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i’ll leave you with lovelies (lots of pics)

Recipe: greek beef/chicken salad with tahini-yogurt dressing

My favorite weather to hike in is overcast and cool (50s F). That was the forecast for Boulder this morning, my last “good” morning before my body is overrun with side effects from: my primary drugs, my secondary drugs (to treat side-effects), and my tertiary drugs (to treat side-effects from the secondary drug side-effects). Even so, round #5 wasn’t quite done with me and I’ve gained 10 pounds of fluid in the form of swelling over the last 2 days. Uncomfortable, painful… annoying as hell.

But I wasn’t to be deterred because I knew if I didn’t go wildflower peeping, they might up and bloom and wither away before I am well enough to see them after chemo #6. Jeremy knows how important this is to me – to get out right before I go down for the count. He offered to spend the morning with me and chaperone the pup (deprived of her rightful hiking all winter and spring) while I got my fix.

signature boulder: the flatirons in clouds

We were early, as in the wildflowers are just beginning to ramp up. Three years ago we wandered to this same spot after closing on our beautiful house in the mountains – our first home – ours. Although the Flatirons are a gorgeous location, it gets too hot for us winter-lovers past early May and we typically stick to our beloved high country, just out of our backyard. Today, the weather was perfect and I was able to spy out the early-blooming local inhabitants among the damp grasses.

golden banner

wild plum



I relished the smell of the blossoms hanging in the air which was heavy with moisture – uncommon for Boulder. The mud underfoot accumulated on our trail runners, building up platform shoes which we gleefully kicked off in cakes every hundred yards. Jeremy, ever-concerned about my health, inquired as to how I was feeling. I felt happy. This is my medicine, to be outside and breathe this air and see Beautiful Nature around me in her unsurpassed glory. This is my place of worship. If I couldn’t step outside into the mountains and the woods ever again, I would know it was time to check it in. My body ached with the swelling, but it didn’t matter because my heart was soaring.

being a good girl (for once)

There was a lovely Kiwi we met in New Zealand a few years back. He was a guide for a paddle and hike we did on Milford Sound one afternoon. Have you ever been to Milford Sound? It’s magical. The sight of it made my friend, Laura, cry tears of joy. It was pissing rain when Jeremy and I were there. I mean it was pissing rain by New Zealand standards (over 23 feet or 7 meters of precipitation annually). And it was breathtaking. As we walked through the sopping wet, lush forest, Sam paused by some ferns and explained what they represented to New Zealanders. The pride and reverence he felt for the native Maori was obvious. Did I mention he was a hottie? Hottie aside, what struck me most was when he told us why he remained in New Zealand. With all of the sincerity in the world and perhaps a tear emerging in his eye (or was that the pissing rain?), he said the Maori have a saying, “Stand where your heart is strongest.” Jeremy and I took that to heart and shortly after returning to the States, we decided to make Colorado our home. Home is where your heart is. I feel this is where my heart is strongest.

toms and cukes

Now on to that salad we served at the chocolate tasting. Nicole had requested the tahini-yogurt (yogurt-tahini, whatever) dressing recipe and she is not a woman to deny a request. Are you nuts?! :) The beef from the other night was flank steak, but here I’m using skirt steak. I love them both and I dare say so will you.

slice into decent-sized chunks

skewered for the grill after a 24-hour soak in marinade-goodness

While I am a huge fan of delicious chunks of feta, I push this feta through a sieve to achieve a snowy, light texture. Do what you want, but the fluffy feta is really amazing.

maybe i like it because it reminds me of snow… salty, creamy, snow

The tahini-yogurt dressing doesn’t come from Aladdin’s in Ithaca, NY. I had to fudge this recipe myself because they never gave it to me (well, I never asked). I searched a few online recipes and futzed around until I got something Jeremy approved of. Tahini, full-fat plain yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, coriander, crushed garlic, honey. It’s thick. I added olive oil to thin it up, but eventually water did the job much more efficiently and without adding a million more calories. The salad also tastes great with a balsamic vinaigrette.

mixing the tahini and yogurt

My salad is the real thing. Jeremy’s salad is an imposter because he doesn’t dig on tomatoes or olives. What is up with that? Now you have an idea of what an amazing stud he must be for me to still get all a-twitter over him in spite of these insults to my culinary sensibilities. See you guys on the other side.

teh salad

Greek Beef/Chicken Salad with Tahini-Yogurt Dressing
[print recipe]
inspired by Aladdin’s Souvlaki/Chicklaki plate

salad greens
ripe tomatoes
young cucumbers
kalamata olives
feta cheese
chicken kebabs or beef kebabs
tahini-yogurt dressing

beef kebabs
1 pound skirt or flank steak
1 lemon, juice of
3 tbsps olive oil

tahini-yogurt dressing
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 cup honey
pinch of ground coriander
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
water to thin

Beef kebabs: Slice the beef into large cubes. Place in a ziploc bag with the rest of the ingredients and mix well (squeeze out the air, seal the bag, and massage the ingredients around). Marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Skewer the beef without packing the pieces too tightly. Grill over high heat to desired doneness.

Tahini-yogurt dressing: Smash the garlic clove under the flat side of a sturdy knife. Mince the garlic and sprinkle some salt over it. With the flat of the blade, mash the salt into the garlic until it resembles a paste. Scoop that up and place it in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients (except for the water). Stir it all together and taste it. Adjust ingredients to taste. Add water to achieve the pouring consistency desired.

Set a bed of greens down on a plate or bowl. Add cucumber, tomato, and olives. Sprinkle with some feta. Top the salad with a skewer or two (depending on quantity) of the beef or chicken kebab. Serve with dressing.

35 nibbles at “i’ll leave you with lovelies (lots of pics)”

  1. Bron says:

    Milford is indeed a magical place, so loved by me – and in fact ‘the venue’ for our wedding day.
    Hold on to that strength in your heart, will be thinking of you.

  2. jennywenny says:

    Aw, you’ve made me get a bit of a lump in my throat. I definitely feel that NZ has a very special place in my heart, and I hope that one day we might call it home. Southern California isnt exactly the worst place to live either, we do like it here a lot too, every now and then I get that feeling when I see the golden sun bathing everything.

    Good luck with the treatment. I’m sure your time outdoors will make you stronger for it. Get well soon.

  3. Kathy says:

    You are such an inspiration! I love your blog — so full of life!!!

  4. Bridget says:

    Last one last one last one!!!!! And then you’ll be free!

    I have not found my place…but I’m looking forward to it.

  5. Lori says:

    wow. I am always wowed by you. I am relatively new to your blog. But I have NEVER been disappointed. I admire and respect you for many things. I do love your food, philosophy, pictures, sense of humor and your strength. And I so understand what you mean about your flowers and the nature all around you, it is my spiritual walking ground too.

  6. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    What a gorgeous salad. Glad to hear you had a great time in New Zealand! (we seem to love external validation) What beautiful photos…Good luck :)

  7. Merry says:

    I absolutely LOVE your blog. Good luck tomorrow & in the coming days. You will be in my thoughts.

  8. adam says:

    I wish you the best of luck!!!

  9. Amanda says:

    I swear, sometimes reading your posts makes me realize what life is all about. The struggle, the pain, but also the beauty in the little details that surround. Honestly, if everyone could take a minute out of their lives to look at the world around them, and savor each second, the world would be a happier place. I look forward to hearing about all the R&R you will hopefully be getting soon.

  10. Christine says:

    Jen – I looked at some of the photos from our NZ trip and they are simply stunning. I really can understand how moving it must have been to stand amidst all that beauty. How does one arrange for a local Maori hottie tour guide, anyway? :)

    I loved the photos from the flatirons too. The dewy blossoms are gorgeous.

    And that salad kicks ass, girlfriend!

  11. Lynn says:

    Thanks for sharing the beauty of a Colorado spring. Virtual hug to you.

  12. Psychgrad says:

    Oooh…I’m excited about this tahini yogurt dressing. I bought a bunch of tahini for hummus and wasn’t sure what to do with it all. Beautiful pictures!

    I hope everything goes as well as it can tomorrow and over the next little while you recover from this last round of chemo.

  13. zoe / puku says:

    awwww.. another kiwi chuffed at the aroha you are spreading about our beloved Aotearoa!

    hope it goes well, ka kite ano (roughly translated = goodbye person leaving; have a protected journey, see you again) xxx

  14. Holly says:

    That is my kind of salad. Beautiful, beautiful pictures! My husbnd just asked me what I wanted to do for Mothers Day and now I know I want to go check out the wildflowers here too. I keep forgetting that as long as the weather is nice we can take the baby (was a preemie) outside. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that this last round will go at least hopefully a little easier this time.

  15. Kalyn says:

    Beautiful photos, and hope the treatment will go well this time.

  16. Shoshanna says:

    All the best for a super speedy recovery Jen! I guess I can survive a few days without being addicted to your blog. :P

    BTW, yummy greek salad….mmm…your recipes never fail to make me drool..haha

  17. Mrs Ergul says:

    Last chemo! You & your fighter spirit are always in my mind. You are just gonna do better after this whole chemo shit is over! You have touched more than 1 heart and I think you have revived a lot of lives. You’re a champion!

  18. Chanit says:

    Thank you ,
    It looks like an Israeli food in this post , I like it ! :-)
    Your have beautiful photos .

  19. Lan says:

    ok, seriously not to freak you out but i’ve developed a blog crush on you. you bake/cook, take beautiful pictures and have such an incredible sense of humor. i want to be like you when i grow up.

    be well soon!

  20. Bri says:

    Thanks for taking us on a walk in Boulder Jen! I’ll be thinking about you over the next days, you’re almost there! All the best, Bri

  21. Bunst says:

    I came across your site when I googled candied orange peel for a mother’s day cake I’m looking forward to making on saturday for my mom…so your meta tags are working bc it was on the first page. Your photos are amazing and your conversational style in your recipe descriptions is great. Your site is inspirational. I’ve been a bit blue lately and you snapped me out of it. I’m actually stunned. Thank You.

  22. manggy says:

    That scenery is just breathtaking! Nice of the atmosphere to give you guys some moisture, too. I would shed a tear too (CRYER!! lol)! I think the day I become cold-blooded I’ll go for a ride into Colorado and experience a place where 50°F is just “cool”! The flowers will always be there for you, even if it’s not next week :) Just in case they’re not, here’s a cheesy text flower to sub in till they do. @>–>– Hahaha.

    I hope this is the last we see of those vile (but ultimately helpful) poisons for you. I want there to be like a week-long daily posting of the celebration of its ending :)

    Anyway: Lovely salad! It’s augmented by that perfectly juicy steak in it (would you believe I’ve not had a salad with beef in it?). Tahini can only be bought at a deli (I’ll just assume middle Eastern markets are too far), so I’m wondering if Mark Bittman’s recipe works just as well (though I’m not a sesame fan). You’re quite clever with the water– who knew, right?! What is this magical thinning substance?! :D

  23. julia says:

    just started reading – i think your writing is fantastic. good luck with the treatment!

  24. Maja says:

    Good luck with the last round, can’t wait to hear you’re back and healthy! I loved your comment about the “strong heart”, my bf and i are talking about our future house (yes, we’re daydreaming together) and i’m a mountain person, too, though i loooove to swim in the sea (i love sea, too, but then again, who doesn’t), so i really want to flee the city and live close to the mountains, Slovenia is so small as it is that it wouldn’t be like it’s a half a day drive to civilization, an hour and you’re in the capital from virtually every side of the country (ok, on highway, if you have to drive on the local roads with their turns it takes you an hour to make 20 kms in a straight line, but those are just details ;)). I loved your pictures of nature, it does the same to me, now that everything is blooming and turning green, i sometimes, when i get tired of my computer, lean out the window and just grin, looking at the trees and everything around.
    I’m intrigued by your salad dressing, i have some tahini sauce i did a while ago, sitting in the fridge doing nothing (i used part of it for hummus), now it has a purpose.
    I’ll be thinking of you, you can do it :),
    hugs and kisses, Maja

  25. Aidan says:

    I have had your blog bookmarked for ages – you’re local (I’m in Boulder too), take beautiful photos, and have the most awesome recipes. I also used to be a chinese interpreter, and you regularly provide me with recipes for some of the dishes I love and miss.

    So basically, I worship you as a goddess. :)

    Hope you’re feeling better!

  26. haya says:

    this sounds amazing. i’m excited to try it out later this summer when grilling season starts for real, and i can get farm-fresh veggies. thanks!

  27. Kevin says:

    This salad looks great! I like the idea of reducing the feta to such small pieces.

  28. Steph F. says:

    This salad looks amazing! In fact, you are pretty amazing. Best wishes, here’s to you feeling 200% as great as ever soon.

  29. peabody says:

    Nature is a wonderful medicine. Glad you got to enjoy your hike. Our dog is so lazy that when we take her hiking we have to carry her the way back.
    The salad is gorgeous!

  30. White On Rice Couple says:

    Gosh, oh gosh, it’s beautiful. I’m so glad that you are out and surrounded by your elements and have found a home for your heart, in Colorado. Not to be joking here, I’m really having an Oprah moment right now and tearing up as I write this ( I cry at everything). The great outdoors is really my medicine too and it’s where I find my spirituality, my reasoning, my sanity.
    Years ago, when I was still in Olympic NP, I swore to myself that I would never, ever lose sight of my first love, the mountains and the outdoors. I made a promise to myself that no matter where the chaos of life takes me, I’ll always make time for my beloved mountains and strive to make some type of living where I can be surrounded by natures beauty. Hold on…I need a sec…I can’t see my screen…wipe, wipe, sniff, sniff. Although I’m in the concrete jungle of the city, there is never a day that goes by that makes me think of what I can do to get me back to the sanctuary of the mountains. Sometimes I feel that I’m getting closer to that goal, but another obligation will come out of no where that will hold me back. Still, I know where my heart belongs and it’s just a matter of time.
    I love golden banners, have not seen them in so long. Finding anything in the Lupinus species is thrilling, especially in a high elevation meadow such as that in your picture. Hopefully some indian paintbrush and other purple Lupinus species will bloom, giving the meadow a picture perfect Spring explosion. Can you take a picture of that for me? Dogwoods are what I really miss seeing in Spring. One year, we did an over-nighter to Yosemite and caught the Dogwoods exploding in the Valley. That was a first for me , I’ll never forget that experience and it was worth the long drive. My absolute favorites are Colombines, anything and everything Aquilegia. Our local mountains here only, for a very short period, have Aquilegia formosa, the scarlet colombine. I’ve seen a few other varieties too, but they just don’t last that long in our dry So Cal mountains. There is a very special river bed along a trail in the San Bernadino’s that would have an explosion of the Formosa sp. that I used to rush to during Spring. My heart would race (botanist nerd) when I found them at their peak, they’re like elegant shooting stars. Back in the day, I would have loved to study Colombines in high elevation meadows in Colorado, but I felt devoted to staying with my first love, the Eastern Sierra’s.
    I just wanna hug Kaweah right now. She’s such a cutie, so sweet.
    Fluffy Feta Salad…great idea. I love the salt of feta and get my fix in big chunks, like a snorting feta loving pig. I’ll try being a lady for my next salad and fluff the feta!

  31. jenyu says:

    Bron – what a wonderful place to be married. How very special. Thank you!

    Jennywenny – we too consider NZ a place to settle some day… perhaps :) Thanks for the good vibes.

    Kathy – thank you!

    Bridget – well, then I start radiation, but it will be much better than chemo!! Keep searching, you’ll know it when you find it :)

    Lori – a kindred spirit :) Thanks for your kind words.

    Laura – oh, I can’t shut up about NZ. Absolutely love it there. One of my favorite places on Earth :)

    Merry – thank you, you’re very sweet!

    Adam – thanks!

    Amanda- ah well, this is just what my life is about. People are certainly entitled to their versions and I think many exist :) Thanks for the encouragement!

    Christine – oh, Sam is not Maori, although he is an artist who works closely with Maori and their culture. However, he is most certainly a hottie :) Luck of the draw, he was our paddling guide when we signed up! My salads are nothing to your salads, woman… :)

    Lynn – awww, thank you!

    Psychgrad – I have the same problem using up tahini! That’s why I like this dressing (or else the tahini will languish for a while). Thank you for your kind sentiments!

    Zoe – see why I love all things NZ?!? What an incredibly concise and powerful language, eh? You know what I really love? The Haka!!! :) Thank you for that lovely saying.

    Holly – I hope you have a wonderful time getting out and enjoying the natural beauty with your baby. Kids are lucky to grow up knowing what is green and beautiful :) I doubt this one will be any easier (each one has been tougher, in fact), but the knowledge that it’s the last one is friggin’ huge! Thank you :)

    Kalyn – thank you, love!

    Shoshanna – thanks so much :)

    Mrs. Ergul – you’re too kind, sweetie. Thank you.

    Chanit – thanks!

    Lan – well, hopefully you won’t get cancer ;) Thanks for the encouraging words. I hope to return to our regularly scheduled programming in due time!

    Bri – thank you!!

    Bunst – no, thank YOU for writing. If we can make a difference in someone else’s life, then I think we should consider ourselves fortunate, no? So glad to do it, and I hope you’ll do the same for someone else! xxoo

    Mark – hello dear! We have warmer weather on tap in… oh a few months! But that’s when I hike at 5 am to avoid the heat! ha ha ha. Thank you for the ascii flower – that is so sweet of you :) xxoo Trust me, I have many plans related to fooding once my chemo is done! Even radiation sounds like a walk in the park (so to speak) compared to chemo. How can you have not had beef in a salad before? Have you even tried any of those amazing salads that Christine has posted? For shame ;) I actually like the Viet style beef salads to this one.

    Julia – thank you.

    Maja – it always makes my mind and heart feel clear and full when I can settle my eyes on the beautiful outdoors – even more so when I can travel through it. You will find the right place at the right time and you’ll know when you have. Thanks for the good thoughts. xxoo right back at you!

    Aidan – ha ha, you’re too kind! I am no goddess, just OCD and hyper ;) Thanks for you’re sweet comment.

    Haya – mmm, fresh veggies… I am jealous!

    Kevin – I’d have never thought of it myself, but I love it!

    Steph F – thank you so much!

    Peabody – So I want to know who carries the pup out?? :)

    WoRC – you so crack me up! What are you going to do when we’re in So Cal to visit? Just cry the whole time?? ;) I think you and T have built quite the gorgeous paradise right in your backyard. It is enough to transport anyone to a happier place. Email me your mailing addy, hon. I have just the cure for your blues (although it may take a couple of weeks). The Eastern Sierra is also one of my loves – probably #1. Ranking up there is NZ and CO :) As for Kaweah – I think she ate deer poop after that picture ;) xxoo

  32. White On Rice Couple says:

    Sniffing….ok….I’ll send ya my addy….sniff…

  33. Antonio Tahhan says:

    I never knew you’ve been up to my neck of the woods (aka ithaca)! I love Aladdin’s, but never tasted their tahini-yogurt sauce; and now, how can I resist? I’ll see if my friends want to go this weekend and then I can try this celebrity sauce you speak of…

  34. Rachel says:

    Absolutely beautiful photography. I will be in Boulder in July for a wedding, I already ordered a climbing book for the Flatirons. Can’t wait! I hope you continue to feel better.

  35. jenyu says:

    WoRC – good :) thanks!

    Antonio – ah yes, ye olde Ithaca days ;) I have mixed feelings about the place, but it should be incredibly beautiful right about now. Are you staying the whole summer in Ithaca? Love Aladdin’s. I miss CTB too!

    Rachel – the Flatirons will be lovely in July, but the high country will start blooming wildflowers! I hope you have a great time. Boulder is so pretty in summer!

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