Food + Wine

Dirty Dancing and Clean Eating

I know it’s Spring because it’s raining a lot.  I know it’s Spring because everything is yellow.  I know it’s Spring because my morning runs are spent with the supporting cast of Bambi.  I love Spring.  I like Fall better, but Spring will do.  Spring is my summer.  Because once Summer hits, I’m done with the heat and the pool and the beach and the sweat and the shorts and the sunscreen.  And if it weren’t for the pollen and those damn dangling worms, I would be loving Spring a whole lot more.

When you have young kids (and a hairy dog) and you’re spending a lot of time outside this time of year, bringing them back inside is like a complicated dance number.  The clothes come off, the shoes come off, the hands get washed…maybe you’re not crazy like I am but I have no desire to pollinate my furniture.  And those damn worms are relentless, sneaky, little velcro-footed creatures.  I try to save the life of every one I find (it’s the almost Buddhist in me) but they make it very, very difficult.  I find them everyday in my ponytail, I find them on the kitchen counter, I find them in the bleach compartment of my washing machine…and this still happens even after the family is naked and cleansed after an outside adventure.  My husband and I are like a bunch of chimpanzees when we get back from a family walk, picking through everyone’s hair looking for worms.

And yet the mild warmth of the days and the damp coolness that a Spring night brings almost makes up for all of that, so I try to enjoy it as much as I can.  Still…my morning runs have become a lot more complicated since Spring has arrived.  Yes, I get to look at beautiful things while I’m running, like all the new flowers, the green grass…Thumper.  but not only are they now sneezy runs, they’ve also turned into somewhat of a clown routine.  You’ve probably all driven by someone running lately who, out of nowhere, in the middle of a stride, ducks down and leaps to the side, swatting at something before continuing on with their jog.  You, the onlooker, don’t see anything from your car, you just see what seems to be an insane person fighting an invisible ghost.  Yeah.  That’s me.  I told you those worms are sneaky.  You think you’re safe running in a straight line when all of a sudden, a tiny green worm is an inch in front of your eyes.  It’s freaky!!  I’ve gotten used to it now and learned to just stay in the middle of the road.  Totally safe.

I run the same route every morning, although I reverse the order every day so I keep my muscles guessing.  And I always listen to music.  If it weren’t for music on my outdoor runs and iPhone Netflix on the treadmill, I couldn’t get through half the amount of exercise that I do.  The only problem with listening to music is that since I like to listen to Pandora radio and therefore cannot control what songs are playing, something incredibly un-run-worthy can pop up and throw off my game.  Like, a song that reminds me of my grandmother who passed away a couple years ago, or anything from ‘Dirty Dancing’ (oddly enough, anything from ‘Dirty Dancing’ also makes me think of my grandmother).  Have you ever tried to run really fast and cry at the same time?  It’s like, really, really hard.  What about running really fast and crying and singing at the same time?  It’s like, really, really, really hard.  (I’m singing because I can’t listen to a song I know without singing to it, even if I don’t like it, even if it’s making me sad…It’s a disease.)  And if a ‘Dirty Dancing’ song comes on, I can’t help but think about the movie, and then while still trying to run really fast, cry, and sing, I’m now trying to keep from dancing the many, many Dirty Dance moves I memorized as a kid.  All of which are extremely difficult to do whilst running.  ‘Hey Baby’ makes me want to find a log to dance on, ‘Love is Strange’ makes me wanna crawl on the floor, ‘Hungry Eyes’ makes me wanna move my hips like Baby and Penny.  (It also makes me hungry.)  And if the song happens to be ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life’ then I’m completely screwed.  Because I’m still running really fast, crying because I’m thinking of my grandmother, singing because I know all the words, dancing because I know all the steps, and I’m now thinking of how I have always wanted a dress like the one Jennifer Grey wore in that final number, how it twirled so beautifully when Patrick Swayze spun her around and how it draped so perfectly over his chiseled forearms when he lifted her up in the air.

Sheer perfection.

There are three things every girl wants in life.

One:  Every girl wants long eyelashes.

Two:  Every girl wants to fit into their pants.

And Three:  Every girl wants to be lifted up in the air by Patrick Swayze.

OK so maybe there are four things because every girl also wants to eat healthy and equally delicious, satisfying things whenever possible, especially this time of year when we’re coming up on bathing suit season.  And when I want healthy/delicious/satisfying food, I turn to the vegetable and then I twist it up a bit.  Spring is the perfect time of year to play around with vegetable dishes, and jazz up all that ‘clean eating’ everyone has been doing lately.  Turn those beautiful Spring peas into a custard, or the long stalks of asparagus into a delightful pizza and then the tough ends into a creamy soup, poach those pretty, pointy artichokes and serve with a curry dijon mayo, take those dark, green leaves of raw kale and make this incredible and extremely healthy kale salad, add buttery leeks to some homemade sweet potato gnocchi, use that fresh mint for a frozen Southside cocktail, or faux-roast beets in the microwave when you’re just too damn tired to do it the right way.  Because, number Five in the list of what every girl wants in life would be that we all need a break.

So, while you’re taking that break, give those lashes a good curl, eat more veggies so you can fit into your pants, and I’m available all week to rehearse the Patrick Swayze lift if anyone is interested.


*Honey Roasted Carrots with Cumin and Feta 
(4 side-dish servings)
(This is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes.  I’ve posted it before, but that was back when nobody knew I was posting anything.  I could eat a very large bowl of this and be quite content.  I could make a meal out of this one dish.  The combination of flavors here are tremendous…the sweetness of the honey, the smokiness of the cumin, the salty-richness of the feta and the freshness of the parsley all beautifully compliment the subtle, sweet flavor of the roasted carrot. It’s like Spring on a plate!!)

-Peel and slice 2 lbs of carrots, across the equator in half and then lengthwise into slices (as if you were cutting them for crudite).

-Place on a large, oiled cookie sheet in a single layer.

-Drizzle with more oil to lightly cover.  Season well with kosher salt and a few pinches of sugar.

-Place in a preheated 400 degree oven and roast for about 35-45 minutes, or until they’re fork tender and golden brown. Allow to cool.

-Once the carrots are at room temperature, transfer them to a serving bowl and drizzle with about 1 TB of honey, just enough to lightly coat each carrot and season with about 1 tsp of ground cumin.  Toss until everything is coated and it appears that every carrot piece is glistening with honey and then tarnished just a bit by the cumin.

-Break apart about 3 ounces of good feta cheese* and add to the bowl, along with roughly 1 cup, or a large handful of whole, fresh parsley leaves.  The bowl should be absolutely beautiful…that’s how you know you’ve added enough of everything.

-Gingerly toss again and serve room temperature.

(*Now ya’ll know I don’t ever tell you to go buy a specific ingredient for one of my recipes.  I don’t believe in that.  But…this is may be my one exception.  The type of cheese in this dish makes a HUGE difference here.  It’s such a simple recipe, with such few ingredients so the quality of each ingredient needs to be as good as it can be.  I’ve tried to make this with domestic feta, or even an different salty cheese altogether, and it just isn’t the same.  My favorite feta, the only one I will use for this recipe, is the ‘Pasture’s of Eden’ Israeli Sheep’s Milk Feta from Trader Joe’s.  It’s the best that I have found for the price.)     

***See me turn this delicious side dish into a quiche by clicking HERE!







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  • Reply Gail April 18, 2014 at 1:46 am

    A beautiful dish! So glad you posted this again.

  • Reply Everyday Champagne April 18, 2014 at 2:11 am

    Thank you, Gail- so sweet!!

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