It's that time of year again and I am traveling to Atlanta for my nephew Jeremy's graduation. I am going back and forth about what my contribution will be to his graduation party. I am going back to place that feels like home and to friends who have become family. I lived in Georgia for 12 years; I was there when he came into the world and now he is about to embark on the next chapter of his life... College...
I remember going off to college 'eons' ago with all the feelings of excitement and fear all bottled up into one. Sometimes I wish I could do over parts of my life and if I could speak to my younger self this is exactly what I would tell me.
Dear Jeremy and all other graduates; slow down, don't be in a rush to grow older. There'll be time for that. Take the time to live in each moment, relish it, feel it, embrace it. This is what I wish that someone had told me when I was in a rush to become an adult. I could not wait for college to be over, not realizing how hard life would really be when I was truly responsible for myself and the decisions that I made and how it would impacted my future which determined the meandering road my life would follow.
Your road will most certainly not be straight, expect many obstacles along the way because that's how life is. The most important things to remember are, work smart and hard, anything worth having requires blood, sweat and tears; there is pride in failing, it builds character, just get up and try again, if you must cry only do so for a minute and move on; develop a thick skin but keep a soft heart; expect disappointments, it is a normal part of life; always remember to ask God for directions and most importantly, never give up, don't quit, just keep going. We won't give up on you!
Shelley, Jeremy’s mom wanted a lot of side dishes to round out her menu. The menu already included; Barbeque, Chicken, Escoveitch Fish, Rice and Peas, Ackee Dip with Festival, Avocado Dip with toasted Bulla (aka bulla and pear) and Corn Casserole, Fruit Salad and of course the graduation cake which was Carrot Cake layered with Chocolate. I decided to add a Citrus Infused Goat Cheese Quinoa Salad to the mix. The flavor combination is awesome! Not bragging but it was a hit, this was the first time that the rice and peas was left standing and the quinoa salad gone!!! I am sure that part of the reason is that people are opting for more lighter and healthier dishes and the whispers and chatters coming from the group was ‘oh, this is surprisingly good.’ Of course with every comment I was smiling my face off.
This citrus infused goat cheese quinoa salad has many movable parts but I promise you that the extra effort needed is worth the taste. Several of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. The quinoa salad consists of a citrus vinaigrette dressing, pickled red onion, multi colored bell peppers, persian cucumbers, goat cheese and cilantro.
To make the Pickled Red Onions:
- 4 medium red onions
- 4 tablespoon salt
- 2 large lemons
- 3 limes
- 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Slice onions thinly
Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoon salt on onions
Add the juice of 2 large lemon to onions
Cover for 2 hours
Rinse onions add another tablespoon salt
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix well cover and refrigerate
Follow directions on the package to steam the quinoa. For a better flavor steam quinoa in chicken broth. Add a couple of pepper corn and a sprig of thyme. Usually 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water, however reduce water by half a cup because quinoa should be lightly steamed to give it an al dente quality. When quinoa is steamed, spread on a sheet pan to cool.
This was dressing was adapted from http://addapinch.com but I tweaked it a bit to my liking. To give it a more robust flavor I roasted a head of garlic as this gives the garlic a milder and sweeter taste. You can double the recipe for extra dressing as its really delicious!
To make the Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing:
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 1 head garlic roasted
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
To roast garlic; Cut off 1/4 inch of top of garlic head to expose the cloves , put in foil paper, drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly and bake in oven 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes
Blend all the ingredients to emulsify.