I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to announce this, but we’re expecting our second precious baby in June! We are completely ecstatic. Will has started pointing to my belly and saying, “baby!” over and over, which is darling. I’m 24 weeks along and enjoying this phase of pregnancy– past the exhaustion of the first trimester (which was intense), showing enough to feel cute in maternity clothes, and not big enough to be uncomfortable yet! I’ve been eating a lot of eggs, devouring grapefruit, drinking seltzer water (our tap water tastes terrible to me when I’m pregnant), and generally trying to eat nutritious food without gaining crazy amounts of weight. Anyway, I’m going to try to post pregnancy updates here and there so stay tuned!
I almost always make a big pot of stew or soup of some kind on Saturday morning, enough to last us for lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately John doesn’t mind having the same thing a few meals in a row.
I forget if I’ve written about this here– I don’t think I have– but John shot a deer this fall! With a bow and arrow! At 54 yards, no tree stand. Kind of a big deal, I’m just saying. And that means a freezer full of venison for us! He ground a fair amount of it, which is my favorite to use for cooking, and he’s also canned some of it with a friend of his (which sounds really odd but it turns the meat completely tender and then it’s the easiest thing to just toss into whatever you’re cooking).
Anyway, this morning I made a Moroccan stew with some of the venison, loosely based on this recipe from the Splendid Table’s website. I say “loosely based” because I really only used the proportion of spices from the recipe and otherwise used what I had on hand (venison instead of chicken, plus lots of freshly cooked chickpeas. I skipped the almonds but added the zest and juice of a whole lemon. I added green beans and about a cup of dried apricots and prunes.) See here for another similar recipe, if you’re interested. And here’s a vegetarian version if you want to use chickpeas instead of meat.
It was 8 degrees this morning, so it was nice to be standing near the hot stove preparing this, and it felt good to use heaping teaspoons of ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin and let those spices melt together and fill the house with warmth.
This turned out a little meatier than I probably would have preferred (I probably used about 3 pounds of venison and would have been happier with 1, but I’ll just try to remember that for next time around.) I’m going to make a pot of rice to pour this over, and then we’ll be set until Monday. With a lot of chickpeas and just a little bit of meat (ground lamb would be easy and really perfect for this), this is an incredibly economical and filling meal for wintertime. And if any of you have any ideas for good filling stews please let me know! I have been rotating through the same 2 or 3 lately and could use some fresh inspiration!
It’s still blindingly cold here. Cold air pours through our floors and walls. Now, instead of thinking about buying rugs and insulating our basement, I just think about making John quit his job and letting us all move to Arizona. It was negative 8 or 9 when we woke up this morning. I still managed to get Will bundled up and out the door for a free music class downtown, which, for my little Tennessee self, was a feat that bordered on the heroic and insane. In order to qualify for free parking in the downtown parking garage I decided to buy a cup of coffee at a little shop right across from where the music class was (it was either that, or pay $2 for parking, so I decided a cup of coffee with a stamped receipt was a better use of $2). And I ordered my coffee and was about to pay, and the guy at the register told me it was on the house!!!! I was completely floored and overjoyed. Trying to savor the beautiful, small moments in the midst of the paralyzing and soul-crushing cold weather.
So this is a variation of my almond meal pancakes, which you can read about here. This version also has flax and hemp, for a little variety in texture and some extra protein and fiber. I’ve been buying frozen wild blueberries lately– they’re smaller than the “regular” blueberries you usually see, but wild blueberries apparently have almost twice the amount of antioxidant goodness as non-wild blueberries. Interesting, huh?
I’ve been eating these, smothered with butter and blueberries, which add enough sweetness that I can live without syrup (although a little maple syrup wouldn’t hurt at all).
Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, can be a little expensive, but they are packed with nutrition. Just 3 tablespoons contains 10 grams of protein, 20% RDV iron, 20% zinc, 45% magnesium, and 3 grams of fiber (with only 3 g. total carbohydrates). I bought a big 5 pound bag from the brand Manitoba Harvest, because it was much cheaper per pound than buying it in small quantities. I usually throw a few tablespoons in smoothies (I make one similar to this, minus the dates, plus 2 T of peanut butter), or toss some in the morning porridge.
One note about the pictures/recipe– for the pancakes in these pictures, I put blueberries right in the batter, but the berries ended up burning a bit as they were cooking, so the recipe says to just make the pancakes without the berries, and then add berries at the end.
Almond Flax Pancakes with Wild Blueberries
1/2 c. almond meal
1/4 c. ground hemp hearts (aka hulled hemp seeds)
1/4 c. flax meal
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. water
2 T. oil or melted butter (plus more to add to the pan for cooking)
1/2 t. vanilla extract (optional)
wild blueberries, thawed (or fresh, if they’re in season)
1. Mix dry ingredients, and then add remaining ingredients (except for blueberries) and stir until well-blended. If you want to be really fastidious you can beat the eggs separately before adding them, but I just mix everything together in one bowl.
2. Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add batter, about 1/4 cup at a time. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Caution: These do not form little bubbles like regular pancakes do to test for doneness, so you just have to watch them closely and use a little intuition to tell when to flip them.
3. Top with butter and a mound of blueberries. And real maple syrup (which you can buy the most cheaply at Aldi’s if you have one close by!).
Sometimes the less we spend on food, the better we eat. Maybe because I have to plan a little more, put a little extra work in to coax meals out of dry beans or little bags of buckwheat groats that have been sitting in the pantry too long. I love cooking with buckwheat. The taste reminds me of the savory buckwheat crepes I ate in Brittany all those summers ago, and because buckwheat is actually a seed (and not a true grain) it is gluten-free and I think agrees with my system much better than real flour does. So recently I decided to use some buckwheat to make a dutch baby pancake (basically, a one pan, eggier version of pancakes). I love the texture of these, and one “pancake” will work pretty well as a weekend lunch for John, Will, and me. We had some blueberries in the freezer so I tossed a handful of those in, and added ginger for a little kick. We ate it with the last drops of the maple syrup. And butter and milk. Perfect, filling fall weather food. Blueberry Ginger Buckwheat Dutch Baby 1 c. buckwheat flour (or half buckwheat and half regular flour if you aren’t used to the earthy taste of buckwheat– though John usually doesn’t care for things made of 100% buckwheat, and I don’t think he even noticed that this was made with something other than regular flour– the soaking process seemed to mitigate the buckwheat flavor) 1 c. water plus 2 T yogurt or whey or apple cider vinegar (or instead of water and the whey or ACV you can use one cup of buttermilk or yogurt) 4 eggs 1 t. vanilla extract 1/2 t. salt 1/2 t. ground ginger dash of cinnamon 1 c. water (or whole milk) 4 T butter or coconut oil 1/2 c. (or more) fresh or frozen blueberries 1. Soak flour overnight (or up to 24 hours) in the water plus yogurt, whey, or ACV. (After adding the liquids, stir to make sure everything is well incorporated before letting it soak.) 2. The next day, or when ready to cook, heat oven to 350 degrees and add coconut oil or butter to an 8″ pan. Place in oven until oil/butter is melted. 3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and add them, along with the remaining ingredients, to the flour that has been soaking. Pull out the pan with the melted butter or oil, swish melted fat around to coat the pan and then pour the rest of the oil into the batter. Stir batter until everything is incorporated, pour into pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pancake is lightly browned on the edges and set. *Obviously, you can leave out the ginger and blueberries if you’d like. Substitute another kind of fruit, or add chocolate chips instead! Or leave plain! Or omit vanilla extract, fruit, and spices and add a cup of grated cheese to make a nice savory variation.
So the last days of August (yes, forever ago!) brought company (my dearest childhood friend and her beau– they brought bottles of wine and fresh lobsters from the city) as well as the start of my job. Which I haven’t written about much (at all?) here, but I work as a chaplain at a college here in town 12-15 hours a week. Which is just enough hours to make life feel pretty crazy around here. BUT I completely and totally love what I do, and it is pretty much an ideal job in every respect.
Anyway, all that is to say it’s taken me forever to write about the last week or so of the cleaning out the pantry/freezer adventure of August (while spending only $150 extra on groceries for the 3 of us– See here for what our pantry looked like on August 1). And sadly I don’t remember much of what we ate those last days! When Heather and Chris were in town we had lobster one night, and I had to spend some extra money on bread, butter, eggs, etc. for them, and we bought a pork loin from our local butcher for dinner the other night.
So I ended up going over my $150 allotment by about $50. But STILL, we only spent $200 on groceries for a whole month!!!! And I cleaned out the recesses of the fridge, freezer, and pantry and decided what to eat and what to toss. It was like hitting a reset button in the kitchen, which is a good feeling.
The one downside is that we started September low on things I typically store up, but that will just mean that September is another lean month as I use our regular budget to slowly stock back up on beans, pasta, olive oil, etc.
I LOVED doing the month of August like this, and I will probably do similar clean out the pantry months once a year from now on, if not more often.
We just finished our second week plus a day of eating from the pantry (and only spending $150 for groceries for the month of August). The pantry was a little barer than it was when we began, but our fridge was full of beautiful vegetables from our CSA. Two very sweet friends brought soup on two different days early in the week as I was recovering from being sick. And one of them gave me a whole, cooked (local, organic) chicken later in the week. I pulled all the meat off, made stock out of the bones, and then cooked a warming soup with coconut milk, lime, and ginger. And odds and ends of vegetables.
I’ve had a bad cold all week, and John came down with it later in the week, so I actually cheated a little and bought several boxes of Traditional Medicinals tea and a jar of honey that I’m not counting toward our total for this month. I’ve been thinking about how it’s such a fine line between food and medicine– what actually counts toward the grocery budget, and what doesn’t? Anyway, I made the executive decision to just buy the tea and honey and not stress about it.
One somewhat unexpected benefit of eating from the pantry this month is that I have been just thinking about the overall functionality and aesthetics of our kitchen space. Like I wrote earlier, we’ve lost a lot of pantry space because of Will, and we also lost the storage space under our kitchen island, so I’ve moved a lot of things around over the past few months. But some things were moved hastily and not planned out very well. So I’ve decided that I want to make our kitchen space work a little better. And if possible… be a little prettier. The latter is the hardest, because I also don’t want to spend much money at all. But I’ve changed a few things around, bought a few new glass jars for things, and hopefully soon I can show you all the somewhat improved space! (Baking supplies below– I already had most things in glass jars, but I transferred baking powder to a glass jar, got rid of some old odds and ends, and peeled the labels off a few bottles (vanilla, ghee, and molasses) and replaced with paper labels to create a somewhat more unified appearance. It’s still, as you can see, not Pinterest-worthy glamorous, but it’s uncluttered, and I like it.)
Anyway, here is what I’ve spent on groceries over the past week plus a day or so:
Aug. 10 $16.50 For 2 dozen eggs (local, pastured), a pound of organic butter, and a block of not organic cheese
Aug. 11 $24.50 Cheese, corn tortillas, organic pork sausage (a pound and a half), 4 avocados, 7 bananas, and a small amount of real salt from the bulk bins for some pickles I planned to make
Aug. 13 $4.00 bread
Aug. 17 $15.50 Raw, organic cheese, coffee filters, smoked oysters (for Will), 5 bananas, and dill (for some pickles I started a few days ago)
Total: $60.50, Remaining: $55.50
And here’s what we ate:
August 10, Sunday My fever was gone this morning, but a terrible cough has settled in. Sigh. Once again John has fended for himself and the baby for breakfast and lunch. I ate about a third of a cup of yogurt in the morning, and a piece of cheese toast for lunch. A dear, wonderful, angel-heart of a friend brought us over a big pot of lentil soup for dinner.
August 12, Tuesday Breakfast was eggs and toast all around, plus banana and cheese for Will. Lunch: I ate the rest of the lentil soup my friend brought. Will had another egg, some beans, and sweet potatoes. John took our last two pieces of bread and a tomato to work to eat with some tuna fish he had in his office. Dinner: ANOTHER super sweet friend brought us soup for dinner. Along with a loaf of bread. Truly manna from heaven because I’m still feeling not great and the kitchen is piled with dishes I haven’t done from earlier in the day.
August 13, Wednesday Dinner: I made some pesto from CSA basil and we ate it with pasta, a small amount of the sausage I bought on the 11th (and froze in small portions) cooked up with onions and all tossed with finely chopped celery leaves.
August 14, Thursday Breakfast: More soaked porridge with raisins and cinnamon, plus 2 eggs for Will. Working on organizing the spices and overhauling the pantry in general and as I was cleaning out one dark corner I discovered half a bar of chocolate that had fallen down out of sight! Not too old, either!
August 15, Friday Made coconut chicken soup from the chicken a friend of ours gave us. Used my last can of coconut milk and ginger powder instead of fresh ginger (didn’t have any fresh). John has come down with a cold as well, so lots of soup and tea for both of us.
August 16, Saturday Chicken soup for lunch and supper. Odds and ends for Will, some chicken and vegetables from the soup, bits of avocado, scrambled eggs.
August 17, Sunday Lunch: chicken soup Dinner: Roasted potatoes & tomatoes with heaps of pesto (pretty much all either from our CSA last week or this)
Here’s the pantry (when we started on the left, today on the right):
Our CSA this week: 5 heads of garlic, several onions, a bag of basil, sun gold tomatoes (most of which I ate straight out of the carton this afternoon– I am obsessed with these things), 2 heads of purple cabbage, potatoes, and red and golden beets. And oh this garlic, fresh and shiny and purple under the dry outer skins.
Also, I got this gorgeous cookbook from the library yesterday. I’ve been reading this woman’s blog for awhile, and the book is just rich with recipes for wholesome, good food. I wanted to buy it, but I’ve been on a no-spending kick lately, so I didn’t. I cannot wait to cook as many things out of this as our limited budget will allow this week!
And we’ve been drinking a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and raw honey for our colds. A tablespoon here and there. And drinking lots of tea. Still have quite a cough and might go back to the doctor this week if it doesn’t get any better.