Category Archives: 50 Recipes

Beans & Greens

Gifts can be challenging. When you reach a certain point in life you most likely have everything you need. The things you want may be so specific only you know what they are. So to be safe, I tend to give people gifts which disappear. Think candles, soap, food. One of the best presents to receive (in my opinion) is a new recipe! A few years ago our friend Missy served us some beans & greens and I have been happily re-making the dish ever since.

Greens and beans with goat cheese and olive oil

If you’re from the south, or to be honest if you’re from just about anywhere in the world they have a variation on this dish, you’re probably wondering, “What is so dang special about a plate of beans and greens?!” All I can say is lucky you.

When I was growing up we only ate two kinds of beans – Boston baked beans whenever we had hot dogs* or the occasional three-bean salad served at a family picnic. One summer I was taking a course in French and unwittingly had another bean experience. After six hours of conjugations, vocabulary, and enduring what even I knew was my embarrassing mispronunciation and mangling of the French language, a fellow classmate (who was a polyglot) took pity on me. One day when class ended we went to her favorite middle eastern restaurant on the edge of campus, where she introduced me to falafel & hummus pita pockets. At the time I was too ignorant to realize hummus and falafel were both made from beans. All I knew was they tasted amazing! Plus I didn’t need to try and speak french while eating it. So while I may not have been raised on beans, I have bean converted to their yumminess.

At its core beans and greens is a simple dish. Part of what can make it extraordinary are the ingredients you use. Yes, you could use the beans you bought six years ago – and forgot about at the back of your cupboard – but would you really want to? If you are lucky there may be a more recent stash of dried beans in your pantry left over from the Pandemic shopping you did in 2020. They should be fairly fresh. Now that people have eased back on their hoarding of shelf-stable foods, finding dried beans at your local supermarket is much easier. If you are willing to go on a bean hunt, the best option of all may be to try and find some fantastic heirloom beans.**

What I love about greens & beans is the simplicity of the dish, but what has me coming back to it again and again is its versatility. Beans & greens are the culinary equivalent of your favorite pair of blue jeans plus an adorable cocktail dress, all rolled into one.

The first time I was served a bowl of beans & greens it was accompanied by a generous glug of really zippy extra virgin olive oil from California, some freshly ground pepper, along with a generous spoonful of locally made ricotta cheese which melted into the warm beans. All of that yumminess was topped off with some kale and rainbow swiss chard sautéd in olive oil with garlic. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the dish is also a proverbial food unicorn, which magically adapts to a variety of dietary choices and needs.

Vegetarians & Gluten-free – fine as is
Vegans & Dairy-free  – leave off the ricotta
Omnivores – add a grilled lamb chop or chicken breast
Pescatarian – serve with a firm fish poached or broiled

The flavors in a pot of beans get better after they sit for a day, so I always make extra. Keep in mind beans do take some time to cook. Even a fresh batch of dried beans will require a few hours of gentle simmering, though it isn’t always necessary to pre-soak newer beans. If you are unsure of your bean’s age do pre-soak them.

Beans & Greans

1 pound beans – my favorites are cannellini beans, but most any dried bean will do
small to medium sized onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 celery sticks, peeled and chopped
bay leaf
thyme, optional
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste – once the beans are cooked, not as they are cooking since salt added too early can toughen the beans

olive oil
1/2 – 2 bunches of hearty winter greens – kale, collard, swiss chard, broccoli rabe

EVO – extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ricotta or chevré
Ground pepper

Depending upon where you get your beans there may be the occasional stone found with the beans. Discard the stones unless you want yourself or one of your dinner guests to visit the dentist.

As I mentioned before, if you do not know how old your beans are I recommend soaking them in cold water (to cover by an inch) overnight. If you forget to do that, put the beans in your cooking pot and pour boiling water over them for a quick soak while you eat your breakfast. Some people throw out the soaking water, others use it to cook the beans with. It is up to you. 

With fresh (or freshly soaked beans) put in a heavy pot and cover with water. I just add the mirpoix (onion/carrot/celery), some olive oil, the bay leaf and thyme if you are using it. Conversely, you can sauté the vegetable mix in the pot first, then add the beans and cover with water. The size of my vegetables depends on how much time I want to spend slicing and dicing – some days it is microscopic, while other days it is approximately the size of peas or small chunks. Again, it is up to you.

Bring the beans to a hard boil, and boil for 10-15 minutes. Partially cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until soft or with a bit of “bite” left in them. Every so often give the beans a stir and check the water level. If the water level falls below the top layer of beans top it off with some boiling water from your tea kettle. Just remember with this dish you’re making beans with their own “gravy” rather than bean soup. 

The cooking time varies so much depending on the size, freshness, and volume of beans you are cooking. Rather than give you an exact time when they will be done, I’ll just say to fish out one bean every so often and take a bite to determine how soft it is. When the beans are al dente it is time to season with salt and pepper. Then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let everything sit for a bit while the flavors meld together. 

At some point in the bean cooking time wash your greens, de-stem them, and chop. Leaves in one pile and stems in another. I sauté the stems in olive oil first with bunch of chopped garlic. Right before it is time to eat, throw in the leaves and finish cooking. 

Serve with toppings listed above. Add a crusty loaf of bread for a filling and delicious no-fuss meal. Or have the beans and greens as a delicious side to a grilled lamb chop, piece of chicken or fish. There really aren’t any hard or fast rules on how to serve this dish. Just relax and enjoy. 

Pond at the trail head in winter
Frozen leaves and ice on a winter walk
A newly installed Mørso wood stove.

Another type of gift I like is the gift which keeps on giving. While beans & greens will keep our tummies warm, last year we finally decided to keep our house a bit warmer too. My husband’s and my gift to ourselves was a Danish Mørso wood stove. It is very small, but gives out a delicious amount of heat. After the wood stove was installed, we watched the thermometer go up, up, up. It occurred to me I no longer had to spend the entire winter wearing socks. What a concept. If our dear Jack Russell, Oliver (2007-2019) was still with us, I know he’d want his dog bed as close to the wood stove as possible.

*When eating Boston baked beans we always chanted this childish song,

Beans, beans the magical fruit.
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you’ll feel.
So eat your beans at every meal!

**This is not a sponsored post. I just happen to think Rancho Gordo beans are amazing. Yes, they are more expensive than other dried beans, but in my opinion they’re worth the price difference both for their freshness as well as the number of varieties they sell. Your greens (and your tummy) will thank you. Note as I write this post they are currently sold out of many of my favorite varieties due to all the home cooking people did while staying at home because of Covid-19 – 2020 wasn’t just about sourdough. 

Here is the last note on beans – our daughter’s new kitten, whom she named Bean. Found on Christmas Eve, after someone abandoned him in a parking lot. A one pound bag of dried beans weighed more than he did when she adopted him.
A holiday Bean.
A furry Bean.
A purring Bean.


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Just the Two of Us – Thanksgiving in the Time of Pandemic

Last week my home state of Massachusetts tried really hard to get in touch. Phone calls, text messages, even an email from Congressman McGovern. All telling us not to have Thanksgiving with anyone beyond those you live with. Seriously, their message was to lock it down. Naturally there were a few caveats for those folks who are determined to go against the recommendations. If you are someone who decides not to follow the sage advice of health officials then your ill-conceived gathering should be limited to 10 people inside or 25 people outside.

Pond alongside logging road in fall.

Here’s my truth – our house is so small if I invited 10 people inside to eat it would become a super-spreader event. Plus eating outdoors at this time of year? Brrr. I’ve been doing the al fresco, twelve-feet-apart dining (we increase the recommended distance whenever we take our masks off to eat) on those few occasions when our adult children visited us during 2020. What was lovely in June, became brisk in October, and has turned frigid earlier in November. I appreciate how fantabulous it is to see those who are dear to your heart. Even if you can’t hug them, it is wonderful just to be a masked six feet away from them. However eating outside in New England, during November is cold, really cold. So this year will just be my husband and myself at the table.


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Sunshine Milk

Marshes on Nantucket

It may be the beginning of April, though honestly March does not feel as if it were just a month ago – it feels instead like an entire year ago. Given the planet is in the middle of a pandemic my sense of time is completely skewed.

Low tide on Nantucket Island

My grandparents, and presumably yours, lived through the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19. Hundreds of thousands of people lived with the terror of Polio until a vaccine was created in 1955. Covid-19 is the most recent disease to sweep across the globe. I’m not a scientist so I have no advice to offer of how to cure this disease. Nor am I a doctor, so again, no brilliant insights of how you can attempt to avoid this disease, though there are several things you can do to help “flatten the curve”*, and I sincerely hope you are able to do them. As someone who is most often found in the kitchen, all I can offer you at this moment is a bit of sunshine in a cup. Continue reading


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Celebrating a Second Spring with Stinging Nettle Soup

Spring is an elusive season here in New England. You’ll get a 60º day, followed by days of rain, sleet, and even snow. Or Mother Nature will deliver us a handful of spring days, follow them up with a few weeks of mud season, then boom thrust into the dog days of summer. I imagine her cackling, pretending to be sorry we didn’t get more spring-like days, but really she’s not sorry one whit. Which is why it feels as if we won the weather jackpot this year.

Spring buds in Oklahoma City

After our youngest moved out of the house in January, my husband and I realized how much extra space we had. So we decided to bring our daughter all the things she’d been storing at our house, combine the massive drop-off with a mini family vacation, and gain even more space in our cozy home. Because let’s face it, to truly become empty nesters we needed the house to be emptied of all the kid’s stuff.

Weeks prior to our departure we swept through the house, finding stashes of books, clothes, art supplies, tools, sleeping bags, and letters our daughter had saved. Once it was all staged Shawn started to box it up. There were more than a few discussions where we wondered if all of her stuff  would fit in the back of the truck. Thankfully it all fit in, like some sort of crazy 3-D puzzle. And so a few days after our 25th wedding anniversary* we took off like a herd of turtles. The back seat of the truck was stuffed high with our own travel gear, a few knitting projects for the road, some books on tape, and our dog Oliver who was happily perched high atop all these bags ensuring a proper view out the window. Just 1,623 miles to the “drop off.” Continue reading


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Simple Gifts

I woke up the other morning with a list running through my head. Not a grocery list or a to-do list, but a list of several people and things I am grateful for.

Late summer plumbs in a hand-made bowl.

It feels as if, just like the cornucopia of food at the local farmer’s markets in August, I too have a bounty of blessings. The unexpected gift from a friend at church who made me a set of pottery bowls because he thinks every good cook should have a set of nesting bowls. All summer long those bowls have been filled with seasonal fruits and other yummies. The gift of father who lived a very abundant 88 years*. A husband who is willing to dumpster dive in order to find the pearl earring I lost while we were doing some demo at a volunteer job. Yes miracles do happen – he found and rescued the lost earring from a soggy shop vac bag. Plus the every day gift, which makes it that much bigger, of my wonderful family who love to eat whatever I come up with in the kitchen.

There have been challenging moments over the last few months because that’s just the teeter-totter of life, but I’m trying hard to focus on the plus side of things. One giant plus I discovered during a dinner at a friend’s house. It was a lovely, late-spring meal and since I was one of the guests who lived close by, I offered to bring a few culinary contributions. My friend Jessica tasked me with bringing the green sauce for the poached salmon plus a gluten free/dairy free dessert. I knew which green sauce I was supposed to bring, but of course me being me I began to tinker and play around in the kitchen. I arrived not only with the requested green sauce and a gf/df rhubarb crumble, but two other green sauces I thought might go well with our supper**. While all of those green sauces were yummy (trust me – I put generous scoops of all three on my plate and drizzled or dipped with abandon) the one I have been making weekly ever since that meal is Continue reading


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