My One Bowl Lunch Salad These Days: Kale, Beets, Quinoa (and Chèvre if You Are Literally a Millionaire.)

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I started eating a version this salad way back when I was pregnant with Will, though minus the beets and quinoa, when my sweet sister-in-law posted about a kale salad on her blog. I made it, ate entire batches of it in one sitting, and forever since then it has been my favorite of all time.

And then, when my mom was visiting last year I got a kale salad from Panera that had beets, quinoa, and goat cheese. It was delicious. So I started making something similar, though minus the goat cheese, because who can afford goat cheese, though I love it with all my heart, I do not know. If you can, please love it and caress it and speak tenderly to it and make delicious wealthy person food out of it.

BUT, I have soldiered right ahead, in my impecunious version of that glorious salad, and made this. And this is the best salad in the world, even without chèvre. This is not a recipe, but essentially: I cook a bunch of beets (golden beets in the photo, because yes, we do have a winter CSA, so I guess we’re not that impecunious, really. Beets, sometimes peeled, sometimes not, cut up, cooked in a little water on the stove until they’re soft, enough for 3 or 4 days of making this salad), a separate pot of quinoa (ditto about lasting for a few days), and then tear up a few kale leaves into a bowl, top it with warm beets and quinoa (though you could do it cold), and then drizzle on olive oil, a sprinkle of salt (a scant quarter teaspoon, maybe? Too little salt will yield a salad that is not worth eating whatsoever), a few dashes of crushed red pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and then some sunflower seeds or if your neighbor gave you some expired bags of sliced almonds for free, some of those. Then, if you have some dried cranberries, those. If you’re a millionaire, then dried cherries, and please enjoy them for me, as well as of course, your chèvre,  though this salad manages quite well without it. You can make this without the beets and without the quinoa, though not without the lemon juice or crushed red pepper. Or salt.

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I Almost Bought a Yogurt Maker, but Then I Didn’t (or How to Make Yogurt Without a Machine)

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So guys. A month or so ago someone posted a video about plastic on Facebook, and even though I have seen multiple documentaries about plastic already and considered myself to be pretty responsible in that area (I mean I usually bring my own bags to the grocery store for pete’s sake), for some reason it finally sunk in. Plastic doesn’t go away. It just breaks down more and more, finally into tiny pieces, invisible to the naked eye, and saturates the ocean, all the water everywhere, and our insides. And plastic is really not that great for our insides.

And I know there are a lot of other things, maybe even a lot more pressing things to worry about than the multiplication of plastic particles in our little world, but for some reason I just started caring about this. But if you are caring about something else and don’t have the energy to care about this, just do not worry about it. Or if you are using all your energy just to survive day to day, then please carry on and also do not worry about it. This is just where I am right now. So I have been on a quest to reduce the amount of plastic we are buying new. To live a slightly less disposable life.* (Because guys, recycling is not the answer. It might turn plastic into something else plastic that can be used a bit longer, but in the scheme of things, when you purchase plastic, whether you recycle it or not, you are contributing to the overall volume of plastic in the world. We shouldn’t really feel good about recycling, um does that make sense? It’s a huge bummer, I know! I’m sorry!)

I know no one is reading at this point except maybe my mom, because no one wants someone to tell them that recycling is basically as bad as not recycling, but I’m just going to keep on writing (hi mom! I love you!) anyway. Because, the yogurt maker that I didn’t buy.

Anyway, most of the new plastic I end up buying is food packaging! It’s really hard to buy food that doesn’t come in plastic! And knowing myself, my brain will explode if I think in all-or-nothing terms here. It would be next to impossible to eat completely plastic free (though i might try an experiment with that next month!), but I’m trying to just buy less. Less food in plastic. One of the first things I did was to buy a few of these bags, photo below, from this sweet woman on etsy! For buying things in bulk. (Both the natural food co-op and the Wegmans where I do most of my shopping sell a lot of things in bulk. I’ve bought all my herbs and spices in bulk for years, plus a good amount of grains and beans. It’s cheaper. But I’ve always used the plastic bags the store provides. Until I bought these little bags! I’m not trying to be all like, “Wow, I am so amazing because for the past two weeks I’ve used re-usable bags at the grocery store.” That is really not what I’m trying to get at here, y’all. What am I trying to get at, then? Well, that I almost bought a yogurt maker, but then I didn’t. So back to that story.)

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So anyway, one of the plastic things I buy fairly regularly is yogurt. Well, I mean, the yogurt isn’t plastic, but the container it comes in is. You know what I mean. Plain, full fat yogurt. In a big plastic container. So I decided that I would finally just buy a yogurt maker! I’ve wanted one for years, and I’ve tried so many times to make homemade yogurt without a machine, but always with disappointing results. Who has time for that?! So I started looking at cute little yogurt makers, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy one. I didn’t want to spend the money, and where in heaven’s name would I put it (our kitchen is tiny, have I ever written about that here? We have one drawer in our kitchen. One. Drawer.).  And what is the machine part made of, anyway? Plastic.

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So I decided to give it one more try without a yogurt maker. I knew some people used coolers for this (because you have to keep the pre-yogurt milk, whatever in the world it’s called at that stage, at a certain temperature for at least 8 hours), so I thought I would just try it. One time. So I boiled some milk, let it cool, stirred in some yogurt I had bought (I bought fancy French yogurt in a glass jar for this! It was cheaper than a yogurt maker!), put it in a quart-sized glass jar, and filled up another quart sized glass jar with boiling water. I put both jars, standing up, in a little rubbermade cooler we have, with the top closed. Left it overnight and in the morning, yogurt! It literally couldn’t have been any easier or less messy. There was one pot to wash out.  I kept the yogurt in the same glass jar in the fridge. The second time I made it I may have forgotten that I was supposed to be bringing the pot of milk to a low, gentle boil and was doing bedtime things with children and heard a horrible hissing sound coming from the kitchen, which turned out to be the milk boiling over into the burner. So I turned it off, waited until it was cool enough & stirred the yogurt in and figured it would probably be a huge failure but I didn’t want to waste 4 cups of good milk. Then, into the cooler with the jar of hot water, and in the morning, yogurt. No plastic, no machine. See here for a similar recipe. (She pours hot water right into the cooler & uses a thermometer; I don’t use one, I just bring the milk to a low boil, except when I sometimes bring it to a high, scalding boil, and then cool it until I can leave my finger in it for 10-15 seconds.)

So anyway, here’s to baby steps of buying less plastic. I definitely know that no one is reading at this point, but if you are, maybe consider thinking about one small way to use a tiny bit less plastic? Try to remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery (or ask for paper instead). Buy something in bulk (spices, in particular, are exponentially cheaper if you buy them in bulk, and you can just put them in the empty jar of whatever spice you just finished). Wash and re-use ziplock bags! Even just try to buy the larger size of peanut butter or a bag of 16 tortillas instead of 8, and freeze the other 8 for another day. …….. Baby steps. Here’s my pinterest board “Life With Less Plastic.” Here’s a blog with some other ideas for using less plastic, if anyone is interested. And another blog with some good ideas.

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*Did I ever tell you guys the story about when Wendell Berry came to Duke when I was in grad school there? And how for some insane reason I didn’t go hear him speak, but I heard from other students that someone had asked a question along the lines of, “What’s the best thing that we as divinity school students can do?” (given what he had talked about in terms of farming, care for the earth, etc.). And how he said we should drop out of school and become stone masons. Or something along those lines. PLEASE nobody quote me on this, because my memory is horrible (and because I obviously wasn’t even there). But I don’t know, somehow is the spirit of Wendell Berry following me around and urging me to slow down enough to bake bread every once and awhile, or to make my own yogurt? (Ok, obviously not, but there’s something about planting gardens, and gleaning in fields and baking bread with oil and pulling up water out of a well for someone who is thirsty, making lunch for people who are hungry. There’s much about living in a way of peace and gentleness. And tending to all the household tasks because these are the things that Christ did for us.  Having enough time to partake of a meal and do the lowest kind of washing. I’m not trying to say that if you buy any plastic at all it such a terrible thing, or that trying to waste less is somehow the essence of the gospel. But I do think we have lost sight a bit of the dignity of ordinary things like washing dishes and making bread, and we usually are in quite a rush not to be doing those things.  So anyway, here’s to slowing down a bit, wherever you find yourself, whether you’re making yogurt or packing lunch boxes or sweeping the floor for the 4th time today. Slowing down enough to be gentle with ourselves & maybe just maybe also with the world. Because Love prepared us a feast and bid us with gentleness to sit and eat. And of course, she said it much, much better.

House Meals (wisdom about food from, of course, Tamar Adler)

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A dear, precious friend of mine posted an article on Facebook last week called “Everyone Should Have a House Meal.” I read the caption of the article, and I thought, “Wow, that sounds just like Tamar Adler.” And because of that, and because the article seemed to be about basically one of the great passions of my culinary life (simple, repeatable meals) I started reading it, and lo and behold, it WAS WRITTEN BY TAMAR ADLER. Who wrote An Everlasting Meal. Which is one of the most beautiful books ever written in the history of food, or of almost anything else.  So of course this article (and you have to read all the way to the end), made me nearly weep with joy.  Because she’s someone who isn’t telling me that I should be cooking new, ever fancier meals every single night of the week! With all of the ingredients! From all of the websites! A little confirmation from at least one woman, that it’s ok for dinner to come (yet again) from an egg.

In this particular article she discusses the beauty of having a house meal. A meal that you can throw together with almost no thought. You have the ingredients, it’s simple, healthy-ish, and sustaining for body and spirit.  Hers, she said, was eggs and greens. Ours is always some variation of beans. (I don’t know why that picture above has a picture of Tapatio in it, because our one and only hot sauce love forever and ever is Texas Pete.)   Beans and tortillas. Or beans heated up in a skillet with some salsa & eggs. Sometimes beans and rice, but almost always, tortillas. If we are feeling extremely rich, some scoops of avocado. Or “bracamole,” as one of our small people is calling it these days.  Oh! Sometimes some fried plantains!  A creative economy is the fuel of magnificenceHere are 5 other of our house meals, or simple suppers, as I called them.

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A friend of mine recently had a baby, and all the church folks signed up to bring meals, and I sent her a bag of fancy-ish tortillas and a ball jar of black beans that I made (& some good beef with taco seasoning, because, well postpartum and iron) and some salsa and a lime and some tortilla chips. In retrospect, maybe I should have sent something fancier, but it felt like I was sending her literally the greatest feast imaginable. Our House Meal.

Almond Flax Pancakes with Wild Blueberries

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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).

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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.

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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
2 eggs
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!).

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Blueberry Ginger Buckwheat Dutch Baby

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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. DSC_1041 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.

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Eating from the Pantry for August

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Somehow we have ended up with an overflowing pantry.  (See above. Please note the bottom shelf and floor, which used to be very handy, usable space, and have recently been surrendered to the indomitable Toddler.  I hope everyone’s heart is welling up with sorrow and pity at the way in which I have lost fully one third of my already quite tiny pantry space. But then again, I have a tiny pantry full of food, and there is more food where that came from, and potable water flows from our faucets with zero effort on our part, and there are many, many people in the world who would be overjoyed to have running water and four pantry shelves full of good food with more to be had with the swipe of a plastic card.)

Anyway. Since our pantry is so full, and since we’ve spent quite a bit of money the past couple of months on trips and the dentist and eye doctors I decided that we are going to clean out the pantry/freezer this month and my goal is to spend only $150 on anything additional this month, to cover eggs, a lemon here and there, etc. That’s going to be about $30/week.  I’m already getting a little nervous, but I think the discipline will be good. And we do get a heaping bag of veggies from our CSA each week.  So we should be fine.

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So here’s what we have in our capacious pantry, full of food: a few extra bags of dry beans, a huge jar of black eyed peas, lots of rice and buckwheat, several boxes of Barilla Plus pasta (which I picked up on sale at Target), some cans of tuna and salmon and little jars of red curry paste.  A can of coconut milk. Some packets of flavored oatmeal left over from our trip. A not insubstantial jar of ghee. Lots of peanut butter and cocoa powder.  2 bags of Thai chili lime cashews from our recent trip to Trader Joe’s. And some random things (not sure what, but I suppose we’ll find out, won’t we?) in the freezer. I am almost positive I have at least one ham hock, which will help us take care of the black eyed peas. The fridge is bare after our 8 days out of town, but we’ll get our CSA on Sunday. John will be out of town most of this upcoming week, and Will and I can get by on lentil kitchari (basically his favorite food of all time, except for blueberries) and grilled cheese sandwiches.

And we did just buy 2 cases of wine at Trader Joes, so that will help (one case of 2 buck Chuck, and one case of a variety of $4.99 wines, which after the case discount were $4.50 per bottle).  Stay tuned for weekly updates and menus! (And if anyone has any ideas for good pantry meals, let me know!!!!)

Little Fish and Rice Cakes for Baby

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Usually Will eats sardines straight out of the can and has done since he was 6 or 7 months old. Well, I hand them to him out of the can; I don’t let him take them out himself because he obviously might lacerate his hand. But I am telling you, sardines with skin and bones, he will eat half a can at a time.

Usually.  Yesterday I opened some and gave him a nice little morsel, and he wouldn’t touch it.  That was pretty much my only protein idea for him for that particular meal, and as much as I do not want to become a short order cook for this baby, as darling as he is, I decided to mash up the fish with some leftover rice and an egg and make little cakes.

I added a dash of cayenne pepper and then cooked them in a pan like pancakes (about 2 T of “batter” each), and Will loved them.  I sprinkled a little salt on after they had finished cooking.  I ate half of them myself, they were so delicious.

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Anyway, these pictures are terrible, but I promise you these were amazing.  You could make them with tuna or salmon or whatever other kind of fish you might have on hand.  I like sardines because the smaller the fish, the less mercury they will have!

I’ve also been making similar cakes out of leftover vegetables lately– 1/3 c. mashed sweet potato plus one egg, mixed well, to make sweet potato pancakes! Or 1/3 c. mashed beans, any kind plus one egg! I’ve never actually measured anything, but I think it’s usually a ratio of about 1/3 to 1/2 c. of mashed whatever to one egg. Will loves them, and it’s a nice change of pace from eating plain vegetables.  (And he hasn’t been loving plain eggs so much these days, so it’s also a way to get more eggs into his little skinny body.)

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Little Fish and Rice Cakes

1 can sardines, mostly drained (about 4.5 oz, preferably the kind with skin and bones!)

1 large egg*

about 1/3 c. cooked rice

Mix all ingredients, mashing the fish thoroughly. If you want, add a 1/4 t. of paprika or a tiny dash of cayenne (if your baby likes things spicy like mine does!). Heat some butter or coconut oil on med. in a skillet, and then cook as you would pancakes.  Cook for a minute or two on each side, or until golden brown.  Sprinkle with salt, let cool a bit (and check to make sure it’s not too hot before you give it to your baby). Makes about 10 small cakes.

*Obviously please follow your pediatrician’s advice about when to feed baby egg whites. Many people recommend waiting until 1 year to give the whites– if your baby is under 12 months you can make this with 2 or 3 egg yolks instead. I started giving Will whites around 10 months and he seems to have survived so far….