Ciao'd while watching finches at the feeders.


After the excess, the abstinence. Whether you're enduring dry January, swearing off sweets, or embracing Paleo, this is the month that's buttressed by food resolutions (yes, I used BUTTress intentionally). Thankfully, resolving to eat healthfully doesn't mean jettisoning flavor. To wit, this winter salad with Gorgonzola and pears. Its crisp textures and full flavors are at once satisfying and refreshing. Yes, I know the salad includes cheese. Leave it out if you must but you'll miss the lovely creaminess that counterbalances the crunch of the other ingredients. Since you're eating so healthfully EVERY SINGLE DAY, a little bit of Gorgonzola won't harm you. 

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This robust salad is terrific with roast meats and poultry. Store the walnut oil in the refrigerator after it's opened. 

Serves 8 as a side dish

1/2 cup walnuts
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper
3/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
Leaves from 2 small heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups)
3 ripe but firm small pears, such as Red Crimson or Bosc, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast until the nuts are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool and then coarsely chop the nuts. 

In the bottom of a large salad bowl, stir the red wine vinegar, mustard, a generous dash of salt, and a sprinkle of pepper together. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary. Add the cheese and stir to combine. 

Add the lettuce, pears, and red onion to the bowl. Toss gently to coat the salad with the dressing. Sprinkle with the nuts and serve.

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It’s been raining for days. The small birds flow onto the lawn to peck at the sunflower seeds I’ve thrown and then ebb into the trees. The blue jays and crows, on the other hand, spiritedly make their presence known regardless of the downpours, alighting on the rail outside my den and looking sideways in at me as I write. If I ignore them, they hop closer in, onto the planter boxes. One came so close as to balance on the door molding and tuck its head over so it could laser-eye me. Cue Tippi Hedron. 

The birds remind me that routine can be restorative, even rejuvenating.  Change and challenge are good, but it’s the present-think that grounds us. The simple, and the “slow,” and the everyday.

Here’s a recipe for Italian White Chicken Chili that’s a cinch to put together. As it bubbles on the stove, pick up that book or your knitting. Maybe give a grateful nod to another day well-lived. Namaste. READ MORE FOR RECIPE.


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