That’s Company Good

Over the years of fiddling in the kitchen, my husband and I have developed a rating system for our creations that ranges from “Hmm, I thought that would work” to “That’s company good.”  In between there are categories like “has potential,” “needs tweaking,” “good kid food,” and “dinner with close friends.”  Well last night, I cooked for about 25 minutes and still scored a rating of “company good.”  The fact that garden vegetables were featured just made the victory that much sweeter.  So for your late spring dining pleasure, I offer you….. Company Good Pea Soup with Crispy Leeks.

Now before all of you pea shunners shrug and click somewhere else, I should tell you that my husband is new to enjoying peas.  Apparently his childhood reaction to the little round greenies was rather on the high side of drama, and yet, when I discovered that the kids would eat ANY kind of peas, he decided to give them another go.  It seems to me that he mostly tolerated cooked frozen peas, and put a good face on it to be a role model.  But when we had pea success in the garden, his love affair with peas truly began.  This soup uses both frozen and fresh peas to the best advantage of each, in my opinion.  If you are not a pea fan, I would encourage you to try them fresh.  It’s a whole different ball of yum.  If you’re already a pea fan, this soup will make you appreciate them all the more.  So here we go……

Company Good Pea Soup with Crispy Leeks - served four for dinner (with enough leftover for lunch for four) with bread and salad

  • olive oil for pan
  • 1 leek
  • 6 c veggie broth
  • 5 c frozen peas
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground pepper (I used white to hide it)
  • 1 t thyme
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • shelled fresh peas (I started with about 4 handfuls fresh, but you can just use however many you can get your hands on)

Let’s start with the Crispy Leeks.  Cut the stiff green and the root end off the leek (save for future broth).  Using the white and some of the light green part of the leek, cut the leek in half the long way and then in half again, you should have what looks like long pickle spears.  Place the leek into a bowl of water and swish them around (leeks tend to hide dirt between the layers).  Pour glug of olive oil into pan and warm on low.  While oil is warming, remove leeks from water and cut into about 1/2 inch pieces (no, I didn’t measure and never will, so there).  Add leeks to pan.  Proceed to largely neglect them for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically. This should be about how long you need to make the soup. They will begin to brown, and this is GOOD. Do not become alarmed. Reduce the heat a bit and keep an eye on them. You want to brown them as much as you can without burning them. If using cast iron, you can turn the pan off when you’re getting close and just let them sit in the pan to finish up.

OK, so while your leeks are browning…  The SOUP!!!  Pour half of the veggie broth in a blender.  Add the frozen peas and go to it.  If your blender doesn’t like dealing with the frozen peas, add more of the broth.  When blended, pour into a pot and add remaining broth, salt, pepper and thyme.   Warm soup over medium heat (and don’t forget to stir your leeks).  When warm and your leeks are browned as you would like, add juice of 1/2 lemon.  Stir.  Serve in bowls, adding a handful of fresh peas and a spoonful of crispy leeks.  The fresh peas will barely cook (my limit on cooking for most fresh veggies) and will add just the right crisp bite to the velvety soup.  Delish.  That’s company good.

Cauliflower Without the Caul

Being a nurse, I always assumed that cauliflower was so named because it is white and lumpy, and a baby born with a ‘caul’ or remnant of the amniotic sac, has a thin white membrane covering a portion of its head or body.   Wrong.
Caul is latin for cabbage.

Being a somewhat competent gardener, I assumed that when I planted my cauliflower nice and early that I would get to enjoy the big globes of white lumpiness that are spectacular creamed, roasted or raw dipped in a variety of sauces.  Wrong.  I got no big globes.
(There was also the change in shade to this particular bed going from some morning shade to sun all day long – but that is another story…)

Lots of cauli-leaves!

I got no white lumpy stuff or even tiny globes anywhere on this plant!

There ain’t no caul to my cauliflower!

Being practical when it comes to my garden space I thought I’d just yank up all those non cauliflower-bearing stalks of large leaves and plant some beans.  I thought I’d chop them up in my Vita Mix into compost.  Wrong again.
Happily this time.

What if they’re edible?  Broccoli rabe is a high-end grocery item, right?

With the help of my 11 year old who is always willing to do research chores on the web for me, I discovered that indeed cauliflower leaves are edible.

So we ate them.

I found several links pointing to the same recipe for roasting cauliflower leaves.  Here’s how.

chop ‘em down!

Ingredients:
(This recipe was adapted from one by Mei Lei – I found it and further adapted it from Green Talk)
Use any leaves:  Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale or any green:
Soy Sauce to drizzle over the leaves.  (I used Bragg’s liquid aminos)
Scallions – I used a leek – from the garden ; )
Four cloves of garlic (I didn’t have any garlic, flavor was still great without it)
Sesame Oil or Olive Oil (I used olive)
Salt and Pepper to taste

What To Do:
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F .
Wash the cauliflower (if you have any actual flower) and leaves and cut into bite-size pieces, discarding the toughest outer layer of leaves.
Smash a few cloves of garlic and chop them coarsely. Chop your scallions/leeks as well.   The whole scallion, not just the white part.
Toss the garlic, onions, and cauliflower with a generous splash of soy sauce and oil in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Note, we omit the salt.   (I used a Pyrex  9 by 11 pan and just filled it up with the leaves.  If you have to many leaves make another batch.)
Place the uncovered roasting pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the green leaves are crisp and both the florets and the thicker stalks are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork.

chop your stem pieces much smaller than this so they won’t be so tough!

I recommend if you are using chunks of stalk and/or have chunks of cauliflower, that you start them out first in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, then add your leaves.  Or make sure that you chop stalks into small pieces.  I liked the crispiness of the leaves but my husband did not.  So adjust your cooking time according to your Crispy Leaf Tolerance Level (also known as CLTL).

Green Talk also had links to some other cauliflower leaf recipes – this one sounds very promising to me!

Cauliflower stem & leaf soup

I LOVE eating fresh from the garden.  And even when I don’t have the brilliant, sweet, clear cut goodness of strawberries in the garden (Little Sis made an uncooked strawberry pie from her garden a few days ago), there is always unexpected goodness.  A lot of the goodness can’t be eaten, but only digested as my garden continues to teach me lessons about perseverance, flexibility, the reward of physical labor… and daisies.  Because really, how can you not see the bright side, adapt to change, and have a great day when you have daisies in the garden?

The Garden Welcomes Us Home

Thankfully our return to mid-Maryland yesterday was relatively uneventful, which is to say that the dog did NOT vomit on me this time.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  In addition to a pretty pleasant ride home, we arrived in time to see vegetative splendor all over the garden.  WOW!  Everything is going crazy and it is such a joy to tame it all again by eating. :-)

This morning I harvested a shoe box full of peas (note to self, be more clear about dividing into shelling and non shelling when planting.  They’ve married one another and made things a bit tricky, but delicious.  The cauliflower actually has little cauliflower nubs in it.  The onions are going gangbusters and the beets and carrots have enormous greens on top.  The lettuce withstood the unseasonable heat and all the new plantings done in haste before our trip seem to have settled in.  The tomatoes look dubious, as usual, but that’s a post for another day as I don’t wish my garden gratitude to be spoiled.

We had originally planned to go the store this morning to pick up more supplies for our trip-empty fridge and within an hour of harvesting, it was very clear that we wouldn’t need to go anywhere.  YAY!  All sounds great, right?  It is, and I’ve saved the best for last…  oh my, how I love fresh strawberries…  This colander is a full size variety.  There were A LOT of strawberries waiting for me, which is extra swell because we had a special guest coming for dinner.  I figured it was a good time for strawberry pie.  But friends, I have to tell you, the traditional strawberry pie with the goo, well let’s just say that when it comes to food, I’m a no-goo kind of gal.  So I did a quick internet search for fresh strawberry pie… and I got an extraordinary number of either gooey or too cooked for my liking berry suggestions.  Looks like it’s time to make a new wheel.  I changed my search approach when I remembered someone saying something about strawberries and balsamic vinegar…. and the search was on. This sounded more like what I had in mind.

So I hulled and sliced about a pound and a half of strawberries, put them in a bowl with a tablespoon of balsamic and a tablespoon of sugar and let them sit there.  I defrosted a tart shell made on another day – although a regular pie crust would have been fine.  When dinner was complete, I put the balsamacized strawberries into the tart shell and made an attempt at a decorative drizzle with almond yogurt.  Delish.  Truly fresh strawberry pie, served to a new friend, and a fine feast from the garden.  Welcome home indeed!

Carni-Mom Feeds the Troops Crabcakes

My poor carnivorous mother.  How did the T-bone fall so far from the tree?

The whatever it is that fell from the tree doesn’t even look like a T-bone anymore… more like an artichoke, or a glob of spirulina, or an apple!  And it happened twice.  Our mother has always been a meat lover of the sneak-a-raw-bite,-savor-the-organs,-suck -the-marrow variety.  So how did she end up with daughters who lean vegetarian and are both experimenting with raw foods?  Well, I’ll tell you.

I don’t know.

Perhaps a case of nurture over nature? or of nature over nurture?  I’ll stick with I don’t know.

In any case, she still loves us, even with all the beans, and has happily sampled all our dinner offerings this week in all their grainy, vegetabliciousness.

She enjoyed our plant based meals but also wanted to provide us with one of her specialties.  Carni-Mom wondered if we would be willing, or able, to consume either fried chicken or homemade crabcakes, both of which she does really well.

Luckily, Mom asked me about this fleshy dilemma on the phone, so Little Sis had no say and I was able to shout, “Crabcakes” quickly and unequivocally.   I explained that if Little Sis didn’t want to eat crabcakes I’d make sure there were lots of vegetables to satisfy her and would help eat her portion of the crabcakes.  I know, pretty self-less.

Despite my self-lessness, Little Sis ain’t no dummy and she wisely decided to eat her share… as did everyone (except the picky twin) with relish.  (Not really with pickle relish – not even tartar sauce or cocktail sauce necessary for these bad boys.)

Oh boy oh boy!

So here is the recipe my wonderful Carni-Mom uses to produce golden, lumpy, zippy bits of scavenger meat.  No shelling required on our part.  Thanks Mom!

Carni-Mom’s Crabcakes (adapted from the Old Bay Seasoning tin)

1 lb. crab meat
8 single saltine crackers (Carni-Mom used gluten free this time – thanks again Mom!)
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
chopped fresh parsley (couldn’t pin her down on an amount – about a third of a handful was the best we could do)
1/2 tsp. yellow or dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten

Smash crackers into small pieces.  Mix in everything but the crab meat.  Stir in crab meat.
Shape mixture into patties.

Only 12 minutes til chow time!

Broil 6 minutes each side.
Eat quickly enough to get seconds, but not so fast that you don’t truly savor this wonderful thing.
Thank the cook.

It has been one of the blessings of this week spent together at the beach to both give and receive food that is nourishing, often new, always tasty, and of course, seasoned with salty air and laughter.  Wishing you the blessing of healthy and savory gatherings with friends and family!

In Repose

It’s astonishing what can happen on vacation.  Two days ago I found myself asking what day it was – on Monday of a weeklong trip that started on Saturday.  This is unprecedented.  Typically, my uncertainty about the day is a sure sign that I have “vacated;” I have become untethered from my everyday life enough to truly rest in some way.  It’s interesting that this trip is the one that has made me fell so rested so quickly.  We are a large group.  We are a noisy group.  We are a diverse group in terms of our vacation wants and wishes.  We accommodate one another, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s what is doing it.

I think part of my relaxation stems from being with a group of people who will NOT ask me why I won’t let my kids have cupcakes for lunch every day, or how I could possibly give up fast food, or why I would bother to cook from scratch when there’s so much good food already made in the stores.  I am in my home food community.  I am not subjected to TV ads, radio ads, bulletin boards for stuff I shouldn’t, and don’t particularly want, to eat.  The beach that I’m visiting has no boardwalk, and therefore no french fries (for which I admit an overwhelming weakness), cotton candy (which I find repulsive), or any of hundreds of non-food items for sale just steps away from your towel.  For our merry band, beach snacking is not about a tasty treat you can only get at the beach, but about grabbing a bite between dipping your feet in the ocean, playing a quick game of football, and digging for sand puppies and shells.

For us, snacking on the beach looks merely like a more portable version of snacking at home.  It’s not a bag of chips (although I admit that I do love chips); it’s not a bunch of juice boxes and a package of cookies.  It’s a handful of items (some a little salty, some a little sweet) that might actually stand a chance of nourishing the weary sandcastle builder.   A box of Triscuits (Big Sis and I giggled to discover we had both brought MANY Triscuits with us for just this purpose), a mess of almonds, and a container of pecans and raisins.  To drink?  Cold water.  Yes, we are on vacation.  Yes, that means it should be special.  To me, this has come to mean that I should not have to end the day feeling sick from eating everything I’ve ever craved or move toward bedtime resenting my children for having their 10th meltdown of the day when their sugar induced highs come to an abrupt end.  Sitting with this group and watching our children snack on this pristine beach, I’ve been thinking a lot about snacking and how snacks, perhaps more than any other category of foods seem to have left the purpose of nourishment behind altogether.

Our snacks are supposed to be tasty, a treat, delicious, creamy, gooey, colorful, salty-fatty good; if they are for kids, they are also supposed to be fun, silly, packaged individually, strewn with characters from movies and television shows, and downright entertaining to eat.  Good grief.  What if a snack was just a snack?  What if a snack was simply a small amount of food that kept you reasonably satisfied until the next meal?  What if we began to think of our snacks as nourishment rather than seeing them as entertainment?

On our beach outing, my daughter expressed an objection to the snacks I had available (shocker); I pointed out to her that we were not at home and that my beach bag is not a restaurant.  This is what I have; these are your options (only a slight variation from my usual snack time response to picky eater grief).  “Choose one so you can finish up and we can look for shells.”  And she did.  A handful of almonds, two crackers and a couple of glugs of water later, we returned to our oceanside fun.  Nourished, refreshed, and ready for plenty more family beach business, which really is the point, isn’t it?

Sanderlings & Sustenance

Sanderlings are the little birds that run around at the edge of the surf looking to dip their beaks into the wet sand in search of small crustaceans before the next wave chases them to a new spot.  I imagine a wooden clicking sound accompanying the rapid movement of their stiff little legs.  And like the sap that I am, I read a little joy into their frenetic movements.  Joy to look for – and probably more likely – joy to find food.

tik-a-tik-a-tik-a-tik-a-tik-a-tik-a-tik

I don’t have to look very far for food.  It’s all around me.  There in the refrigerator.  Over there at the grocery store.  And I sometimes do experience joy getting my food from those places, but far more joy is involved when I ‘find’ it in my garden.

As I stare at the waves, take some deep breaths and realize just how blessed I am, I do feel that part of the blessing that is my life is the re-connection with food that has taken place since I began gardening 15 years ago.  Gardening renews the joy of supplying my life with more of what I need to continue living.  It’s my daily job, my daily duty, my daily dose of reality.  The reality of the procurement and preparation of food is an attainable and simple joy that continues to sustain me mind, body and spirit.

Add family and a good discussion about evil, Monsanto, capitalism, personal responsibility, the word heinous, bees, colony collapse disorder and congress (whew!) and dinner becomes a memorable and important bit of living.

It was my turn to supply the calories for the laughter and heavy discussion so I turned to Angela Liddon and a recipe I have used before but could present in its deconstructed form to please the variety of diets and preferences in our group of 9 with ages ranging 5 – 79.

Assembling the goodies

She calls it “Time-Crunch Vegan Enchiladas”

Inspired by Susan’s Summer Squash Enchiladas.

Ingredients:

2 handfuls baby spinach
1.25 cups enchilada sauce or pasta sauce (I used an all natural salsa)
1 bell pepper, color of your choice (I used orange)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp mild chili powder
1/4 tsp sea salt, to taste
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp lime juice (optional) – I threw in a little zest as well
1.25 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
2 whole grain tortillas
Vegan cheeze sauce for the topping: (4 tbsp hummus, 1 tsp or a bit more milk, 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. Throw chopped onion into a large pot and heat until caramelized, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add in the chopped pepper, zucchini, beans, and spinach and cook another few minutes until the spinach wilts. Add in the pasta or enchilada sauce, nutritional yeast, sea salt, chili powder, and optional lime juice and stir very well. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Take a baking dish and pour about 1/2 of pasta or enchilada sauce onto bottom of dish. Now take 2 tortillas and fill with mixture. Wrap tortillas and place into dish, fold side down. Cover the tortillas with the remaining enchilada veggie/bean mixture and place into the oven uncovered at 350F for about 18-20 minutes. While it is cooking prepare the vegan cheeze sauce and then drizzle it over the enchiladas before serving. Makes 2 servings.

In order to accommodate everyone I saved some of the raw peppers & spinach, some of the cooked black beans, grated some cheddar cheese and offered 3 varieties of tortilla including sprouted corn for the gluten-free diners;  Instead of baking the wrapped tortillas I laid out a buffet style wrap your own tortilla (or raw ingredients).  It was a hit and Little Sis’ picky eater discovered that she actually did like raw spinach if she wrapped a little cheese in it.  Yeah!  I especially love the flavor of the hummus/ vegan cheese sauce on top of the enchilada.  Very tasty.

I am currently surrounded by cousins wrestling with their Dad/Uncle, my mother finishing up a jigsaw puzzle and my husband cleaning the dishes… God love him.  I find the spiritual connection with food to be much stronger in the cooking end of kitchen duty.  All of these beach activities are sweetened by the recovery of a pink hue to my son’s lips after boogie boarding in the 60 degree weather rendered his lips a distinct blue earlier today.

Tomorrow we will do it all again, hopefully recalling the joy of the Sanderling in finding, and the human joy of preparing, and sharing, nourishment.

Leftoverlicious Breakfast

Yep, that’s what I said.  And no, I’m not talking cold pizza (sorry honey).  I am talking about that super duper planning ahead that looks very much like making too much of something and then having an awesome breakfast.  Let me start at the beginning.

It’s a bit of a nutty week here in Lake WTH.  We returned from TN last Weds to a whirlwind of work related insanity and are now preparing for a vacation on the Atlantic, YAY!  We unpacked, untangled work issues, resuscitated the garden, yard, house, convinced the dog we still love him, said goodbye to our pre-K classmates, and now we are packing again.  Trust me I am not complaining, merely highlighting that there has been a pretty sustained level of chaos around here.  Because I knew it would be that way, I have been cooking for chaos all week.  For me, that means making extra of some elements of a meal in order to find other uses for them later in the week.  We’ve talked about ways to do that for lunch, but since we’ve acknowledged that breakfast can be a super sugary start to the day for a lot of folks, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share two leftover inspired breakfasts that I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this week.

Breakfast 1: Quinoaty Porridge with Date Cream and Strawberries

I mixed the grains in a bowl according to my hunger, added a dollop of date cream and sliced strawberries over the top.  I added a little almond milk to mine as I enjoy milk with my porridge, but it wasn’t necessary.  Delish.

Breakfast 2: Quingroaty Porridge with Date Cream and Blueberries

  •  leftover quinoa
  • soaked buckwheat groats (see below)
  • date cream
  • handful of blueberries (not from my yard, unfortunately)

Soaked Buckwheat Groats (not kasha, just plain buckwheat groats): I mixed about 2/3 c groats with twice as much water in a jar and left it in the fridge overnight. Rinsed well in the morning (they feel a little slimy before rinsing; this is normal and not an indication of ooziness). They will be ever so slightly crunchy, which is a nice contrast to quinoa, or any other soft porridge grain.

I mixed the grains in the bowl, added the date cream and a handful of blueberries.  Voila.  Fantabulous breakfast #2 all from a very ambitious estimate of our quinoa needs.

So while you were catching your last few z’s this morning, I was packing our ridiculous food life into boxes and coolers to play chef with Big Sis on the sandy coastline of North Carolina.  When I finish packing and my children arise, I will enjoy yet another bowl of quinoa and something….  perhaps apples and raw oats or some dried figs and just a touch of maple syrup and walnuts – that sounds like a winner.  Either option ought to last me until we can justify breaking out the road trip snacks. Delish!

I’m So Glad You Won’t Eat That

Little Sis and I talk a lot about whether our children like our food discoveries and creations.  It’s important to us to find kid-friendly healthy foods as kids are easier to get along with, have fun with, and most importantly – CONTROL – when they’re not doped out on chemicals and stimulants such as sugar.  Really, I am much happier when I am in control of the little people in the house.  In fact, I’m a little happier when I’m in control of ALL the people in the house but this is a discussion for a therapist, not you long suffering blog-readers who are wondering if I’m ever going to get to the point.  Suffice it to say that one of my favorite lines to my family is, “If you would just do what I tell you, everything would go so smoothly around here.”  Don’t worry, they are not daunted in the least and go on about their business as usual.

During this process of searching for kid-friendly foods one sometimes joyfully discovers something that the little people don’t like.  I am very glad in this case because their ‘No’ is my ‘Go!’

Brownies!  Say it again – Brownies!  Brownies are chewy, fudgy and in my book, usually far too sweet… what’s an adult taste bud to do?  Concoct something from dates, almonds, cocoa, and a wee bit of sugar that looks and smells like a brownie, but tastes much more sophisticated.  I am hooked and not the least bit sorry about it.

I got the recipe from Snack Girl and here it, along with a few pictures, are to tempt you to indulge your adult taste buds.  Slip the kids something you don’t particularly care for and enjoy!

No-Bake Brownie Balls
(15 balls)
1 cup roasted almonds (no salt added)
15 pitted dates
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting)
1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup
2 tablespoons water
confectioner’s sugar (optional) – I used unsweetened coconut instead for rolling

Add almonds to food processor and pulse until ground.

(I used a Vita Mix.  It would be a LOT easier in a food processor.  The first time I made a single batch and I cut the dates into 3rds before adding to Vita Mix to try and help it out.)

Look at those almonds-a-grinding!

Add dates (chopped if using Vita Mix), cocoa powder, honey, and water. Mix until it just forms a sticky mass.

(The second time I made these greed got the best of me – I attempted to make a 1 & 1/2 times recipe and the Vita Mix safety kicked in to keep from burning up the motor and it stopped.  So I removed the mixture a bit early but the next direction in the recipe was the same…)

Wash hands and attempt to make a ball with the dough (it may need a few drops more water to get to the perfect consistency).

Nothing like having tasty gooey stuff all over your hand.  How was I ever going to get it off?   : )

Here is the dough after lots of squeezing, mashing and kneading.

Put a tablespoon of cocoa or confectioner’s sugar (or coconut) on a plate. Roll balls in your hand and then roll in sugar or cocoa (or both).

Eat! These can be stored in the fridge for a week.

For one brownie bite: 109 calories, 6.8 g fat, 12.2 g carbohydrates, 3.6 g protein, 3.5 g fiber, 3 PointsPlus

(My bites were evidently much smaller as I got many more than 15 – so that means I get two, right?)

TaDah!  Truly tasty and children need not force them down – just pass ‘em over to me.

Spicy Springtime

These last few months have been a meteorologist’s playground.  We’ve had some Spring, quite a bit of Summer, the occasional dash of Winter.  Personally, I have very weather specific preferences where food is concerned.  We’ve done a lot of raw and crunchy in anticipation of summer, but yesterday here in Central Maryland was pretty dreary.  Not quite cold, but most definitely cool.  And it rained ALL day.  The dog kept looking at me as though I should do something about it now, please, as he really prefers to go out in dry weather.  I stayed indoors much of the day as well and felt a sort of grey chill all over.  And so, as a farewell to cooler temps I whipped out one of our favorite soups… mulligatawny.

In case you’ve not had it, mulligatawny is what my son refers to as “curry soup,” as that is the primary flavor in this delicious meal.  It is a little spicy, but because it also has coconut in it, has a delicate sweet side that is irresistible.  Some add chicken or shrimp to their mulligatawny, however, the pureed vegetable base is the key to this Indian delight.  Last night I challenged myself to make the soup as veggie friendly as possible without losing the fundamental depth, and I won.  So I will share with you the curried fruits of my labor…  great tasting and good for the ticker, especially on a gloomy day.

Vegan Curry Soup (or Not Just Kramer’s Mulligatawny) – adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009, 
serves 4-6, I always double, it freezes beautifully

Sloppy bowl courtesy of my impatient son :-)

  • 2 1/2 t garam masala
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 1/2 t coriander
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c chopped onions
  • 1/2 c unsweetened coconut
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 t minced fresh ginger
  • 2 t tomato paste
  • 1/4 c wheat flour
  • 7 c veggie broth or water
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown or French lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • plain yogurt for serving (I used almond yogurt)
  • cooked brown rice for serving

Combine spices.  Melt or warm coconut oil in large pot on low-med heat.  Stir spices in and saute until they smell awesome.  Add onions and coconut and cook until soft (around 5 mins).  Add garlic, ginger, and tomato paste and cook for another minute or so.  Add flour and stir until ingredients are combined.  Add broth and stir well, being sure to clean bottom of pan with the broth to get all of the spice.  Add carrots and celery and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes (until carrots are soft).  Puree however you like (I used a stick blender because I hate all of that pouring back and forth, but a blender will give you a cleaner puree and will do a better job on the coconut).  Add lentils and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  We spoon rice into the bowl, add soup, a dolop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro.  Delish.

Small Mouths, Small Bites

Happy day after Mother’s Day! I was planning to give you a garden tour this morning to celebrate the new plantings that were part of our Mother’s Day festivities, but the rain has chased me inside… well, okay, I never made it out.  A garden update is in our future, and it’s very exciting, at least in my humble opinion.  Dead seedlings were replaced and the garden is exploding, and when the sun comes out, I’ll show you.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about lunch.  Okay, I think it’s pretty clear to all of you that I’m thinking about food most of the time, but lunch has been on my mind ever since I registered my wee ones for kindergarten in the fall.  I have already resigned myself to packing lunches daily, a plan that was reinforced when I looked at the school lunch menu – but that’s another post for a day when I’m already in a bad mood, because it will have a pretty high percentage of rant in it.  For this gentle rainy morning, I just want to explore a trend that has emerged in yummy, nutritious, fun lunches for me and my little people.  I’ve stumbled upon a recurring theme.  Small bites.

In Big Sis’ discussion of Lunchables (Lunchables are also a zen threatener for me, so I’ll be brief here), she conceded that the packaging of these products (many of which have as much sugar as a Snickers bar, BTW) is kid-sexy.  Little compartments, small amounts, a variety that they can choose from, assemble, control.  The bento box craze reveals some of the same appeal.  Compartments that contain small amounts of various bits that they can choose between, manipulate, control. Honestly, this has also been one of my favorite things about eating Ethiopian food or tapas: variety, tastes, experiments.

So with these thoughts in mind, I decided to put a lunch together that really offered as many different bites a I could fit on the plate, a strong element of choice, some possibilities for assembly and experimentation.  I included one new food, and some things they’ve been reluctant to eat in the past as well as some old standbys.  This was not revolutionary; I’ve offered my kids strange little collections of food before, but I’ve not been this deliberate about it, nor have I ever watched and listened as carefully while we ate.  I tried to be quiet (this is hard for me) and see what choices they would make without pressure. This lunch was remarkably successful.  Was it the quantities?  Was it the variety?  The fact that they couldn’t help but have a healthy lunch if they ate any two of the items on the plate?  I have no idea; what I DO know is that they both ate most of it.  And my little picky one ASKED about 2/3 of the way through the meal if she could skip the rest of the celery if she ate all the other veggies, because the flavor of celery is okay, but she doesn’t like the way it feels in her mouth….  If you’ve eaten with my daughter, you know this is not the way our meal conversations usually go.  Delightful.  And Daddy and I got to finish the dip which they liked with the apples and on the bagel, but not on everything else.  My preference was to have it with the celery and banana.

Nutty Lunch Dip

  • 4 T peanut butter
  • 4 T plain yogurt (I used almond yogurt)
  • 1/2 t maple syrup
  • generous shake cinnamon

Ready for another miraculous cooking procedure?  Put all those bits in a bowl and stir them thoroughly to make smooth yum.  Adjust ingredients to taste.  If it seems like a little more sweet would be good, try a little more cinnamon first; you may be surprised.  When you’ve got it tasting the way you want, dip a few things in it.  Let your inner five your old take control of the lunch plate.  Pretend you don’t already know what tastes good together; you just might find something new hiding in the guise of an old trusted and predictable vegetable.  Nutty small bites for all!  Delish.