Whole Bok Choy

Bok Choy

Serving vegetables in its whole form is kind of a new concept for me. Like it was a rule that you had to chop everything into a bite-sized piece. Every time. I didn’t realize how seriously I believed in this rule until one night I watched my sister-in-law, Stacey, confidently cut the chard leaves ONLY in half and I was stunned. Honestly, in that moment, she simplified my life in a meaningful way. I had never even considered that I did not have to dice it, chop it, chiffonade or otherwise.  Why was I adding all this time to food prep?  The result – a whole cooked vegetable on the plate – is a sophisticated and natural presentation. It also seems to retain more moisture and flavor.

As for bok choy, my standard operating procedure was to chop its stalks and leaves vigorously and add it to a stir fry. Then last month a restaurant in, of all places, the lobby of a Hilton Garden Inn (I kid you not) offered grilled sesame salmon with whole sautéed bunches of bok choy. It was California after all. Again, I was stunned for a couple of reasons. First, wow, are they really getting things right at Hilton Garden Inn! Second, I don’t have to spend time chopping up bok choy either!

What you need:

  • Bok choy, whole bunches…that I can’t resist cutting at least in half length-wise
  • Sesame oil
  • Salt

Sauté bok choy halves in sesame oil over medium-high heat. Turning them gently to coat with the oil. Sprinkle with salt. When the pan is hot and steamy, cover with a lid and cook for 2 mins. Then turn the bok choy, cover again and cook for another 2 minutes.

Bok choy will be softened but still slightly crunchy at the largest parts of the stalk. Delightful.


Homegrown Chili

Homegrown Everblossom chili ingredients

Homegrown Everblossom chili ingredients

This is the most locally produced chili I could possibly imagine – thanks to my family. My Dad raised the beef, my sister the beans, garlic, tomatoes, chili pepper, onion and kale. My husband’s grandpa’s farm grows the corn and roasts the corn meal for the sweet corn muffins I serve with it. Put together with a half-decent recipe, it makes for a chili better than good. If I think too much about it, the effort put forth to make that meal is astounding, and I’ll get sappy and perhaps attach more meaning to hamburger and beans than is deserved. On the other hand, I can’t help but believe that when so many people work so hard to perfect their product, you can’t help but taste that difference.

I used a mix of Elaine’s dried black beans and cranberry beans. Please note that the cranberry beans take extra time to soften and you may want to cook those separately ahead of time. Cooking them ahead would greatly reduce the time it would take to simmer the combined chili. In a slow cooker, I cooked the beans all together in the chili and it just took a bit longer for it all to be ready — after I soak the beans and brown the beef, I allow everything to simmer in a slow cooker, 4 hours on high and 2 on low.

1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 quart whole tomatoes and their juice, chopped roughly or squished with your hands
2 cups beans, black and cranberry beans, pre-soaked
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 dried chili, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1 bunch kale, chopped small

Saute the onion, garlic and beef until browned. Don’t drain it and transfer all of it to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and their juice.

squishing the tomatoes

squishing the tomatoes


Add the beans and all the spices – below, Ava presents a mix of pre-soaked cranberry beans and black beans.

Ava and the beans

Ava and the beans


Chop the kale very small if you want to hide it from others who do not understand. I used the curly kale. When cooked, it becomes impossible to detect and gives a huge vitamin boost to your chili!

the incredibly vanishing kale

the incredible vanishing kale

Cook together in the slow cooker until the beans are tender to chew, approximately 4 hours on high and 2 hours on low. As I mentioned, the cranberry beans will take longer because they are bigger and firmer.