I listen to a lot of podcasts these days. If you read my post on self-care, you'll know that it's one of the things I try to do daily to keep myself engaged and interested in things other than parenting. I rarely listen to parenting podcasts, although I do like this one. My appetite for podcasts tends towards the inspirational and spiritual, and this one, this one and this one are all favorites.
The other day, I was listening to Oprah's conversation with Caroline Myss on discovering your life's purpose, which is an extraordinarily profound topic to dive into in only 40 minutes. But in that short exchange, there were several pieces of wisdom I have been ruminating on since.
First, if you have life, you have purpose. That is true of every soul on this earth. That's big. But, how do you know your life's purpose? What is my life's purpose? Caroline said something that struck me so deeply--that when you fail at something, it's because you locked on to something that didn't belong to you. And you know you're on the right path when it feels right, when you don't betray yourself or compromise who you are to be in that job or marriage or relationship or path. And every choice you make either enhances your spirit or drains your spirit.
There's so much to unpack from that conversation, and, as I listened, my heart flooded with feelings and judgements about the decisions I made early in my life and how I got from there to where I am now--happy, content, at peace. I am in a blissful marriage, and I say that with complete compassion for those of you who aren't, because I know what it feels like to be in a painful marriage, too. But today I have a marriage that does not feel like work at all, but instead supports both of us in making a conscious decision, day-after-day, to choose kindness. I am also a conscientious mother, and I make choices every day to help my son to be a kind, compassionate, loving human being. But what about me outside of those roles?
I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago, and she asked me what else I was working on in my life. And I said, "Nothing!" For the past two-and-a-half years I have been unapologetically working on being a present, loving wife and mama, and my commitment to this space has reflected that, with posts few and far between. But, Theo is starting preschool in the fall, and I'm starting to think about what comes next. Preschool is only three mornings a week, but it won't be long until he's in school full-time.
I have always had a dream of writing a cookbook, and I think I'm ready to commit to making that dream come true. It's either continue making this blog just a hobby, a personal diary of our life, or, it's time to turn it into a way to reach my dream. If you've read this far, would you mind helping me? Comment below with what you would like to see here. What kinds of recipes? Do you like the meal planning series? Or would you rather just see posts related to parenting and cooking with kids? Do you like the travel posts? I feel a little sheepish asking for feedback, but I feel like I need it, so I know that I'm not just writing into the ether.
I do love writing these posts, though, even just for myself. I can send friends recipes when they ask for them, or share travel posts. The other day, I sent a friend a post about our honeymoon in the Greek Islands, because she and her husband are planning a trip there. I re-read the story of our trip, and it took me back, with all of the details that would have been lost to the unconscious mind had I not recorded them. I loved being taken to that place and time. Just like I love all of the milestone posts about Theo, reading his story as he unfolds into the remarkable toddler he has become.
There is value in recording those memories, and I am thankful to this space for nudging me to write it all down.
But, I also want to serve.
In my heart, I feel like I have a gift to share, a perspective on food and cooking and feeding a family or yourself that can be helpful, inspirational. I'm searching for the right word. I want you to feel at home and at peace in the kitchen, to take away the stress and the need for it to be fancy or perfect. It just needs to be nourishing for you and those you love.
I have ideas.
If you're still reading, thank you for your support and for following along. I hope you find encouragement here.
And now, for a recipe.
Burger bowls have become one of our favorite meals, especially when we have people over for dinner. I always love to serve meals where everyone can mix-and-match to their own preference. We make some sort of burger bowls at least once a week. I typically will cook a lot of vegetables in bulk so we have enough for dinner but also enough for leftovers for a few days later, to use in multiple dishes. So really, this is not a recipe, per se, but an idea or method you can play with and modify as you like.
Our favorite burger bowl has a base of sautéed kale and then is piled with roasted potato fries, roasted red peppers, a chicken and zucchini burger (or regular beef burger), roasted shitake mushrooms and toasted pumpkin seeds. I like to garnish mine with a dollop of Greek yogurt, sliced avocado and chile oil.
Here are some other ideas. Instead of sautéed kale, you could substitute a fresh lettuce or arugula. Instead of potato fries you could make roasted sweet potatoes or even a grain like brown rice, quinoa or farro. We've added other roasted vegetables before, like roasted cauliflower, broccoli or asparagus. You could add cheese--a goat cheese or sheep's milk feta is particularly good. Caramelized onions are delicious. You could smash the avocado with lemon juice and salt, or make a guacamole. Instead of toasted pumpkin seeds, use toasted sunflower seeds or sesame seeds. Add any other sauces or condiments you like. Sometimes I will make a buttermilk-style dressing from Greek yogurt and avocado-oil mayonnaise and drizzle it all over the top. Bacon wouldn't be a bad thing. Basically, anything that tastes great on a burger will be good in this bowl.
Here are the recipes or methods to make each of the components of these bowls. As I said, I always make more than we need, so there are leftovers. These components make great additions to breakfast sandwiches or ingredients for a frittata or grain bowl or pasta.
I hope you like these burger bowls as much as we do.
Burger Bowls: A Method
Make all of the different components for the burger bowl, below. Place everything in bowls (or just pile on the baking sheet, to save dishes) and let everyone help themselves.
Wash and stem one or two bunches of lacinato kale. Cut or tear into pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add a garlic clove, sliced, if you like. Add the kale to the skillet (you’ll have to pile it up) and then use tongs to start moving the kale around until it starts to wilt and fits in the pan. Add a good pinch of sea salt (but not too much, because the kale will wilt down into a few servings) and a pinch of red pepper flakes. I also like to grate some lemon zest over my kale. If the garlic looks like it’s going to burn, add a little splash of water and reduce the heat. I usually try not to add water, because I like a little crispy char on my kale. Continue to toss until the kale reaches your desired level of wiltyness.
Roasted Shitake Mushrooms
These are a stable in our house and we usually go through a couple of pints a week. They are addictive. Remove the stems from a pint of shitake mushrooms, and then tear the mushroom caps in half. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and toss with a little extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes. Place in a 425 degree oven and roast for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are browned and starting to crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Snack on them or put them on everything.
Roasted Red Peppers
You can make big batches of roasted red peppers and put them on everything from burger bowls to pizza to pasta to sandwiches to avocado toast. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, if they last that long. Just slice red peppers and toss them in some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place them in a 425 degree oven. Let them roast for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until you get the level of doneness you like. I like the ends to be charred.
This is another make-ahead-and-use-a-million-different-ways kind of recipe. I have a lot of these. Just place a pint (or two or three) of cherry or grape tomatoes in an oven-safe baking dish. Add a good bit of extra virgin olive oils (a couple of tablespoons per pint), a big pinch of sea salt and red pepper flakes. Add a quartered lemon, if you like. Toss together and then place in a 425 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have released their juices and have split and started to blacken. Remove from the oven and let cool. The cooked tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Roasted Potato Fries
There are a lot of different ways to roast potatoes, but this method is for crispy potato fries. You will need about 2 russet potatoes per 3 people. Slice each potato lengthwise into 8 large wedges. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and coat with extra virgin olive oil. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in a 450 degree oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are very browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Chicken and Zucchini Burgers
This chicken and zucchini mixture is a favorite, and you will see another version making an appearance in a recipe here soon. The shredded zucchini adds a lot of moisture to the chicken, which can sometimes be dry. It also lets you stretch a little bit of meat into a bigger burger. I make these with all different varieties of herbs and spices, but this simple version can't really be beat for a burger bowl.
Makes 4 burgers
1 pound ground chicken thighs
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
Add all the ingredients except for the olive oil to a medium bowl. Use your hands to evenly combine. The mixture will be rather wet. Divide the mixture into four even portions.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Take ¼ of the mixture and form it into the shape of a hamburger patty and place it in the skillet. Repeat with remaining three portions.
Cook until browned and caramelized on the bottom side. This will also set the patty so it is easy to flip. Flip and cook on the other side until browned and caramelized and cooked all the way through.
Toasted pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Sliced avocado or avocado mashed with lemon juice and salt
Chile oil (recipe coming soon)