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… 

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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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winging it

The most highly anticipated day of any football lovers year is right around the corner. Frankly, I don’t like football. However I realize I’m in the minority, particularly this year since the Super Bowl happens to be taking place about five miles from my house.

It seems to me that Super Bowl Sunday has very little to actually do with football and a lot to do with Clydesdale commercials, half-time wardrobe malfunctions and trashy food you would never ordinarily consider eating. You know the kind I’m talking about— bowls of melted velveeta and salsa served with Fritos (hmm, who knew they still made Fritos?) piping hot pizza bites and mini hot dogs (I’m sure there’s not that much MSG in them, right?) and of course deep-fried wings with a side of bottled blue cheese dressing (limp celery stalks optional). But before you get the wrong impression here’s the thing… I happen to like wings. In fact there’s a coal-fired pizza joint nearby that makes the most delicious caramelized onion and rosemary wings that I like to order with a side salad. So you see it’s not the wing itself I take issue with, it’s the prepackaged, deep-fried, preservative laden aspect of your typical trashy wings I dislike. If I’m going to eat a wing I want some thought to have gone into it, some consideration for the flavors in combination with the cooking method. I want someone to have given that wing a little love long before it ever hits my plate.

While I don’t have a coal-fired pizza oven, I do have a gas grill and a Weber cookbook, which as it turns out is all I really need. A few pounds of wings, some Asian ingredients, a little grill time and voilà… Delicious without apology wings. I realize as I type this that the temperature outside is only 18°F, not exactly standing at the grill weather. I have but one thing to say about that—

Toughen up buttercup. This is football!

Grilled Asian Wings
These are delicious and far less guilt inducing than your typical wings.

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1 medium leek, halved and sliced thin
2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup tamari soy sauce
5 tbsp. dark brown sugar, packed
4 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
4 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 lbs. chicken wings, tips removed

  1. Add all the ingredients (except the wings) to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Pour all the marinade except for 3 tablespoons into a large ziploc bag, place the wings in the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to insure all the wings are coated and allow to marinate for an hour.
  2. Prepare your grill by brushing the cooking grates clean and heating the grill to 350°F.
  3. Carefully oil the grates and grill the wings over medium heat, with the lid closed, until they are well browned and cooked through (turning them several times), 15 to 25 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked wings to the large bowl and drizzle with the reserved marinade. Serve warm and… Go team!.

*adapted from weber

not so ordinary butternut squash soup

It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-November, which means Thanksgiving is basically right around corner (I know, just typing that gives me palpitations.) Naturally I’ve been thinking about my dinner menu for a while now, in fact being the list-maker that I am I already have the menu (the current version of it anyway) taped to a cabinet for me to consider and reconsider as the big day approaches.

I try to serve a mix of “never had for Thanksgiving before” appetizers and side dishes along with everyone’s “must-have to qualify as Thanksgiving” favorites. In past years we’ve started off the day with things like baked brie with honey and almonds, homemade smoked salmon and mini bean piroshki— all delicious but not necessarily good enough to become tradition. In our house tradition dictates that we always start the meal with butternut squash soup, locally cured kielbasa, an array of cheeses and of course shrimp cocktail. Followed a bit later by deep-fried turkey, mashed potato casserole, either collard greens or brussels sprouts, cornbread stuffing and finally pecan pie. I know, I need to loosen my pants just thinking about it, but oh man is it good! To my mind Thanksgiving is not about skimpy, restrained or I’ll just have a taste— No Thanksgiving, more than any other day of the year, is all about prolonged indulgence and second-helpings.

I mentioned that I make butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving and while I realize you can’t swing a horn o’ plenty without hitting a squash soup recipe this time of year, my Coconut-Curried Butternut Squash Soup is not just any other recipe. It’s incredibly flavorful, tastes holiday-appropriately indulgent and is the perfect toasty warm start a chilly Fall day. Oh and did I mention that it’s also healthy and low-fat. I know, delicious, satisfying and low-fat… clearly a Thanksgivukkah miracle!

Anyway I encourage you to give this soup a try then sit back, relax, enjoy the day and offer up a few words of thanks for elastic waist pants.

Coconut-Curried Butternut Squash Soup
You can garnish the soup with a bit of toasted coconut or roasted pumpkin seeds if you like, but it’s just as delicious plain.

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1 large butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. coconut oil (or olive oil)
4 cloves garlic, grated
3 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. Thai Red Curry paste
2 tsp. Madras curry powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups chicken broth
1 14 oz can unsweetened light coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut sides of the squash with oil and place cut side up in a roasting pan. Add a little water to the bottom of the pan, cover with aluminum foil and roast for 30-40 minutes or until a fork easily pierces it. When the squash is done and has cooled enough to handle, use a spoon to carefully scoop out the flesh and set aside.
  2. Heat the coconut oil and butter over medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the curry paste, curry powder and salt and cook for a few more minutes.
  3. Stir in the chicken broth, coconut milk* and squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring and breaking up any large chunks of squash.
  4. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender and serve.

*To make this soup ahead follow the directions but omit the coconut milk. On the day you’re going to serve the soup add the coconut milk and bring the soup back to a simmer. Serve and enjoy.