Dana Slatkin

Romaine Lettuce with Red Quinoa, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Light Ranch Dressing

romaine quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes

Photo credit: Audrey Slatkin

I’m always talking about sharing good food with family and friends on this blog, especially this time of year. And believe me, there’s nothing more meaningful. But to me, summertime also means solo time. An afternoon to yourself when the kids are at camp, a meditative hike, a few precious hours when you ditch your phone and temporarily go off-grid.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to hike a mountain by myself. I had climbed it so many times in past summers, I thought I knew every trail. But somehow I found myself far from the main path, on a rocky stretch that was so steep I was groping for tree branches to keep from falling.

After an hour of fighting my way up the precipitous patch, I decided to surrender and take the only way I knew – down. But I lost my footing and ended up sliding on my bottom, picking up alarming speed, until I finally crashed mercifully into a tree.

Shaking and covered in dirt, I stumbled to an abandoned mine cabin where luckily there was a working spigot. The skin on my arm had ripped off and there were pebbles embedded in my thighs.

I rinsed off, raw and rattled and wishing I hadn’t set out alone that morning. But I had to reach the top of that mountain; I wasn’t going to come down defeated. Eventually, I found my way back to a familiar trail and trudged up to the summit, vowing never to take another “shortcut” again.

But a few days later, I was heading back up that mountain. Life has a strange way of erasing painful memories. Thankfully, wounds heal. Hearts soften. And I was relishing my solo time once again…this time, a little more cautious and grateful just to be hiking again.

For many of you, solo time is nothing novel. Neither is cooking for yourself. From someone who’s always had to cook for hungry kids or customers, I salute all of you who cook – and trek – on your own.

On the rare occasions when I get a meal to myself, this is the salad I make. It may look like a pile of random ingredients, but the flavors and textures unite into one creamy, crunchy, satisfying mess. If you keep cooked quinoa and homemade ranch dressing on hand, the salad comes together in 5 minutes. You can add leftover grilled veggies, fresh corn, sunflower seeds, nuts, olives, black beans…anything you’re craving.  And when you find yourself solo this summer, savor the moments when the only appetite that matters is yours.

You have all summer to enter the Summer Farmgirl Giveaway! Send in as many entries as you wish. Two winners will receive a sleek Clean Bottle and two sets of groovy Govino glasses!

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