Roasted Fennel and Pear Quinoa Salad

I’m beginning to write myself a life handbook. Basically it’s just an Evernote list that I can refer to when I need a confidence boost, or some real-talk from myself.

I add to it in those moments when I’m feeling inspired or insightfully self-possessed and think I’ve figured out something about life…so yeah, it’s a slooow process.

Sometimes I curse in this list to get my point across. That’s something you should definitely know about me: I have a terrible mouth, which I inherited from my Grandma. I’ll do my best to not curse when I’m talking about quinoa.

One of my most important life bullet points is: Be nice to yourself. Seriously, stop being so hard on yourself.

I wish it didn’t require the seriously.

But I don’t think I’m alone on this one. I think we can all be a little hard on ourselves. We’re not making all the right moves in our careers, we’re not making enough money, we’re not fit enough, thin enough, cool enough, good enough. And all of that crap kind of has to stop.

It’s important to set goals for yourself and do your dang best, but it’s also important to ease up and show yourself a little love, kindness and leeway. Be good to yourself starting…now.

Start by packing a picnic with some fresh bread, avocado, fancy salt and this salad and heading somewhere pretty and peaceful. Roasted pears and fennel with nutty quinoa and peppery arugula will make you feel like you’re doing the right thing. Seriously.

Roasted Fennel and Pear Salad (serves 2-4)
– 1 fennel bulb cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm thick sections
– 1 pear, cut into 1/2 inch/1 cm thick sections
– olive oil
– salt & pepper
– 1 cup of cooked quinoa
– 1 cup arugula
– 1/4 cup goats cheese, crumbled

Honey Dijon Dressing:
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon honey
– splash of water

To cook quinoa: Rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa in a mesh colander. Place 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and let stand (covered) for 5-10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

Heat oven to 450 F/230 C.

Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the fennel and pears on it. (Keep the pears on one side and the fennel on the other, so that if you need to remove the pear before the fennel is ready, it can be done easily)

Roast for 15 minutes and check on your baking sheet. Pears should be soft and golden – this is your cue to take them out. Place the fennel back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until soft and browned in places.

While your pears and fennel are roasting, make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl or pouring them in a jar with a lid and shaking vigorously.

Once the fennel is roasted, toss your quinoa and greens with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of dressing. Stir in some of your fennel and pear, reserving some to arrange on the top of the quinoa and greens. Top with crumbled goat cheese and drizzle a little more dressing on top.

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PAB: Pear, Avocado and Bacon Salad

Some things just need to be done. Sometimes they need to be done because that’s just how life goes. Tough luck. Sometimes, it’s tradition. And sometimes it’s because it’s exactly what you want at that particular moment.

Like doing laundry.
Like taking out the garbage.
Like going to the dentist.
Like chocolate on Easter.
Like popcorn at the movies.
Like eating a well-balanced breakfast.
Like having a big glass of wine (or 3) with a good friend.
Like savagely tearing off and eating the end of the baguette as soon as you leave the bakery.
Like watching episode upon episode of The Bachelor even though you fear it might be negatively influencing your views on your own gender.

Like pear and bacon. Bacon and pear. And avocado. And buttermilk. It has to be done. Let’s do it!

Pear Avocado and Bacon Chard Salad
– 3 cups Swiss chard, rainbow chard, spinach or kale
– 1 pear, sliced into thin wedges
– 1/2 an avocado, sliced into this wedges
– 2-3 tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
– 1 large rasher of bacon or two small (American bacon) rashers, cut into small pieces

Mustard Buttermilk Dressing
– 6 tablespoons buttermilk
– 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
– 1/2 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
– 1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane grater
– sea salt
– ground pepper

To make dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well. Add more salt and pepper as desired.

To assemble salad:
Place the first 4 ingredients in a bowl and gently toss with 2 or 3 tablespoons of dressing. Set aside.

Heat a pan over a medium high heat. Add bacon pieces and cook until browned and crispy. Place on a paper towel and blot off excess oil. Scatter over salad. Drizzle on additional dressing, if desired.

Serve with lazy girl roasted chicken legs (recipe coming soon) or crusty bread.