There’s way more to this week’s recipe than just quinoa and greens, but I’ll tell you all about it in just a second.
First, picture yourself melting into a warm cushioned lounge chair in the most beautiful, spa-like backyard you’ve ever seen. The sun is soaking into your skin, but there’s just the right amount of breeze to keep you cool. You’ve got a cold glass of water in your hand, and you can hear water cascading over the edge of a jacuzzi into the swimming pool. You’re surrounded by all sorts of beautiful greenery, and through the trees, there’s a golf course with lush green grass for as far as your eye can see.
Sounds pretty heavenly, right?
As I mentioned last week, I spent a few days in Michigan celebrating my cousin’s wedding with my family. This particular cousin is one of my closest, and there were many summers where I’d fly over from Edmonton (my hometown) to Windsor (where she lived at the time) to visit. We’d do all the things that 12 year old girls back in 2001 used to do, like swimming in her backyard, walking to Baskin Robbins, making matching bracelets on a blanket in the backyard (with matching earrings too, of course), rollerblading, and choreographing dances to our favourite Spice Girls songs.
My summers in Windsor were by far some of the most memorable of my childhood. My aunt (the bride’s mom) has an impeccable eye for fashion and home decor, and has always been the hostess with the mostest. Going to stay at her place was like a hybrid of being at camp (because she always had fun new things for us to do) and staying in a beautiful holiday house with a great big guest bedroom, fluffy pillows, heaps of inflatable rafts for the pool, and every kind of popsicle and other summer snack foods you can imagine. (Hello, strawberries with marshmallow dip. I heart you.)
Looking back, going to her place in the summer was probably why I never enjoyed any ‘real’ camp experiences – they paled in comparison.
My cousin went away to university in the US, and a couple of years ago the rest of her family moved south of the border too. With my job back in Waterloo, as well as other life happenings, I was never able to make it down for a visit – until the wedding.
After all of the commotion of the weekend – the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, reception, Sunday mass, and the brunch that followed (plus all the getting pretty in between), we were all ready to kick off the high heels and relax. I was due to fly out on Monday afternoon, so my aunt invited us over for lunch and to hang out by the pool.
Back when I was a kid, I thought my aunt’s house in Ontario was one of the most gorgeous I’d ever seen. I take that back now, because her new house is my idea of absolute paradise. That backyard I asked you to visualize when you started reading? That’s my aunt’s backyard.
Even if only for a couple of hours, sitting there soaking it all in had me completely relaxed – a feeling I haven’t felt in a while. In fact, I can’t even remember what I was thinking about at the time, but it wasn’t work, blogging, training, packing, or any of the little things that cross my mind every day. I didn’t take any photos (because I really was making a point of unplugging for the weekend) but I wish I could have bottled up the experience. It was perfect.
I can’t take credit for the combination of ingredients in today’s recipe because I wasn’t the one who originally came up with them. Before relaxing poolside that afternoon, we had a bunch of leftover salads that my aunt had previously ordered from a caterer for lunch. Of course, Miss Salad Monster here was all over trying them.
My absolute favourite ended up being one whose ingredients didn’t seem particularly complementary to each other at the time, but completely took me by surprise. It was the perfect balance of crunch (mixed greens, tiny broccoli florets, walnuts), sweetness (corn, fresh green peas and tart dried cherries), and buttery softness thanks to tiny bits of avocado. After 3 bites, I fiercely typed all the ingredients I could see into a note on my phone, determined to buy them all when I got home and whip up a big batch.
I’m calling my re-creation a Summertime Quinoa and Greens Salad, and if you make just ONE new recipe this week, I promise this one will not disappoint.
Summertime Quinoa and Greens Salad
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
- ½ cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 4 cups mixed greens (I used a blend of beet greens, baby kale, spinach and Swiss chard), sliced into shreds
- ½ avocado, peeled, pitted and diced into small pieces
- 2 cups raw broccoli, cut into very small florets
- 1 cup yellow corn defrosted or well-rinsed and drained if previously canned
- 1 cup fresh green peas
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
Boil the quinoa in a small pot with the water for 10-12 minutes or until grains are puffy and water is absorbed. Set it aside in a bowl to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining salad ingredients.
Whisk together the dressing or shake it up in a mason jar.
When quinoa has cooled, add it into the salad and drizzle the dressing over top. (You may have leftovers, depending on how much you like to use.)
Toss to coat, then let the salad sit for 5-10 minutes so that the flavours can develop.
So tell me…
- When was the last time you completely switched off, unplugged and felt totally relaxed?
- How did you spend your most memorable summers as a kid?