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Monday Musings: 04.14.2014 April 14, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Garden, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
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At long last – we bring you the Outside All Weekend Edition!

That’s right – the snow has melted, and our Rochester weather has been absolutely gorgeous!

Besides the endless cleaning and raking in the yard and garden, that also means my first load of sheets went out on the clothesline.  There’s just nothing like crawling into a freshly-made bed with line-dried sheets, is there?

Of course, these were flannel sheets that we’ve been using this past winter, and, hopefully, I won’t be putting them back on the bed for many, many months, but still.

Clothesline!

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Of course, laundry’s not the only thing that got done this weekend.

We spent a bit of time in the garden – clearing the old brush and leaves leftover from last fall, and uncovering the garlic we put in back in September!

I just find it amazing that you can take a few cloves of garlic, stick them in the ground, let them  sit there for months in the sub-zero temperatures we had this winter, and then, almost as soon as the ground is thawed, it comes back to life.

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I’m a little late on the lettuce and peas this year – I’d have liked to have started planting a couple of weeks ago, but, unfortunately, we had a foot or more of snow on the ground. . .

I haven’t put any peas in since the year, several years back, that the peas were just starting to form on the vines and we had a hail storm, which took them all out.

This year, I’m going with a row of snow peas (above) and a row of mixed lettuce.  I put the lettuce between a couple of rows of what will be tomatoes – I figure that by the time the tomatoes need the space, the lettuce will be done anyway.  Pretty clever of me, huh?

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Once we were finally done working in the yard for the day, and I was showered and had a nice big glass of ice water, I just took a little time to enjoy sitting outside, on the deck, in the sunshine, knitting.

In addition to Peeps, I also had the company of my faithful companion – Jarly has certainly found those old cushions that we saved last year quite comfortable!

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Of course, he may be a bit of a drama queen – it really wasn’t THAT hot out there!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  The weather forecast is all over the place this week – we’ve got some rain, we’ve got some snow (!), some sun, some chilly days – its just so hard to plan at this time of year!

Monday –  We almost never have ground beef lying around, but I’ve got about a pound leftover from burgers (on the grill!) the other  night – I’m thinking of trying this Moo Shu Sloppy Joes – only instead of on rolls, we’ll probably serve it on rice.

Tuesday – We found a good sized cache of chicken in the freezer last week, and Peeps mentioned that he’d really like the cinnamon-honey tenders that we haven’t had in simply AGES.  I’m not sure what we’ll have with them, though – probably some broccoli (seem to be the vegetable of convenience lately) and, I don’t know, some sort of grain or potato or something.

Wednesday –  We’d initially intended to make pork ragout with some leftovers from a pork roast, but it turned out the roast (a) was smaller than we’d have liked, and (b) had a big old bone in it.  There won’t be enough leftovers for that sauce.  However, because I always try to stay on top of things, I think I’m going to take that big old bone, throw it in the pressure cooker with some chicken stock, and then take whatever leftovers we do have and make a lovely, porky soup or stew.

Thursday – A while back, I saw this recipe for black bean burgers – we do try to eat meatless once a week, and sometimes we actually succeed!  While not exactly in keeping with our Minimal Effort Thursday policy, it just might work if I make the burgers ahead of time!

Friday – Which brings us back to pizza night – a night to park ourselves in front of the TV with our pizza and Jar with his Kong, and just sit back and relax.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 07.22.2013 Edition July 22, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Garden, meal plan monday, Musings.
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So here we are, deep in the Dog Days of summer!

Wow, have we had some heat around here!  Temperatures have been right around 90 most of last week, and they’ve only just dropped down to something manageable.  It’s been feeling downright tropical around here!

Speaking of tropical .  . . a few weeks ago, I decided to try to root a pineapple top. I’ve never done it before, though my grandmother used to grow pineapples as houseplants for as long as I can remember.

I must admit, though, it doesn’t seem to be doing much.  But I”m going to take that as a good sign – after all, it’s alive!  It seems that my house is, for the most part, where houseplants come to die.

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After our minimal trip to the supermarket this morning, I rounded up Peeps and his mom, and we went picking blueberries.

Since I still have some berries left in the freezer from last year, I tried not to get too carried away.  But I will admit, this is shaping up to be a fantastic year for blueberries!  They’re plentiful and sweet and just gorgeous!

I’m going to try dehydrating some – I don’t know how it’ll work, but it’s worth a try, right?
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The same goes for the 5 pounds of apricots we picked in, oh, about 5 minutes.  The trees were LOADED!  And I so love my apricot preserves, too!

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Do you ever just sort of get to the end of the week, and it’s Saturday, and it’s hot, and you’ve been running around all day, and you’ve got a fridge full of leftovers, and you’re tired and you just don’t feel like thinking about dinner?  But you REALLY don’t feel like just reheating leftovers?

Yeah, that’s pretty much every Saturday around here, too.

Do you know that you can pretty much toss anything into pasta?

We cooked up a pound of spaghetti, tossed together a quick lemon cream sauce (er, basically lemons and half & half), then tossed in the leftover grilled salmon and some leftover fresh peas, and BAZINGA!   Tasty, tasty dinner PLUS getting stuff out of the fridge.

Pay no attention to the two lunch-sized containers of leftover pasta, though, okay?

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How about a garden update?

Do you see this?  It’s red!  The main reason I’ve been planting cherry tomatoes lately is that they come in so much earlier than “real” tomatoes – and at this point in the season, ANY fresh, ripe tomato is more than welcome, as far as I’m concerned!

I refuse to buy over-priced, under-flavored out-of-season tomatoes, and by the time they start appearing in the farmers’ markets, well, I know my own tomatoes will be here soon, so I just usually make myself wait.
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After all, doesn’t this beauty look worth waiting for?

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And, as long as we’re in the garden – LOOK!  Potato flowers!

I’ve never actually grown potatoes in my garden before, but the potato lady at the market tells me that the blossoms mean the plants are starting to form the potatoes underground.  And once the plants start dying, then it’s time to harvest.   I’m already getting excited!

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The brown-eyed Susans seem quite happy next to the composter, wouldn’t you say?

Alas, so do the weeds.  Eh.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  The heat wave has finally broken, at least for now, so we plan to enjoy it.    We do love grilling when it’s not too hot – plus it makes for quicker cleanup!

Monday – We’ve got some mild Alaskan whitefish that will be nice (and quick) on the grill. Nothing fancy, probably just a little salt and pepper.  Maybe we’ll chop some fresh herbs – goodness knows  I’ve got ’em to burn!  We’ll steam some barley to go with the fish (why not?) and something green – either salad or beans.

Tuesday – It is supposed to rain Tuesday, so that’s the perfect night to clear some stuff out of the fridge – specifically, the better part of a lamb roast . Peeps suggested hash, which we can easily do, including the rest of the leftover peas.  I may even poach an egg or two, if I’m feeling ambitious!

Wednesday – We’ve got some pork chops that we’ll grill, then finish with some of the mole sauce I made last summer. Rice alongside, ideally Mexican rice, but more realistically, probably just plain white rice.  Salad?  Perhaps.

Thursday – On our “Eat Me” list is some of Peeps’s smoked brisket from last summer.  After all, it’s smoking season again, so it only makes sense to get rid of last year’s stuff first, right?  Probably some mashed or pan-roasted potatoes, and maybe some kale.  I’m getting tired of even thinking about green beans!

Friday – And again, it’s Kong and pizza night!  I wish I could plan on fresh tomatoes, and maybe I’ll be able to slice some cherry tomatoes, but more likely, it’s going to be just herbs and good olive oil and cheese. Not a bad pizza at all, if I do say so myself.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 06.10.2013 Edition June 9, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Big Lug, Cooking, Food, Garden, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff, Shopping With Peeps.
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Isn’t it amazing how quickly time flies when you’re busy?  And BOY have we been busy lately!

Jar’s got the right idea, though, I think.  After a GRUELING tracking class (not really grueling, but he worked pretty hard), and a last-minute obedience class, by the time he finished dinner, he was done.  He crashed on his bed and barely moved for the rest of the evening – in fact, he never even came upstairs for bed!

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Boy, you take your eyes off that herb garden for a few days and it just goes CRAZY, doesn’t t?

Tarragon trying to take over, sage blossoming all over the place, and the MINT is trying to make a break for it!

Don’t even get me started on the random dill popping up all over the place.
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It may be had to tell, but I did make a bit of progress in imposing order on that mess!  I did some weeding, trimmed the sage, and tied up the tarragon.

I didn’t have the heart to rip up that runaway mint – though I’ll probably be sorry later, won’t I?

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Speaking of gardens and imposing order . . . I finally had a chance to do some work in the vegetable garden this weekend, too.  The beans, in front here, are up and doing beautifully, and the potatoes, which you can’t really see WAY at the back, are also mostly doing well – I think a couple of the plants didn’t come up (yet?), but the ones that are there are very happy!  I also thinned the kale, so we’ll be enjoying a baby kale salad in the near future, probably with some sort of mustard-y vinaigrette.

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I’ve got tomato blossoms!  You know what this means, right?

It means it’s only a matter of time (well, less time than it was, anyway) until  I’m out there picking my very own fresh tomatoes and making plans for that summertime favorite – BLTs from scratch!

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Speaking of BLTs – I did plant some lettuce, though it’s not doing spectacularly.

And apparently, my compost has gifted me with some of last year’s seeds – and the little volunteer looked so happy there trying to blend in with the lettuce, I just didn’t have the heart to pull it.

I have no idea what it is, though if I had to guess, I’d say it’s either got to be a winter squash or a melon.  Maybe.

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How about a quick Shopping With Peeps?  (Sort of, anyway.)

How do you like our Summer Snow?  The parking lot of the supermarket this morning was just absolutely loaded with piles and drifts of the stuff!

Here in the Rochester, NY area, we seem to have an alarming number of cottonwood trees – which wouldn’t be such a bad thing, really, unless you’re allergic to the stuff.

Yeah, I’ll spend the next few weeks blowing my nose and itchy-eyed.  But I’m used to it by now, I guess.

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We had an absolutely gorgeous weekend, and Peeps grabbed the opportunity to smoke some pork – some bacon, some pork loin, and some pork shoulder.  (You know, since the smoker was going anyway, might as well do it all, right?)

He even had some help, too!  Jar wanted to help carry, but Peeps had it under control.

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Meanwhile, I’m starting to get more than a little tired of walking around Jar’s unfinished feeder-to-be, so I hauled it out to the deck and sanded the daylights out of it and put a coat of paint on the inside.  I’ll give that a chance to dry, then finish painting it.

And if I’m smart, I’ll add a coat of polyurethane or something equally slobber-resistant.

I’m just not sure yet if I’m that smart. . .

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And of course it wouldn’t be Sunday without a nice bone in the back yard for Mister Fuzzy Butt (speaking of  fuzzy butt – OH the SHEDDING!)

I stopped at the butcher shop, and when I asked the butcher to cut the bones in half because his tongue wouldn’t fit all the way inside, well, the guy thought I was a little nuts.

So  I didn’t tell him I was buying a box of Honey Nut Cheerios to use as treats. . .

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When I cleaned the daylights out of the herb garden, I ended up hacking down a TON of sage.  So I salvaged half a dozen leaves, added to them the zest of half a lemon, some black pepper and some sea salt, and I chopped them all together.

I figure that’ll be a lovely rub for some pork chops that are going on the grill – after all, you didn’t think Peeps had smoked ALL of the pork, did you?

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Last week was a looong week, and this week looks like it’s going to be more of the same.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you – just a little tired.

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So, most of the week is looking fairly decent – in fact, I’d go so far as to say we couldn’t ask for much nicer weather – except the couple of rainy days, of course.  But even that, we can live with – after all, the garden needs the water, right?

Monday –  Peeps requested Breakfast For Dinner, so we dusted off an old favorite lemon-ricotta pancake recipe, and we’ll work on finishing up the last of the oldest bacon in the freezer (if there is any).   I may even get ambitious and make some kind of blueberry sauce for the pancakes – that’ll be good, right?

Tuesday – Since it’s going to be rainy, and since we wanted something meatless (or mostly meatless, anyway), and since we loved the idea when we got the newest Cook’s Country magazine, we’re going to try their Corn Chowder makeover – which apparently the ENTIRE INTERNET has not yet heard of.

I’ll let you know how it goes. . .

Wednesday – Did I mention we smoked a pork loin this weekend?  We did.  And that got me thinking about Cuban sandwiches, and how they’re made with pork loin and supposed to be kind of squished, which made me think about that so-good-but-so-bad panini that I haven’t made in AGES – so we’re going try a Cuban-ish panini-ish sort of thing.  Smoked pork loin and kale and onion relish and cheese, with wild garlic pesto mayo on semolina, grilled panini-style.  With maybe some potato salad and green salad on the side

Thursday – I’ve got another “thing” after work, so I’ll be home for dinner, but just barely.  So after Kay‘s comment the other day, we realized that we hadn’t grill-spatchcocked a chicken in a while.  Peeps will deal with that, along with some pan-roasted little potatoes and some green beans from the freezer – a lovely dinner after a LONG day!

Friday – As always, Friday is pizza night – last week, I enjoyed wild garlic and asparagus, which was great.  This week, maybe there will be a bit of roast pork or chicken, otherwise I’m sure I can manage to rustle up a few fresh herbs. . .

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 03.17.2013 Edition March 18, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, Eating Down the Fridge, Garden, meal plan monday, Musings.
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I noticed the other day that my garlic was starting to peek up!  I was going to take a picture at the time, but then it snowed.

The snow melted, but we had time-change and it was always too dark in the morning.

Then it snowed again, but the snow melted AND I managed to scoot out to the garden with the camera, so . . . hey, look, garlic sprouts!

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The sprouting garlic reminds me that the winter is nearly over – yay!  However, it also reminds me that, if I want to make chicken stock, I should do it sooner rather than later – it’s just foolish not to take advantage of the cold nights and chill the stock on the deck overnight.

Plus, of course, it’s always appreciated when I salvage the meat from the leg quarters and have treats for the, um, children.

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Speaking of whom. . .

We’re still continuing our tolerance training – it’s amazing how well everyone gets along when they’re being feed bits of chicken, isn’t it?  I swear, the cat practically climbs in my lap, with the dog right there watching – and waiting patiently for his turn!

By the way, please pay no attention to the red socks and purple shirt combination!  I’m not much of a fashion plate at that hour of the morning!

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Embarrassing confession time.

You know how, around the holidays, all the supermarkets are practically giving away turkeys?  You know, a whole bird for 29 cents a pound with a $25 purchase, or some such foolishness?

Well, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve bought a turkey – there are only the two of us, after all.

Or, um, maybe it’s been more than a couple of years.   It’s amazing what you’ll find when you dig around in the bottom of the chest freezer!  Fortunately, the bird’s been safely in its original cry-o-vac packaging, so it’ll be just fine, safety-wise, anyway.

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Say, Jarly’s been doing very well in his obedience class – again!

This is the “advanced” class, and the intention is to train the dogs to be SO obedient that they can perform off-leash.  In public, or, more specifically, in a room full of people and other dogs.

And, given Jar’s particular history, the “other dogs” part is the biggest challenge!

However, this week, he worked very hard – he did all of the exercises he was asked to do, AND he heeled properly – in the proper position, ignoring all distractions (like the room full of strange people and dogs), and he did it without his leash!

Our boy enjoyed his well-deserved nap!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  I am hoping that after this week, things will settle down for me at work for a little while.  I am SO TIRED of going in early, working late, and, worst of all, having no time at all for my normal slacking!

Monday – I picked up a few more Meyer lemons last week, and, rather than let them go to waste, we’ve been using them here and there.  We’ll finish them up in an old favorite from Cook’s IllustratedSpaghetti al Limone.

Tuesday – Since winter is winding down (really!) Peeps mentioned that we hadn’t made our favorite pork sugo in a while –  we’ll have some for the freezer when we’re done (just what I need!), and I’ll probably send some home with the Boy the next time he stops by for something.  That’s what moms do, right?

Wednesday – Since we’re kind of grooving on old favorites this week, I guess some white chili is in order.  Besides, I have GOT use some of those beans!  We’ll use some cooked turkey instead of chicken.  Obviously.

Thursday –  Of course, we can’t roast a turkey without making hot turkey sandwiches.  We’re not barbarians!

Friday – Friday night is always pizza night – I have decided that olive oil, ricotta cheese and salami, with mozzerella or provolone, is my favorite pizza of all.  At least it is at the moment.  And I’ve got just enough ricotta filling for ONE more pizza night.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Fresh from the Garden January 24, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Garden.
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In JANUARY – can you believe it?

Remember how, a couple of weeks ago, we were enjoying some unseasonably balmy weather, so I went out and finished harvesting my kale?

Of course, THIS week, we’re dealing with single-degree temperatures and, well, the only gardening that’s getting done is that I may water the Valentine’s Day cactus soon.

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I held back about half a pound of fresh kale before we went on our blanching and freezing spree – after all, what’s the fun of having fresh kale in January if you don’t actually use it, right?

However, it is January, and we are in upstate New York, so the safest bet is in soup.   And we do love soup.

I opted to try a new recipe – this one from what is apparently becoming my new favorite website – Vegetarian Times.

A little less meat never hurt anyone!

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So the cool thing about this KALE soup is that we start out with one stealthy potato.

It’s like a bonus – you think you’re going to make kale soup, and you get kale and POTATO soup!  That single russet potato actually helps thicken the soup very nicely.

We sliced the potato thin (about 1/4 inch), then it, along  with all of the flavoring agents (ginger, garlic, jalapeños, coriander, and turmeric), along with the chopped kale stems (if you haven’t already gotten rid of them because you were cleaning a five-gallon bucket full of kale), and saute it a bit in some vegetable  oil, then add some vegetable broth to cook until the potatoes are soft.

Here’s the thing, though.

I did have some vegetable broth, but I used it up the last time I made some vegelicious thing.  So, in the interest of full disclosure, I used chicken stock instead, so this isn’t strictly vegetarian soup.

Think of it as bi-vegetarian.

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So. . .

Once the potatoes were mostly cooked, now we add the kale.  A whole pot full of the stuff!

And you know the really sad thing?  This barely made a dent in what I had picked that day.

The other really sad thing?

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After about 3 minutes in the broth, the big old pot full of bright leafy greens became a little bitty pot not even close to full of cooked-down greens.

That’s just how it goes, I guess.

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The pot of soup-to-be simmers for about 20 minutes – until the potatoes are fall-apart done, and the greens are nicely tender.

Then we added about 3/4 cup of tomato sauce – I used the stuff I made last summer.  If I were buying it, I’d just go with one of those little cans and call it good.  As it is, I had half a pint of tomato sauce left over, give or take,  to find something to use it in.

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Once we checked seasoning, and  everything was cooked, well, then we took the stick blender to it.

Gosh, that thing is cool, isn’t it?  It’s so much easier than hauling out the real blender, then, even worse, cleaning it!

So we blended the soup, and we got it all nice and smooth (and green!) and we tried it and thought, “you know, this soup needs some texture.”

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And, since I’d just picked up some chick peas at the public market, I soaked them, and Peeps cooked them the next day, at which time we just dumped them right in the soup.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t think to pick up at the market was a cucumber, so the cucumber raita was kind of out of the question.

(Aside:  does anyone know – is there a difference between raita and tzatziki, other than the herb/spice used?  Seems like pretty much the same thing to me.)

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So, since we were cucumber-less, we just put a dab of plain yogurt on top, along with a quick squeeze of lemon juice, and it was good, chicken stock notwithstanding.

I think, in the future, I’d probably double the spices – or at least the ginger.  By the time everything was cooked, those bold Indian flavors were kind of washed out.  It definitely needed that bit of lemon juice to brighten the flavor, too – and the yogurt helped boost the creaminess.

All in all, though, this Kale Shorba was a very nice use of fresh kale!