Yesterday, the spell of winter broke, and the mountains of ice that had been erected on either side of our driveway started to melt, turning the street into a winding canal of rivers and lakes.
I was beginning to think spring would never come. That we would be encased in snow, living beneath grey, overcast skies until August, when we would sweat for a few weeks before getting out our fall jackets again.
But today, it feels like spring. Tomorrow it snows again, but today is 50 degrees, and glorious. The smell of that damp, cool air on my shriveled lungs reminded me why, despite the puddles and mud, spring is my favorite season. New beginnings and all that.
Blinded by my early-spring excitement, I dug out a pair of shorts, slipped on my running shoes, and rushed out the door for my first run of the year.
And you know what? I am really out of shape. For the first hundred feet or so, everything was fine. It was so exhilarating just to be outside without a dozen layers of clothing, to feel the wind in my face without the sharp sting of frostbite, to hear birds chirping everywhere…
Then I rounded the first corner and things started to go downhill. Not literally downhill, though, because that would have been easier. The muscles in my legs began to realize what I was making them do, and my lungs, which haven’t opened themselves up for much more than a yawn in the past few months, rebelled against every gasping breath.
To be honest, I’m not really sure why I thought it was a good idea. I’m pretty sure I pulled a muscle plugging in my laptop the other day.
Still, I pushed through, and managed to run an entire block. Yep. Out the door, down the driveway, around the block, and back. My knees were creaking by the end of it, but I know it was worth it. I’ll be thanking myself for these sore muscles when we’re buried in snow again tomorrow.
In anticipation of the promise of spring, and to help kickstart this whole getting-back-into-shape business, I made a salad. This is no ordinary salad, though. Last I checked, ordinary salads don’t taste this good.
Fresh cabbage, bell pepper, snap peas, and carrots, topped off with the most incredible sesame peanut dressing I’ve ever tasted. But that’s not even the best part — but wait, there’s more! — the best part are the sweet, ever-so-slightly-spicy honey roasted peanuts you throw on top. It’s kind of like adding chunks of fudge to vanilla ice cream. Only it’s a salad, so you can go back for seconds. And thirds.
Just be careful of the peanuts themselves. Those things are addictive beyond words, and if left in easy snacking reach they may try to thwart your getting-into-shapeness. Don’t let them. Don’t let them.
Okay, let them. After all, you ran a whole block today. Give yourself a pat on the back. Well done, me.
- 2 cups roasted and salted peanuts*
- ⅓rd cup honey
- ¾-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup peanut oil
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 TBSP toasted sesame oil
- 2 TBSP honey
- 2-3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 tsp. sriracha, or more to taste
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 4 TBSP toasted sesame seeds, divided
- 1 napa cabbage, sliced into thin shreds
- ½ red cabbage, quartered and sliced into thin shreds
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1-2 handfuls sugar snap peas
- 1-2 carrots, shredded
- 1-2 green onions, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Sweet & Spicy Honey Roasted Peanuts (recipe above)
- Optional: grilled chicken or shrimp
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F., and line a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat or strong aluminum foil.
- In a bowl, stir together the nuts, honey, pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Spread on the prepared baking sheet into an even layer, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the honey turns a deep caramel color, stirring every 3-5 minutes to prevent burning.
- Remove from the oven and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle on the sugar, and continue to stir until cooled, breaking up clumps as they form. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, you can use your hands to break up any larger clumps that remain. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a couple of weeks.
- Whisk all the ingredients to combine, except 2 TBSP of the toasted sesame seeds. Save these as a garnish for the salad. Store dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. Dressing is best made a day in advance to let the flavors come together.
- In a bowl, combine both of the cabbages, bell pepper, snap pees, and carrots. Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro. Salad greens can be prepped in advance, and stored in the fridge for up to a few days in a lidded bowl.
- When ready to serve, top with the dressing, reserved sesame seeds, and a handful of honey roasted peanuts. Optionally, add some grilled chicken or shrimp to make the salad a complete meal.
*Look for peanuts with no other added ingredients -- just peanuts, oil, and salt