Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Dinner time tends to be a bit hectic in my family. It typically begins with my husband walking through the door, welcomed by "aaaahhhhhhh!!!!!" [and other excited baby babble] and "Hey Dad! Look at this!" from the two-year old as I am working [sometimes frantically] my way through dinner prep. After a quick change from work to relax clothes we gather around the table, my daughter says a prayer [possibly the best part of my day, especially now that she improvs], and within minutes hear "all done, I'm ready to play". We attempt some quick conversation hoping to catch up on the day, finish the meal, and before I know it what should be a sacred time of family bonding has been overcome by trying to get food in our bellies before the next demand. Just like that we're on to play time, clean up, bed-prep, bedtime, post-kid work, and off to bed ourselves.

And then, the other day, everything changed.

Rather than business as usual, we grabbed our picnic trays, carried our meals down to the patio overlooking the pond, and gathered under the umbrella in the late afternoon sun. When my daughter declared done, we set her down to roam the flowers, look at bugs, and ponder a variety of things that caught her eye. We sank into our chairs, ate slow, talked and listened, and lingered at the table laughing at our daughter's antics and our own ridiculous jokes. We talked about our day, reflected on things we had learned, and for moments simply sat in the silence taking in the sounds of a little girl's laughter, a baby's coos, the songs of birds, and a bullfrog calling out here and there.

It was beautiful.

So the next evening we did it again.

And it too was beautiful.

What I realized was, once we removed the distractions that the walls of our home contain, we were set free to just be. To enjoy the company of those around us without seeing the dishes, the clean up, the toys, the phone, and all of the other things that easily pull us away from the table and time as a family. Nature has a way of coaxing us to sit and stay. To slow down and take in the blessing and beauty that surrounds us everyday.

Being outdoors pulls typical tasks from mundane to magical. Exactly what was intended, I think.

And so, tonight, we will do it again.

We'll grab our picnic trays, hoist the baby on our hip, and trek down the stairs to the patio to sit and eat and talk and laugh and watch and listen.

And I imagine it will be beautiful.

May you find a way to pull your family or your friends or yourself outside for a meal. May you put aside the work and the hassles and the time and simply be.

And may you be so blessed by the beauty you find when you do.


Special Note: Although cucumbers are not in season quite yet, many farmers have greenhouse cucumbers that they bring to the Farmer's Market beginning in late spring. Hunt down your nearest market and you might just be pleasantly surprised what you will find! Take liberties with this recipe and adjust the salad throughout the season, using summer squashes and cherry tomatoes in summer, root veggies in winter, and loads of spring greens in the spring. To make it a fruit salad, sub the veggies for fruit, parlsey and chives for mint, mustard for honey or maple syrup, olive oil for walnut oil, and add just a touch of salt.

For the dressing:

1/2 c. cashews, soaked* or sunflower seeds
pure water to cover cashews
2 T. raw apple cider vinegar
1 - 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste

Place soaked cashews* in a high speed blender and pour in water, enough to just cover the cashews. Add remaining ingredients and blend on high until very smooth. The consistency should be just in between runny and thick. Add a little more water if it is too thick or more oil if it is too thin. Refrigerate until ready for use.

*To soak cashews either place nuts in a glass jar, cover with double the water, and refrigerate overnight or place nuts in a glass jar, cover with double the boiling water, and soak for 10 - 15 minutes.

For the salad:

4 - 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bunch of radishes [about 6], rinsed and finely chopped
1/2 - 1 cucumber, rinsed and cut into small pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
handful of green beans [if frozen, steam until just warm], cut into 1/2-inch pieces
fresh parsley, finely minced
fresh chives, finely minced
pinch or two of smoked paprika [regular paprika is fine here as well]
sea salt to taste

Place prepared potatoes in a steam basket and steam until just barely soft. Remove from heat. Add carrots to the top of the potatoes and cover to stand over residual steam [no heat necessary] for about 5 minutes. Once the carrots are just a touch soft [but still crunchy], place in a large bowl and set in refrigerator to cool [or freezer to speed up the process].

Once the potatoes and carrots are no longer hot [can still be a little warm], mix in remaining ingredients. Pour sauce over veggie mix and toss until salad is thoroughly covered.

Return to refrigerator to set for 15 - 20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.

This is wonderful served with a side of sauteed asparagus.