Creamed Collard Greens

Collard greens are one of those foods I kind of pity sometimes.

Like a lot of other green, leafy vegetables (kale! Swiss chard! dandelion greens!), it’s not a staple in American meals. I mean, I can’t speak for you or your household, but we didn’t eat it growing up—ever. When we had vegetables, they were more classic choices like green beans or broccoli or carrots, and while those were all good things, eating only them meant overlooking an entire wall of the grocery’s produce section—one which remained unknown to me for years.

chopped collard greens

Then I grew up. And, in the same way that adulthood exposes us to all kinds of things we missed out on as children, from bills to alcohol to taxes—I went to an office Christmas party or baby shower or some other event where we all made something, and the downstairs receptionist saw my homemade cornbread and asked what she thought was a totally appropriate question: Well, where are the collard greens?

collard greens cooking

This introduced me to two new concepts:

1) Collard greens go with cornbread?
2) People think collard greens can taste good?

Then, just a few months ago, I saw a recipe for creamed collard greens described as comfort food, the kind of thing to “soothe a worn soul.” The post also got my attention with some of the health benefits of these greens: anti-cancer agents, decreased risk of heart disease, high in beta carotene, anti-inflammatory.

creamed collard greens

So right here in my new Nashville, we bought a bunch of collard greens, and after spending about 20 minutes in the kitchen, ate big bowls of this, alongside garlic toast and with gingersnaps in the oven.

Turns out this wasn’t only fitting because it was days after my move and I was in need of some comfort, but also—it was the perfect way to introduce myself to collard greens, and in the perfect place, since it seems here in the South, people don’t find them so strange after all.

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Pumpkin Pie + Homemade Pie Crust

pumpkin pie

OK, I know what you’re thinking: pumpkin pie in December? Why don’t I just put on a Halloween costume and sing the Star-Spangled Banner while I’m at it? Listen, I know. Pumpkin pie is traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, and I know, here we are, a few days from Christmas—a time decidedly post-Thanksgiving.

But I’ve thought this one through, and I’m bringing it to you today, anyway, despite the backwards holiday timing and seeming ignorance of appropriate blog content. I’m doing it for two reasons:

  1. This is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.
  2. I can’t stop making it.

(Oh and PS: pie pumpkins are currently on sale at my grocery store, so hello?)

homemade pumpkin pie

I’m also posting this now because it includes a pie crust recipe! for a homemade crust! (Once you start making excuses, it’s hard to stop.) I’ve posted this dough recipe before, with a quiche in early November, but I’ve since made it with all my pumpkin pies, as well as another version of that creamy pear pie, and I’ll be darned if it hasn’t been flaky, buttery goodness every. single. time.

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: if you have a cup of flour and a stick of butter, you have a pie crust. No kidding.

homemade pumpkin pie

And the final thing, the one that really sends this post over the top, is that it comes with a story. See, once upon a time, a year and a half ago, my friend Wendi made a pumpkin pie for a party. She said it was based on this five-star (and 258 reviews) version from AllRecipes, with just a few tweaks that she was happy to pass along. Shortly after that, my brother made the pie. I made the pie. It couldn’t turn out bad. The key seems to be that creamy, spiced, custard-like filling—made with real pumpkin, not the kind from a can—and even though the original is supposed to be best after sitting overnight, I think there’s nothing like a hot, steaming piece fresh out of the oven.

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because it’s April

honey cinnamon ice cream

As I sit at my computer tonight, I hear the rain outside, hitting the window, sloshing on pavement as cars drive by. It smells fresh, earthy, like your hands deep in soil when you’re working in the garden, yet clean, like the glassy drops of dew on grass in the morning. It reminds me this is the time of year when things green, when they begin to grow. All the storms and pounding rain bring us tulips and lilies, leaves on trees, buds on branches.

And it’s funny how, a few months ago, when I scraped ice off my car and skidded down the expressway, I didn’t believe this time would come again. At its darkest, winter was unending, hopeless—in that way, a little like life, sometimes.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about dreams lately—the big ones we make as children, unashamedly, be they astronaut or firefighter or surgeon. Everything’s sunshine and rainstorms and possibility, then. But as we get older and things seem more difficult, it becomes easier to lose yourself to discouragement, to long, cold afternoons under blankets in bed, metaphorically or not.

Come spring, I think of the cycles of life, the beginning and ending and beginning again. And I see a precious truth that no matter how bad things can seem, they can change.

ice cream on a spoon

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this right now

cream of pistachio

Morning, and the kitchen is quiet, with sunlight streaming across the sink and onto the wood floors, and I pour coffee, grab my lunch, take my keys from the little basket by the door. There will be 20 minutes at least, between me and the office, along expressways of commuters, and I will look at them, talking on their phones, singing with their radios, glancing at their watches, before I park and walk inside, up stairs to my desk, to begin the work day, to talk with my coworkers and double-check spellings at Merriam-Webster and watch the geese fly past my window and onto the roof.

5:30, and I’m getting in my car, like I’ve done so many times, and I’m stopping by the train station, like I do every day, and I’m walking in my front door, and I’m eating dinner, again. It’s spring here—when did spring come? Weren’t we just talking about fall and winter and how I hated the snow? The light lasts longer now, and the days are warmer, rainy. I take it all, eagerly, greedily, like it will never end.

You know, I’m only 26—I find myself throwing the only in there more and more, the way it’s inserted into excuses from guilty children like, I only skipped one homework assignment or I only said that because the other kids did. But as much as I know we are guaranteed nothing, in terms of time, in terms of living, I also know 26 is, usually, not a lot of life to have lived and, usually, it’s not enough time to warrant strong opinions or heavy reminiscing. But I do: I look at the moments around me—the way the grass looks when it’s wet, shiny with dew and fragrant with summer; how my mom makes me laugh when she does, when her mouth closes and her nose widens and her eyes slant, just slightly, as her body shakes, like her mother’s did; the kindness someone shows you when he carries in your bags, so you don’t have to—and I think, I am living this.

This, right here—the morning coffee and the conversation and the drive home in daylight to a cozy evening with a book and blankets—this is life, and it’s a gift, and I am living this.

pistachios

Sunday night, for my brother, I made this soup.

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