I never imagined the life that I am living now: one spent mostly in the kitchen, developing and testing variations of the same recipe, prepping the mise-en-place, stirring a wooden spoon in a large pot of risotto, or crouching by the oven door, peering to see if the loaf of bread has finally risen.
Life, as I’ve discovered, never quite goes according to plan, no matter how much of a control-freak and organized planner you may be.
When I chose to study economics and finance at university, I imagined a future life as a banker based in Singapore, sitting at my desk in a polished office building in the city center and preparing excel spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations.
Somehow, life didn’t quite turn out that way.
Instead, I relocated from Singapore and moved across the globe in 2010 and I now call Buenos Aires, also known as “the Paris of South America”, my home.
As for my office, my work space essentially rotates between my small open-concept kitchen, my balcony which is also my natural light studio where I shoot most of my food photos, and my dining table a few meters away, which doubles up as my work desk, where I do post-processing work on images and write articles.
While the life that I have these days doesn’t look at all like that blueprint I’d originally had in mind, the fact that I wake up each morning ready to do work that I love isn’t lost on me.
I know that it is a luxury to be able to live the life that I love, and love the life that I live; and being able to go to Pilates class at 3.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon instead of being tied down to a 9-to-5 office schedule is just one of the major perks.
I’m acutely aware that I get to practice and hone my writing, photography and recipe development skills every single day, and even get paid while doing so, something I feel incredibly blessed to enjoy.
I don’t know how many people are able to do that, so each day I’m filled with gratitude for the life I have.
A few weeks back, as we crossed over from the last days of winter into spring, I made a decision to adopt the abundance mindset.
Simply put, the abundance mindset focuses on the good things that one already has and holds onto the belief that there is enough for everyone; versus the scarcity mindset which treats everything as a win-lose situation, and the belief that there is not enough pie to go around.
Despite feeling anxious about some things and letting my uncertainty about the future get the better of me, I simply decided to believe that the best is yet to come.
And while the year has been amazing so far, but I know that the last quarter of 2016 can only get better.
The moment that I began to believe that there will be more than enough, and that I didn’t have to worry about the future, I started receiving confirmations of that two Sundays back, when I was having lunch with Juan at our neighborhood Tea Connection.
Apparently, Tea Connection has a policy where the management chooses a customer every single day and does something special for the person. That Sunday, the sweet people at Tea Connection had picked me and wanted to gift me with a beautiful plate that I’d been coveting after for a few weeks now (it’s the plate on which this warm quinoa salad is plated). I was extremely and pleasantly surprised, but knew that it had happened for a reason.
I know deep inside that that was a result of the change in my mindset – that instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I chose to focus on all the good things that could happen.
And because I know that I’ve made the right choice in changing my mindset, I want to celebrate this new phase of life that has can only get better and better.
Here’s a warm quinoa salad with butternut squash, avocado and arugula that is perfect for these first days of spring – it’s bright and colorful, yet also warm and filling to keep you full for longer. This salad is also naturally gluten-free and vegan, which makes it even better!
In my opinion, this is the perfect sort of meal: vibrant, textured and filled with protein and fibre.
It takes just 45 minutes to make from scratch, but if you already have roasted butternut squash and cooked quinoa in your fridge, then it’ll take no more than 10 minutes to mix it all together.
Here’s how you can make it. Start off by pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and lining a baking sheet with parchment paper of a silpat.
Place the diced butternut squash in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle some vegetable oil over. Let the butternut squash roast for the next 45 minutes until it is cooked through and crispy on the edges.
In the meanwhile, combine the red and white quinoa with the vegetable stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the stock starts to boil, reduce heat to low and cover, leaving a small gap for steam to escape. Allow the quinoa to cook for the next 15 minutes, then switch off the heat before fluffing the quinoa and letting it sit covered for another 5 minutes.
Once both the quinoa and butternut squash are ready, combine cooked quinoa, roasted butternut squash, arugula and diced avocado in a large mixing bowl. Spring salt over the ingredients and then drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Mix the ingredients well and serve.
- ½ cup red quinoa
- ½ cup white quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 cups diced butternut squash
- 4 cups arugula leaves
- 2 medium avocados, diced
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
- Place the diced butternut squash in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with vegetable oil.
- Roast the butternut squash for 45 minutes, flipping them over halfway through, until they are cooked through and crispy on the edges.
- As the butternut squash is roasting, combine the red and white quinoa with the vegetable stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the stock starts to boil, reduce heat to low, and cover, leaving a small gap for steam to escape.
- Allow the quinoa to cook for the next 15 minutes, then switch off the heat, before fluffing the quinoa and letting it sit covered for another 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked quinoa, roasted butternut squash, arugula, and diced avocado. Sprinkle salt over the ingredients and drizzle them with lemon juice and olive oil. Mix together and serve.