Skillet Enchiladadas with Black Beans and Butternut Squash

Yum, yum, yum, yum. This is super easy and ridiculously delicious. Thanks to Ambitious Kitchen for this one.

A healthy vegetarian Mexican-inspired dinner — butternut squash and black bean enchilada skillet. Ready in less than 30 minutes! 13g fiber & 16g protein per serving!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced, peeled butternut squash (from about a 2-lb. squash)
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 – 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 yellow corn tortillas, cut into thick strips
  • 1-15 ounce can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup reduced-fat colby jack or mexican cheese (or whatever you prefer), divided
  • cilantro and low-fat sour cream, for serving

Instructions:

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large oven-proof skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add cubed squash, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is slightly tender, 10-13 minutes. You want the squash to be fork tender, but not so tender that it starts to fall apart and become mush.

Next add the black beans, corn tortilla pieces, and can of enchilada sauce and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle in 1/2 cup of cheese. Stir again and simmer for a few minutes. Turn on your oven broiler to high. Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup of cheese over the top of the enchilada mixture and place in oven under broiler for 3-5 minutes until cheese melts and tortilla edges become a tiny golden brown. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Feel free to add in cilantro. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, or hot sauce! Enjoy!

In full disclosure, I didn’t add the corn chips to the mixture. I add everything except the chips, grill it and then serve with wraps.

Check out Ambitious Kitchen for more delicious recipes!

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Poem of the Week: Ars Poetica, by Aracelis Girmay via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Ars Poetica, by Aracelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.
 
Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record
 
of the foot’s silver prayer.
I lived once.
Thank you.
It was here.

Thanks to Alison for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

For more information on Aracelis Girmay, please click here.

alisonmcghee.com

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Poem of the Week: The Copper Beech, by Marie Howe via Alison McGhee Poetry Mistress

The Copper Beech, by Marie Howe

Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.

 

A big thank you to Alison for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

For more information about Marie Howe, please check out her website.

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@alisonmcgheewriter

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Poem of the Week: Calling Him Back from Layoff, by Bob Hicok via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Calling Him Back from Layoff, by Bob Hicok

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I’m OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that’s a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones

hear?

 

A big thanks to Alison for sharing these heartbreaking poems.

For more information on Bob Hicok, please click here.

To listen to Words by Winter, my new poem and storytelling podcast, click here.

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Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter

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Scallop Tom Kha Thai Soup

I tried this last night and loved it! Of course I changed the recipe and used prawns instead of scallops and added garlic and onion and served it with brown rice. But that was it!  It’s definitely a keeper. Wait a minute I also substituted chicken for veggie stock and I used only one can of coconut.

This was passed on from a friend who found it in Coastal Living magazine.

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How to Make It

Step 1

Combine stock, coconut milk, lemongrass, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer, and discard solids.

Step 2

Return coconut milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil over high. Stir in mushrooms, sambal oelek, lime juice, fish sauce, and honey. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until mushrooms are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in scallops, 2 tablespoons of the basil, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Divide mixture evenly among 6 bowls, and top with remaining 2 tablespoons each basil and cilantro. Drizzle with chili oil, if desired, and serve immediately.

 

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Pandemic Daze: A World Without Crowds

vegas-strip-e1584633437836.jpg
AP Photo credit John Locher

If you had told me earlier this year that cities across the world would look like this, I would have said it couldn’t be possible. Nothing could bring down the inexorable momentum of population growth, a growing economy thirsty for consumers to buy, buy buy and a rapidly urbanized landscape with all of its concommitant issues like traffic congestion, economic hardship for growing numbers of vulnerable people, climate change and so on and so on.

Many of us are extraordinarily lucky to live in countries with healthy economies, working democracies, access to healthcare and social safety nets. But here we are. In a matter of weeks the entire global economy has been brought to its knees, and the economic and social systems we  built to support this wonderful world we have created, have all but collapsed. Inequality, dying democracies, dying social and environmental systems, climate refugees, and piles of garbage we don’t know what to do with. The pandemic has shown us many things but one of them is how fragile this world we built is.

I don’t think it’s ever been more evident how interwoven and interdependent our environment, social and economic systems are. The failure of one signals the failure of the other. The current crisis has revealed deep schisms, that we likely already knew were there but chose to ignore or don’t really know what to about.

How do we put Humpty Dumpty back together again? On a hopeful level I don’t think there has ever been a greater demonstration that the exploitation of wildlife, that incursions and destruction of habitat, that trophy hunting, Chinese traditional medicine with its extensive and unproven use of wildlife for so called medicinal purposes, that wet markets, that all of these combined together are destructive not only to the species that are exploited but for our planet as an ecosystem that includes humans. We are all vulnerable. By connecting the dots we can start telling a different story, and by telling a different story we can collectively create pathways to a better future for all. Part of that story is bridging the economic divide that drives behaviour and part of it is education. Alot of it is political will.

In Canada we know that seniors have been left to languish in private care homes owned in many cases by foreign corporations that have been grossly underserved, leaving many left to die difficult and lonely deaths. This is an opportunity to do something different. Let’s do this differently.

The residents of the homeless tent city in the downtown Eastside have been found temporary homes. Why can’t we find permanent homes for vulnerable people? Why does it take a pandemic?

The money flowing from our federal government coffers shows me one thing. That a guaranteed income for economically disadvantaged people is possible. Let’s keep making that possible.

On a micro level I see how we are digging in to the things that matter most. None of them are involve running to the mall to buy more clothes or stuff but instead staying close to home, embracing really simple things like hanging out together, baking bread (if you can get your hands on yeast), discovering birds, hoping to god that nobody that we know will get COVID19, phoning people to make sure they’re not lonely, and being kind.

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Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce

My sister introduced me to this and now I can’t stop making it. You can find this and some other fantastic recipes on her website here. For anyone who ever wondered how to make crispy tofu, put the oil away. This is easy, fast and super delicious.  I’m what my brother calls a ‘radical’ cook, a nice way of saying I can’t follow recipes. For this recipe I used tablespoons instead of teaspoons for the marinade.

Happy Eating!

Ingredients

Tofu

  • 14 oz extra firm tofu (preferably organic, non-GMO)
  • 1 tbsp Bragg’s
  • 1 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • cornstarch

Peanut Sauce

  • 2 ½ tbsp creamy peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter)
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    Start pressing tofu using a tofu press, or wrap in clean, absorbent towel and set something heavy — like a cast iron skillet or books — on top to press out the moisture. Press for about 15-20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare peanut sauce by combining peanut butter, Bragg’s, chili garlic sauce, lime juice, maple syrup, and sesame oil in a small mixing bowl and whisking thoroughly to combine. Set aside.
  3. Cut pressed tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and add to a large plate. Top with Bragg’s, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, and maple syrup. Gently toss to combine using hands or a spoon. Let marinate 2-3 minutes, stirring/tossing occasionally.
  4. Use a slotted spoon or your hands to transfer tofu to a paper bag. Add cornstarch 1 tbsp at a time and toss to coat. Continue adding more cornstarch and tossing until tofu is coated in a gummy, white layer.
  5. Transfer tofu to the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping at the 18-minute mark to encourage even baking. It should be firm to the touch, firm on the edges, and slightly browned on the exterior once removed from the oven. Bake slightly longer if needed.
  6. Heat a large metal or cast iron skillet (12 inch) over medium heat. Once hot, add tofu and the peanut sauce. Toss to coat. Stirring frequently, sauté the tofu for about 2 minutes, or until the tofu is hot and well coated with peanut sauce.

 

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Poem of the Week: True Enough, by Jim Moore via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

True Enough, by Jim Moore

I have forgotten many things.
But I do remember
the bank of clover along the freeway
we were passing thirty years ago
when someone I loved made clear to me
it was over.

 

For more information about poet Jim Moore, please check out his website.

Thanks as always to Alison for sharing these beautiful poems. Visit Alison here.

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Pandemic Daze

I often find myself dreaming of pre-pandemic days, that three weeks in, already feel so far away. Maybe a part of me knows that nothing will go back to normal. There will be a new normal that we will all quickly adapt to.

I already know so well how to walk amongst others outside- giving way on narrow forest paths so we can maintain the 2 metres of separation. I know to cover my mouth if a jogger passes by too quickly, to not take the elevator, to wash my hands over and over and over again until they’re almost raw.

Photography – Dave Vanderkop

Like Ebenezer Scrooge I take a deep account of the virus that inhabits our invisible world.

This is how I know things have changed.

Every evening at 7:00 o’clock when my neighhourhood erupts into applause, and somewhere I hear drums and a distant saxophone, someone else is beating on a cake pan (maybe Nancy on the 4th floor), and occasionally the boats out front sound their horns in honour of the frontline workers who risk themselves and their families hour after hour, day after day, to help others.

It’s the vulnerability of the new world that strikes me as well. The small businesses collapsing after only weeks of economic shutdown, entire lives, savings and dreams lost. They scramble to offer goods and services in a way that assures the public they are implementing the strictest of social distancing measures and still they struggle. Everyone wants to stay home.

And then there is the gentleman we passed the other day coming out of his beautiful home, an Audi and a Mercedes parked out front. He was clutching his dog as he opened his door and we said hello.

“How are you?” I said too late to notice that he wasn’t fine and he answered, please don’t ask and off he went into the early evening clutching his small dog.

I think about the days just before the pandemic shut down the world and the global economy.

In January we sang together over a thousand strong at an old theater in Vancouver with Choir Choir Choir. The theme was the sound of the eighties, our song was “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. Our voices were raw at the end of the night but the feeling of community of coming together in song was powerful. When Choir Choir Choir invited their fans to join in a socially distanced sing along, I grabbed my computer and sang alone, together with many thousands from around the world, my voice ringing out loud and hollow inside my home.

I met a colleague at his office just over a month ago, he shook my hand and gave me a hug. “Did you read the news?” he said wide-eyed. “Yes,” I said. “Scary.”

“I won’t be going to China soon.” he answered.

And then we went to a small meeting room and chatted about the project we were working on together. And I think about how foreign that feels now even though it happened just over a month ago.

I remember walking with my sister. I wanted to show her Reub’s swimming hole, the path we walked together with him for years. I knew her new toddler dog Houston would appreciate this walk. So we met, hugged and walked together down the winding forest path, to the quick running river where Reub used to swim.

We hugged afterwards and she thanked me for showing her this great new place. We promised to see each other again soon. We had a date to go to the theatre and dinner at a great Lebanese restaurant.

I remember talking to Dave about doing a trip in the fall to celebrate my birthday. Cuba? I had gotten dancing lessons for Christmas. Now we’re hopefully thinking to go to Ontario to see family again but we won’t hold our breath. Who knows where the world will be in October. It’s a landmark birthday and you have to live every moment as best as you can as the years behind me are greater than the ones in front.

I went “pandemic shopping” just before everything was locked down. I came home with two large bottles of wine, a jug of vodka and French cheeses. “This” I announced to Dave, “Is my pandemic shop.” We both laughed.

I think about the last time we ate dinner with friends, how we talked about how some of their friends were too nervous to meet this way. We laughed and said it can’t be that bad.

But with the dawning realization of people dying, and others risking their lives for those who were sick, and with my own yearly battle to have my lungs survive the annual flu, we have double downed on our own responsibility to ourselves and others.

Now like millions around the world we are practicing social distancing. Dave, the exemplary caretaker in the best of times, has gone into overdrive. I am watched and spritzed with disinfectant regularly . We gather close as a family in the simple rituals of living well together but with a heightened sense of the dangers of the invisible world.

I often think about my 93 year old friend Inge who has been socially distancing from the get go. At 93 she told me over the phone, I’m at the higher risk end of you know what…

Photograph by Dan Toelgoet

But she has quickly put a plan in place to manage her loneliness in these loneliest of times. “I found my phone book and I’ve started phoning every single person in the book. I just spoke with friends I haven’t spoken with in YEARS and they were delighted to hear from me.”

Last when I called she couldn’t chat. She was hosting a socially distanced picnic in her backyard with an old friend and would have to call back. Did I mind? I smiled. Here’s a woman who has lived through the holocaust, lost her parents, was orphaned at a young age and with grace and dignity is now living through the latest in the strangest of times, a global pandemic.

When I think about the wet markets and the distress of those animals gathered in small cages, one on top of the other waiting for an ugly death, having lived unnatural lives, stolen from the wild or raised on farms, when I think about our rapidly heating world, the plastic filling our oceans and the devastation of a mass extinction that will tip the ecological balance of the world that will certainly up-end the global economy, and all of us who are a part of the social systems that sustain it, when I think about all of what we have gotten ourselves into, I can’t help but think that the natural world is sending us a big reminder, a gigantic fuck you, that the eco-systems of the world will prevail and adapt one way or the other. It is more than just the vanishing wildlife and eco-systems that will suffer. The final cost will be one that we human beings will have to bear and it will be the most vulnerable of our species that will bear it.

As I despaired to a friend who works on elephant issues with me he ended the call with something that I’m choosing to continue to think about…there’s opportunity in everything, he said. I’m going to hitch my North Star to that thought. There’s opportunity in everything.

Stay safe.

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Poem of the Week: Sorrow Is Not My Name, by Ross Gay delivered via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Sorrow Is Not My Name, by Ross Gay

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

for Walter Aikens

For more information about Ross Gay, please check out his website.

Thanks to Alison for being such a fine treasure hunter.

Find out more about Alison here.

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