Every year thousands of people with questionable sanity decide to spend the month of November writing a novel.  The project starts at on November 1 and ends at midnight November 30th and involves putting 50,000 at least semi-coherent words on the page.  This is about gonzo writing – forget fine editing and good writing, those are for another time.  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is for writing that novel you’ve been talking about writing for years, or at least trying to.  Of course the possibility of finishing the ~175 pages in a month is related to how much time and mental energy you have available for writing.  I didn’t get very far last year – and my story was so bad even I didn’t want to read it.  But this year it’ll be all new.  It starts tonight at midnight – are you ready?  Are you writing?  For details and to register check out

Try one of these easy, quick, warming, filling, healthy recipes for inspiration, to keep your energy up, or just for fun. 

Coconut Curry with Turnips

  • 1 bunch turnips
    1 onion
    2 stalks celery
    1 large sweet potato
    2 medium white potatoes
    1 can coconut milk
    1 cup Jasmine rice
    1 cup lentils
    2 Tbs curry powder
    1/4 tsp cayenne powder
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp salt
    4 cups water

Cut turnips and peeled onion into chunks. Slice celery. Peel and cut potatoes into chunks the same size as the turnips and onions. Put all the vegetables into a large pot (this can also be done in a slow cooker or in a casserole in the oven.) Add coconut milk, rice, lentils, spices, and salt. Stir, then add the water. If you are cooking in a pot, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and rice are cooked through. This should take about 1-2 hours. If you are using a slow cooker it will take considerably longer, same with making a casserole on low heat in the oven.

Garlic Kale with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar

  •  1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh kale
  • 2-5 cloves garlic, depending on your taste
  • 1 large can chopped tomatoes, drained – save the juice
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (capers)

Wash but don’t dry the kale.  Rough chop it.  Peel and slice garlic.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in sauté pan with a lid on medium high heat.  Add garlic to the hot oil and let cook for a minute or two until aromatic but not brown.  Add wet kale to pan, mix well then cover.  Cook for a couple of minutes, open lid, stir kale, add tomatoes then cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  If the kale seems dry, add a little saved tomato juice as needed.  Add the vinegar, cook uncovered for another 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add capers, if you are using them.  Serve hot, either as a side dish or on top of polenta or pasta.

Turmeric Cucumbers with Romaine Lettuce

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 Tbs turmeric
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • several grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups finely chopped Romaine lettuce

Peel cucumbers then cut in half lengthwise and slice.  Toss the cucumbers with the turmeric, salt, pepper, olive oil.  Let stand for at least an hour.  When ready to serve toss the cucumbers with the chopped lettuce.  Eat.  Turmeric is very good for the body – including as an anti-toxicant and anti-inflamatory.  Just what you need after eating a lot of Halloween candy and getting tired hands from writing.

Parsnip Soup? Yes, Indeed.

Ok, so what do you do when your CSA gives you lots of parsnips?  I mean LOTS and just say no one in your family especially loves them.  What do you do?  You turn them into delicious soup.  Here’s a recipe.  Yum, yum good.

Puree of Parsnip and Brown Onion Soup

  • 3 large parsnips
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper, plus more as needed to taste
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they are brown.  Be careful not to burn them but let them get nice and brown.  A lot of the soup’s flavor will come from this caramelization.  While onions are browning, clean and trim turnips.  (You can peel them if you like but since you are going to puree this soup you can also leave the skins on.)  Cut turnips into 1/2″ pieces and set aside.  When onions are brown add the nutmeg, turmeric, and black pepper.  Let spices toast for a minute or two, stirring a couple of times so they don’t burn.  Add the parsnip and water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain a low boil.  Cook at least an hour or until parsnips are soft.  Puree in a blender, you can leave some small chunks in the soup or puree until very smooth, as you like.  Put in pot, taste and season with extra pepper and salt.  Serve hot with crusty French bread, green salad, burgers, baked potatoes, with dumplings floating or croutons or plain.  This soup has that sweet parsnip taste, a lovely yellow color, a rich brown onion aroma, and a potato-like texture.

Soup’s On!

So far, here on the Front Range of Colorado, we’ve had very few shivery cold moments this fall.  But they are a-comin’.  And as the evenings draw in earlier and the night chill sets in around dinner time soup is on my mind.  Here is a very easy and very delicious soup you can make without much advance planning and can vary to your own taste and what’s in your fridge.  Enjoy.

Italian Spinach Egg Drop Soup

  • ½ lb small cut pasta
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5-6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra parmesan for passing
  • lemon wedges

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, drain, cool, and set aside.  Chop garlic and then heat in broth until boiling.  Add pasta and spinach, cook until spinach is wilted, 3-4 minutes.  Beat the eggs then drizzle into the boiling soup.  Use a fork to break up large strands of egg.  Cook another 5 minutes then add the pasta, stir in the cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot with extra cheese and lemon wedges on the side.  This is great with a crusty loaf of bread for dipping.

Variations:  You can use chicken stock and add small pieces of cooked chicken.  You can also add 1 cup cooked cannellini beans (small white beans) when you add the pasta and spinach.  You can use cooked tortellini instead of plain pasta.  You can make it spicy with some red chili flakes added with the garlic.  Be creative, mangia.

More Fennel

Pesto is usually made with basil and pine nuts, but not always.  Try this fennel and cashew pesto for a change.  Eat it on pasta, baked as a smothering for fish, as a dip for veggies, spread on bread and toasted with parmesan cheese, stirred into vegetable soup, spread on chicken, etc. 

Fennel and Cashew Pesto

  • 1 large handful of fennel fronds, washed and squeezed dry
  • 1 small handful roasted and salted cashews (or you can use almonds, pistachios, pine nuts)
  • 1 large clove garlic, optional
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Into the blender or food processor put the fennel, the nuts, the garlic, and a little oil.  Start it and run the machine.  As it chops and turns into a rich paste add a thin drizzle of oil until you get the consistency you like (it should be like a loose paste, not as thin as a sauce.)  Add salt and pepper to taste, mix in well.  This will last, well covered, in the fridge 4-5 days.  You can also freeze well.

Fish Chowder with Green Butter Dumplings

Not much preamble here, just good, hearty soup.

Fish Chowder with Green Butter Dumplings

for the chowder:

  • 1 lb cod
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 cups corn kernels, I use white and yellow frozen
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot
  • 1 large stalk celery
  • (1/4 cup fresh fennel bulb, this is optional but is very nice in the soup)
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

for dumplings:

  • 1 egg
  • 5 Tbs flour
  • 2 Tbs butter, very soft but not melted
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 small dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped or shredded greens (you can use spinach, beet greens, chard, even parsley)

Peel and chop the onion into small pieces; trim and cut the potatoes into small pieces (you can use them skin-on if the skin is good); halve then thinly slice the garlic; cut the cod into chunks; peel or scrub the carrot then cut into thin half moons; wash and chop the celery into small pieces; chop the fennel into small pieces.  Put all of this into a large soup pot with the corn and the water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook at a slow boil for about an hour.  While this is cooking, make the dumplings.  Beat the egg in a bowl with a fork then mix in the flour.  When it is all incorporated beat in the butter then all the seasonings.  Mix in the greens and allow this to sit for at least 15 minutes.  Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil then reduce heat to keep it at a low boil.  Drop 1/2 teaspoon sized balls of dough into the boiling water.  They should float pretty quickly, remove from water with a slotted spoon then set aside on a plate.  When everything in the soup is soft whisk the flour into the milk until it is all smooth.  Gradually pour the milk/flour mix into the soup in a thin stream.  Stir soup well and allow to simmer at least 15-25 minutes, stirring every few to make sure the soup isn’t sticking.  When the soup has thickened and the flour flavor is cooked off, drop the dumplings into the soup to heat up.  Serve hot with crusty bread.  Or corn bread.  Or nothing at all on the side, it is THAT good.