Last Sunday morning I was so rudely awakened by the sound of my phone alarm. I stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen in a state of confusion, wondering why it was still so dark. It’s not a work day, after all, so what’s with the sounding alarm before the hour of dawn? I had forgotten about that “spring forward” thing, but my very smart phone did not. Sleep is a pretty precious commodity and I do hate to lose even an hour of it. However, this little shift in time does bring back those daylight hours for evening walks with clouds and sunsets that I long for during the winter months. This subtle time shift also triggers a seasonal transition in the kitchen, as the root vegetables begin to dwindle and the early spring greens begin to make an appearance in the weekly produce box. Having not been much in the mood for hearty winter cooking this year, I have been looking forward to this particular change. So, I have been doing a little spring cleaning in the kitchen lately, trying to find creative ways to use up the last of Winter’s roots and greens and make way for the lighter, brighter spirit of Spring. And though my project started out slightly uninspired, I somehow managed to clear a path to an unexpected adventure.
My lack of seasonal cooking inspiration during the past few months has led to quite a surplus of root veggies and earthy greens. I managed to make a small dent with a few inspired dishes recently, but I still had quite a few to use. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I just washed and prepped and waited for the creativity to flow.
I waited patiently for that flow of creativity, but there wasn’t even a trickle. So, I went out hunting for inspiration. I turned to my newest favorite cookbook, the one by with all the beautiful photos that are bound to inspire. I discovered a recipe for a Butternut Squash and Millet Pilaf that sounded appealing. I rarely cook with millet, but I recently bought a bag that has been hanging around, just begging for a purpose. And the butternut was all chopped and ready to go, so this was a quick and easy dish. Not to mention delicious and very satisfying. I enjoyed it for lunch with plenty left over for a quick dinner side dish and a packed lunch during the week to come. (This recipe, and many other beautifully simple whole food creations, can be found in At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin.)
Now what. That creativity still stubbornly refused to flow, so I turned to my own random collection of seasonal concoctions and I was reminded of this Fresh Start Salad. Just the thing for that monster-sized watermelon radish that’s been hanging around for quite some time now. I do love having a big bowl of chopped salad ready and waiting in the fridge. It makes for easy and healthy lunch choices on busy workdays when I fail to set aside the time to prepare a proper packed lunch in advance.
My salad was delicious and nutritious, but I still had a nice amount of produce to use. Hmmm…well, those earthy winter vegetables are perfectly suited for The Bowl. Whether you prefer a Nourish Bowl, a Buddha Bowl or a beautiful Abundance Bowl, The Bowl is a perfect way to bring together any assortment of healthy veggies, grains and greens for a simple nourishing meal. I used up some of my sweet potatoes, pan-fried with coconut oil and a sprinkling of smoked paprika. I sautéed a bunch of those mixed greens (collards, mustard and chard) with garlic slices and dash of salt and pepper. With some tri-colored quinoa, garbonzo beans, avocado and a dollop of hummus on top, this bowl made a nice protein-packed lunch, which I thoroughly enjoyed during one of my sneak-away-workday-playground-picnics. This weather is perfect for picnics!
Though these dishes were all gratifying and satisfying, I was still feeling rather uninspired. I do enjoy creating and concocting my own seasonal “recipes” (I use that term loosely, mind you) using what I have on hand, but sometimes I just need someone else to tell me what to make and how to cook it. It suddenly occurred to me, why not turn to the people who bring me this beautiful box of locally grown organic produce every week? The folks over at Abundance Harvest Organics always have a collection of recipes on their blog, centered around the contents of the weekly box, so I went looking for inspiration. I noticed they were having a little photo contest, looking for photographs to showcase a few of their seasonal recipes. Well…that kind of sounded like fun, why not? Of the seven posted recipes, I decided to try these three: Roasted Beet and Mandarin Orange Salad, Chicken Broccoli and Bok Choy and Okonomiyaki.
I really loved this Roasted Beet and Mandarin Orange Salad. There’s nothing to it really, but the combination of those sweet roasted beets and mandarins lightly dressed in a simple vinaigrette was just the thing to welcome Spring back into the kitchen. It reminded me a bit of this sunny salad and I’ll be making it again, I think.
We have had an abundance of bok choy this season, in several different varieties. I enjoyed using up that large head of choy, still lingering in the fridge, making this big bowl of Chicken Broccoli and Bok Choy. Again, this was such a simple dish, not much to it, but a satisfying meal nonetheless. I do admit, however, to choosing the vegetarian version for myself. This is the kind of meal that lends itself well to modification, making it easy to please both the carnivores and the herbivores with one simple dish. Now that’s my kind of meal.
And then there was this Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pizza of sorts, made with cabbage and leeks. I’ve never heard of this before and the mysterious often appeals to me. Besides which, I had a ton of green cabbage and no idea how to use it. This is a very simple, one-pan dish that packs up nicely in a lunchbox and can be eaten warm or cold. I do think it could use a little accompanying sauce or topping, as I have an affinity for saucy things. I’ll have to experiment with that, next time. I made a gluten-free version of this dish by simply swapping out the whole wheat with a gluten-free rice flour.
My spring cleaning project turned out to be a fun little adventure and I was quite tickled to have three of my photos chosen to showcase these recipes on the AHO blog. I even won a little prize! And I am never one to win the prize, so that was kind of exciting. Thanks to the fine folks at Abundant Harvest Organics, I’ll be indulging in these decadent organic chocolate covered almond clusters for weeks to come. Click on the titles to link to these recipes, and see my photos (yay!) over at Abundant Harvest Kitchen.
Well, now. Sometimes a good ‘ole spring cleaning is all you need to kick-start the creativity and inspire a new adventure. So, whether it be your kitchen, your home, your heart or head, take some time to clear the clutter and make way for a new transition. You never know what Spring will bring.