I am a regular seeker of routes to simplify one’s life. My daily calendar and Blackberry are always within arm’s reach. Yes, I still have a Blackberry. I cherish schedules, itemized lists and routine. Priorities, priorities. I am organized to the point of being anal retentive and meticulous about most things. This said, I am also guilty of sweating the small stuff.  I think it is in my DNA. 

The generation old quest for balance including but not limited to and certainly not necessarily in this order: work, business travels, quality time with family and friends, carving out the space to squeeze in exercise (priority in 2014) as well as the gauntlet of seemingly neverending errands and chores.  No sooner do I tick the last item off my inventory that I begin preparing another. My admiring hat is off to all of you managing everything above and also balancing partners, babies, children, carpool, homework - the works. 

My mother likes to preach practicality.  She has always encouraged her children to apply this notion where they can. Last year she challenged me to bring a semblance of organization to the kitchen and our weeknight meals.  She is a big fan of shopping in advance and mapping out meals.  It will simplify your life she said. And she added, you will be surprised by how much money you save doing a big shop, once a week.  This was never my game but I gave it a try.  Dare I?  She was right.  Mothers usually are.  Fathers too.  I will give credit where credit is due. 

Once upon a time I used to draft a concept in the car en route home from work. I often pondered and sometimes obsessed about the hackneyed household question:  What’s for dinner?  I am usually ravenous at this time of day so would dream big. Trips to the grocery store at this time and on an empty stomach are both dangerous and trying. Hoards of people, limited parking spaces, sometimes picked over selection, long lines. On it goes.

Without fail I would throw things into the cart with grand ideas that did not apply to the recipe on hand.  This would inevitably invite an inquisition from the peanut gallery back home:  What is this, do we need this, we don’t have space in the fridge or freezer for it. It should be known right here and now that I despite waste.  It is not welcome in my kitchen.  Contingent upon the complexity of the meal of the night, dinner sometimes did not reach the table until times fit for Spaniards.  Translation? Late dining and this ain’t New York City kids.  Regardless of my love of cooking, the arduous routine of putting together an exciting dinner after a long day at work quickly became fodder for the birds. 

By shopping, planning and doing a bit of cooking in advance, we have found more time in the evenings to spend as we please.  I have found that this streamlines our equations nicely.  Don't get me wrong, we regularly have to make repeat trips to pick up something not on the list. Olive oil always seems to be a culprit. That and paper towels. It is not every night that food is in order but it’s a nice start to the week when I can pull something out of the fridge and reheat it.  Unwrap a piece of meat and grill it. Roast something. Chop. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season. Most everything I need for a plan of attack is now in the fridge, pantry or on the counter. Work lunches? Mission accomplished. 

Some nights, we have plans – together or separate and this means no cooking.  When in the mood, one of us swings by the local Chinese joint for steamed shrimp and broccoli. I like to drizzle flaxseed oil on mine.  Partner-in-crime swoons for their egg drop soup. Not infrequently we pick up a rotisserie chicken, bag of spinach and I tizzy both up accordingly. Other nights we arrive home and sway one another with talks of vino and mussels in a green curry coconut broth with fresh cilantro at our local neighborhood favorite.  Their quail lettuce wraps are the jam too. Ditto the lamb belly. Off we go.  More about this spot later. Most Sundays to Wednesdays however, we try to stick to the plan.  

On Sundays, we have forged a delightful morning routine of home brewed coffee while ransacking the New York Times for preferred sections.  Afterwards, we venture to one or three grocery stores (I crave selection) to pick up the ingredients we need for the week.  It seems like a lot but honestly, it is quality together time. We have fun in the process. I am traditionally armed with drafts of recipes and grocery lists.  Most of the times we are on a mission but other times, we are inspired by items as we go.  Spices of which we have never heard. Curious vegetables. Upon returning to the house, we unpack together and then I get cracking in the kitchen. It should be noted that if we are moving early enough and the weather is nice, Saturdays are for the farmer's market.

A handful of Sundays ago I came across something I had never seen before. Pasta made with beans. Perhaps I am late to the game. Soy beans, black beans and mung beans and different shaped noodles. I have tried the quinoa version (whatever Trevor) and as per an old Elle magazine article ordered kelp noodles from Amazon. They were not my cup of tea. In fact, I have a few bags leftover if anyone wants them. As always, I checked the ingredients: Beans and water. That’s it. For someone who observes a low carb diet, this was music to my ears. Inspired, I had an inkling that it would serve as a suitable foundation for a #meatlessmonday ensemble. Happy eating!

Adapted from Clean Eating

Please note that I eliminated the Panko bread crumbs!


1 package of mung bean pasta - Found at Whole Foods / Earth Fare (regular pasta or zucchini ribbons also OK)
1 head of cauliflower
1 head of kale
½ red onion sliced
3 TBS capers
A bunch of fresh parsley chopped
The juice of 2 lemons
3 garlic cloves
¾ cup raw walnuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kitchen Tip

Kale is a wonderful addition to any grocery list. Supermarkets and farmer’s markets alike offer so many variants you can truly become acquainted with that of which you best like. Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s sell it chopped and bagged. This is not only ideal for salads, stir fries, steaming and sautéing but also very convenient. I throw kale into almost everything from soups to stews to chilies to main dishes like stuffed peppers and ones like this pasta ensemble. In addition to offering gorgeous color, you are packing nice fiber. When available, I prefer to buy heads of Tuscan kale. Simply remove the leaf along the meaty rib. Throw the leaves in the Cuisinart or food processor and chop finely. This yields approximately 2 cups of grated leaf that can be added to dishes of your choice. Be sure to throw it in at the end. Chopped finely like this, it cooks quite quickly.

Get Cooking

1. Roughly chop the cauliflower, throw it in a pan and drizzle with 1 TBS of olive oil, a generous pinch or two of salt and some cracks of pepper. Roast in the oven at 450 and set the timer for 20 minutes or until lightly browning on top. Remember, you can reserve the cauliflower stalk to throw in your pot for making soup.

2. In your Cuisinart, chop up the head of kale.  I like to chop it finely, as you would for an herb garnish.

3. Once the cauliflower is in the oven, please bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil. Once the timer reaches the 10 minute mark, throw in your pasta. The mung bean variation cooks in approximately 7 minutes. Once it is done, reserve 1 cup of the liquid, drain and transfer to another dish.

4. Your cauliflower should be approaching fenito right about now. Once finished, remove from oven and set aside somewhere to sit for a minute or two.

5. In the same pot in which you boiled the water and cooked the pasta, please add 2 TBS olive oil and set the temperature to medium heat. Now please add a pinch of salt and some cracks of pepper. Throw in your garlic. Let is sauté over the course of 3 minutes. Add the red onions. Stir them around for 2 – 3 minutes until they soften. Throw in the walnuts. Let them get toasty, again approximately 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the capers, red pepper flakes and give your mix a generous stir.

6. Please add the pasta, kale and cauliflower back into the pot along with ½ cup of the reserved water as well as the juice of two lemons. Also add the parsley at this time. Another big stir. If you need more liquid, slowly add the remaining half of the cup as needed. At this time, I put the lid on for about one minute to let it all come together. Taste and add salt / pepper as necessary.

7. Before serving, drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, chopped parsley and if you can manage it, some freshly grated Romano, Pecorino or Parmesan are magnifique.


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