Mars, red planet, Mars Retrograde Tuesdays, mars retrograde 2020, mars retrograde, retrograde planets, astrology

Mars Retrograde Tuesdays

Mars, red planet, Mars Retrograde, mars retrograde tuesdays, retrograde planets, retrograde, astrology

Mars, the planet of action, ambition, anger and athleticism, turns retrograde on September 9, 2020 in the sign of Aries, one of two signs the Red Planet rules (the other sign is Scorpio). It will appear to travel backward in Aries through November 13, 2020. During this time, we can expect to see some halted plans; any forward momentum we had may be thwarted. This can affect our activities at work, home, and school.

Retrograde isn’t all that bad, though. Any time a planet is in retrograde motion, we are given an opportunity to shift our focus to more inward pursuits:

  • Reflection
  • Review
  • Revision
  • Reassessment

The focus of the inner work is based on the areas ruled by that planet. In the case of Mars, those areas include:

  • Physical activity
  • Ambition and goals
  • Passion, lust, and sex

In the same vein as Venus Retrograde Fridays, I suggest taking one day a week during the retrograde cycle to do work in these areas. Since Mars rules Tuesday, set aside some time that day for Mars Retrograde Tuesdays. Beginning with September 15, 2020 and ending with November 10, 2020, here are some Martian activities to try:

Move your body.
If you haven’t already been exercising regularly, now is the time to get back on the bike, lace up the running shoes, roll out the yoga mat, and/or dust off the treadmill. Don’t push yourself if energy is low – lowered stamina is possible during Mars retrograde – but a 30-minute walk will get your circulation going and your heart pumping. One caveat: if you have been sedentary for a long time, don’t start a vigorous new exercise regimen. Use this time to research different physical activities you might want to try, or talk with your health care provider about ideas.

Eat something spicy or grilled – or both!
Mars rules garlic, ginger, and peppers, so cook up some Szechuan stir-fry, a Thai or Indian curry, or a Mexican feast. (You can check out my recipe for homemade salsa here!) Since Mars also rules fire, a grilled entrée or side dish would be perfect for Tuesday dinners.

Channel your anger.
This year has provided more than enough opportunity for outrage – but how are you working with that anger? How has it been manifesting in your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? Some ways to work through your anger include:

  • writing letters to the people/places/things that make you angry (and not sending them – remember, you’re processing this anger for your own personal reflection and to get them out of your system)
  • joining a protest (if you can do so safely)
  • contacting your local and state legislators to express your frustrations
  • signing and sharing petitions related to causes you feel passionate about

Assess your personal and professional goals. Mars likes to make things happen, but during a retrograde period, that drive to achieve and succeed may be thwarted. Sit down with paper & pen and write out your personal and professional goals. Where do you want to see yourself in a year? In five years? Now’s the time to see where you’re at and where you want to go.

What about Sex?!

Mars also rules passion, lust, and sex – and it’s those aspects that often make the headlines for Mars. During a Mars retrograde cycle your sex drive may be the complete opposite of what it usually is, or you may find yourself sexually frustrated with your partner. If you’re not sexually active, Mars retrograde may leave you feeling restless, unmotivated or dealing with a creative blockage (especially if you are an artist or writer).

How to deal with all of this pent up sexual energy? A few suggestions:

Remember this is temporary. Even if you are skeptical about astrology and its effects on daily living, our sex drive ebbs and peaks over time. Shift your attention to something else when the frustration gets overwhelming: exercise, singing or dancing may help.

Open the toy chest. Since retrograde cycles are about reviewing and reassessing the areas of life ruled by the retrograde planet, take time to review what gives you pleasure sexually – and that means open up your toy chest, buy some batteries and figure out what turns you on.

Talk with your partner. Emotions may be running hot while your libido isn’t, and that can definitely cause friction (and not the good kind, either). Open up conversations with your partner about your sex life: what you love about it, what you’d like to try out, what you’d like to work on making even better.

You’re not restricted to just Tuesdays for these Mars-centric activities, of course. Working through anger issues is good at any time, and exercising at least 3 times a week is ideal. But sometimes it helps to know that there’s one day a week devoted to specific self-care rituals, and that’s what Mars Retrograde Tuesday is all about. Make the most of it!

 

Mars, red planet, Mars Retrograde, mars retrograde Tuesdays, retrograde planets, retrograde, astrology

Image attributions:

By derivative work: QuartierLatin1968 (talk)Berlin_-_Brandenburger_Tor_-_Mars.jpg: Oliver Abels (SBT) – Berlin_-_Brandenburger_Tor_-_Mars.jpg, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74302639

Closeup of statue face
By Dosseman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78185777

Planet
By ESA & MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56489423

Venus Retrograde Fridays

How’s everyone doing? Did you lose your mind after the first 30 days of stay-at-home orders or are you holding on to those last few brain cells? I have my good days and not-so-good days. This week has been really weird, with energy spikes and then 24-hour cycles of I-don’t-give-a-f**k.

But I have one thing I’ve been looking forward to every week since May 13: Venus Retrograde Fridays. I was inspired by Chani Nicholas’s workshops with a special section on Venus retrograde. Chani is a freakin’ brilliant astrologer who explains everything so clearly and with a focus on personal growth. If you’re not following her on social media, and you have even a passing interest in astrology, go follow her now and sign up for her mailing list. I’ll wait.

venus retrograde friday, girl with moxie blog, girl with moxie, venus retrograde 2020

 

A brief primer on Venus retrograde, taken from Café Astrology:

Occasionally, Venus appears to be moving backward in the sky. “Appears” is the key word here, because, technically speaking, no planet actually moves backward in their orbits around the Sun. In fact, they don’t even slow down. Retrograde-station-direct cycles are essentially illusions that result from our point of view from Earth, simply because the Earth is also orbiting the Sun at a different speed than the other planets. Venus is Retrograde approximately 40-43 days every 18 months.

Venus went retrograde in the sign of Gemini on May 13 and will station direct on June 25.

Why should you care? Well, Venus is the planet of beauty and aesthetics. She rules what we value, what makes us happy, and what creative pursuits we enjoy. She is all about sensory experiences: delicious food and drink, leisurely activities, delightful scents and sights. She also rules relationships – surprise, surprise.

So what happens when Venus is retrograde? Retrograde periods of any planet in astrology are a time when the areas ruled by that planet seem to go backwards or sideways. We have to reassess, reflect, re-do, rewrite, rethink; things might not move forward as fast or as easily as we’d like. Since Venus rules love, affection, beauty, values, aesthetics and relationships, that means these are the areas where we need to reconsider what we’re doing and where we want to be during a Venus retrograde cycle. You may start considering a new hairstyle or makeup palette. You might want to clean out your closet and reinvent your look. A romance that was already on shaky ground may end, or past loves may pop up and get you thinking about how that relationship helped or hindered your growth.

Most astrologers will advise you not to make any major changes during a retrograde period. During Venus retrograde, you shouldn’t cut your own hair or sell off your investment portfolio. I tend to agree with that, but I would also add: if you’re able to test out a change in a way that you can reverse it with minimal consequences, it might be worth trying.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Venus Retrograde Fridays. Venus rules Friday, so Chani Nicholas recommends using this day to focus on Venusian activities. After nearly 8 months of intense client work and dealing with personal issues, I am all about taking better care of me while work is not as crazy busy. I’ve now had two Venus Retrograde Fridays and really enjoyed them, and figured I owed it to the last few regular readers of my blog to share how this works and ways you can honor Venus during this retrograde period.

Here’s a list of possible activities for Venus Retrograde Friday.

    • Lounge in bed for as long as you want.
    • Wear comfy clothes.
    • Play “closet” where you go through your clothes and try out new looks.
    • Reorganize your closet or dresser: by color, by type, by season, by outfit, by whatever.
    • Play “jewelry box” where you go through your baubles (as my fabulously fashionable friend Beth calls them) and put on all of them or try new combinations.
    • Put clean sheets on the bed and fresh linens in the bathroom.
    • Take a long soak in the tub with your favorite scents – bubbles, bath bomb or salts optional (bonus points if you have a glass of your favorite beverage nearby, or you eat a cupcake while in the tub).
    • Deep condition your hair.
    • Put on your favorite perfume or scented lotion.
    • Give yourself a mani/pedi or a facial (YouTube has tons of great tutorials).
    • Teach yourself a new updo for your hair (again, YouTube tutorials are the way to go).
    • Take a nap.
    • Bake your favorite treats and eat them slowly so you can enjoy every bite.
    • Make yourself a fabulous dinner and pair it with your favorite beverage – or order that meal for pickup/delivery.
    • Write a love letter to yourself to open after July 29 (when Venus ends its shadow period).
    • Write out affirmations focusing on loving yourself more, then read them aloud. Some good ones:
      • I am perfectly content to be me.
      • I am good enough just as I am.
      • I love and approve of myself.
      • I choose to love myself unconditionally.
    • Read love poems, a romance novel, chick lit, or erotica.
    • Watch a favorite rom-com.
    • Take a virtual tour of an art museum or historic residence/palace (my personal favorite is Versailles).
    • Write letters and cards to people you care about – or send happy mail to people who need encouragement and/or support. (Here’s a great site to start with if you’d like to write something semi-anonymous to someone in need. Here’s another one.)

While you don’t have to do this on Fridays, it will certainly kick off the weekend on a positive note. And if you can only do one thing you really love on Friday, that’s still good. Venus Retrograde Fridays are all about loving on yourself the best way possible. Enjoy!

Friday’s Hot Tip: Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Confession: I tend to make the same dishes over and over again, especially in my slow cooker. It’s usually chili, a bean dish, or I’m cooking dried beans so I can freeze them for later use.

While I have a slow cooker cookbook full of some very tasty recipes, I’d seen several recipes online for Indian dishes. Where I grew up I became friends with a lot of Indian kids, so I’d go to parties and other gatherings where the tables were covered in all different kinds of curry, dahl and other dishes full of potatoes, cream, meat, vegetables. Years ago, Momcat and I appealed to one Indian friend’s mom for a small quantity of her family’s special curry powder blend, because store-bought curry powder just doesn’t cut it.

A few weeks ago we were due for a big storm in NorCal, and I decided the cold, wet weather made it the perfect time to try one of the Indian slow cooker entrees. I looked at a couple recipes for chicken tikka masala to get ideas for ingredients, and came up with a chicken curry that turned out rich and flavorful, just like the curries at my friends’ houses back in the day.

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

  • 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt (optional marinade)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • ⅔ C yellow onion, diced
  • ⅔ C red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T curry powder, divided
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt

Optional: The night before you make the curry, coat the chicken pieces in 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt – I used a large Ziploc bag – and refrigerate overnight. This yogurt marinade makes the chicken extra moist and flavorful.

Put chicken and tomatoes in slow cooker. Saute onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste and 1 tablespoon curry powder in a small amount of vegetable oil until soft, then add to slow cooker and mix well with chicken and tomatoes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, stirring to combine. Cover and set cooker to High for 4 hours, or Low for 7-8 hours.

Before serving, add yogurt to curry. If you’re not serving the entire batch in one sitting, you may want to add the yogurt to individual servings. (I put a large spoonful of curry in a metal bowl, then mixed in about ¼ cup of yogurt.)

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve over basmati or jasmine rice.

Variations

  • Use only yellow onion.
  • Use ¾ C heavy cream instead of yogurt prior to serving. You can do this about 15 minutes before it’s done cooking.
  • To make this more tikka masala style, use garam masala instead of curry powder.
chicken curry, curry, Indian food, East Indian, cooking, slow cooker, Crockpot, chicken

Slow cooker chicken curry over jasmine rice.

 

Friday’s Hot Tip: Casey Robin Prints and Stationery

It’s Black Friday. For many folks, that means long lines at big box stores or frantic Internet searches for the best price(s) on The Most Perfect Gift Ever. For me, it means doing as little as possible because I am still recovering from Thanksgiving.

Should you opt to shop online this holiday season, I present you with a delightful option for those you know who love whimsical prints or stationery. Casey Robin is a visual development artist who’s worked at Disney; take a look at her portfolio and you’ll see the Disney influence. (You should also watch “Chalk,” the animated short she put together with several fellow summer associates at Walt Disney Animation Studios.)

I’ve interviewed Casey a couple of times – once for an article and another time for a Disney-themed writing project. She is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever worked with, and while we have yet to meet in person, the photos I have seen of her make me think she’s actually a Disney character come to life: blonde pixie haircut, big beautiful eyes, mischievous smile. I adore this young woman.

A few months ago, after I completed work on the Disney character project Casey helped me with, she sent me a sampler of notecards featuring her original designs. It’s hard to choose which ones are my favorites, as the images just pop with color and whimsy, but I’m a big fan of the Lady Bugs series.

Click on each image to be taken to purchase the cards in her Etsy shop, or visit her Etsy shop directly to browse through available prints, as well as the stationery.

Casey Robin, Etsy, stationery, cards, gift cards, thank you cards

Sweet thank you card by Casey Robin (excuse the bad lighting)

Casey Robin, Midsummer Nights Dream, faeries, fairies, fairy, whimsical art, artwork

Midsummer faeries note card series by Casey Robin. Clockwise from top right: Lantern, Bluebell, Poppy, Snowdrop.

Casey Robin, Lady Bugs, notecards, artwork, prints, starlets, Hollywood

Lady Bugs notecards by Casey Robin – Bluey Holiday, Marilyn Monarch, Betty Bumble and Amelady(bug)

Casey Robin, cats, cat lovers, cat lady, note cards, stationery

Cat Parade notecards by Casey Robin. Perfect for corresponding with cat lovers!

Friday’s Hot Tip: Moxie’s Mini Drugstore Kits

We’ve all been there: you’re at the office, out with friends, shopping, eating, whatever. You spill a little marinara sauce on your shirt, get a paper cut, discover your period has started early, feel the early pangs of heartburn. But you’re nowhere near a store to get what you need to feel a bit more put together, or it’s inconvenient to find one. What do you do?

mini drugstore kit, first aid supplies, emergency kit for purse, drugstore items

Moxie’s Mini Drugstore Kit

Enter the Moxie’s Mini Drugstore Kit. (I just made that name up. Catchy, eh?) It’s a little pouch containing various and sundry items you may need in the event of a not-dire-but-mildly-upsetting emergency. I’ve made a few kits for myself and recently I realized, hey, other folks might dig this, and it’s a great holiday gift, too.

What you need:

  • Small bag or pouch. You can repurpose a cosmetic bag, as I did with one I got from Jo Malone (shown above), or you can buy an inexpensive pouch or bag at a drugstore, dollar store or office supply store. If the kit is going to get banged around a lot in a backpack or totebag, then you may want to use a hard acrylic box or tear-resistant fabric instead of plastic.
  • 1-2 pill boxes or containers – these Nalgene vials, hinged boxes, or hinged lid jars are good. You can also repurpose a small candy or mint tin; just wash and dry thoroughly before you use it.
  • Drugstore stuff – This is where practicality and ingenuity meet. You’ll want the basic first aid stuff: adhesive bandages, alcohol swabs, aspirin, antacid pills, individually wrapped throat lozenges. Beyond that, you can add items such as:
    • stain remover pen – Tide To Go pens are my preference
    • bobby pins
    • safety pins
    • dental floss
    • mini toothbrush – Wisp by Colgate are perfect for this
    • feminine hygiene products – tampons, pantiliners, pads, Instead SoftCup
    • lip balm
    • hand wipes – individually wrapped wipes are the most compact
    • sewing kit
    • pocket pack of tissues
    • eye drops
    • hand lotion – travel size
    • sunblock – travel size
    • antibacterial gel
    • nail file and/or nail clippers
    • breath mints, strips or spray

Once you have everything, it’s time to start putting together your kits. Fill the pill boxes with a selection of pills, separating them as needed and labeling the boxes. (If you’re doing this for someone else, you may want to leave the pill boxes empty so they can fill them with their preferred over-the-counter medicines.) With the single-use items, such as the bandages and handwipes, insert at least 3 of each – these items should be flat & compact enough that they won’t take up much room in the bag.

Moxie's Mini Drugstore Kit, personal hygiene, first aid, emergency kit

The Moxie Mini Drugstore kit from my backpack contains all these items inside a green mesh pouch.

Pro Tips:

  • If you’re putting together more than one kit, then you may want to look for items at the dollar store.
  • If you tend to grab hotel freebies such as lotion, mouthwash or sewing kits, these are the perfect size to include.
  • Making kits for yourself? Be sure to do a kit inventory every 3-6 months to refresh your supplies, check expiration dates, etc.
  • These kits in a larger size are also great for bridal parties (crazy things are known to happen in the hours before a wedding), new moms (add baby wipes, a pacifier, and other baby supplies), college grads off to their first job (perfect to tuck in their desk at work).

Throwback Thursday: Pepperidge Farm Remembers

Recently my social media friend Starmama posted a factoid about the history of German chocolate cake. Turns out there’s no real connection to Germany; it was simply a cake made using German’s chocolate.

German's chocolate, baking chocolate, baking, cakes, chocolate

German comes from the inventor of the sweetened chocolate, Samuel German. What started out as a cake recipe titled “German’s chocolate cake” ended up being called German chocolate cake. I kinda want to start calling it by that original name again, but I suspect I would be alone in doing so, and all these people would correct me, then I’d get mad and go all Cliff Clavin on them, which no one likes.

This revelation reminded me of all the times Momcat bought Pepperidge Farm German chocolate cake in the frozen desserts section of the store. It was the go-to cake for several years in the late ’70s and early ’80s for my family, whether it was a birthday celebration or other special occasion. As a kid I liked the coconut-pecan frosting; it was decadently sweet but also had texture. Eventually we reached critical mass and became sick of the cake and its cloying sweetness. (We moved on to Sara Lee chocolate mousse, another decadent frozen dessert which changed recipes long ago. We loved our sweets.)

Pepperidge Farm, cake, frozen cakes, frozen desserts, dessert, German chocolate cake, chocolate cake

 

Remembering all those German chocolate cakes got me remembering those Pepperidge Farm ads from the ’70s and ’80s with the “Pepperidge Farm remembers” tagline. I can still hear the New England-esque accent of the actor in the ad…and now you can, too!

What favorite treats do you remember from childhood?

Friday’s Hot Tip: Homemade Salsa

When I was growing up, my parents and I would frequently go out to lunch on Saturdays. It was a post-church treat as Momcat didn’t have to cook or clean anything up. One of our preferred lunch spots was Alamo, a Mexican restaurant with a more Tex-Mex flair. The salsa came to the table in a big Melamine bowl and was the perfect consistency: finely blended fresh tomato, onion, garlic and cilantro. This is the place where I first heard Pops say “Don’t fill up on chips! You’ll be too full to eat your tacos.” But they were so good, and the salsa was so tasty, it was hard to stop.

For many years I have searched for the perfect salsa like Alamo makes (yep, they are still in business), without much success. Sure, there have been some strong contenders – I particularly like Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial. Only in recent years did I consider the possibility that making my own salsa could bring me to that same blissful state as Alamo’s chips and salsa did so many years ago.

A few months ago, I had lunch with a friend who makes all sorts of fabulous sounding dishes at home. I mentioned wanting to make salsa and she whipped out a notebook and started writing down a recipe a friend had given her years before. I believe its origins are from someone’s Mexican grandmother. Todo del mundo ya sabe that abuelitas make delicious food, and this salsa is no exception. Even better? It’s super inexpensive to make and all you need is your blender or food processor. I’ve even made a short video to show you how easy it is.

You can easily adapt this recipe to suit your tastes. Can’t get fire-roasted tomatoes? Use regular instead. Don’t like cilantro? Leave it out. (You have made abuela cry, but she understands.) Too spicy? Use mild chiles instead. No lime? Use a lemon, or, if you must, use ReaLemon or ReaLime in the plastic container.

Homemade Salsa

  • 2 14-oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes (Make sure there’s no added garlic, onion or chiles in the can. Trust me on this. You’re going to be adding fresh garlic, onion and chiles anyway, so why do you need it here?)
  • 1/4 C onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 4-oz can diced jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed (jam the cilantro – leaves, stems and all – into a measuring cup)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender. Process/blend on low speeds until ingredients are combined. Makes approximately 4 1/2 cups.


February is the Month of Letters (Sez Mary)

stationery, postcards, pens, mail, letters, letter writingThose of you who have been reading my blog for a while know how I feel about letter writing. Opening your mailbox to see a handwritten postcard or letter is one of my favorite things. Along with brown paper packages tied up in string, of course.

So when I heard about the Month of Letters Challenge through some friends on a social network, I was intrigued. When I read the post about it on novelist Mary Robinette Kowal’s website, I was excited. And I decided to participate.

The two-part concept is simple: for every day in February that the postal service runs in your area, mail something. It could be a letter, a note, a clipping from a magazine or newspaper, a photo, a postcard. You can mail something to your next-door neighbor or to someone on the other side of the world. Part two of the challenge is to write back to everyone who writes to you. The bonus is that mailed replies count toward your final tally for the month.

I confess, this will probably be fairly easy for me, since I’ve been in the habit of sending postcards and notes and cards to people for the past year. But there are a few letters I have wanted to write and haven’t, for whatever silly reason, so the Month of Letters Challenge is my incentive to finally write that letter to my childhood friend who lives in Europe with her husband and three daughters.

For those who want to participate but are slightly daunted, fear not. I have provided you with some pro tips:

  • On a budget? Check your local thrift shop for like-new, unused postcards and stationery. I’ve scored a large number of postcards from all over the world by going to my SPCA Thrift Store and perusing the stationery/postcard section. Sometimes used cards sneak into the available selection, so check first before buying.
  • Hate your handwriting? You’re allowed to type your letters. Just no emailing. I’m watching you. But consider this: the more you write things by hand, the better your handwriting gets. Unless you’re a doctor.
  • Get some nice writing tools. I am addicted to office supplies, so I don’t need another incentive to go to Office Depot, Staples, or Office Max. Trust me when I say a fabulous pen can make all the difference when it comes to handwriting letters. If you can afford a Waterman or Mont Blanc fountain pen, go for it. (Hint: Lamy fountain pens are fairly inexpensive and write nicely.) Otherwise look for a pen that has nice heft to it and doesn’t make your fingers cramp. I am a fan of Dr. Grip pens, which come in ballpoint and gel ink. I also like Sharpie pens – they are acid free and don’t bleed through paper.
  • Don’t know what to write? Get creative. Relay a funny story about your pet or your child. Share one of your favorite recipes. Transcribe a poem. List five things in a random category, such as favorite movies starting with the letter C, books that changed your life, or your least favorite foods. Hint: using postcards or small notecards means you have much less space to fill up with text.

Join me, won’t you? It should be a lot of fun. You have a day to go buy stamps and find some decent stationery. And if you need some pen pals for the month, check out the forums on the official Month of Letters Challenge website.

Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin? Penne with Spinach & Chickpeas

The hardest part about giving up a lot of wheat and gluten is giving up pasta. Fortunately there are several companies who have come up with rice pasta. Tinkyada makes excellent gluten-free pasta but at $3.99 or more a bag, it can be quite expensive. I buy Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Pasta and find it to be just as good. By using rice pasta I don’t have to stop making my favorite pasta dishes, such as this incredibly delicious penne with spinach, chickpeas and tomatoes tossed in an olive oil-based sauce.

This recipe is a very slight variation on one I got from Kirsten over at NilsenLife. I love chickpeas and especially love them in this dish, which is so full of garlicky tomato-y chickpea goodness that I often eat more than I should in one sitting. I use baby spinach leaves instead of frozen – while I’m loving spinach more now as an adult, I still have issues with frozen spinach. It’s just not aesthetically pleasing.

Earlier this week I visited Kirsten at her home and we briefly discussed our love of this dish. We were in agreement about the addictive qualities of this dish, but couldn’t quite define what makes it so…craveable. The olive oil? The garlic? The combination of flavors? Whatever it is, this pasta dish is well worth turning on the stove for, even during these hot summer days. Pro tip: if you have leftovers, try them cold or at room temperature – still tastes fabulous.

Penne with Spinach and Chickpeas in Garlic Sauce

5-6 oz. loose fresh spinach OR 1 small pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz. penne pasta
1/3 C olive oil
3-6 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you like your food, or if you are trying to ward off vampires)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained but not rinsed
Kosher salt & ground pepper
1/4 C grated Parmesan (optional)

Clean spinach, discard stems. (Chop leaves if they are on the large side.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes. (Don’t let the garlic burn!) Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and cook 2 minutes more. Add freshly ground pepper for added zing. Throw in the chopped spinach, add kosher salt and stir well. Turn off the burner and allow the spinach to cook on its own – it will be much fresher & bright green in color.

When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly. Add pasta to saucepan or mix pasta with sauce in a separate bowl. Sprinkle on the Parmesan, and toss again. You can have this pasta without the Parmesan if you have issues with dairy products, but the cheese adds another lovely flavor to the dish.

Serves 3-4 (Pro tip: use entire bag of penne and spinach if you’re feeding a larger group.)