Intro

It’s not out of life’s character to move quickly, to come and go while often leaving a path of destruction not unlike the upended houses and thrown cars that get in the way of a tornado. Right now emails are coming in faster than I can respond to, we’re signing my little girl (my baby!!) up for preschool, I’m tripping over clean clothes spilling out of the confines of the basket and the dishwasher is loaded and unloaded more times that I can count in a day.

“In our next house I think we need a bigger dishwasher.” Gabe said while unloading yet another round. We’re both trying to seek some sort of sense in a season that has us both gasping for air.

These things happen. I’ve seen seasons come and go numerous times, particularly while being a parent. Just when you think you have a schedule figured out – baby is sleeping through the night, we’re getting three healthy meals on the table a day and we’re able to rest at the end of day – then suddenly something shifts and the new schedule that we took great pride in is pointless. Then in struts a new season without warning.

In our house we’re experiencing some shifting, a new busy season, and it’s provoked many moments of Gabe and I sitting on the couch staring blankly at the google calendar trying to make sense of the week. Nothing about these changes are bad – it’s multiple birthdays that call for multiple parties, book writing, new job opportunities, the start of wedding season, travel – but it’s enough to fill up the moments in our day and have us needing to seek out our priorities that don’t always get a time slot on the calendar.

The to-do list was growing by the minute last week and the 50 unread emails in my inbox were taunting me with their bold type but I knew we needed dinner. The sort that has food setting on multiple platters along the table. The kind of dinner that we ask the kids to set the table, with napkins even. They may be paper but even so a folded paper napkin with a fork and knife resting next to its crease somehow elevates the meal beyond the harried throw something on a plate because the kids are hangry dinners. Those happen too. But this time I was seeking the sort of dinner where we sit around the table and linger until the conversation dwindles and even then Gabe and I stick around for awhile while the kids carry their plates, with much of dinner still on it, into the kitchen then run off to play.

It seemed such a simple thing, in fact it was. Dinner was little more than braised chicken thighs with a bright white bean salad speckled with fresh mint, salty feta and peas that burst with spring. But sitting down to dinner reminded me that in the midst of chaos and new seasons it is vital that we stick to the routines that bind us.

It’s for this reason that our date nights are scheduled. If they weren’t their absence would go unnoticed until Gabe and I realize that something isn’t right in our marriage. These weekly nights that breed connection are like our preventative medicine – as exercise builds a strong body better ready to fight when sickness comes – our marriage is the stronger for our weekly dating exercise over a sprightly cocktail and satisfying meal.

The same is true for family dinner. I don’t want to communicate to our kids that we only have a nice meal together when there’s time. No, we make the time for it. And while I know the reality is that some nights we just can’t all linger at the table together, it’s important for our family that it’s most nights.
As we sat around the table over dinner I remembered the days when I longed for family dinners around the table. Baron used to sit in a little seat with an attached tray on the floor in our kitchen as he mumbled his way through black beans and purees of all kinds. Then when he was finally able to sit at the table with us for dinner, Roman had his turn in the little chair. We’d just sit down to dinner when suddenly Roman would start to cry and moan and demand something other than the mashed banana I was feeding him. I would leave the table with Roman while Gabe and Baron enjoyed dinner.

“When will we ever be able to eat as a family?” I lamented longing for those idillic dinners that I so eagerly wanted with our growing family.

Then came Ivy and again our meal time was split between a preschooler eager to talk about his day, a potty training and not eager to sit still toddler and a baby who didn’t want to sit on the sidelines or sit (unless in someone’s arms) in general. During those days it felt like dinner would never happen around the table. We ate in shifts and in between messes.

And then it happened, really without me even noticing. Sometime last year we were all sitting around the table.

“How was your day?” I asked Baron excited to hear about his day at school while at the same time remembering how often I was asked that question at the dinner table.

His generic response was the same as mine often was, “good”. Soon the conversation expanded beyond one word answers and we’d have to remind the kids to actually eat their food in between sentences.

Even still our dinners rarely last longer than 10 minutes, are often met with moans from all the green stuff I’m serving and much of the time is spent cleaning up spilled milk and sticky fingers. But it’s happening. We’re around the table most nights creating the habit and building the ritual. If we don’t build that into our schedule, regardless of the season we’ll one day realize that our opportunities for those dinners have passed. How terribly cliche of me but I’ve come to realize a new cliche – the cliches are true (and now I shall not say that word again because I really don’t like it).

While the romantic in me doesn’t like the need for “scheduling” time together – whether it’s date night or family dinners – the practical side of me, albeit however small that part is, realizes that in order for these times of connection to happen they need to be scheduled. The importance of those times outweighs my disdain of scheduling.

 

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White Bean Salad with Peas and Mint

serves 4 as a side

1 15 oz can or 1 1/2 cups white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
zest and juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup crumbled feta
olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine everything in a bowl. Add just enough olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper, lots of pepper, to taste.
If you are making this ahead combine everything except the mint as fresh mint tends to wilt and turn black once cut. Stir in the mint just before serving.
I like this with a bit of bread for a light lunch or served alongside chicken as a main course. Makes a great, easy picnic side dish.

*This post was inspired by the new book from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, called Gluten-Free Girl Every Day. It’s simple weeknight cooking centered around the family and dinner together. The recipes are simple yet creative and enticing. I can not wait to try the zuchini noodles with pesto.

*Recently I did an interview with Saveur. Check it out their site. And while you’re clicking around hop over to Bon Appetit where I took their new grilling book for a spin. *Spoiler* I LOVED it.

39 Responses to “White Bean Salad with Peas and Mint”

  1. Amanda

    Lovely, deary. This reminds me that I’ll get a whole book of date nights…sometime-I-don’t-remember-when…good work mama! You’ve inspired me to turn it up a notch. it is so easy to get lazy…

    Reply
  2. Eileen

    This salad looks like the springiest thing ever! I love the idea of combining beans, peas, and tangy feta and herbs. :)

    Reply
  3. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    A perfectly beautiful salad, yes, but more important — a perfectly beautiful wife and mother making the effort to have a family dinner tradition. It’s scary the number of families that just graze or who run off to separate spaces to eat unconsciously and alone while carrying on with their electronic lives!

    Reply
  4. sonya

    your kids sounds lovely. and this was a pleasure to read – hold strong, you’re doing a great job!

    Reply
  5. Sina

    I, too, cherish family meals. Its so important that its the norm that we sit as a family together no matter what. Lovely post!

    Reply
  6. underthealmondtree

    I’m trying to stay away for pasta this week , this will be my dinner tonight but with favabeans that are in season here. Thank’s for an inspiring and beautiful blog. / Anna

    Reply
  7. Kathryn

    What a lovely meal to gather round the table together and eat – so vibrant and nourishing and filled with love.

    Reply
  8. La Torontoise

    The salad is indeed the springiest thing I’ve seen this month!!
    I leave now home, in Europe, it’s a long weekend (Le Jour du Saint Esprit) and I will make this fresh salad right away.
    Love the mint in it!
    All the best.

    Reply
  9. Dorie @ Brooklyn Salt

    I love how mint adds such a jolt to any dish. Peas, mint, feta and white beans are high on my list of favorite foods. This is a fresh, quick salad I can make after work. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Laura

    Scheduling becomes surprisingly crucial (and I don’t even have kids) and I love that you likened it to a muscle or immune system. Connection and relationships need conditioning through consistent effort and time set aside and, sometimes, they need very little, just flowing seamlessly and meeting halfway in the wind. Glad you’re sharing a meal amidst the fullness of life, especially one that includes this vibrant salad. So lovely.

    Reply
  11. molly

    It’s so hard to see the trend when you’re in the thick, no? The weeds are dense, matted, and dark dark dark. Good for you, Ashley, for tiptoe-ing above it all, to notice the traditions you’re building, despite it all.

    Also? I’m no fan of white bean salad, but with peas + mint + feta? Yes, please!

    And? I have been feasting on the zucchini and pesto all week, and already asked (okay, begged) Shauna if I might share it. It is astoundingly good. I think you’ll love it.

    Happy new season to you. Babies to preschool are thunderous moments. I just sent mine to preschool moments ago, and in two weeks, she graduates, and is all talk of kindergarten. Unbelievable.

    xo,
    Molly

    Reply
  12. Katrina Hall

    Oh, MY! What a beautiful salad ! I often eat a whole frozen package of peas (cooked, just barely) for dinner: that’s how much I love them. White beans and mint sound just perfect to stir in – thanks!

    Reply
  13. Laura Dembowski

    Life really is crazy and wonderful at the same time. I always make time for little things and relaxation or I tend to flip out. This salad looks so simple and delicious, not to mention healthy.

    Reply
  14. fabiola@notjustbaked

    I appreciate this very much. Although we don’t have kids, our schedule is insane, we see each other for a few moments between my boyfriend going from work all day to school all night. I cherish those moments and he makes the time in his day to come home for a few minutes, 10 to be exact, so we can eat together. I make sure I am home, that is worth it to me. I have never used google calendar, he uses it, but maybe I need to check it out. I need to organizing in this blogger life.

    Reply
  15. Lena

    Eventhough it is not spring anymore, I think this would make a great addition to my weekly meal plan now in september. The pea, mint, lemon and feta combination sounds so Jamie Olivery, and perfect for a lovely lunch, too.

    Reply
  16. Brenden

    I am sure that me and my wife we are having fun in this weekend . Together we will be making white bean salad with peas and mint. This sounds like preeti good recipe.

    Reply
  17. Justin

    This recipe sounds perfect for the outdoor garden party that my wife and I are planning. By the way, I love your site design!

    Reply

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