Heathful by default

One of my general lifestyle goals (do I actually have such a thing? I hadn’t really thought about it until I typed out the words. I …guess?) is to make eating in a healthful manner my normal. There’s nothing wrong with some Annie’s mac and cheese with some frozen peas added — until you realize that that’s the thing you’re reaching for automatically when you don’t have anything in particular planned for dinner and that you’re going through an embarrassing number of boxes each week. So I’m talking about dishes that are genuinely good for me, really easy, and appeal to my occasionally idiosyncratic palate.

I mean, duh, who goes out and decides to pursue foods that are bad for you, difficult to make or procure, and that you don’t like? Nobody. What I’m aiming for here is a repertoire of things that are ACTIVELY good for me (like, very strict nutritionists would approve) and RIDICULOUSLY easy and VERY delicious, with bonus points given for using only ingredients that I always have around. I’m particularly interested in food that is quick to eat, as well as to prepare, since I often have things planned for the evening (knitting, typing, shaking my fists at the people outside) for which I want the use of my hands. This recipe from my previous blog for caramelized tofu fits the bill. And so does what I made for dinner last night.One thing that makes this dish as quick and easy as it is is the fact that I keep a large container of cleaned, chopped leafy greens in my fridge. It would be hard to exaggerate how much this particular action changed the way I cook and eat. If I come home late and starving (after, say, seeing the delightful smartypants Ben Goldacre talk about the placebo effect, AIDS activism in South Africa, vaccine-danger hoaxes, Tony Blair’s sex life, and other matters of scientific importance), I can be eating sauteed greens with an egg on top ten minutes after walking in the door. There are always at least two kinds in the mix — right now it’s kale and tatsoi and some dandelion greens from my dandelion houseplant experiment; I dug up a healthy plant in the park, replanted it at home and rip the leaves off every other week  — so I never feel all ‘what am I going to do with this chard?’ It’s just ‘greens,’ and they’re a constant presence.

I do all the prep work as soon as I bring the vegetables home, with the happy results that I always have greens available for a quick stir-fry or to add to soup. It helps me keep an eye on my greens consumption too; if the level in the container isn’t going down, I know I need to eat more. Which is, as a matter of fact, one reason I threw this together last night. I used walnut oil at the end just because I had bought a bottle at some point for all the good omega whatnots it has, but olive oil would work just as well. Halloumi is a magical Mediterranean cheese that you can brown without it melting, but a bit of feta or parmesan would add a similar sharp, salty richness. When I’ve seen it for sale, it’s been in shrink-wrapped blocks that are roughly 5″ x 7″. I cut two slices about 1/2″ thick off the short end and broke them into pieces about an inch big. Sometime soon, I want to cook several large batches of beans and freeze them in can-size portions to cut down further on the amount of packaging I bring into the house and BPA that I consume and increase my sense of smug self-satisfaction, but for now I’m still buying cans.

Chickpeas and Greens with Halloumi
makes 2 servings

olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 c. cleaned, chopped dark leafy greens
juice of one lemon
2 t walnut oil
2 slices halloumi, broken into pieces

Heat the olive oil in a skillet in with high sides and add chickpeas to the pan. Stir occasionally for five minutes, or until heated through. Add greens and toss or stir constantly until greens are as cooked as you prefer them. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and walnut oil. In a small frying pan, cook the halloumi until browned on both sides. Divide chickpeas and greens between two bowls and top with cheese.


  1. Gina says

    The greens and chickpeas look great. I’d never thought of adding a nice, grilled cheese — thanks!

    I like your new digs.

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