Online friend and fellow food blogger Jennifer Perillo pointed out on Facebook yesterday that Mercury is in retrograde. You may take astrology with a grain of salt (just like I take my French fries), but it sure would explain a lot about this month so far. Emotions are ramped up to the extreme, change is in the air and unexpected challenges are popping up Whac-A-Mole. But that’s life, right? Nobody has it “easy,” no matter how it may seem. Social media gives us this skewed perspective of how life plays out for those around us. People tend to share the celebration-worthy moments in their lives and leave out the rough patches. Facebook, as “social” as it may be, can actually feel like a pretty lonely place sometimes. These “social” networks don’t reflect reality. We all struggle, and everybody has their Mercury retrograde moments. It’s all about how you navigate the challenges. Do you shy away from them? Turn your back on the discomfort? Or view them as part of life’s learning process? I am slowly learning to welcome the challenges as opportunities for growth. And when the going gets really rough (which it does from time to time), I take a mental vacation… usually to the Greek islands.
I’ve never been to Greece, but it is at the very top of my bucket list. When I was a child, my grandfather would tell me colorful Greek tales– Zeus ruling Mount Olympus, Helen of Troy, the Trojan horse. I grew up knowing I had to visit this country, to soak in thousands of years of romantic, dramatic and tumultuous history. In the heart of the Mediterranean, Greece seems like the ideal place to take a break from reality. Sunny beaches, turquoise waters, ancient history, people with a love of food and a zest for life. Simple pleasures, healthy and delicious meals, a bouzouki playing in the distance… I wish I was there right this very moment.
Alas, Mediterranean travel is not in the cards right now. The superstitious say that you shouldn’t really travel at all when Mercury is in retrograde. I’m not sure if I buy that; if somebody handed me a ticket, I’d drop everything and leave today. At the very least, we can take a staycation and make a Greek-inspired meal. This Greek Salad Quinoa Bowl is Mediterranean goodness on a bed of grain-like seeds from the Andean region of South America. A bit of a cultural mish-mosh, sure, but the flavor here is all Greek. Lemon dill quinoa and chickpeas make a protein-filled base for fresh, flavorful toppings… crunchy cold lettuce and cucumbers, sweet ripe tomatoes, briny kalamata olives and creamy salty feta. A drizzle of olive oil and a splash of fresh lemon juice are the only dressing you’ll need.
So go on, take a break from reality and eat like a Greek. Download some bouzouki music on iTunes, pour a glass of ouzo, and forget about Mercury being in retrograde. Kalí óreksi!
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- 1 cup quinoa
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooked or canned
- 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
- 1 large lemon, juiced, or more to taste
- 2 cups shredded hearts of romaine (or your favorite green)
- 3 small Persian cucumbers, sliced
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3 small ripe tomatoes, quartered
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a mesh strainer or sieve, drain.
- Pour quinoa into a saucepan along with 2 cups of water, oregano and 1/8 tsp salt (if salt sensitive, just use a pinch). Bring the quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot. Let the quinoa simmer for about 15 minutes.
- While quinoa is steaming, prep your vegetables (chop, shred, etc.). Once they're prepped I like to put them in bowls for easy assembly.
- After the quinoa has cooked for 15 minutes, stir in the chickpeas. Recover the pot and steam for about 5 more minutes till water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Uncover the pot and stir in the fresh dill and lemon juice; add more salt and lemon juice to taste, if desired.
- Assemble your quinoa bowls. Divide the quinoa mixture evenly between each bowl (about 1 cup each). For each of the following ingredients, divide them evenly between the four bowls...
- Top each bowl with shredded romaine and sliced Persian cucumbers.
- Sprinkle on kalamata olives, tomato quarters and crumbled feta.
- Drizzle the bowl with extra virgin olive oil and squeeze on some fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired (the feta is salty so go easy on the salt till you taste it). Serve.
- You can also add some thinly sliced red onion to the bowls if you wish. I'm not a big fan of raw onion so I don't use it. As you can see these bowls are very customizable; feel free to change up the toppings as you like.