I’m not really a resolution person, you know? For me, change happens slowly. Plus, I don’t do so well when asked to evaluate myself all at once in a rush of anxiety in the middle of winter after passing through the stresses (good and bad) of all that year-end festiveness. And then there’s the word itself – resolution. It sounds sort of … congressional (read: ineffective?), sort of … over and done. If change is in order, let’s make it an active sort of change, full of energy and momentum and life.
And then Jacob said, “Mommy, can we have a New Year’s Revolution?”
A revolution? A revolution. Indeed. I think we can.
Revolution: Part One
Mark Bittman’s opinionator piece from January 1st is well worth reading if you are on board with the idea of a food revolution – or, more specifically, a food system revolution. I’m trying to do what I can to chip away, with “energy, action and patience.” (I’m working on patience all around, so I can embrace this as one more area to practice it in.)
Bittman’s rallying call to make direct requests for specific changes is excellent, and the first two on his list have profound resonance for me: “[W]e must fight to protect and improve programs that make food available to lower-income Americans. We must also support the increasingly assertive battles of workers in food-related industries; nothing reflects our moral core more accurately than the abuses we overlook in the names of convenience and economy.” Real food, and real rights; I’m hoping we can take real steps towards those things this year.
Revolution: Part Two
We already eat a largely vegetarian, whole foods diet. This year, we’re making one night a week officially vegan. No weird meat replacements or processed-soy-whatsits. Just sometimes using coconut oil instead of butter, or skipping cheese on top, or putting beans in the pot instead of chicken. It’s a small step, but it’s something real we can do so that our household is making a difference. We’re flapping our little butterfly wings and hoping for a swarm.
Revolution: Part Three
You know how, sometimes, you just get in a rut in the kitchen, and can’t seem to get out? I have been making the same vegetable soup for, let’s see, at least seven years now. As in, the exact same. As in, never once adding a new spice or flavor. I like it the way it is; Kyle likes it the way it is; Jacob declares it his favorite dinner, every time I make it.
The other week, missing celery and worried there would be a flavor problem, I added – dill (lots of dill) and mustard (lots of mustard!) to the pot.
Wait, what? I did that? I did! And we all loved it. And then last week – I made it again!
And while I was happily shaking dill and spooning mustard, I thought – I should really try this more often. When recipes work, I love them. I depend on them. But sometimes, something different tastes … different. And that’s nice. So we’re going to revolutionize a few standbys this year; as in, maybe vinegar chicken needn’t be confined to red-wine-and-rosemary. Or maybe enchiladas work with a red sauce and not just our (veryveryfavorite) green one.
Maybe – maybe – there are even other things hanging around the kitchen that would like to wear a bright new coat of mustardy-herby goodness. We won’t know unless we try, right?
Revolution: Part Four
We make our own bread, we rock the farmer’s markets, we love our CSA farm, heck we got a holiday card from the chickens who lay our pastured, pastel-hued eggs. But what percentage of our dollars are we really pumping back in to our community? I was inspired by Deanna to start tracking it more carefully, and this year I want to see if we can push our numbers in the direction of LOCAL.
Revolution: Part Five
This one’s pretty simple, and sweet Luisa has beaten me to the punch today (and ok, most everyone else in the world appears to have beaten me to the punch by, like, a few years) – but friends, it’s a leafy green revolution: we are going to eat more kale chips. Lots more. We made them at home for the first time last week; thirteen seconds after I set them on the table, they were gone, and all three of my guys were covered in a dusting of fine kale-green powder. Lucas calls them Sea Weed, which he pronounces Wee Wee, which makes Jacob laugh – and that is just the icing on my kale chip cake.
¡Viva la Revolución!
We spent New Year’s Day with the usual suspects, at one of our favorite places – and to quote my sexy husband, it was glorious. We remain thankful – for the food we eat, for the people we love, for the world we live in, for the chance we have every day to take huge steps and feel the planet’s roundness beneath our feet. Happy new year everyone – let’s make it all that we want it to be, and then some.
Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then the shadow sweeps it away. You know you’re alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet.
~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
I based my first go at these on Emmy’s recipe which was adapted from Bon Appetit in 2009, and Luisa’s explanation is also great. We have used lacinato and curly kale both, and Emmy assures us that any and all kinds of kale will work.
I know this is not news, exactly, but – toasted kale is AWESOME. I like raw and steamed and souped-up kale, too, but even people who don’t like those things will probably love these. The chips are crisp and shattery like potato chips, and have an airy barely-there quality to them that is positively addictive. They are salty, and umami-y, and take all of no time to prepare. We’ve eaten them straight, but they are also genius on top of pasta and feta tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette. They make a nice crisp point over soup, or topping a wedge of roasted squash. Just don’t get any ideas about dipping them in hummus: as Jacob said, they are very, very, very, very fragile and crumbly. And also, very delicious.
This part of the revolution is going to be a piece of cake :)
1 bunch of kale, washed and well dried
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
Optional: additional seasonings, such as parmesan cheese, spices, etc.
Preheat the oven to 250 and line two baking sheets with parchment. Cut the stems out of the kale, and cut the leaves into ribbons. Toss the kale ribbons gently with the olive oil, rubbing it in to coat all leaves (nice and moisturizing for your clean hands!). Spread the kale on two cookie sheets in as close to single layers as possible. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt. Bake until the kale is crisp but not charred; rotate pans after about ten minutes of cooking. My chips take about 20 minutes, but they can take up to 35 per Emmy.
Remove from oven, and try not to eat them all right off the pan.
Change It Up Vegetable Soup
This is a variation (!) on Jacob’s favorite vegetable soup. Like the original it tastes good right off the stove, but gets even better as it sits in the fridge all week. You can make it with chicken stock, vegetable stock, or just water and some salt. The dill and mustard are subtle despite the quantities, and they are surprising in a really good way. Kyle and I couldn’t get enough of this – we don’t usually use dill in soup, but it is fresh and herby tasting in a really wonderful way here. The mustard adds a note of zest and deepens the flavor. Some crumbly feta over top of a bowl of this marries really well with the mustard and dill, too. Go ahead – change it up :)
Drizzle of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
(Optional: chop the leftover kale stems from your chips and add them with the celery)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (we like Muir Glen Organics)
4 cups stock or water
1/2 green cabbage, thinly ribboned (or: one bunch kale, thinly ribboned)
1 cup mung beans or lentils
2 tablespoons dried dill
2-3 tablespoons grainy mustard (spicy or not, to your taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: brined feta to crumble over top
Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pan (with a lid). Add onion and cook a few minutes until it starts to soften. Add carrot and celery and cook a few minutes. Add tomatoes and 3 cups of the water or stock, stir in the mustard and dill, bring to a boil. Add the beans or lentils, plus the additional water or stock if needed to cover them. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until beans are softened but still have some bite. Add cabbage ribbons, put on the lid, reduce heat and and let simmer ten minutes more, until the cabbage is softened and incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with a nice crusty bread for sopping.