One of my earliest childhood memories was learning how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave. I can clearly remember writing out the “recipe” over and over in my notebook – I was partly testing out different handwriting styles, but also ensuring I wouldn’t forget the right amount of milk to pour in or how many seconds it needed to get blitzed. I needed a guide to make sure I got it right every time.
That reliance on recipes has stuck with me over the years. I love to cook but have always felt like I needed a tried and tested recipe by my side in the kitchen unless I’m making something simple like a smoothie or breakfast scramble. Our bookshelves are overflowing with cookbooks and the vast majority of my pins are recipes. For years on Sunday mornings I would sit down with a stack of books and meticulously plan our meals for the week.
Becoming a mother changed that. Life with a newborn is a crazy, exhausting time and I could barely find it in me to eat a proper meal let alone plan a week’s worth in advance. But still being able to piece together a decent for lunch or dinner made me feel like a real, whole human and so I often pushed myself to get creative in the kitchen. As the months wore on I my confidence grew as both a mother and the kind of cook that could pull something together with a little of this and a pinch of that. When I’m feeling energetic and organized I still manage to pull together some loose plans for the week, planning to make a few specific recipes and then winging it with leftovers and pantry staples for the rest of the week.
That’s how this salad came to be.
We were a few hours out from a picnic with friends and I hadn’t yet made anything to bring. I read through the lentil salad recipe in the My New Roots book and I had some but not all of the ingredients but still figured I could make it work. I liked the savoury spices in the dressing but wasn’t sure of the sweeter ones so decided to skip them. Then as I was reaching for the lentils I came across a bag of rice and beans which sounded good to me so I ran with that instead. I had one last apple in the fruit bowl so I threw that in, the last of a box of arugula and a few stalks of celery that were about thisclose to wilting in the crisper. The juice of a lemon brightened the whole salad up and voila — lunch was made.
Having a baby has taught me to trust my instincts, not just when it comes to caring for my child but in all facets of my life – the kitchen included. While I’ll always have a stack of cookbooks on my bedside table now I look at recipes as inspiration not commandments set in stone. It’s a win-win-win kind of situation: I get to flex my creative muscles, I get to eat the delicious fruits of my labour, and I get to share it all with you.
Are you a recipe reader or an intuitive cook or an in-between, like me? I’d love to know!
Wild Rice Salad
Inspired by My New Roots Best Ever Lentil Salad
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main with a little left over
I buy Lundberg’s Old World Pilaf, a mix of rice and beans, at Costco. If you can’t find the pilaf you could use one cup of cooked rice and one cup of cooked lentils or small beans.
1 cup Lundberg Olde World Pilaf Rice and Beans
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large crisp apple, diced
2 packed cups baby arugula
1/4 cup parsley, fined chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup olive, flax, hemp or avocado oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp seat salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1. Cook rice and beans according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile make dressing. Put all dressing ingredients into a blender or jar with a tight fitting lid and mix to combine. Set aside.
3. Transfer cooked rice and beans to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add 1/3 of the dressing and mix to combine.
4. Add in celery, apple, parsley, arugula and additional dressing to taste (I added about another 1/3) and mix.
5. Add lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste.