Kale and Leek Pie with Quinoa Millet Crust

If you are looking for a last minute dinner idea for Father’s Day, here it is.  This main entreé is portable, good warm or cold, and loaded with vegetables.  While savory pies and tarts are favorites of mine to make, I do not find making crusts easy.  They are an added element that can make a cook (or, at least me) shy away from them.  But, one made with cooked whole grains?  Easy.

Kale and Leek Pie

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Kale and Leek Pie with Quinoa Millet Crust 

*Cook’s Notes:  To make the crust begin by adding 1 1/2 c. cooked grains to the crust mixture.  Add up to 1/2 c. more if you want it thicker.  I chose to make a thicker crust with 2 c. cooked grains.

Gluten Free Crust 

  • *1 1/2 – 2 c. cooked quinoa and millet (equal parts)
  • 1 egg white, yolk reserved for the filling
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9″ pie plate.  Set aside.  Combine 1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa and millet, egg white, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Add more cooked grains if desired.  Press mixture (the back of a measuring cup works well) firmly into the pie plate.
  2. Bake the crust for 10 minutes or just until it begins to firm up.  Remove and set aside.

Filling

  • 1 lg. bunch lacianto kale (also known as dinosaur kale) (about 4 packed cups) rinsed, ribs removed, sauté with salt and pepper, drain, squeeze out excess moisture, chop finely
  • 2 c. arugula, rinsed, sauté with salt and pepper, drain, squeeze out excess moisture, chop finely
  • 1/2 large leek (about 1 1/2 c. sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened soymilk (or your milk of choice)
  • 3 eggs + reserved yolk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz.  herbed or peppered goat cheese
  1. Warm a T or two of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, add sliced leeks and a pinch of salt.  Lightly sauté leek, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic.  Cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Let cool.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together milk and eggs including reserved yolk.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Once greens and leeks have cooled, add to egg mixture. Combine. (Alternatively, the egg mixture can be tempered if leeks and greens have not cooled.) Once the greens, leeks, and egg mixture have been combined, pour into prepared pie crust.  Dot the top with 2 oz. goat cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 45 minutes until center is loosely set and the crust is light golden brown.
  3. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 4.

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Rainbow Radish and Greens Pasta

Rainbow Radishes

Inspired by P. Allen Smith’s use of radishes, these radishes make a lovely pasta dish.  They are sautéed and braised with onion until sweet and mellow.  Tossed with the radish greens, parmigiano reggiano, and reserved pasta water, the resulting dish is flavorful and light, perfect for summer.

Rainbow Radishes and Greens Pasta

Rainbow Radish and Greens Pasta 

1 bunch organic rainbow colored radishes (about 10 radishes) with their tops, radishes and greens washed, radishes thinly sliced (you want them to be translucent thin), green tops torn into bite size pieces
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/4 – 1/2 c. high quality vegetable broth
2/3 c. + parmigiano reggiano, grated
8 oz. whole wheat or gluten free pasta (I used a gluten free quinoa corn blend pasta)
reserve 1/2 c. pasta cooking water
salt
freshly cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
for a silkier sauce add 1 or 2 T unsalted butter after adding the vegetable broth, cook to reduce to desired consistency (optional)

In a large saucepan with deep sides, heat 1 T extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Once warmed, add the diced onion with a pinch of salt, cook 3 – 5 minutes just until they begin to give up some moisture.  Add sliced radishes.  Add another pinch of salt and cook, turning often, until they lose most of their moisture, about 10 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the vegetables, turning down heat if necessary.

Begin making pasta.  Once the radishes and onions have lost most of their moisture, add broth, braise on medium low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until the vegetables have absorbed most of the liquid.  Stir in butter if using.

To the vegetable mixture, add torn cleaned radish greens, al dente cooked pasta, grated cheese, 2 T. reserved pasta water, toss to combine.  Add pasta water 1 T at a time if a looser consistency is desired. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Serve with another sprinkling of parm reggiano if desired. Serve immediately.  Makes 3 generous servings.

Inspired by P. Allen Smith

the sweetness of allowing

Do you have a situation(s) in your life you’d like to change? The past several months have found me wrestling and wrangling with circumstances in my life I wanted to learn how to approach differently.  I simply couldn’t find a way to do it, until recently.  About a week ago, I came up with an idea I thought may help.  I would try to be with these situations differently; and, I would try to allow them.

My first attempts in handling these aspects of my life were to work on changing my reactions to them.  While not altogether a bad idea, I wasn’t making any headway.  It became a battle.  Perhaps I developed an expectation that I had to alter my responses. I don’t know.  But, I subscribe to Aristotle’s theory “we are what we repeatedly do.”  So, my thinking was if I could modify my responses to these circumstances, I’d step off of the circular mental train track I was on.  Even though I would find myself back on the same track at times, once I had the opportunity to get off the track, I was pretty confident I could do it more and more often.  Yet, something about it wasn’t a fit for me with these situations.

One morning while doing household tasks, I had a feeling. Not a thought, but a feeling that I could be with these aspects of my life differently.  I could allow them.  I could allow them to be as they are.  In doing so, my presence around each circumstance changed.  (If that makes sense.) With this change, I was afforded the opportunity of approaching the situations with less emotion. In turn, equipping myself to more readily allow them.

I can’t emphasize enough the significance around my changed presence in each situation.  For me, that seemed to be a key.  Not for solving a problem or fixing it, but for being with it.

Possibly this led to a change in reaction as well?  I don’t think it did.  My reactions, although softened, are about the same.  But in modifying my presence around each circumstance, I’ve been granted space.  Breathing room.

Approaching and allowing the situations rather than changing my reactions reminds me of the difference between a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon. While both are lemons, the Meyer lemon is sweeter and less acidic than a standard lemon.  It has less bite.  Less zing. In like manner, I noticed less bite and zing when approaching each situation and allowing it.

Most likely, we could all use a little less bite and zing in our lives.  Maybe by changing our presence around a difficult situation, a little more sweetness can emerge out of the most challenging areas of our lives.  I hope so.  And, for the record, I think it can.  Scratch that.  I know it can.
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How about a dinner idea for a substantial vegan meal? Chunks of roasted butternut squash combined with coconut milk soaked quinoa and garbanzo beans brightened with wilted baby spinach leaves.  This is a good meal to use the proportions of vegetable, grain (although quinoa is technically a seed, any whole grain could be substituted), and bean you enjoy.  The following is a blueprint to follow.
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Here’s how I did it:
  • I medium butternut squash, cubed and *roasted at 350 degrees until softened and lightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes
  • 1 c. or so white or red quinoa, or combo, cooked, set aside
  • 1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, set aside
  • 1/2 med. yellow or sweet onion, diced, sautéed in large skillet with coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil and large pinch salt
  • 2 t. curry powder
  • 1 t. each, turmeric and coriander
  • 1/2 c. or so full fat or lite coconut milk
  • 2 – 3 c. baby spinach, rinsed and drained
  • salt to taste
  1. Once squash and quinoa are prepared and the onion has softened, add beans and spices to the skillet.  Bloom the spices by allowing them to heat while stirring constantly, about 1- 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk and the spinach, stir to combine, put the lid on and steam the spinach over medium heat to medium low heat until it wilts, about 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. After the spinach is wilted, stir in the amounts of quinoa and squash you’d prefer.  Adjust with more coconut milk if necessary.  Salt to taste.  Warm through and serve.

Cook’s Notes:  Many cooks prefer full-fat coconut milk for the flavor and texture.  Although I do use it, sometimes it tends to be a bit too heavy for me.  I found in this recipe the light coconut milk lends enough of a subtle coconut flavor so the full-fat is not needed.  It is purely preference.

Roasted Squash:  Remove the tough outer skin of the squash by halving the squash.  Then, with two shorter pieces to work with, slice off the bulb of each piece where it narrows resulting in a stable cutting surface.  Next, cut straight down the side of the squash with your hand on the top of the vegetable stabilizing it.  Scrape out the seeds as necessary.  Cut the vegetable into bite-size cubes.  On a large baking sheet, toss the squash with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  Spread into an even layer.  Roast at 350 degrees for 35- 40 minutes until the squash is soft and barely beginning to brown.

spaciousness or slurry

Recently, I was grooming our two pups.  We were outside.  It was at least 90 degrees with 85% humidity.  Mosquitoes were using us as their breakfast.  Ollie was wiggling.  Simon wanted nothing to do with any kind of grooming tool being placed on his body.  Hair, sweat, and fur were combined in a slurry on my face.  (Oh yeah, there may have also been some blood in the slurry due to the mosquito that bit me on the forehead.)

Did I have a feeling of spaciousness in these moments?  Ah, no.  In fact, I didn’t have a feeling of anything other than… oh my goodness, let’s get this done!  Between those thoughts and trying to keep the fur out of my mouth, I became sucked into the process.  I did not maintain presence of mind; and, I didn’t realize it until I got them both inside and got myself cleaned up.  Isn’t that how living in today’s world is?  Modern society sucks us into it’s process of being.  And, dare I say, we allow it to happen.

Well, ok. So this is not new news.  Modern life is busy.  But, how do we deal with it in relation to spaciousness?  Do our minds have an openness such that we can rest in the midst of everything?  What about our ability (my dwindling ability) to reside on an open platform with fewer encumbrances? Don’t we want that?

When I think of spaciousness, I see myself physically pushing away life’s stuff.  Gently clearing a room with one sweep of the arm.  Why?  Because the external qualities of openness to me look and feel like an empty room with beautifully colored walls and gracefully arched doorways.  (To another, it may be the vastness of a mountain range.)  It is inviting. It draws me in. It’s space is silent.  It has no expectations.  It has no agenda. It is just there, open and waiting.

The internal qualities of spaciousness are quite similar.  Within this space, the fluctuations of our minds are calmed.  We drop our discordant selves.  The mind rests.  Even if only for a moment or two, it rests.  My sense for it is during that pause, we become suspended in awareness.  Simple momentary awareness.

How do we hit the pause button in everyday life?  Try sitting quietly for a few minutes each day and breathe.  We may notice our breath or the airplane that is flying overhead.  Notice and breathe.  This gracious space awaits all of us and is always accessible.  I’ll keep trying.  I’ll keep trying to bring my mind back to a resting place for a breath or two, choosing a little bit of spaciousness over slurry.

Before we reach enlightenment, we need to eat.  Below are a few ideas for a meal and side dishes followed by a recipe for Fig + Date Bread:

Laura Calder introduced me to the idea that cauliflower, sliced olives, and julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes are a very nice combination indeed.

Inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis, I made a dish combining cooked lentils and rice, corn, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, celery, carrot, garlic, topped with tomato slices, italian style panko bread crumbs and cheese.  In the oven at 350° for about 20 – 30 minutes melds the flavors and bakes the top layer of tomatoes and cheese.  

My twist on a  raw mushroom salad.  It may not be for everyone, but if you like mushrooms it is interesting to try.  Thinly sliced mushrooms and green summer squash, tossed with a vinaigrette of lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Finish the salad with chopped parsley. 

Fig + Date Bread 

I was trolling Heidi Swanson’s site and came upon a recipe by Melissa Clark, Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread.  The bread looked wonderful.  It had huge chunks of chocolate, lots of bananas, and a glaze.  But, I wanted something different.  I love sweetening foods with dates lately, and I had figs in the frig.  So, I adapted Melissa’s recipe…

Fig + Date Bread 

8 oz., fresh mission figs, rinsed, stems removed, and quartered, set aside

10 dried and pitted dates, thinly sliced, set aside

1 ripe banana, mashed, set aside

Dry Ingredients

2 c. whole wheat flour (spelt flour would also work well)

1/2 c. brown sugar

3/4 t. baking soda

pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients 

2 eggs

1/2 c. low-fat plain yogurt

1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil

1 T. lemon juice, (juice from 1/2 lemon)

zest of one lemon

1 t. vanilla

Instructions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.  Butter a standard size loaf pan.  Set aside.  Prepare banana, dates, and figs.  Set aside.
  2. Combine and mix dry ingredients.
  3. Combine and mix wet ingredients.  Add the mashed banana to the wet. Mix well.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined.  Gently fold in the dates and figs.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake 40 – 50 minutes or until loaf becomes golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let loaf rest on a wire rack 15 minutes before turning out.

are you itchy?

Do you feel content? Most likely, each of us would answer that question differently given our present life circumstances and our state of mind at the time.  

If Ollie, our 3 year old labradoodle, were asked, I am pretty certain he would give a rapid-fire bark response.  “Yes, (bark, bark, bark! as he announces his answer to the world, head held high ) there is contentment in this world.  If I’ve had enough activity, contentment is resting after running and playing!”   

For Ollie, contentment doesn’t come easily.  He is an intense pup. A good hour’s run will take the edge off, as it did the day I took the picture posted above.  After a satisfactory run,  he’ll rest comfortably during the day, albeit mostly awake and alert, always at the ready for his next adventure.  God bless him.  A good 2 1/2 hour romp including lots of running and play is really more his style.

For most of us, much like Ollie, contentment does not come easily.  I think each of us knows, subconsciously or consciously, contentment does not come from external sources.  Our actions, however, indicate otherwise.  How many of us when feeling bored, irritable, or disconcerted reach for a bag of chips or head to the mall for so-called retail therapy?  As a society, we welcome distractions.

There are times in my life when I think distractions, if used well, are healthy.  If distractions are used as purely escapist behaviors, then a problem is simply being avoided.  And, most likely, nothing is being solved or addressed.  

Let me give you an example.  There is an obsessive side to me.  I know it.  It is there.  It will most likely always be there.  If I am obsessing about something, I can do one of three things.  1)  I can continue to obsess about it.  2)  I can sit with it in meditation and try to look beyond the obsession and dissect the emotional layers underneath.  3)  Or, I can set it aside, choose a healthy outlet for my energy, and move on.  

This is where contentment and distraction intersect.  In the example above, the problem arises if I choose to continually avoid the feeling or thought that is bothering me by using an escapist behavior.  If I continue to avoid the feeling or thought by distracting myself, the problem will not be addressed; and, in all likelihood, it will get worse until it manifests itself in some way that demands attention.  In this scenario, I have not moved toward well-being and contentment.  I am seeking contentment externally, outside of myself.  

Whereas, if I take the time to simply acknowledge the feeling or thought, and accept it, if that is comfortable, and then remain with that thought or feeling by sitting quietly, I begin to address the issue.  I have addressed the issue by not running from it, by acknowledging it, and maybe accepting it.  I have taken a step toward well-being and contentment.    If I choose to not acknowledge this part of me, distract myself, and run from the problem continually,  I’ve then used distractions as escapist behavior. And, I have not moved toward well-being and contentment.  

There are a myriad of distractions in this world leading to momentary hits of pleasure, (plug your favorite in here… from retail therapy to gambling.)  Daily distractions can and do continually rub up against our ability to be content like a persistently itchy mosquito bite demanding attention.  So, what is the big deal? Why not scratch that darn bite?  Seeking pleasure and happiness from external sources may bring us to a brief state of contentment, but it is not long-lasting.    

So, what is one to do to combat everyday life?  Try resting in your own space without needing to do anything, just being.  If you are game, try it for a few minutes each day.  Sit comfortably in a quiet space. Listen to yourself breathe.  See if it changes your perspective, or slightly, subtly, buoys your sense of well-being and contentment.  

Is it a cure-all? Will you stop wanting to scratch that mosquito bite?  I don’t know.  But, you may find you are a little less itchy, and more content.    



I really enjoy simple, vegetarian meals.  But, to my mind, they’ve got to be substantial and full of flavor. Thanks to Molly at Remedial Eating, I now have another good, simple vegetarian meal to tuck into the back of my mind.  No recipe required.  

I have long been a fan of roasted vegetables.  A few of my favorites I put in the oven are parsnips, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  But, I tend to roast my favorites again and again.  Another good thing about Molly’s idea for a meal?  This vegetarian dish incorporates eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, and green beans. Vegetables I don’t reach for often enough.  I am glad to have an excuse to roast something different.

The basic components are roasted vegetables served over brown rice, a fried egg on top, and feta crumbled over the whole.  More specifically, I put on each plate a bed of brown rice, added a bit of soy sauce, placed the roasted vegetables on top of the rice,  crumbled feta over the vegetables and topped it with one or two fried eggs. Cannelini or garbanzo beans could be incorporated for a bigger dose of protein and fiber.  

For those of you who prefer a recipe, below are loose guidelines to create this meal.  Cheers.  

Roasted Vegetables and Eggs                                Serves 3   

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice, make according to package directions, set aside

1 medium eggplant, rinsed, cut into 1 inch cubes

2- 3 summer squash or zucchini, rinsed, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 large handfuls fresh green beans, rinsed, cut off ends, cut in half

1 – 2 eggs per person

feta cheese 

soy sauce to drizzle over rice  

Instructions

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare the brown rice and let cook while the vegetables roast.  
  2. On a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, place prepared vegetables.  Salt and pepper the vegetables.  Drizzle olive oil, two to three T., over the entire batch.  Toss to coat. Spread evenly on cookie sheet.  Roast 35 – 45 minutes until vegetables are fork tender and begin to carmelize.  Check after 35 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat a medium size frying pan.  As soon as veg is done, fry the eggs in a little butter and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  
  4. While the eggs are frying, place rice on each plate, drizzle with soy sauce, add veg., grate cheese over veg and rice, top with fried egg.   Serve immediately.   

perspective

Perspectives can be skewed in life. They can be skewed by what another person has told us.  They can be skewed by our own frame of reference, worldview, and sets of beliefs with which we were raised.

One’s perspective and mental constructs seem to go hand in hand.  As humans, we form associations in memory and develop mental constructs around those associations. For example, many of us have probably developed over the years a mental construct of happiness. We believe, whether consciously or subconsciously,  we will only be happy in life if certain things happen. Therefore, we will most likely conduct our life accordingly to fit within those parameters, to the extent we can control it.  In other words, those mental constructs can control our actions and reactions.

What would it be like to live outside of those parameters we’ve set for ourselves?  Or, at least get a glimpse of what it could be like to live outside of one of the constructs each of us has created for ourselves.  Freeing?  Liberating?  I think so.

Most of us may also have some type of mental construct that defines for us what makes a good meal.  The meal below may seem a bit simple and peasant-ish or it could be viewed as a satisfying, hearty meal.

Inspired by Sarah at In Praise of Leftovers, I put together this meal, tweaked things with what I happened to have on hand.  I thought the outcome was worthy of a spot on the dinner table.

The mashing of the beans combined with broth creates a sauce.  The spiced up sour cream provides a nice, cool counterpoint to the texture of the meal.  A squeeze of fresh lime juice adds a good dose of tart.

Below is a loose recipe.  Adjust the ingredients to your taste.  If you like more bean sauce and less rice, mash another can of beans.  Sounds very un -glamorous, I know.

Sweet Potatoes, Black Beans and Rice

Serves 3 – 4

4 sweet potatoes, rinsed and sliced
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. (uncooked) brown rice, prepare according to package directions, set aside
1/2 c. plus more to taste, chicken or vegetable broth
1 T. + a pinch, chili powder
1 T. + a pinch, paprika
1/4 c. sour cream 
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil 
lime, sliced, optional 

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Prepare the brown rice according to the package directions.  Set aside.

2.  While the brown rice is cooking, rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes.  Slice them into half – moons.  Pile them onto a cookie sheet.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil, about 2 – 3 T., over the potatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the mixture until potatoes are evenly coated.  Spread out on cookie sheet until evenly distributed.  Roast in oven 30 minutes or until fork tender.

3,  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat add the rinsed and drained black beans, 1/2 c. broth, 1 T. each chili powder and paprika.  Fresh ground black pepper to taste.  Stir to combine.  Crush the beans into a soft pulp with a fork or a potato masher.  Once heated through, turn bean mixture to low.  Add additional broth if desired.

4.  Combine the sour cream with a pinch of chili powder and paprika.

5.  Serve the bean mixture ladled over the rice.  Top with sweet potatoes and a dollop of the sour cream mixture.  Add a good squeeze of lime, if desired.