Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

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(Becky, the Mama.)

In my home state of Texas zucchini grows in backyard gardens with such profusion that almost everyone I knew had a steady pile of it sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed, diced, sliced, grated, grilled baked, steamed, frozen — or ignored until it grew mildew and could finally be thrown away without guilt. My mother remembers having to remove a bunch of zucchini from my kitchen sink in order to make room to give one of my newborn babies their first bath. During Texas summers it is almost impossible to walk to or from your car without at least one neighbor strong-arming you into accepting a bag or bucket of ever present green squash. Everywhere you turn, zucchini lurks.

To get my children to eat their share of it, I invented Skillet Italian Squash Casserole. By cooking the squash until just crisp tender, then topping it with an Italian style tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and buttery crackers, I had a winner! It was a family favorite for many years.

Soon after we married, nine years ago,  my husband Greg let me know, “I’m not really a squash kind of guy.” So I avoided serving him squash in any form. But the other day, I threw caution to the wind and made this casserole anyway, since I liked it so much. He graciously agreed to try it. To my surprise, he loved it, too.  Ate every bite. I made it again tonight, and there was not a speck of squash left on his plate,

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke …” Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

5 smallish to medium squash, yellow or zucchini or a mixture of both
Salt & Pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large clove grated garlic
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (preferably the kind with basil)
½ t. oregano
2 t. brown sugar
1 c. grated cheese (I like mozzarella but really, any cheese you like & have on hand will be yummy)
3 T. butter
20 buttery crackers, such Ritz or Townhouse (I used Ritz wheat crackers)
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 10-12 inch iron skillet on high flame until very hot. Put squash and garlic into pan and saute until many of the pieces are golden on the outside and cooked until just crisp-tender.

Remove from stove top and pour crushed tomatoes evenly over the top of the squash. Sprinkle the tomatoes with oregano and brown sugar. Top with grated cheese. Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Crumble crackers into the melted butter, add Parmesan and mix. Pour this crumb mixture on top of the cheese, then place the skillet in hot oven. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender, cheese melted, and cracker crumb topping is golden.

Veganize This: Substitute vegan ‘Mozzarella” and “Parmesan” cheese and dairy-free butter and you are good to go on this one.  Simple to do!

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Solitude, Self-Care & Tortellini Soup (Welcome Author & Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman)

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(Becky) I’m thrilled to share our blog today with new author, compassionate therapist, and dear friend, Lucille Zimmerman. We’re celebrating the fresh release of her new book on self-care for women titled Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World.

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I was thrilled to endorse it and wrote: “This is a book that I want to give to every woman I know. It contains wisdom I wish I had at twenty, and reminders I still need at mid-life, to regularly refill my own well. Lucille shows that in order to have something to give to those we love, we have to replenish our physical, spiritual and emotional energy. With wonderful personal stories and a therapist’s keen insight, Renewed, is a like a cup of cold water to women who are parched for permission to take care of themselves.”

Seriously, you gotta get this book.  Even better, pamper yourself futher and  read it while you sip her comforting recipe for Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage.

Below are some personal words, a short excerpt on self-care and Lucille’s soup recipe. One of the reasons she loves it is because it allows her to chop veggies, a calming and centering activity for her. Enjoy!

Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman, Author of Renewed

Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman, Author of Renewed

(Lucille)

I’ve noticed I’m the most stressed when I can’t focus on one thing. Right now I’m trying to finish up the grades on the counseling course I taught, I have a series of blog posts that need written, a daughter who is planning a wedding but is prohibited from driving until medical tests prove she’s not having seizures, and I’m launching my first book. Needless to say, the multitasking is causing me stress. I am in need of solitude.

Here is a little excerpt from my book, Renewed, on the topic of solitude:
 

So what do people gain from spending time in solitude? One researcher said the mere presence of other people obliges us to coordinate our actions. Right now I am alone. Snow is falling silently outside and the only sound I hear comes from water trickling in my office fountain. Right now I can do whatever I want. I can slurp my split pea soup while taking intermittent bites of a chocolate bar. I can sit on my chair with one leg tucked under in unladylike fashion. I can take a break to let the dog out, and I can sing badly while doing all of the above. I’m still wearing my workout clothes from yoga, my bangs are hanging in my face, and I don’t have on a stitch of makeup. These little freedoms are not to be underestimated.

Humans may be social beings, but solitude has been shown to have great societal value. It is like the rests in a line of music, giving information, nuance, and structure to the melody. Without it, our lives are a cacophony, a never-ending noise that wears us down. Solitude is essential for our spiritual experience – it is where we hear the still, small voice. Jesus was our model, showing us how to balance being with people and being alone. ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed’ (Mark 1:35), and ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (Luke 5:16). In these verses we see Jesus becoming known as a great healer and teacher, but he still took time to rest and pray.

So in spite of my to-do list, I put everything aside and took a walk in the sunshine. Then I made a tortellini soup. If anything brings my calm and focus back its sunshine, exercise, solitude and chopping fresh, colorful and fragrant vegetables. 

(Excerpted & Adapted from Renewed, by Lucille Zimmerman, Abingdon Press. Lucille’s info and blog is at http://www.lucillezimmerman.com)

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Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage: shared by Lucille Zimmerman


1 lb sweet Italian or turkey sausage
1 cup onion
2 garlic cloves, diced
5 cups beef broth
1 cup water
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
½ T. basil leaves
½ t. dried thyme
1 (8 oz) cup tomato sauce
1 ½ cups zucchini, sliced
1 (8 ox) fresh tortellini pasta
3 T. fresh parsley (use less if dried)
Parmesan cheese

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In a 5-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1 T of drippings. Sauté onion and garlic in drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, tomatoes, carrots, celery, basil, oregano, thyme, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer 30 minus. Add tortellini last 10 mins. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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Fiesta Tortilla “Flower” Pie

Becky’s Fiesta Flower Pie

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I heard a loud thump followed by a yell outside my kitchen window. I rushed out to see my husband Greg lying on the patio, telling me he twisted his ankle. “Don’t move!” I said, “I’m coming down there to help you.”

I really did mean to scoot down and cradle his head in my lap. I really did not mean to kick him hard in the temple with my knee in the process. Thankfully, Greg wasn’t so wounded that he lost his sense of humor: he pretended I knocked him unconscious. He was able to walk on the ankle in just a few minutes, but I still wonder if it was just a heroic attempt to save himself from my further attempts to help him.

My record for doing good, and no harm, in a medical emergency is a little bit uneven.  When my son Zeke was about thirteen, he cut his leg badly while we were in a shopping center parking lot.  I started throwing everything I could find in the car on his leg to stop the bleeding and then drove him to the emergency room.  As the nurse took off layer after layer: a towel, napkins from fast food restaurants, a clean diaper, and some grass clippings… she looked up at me quizzically and asked, “Becky, were you trying to smother the wound?”

On the other hand, I once expertly performed the Heimlich maneuver on a woman who was choking in the women’s restroom. Just as calm as you please, I walked into her stall where she had been coughing and banging on the door, and was now turning blue.I told her not to worry, that I was going to do the Heimlich (that I’d heretofore only seen done on TV). Somehow I did, and out popped a piece of pineapple from her mouth. As soon as she could breathe normally again,she announced to everyone around that I had saved her life.

Maybe I’m better in life-threatening situations than I am in more minor emergencies. A nurturing person at heart, I wonder sometimes if I could have made a good nurse. My husband says, “You would have been a wonderful nurse, Becky.  Your patients would have loved you and you would have kept them laughing and smiling…. right before you accidentally killed them.”  It is true. I can’t keep up with my own cell phone or purse on a daily basis, so keeping track of med dosing schedules for patients would have certainly been a crap shoot.

I’ve probably made better and safer use of my nurturing nature by caring for ailing folks through gifts of home cooking.  I woke up from a nap the other day with the idea for this dish dancing in my head.  It was even better than I imagined it would be.  It uses simple ingredients that most of us have on hand, but arranges them in a way that looks like big, colorful Mexican flower in a pie pan. It would be a wonderful dish to take to a friend who has twisted their ankle, cut their leg or been kneed in the head by a clumsy do-gooder.

Fiesta Tortilla Flower Pie

Fiesta Tortilla Flower Pie

Serves 6

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

Shell:
1 t. olive oil
4 medium sized flour tortillas, cut 3 of them in half, leaving one whole

Beef-Bean Filling:

1 lb lean ground beef or buffalo meat
3 cloves garlic, minced

16 oz. can pinto beans drained (I had leftover home-cooked one) but not rinsed
½ cup thick salsa (I used “On the Border” brand)
¼ cup thick bbq sauce (I used “Sweet Baby Ray’s”)
1 t. grill or steak seasoning (or ½ t. salt and ½ t pepper)
½ t.Cajun seasoning (I like Tony’s brand.  Or use red pepper flakes or chili powder instead.)
3 quick dashes Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 t. brown sugar

Additional Layers (Before Cooking)
¾ c. Greek yogurt (I prefer 2%)  or sour cream (light is fine)
¾ c. bottled salsa
¾ c. grated cheese, any kind you like
½ c crushed corn chips (we like Fritos) or tortilla chips
Jalapeno slices – as many as you like for garnish

Fresh Salsa Topping for After Cooking
1/2 c. chopped tomato
½   c. diced avocado
½   c. drained corn or corn cut off a cob
Squeeze of fresh lime, dash salt, dash sugar

Directions:

Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and brown a whole one round tortilla and five halved tortillas in batches, until they are light golden brown in spots on both sides.   Line a deep dish pie pan with as shown in the photo below, slightly overlapping the “petals” of the tortilla flower.

In a large skillet brown the beef with the garlic.  Then  add the next seven ingredients, stir and heat through until simmered and thickened.Pour meat and bean mixture into “tortilla flower.”

Gently spread the sour cream or Greek Yogurt over the beef mixture.  Next spread on the salsa.

Then sprinkle the grated cheese over all, followed by an even sprinkling of crushed corn chips.  Finally decorate with a few jalapeno slices.Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes while you make a quick fresh salsa topping.  In a bowl, combine tomato, avocado and corn. Give this mixture a quick squeeze of fresh lime, a dash of salt and a pinch of sugar.  Toss.   Pile in the middle of the tortilla pie.

Use a very sharp serrated knife to cut pie shaped wedges.  It may be a little messy if the pie is still hot, so feel free to serve in a bowls if you prefer.

Vegetarian Version: Replace beef with 1 cup lentils or other beans (in addition to the ones in the recipe), 1/2 cup grain such as quinoa or rice, 1/4 cup chopped nuts such as walnuts, and 1 cup chopped mushrooms.

Vegan Version:
Follow Vegetarian Version above for meat replacement. Skip sour cream and cheese layers and cover the pie with fresh guacamole once comes out of the oven and has cooled for 5 minutes. Use just the tomatoes and corn for salsa topping.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Fiesta Tortilla Pie
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Bv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Stewed Summer Veggies

Stewed garden vegetables with white beans. Great for curling up with a good book and a blanket on a rainy day.

I’m packing up my suitcase (or three) for a tropical island vacation south of Tampa, but it looks like the most tropical thing about the trip may be Tropical Storm Debby. Our family that’s already there spent last night without water or power and hasn’t seen the sun in days. Much of the island is covered in water. Getting three suitcases, a diaper bag, groceries, and a one-year old onto the ferry (no cars on this island) and down the 1/4 mile rocky path to the condos without Jared, who will be joining us two days later, is going to be harder than I expected if this doesn’t clear up soon.

I had a menu in mind for the week, including lots of fresh, crisp fruits and veggies to cool us down as we came in from the hot sandy beach. But, this summer stew might be a better fit if it turns out to be a rainy vacation. Actually, curling up on the lanai (that’s a fancy word Floridians use for a screened in porch) with a good book and a bowl of these warm summer veggies, while the rain falls around me and and waves crash against the shell-lined beach, sounds like paradise to me.

Fresh potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and squash from our uncle’s garden were the base of this savory satisfying stew, finished off with white beans for a mild-flavored protein, and kale of course. No dish is complete without it! Smoked paprika, one of my favorite spices to add depth of flavor to beans and vegetables, makes it taste almost like it was cooked with a hunk of ham.

Rain or shine, cool salads or warm stews, I’ll be enjoying our little tropical paradise very soon. And I’ll finally be reuniting with my husband when he gets done with his week long out of state baseball tournament…just in time to celebrate our anniversary on the same island where we said “I Do” five years ago!

Rachel’s Stewed Summer Veggies

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

~1 T. extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
1 large onion, diced
4 small potatoes, chopped into bite size chunks
1 yellow squash (or zucchini)
3 cups of tomatoes (I used a combo of whole cherry tomatoes & chopped larger tomatoes)
1 T. white wine vinegar
3 stalks of kale, torn off the rib and into pieces
1 cup of water or veggie broth
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt & pepper
seasoning salt
smoked paprika

Directions

Pour evoo into a large tall-sided skillet or sauce pan and heat on medium heat. Add onions & a dash of salt and saute for about five minutes. Add potatoes, squash, tomatoes, water or broth, and vinegar. Reduce heat to med-low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in kale and gently mash the tomatoes so they release their juices. If it needs more liquid, you can add another cup of water or broth. Gently stir in the beans and season to taste with seasoning salt (like Lawry’s or Tony’s), smoked paprika (use just a pinch for a nice smokey flavor) and a little salt and pepper if it needs it.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Stewed Summer Veggies
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-rv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

Becky’s BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Ranch Dressing

(Becky)

When my daughter Rachel was a little girl, I asked her, “What would you rather be when you grow up, a doctor or a nurse?”  I wanted her to know she would not be bound by gender rules, that she could be anything she wanted to be as an adult.

She pondered it for a minute then answered, thoughtfully.  “I’m not sure. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see which outfit looks better on me.”

Though her reasoning may be dubious from a career-choosing standpoint, I must admit that I adopt her philosophy a lot when it comes to cooking.   “What’s for dinner?” my husband will ask.  “I don’t know yet,” I’ll say as I rummage through the fridge.  “It depends on what jumps out at me, sounds good and looks pretty in a picture for the food blog.”

Rachel and I laugh that the way to get food re-pinned on Pinterest is to put a slice of avocado on it.  We’ve debated about putting a piece of avocado on everything we make, from desserts to cocktails, as our “signature garnish.”  Because, let me tell you,  people love the sight of a green, ripe avocado in food pictures!

Thus, using those guidelines,  this salad was born.  At the end of groceries I had one meat protein left in the fridge: natural, nitrate-free bacon.  (Though I’m shifting toward vegetarianism, my husband is staying put in the land of meat for now, so I try to buy the least processed, organic varieties.)   I thought about a BLT sandwich, but our waistlines are calling for more vegies and less bread.  Ah-ha!  A BLT salad! Then  I spied some of those little sweet red and yellow peppers in the crisper. With a roasted pepper dressing! Yes!  I pulled out a little of the leftover cornbread in the back of the fridge, spread with butter and broiled until crispy, like a giant cornbread crouton.  Ta-dah.   Dinner done.

Needless to say, it worked.  We WILL be having this salad again.

Vegetarians and Vegans:  There are lots of bacon bits that are great for vegans and vegetarians. McCormicks makes a tasty brand and is easy to find at most any grocery store.

Becky’s BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

Makes two meal-sized salads

Ingredients

Nitrate Free Uncured Bacon (8 slices, cut in one inch pieces with kitchen scissors before cooking. It is okay if they stick together in little bundles.  They will separate in the skillet as the fat melts.)

(Vegans: use 1/4 cup vegan “bacon bits” in place of bacon, such as McCormick’s brand. Or make your own vegan coconut bacon.)

2 cups mixed salad greens (I used spinach and romaine)

2 small to medium tomatoes, diced

1 avocado,  peeled and diced

1 red pepper or 4  small sweet peppers, roasted (See pics below) (You can also used jarred roast peppers if you have them on hand.)

1/2 cup your favorite Ranch Dressing (There are plenty of good vegan varieties! Also, to cut calories, you may want to use 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt for 1/4 cup of the Ranch Dressing.)

Directions:

Cook the cut up bacon over medium high heat in a skillet until the pieces are golden crisp and brown.  Drain on paper towels.   While bacon is cooking, roast the peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler. Put them in a plastic bag when they have a good char all around so the steam will loosen the skin.  Wipe the charred pepper skin off with a paper towel.

Tiny red peppers roasting on an open fire… 🙂

Red peppers in a sandwich baggy, steaming and loosening the charred skin

Wiping away the charred skin with paper towel. Don’t worry about getting all char off of the peppers. Some of it adds flavor.

Into each of two large salad bowls (I like big pasta bowls for this), put one cup of mixed salad greens.  Sprinkle each salad with half the tomatoes and avocados.  Top with crispy bacon or bacon bits.

Put Ranch Dressing and roasted pepper into a food processor or blender.  Blend to desired consistency.  I left the peppers a little bit chunky.

Ladle dressing down the middle of the salads and serve.  A few turns of  fresh pepper are nice.  This is especially good with cornbread on the side.

Variations: Additional yummy add-ins could be thinly sliced red onion or chopped green onion, corn, beans, or a diced boiled egg.

BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: BLT/Avocado Salad wth Roasted Pepper Dressing
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-kh


Bloody Mary Veggie Soup (Vegan)

Becky’s Bloody Mary Soup — Creamy, loaded with vegies and tastes AWESOME!

My husband had surgery on Thursday for a deviated septum and to keep him company while he rested in the living room, breathing like Darth Vader, I went on a nonstop experimental cooking spree.

I suddenly morphed into one of those chefs on America’s Test Kitchens, except that I cook without cleaning as I go, so it looked like unsupervised Kindergarteners were allowed to play with food on my counter tops.

I made this mess in less than 20 minutes. I do this sort of thing with amazing regularity.

At one point I was happily and furiously cooking when I lost my grip on a slippery lemon just before it became airborne and hit me in the head. My mother warned me about hot stoves, boiling water, and sharp knifes when explaining kitchen safety,  but nobody told me to beware of flying citrus.

I am most interested lately in cooking with foods that are known to help lower blood pressure.  My BP was up last week and all medications I’ve tried thus far make me feel like a sloth with a migraine. I’m determined to try to let “food be my medicine” as best I can, and see if I can wrestle those numbers down without pharmaceuticals.

So when Greg said he’d like some tomato soup,  I got inspired and created a super-healthy vegie-tomato soup, chocked full of foods known to  help lower blood pressure.  When I took a sip,  it was truly delicious. Something about it reminded me of Bloody Mary mix, so I added some typical Bloody Mary ingredients (Worcestershire, celery seed, lemon, hot sauce)  to jazz it up even more, then used chopped celery as a garnish and a celery stick as a “stirrer.”  Cute, eh?  And the taste?  Amazing!  It was so good that after Greg and I enjoyed hot soup for lunch,  I sipped a nutritious, warm mug full at mid-afternoon for a snack.  Today I enjoyed it cold, adding tiny diced cucumbers and a little parsley as a gazpacho-like treat.

The basic recipe can be played with dozens of ways, adding bits of veggies that are on hand in your crisper.  Hot or cold, I’m proud to share this soup that is as tasty as it is healthy.

Creamy Bloody Mary Soup

Becky’s Bloody Mary Veggie Soup

Serves 4-6 

Ingredients:

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with basil

2 cloves garlic

½ red onion

1 red bell pepper

1 carrot, rough chopped

1 stalk celery, rough chopped

1 handful fresh spinach (about a cup, loosely packed) (You may also use fresh basil if you have it on hand, instead)

1 ½ c. veggie broth (or chicken broth)

1 ½ c. almond milk (don’t substitute dairy milk as it may curdle)

2 t. organic sugar (or brown sugar)

½ t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 t. Worcestershire sauce (Look for vegan Worcestershire sauce, if you are a vegan purest, as many contain anchovies,)

1 t. celery seed

Juice from ½ fresh lemon

Dash hot sauce (Tabasco or Buffalo Sauce)

2 stalks celery diced small, for garnish (about 1 T. in each bowl)

Celery stalks with leaves attached for garnish, one in each bowl

Directions:

In large blender or food processor put ½ the can tomatoes, garlic, onion, red bell pepper, carrot, celery and spinach and 1 c. veggie broth.  Blend on high until as creamy as you your machine will get it.

Pour mixture into large pan, add rest of can of tomatoes (the crushed tomatoes will add some texture to soup, but if you prefer it smooth, whirl in the blender as well)  and rest of veggie broth, almond milk, sugar, salt and pepper.  Bring to boil, stirring often.  Turn heat down to medium and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire, celery seed, dash hot sauce and juice of ½ fresh lemon.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.   Garnish with a tablespoon of chopped celery and stick of leafy celery and serve.   Delicious with grilled cheese or grilled roasted veggie  sandwich.

Variations: Try other veggies in this basic recipe.  Add chopped cucumber,  chopped green onion and/or diced tomato and serve it cold, like a refreshing gazpacho.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title:  Bloody Mary Veggie Soup

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ic


Spicy Hominy, Kale & Butter Bean Veggie Bowl

Spicy Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Veggie Bowl

Last autumn my daughter Rachel and her baby, Jackson, then just 4 months old,  met us for a few days of fun and sun in Scottsdale.  What I adore about Arizona in early November is that it is still summertime there.  Apparently nobody informs the state that it is actually Fall.  I love this. The pools are open, the sun is shining and it is the perfect place to decompress before the holidays hit. I highly recommend a pre-holiday vacation if you can swing it. It helps you store up strength for the coming onslaught of perpetual goodwill and cheer, and the work that goes with it.

Jackson has it made in the shade

Before Rachel arrived,  I created what I thought would be a healthy vegan dish for her to enjoy with a few ingredients I’d packed and bought. As it turned out we both enjoyed this impromptu creation aLOT.  One afternoon we packed this yummy, super-healthy veggie concoction into a plastic tub and put it in the beach bag, along with a sack of tortilla chips and paper plates, carrying it all to the swimming pool for lunch. There we devoured it like a dip, scooping  up every last drop with the chips,  as we sipped our chilled fru-fru drinks and watched the baby snooze in the shade of his stroller.
Once I was back  home in Denver I realized, to my shock and surprise, “I’m craving that veggie bowl again.”  Do you know how wonderful it is when  you actually crave something healthy, instead of a Caramel Macchiato with a side of chocolate cupcake?
About once a month, since then, I get the hankering for this concoction and indulge my craving without a shred of guilt,  and a lot of smug self-satisfaction.  There’s also something about the smells  of this veggie mixture simmering on the stove that remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen, only with a South-of-the-Border kick.
The temperature in Colorado was in the 50s and rainy today, and this dish  hit the spot for something comforting, warm, nutritious and delicious.I ate a big bowl full and felt so good about myself that I went to bed at mid-day with a book, as the rain softly drizzled down the window, and indulged in an hour long nap.  After all, being so good to your body deserves a little reward.

Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Veggie Bowl Simmering in the Skillet

Spicy Hominy, Kale & Butter Bean Veggie Bowl

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1 chopped  red onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 16 oz can butter beans (NOT lima beans), with juice from can
1 16 oz  can kidney beans, with juice from can
1/2 large tomato, diced
1 big bunch kale, ribs trimmed away and chopped in about 1 inch pieces
1 can hominy, drained
1 roasted green chili chopped (or a small can green chilis or 1/2 jalepano pepper that has been seeded)
1/2 t. grill or steak seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper)
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. smoked paprika (gives this dish a bacony flavor)
2 t. Tabasco or buffalo sauce to taste
1 t. cumin
Directions:
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are fragrant and tender crisp in your largest deepest skillet.  Add all the other ingredients, one by one, into the simmering pan.  Cover and simmer at medium heat for about 10 minutes or until kale is soft and not overly chewy.
Uncover, and let simmer until the liquid reduces and turns nice and creamy.  Test to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
Serve with crushed corn chips or cornbread.
Variations:  Add a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes to make this into a stew-like soup, rather than a veggie bowl.  (It may need more salt and pepper if you do this.)
Meat lovers can add sliced, sauteed Kielbasa sausage to create a one-bowl-meal.

Veggie Bowl with crushed tortilla chips. Mmmm… mmmm…