Kale, Peanut Butter, and the No-Good-Very-Bad-Day

Some days, things go exactly according to plan. Spirits are high, the sun shines, you finish your work by lunch and have so much free time that by dinner you’re almost wondering what you should do next. You cook an elaborate, delicious dinner, and enjoy every bite of it. Maybe you even save room for dessert.

Today was not one of those days.

Today, I fell out of the way of positive thinking, and I fell hard. Floptimism reigned on high today, and all I could think of was throwing in the towel – with school, with applications, even with cooking dinner. Especially with cooking dinner. When your world feels like it’s crumbling, even if it’s because of wholly superficial reasons, it’s easy to take it out on food and your body. At least, I find that to be the case. So tonight, in my gloom, I considered just going straight for dessert, or at the very least for my phone to dial the local pizza joint’s number. But I knew what was upsetting me had nothing to do with my dinner plans, and giving my body the instant gratification of an indulgent meal wouldn’t ultimately solve anything.

On days like today, it’s good to have an arsenal of ridiculously easy, ridiculously healthy recipes. I won’t go far as to say that after I cooked my healthy meal and ate it, I saw the light and everything was better. But I did at least have a nutritious meal in me. I wasn’t left feeling weighed down by emotionally-driven decisions. And in the end, I did find a way to get myself up off of my pseudo-shag area rug and pull the shambles of my day together. I even opened my eyes to some pretty great things that happened today, that I had been blind to earlier on.

Think of this recipe for kale in a peanut sauce as one of those ridiculously easy, ridiculously healthy recipes that you can keep on hand if a bad day gets the better of you. I paired it with a leftover burger and my toaster oven hadn’t even heated the burger through completely before this dish was finished – that’s how quick this is to make. And on top of it all, it tastes really good. The peanut butter makes it creamy and feel indulgent, too, so you might even be able to satisfy that emotional distraction with it. And if not, at least you tried, and that little square of dark chocolate will still be waiting for you when you’re done to try its hand at easing the crumminess of your day. No one’s judging.

Sauteed Kale in a Peanut Sauce, adapted from The Local Cook
Yield: 2 servings

The Ingredients
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 cups kale
½ cup + 2 teaspoons water, divided
2 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter
2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
coarse salt, for serving

The Method
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and tomato. Simmer the mixture for 2-4 minutes, then add in the spices (coriander, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon). Stir in the kale and ½ cup of water, stirring occasionally but allowing the greens to steam until they are soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining water and peanut butter until the kale is evenly coated with the peanut butter. Top with scallions and a scant amount of coarse salt before serving.


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Black Bean Guacamole: healthy enough for your resolutions, flavorful enough for the Superbowl!

In T minus 7 or 8 days, millions of Americans will be staking their claim on their favorite sofa cushion and turning the television on to the Superbowl. Many will be having parties, and I’d venture to guess that nearly all of them will be chowing down on some serious eats. I’m not a big football fan myself (I’m trying, though – I now understand what a down is!), but I still can’t wait for next year when L and I are less than 250 miles apart and I can cater the Superbowl party he throws every year.  I’m bursting with creative and fun riffs on Superbowl classics (for example, the Buffalo Chicken Wing Cupcakes I recently stumbled upon and am practically crawling out of my skin to try), but for now, I’ll have to stick with the brainstorming.

Just the other week I had half of an avocado and some leftover black beans that needed to be used up in the fridge, and I thought a little twist on guacamole would make a good, light lunch. I was also dying to crack open this new bag of lime flavored chips by Food Should Taste Good that I snagged at Whole Foods that have – get this! – a whopping 5 grams of monounsaturated fats per serving. Sure, it means they’re not as low calorie as dipping a stick of celery into this already modestly caloric dip, but they sure do help me reach my goal of 20 MUFA’s per day in a new and delicious way. If you haven’t tried the brand before, I’d definitely recommend it, and this coming from someone who’s really not big on chips.
 Photo Source: foodshouldtastegood.com

As for the dip, it was definitely a win (or, should I say, touchdown?). There was a tiny bit of a kick but it was mostly just creamy and full of smoky cumin goodness. It was colorful and healthy, but totally indulgent enough to stand up against the formidable wings, enchiladas and meaty chilis it’s likely to compete with come Game Day. Guacamole is a great dip to offer because even though it does have some calories and fat (which might help keep you full and prevent you from overeating), they’re awesome calories and fat, and you can work in some servings of veggies while you’re at it. So whether you’re in need of a good Superbowl treat or, like me, you just feel like having a dip around, definitely try this one out. I’m pretty proud of it, at least!

One Year Ago: Easy Chicken Fajitas

Black Bean Guacamole
Yield: 2 meal-sized or 6 appetizer-sized servings

The Ingredients
1 california avocado
½ cup black beans
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons plain greek yogurt
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ small red bell pepper, diced
1-2 tablespoons diced tomatoes

The Method
Place all of the ingredients except the peppers and tomatoes in a bowl and mash together with a fork (or, for a smoother consistency, puree in a food processor). Fold in the peppers and tomatoes and store minimally in the fridge (guacamole will oxidize and turn brown as it sits, so try to make this as close to serving as possible). Stir to bring out the green again just before serving alongside your favorite dippers – chips, veggies, whatever!


Join Dine & Dish and Cookin’ Canuck for the California Avocado 4th of July Blast, sponsored by the California Avocado Commission. 

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