zippy spring quinoa, greek-style.

greek oregano, first of the season

In English, the French culinary term “mise en place” roughly translates as “put into place.” Read your recipe thoroughly. Gather your ingredients. Chop, dice, organize, and prepare. To put it another way –  “get your shit together.”

I raise my hand and hold my head in shame and admit that I often completely ignore the wisdom this endlessly useful concept. Sometimes outside of the kitchen, too, so let’s please not talk about my junk drawer at work.

A familiar scene around dinner time is as follows: me, part way through a recipe with a vague plan for changes and substitutions, pots boiling, and timers reminding me that very soon I’ll have charcoal briquettes instead of roasted this or that. [side note: vegetable ash. why?] Some ingredients are chopped while others are still waiting to be washed, opened, or even acknowledged, really. I know it’s bad when the Kitchen Assistants start to circle my feet like carrion birds, scooping up any morsel hastily flung overboard by my uncoordinated and sporadic activities up top.

Listen, I won’t cop to being totally disorganized, but I will say that there is a positive correlation between the amount of pleasure I take in the end result of whatever the endeavor and the level of sanity I arrive with at the end. Cooking included.

lemon vinaigrette

Enter this lovely recipe for a zippy spring Greek-style quinoa. A dish greater than the sum of it’s pieces and parts where there is no glory to be had for any single one on it’s own, because it is simply a dish of great combination. And it is even better the next day. Warm quinoa soaks up a tangy lemon and oregano vinaigrette and is tossed with garbanzos, zucchini, summer squash, greek olives, marinated artichoke hearts, feta, and bright springtime happiness.

If you can mise en place your life the night before and put this together for lunch the next day, I bet you’ll start looking at that junk drawer and wondering how life would be if *maybe* you just threw out all the pens that no longer work. Make this on a Sunday night and Monday just might treat you just a little better than you expect!

greek quinoa + lemon vinaigrette

If you can REALLY get your shit together and do the light chopping, measuring, organizing, and thinking this recipe requires before you even begin, well, then I think we might just be on to something here.

greek quinoa + lemon vinaigrette

Recipe for Spring Quinoa with Artichokes, Olives, and Feta

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tbsp good olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed
1 small yellow summer squash, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained + quartered
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled and divided (or more to taste)
1/2 – 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered (use amount to taste)
2 tsp lemon zest (reserved from lemons below)
1 tbsp fresh greek oregano, chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt + pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice (about two very juicy lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh greek oregano, minced
1 tbsp red onion, minced

Notes: This dish can be served room temperature or warm and makes for some pretty killer lunch leftovers. If you prefer it warm, cook the quinoa in a larger pot and complete the last steps there.

Make:
1)   Make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a small Mason jar or other sealable container. Shake like crazy until the lemon and olive oil have emulsified. Set aside. Pro-tip: let the minced onions hang out in the lemon juice for about 10 minutes before combining with the rest of the ingredients. This will help take the edge off of a super strong onion.

2)   Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Or, combine 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cut the heat to very low for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3)   In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil over medium high. Be careful not to let the oil smoke. Add the smashed garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Fry the garlic for about five minutes, until it is just starting to turn golden brown. It helps to tip the pan to submerge the garlic, but this should be done VERY carefully – don’t tip too far! You do not need a grease fire in your life. Remove set these tasty nuggets aside. After they’ve cooled, mince.

4)   Add the summer squash and zucchini and cook for about five to six minutes.  Season with just a bit of salt and some pepper. Add garbanzos and cook until warmed through. Squash and beans should begin to have a bit of color, but should still be firm.

5)   In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, and the squash and garbanzo mixture. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, most of the feta cheese, the fried garlic, and the lemon zest. Add up to a cup of the dressing. Start with a half a cup, and add more to your liking. Toss gently together. Toss, not mash. (You can do it, Hulk!)

6)   Top generously with more feta, the minced oregano and parsley.

dyed eggs, naturally

dyed eggs, naturally

This time last year I was in the manic, list making and losing, insanely detail-oriented home stretch. I was surrounded by semi-organized-but-mostly-completely-unorganized chaos trying to make a hundred decisions a day. Had we decided on a final menu? What shade of yellow shoes should my sister wear with a still-to-be-determined shade of grey? Wait… did I buy shoes? Hey! Let’s completely change the colors, ok? The novelty of bridal magazines and planners and boards had worn thin and admittedly all I wanted to do was have a quiet meal at home with some trash T.V. and not have to think, period.

Mr. Husband and I are coming up on our first wedding anniversary – eee! I sort of can’t believe it. My dress is still hanging in our guest closet and we still haven’t dealt with some boxes of decorations. But who cares?! We’ve been enjoying the last year traveling, improving our little nest, celebrating unions and new life with friends and family. It’s all been really wonderful and I’m thankful to know the incredible people in my life.

For some reason the Easter season is always very exciting to me. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that newness that comes with the season: the grass waves it’s tiny blades just a little taller to let us know it really didn’t give up and birds are warbling again in the early morning hours (riiiiight outside our bedroom window, yay!).

Untitled

I am always the first one to get excited to dye eggs. Sometimes, I’m the only one. I’m quite the traditionalist when it comes to certain things that ‘make’ a holiday and Easter eggs are hands down one of my favorite holiday messes to make. As we’ve gotten older, it’s become less of a big deal to my parents and sister and Mr. Husband never really cared one way or another. This is most likely because they are functional adults and I will most likely never really grow up. My mother can attest to my penchant for acting nonchalant about it all, and then caving for eleventh hour dye marathons the night before. I mean… EASTER EGGS ARE SO FUN! It’s tradition, yo.

dyed eggs, naturally.

So, because we are doing our best to live on the more natural side of things, I went with the natural dye route this year. The bold, beautiful colors from natural dye sources are quite fun. After a little research and a survey of what we already had on hand, I was THRILLED to make use of some back-of-the fridge purple cabbage, red tea bags, turmeric, and beets to create four very lovely and non-toxic egg dyes.

Now, I’ll be straight with you on this: this is a teensy bit more extra work than your typical PAAS-fest in that you have to prep and boil your source material first to make the dye and then let that liquid cool. But after that investment and some overnight soakage, you’ve got some real beauties on your hands. Almost a shame to smash them up for round two of eggy goodness…

Dyed Eggs, Naturally

Recipe for Dyed Eggs, Naturally
Notes: This recipe is the result of lots of reading and advice gathering on the internets. I think it’s really important to note that the final color of the eggs is dependent on how long you keep them submerged in the dye and how saturated that dye color is. I recommend below to leave your eggs in for at least overnight, if not 24 hours for very saturated color.

You should definitely play around with adding extra source material to the lighter colors, like turmeric. Play around with red and yellow onion skins and red tea bags, too!

You should also be VERY CAREFUL with turmeric. That stuff will stain the heck out of anything it touches.

Let the eggs dry very well before handling. Some articles online recommend that you rub the eggs with vegetable oil for shine after they are dry – but I found the dye job to be a little too fragile for that.

Goods:
1 dozen white eggs, hardboiled. (you can use brown, but the resulting colors will be a little different…)
1 cup purple cabbage, chopped [blue] 1 cup beets, coarsely chopped or shredded [dark pink] 3-4 tablespoons turmeric [makes yellow] 4 bags of red tea [supposedly makes lavender, but I’d bet this depends on type of tea] 1 ¼ cups water for every source material you decide to use
4 tablespoons white vinegar or cider vinegar, divided
Old dish towels for clean up.

Stuff:
A pin
A large pot to boil the eggs
As many small sauce pots as number of different dyes you are making
As many glass pint jars or other deep, sealable containers soak eggs in overnight
Reserved egg carton for drying & storing dried eggs

Make:
Boil the eggs using your favorite method. Mark Bittman has a really great, foolproof method in How To Cook Everything and I more or less use this method every time. Bring a large pot of water to just a boil. Add two tablespoons white or cider vinegar. Use a pin to poke a hole in the broad side of each egg. Carefully lower into the boiling water and cook for 11-13 minutes, depending on your yolk preference. Run the eggs under cold water until room temp. You can do this the day before, but make sure the eggs come up to room temp before you dye them.

Make the dye:
Combine one 1 ¼ cup of water with each source material in a sauce pan.
Boil for about 15-20 minutes, until the water has become saturated with color. Your goal here is to get this dye to be a few shades darker than you’d like your final color to be. This is why I think playing with proportions is half the fun.

Strain the source material from the dye, and let cool to room temp. Save yourself a step and cool the dye in the containers you intend to use to dye the eggs.

After dye has cooled, add one tablespoon of vinegar to each liquid.

Dye the eggs:

Add room temp eggs gently to each bowl of dye.

Seal and store in the refrigerator overnight. Gently jossle each container a few times over this period of time, to make sure any pressure points (eggs touching glass) are released to make sure dye covers the entire surface of the eggs.

To remove eggs from the dye, you may find it easiest to slowly and gently drain the eggs over the sink into a strainer. I used tongs, and ended up scratching the dye. Remember, it’s a little more fragile than your typical PAAS noise.

Let the eggs dry at room temp or in the fridge, depending on how quickly you’re going to stuff them into little easter baskets and show all your friends how awesome you really are.