I have a little sister. It seems funny to write it that way now that we’re both fully grown and mostly mature adults, but to me that’s what she’ll always be. My little sister. We played well together when we were young. We built complex, multi-room forts (complete with doors!) out of the couch cushions, piano, piano bench, blankets and other furniture building blocks. We played barbies and my little ponies, creating elaborate stories that captivated our imaginations for hours upon hours. We put on records and danced to The Mini-Pops, Madonna and Bananarama (my choice) and Corey Hart (her choice). We played dress-up, rode skate boards, and screamed with delight sprinting through the sprinkler.
As is often the case with younger siblings, she was always more daring and excelled at things that I was totally scared of. She kicked my butt at baseball, swam like a fish, was a daredevil gymnast and then took the acrobatics to a new level diving in a pool. It took me months to even muster the courage to jump into the water when I was little. Swimming fail. And there she was, always jumping in to everything- no water wings required.
The only place where I was more adventurous was with what I’d eat on my dinner plate. Things could be mixed, sauced, spicy… I’d try mostly anything (just not apple sauce). For many years my sister’s plate was a pristine temple of not touchingness. Everything equally spaced, broccoli keeping safe distance from rice, pasta but hold the sauce please. Heaven forbid should the food make contact- flavours mingling, textures mixing… total eew. Luckily, she outgrew this.
We grew into hormonal, crazy teenagers, and became strangers. To me she seemed so cool, while I felt like a quiet, artistic nerd. She had lots of friends, and I could count mine on one hand. She borrowed my clothes without asking… but I did the same (shhh!!). Oh the joys- my poor parents… and the arguments they refereed!! I was convinced we fought because we were so vastly different. I realize now it was because we were actually quite similar. Thankfully not all of our teenage years were spent freaking out, and when we did get along it was awesome. How cool was it to have a friend like her? I quietly cherished those moments.
Time slips by, and soon we were both adults. I moved away- across the country. I discovered that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Suddenly, we became friends again. Close friends. Close like only sisters can be. Sisters who have played dolls and dress-up, laughed, cried, fought like crazy, then made up. Sisters who have helped each other get married, worn paper plate bow hats, and flown across the country to surprise the other. Sisters who have each other’s backs. Sisters who inspire the other to jump into the deep end, then smile triumphantly at the other’s success and courage.
To my little sister, I wish you the happiest of birthdays. Your courage and strength, humour and ipod playlists are ever inspiring. I wish I could make this quinoa salad for you (and eat it with you!) in person!! Instead I offer you this post (with a very delayed recipe), in honour of your very special birthday. With love…. and welcome to the club!!
ps. I just ate both of our portions of this salad. And I’m so going back for more.
Birthday Quinoa Salad
Slightly adapted from the recipe for Quinoa Salad in Jessica Porter’s book “The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics”
When I made this for my family last summer I added finely sliced green apple to the salad just before serving. I also omitted the red onion. This recipe is really versatile- be creative and use different nuts (pumpkin seeds are nice if you have an allergy), fruits, herbs, even finely sliced red cabbage is a nice addition (just be sure to press it along with the red radish).
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced (you can leave this out if you have an aversion to onions)
4 radishes, sliced into fine half-moons
2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups spring water
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup raisins, washed and drained
optional sliced apple
Mix the onion and radish with the vinegars, cover with a plate and weight and press for 1 hour.
Wash the quinoa thoroughly then roast in a heavy bottomed pan until dry and the grain is slightly golden and begins to puff.
Bring the water and salt to boil in a saucepan, stir in the quinoa and bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. When cooked, remove from heat and fluff into a bowl to allow to cool.
Wash and roast the hazelnuts at 325˚F until the nuts are golden and the skins are crispy crackly. To remove the skins, rub the nuts in a dry dishtowel. Chop roughly, keeping some nice large pieces.
Toss everything together, including the liquid from the radishes, and serve.