Everyone deserves lunch. #feedsouthafrica

On the menu: Arugula Salad with Cumin-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes. Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Today, I want to talk about lunch.

Lunchbox Fund Logo.jpg

I’ve been packing my lunches since the 4th grade. My bagged lunches were pretty simple: a peanut butter sandwich, a bag of chips, a piece of fruit, and a treat. There was that time in 8th-9th grades when I ate yogurt for lunch most days. There were the months and months of “bread sandwiches” in high school, when I decided I was too good for filling and ate two pieces of white bread with whatever else I had packed that day. There were countless Cosmic Brownies.

Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes. Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Now in…21st grade (yikes!), I typically follow the formula of my childhood. I need something crunchy and salty, something bright and fresh, and something sugary and overprocessed to round out my midday meal. These have been the sides to my sandwich for forever. But last month I took a new route and started making salads. These salads, like my lunch, follow a formula: a base of greens, a roasted something, some nuts, a little extra something, and some cheese. Dressed, always, with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Here’s this week’s salad: arugula, cumin-roasted sweet potato, pecans, dried cranberries, and feta. I eat my salad after my handful of potato chips (dill pickle this week, thank you very much) and before my fruit (you know it’s a blood orange) and my cookies (which are Oreos this time around).

Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes. Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Lunch is the meal I rely on the most to get me through the day. I work up to it after breakfast, then it fuels me through the rest of my afternoon. Lunchtime has been such an integral part of my educational experience. But there are many children in school in South Africa who don’t get lunch, and that breaks my heart. 65% of all South African children live in poverty. Lunch may be their only meal of the day, and many children must attend school to get their lunch. Receiving food encourages children to stay in school and obtain their education. I don’t know what my school days would be like without my lunch. I can’t imagine what it’s like for these kids. Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential.  Without food, a child’s attendance and performance at school is severely jeopardized.

Lunchbox Fund Photo 3

Today, there’s a bunch of food bloggers who are donating their posts to The Lunchbox Fund. I chose to participate because of how important my lunch is to me at school and how strongly I value my education. Everyone deserves lunch. The Lunchbox Fund identifies schools or forms partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. It funds distributers to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a Project Manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation.

Lunchbox Fund

Just $10 today will help The Giving Table, a philanthropic organization centered around food bloggers, donate a daily meal for 100 South African children through The Lunchbox Fund. Donate what you can, and if you can’t, help spread the word today about the cause. I donated $10. Maybe that means I won’t get that shiny new magazine when I check out at the grocery store and my weekly bag of gummy bears, but a meal a day for a child is so, so, SO! much more important than that.

Feed a Child Nourish a Mind

Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes
original “recipe,” makes enough for 3 salads

One large sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Wash sweet potato, then dice it into 3/4 inch cubes. Toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes until browned and tender, tossing with a spatula every 10 minutes or so. Store in the refrigerator to toss on salads.

Posted in Lunch, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

These are them.

On the menu: Lentil Coriander Stew

How do I describe PhD brain?

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Seriously. The last year and a half has been both the greatest and the worst for my cognitive ability. I have learned a shit-ton about bees: how they move, where they live, what they look like, their life cycle…lots of things. Bees are infinitely interesting. I’ve gained this knowledge, though, at the expense of short term memory loss, mixing up words when I speak, and nearly constant fatigue. So please don’t ask me to tell you anything I’ve learned lately, because a) I won’t remember and b) I won’t be able to explain it clearly.

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

But this doesn’t just apply to my work. It’s real bad at home. Here’s one example: I bought a new set of sheets on a whim the other day. When I told Kevin about it, he said: “Great! Now we have a replacement set for the ones that ripped last month.” I had absolutely no recollection of these ripped sheets. I figured I was away at work when it happened, but he tells me I was there. I saw it happen. Why didn’t I remember that? Worse, why couldn’t I even recall the incident when he described it in detail? I’d tell you another example because this happens a lot, but ironically, I can’t recall the details of other such incidents. I’ve always had a really good memory, but all this bee business has really put a damper on it. Perhaps I bought the sheets out of some subconscious cue or something.  That doesn’t make these mind-blanking incidents any easier to deal with, though.

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I haven’t forgotten this stew I made a couple of weeks ago.  I just haven’t been able to find the right words to say along with it. Maybe these are them, maybe not. But I really just have to tell you to try this recipe. It’s one I tested for Food52 recently—their one-pot meal contest has my name written all the heck over it!—and it’s a good one. We’ve been eating a lot of lentils this month. There is a shelf in one of our cupboards dedicated to dried beans and grains, and I’m trying to whittle it down a bit.

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Have you ever sliced an onion pole to pole? It’s weird. I felt like I was breaking all the laws of cooking when I did it, but it produced these gorgeous strings of onion that melted away into the stew and added great flavor. I learned that Italian-style turkey sausage is a thing, and it’s not bad, though cutting it into coins as the recipe suggests was impossible due to how soft it was. Notice the teeny meatballs in the photos. But, oh, friends, the coriander just killed it. I use a bit of coriander here and a bit there, but I’ve never seasoned a dish with a copious amount of coriander. The dominance of that oft-elusive spice was the primary reason I made this stew. It made our kitchen smell all tingly. It was bright and warm. Finished with a hit of lemon and a bit of Greek yogurt, this stew is one to remember.

Lentil Coriander Stew
from deanna1001 at Food52

1 pound Italian style turkey sausage, sweet or spicy, in link form
2 large onions, sliced thin pole to pole
2 1/4 teaspoons toasted and ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups dry green lentils
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Greek yogurt and thinly sliced lemon for garnish

Slice sausages into 1/2 inch coins, or slice links and form tiny meatballs. Brown in a dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned. Add onions and stir. Cover pot and cook until onions are tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Drain off excess fat. Stir in coriander, salt and ginger. Add lentils and 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer 50 minutes. Stir in zest and juice of lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with a dollop of yogurt and a thin slice of lemon.

Posted in Beans, Dinner, Lunch, Soups/Stews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The big test.

On the menu: Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Do I like grapefruit? I do now.

Grapefruit grossed me out growing up. When I was a kid, the grapefruit spoons in my Grandma’s kitchen drawer were for Italian ice cups. But then I grew up and discovered Campari. And that shit is right, therefore I must like grapefruit. Wrong. I have tried grapefruit every winter since (so, like 3 times) to no avail.

The urge to try again came about through a couple of intriguing grapefruit recipes I’ve read recently. There’s this one, for the wild and crazy kids. Here’s one for the forever kids. Broiled grapefruit jumped out at me as a tolerable means of consumption. I picked up both a red and a white grapefruit at the grocery store–go big or go home, friends–and decided I would try heating up the more bitter and intimidating white grapefruit.

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I quickly found a broiled white grapefruit recipe. Did I need a recipe for this? No, but as someone who doesn’t try new things without major guidance (hello, being WAY behind on my dissertation…), I needed all the help I could get. We didn’t have raw sugar, but we did have a bag of coconut sugar and that sounded like a good idea. I cut the grapefruit in half and got a big whiff of it’s floral, piney aroma. Nothing smells like grapefruit. I’ve long liked it’s scent, though. The big test was yet to come. After blanketing one half with the coconut sugar, I put it under the broiler for 5 minutes.

You guys! This is freaking delicious! You get the caramely sweetness of the coconut sugar first and finish with a much tempered bitterness of the grapefruit. I devoured it. Grapefruit and I are bitter enemies no more.

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit
adapted from The view from Great Island

serves 2

1 white grapefruit
2 teaspoons coconut sugar

Preheat your broiler to high and place an oven rack as close to the heating element as you can. Slice the grapefruit in half and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cover the cut flesh of each half with a teaspoon of coconut sugar. Place under the broiler until the flesh is bubbly and the sugar has caramelized to a dark golden brown, about 5 minutes.

To serve, loosen each segment with a knife, then scoop that warm, juicy goodness up!

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Posted in Breakfast, Fruity, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Go, go, go.

On the menu: New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Do clams have a season? I live on the ocean and am married to a guy who studies clams. I should probably know this. But it’s winter, and winter is cold…especially this one…and cold means soups and stews of all sorts are in order. It’s soup season. So let’s have some clam chowder!

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Holy cow; spring semester starts next week. I got shit to do. I should be doing it right now, actually. But sometimes my brain needs a break from all the reading and thinking and writing all academically and things, even when I’ve only been back at it for a few days. The enormity of my task list has yet to set in. Winter break has been pretty rad. I was home for a week and a half, during which time I went all over Wisconsin and Minnesota with a quick visit to Michigan. I was everywhere. I ate a lot. I slept a little. I baked things and cooked things and threw my best friend a bridal shower. I drank way too much wine one night. I think this is what holidays as an adult are like. Just go, go, go, then go back to normal.

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Normal was a week at home, recuperating and staying out of the umpteenth snowstorm of the season. We stayed in New Year’s Eve. We snuggled with the cat. We missed a massive ice storm while we were away. The whole state lost power. We came home to a non-functioning refrigerator and freezer and lost a lot of…really old condiments? Thank goodness we had cleaned out before we left! This winter in Maine has been like so many I grew up with, and I’m loving it. I actually had to buy real winter boots because of all this snow. There’s no fur on them, not anywhere. They’re actually men’s boots. I rock them. I’ve been eating all the blood oranges. We went snowshoeing. We started up a hill, which really sucked, but then it tapered off and was beautiful. Now all the snow is covered in ice because it was 50ºF! the other day and it rained and rained. And then that polar vortex froze everything.

I guess a rainy January day or a frozen January day could call for some clam chowder. Thick, loaded with vegetables, and briny with that signature funky bitterness of fresh clams, clam chowder from scratch is surprisingly simple and comes together quicker than you’d think. It’s kind of a cuddly concoction, really. We served it with my favorite biscuits, tender and loaded with thyme. And it’s way better the next day.

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

New England Clam Chowder
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

serves 4

5 lbs littleneck clams
1 cup water
2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 lbs waxy potatoes, cubed (peeled first, if you so desire)
1 cup heavy cream

First, we clean the clams: Wash the shells with a small brush, then soak clams in enough cold water to cover, add 1/4 cup salt, and let sit for 30 minutes. This causes the clams to expel and sand they have inside. Then we make clam stock: put clams and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook until the clams open, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard any closed clams. Let clams cool, then remove meat from the shells and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Saute bacon in a Dutch oven until fat begins to render, then add onion and celery and continue cooking until bacon crisps and vegetable soften. Add clam stock, bay leaf, thyme, and potatoes, bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add chopped clams and cream and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Posted in Bacon, Biscuits, Christmas, Dinner, Seafood, Soups/Stews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Don’t need a bowlful.

On the menu: Small Batch Snowstorm Eggnog

Small Batch Eggnog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

We finally got our first big snow here on the coast. I watched as my friends and family back home got 2 feet of snow a couple of weeks ago, and I got so homesick. When I saw the forecast for the storm, I immediately set out to get some good eats inside while the snow spun around outside. I love a good snowstorm!

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies ~ Documenting our Dinner.   Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Along with these Old Fashioned Sour Cream cookies and a batch of slow-cooked beef ragu, I made a small batch of eggnog. Eggnog reminds me of my brother. He LOVES eggnog. The gross kind in the carton. He drinks at least a gallon every Christmas, and I sit idly by and try not to toss my cookies (You know, because I eat tons of cookies while he drinks his nog). My brother has to slurp the nog like it’s the most delicious thing on the planet, singing it’s praises and making sure that I know how much he loves it. Obnoxious. Did I mention that he’s 24 years old and he still does this? Naturally, I swore off the nog at a very young age.

Small Batch Eggnog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

So I’m gearing myself up for this year’s annual eggnog taunt. With the real deal.

My objectives here were two-fold. I wanted to make a great eggnog and use up some perishables from our refrigerator before we go home for Christmas. As I wasn’t really in the mood to buy anymore food, I used what we had in our liquor cabinet–no rum, but some rye whiskey tempered with a little marsala sounded all right. But here’s the thing: the vast majority of eggnog recipes make a bowlful.  The two of us in a snowstorm don’t need a bowlful of eggnog. Can you imagine the outcome of that situation? Yikes. This recipe is small, easily scalable if need be, and makes an awesome nog. Creamy, full-bodied, smooth, and spicy. Who knew eggnog was any good?

Small Batch Eggnog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Small Batch Snowstorm Eggnog
adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler
makes 2 servings

2 large eggs
3 oz by volume sugar (I used my jigger to measure this!)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz brandy
3/4 oz marsala
1 1/4 oz rye whiskey
8 oz heavy cream
2 oz whole milk

Beat eggs in blender for one minute on medium speed. Slowly add sugar and blend for one additional minute. With blender still running, add remaining ingredients and blend until combined. Chill thoroughly to allow flavors to combine. Serve with freshly grated nutmeg on top.

Posted in Drinks, Eggs, Holidays, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments