Monday, March 16, 2015

Potato Lentil Soup


I make this recipe almost weekly because I can make it with items I always have in stock: dry lentils, potatoes, and canned diced tomatoes. Everything else is fluff, so even when I plan to make something else, I end up making this because it requires very little thinking and no impromptu trips to the grocery store.

My kind of cooking.

Oh, and let's be honest: I know red lentils when I see them, but I have no idea if I've been buying brown or green ones. They look brownish green. They're the kind that I see most commonly in regular grocery stores.

1-2 Tbl olive oil
about 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
enough water/vegetable broth to cover ingredients
about 3 medium-sized potatoes (I like red potatoes best for all things)
about 1 fistful of dry lentils (they'll expand a little, so don't go too crazy)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chili powder
a couple dashes of ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste

options: sliced jalapeño, frozen corn, chopped zucchini, black beans

Directions:
  1. Sauté the onion, garlic, and celery together in some olive oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add in the diced tomatoes. Fill up the can with water and add that.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and additional broth/water as needed to cover the ingredients to your desired soupiness.
  4. Simmer until the potatoes and lentils are tender. Blend a cup or two for a creamier soup.


Enjoy!





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup


This recipe was adapted from Crazy Sexy Kitchen's Pumpkin Bisque.

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the squash family unless the flavor is really dressed up, and this soup does the job. 

This makes around 6 bowls. All ingredients in my recipes are "to taste" and "depending on what's available in my fridge." But here's roughly how I make it.

Ingredients:
1-2 Tbl olive oil
half of a yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
(sometimes instead of onion and garlic I use chopped leeks) 
2 celery stalks, chopped
half a large butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks
about 1/4 of a head of cauliflower, maybe 1 1/2 cups chopped into florets
1/4-1/2 cup of sherry cooking wine
enough vegetable broth/water to just cover all ingredients
2 dashes ground cinnamon 
3-4 dashes ground cayenne
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:
Sauté onion, garlic, and celery in olive oil for a few minutes. 
Add remaining ingredients, and boil on low-medium until butternut squash breaks with a wooden spoon. 
Blend ingredients if desired.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

8 Good Things







1. Homemade pickles. I had no idea they were this easy (although I think there are far more complicated ways to do it). I've been making mine with just a dollop of dijon mustard instead of the mustard seed, coriander, and celery seed. My favorite vegetables to use are cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, and a few slices of jalapeño.

2. Lots of eating at home + shopping at Grocery Outlet. We've cut way back on our food expenses these past couple months; it helps that we're both home for dinner time now. We've been doing most of our food shopping at Grocery Outlet because their prices do seem significantly cheaper, they're hardly ever busy, and they generally carry our staple items.

3. House of Cards. Do I need to say anything else?

4. Trees in bloom. I don't know if spring is coming early here or if the warm weather we've had is normal, but it's pretty nonetheless.

5. A fun Zumba class at the local gym. I haven't been to a Zumba class since we moved because my foot needed a rest, and I was kind of over it. But we found an instructor we like, and it's brought back a lot of good memories. I've also been going to an interval class one morning a week. It feels good to exercise regularly again.

6. Introducing students to CSA. I wish I could convey in a short paragraph how happy that makes me. Every time it comes up (somehow, it just does), students are fascinated, and this time around, 2-3 of them have said they're looking into joining one. I think they like that it's an action they can take, not just an idea to write about. And on that note, I'm thinking of signing us up for one now that spring's just about here. 

7. Offbeat alphabet books. I'm tempted to buy some of these for myself, even though I'm quite sure they're supposed to be for children. I'm actually thinking they'd make a cute final project for an ESL class. 

8. Visiting Sonora + other little getaways. Before we moved, I had hoped for us to take day or weekend trips about once a month. So far, we've succeeded without necessarily trying. I think short trips that don't have the stress of planning a lot of details are great for maintaining a healthy relationship. I always feel closer to my husband after one of our little trips. While in Sonora, we stumbled upon a used bookstore, and although we split up to look at different things, we both coincidentally grabbed books about the Caribbean. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Care


I wrestle with my intentions in this space. Recently, I was thinking about what kinds of blog posts I'd been working on: Project 333 and recipes/food posts. Is this the best I can do? Isn't there something more important I should be saying? I look around and see injustice everywhere, and I think I should be doing more than just writing about my life. To write about food and clothing like it's a choice everybody gets is to write within a place of privilege. 

On the other hand, there's a difference between acknowledging the privileges I've had in my life and overindulging in them just because I can. I keep coming back here because those of us who are able to shelter, feed, and clothe ourselves well, to the point of excess even, still need to take a step back, ditch the junk, and reconnect with our values.

Living simply is still relevant. I'd argue that people who choose to make things by hand, grow their own food, or downsize their possessions help make our world a little more equitable. 

Last week I had my students read an essay entitled "The Common Life" by Scott Russell Sanders. In it, Sanders claims, "The history of local care hardly ever makes it into our literature, for it is less glamorous than rebellion; yet it is a crucial part of our heritage."

You see, I'm not a leader. I'm an educator, but I'm not a leader. The pressure to initiate an idea, run with it, and get others to go along with me is too much. I think rebellion is rad, but I won't be the one starting it. Although I don't like to think of myself as a follower--nobody does--I do believe I am a mindful participant. Sanders' words hit me; "local care" is exactly what I'm working on. 

Caring for myself, for others around me, and for my immediate environment is a powerful act--powerful because it's accessible. Small actions I can take day by day and week by week might not make it into history books, but they can improve the lives of the people I care about most. Most importantly, these small but mindful acts change me

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflections on Weekday Vegetarianism + Leaning Plant-Based

Spicy stir fry with magical Sambal and Harvest Grains from Trader Joe's

A couple weekends ago while grocery shopping, I passed by a man with his family. I smiled at him because I had passed him a couple times already. I saw him look at my basket and say to his family, "Puras verduras!" Just vegetables! And last weekend a cashier at Raley's commented on the Sambal I was buying (it's a delicious Asian hot sauce), which prompted the woman in line behind me to look at what we were buying and say, "I want to come to your house for dinner!"

I've come a long way since my days of eating off the dollar menu at Wendy's in college.

About three years ago, I became a weekday vegetarian. It worked well for me, and I'd encourage people to try it if they want to try vegetarianism but still have some flexibility. In the beginning, I did crave meat and ate it about once a week. When I thought about it, what I was craving more than anything else was the convenience of throwing a chunk of meat in the slow cooker and calling it dinner. It took some time to develop a vegetarian repertoire that didn't bore me or leave me starving. I also missed salt (easily fixed by adding salt to my meals sometimes).

Now, I'm looking more towards a plant-based diet (basically vegan). I feel better when I stick to fresh produce and whole grains. Now that I'm well into my 30s, I'm starting to think seriously about not dying at a young age. It sounds morbid, but actually, I just want to be around for a long time. If I can improve my day-to-day health and extend my life by eating a ton of vegetables every day, it's worth it. And I like vegetables. And I don't like pollution or animal cruelty. It's good all around.

I'm not ready to commit 100%--maybe closer to 90%. Basically, I don't think consuming a little bit of meat or animal products is terrible. The real food-related problems in our culture are the result of mass production/mass consumption, so I think it's most important to avoid habits that contribute to those underlying issues. With that said, I happily still "cheat" sometimes, but it's increasingly rare and it's mostly just to make my life a little easier. One day I might strive for 100%, but that day is not today.

I've found that even in this day and age, people are rather perplexed about what vegetarians and vegans eat. If you're curious, or if you're looking for ways to cut back on your meat intake, here's what I've been cooking pretty frequently (I'm happy to share recipes):

potato and lentil soup
stir fry (pictured above)
roasted vegetables with turmeric and curry
walnut pesto pasta
curry + coconut milk potatoes with vegetables
pumpkin or butternut squash soup
black bean chili
potato and spinach tacos

I've been using recipes from Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Isa Does It and experimenting on my own. I'm actually not very adventurous with my cooking and eating habits, so if I can manage a mostly plant-based diet, then you know it can't be all that difficult :)