Power Tabbouleh – and yes, it’s GF

Don’t know about you all, but here in Mid Maryland the weather is SPECTACULAR.  It feels like fall – the great part of fall when the humidity drops, the temps are still in the low 80s and the sky is bright blue and features fluffy white clouds.  Whoever loaned us their weather, I thank you and regret to inform you that we would like to keep it, thank you very much. I almost don’t care that the infant tomatoes that were emerging post deer invasion have also been eaten.  Shame on me for going out of town for 36 hours.  Apparently creating a urine barrier as deterrent is a daily requirement.

While the deer (or the squirrels, I don’t even care any more who the perp is anymore) were eating my tomatoes, we took a short trip to my hometown, Silver Spring, MD.  Mr. Little Sis had some work to tend to there over the weekend and we tagged along so we could do a little “get to know your Mom” touring. We returned thoroughly exhausted, in part from incredibly awesome park experiences, but mostly because the folks on the other side of our locked adjoining room door were reunioning with their family and a lot of bourbon until 4 in the morning.  I digress…

Our superb park experiences over the weekend inspired me to take the kids a little farther afield for some adventures today.  After swim class we played tag, restaurant (with robbers and everything, my children like exciting dining), and fed a whole mess of turtles in the quarry.  We found some bugs (and fed them to the fish – sorry bugs), watched some geese and played on some great playground equipment.  After leaving there and scoring a whole slew of deals on perennials at the hardware store, we all returned home pretty wiped out.  I decided it was time to give a summer standard from my past a go. Tired hungry kids are sometimes the most willing to try new foods.

IMG_9539Standard tabbouleh has tons of parsley (which is great for you in a variety of ways and covers a multitude of garlic breath sins), bulgur, tomatoes, garlic and some kind of acid mixed with olive oil.  Well… I hain’t got no maters, I say almost weeping.  Well, okay I have one that I plucked early before the real invasion began.  It was just coming ripe on the windowsill.  In honor of Mr. Bigg Sis and all those for whom gluten is verboten, I decided to make good use of the leftover quinoa in the fridge. Following Deborah Madison‘s lead (which is always a good idea), I combined green lentils and chickpeas to power that salad up even more.  Plenty of protein, fiber, and tons o’ flavor.  Yep, power tabbouleh.

Power Tabbouleh – adapted from Deborah Madison’s Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

  • 2 c chopped fresh parsleyIMG_9553
  • 2 c cooked quinoa (or whatever grain you have on hand)
  • 1 1/2 c cooked French lentils (I’m sure brown would be fine too, but I do like the green here)
  • 1 c cooked or canned garbanzo beans (drain and rinse if canned)
  • zest of two lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic, made very small however you like
  • 4 scallions or spring onions, chopped small, including some green
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 6-8 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

IMG_9543Looks like a lot of ingredients, but this was so ridiculously easy – one of those times where having some leftover cooked grains in the fridge makes dinner a snap.  I cooked my lentils specifically for this meal as I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I cooked two cups of French lentils in boiling water with a bit of salt and a bay leaf.  I can’t recommend this bay leaf maneuver enough – made the beans so flavorful and delish.  I had way more than I needed for the salad, but I knew my little lentil fan (Miss Picky Pants – you go figure that out) would want some plain.

IMG_9544While the lentils cooked I did all of my chopping and combined all of the cold solid ingredients.  I drained the lentils and let them cool for about half an hour. You could absolutely make this warm, but I was going for room temp or cooler. When I was done assembling a green salad and making dressing, I added the lentils to the other ingredients, combined the lemon juice, oil and paprika and poured it on.  Tossed everything to mix.  Salted and peppered to taste.  Lovely. Then I chopped my sole tomato and added it.  The added tomato was nice, but honestly, unnecessary (blasphemy). This salad knocked my socks off and is super flexible.  What do you like in your tabbouleh? As for me, beans are where it’s at.

IMG_9539 IMG_9544 IMG_9547

Baby Steps Add Up To Big, Healthy Steps

As the sister who both helped and hindered Little Sis’ foray into healthier eating, I must confess that although Little Sis’ words regarding Baby Steps might have helped me chill out a little earlier, either age or cumulative eye rolls from my victims have tempered my assumption that everyone wants to know my opinions about food.  Indeed, I have a joke with a friend (who has eluded my nutritive grasp for many years) that one reason I became a nurse is that I have a captive audience for dispensing nutritional advice.  That is a delightful perk of my profession, however, I tend to leave my friends alone now….. unless they ask!

Baby Steps is a solution that I have used personally and professionally as a move for positive change.  In all honesty, all of the lasting nutritional changes that earned me the title ‘health whack’  from my 11 year old son have started as Baby Steps.

And so I offer here a baby step that is very much in keeping with the positive intentions of many of you to eat more healthfully, and / or lose weight.  The Salad.  The wonderful, crunchy, healthy, raw, make-it-the-way-you-like-it-all-you-can-eat-salad-bar Salad.  So where is there a Baby Step needed with salads?  It’s all in the dressing baby.  You can dress it up, but you can no longer call it a healthy alternative if you’re smothering it in chemical goo.  That’s right… go ahead and roll your eyes (I’m used to it) – chemical goo.  Check out the label on your favorite salad dressing.  Does it say, oil, vinegar and perhaps a few spices or mustard?  I bet it has some ingredients you can’t pronounce.  AND it has cheap oils that have been refined and thereby block the absorption of nutrients like vitamins A, K, E and choline.  So there goes a bunch of the nutrients from your lovely salad.  And I bet a bunch of the ingredients are vague.  When the ingredient is vague, it’s possible that they don’t want you to know what the actual ingredient is… like HIDDEN Valley Ranch dressing listing vegetable oil as the first ingredient.  What kind of vegetable oil?  What has been done to that vegetable oil?  These are questions that an ingredient label SHOULD answer…, but that is a future and very angry post.

So the baby step is to make your own salad dressing.  You can pour a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar right over the salad – no fuss, no muss.  Rachael Ray recommends squeezing fresh lemon juice over the salad.  There is the incredibly simple approach.  If you want to mix ahead of time, the basic salad dressing mix is 3 to 1 oil to vinegar – be it balsamic, apple cider, lemon juice, red wine, rice or a combo thereof.  Now… if you want to get a little fancy you can then add some dijon mustard, or a pinch of salt and/or oregano, plain yogurt or tahini.  You may have to experiment a little to get it the way you like it, but if you add a little at a time and then taste it, you can always add more.

Here is a more complicated dressing that my family (including my 11 year old son) likes a lot:

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp honey
0-2 Tbsp water (taste it first and see if it’s too strong and then temper with a little water)
Put all in a jar that is at least 14oz, with a good lid and shake it up.

Now go enjoy a goo-free, crunchy, wonderful, colorful, tasty salad (I love nuts on mine) and know that baby steps add up to big steps and add up to a healthier you!