I know, I know, kale is so 2012. We've had Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, kohlrabi and romanesco since then! But I still eat kale. For me, it's an easy way to pack in a lot of vitamins and minerals with very little effort (that is, if you buy the pre-washed kind). I've written about kale salads before (this chopped kale salad is Very Important Salad in my house; it makes frequent appearances) , but with this salad, kale is just the supporting vegetable. The star here is actually this tomato vinaigrette and this whole recipe is built around it. Which is pretty evident from the all the pre-prepared ingredients I used. Nonetheless, convenience foods can still be healthy and this is a great, hearty dinner. Even heartier if you substitute quinoa or brown rice for the white rice.


Black Bean and Kale Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

For the tomato vinaigrette:
1 can Hunt's Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 ounce red wine vinegar
1 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon honey (or 2 tablespoons sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon of already-minced garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil

Measure out 1 cup of the diced tomatoes and reserve the remainder. Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until well-blended. Pour into a lidded pint jar and chill.

For the salad:
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown; or quinoa)
2 ounces lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cans low sodium black beans (I use Bush's)
1 bag microwaveable yellow kernel corn (I used the steam-in-bag corn)
1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (to taste)
1 bag pre-washed and chopped kale greens
cilantro for garnish (optional)
roasted or fresh tomatoes for garnish (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
finely shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Cook rice or quinoa according to directions to yield 2 cups of cooked rice, replacing 2 ounces of water with 2 ounces of lime juice and adding oil (use slightly less liquid than recommended for rice that is not sticky).

Rinse and drain the black beans and heat in the microwave just long enough to warm and set aside in a medium bowl. Cook corn according to directions and add to the beans. Toss with paprika (or cayenne if you prefer spicier) and cumin. Set aside.

For each salad, use 1-2 cups of kale greens and rub them between your hands, removing thick spines. Place in serving bowls and drizzle with vinaigrette. Top with rice, bean and corn blend, and then garnish with cilantro, the remainder of roasted diced tomatoes (or fresh diced tomatoes), and chunks of avocado. Drizzle on more dressing. Add cheese and sour cream if desired. Note also that you may want to add some salt and black pepper after preparation.

Serve with tortilla chips.


I've been thinking about stuffing a pumpkin for a while. Specifically, I was looking for a recipe where I could just cram some uncooked wild rice or quinoa in a pumpkin and have a meal after a couple of hours. I didn't find that, but I did find a simple recipe that's extremely customizable that was originally from Dorie Greenspan. It's a perfect vegetarian main dish or side dish for fall or Thanksgiving dinners. It's really easy, too. The short version is: get a pumpkin, remove the guts, stuff it with cheese and bread, and cook it for two hours. But the longer version may be a bit more helpful.

And please excuse my photos. I snapped these as I was cooking and serving, not sure how it would turn out and not up for a photo sesh. But they give you a good idea of sizing and doneness. I placed my pumpkin in a 7 qt Dutch oven.

All done! I forgot to remove the lid to brown the stuffing and it still tasted great.
All done! I forgot to remove the lid to brown the stuffing and it still tasted great.

Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkin
serves 4-6
adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan via PBS

  • 1 medium "pie" or "sugar" pumpkin, about 3 pounds (about the size of a basketball)
  • Smoked salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups stale or refrigerated bread cubes (½-inch)
  • 8 - 12 ounces cheese, such as Gouda, Havarti, Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2–4 chopped garlic cloves (to taste) or 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives OR
  • 1 tablespoon of Wash Park seasoning blend from Savory Spice Shop
  • About ⅓ cup heavy cream or milk

Place the oven rack on the lower middle or lower setting and pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Scrub the outside of the pumpkin to clean. Then cut a hole in the top large enough to clean out and stuff the pumpkin, making sure to cut at a 45 degree angle so that the resulting lid will rest on top (like a jack-o-lantern). Scoop out the seeds and strings and remove them from the lid as well. Discard or keep the seeds for roasting later. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the pumpkin (and around the edges) to taste.

Combine the bread, cheese, garlic, and seasoning in a large bowl and toss together to mix. Place the stuffing in the pumpkin and pour the cream or milk on top to moisten.

Pumpkin ready for roasting. Note how the top was cut at an angle to keep the lid secure.
Pumpkin ready for roasting. Note how the top was cut at an angle to keep the lid secure.

Place the lid on top and put the pumpkin in a large oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven or on a large baking sheet (contents may bubble over or pumpkin may lose shape). Cook for two hours or until the stuffing is bubbling (check after 90 minutes for doneness). Remove the lid for the last 15 minutes or so to brown the stuffing, if desired. The pumpkin is ready when the skin can be easily pierced with a fork.

To serve, scoop contents and cut portions of the side of the pumpkin.

Notes: I used Gouda and Havarti, which tasted great. A Gruyère or Emmenthal would have made a creamier filling, though (think fondue). For a heartier meal, reduce the salt and seasoning and add veggie sausage. I served mine topped with arugula and with a side of rice pilaf (with golden raisins and walnuts).


Sometimes, my dinners aren’t well-planned as they are created from the necessity of using what’s in the fridge or pantry that needs to go.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I still had some Rancho Gordo rice beans (they’re small, white beans that look like fat grains of rice) that needed to be finished up. I cooked them for dinner (in the Crock Pot) but I just didn’t love them. Despite hours of cooking, they were still a bit tough for my taste. So I put the leftovers in the fridge while I tried to figure out what to do with them. And that’s when I remembered that the texture was similar to garbanzo beans, so I figured I could substitute them in a white bean puree (like a hummus) recipe. So there was my base.

I also had some organic spring asparagus in the refrigerator leftover from my mom’s visit. We didn’t eat it and it was not going to last much longer, so then I had my side dish.

Now, what to serve as the main? What would go great with that rice bean puree? Hen of the woods mushrooms! I picked some up at the local international market (Whole Foods carries them, too; they are also known as maitake mushrooms or signorina) and I had my meal planned and got to use up what I needed to from the refrigerator.

I wasn’t really planning on sharing this, but the picture I posted on Instagram got quite a few interested comments, so here it is! Though for the puree, I suggest using cannelini beans rather than rice beans. First, you can find canned cannelinis fairly easily and second, even dried rice beans are difficult to find. The really important part of the puree—in my opinion—is the thyme. It gave it a really nice flavor. I also used it for the mushrooms and they only needed a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Here's the recipe for white bean puree (but use vegetable broth! I like Better than Bouillon) and also the instructions for cooking the hen of the woods mushrooms. For the asparagus, just lightly coat the cleaned springs in olive oil and roast at 400F until just tender (check after 5 minutes; don't overcook because no one likes a shriveled sprig!). Finish with a light sprinkle of salt.

Here's the not-very-good photo of the result. It was far more delicious than it appears!