Cooking Tales, Part 2: …And You Lose Some. And Often It’s a Draw.

I’ve been talking a lot about cooking in the last few posts – specifically, finding new recipes and frantically Googling “what is a kohlrabi and how tf do you cook it” and “what do I do with ten bajillion turnips.”

Sometimes, not only do I manage not to poison the hubs and myself, but I make something that is actually…good. I’ve had pretty decent luck with my experiments, and I usually find myself pleasantly surprised by my culinary victories. (My catch phrase when serving a new recipe is “I hope this doesn’t suck.” Under-promise and over-deliver, right?)

This week, however…we are not talking about those recipes. <cue serious music>

Some days in the kitchen are like when you’re wearing the PERFECT outfit and your tights go ahead and pull this BS:

womp womp

And while I haven’t cut myself deeply enough to require stitches yet, there have been some mishaps beyond the standard “slice up jalapenos and then go take out your contact lenses.” Each stovetop misfire is an opportunity to learn something (like, wear gloves when cutting murder peppers, dumb@$$.) So, in the spirit of limiting the potential future suffering for those who boldly forge into the gastronomic jungle, I share with you Kate’s Cooking Calamities.

First up – Rhubarb. Fun fact: Did you know that rhubarb is technically a vegetable? And that while you can eat the stalks, most of the rest of the plant will actually try to kill you?

The leaves are deadly. Because science. Source

Yet, if you grew up pretty much anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest, and had a grandmother and/or were required to attend church potluck suppers, you have probably eaten rhubarb in some form. Specifically, dessert form. Rhubarb is sometimes called “pie plant”, largely because if you don’t drown it in sugar and hide it inside a crust, it is really, really hard to eat. (Try a raw piece sometime. I double-dog dare you. Please share the TikTok link so we can all enjoy it.)

I grew up in PA and have a fond recollection of rhubarb. Crisps, cobblers, ice cream toppers…. My former mother-in-law made the absolute BEST strawberry rhubarb pie on the planet. She had a knack for crusts that I could never replicate. Probably because crusts have butter, which freaks me out, so I never tried. But I did enjoy eating it. So one day, I stumbled upon a bunch of rhubarb stalks at the farmers market, and happily bought it, not realizing that most rhubarb recipes really only use 2-3 stalks of the stuff. And since I can’t waste food….ugh, now what?

I headed off to Google to see how I could creatively consume these hot-pink pucker sticks. Searches included:

  • how to cook a metric f*ckton of rhubarb
  • recipes using truckload of rhubarb
  • help too much rhubarb rip what have i done
  • rhubarb wreath pinterest
  • is it illegal to leave rhubarb in mailbox for annoying neighbor
  • platform lug sole sandals skulls (hey, I needed shoes too)

I did find this recipe for rhubarb cake, which appealed to me because 1) it uses Greek yogurt instead of oil and 2) it uses a POUND of rhubarb (which makes a giant-a$$ cake, but) 3) this recipe could be halved pretty easily for when I’m not feeding teenagers. I baked it (with gluten-free flour; skip the topping, you don’t need it) and it was delicious…but only used about a third (!!) of what I’d purchased.

Finding myself with an abundance of rhubarb on hand, I considered its tart bite and wondered if I could use it in place of lemon somewhere. Like…on fish, maybe? I continued to comb through the interwebs and finally found (probably on page 334 of my search, which in retrospect should have been a sign) this recipe for rhubarb salsa.

Yeah. Rhubarb salsa for fish. Once again proving that hope triumphs over common sense.

One thing I discovered is that rhubarb, when cooked, has some similarity to okra in its ability to become kind of gelatinous. (As I look at that link now…even the picture looks kind of…gloppy? There was definitive denial in my desperation, for sure.) The hubs politely took a couple of bites, and then scraped it off to the side. (What a trooper.) Since that time, I’ve had some mild success with putting just a stalk or two of rhubarb into a stir-fry with a citrus-y base, but have yet to find a savory application that isn’t destined for the garbage disposal. But if any of y’all have any ideas…It’s been a few years since I tried this recipe, and since I can no longer still taste it when I think about it, I’m mostly open to trying again.

I think.

And then there were the sardines.

Most of us can’t even say the word “sardine” without making a face. I’m pretty sure that the word is derived from an ancient Greek term meaning “gross sadness from the sea.” But last fall, when the hubs decided he was now vegan, I was “gifted” with several tins of these very fishy little …treasures. (?)

Why did the hubs decide to go vegan? It was my fault, really. I like to watch documentaries on food and diet, and he happened to watch The Game Changers with me. Less than two hours later, he was 100% sold, and went off to the store to buy plant-derived cheese and Beyond Burgers, and I was asked to finish off the frozen shrimp and chicken. It was largely a win for me, save the eight tins of sardines now before me. I couldn’t even bring myself to donate them to a food shelf – I mean, no one really WANTS sardines, right?

I tried really hard to find some way to eat these beady-eyed bits of bait. And, in this recipe for Mediterranean Lemon Caper Pasta, they weren’t too bad. Honestly, it tasted a bit like a bougie tuna casserole. (If you make it, note that you don’t need that much oil – I mean…yikes on bikes, FIVE tablespoons?!) Two cans down, six (oof) to go.

Next, I tried something called Spicy Sardine Pasta. (Eternal optimism, party of me.) Looking back on it now, I should have seen the 2 tablespoons sugar (candied fish?!) as a big red flag…and after trying this recipe, I take back everything I said about “if you put enough sugar on it, you can eat it.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 55e0173909241223fda30442f3e994f5.jpg

nope nope nope <ptooey>

So let’s discuss protein powder.

While the hubs was temporarily (yeah, that lasted about four months, it was a good effort though) vegan, he had purchased some organic vegan protein powder. From Costco. So it was roughly a five ton pound tub. Sadly, this (very expen$ive) concoction did nothing to boost his energy, muscle mass, or super powers – mostly because he hasn’t used it.

Well, hey, I bet there’s a cookie recipe or something (other than smoothies, ugh, I am o v e r smoothies being Google’s answer to freaking EVERYTHING) I can chuck this in, right? Enter the Peanut Butter Cup Protein Brownie! Oh yeah, baby…peanut butter, CHOCOLATE, and nothing I have to run to the store to source. How can this not be amazing?! It smelled terrific, and peanut butter has never let me down before.

I whisked my mixture, baked it, and then tried a bite.

Hmm. Wait….

What…is happening?

It was the weirdest sensation I think I’ve ever had with food (save that time or two when I took a bite of what I thought was ice cream, but ended up being mashed potatoes.) I was going through the motions of eating, I was smelling and chewing and swallowing, but zero was happening on the taste buds.

Can a tongue fall asleep?

This tastes like….nothing.

Despite the peanut butter and cocoa, the “brownie” literally had NO FLAVOR WHATSOEVER.


Wait a second….

I was quickly reminded of this:

Fortunately, I hadn’t fallen victim to COVID. Apparently, I had baked a substance that despite all logic was totally and undeniably devoid of any taste at all. The hubs (and the braver of my stepsons) confirmed – essentially, I had baked a chocolate-scented kitchen sponge. It was honestly kind of…fascinating. I mean, what science is involved in protein powder that thoroughly neutralizes chocolate AND peanut butter? And yes, because I am physically unable to waste food, I did finish the damn thing over the next couple of days (two breakfasts of utter sadness), and promptly tossed that recipe directly into the recycle bin.

One of the things I haven’t focused on at all in cooking is the art of plating. I’m perfectly content serving up a plateful of food that gets high scores for flavor, but loses points in the beauty contest:

Red cabbage and lentil dal adapted from this recipe
Butternut squash, kale, and tofu stir-fry. Kind of. idk I made it up as I went along

But this next one was a bit much, even for me. I’d been trying to recreate a recipe for Singapore Street Noodles, which is spicy, salty comfort food in a Chinese take-out box. I had a ton of ham in the freezer, because the company I worked for gifted us our choice of a ham or a turkey every Christmas (even though the owners were Jewish. Hey, I don’t judge, you do you. Besides, that ish is expensive. Merry Christmas and free ham to me.)

I started with this recipe (from Cooking Light, of course) and subbed in ham and tofu for the protein (the best street noodles, in my opinion, have a mishmosh of meats and veggies, which makes it a great vehicle for leftovers, and probably means I’m eating up what a restaurant would otherwise have to trash. Meh. Call me a raccoon and hand me the chopsticks.) I had found this beautiful purple cabbage, too, that I’d shredded.

As it cooked, I noticed that it smelled absolutely divine, but looked a little…odd.

Ah, well. It was pretty dang tasty, even if it resembled a Disney princess massacre. Poor unfortunate souls.

And that’s not the only time I was surprised by what surfaced on my soup spoon. We gotta talk about the turkey chili.

I love stews and chilis, and this recipe seemed like a good way to make a giant pot of yum. Now, before the chili purists come at me, I should clarify that I know this isn’t technically chili, even though I did throw in a can of black beans. Whatever. It looked pretty decent, and smelled terrific as the Instant Pot did its thing. The timer went off, I released the pressure, and started stirring it up.

Mmm….I can’t wait to eat thi-

Um. What is….

Something larger and heavier than anticipated was weighing down my spoon.

Tentatively, I got my utensil underneath it and slowly brought it to the surface.

The heck?!?!?

I should pause here and mention that this was turkey chili – hence, I had added two pounds of ground turkey to the mix. Ground turkey is very conveniently sold in 16-ounce tubes that look like this:

And if you’re an Instant Pot fan, you know that one of the benefits to this cooking method is that you just dump everything in and walk away.

And that’s precisely what I did.

What I failed to do, however, was brown the meat ahead of time (because ain’t nobody got time for that). I just splooged in both cylinders of meat and off I went…only to be greeted by the Cracker Jack Surprise Inside of a lifetime:

Since the Instant Pot doesn’t yet have a stirring function, it had essentially poached the turkey exactly as I had added it, resulting in a perfectly cooked oblong meatwad. It’s a marvel – the shape is completely undisturbed. YOU CAN STILL SEE THE MEAT TUBE WRINKLES. I was DEAD.

And yes, I made everyone eat it. I whipped that sucker out onto a cutting board, diced it up, and stirred it back into the faux-chili. Dinner is served.

Bone apple teat!

Please tell me I’m not the only one. Share your cooking catastrophes in the comments!

Cooking Tales, Part 1 – You Win Some…

As I sat here last week finishing up my previous post while eating a homemade (mostly healthy, I swear!) cookie (212 calories, don’t @ me), I was thinking back over the many trials and tribulations I’ve had while teaching myself how to cook. There certainly have been a lot of surprises along the way – when you have no idea what you are doing, the outcome can be different from what you expect. Cooking is like Christmas – sometimes it’s the Golden Dreams Barbie you always wanted, and other times, it’s a whole lotta expectation just to unwrap new underwear that doesn’t fit.

But even when cooking throws you a plot twist, it’s still an adventure trip worth taking.

(I think.)

I mentioned last week that a lot of my recipes were discovered out of this weird drive I have to not waste food. I’d find myself with a surplus of ingredients that, without immediate intervention, were destined for the trash bin, and a deep desire to salvage them – but no clue how to transform them into something I might actually want to eat.

Sometimes, this was due to an unexpected addition to my weekly crop share delivery – I mean, has anyone ever purchase a rutabaga on purpose? (Or spelled it correctly on the first try without that red squiggly line appearing?) Other times, it’s been triggered by some overzealous hoarding supply-stocking by the hubs: he’d find a reasonably nutritious snack item that his sons would eat (that wasn’t a riff on the ubiquitous Kraft mac and cheese), and proceed to snap up the entire national supply in one fell swoop. And, of course, they’d eat two of whatever it was and get bored. (Parents – you feel me?) Often, those items contain wheat, which I don’t can’t eat – but other times, I’m left with a boatload of carrots, or a bunch of celery 18 seconds from wilting, that I have to quickly repurpose.

Since I refuse to throw food away, this requires me to be pretty open-minded about what I should cook. Sometimes, that turns out AWESOME. And other times….

This week, let’s start with some of the winners – some of the recipes that were unexpectedly delightful. Like…COOKIES! Cookies are always winning, right? Especially the ones I made this weekend – Peanut Butter and Hemp Hearts cookies. Why hemp hearts? Mostly, because they sell them at Costco in bulk, and I like to shop there to drain my wallet $9.99 at a time channel my inner hippie. We had a bunch on hand because pre-COVID, the hubs and I were making smoothies every morning, with frozen fruit, Greek yogurt, greens, and hemp hearts for an added nutritional boost. Hemp hearts are really good for you – have a look:

It’s nature’s multivitamin.

Bonus: they pack their nutritional punch without tasting weird (spirulina, anyone? <bleck> – it’s like licking your aquarium clean) or getting stuck in your teeth. (chia seeds, I swear. They’re the infinity food – no matter how hard you try to swallow all of what you’re eating, if it contains chia seeds you can always, ALWAYS find ONE MORE wedged in beside a molar.)

Anyway, COVID and the subsequent shutdown changed our routine, and we got out of the habit of daily smoothies (and daily showers, and wearing pants….) The greens and Greek yogurt were easy to repurpose, but I was left with a substantial supply of frozen fruit and hemp hearts that could easily last me until the next presidential election.

I went to Google to see what I could do with them. Which was frustrating as f*&k because the obvious use for hemp hearts is smoothies, and NO I DO NOT WANT TO THROW THEM INTO A SMOOTHIE, Google. Gahhh. For as good as Facebook is at listening to my conversations and innermost thoughts and providing me ads to things I definitely referenced in a non-Facebook application, Google sure as hell misses the mark. I did, however find a very simple cookie recipe using peanut butter, oats, and hemp hearts. And THEY WERE AMAZING (even though I made them without chocolate chips. <gasp> Go ahead and arrest me.) Not overly sweet, not too dense, and full of peanut butter flavor. (Another plus – this recipe would be easy to cut in half. Not that I ever WILL only make a half-batch of cookies, unless of course that’s the result of eating most of the raw dough.)

Happiness is coffee with your cookies

Another cookie I had some luck with was this (gluten free!) peanut butter apple cookie. I had found myself with a couple of apples that the hubs had purchased, thinking he’d, you know, EAT them. But instead, they sat on the countertop until they were just starting to lean towards being a little mealy. So I shredded them (instead of dicing them. I also didn’t peel them, Princess, but you will eat them and like them anyway) and chucked them in to this recipe. To make them even better (healthier? sure) I replaced the butter (which, if you recall, I do NOT eat <shudder>) with more peanut butter. Delicious. Although I can’t seem to bake this cookie without burning the bottoms, but I found if you buff off the blackened bits with your microplane zester and rinse the evidence down the drain, no one will ever know – you’ll just have (most of) a thick, chewy, rich cookie.

But I suppose if you put enough sugar on something, it’ll taste good. Even – yes – vegetables. I’ve mentioned a couple times that growing up, my mom (and her mom) used to make zucchini crisp (trust me and make it already!), corn fritters, and tomato jelly (OK, that one was a little harder to swallow, but I appreciate what we were going for.) So while I was somewhat familiar with unconventional uses for vegetables, I did hesitate for a moment when I found a recipe for Turnip Cake, which I found after receiving several turnips in my weekly crop share. Like, a dozen. I don’t care how big your family is – no one is going to use a dozen turnips, and I was a little anxious about the sheer abundancy here. (So. Many. Turnips.)

But you know what? It was a very nice spice cake. My son and his then-girlfriend helped me finish it, and they had zero complaints (even though they were teenagers. It’s a freaking miracle.) I made mine with 1/2 teaspoon of ginger instead of cloves, and didn’t bother to add frosting (so I could better justify having it for breakfast.)

I want to mention one other dish that was an absolute smash hit – Spicy Carrot Soup. This one (as I alluded to earlier) arose from the routine that the hubs has gotten into with his boys:

  1. Find a healthy food that they will actually eat.
  2. Buy a metric sh!t-ton of said item
  3. Watch as they quickly tire of it and leave it to rot.

As I mentioned above, one of those items was carrots. I had a full bag in my fridge and they were rapidly appearing less and less excited to see me. (LOL) Now carrots were a bit of a challenge, because I don’t really love them. I’ll eat them, but when I’m working through food that contains them (like soup or stew), the carrots get eaten first so I can get them over with and enjoy the meal. And many of the recipes out there for hiding carrots add a lot of sugar. (Hello, carrot cake, old pal.) Which, in addition to being calories I do not want, the hubs kind of hates when it comes to meat or veggies. He will not, for example, eat pork cooked with apples, or glazed ham. I can’t blame him for the latter – save the jelly for toast. Yuck. So this leaves out things like honey-glazed carrots, most butternut squash soups, and candied yams. (More for me, sucker.)

So when I found this recipe, it looked like it might fit the bill. Small list of ingredients, nothing too weird or unusual, and I could make it in my Instant Pot with my immersion blender. (I love my immersion blender. When I use it, I pretend I am an evil scientist destroying my enemies who I’ve thrown into a pot of acid. I can’t be the only one.) It promised to not be overly sweet – so, having nothing to lose but a can of coconut milk and some geriatric carrots, I gave it a whirl. Hmm, not bad. I doubled the red curry paste, threw in a teaspoon of cayenne for some kick, and added cilantro, sage, and cumin (100% making this up as I go along, ha ha.) Since then, I’ve made this several times, because the hubs is a slow learner when it comes to buying carrots. But try it with a cup or two of leftover shredded chicken stirred in. It goes down like a hug from the inside.

Sometimes, you want to re-create a childhood memory through food – but due to self-imposed limits on calories and fat health reasons, you attempt to slide in some creative substitutes, hoping for just the right hit of nostalgia without the full side order of guilt.

One of those recipes is peanut brittle. My mother has taken to having some around when I visit (along with homemade Chex Mix for my sister – and Mom leaves out the Wheat Chex from some of it so I can share. It wasn’t a family holiday without bowls of Chex Mix on every end table. Mom made it with mixed nuts – we’re fancy like that – and my uncle and I would race around to the bowls to eat the Brazil nuts before the other one got ’em first.)

Anyway. Peanut brittle is pretty calorie-dense, but after carving a pumpkin a while back, I once again found myself with supply trumping demand:

Hella seeds, yo.

My prolific pumpkin gave me an idea – why not try peanut brittle with pumpkin seeds? Apparently, this wasn’t an original thought – many home chefs on the interwebs have already forged this path. But if you’d like to give it a go, I can vouch for this recipe – it was a hit even with my skeptical spouse (who was definitely giving me side-eye when I added the cayenne pepper.) Also, fun fact: pumpkins are just squash with a better marketing team. So save your seeds from their cousins and nephews like acorn squash and butternut – they roast just as nicely.

While these recipes turned out pretty decently, that isn’t always the case. I’ve made some recipes that just did NOT work. (And sadly, I still choked them down, because remember, we don’t waste food in this house. But my mouth was not happy.) Next week – the epic fails. Stay tuned!

What have you made that was a surprise hit? What did your family scarf down when you almost panicked and ordered pizza? Share in the comments!

Waste (Waist?) Not, Want Not. (Nah, I Still Want It)

I hate wasting food.

I know that’s a weird thing for someone with “disordered eating” to say. I mean, aren’t eating disorders about either ingesting everything in sight, or not eating at all? Isn’t the trick to mix tasty treats with dish soap or coffee grounds and bury them underneath the onion peels so you don’t grab them right back out of the garbage and eat them anyway?

(Side note – I’m still kinda salty that when I tried therapy a few years ago, Dr. P denied that I had an actual eating disorder. “It’s just disordered eating.” Well, gosh, thanks for invalidating me; guess I’ll…try harder? Part of me wonders if, given my current state, I’ve earned that designation level yet. Achievement unlocked. Yay?)

Anyway. Speaking of Dr. P – I do remember talking through a binge with her where I’d plowed through most of a jar of chocolate peanut butter. (Pro tip for weight loss: DO NOT BUY THIS.)

Anyway – she had challenged me to just…throw it away. Like…in the garbage, without eating it. THROW AWAY PERFECTLY GOOD FOOD.

And it was HARD.

Spoiler: I actually did it…but I’m still bitter about it, and if it were here right in front of me right now, I’d eat it. Even though this post is, like, six (?) years old. I’d give it a quick eyeball and a precursory sniff…if it smells like PB and I don’t see any discernible mold, yeah, I’d hit that.

Anyway. I don’t think I’ve thrown out food since, save a couple of onions that have gone softer than a rejected candidate on The Bachelorette. Food waste is kind of a problem here in the US, and I am determined not to contribute to it. If I possess an ingredient, I am going to find a way to make it edible and EAT IT. (And feed it to the hubs. Who is, I’ll admit, generally a good sport about these creative culinary journeys. While he’s more than capable of feeding himself, he very wisely recognizes that Someone is Cooking for him and appreciates the work it takes. Although…when we first met, I found that he had this cookbook, so maybe “capable” is a generous label.)

To be fair – when you’re learning to cook, you gotta start somewhere. And if that’s with a can of peas, a can of carrots, and a can of Spaghettios, have at it, I guess. <gag>

I started taking tentative steps towards learning to cook about <does math in head> fifteen or so years ago. I hadn’t been feeling well, generally, and, after numerous tests failed to show any reason for my nausea and general malaise, my doctor had basically thrown up her hands and said “idk man.” I began to wonder if maybe my chemically-laden diet of preservatives-riddled boxed food and sugar-free soda maaaaaaybe wasn’t helping the situation. So I bought a cookbook:

See how well-loved it is?

From there, I dove right in…and learned a couple of things really quickly. My first lesson was that recipe timing is apparently measured like football minutes, where a fifteen-minute quarter can take a full f#&k!ng HOUR. (The second lie cookbooks tell: Serves 4. Four what? Kindergartners? Ants?)

But I was COOKING – I was converting “this was raw and/or a vegetable” into food that was edible – and sometimes, really good!

Once I gained confidence, however….I started getting a lil cocky. I was doing things like buying tofu. And it was actually freakin’ delicious, which only encouraged me to push the boundaries harder.

I started trying to recreate some of the beloved recipes from my youth. Like…corn fritters. (Which our State Fair now serves, but I was there first. #hipster) Or Zucchini Crisp, which really does taste like apple crisp, and if you don’t tell your kids what’s in it, I promise they will eat it. (Check out the links for the recipes.)

From there, I started taking some liberties. Corn fritters are awesome, so how about corn pancakes? YUM.

Just add syrup.

Out of zucchini for zucchini crisp and only have yellow squash? (First – no one runs out of zucchini; it’s what you plant only if you have tons of friends. Fun Fact: August 8 is Sneak Zucchini on your Neighbor’s Porch Day, and I am here for it.) Throw in whatcha got and see what happens! (Spoiler: it was amazing):

On the plates I grew up with. Did you have these plates too?

In other words, I learned quickly that food can’t read, and no one is grading your work – so you can do WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT in the kitchen. If the end product is edible, it’s a victory. I took to this like my inner child was just told that there is no bedtime, and school attendance is 100% optional.

So how does this tie in to not wasting food? Well, since I hadn’t generally been feeling well, I decided that in addition to cutting out artificial sweeteners from my diet (RIP, diet soda) I really should work on incorporating more veggies. And…I don’t love vegetables. (Some people claim that they do. I claim that they are lying.) Veggies are foods I tolerate in the spirit of Good Health….but given the choice between eating a vegetable and pretty much anything else, I’ll almost always choose the latter. (Unless the other option is cantaloupe, which is the most vile food on the planet. I see y’all chowing down on big chunks of the stuff every summer, and I swear you’re trying to prank me and I’m just not in on the joke.)

My answer to eating more veggies was to commit to buying them on a regular basis – because I know that once I’ve paid for it, I cannot bring myself to waste it. For several years, I participated in a CSA, or “crop share.” After paying for the entire season up front, every week, I’d receive this gloriously abundant box of vegetables, and every week I would bring it home and frantically Google “what is this thing and how do I cook it?” (I’m looking at you, kohlrabi. Straight. At. You.)

But as a result, we’ve actually found some things that have become regulars in the recipe rotation. Since it’s desperately trying to be summer up here in the Midwestern Tundra I call home, I thought it’d be a good time to share some recipes/cooking techniques that we’ve come to love – just in case you get saddled with a butt-ton of kale or parsley (or your spouse found out his kids like carrots, so he ran out and bought FIVE POUNDS of them) and like me just cannot BEAR to let food turn to compost in your crisper drawer.

Roasting was my initial approach for weird stuff like rutabagas and turnips – when in doubt, toss cubed mystery veggies with a bit of oil and bake at 400-425 until browned on the outside. Of course, I’m measuring the oil very carefully….calories, ya know. But a tablespoon goes a long, long way, and also helps other spices like paprika or salt stick a bit better. Lay ’em out on a baking sheet in a single layer and maybe give them a stir after 10-15 minutes (otherwise, you’ll get this lovely burnt-on-the-bottom, not-quite-caramelized-on-the-top result that is Not Delicious. Treat them like they’re in a spray-tan booth and rotate them.) I would often have these with baked fish, which I keep pretty simple – I sprinkle on lemon juice, basil, and garlic, and bake. This ends up being a pretty low-calorie meal that takes up a lot of room on the plate.

(Side note – it’s super interesting to roast radishes, of all things. They lose their “bite” and become something quite different from the peppery beasts that normally rudely interrupt the blue cheese bliss on your salad.)

A lot of my CSA haul ended up taking a starring role in stir-fries, too. To be fair, mine end up more like stews, because I have yet to invest in a real wok. But they’re still tasty. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Each of these will cover about a pound of meat and a couple cups of veggies, or any similar combination.

  • 1/3 cup broth (chicken, veggie, whatever)
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 T honey
  • 3 T lemon juice (or lime, or heck, any citrus)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • Giant blob of garlic (from the Costco gallon-sized jar you bought thinking “I looooove garlic!”)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or a full teaspoon if you live on the edge of being a bada$$)

Recently, I’ve been making something similar with a jar of curry paste I bought for a different recipe and had to use up:

  • 3 T red curry paste
  • 2 T dried basil
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1/3 c broth
  • 1/2 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 T honey (optional. I usually forget)
  • Garlic, garlic, garlic (again with the giant-a$$ jar in the fridge)

If your Instacart shopper accidentally subs out green curry paste, you can work with that too. Sub out the garlic for some ginger (1T dried or a diced hunk of fresh if you’re bougie like that) and you’re good to go.

Got a ton of green leafies you have no idea how to eat? Kale, spinach, and beet or turnip greens all work well in African Soul Soup. One of my vegan (yet humble; not sure how that happened) friends turned me on to this one; it’s hearty and spicy and filling and ALSO uses up the flat of chickpeas you bought. (again, Costco, really?) I know it sounds strange – the recipe contains peanut butter, broth, and tomatoes, but if you like peanut sauce, you’ll like this. If you decide to give it a go, here are some tips from a home-schooled chef:

  • I cut the broth in the recipe back by 1/2 cup. I like stews more than soups….
  • The recipe tells you to process the PB and broth in a blender. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and I am NOT washing another appliance just for the sake of creaminess. I just smash it all together in the pan. No one has choked on it yet. But speaking of choking….
  • The instructions have you “toasting” the spices in the pan before adding the liquid. WARNING – turn on the hood/fan thingy, pals, or you will essentially pepper-spray yourself once the cayenne becomes “aromatic.” As former President Clinton advises, do not inhale.
  • If you use a heartier green like kale, you’re going to have to let it simmer for a good bit longer. It DOES cook down, eventually….but you might need to let it meditate in the stovetop sauna for a good 10+ minutes.

The result:

Much health. So many yum.

And speaking of garbanzos….if you happen to be gifted with a bouquet of fresh parsley (and you don’t hate beans), try this recipe. It’s also great if you sub out half of the beans with wild rice, and you won’t hate yourself if you go totally wild and serve it over baked squash. (Although that’s enough fiber to prep you for a colonoscopy. Sometimes “delicious” should come with a warning.)

Full disclosure, though – while I’ve found a number of recipes that are actually pretty decent, rest assured that we’ve had multiple cooking failures along the way. I’ll fill you in on that next week. For now, here’s a preview:

You made a cake out of…what now?


That smells great…but what is…that…lump?

And be sure to tune in next week to find out if we really had what appeared to be unicorn stew for dinner. 🙂

P.S. Speaking of finishing up things….on Friday, the hubs surprised me by finishing this landscaping project we started YEARS ago. My son, who was 16 at the time of that post, is now….21. Better late than never. Ha ha.