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
~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
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.
The Condiment Queen, that’s what I call my mom. At any given moment she has no less than 100 condiments lining the door of her refrigerator. Growing up, we always had at least ten varieties of mustard, ample obscure relishes, and enough barbeque sauce to smother 50 pigs … yet (due to raising four teenagers & a revolving door of their hungry friends) we were almost always out of milk, bread, and other essentials.
She loves her condiments so much, she even travels with them. Last week I peeked into the back of my refrigerator to see a jar of orange marmalade. I didn’t buy that, I thought. My mom always has orange marmalade in her refrigerator though. She must have traveled all the way from Denver to Dallas with it the last time she visited, in fear, I’m sure, that there might be a shortage of condiments in my fridge.
In honor of my Condiment Queen mama and her beloved orange marmalade, I used the remainder of the jar to dress the salad at our Easter lunch. The sweet dressing went perfectly with the slightly bitter massaged kale greens, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds. It would be great on spinach or mixed greens too if we haven’t sold you on the delicious wonders of one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet yet (at least according to the Whole Foods Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.)
Cranberry Orange Kale Salad
Serves ~ 6
1 bunch of kale, washed & dried
2 T. orange marmalade
3 T. olive oil
1 T. apple cider vinegar (or white wine or regular vinegar)
2 T. orange juice (I used one clementine)
Salt & pepper to taste
A handful of slivered almonds
A handful of dried cranberries
First, take your clean and dry kale and massage it with your hands for a few minutes until it looks like it has been lightly sauteed. It will significantly reduce in size and soften up quite a bit. Think deep tissue massage. Kale is tough and can take a nice firm touch.
(As is, kale is very fiberous and takes a long time to chew, but massaging kale breaks down the fibers and makes it nice and soft like sauteed kale with all the benefits of eating raw greens.)
Next, mix the marmalade, olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, and salt and pepper together. Taste for seasoning. Toss the kale with the dressing. Top with slivered almonds and dried cranberries.
Make this a main dish for 2-3 people by serving it on a bed of quinoa, or topping with grilled tofu, chicken (or vegan chick’n strips).
Saturday was a big game for my husband’s high school baseball team. I told him as I kissed him goodbye “We”ll be there, look for us in the stands.” Of course, Jackson’s afternoon nap fell at exactly the start of the game. I’ve been trying to keep him on a good sleep schedule during the day as it seems to translate to better sleep at night, so I waited until he woke up. Finally, after sleeping an hour and a half, I quickly loaded him in the car to try and make it to the game before it ended. I tuned into the local radio station airing the game and crossed my fingers that the innings would slow down (the ONLY time I’ve ever wished for baseball to slow down!) We rushed into the stadium as the seventh inning began, our team down three runs.
I sat in the stands next to another coaches’ wife. We both cheered loud when our husbands’ team tied up the game, sending us into extra innings. It was a nail biter of a game!
Sadly, the other team scored the winning run knocking our boys out of their first place spot in district.
“I don’t think I’m going to wait around for them to finish talking to the boys.” I told the other coach’s wife. “I think I’ll head to the store for a few things instead. There’s nothing like Mexican food to cheer Jared up.”
“Yep, I have a pint of Blue Bell in the freezer for occasions just like this,” she nodded.
So I whipped up a mexican casserole, cashew cheese dip, rice, salsa, and gaucamole. Then popped open a couple of Coronas with a twist of lime. Boy was my kitchen a mess, but my husband was feeling like a winner again!
Due to that whole baby sleep schedule mentioned above, it was dark by the time we actually sat down to eat, so pics of the Mexican Fiesta were quite meh. Yeah, meh is a word. So I made a plate of leftovers on Sunday for lunch to get better pictures. Leftovers = equally delicious.
Mexican Comfort Casserole with Cashew Queso
2 1/2 c. chopped onions
2 c. chopped peppers (any color or kind — I used green bell and poblano)
3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 c. (or 2 16 oz cans) of refried or mashed pinto beans
~12 corn tortillas
Cashew Queso (see below)
Optional garnish: lettuce, tomato, avocado
Preheat oven to 350.
Saute onions on medium to med-high heat with a little oil and salt for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and continue sauteing for 10 more minutes. In the last couple of minutes add the garlic.
In a separate pan, saute zucchini and squash on med-high heat with a little oil and salt & pepper until they just start to brown but are still firm.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine the fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. Pour mixture into a bowl large enough to dip a corn tortilla in.
Now begin layering in a casserole dish (I used two round ones, but you could use one 8 x10 or whatever you have on hand). This recipe is super flexible. If you end up with extra ingredients, just add another layer.
Layer 1: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Layer 2: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce (tear tortillas in half to border edges if needed)
Layer 3: 2 cups of beans
Layer 4: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 5: zucchini and squash
Layer 6: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 7: 2 cups of beans
Layer 8: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Top with cashew queso, lettuce tomato, and avocado.
Note: this is not my recipe. I got it from a friend and I’m unsure of the source.
1 c. raw cashews
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 orange roasted bell pepper* (red or yellow will work too, but orange gives the most cheese-like color)
2 c. water
1 tsp lemon juice
In a food processor, blend cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, salt,and onion powder into a fine dust. Add about 1/2 a cup of the water and the roasted bell pepper and blend again. Add the rest of the water and lemon juice. Transfer mixture to a pot and heat on medium heat, stirring pretty often until it has thickened to the consistency you like. If it gets too thick, just add a little more water.
*Making your own roasted peppers is easy. Just placing them directly on on a gas burner flame rotating it a few times (like this) or on a pan under the broiler until charred. Then put it in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap for a about five minutes. Rub off most of the skin with a damp paper towel. Voila, roasted peppers!
I’m a curry coward. It’s exotic. It’s bright yellow. It has a long ingredient list.
So last night I decided to come up with a simple curry that even a curry coward like me can manage to make. I took the easy route and bought a can of curry powder instead of buying ten different spices and making my own. The first batch I made had lots of veggies and chickpeas, but I decided that three ingredients really stood out from the crowd — cauliflower, kale, and roasted garlic. So I made it again for breakfast this morning while the baby was napping. The life of a food blogging mama! This time I just used those two veggies and a whole bulb of roasted garlic. Much easier. Much better.
I don’t know if brown sugar is a classic addition, but I found it really balanced the strong curry flavors nicely. Curry powders can vary from brand to brand, so you may want to taste the seasoning as you go to see if it needs adjustments. Here’s the kind I used.
Are you intimidated about making your own curry too or was I the only curry coward?
What other dishes would you love to make but haven’t because they seem to complicated or overwhelming?
Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Curry
1 bunch of Kale, ribs removed, washed & dried well
1 head of Cauliflower, chopped into “trees”
1 bulb of Garlic
3 tbs Olive Oil, divided
~ 4 tbs Curry Powder, divided
4 tsp Brown Sugar, divided
1 tsp Salt, divided
1 can of Coconut Milk
16 oz Lentils, prepared per package instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top of the garlic to reveal the top of each clove. Put the bulb on a piece of foil, drizzle olive oil on top, and wrap the clove tight with the foil. Put in the oven (directly on the rack is fine until you get the cauliflower in).
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower “trees” with about 1 tbs olive oil. Tossing as you go, gradually add 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt until evenly coated. Place on a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray and put in the oven. (Move the garlic onto the baking sheet at this time.) Set the timer for 20 minutes.
In the same large bowl, toss the kale with 1 tbs olive oil, using your hands to massage it into the leaves. Tossing as you go, gradually add 2 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. Put the kale on a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. It will be crowded, but that’s okay, we aren’t looking for crisp kale chips so it can be a little crowded. Add the kale to the oven, leaving the garlic and cauliflower in too. Cook everything for 20 more minutes. You might want to give the cauliflower and kale a shake every now and then.
In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tbs olive oil on medium heat and add 3 tbs of curry powder. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 2 tbs brown sugar and 1 can of coconut milk. Stir.
When the timer goes off, turn the oven off and remove the garlic. You can leave the kale and cauliflower in the oven to stay warm while you finish up the sauce. Carefully (it will be really hot) take the garlic out of the foil and squeeze it into the curry sauce. You can just stir it in if the garlic is really oozy or put it into the blender for a few seconds to evenly incorporate it.
Serve veggies on a bed of lentils and top with curry sauce.
And just like that I’m over my fear of curry and you can be too!