If you have been following along on this blog journey with me, you know I mostly blab about my home life – my family, my friends, The Cat, etc. etc. etc.
But today, I’m actually going to talk about work!
(like my real job!)
As some of you know, I actually work full time as a clinical dietitian… the closest I get to a kitchen professionally is when I walk past it to go to my office. As much as I love to cook and bake socially and for the blog, I know that I would never ever hack it as a chef professionally. Why? 1. I am super messy when I cook and I would be kicked out of any kitchen in less than 3o seconds. 2. The hours are not the best (and I love being snuggled in bed by 9PM every night). 3. It wouldn’t be fun anymore. Blog cooking is fun and if it doesn’t come out right, it’s okay. If I was cooking professionally and something wasn’t right, I’d lose money. (too much stress)
For my day job, I usually stick to hospital units + medical charts.
I got an amazing opportunity several months ago to help be a guest lecturer for a new program they were putting together for fourth-year medical students at the medical school associated with my hospital. The concept was to combine classroom nutrition lessons and cooking lessons in order to better facilitate learning core nutrition principles. YES. PLEASE.
The sessions were taught by the medical school faculty, but the cooking lesson was taught by a chef and a registered dietitian. The students would learn about a nutrition concept (like the diabetic diet) and then make a recipe that reflected the principles learned. I love this teaching style because it hit every type of learner – the ones who learn audibly, those who learn visually, and those who learn by doing.
My session was the final, culminating lecture… which wasn’t a lecture at all. The students had to create a cultural dish that fit a budget and our hospital’s dietary guidelines – they had to make a plate for the judges (myself and two chefs) and then a big platter for the class to enjoy. It was so much fun watching these medical students cook (they were amazing and did not need any help from us!) and listening about their dishes.
The one that stuck out the most to me was a delicious Indian dish called Chana Saag – a Chickpea and Spinach Curry. It was flavorful, presented beautifully, and the medical students were able to speak to how it was suitable for patients who live on a budget.
It was so incredible that I knew I needed to recreate it immediately.
So I did.
And it was so easy to make!
It starts with a large skillet set over medium heat.
I added a finely chopped onion and cooked it until it was golden brown. I tossed in some minced garlic as well and cooked the mixture for another minute until the garlic was fragrant.
Then I added the spices – curry powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I cooked the spices for about 30 seconds to toast them a bit.
When the spices were fragrant, I added in a little vegetable broth to help scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
I tossed in some chopped fresh tomatoes, but drained canned ones would work here too!
And then some drained chickpeas.
And some thawed cooked, chopped spinach.
Stir everything together, adding in a bit more broth to loosen everything up slightly. Then simmer the chickpea + spinach mixture until everything is heated through.
This is absolutely delicious over rice or couscous.
A perfect, quick vegan dinner loaded with plant-based protein (and that fits into every budget!). A big thank you to my amazing fourth-year medical students for the recipe!
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1lb frozen spinach, thawed completely and squeezed to remove all liquid
- 1-15oz can low-sodium chickpeas
- 1 cup water
- In a large, high-sided skillet set over medium heat, add in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in the onion and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add in the curry powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook the spices in the onion/garlic mixture for 30 seconds until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the vegetable broth, making sure to scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add in the tomatoes, spinach, and chickpeas. Add in up to one cup of water until the consistency is saucy. Simmer the curry for 15 minutes until everything is heated through.
- Serve on top of brown rice or whole grain couscous.
Cleo Manuel Krueger says
Great to teach med students nutritional recipes!
Reading your recipe reminded me of the magical transformation that occurs by sauteeing spices in the pan. I keep on forgetting to try that for non-indian dishes,,, Not sure that would work for dried leafy herbs like oregano, right? Does that work only for seed-derived spices?
I’ve never tried it with oregano, but I feel like the ground spices do better as they get aromatic and roasty when cookes