Squash, Beet & Apple Salad
Have I ever shared with you my purpose?
That’s a rhetorical question because I know that I haven’t. For someone who puts a LOT of my life out into the ether – at least my food life – I’ve held much closer my dreams and plans for the future. It’s icky scary to put out there for people to read and potentially dismiss. We all know that feeling. Ouch.
But after a couple of years of gathering my thoughts, with the help of friends and advisors, I’ve decided to share my plans here on Fresh Tart. This won’t surprise you, but they’re about food and its power to change lives, in seriously good ways. Cooking has been my connection to happiness all of my life, through good times and bad, and I am so grateful for the gift. As my dad so awesomely wrote in a birthday email to me a couple of weeks ago, recounting the day of my birth and his walking into my mom’s hospital room, “My mother held you and started giving you cooking lessons.” Ah, delightful! He’s referring to my beloved Grandma Meyer, and he was only half kidding. I loved being with her, as many of us love(d) being in our grandmothers’ kitchens. I hope that I can be a cooking grandma some day too. (Not soon, just some day…)
OK so here goes, my purpose, the statement that I check in with most days, to make sure I arrange my day around why I exist:
My abilities to create joy through real food inspire healing and vibrancy.
It’s a work in progress. I’m playing with the word vibrancy, although I’m not sure it’s as meaningful to other people as it is to me. There are plans for cooking classes, culinary coaching, and another book gelling around the word vibrancy, with the goal to encompass not just wellness but energy, clarity, hope, and the power to live a big life.
Because that’s really what this is about: The power to live a big life. To feel not just ok but f*cking awesome – vibrant. I feel vibrant right now and it’s only in feeling it that I can look back and see that I spent way too many years (from 2003-2010) feeling like a depressed, tired, unhappy slug. I was eating and doing what I thought were healthy things, the things I’d eaten for years (whole grains, low fat dairy, lots of fruit, counting calories like a complete lunatic) but were instead wrecking my gut, inflaming me, and transforming me into a stressed out puffball who was exhausted all the time. I should show you my passport photo – I used it the other day and I just about dropped it when I looked at the pic. OK, hold on one sec, I WILL show you the puffballness. Here goes:
That’s a before and after, 2010 compared to last week’s birthday pic (sorry for the repeat). I am 5 years OLDER in the second pic. THAT is the power of real food. (And really, that is the power of grain-free, because most of that bloating – and a good amount of weight – went away starting shortly after that pic, when I gave up gluten and grains, cooled that insane inflammation, and my thyroid started functioning again, damn.) Look at my poor, poofy eyes, awwww, I feel sorry for them. I missed them when they were half-swollen closed every day. I didn’t feel like myself and I was doing everything (supposedly) right. Beyond frustrating.
And so! I leave you with my hope to spread deliciously vibrant health like a virus – and my passport photo. Ha! Lucky you. And with a nudge to ponder a dietary change if you’re feeling like a puffball too. It took me years to admit that you can’t get new results by doing the same things over and over. Yeah. So if you’re the tinkering type: safely self-experiment. Based on my own experience and plenty of solid nutrition advice, I suggest giving up grains, sugar, dairy, alcohol, and all processed food for a month. All of them are hard on the gut, none of them are particularly nutritious (with sugar being utterly non-nutritious, metabolism damaging, AND addictive) and in fact, because you replace them with an abundance of nutrient-dense vegetables, best-quality meats, and healthy fats, you’ll not only feel and look better, you’ll be getting better nutrition. (If you take prescription medication, talk with your physician first, of course.) And best of all, you’ll KNOW more about what’s damaging your gut and causing the inflammation. After a month, you can reintroduce foods, one at at time, and see what you’ll return to, if any of them.
I know that it’s hard to accept that because we live in a stressful world, with low-quality food, our bodies break down over time. The mid-thirties are the kablam moment for a lot of women and men, when what used to work does not any longer. It sucks. Until you get used to feeling vibrant, and then you wonder how you could stand the old stuff. That really does happen, all the time, over and over and over again.
Whether you start simply with The Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Cure, or Practical Paleo, or decide to go for a proven elimination-style diet like Whole30, 21-Day Sugar Detox, The Bulletproof Diet, JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, The Wahl’s Protocol, or really dig into sussing out food sensitivities and healing your gut with the Autoimmune Protocol (which is what I’ve followed for…holy delicious cow…almost a year!), there is good information (all that I’ve mentioned overlap each other significantly) about the hows and whys (and the whys are so important for motivation) of what humans need for vibrant health. And there are recipes here on Fresh Tart and on a billion other paleo blogs and in books and books and books. Recipes galore! Gorgeous, nutrient-dense recipes that get your body what it needs.
There is also tons of support on Facebook and Instagram – follow the accounts of whatever plan you decide to follow and find great advice, shopping tips, new friends, and a tribe to belong to. Community support is everything if you want to get – and stay – healthy. Find healthy friends and eat and play with them. Listen to health podcasts while you walk or cook/wash dishes (The Fat Burning Man, The Bulletproof Executive, and The Health Bridge are all fantastic and super motivating.) If you have an autoimmune disease and live in the Twin Cities, join our Minneapolis/St. Paul Autoimmune Paleo group (#MSPAIP). We get together once per month for amazing dinners and talk and laugh about how weird we are. It’s awesome.
I’ll be writing more in-depth of about all of these resources in the next weeks and months, so stay tuned.
I also leave you with this easy, marvelous salad recipe via Scott Pampuch, my friend and long-time collaborator, who is now the executive chef at the University of Minnesota. He shared this recipe in Twin Cities Chef’s Table and now that the book is back in stock – it sold out before the holidays, how cool is that? – I’m ready to remind the world that I was the luckiest girl in Minnesota to be able to talk with and photograph many of our most talented chefs and the scrumptious dishes they generously shared with all of us. If you didn’t receive the book for Christmas but wanted it…gift it to yourself! Heh.
What sets this salad apart is the sweet, crisp apple contrasted with soft squash and earthy beets. The hit of lemon brings it all together and keeps it bright and fresh. This is a lovely pairing for just about anything you can imagine: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, a giant plate of greens. (If you’re in the first phase of AIP, leave out the black pepper.)
Squash, Beet & Apple Salad
Scott Pampuch, executive chef, University of Minnesota
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium Chioggia beets
1 medium red beet
1 medium golden beet
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, halved
2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced, reserved separately, divided
1 medium Honey Crisp apple
1 medium Braeburn apple
1 cup sunflower sprouts
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread squash on baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Turn squash pieces over and continue roasting until tender and browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Trim beets and wrap each beet in foil with a clove of garlic and 1/2 rosemary sprig. Arrange wrapped beets on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, or until a knife pierces the beets to the center with little resistance. Remove beets from oven, let stand in the foil until cool enough to handle, then rub the beets with the foil until skin comes off. Discard skin, garlic, and rosemary. Cut beets into 1/2-inch cubes. Arrange squash and beets on a serving platter and drizzle with half the lemon juice and zest.
Cut apples into 1/2-inch cubes (discard cores) and place in a medium bowl. Add the remaining lemon juice and zest and toss to coat. Add sunflower sprouts and toss again. Scatter apples and sprouts over the squash and beets.
In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar and remaining olive oil. Drizzle salad with apple cider vinaigrette. Season with salt (and pepper, if using).