4 days until I visit my parents. 1 week until I start my new job. 2 weeks until Shauna (aka Gluten-Free Girl) comes to visit. 3 weeks until the Indy Half Marathon. It’s been a wild ride these last two weeks, so thank you all for your comments, thoughts and prayers for my momma.
Mom is home from the hospital and recovering well. Her next step to fully re-gaining her health is to change her eating habits a bit to keep those arteries clear. I’ll be heading to Michigan this weekend to teach Mom a few things from my repetoire. I’ve sent my parents a couple of nutrition books to help them get started and my favorite kitchen tool – a fancy rice cooker.
The new “smart” rice cooker is my ultimate time hack to get through the week. On Sundays, I make a batch of steel cut oats for breakfasts and a batch of some other grain to use with a couple of dinners during the week. I’ll even cook dried beans in it, because I can walk away and not worry as it bubbles away. If you don’t have one of these wonderous machines – invest. You won’t be sorry.
Special thanks to everyone who shared their healthy eating challenges on the last post. We’re all battling the same foes of finding the time to cook – along with meal planning, motivation, picky eaters and managing expenses. I’m noodling ideas for the “Back to Basics” series, and hope to get the first post to you next week, to share my strategies for making the time to cook without going crazy. If you have more healthy eating challenges you’d like me to tackle, drop me a comment below.
In the meantime, I’m making this fennel salad my mom’s first dietary assignment. At the end of winter, when I’m tired of every single root veggie out there, fennel is a bright, crisp counterpoint that gets me excited for the local growing season ahead. I love the crunch of thinly shaved fennel, with its slight sweetness and licorice-like flavor. Fennel is perfect for salads, has fiber for clearing out arteries, a hefty dose of the B vitamin, folate, that helps to maintain blood vessel walls, and potassium for lowering blood pressure to help prevent strokes. Sounds perfect for mom, right?!
But better than all the amazing nutritional qualities, fennel is delicious. This bright, crunchy, sweet salad is the kind of thing I could happily eat every day while I wait for the farmer’s markets to re-open.
What’s your favorite way to eat fennel? Share your fennel-filled ideas in the comments below, OR share your healthy eating challenges.
Fennel, Apple & Orange Salad
Serves 8 as a side dish
2 bulbs fennel
1 granny smith apple
2 navel oranges
3 T white balsamic
1 T lemon juice
1-2 T Dijon Mustard (Mustard Girl is my favorite)
5-6 T olive oil
pinch of salt & pepper
1 tsp poppy seeds
3 T toasted slivered almonds
- Take the first orange and slice the stem and bottom ends of the orange off – about ½” on each side. Set the orange on the cutting board and use a sharp paring knife to silde your knife down between the white pith and the orange flesh to remove thin slices of the rind, while removing as little of the precious flesh as possible. Rotate the orange as you go to remove the pith, then once you’ve got most of the pith removed, pick up the orange and slice off any lingering pieces of the white rind.
- Hold the orange in a cupped hand, and gently slide your paring knife into the orange alongside one of the section membranes, slicing top to bottom to the center of the orange. Repeat the slicing motion on the other side of the orange section, and when you’re done a slender wedge of orange should pop right out. Repeat with the remaining sections of the orange, and place the orange slices in a bowl & set aside. Repeat the process with the other orange.
- Make the dressing: Combine the white balsamic, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and poppy seeds in a small bowl. Whisk for a minute. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking, adding a total of 4 T oil. Taste the dressing, and if it is still too tart, drizzle more oil in until the dressing is balanced to your taste. Set the dressing aside.
- Slice the fennel: Slice the green, woody stalks off the top of the fennel bulbs, leaving the white bulb. Reserve the stems. Use a mandoline with the thinnest slicing blade and place the cut end of the fennel bulb against the blade and shave the bulb into thin ribbons. Repeat with the second bulb and scoop the shaved fennel into a big mixing bowl.
- Take the granny smith apple and using the same blade on the mandoline, slice the apple into thin circles, stopping when you hear the blade hit the core. Rotate the apple to the other uncut side and slice again until you hit the core. Rotate two more times to slice the last two sides of the apple. Next, take your chef knife and slice the apples into matchstick sized pieces, then scoop into the bowl with the fennel.
- Give the dressing another quick whisk, then pour half of the dressing over the fennel and apples. Use tongs to gently toss the fennel and apples to lightly coat the whole salad. Add the rest of the dressing, and toss again. Finally, add the orange slices and toasted almonds and gently toss together before serving.
Note: The salad will keep pretty well overnight for leftovers, though there will be a fair amount of liquid in the container the next day. Re-toss and add another squeeze of lemon if the salad needs a little extra oomph.
How to section an orange:
Slide the knife along the section membrane on the other side.