A Salad for Autumn

autumn salad

I’ve been pretending it’s autumn around here, roasting root vegetables and stewing meat and baking with maple syrup all while ignoring the roar of the air conditioning units in our windows trying (and mostly failing) to keep out the heat.

LA is a city of micro-climates and right now most of them are either hot or hotter. When we’re driving around Sorin and I entertain ourselves by watching the outdoor temperature rise or fall, depending on the direction we drive. Monday it was 90 when I left our house and over 100 degrees when I pulled into a grocery store 7 miles away. One hundred degrees is great if you’re sitting by a pool with a Mai Tai. It’s not so great when you’re in Glendale running errands with a toddler. In September.

Last weekend we fled west to the beach, relieved as the temperature dropped ten degrees or more and the cool breeze from the ocean allowed us to shut off the AC and open the car windows. For the first time in a week O stopped yelping from her car seat, “my back is sweaty! my back is sweaty!”

SantaMonica

It was a perfect lazy Sunday. Such a relief not to be uncomfortably hot. On most Sunday drives our first stop is for coffee and this time we lucked out, stumbling onto a good coffee shop with an ice cream shop next door. I discovered that iced coffee can actually be good when it’s made from lightly sweetened espresso topped off with sparkling water and served in a real glass. O discovered that those quarter operated mini merry-go-rounds with three little horses  are not her favorite thing, but chocolate ice cream cones are. Lick by lick she ate the whole giant cone and then needed a full body wipe down and entire change of clothes afterwards.

icecream

O&Pink

We also stumbled upon an open house in Santa Monica and tried to act like real adults as we casually strolled through. “We could be really rich,” I whispered to Sorin, “they don’t know.” But I’m sure the realtors did know (we don’t pull off filthy-rich very well) and we skedaddled after only checking out the first floor and guest house. And then we tried not to draw attention to ourselves with snickers and expletives when we realized the selling price was 8 million dollars. Eight….million. An eight million dollar house with blue carpet from 1987 and ugly kitchen cabinets and tile you’d want to replace. So really, it was an eight million dollar fixer-upper.

I have to tell you, it feels really good to walk through an 8 million dollar house and not want it. Not even a little bit. If you’ve ever been house hunting you know what I mean when I say that for no particular reason some houses feel right and others don’t. This house just didn’t have it, that special unexplainable thing. At least not for us.

It’s always fun to escape to the west side for a few hours. And then I’m always really happy to get the hell outta there and head back to our grungy but loveable neighborhood on the east side.

These past two weeks I’ve been completely consumed by what’s going on in my little corner of LA. And by little corner, I mean within the walls of my own house. I’ve been immersing myself in work and spending a great deal of time thinking about what I want to accomplish before the year is over. I’ve been trying to be healthier and cook healthier and stay healthy while O and Sorin battled the first cold of the season, one that arrived right on schedule at the end of the first school week. I’ve been helping O conquer her anxiety about returning to school, coming up with a million ideas and hoping one will work. We’ve checked out library books about how fun school is, we’ve had many conversations about what it means to feel nervous, we’ve baked cookies to bring to her teachers and friends and made a magical bracelet out of pink and purple pipe-cleaners that helps her be brave.  I’ve also been potty training and house cleaning and grocery shopping and having the occasional get-together with friends.

Frankly, what’s going on in my corner of the universe isn’t all that interesting. Most of my days are made up of all those little necessary things that keep our family humming along. Mostly, I don’t mind. I like my life. I’m not bored with my life. But sometimes, I’m bored with myself.

There was a time when I was more interesting, more curious, more aware of what was going on in the world beyond my front door. Right now I feel like the subject matters I can speak most passionately about and at great length are potty training and separation anxiety and which playground has the most shade. All of these things are affecting my life right now and so in that way they’re interesting but they are not actually interesting. Or important.

Mental health issues and gun control are important. Syria is important. The new health care laws are important. People going hungry in this country of abundance is important. The economy is important.

Since having a child I feel like I’ve become wiser but dumber. I read headlines, but not full articles. I catch snippets on NPR.  I kinda know what’s going on but rarely know all the who, what, where, when and why’s about any given issue in the world.

But I’m starting to wake up and come out of the fog I’ve been in. I want to know what’s going on in the world and I want to be part of the conversation again. After all, it’s the world I’m going to send my child out to live in.

I will read more news articles from start to finish! I will pay more attention! And until I’m fully caught up, I’ll cheat just a little bit.

The Skimm

I recently signed up for this  “daily newsletter that simplifies the headlines for the educated professional who knows enough to know she needs more. We do the reading for you and explain it with fresh editorial content, breaking down what you need to know to start the conversation.”

I find their “fresh” editorial content to be a little annoying and trying too hard to be clever. I might be too old for The Skimm. But it does break down big issues into easily digestible summaries, like why the Fed is continuing its economic stimulus bond-buying program.

The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet 

It covers more news items than The Skimm does, but I wish they’d focus only on real issues. It’s often an odd mix of hard news and pop culture, a paragraph about Syrian President Assad denying use of chemical weapons followed by a paragraph about Kate Moss posing nude for Playboy.

If you’ve made it this far through all my rambling, good lord, you deserve a recipe. And speaking of the lord, how about that new Pope? As a lapsed Catholic, I can say that there’s hope for the catholic church yet. (See, I’m brushing up on my current events already).

roasted things

A Salad for Autumn, Even If  You Live in a City Without Autumn
Adapted from Gwynie’s cookbook It’s All Good

The idea here is simple: roast vegetables, toast pumpkin seeds, whisk together a maple-Dijon salad dressing and toss the whole thing together with salad greens (arugula is my first choice).

This recipe makes a big batch of roasted veggies, about 6 servings. I save some on the side for O, put some in the fridge to use throughout the week and then turn the rest into a salad for the husband and I. Or, you could just make one really big salad, like I did for a dinner party last week.

There’s enough dressing for a few salads. It’s surprisingly good over black beans and avocado, too.

O surprised me by liking the pumpkin seeds; your kids might like them as well, covered with any kind of spice or just salt.

Ingredients: 

2 to 3 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half or fourths
2 to 4 shallots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Garam Marsala (or a blend of cumin and coriander is good, too)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425 F

Put the beets, rutabaga and potatoes in a large bowl and coat with olive oil (about 1/4 cup) and a light sprinkle of salt. Spread them out on a large baking sheet (parchment paper will keep the veggies from sticking to the pan).

IMG_2129

Coat the Brussels sprouts with oil and the shallots. Lightly salt. Spread them out on another pan.

Roast, stirring occasionally, until done. I take the shallots and Brussels sprouts out after 30 minutes and the rest of the veggies stay in for 45 to 55 minutes.

In a small bowl, toss the pumpkin seeds with olive oil, Garam Masala and salt. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes while the veggies are roasting. The seeds should get crispy and be very lightly browned; keep on eye on them so they don’t burn.

roasted pumpkin seeds

In a small bowl combine the Dijon, vinegar, syrup and a pinch of salt (about 1/4 tsp). Slowly whisk in the olive oil. For a sweeter dressing with less bite, add another teaspoon or two of maple syrup.

Toss the roasted veggies with arugula or another green, pumpkin seeds and salad dressing.

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