The Path

Ever feel that path you’re on is super rocky and overly steep? Like a single track up the side of a mountain, no end in sight with tons of outcropping rocks, and roots? And that you keep tripping over those stupid rocks stubbing your toes and skinning your knees? Now, most people would likely do the “mature” thing and take a deep breath, re-focus, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Persevere.

But today I am going to take the plunge and say “SCREW YOU PATH.” That’s right. Suck it path.

I am starting a new path. A different path. You know that sign that keeps blinking in your brain, it’s neon lights flashing on and off saying “Please stay on path. Keep off grass.” Like some kind of warning that you’re going to wreck the grass (huh? what grass?) if you step off. Like a newly planted lawn at a park. Well I am going to trample that green grass.

I’ve been looking downward at the path for so long, in such a concentrated effort not to stumble, just following along, single file, because that’s what everyone else does, that I’ve forgotten to look up. I’ve forgotten to be myself. Forgotten to look at the bright sun shining (almost) every morning, forgotten to admire the beautiful red and yellow leaves on the trees and forgotten there even is a “me.” And maybe if I look around hard enough, just maybe I’ll see a tiny off-shoot for the start of a foot trail that no one else sees.

I think forging a new path will be scary. Little stones will get stuck in my shoes and scuff my Marc Jacobs leather (but that serves me right for wearing Marc Jacobs in the country anyway). My pedicure will chip. I might even lose a toenail (which, believe me is not pretty). But it will be MY path. MY choice. It might seem like off-roading to some (in fact, it likely will to most people) but I need to find my own way. Maybe rip out a few sign posts along the way (I’ve never really liked heeding authority anyway). Get a little adventurous….try something unfamiliar and unknown.

Like…(wait for it)…. salad with maple roasted squash. I might even get crazy and put some spicy, hot pecans in the salad. Maybe even some spinach and pears. Never tried it before but I know in the end it will be worth it.

Mixed Greens Salad with Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

inspired by Bite Me: A Stomach Satisfying, Visually Gratifying, Fresh-Mouth Cookbook

Spicy Pecans

  • 1/2 C coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a medium sized baking sheet with aluminum foil (why make clean-up any more difficult than necessary?) and coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Toss the pecans, olive oil, and all the spices together.
  • Spread the nuts out on the cookie sheet and bake for about 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  • Set aside to cool. Don’t turn your oven off; you’ll need it for the squash.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 3 C peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Line your baking sheet with fresh aluminum foil and lightly spray with non-stick spray.
  • Toss the cubed squash with the maple syrup and salt.
  • Spread the squash evenly on the baking sheet and roast at 450 for 20 minutes. Stir and then continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes until the squash is lightly browned.

Maple & Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard (I use whole grain)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp apple juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Whisk all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

For the Salad

  • 8 C mixed salad greens
  • 2 large pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
  • Toss the greens with the desired amount of dressing (there is more than enough for several days worth of salad). Top with the pecans, squash, pears and cranberries. For a full meal deal bake a few skinless chicken breasts that you’ve marinated in maple syrup, orange juice, dijon, s&p, and little Worcestershire sauce.

Notes:

  • The salad serves about 6-8 as a side and about 3-4 as a main dish.
  • That being said, the amounts are guidelines. Adjust according to what you like best. For example, I would add a few extra pear slices and squash to my salad and limit the dried cranberries and pecans in an effort to enjoy the salad fairly guilt free (because it’s getting cold on my morning runs. No need to make them longer than necessary!). But most of all…take the time to enjoy…and look up from your path, whatever it is that you’ve chosen.

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