This time of year is a doozy. One minute I can't WAIT for summer to begin and school to end. The next, I'm in my son's classroom watching their reenactment of "Elephant and Piggie", struggling to hold back sobs. I know in my heart it will just never be any cuter, innocent and sweeter than this. The kids all laugh, but I look around the room and most of the parents' eyes are glistening. It's part of the pain and pleasure of being a parent, that we see the future and all it's potential victories for our children, but we acutely feel the lose of innocence and 'babyhood' that will surely come along with it.
It's always my oldest son who gets me teary. The end of year transitions are exciting and perhaps a little sad for him. He feels emotions deeply like his mama. I always feel a confusing mixture of pride, sadness, fear and longing for just another day of him staying JUST LIKE THIS. The paradox of parenthood is something I will likely never quite get comfortable with!
One area I do NOT have confusion about is meal prep and eating this time of year. I want it to be clean, fresh and above all else SIMPLE. I'm too busy processing all these emotions to spend time prepping elaborate meals! (kidding, kidding...kind of) I'm really focusing lately on clean dinners that I can prepare in advance and just throw together at the end of the day. They also have to be good enough for lunch leftovers the next day!
This dinner was inspired by the "Eating Clean" cookbook by Amie Valpone, and fits the bill perfectly. It would be perfect for just about anything - a light lunch without the protein, an elegant first course for a dinner party or a regular weeknight dinner. I prepared each major component (dressing, cashew 'cheese') in advance and it came together very quickly when I put it all together. It's not your traditional 'summer' salad, but to me if it's good, it's good..regardless of the season!
Let's all enjoy our little ones, the time goes by all too quickly.
My variations on the original recipe below.
1 butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into small cubes (I used Trader Joe's pre-cut squash) 2 T extra virgin olive oil 2 T honey Sea Salt Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 shallot, minced 2 T plus 2 t extra virgin olive oil, divided 3 T apple cider vinegar 1 t mustard powder Sea Salt Freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches lacinto (dinosaur) kale, chopped - stems removed 1 cup dried cranberries 3.5 T Dairy Free Creamy Cashew Cheese 1/4 cup raw walnuts toasted
- Prepare the squash:
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In medium bowl, combine the squash with the oil, honey and salt + pepper. Stir to coat with the honey and oil.
- Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet
- Back for 20 minutes until tender
- Let cool to room temperature
- Prepare the dressing:
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium-low heat
- Add shallot and 2t of the oil, sauté until soft (not burned)
- In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, remaining 2 T of oil, shallot, mustard and nutmeg
- Season with salt and pepper
- Prepare the Cashew Cheese:
- Combine 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 10 minutes prior in very hot or boiling water), 3 T fresh lemon juice, 1/2t salt and 1/4t pepper in a high powered blender and mix until smooth. Keep adding water, 1 t at a time to create a smooth texture and to prevent from sticking. Transfer to a bowl, stir in 1 thinly sliced chive and mix. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Prepare the salad:
- In a large bowl, combine the kale, cranberries and dressing. (Note: A little dressing goes a LONG way, use sparingly!)
- Massage the dressing into the kale with your hands (things just got weird...), for about a minute or until the leaves soften
- Add the squash and chicken (if using) and gently toss to combine
- Top with Cashew Cheese and toasted walnuts, serve immediately