Tag Archives: carrots

Chickpeas and Pasta

19 Oct

Chickpeas and Pasta

“Just go away.”  I have uttered this often to my teenage students, in a variety of contexts, over the last twelve years since I started teaching high school English. I’ll say it as I attempt to take roll and a student asks me for the fortieth time if they need to skip lines when writing an essay, even though I have a large poster at the front of the room that clearly asserts, “Yes! Skip lines!” I’ll say it as I am but three words away from totally explaining the most impassioned and profound concept, which will alter their lives invariably thereafter, when one kiddo raises his hand and asks if he can go to the bathroom. I’ll say it when everyone is taking a final exam and the antsy, gregarious, loquacious student who finishes first asks me what I’m cooking for dinner that night. Loudly.

But truly, the context in which I most often say “just go away” relates to what they do after high school. I tell them to travel, to get away from their familiar environs, and just go away. You want to see South America? Good! Just go. Castles where knights rose and fell? Go. You want ninjas? Go. Where Napoleon died? Why? Never been to San Francisco? Go. You want to see hot Spanish chicks and dudes? Go. Make it happen and don’t wait.

Usually this is precipitated by me sharing about my backpacking trip around Europe when I was 23, fresh out of college. For two months, my best friend Pat and I went from Ireland, to Spain, to Germany, to Austria, to Czech Republic, to Netherlands, back to Spain, to France, and then home. We partied every night, slept on the floors of trains, saw Europe before it was the EU and before the internet localized the world, partied more, ate stuff that I still can’t identify, and basically changed our lives for good.

Physically, mentally, economically, or realistically, I cannot and will not ever be able to do this type of trip again. It was once in a lifetime, and I try to instill this in my students. “Do it now, kids, because you won’t be able to later. Trust me.” No money? I didn’t have much either. It took me until I was thirty to pay it off, but it was interest well bought. Just get out of town. Just go away.

As usual, I tangentially bring this up because, until that trip to Europe, chickpeas were something I refilled in the salad bar at Straw Hat pizza in my teens, not something I ate knowingly. Amsterdam changed that. Without going into details, I will posit that Amsterdam’s “coffee” shops are intentionally and strategically located next to shwarma and falafel stands (and KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s, for that matter), so patrons succumbing to the munchies have no choice but to belly up to some serious grub on every side of them. They’ve got you by the balls convincingly. Before this time, I had never even heard of falafel, which is ground chickpeas and spices rolled into balls, deep fried, and then served in a pita with veggies and sauces. But after leaving a coffee shop and letting the holy grail of street food create new universes in my expanded mind, I ate them every day for a week. Sublime.

As the Food Network Empire and Darth Rachel came to power, chickpeas (garbanzos, or if you’re a pretentious prick, ceci, pronounced che’-chee) started getting some coverage in a variety of contexts. Unbeknownst to me, “chickpeas and pasta” are an Italian staple all over the boot. Although I personally had never had the dish, Darth Rachel’s scratchy voice assured me that it is “yum-o,” which of course comforts me in the recesses of my mind, Sand People pursuing or not.

In any case, this is a Weight Watcher’s recipe and I took only a few liberties with it. A good-size portion is a mere 7 on the old system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off frenetically). It’s vegetarian, filling, and good for you. It’s easy as hell to make, too, so it’s a perfect weekday dinner. And you will see that, as you eat this, you will tell people to just go away.

Chickpeas and Pasta

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups serving is an old Weight Watchers 7


4 tsp. olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or a teaspoon dried, I’m guessing)

2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley, divided

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 16-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed well

1/4 tsp. each of salt and freshly ground pepper

1 or 2 zucchini or yellow squash, peeled and made into ribbons (I used the peeler to make thick ribbons, but only shave the meaty parts rather than the seedy parts)

2 cups cooked pasta, like rotini, penne, or ditalini

1/4 cup parmesan

Makin’ It:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for a minute and then add the carrots, rosemary, red pepper, and 1 tablespoon o’ the parsley. Saute this for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Start cooking the pasta about halfway through this.

Then, add the chickpeas, salt, pepper, and squash.  Simmer this for another 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Add in the pasta, parmesan, and the other tablespoon of parsley. Divide into four bowls and serve. Bob’s your uncle.

Chickpeas and Pasta 7

Now just go away.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013


Easy Asian Coleslaw

9 May

Asian Slaw 015

I have written a few times that Asian food is like a new frontier for me.  I wasn’t raised eating much of it, and in the 70’s and 80’s, most of the Orange County, California, food scene did not have a wide array of Asian restaurants. Thankfully, an influx of Vietnamese, Lao, and Korean families started populating the area, so it has since exploded into an Asian food wonderland of sorts.  While I will often berate the ubiquitous fake tits and humvees that festoon much of O.C. and which, consequently, led my wife and I to bid it adieu, I will say that now it has some balance by the soul brought in from different cultures and their cuisines.

But in my Carter and Reagan era childhood, Chinese food consisted of magenta-colored sweet and sour chicken from the only local Chinese place, The Golden Something.  Funnily enough, bean sprouts and duck scared me as a kid, but the unnaturally infrared gelatinous mess of carrots, pineapple, and chicken welcomed me with open arms.  I think my teeth looked like a photo negative by the time I left the restaurant, actually.

I have since learned to cook a variety of Asian main dishes, but I am sorely lacking in the side dish category.  Yesterday, I had an extra bag o’ coleslaw mix from a party we had on Sunday.  I knew I was making chicken satay (, so I started googling.  I found quite a few Weight Watchers recipes calling for crushed raw ramen noodles for the crunch effect.  As I am not in the habit of having ramen around, this wasn’t going to work.  Instead, I found a recipe here:

It goes perfectly with satay, as you will see, it is easy to make, and it is altogether wonderful.  I did make some changes, though…

I had no fresh ginger on hand last night.  But what I did have was some crystallized ginger left over from the holidays, which stays good for a decade or something.  It worked marvelously.

Easy Asian Coleslaw

Serves 6, I would think


5 tbsp. rice vinegar, or white vinegar in a pinch

5 tbsp. oil

5 tbsp. creamy peanut butter

3 tbsp. soy sauce

3 tbsp. brown sugar (how come you taste so good?)

2 tbsp. minced crystallized ginger or fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bag (about 8 to 10 cups worth or so) coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

one bunch green onions, chopped

1 chopped bell pepper (optional)

chopped cilantro (optional)

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.  Whisk it well so it’s all combined as a happy family.

In a large bowl for tossing, add the veggies and pour the dressing over it.  Toss this baby like you mean it and so everything is coated well.  Cover this and put it in the fridge to chill if you still need to make the main course, or serve right there. It’s kick ass both ways.

Asian Slaw 007

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino

The Lose-Weight Soup

1 Apr

Lose-Weight Soup 011

A few years back, the wife and I decided to get healthy.  We signed up for Weight Watchers, went to meetings every week, and learned how to enjoy food without a deep-fried or Doritos element at every sitting.  I literally was schooled on how to eat healthy, how to read the labels on food packages, and how to stop eating when I’m full (rather than when I can move neither my mandible nor my torso any longer).  Did I work out like a madman?  Nope.  I walked a few miles with the stroller every day.  And I still drank wine regularly.  Those first few meetings changed me as a person, and even though I fall off the wagon here and there, it worked for me when I lost 50 pounds initially, and it continues to work for me when I decide that my belt’s getting a bit tight.

I’ve learned through the years that you can be anything: an asshole, a liar, a bad Christian, a worse husband or wife, a cheater, an avaricious bastard, an unintelligent bully.  But one thing you can’t be in this society is fat.  When it comes down to it (and I was guilty of it in my youth too), people will throw a fat insult at anyone because they can and, for whatever reason, they feel vindicated or superior.  It makes me sad, really, and I intervene on behalf of the person maligned 100% of the time, not because it will ever change the problem for good, but it can make a bit of a difference. If you’ve been on the receiving end of this, you know. But, “something too much of this”…

One of the most inspirational people I met at Weight Watchers was a gal named Cecily, who worked the front desk at the time. At our first meeting, our leader-dude introduced her and passed around her “before” picture. Our mouths dropped; she had lost over 200 pounds and, to this day, I can’t believe it. Another way to look at it is that she lost the equivalent of two of my freshman students. In that moment, she showed me that if you want to lose weight, you can, so just stick with it, learn when to say “no” and “enough,” and don’t be a pussy.  She’s right.

One of the best recipes I got out of Weight Watchers is their zero-point soup (this is the old system; the Points Plus and 360° program can both fuck off).  One of the ladies who signed us up even said, “It pays to join just for that soup recipe.”  I agree, lady.  I ate this soup everyday for a year. It packs in a few portions of vegetables (not eating enough veggies is one of my downfalls), it’s unbelievably filling, and it’s delicious.  I usually eat it with a wheat tortilla or a bagel thin and add on a point. As a snack or a sandwich accompaniment, it will make you feel fresh, to be sure.  Like everything, I’ve messed with the original recipe a bit.  If you look online, there are copious others zero-point soups, too.

I tend to make three or four batches at once and either freeze them individually for lunches, or keep a big container in the fridge for the week ahead.  It’s veggie, so it will last a good week before it gets a bit dodgy.  Lastly, you can put about any veggie in this soup if you want.  Remember, though, that peas are a starch (another aha! I learned), so they will raise the point value.

The Lose-Weight Soup

Makes 4 servings


Cooking Spray

2/3 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup diced onions

3 minced garlic cloves

3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth (they say low sodium, but I used regular and it worked for me)

2 cups chopped green cabbage

3/4 cup green beans, cut into bite-size pieces

1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup diced zucchini

Makin’ It:

Spray a large sauce pan or small pot with cooking spray (I admit, I use 2 tbsp. olive oil, but only I know that) and set it over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onions, and garlic.  Cook this until they’re soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add in the cabbage, green beans, broth, tomato paste, basil, salt, oregano, red pepper, and black pepper.  Raise the heat and get it boiling.  Once a-boil, cover it, reduce the heat to low, and simmer it for 15 minutes, or until the green beans are done.

Uncover it and stir in the zucchini.  Simmer this for another 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and you’re good to go.

Lose-Weight Soup 010

I made a huge batch of this soup as I wrote this post today and I’m almost finished with a bowl of it for a snack.  It still kicks ass, best of all because it’s a guiltless meal.  I added some habanero sauce, so I get a kick out of it too.

Let me know if it works for you and I can throw some variations your way.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013