Could Vegan and Gluten Free taste any better ? Some thoughts on community.

This weekend I had the privilege of attending a conference with Tom, I say privilege because he bought the tickets and a lot of hard work goes into running conferences. It was great to immerse myself in a weekend with like mind people and to attend workshops that were inspiring. I would say the overall theme of the conference was gratitude.
Last year I attended this conference at the urging of a friend, she was going and kind of sweet talked me into attending. I was grieving pretty bad at that time and wanted to hide from my community. I knew there would be people there who knew Frank and me and whom I hadn’t seen since his death, I was worried about how I would hold up. I was in pretty rough shape and did spend a great deal of the time either fighting back tears or crying.

I ran into Tom last year at the conference, I knew him from around, and he was a Facebook friend but I had never really said more than hi to him in person. He was there with his daughter who had just moved back to Ontario and he was a proud Dad showing off Katrina. He and Katrina sat with me on the Friday night. He didn’t know me well enough to know I had been married, recently widowed and was heavily grieving. He asked me out and I said no, it was too soon, but thanks.
So began our journey, he stayed in touch every so often via messenger and text and in the late fall I began running into him fairly often, it was obviously fate. As I got to know him I really began to like him, he has a great sense of humour and good energy.

Tom and me at Justine's Wedding
One night last November, I ran into him and asked me out for coffee and I thought “why not” I had no plans, no reason to say no other than fear. So our relationship slowly began, the following week he offered to help take some of my garbage and old stuff to the dump. The week after that I offered him a few tools that I had tried to sell but couldn’t. We joke now that I lured him back with my tools.

This year we went to the conference as a couple, a lot can change in a year; my community has grown bigger through his numerous friends. It felt right to be there with him. We have many friends in common who are so happy for us that we found each other.  I was reminded this weekend of the importance of community of feeling a part of something or some place. To see the same people year after year, people that share your passion is quite an amazing feeling. It was the 43rd year of this conference and I have attended it about 20 times.
There was a potluck lunch at the conference and I made a cumin quinoa black bean salad (I sent the recipe out in June). It was fantastic, super easy to make. I made the quinoa on Friday night, left it in the pot in the refrigerator. Then Saturday morning I rushed in from work, threw all the ingredients in a bowl, stirred it and took off to the conference. I received tons of compliments on it and it couldn’t have been easier to make.

Community is a blessing, the sense of belonging and of being loved is inexplicable.

today's run4_n
This morning I went for a short trail run with my dog and came home super hungry, I had a bit of left over quinoa that I didn’t use for the salad and a ¼ bag of pre-shredded carrots I had bought for the salad because I was in a hurry ( I always feel slightly lazy when I buy pre cut stuff LOL), I wanted to use the small amounts of left over random things in my refrigerator, so I did what I always do. I went to Google and entered; quinoa, shredded carrots, edamame, vegan. I found this amazing recipe that I was able to make in about 5 minutes (because I had the leftover cooked quinoa), it was that easy. This is a super tasty dish; I love cilantro and lime juice as a combination of flavours. I didn’t have a few of the ingredients but had 90% of them. I will definitely make this again using all the ingredients. I added some chilli peppers as a garnish.

Here is the link to the Blog I found the recipe on http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/crunchy-cashew-thai-quinoa-salad-with-ginger-peanut-dressing/

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad

 crunchy salad
¾ cup uncooked quinoa
1-2 cups shredded red cabbage, depending on how much crunch you like
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup diced green onions
½ cup cashew halves or peanuts (honey-roasted is good)
Optional: 1 cup edamame or chickpeas
Fresh lime, for a bit of tang
For the dressing:
¼ cup all natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoon soy sauce, gluten-free if desired
1 tablespoon honey (use agave if vegan)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
Water to thin, if necessary

To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.
To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey or agave to a medium microwave safe bowl; heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.
Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.

Next fold in red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges if desired.

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