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Well. It’s been a couple of months of big changes. I’ve moved 52 miles closer to work, eliminated most processed foods from my diet, and have learned (almost) to live comfortably without living room furniture, a television or showers (my huge claw foot tub insists on baths only).

Slowly but surely, the settling in process has transformed my new place from just a seriously cute place to my own seriously cute place and me from a seriously stressed, constantly tired person into someone that’s relaxed and joyful. Last weekend I finished unpacking, and this week I finally cooked a real meal. Flush, it seemed like a good time to try something new.

Kale, Cannellini & Bacon
This quick meal for two or side for four is wonderfully satisfying when there’s still a bit of chill in the air. Halves easily if dining alone. Based on a Weight Watchers recipe (5 points per 1 1/4 cup serving). Do not skip adding the vinegar as it adds tremendous depth of flavor. The first time I made this dish, I tasted it and devoured the entire bowl while standing in the kitchen. Beans – the musical fruit – will make you feel like dancin’ when paired with kale and bacon.

3 slices uncooked bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 bunch kale (about one pound) leaves torn into bite sized pieces; center stems removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
1 can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp good balsamic vinegar

  • Set a large, heavy pot or skillet over medium heat; add bacon and cook to desired crispness. Remove bacon from pot and set aside; leave bacon drippings in pot.
  • Add onion to bacon drippings; cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add kale; cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to wilt, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add broth; cover and simmer over low heat until kale is just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add beans; simmer, uncovered, until liquid is almost evaporated, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add vinegar and cook one more minute. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and serve immediately. Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

I have become addicted to this dish. It’s so simple to prepare, and leftovers heated in the microwave at work make me the envy of those poor souls heating up frozen dinners or pizza rolls.

This week, my cousin Sally sent me a package of spicy goodness containing “Chili Aleppo Chushed” [sic]; her favorite seasoning and one we enjoyed while travelling in Mexico in March. Combined with salt, it makes an outstanding rim garnish on a tamarind margarita. Can you say, “Died, gone to heaven”?? But I digress.

Tonight I crusted some jumbo shrimp [the oxymoron in my tale] with Aleppo, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and quickly sautéed them in a non-stick skillet with a touch of olive oil.

Twas a nice accompaniment for the kale, bean, bacon thing.

Spice in life.