Midweek Musings

This week 12.3.12

Christmas lightssweetclipart.com; Brussels sprouts photo: Food Network

In this, the third week of Midweek Musings, we are firmly into the time of year when you can’t escape the holiday season…even if you desperately want to. And if you’ve come here looking for a respite, you’ll be sorely disappointed. (I’m sorry, I’m only human. And I can only resist for so long…)

What have I been up to this week? Read on…

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Midweek Musings

Happier is not too far away from its first birthday, and so, naturally, I’ve been reflecting on the first  months of its life. Blogging, as I have discovered, is a learn-as-you-go kind of thing. I was been pretty sporadic about posting for most of the year, and there were a few pitifully sparse months in there. Lately, though, I’ve strived to be more regular about it. And I want to keep that momentum going. As such, I’m going to try something out, an experiment of sorts. My habit seems to be weekend posting, so I thought, why don’t I take a walk on the wild side and start trying to post regularly during the week, too? This is my very first attempt at an ongoing series…Midweek Musings, in which I will talk about complete nonsense. Care to give it a whirl with me?

Let me start by acknowledging that none of the items on my list are new…just new to me. This is typical where I am concerned…I generally need time to talk myself around to trying whatever people are buzzing about. Rarely is the buzz enough on its own. (I’m very stubborn this way.) Why do I like these things enough to spend more time than I imagined making them into a graphic? Well…

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Soup Season

Colder weather has arrived for us here in the mid-Atlantic, and with it two of my favorite cooking pastimes: roasting vegetables and soup. While there is nothing to stop a person from roasting or souping during the warmer months, my air conditioner consistently loses the battle against my oven and/or stove, and so these are pleasures I hoard for days when the leaves crunch underfoot.

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Healthy Treats (or Tropical Storm Cookies)

Last September, a tropical storm was in the forecast. For whatever reason, I took it more seriously than previous threats, so I stocked up non-perishable goods. At the time, I was newly vegan—so I found myself challenged at the idea of coming up with a mix of things that at least pretended to be nutritionally balanced. I’m not sure I succeeded at this, but among other things I ended up with  peanut butter and a bag of trail mix from Target with dried cranberries, golden raisins, almonds, and some kind of seed. And some dark chocolate (anything with a cocoa content of at least 72% is vegan…and while it’s not strictly healthy, there are antioxidants…plus, it’s no fun to stock up for a storm without at least one treat…right? Right!)

In the end, I didn’t lose power, so the exercise was moot. But it was a dark, stormy Saturday night, and I found myself craving cookies. Not willing to venture out to a store, I made do almost entirely with things I’d picked up for my emergency stash—and so these no-bake cookies were born.

I have made them several times since then using whatever I have on hand. What follows is my most recent version, with some nutritional kicks-in-the-pants.

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Month of Kale: The Recipes

By request (and because, really, I should have done it in the first place), I’m going to share some of the recipes that I made during my Month of Kale.

Most of them came from my current favorite cookbook: Appetite for Reduction. It’s a low-fat vegan cookbook by the brilliant Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I know that, for many, either the low-fat or vegan label would be enough to scare a person off—let alone both together—but I have been cooking from it almost exclusively for the past two months, and I have been remarkably satisfied. That woman is a genius with spices—really, it’s alchemy, pure and simple. In other words: keep an open mind! And read on for the recipes…

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Month of Kale: Redux

Hello, March. Your arrival means many things, not least of which is that I have utterly failed at my hope of posting weekly updates during my Month of Kale. While I can never go back and diligently document the journey as I go along, I can wrap it up with a nice big summary and tell you what I learned. So without further ado…

Here’s where I started at the beginning of the month:

Mr. Kale and his hostess gift

I had an enormous bag of kale (2 pounds–that’s a lot of greens!),  some liquid courage, and a burning desire to make friends with kale. Honestly, it seems like eons ago. That bag of kale (and the bottle of wine) are ancient history. But how did I get from there to here?

Let me break it down by the numbers:

  • Pounds of kale that were purchased, cleaned, de-stemmed, and cooked*8
    Not all 8 pounds of kale have been consumed yet–I made enormous batches of a few soups, so some of the kale is hanging out in the freezer awaiting a lazy week where I don’t feel like cooking.
  • Recipes calling for kale that I made — 4
  • Recipes not involving kale where I added it anyway2
  • New Kale Lover: Moi! — 1

What I learned

  • First of all, and this should surprise no one who cooks with greens, kale cooks down like a mo-fo. Seriously—I’d fill a big ol’ pot up to the top with kale, stir it around to coat it with whatever goodness was all bubbly at the bottom, and within a few minutes it’s back down to near its original volume. Maybe this surprised me so much because, structurally, raw kale is springy and dense and unyielding—or at least it seemed that way to a woman who’s used to delicate little leaves of baby spinach.
  • Second of all, and I think I mentioned this before, when cooked, kale becomes pleasantly chewy and surprisingly un-slimy (again, coming from a baby spinach lover). I’m a fan of the texture. A big fan.
  • Third, I like kale better when it’s part of a stew. Of the six recipes I made this month, the one I liked least (but still liked) involved sautéing kale. In the rest of the recipes, kale was one of many ingredients in a soup, stew, or curry. Kale does very well when it’s one of the gang, just hanging out with some of its other vegetable buddies and adding some much-needed texture to the mix. (Note: A work friend, who happens to be pregnant and therefore mainlining greens per her doctor’s orders, said that she and her husband sauté kale with bacon fat. Apparently it’s fantastic, but since I don’t eat meat, I’ll have to leave that up to you to judge.)
  • Fourth, I really like kale. Really, a whole lot, near-obsessively like kale. I figured this out when I started adding it to other recipes. See, I’ve always been more of a freestyle cook. I’ll see a recipe that looks interesting and then use it as inspiration while I do my own thing. Rarely do I follow a recipe from top to bottom as written. For most of the Month of Kale, I was following recipes to a T—probably in part because I was still unfamiliar with (and somewhat intimidated by) kale as an ingredient. But when I saw a recipe for an eggplant and lentil curry and decided I’d add in some kale just because, I knew I’d crossed the divide from dilettante to appreciator. Don’t get me wrong, I know still have a lot to learn about kale, but I’m in it for the long haul.

So there you have it—February 2012 was my Month of Kale, and it resulted in TRUE LOVE. What about you guys? Are you kale fans? Any favorite recipes or ways to prepare it? I’m always looking for new inspiration!