• The Not Again Issue

    Instant Power Up: Caldo Verde Recipe

    The Not Again Issue
    Trouble baker jan 2016 001

    Trouble Baker

    New Year, No You

    New Year's self-improvement resolutions are a waste, especially when it comes to diets and drinking. Everyone seems to give up some sort of necessary comfort that’s morphed into a bad habit and end up stressing themselves more by way of deprivation.

    Two years ago, I took up one of those New Year/New You offers at the local gym. I got four personal training sessions for half the cost. Despite telling the person who signed me up that I had a background in mixed martial arts and that I was looking for someone who could show me how to lift, I was assigned a perky, blonde, Biggest Loser-type trainer who looked at me like I should start crying when she told me I weighed over 200 pounds (I’m 5’10” and built for sport, so even at my thinnest I’m a thick bitch). I described my situation – anxiety, major depression and PTSD – and she decided to bury me anyway in technical, fast-paced drills that I could only keep up with by having her there to bark directions and correct my technique. I followed her recommendations and burned a few thousand calories a week while keeping my daily intake to 1,400-1,700. I burn at least 1,800 a day by just existing, so the whole idea seemed sketch, but I went with it.

    Within a few weeks, I looked fit, felt like shit, and had cried more than I had in the preceding year. A diet low in sugar, fats, and carbs, combined with dizzying workouts had me hungry, weak, emotionally fried, and wired for imminent demolition. When I asked about changes I could make, the trainer just said “well, of course you’re going to feel hungry.”

    After that, I ghosted on her, exchanging a routine that sought to break me down for one that improved what I already was. I kept away from sugar and alcohol, not because they made me feel bad, but because the way I was consuming them – in massive quantities all the time – did. Eating rich, nutritious dishes and pounding on a heavy bag four times a week pretty much killed the anxiety that was driving my compulsive eating and drinking, and I felt fucking powerful.

    The following recipe for caldo verde (a Portuguese soup with greens, potatoes, and sausage) is my go-to when I’m on the edge and need something satisfying to feel like myself again. It’s rich enough to feel indulgent and simple enough to make without much planning. This will be enough for you and a few friends, or at least a few meals worth of leftovers.

    I tend not to follow recipes and like to add something different every time. With this soup, I usually add a pinch of smoked paprika or a squeeze of tomato paste during the onion and garlic phase (step 2). Feel free to make it your own. If you’re vegan, substitute the offending ingredients with vegetable broth and sautéed mushrooms or fake sausage, or go with just potatoes and kale.

    Caldo Verde

    1 lb sausage (linguiça is traditional, but I buy what I can afford, which is sometimes no sausage at all)
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    As much garlic as you can handle, peeled and finely chopped (4 cloves)
    6 potatoes, cut into half-inch pieces
    8 cups broth (chicken or vegetable, or straight up water works, too)
    1 or 2 bunches of kale, sliced so thinly you’d call it shredded
    Salt and pepper to taste, chili flakes if you’re nasty


    1. Splash a healthy amount of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and brown the sausages (or mushrooms) on all sides, until cooked through. Remove the sausages (or mushrooms) and set aside to cool

    2. Add more olive oil to the pot, if needed, and toss in the chopped onion. Add a pinch of salt and saute until the onions start to look shiny and clear, then add the garlic and cook a couple minutes more. This is a great time to add chili flakes – the hot oil will bring out the heat.

    3. Add in the potatoes and stir to coat them with the onions and garlic. To be honest, I don’t know if you actually need to coat the potatoes with the onion mixture, but I like to think of it as introducing new friends.

    4. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are on the verge of falling apart. Smash some of the potatoes in the pot with the back of a spoon or a fork to thicken the broth.

    5. Add the shredded kale to the pot and cook just until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    6. Slice the sausages and add to each bowl before serving.

    7. If you're fancy, drizzle each bowl with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and dig in.

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