SPINACH SALAD WITH PEARS, DRIED CHERRIES, & CHERRY VINIAGRETTE

“Instruction is good for a child; but example is worth more.”
Alexandre Dumas

This winter as we headed into the winter holiday season, I was reminded of a quote I read. It went something like, “Don’t put yourself in debt to tell someone how much you love them.” That makes sense. As a writing teacher, I constantly tell my students to, “Show. Don’t tell.” We need to do this in our lives as well.

My husband shows his kids constantly how much he loves them through his labor. This winter, often after a long day at work, he will be found outside putting another layer of ice on their backyard hockey rink. He shows them through countless other ways: from having them gather their own breakfast in the chicken coop, teaching them how to remove a fish from the hook, and giving them the opportunity to splash in a Montana mountain stream in an off-the-grid camping spot.

John found the most amazing off-the grid camping spots last summer in Montana. Even if I did have to close my eyes getting there via curvy mountain roads.

I guarantee the kids will never forget this family vacation.

We LOVED Glacier NP!

While we want to make sure that our kids have modern comforts and are not completely cut off from technology. It is not on the top of our priority list to make sure that they have the latest video game system or cell phones. We want them to appreciate things that are homemade and have old-fashioned values.

The best gift I ever bought for my stepson Lukas was an “art box” full of paper, markers, and creative supplies. He entertained himself, and us, for hours designing eye-popping scenarios involving dinosaurs and military helicopters. Because I am a teacher and his dad is a police officer, he crafted a “21 Jump Street” purse for me. It came complete with a 3-D laptop, handcuffs, grenades, lipstick, and even coupons for my favorite store. Apparently, he still wanted me to look good and save money while I was catching the “robbers” (which is what he used to call anyone who commits a crime). Now that Lukas is nine, he still loves to be artistic. However, now he prefers a sketchbook and he loves to write stories (last year Zombie Snake received rave reviews from his teacher, peers, and family members).

After school, Lukas’ bus drops him off at my building and he loves seeing the projects that my high school students are working on. In October he became obsessed with the fact that my 11th graders were reading Ray Bradbury’s, Fahrenheit 451. I gave him a quick rundown of Bradbury’s plot and he was intrigued by Bradbury’s dystopian view of a society where owning books was illegal and firefighters started fires rather than putting them out. Luke’s eyes grew big when I mentioned the mechanical hound that instead of conducting search and rescue missions was programmed to search and destroy!  Needless to say, Lukas begged to PLEASE let him read the novel. He didn’t relent and for three days didn’t put the book down the whole time discussing the character Montag, how F 451 is the temperature at which paper burns, and marveling in how sixty-five years ago Bradbury imagined a world destroyed by TV/technology where people no longer communicate or think critically. We discussed the Nazi book burnings that fueled Bradbury’s imagination and what Clarisse represented in the novel.

Lukas was captivated by this book.

Some of Lukas’ “take aways” from the book was that he could never go to a school where he could not ask questions, he thought that the main character and his wife should talk more to each other and they would be happier, and he loved stumbling across vocabulary words that he had learned in school. I had to giggle one day, about a month after he read the book, when Lukas stood outside before getting in our vehicle with his mouth opening catching snowflakes on his tongue. For those who have read Fahrenheit 451, he was channeling Clarisse. What an intelligent and remarkable little boy! I am in awe and thankful I get to be his step mom. Lukas reminds me to stop and appreciate the priceless wonders of the world that cannot be purchased in a store.

Ray Bradbury wrote this masterpiece by renting a typewriter in the basement of a library for 10 cents an hour. He was watching the arrival of television and feared it had the potential of wiping out human interaction. He imagined a world where large, looming, interactive video screens occupied the four walls of a house and it was illegal to drive slow or even walk outside. This book gives me goose bumps every time I read it. To me, it is a cautionary tale about using technology in moderation and making sure we do not forget our humanity.

Lukas’ new best friend, a Bearded Dragon named Harper. While we have a cat, many dogs, chickens, and ducks – Harper is special because he is LUKE’S. We hope caring for him teaches him responsibility.

Avalon and Lukas supporting their dad’s role as a K9 Officer – and of course, K9 Nitro.

This holiday season seemed like a great place to focus on the human things that are important. A handmade card, a gift purchased from a local artist, and a meal made and shared with loved ones.

The salad recipe that I am sharing is healthy, festive, and celebrates local wonders with Michigan cherries. Not to mention it is topped with crown jewels – caramelized cashews (which could be artfully packaged to make a delicious homemade gift for guests).

This salad can be plated, arranged on a large platter or in a bowl, or layered in a Mason jar (for a healthy work week).

SPINACH SALAD

Spinach
Sliced Pears (There are several varieties found in stores)
Avocado
Feta cheese (gorgonzola or goat cheese work well with the flavors in the salad)
Dried cherries
Caramelized cashews (recipe to follow)
Cherry Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

CARAMELIZED CASHEWS
*1 Tablespoon of butter

*1 Tablespoon of brown sugar 
–per 1/2 Cup of cashes–
*Cinnamon
*Nutmeg
*Pinch of Salt

Melt butter and add sugar along with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon (depending on how many cashews you are using. I usually make a large batch of cashews (4-5 cups) so I add a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg). Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the cashews and stir to coat.

Spread the cashews out on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove and cool. The nuts are indulgent and delicious and a few go a long way.

CHERRY VINAIGRETTE

*1 cup tart cherry juice (I found the juice in the refrigerated juice section. While tart cherry juice is expensive – it has a lot of healthy benefits. You can find less expensive varieties that combine cherry and pomegranate juices)
*1/4 cup of vinegar (my favorite variety of vinegar for this dressing are either red wine or balsamic)
*1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 teaspoon of red onion
*1 Tablespoon honey (more or less to taste)
*salt and pepper to taste

May your New Year be full of health, laughter, and a community of family and friends. Make time to read a good book, share in wholesome and nurturing food, and remember that love comes wrapped in presence – no matter the season.

 

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