Life is crazy. Life is a whirlwind. Confession: I am a homebody. A shut-in at heart, though not in practice. I like spending my evenings quietly with my husband and my dog, my days in simple, solitary tasks that allow for personal reflection. But I’m a complicated woman. Local breweries throw parties, my favorite restaurant tempts me with wildly amazing new burgers (a lobster-crab patty and a wagyu beef patty together, and that was only half of what all came on it! Words cannot describe...), wineries want me to come pickup the wine I’ve ordered while pouring me glass after glass of their wares, family visits and the sights must be shown. People I know inexplicably want my company more often than I’m able to give it. I can’t say no to any of it. I’ve been having fun. Why is fun so durn tiring? It’s all I can do to bake a batch of cupcakes to research recipes and flavor combinations for my nephew’s second birthday cake. That’s happening. Remember last years? I’m really excited to share it with you when the time is right. Oh, and did I mention I’m changing jobs? Again. I’m scared. It’s new and challenging, but also old and familiar. And completely crazy and unexpected. Hopefully it’s the right decision. We never know until we know, right? So life is a whirlwind. But it’s also full of love, fun, and opportunity. It’s exciting and engaging. And most importantly, there are cupcakes.
With all the libation partakage, face-stuffing, and uncharacteristic socialbility, it can be hard to maintain one’s girlish figure. It’s a constant...I want to say battle, but that’s not the right word. I’m not at war with my body. It’s more like I need to keep constant vigilance! I’m at war with my fatty fatty fat fat. If I let my guard down, it’ll sneak in and squat. Not cool. So even though I despise waking up at 5am to fit in a decent workout before work, I despise forgoing drinks and dessert far more. Even though some days I want to quit my run at mile 3, I push on to mile 5 and follow up with a couple sets of burpees and jack-knives because I want to have a good time out with my friends, and not feel guilty if I don’t order a shamefully made salad that will ultimately leave me feeling hostile towards the establishment. Burpees are the bane of my existence. My motivation is my lifestyle. I like it. I want to keep doing what I’m doing. But I like my body too. I’m healthy. I feel good. My clothes fit. It’s all about the choices we make and the priorities we set, right? Finding that balance.
One way I offset my weekend escapades is to cook as deliciously healthy as possible during the week. You know, cook vegetables. The stuff most restaurants seem to stubbornly shy away from except in the most fleeting capacity. I get so disappointed when a dish boasts of a protein and starchy side resting on a bed of, say, Swiss chard, and the reality of what’s presented before me is a mere morsel compared to the gluttony of the other components. Proportions people! How about a whole big bunch of Swiss chard? And fungus is uber-healthy. Lots of vitamins and fiber and not much else. And ingestion is supposed to help prevents cancers and other lethalities. Not to mention mushrooms are a huge source of “umami”. Which, since I’m not Japanese and most of my vocabulary is construed as some form of English, I tend to refer to as “earthy”. Wonderfully earthy. So let’s throw a heap of mushrooms in there too. And how about some protein? It doesn’t need to be a giant hunk of meat on top. It can be the flavor base of the dish. The thing that makes it deceptively filling. And if your grocery store happens to sell a fantastic chicken and mushroom sausage behind the meat counter? Well I think you should tell Mr. Meat Counter Man to pack you up a couple of links!
As a quick weeknight meal, this simple saute of Swiss chard and mushrooms and chicken sausage was a pleasant surprise. One of those meals I didn’t plan, didn’t expect to be anything exceptional, and upon tasting, immediately ran to write down the recipe while it was still fresh in my head so I could make it again and again. One of those meals Husband made lots of quiet grunting noises while eating between expressions of fondness for the dish. It was, unfortunately, not long for this world with such ardent admiration. But I snapped a pic or two and here I am to share it with you.
Besides coming together fast, it’s also very adaptable to what you have in the fridge. I think Swiss chard works best, but collards or kale would do. Cremini mushrooms are a bit more rich in flavor, but button mushrooms are mighty tasty too. I love the flavor of dry sherry and mushrooms, but a dry white wine would be a lovely substitution. No sausage on hand, but a crisper drawer full of bacon? Well it’s not quite the same, but I’m sure it would still be pretty dang tasty. Whatever dry or fresh herbs that tickle your fancy would be nice, but thyme and tarragon fit that bill for me. Freshly squeezed orange juice was all the sweetness and acidity I needed, but a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of honey could be just the thing. Just promise me one thing. If you do use Swiss chard, don’t throw away those bright and delectable stems! Their color not only adds an enticing hue to the dish, but you paid for a bunch of chard. Why are you going to throw half of it away? Let’s practice root to leaf practices here, people. It’s like celery. It just needs some time and love, but you’ll be glad you did.
Sauteed Swiss Chard and Mushrooms with Chicken Sausage
Makes about 6 servings
1 lb. fresh chicken sausage (I used a chicken mushroom), or any preferred sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves cut into ribbons
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried tarragon
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry sherry (or wine)
¼ cup fresh orange juice (~ ½ a juicy orange)
kosher salt to taste
2 TB olive oil, divided
- In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), heat 1 TB of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once it is good and hot, crumble the fresh sausage evenly into the pan and let it sit undisturbed for a bit to brown. Flip the sausage for the other side to brown, and using a spatula or wooden spoon, break up any large chunks that are sticking together. Once the sausage is browned and cooked, remove it from the pan to a plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and if it is needed, add the second TB of olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute until it is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the Swiss chard stems and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until they have begun to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until it is softened and aromatic. (This is around the time people in your household will comment on how good it smells)
- Add the mushrooms with another pinch of salt, as well as the thyme, tarragon, and black pepper. Cook the mixture until the mushrooms have given off their water, shrunken, and the water has mostly cooked off. Add the sherry to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Let the mixture simmer for a minute so the sherry can slightly reduce and concentrate. Add the Swiss chard leaves and the orange juice and cook until the leaves have wilted and softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the sausage, and any juices that have pooled on the plate, back to the pan and simmer for a couple more minutes so the flavors can fully marry together.