I hope you've had a great week and enjoyed the abundant sunshine, along with the cooler, more seasonal, temperatures!
This week, as I continued along my path of simplicity (check back to the previous post if you don't know what I'm referring to), I've also been thinking a lot about belonging. Maybe it's coincidence that I'm currently reading the book Belong by Radha Agrawal, which I highly recommend to everyone. Within the workbook journal pages of Belong, I've been exploring who I am and how I see myself in the greater context of humanity. There are the obvious groups that I affiliate myself with, such as female, married woman, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. But then I can go deeper and think about myself as a friend; am I a friend to myself? (yes, I take care of myself and aim to treat myself as I want others to treat me). Am I a friend to other people? The questions could go on and on, it's powerful work that I'm spending time to do, constantly searching for greater meaning and purpose.
Another group that I could be associated with is horsewoman. I don't talk much about my love of horses and horseback riding, but I will going forward. As a child, I took riding lessons for many years, on and off. My parents didn't push me to ride, but they didn't prohibit me from riding, either. I remember my dad telling me from the start, "I'm not buying you a horse"...and even now, decades later, owning my own horse is not something that I desire. I never pursued riding seriously, and by the time I was done with high school, I was also done with riding. Years later, in early 2005, my husband and I went to Argentina on vacation. It was there, in the Mendoza wine region, that I got on a horse for the first time in nearly 10 years. I was so excited to be back on the majestic animal that I loved so much, in a gorgeous setting. However, despite the beautiful scenery, it was a terrible experience. I felt unsafe, insecure, and troubled by the situation; I was riding with gaucho cowboys, not wearing a helmet and riding over rocky terrain, and on a horse with an unpleasant disposition. I was shaking by the end of the morning and gladly dismounted, returning to NYC with a scar in my mind.
When my daughter started horseback riding lessons at Camp Robin Hood several summers ago, I was excited for her to learn the skills that I had learned at her age, to develop an appreciation for her relationship with horses, and to have fun. I watched her ride when I visited camp, she and her friends were having a great time on horseback. I knew that I wanted to have that experience again, somehow and someday, but I needed to get over my fear of riding again. Well, fast-forward to a few months ago, when I took the first steps to returning to riding. I contacted a local barn and explained my past situations, my fears and apprehensions, but also my willingness to try again. I went to the barn for an "assessment", to see how I would handle being near the horses and on a horse. It was a leap of faith, a leap outside of my comfort zone, but I got myself onto a gentle schooling horse named Sam, and actually felt relieved. I felt comfortable and almost instantly at ease, a quick connection between me and Sam.
For the past few months, I've been trying to schedule one riding lesson each week. I'm progressing with new skills slowly, but steadily. Most importantly, I've been able to leave my fear of riding, from that scarring incident in Argentina, and appreciate myself where I am in this journey of re-self discovery. I feel like I belong within the group of people who identify as horsewomen, and it's a great place to be. I look forward to continuing my exploration of horseback riding, and even if there comes a time when I'm physically not able to ride (hello sore lower-back), I'll still find a way to get myself to the barn and surround myself with the horses and the other "horse people".
Allow me to quickly pivot to today's recipe, a simple seasonal salad which features my favorite winter squash - Delicata! The Delicata Squash is delicious and a breeze to prepare since its peel is edible - no peeling required! Nutritionally speaking, Delicata Squash is a source of plant-based fiber (we all need more fiber!) and an excellent source of Vitamin A, due to the carotenoid content. It's sweet and mild taste is perfect for those who are new to winter squashes. And the half-moons of the roasted squash in the photo actually remind me a lot of horse-shoes...
This recipe can be used as inspiration, not as a strict guideline. The sautéed kale is a delicious bed for a number of seasonal toppings and the dressing is versatile, use it on any salad! I just happen to love the combination of the kale with the Delicata Squash, lentils, hemp hearts and the creamy-miso dressing; but if you prefer sweet potatoes and black beans, by all means you should eat what you love. Tell me how you like to compose your seasonal salads and inspire me to create something new in my kitchen.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Maple-Miso Delicata Squash Salad
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1 Delicata Squash
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch kale
1/2 C cooked lentils (green or brown)
1/4 C hemp hearts (Manitoba Harvest is my preferred brand)
1/4 C sunflower seed oil
2 T white miso
1 t pomegranate molasses (substitute maple syrup, if desired)
1 T honey
1 T rice vinegar
2-3 T water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Wash the squash with warm water and dry thoroughly. Cut the squash in half, from stem to bottom, with a very sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and membranes, discard or compost (the seeds are too small and flimsy to roast). Place the squash halves cut-side down on a cutting board and cut into 1/2"-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on the lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Flip each slice over and roast for an additional 15-20 minutes, until each side is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
Clean the kale under cool running water. Shake each leaf to remove excess moisture and strip the leaves from the stems. Rip the leaves into large pieces (they will shrink greatly once they're cooked). Heat a large skillet over high heat, add the extra-virgin olive oil once the pan is hot. Carefully add the pieces of kale to the hot skillet, piling the kale into the pan. As the kale gets hot, it will lose its moisture and shrink. Toss the kale occasionally with metal tongs, moving the leaves around to prevent burning. Continue to sauté until the kale is wilted and crunchy on the edges, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Make the dressing: in a small food processor, combine the sunflower seed oil, white miso, pomegranate molasses (or maple syrup), honey and rice vinegar. Blend until smooth. Add water, 1 T at a time, and blend to desired thickness.
Assemble the salad. Place the sautéed kale in a wide bowl. Top with the pieces of roasted Delicata squash, then distribute the cooked lentils on the top of the salad. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle the hemp hearts over the top. Serve immediately.
recipe yields 3-4 generous servings
leftovers keep well, in a covered container, for 1-2 days
cook the lentils and Delicata squash up to 2 days prior to serving; dressing can be assembled a day before serving, mix well to combine if dressing separates
add additional toppings to the salad for your own unique preferences