Spring has not yet sprung in Michigan, but I’m excited to be emerging from my blog hibernation at long last! A lot has happened in the three months since my most recent post. After finishing up the fall semester, I visited my family over Christmas and met my adorable nephew for the first time. As soon as I returned, I had to pack up most of my belongings to ship them out to California; pretty much the minute I taped up the last box, I came down with strep throat, which put me out of commission for the better part of a week. Once the fever and nausea subsided, I threw myself into writing the final chapter of my dissertation and preparing for the defense.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of stress and ridiculousness, but I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that on February 23rd, I successfully defended my dissertation and became a doctor!!! That’s right—there is now a Dr. Cake Pants I (the fiancé) and a Dr. Cake Pants II. Okay, technically, I may not be a doctor until after graduation, but my advisor shook my hand and called me “doctor,” so that’s good enough for me!
While I’ve never doubted that stress is bad for the body, this became abundantly clear to me in the weeks leading up to my defense (which also coincided with some wedding planning stuff and health insurance issues). Basically, my body started going haywire. I won’t bore you with all the details, but let’s just say there were at least half a dozen doctors’ appointments, various physical therapy exercises, a trip to urgent care, etc. So in order to reduce my chances of keeling over dead or spontaneously combusting, I’ve been making a concerted effort to clean up my diet and cut down on the number of processed foods I eat (with occasional exceptions made for doughnuts, because that’s just what you do on Fat Tuesday).
Most days, I have some sort of quinoa medley for lunch, and this Greek quinoa salad is one example. It’s fresh, packs well, and thanks to the feta vinaigrette, there’s tons of tangy flavor in every bite! To save time, I love to make a big batch of recipes like these and then tweak them a bit each day to keep things interesting. Some days, I add a salmon patty and diced avocado; other days, shredded rotisserie chicken and a handful of pistachios. It’s a wonderfully versatile base salad for whatever toppings you feel like adding, but it’s also a delicious side dish as is.
What are your best tips for how to de-stress when you’re feeling frazzled and short on time? Do you light a scented candle? Write in a journal? I’d love to hear!
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup diced green pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
- 1 cup diced cucumbers (about 3 Persian cucumbers)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
- 3 tablespoons feta, crumbled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- Prepare the quinoa according to the directions on the package. This will likely call for two parts water and one part quinoa.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: using a fork, break the crumbled feta into the smallest possible pieces (without mashing it into a paste). In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa, green pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Stir in the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top.
chef mimi says
wow! Congratulations! That’s really incredible. About this salad, I think you must love feta as much as I do! And thank goodness for cherry tomatoes, because the big ones aren’t worth a damn until summer.
Thanks, Mimi! I am SO looking forward to summer tomatoes…always one of the highlights of the season!
Congrats Dr. Cake Pants!! And oh my goodness, stress can be so powerful sometimes – it gets the best of me more than I’d like to admit too.
Keeping a bullet journal has helped me not overcommit myself. But in those surprise stress circumstances I try breathing techniques to restore some calm (Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique is great and only takes a few minutes a day). THC-free CBD oil supplements have provided surprising relief (they even make one that comes as little chocolate hearts!!), and the flower essences in Rescue Remedy help too (used them as a kid a lot).
Hope you get a chance to de-stress with a donut and a lavender candle soon <3 Excited for you to move back west!!
Thanks so much! I did get to enjoy an epic chocolate-glazed old-fashioned doughnut last week in California, which sadly (or perhaps fortunately?) I can’t find in my local shops or grocery stores. Thanks for the recommendations! I hadn’t heard of a bullet journal before, but I looked it up and now I’m intrigued…
David @ Spiced says
First of all, congrats on defending the dissertation! I’m hoping your next post is just your dissertation. I’d love to read it in my spare time. (Spare time….haha!) So for me, playing video games actually helps me destress. Seriously. It might sound silly, but I can just turn my brain entirely onto something else for a bit so that when I come back to “real life” my brain feels rested. It works for me. Candles are also a nice touch, and we try to keep one burning on the weekends as it just adds a fun ambiance.
Sorry to hear about the health issues, but hopefully you’re on the upswing of things now. I love this recipe, too! I start craving Greek flavors like nobody’s business come this time of the year…so I know I would love this quinoa salad. Sounds like a great lunch!
Thanks, David! I’m pretty sure that you and maybe my mom would be the only ones who would click on a dissertation post 😉 I can definitely see how being immersed in a video game would be relaxing! It’s much more of an engaging activity than just watching a movie, which sometimes still allows the mind to wander.
Abbey | threecatsandagirl says
Hello Mara!! 🙂 I am one of the co-hosts for Fiesta Friday this week and so I’m stopping by everyone’s blogs and scoping out the yummy recipes! 😉 First, I want to say how much I love your blog name lol it’s great! Second, congratulations on your dissertation and doctorate!! That is seriously so exciting:) and you are getting married too <3 Busy and fun times are your way it sounds like!
I've tried quinoa a few times, but really haven't had any success with it :/ You seem like you have it down though! I love the idea of using this salad for the whole week and spicing it up in various ways each day!
When I am feeling frazzled I listen to a Jazz/Ginger Tunes music playlist and I find it soothes me!
Thanks for sharing and being apart of Fiesta Friday this week 🙂
Thanks so much, Abbey, and thank you for hosting this week! I’m glad you like the blog name – I smiled when I read yours as well 🙂 Quinoa can definitely be tricky, both in terms of cooking it properly (I still have the occasional mishap where I add a little too much water or cook it a little too long) and dressing it up. On its own, it’s really quite dull, but thanks to the feta vinaigrette, that’s not the case here! I hope you have a great weekend 🙂
Angie | Fiesta Friday says
Congrats, Dr. Cake Pants II! That has a nice ring to it 🙂 We’re so proud to have a doctor in our fiesta! And if the doctor tells you to like quinoa, then you listen. Seriously, I’m trying my best to love it. I’m not completely there yet, but I do like it in salads, with lots of dressing and other ingredients 😀 Pretty much like what you do here!
Thanks so much, Angie! I’ve missed being able to participate in Fiesta Friday the past few weeks, so it’s good to be back 🙂 And I agree – quinoa on its own is pretty uninspiring, but I’ve grown to love it in salads like this and other dishes like this lunch, which is one of my go-to meals!