This winter has been deeply satisfying compared to last winter. First off, we are getting snow. Although the Colorado snowpack currently registers slightly above average, we find this exhilarating and refreshing. Second, Yuki is learning the ways of the Colorado Mountain Dog. Not only has she been our easiest dog to train, but she is loving her little snow adventures on the Nordic trails, the mountain, and in the backcountry. Third, Jeremy and I have been exploring new-to-us trails and scoping out potential mushroom spots for this spring/summer.
skinning up through bright and happy aspen forests
yuki’s first time on our favorite stretch of (dog-friendly) nordic trail
sunshine after the storm: grabbing powder on a bluebird morning
the winds sending prayers and mantras across the mountains
a colorful and stormy sunrise
You might think with all of the great snow this season that we would never want winter to end. Not so. I do love my winters very much, but I find joy in every season. The extra daylight as we inch closer to spring has my brain spinning in anticipation of crust cruising, the sound of snow melt trickling past newly sprouted blades of grass, hunting morels, the return of birds and their songs. Don’t even get me started on summer. We have high hopes for some big hikes and backpacking trips with Neva and Yuki. Of course, I am certain come July I will be pining for the cold starry nights, fluffy snow, and long-simmered stews of January. I love it all.
After the celebratory dishes for Chinese New Year, a chocolate shoot for a client, and recipe testing sweets, I just want to eat salad. These days my salads take on the hearty form of a meal in contrast to the delicate summer counterparts loaded with seasonal greens and presented as side-dishes. I like sweet, sour, crunchy, nutty, earthy components in my bowl. The beauty of the salad is that you include or omit ingredients according to your tastes. Here are some of my favorites.
beets, romaine lettuce, croutons, red cabbage, lentils, edamame, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, garbanzo beans
I find the easiest way for me to regularly eat salads is to prep the ingredients at the start of the week so that I essentially have a “salad bar” from which to pack or assemble my lunch. If you use dried lentils and beans, that means cooking them ahead of time. Of course, to save time, you can purchase cooked lentils (I’ve seen them pre-packaged at Trader Joe’s) and canned beans. Same applies to beets – you can cook them (roast or boil) or purchase them already cooked or pickled.
a half cup of dry lentils will yield about 1 1/2 cups of cooked lentils
toasting pumpkin seeds
Once you’ve invested the time in prepping the ingredients, the salad fixings can see you through a typical work week. I keep the salad components separate to avoid sogging up the toasted seeds and croutons or wilting the lettuce. In this instance, I’m making one giant salad, but on typical weeks I store the lettuce and cabbage together in one container, the legumes and beets in a another container, and the nuts and croutons on my kitchen counter. I also like to change things up from time to time like adding chopped boiled egg or a handful of chopped dried cranberries, shredded kale, toasted chopped almonds, baked tofu, farro, wheat berries, etc.
ready to make a salad
everything in the bowl (but the croutons which i add after the dressing)
Do you make or buy your salad dressing? I do both. I don’t think store-bought varieties can compete with homemade salad dressing, but if I find some brands I like, I keep them on hand for when time is tight. One of my go-to homemade dressings is a lemony Dijon vinaigrette, because I love it and always have those ingredients in my kitchen. It goes especially well with the lentils and beets.
lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, dijon mustard
whisk while drizzling the olive oil into the bowl
add some dressing to the salad
toss to coat (add more dressing as needed)
I add my croutons just before serving because I like that extra bit of crunchiness which can get lost when you toss the croutons in dressing and let the salad sit. If you want to avoid croutons/gluten, the toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds step in for the crunch factor (along with the cabbage), but I’m a fan of maximum crunch so I use them all. This substantial salad is filling enough to satisfy my appetite in winter, but light and bright to keep my mind focused on the coming spring.
top with croutons
healthy and delicious
Lentil Beet Salad
1/2 cup dried puy or green lentils or 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
1 1/2 cups beets, pickled, boiled, or roasted (peeled) and cut into pieces
4 cups red cabbage, shredded
5 cups lettuce, cut or torn, loosely packed
1 cup cooked kidney beans (or any cooked beans you like)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (or any cooked beans you like)
1 cup cooked edamame, shelled
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted or raw
1 cup croutons (optional)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Make the dressing: Mix the mustard and lemon juice together in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture while whisking vigorously. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 1 cup of dressing
To cook dry lentils: Pick the dried lentils over for any small rocks or debris. Rinse and drain the lentils. In a small saucepan, cover the lentils in 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are tender. Drain and rinse the lentils in cold water.
Make the salad: Place all of the ingredients except the croutons in a large bowl. Pour some dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Add more dressing as desired. Sprinkle the croutons over the salad just before serving and toss to incorporate. Serves 4-6.
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