The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. Psalm 145:15

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lord of the Harvest

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.  Luke 10:2

This year we decided to try out our own square foot garden, and despite getting a late start, it's growing up nicely with minimal space and work.  We've already enjoyed some homemade pesto pizza from our basil, but this week we got our first real harvest of vegetables, some yummy green and yellow wax beans.

Harvesting is no easy business.  Sure, when you just have a few plants (and a toddler-sized helper) it goes pretty quickly.  But when you think about picking most vegetables on a larger scale it is incredibly tedious.  Gently lifting up the leaves, taking only that fruit which is ripe and carefully leaving the rest to grow and mature.  In many cases it must be done by hand.  It's no wonder that in the US and throughout the world, this task of harvesting lends itself toward some terrible abuse, where farms enslave vulnerable adults and children to work such difficult jobs, with little or no pay and dangerous working conditions.  (This is just one of many compelling reasons to grow your own food or buy food locally from farmers with whom you can build relationships.)

God also has a challenging harvest waiting for us.  And unlike our typical American way of doing things, it cannot be outsourced, automated, or forced upon the poor.  We, the people of God, are called by him to go out into his fields and get our hands dirty with the needs of people, the gospel, and the sacrificial work of pouring out grace to the world.  It is not easy work, but it promises real joy, the kind that sustains you in all circumstances.  This is God's purpose for your life, and it is not only his plan to draw all people close to him, but to draw you close to him as well.

Do you want to do something about human trafficking and slavery in modern agriculture?  Dagbé is an organization founded by a friend of ours that is making a difference in the lives of children, especially in regard to agricultural slavery.  Dagbé serves primarily in Benin, Africa (a region prone to human trafficking) and they are presently trying to raise funds for an anti-human trafficking training program for members of the community.  Their fundraising project only has 10 days left, so please consider making a donation today and pray for God to work through Dagbé to prevent the tragedy of slavery among these children and families.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Apple Day and the Rhythm of Seasons

He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. Acts 14:17

I've been pondering lately how the seasons provide so many opportunities for families to grow and create shared memories together. I have joyful recollections from my own childhood, all centered around the seasons. Every year my parents took our family apple picking, and we spent the day at the orchard and afterward making apple pies and pots of applesauce for canning. The tradition started many years before with my grandparents, and two generations later, we'll never let a year go by without taking our daughter on an apple adventure of her own. I have countless memories from these family times together. I remember the time we saw cider being made and we all ate so many apples that we got "apple sick" as coined by my younger brother (the golden delicious did us all in!).

We have had many different guests accompany us on our family apple excursions over the years, ranging from neighbors and school friends to foreign exchange students and a punk rock band! Everyone lent a hand peeling apples for the big pot of sauce, and in turn went home with a jar or a yummy slice of pie. There was the time the boys tried to see who could throw apples the furthest, and the time my mom had a prize for the one who picked the "biggest apple." There are the times it was sunny and beautiful and the times it was rainy and cold, all fun in their own ways. When we lived far from home, we many times travelled back for Apple Day, as us kids grew to call it. Apple Day became our very own little family holiday, nothing else to really celebrate except each other.

Then there is the german potato salad that my grandmother made every year for Christmas dinner (and that day only), connecting us in a small way to our family heritage. On the other side of my family, my grandmother almost always brought paczki on Fat Tuesday, and I often got stories from my mom of her Busia making traditional prune-filled paczki and how she loved to smell them cooking as a child. There are the more subtle things too, like husking corn on the deck into brown paper bags, and chomping into them later... and picking out just the right sized cucumbers for my grandma's bread and butter pickles.

Now with my own family, I am convinced how much families and children especially thrive on this kind of family rhythm, and how much the seasonal activities can teach our families and grow them together. Kids love to help and be a part of a family project, even more knowing it is purposeful (and delicious). These things are a great leveler between parents and children and siblings of various ages. It gives our family a stability and a rhythm of the year, and gives us a common anticipation for each coming season.

Our family has been intentional this year about cooking through the seasons, and as we do, I can see how we are forming these traditional family meals - the kind we only eat one time of year and look forward to them coming again. As I labor over these meals I can imagine it, anticipating next spring when we can again make a simple mixed green salad with strawberries, quinoa stir fry with fresh peas from the pod... and in the summer a fresh pesto pizza with homegrown tomatoes, and pasta with pesto and zuchinni, all from our own garden or farmer's market. This week has been a week of corn on the cob in our home, and cooking dinner has become a family affair, with daddy and our todder learning to husk corn on the deck (into a paper bag, of course), and enjoying the sweet look on our daughter's face as she eats up an entire ear of corn... when normally she rarely eats corn by itself at all.

Scripture talks about the seasons often, and we are foolish to think that we have somehow as a society "progressed" beyond them. We need these seasons, even if only metaphorically as we create a rhythm to our own lives that is filled with purpose and always seeking after God, allowing him to feed us spirtually in our need. After a long cold winter, we need a reminder of a resurrected Jesus, along with a coming up of the first greens. We need the refreshment of the summer, vacation, and the nutrition of fresh vegetables and sunshine. We need the rewarding work of storing and preparing for the winter, and we need that reward in the cold months of a warm hearty soup, the foodstores of the harvest season, and the hope of a Christ child. I am feeling incredibly grateful today for these yearly rhythms in my life, especially the kind that have served me as memory markers, allowing me to catalog and cherish the many moments of gratefulness I have had in my life. God himself has provided me with plenty of food and filled my heart with joy.

What seasonal memories do you cherish from your childhood or family?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Red Lentil Coconut Curry (gluten-free, non-dairy, vegan)

The busy life of mommyhood has taken over the last few weeks, so even though June is over, we still have a few more meatless recipes to share.  This is one of our own creations, inspired by a new love for coconut milk, which is a great substitute for the lactose-intolerant in our family.  The use of coconut milk really adds to the flavor of this dish. 

Red lentils do not hold their shape when cooked, and they have less flavor than french lentils, so they cook down into excellent soups, dips and sauces and blend well with different flavors and spices. Like Eygptian Kushari, this lentil and rice pairing offers good complimentary protein.  This is also super easy, really fast, and results in very few dishes to clean!

Red Lentil Coconut Curry
Prep/Cook Time: 30 min
1 1/2 cups dry rice
1 cup dry red lentils
1 cup coconut milk (in a carton, not a can! that stuff is sweetened)
1 cup water or stock
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
~2 cups chopped/cubed vegetables (carrots, potato, celery, or cauliflower work well)
1 Tbsp or less of coconut oil (yum!) or olive oil
1-2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt

Cook rice according to package directions.

Heat coconut oil in a sauce pot over medium heat, add chopped onions and garlic, and saute until they start to turn translucent.  Rinse dry red lentils and add to pot, along with chopped vegetables, and 2 c of liquid (1 c coconut milk and remainder water or stock).  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.  Stir occasionally, and add more water if necessary.  The lentils are done when the mixture starts to resemble a thick sauce.  Check that vegetables are done before removing from heat.  (if using celery, saute along with the onions before adding other ingredients)

Add 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, or more of each to taste, and stir.  Serve over warm rice.

If you're wondering what to do with the rest of that coconut milk, I love to curl up on a rainy day with a warm mug of coconut milk, mixing in a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon and a bit of honey or sugar.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Black Bean Enchiladas with Cilantro-lime Rice

In order to make eating less meat feel good for your family, sometimes it's necessary to revamp some of your old standbys to a meatless option. One of the meals we used to love cooking together was chicken black bean enchiladas, which contained quite a bit of chicken breast and bacon, along with black beans and fajita veggies. I know, sounds good right?! However, it always ended up being an incredibly expensive dinner, especially if we used organic meat, whole wheat tortillas, canned beans, salsa, and organic veggies. I finally came up with a meatless version that we both salivate over! This meal still has tons of protein because of the cheese, beans, and whole grains.

I wouldn't consider this a quick recipe, but it is easy and cheap! If you want to make it even cheaper (and yummier), make your own homemade tortillas. You will be amazed how much better they taste than store bought, and they are so much cheaper. Or if your family eats gluten-free, try making spelt tortillas, they are amazingly good.

Black Bean Enchiladas with Cilantro-Lime Rice
Prep/Cook Time: 2-3 hrs (some night-before prep)
12 whole wheat tortillas (10-12 inch) at room temperature
1 package of shredded cheese (or shred a block yourself, montery-jack works well)
1 large onion
1 pepper (green or red, we prefer red)
1 cup dry black beans (or 2-3 cups pre-cooked/canned black beans)
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14oz can tomato puree/tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (dried cilantro works, but isn't as tasty)
2 Tbsp lime juice (fresh is best)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil or cooking oil
1 small can of chopped chili peppers (or substitute ~1/2 tsp chili powder per 1 Tbsp chopped chilis)
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Soak overnight, 1 cup of dry black beans in 3 cups of water. Before cooking, drain and rinse the soaked beans. Place beans in a medium-sized pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low (should be a slow boil) and cook until beans are tender and just starting to fall apart (~1 hr). Alternatively, cook pre-soaked beans in a crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. Strain cooked beans and set aside. (I usually cook more than this at once and freeze the rest for another time)

In a rice cooker or stovetop, cook 1 cup brown rice according to package directions (this step could be easily done the night before). Once cooked, set aside to cool.

To make the sauce:
Taking part of the onion, chop about 1/4 cup. In a small saucepan, saute onion along with 1 clove minced garlic in some oil over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce, 1-2 Tbsp of chili peppers, 1/8 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir together, cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, start the bean and rice fillings. Heat 1 T olive oil in a large skillet. Slice the rest of the onion and the bell pepper into strips. To the skillet, add the onion, pepper, and garlic, and saute over medium heat until onions start to get translucent. Add 1-2 T of chili peppers, cooked black beans, 1 T lime juice, a can of diced tomatoes (first drain some of the liquid out of can), 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1 tsp cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix it all together until heated through. Add a 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro, stir in and remove from heat.

While you cook the onions and peppers, you can prepare the cilantro-lime rice. Take your ~2 cups of cooked brown rice, add 1 T of lime juice, a handful of chopped cilantro (1/4 cup or more), and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir together and set aside.

Now its time to fill the tortillas! Heat oven to 350. Take a large 9x13 casserole and coat the bottom with a thin layer of sauce. Make sure your tortillas are at room temperature or slightly heated to make them pliable and prevent cracking. In each tortilla, spoon a few tablespoons of rice and about 1/4 cup black bean filling. Top with 1-2 T of shredded cheese. Roll up the tortilla and place seam-side down in the casserole dish side-by-side the others. Repeat until the dish is full, and don't be afraid to squeeze them in there tightly. If they crack a little, just use them anyway, it will be fine. I can usually fill a 9x13 pan and another small one. Once you have all the tortillas rolled and in the dish, cover generously with the sauce, making sure to moisten the whole surface (to prevent the tortilla from drying out). Take the rest of the cheese and sprinkle on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until heated through. Laying foil over the top of the pan during cooking may prevent it from drying out or burning on the top in some ovens. You can prepare the tortillas the day before, follow all the steps, but just cover and refridgerate instead of baking. If baking straight from the fridge, add about 10 minutes to the baking time.
 Pin It!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Egyptian Kushari or Mujadara (Lentils and Rice) - gluten free, vegan/dairy-free option

Thanks for joining us for the Month of Meatless Recipes!

Since we began our sustainable food journey, lentils have become a staple in our home. If you have never tried them, they are in the legumes/bean family, and they are truly a super food. They are more convenient to cook than many other types of beans, since they are small and cook in 30-40 minutes or less with no prior soaking required. In addition to being a wonderful, low-fat source of protein (one cup cooked offers 18g of protein with less than 1g of fat!), lentils are also high in iron, an important nutrient for those eating less meat. Lentils pack a lot of fiber, making them a great way to lower cholesterol and maintain healthy blood sugar levels and healthy digestion. They are an excellent source of many nutrients, but especially folate and magnesium, which team up to do wonders in preventing heart disease. When planning meals with lentils, it's a good idea to pair them with a whole grain (rice) to make complete protein.

Lentils have a rich historical heritage and were likely one of the first foods to ever be cultivated! And if you think eating meatless is only for the faint at heart, remember that even Esau, the "man of the open country" sold his birthright for a simple bowl of lentil stew and whole grain bread (we have a recipe for that, too).

This is the first meal we ever made with lentils, and it totally hooked us! It is a very common dish in Egypt and throughout the Middle East (with a few variations), and it is so flavorful, yet very simple and easy.  It also happens to be a favorite for our toddler!  If you can cook rice, saute onions, and heat up pasta sauce on the stove, you can definitely rock this recipe in your kitchen.

Egyptian Kushari or Mujadara (Lentils and Rice)
recipe adapted from the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre
Serves: 5-6
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour
1 1/4 cups green lentils (i.e. french lentils)
1 1/2 cups brown rice (white is ok too)
4 - 4 1/2 cups water (substitute any or all of this for vegetable or chicken stock)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions
1 (14oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar (optional, or to taste)
~ 1/2 - 1 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
plain yogurt (for serving)

Rinse and drain the dry lentils. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and add lentils, saute for 3-5 minutes over medium heat (this helps them keep their shape when cooking). Add 4 cups of water and the brown rice and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 35-40 minutes. (If using white rice, allow the lentils to cook for about 10 minutes before adding rice, then recover and let simmer another 25-30 minutes.) Check doneness toward the end of cooking time and add more water if necessary.

In a small pot, heat the tomato sauce, adding cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, sugar and chopped green pepper (optional). Simmer on low for 20-30 min to get those flavors cooking.

Heat another 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan. Slice onion into strips and heat over medium-high heat until carmelized. They are best if they are very brown but not burnt!

To serve, spoon lentil/rice mixture into a bowl, add a spoonful of tomato sauce, a dollop of plain yogurt, and top with carmelized onions. This time we served ours with some homemade naan (Indian flatbread). Enjoy!

Note: This dish is also good without the tomato sauce, so you can omit this if you want. For a vegan option, simply omit the yogurt.
 Pin It!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Warm Quinoa Salad (gluten-free, non-dairy, vegan)

One of my favorite quick dinners is a quinoa salad. Here is a recipe for one I made last night, but it is so versatile and I frequently make up new versions using whatever I have on hand.

This dish contains garbanzo beans, which we buy in bulk and cook up ourselves. It's a lot cheaper this way, especially if buying organic beans (and tastes better, in my opinion!), and you can make a lot at once and store dinner-sized portions in the freezer. Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are a great cheap source of protein, and they are high in fiber and iron.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is fairly new to our kitchen pantry, but it is an amazing food! It is considered an ancient grain, but technically a relative of leafy greens. Quinoa is also high in protein, but contains all 9 amino acids, making it one of few non-animal foods to have complete protein, the kind of protein typically only found in meats and dairy products. I love it because it is really convenient - it cooks up like rice but in nearly half the time. It is a must-have in any meatless or meat conscious diet.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Garbanzo Beans
Serves: 2-3
Prep/Cook Time: 30 min

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water (substitute all or part of this with vegetable or chicken stock for even better flavor)
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced (optional)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (you can use canned, but rinse first)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil (or less)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 cup prize choy or kale, chopped, or another seasonal vegetable (chard, spinach, etc - be creative!) I had some prize choy from our weekly farm CSA distribution, so this was a great way to use it.

Before cooking, soak the quinoa in water for 5 minutes and then rinse well. This is essential to remove the natural saponin coating that is present especially on organic quinoa, as it will result in a bitter flavor.

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 c water (and/or stock), rinsed quinoa, sliced carrots (optional celery), and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, until water is absorbed, quinoa is translucent and you can see the germ ring on the outside of the grain.

While the quinoa is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet, and saute the garlic for a few minutes over medium heat. Add your leafy green veggie of choice (prize choy or kale) and saute until just wilted and a bright green color. Don't overcook! Remove from heat promptly, and set aside. Add the garbanzo beans to the hot skillet for 2-3 min or until heated through, adding 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice and 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar.

When quinoa is finished cooking, add cumin, salt and mix through. Combine garbanzo beans and lime/balsamic liquid with the cooked quinoa, along with the cooked greens. Add green onions and mix it all together.

Experiment with your own favorite ingredients . Some chopped fresh herbs would be a great addition to this dish, so toss in some parsley, cilantro, or chives (I didn't have any this time). Another yummy option is to serve the warm salad over a bed of fresh arugula or other salad green. It's in season now, too! I adapted this recipe from one made with rice that I found over at the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. It is a great resource for gluten-free and dairy-free recipes.

 Pin It!

A Month of Meatless Recipes

We have been experimenting a lot this year with meatless or vegetarian cooking, and this month we'll be sharing some of our favorite recipes. We developed several of them in our own kitchen as we tried to use what we had and keep our food budget low.  Many of the recipes are gluten-free, non-dairy, or vegan.

Getting most of the meat out of our freezer has been refreshing.  Our food keeps longer (including leftovers) and we waste less.  I always forget to set meat out to thaw the night before, and I hate dealing with raw meat in my kitchen.  Good riddance!  However, I have traded that in for remembering to soak the beans!

Usually the most common response when we mention that we consume little meat  is concern about getting enough protein.  In the U.S., most people actually eat around double the recommended daily value of protein, which is about 40-60 grams per day.  As you start to eat less meat, you do need to be concious of eating protein-rich food in the right way.  Most non-animal foods contain only some of the 9 essential amino acids (protein) making them incomplete proteins.  But pairing them with complimentary foods throughout the day provides complete protein sources in your diet.  Pair legumes and beans with whole grains (rice and beans), or nuts and peanuts with whole grains (peanut butter and jelly sandwich).  Eating protein sources with dairy also helps to complete the protein. 

If you want to learn more about our reasons for going meatless, check out these earlier posts: Goal #1: Eat Less Meat and Would the Good Shepherd Use a CAFO?

A Month of Meatless! hyperlinks will be updated as we post recipes
Warm Quinoa Salad with Garbanzo Beans
Egyptian Kushari (Lentils and Rice)
Black Bean Enchiladas with cilantro-lime rice
Red Lentil Coconut Curry
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Easy Pasta Dinner with Lentils
Red Lentil Sloppy Joes

Happy meatless eating!

Pin It!