Beans Yes, Kale Yes, Together NO

Thursday night’s dinner in my new meal plan was:

Peppered White Bean, Kale Egg Stack

So, I’ve been thinking that there are a lot of “stack”s and “bowl”s around these days. Perhaps it’s a food trend and I’m so out of it I didn’t know. I am very aware of the organic, locally grown, ethically managed trend in food. After all, I’m only an hour away from Asheville and, in my little Small Mountain Town, eating organic and local is what people have done since before there ever was a walmart.

Anyhow, “stack”s seem to be  dishes that are served in sort of a layered pile. A stack, if you will, of food. Not like mashed potatoes and gravy but like Parmesan Sprinkled Rustic Mashed Potatoes Over A Plank Of Meatloaf On A Bed Of Green Beans. (Mmmmm meatloaf) Actually, that doesn’t sound bad at all.

However, kale on top of mashed white beans does sound bad. And texture wise, it wasn’t so great. It wasn’t a total disappointment, but I won’t be doing a double post of it that is for sure.

Ok, so the recipe is, as always, in Cooking Light and the link is here and above.

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red onion–they are so lovely! 

First there are the beans! They were delish! I’ve never mashed beans before! What a marvelous idea! Great White Northern Beans are a little bigger than Navy Beans (why “navy”? they are white) and are shaped like Lima Beans but DO NOT taste like Limas! If you didn’t have a can of GWNB but had Navy Beans or Cannelini Beans, I think you’d be ok. The recipe calls for adding 1/2 cup of water along with a can of beans.

  • Mistake Avoidance Tip: drain the beans before adding them to the pot or add less water. Otherwise it’s really liquidy and requires some time boiling off extra liquid.

Mine were a bit liquidish, but they sure were zippy with the Parmesan cheese and lots of pepper! Yummy!

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fresh salsa

Topper was a simple fresh salsa. I used a red
onion to give it more color. It was really good and made just the right amount for two servings (I halved the recipe).

Then there is the Kale. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t gotten some kind of fancy super curly Kale. It was to be “wilted” in a dutch oven but it just didn’t want to wilt to well. Ended up chewy. Bad combo with the beans. A Kale salad would have been lovely but of course then it wouldn’t be a “stack”.

The dish was supposed to have a poached egg layer, between the Kale and the Salsa. What a pain in the neck a poached egg is! So, no–that didn’t happen. If I’d wanted to have an egg I would have substituted a soft boiled one because that’s a whole lot easier to

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Peppered Great Northern Beans, Kale, Egg Stack. Minus Egg. 

accomplish. If you ever have concerns about soft boiling an egg, this article here is really helpful!

But this time, no egg. How would that have worked with the chewy not-quite-
wilted Kale? I just don’t know.

So here it is plated for one single serving. Just for clarity’s sake, this is a smaller sized plate. It always feels like I haven’t gotten a full plate if I use a bigger one and have a regular serving. More likely to have a reasonable size portion with a smaller plate.

I’ll end this post with a picture of a lovely red onion. Because they are really so lovely. This was a super duper fast dish to prepare, less than 20 minutes definitely. If I ever do it again, I’ll probably do it in parts but not as a whole dish.

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Sausage and Pasta Redoux

Last month I started the new cooking plan with recipes from Cooking Light. So far it’s been pretty good, even though I’ve spent some of the intervening time out of town and unable to cook.

This week I made a plan. An actual cooking, meal, grocery store, recipe, get-it-in-order plan. Not a set of mix and match diet choices made primarily of some combination yogurt and almonds or something super simple largely raw throw together thing. Not a dream list of fabulous food I’ll never really make but has beautiful photos in the cookbook or website that ultimately self-sabotages me into eating out because I’m tired and don’t want to go to that much trouble. That always ends up in me throwing away a lot of rotten food.

Nope, this is a grown up, real life meal plan for the week. Seems like a small thing to be so proud of, but there you go.

Monday and Wednesday are covered with other responsibilities, so tonight was the first one in this new Meal Plan Adventure. And, it was a redoux.

Formerly know as Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne, it is now Sausage and Pasta Redoux. 0209161717a

Penne is great, but I made dinner for a friend who doesn’t want to eat a lot of pasta. So I went with this veggie rotini. It’s pretty, not as pretty when it’s cooked because there’s color fade. It’s made with spinach, tomato and beet. But it just tastes like pasta.

I’ll admit that rotini is typically better when there’s some kind of sauce to hold on to and there isn’t really in this, but that’s ok. It worked.

As before, I used regular ole broccoli and not broccoli rabe. I have since learned that broccoli rabe is not at all the same thing as broccoli. Totally different kind of plant. But it’s green, so there! And Turkey Sausage, which I think I did before, too.

So there it is. However, I did realize that it sure is a lot of food. And I realized it just before 0209161751aI re read that the recipe was for four and I should have halved it. Oh well, good thing I like it! Two days of lunch!

Rest of the week it will be Peppered White Bean Kale and Egg Stack and Chicken Kofte with Zucchini.

What is a Kofte you may ask? Well, I don’t know either, so it will be a new thing for us all.

New Cooking Plan

Starting some new cooking habits. I like to cook and I love to bake! Ovens are like magic to me. You put something in it, wait a while, and it comes out entirely different. My mother was a Home Eco teacher and a great cook, but my father’s tastes were simple and he preferred the same five or six things over and over and over.

And over.

I learned to cook from my mother (obviously) who approached cooking more as a science than an art. It was all about the chemical reactions between the foods. Precise measuring was critical as was timing. I suppose I am ok in the kitchen. Most of all, I know how to follow a recipe and I think that’s a fine skill to have.

Recently I’ve been inspired by a friend of mine who cooks for her family all the time and has been using a lot of Cooking Light magazine recipes. Typically, I’m cooking only for myself, so this is often an impediment to cooking altogether. However, looking at the things she had prepared, they were almost all 4 servings. Perfect for her three person family and perfect for cutting right in half for little ole me tonight and lunch tomorrow.

I’ve been trying Blue Apron. I say trying because the food is fantastic and fresh and almost always organic and easy to make and just right portions. But the food just kept coming and I kept forgetting to cancel the week before I wasn’t going to be home and consequently I also kept throwing away really great food that had spoiled before I even got to it.

So, I put the Blue Apron on hold, got a Cooking Light subscription and…. Here We Go!

First meal: Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne
Follow the link for the recipe itself*

Remember how I just said that I am usually cooking for me, myself and I? Well, every once in a while I’m cooking for a whole bunch of campus ministry college students. We have a smallish group, but it’s a whole lot more than the “single serving” I typically search for.  But those Cooking Light meals are servings for 4, which is easily doubled to 8, which was just what we needed Monday night. And pleasing college students with a “light” meal was a big test. They loved it!

There was no Broccoli Rabe in my local grocery store, so it was regular broccoli. Looks like the nutrition is similar. Although there are more calories, it isn’t significant and IT’S A GREEN VEGETABLE so I think it’s ok. A good place to look for nutritional values I’ve found is here, especially if you like pretty charts and lots of data!  It was easy to make, not quite as quick as the recipe implies, but still not a lot of effort. I will definitely make it again.

Pictured here is the platter with four servings.

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*the Cooking Light website has all of their recipes stored on the My Recipes database. This does not mean, however, that all the recipes at My Recipes are light. They really, to my great disappointment, are not. Even so, My Recipes has a save feature that is admittedly pretty cool. But, my advice is to either buy the magazine or search on Cooking Light for what you want.

 

Grace Tastes Like Pie

Grace tastes like pie.
Made by real hands,
Butter squished between fingers
Flour under nails and puffed into the air.
Just a little salty
Like tears on a precious cheek
Kissed away.
Crust rolled out flat
On a table filled with homework and bills
And arguments and sighs
Celebrations and sandwiches.
Laid in the tin, gingerly,
Like a sleeping baby.
Smooth out all the wrinkles.
Good night sweet dreams say your prayers.
It will all look different in the morning.
Berries smashed and pouring
Out their offering of dark red juiciness
Staining an apron and counter top
Like blood but sweet
And tart like wine.
Pour into the crust bed
Hope and memory and disappointment
Sweetened with vanilla and honey
Baked in the red hot oven of tenderness
Whose waves like summer wind blast
Full in the face when the door is open.
Little timekeeper shaped like a ladybug, smiling.
Don’t panic, she says.
All will be well and all will be well
And all manner of pies will be well.
To everything there is a season and time
For every pastry under heaven.
Steaming and calling through the house.
Simmering liquid love of sugar and blackberries
Salt and butter burns the tongue,
Melts the ice cream.
Then cooled and refrigerated.
Its best surprise is unexpected joy
In the middle of a long night
Satisfying the broken heart
The wounded spirit, the tired soul.
Grace tastes just exactly like pie.

Canning

One of the really interesting things I’ve learned how to do since I arrived here is how to can. To be fair, I am only beginning to learn how to can, since one could rightly say that it is definitely a ‘home art’ and not something one masters in a couple of sessions.

The absolutely amazing thing about all of it is that you take fresh stuff, cut it up, do stuff to it and it will last. Certainly, when you open the jar it won’t be quite as fresh tasting as it would if you were eating it right off the tree, but it will be nearly so. There is something magical about it and it probably seem so because they are so beautiful when they’re finished. The little jars make the fruit look like big gems, sparkling and colorful.The woman who taught me how to can last year has a jar of some sort of purple peaches. They are old…very old…though she says they are probably still good since the lid is still sealed. But she would never eat them because she believes they are too beautiful.

These days, we can go to the store and buy fresh produce in the dead of winter because of shipping from the tropical areas in some cases and forced growing in others, and that is great. I’m not knocking that at all. But there is something really nice about opening a jar of fruits or vegetables that you prepared yourself….that you set aside yourself…for this later day in the dark, grey winter. One can only imagine how satisfying it must have been for people, before our current days of plenty and abundance, to fill the cabinet with jars of beautiful and truly needed food for the winter.

At any rate, last year a parishioner taught me how to can pimentos and so, after a second learning session this year, I was ready to try it on my own!

canning

Here’s my great big pot I got from WalMart.  It’s what is called a water bath canner. What I learned to use first was a pressure canner, but those are both expensive and, frankly, an little unnearving to use on your own. They could, after all, explode!

Basically, you cut up the fruit, do stuff to it, super clean the jars by putting them in boiling water, put the fruit and juice-y type stuff on top, put on the two part lid, immerse them in the hot water in this giant pot, and boil it for however long the chart tells you. After you take them out and they sit in the air for a bit, you get this nice, loud popping sound. That’s your affirmation! Your applause! The food says: ‘well done! Pop!’ It means that little metal lid has sealed properly.

 

First, I did spiced peaches. They smelled soooo good!

steam

And looked so pretty, too! One of the most amazing things to me about all of it is the fact that the food is boiling inside the jars and keeps boiling even after you take it out of the water bath.

spiced peachesPlus, like I said, it’s so pretty!

Then I tried some plums and pluots. This made plum pluot preserves which is also a lot of fun to say really fast. They had to cook a very long time.

 

plumsplum heart

 

plum pluots in a pot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All together I’ve canned these peaches, plum pluot preserves, plum blackberry jam,  and last but certainly not least, red hot cinnamon apples.

These were a lot of fun because it used red hot candies in the cooking part. Looking forward to sharing these at the holidays and eating some over the winter!

apples