I've never really been an outdoor kind of person. I used to get bored lying on a beach and was convinced I would get ticks if I went hiking - or eaten by a bear. After our first camping trip through South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana with the girls a couple of years ago, I've come around to enjoying the outdoors. I will never forget sleeping under the stars in Montana - it was if the Gods dropped diamond-dust upon their ebony cloaks. Our move to the mountains of Western North Carolina has been yet another inevitable step in my blooming relationship with nature. Never have I lived where there is so much to do... outside. We are surrounded by secret swimming holes, gushing mountain streams, canopies of quiet wilderness, trails that wind bewitchingly through the forest floor and waterfalls that drown the sound of all else.
One of the things I love most about where we live in Asheville is that we don't have to leave our neighborhood to access the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you are unfamiliar with this stretch of road, it has been widely hailed as one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the entire world. I drive on it as much as possible to access the Southern part of our city - but it's meant for those long, heady weekend drives - the kind that you stop every few miles to photograph the quiet glory of the Smoky Mountains or follow a seemingly hidden trail to an open field in the clouds. This weekend, we drove down to the Pisgah National Forest, ate a picnic lunch next to a mountain stream, then rock-hopped and splashed our way through pools of gentle rapids. These day trips quell my wanderlust a bit, the pressing weight I feel - the desire to explore land anew far from home - I'm feeling rather lucky right now that we have so much exploring to do right here.
Our picnic and day trip was in honor of my husband's birthday. He loves my chicken rice, so I came up with an incredibly easy and quick way to put this dish together and take it where we want to go. While it lacks the incredible depth of the original, the flavors are strong and it’s a fine substitute when time is short. It's little bit of a culture clash, but it works, and even the girls devour it. I also made a simple summer grape salad with ginger to compliment the flavors of our chicken - and most likely the most unattractive chocolate covered frozen bananas ever - but they were delicious.
CHICKEN RICE INSPIRED QUINOA (i really need a better name for this)
1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced ginger
1 green onion (finely chopped)
Place the water, quinoa, garlic, ginger and green onion in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil. Once it begins to boil, stir a bit, cover and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook 15 - 20 minutes until the water is absorbed and you see a white, spiral like thread around each grain. Pour out the quinoa into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
1 organic rotisserie roasted chicken
Pull the white meat off the bird in bite-sized pieces and add to the quinoa in the mixing bowl. Discard the bones, or better yet - create a stock for later use!
1 T. crushed ginger
1 clove of garlic
5 T. grape seed oil
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. ponzu
1 T + 1 t. sesame oil
1 1/2 t. chili oil
2 T. honey
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
zest and juice of 1 lime
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix for 5 minutes - or until thoroughly combined and thickened.
Pour the sauce over the quinoa and chicken and coat thoroughly. We've tossed in fresh peas or broccoli as well to brighten the dish up a bit. We chill ours thoroughly and toss it into a cooler - it's the perfect all-in-one dish for picnics.
GRAPE AND GINGER SALAD
1 bag of green grapes, rinsed and cut into halves
2 large handfuls of spinach, cut chiffonade
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T. fresh minced ginger
Toss everything together and chill. It's that easy.