If you’ve been wondering why there’s been hardly anything happening here but radio silence lately, it’s because school life has swallowed me up. I’m barely keeping my head above water at school these days, so you can imagine what’s happening here at home. My students are riding shotgun and my personal life has taken a backseat. I know I’ll find my equilibrium soon, but I haven’t found it yet. I consider it a major accomplishment that I’ve been able to keep myself so well fed with all the unprocessed, homemade food that I’ve been cooking. I’m pulling out all my time-saving strategies and am taking things one meal at a time.
During the first week of school, I eat lunch with my kids in the cafeteria in order to get to know them a little better, so I needed a meal that I didn’t need to heat up and that would get me through the rest of the day. I needed some protein to give me stamina. I decided to make my own version of one of the deli salads at PCC that I love so much, the “Perfect Protein Salad.” What I came up with is quickly becoming one of my favorite go-to meals.
Oddly enough, I didn’t realize that PCC had the recipe for their salads online until I started writing this post. I thought I had to recreate it myself. What I ended up with is a majorly simplified vegan version of the salad that inspired me in the first place. And since I was able to create a nut-based dressing to go with it, I added even more protein to the mix! Score!
Bean-soaking: In order to skip the can and make my beans from scratch, I get the beans soaking before I leave for work in the morning. Then, when I get home, I get them simmering while I take care of other business. Soaking beans overnight and then cooking them all day in the slow cooker with lots of extra water is also a technique I’ve used in the past to save time.
Cashews: Cashews have become my best friend. They make things creamy, in a non-dairy kind of way, while also adding a little extra protein to whatever I’m making. In order to get the most creaminess from them, it’s best to soak them for at least a few hours. Unfortunately, I’m not always thinking so far ahead. In a pinch, when I haven’t had time to pre-soak, I just put the cashews in a bowl and cover them with boiling water to speed up the process. I find that even letting them soak in that super hot water for 15 minutes breaks them down pretty quickly and yields a creamy finished product.
Perfect Protein Salad
Inspired by this salad
Makes about 3 generous lunches.
1 cup dried garbanzos, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (yielding about 3 cups cooked)
1 cup cooked farro, wheat berries, spelt berries or brown rice (some hearty grain)
1 cucumber, diced
2 or 3 carrots, diced
a generous 1/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least a couple hours
1 clove of garlic, peeled and slightly smashed
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
a dash of olive oil and a splash of water
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
Put all of the salad makings in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Place all of the dressing ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth, adding enough olive oil and water to get it to blend, but not make it runny. The dressing should be slightly thick – a mayo-like consistency.
Mix the dressing into the salad until all the salad ingredients are coated with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.