What’s Cooking: Black Bean and Kale Enchiladas

Oops. I forgot to take a photo before we dished up.

Derek and I used to make enchiladas weekly, it seemed, but in an effort to try new recipes we kinda forgot about our old stand-by. While reminiscing about some of our favorite cooking memories, we realized it had been like 6 months since we made enchiladas and decided to give it a go, vegan-style.

Shopping List

1 cup of brown rice
1 can of refried black beans
1 small onion
red kale (or regular)
whole wheat tortillas
enchilada sauce

Step by Step

First, you have to start your rice. You wanna get that going at least two hours before you’d like to eat (because you should soak the rice for at least an hour before you cook it). I’d recommend waiting to start the rest of the meal until your rice is done. After an unfortunate rice cooking incident wherein I burned a pot beyond recognition, I’ve invested in a rice cooker and never looked back. But if you’re better at multi-tasking than I am, you might be ok with the stove-top method.

Ok, rice done? Good. Now chop your onion into little pieces and tear the kale. Toss in a pan with a little olive oil over medium heat until barely tender (maybe like 3-5 minutes). While that’s going on, warm the beans in a pot.

Prep the baking dish by pouring in enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Scoop some rice, some beans and some kale/onion mix into a tortilla and drizzle in a little sauce. Roll up and place in the pan with the seam facing down.

Rinse and repeat until you fill the pan or run out of filling (maybe you’ll get lucky and both will happen at the same time). We made four long enchiladas because our tortillas were giant. But maybe you’ll get six or eight.

Pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas and spread to coat every last bit. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 or 20 minutes (if you warmed everything before putting it in the tortilla, then it really doesn’t need to bake that long).

Serve (with a side of something green for bonus points) and enjoy.

I thought they were fantastic and didn’t even miss the cheese. Derek said he would have liked them even more if he added a little cheddar to the mix. So, do what you will. But definitely try give these a try, I think you’ll love ’em.

Picking Apples

On Saturday, Derek and I met up with several friends from the office to go apple picking.  I was hoping for a beautiful, crisp fall day but instead it was hot and humid. But whatev, it was my first time picking apples and I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my day. I ate one of every variety while we were still in the orchard (I think the total was 5) and then brought home a whole lotta apples to bake with.

I made applesauce. And you can make it too–it’s super easy. Peel, core and cut a bunch of apples. Throw them in a big pot and add a tiny bit of water and some cinnamon. Cover and cook on medium-high until the whole thing is boiling like crazy and the apples are soft enough to stab with a fork. Remove from heat and either mash with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender until you get the consistency you want. I like it a little chunky. Taste it and add more cinnamon or sugar if you want. That’s all you gotta do and now you have a delicious snack (or breakfast or dessert).

TIP: Don’t try to finish your laundry while the apples boil on the stove. It could result in scorched apples and an unhappy chef. I’m just saying…

I used about half of the apples that I picked in the applesauce and I think I’m going to use the rest to make apple crisp this weekend. Yum! Or maybe I’ll try something a little less obvious. Know any good apple desserts I should try?

One Year Ago

Finally crossing into Connecticut after 5 days of driving

It’s been a year. Already. I’ve been thinking about how I want to write this post for a while now and I still don’t know how to sum up all the changes I’ve experienced since leaving Seattle. From where I was and how I felt about my life a year ago to where I am right now, I can say that I made the right decision and that I’m happier and healthier. I’m exactly where I should be. But it hasn’t been an easy year—there was plenty of loneliness, self-doubt and tears before I realized that I could be happy here.

I still miss Seattle like crazy. I miss my family and friends, of course, but I’m surprised at how attached I still feel to the city I called home for only 13 months. If I could take Derek, my family, my new friends and my job and move everyone to Seattle, I would do it in a second. It will always feel like home.

But while I’m away, I’m proud that I live on my own and that I’m taking good care of myself. I could never have moved without the support of my family, especially my Aunt and Uncle for letting me live with them while I settled in. But it was never my intention to free-load indefinitely and I’m thankful that I found a job that allows me to support myself in the way I had hoped for.

And speaking of the job, it’s not always easy and sometimes I complain more than I should, but in all honesty, I love it. I love (most of) the work that I get to do. I love that I get to write, that I get to be creative, that I get to learn new things. And I absolutely love the majority of the people I work with. I was so miserable working at the Tux Shop; I am thankful to working at a job that I find interesting and rewarding.

Derek and I are doing better than ever. Obviously, if I had not moved, our relationship would not have been sustainable. His first semester of school (last fall) was really hard on me. I was unemployed, bored and lonesome and he was really busy. And he had opportunities to socialize that I didn’t. We didn’t talk as often as I liked and we both felt like we needed more emotional support than the other could give us. But since I found a job, and consequently friends, and I moved an hour closer to his home in New Hampshire, we’ve found a balance that works well for us.

All this to say, I’m happy I took the risk. The last year was full of change, transition and personal growth but I think the results have been positive—on pretty much every front. I hope the coming year is a little less crazy but I’m certain I’ll be able to handle any curveballs that are thrown my way.

Love and miss you all,

A

A Beautiful Weekend

Friday, after work, I drove to New Hampshire to see my honey. He had dinner–and dessert–ready when I arrived. We ate our meal, watched part of a movie and went to bed early (which gave us plenty of cuddle time).

Saturday, Derek took me shopping at the outlet mall and then we went to a Welcome Back Picnic for his department. I endured lots of history talk and met several of his professors and colleagues. We ended the night with delicious beer and sweet potato fries at my new favorite restaurant in Portsmouth.

Today, I left him earlier than usual to meet Laurie in Worcester for stART on the Street. We walked in the sun, checking out all sorts of handmade lovelies.

And now, after grocery shopping and laundry, I’m sitting down to eat my dinner and watch Sex & the City.

It has been a perfect weekend.

What’s Cooking: Bean and Green Soup

Full of delicious veggies, quinoa and white beans, this soup was perfect for a stormy, autumn-like evening we had last week. I got a little carried away and ended up making enough soup for a whole week. But it tasted just as good as left-overs as it did the first night.

It’s so so easy to  make and endless substitutions are possible. I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first time making soup from scratch, but now that I know how simple it is, I plan to do all fall and winter long. And it’s a great way to use up whatever veggies you have in the fridge.

Shopping List
8 cups of veggie broth (I used the flavor cubes that you add to water. I started with two cups and then just kept adding more)
1 can of cannellini beans, drained
1 cup of quinoa, cooked
about 5 kale leaves, washed and torn
broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces (for this soup, I used the equivalent of about 2 heads)
peas, maybe about a 1/2 cup
green onions, a large handful of small, chopped pieces
carrots, I cut about 6 baby carrots in half and called it good
salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder

Step by Step
Pour the veggie broth in a big pot and let it start warming. Sprinkle in seasoning to taste (go easy at first, you can always add more).

I used frozen broccoli, so I steamed it briefly in a saucepan before adding it to the broth. I also steamed the kale for just a minute to make sure it wouldn’t be tough in the soup. When they are slightly tender, add to the broth. Throw in the green onions, peas, carrots and beans too.

Let it cook until it is just about to the boiling point. Turn down the heat and test your seasoning (adding more if necessary). When you’re happy with the flavor, add the quinoa and eat.

I told you it was easy. And tasty. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.

What’s Cooking: Potato and Tofu Curry

Before we get to the recipe, I have two exciting announcements!

First, this is my 100th post. And I’m pretty proud of that. It took me over a year and a lot of writer’s block to get here, but I made it. I’m still not really sure what my blog is about, but you all are still reading and that’s kinda cool. So thanks friends, family and strangers who occasionally find their way here.

Second, I’ve been reading way too many books on food and nutrition lately and… well… I’ve decided to ditch the eggs and dairy and go vegan. I cut everything but cheese out a few months ago but now I’m done with that too (and to be honest, it’s much harder than giving up meat). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make a big deal out of it and tell everyone, but it’s a significant enough change that I thought I should share. I’ll try my best not to be a pain in the ass to feed if I visit. On the flip-side, I promise to cook you something delicious (sans animal products) if you ever visit.

And now to our regularly scheduled programming…

Shopping List

brown rice
extra firm tofu
olive oil
1 potato
some carrots (I just chopped up some baby carrots)
kale
green onion
1 clove of garlic
a can of coconut milk
curry paste

Step by Step

These instructions should make enough for a meal for two. Or in my case, dinner for one and then lunch leftovers for one. Double or triple if you’re feeding more.

Do yourself a favor and start cooking the rice first. I forgot this step and ended up making some last minute cous cous right before eating. It was ok, but I think rice would have been better. One cup of uncooked rice should cook up to the right amount.

While the rice is doing it’s thang, cut your potato in half and microwave one piece until it’s soft enough to pierce but not really mushy. Set aside and let cool.

Next you’re gonna wanna fry up your tofu. If Derek was around, I would have asked him I cook the tofu because he has more patience than me, but he wasn’t so I stepped up and did it myself. I used about 1/3 of the package but you could use more or less depending on how much tofu you want in the dish. Cut into bite sized pieces and toss in a pan with a splash  of olive oil. Keep the heat on medium-low (a 3 or 4 if you’re working on a 1-10 scale like me) and keep turning those puppies over until they start browning on all sides.

While the tofus cook, tear a couple leaves of kale into small pieces, chop a clove of garlic and some green onion and cut the potato and carrots into chunks.

When the tofus are looking pretty good, but not quite done yet, toss the kale, chopped green onion and garlic into a larger pan with a teeny bit of water (probably your biggest pan because you’re gonna be adding the coconut milk to it) and cook a little. Don’t forget to keep flipping your tofus.

After a few minutes, add half of 13.5 can of coconut milk to the pan with the kale. Then mix in 2-3 tbsp of curry paste, depending on how spicy you like it, and stir in the carrots and potatoes. When the tofu is done, add that too.

Simmer for just a minute or so and then serve over your rice-which should be done by now if you followed my tip. If you forgot about your grain, turn the heat way down and throw something together real quick.

Mmm… delicious and filling. A perfect meal for the transitioning season.

Notes From a North Carolina Visit

I had never been to North Carolina before. I’m positive that I would never want to live their–at least not in the middle of nowhere like Chantha–but I had a really nice visit.

The trip started with a dramatic run through the airport to catch my flight on time. Once I was successfully seated on the plane, I relaxed a little with the free cable that Jetblue offers and landed in Raleigh/Durham just before 9am. Chantha picked me up and we met our cousin Justin for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Good breakfast, good company, good start to the weekend.

The drive back to Chan’s was supposed to take an hour and half but the GPS took us on back roads (at one point we ended up on a dirt road that ended up being someone’s driveway) so we were in the car for at least two hours.

That evening we went to a barbeque with some new friends that Chantha and Travis are making in NC. And then we went out for drinks at the only bar in the area. It was a quite a strange mix of people—made for great people watching.

On Sunday, Chantha and I went to a botanical garden. It didn’t seem like much was growing, so I can’t say I recommend the garden. But it did give us plenty of time to chat. The evening ended with dinner and movie (basically me tagging along on one of their Sunday dates).

Chantha and I woke up at 4am Monday morning so she could take me to the airport. Fortunately, I arrived early enough that I didn’t have to run through the airport—and even had time to stop at Starbucks before boarding.

Contrary to what my last post said, Chantha and Travis were not able to get married on Saturday. She didn’t have her actual SS card (just a copy) and by the time they realized that wouldn’t fly, it was too late to go home and get the necessary papers before the office closed. So they’ll have to do it another time in the near future.

It was so great to see Chantha. Since she moved right before I vacationed in Seattle, I hadn’t seen her a year. She’s thinking about coming to New England for Thanksgiving and I can’t wait. It was good to see her new home and I’d love a chance to show her mine.

I hope everyone had a great long weekend.

Love,

A

See Ya Next Week

Happy long weekend! Like I mentioned last week, I’m headed to North Carolina to see my sis. I’ve had the trip planned for a few weeks. But on Wednesday Chan made the visit even more exciting- she asked me to be a witness for her marriage ceremony in front of a judge. I was already thrilled to see her but now I get to see her get married! (Side note: when did we become grown-ups?)

So… I’m leaving Boston really super early tomorrow morning, arriving in NC in the not-as-early-but-still-kinda-early morning. Be back home Monday morning. Hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend.

Miss you bunches,

A

 

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