spicy beet greens with chickpeas

My children have been away with their grandparents for the better part of the past two weeks. The first week with one set, the second with the other. That’s right, we’ve been childless for nearly 14 days. Just typing that makes me feel slightly woozy. FOURTEEN DAYS KID-FREE. (I know, the gods are clearly smiling on me.) So what you may wonder have I been up to? Well… I’ve been putting in some serious hours at work. I’ve done a significant amount of chillin’ on the deck. I’ve read a book. We met friends for drinks. I went shopping without anyone asking me “Are we almost done? How many more things do we need to buy?” We went to the movies (an advance screening of The Hundred Foot Journey to be precise). We went out to dinner. I did not watch a single TV show that revolved around Bart, Marge, Maggie and Homer, a family of British pigs who love muddy puddles or that famous duo Elsa and Ana. I got a pedicure. We actually talked to each other (imagine!) and we made things for dinner that the kids would never want to eat; Garlicky pesto over linguine, salmon with a balsamic glaze, lamb burgers with tzatziki, giant bowls of steamed mussels and one night we went totally vegan— beet greens, chickpeas, Habanero chilies and tofu with coconut milk over brown rice. Yup, I’m not kidding.

I eat vegetables everyday. Not because I think I should or because they’re good for me. I eat them daily because I love them. My family doesn’t exactly share my passion for Mother Nature’s candy, but the kids will eat baby carrots and garden fresh cucumbers for a snack, they love mashed turnips and grilled asparagus and only grumble minimally when I make grilled squash or string beans. But they draw the line at greens. Sure they can handle collards with bacon, but an arugula salad or god forbid sautéed spinach or beet greens… totally out of the question. My husband, who can deal with nearly anything but cauliflower, has come to accept that life with me involves much more than meat and potatoes.

Anyway back to the vegan meal… I stopped at the store on my way home one night thinking I’d make a coconut milk and brown rice number with some of the leftover veggies I had at home; A few bunches of fresh beets with greens that needed to be eaten, some Habanero peppers leftover from the mussels night and cherry tomatoes from my garden. I already had brown rice and chickpeas in the pantry so all I needed was coconut milk and shrimp and we’d have dinner in a flash. The shrimp ended up being both expensive and pathetic looking, totally not worth buying. I needed an alternate plan. I still wanted to add a bit more protein to the meal, but it needed to be something that required minimal prep and cooked quickly. That something turned out to be tofu. I think of tofu is a rather innocuous ingredient. It really doesn’t lend much by way of its own flavor but it’s more of a sponge for the other flavors in the dish, and it’s high in protein. So I sliced and diced, sautéed and deglazed, simmered and served and guess what… It was delicious. And vegan. And while my dearest did comment that “It would be better with sausage.” he cleaned his plate nonetheless.

The kids will be back tomorrow and while I have thoroughly enjoyed their absence, I’m ready for them to come home. I know this will mean listening to their bickering, watching their dopey kid shows and answering 50 million times the question “How many more bites do I have to take?” But I’m ready for them to return all the same.

And if you ever remind me that I said that, I’ll completely deny it.

Spicy Beet Greens with Chickpeas and Tofu 

Deilsh and vegan. Who knew… 

vegan2

1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
a handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
3 Habanero peppers, seeded and julienned
3 tbsp. lemon juice
15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
greens from two bunches of beets, stemmed and julienned
14 oz. can coconut milk
2 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
brown rice, for serving
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, Habanero peppers and 1 tsp. of salt and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the lemon juice to deglaze then pan then add the chickpeas and beets greens. Stir to coat well with the onion mixture and allow to cook until the greens have just begun to wilt.
  3. Add in the coconut milk, remaining teaspoon of salt and ground cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a simmer then turn down the heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the chickpeas just begin to soften.
  4. Serve over brown rice and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
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my curry of solitude

“No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looksOut for summer. Out till fall. We might not come back at all. School’s out forever. School’s out for summer…”
~Alice Cooper

Yup that’s right, school’s out for Summer— and frankly not a moment too soon. I was quickly approaching my school year breaking point. I’m tired of remembering assigned snack days, helping with school projects, making lunches and yelling “hurry up we’re late!” on a daily basis. I need the slower pace of Summer; the laid back mornings, the swimming after dinner evenings. I need a break.

My parents had planned on coming to spend a few days with my kids the first week of summer vacation, they would all get some quality time together and I would get a few more uninterrupted days at the office. However as a surprise (and perhaps because they sensed my approaching breaking point) they instead offered to take the kids back to Connecticut with them for the better part of the week. “What do you think?” they innocently asked. “Are you kidding… They’re yours!” I said tripping over my own feet in the mad dash to get upstairs and pack their suitcases before anyone realized what had just been agreed to. Naturally the kids were just as overjoyed as I was at the idea of a week at Grammy and Grampy’s house. (It’s common knowledge that the rules at their house only vaguely resemble the rules at home. And when I say vaguely, I really mean not at all.) So off they went with barely a backward glance and off I went to enjoy the quiet of a child-free home. And blissfully quiet it was.

Flash forward 24 hours— My husband comes home and announces that he has to go away on business while the kids are in Connecticut. “Wait. What? Do you mean to tell me that I will be here all alone?” Yup that’s right folks. I was alone for 24 hours. Alone. Let me type that again… ALONE. It was wonderful. Sure I had to make the coffee and empty the dishwasher (typically my husband’s jobs since he gets up earlier than I do) and sure the damn dog killed another bird and it was up to me to pick up the mangled carcass; but that was a measly price to pay for 24 hours of me-time.

I have a girlfriend who eats cold cereal whenever she’s home by herself at dinnertime. Her theory is one bowl + one spoon = zero kitchen mess. I’m the exact opposite. When mine is the only palette I have to please I cook exactly what I want regardless of the prep and process involved. I pull out every pot and pan, make a mess and leave the disaster to be cleaned up when I’m good and ready. With this in mind I spent the “afternoon of my aloneness” (that’s how I plan to refer to these 24 hours when I think back on them fondly) mulling over what to make for dinner. Something spicy (of course), maybe with seafood and definitely the kind of meal the kids would moan and groan over. I ultimately decided to make a curry; a shrimp and coconut green curry to be exact.

It turned out to be exactly the type of meal an afternoon of aloneness begs for. A meal that made this “loves her family but not missing them one iotia and couldn’t possibly be enjoying the solitude more” wife and mother very, very happy.

Shrimp and Coconut Green Curry
This was a delicious dinner… and I was the perfect dining companion.

green curry

1 tbsp. coconut oil
3 fat scallions, sliced thin
2 tbsp. Green Curry paste
1 tbsp. fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 sm. yellow pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
a handful of dandelion greens, roughly chopped
13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. light Tamari soy sauce
1/2-1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. fresh basil, julienned
Jasmine rice, for serving
fresh cilantro, for garnish
diced chilies, for garnish

  1. In a large high sided skillet or wok melt the coconut oil. Add half of the scallions, curry paste and ginger and cook for 1 minute.
  2.  Add to the pan the garlic, shrimp and vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, Tamari and cayenne pepper and allow to simmer until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the julienned basil (adding it at the end will keep it green) and serve over Jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro, diced chilies and additional Tamari if desired.

Whatsa’ kid know!— Carrot & Parsnip Soup

I know I frequently post soup recipes, more than any other type of recipe in fact, but you see I really like soup. And my daughter; who orders Won-Ton soup if we get Chinese and Pasta Fagioli if we get pizza; really likes soup. So I make soup, a lot of soup!

Last weekend my little love and I were discussing soup and she suggested I make carrot soup (she loves carrots almost as much as she loves soup). Hmmmm, I think my girl was on to something. How about carrot and parsnip soup? (A natural pairing after all.) How about carrot and parsnip soup with a little curry and ginger? (A recipe was slowly beginning to take shape in my mind.) How about carrot and parsnip soup with a little curry and ginger and some coconut milk to round things out? (Oh yeah baby, I think we had the makings of something terrific here!)

So my girl and I headed to the store for ingredients and jumped right into our slicing, dicing and measuring. “This is going to be soooo good!” she told me. I had to agree. We sautéed, simmered and pureed and soon sat down to steaming bowls of Carrot & Parsnip Soup. “Um… I don’t like it,” she said. “But it’s delicious,” I say. Try it again!” [Grimace. Gag. Frantically motions for her glass of milk to wash the offending soup down.] “I don’t like it,” she says again. “Maybe next time you could just make Pasta Fagioli…”

Curried Carrot & Parsnip Soup
Even if my lovey didn’t like it, I still maintain that this soup is delicious. I like to have it for lunch with a couple of slices of buttered toast; it’s the perfect soup for dunking.

carrot soup

1 1/2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs. parsnips, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs. carrots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
3 tsp. Madras curry powder
4 cups (32 oz.) chicken broth
1/2 tsp. pink salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk

  1. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook 7-10 minutes or until the onion is translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the chopped parsnips, carrots and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 45-50 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Use an immersion blender to process the soup to a smooth consistency. Add the coconut milk, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Post-Holiday Curry

If you’re like me then you’re ready to put Thanksgiving behind you and move onto the stresses of December. You’ve watched the parade and football. You’ve eaten your fill of turkey and trimmings. And you’ve helped yourself to “just a sliver” more pie. And now you’re fat and tired and perhaps black-fridayed out and the last thing you’re interested in is another intricately planned and painstakingly executed dinner. In that case have I got a post-Thanksgiving solution for you— Curried Coconut & Peanut Chicken.

I truly love the flavors of coconut, peanut and curry together (toss in a little chili pepper heat and I’m in heaven), but I find it to be a particularly divine antidote to the highly involved and side dish driven nature of Thanksgiving. One pot (well, two if you count the rice), minimal cooking effort and everyone gets their own individual bowl so you’re not faced with a mountain of dishes to do. Sounds the making of the perfect post-holiday dinner to me!

I know this is where I usually ramble on about the recipe, my kids or some laughable moment from my childhood. But here’s the thing— I’m fat and tired and black-fridayed out and this is all I can manage to type. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one. Until next week…

Curried Coconut & Peanut Chicken
I serve this over coconut brown rice with lots of minced chili peppers, chopped peanuts and cilantro on top. Yum!

4 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup lime juice
2 tbsp. curry powder (hot or mild), divided
1/4 cup olive oil
10 allspice berries
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, finely chopped
6 sprigs thyme
24 baby carrots, thinly sliced
1 chayote squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1 1″ piece ginger, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Garam masala
1 can lite coconut milk
1/4 cup smooth all natural peanut butter
diced chilies, for garnish
chopped peanuts, for garnish
chopped cilantro, for garnish

  1. Cut the chicken into 1″ pieces and place in a large zip-lock bag. Add the lime juice, and 1 tbsp. of curry powder and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken to the pot and cook until golden brown. Transfer the browned chicken to a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining curry powder, the allspice, garlic, scallions, thyme, carrots, chayote, potato, ginger, salt and Garam masala to the pot and cook until lightly caramelized and fragrant, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated to pot along with coconut milk and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and squash are cooked through and sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes.
  5. Fish out the thyme stems and the all spice berries, stir in the peanut butter and serve over coconut rice, garnished with chilies, cilantro and chopped peanuts.

* adapted from saveur

All About Me, Chickpeas

I cook to please my family nearly everyday. I make them the breakfasts, lunches and dinners they love because I love them, and I want them to be happy. But some days… some days I need to cook for myself. And sometimes they eat what I make for myself and call me the next Julia Child. And sometimes they do not. Sometimes they complain and grimace over what I serve them… (sigh)

The other night I had a craving for something “exotic”. Coconut milk, warm Indian spices, ginger and garlic. Throw in some chickpeas and serve it over brown rice— yummm! This combo sounded absolutely perfect to me, like soul satisfying food. I was going to make it and who knows, maybe it would actually end up appealing to my family as well. Maybe they would discover that exotic was delicious. Maybe.

I’m happy to say that it was great (well my husband and I thought so anyway). The kids weren’t exactly on board with curried chickpeas, but ya know what? That was okay with me. Sometimes making a dish purely for my own enjoyment is gift enough.

Curried Coconut Chickpeas
This can be served as a side dish or a meatless meal. I often eat it with brown rice, but it’s also delicious with a couple of eggs the next morning or even over salad greens.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. Indian curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can lite coconut milk
cilantro, for garnish
brown rice, for serving

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, ginger and garlic for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is transparent.
  2. When the onion is ready add the spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until they become fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut milk and bring to simmering. Then add the chickpeas and allow to simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
  4. When cooked allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro and serve over brown rice.

*adapted from vegan dad