Their faces shriveled up like little raisins, puckered with panic and surprise. Even though the 7th graders kept their angst non-verbal (ah, they’re growing up!), the mere mention of the deadline for their first research paper was obviously producing epic inward groaning.

That’s when we had to have our talk, and I’m about to have the same talk with you. The truth is, I need this advice as much as anyone reading this right now: you don’t have to stop being afraid, but stop letting that fear stop you.

I get why they’re scared. We’ve been building up this essay for months to try and ensure they won’t be That Kid. You know That Kid (maybe you were That Kid?): the one who doesn’t read the project sheet, does all his or her “research” by playing Crystal Gemz Stackathon on Facebook, and “writes” his or her whole paper the night before by copying and pasting it off of Wikipedia. No teacher wants to read That Kid’s research paper. So we instill a healthy dose of respect for the project.

The thing is, my students are already work-conscious. In fact, a few of them are perfectionists. For those kids, that healthy dose of respect quickly turns to anxiety. What if they don’t get the hang of the research paper? What if it’s too hard for them after all? What if they can’t think of what to say?

They lose sight of the truth: in terms of day-to-day work, this project is just like any other that we do. We start it together. We do mini-lessons about each relevant skill. We have workdays in class where I confer with them. They might have a 30- to 45-minute portion to do at home each night based on what we started in class. We adjust our schedule based on our class needs. They email with questions and I answer them. The truth is, this is just another 7th grade assignment. The only thing different is the impression of newness (“we’ve never done a research paper before”). The unknown creates fear.

Fear in itself is not bad. There’s no reason to try to extinguish rational fear. The fear of falling keeps us from getting too close to the edge of a cliff. The fear of hurting someone we love might remind us to watch our words and actions. The fear of failing a test might prompt us to study. Or actually do our homework and work on our research paper. Ahem.

For some of my students, though — those select few — the fear feels like more of a foreboding mountain to climb than the beginning of an inspirational adrenaline rush. They stand at the base with tangled rope and freezing hands, feeling alone and unprepared. The fear obscures all the work we’ve done to bring them to this point and all the footholds set out before them.

Have you been there? I’m there right now in some ways. God brought me to this moment for a reason, but which path do I choose now? How do I begin the big things I want to accomplish?

I’ll tell you (and myself) what I tell my students: don’t forget the big picture — check in with it now and then to make sure you’re on track — but start with baby steps. You can’t see how to get to the top of the mountain, but if you break it down into just what you have to do first, maybe that task will feel more manageable to you and you’ll sit down to untangle your ropes. After that, maybe you’ll focus on tying your knots. After that, maybe you’ll be ready to take one step up the slope.

Each step builds momentum. Each word written on your document is one piece placed in the puzzle of mastery. And in a few days, before you realize it, you’ll be standing on the summit — or, in their case, holding their first finished research paper in their hands.

* * *

One of the many, many baby steps I’m taking in my life right now is to start cooking dinner more often. And I have discovered, like so many of you, that roasted veggies are about the best things ever. Toss ’em in some olive oil with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (and depending on the day, maybe some chili flakes and/or lemon juice and/or other goodies) and bake ’em until their crispy. One of my new favorite ways to eat roasted veggies is dipping them into this easy, tasty Garlic-Lemon Aioli. I love it on everything, and it takes about 20 seconds to whip together while the veggies are in the oven. Enjoy!

What big project are you afraid to tackle? What baby step could you take today?

One year ago: Super Bowl Munchies from Willow Bird Baking
Two years ago: Three Delicious Ways to Celebrate World Nutella Day
Three years ago: Strawberry Walnut Ricotta Muffins

Roasted Asparagus

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking

This side dish can be whipped up in 20 minutes total, and it’s so delicious! Make sure your asparagus are not overlapping or touching too much as they bake, because you want them nice and crispy.

1 bunch asparagus with dead ends trimmed off
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup mayonnaise (pick your favorite brand, but obviously, you should use Hellmann’s)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss trimmed asparagus with olive oil and spread out on two baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, tossing once, or until roasted and crisp. Keep an eye on them, because asparagus with different thickness than the thin ones I used could take more/less time. Serve asparagus hot with garlic-lemon aioli for dipping.

Roasted Carrots

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 2 servings

Roasting carrots brings out their gorgeous natural sweetness. Just like with asparagus and other veggies, make sure your carrots are not overlapping or touching too much as they bake, because you want them nice and crispy.

about a pound carrots with tops trimmed off (I don’t peel mine — just scrub them clean)
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss trimmed carrots with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheets (try not to overlap the carrots or have them touching too much — you want ’em to get crispy!) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 30-35 minutes, tossing once, or until roasted and crisp. Keep an eye on them, because carrots with different thickness than the ones I used could take more/less time. Serve carrots hot with garlic-lemon aioli for dipping.

Garlic-Lemon Aioli

Recipe by: Adapted from Giada DiLaurentis
Yield: 3/4 cup aioli

I usually serve this aioli as a dip for sweet potato fries, but I’ve recently discovered it’s delicious with all vegetables. It’s livened up my roasted veggie nights considerably!

3/4 cup mayonnaise (pick your favorite brand, but obviously, you should use Hellmann’s)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Mix mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use. Feel free to garnish with any fresh herbs you like — basil or thyme would be nice. Serve with warm roasted asparagus, carrots, or sweet potato fries.

19 Comments on Quick & Easy Sides: Roasted Carrots and Asparagus with Garlic-Lemon Aioli

  1. Kelly
    February 1, 2013 at 6:32 am (11 years ago)

    I needed to read this tonight. I am currently being crippled by fear.It’s time to take that first step.

  2. Angela @ the fairy bread chronicles
    February 1, 2013 at 7:07 am (11 years ago)

    I too am in love with roast vegetables! The flavour just blossoms so much from such a simple technique! These look awesome πŸ™‚

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      February 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm (11 years ago)

      I love that you can just throw ’em in the oven and do everything else while they get delicious πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  3. Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    February 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm (11 years ago)

    I just love the look of those roasted carrots!

    Love this post. Sometimes when I get freaked out or overwhelmed I really do have to kind of step back and take everything one (little) step at a time!

  4. Denise
    February 1, 2013 at 3:23 pm (11 years ago)

    I don’t remember how I first came across your blog but it was for a recipe linked somewhere. I liked what i read and added your blog to my google reader. As much as I have enjoyed your recipes and food (lovely pictures too), I look forward to your writing most of all. Yours is the only blog I really read. Your topics, your values, and your wonderful writing brings me into your experiences and gives me pause to look into my heart and be inspired, thoughtful, and a better person. Thank you and please keep sharing. I thought it was time I told you….

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      February 1, 2013 at 3:40 pm (11 years ago)

      Denise, this comment totally made my day. Thank you so much for these kind words! I’m glad all these things I think about can be useful for someone else, too!

  5. Leslie
    February 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm (11 years ago)

    Wow, this post is perfectly timed.

    I’m not trying to write a research paper, but I did just find out that I’m 6 weeks pregnant. Unexpectedly, with my first.

    I’ve been so scared of everything, but when you said this it really hit home: “you don’t have to stop being afraid, but stop letting that fear stop you.” Thanks for the post. πŸ™‚

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      February 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm (11 years ago)

      Aw, Leslie! Big hugs to you. That is super scary and new, and will also undoubtedly change your life in ways you can’t foresee. I am praying for you! I hope you will find that the changes are unbelievably positive πŸ™‚

  6. Joanne
    February 2, 2013 at 12:56 am (11 years ago)

    Such a great message for your students but also for any one of us! Life is all about the baby steps. (And the roasted vegetables. Love em!)

  7. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen
    February 2, 2013 at 11:22 am (11 years ago)

    YouΒ΄re absolutely right about it all, fear and roasted vegetables. Is there any other way of eating them? You should try fruits too, grapes and strawberries, better than candy. Have a great weekend Julie!

  8. Sarah
    February 4, 2013 at 1:00 am (11 years ago)

    Inspirational, as always!

  9. Kathy
    February 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm (11 years ago)

    Hmmm. I often make roasted veggies, however I don’t understand the crisp. When my roasted veggies happen to come out crisp, that means they have had all the moisture roasted out of them and are quite a different color than what they were when they went in the oven, if you know what I mean. Oh and they don’t smell good. Ahem.

    So, when I roast veggies properly (for me), they become the lovely color you have in your photos, but they are not crisp, just cooked/roasted to the perfect doneness.

    Am I getting too hung up on your word choice? Anywho, this posting was great, both the reminder about fear and the reminder to roast more veggies. Properly. πŸ™‚

  10. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen
    February 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm (11 years ago)

    Welcome on to the roasted veggie bandwagon! It’s awesome to have you… πŸ™‚ I love how your carrots turned out!

  11. Helen Steer
    February 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm (11 years ago)

    Hia, love the idea about roasting asparagus. It’s not quite in season here but I’ll be sure to try it out when we get them!

    Half of my family grew up in a small Spanish village and they make this amazing aioli that you should try. Sooooo much better than any shop bought mayo. You make it in a pestle and mortar and in my family it is always my step brother’s job to prepare it while his mum and sisters dance around the kitchen preparing various tapas.

    You need to crush 4 cloves of garlic (or to taste – traditionally you use up to 6 but I can see not everyone likes to smell of garlic for days) in a pestle and mortar with two good pinches of quality salt until you have a smooth paste. Add in two raw egg yolks and mix until smooth. Then add in grapeseed, rapeseed or other light oil (I do use olive oil sometimes but the flavour can dominate plus poor quality olive oil can make it bitter). Add the oil DRIP by DRIP at first and stir constantly but gently. It will start to emulsify and you can add the oil in a steady trickle until you reach the desired thickness. I’d use about half a cup of oil. Then enjoy! You can also add a pinch of saffron or cayenne at the garlic stage for a yummy twist.

    Hope you like it!


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