Just One More Day, and BLT Pasta Salad

Dear Joey,

Just one more day.

That is what I told myself this morning when I climbed out of bed, not really ready to get up to face one more day of summer togetherness. I trudged my way through the dark of the morning, Emery at my heels: hungry and impatient. The thought of getting through one more day of all the Goobies home all day threatened to steal away the last shred of my sanity.  In the harried moments of the morning, it seemed like school couldn’t start fast enough. Just one more day until I can catch my breath.

Read More

Homesick, and My Mom’s Potato Salad

Dear Joey,

When I was a kid I suffered from severe homesickness: the kind that rendered me very poor company indeed. Tears and sleepless nights were my companions at sleepovers, and I vividly recall instance upon instance of begging my parents to let me go to a sleepover, only to call them in tears near midnight, begging to go home. More often than not, my dad lumbered his way to the car and drove to pick me up and waving his thanks to my hosts for their hospitality as he ducked back into the car to go home.


Read More

Learning to Weather the Storms, and Creamy Coleslaw

22 “[…] Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.”

23-25 Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat—and he was sound asleep! They roused him, pleading, “Master, save us! We’re going down!”

26 Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?” Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: “Silence!” The sea became smooth as glass.

Matthew 8: 22-26

Dear Joey,

Well goodness–yesterday when we are smack dab in the middle of a severe Midwestern thunderstorm, all those voices warning me that Midwestern weather will take some getting used to are echoing in my ears. I’m not sure the dreadful din of thunder will ever lull me into a peaceful sleep (like it does for you), but I suppose I’ll get used to it. I think. I hope.

I admit I panicked yesterday–not because tornadoes threatened to sweep us up and whisk us away from the new house we have still yet to fully unpack (although, I wondered if that was imminent…), but because black clouds clapping their tinny hands feels threatening, and let’s face it: hiding felt like the safest thing to do. I watched out the front window as those bulbous clouds stormed their way northeast, the direction you would be driving in a matter of minutes to start afternoon clinic. Next I paced up and down the kitchen, feigning calm and scolding the impulse to barricade myself and the kids in the basement, and wondering if the sky was that peculiar shade of green Sarah taught me goes hand in hand with an imminent tornado.


Read More

Joey’s 40th Birthday and Chopped Cheeseburger Salad (GF/DF Option/NF/THM S)

Dear Joey,

You were dreading your big day –turning 40 — for months. Ever since you turned 39, really. The day loomed over you, big and foreboding, like a storm cloud. I was dreading the day too–not because I wasn’t looking forward to being married to a man in his 40’s (Ha! You’re older than me!), but because I felt like I owed you a big birthday debt because I blew it when you turned 30, and the sting of disappointment over that flop of a milestone birthday still bothers you. It bothers me too.


It’s been ten years, but I remember that evening clearly: I must have been putting groceries away because I was I crouched down low in front of the refrigerator, nestling lettuce and cucumbers into the crisper drawer when Christy reminded me we were supposed to take you out for dinner that night. What she ordinarily would have used as an excuse to get the two of us in the same room suddenly seemed like a big inconvenience. She was feeling just as pressed for time as I was that night. Her bridal shower was in the morning and the groceries I was struggling to put away were minor details compared to the long list of other things awaiting our attention in the next few hours. We went back and forth for a minute or two trying to figure out how to make good on our promise to take you out to celebrate your birthday, finish our to-do list, and get a little bit of sleep. Something had to give, and that night, it was you.


Was it Christy who called you or was it me? I don’t remember, to be honest. But I do remember how awful I felt about it the moment you hung up. You spent your 30th birthday alone because we flaked on you. Every so often you remind me how much it disappointed you, usually when you are giving me a hard time about how I am so dense that I didn’t even know our first date was, in fact, a date at all.  But a week ago, your frustration over the circumstances surrounding this birthday erupted. The rainy weather, another round of coughs and congestion, our weekend getaway on the verge of falling through rattled you. “We have to do something, otherwise this birthday will be just like my 30th,” you said. Here we go again, you seemed to be saying, another big birthday left uncelebrated.


I felt it too–the weight this milestone put upon you. I wanted to make your 40th birthday awesome anyway, so awesome it would inspire you to forgive me for flaking on you all those years ago–but after you said that, the pressure was on. The problem is: my hands were tied. By the time I realized how much this day meant to you, there were only three days left, for crying out loud. Three days didn’t give me enough time to do much other than move ahead with my original plans for a low key birthday at home (which by then were feeling much more ho-hum than anything).


I trudged through the week, worried and stressed and failing miserably at the smallest of gestures I hoped would make your birthday week special–making your top five favorite meals each night of the week, culminating in Beef Stroganoff and Grandma Adeline’s kuchen on your big day. But the only meal I managed to tick off the list was Chopped Cheeseburger Salad–I was too busy fretting that the super awesome birthday present I ordered the week before wouldn’t make it here in time for your big day; wracking my brain to figure out how to make good on my promise of making your annual birthday dinner now that food allergies and intolerances complicate things around here; afraid you would be unhappy with the bill that came with even the most modest attempt at making your day special; and worrying that my best effort to make your birthday special still wouldn’t be enough to make you feel loved and important. It wasn’t a good week, admittedly, and my attitude was just as volatile as the weather patterns around here have been.


But there was a break in the clouds by the time your birthday rolled around, and the lingering guilt over this big debt I felt I owed you dissipated when I realized that small things done with big love aren’t really small at all. It also helped that you seemed genuinely happy all day. If there was any disappointment in your heart, you covered it well.


I imagine there must have been some disappointment. The gluten free, dairy free kuchen failed miserably. I didn’t get around to cooking the Beef Stroganoff until after the Goobies whispered their last “Happy birthday, Daddy!” as we tucked them into bed, and we weren’t quite over whatever bug we’d been fighting that week quite yet. Our weekend plans were cancelled, more rain came in–but that super awesome birthday present found its way to you on time. And you loved it.


As piddly as my gestures felt compared to the grand plans with which I wish I could have surprised you–these small things were done with great love. And that right there is the biggest difference between your 40th birthday and your 30th. Ten years ago, I didn’t love you yet. That we’re sorry we hurt your feelings birthday dinner we took you out for to celebrate your 30th birthday was a bigger party than your 40th birthday dinner, indeed. There were more people there, more food, more presents, more fun, and you spent the evening surrounded by people who loved you. This time around, there weren’t as many people around the dinner table, the food was only so-so, and the presents were small, too. But I showed up. The Goobies thrilled at throwing you a party. The food mattered to you. And the presents knocked your socks off. Most of all, this time, even the smallest, seemingly insignificant screamed how much I love you, because this time around, I do.



Chopped Cheeseburger Salad


Cheeseburger salads are everywhere–I get it. What makes this one stand out? Nothing much, I guess, except that Joey likes it better than any others he’s eaten at a restaurant, which of course makes my heart soar–but also, I totally agree. Many cheeseburger salads plop a lukewarm burger with plastic cheese on top of a pile of lettuce leaves and bun-sized slices of tomatoes, pickles, and onions, and serve thousand island dressing on the side. You end up having to chop the thing up yourself, making it feel like a lackluster bunless burger rather than a hearty, somewhat indulgent salad. At home, I chop the lettuce into bite sized pieces and pile them high with classic cheeseburger toppings: shredded sharp cheddar cheese (Daiya cheddar style shreds for Emery, if he’s around), ripe red tomatoes, chunks of dill pickles, and diced red or green onions if we feel like fussing around with them. Sometimes I get fancy and add some bacon or avocado, but we like the simplicity of this version best. Also–a note about the Pink Sauce. It’s really just Thousand Island Dressing like my mom always used to make, but we call it Pink Sauce because that’s what our girls call it. I use Trader Joe’s brand mayonnaise, ketchup and dill pickles in this recipe. Other varieties will work too, of course, but I’m devoted to these Trader Joe’s staples and way their flavors meld into the perfect thousand island dressing. If you don’t want to use all that pickle juice, swap some out and use plain white vinegar instead. The salad and dressing are naturally gluten free, but swap vegan cheese for the sharp cheddar (or leave it out altogether) to make it dairy free. THM friends, this is an S.


For the Salad

  • 1 pound ground beef (plus salt, to taste)
  • 2 romaine hearts, washed, dried and chopped into 1 1/2″ pieces or so
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes, chopped (or try 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped Romas or beefsteaks)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • dill pickles chopped, as few or as many as you prefer
  • Red onions, chopped (go easy on them–start with 2 Tablespoons or so) or 4 sliced green onions or so
  • Pink Sauce (as below)

For the Pink Sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup dill pickle juice (see note above)
  • 2 Tablespoons Pyure Organic Stevia Blend (or other sweetener equivalent to 1/3 sugar, or clearly–just use sugar. 1/3 cup should do.)
  • 1/2 cup diced dill pickles

First, brown the ground beef and season it with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Once the meat is cooked through (no more pink), drain it and set it aside to cool.

Next, work on the dressing. In a large jelly jar, measure the mayonnaise, ketchup and dill pickle juice and sweetner. Whisk until smooth. Toss in the diced pickles, give it another stir, and set aside (after tasting to make sure you like it, of course).

And now, on to the salad. Shred the cheese (if necessary) and set aside. Wash and dry the romaine lettuce. Next, chop it all up, along with the tomatoes and pickles, and toss it into a big bowl: first the lettuce, followed by the ground beef, then the shredded cheese, followed by the diced tomatoes, onions and dill pickles. Finally, swirl the dressing on top–about a 1/2 cup at first–and toss with tongs to coat. Add more dressing if it suits your taste to do so.

Pile high on plates, top with freshly ground black pepper and enjoy.


One Small Thing, and Dressed Up Tuna Salad

Dear Joey,

You’ve been hounding me to make a hair appointment, begging me to go shopping for clothes, and basically all around urging me to take care of my own self for a change.

It’s nice. I don’t feel so bad when I come home with a new pair of shoes that begged to be taken home with me while I was making a very glamorous diaper run at Target.

But it also makes me feel like saying, “What, you don’t love me just the way I am? Is my hair so terrible? Are you embarrassed to be seen with me but are too afraid to admit it? And by the way, when do you suppose I have time to do all these things, anyway? Oh, right: I’ll just leave the baby with our live-in nanny and spend the day gallivanting through the mall, scooping up armload after armload of beautiful things for myself while I sip champagne. Because clearly, we have all the money in the world to spend to do that sort of thing, and life at home runs smoothly without me. Dishes do themselves. Laundry puts itself away.”

I know you don’t think any of those things, of course. And I don’t scold you when you gently ask me about it (I don’t think, at least). I try to remind you it’s not as easy to take care of myself as it used to be before kids were around. I am so out of the loop on what’s actually in style these days because I don’t really have time to pay much attention. But that distinct mom style I’ve unintentionally been sporting lately has finally gotten the best of me–and you too, I think.


Making matters worse is the kids have collectively been sick for 10 days in a row, and finding a time to get away to make myself a priority is hard. When I do have a moment to spare, I’m too tired to think about much at all, let alone try on clothes for a few hours, trying to find my style as I do so. (It’s so exhausting, I’m telling you.)

Today I was thinking about all this as I stirred together tuna salad for lunch. Both Mia and Emery were zonked out at an early nap time, leaving me a few minutes to think about my own thoughts for a change. This tuna salad is really simple, quite uncomplicated and easy to throw together, but full of a few surprises that give it texture, interest and beauty. I got to thinking: that is exactly what I need in my style-life. I’m not exactly sure how to get there, but for me to have that much time to even think about what I’m looking for? Kinda huge.

It is HARD to put myself first, to spend money on myself, and to reject the guilt and self-loathing I hear whispering behind my back as I try pretty things on again. But please believe me: I am trying. I haven’t scheduled a hair appointment yet (that’s next on my agenda today), but I did do one small thing for myself this week: I decided to give Stitch Fix another try, and I filled out a profile for Trunk Club (thanks to a friend who swears by at-home styling services), and I’m hoping it helps. Plus, you can give me your honest opinion about what you like and what you don’t like, all without dragging you around town with me.


PS – Both have have men’s styles, too. And, if anyone signs up for their own shipments from either of these places using my referral links, I get credit for it to use toward clothes of my own when they buy clothes for themselves. Score! Here they are:

Stitch Fix: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3192368

Trunk Club: https://www.trunkclub.com/my/invite/KTAGMF

Dressed Up Tuna Salad


This is my go-to lunch, one I make so often I could do it with my eyes closed. I make it with Greek yogurt when Emery isn’t around, but I use low fat mayonnaise instead if he is awake (because his little fingers often get a hold of whatever I happen to be eating). If curry powder scares you: worry not. You can leave it out. But I challenge you to try it because it’s really quite subtle and dresses up the salad just enough to make it a little bit fancy. Start with 1/4 teaspoon, and work your way up.


1-5 oz. can albacore tuna

1/4 cup Greek yogurt (THM friends, use fat free. Or, to make it DF, use mayonnaise instead)

1/2 apple, diced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 green onion sprig, chopped

2 Tablespoons dried cherries (or dried cranberries or golden raisins)

1/4-1/2 teaspoon Sweet Bombay Curry Powder

salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/4 tsp kosher salt does the trick for me)

sprinkle of almonds, for garnish (omit if nuts are a problem for you)


First, drain the tuna and dump it into a medium size bowl with plenty of room to mix well. Next, pile in all the other ingredients (except the almonds) and stir until well combined. Taste to adjust seasonings, then mound it on a pretty plate and sprinkle with toasted almonds.





Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

Dear Felicia,

Too long. It’s been too long since we’ve seen you. The last time was when Mia was still just a baby, one that fit snugly in your arms, wide-eyed and curious about an unfamiliar face cooing at her, nuzzling her. Addie was old enough to be timid around you, but innocent enough to believe us when we said she was your friend, that you loved her. That she was safe with you. We said the same thing to both girls this time around, and while they believed us, they were wary of you because nevertheless, you were still a stranger to them.

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

And then there was the little guy who eyed you suspiciously, not really sure what to make of you. He’s old enough to understand that when unfamiliar people show up, it usually means we are headed out the door. Before long, you made friends without forcing yourself on any of them. You were simply you, comfortable and alive in your roll of Auntie, as if no time had passed at all. Wiping up sticky popsicle hands, fawning over princess dresses, playfully urging Addie to be bold and showing our kids what it means to love, sight unseen. Encouraging them to have happy plates, and showing them that you were, in fact, the same Auntie Fee Fee we talk about every time we praise them for having a happy plate.

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

When you let us know you were coming, it was our instinct to celebrate. Joey and I imagined a big dinner with the whole gang back together again, sipping ice cold Moscow Mules while the kids ran around the warm summer evening, strangers separated by time turned to fast friends by virtue of just being together. In our imagination, there was no rush, no stress, not an ounce of weirdness that sometimes comes along with seeing faces you haven’t seen in awhile. The stories, laughter, wine and time never ran out.

But time does run out, and the gumption to throw a big party faded and was replaced by embarrassment that we didn’t keep up with everybody the way we used to when you lived here. Why is it that it took you coming all the way to California to show me just how distant everyone else had become?

There’s no real answer to that question, of course. Time forces us forward into new seasons. Sometimes we jump right in, eager to leave old things behind and experience something new, and other times we resist. Sometimes we realize things are changing, and other times we don’t. In this case, I think it’s a good mix of all of those things. And I think that’s ok.

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

Wouldn’t it be fun though–and easier on you, perhaps–to have everyone who loves you here in California gathered in one place? We could give you the same sort of welcome you always give to us. I’m sorry we didn’t make that happen for you. Maybe we can make it up to you the next time you come to visit.

We were sad to see you go so quickly, as I knew we would be. Seeing you for three hours was not long enough for our greedy selves who wanted to soak up a little more Felicia before the sun went down that night. But having you here for even that little blip in time reminded Joey and me of who we were before our lives took the turn that brought us to the place we are now as a family. It connected our kids to the bigger picture of what brought us to the place we are now. What a gift.

So thank you for visiting us, for carving out a time to enter and enjoy our new world. You are gold, Felicia Bond, and I love you. We love you. And I think I speak for all of California when I say, hurry back. We miss you.


Confetti Quinoa Salad

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

This salad is basically a riff on the quinoa salad we always serve with spicy herbed chicken. While that version is fairly plain (bell peppers and green onions only), this one has a little more pizazz, sort of like dressing up an everyday knit sundress with dangly earrings and sparkly sandals. It’s a perfect summer side dish, cooling and light, bursting with sun-kissed flavor. Add black beans if you wish. Or red chili flakes. Or grilled chicken.  Pretty much accessorize as you like, adding your own style as you go.


1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow) diced
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 large English cucumber, diced (alternatively, peel and dice a regular old cucumber)
1 cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Rinse one cup quinoa. In a small saucepan, combine rinsed quinoa. 2 cups water and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, and then fluff with a fork. Cool completely.

After the quinoa is cooked and cooled, toss it with diced vegetables, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Victory! and Herbed Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Quick Pickled Cucumber

Dear Joey,

I don’t remember dinnertime being difficult when I was a kid. It was fun. Maybe the best part of the day.

Over the past year I have wondered why my memories of family dinner are so warm and low-key when our own family dinners aren’t always the same way. I should give myself a break – our oldest isn’t even five yet, for goodness sake.

I think the biggest difference between my memories of those days and our own reality is my folks were really relaxed when it came to meal time. Meaning, they kept calm if we refused to touch the food on our plate–as far as I remember, at least. If we didn’t like it, there was always a peanut butter sandwich.

In dealing with our own kids, I try to do my best to follow my parents’ lead; keep calm and let them be in charge of what they eat from their plate. As long as they have healthy choices, why should I insist they eat just one more bite before they are allowed to be excused? But the reality is that we have been super tense about eating and frustrated when our kids misbehave at the table (shocking!) or refuse to eat what they are given.

The girls come by it honestly, I guess. My mom tells the story of how she had to finish her peas before she was excused from the dinner table as a kid. She hated peas. I mean hated. But she finally figured out if she swallowed them like little green pills, washing them down with a big gulp of milk, she wouldn’t taste them and she would be allowed to leave table. And let’s not forget your brother’s legendary attempts and “cleaning his plate” – your parents found food hidden in house plants, radiators, you name it: anywhere your brother could surreptitiously stash it without getting caught (until months later, at least).

As much as we laugh about these anecdotes now, I don’t really want history to repeat itself. I’d rather we make the dinner table a fun place to be and help our kids enjoy their food, as much as we can at least.

So far, it’s sort of in-between. We have a long way to go, but we are making progress. I’m pretty sure our two hard-and-fast mealtime rules help:

1. Try at least one bite of everything on your plate. If you do not like it, you do not have to eat it.
2. There is nothing else to eat other than what is served. If you do not want to eat it, that’s ok. But you will not eat again until the next snack or mealtime.

For the most part, these rules work for us. Everyone knows them, and since we are consistent with them there isn’t room for negotiation.

It wasn’t always that way. At first, the girls protested. They whined and complained and feigned disgust and spit food out and begged for macaroni and cheese, or yogurt, or crackers — just like most toddlers are prone to do. But slowly, they came to realize that the food they’re given is all they get, and when they see us eating it, they figure it can’t be all that bad (I suppose).

Here’s the thing that helps me stick to the rules myself: I make sure to offer something I know they will actually eat (like rice and broccoli). Then, I challenge them with something fairly familiar they will probably like if they just try it (like salmon). And third, I add something I am fully prepared for them to hate (like artichokes) just to see if they might have a taste for it.

Before I sound like a total organized, over-achieving freak, let me say this: I often repeat the things I challenge them with, typically things we like to eat (like salad) or things they typically like (such as carrots) that are prepared in an unfamiliar way (like roasted carrots).

Apparently, this is working because in just the past few weeks, things have changed. Whereas it used to be that everything except the vegetables disappeared at dinnertime, now the veggies are being eaten up, too.

First, Addie starting eating coleslaw. Coleslaw! Then she declared her undying love for bell peppers. Not long after that, she braved a bite of a single green bean, a pesky dinnertime menace that has taunted her since infancy. When she announced she liked it, I almost fainted. Mia looked on with a face that seemed to say “Big deal. I have been telling you they are good for ages.” It was not a fluke: Addie ate an entire helping of them that night, and another helping of them a few nights later, and on it continues to go, assuring me that she does, in fact, like them.

Next, just this past weekend (at a pizza parlor!), Addie ordered a green salad and a meatball for dinner. A salad?! Like, a real one. With romaine and tomatoes and peppers and stuff. When I picked off a tomato for myself (thinking she would not notice), she protested, insisting, “But I wanted to eat that tomato!” (I am sure she must have thought I was nuts for the befuddled look I gave her.)

To top it all off, just this past Monday night, when presented with cucumbers, Addie sighed and said, “Oh, yes! I love these!” And both girls began to eat those cucumbers (and broccoli, I might add) with gusto, before they even touched their quinoa and chicken. And they both asked for seconds and fought over who got to polish off the broccoli. Holy moly.

Before I sound all braggy about these successes (too late?), I must admit that they also prefer to eat their fair share of not-so-healthy foods too (like the goldfish crackers they are eating for snack this afternoon), and this morning at breakfast they turned their noses up to my first attempt at waffles made with almond flour. I guess they are not perfect eaters, are they?

But I give them a lot of credit because they really are quite good at trying new things now, and perhaps it is because they know from experience they might find another yummy food to enjoy, and if they don’t, well, they know we will not force them to eat it.

To me? That is a victory.


Herbed Chicken with Quinoa Salad and Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Victory! and Spicy Herbed Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Cucumber Ribbons

This is one of Joey’s current dinner favorites, and I love it because it makes everyone at our table happy. Based on the recipe for Quinoa Salad with Vinaigrette in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, my version uses yellow bell peppers and adds spicy, herb-laden grilled chicken and quick pickled cucumber cut into spirals, so that they look like ribbons. The chicken is pounded thin, but feel free to skip that step, but do not let the other steps fool you into thinking this dinner is difficult to pull together. It’s quite easy, and you can do many of the steps ahead of time.


Herbed Chicken
5 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat to about 1/4″
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp (or more) red pepper flakes (optional to give it a spicy kick)
course salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Quinoa Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 yellow bell pepper, diced small (or any color you prefer)
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil (or up to 1/4 cup, but we keep the oil content low to make this a super light meal)
salt and pepper to taste

Quick Pickled Cucumber Ribbons

1 English cucumber
about 2 T white vinegar
sweetener of choice, to taste (equivalent to about 2 teaspoons cane sugar)


For the chicken
Place pounded chicken breasts into a zip top bag, along with all the marinade ingredients (except the red pepper flakes if your kids are like mine and do not like spicy food. You can always sprinkle the flakes on the adults’ chicken right before grilling it.) You may add an additional 1 1/2 T of olive oil if you like, but we keep it minimal for this recipe. Massage the marinade into the chicken and let rest for a couple hours, or overnight. Then grill the chicken, about 3-4 minutes per side if it’s pounded thin. When done, remove from heat and let rest, then slice before plating the salad.

For the quinoa
Bring 1 cup quinoa to a boil in 2 cups water. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Refrigerate until ready to make the salad. Meanwhile, dice 1 yellow bell pepper and slice three scallions. (I cut mine on the bias because I think it feels fancy, but do it however you prefer.) Toss the veggies with the cooked and cooled quinoa. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Start with about 1/4 tsp course salt to begin with, and add more to your liking.

For the cucumbers

Using a Spiralizer, slice the cucumbers into ribbons. (If you don’t have a Spiralizer, use a mandolin to cut the cucumber into thin slices in the meantime. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the cucumbers as thin as you can. And if you have trouble doing that, just chop some up. The texture will be different than ribbons, but the flavor will still be great.) After the cucumbers are cut, toss them with a couple tablespoons of white vinegar along with a dash of salt and the sweetener of your choice, about the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of regular cane sugar. Let them sit for a few minutes and toss again before serving.

To serve
Scoop about a cup of the quinoa salad into a shallow bowl, followed by a sliced up chicken breast, and finally topped with cucumber ribbons. Top with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

It’s Just Too Hot to Cook, and Chinese Chicken Salad Two Ways

Dear Joey,

It’s summer, so don’t be surprised if I answer your daily question of “What are we doing for dinner?’ with Chinese Chicken Salad. You know the one: it’s the salad that I make more times a year than probably any other salad, the one that my friends ask me (beg me?) to make when it’s too hot outside to think about cooking, the one that makes me happy just thinking about it.

My mom got the recipe from my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Terry, who made the salad with cabbage and peanuts and a very oily dressing. Over the years the recipe became my mom’s recipe, and eventually it became my own (as these things often do). Sometimes we make it with cabbage and peanuts, but most often (and especially when I make it for friends), it’s the version using romaine and almonds that shows up. UPDATE: we only ever make it with almonds now that we have a child who is allergic to peanuts.

The reason I make this so much? Well, I guess you could blame my mother (at least I come by it honestly). It was her go-to dish for church potlucks, the easy answer to the “What’s for dinner?” question on hot summer nights, and one of the few salads that my brothers and I would all voluntarily eat and enjoy. It just wouldn’t be summer without having it at least a dozen times, if not more.

Good thing you like it, huh?

Love, Scratch

Chinese Chicken Salad, Two ways
This salad is cool and crisp, light but satisfying, and easy. It’s also very versatile. Make it with romaine and almonds or with cabbage and peanuts (or try whatever combination of those things that sounds good to you). You could really prep the ingredients any way you like and toss them together in any proportion you like, but here’s how I do it. Whatever you do, you won’t be disappointed. It’s all around the perfect summertime meal. But I make it all year long because it’s just that good.
Made with Lettuce:
2 Hearts of Romaine, sliced into ribbons
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into half moons
2 carrots, sliced
3 green onions, sliced
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
toasted almonds (omit for NF)
                                                       crunchy chowmein noodles (omit for GF)

Made with Cabbage:

1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 grilled chicken breasts, chopped
salted peanuts (omit for NF)
crunchy chowmein noodles (omit for GF)
Here’s where the salads are the same…

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plain vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 1/2 T sesame oil
1/4 c sugar, plus more if you like a sweeter dressing
Toss everything except crunchy noodles into a big bowl and coat evenly. The more dressing, the better. I find that it tastes better if you let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. Add the crunchy noodles and enjoy.