Fast, Filling Lunch: Spinach Quinoa Salad

I used to be the hungriest human, always vaguely starving and on the edge of a blood sugar crash, wanting to eat all the food, all the time.

A couple of years ago, I cleaned up my already cleanish diet. I cut out all packaged foods, stopped drinking diet coke, and cut way back on my sugar and gluten intake. I also started eating a giant breakfast and lunch. Goodbye, packaged breakfast bar. Or, let’s be honest, skipping breakfast altogether. Hello, sweet potato hashbrowns, sauteed spinach, chopped tomatoes, chicken sausage and 2 fried eggs.

Shockingly, if I eat a big breakfast and a big lunch (like 500-700 calories big), I feel less like throttling someone and then eating a 1lb bag of gummy bears when 4pm rolls around. Who knew?

I sit down and eat lunch with my kids every day. It’s important to me that they see me prioritizing my own food and making time to enjoy my meals. But, I also have less than 10 minutes to get lunch together most days. And making real food takes more time that making processed food.

Enter the hero of real-food-eaters everywhere: Weekly Meal Prep. Either Sunday or Monday, I spend 1 hour prepping ingredients.

Here’s what I did this week:
*Cooked a batch of quinoa (2 cups, dry)
*Roasted asparagus and Brussels sprouts
*Made a jar of vinaigrette (1 part vinegar, 1 part EVOO, squeeze of dijon, squeeze of honey, salt and pepper to taste, shake in a mason jar until emulsified)
*Shredded 4 peeled sweet potatoes in the food proccessor (used for sweet potato hashbrowns for breakfast)
*Hard-boiled 6 eggs
*Washed and chopped bell pepper strips and carrot sticks

A quick 50 minutes of work on the front end meant yesterday I could make my lunch in 6 minutes.

This salad is my current favorite version of my go-to lunch strategy, which is basically quinoa + chopped greens + roasted vegetables + nuts + something umami + vinaigrette = lunch.

It’s fast and the quinoa bulks it up so you aren’t hungry 45 minutes after finish your lunch. The nuts, olives, and proscuitto make it feel satisfying, not like you’re eating a sad pile of lettuce when what you really wanted was a cheeseburger.


Spinach Quinoa Salad
serves 1

1 giant handful spinach, chopped into small pieces
1 heaping cup cooked quinoa
1 chopped tomato
6 roasted asparagus spears, chopped into 1″ pieces
6 kalamata olives, chopped
1T pinenuts
2 slices proscuitto, finely chopped
1T capers
3T vinaigrette

Toss everything together in a large bowl. Taste, add more vinaigrette and/or salt if needed.

*You can easily take this to go. Just pack your vinaigrette separately and add it at lunchtime.
*Don’t skip the spinach chopping step; it lets you get more of each ingredient in a bite.
*If you eat dairy, you would not feel sad about adding a couple of tablespoons of crumbled goat or feta cheese to this salad.

On Borrowed Time.

I keep a journal I write in every night. It’s a five-year journal, so each night I can look back at what was happening on the same day in previous years. I started year three in January, and the contrast of Penelope in 2014 and Penelope in 2016 is a chasm. The tiny details of our life with a 2-year-old I would have surely forgotten – what we were eating for dinner (sesame noodles), her favorite time of day (running around as a “wild and crazy nudey booty between dinner and bath”), the funny things she was saying (“Mama, this is not upsetting” when she spilled bath water on the floor) – bounce off the page and take me back.

Two years ago: “Tonight in the bath, P called herself ‘Penelope’ instead of ‘Pelope’ for the first time. Hugh and I were both instantly teary. She, on the other hand, could not have been more pleased with herself.”

For a few minutes, I am right back in that warm bathroom, back in that exact moment. I can see us giving Penel her bath, Hugh on the floor by the tub and me leaning against the edge of the sink, chatting and watching our fish flit around in the water. She sat up and started dumping water from one bath toy to another and said, “Penelope’s pouring water.” I remember Hugh and I looking at each other. He said, “did she just say…?” And then she said it again. And again. She was so proud, looking at us with her big grin. We grinned back. We cheered and exclaimed and bent down to hug her wet little body. Hugh squeezed my arm. We both blinked back tears. And just like that, she was Penelope forever more.


When I read it again, I can feel the feeling of my heart – the way it simultaneously swelled with pride and tightened with bittersweet acknowledgment. I can summon that familiar ache in an instant.

Since Ivy was born, Penelope has been very interested in growing and getting older. Many times each day, she asks, “Am I growing right now?” She is fascinated by the fact she is literally growing and changing a tiny bit each moment. I always answer, “Yes, you sure are. You are growing a little bit bigger right this very minute. Isn’t that wonderful?”

And it is. It is, of course, a joy and privilege to have two healthy, thriving children. I do not take it for granted. But, the passage of time is also a tiny bit of heartbreak every day.

As I see her becoming the person she is going to be, I feel a messy jumble of emotions – pride and gratitude and joy and sadness – all tangled together. I watch my lovely girl all day long. I try to memorize her. I take pictures. I write myself notes. I pour out everything I can think of into that journal at the end of the day.

And, yet, I know. I know no matter how present I am, how much I work to be only here, to appreciate right now without looking backward with longing or forward with worry, no matter how many notes I make or pictures I take or funny moments I text to Hugh, I know these days will fade away into a blur.


Already, I can conjure a highlight reel of them, my hazy, happy Penelope memories – the way she used to wave backwards, her chubby palm turned in; the squealing shriek she made to express her joy before she could talk; when she called hyenas hi-nennies; the tottering walk with both arms straight-up in the air; the way she only referred to herself in the third person; the way she couldn’t get both feet off the ground when she jumped – and they seem like a lifetime ago.

Before Penelope was born, I thought the letting go was one big moment. The college drop-off. That I would spend eighteen years building toward releasing her into adulthood.

But, by the time she leaves, I will have let her go over and over again. I will have cheered and clapped and smiled my biggest smiles for her thousands of times. I will have been standing there for her whole life, proud smile on my face and heart in my throat, as she inched away, looking back every now and then to make sure I was watching, so gradually I barely realized she was going.

At Home.

IMG_5804An end-of-the-week recap of what we’re doing, eating and reading:

Like everyone else, we are freezing cold and ready for Spring at this house. I am buying myself all the Spring flowers as a reminder we only have a few weeks to go. And, day dreaming about my garden.

One of the best lists of cooking tips I’ve seen, particularly 2, 19, 33, and 50.

Loved reading these thoughts on daughters and complimenting physical appearance. As a Mom, particularly the Mom of a daughter, this is something I think about every single day.

A great suggestion regarding sugar cravings.

We stripped Penelope down, gave her markers and let her do this last weekend. Kept her entertained for almost an hour.

Such good advice, whether you are a Mama or a writer or both.

It’s a weekend for cooking favorites at the Nadeau house. These quesadillas and this stromboli are on tap. Plus, Penel and I are surprising our best guy with a Key Lime Pie (shhh…). And, always, waffles (we favor the overnight batter).

I have been wearing these ankle boots almost every day since they came in October. They are the most comfortable pair of cold weather shoes I’ve owned and so easy to dress up or down.

Oh, Serial.

As of two weeks ago, we are flying through our list of pre-baby projects. Not the least of which is Finish Decorating This House, which is its own three page list of projects. You know, nothing major. Hugh hung this for me last weekend and it is making happy every time I look at it.

And, and oldie but goodie: she’s always been a Mama’s girl.

Happy weekending, friends! Hope you stay warm and eat pie.

Pregnancy Essentials: Second Trimester

My pregnancy with our second baby has been so different from the first. I felt pregnant pretty much from the moment the second line appeared at 3.5 weeks and spent the first fifteen weeks so, so sick. If I made a list of first trimester essentials, it would read like this: baked potatoes with butter and salt, sourdough toast, and lying on the couch trying to convince Penelope we should play a game called “rest.”

Thank goodness, I hit week 15 and the second trimester bliss arrived – the sickness and exhaustion and headaches disappeared, and I’ve felt great the last eleven weeks. Oh, and it’s flying by. I am 26 weeks today and I have no idea where the last 6 weeks have gone.

My first pregnancy, I am pretty confident that I did not think of one single thing unrelated to growing, birthing, clothing or raising Penelope for the entire 40 weeks. This time, I sit down to eat my lunch and baby girl kicks me in the bladder and I’m like, oh, I have to pee. And, oh, I’m pregnant!

Which is to say I just feel more like myself and less like a wild bundle of anxious, pregnant nerves. Probably good for everyone involved. These are the necessities that I’m happy I don’t have to live without:

bkr Glass Water Bottle – I’m obsessed with drinking enough water. I love this glass water bottle. It goes everywhere with me, keeps me hydrated and keeps my water from tasting like plastic. I have the 1L bottle and drink at least four per day.

New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Vitamin – You take this prenatal 3 times a day, which I love because you are able to actually absorb more of what you’re taking in small doses. I also take this fish-oil-free DHA. Both have been easy on my stomach.

Behance Action Book – Keeps all my lists organized and ideas and projects organized. This is a great post on how to use the book, if you, like I, geek out over other people’s work process.

Acure Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser – Pregnancy + winter make my skin even more dry and sensitive than normal. This face wash is the only thing I’ve found that removes my make-up, doesn’t dry my skin out and isn’t loaded with scary chemicals.

Relaxed T-shirt Dress (non-maternity) – Maybe because I was rolling right along with my capsule wardrobe when I got pregnant, but I have wanted to invest as little money and energy into my maternity wardrobe as possible. In keeping with the theme, I want comfortable clothes that make me feel like me. I have this dress in blue and grey and haven’t taken them off since they came. I am loving it right now with leggings and ankle boots, but am counting down the days until I can wear it with sandals and bare legs. I think it will be great postpartum, too. I ordered a small, and could probably wear an extra-small, which is my normal size at Gap.

Zella Leggings (non-maternity) – Ditto on my above sentiment. These non-maternity leggings are the best leggings I’ve owned, pregnant or not. They are thick but not hot. They do not fade. They do not pill. They are reversible. They make your butt look great. I have worn them every day for the last three months and they look brand new. You need them in your life. I got these in my pre-pregnancy size and the waistband is still working with my (very large) 26 week belly. I plan to wear them post-baby, too.

Modal Nightgown – The most comfortable, least frumpy maternity sleepwear I’ve tried. I wear this every. single. night.

February 2015 Goals

February 2015 Goals
I super-love goal setting. It fulfills both my need for achievement (check them off the list) and my love of self-improvement. Over the last six years, I have refined my methods to the point I feel like I have a system that really works for me.

At the end of each year, I reflect on the previous twelve months – what worked, what didn’t, what I want to do differently, what I want to do more of – and use this to help me set a master list goals for the upcoming year. Some of these goals are one-and-done tasks that get checked off the list (finish decorating house, beach trip, switch to all non-toxic household products). The rest are ongoing (eat whole foods, continue family dinners).

From my master list, I set monthly goals. At the end of each month I look at what I want to (and, feasibly, can) tackle in the upcoming month. This includes both one-and-done and ongoing goals.  I also evaluate my goals from the previous month to see what got done, what didn’t, and if the the things that didn’t get done need to be carried over or taken off the list.

Then, at the start of each week, I look at the monthly list and decide what I am going to work on for the week. If they are one-and-done, I pick a specific day for the goal and write it in my planner. If I’m focusing on an ongoing goal, for instance, move, I write a way I am going to work on it each day of that week (10K steps, yoga, family walk).

Most important is writing them down. And looking at them. Often. I keep my lists together in a notebook on my desk (pictured above) open to the monthly goal list. I look at it almost every day. To make things happen, I need to get them out of my head and in a place I am going to see them frequently. For me, this is the difference in getting them done and having a list of one-days I daydream about but never accomplish.

January 2015 Recap
–  Eat black-eyed peas and collards: Done. Also, this is one of our Fun Resolutions. Yes, I realizing making resolutions to have fun sounds decidedly Not Fun, but it keeps me from getting to the end of the year without doing a special holiday breakfast or eating watermelon with our feet in the pool.
–  Read 2 books: The Gifts of Imperfection and Teaching Montessori in the Home.
–  Write, daily: I’ll give myself a 40% on this. It is my big goal for the year, so I am happy with progress over perfection here.
–  Declutter office closet, hall closet, both bathrooms, P’s toys/closet/dresser: Hello, second trimester nesting. Nice to see you again.
–  Find new facewash: I am finishing our switch to non-toxic household and personal products this year. Tackling one or two things at time has made it much less overwhelming.
–  Restart Fletcher’s training: Our Boxer. I love him, but man is he crazy.
–  Finalize nursery plan and to dos: Done. Let the decorating begin.
–  Move: I’m back to wearing my fitbit, getting outside most days of the week, and doing some (very) basic prenatal yoga a few times a week.
–  Eat whole foods: I will nicely just call this a fail.

February 2015 Goals
–  Complete a Whole30: Today is day 3. I’m already happy not to be feeling so exhausted and grumpy, but this is round 2 for us so I know we’ve got miles to go.
–  Decorate, set the table and plan a fun Valentine’s meal w/ Hugh and P: Resolving to have fun is fun, people.
–  Read 2 books: Unrelated to parenting, birth, or childhood development.
–  Write daily. Post three days per week.
–  Start purchases for nursery and P’s big girl room.
–  Declutter office closet, basement: Godspeed, self.
–  Sew one basic project: Currently torn between a skirt for P and a foldover clutch.
–  Keep moving.
–  Continue Fletcher’s training: Longterm goal is to have him completely out of the crate when we aren’t here. Mainly so I can have the crate completely out of my house.

Let’s roll, February.

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