Hot dogs and Quinoa: Soups On!

A different arrangement for the blog this week- I want to update you on the gratitude journal first.

“I wanna stop (stop) and thank you, baby

I wanna stop (stop) and thank you, baby, yeah”

-Marvin Gaye

After a couple of weeks of doing the journal, it is becoming a habit. I also find that I am grateful for things I wasn’t considering as a blessing before starting journaling. For example, I am grateful for the rain today because it means I don’t have to water my tomatoes.

This may seem like a small thing to appreciate, but you have no idea how many plants I have. During one of our recent trips to the grocery store, we found the garden center was shutting down for the season. They were going to toss all of their remaining plants. I was with my little boy and we came across a big handwritten sign that read, “Free.”

There was row after row of plants left, thousands of them with pictures and their names on little white tags. We selected super sweet cherry tomatoes. Plucked a “Golden Pineapple,” some “black gold,” and one called “Hawaiian glory.” I let him pick as many as he wished. He was all giggles, first because we filled the cart and then because we filled my car with tons of tomatoes.

Now, I have only partially grown tomatoes with any kind of success. In years past I have put out a few plants only to have them eaten to the ground by deer. I think this is the real reason why I was willing to put 50 little guys in the car. I was reasoning I’d lose some to the deer.

I didn’t have a garden spot, but I did have a back patio. He and I worked for two hours filling buckets and tubs with dirt and tomato plants. We then built a fort to protect the patio with a few benches and a grill. We sectioned it off with some garden fencing. I have also put up a windchime, tossed some coffee beans between the pots, planted marigolds, onions, and basil right along with the tomatoes because the deer don’t like the smell. So far it has been working.

Last week I was explaining about my grocery habits. I mentioned how we check out the advertisements, made a list as a family, and came up with a meal plan together. I would like to add to that I also pay attention to things that are not on my list but that happen to be on special. I try to take advantage of those opportunities. You never know what you will come across …like thousands of free tomato plants. I also know it is important to be adventurous and try different things.

I was chatting with Anthony from me&my wellness a bit about cooking, making the grocery lists, and how we are changing what we are eating from week to week based on what is on special. He was saying that by incorporating many different kinds of fruits and vegetables we can positively influence our gut health. If you want to get a bit deeper into this subject please check out his podcast on improving digestive health.

Ok so you have followed the steps from last week, made up a list, and picked up some sale items. There are some meals planned, but we found a few bonus ingredients, a new fruit, some vegetables that were on sale, flax seeds. What can we do with the ingredients we bought? Let’s start cooking!

I’m going to start with coleslaw. Shredded cabbage is pretty cheap, it goes on sale regularly, and it is very versatile. This can be cooked up in a skillet with a little butter, sugar, and vinegar for a quick side dish. Cooked shredded cabbage can be added to mashed potatoes for colcannon. You can dump a couple of cups of raw cabbage into a soup for low-carb noodles. It can always be made into coleslaw proper, but don’t be limited by traditional coleslaws. You can add an Italian vinaigrette to the coleslaw mix and eat it like salad. My grandmother makes an Asian coleslaw with peanuts and sesame. Coleslaw plays nicely with citrus fruits, like orange and lime, and this pairing is wonderful on fish tacos, or with grilled salmon. Remember those lychees we picked up last week? I added them to a creamy coleslaw. I served it with steak, grilled onions, peaches, red peppers, and tomatoes.

Meatloaf was made for the addition of lots of vegetables. It can be traditional ground beef, ground pork, ground venison, ground chicken, or ground turkey. I have also tried vegetarian and vegan meatloaves made with textured vegetable protein, lentils, and mushrooms. Whichever base loaf you choose, swap in oatmeal as the binder to add fiber and whole grains to the loaf. Then, meatloaf can handle vegetable mix-ins like tomatoes, celery, onion, green pepper. Perhaps a Southwest veggie meatloaf is calling your name? One might include black beans, jarred salsa, or grilled corn. An Asian meatloaf might have water chestnuts or hoisin sauce, and it can be served with stir fry frozen veggies. How about a Mediterranean meatloaf with frozen spinach, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top. This would go great with couscous.

Burgers and meatballs work similarly to meatloaf. They can be made from a variety of ingredients and take on vegetables well. These can take on some flax seeds to add even more fiber and help with binding. Sometimes I deconstruct my burgers. Instead of serving a burger on a bun, I might serve a burger on a salad. I have been known to serve a veggie burger on top of spaghetti with marinara sauce. This was very popular.

Have a sweet potato that needs to be cooked up? What can you do with ½ cup of leftover chickpeas, kidney beans, or lima beans? What about those limp carrots in the veggie drawer? The answer is curry. Curry is a stew that loves whatever is in your fridge and needs using.

Curry usually includes wonderful warming spices like turmeric, black pepper, ground ginger, dry mustard, chili powder, and cinnamon. But, please don’t think that Indian or Thai food means spicy food. If you are cooking it yourself, you can adjust the spice to your liking. There are tons of recipes out there. I did a mung bean and coconut curry that I served with golden mango. This meal happened because I had never tried mung beans and the mangos were 3 for $1 that week.

Like curry, soup is an easy to toss together and very ingredient forgiving meal. Soups can be made from frozen vegetables, wilty vegetables, a leftover veggie tray, bits of cubed meat or tofu, and they take well to a couple of spoons of leftover gravy. They are a way to incorporate dried seasonings from your spice cupboard like parsley, garlic, onion, and sage. I think soup’s superpower is that it can be made along a spectrum of filling to match what you are feeling. Chili, potato and corn chowder, wild rice soup, or beef stew are all hearty and filling meals perfect for a fall or winter meal. But just as lovely in the summer might be a light lunchtime tomato soup, a French onion with croutons, or bright and spicy Vietnamese Pho.

What about dessert? If I am making boxed desserts, which sometimes I find is less expensive than making it from scratch, I will usually add in ground flaxseed, chia seed, and vanilla pea protein powder. These are undetectable in the finished product and they will amp up the nutrition of the desert. I sometimes substitute applesauce, banana, pumpkin, or yogurt for oil in recipes. And I also might add nuts or incorporate fruit into the desert.

You may have noticed this involves a lot of cooking. It takes time for the planning, the list making, the shopping, the preparing, the cooking. I don’t mind the time. I think much of what I am doing adds to the experience.

And that is a huge part of how we eat. It is an experience. We set the table. There are no distractions from the tv or cell phones. The meals are plated, then we sit and eat together. We talk about what parts worked and what didn’t. There is excitement and anticipation and for that meal and for that time we are all really present.

My ten-year-old will tell you about anticipation. He can tell you that I was talking about making a dessert when I saw strawberries were on sale this week. He was with us at the grocery store when we picked out our berries. He was in his room when we noticed that the house smelled like vanilla.

My son came out to the kitchen to set the table. I had been cleaning and slicing the strawberries into a bowl while the shortcakes baked. The oven dinged and since he was there at the table, I handed him the bowl of strawberries and a masher and told him to give them a good mash. My husband came into the room and saw my son A.J. working on the berries. He asked A.J. what he was working on. A.J. said, “I don’t know, but I know it’s gonna be good!”

And this is how I want him to think about all of his meals. I want him to look forward to it, and to enjoy it. I want our meal to be an experience. It is a culmination of work from each of us, and points are awarded for taste and for effort.

Blog written by Sarah Holtz on 9th July 2021