We devoured this spring salad

Is it a salad? I don’t really know. It is more like one of my standard mash-ups of yummy ingredients. A bit like the Ranch Salad. A bit of a variation on the Avocado Tartare from Food & Wine that I posted a few weeks ago.

And as usual, I wanted something easy, quick and healthy. This met all of those requirements.

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Ingredients (serves two):

  • One large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • One firm but ripe avocado
  • One large red shallot
  • A few fronds of curly kale
  • A heaping handful of spinach
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Two meyer lemons
  • A tablespoon and a half of dijon mustard
  • A few sprigs of curly parsley
  • A few drops of sriracha
  • A teaspoon of Worcestershire 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter/olive oil for cooking

Chop the chicken into 1″ cubes and salt and pepper all sides. In a pan, heat up (over medium to high heat) a pat of butter and a dollop of olive oil. When hot, add the chicken and cook until opaque and almost cooked through (about 135degrees). While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onion and kale by thinly slicing the shallot and removing the stems from the kale and chopping into tiny bits. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add a bit more oil and turn the pan to medium heat, and throw the thinly sliced red shallot and cook until starting to crisp. Add the kale and a dash more of the olive oil. Cook, turning often, until the kale is soft. While the kale is cooking, chop the spinach into smallish pieces (about 1/2″) and prepare the sauce. Juice two meyer lemons into your serving bowl. Add the chopped parsley, dijon, srirracha, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add the chicken back to the pan with the tomatoes and cook until the chicken is at 160 degrees. Pour the hot chicken, kale and onion (and all of the juices) into the sauce and add the spinach raw. I always add the avocado last as I hate when it starts to turn brown. So now cube your avocado and add it to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients gently until the sauce covers everything.

We scarfed this down. It was SOOO good. From start to finish it took less than 30 minutes and probably could be sped up if I used two pans (to cook the onions/kale and chicken separately). 

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Chicken tikka masala with cauli-rice, kale and red onion

Ever since I “discovered” cauliflower rice, I’ve been on a “I used to eat this with real rice and couldn’t imagine it without it” kick. Foods that needed to sop up the sauce, in particular. Or foods that need the bulk of rice to finish out the meal. Or, in the case with last night’s dinner, foods that have a little kick and can use some “rice” to temper the heat.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a tikka masala simmer sauce that didn’t use coconut and I just about ran out of the store with it to get it into my belly. And it is delicious. I couldn’t recommend Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce more. 

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People: Buy this. It has a good balance of spice and savory-ness. And it really couldn’t be easier.

Behold! Chicken tikka masal over cauli-rice with kale and red onion!

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Ingredients:

  • Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
  • Three small chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • Half of a red onion
  • One head of cauliflower
  • Handful of kale
  • Tumeric
  • Salt/pepper

 

Put one teaspoon of salt into a bowl of hot water and mix until the salt dissolves. Cut the chicken into one inch cubes and add it to the water to brine. Let it sit while you prepare the cauliflower. 

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and chop the entirety of the cauliflower into smallish pieces. Cut the stem into one centimeter pieces. In a cuisinart and in small batches, pulse the cauliflower until it it resembles the consistency of rice. Don’t keep on pulsing if there are a few larger pieces. Take those out and add them to the next small batch. You don’t want to make the pieces too small or it becomes more like mashed potatoes (also delicious, but not what you are going for). 

You will use two saute pans for this meal. Have them set up side by side on your stove as once you start cooking, it will go quickly. 

Cut the onion into thin, two inch pieces. Saute them in a bit of olive oil until they are starting to soften and char (we like our onions on the crispier side so will leave them longer than you probably will). 

Chop the kale leaves (after removing the spines) into TINY pieces…almost a mince. You want the kale to intermingle with the rice, not overtake it. Once the onions are ready, add the kale and a bit more olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat up a bit of olive oil in the other pan and drain the chicken and pat with paper towels to dry. Add salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on one side.

While the chicken browns, add the “riced” cauliflower to the pan with the onions and kale. Heat should be on medium. Mix the cauli-rice, kale and onions together and sprinkle tumeric across the top. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I usually put in a bit more salt that usual on this dish. Mix it all up and let it sit while you tend to the chicken. It should look like this:

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Flip the chicken to the other side and brown for a short time. Pop the top on the simmer sauce, put it back on and shake. When the second side of the chicken is starting to turn opaque, pour the entirety of the simmer sauce over the chicken. Turn the heat to medium low (depending on your stove) to a low simmer and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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Keep on turning the cauli-rice to make sure all of it is heated through and keep it over low heat while the chicken simmers. Pour yourself a drink. Set the table.

Add hefty amount of the cauli-rice to a bowl and cover with the chicken tikka masala. Pour on extra sauce if that is to your liking. I like to mix it all up so that the cauli-rice covers the chicken.

I always have to make more of this than I think because EVERYONE wants second helpings. It is delicious.

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Ham and cheese quinoa “pizza” bites

I’ve heard about these so called quinoa pizza bites here and there and I knew I wanted to make them but didn’t know when. Until we had another couple and their son over to watch the Oscars last night and I knew I wanted to have food that was somewhat “handy” but also hearty (as I didn’t want to have a lot of dishes downstairs with a 3 year old, a 2 year old and an almost 2 year old running around).

I also don’t have a mini-cupcake pan as they recommend. Probably would have helped, but they turned out pretty great anyway, if I do say so myself.

As is my wont, I looked at the recipes/directions I had seen elsewhere, looked at my fridge, and came up with my own version.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken stock (or 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup water)
  • half of a vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • two leaves of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup of spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 large eggs (I used three smallish eggs)
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar
  • 4 slices of ham, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano (plus a 1/4 tablespoon in the quinoa)
  • salt/pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • paprika
  • grated parmesan for the top (while cooking)
  • pasta sauce (to dip)

Preheat oven to 375.

On the stovetop, cook the quinoa by putting quinoa and stock into pot, salting and adding a few dashes of the oregano and bringing to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

In a saute pan, cook the onion with a bit of olive oil until translucent, add the mushrooms and cook until softening, add the kale and a bit of salt and pepper and stir until all are cooking through and soft. (This time is when I chopped the remaining ingredients)

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Spray the cupcake sheet with Pam or the like (I use smart start). Divvy out the quinoa mixture into the cups until just over the edge (next time I may make them a bit more shallow so that they come together more quickly). Put in the oven for 30 minutes. At that time, put a bit of the parmesan on top, turn the oven up to 400 and cook for another 15 or so minutes. Test by running a knife around the sides and seeing if the “muffin” is crusty on the sides. Once they are finished, let them sit for about 10 minutes. This will help them set.

Serve with pasta sauce. Easy peasy!

Variation on boerenkool stamppot with tomato/cucumber/barrata salad

With the cooler weather coming on and a few leaves on the streets, I’ve been craving mashed potatoes. A great bowl of savory mashed potatoes is such a treat. But holy lord is it terrible for you. Well, terrible for me*. And the next day? Oy. I never want to get out of bed. So, as many do, I substitute in pureed cauliflower.  It is the PERFECT substitute. 

We also have a hefty amount of heirloom tomatoes about to drop off the vine. And I wanted to use those.

What to make…what to make…

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I had a conversation recently with a friend from the netherlands about kale and he had mentioned that his mom used to make something that I thought was called baren-cool (I later learned it was boerenkool stamppot…basically mashed potatoes with kale and sausage). He described it as his comfort food. Sounded amazing to me. And I could do it with roasted cauliflower. 

I also learned last night that our au pair’s mom makes her something very similar in Italy. Not sure what it is called there. :)

Ingredients:

The Boerenkool Stamppot (variation)

  • one large handful dinosaur kale stalks
  • two medium heads of cauliflower
  • two sausages of your choice…we used sundried tomato chicken sausage (two of us were eating meat, the third not…adjust your sausage amount accordingly)
  • half of a large vidalia onion
  • salt/pepper/olive oil
  • one tablespoon paprika
  • one teaspoon dry sage
  • half teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (or any other dairy…you could use plain yogurt or cottage cheese, too)
  • 1/8 cup of feta
  • 1/4 white wine

The Tomato/Cucumber Salad

  • two regular cucumbers
  • one lemon cucumber
  • two large, very ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • fresh basil leaves
  • balsamic of choice
  • salt/pepper/olive oil

This was overall pretty easy to do but just took a bit of time. 

Preheat the oven to 425 and get a cookie sheet out, covered with a silpat. Cut the cauliflower into medium florets and spread them on the cookie sheet. Drizzle with a healthy amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and the paprika and mix together. When the oven is hot enough, put it into the oven on the middle rack.

Put some olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. While that heats up, cut the onions into thin rings and then add them to the pan. While those begin to cook down, pull the kale off of the stalk and rinse and dry. Add in the kale once most of the moisture is gone, stirring it into the oil and onion mixture. It will start to wilt. Add in the wine now. Keep stirring it, getting even heat on all of the greens.  When it is soft and a dark, bright green, turn off your heat and push the greens and onions to the outside ring of the pan, make an area in the center for the sausage. Cut the sausage into 1/4 inch coins and, after turning the heat back on to medium, fill the hole with sausage. Keep an eye on it and turn it when it starts to get brown.

By now the cauliflower should be well roasted. This is where it gets messy. Using a cuisinart (or other chopping device), shred the (hot) cauliflower (using the shredding disk) and transfer all of the shredded cauli back to the pan. Put in the standard blade and add in half of the mixture. Add in half of the milk, half of the sage, half of the nutmeg and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Then do the same with the other half of the cauli. 

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The salad is the easiest part. Chop the tomatoes roughly, skin the two types of cucumbers and chop roughly. Put them both in a bowl and add the balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Then chop the basil and mix.

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Cut the barrata evenly between the number of eaters and plate. We put the salad in a bowl to keep it from messing with the stamppot boerenkool bit.

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Yup. Delish. And totally in line with my mood. 

 

* I don’t believe one type of diet is correct for everyone. Listen to your body, not mine. Mine tells me that starchy foods make me feel tired and heavy. Yours may say that fruit makes you hyper, or veggies make you gassy, or whatever. My point is: listen to YOUR body. And eat what makes you happy AND healthy. 

Scrambled eggs with sausage and kale: AKA A quick and easy dinner for one when the hubs is away

Last night I was on my own for dinner…this rarely happens. And it was glorious. I watched bad television and ate the below yummy-ness by myself and put as much cheese on it as I wanted! The hubs was gone and the au pair was out with friends. And it was just ME.

You see, hubs isn’t the biggest fan of cheese. And I LOVE cheese. And I usually use nights when he is gone to cook with garlic. But by myself? I didn’t really feel like making a big production. So I used up the last of the sundried tomato chicken sausage, a few fronds of kale (is fronds the right word? branches?), three eggs and feta. LOTS and lots of feta.

Ingredients:

  • Two links of sun-dried tomato chicken sausage
  • Four fronds of dinosaur kale
  • Three medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup of feta

As the chicken sausage has so little fat in it, I had to add some oil to the pan first. I chopped the sausage into bite size pieces and threw them into the hot pan. I stemmed the kale and chopped it into tiny pieces and threw them into the pan, as well. When the sausage was cooked through and browning, I cracked three eggs directly into the pan and stirred them with my wooden spoon to do a quick scramble. When the eggs were firming up, I dumped in the feta and stirred until just melted and mixed in. It was crazy quick, majorly easy and truly delicious. Would have paired well with a big glass of cold rosé had I had a bottle open.

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Pea, Avocado and Mint Dressing Used Two Ways

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I’ve seen a few versions of this recipe floating around but I knew it wouldn’t be hearty enough on its own for a meal for my family (I kept on seeing it on toast or as a dip for chips). So tonight, as usual, I am going to MacGuyver that recipe and make it something the Suhlizis would eat.

As our au pair isn’t the biggest fan of chicken, I made two versions: veggie and chicken.

Ingredients (leave the chicken out if cooking the veg version):

  • Two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One bag of frozen peas
  • One avocado (peeled and seeded)
  • One cup of mint leaves
  • Jalapeno, finely diced, to taste
  • Half of a red onion, roughly chopped
  • One can of chickpeas (more will go into the veg version than the chicken version)
  • A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • A few stalks of raw dinosaur kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Limes (both zest and juice)
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • Half a cup of toasted pine nuts

Chop the boneless, skinless breasts into one inch chunks. Add salt and pepper and marinate in yogurt, sriracha and lime juice, covered and in the fridge, for a few hours.

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Cook the peas as directed on the package. As mentioned previously, I like the steam in the bag kind. Cooks for five minutes and little to no mess. While that steams, in a dry sauté pan, toast the pine nuts and set aside.  The picture here shows the before and after. A lot of times I toast them up a bit darker as hubs REALLY likes that, um, burnt flavor. Not my thing. I went a bit less toasty tonight.

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In a food processor or using a stick blender (whichever is handy…I made the mistake of being TOO handy and using my vitamix. NOT the best tool suited for the job), puree the cooked peas, the avocado and mint and a few pine nuts until smooth. Tasting it along the way, I also pureed in some jalapeno, lime juice, some lime zest and salt and pepper.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil and a pat of butter into the pan over medium high heat. When the oil is glistening, add the half of the red onion and then, a minute or so later, the chicken. Turn the chicken once the panside is slightly browned. If the yogurt becomes too liquid-y in while you are cooking, drain it out and put it back on the stove. The more liquid, the less browned. Continue to turn and cook through (using a instaread thermometer if needed) and remove to a separate plate. Dollup on a few spoonfuls of the pea/mint/avocado mixture to the chicken.

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Add a bit of olive oil to the pan and add the rest of the red onion and the chiffonaded, stemmed kale, cut into small pieces. If you have any handy, pour in a 1/4 cup of wine (any color) when the kale starts to turn color. It really adds a depth of flavor and cuts the sharpness of the kale. Add the cherry tomatoes whole and chickpeas to the pan to warm. Cook the kale until tender but not wilted.

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(This is when I add the wine…when it looks like this)image (4)-005

Because two plates of the three will be non-veg, put this together on/in the plates/bowls you will be using. Chop the spinach into one inch pieces and then put the fresh spinach on the bottom of the bowl. Top with a bit of the pea/mint/avocado mixture. If you are adding the chicken, add it now. Then top with the veg mixture. More chickpeas for the veggie dish. Then add some more of the pea/mint/avocado mixture and top with a boat load of toasted pine nuts and more sriracha.

This was INCREDIBLY filling. I could have had half a bowl and been satisfied. But it was so GD healthy, that I stuffed it back guilt free. This would be fantastic for a group of people (luncheon, shower, etc.) and could probably be improved by grilling the chicken instead of sauteeing it. I might also consider thinning out the pea/mint/avocado mix by making it more of a dressing…maybe some vinegar/olive oil? More like a salad dressing. It was so thick, it was a bit difficult to mix.

Bad ass kale and mushroom quiche

The next few recipes are going to be a bit out of order as I promised that I would get this recipe up today, even though it was queued for later this week.

Recently I’ve found that I have been searching for the veg portion of the meal before figuring out what the “rest of it” will look like. I pick the green veg and then the meat/base/accompanying vegetables. In this morning’s Goop (Yes, I read it. Shush, you!), she interviews an owner of a vegan restaurant in Philly and this quote really spoke to me:

Don’t think of veggies as afterthoughts and side dishes. Put extra effort into them and let them shine!

^^^ This. This is where my brain is these days. Focus on the veg, make them delicious and then add in some other awesomeness to help make it whole.

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When at the grocers yesterday (still filling the fridge up after a week away) I saw some gorgeous kale. I knew we needed to use up some of the eggs and feta in the fridge so a quiche was devised. I never really follow the proportions they insist upon in quiche recipes…so again I foraged off on my own. I also picked up some sliced, fresh mushrooms to lose a step. And as this was mostly a meal for our au pair and myself, I allowed it to be extra cheesy as hubs doesn’t do “cheesy” (his loss. right?!).

Ingredients:

  • Dinosaur kale (I used one and a half handfuls)
  • Two cups of sliced porcini mushrooms
  • Eight medium eggs
  • One vidalia onion
  • One medium shallot
  • One cup of feta
  • Half cup of cheddar
  • Half stick of butter, separated
  • Olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • Two roma tomatoes
  • Flax seed
  • Cooking spray
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Handful of basil
  • Parm, to finish

This comes together pretty quickly for as many ingredients as there are. And the above feeds three. This would be an excellent “side dish” if paired with something meaty. Or it could also take on epic status with the inclusion of some sun dried tomato chicken sausage.

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Preheat the oven to 375. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter chopped into fourths over medium heat in a sauté pan. I actually like a bit of a thinner pan for this type of cooking. My favorite sauté pan is also my cheapest. It browns the butter super quickly and heats the oil fast, as well.

Chop the vidalia into a medium small chop. A chunkier chop would work well here, too, if you want a bit more tooth in your onion. When the butter is starting to brown, add in the vidalia and have it sop up all of that buttery, browned deliciousness.

While that softens, start on the kale. I like dinosaur kale because it is so easy to remove the stalk by pulling on the greens in the opposite direction from the bottom of the stalk (obviously, rinse and pat dry the kale before you do this). When you have stripped all of your kale, roll it up like a chiffonade and cut it across the grain so that it is in thin strips.

ImageAs soon as the vidalia is getting a bit more translucent, add in the mushrooms, one more tablespoon of butter (quartered) and cook until all are tender and slightly browned. I also salt and pepper my mushrooms at this point. A splash of wine (any wine, really…last night we were drinking rosé) right about now does WONDERS to the complexity of the flavor, too.  Next time I make this, I am going to use a bit more wine than I did last night. 

I used the time the mushrooms were cooking to crack and beat my eggs. Most recipes would call for about four eggs in this. I used eight or nine (I lost track) medium sized eggs. As I wasn’t using any milk to “lift” the eggs, and it was going to be main and only dinner, I wanted to add a bit of heft. I whisked them until incorporated then beat in a bit more salt and pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and dumped in the two cheeses. 

ImageNow that the mushrooms were soft, I piled the kale on top of the mushrooms. I grabbed my madonlin and sliced thinly the shallot, sprinkling it on the kale. The kale will cook down now…but it will cook down a bit more quickly with another splash of wine. Incorporate the mushrooms, kale and onions once the kale’s green is brightening. Let that cook over low to medium heat until the kale is soft. 

Meanwhile, make the space on your mandolin a bit wider and slice your tomatoes into 1/6″ slices. Spray some cooking spray on the inside of your glass pan (I used a Pyrex casserole dish as I needed more than just a slice).  Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ground flax seed and parmesan (to make a bit of a strach-less, healthy crust).

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Once the kale/mushroom combo seems well cooked, stir it again so that it is well mixed and then pour it into the pyrex dish. I had to move things around a bit because the mushrooms were heavy on one side and the kale on the other.

Pour the egg and cheese mixture on so that it evenly coats the veggies. And then layer the tomatoes across the top. Put it in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.

The tomatoes on top give it some needed sweetness, the cheddar the bite, the pepper the heat and the feta some added salt…and they all work well with the savory-ness of the dish. If I did it again, I would then put some chopped parsley/ground flax and parm on the top to add a little crunch to the top and broil it for a few seconds at the end.

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A veg-tastic dinner: Braised kale, leeks and chickpeas AND Mast-o-khiar with sauteed beets

We are heading to the east coast to visit my folks on Saturday so I am trying to clear out my fridge before we go, using up the fresh veg.

This recipe caught my eye when searching for kale and leek combos. I had three huge leeks in my fridge and had some kale left over from the farmer’s market from TWO weeks ago. I would hate for that deliciousness to go to waste. A variation, I knew, of this recipe would fit my needs perfectly…but would it need a protein? Would hubs eat chickpeas not mashed up like hummus? Would I need another side? It looked filling…but enough to be a whole meal?

Just in case it wasn’t, I added in what was planned to be roasted beets with maast-o-khiar (aka, cucumbers and dill in yoghurt). “Planned to be” because we had a slight mishap last night with the oven. Our truly lovely au pair was helping put away clean dishes the other night (love her) and put our plastic grilling prep pan in the oven thinking it was a roasting pan. I had no idea and preheated the oven. Et voila!

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Obviously no beets would be oven roasted last night. After opening up every window and door in the house to air out the noxious fumes, I continued on with my meal prep, changing direction on the secondary salad. 

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It was a bit chilly last night (by Northern California standards) so didn’t want to grill the beets…how else to use up this GORGEOUS, gorgeous veg?? SAUTE! I would slice them very thinly and salt and saute them. This was a super quick fix and I think that I may do these more often. They were sweet and crispy and would be a fantastic topping to a LOT of different dishes. Next time I did this though, I would probably get bigger beets (less to peel) and make them more like 1 inch strips…almost like an onion topper. OOOH! With crispy onions next time, too! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! okay, onward.

Braised Kale, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • one bunch of kale (de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • one can of chickpeas (14 oz and drained)
  • 3 large leeks (the whites and light green parts, cut across the grain into rings and separated
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock/broth
  • olive oil
  • pat of butter
  • salt/pepper
  • tablespoon of paprika
  • red bell pepper…fresh, cut into rings
  • feta

Sauteed Beets and Maast-o-Khiar

  • fresh, raw beets cut with the greens cut off, peeled and then thinly sliced (I used eight small beets but could have used at least four more)
  • one large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper

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In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan that can be covered, pour enough olive oil in to coat the bottom and about 2 mm of oil. Turn on the gas on medium heat. Add a pat of butter.

Once shimmering, add the sliced leeks and paprika and stir, coating them in the olive oil and slowly browning butter.

As they start to soften, add in the kale and chickpeas, coat the veg and then turn down the heat to simmer and, just before covering, add the sliced bell peppers. Stir every few minutes, adding stock if it starts to scorch on the bottom of the pan. It should finish cooking in about 15-20 minutes. Add salt towards the end with about half of a cup of feta.

ImageWhile the kale is cooking down, start on the sauteed beets. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. You should already have peeled the beets. Thinly slice them (aren’t they gorgeous) and add a little bit of salt.

When the oil is hot, add the beets, flipping in the oil to coat them. Cook them for about four or five minutes and then flip them so both sides get cooked.

Pour in a bit of chicken broth to release the yummy goodness on the bottom and cover for five more minutes. Some of the smaller pieces might become crispy before the others. Set them aside on some paper towels to drain. Continue on with the bigger pieces until they are soft and then drain those as well. They will be served cold so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

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Maast-o-khiar can be made a thousand different way (pureed, chopped, sliced, etc). For last night, I went with sliced. And I wanted them extra thin so I pulled out my mandolin. 

I sliced one large cucumber this way…but probably could have used another cucumber to really feed three adults. (I also would have added in more beets…lesson learned)

After slicing the cucumbers, I put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and some salt. You can use sherry or red wine vinegar, as well. Balsamic is too sweet for this recipe. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. I was pressed for time after dealing with the oven debacle, so they only got about 10 minutes this go round. It was still delicious.

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After 10 minutes, I drained the vinegar and added in the yoghurt and the finely chopped dill (having removed from the pile any major stems). Don’t mix this up too quickly. Let the yoghurt come to room temperature (or close to it) and THEN mix it up. Once mixed, add in the beets so that they are distributed evenly throughout.

We served the two dishes side by side on the plate. I probably needed a bit more of both salads for three people as they are both incredibly light. Both are probably best served as the side for a protein. It would probably pair really well with the ginger chicken or the chicken sumac. The feta definitely was needed, in my opinion, on the kale and leek recipe. It made the meal. Hubs added some extra heat to the kale and leeks via sriracha but I think I agree and will next time add in some chili flakes. And next time? A LOT more of those amazing beets. 

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Thyme and Lime Chicken with Crispy Leeks and Spaghetti Squash and Kale

I have more thyme than I could ever possibly use. The garden is absolutely being taken over. I use it here and there, normally, but have never cooked a meal that was heavy on the fresh thyme…now was the (wait for it) time (commence groaning now).

In my refrigerator I had chicken that needed to be cooked, a stalk of leek that was just holding on to life and a bunch of dinosaur kale. In my window I had a bag full of persian limes, a small spaghetti squash, a basil plant just screaming to be used and a gorgeous farmer’s market yellow onion.

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The chicken:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Thyme
  • 2 or 3 limes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 of a thinly sliced leek
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

The spaghetti squash and kale:

  • Small to medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • Half of yellow onion
  • The other half of the leek
  • 1/4 cup of red wine (leftover wine is fine)
  • Handful of basil
  • Thyme
  • Feta
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

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I knew we wanted to eat early last night (our au pair was going to a concert) so I prepped the chicken and the marinade just after lunch and roasted the spaghetti squash.

After collecting a VERY large handful of thyme and washing it, in a glass bowl I put probably a cup full of thyme and the juice of two limes (three if they are not very juicy).  I added a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

The next step was the slice the chicken into smaller pieces (the better to soak up the marinade in my opinion…and it spreads out the portion so that people can take what they want to eat) and then cut the leek. To thinly slice the leek, cut off the green top, leaving the bottom root intact. Using a very sharp knife and tucked away fingers, cut the leek, from the top into a checkerboard (see picture).

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And THEN cut off the bottom, “rooty” portion. It should fall apart into long, thinly sliced leek. Usually about 3 inches long. If there are any pieces that aren’t cut through, tear them apart with your hands or with a paring knife.

Put the half of the leeks into the bowl with the rest of the marinade, saving the other half for the other part of the meal, and then add the chicken, pushing the chicken into the juice and squishing it into the bottom of the bowl so that all of the chicken got the yummy marinade. Put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, about 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner.

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Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the tail off of the spaghetti squash and then, with a very sharp knife and the squash standing on the cut end allowing for it to be flat, cut the squash lengthwise.

Then clean out the seeds and the wet pulp with a spoon. I sometimes save these seeds to roast and top the meal but today I wasn’t into separating it all out.

Spray or rub the inside of the cleaned out squash  with some olive oil. Get out a cookie sheet and either cover it with parchment paper or a silpat. I used a silpat. You will be putting the squash cut side down on here. But before you do that put a few sprigs of thyme on the inside. The spaghetti squash on its own can be pretty bland. A healthy dose of herbs really does a lot to add flavor…as well as the other ingredients that we will mix in later.

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Place them face down on the cookie sheet and into the over about halfway up. Depending on how soft you want your spaghetti squash, time it from there. I wanted this to be pretty soft…but actually cooked it just a bit too long (40 minutes instead of my usual 30). I got distracted by the kids and so the squash, when I forked it out later, wash more like a mass instead of individual threads. You can tell when it is done by sticking a knife into the skin. If it goes in easily, it is finished. After roasting it looks like this:

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Let the squash cool for about 20 minutes (or longer) before “forking” it. Then using a pot holder to hold the outside of the squash, run a fork through the inside, forming spaghetti like threads. Set this aside.

A few hours later I came back to finish up the meal before our au pair prepared the food for the kids.

I chopped the onions and prepared the kale. The easiest way to do this, I have found, is take the stalk of kale in your hand by the white end and then pull back the towards the green leaf and the kale will separate easily. I then tore the kale into bite size pieces.

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In a 12 inch saute pan, I put a pat of butter. Once hot and slightly browned (YUM!), I added the chopped yellow onion and let that soften. When the onion was close to translucent, I added the kale and the rest of the leeks.

I let this cook down for a bit, until the kale was beginning to wilt. I tore the basil into small pieces (no need to be precise here…it will blend in with the kale) and threw those into the mix. I then added in a splash of red wine (OKAY, okay, I’ll admit it…it was more like a 1/4 cup. No? Alright. 1/2 a cup) to help the kale cook down and offset some of the bitterness.

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I cooked it over low heat until the leaves were bright green and wilted, the onions soft and the wine absorbed.

This is a good time to turn off the greens until you are ready to cook the chicken. While the chicken cooks you will add in the rest of the ingredients.

Pull out another saute pan, big enough to fit all of your chicken with about an inch between the pieces. Heat up a pat of butter in the pan and swirl it around. The chicken has been marinating with grapeseed oil so you don’t need to add more oil to the pan.

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My husband likes his onions, especially leeks, incredibly crispy (and practically burned…much to my chagrin). So I add them in at the beginning with the chicken and cook them at a medium temp. If you want them less crispy, add them a bit later. Save the marinade to pour back over the chicken when you flip. I don’t flip until the first side is browned. As these pieces are smaller than a full chicken breast, they take less time. Keep an eye on them. Also, make sure that you push the cooking chicken and leeks around in the juices.

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While the chicken is cooking, turn the kale mix back on at a low temp and add to it the spaghetti squash and sprinkle on some feta cheese and a splash more of the red wine and a squeeze of lime juice, should you have any left over.

Break up the feta so that it is throughout the dish. Same goes for the spaghetti squash…try to break it up so it isn’t in big clumps. Also, if you see any random thyme stems, pull those out. Nooooot tasty those stems! Taste and see if it needs any more salt. It may. Spaghetti squash can be WAY undersalted.

Let the feta melt, the rest of the dish heat up and all of the yummy goodness to absorb that last splash of wine and lime. As I am completely dependent on my istaread thermometer, when both sides of the chicken are properly browned, pull them off the heat when they reach 160 degrees. I usually test the smallest pieces first and pull them off if they are done before the big guys.

We served in a shallow bowl with the kale and spaghetti squash under the chicken. It was incredibly fragrant and the chicken majorly juicy with the savoriness of the thyme and leeks and the citrus of the lime.  OH! I almost forgot. I felt like it needed a bit of crunch so at the very end I also added a dash of Onion Crunch. Totally finished it right.

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Overstuffed Yellow Squash Boats and Sauteed Red Wine Kale

I went all veg last night. I don’t do this THAT often (though I know I should) because, without any starches, M and I often don’t get full without a protein. I combated no protein with a tiny bit of farro. And I think it was a success. I was satiated and enjoyed the meal. And the girls LOVED it.

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As I often do, I took what I had and interpretted another recipe to make it fit my fridge. Last night I made yellow squash boats stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese (topped with toasted pine nuts, balsamic glaze and a bit of sriracha). I also made kale sauteed with red wine and yellow onion.

Squash Boats

  • 1 large squash per person
  • package of frozen spinach
  • two cups of dried mushrooms, chopped finely
  • finely sliced shallot
  • red pepper flakes
  • thyme
  • salt/pepper
  • goat cheese (frozen)

Kale

  • 1 large bag of kale, washed, torn into 1 inch pieces and rid of tough stems
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • butter
  • 1 small lemon

I made the kale first as I wanted it to sit in its juices for as long as possible. After washing and trimming the kale to rid it of the stems, I tore any large leaves into small, bit size pieces. I put them into a bowl lined with a kitchen towel and let them drain while I chopped and cooked the yellow onion.

P actually helped with most of this portion of the meal. He loved “showering” and tearing the kale and stirring the onions cooked over medium heat. He has also started to have the dexterity to grind the salt and pepper over the food so I let him do that over the onions as they started to become translucent.

Once cooked, I piled in the kale and, over medium/high heat, wilted it until to became bright green. As there was so much kale in my saute pan, I had to turn the kale often and use a large pan lid to weigh down the leaves to keep them all in. As soon as the kale was bright green, I poured in the cup of red wine left over from a few nights previous and turned the heat to low and let all of that yumminess simmer. It was also at this time that I added 1 tablespoon of butter, cut into smaller pieces, and squirted it with the juice of a small lemon. This really added a depth to the flavor. Once this was all melded together, I poured the mixture and ALL of the juice into a large bowl to sit and absorb.

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I put some water into my electric kettle and let it boil while I dried out the pan with a paper towel. I chopped the dry mushrooms into 1/4 inch pieces and rinsed them in my mesh colander  When the water was boiling, I put the mushrooms in the pan and poured the hot water over them, letting them absorb the moisture. Once they were well soaked, I put them back in the mesh colander and let them drain over the sink. This last part used no heat…just reduced the number of bowls I’d have to clean later :)

At this time I preheated the oven to 350. The spinach was next. I popped a box of frozen chopped spinach into the pan and, after pouring a bit of hot water from the kettle over it, let the spinach defrost, stirring often and breaking it apart slowly. Once heated, I poured the spinach and its juices over the mushrooms that were still in the sink in the mesh colander. Those sat and dripped while I prepared the squash.

ImageI trimmed the ends off of the squash and cut them in half. After removing with a spoon the seeded center and setting that portion aside, I sliced a thin portion off of the bottom so that they would sit flat.

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On the hulled squash boats I added salt and pepper, a sprinkling of dry thyme and a tiny bit of finely chopped red pepper flakes. The other flavors are so subtle on this dish that it definitely needed that zing…so don’t exclude the red pepper flakes. I then sprayed it with smart balance cooking spray…but this was mostly for convenience as it was right in front of me and my olive oil was across the room. Lazy, yo.

Back at the saute pan, I toasted a handful of pine nuts and set them aside. I put a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan, heated it up and tossed in the shallot and the squash innards, letting them cook over medium high heat. I pressed the remaining liquid out of the spinach and mushrooms and then added them to the mix. I had the goat cheese in the freezer to make even distribution into the filling easier. I crumbled about three tablespoons of goat cheese onto the filling and stirred it in. Add sriracha sauce to taste at this point. I don’t like my food too hot so I just did a tiny bit and then let the others heat their food up at the end as they wished.

On a silpat lined cookie sheet, I placed the empty boats and then overstuffed them with the filling.

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I squeezed a bit of balsamic glaze over the top and put them in the oven for 30-35 minutes, turning once during cooking to allow for even temperature in my horrible stove. Test for doneness with a sharp knife. When it goes into the skin of the squash easily, it is ready.

While the squash is cooking, I used 1/2 a cup of the Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro and 1 cup of chicken stock and simmered that on the stove, after bringing it to a boil, for 10 minutes. Once cooked to chewiness, I added back in the kale  mixture to heat for serving.

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Serve the kale with a slotted spoon and portion two squash boats per person. Top the squash boats with toasted pine nuts, a bit more of the goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic glaze and/or sriracha and you have yourself a delicious and incredibly healthy meal.

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