’s certainly tasty on a warm summer evening.
2 medium navel oranges
2 large, ripe avocados
4-5 cups organic arugula or watercress
1/3 cup toasted pecans or walnuts
2 heaping Tbs. whole grain mustard
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. olive oil
Arrange nuts on a baking sheet. Bake at 300F for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes to toast. You will start to smell them when they are done. And they will smell AMAZING. Remove from oven and let cool. Roughly chop and set aside.
Wash and dry the arugula in a salad spinner. Arrange it on a platter to form a bed for the oranges and avocados.
Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and then use a large spoon to remove each half from the skin, still intact. Then slice thinly as pictured and arrange in rows on top of the arugula.
Cut of the top and bottom of each orange, then cut off or peel off the skin. Cut the oranges in half and then into thin slices. Arrange in alternating rows with the avocados.
To make the mustard dressing, whisk together mustard, honey, lemon juice, balsamic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl. Taste and add more honey if you want it sweeter, more lemon or balsamic if you want it more tangy.
Drizzle dressing over salad.
Top with toasted, chopped nuts.