More NYC

We crammed so much fun into just a few days that my heart and head are full of NYC…

Since we returned, I’ve been posting pictures and reflections (art, architecture, history, public spaces, etc) over on Instagram. Follow me there for more: @sivricketts.

And meanwhile, settle into fall with a delicious, healthy, and oh-so-easy Cauliflower Soup.

Living Eco-Friendly

Six weeks ago our faithful family minivan blew up coming home from an end-of-summer getaway. After the initial shock, I thought this might be an opportunity for us to live simpler. I suggested we aim for six months of two cars between three drivers. We would coordinate schedules, walk/bike more, and limit expenses on gas and insurance. It also meant we would need to upgrade the older car so that we had two solidly reliable vehicles; the hunt began.

We made it one month. The stress of a busy family going every which way at all hours became too much; one particular day I thought Guy might blow a fuse. We did find an upgrade for the older car; and almost at the same moment another vehicle appeared as a gift from God via a friend—both used cars, together costing one-third the price of a similar new car. We had planned to sell the older car, until we realized that the only potential buyer would be a high school student; we have a high school student a few months from driving age.

So now we have more cars than drivers, and three SUVs. It feels indecent, and necessary.

Then I saw the infographic in an email from the energy company comparing our usage with other households our size. I thought we were pretty good about managing our energy—turning lights off, running appliances at off-peak hours, etc—except for all the heat lamps in the kiddo’s reptile cages. Because of his abundant love for creepy-crawlies, our energy usage crawls off the charts.

Also, recycling is getting harder with foreign countries no longer accepting recyclables from the US. I’m using water to wash items that before I’d just throw in the recycling bin, and I’m tossing items too difficult to clean.

None of this sits easily with a family that likes to consider ourselves environmentalists.

So I’m looking to the little things, the micro changes I can make to take some of the pressure off my footprint. The following suggestions are things I already do, so I’m hoping you’ll offer your suggestions.

  1. Batch errands. Drop by the library, grocery store, and gas station when you pick your kid up from school, for example.
  2. Only wash full loads of dishes (if you have a new-ish appliance, no need to pre-rinse) and laundry. Wash on cold at off-peak hours.
  3. As possible, wear clothing more than once before washing. Wash towels once a week.
  4. Line dry laundry, especially quick drying clothes like workout gear.
  5. Eat mostly plants and unprocessed foods; limit or eliminate meat/animal products from your diet. Also, shop at a farmers’ market.
  6. At the grocery store, buy in bulk and/or choose products with minimal packaging.
  7. Cook at home rather than eating out. Double recipes and freeze. Also, no need to preheat the oven if you set the timer for a few extra minutes.
  8. Use refillable water bottles.
  9. Keep reusable shopping bags in your vehicles so you’re never without one when you need it.
  10. Buy less stuff.
  11. Carry reusable straws. Also flatware if you’re likely to eat out.*
  12. Opt for cloth napkins instead of paper towels or napkins.
  13. Use microfiber makeup removing cloths rather than wipes or remover + cotton pads/tissues. Wet with warm water, wipe, hang to dry: simple. I use one cloth per week, and a different section of the cloth each day.*
  14. Take short, just-warm-enough showers.
  15. Check out your plastic footprint here: https://repurpose.global/ You can see my results below, better than many Americans but still not great. You’ll have an option at the end to make a financial gift to help fund environmental efforts, or you can donate to the charity of your choice, of course.

What do you do to limit your impact on the planet? We’re in this together, for better or for worse. As the situation currently looks dire, let’s work together towards a better future.

 

 
Cover image:Image by stokpic from Pixabay
* As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products I personally endorse.

Meatless Monday: Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup (vegan!)

It cooled off just enough last week to eat soup again. Notice I didn’t say “to cook soup,” because IP cooking means I don’t have to stand and stir a hot pot. It’s one of my favorite things about the IP: I can quickly make yummy veggies and soups that would require more time on the stove top and heat up the house. For this very reason, my husband makes globe artichokes in the IP almost every week; it’s fast and fail-proof!

When we first bought the IP, I left it in the box in the garage for a solid nine months. I’d read enough to expect it to sound like R2D2, and anything with too many buttons makes me nervous. When I finally decided an appliance would not best me, I made my husband watch a YouTube video with me and then together we did the water test to make sure it sealed correctly.

That was so long ago I don’t remember what we actually cooked. It may have been a red lentil curry. Whatever it was, it was easy enough to try again. And again and again…

For this soup, like a lot of my recipes, I started with online inspiration, combing recipes for similarities and differences. I consulted my IP go-to guide, Vegan Under Pressure*, for cooking times (the authority for cooking beans, both dried and canned). And then I experimented. As the weather continues to cool and I will continue to make soups both in the IP and on the stove top, this recipe will be in my regular rotation.

If you don’t have an IP, of course you can make this on the stove top. Everything should be about the same with two exceptions: you’ll need to adjust cooking times; and you can cook the pasta right in the pot.

This soup can also be really flexible. Don’t have cannellini beans? Add another can of kidney beans or more/different diced veggies. Kids not fans of zucchini? Add chopped greens at the end of cooking. (Personally, I peel the zucchini and the kids don’t know it’s there). You can use veggie crumbles instead of sausage, or leave the “meat” products out altogether. I’m all for playing with recipes!

Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large yellow or white onion, diced
3 Field Roast sausage links, diced (I used 2 Italian & 1 chipotle)
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
6 c low sodium veggie broth (Better Than Bouillon)
3 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or 1 tsp each dried basil, thyme, and oregano)
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional if using chipotle sausage)
1 15 oz undrained can diced tomatoes (if you use fresh tomatoes, add 1/3-1/2 c additional water/broth)
1 15 oz can tomato sauce (or prepared marinara sauce)
Diced veggies – celery (3 ribs), carrots (3-4 peeled), and zucchini (2 small)
1 14.5 oz can each garbanzo, kidney and cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1.5 cup ditalini pasta or elbow macaroni cooked separately, 8-10 minutes

On “saute” setting, stir onions and sausage for 5 minutes; add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Add broth, seasonings, tomatoes and sauce, veggies and beans, and stir to combine.

Lock the lid in place. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow the pot to sit for 3-4 minutes and then turn the release valve for a “quick release.”

If pressed for time, dump everything in and cook on high pressure for 12 minutes. Allow the pot to sit for 3-4 minutes and then turn the release valve for a “quick release.”

Stir in pasta and adjust seasonings. Mangia!

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. But seriously, if you have an IP and you like to cook veggies, this book is so worth the purchase.

Ginger for Breakfast: 3 Recipes Fueling My Mornings

I ❤ ginger! Fan-fave cinnamon is great, but ginger is my jam. It’s peppery-delicious, versatile all day long, and so good for you. Here are three breakfast-inspired ginger-infused recipes I’ve been making on repeat.

Ginger-Lemon Shots
Yes, you can buy ginger shots at Jamba Juice, Whole Foods, even at farmer’s markets (which is where I first discovered them, and I don’t mind supporting a female entrepreneur). But making them at home is easy and much less expensive. I bought a clam shell of organic ginger at Costco and picked lemons from my tree. If you use organic ginger and lemons you don’t even need to peel them. I use a juicer (so old they don’t make it anymore, so I can’t endorse a brand) and start with ginger cut into pieces, then finish with halved lemons. Grating ginger by hand is a pain, so either a juicer or a blender is the way to go; if you use a blender, though, you’ll want to peel the lemons and perhaps also the ginger. I added a little water and the teensiest drizzle of maple syrup, put the concoction in clean spice jars, and stored three days worth in the fridge. Shake it up before sipping.

Chia Pudding
I use almond milk, vanilla, and a slight drizzle of maple syrup, and add a few dashes of ground ginger and turmeric (sub cinnamon, cardamom and cloves for a chai flavor). I put it in a glass jar and shake it up hard, then give it a stir about five minutes later to break up any clumps. So easy I can prep it just before bed while I’m setting the coffee maker, and I won’t even have to think about breakfast in the morning. Sometimes I add fruit, other times I just dig in. BTW, 1/4 c of chia + 1 c of non-dairy milk makes two breakfast servings, so put it in two individual jars or one larger container. Or make a big batch and eat throughout the week.

Granola
The ginger shots and chia pudding are mine all mine, but the whole fam chows down on this recipe for breakfast, lunch, and snack. The kids can hardly wait until it’s cooled. I make it a little different each time, changing up the nuts, adding or not adding dried fruit. The always-adds are equal amounts of ground ginger and cinnamon and unsweetened coconut flakes. The family likes to eat it by the handful (it’s great for lunch boxes, too); I like it with some fresh fruit and a little almond milk.

Bon Apetit!

 

Cover image by Ajale from Pixabay

Meatless Monday – Berry Muffins

Once a month I teach the preschool Sunday school class. Yesterday’s lesson was about being fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, which means we are smart, and helpful, and creative (among other things).

We focused on the “creative” part and gave the kids lots of time to paint with watercolors, or color, or make paper airplanes. Some kids chose to create with play dough, while others created tree houses from blocks or created scenarios to act out with toy cars. We let the kids have a lot of free play while we noticed aloud their various creative efforts and how great it is that God made us all creative and unique.

I came home floating on cute kids’ creativity and decided I needed to express some creativity of my own. One of my favorite forms of creativity? Making delicious food for the people I love. Just the evening previous, I had come across a recipe for berry muffins that I knew I could vegan-ize, and I had some over-ripe bananas practically begging to become banana bread.

Muffins are a family fav because they make a quick breakfast, an easy lunch bag option, or a tasty after school snack. I’d wrongly anticipated this batch of 18 muffins would last most of the week, but today was a no-school day and the kids plowed through them with only a few leftover. Good thing they haven’t yet discovered the banana bread!

Berry Muffins

1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c organic sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxmeal + 3 Tbsp water, set aside 5 min)
1 c non-dairy milk
2 Tbsp agave
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 c fresh or frozen berries
cinnamon sugar, optional

Preheat over to 350. Grease or line with paper 18 muffins cups. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine flax egg, milk, agave, and applesauce in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Gently stir in berries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. If desired, lightly sprinkle cinnamon sugar on each muffin before baking (the recipe itself isn’t very sweet). Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Meatless Monday: Plant-Based Challenge Wk3

When you come to appreciate the wisdom of planning ahead because a) you get sick and b) you hadn’t planned adequately enough…

I enjoy meal planning and prepping on Sundays. But last Sunday would be followed by a day-off Monday, so less need. Plus, I felt slightly under the weather, so napping took priority.

Hence the week began with easy food: pasta with marinara (I didn’t roast, just sauteed All the Veggies, added a jar of ready-made sauce + spinach until wilted, then pureed) and bean dip that we folded into whole wheat tortillas with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and more salsa for burritos. Oh, and yummy pumpkin smoothies for breakfast, sweetened with soaked dates rather than molasses.

By Wednesday, the bug had fully infested my system and I ended up in Urgent Care – bleh. And this is when I recognized how wise it would be to stock the freezer with yummy leftovers for just such a time… I needed to take meds with food, so toast with nut butter saw me through. One afternoon I warmed some veggie broth, added brown rice from the fridge and frozen peas, and seasoned with a little low-sodium soy sauce & a squeeze of fresh lime juice, my quicker-than-quick version of ramen.

Thankfully, the drugs are working and yesterday I got back at the meal prep. I bought a 2-lb. bag of cubed butternut squash (I know, bad for the environment, but grace…), bigger than I needed for the farro-kale soup I’d been craving. I roasted it all anyway (no oil, just Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute).

Once I’d made the farro-kale soup, I used the remaining squash to make my first-ever attempt at butternut squash soup:

2 c butternut squash, cubed
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 large russet potato, diced
4 c veggie broth
Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
other spices, to taste
toasted pumpkin seeds or fresh herbs, optional

Add squash to a roasting pan and sprinkle with 21 Seasoning Salute. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 400. Remove from heat.

In a large stock pot, saute onion for 3 minutes; add garlic, carrot, and potato and continue sauteing for 2-3 more minutes. Add veggie broth as needed to keep veggies from sticking and to deglaze the pan. Add squash, veggie broth, and thyme. Simmer for 10 minutes. Test potatoes and continue cooking as needed until potatoes are easily pricked with a fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Use an immersion blender to puree. Taste and adjust seasonings. I don’t like my squash to be too sweet, so I added a sprinkle of red pepper and curry powder; if you like sweet, try nutmeg. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds or chopped fresh herbs as desired.

My soup wasn’t the gorgeous orange color I expect with butternut squash soup, but I attribute that to the roasted and sauteed veggies. Still, it tasted so cozy-comforting. And now I have two different healthy soups to see me through until we go veggie-crazy on our meatless Thanksgiving Day feast. Yum-O!

Meatless Monday – Plant-Based Challenge Wk2

Set it and forget it. In other words, plan ahead.

Week 2 started with a bang. I gave myself the twin gifts of time and money by skipping the store and meal planning with what I already had. The week’s theme foods included  wheat, chickpeas and squash, so I landed on pumpkin; I spent Sunday afternoon geeking out to The Hamilton Mixtape and cooking up a storm.

Pumpkin waffles (I subbed mashed banana for coconut oil. I also doubled the recipe; I thought I might freeze some but nope, the family ate them all over a few days).

Apple sauce (Dice apples and toss in a sauce pot. Add about an inch or so of water. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10+ minutes, until you can mash them with a potato masher; add small amounts of water as necessary. Add cinnamon–or apple/pumpkin pie spice–and juice of half a lemon). I topped my waffle with fresh apple sauce and didn’t need any additional sweetener.

Hash (I sauteed onions, garlic, peppers, and Field Roast sausage, then added diced/boiled potatoes and one can drained/rinsed black beans).

We ate waffles with apple sauce and hash for Sunday dinner and breakfast/lunches throughout the week. I also made a pot of Apple Pie Oatmeal, another breakfast option for the week. Surprisingly, though I’ve made it many times and my kids haven’t always loved oatmeal, this time they both commented on how good it tasted.

Monday dinner I considered making curry to use up the veggies in the crisper but the kids were absolutely not down for curry. So I met a friend at the dog park and, as we walked, I realized I could use the same veggies in Minestrone Soup. This is one of our family’s go-to meals and a favorite to share with friends. When I told the kids I would make minestrone, no kidding, they cheered!

On Wednesday, I made a double batch of Black Bean Soup (can you tell I’m grateful for fall? Fall flavors and soups!). I also dry sauteed red onions and orange and yellow bell peppers with taco seasoning; I wrapped them in whole wheat tortillas with some salsa, like simple fajitas. I wasn’t sure Q14 would eat more than a bite, but he finished what I put on his plate plus the leftovers in one sitting.

So far so good, right? Until I crashed on Thursday. Though the schedule indicated a five-hour work shift, I worked more than eight, until after midnight. I had to eat a little something just to keep moving, but we didn’t have vegetables. The next day was my birthday and, the way the day went, I took the kids for ice cream. I haven’t eaten dairy-based ice cream in years, so I had a cone. If you’re going to splurge, even if you don’t plan on splurging, at least make it worthwhile–and that was one hecka good mocha almond fudge!

Now we’re in to Week 3 and I’m back on track. I’m not going to beat myself up for a couple steps backward when I took so many huge strides forward. I’m going to learn from the bumps in the road and keep on going.