Weekly Winner:  Super Cozy, Super Tasty, Super Healthy -But What Is It?

I crave structure.  I adore lists and make them with wild abandon.  I organize, strategize and categorize literally everything in my life (yeah, I know…I’m working on it!) But I truly do love everything to have a place and to have a place for everything.

So then this recipe happens. Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce.  It’s fabulous. It’s easy. It’s healthy. I’m just not exactly sure what it is! Is it a soup? Is it a stew? Perhaps a side dish?  No, far to hearty and complete for a side dish.  Whatever its supposed to be, it was my lunch recently and I seriously enjoyed the heck out of it. I think the only thing I would possibly add to this is a piece of crusty bread along side it. Although honestly, I didn’t miss it.  This is a bowl you want to curl up in. It is incredibly satisfying and complex-tasting and I would make it again in a heartbeat if I could only find under what category I filed the recipe!  Seriously, I had to look up the recipe online as I could not locate mine. I’ve checked soups, side dishes, lunches, vegetables…nada.  Luckily I remembered pulling it from Food & Wine magazine. See, I told you I need to work on it.

Enough of my problems and hangups.  Make this dish.  Whatever it is.  Because all that matters is it is one big bowl of tastiness.

Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Kosher salt

One 8-ounce bunch of Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Torn basil and marjoram leaves, 
for garnish

Finely grated Pecorino Romano, 
for serving

Procedure:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant 
but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and 
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.

Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Spoon into bowls and garnish with torn basil 
and marjoram leaves. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.

Getting Your Ducks in a Row… and keeping them close!

Yes, it has been awhile.  Honestly, I have no idea what happened to October… did it even happen??  I’m gearing up for what I refer to as my traveling season.  I have several big trips planned plus all the holidays that will get me through the end of this year and on to 2012.  This has definitely been the fastest year in recorded history.

In getting ready for my trips, I started to think about my favorite topic.  Well, second favorite topic… bacon being my favorite.  Organization.  As we’ve previously discussed, I do love a good list.  Getting all my ducks in a row, as it were, makes me very happy.

I also adore traveling and find that nothing else makes me feel quite so alive and connected to the world.  I even love the whole “getting there” bit of airports and flights.  Sometimes I wish it happened a little quicker and without some of the hassles of delays and long lines, but all in all I still enjoy it.  I also always tend to do a good bit of introspection when I travel.  I take stock, make plans, wish and dream… all of which leads to …. making more lists!  Yay!

In order to get the most out of traveling; however, I have to prepare.  I have to get organized.  After all, I do have The World’s Dorkiest Cat to consider.  I have to make sure he’s well looked after.  I also like to make sure all bills are paid, messages returned, fridge cleared out, trash emptied etc….. nothing takes away from a trip more than unpleasant surprises waiting for you on your return.

While packing for what will be one of my longest journeys (to New Zealand), I realized what it is I enjoy so much about traveling.  I love being self-contained.  Having all my stuff close to me.  It’s also what I absolutely hate about packing.  I have to limit my stuff.  I cannot have everything with me.  I have to decide ahead of time what I’m going to want to wear (how can I possibly know what I’m going to want to wear next Thursday!?).    But while I’m on a plane, or in a hotel room… everything is with me.  I like that.  I’ve always been like that.  As a child, I was content to sit quietly in my room with my stuff.  No need to run wildly around getting all messy.

I also adore seeing and experiencing new things.  Not everyone does, but for me…. bring it!  The more I travel, the more I realize people and places are basically the same, but with these strange, wonderous, incredible little differences.  It makes you think.  It makes you wonder if you could or should do things a little differently.

So, as I spend my last day home packing, checking lists, and lining up my proverbial ducks I look ahead to new experiences, seeing old friends, making new ones.  All while deciding who I want to be next year and taking a few notes on that!  Bon Jour!

The Care and Feeding of Friends

As the song goes: “Ya gotta have friends”, right?  I mean, life would be pretty boring without them and relying on family as your sole support group can be very ill-advised at times.  But like every living, breathing thing, friends require care.  They cannot be ignored and expected to flourish. Therein lies the purpose of this post and my dilemma.  It’s something I’ve been kicking around for a few days.

First off, in the interest of full disclosure – I am not the nurturing type.  I was absent the day they handed out maternal instincts.  I have one meager houseplant.  There are days that I find my cat’s neediness a bit overwhelming.  I’ve also pointed out to my hubby on numerous occasions that he did not marry a Florence Nightingale.  I am not a giver.  To be fair, I don’t really expect much in return either, I don’t think.  Basically, I’m an introvert. I enjoy solitude and I find I gather my energy and strength to go do all my social and/or professional stuff by spending quiet time alone.  That does not mean I’m a hermit (although, there are weekends I put in a great deal of training and aspire toward that end).  It just means I need “down time” to refuel.   Having said that, I do try to put the necessary time into nurturing my close friendships.  I like to be there for them. I enjoy getting together and spending time with them. I want to know what’s going on in their lives and also to let them know what’s happening in mine.

These days, the term “friend” is definitely thrown around.  I find it necessary to differentiate between my true, close friends, my for-lack-of-a-better-term “occasional” friends, and my Facebook friends (a mix of all the above and acquaintances, business associates, and family). While I like to keep track of what’s happening in all of their lives, I feel I just don’t have the time or energy to truly care for and nurture all of these relationships. But then what’s the point in having them? 

I do feel guilty when I realize too much time has gone by between chatting with a close friend, emailing an “occasional” friend or commenting on a Facebook friend’s wall.  It can just all be a bit overwhelming sometimes.  I certainly always enjoy getting a dinner invitation or a funny text from a close friend.  I try to be there with advice when asked or find time for a cup of coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) to listen to a friend vent, and I am always delighted by the out-of-the-blue “like” or comment on my Facebook wall.  The thing is all of this takes time.

I guess it’s like combining juggling with playing the lotto.  You can’t win if you don’t play and you have to keep all your balls in the air at the same time.  It’s hard, and it takes a lot of organization and coordination, but if done right (with only a few balls dropped here and there with nothing broken) everybody goes home a winner. Just do it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Let it flow….

Fluidity…. I just like the word.  The sound the word makes me happy… it’s fun to say.  I like the thought too, and am really trying to incorporate it into my daily life.  You see, I’m a big-time planner.  I plan everything.  I make lists; I make lists of things I need to add to my lists.  I plan my menus two weeks out.  I have certain household chores that I do on certain days, etc… etc… Some may call it anal,  I prefer organized.  I’m happy when I have my act together.

Having said that… I find I need a bit more “flow” in my life.  Things, occasionally, need to just happen.  If a friend calls with a last-minute dinner suggestion, I need to jump on it because generally, I truly enjoy it.  If hubby and I don’t absolutely need to be somewhere at a certain time, maybe we shouldn’t plan exactly what time we’ll get there (and more often than not arrive 5 minutes early).  We’ll get there when we get there.  Case in point was a day-long get-together we were invited to recently.  “Arrive anytime after 12” the invite said.  For once, we didn’t plan our departure time.  When things got done and we were ready, we left.  We hit unexpected traffic and didn’t panic.  We made an unplanned stop because we wanted to check out a new place.  We were still there before the majority of the people arrived, we stayed just as long as we wanted, and we had a fabulous time.  Nothing planned….everything gained.

Yep,  I think we can all use a little more flow in our lives. Say it with me: “Fluidity”.