A light and bright salad full of spinach greens, freshly sliced strawberries and avocado, seared steak and a simple lemon balsamic vinaigrette dressing! Or try my lemon poppy seed dressing.
This past week has been spent at the Everything Food Conference in Salt Lake City, so things have been a little bit busier than usual around these parts.
I buttoned up my day job work before I left, packed, woke up at the crack of down, and then spent an inordinate amount of time in airports because of extra long security lines and mechanical airplane issues before I made it there (in one piece, thankfully).
So… about flying. You may or may not know this about me, but I have an extraordinarily hard time flying – and my anxiety has only gotten worse with age. Every time I have to fly, the days leading up to it turn me into a nervous wreck.
I’m nauseated, I don’t have much of an appetite, my whole body aches, I can’t sleep. It’s just awful.
On the day I have to fly, I’m sweating profusely, my stomach hurts, I feel dehydrated, I get a nervous bladder… I’m just a hot mess. And then once I’m on the plane, it’s a nightmare. Sweating, nervous bladder, shaking, crying, the works.
Having a layover where I have to go through the process of take off and landing twice? Just punch me in the face, it would be less painful for me.
All that said, I knew I had to do something about it this year because I’ve had to travel way more than I ever have in the past, and each time has been an ordeal. After much research, I started reading SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying (affiliate link). It’s written by a pilot and helps you develop methods for dealing with flight anxiety.
One of the hardest things for me has been pinpointing my specific fears and understanding why they’ve been getting worse over time, and this book has really helped me understand a lot of those triggers.
My Flight Anxiety Triggers
A big part of it is the news coverage of every airline incident. It feels like it’s so frequent that it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen to me. That the next plane that goes down is definitely going to mine. The truth is, the statistics support the fact that flying is safer than driving your car to the grocery store. There’s something like 7,000 planes in the sky at any given moment, and the odds of dying in a plane crash are something like 1 in 5 million.
UGH. HEIGHTS. I’ve never been good with heights, and cruising around in a flying tube doesn’t really scream “good times” for me.
I have absolutely no control. None. Zilch. There is not a damn thing I can do once I’m locked in the flying tube, and I just have to trust that the pilots know what they’re doing and will get us where we’re going safely. Have I mentioned I’m a control freak with OCD? Yeah. This situation doesn’t go over well with that combination of personality traits.
I’ll stop babbling about my personal problems, and just say that the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this book is to ask to meet the pilot. I typed up a short note and made a few copies, just explaining my anxiety and asking the gate agent if it would be possible for me to board the plane first to just meet the pilot and speak with him briefly before takeoff.
The idea is that putting a face and personality with the person controlling the giant flying tube will help alleviate some of the loss of control issues.
Well, guess what? Works WONDERFULLY. I’m still not enjoying flying, but it certainly helped a great deal with the loss of control. Each pilot on my trip out to Utah took a few minutes to talk to me, explain their experience, and they both made a point of saying, “I fly like my family is on this plane, and I certainly want us all to make it where we’re going safely.”
Sure, that’s something I should 100% assume about every pilot in the cockpit, but it works wonders to hear it from those specific humans in that specific moment.
They were even nice enough to offer me the ability to speak with them at any point during the flights if I started to freak out at all. Thankfully, I didn’t need to take them up on that, but just knowing they were willing to pass the controls over to their copilot to calm down this crazy lady in coach is big help.
OKAY, ENOUGH, LESLIE. So anyway, I made it to Utah safely and if you’re reading this on Monday I am probably currently jet lagged and all sorts of zombie-like back in Boston.
The real takeaway is that I found myself in an extremely stressful situation that couldn’t be remedied by baking, because apparently airports don’t see it necessary to have ovens and ingredients on hand for me to make cookies. Rude.
I had to seek out another way to cope with that anxiety and deal with the stress, and I can’t emphasize enough how critical it was for me to find those coping mechanisms.
What did any of that nonsense have to do with this recipe, you ask? Absolutely nothing. But I did eat this strawberry spinach salad for dinner the night before my flight!
The first time I made this, it started as a just a strawberry spinach salad. I wanted it to be a more substantial salad that could be served for dinner, so I added avocado, some sliced almonds, and cheese.
We had a nice sirloin that we seared and placed in the oven until it was medium rare, sliced it against the grain, plopped it on top and it was freaking perfect.
It was definitely filling because it was piled with plenty of steak, avocado, strawberries, almonds and cotija cheese (because it’s the best cheese ever and if you don’t agree, come at me bro).
This time my husband has somewhat mistakenly picked up a ribeye, so we just used the leanest parts of the cut for the salad. Not as pretty as before, but hey – I never promise you guys Pinterest perfection up in here.
You can use whatever cut of steak you prefer, but personally I prefer a flank steak or sirloin. Cook it to your desired doneness, let it rest, slice, and now you’ve got a nice hearty salad.
Not a fan of steak? Just leave it off! And maybe compensate by adding extra cheese.
A light and bright salad full of spinach greens, freshly sliced strawberries and avocado, seared steak and a simple lemon balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
1 steak, cooked as desired and sliced against the grain
6–7 cups spinach (loosely packed)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 avocado, peeled and cut into slices
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds
Salt and pepper, to taste
Let your cut of steak rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes, or until it has come to room temperature. Blot the steak with paper towels to soak up excess moisture, then salt and pepper all over.
Preheat oven on the broil setting.
Heat a cast iron skillet on the stove top over high heat, add a little oil and then sear the steak for 30-60 seconds. Carefully use tongs to flip the steak and sear on the other side for 30 seconds.
Insert a probe style thermometer (we love this one by ThermoWorks – affiliate link) into the center of the steak, and carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes, then flip and broil for another 3-4 minutes or until the internal temperature is 5° lower than your ideal finished temperature (it will continue to cook a bit after being removed from the oven). Your time may be more or less depending on how you prefer your steak cooked. See below in the notes for the different doneness temperatures.
Transfer finished steak to a cutting board and tent with foil. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.
Rinse and dry spinach and place in a large salad bowl. Toss spinach in extra virgin olive oil and set aside.