Whatever helps…

Was in a cute gourmet grocery chain this weekend (the kind with classical music and dim lighting that makes you want to linger and lull you into buying overpriced goodies) and spied this among the teas:

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Hmmm… as I recall from last year’s ASDP the first couple days did render me a bit stiff. Decided I should add this to my office tea stash (I have a huge stash of tea despite hardly ever drinking the stuff… I think I like the ritual of making tea more than the actual drinking of it).

Haven’t brewed any yet, so can’t say whether it works or not. Mostly bought it as a gag gift for myself, but who knows, maybe it’ll turn me into Gumby. Worth a shot especially since I managed to tweak one of my inner hip flexors a couple months ago and it’s taking forever to recover. I’ll take any assistance I can get!

T-minus two hours until the start of ASDP 2015… woot woot!!!

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Getting Close to Chuck

Boston Ballet is back!

After a fabulous kick-off to the season last fall with their free, one-night-only gig on the Boston Common, followed by a riveting La Bayadère they were on to the silly season (aka, Nutcracker) which I successfully avoided in spite of their massive marketing campaign. Sorry, guys, I love ya, but once is plenty for me for the forseeable future!

The only problem with skipping out on Nut is that the time between October and February seemed an eternity to wait to get my BB fix. Ah, but here we are in the (near) spring with four glorious shows to satisfy those thrills!

First up is a mixed rep evening entitled Close to Chuck after one of the featured pieces. Loving contemporary movement as I do, I couldn’t wait! My La Bayadère companion (one of my fellow adult dancers) joined me again for this one. She has seen far more story ballets in her time and was looking forward to seeing something of a different ilk.

Coincidentally the director of our company/studio, her husband, and another couple we dance with (okay, we dance with the girl and the guy steps in to partner her in shows when needed) were attending the same night, so we were able to catch up and enjoy a pre-show dinner at Back Deck, just down the street. I highly recommend their elderflower margarita, though perhaps not so great if you want to be able to focus for the first third of the show! Whee! As for dinners, my companions all had delicious-looking items, but my choice of the grilled vegetables Provençale was a bit boring for my tastes. Ah well. Can’t win ’em all! A quick plug for subscriber benefits, though… we got us 20% off our bill!

The great thing about the restaurant was its plum location just down the street from the Boston Opera House, allowing us to zip out with 15 minutes before curtain and be comfortably ensconced in our seats before the show began.

Quick aside here about etiquette. Since I have a subscription I have the same seats for each show. But invariably you run into about 10 different ushers all asking to see your ticket and help you find your seat. I can never decide whether to say, “Oh, it’s okay, I know where I’m going, I’m a subscriber” and risk looking like a pompous boob, or play along like I have no idea where I’m going and let them lead me to my seat. Hm…

Back to the show.

First up was the headlining piece: Jorma Elo’s “Close to Chuck” or, more accurately, “C. to C. (Close to Chuck) Reborn.” Although Elo is Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, he originally created the work for American Ballet Theatre. The version we saw is edited from the original (hence the “Reborn” part of the title). From what I gathered through the post-show chat and other things I read, Elo is not one of those choreographers who creates a work and then expects it to exist in perpetuity in exactly the same form as the original, so this was, in fact, heavily edited to make better use of the costumes, to play up the chemistry between the dancers and the pianist (Bruce Levingston, the only pianist who has performed the score), and reflect the unique qualities of BB. Having not seen the original ABT version, I can’t comment on the changes, but I can say that what I saw (influenced as it may have been by the aforementioned elderflower margarita!) was very impressive. I didn’t know much, if anything, about Chuck Close prior to the show. I discovered that he is an artist who experienced a potentially career-ending spinal aneurysm which left him paralyzed. He had to relearn and refine his way of painting in light of this. I could see how the movements reflected this majorly influential experience in his life. There were moments where the dancers moved as if their limbs were foreign objects, difficult to manipulate. But at other times the movement was flowing and natural. The costuming was minimalist: men in black tights only, women in black leotards with sheer panels, no tights. But throughout the piece they would occasionally appear on stage wearing floor-length black skirts. The inside of the skirt revealed pieces of the Chuck Close self-portrait which they would display in various ways throughout the dance. The music was written by Phillip Glass, a well-known composer of a wide variety of works who has a few Golden Globes and Academy Awards on his shelf and who happens to be a friend of Close. As I mentioned above, Bruce Levingston was the pianist, as he was for the original ABT version, appearing stage right with his back to the audience. The set itself was designed by Mr. Close himself (how fascinating must it be to create a set for a ballet whose whole purpose is to honor you?). On the whole this was a fascinating collaboration of visual and performing arts. Truly inspiring.

Here’s BB’s Close to Chuck preview with some back story by Elo and rehearsal scenes (exciting note, just last night I was in that first room they show the dancers rehearsing in… subject for a future post!):

During the brief intermission we got up to stretch our legs, powder our noses, and inspect the wares at the boutique. My pocketbook was safe this show; nothing screamed at me to take it home, though they had some cool stuff on display, including some cool recycled/repurposed tote bags made from the banners they had used throughout the city to promote the Boston Common show. On our way back to our seats I nearly ran headlong into a guy who seemed awfully familiar. Um, hello, Mikko Nissinen. Nice show you’ve got going on here.

Back to our seats for the world premiere of “Resonance,” a piece created by José Martinez, a former Étoile with the Paris Opera Ballet and current director of the Compañia Nacional de Danza in Spain. The curtain opens on to the stage which has been bisected diagonally by what appears to be a wall of some sort. The only light comes from a bright beam coming from the far end of the wall (upstage, stage right) and the ever-powerful Lia Cirio– wearing a gorgeous long, navy blue dress — steps backwards onto the stage in the path of the light.

Throughout the ensuing piece there are ever-shifting elements. The pieces of the original wall are moved around revealing a pianist on stage at one point, then obscuring her again as if by an unseen hand. Until, towards the end of the piece, one section of the set is rotated in the center of the stage by four of the dancers. The costumes change, as well. Lia Cirio and Dusty Button were the lead female dancers. When Dusty first comes on stage she is wearing a leotard in the same blue as Lia, but without the long skirt. At some point the characters switch. The men, too. They are wearing long-sleeved tunics in one part, and then in another they are bare-armed. There are two pianists playing the music, but we only (occasionally) see one of them. In the corps work the soloists would occasionally dance separate and then at times join in the corps. They were dressed similarly, making them blend in seamlessly so that you almost lost track of the lead. The style of dancing struck me as vaguely Balanchine-esque with a modernist-classical feel. I felt that there was a lot of subtle symbolism going on during the piece, but subtlety is not always my strength when it comes to art. I enjoyed the piece, but must say it was the one I felt least inspired by at the end of the evening.

Here’s Martinez speaking about the piece:

After the second intermission came a piece I’ve been dying to see for years, though those who have been attending BB more regularly might be a bit bored with it by now: Jiři Kylián’s “Bella Figura.” This is the third year out of four that BB has featured this work. I’m not sure what has led them to show this so many times. My perverse thought is that they’re hoping the intrigue of partial nudity will help bring in new audience members. Not sure, but it’s a fun theory. There are portions of this piece where women (and men) appear topless. Honestly, though, it’s not terribly interesting. Ballerinas are pretty flat-chested, if you aren’t already aware. So if you were hoping for something titillating, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.

I’m not quite sure what Kylián had in mind with this work, but having seen others by him recently, I think that making the audience uncomfortable is part of his aim, at least in recent decades. Not in an overtly shocking way, but by pushing the boundaries of what we might consider acceptable in the world of ballet. For example, Bella Figura starts while the audience is still milling about during intermission. With the house lights on the curtain suddenly opens to reveal a group of dancers who are going through motions as if marking bits of choreography, preparing for the show. In this way of opening the piece, the audience is already on edge. People have been caught out of their seats, not sitting politely as we are trained to do when the lights flicker the warning to let us know intermission is coming to a close. Even those of us who are seated are cut off abruptly mid-conversation. You’re not sure whether to be embarassed at being “caught” in a theatre faux pas or to be annoyed that Kylián had the nerve to start the piece without fair warning. Alongside that, you can’t help but wonder if there’s been some error. Did some noob backstage open the curtain accidentally? Have we caught the dancers in some private pre-show ritual not meant for our eyes? Oh no!

I’ve noticed a definite movement vocabulary in his works: a kind of balance of very fluid motions juxtaposed by choppy, almost violent motions. The dancers facial expressions and steps have an almost in-your-face quality. If you’ve come to get washed away by pretty, flowy ballet, this is probably not the piece for you. But if you’ve come to feel emotion, you’re in the right place. The music he chose for this (a variety of works from Foss, Pergolesi, Marcello, Vivaldi, and Torelli) has a haunting quality to it. The choreography pulls at the viewer. Towards the beginning the dancers are all traditionally clothed, with the exception of one. A female dancer appears in nude-colored trunks and… that’s it. You feel this sense of vulnerability from her. It’s like that stereotypical nightmare come true… you’ve gone to work and realized only once you got there that you are stark naked. But she seems to not quite notice. It’s as though she’s preoccupied with other thoughts. A black curtain closes shutting off our view of the corps behind her and she and a male dancer (actually, he may have been wearing only nude trunks as well, but somehow his character didn’t stick out as much) are alone at the front of the stage. She steps forward, reaching towards the audience with her mouth open as if trying to tell us something. She steps back to the curtain where she’s wrapped in it from behind, only to come forward again. This process repeats itself. In my mind it was as if she was fighting two urges: one to feel safe, secure, swaddled, while the other was to reach out, allow herself to appear vulnerable and seek whatever it was she was seeking. And so it goes. The emotion is not always so raw. At times there’s an almost playful aspect to it. In one section after the iconic “red skirt” portion (all dancers, men and women alike, dance together wearing billowy, vermillion skirts and — you guessed it — no shirts) the curtain closes almost completely except for a small space in the middle where two women kneel, pulling off their skirts (don’t worry, they still have those nude trunks on) and almost seem to poke and prod one another as if they were two creatures from different planets trying to figure one another out.

At the end, after the curtain closes on the final scene, including two bowls of fire on stage, my companion and I let out a simultaneous sigh. We weren’t quite sure what we had just experienced, but it was emotional and it was deep. And perhaps this is why BB has been keeping it in constant rotation on their playlist.

Here’s their preview of the piece (and yes, there is a tiny glimpse of partial nudity, so viewer beware if you’re bothered by silly stuff like that):

On this particular evening there happened to be a post-show talk in the lobby with Mikko Nissinen (Artistic Director of Boston Ballet) and special guest Bruce Levingston. I love taking advantage of the pre- and post-show chats and learning what I can from the people behind the scenes, whether they be Mikko, the dancers, musicians, students, etc. In case you haven’t noticed, ballet isn’t just about staring at the stage for me. It’s kind of all-consuming. Luckily my companion has a similar dorkish streak and was happy to entertain my suggestion to stay and hear what they had to say. The talk centered primarily on Close to Chuck, the process of translating it from the original ABT production to something that was uniquely Boston, and also the history of how the piece came to be. Hearing the two men talking about it certainly gave me a greater appreciation for what I had seen.

In case you want to learn more, the Boston Globe did a very nice article on this which explains things far better than I could.

And so, that was my experience of getting Close to Chuck. As with nearly all contemporary works, I wish I had the chance to see it twice. I find that in reflecting on what I saw I come up with more questions and a burning desire to see it again and see what answers I can come up with. The show is running through March 2nd, so if you’re in the area I highly recommend you go check it out and see what you come away with!

DancerEats: Harvest Edition

It’s autumn again!

This causes my heart to sing with joy.

So many things to love about fall: the sights and smells of changing leaves, cooler and drier air, and the food. Oh the food… pumpkins, apples, cranberries… all are on my list of favorite things!

So when I found this recipe for Savory Baked Apples I had to put it on my culinary to-do list. I like baked apples in general (particularly when baked into a pie… heh heh), but the idea of putting a savory spin on them tickled my fancy.

The stuffing is made up of all delicious things: brown rice, dried cranberries, sausage, onion, garlic, and walnuts, spiced with cinnamon and sage, and topped with melty Swiss cheese.

So I trotted off to the store today to purchase everything I needed. Except the sage. Realized this after I got home… forgot to put it on the grocery list. Drat. I ransacked my spice cabinet hoping that I might have had some sage hidden in one of the corners, forgotten, but ready to serve. Alas, I was wrong. So I put the rice and broth I’d already started to simmer on the back burner while I ran out to a different grocery to get the missing herb (I didn’t want to run into the same cashier twice and have her think I’m a bit daffy… I’ve already had that happen with that particular cashier in the past and don’t want to become known as That Girl Who Always Forgets An Item and Has to Come Back even though it would not at all be an inappropriate title).

Sage acquired, back to the task at hand.

This recipe, as many of my recipes do, came from Cooking Light and — as I’ve mentioned before — I do wonder if some of the “light” in their title is in regards to the food preparation. The recipe called for the apples to be cored and then the centers scooped out with a spoon. Much grumbling ensued.

Apples popped in the oven after my fight with them, and I finished cooking and assembling the filling, timer went off for the apples and…

$^@!

Damn.

Okay, so they called for Rome apples, which I didn’t find at the store. I went for some local Cortland apples instead based on their size and the fact that they usually fare alright in baked goods, at least compared to Macintosh and the like. They might make due for an apple crisp, but so not approps for stuffing. They came out of the oven all flopped over and looking miserable. There was no way I was going to be able to get stuffing IN the apple.

Fine then, be that way.

I put an apple in a dish, heaped some stuffing and cheese on top and popped it under the broiler.

It came out completely unidentifiable as a stuffed apple.

But my taste buds? They did not care on whit. They found the entire ugly concoction most pleasing, in fact. I had to have a stern talking-to with them about the fact that the other three apples were to be saved for future consumption.

So, if you wish to try this I suggest following the directions and going for a sturdier apple. Or, just do like I did, and turn it into a dump dish. It’ll still be yummy, I promise.

A delicious pumpkin ale makes a lovely accompaniment (just avoid that part if you’re eating this as pre-dance fuel).

The mix of the savory and sweet is just right for this autumn dish, the addition of toasted walnuts adds some lovely crunch to the texture, and the bit of cheese over the top is enough to satisfy dairy-hounds such as myself without going overboard on the fat.

This one is definitely headed for the permanent file!

DancerEats: Corn fritters!

As per usual, dance break is consumed with trying to find some semblance of organization in my house. While I was rifling through some papers on my kitchen counter I found a recipe that I had printed off a month or two ago: Corn fritters with roasted tomatoes and lime aioli.

“Hm,” thought I to myself. “I think I found my next weekend project!”

Trotted off to my favorite gourmet store to get the ingredients. Not that I needed to go to the gourmet store. That was purely to get me in the mood. Hey, atmosphere is everything! I got to mosey while sipping an impossibly tiny paper cup of coffee, listening to classical music, stopping to sniff boules and baguettes, all while feeling incredibly chic. The grouchy lady at the checkout snapped me out of whatever reverie I had drifted into, however. I guess not everyone is lulled into meditative bliss by the environment!

This afternoon I put on my figurative chef’s cap and sliced my vine-ripened tomatoes, drizzled them with olive oil and pepper and off into the oven for a long roast they went.

Then, fritter time! But first I had to get the kernels off the cob. I’ve never attempted that before. In my world corn comes from a bag in the freezer section. Or I eat it straight off the cob. I wondered to myself whether this exercise was truly necessary, but I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to following directions, so I did it, meanwhile wondering if perhaps part of Cooking Light’s mission was to force the reader to get some exercise while preparing the food.

Dear reader, this step was Totally Necessary. Not only was I able to pretend to be a World-Famous TV Chef while dekerneling the cobs, but fresh corn is eminently delicious and I highly doubt that defrosted corn from the freezer would have tasted nearly as wonderful.

So, corn fritters are basically pancakes with corn and green onion and some black pepper thrown in. I love pancakes. My dream is to open an all-pancakes, all-the-time restaurant. I would definitely include these on the menu! Cooked those puppies up and conveniently ended up with a few more fritters than the recipe stated, so got to test the one from the first batch that didn’t flip properly and the last one that was too tiny to qualify as a Real Fritter. Yum. Something tells me I’m into something good!

Then for the lime aioli. “Aioli” is apparently the new trend in sauces and dressings. I see it everywhere. As far as I can tell, aioli is simply dressed-up mayonnaise. How soon until ranch dressing is no longer ranch dressing and instead becomes “Ranch aioli”? Whatever, I love mayonnaise, so I’m not really complaining… mayo with lime juice and garlic? Sure!

Once the tomatoes finished roasting (and man, do they shrink to puny proportions!) I grabbed some baby arugula the stacking began (side note: I saw Dame Edna perform, I dunno, some 10 years ago or so, and ever since I cannot think of arugula without saying to myself: “ah-RUUUUUUU-gula!”). Beware, this is a VERY precarious process. Mine flopped over quite unceremoniously before I could even snap one picture of my creation and after restacking and getting a shot it immediately toppled once more. No matter, still delicious.

But, oh!, I realized afterwards that I forgot the slice of prosciutto on top. Sadness prevails! Luckily there are plenty of leftovers to make a lunch tomorrow (and the next day) and we’ll try it with the prosciutto then.

As for the DancerEats analysis, well, I’d definitely put this in the healthy category (I mean, it did come from Cooking Light). Not only does one get to expend calories in the preparation, but this clocks in at a mere 284 calories per serving with 7.4 grams of fiber and 12.6 grams of protein. A light yet satisfying pre- or post-dance snack with lots of flavors to excite the taste buds!

DancerEats – Or, uh, DancerDrinks! The Winter Beverage Edition

One of the things I love about this season is the plethora of delicious winter-/Christmas-themed hot beverages that make their way into our favorite (or not so favorite) overpriced coffee chains. I’m not a big S***b****s addict, but I definitely manage to work in a few trips between Thanksgiving and New Years to indulge in a gingerbread or eggnog latte, salted caramel hot chocolate, or peppermint mocha.

Funny story about the eggnog latte (stop me if you’ve heard this one before)… a long time ago in a prior career my company had a coffee shop that served Mermaid coffee (I know she’s a siren, but mermaid sounds better). Which included — in the Christmas season — eggnog lattes. One day I walked in to the little shop and the barista behind the counter asked, “Eggnog latte?” and started to prepare it before the door swung shut behind me. Oh, noes! I had become That Girl! The one who orders the same thing every day! Cut off! Or perhaps I just scoped out maps of all the Mermaid coffee locations within easy walking distance of my office so I could go to a different one each day to get my fix. If there’s anything I detest, it’s being predictable!

I eventually broke my habit, but not my love for the stuff, and you can guarantee that at least once during the season I’ll indulge in one of these.

But we all know that these delicious drinks are not only calorie bombs, but — at nearly $5 for a small (or, ahem, a “tall”) — your money will be hemorrhaging out of your wallet faster than you can stop the bleed. I’d like to say that the calorie count is what stops me from buying more of these, but ultimately it’s the money. I can get around the calories by saying, well, if I ONLY have a latte for lunch, then it’s okay, Consuming 400 calories worth of sugar, caffeine, and milkfat might not be the BEST use of my lunch allotment, but whatevs. Dropping that kind of cash, though… ouch. So I’m always excited to find ways around expensive coffee with equally tasty results.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite seasonal indulgences.

Flavored coffee. Yes, I can hear you now saying, “Really, Rori, that’s the best you can come up with, flavored coffee?” But hear me out. (And if you’re one of those coffee purists who has told me that flavored coffees use the lowest quality beans and whatnot, fine, all the more for me, and you may ignore the rest of this section!) I’m a Keurig girl myself. I may or may not have assorted K-cups crammed in every spare nook and cranny of my kitchen/pantry. If it’s variety you’re looking for, you’ll not want in my house! It’s slightly obscene. I’ve acquired a nice selection of holiday flavors within that impending avalanche. Green Mountain Coffee makes gingerbread and spicy eggnog and of course I still have plenty of pumpkin spice left from autumn. They also make a “Winter” (as opposed to “Holiday”) flavor called Golden French Toast… aka, amazingness in a cup. Totally drool-worthy. Timothy’s makes a Winter Carnival (which is described as having the flavors of vanilla, caramel, and custard… mmmm, custard) as well as Sugar Bush Maple (okay, that’s a spring flavor, not winter, but we’ll let it slide). A couple weeks ago I discovered another holiday coffee, this one from Van Houtte: White Chocolate Mint. Much as I love peppermint mochas and the like I had some reservations about this one, but needn’t have bothered. Yum-mie. And when I’m looking for a seasonal hot beverage not of the coffee variety, Green Mountain also makes a hot apple cider K-cup which is quite tasty.

My sick obsession... keep in mind, this is just a selection of the variety in my possession!

Lattes. Now, admittedly a regular old cup of joe, no matter the flavor, can never quite convey the richness of a latte. I mean, I can get a little heavy-handed on the half-and-half at times, but even so… So what do I do when the spicy eggnog coffee isn’t scratching those eggnog latte cravings? Well, first one must get some ‘nog! I prefer the light variety myself… love the flavor of eggnog, but I tend to cut even the light stuff with plain milk (or, uh, rum) to make it a bit less cloying. I brew a cup of medium or dark roast coffee in a large mug so there’s plenty of headroom, then fill it up with maybe a quarter-cup of eggnog. This gives more of the eggnog latte flavor and richness, but again, way cheaper, and healthier. Even with full-test eggnog, you’ll still come out ahead on the calories and fat since you’re not ingesting, you know, a full 8 ounces of the stuff. Now, I don’t know if this is a regional thing or what, but there have also been a number of odd eggnog flavors popping up in recent years around here. Vanilla’s been around for a while (a personal fave), but I’ve also seen cinnamon, gingerbread, pumpkin, and sugar cookie. The sugar cookie one is vile. Seriously. Steer clear. I don’t think I’ve actually tried the others, but I would imagine that you could use them in your coffee as well for that gingerbread or pumpkin latte flavor.

Faux eggnog latte ingredients

Hot Chocolate. Don’t know if you’ve read the news, but apparently chocolate milk in the new post-workout recovery drink of choice. Yum! Works for me! I figure that hot chocolate is just a heated up version of the same. Totally have to go for the hot milk variety, though. The instant, just add hot water stuff is okay in a pinch, but the hot milk variety is where it’s at. I just pour milk in a mug, toss it in the microwave (which conveniently has an idiot-proof “Beverage” button) and add the good stuff once it’s heated. Lots of tasty choices out there. Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate (in the baking aisle) is a good option. I’m also a fan of Penzeys, which makes both regular and mint hot chocolate mix. There are other drinking chocolates out there and you can even use regular cocoa powder and sugar in a pinch. I like to spice my HC up with a little ground cinnamon and a teensy dash of chili powder. A dash of almond or vanilla extract is also quite nice, as is hunting around the liquor cabinet for some cherry brandy, Irish cream, Kahlua or whatever your favorite poison to pair with chocolate. Now THAT’S something you won’t find at your chain coffee shop!

Better than coffeehouse hot chocolate!

I realize we have not discussed tea… or for that matter marzipan! Or candy canes! 😉 Hey, you didn’t think I’d get out of here without a Nut reference did you?! But hopefully this will be enough to keep you warm through these darkest days of the year (on this half of the world, anyway!).

DancerEats – Mediterranean Salad

Decided to start a new category of dance posts: DancerEats!

I anticipate that these posts will generally fall into one of two categories: I-Am-A-Dancer-My-Body-Is-A-Temple and I-Am-A-Dancer-Therefore-I-Can-Justify-Consuming-[Dessert-Booze-Grease-Etc.]. I strive for balance in my life. This is the line I choose to balance on.

So, the first of these — surprisingly, for me — falls into the former category. Rare, but hey, I can start off giving you the impression that I’m all healthy and stuff (I am a nurse, gotta portray some sort of decorum). Just don’t be surprised when I start rambling on about fudge and cookies and ice cream.

Being A) single and B) in dance class a few nights a week, I’m not a big dinner-maker. I’ve been known to call a beer and a bowl of popcorn dinner. Hey, it happens. But one thing I do enjoy is making a large dish that will last a few meals, particularly if it’s delish. Nothing better than knowing there’s something yummy already made waiting for you.

Today, I present you with Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette.

I found this one on the Cooking Light website. Love Cooking Light. Surprising… because I refuse to eat any sort of artificial sweetener (including “natural” artificial sweetener), artificial butter-like substances, artificial meat products. I’d rather do without than eat that crap (no offense if you indulge in that stuff…). But this magazine is remarkably talented at providing recipes that are “healthier” (sometimes I have my doubts) but still made with real food and actually delicious.

This one plays right into my love of Mediterranean food. I may be of northern European heritage, but Greek and Italian food makes me drool. Olives. Feta. Artichoke hearts. Pasta. Yummmm.

The combo in this salad is delish. Got the orzo for pasta yumminess (could easily be made with other pastas, but the rice-like shape of the orzo mixes nicely with the other ingredients). The veggies provide an excellent balance of sweet (sun-dried tomatoes), salty (Kalamata olives), zing (red onion), and butteriness (artichoke hearts) while the spinach gives it some substance. I loved the idea of using the artichoke marinade as the dressing. Makes it simple and adds flavor without overpowering the individual ingredients. And feta. Mmm… cheese.

If you were looking for an additional protein boost you could easily add in some chopped marinated grilled chicken (or steak). But even without this still clocks in at nearly 12 grams of protein per serving… and only 340 calories or so and over 5 grams of fiber. Not bad for a side (or, if you’re me, a meal… I’m a nosher). As a dancer, I also worry about how things will sit with my stomach if I eat this before class. Tomato products aren’t always the best for me, but with the sweetness and concentrated flavor of the sundried tomatoes, this one wouldn’t likely cause a problem. The seasoning is also mild enough to not cause gastric issues during barre!

This meal will keep for a couple days assuming you’ve used fresh ingredients. If you had concerns, you could mix it up without the spinach and just add at the time of the meal, but I find spinach holds up better in prepared salads than lettuces and such. Also, I would recommend saving the step of reserving part of the feta to sprinkle over top of the servings. I mixed it all right in. Even if you were serving this for a real Dinner (as opposed to my tossed-around-in-the-lunch-bag meal) I don’t think it would necessarily add much to the presentation. Save yourself the pain of washing another measuring cup.

Looking forward to tossing some of my foodiness into my blog. Hope you enjoy! Until next time.