Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon over Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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If you're like me--and I bet you are--you spend every waking moment on Pinterest.  That damn Pinterest.  What a revelation.  What a wonderful time suck.  

Probably my most-attended-to board on Pinterest is my "Noms" board.  Here's a link if you're curious: http://pinterest.com/seymourbutts/noms/

Yes, my name on it is "Seymour Butts."  Don't judge me for my love of classic Simpsons quotes.

Anyway, at one point, I pinned a list of 10 Weeknight Chickpea Dinners from The Kitchn.  It is marvelous.  I love chickpeas SO much that I could hardly contain my joy, much less begin to pick out which recipe to make first.  This one won.

Unfortunately, I decided to buy two bunches of spinach to get the amount I needed, rather than buying two bags of spinach like I normally would.  I love the prewashed-ed-ness of bagged spinach because I am lazy, even though it sets off a bomb in my guilty environmentalist brain.  Long story short: I thought I washed the spinach adequately, but there is a reason those bags say "Triple Washed."  My spinach was. so. gritty.

It kind of ruined the meal for me, because there is not much less appealing than taking a bite of creamy roasted sweet potatoes, gingered coconut milk, and hearty chickpeas only to choke down sand, dirt, and god knows what else.  It is deeply disappointing, so I advise that you wash that spinach until your skin is chapped.  Take it out back and turn the fire hose on it.  And then wash it one more time.  THEN make this recipe (and don't walk away from the stove and overcook the spinach...that's just salt (or sand, as it was!) in the wound).  


Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon over Roasted Sweet Potatoes (by the Kitchn)
-2 teaspoons oil or ghee
-1 small yellow onion
-4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
-1 tablespoon grated ginger, from a 3-inch piece
-1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
-1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
-1 dried hot red pepper or dash of red pepper flakes (optional
-15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
-1 pound baby spinach
-14-ounce can coconut milk
-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
-1 teaspoon ground ginger

To serve:
-Whole roasted sweet potatoes
-Cilantro leaves, to garnish 
-Toasted unsweetened coconut, to garnish  (tooootally optional--I didn't do that)

1. Heat the oil or ghee in a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and red pepper, if using. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes or until the chickpeas are beginning to turn golden and they are coated with the onion and garlic mixture.

3. Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time. This will take about 5 minutes; stir in a handful or two and wait for it to wilt down and make room in the pot before adding the next handful. When all the spinach has been stirred in, pour in the coconut milk and stir in the salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes or until the chickpeas are warm through. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if necessary.

4. Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes, with cilantro leaves and toasted unsweetened coconut to garnish.

Serving note: This is thick enough to eat on its own with a fork; it's not terribly soupy. But it's saucy enough to eat over pasta, rice, brown rice, quinoa, or another grain.

-Serves 4

Homemade Greek Yogurt

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Do you love saving money?

I know you do, friend.

As a mid-year holiday gift to you, I present you with the easiest way to save money: Making your own Greek yogurt.

Please stop having a panic attack.  It really is simple, I promise.

Go to the kitchen and get out the following equipment:
1) Some sort of heavy pot, like a good regular pot, a dutch oven, or a stock pot.
2) A candy thermometer or other non-meat thermometer.
3) A whisk (or fork, I suppose, in lieu of a whisk).
4) A crockpot.
5) A few towels (I use one larger towel and a couple kitchen towels).
6) Cheesecloth.  I recommend getting butter muslin, as it strains much, much better than the large-weave stuff you get at the grocery store.  Plus, it's reusable.
7) A mesh strainer.
8) A mixing bowl atop which the strainer can sit.

Now, go get the following ingredients:
-1/2 gallon of milk (I've done 2% and 1%, both work equally well...so, I assume you can do skim or whole, as well)
-1/3 cup dry milk (technically optional, but it adds thickness and protein)
-1 packet yogurt cultures OR 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt tends to have lots more strains of active yogurt cultures than regular yogurt)

Now, let me preface the recipe by saying that, if you have patience to wait for something in the mail, you can make this REALLY simple.  You can either order freeze-dried yogurt cultures online, or you can use plain yogurt from the store that has active cultures in it.  I 100% recommend buying cultures.  It is totally fool-proof.  Using yogurt as your starter is more unstable and prone to trouble.  I, of course, was like, "Pffffffffft, WHATEVER.  I DO WHAT I WANT" and used yogurt the first few times.  And it was tricky.  The first time I made yogurt, it didn't set...for 8-9 hours, so I was like, "I WILL BE DAMNED IF THIS DOESN'T WORK" and I added more plain yogurt and went to bed--because really, what did I have to lose at that point?   In the morning: Yogurt!  Sure, it may have been questionable to eat that yogurt after it had been out on the counter, warm, for almost 24 hours, but I did, and I'm still here to tell the story.

So, okay, here's how to make Greek yogurt:
1. Pour the 1/2 gallon of milk into your heavy pot/dutch oven.  Clip the candy thermometer to the side.  Put the heat on somewhere around medium-medium high.  You want to bring the temperature up to 175-180 degrees.  Be sure to whisk every 5 minutes to avoid scalding the milk and getting gross brown milk bits in your yogurt. Once at 175-180, remove from heat and let cool to 112-115 degrees, whisking every so often to keep a skin from forming.  Cooling takes about 20-30 minutes.


2. Dump in the dry milk and stir thoroughly (you can add the dry milk a bit before the 112-115 degree mark).  Then, pour in your cultures/yogurt starter.  Mix well.  Let sit 1-2 minutes.

3. Pour the mixture into an unplugged crockpot and cover.  Make sure the crockpot is set to "warm" for your ease of use later.  Cover the crock pot with towels.  If there is a good deal of space under the crockpot, be sure to tuck the towel ends under there so heat doesn't escape.  Mostly, heat gets out of the top of mine, though, so I'm always careful to put the most layers over the lid.


4. Once your yogurt is all bundled up, go find something to do.  DO NOT touch the yogurt.  The impulse to check to see how your little bacterial buddies are working their mojo is overwhelming, I know.  But cultures are super sensitive to your prying eyes and prodding fingers.  They are the proverbial watched pot.  If you don't look at them or touch them, and if you don't move the crockpot for 6-8 hours, I promise this will work out.  (**That's where my disclaimer from above comes into play--it was the first time I made it, and I was too fixated on taking the temperature of the yogurt all the time.  It might be OK with yogurt cultures, but the yogurt starter played dead when I futzed with it all the time.  So, just leave it alone!**)

5. Every so often throughout the 6-8 hours, plug the crockpot in for 5-10 minutes (depending on how cold your house is and how well your crockpot works).  I usually do this once every 2 hours (so, maybe 3 times) to keep the temperature around 110 inside the crockpot.  My crockpot is fairly crappy, so if yours is well-insulated, you might not need to do it at all.

6. Have 6-7 hours passed without you touching the yogurt?  Good!  You are now officially allowed to look inside and gently poke the top of the liquid with a spoon.  Is it yogurt?!  You bet it is, you rock star.  Nice work all around, people and bacteria.


7. You can have normal yogurt at this stage by just scooping it all out into a container and putting it in the fridge.  BUT, if the texture isn't to your liking, you may want to make it Greek yogurt by straining it.  Line a mesh colander with cheesecloth/butter muslin.  Put the colander atop a bowl with enough space for all the whey that will come out (which can be 2-3 cups worth if you use a yogurt starter, less with cultures).  Scoop that delicious yogurt right into that colander.  Let it sit for approximately 2 hours to get a nice, thick & creamy yogurt.  Then, dump it into a container and fridge it, baby.  You're done!

If you're the kind of person who likes delicious things, you could save the drained liquid (whey) for 7-10 days in an airtight container and use it in place of water in baked good recipes, like these delicious Cinnamon Raisin Bagels.


Ok, so from all the instructions, it LOOKS difficult, but it's really not.  Because what it really boils down to is: Heat up, cool down, let sit without touching, strain.  You can do that.


I get cultures and butter muslin from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.

P.S. I apologize for the crappy yogurt photos.  If I remember to take prettier "after" photos sometime, I will update.  ;)