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.

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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.

Notes:
*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.

A Cookie for Your Spirits.

So, you might have heard that the South got a little bit of snow yesterday.

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Here in Birmingham, we were supposed to get barely a dusting and ended up with easily two inches.

The thing that makes snow so exciting for a place that never gets any, the novelty, also makes it a bit of a catastrophe. No one knows what to do.

As the snow began falling late yesterday morning, everyone started trying to get home and get to their kids. What resulted was standstill traffic, cars abandoned all over the city, people stuck at work, kids stuck at school.

I got a call from Hugh around 6:00pm that he wasn’t going to be able to make it home from the hospital. With the way the roads were and the below-freezing temperatures we were supposed to have all day today, we knew that meant he probably wouldn’t be able to drive home until after work on Thursday.

I was all, chin up, no big deal. We are all safe and sound and that’s what matters and we’ll see you on Thursday. But as the evening hours ticked on, I got a little bit melancholy about the prospect of three days alone.

After moping around the house and feeling sorry for myself for a few hours, I remembered that, in a flash of brilliance, I had frozen two uncooked chocolate chip cookies in the freezer last time I made a batch.

These, my friends, are not just any chocolate chip cookies. They are the best chocolate chip cookie you will ever eat. They are the big gun of cookies. I have never served them to anyone without getting declarations of cookie nirvana. They are the cookie that makes you stop making other chocolate chip cookies. They are it.

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So, at 9:30pm, I pulled my cookies out of the freezer, popped them in the oven, and 15 minutes later I had two perfect lift-your-spirits cookies ready to eat.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, I got a call from my best guy that he was walking up the hill to our house. He had driven halfway home from the work and then had to abandon his car when he started sliding backward on the ice. A stranger stopped and helped him push the car to the side of the road, and then the police pulled up and offered Hugh a ride. They got him to the entrance to our neighborhood, and then he walked to the rest of the way.

He said it was easily one of the stupidest things he’s ever done. I could not have been more relieved to see him trudging up to our house, cold and very shaken up.

I even let him have my other cookie.

Notes:

After you make the cookie dough, it needs to rest in the fridge for 24 – 36 hours. You may be tempted to write-off this recipe because of that, as I did the first three times I read it. Learn from my mistakes and just make the cookies. They are worth the pre-planning.

Also, if you want to freeze them to pull out when you want to be like, “Oh, these? Just a little something I whipped up to woo you/pep you up/make you think I’m the best baker of all time,” simply stick them in the freezer on a baking sheet after you have scooped them out in 1/3 cup portions. Once they are frozen through, pop them into a plastic bag. When you are ready, just add a few minutes to the baking time.

I’m not going to post the recipe here. I only post recipes that are my own or that I adapt enough to make them feel like my own.  And, these cookies are completely perfect just as written.