Stress. The general public, myself included, simply oozes stress. It’s bad enough on a typical day, with the usual work- and school-related pressures, but now that it’s officially December, as of a few hours ago, the whole game has changed. For many, it’s time to go into full-out holiday madness mode, eschewing a quiet and cozy celebration for something big, perhaps a touch complicated, but above all else, labor intensive. While most of my own ideas revolve around blog posts or decorating the house, it’s slowly occurred to me that even this “simple” strategy could easily spiral out of control, threatening to eat up every spare moment up until the big day (or in my case days) to hammer out all the fine details. And boy, if you’re working on a Hannukah extravaganza, good luck; the first day will be on our doorsteps in less than two weeks. Less than two weeks! I kid you not, it’s enough to overwhelm even the calmest party planners among us. Even I’m getting a bit freaked out now, so let just take a moment to breathe, shall we?
Like my boss would say, it’s all about balance. All the rich, fatty delights of the holidays are sure to tempt at every turn, but this early in the game, they’re nothing but trouble. Pair this with the urgent need to get things done, and it’s no wonder that stress levels are through the roof! A belly full of soy nog and candy cane fudge, all one could reasonably hope to accomplish might be a sound nap, not focused worked of any sort- Trust me, I know from experience!
To dilute some of that excess holiday cheer that will be headed your way, I offer today not a sweet fix, but instead a wholesome savory dish in an attempt to balance out the treats to come. Quinoa, my favorite super grain (well seed, technically) is paired with one dynamite green spread that will definitely see many repeat performances in my kitchen from here on in. Although I’m calling it a pesto, you may notice that it is not, in fact, anything like a pest- There’s no basil or pine nuts, two ingredients I’m not wild about. You could always go the traditional route, but I think that this new interpretation is way tastier, and you may at least enjoy an occasional diversion from the old standard. Pistachios stand in for the nuts, and spinach provides the greenery here, creating an earthy but dare-I-say buttery sauce. If nothing else, make the pesto and use it in sandwiches, as a tofu marinade, over pasta, or even as a party dip!
Although I went down a more unusual route and decided to soak both the pistachios and quinoa, you could easily skip over this step to make the dish more speedy, using plain pistachios and cooked quinoa. Just be sure to cool the quinoa completely before adding in the veggies, because there’s little worse than hot cucumber!
Lean, Green Quinoa Salad
1/4 Cup Pistachios, Soaked Overnight
3 Cloves Roasted Garlic
2 Tablespoons White Miso Paste
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
6 Ounces Fresh Baby Spinach
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Cup Quinoa, Soaked Overnight and Sprouted
1 English Cucumber, Diced
1 Large Red Pepper, Roasted and Diced
1 Ripe Avocado, Diced
Enoki Mushrooms (Optional)
Additional Spinach (Optional)
The pesto comes together very quickly and easily, just like any other pesto would: Toss the pistachios and garlic into your food processor or blender first, and pulse until there are no large pieces of either left. Add in the miso, nutritional yeast, and spinach. It will seem like way too much greenery, but trust me, it blends down to practically nothing. Pulse until the spinach is largely broken down, and then drizzle in the lemon juice and oil while the machine runs. Blend longer if you want a smoother sauce, or stop right here and set the pesto aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the [very well rinsed and drained] sprouted quinoa, cucumber, red pepper and avocado. If you plan on keeping this salad and serving it later, just toss the avocado pieces in lemon juice first and drain them thoroughly, to prevent them from browning. Add your pesto into the mix, and stir to evenly distribute the veggies and coat everything evenly in pesto. Top each serving with mushrooms and extra fresh spinach, if desired.
Serves 4 – 6