Kathleen’s Kitchen: Giving thanks for this delicious soup!

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

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Butternut squash – I wait all year to make this soup.  The squash is available year round, but there’s something about waiting till Autumn to enjoy this delicious treat.  For a number of years now it’s been a family favorite as a Thanksgiving appetizer.  While it can be filling, just a small bowl before dinner awakens your palate to the flavors of Fall.

The most difficult part of this recipe is cutting the squash!  Fear not, you can purchase the squash at your local grocery store.  It’s already cut into cubes, and ready to be cooked.  You will, however, pay more for skipping a step; not to mention that you would have to buy several packages in order to equal what you would get from one whole squash.  I will confess to having bought the already-cut squash, and truth be told, I prefer buying it whole and roasting it.  The beauty of roasting it is that you really only have to make one cut, in half, lengthwise.

I found this big boy at the flea market at Englishtown, NJ.  It was so big that I was carrying it around like an infant. To give you an  idea of its’ size, I placed it next to my cup of tea for comparison.

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First, let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need; then I’ll tell you my simple method or getting the most out of your squash.

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Obviously, butternut squash – about 4 pounds – or 2 medium squash

One tart apple, such as a Granny Smith; peeled, cored, and diced. I happened to only have a Red Delicious on hand when I made this; it will do in a pinch.

One medium onion, chopped

Two tablespoons of olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon of sage

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup half and half

Now:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil.

Using a large, sturdy knife cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scape out the strings and seeds as you would if you were cutting a pumpkin at Halloween.

DSCF4589Next:  Make some criss-cross cuts on the flesh of the squash, and rub one tablespoon of the olive oil on both halves of the squash.

Sprinkle both halves generously with the salt, pepper, and sage.

Place the baking sheet in the oven, and bake till fork tender – about one hour.

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While the squash is baking in the oven, using a large pot, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onion and apple, season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally until tender – about five to seven minutes.  Remove from burner and set aside.

When the squash is ready, remove it from the oven and place on a wire rack.

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When it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out all the flesh and place it in the pot with the onion and apple. Stir to combine.  Discard the skins.

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Return the pot to the burner, add the broth and water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stirring occasionally, simmer for about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the half and half.

Using a blender, or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste, and add further seasonings if necessary.  Ladle the soup into a bowl, and garnish with croutons if desired.

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For me, this soup is a meal in itself so it doesn’t really need any accompaniment.  That’s why I say if you’re serving it before a meal, a little bit goes a long way.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Greening: And the Holiday Season Begins?

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By Catherine Moran

As the consumer culture machine grows ever more advanced, I’m seeing Christmas advertisements all over the place now, and we’re barely at mid-November! These ads serve to make me feel a little crazed. Despite the fact that I’m getting better about not buying excess Stuff, the frenzied atmosphere that precedes Christmas in the months (months!!) leading up to it can still make me feel somewhat pressured to contribute to buy in, as it were, to the idea that the holidays mean showing someone you care by giving them a new watch or gaming system.

That said, here’s a great list from the Huffington Post for gifts that are fun for kids, but won’t contribute to clutter. I found the link through the Clean Big Project’s Facebook page. It’s okay to be creative with gifts; consumer culture wants us to feel cheap if we give something such as a homemade coupon book to a friend or family member, but that’s actually more meaningful than something grabbed off a shelf. The gift giver put in the time and thought to consider the recipient’s personality, and what sorts of things would bring a smile to their face. Thought! It really does count. Keep it in mind as the holiday season festivities begin to ramp up, and stay strong.  (Of course, Stuff will inevitably creep into the equation, but remember that you vote with your dollars, so if you can, shop where it counts.)

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Happy not-yet Thanksgiving!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Goodbye, Socks?

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By Catherine Moran

My friend sent me a link to Not Socks back in August, but I’d missed it until now. It might be more helpful to have this information in the summer, when you really don’t want to be wearing socks, but, hey, maybe you can ask for a pair this holiday season to get you ready for the summer.

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While the idea behind these not-socks is a good one (they absorb foot odor and sweat, so you don’t have to worry about stinking up your soles), I’m not sure they’d be great for most shoes that I wear. I can see them being beneficial for my Toms (which, yes, you can wash, but that puts more strain on the shoe’s fabric; I know from firsthand experience), but I would still have trouble with other flats. I wear no-show socks (slip-on socks? footie socks? I have no idea what these are actually called) with some of my flats to prevent chafing at the back of the foot. The NotSocks provide anti-stink sock-like coverage for the bottom of the foot only.

The socky things I wear.

The socky things I wear.

In sum, if you like to go socks-less, these are a good option, especially because, depending on how much you sweat, you can wear Not Socks in your shoe multiple times before washing. Not too shabby (or stinky).

Until next time!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s Kitchen: There’s a first time for everything

DSCF4529By:  Kathleen Neafsey

Indeed, there’s a first time for everything!  For me, this was my first time making dumplings.  I only vaguely remember having dumplings as a kid – and even then it was because a neighbor had made them.  I don’t ever recall my mother making them as part of any meal.  I could be wrong, and my siblings may beg to differ, but that’s my memory.

Browsing through a soup cookbook (of which I have many) one day, I discovered this recipe for chicken and vegetable stew with chive dumplings. This looked like it had the potential to be delicious, so I figured what the heck!  While it can be made without the dumplings, I welcomed the opportunity to try something new.  Not rocket science, I know, but a new and gluten free experience for me.  So here’s my version of the recipe, with some modifications.

Stew ingredients:

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3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 large celery stalks, diced

1 Tablespoon flour (Gluten free, in my case)

1 cup water

3 and 1/2 cups chicken broth ( 2- 14 ounce cans)

3/4 cup milk

1- 10 ounce package of frozen peas

Dumpling ingredients:

3/4 cup Bisquick gluten-free mix

1/3 cup milk

2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine

1 egg

1/2 cup minced chives

Prepare stew:

In a small bowl, combine paprika and salt

Place chicken in a large container with lid, and pour in the paprika/salt combo.  Cover and shake so that chicken gets coated evenly.

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In a large soup or stock pot, over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil until hot.  Add chicken, and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside.

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Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to pot with drippings, and heat over medium heat until hot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until vegetables are lightly browned and tender.

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In a cup, using a wire whisk or fork, stir flour and water until blended.  Add the flour mixture and chicken broth to the pot; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Return chicken to the pot and heat to boiling.

While the chicken stew is heating up, prepare the dumplings.

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I used a large soup spoon to scoop out the dumpling dough, using another spoon to push the dough off of the first spoon and into the stew. Once all of the dumplings are in the pot, cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until the dumplings are cooked through and tender – about 25 minutes.

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To complete the stew, stir in milk and peas, heat through – another ten minutes.

I, for one, was super happy with this stew and my first attempt at dumplings.  This is the perfect meal for the cool Autumn days ahead.  It’s even better the next day – that is, if there’s any left!  The perfect way to end this meal is with last month’s recipe found here for apple crumble!

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Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Greening: Way to Go, California

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By Catherine Moran

Almost two weeks ago, California became the first state to ban plastic bags. Starting next summer, single-use bags will no longer be offered in large summer markets and grocery stores. However, according to this Huffington Post article, bags at other retailers and bags used for vegetables, fruits, meats, and do not fall under this law. Convenience stores, pharmacies, and liquor stores in CA will have until 2016 before the law takes effect for them.

Grocers will be able to charge a 10 cent fee for paper bags, although this fee will be waived for those on public assistance. And, of course, you can always spend the money one time on a reusable canvas tote, which can be washed to keep away the germs. I know I’m biased, but this news makes me very excited. What doesn’t excite me is that plastic bag manufacturers are pushing back on the law, and they’ve already amassed some support.

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Another article caught my eye this week, coming from CA, about washing out recyclables. I always do what I can to wash out my containers, but the person posing the question in this Q&A raises a good point: washing out containers is a waste of water. The respondent provides some good advice for making sure your containers are clean without wasting water: use leftover dish-washing water, use a dry paper towel (which you can compost), or use a spatula to scrap containers clean.

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My personal recommendation, however, especially during pumpkin season, is to lick the containers clean. Have a great week, greenies!

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Home Printing in the Future

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By Catherine Moran

I stumbled upon this Kickstarter project too late to be a backer, but that won’t stop me from actively seeking out this printer once it’s hit the market. But, you think, printers aren’t the most eco-friendly product on the market; if you don’t recycle the cartridges (which you can with HP printer models, either by returning them to a store or mailing them back to the company in the pre-addressed envelope that comes with each cartridge) they become trash. And they’re so big, and are made of so much plastic…

Well, the future of printing is here. Designed to appeal to those who want to print on the go, the ZUtA Labs mobile Pocket Printer also appeals to those of us looking to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives, as well as the amount of Stuff that occupies our Space. The printer has a rechargeable battery (via USB), so it doesn’t need to be plugged in to print, and it can print from smartphones, tablets, or computers; anywhere, anytime.

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The printer is still in the early stages, only able to print at grayscale at the moment, and at a lower resolution than it will ultimately. The cartridge will most likely be something easily found in your local store, so it wouldn’t be an exclusive purchase from Zuta.

While it won’t hit the market until 2015 (with a price tag around $250), this is a product I am keeping my eye on. I’d love to pass along my clunky printer that only sometimes works and takes up an excessive amount of space in my New York apartment.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kate’s Book Club: Review of Jane Feather’s Trapped at the Altar

In this first day of October 2014, I hereby call to order the 34th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate or (c) that this Kate liked a whole lot and thinks you will too. If you missed our last meeting, you want to get caught up.

This week we review Jane Feather’s Trapped at the Altar. (No there is no Kate author or character here, but this Kate read the book and felt the need to put in her two cents.)

Kate’s Book Report:

Star crossed lovers or simply a silly young maiden? When Ariadne falls for poet Gabriel Fawcett she knows the relationship is destined for a bitter end. Ariadne, heiress to the ill-gotten Catholic Fairfax fortune, and Ivan, a distant cousin and heir to the Protestant Chalfont fortune, are fated to be married—much to Ariadne’s dismay. The grandparents of the two decide to heal the religious rift in the family and finagle a better political position in the royal court, taking the choice out of both their hands. But Ari holds out hope that she will be able to decide her life for herself, and define a love of her own. Continue reading

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Kate’s Book Club: A Review of Kate Robbins’ Promised to the Highlander

In this fourth week of September 2014, I hereby call to order the 33rd meeting of Kate’s Book Club (Yes, I know we haven’t convened in a while). Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate or (c) that this Kate liked a whole lot and thinks you will too. If you missed our last meeting, you want to get caught up.

This week we review Kate Robbins new Highland Chiefs book, Promised to the Highlander.

Kate’s Book Report:

When the dark Sutherland clan leader declares open hostility on the MacKays and all of their supporters, Nessia Stephenson finds herself in grave danger. Her father brokers a marriage that will protect her from the marauders with the MacKay himself. But when Nessia comes into his household as his brother’s wife, the MacKay is faced with a force unlike any he’s ever experienced. Nessia is his dream woman come to life, and Nessia seems as much a slave to the erotic force that pulls them together as he. Continue reading

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Kathleen’s Kitchen: Non-traditionally speaking

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By:  Kathleen Neafsey

Oh yes, it’s that time of year!  Yesterday was the first official day of Fall (and my birthday!) My daughters and I try to go apple picking every year, and it has grown exponentially into a family event; there were nine of us this past weekend.  So now the search is on for the many uses of apples.

I’m not such a huge fan of apple pie.  Let me rephrase that, I’m not a huge fan of pie crust.  I know there are people that are all about the crust, and on a never ending quest for the perfect crust.  Quite frankly, I’m more about the apples, or any other filling for that matter.  Instead of opting for the traditional apple pie, my go-to is for an apple crumble.  Warm sweet and tart apples topped with yummy, buttery crumbs!  So here you have it: my basic apple crumble recipe – feel free to tweak it as you go – a little more of this, a little less of that.

Here’s what you’ll need for the filling:

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* Five or six large apples – for this one I used two Granny Smith and three Red Delicious for a mix of tart and sweet

* 1/4 cup of white sugar

* One lemon, juiced (please forgive my juice from a plastic lemon, it was all I had on hand)

* One tablespoon of Minute tapioca (this is used to bind the filling so it doesn’t become a runny mess, and can usually be found near the pudding in the grocery store)

* 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Here’s what you’ll need for the crumbs:

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* One cup of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

* One cup of all-purpose flour

* One and 1/4 cups of rolled oats

* 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

* One teaspoon of ground cinnamon

* dash of salt

* one stick (1/2 cup) of cold butter

And we’re off:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and slice the apples.  Again, non-traditionally, my apples are sliced in all shapes and sizes.  Uniformity is not my fortè.

DSCF4539Next:

Place the apples in a large mixing bowl, and add the sugar, tapioca, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Toss until the apples are coated.  Pour into a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside.

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Then:

In a large mixing bowl (I actually use the same one that I just used for the apples), mix together the nuts, flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, your hands, or two forks work the cold butter into the flour mixture until crumbs are formed.

DSCF4544Now:

Top the apples evenly with the crumb mixture, and bake for about 45 minutes – until the apples are bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown.

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Now for my favorite part:

DSCF4582Serve warm and top with your favorite ice cream! This can be stored in the fridge and you can just cut what you want and pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds to one minute to heat.

That’s it for this week.  I’m looking forward to enjoying my favorite season of the year, boots and sweaters, and the annual hunt for new apple recipes.  Happy Fall to you and yours!

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate.

 

 

 

Adventures in Greening: Pit Stop

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By Catherine Moran

I fell pretty behind in checking email this summer, which means I’m seeing a lot of great emails about many upcoming events that would have been right up my alley…if I’d seen the email two months ago.

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However, all was not lost, because I received this email from Brooklyn Based just in time for the early September heatwave. The link takes you to their review of six different natural deodorants. It’s a pretty thorough review of the six brands, and includes the Environmental Working Group cosmetic database’s toxicity rating, as well as a quick pro/con list for each. My favorite brand, Soapwalla, is featured here, and I’m not budging, but this is a good start for anyone looking for some guidance before experimenting with a more natural deodorant.

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True, it may be mid-September, but with the weather we’ve been having, it probably wouldn’t hurt to watch your deodorant game in case we have another uptick in the temperature before the month is through. Or, you know, if you tend to sometimes get sweaty.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Send Me Mail

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By Catherine Moran

It’s been an all-over-the-place sort of summer for me, so these posts have been a bit research-lite. So, I’m reaching out to ask: as the cooler months approach, and we’re all a bit more connected to our computers as we spend more time indoors, what would you like to see more of here? Product/book reviews? More adventures in cooking? I’ll be trying to include more global news about the environment, as well as more of the good stuff I’ve been including here. But I would love to hear what interests you. So, sign off in the comments, and enjoy these last few weeks of summer!

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s kitchen: Easy-peasy stove top dinner

DSCF3405By:  Kathleen Neafsey

As the dog-days of August are winding down – although to be truthful, we’ve had some pretty glorious days for late August on the East coast  – we’re beginning to tire of salads and dinners on the grill.  Personally, there are days when I just want some really hearty comfort food despite the heat. Alas, I don’t want to turn on the oven and heat up the house.  This dish is one that I’ve been throwing together for awhile now; it’s hearty and delicious without heating up the kitchen.

Another thing that makes this dish a winner is its versatility.  You can change, or add more vegetables.  I’ve made it with peas instead of green beans; my sister adds celery and carrots when she makes it. You can also cook all the components ahead of time and refrigerate them. After a long day of work, just come home and throw everything together in a large skillet and let them mingle til they’re heated throughout.

Here’s what you’ll need:

One pound sausage, pork or turkey, links or ring, sweet or hot – lots of choices!

Three large potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into chunks – I prefer red potatoes or Yukon Gold

One large onion, sliced

One can green beans

Salt and pepper to taste

First things first:

Scrub those potatoes, and cut them into -a little bigger than- bite size chunks.  Peel and slice the onion.  Rinse and drain the green beans.  Set everything aside.

Next:

Sprinkle salt in the bottom of a large skillet; add the sausage.  I learned the salt trick from my cooking teacher in high school – shout out to Mrs. Adele Thorjussen – she taught us when cooking meat to sprinkle salt in the bottom of a pan to keep it from sticking, thus avoiding any additional oil.

DSCF3396Then:

Put the potatoes in a large pot, and cover with water.  Place on medium-high heat and parboil for about 15 minutes.  You don’t want them to be cooked completely through because you’re still going to add them to the skillet with all the other ingredients and they will get too mushy.

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You’ll want to use the same method with the green beans; boil them for three to five minutes.

Using a colander, drain the potatoes and green beans together and let them hang out till they’re ready to join the sausage and onion.

When the sausage has been browned on both sides, and cooked slightly through, remove to a cutting board and slice into large chunks.  Return the sliced sausage to the skillet and add the onion.

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When the onion has become translucent, not browned, add the potatoes and green beans to the skillet.  Cover and cook on medium-low heat for another 15-20 minutes.

DSCF3403Once everything is mixed all together, season with salt and pepper to your liking.

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This was borne from not knowing what to have for dinner one day, and checking to see what I had on hand.  It’s one of my all-time favorite dishes, and it’s even better the next day as leftovers!  It’s really easy to make; there’s no added oils or rich sauces, just a wonderful melding of flavors and textures.

Well folks, enjoy the rest of your summer.  Remember your sunblock, stay cool and hydrated.  Before you know it, school bells will be ringing again and it will be time for apple picking, pumpkin picking, and a bevy of new recipes!

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate

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