why we don’t have a microwave

microwave

1. health

have you seen that experiment in which someone watered two identical plants in identical soil and identical lighting with microwaved [and cooled] water for one and regular water for the other? well, the one that was being fed microwaved water died. terribly and obviously. anecdotal evidence it may be, but that’s disconcerting to me.

2. taste

microwaved chicken has always grossed me out. it tastes just wrong somehow. not to mention that a microwave weirdly blackens and fries parts of the veggies and leaves the rest soggy and weird. icky. toaster ovens produce much tastier left-overs.

3. counter space

the things are HUGE; i would rather have my counter free for chopping and prepping.  they are also usually not very attractive; as someone who values beauty, microwaves don’t move me closer to beauty.

4. slow food

this is more about lifestyle values. i think that we lose something when we hurry hurry hurry so fast about so many things. there’s something to be said about the simple act of exercising patience while you wait for a toaster oven or stove top to heat/reheat your meal. there are a million ways to slow down and be mindful; eliminating a microwave is just one way.

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better off without it

our month-long “fast” on facebook and other social media is only about three-quarters of the way through, but already i’ve drawn some conclusions. already, and in spite of the fact that i haven’t been very pure in my keeping of this fast, i can see that my life is not made better by facebook or the reading of blogs. in some ways, it is probably made a touch worse.

i can see already that without it as a fall-back activity into which i rush at those moments when i’m not sure what to do next, i choose things that have more life and more fruit. i have been more creative in these last three and a half weeks. and more present. and my mind less noisy. i have made things, both good things to eat and things out of fabric.

i have been outside, eating meals or sipping a beverage on the front porch or in the yard, sometimes alone during hazel’s naps, sometimes the tree of us sharing a meal, and sometimes outside with friends. watering the garden and spending many moments examining the soil for the first signs of seedlings, which always thrill me to discover. outside holding my baby’s hand as she walks more and more like a big girl, side-by-side with me, up and down the sidewalk and through the grass.

and my business has not, i don’t think, suffered form my facebook absence. i’ve popped onto facebook here and there to address business messages, to update a business status, or to upload a photo. but i don’t think it’s made much of a difference. i am more confident in my identity as a creative artist now, more sure of the product that i offer and the heart that i carry into it that makes my photography its own, valuable thing. that tends to make me strive a little less to “sell” myself and my work. still, i’m not sure it is a prudent thing to ditch facebook and other social media altogether when one is trying to build and maintain this sort of business, so i know i won’t be giving into that unthinkable dream of going off the facebook grid.

and i have found that pinterest actually hold potential to enhance my life a bit. for instance, it taught me how to make my own deodorant and “beach hair” hair spray, both of which i did this week. and it’s brought me to many delicious and wholesome recipes that i’ve been trying out. and it has given me inspiration and guidance in making a crafted present for hazel’s first birthday. pinterest, if you actually step back and DO the things it aims to inspire you to do, can enhance life. a bit.

and blogs. well, there are probably only a small number that actually are worth sticking to. and they are the ones that talk to me about how to be a whole-hearted and present mom, and how to press into Jesus for each day’s needs. i sense that a purging of blog subscriptions might be in order.

facebook. oh, love and hate mingled! what an ambivalent relationship. but i’m thinking that keeping it within the confines of one, maybe two, days of each week will be the new normal. because i love the freedom of mind and time that has come from keeping it within bounds this month.

so there’s where i’m at. and here’s some of the beauty i’ve been indulging in and creating during this fast:

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on this day

on this day…

… i walked the two blocks to the prayer garage and spent some time praying and worshiping with my friends before the day got going at full speed.

…i ran errands for three hours. discovered costco with my new membership and came back with brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds, maple syrup, agave nectar, and cinnamon. picked up photos at my lab, some for my mama for a gift, and some for hazel’s birthday party. got some craft supplies at joanne fabrics.

…i gathered with some women from our church to talk about the fertility awareness method and to prayerfully surrender our hopes, fears, and plans to God regarding the growing of our families.

…hazel was a little needy and quick to tears for the afternoon and evening. food made it a little better. riding with mama in the ergo baby carrier for a while helped even more. and then the time spent nursing until drowsiness before bedtime was the final touch.

…tim made good progress in the bike shop, hanging more tools on the tool board. this following a day yesterday of incredible progress, thanks to the help of three friends and partners in the project.

…i did some diaper laundry. as i do every other day.

…we ate a good dinner using a new recipe. vegan because we’re trying to go off dairy. gluten-free because that’s how we always are. it was avocado-pea pasta if you were wondering. with a side of roasted squash. it was so pretty. and we’ve been eating well around her lately because i’ve had more energy to try new recipes, more longing for pretty, wholesome food.

… we took a little walk and ended up having a 30-minute conversation with some new-ish neighbors – jackie and her granddaughter princess and her friend mario. in conversation, which was quite pleasant, we covered vegetable gardening, jazz, religion, and africa. and jackie brought down some mango slices for hazel and princess to eat while they played on the sidewalk.

… tim went to our 14 year-old neighbor boy zachary’s choir concert this evening, to support him. and then straight to the neighborhood pub for a drink and some Getting Things Done accountability with our friend jeremy.

…i am a little bored right now and really want to go to bed, though it is only 9:15. but i’m going to sit on the porch with some lemonade, an oatcake, and a book instead.

 

i wrote a book

well, sorta. it’s a wee little cookbook, thrown together rather quickly as a parting gift to Big Oak. i wanted to leave them with all the recipes the kiddos there have gotten to be so fond of.

and, i made a home edition. meaning, with the recipes scaled down for a family of 4-6 rather than massive quantities to feed 38 small children and a handful of adults.

you can get a copy, if you like. 🙂

Brooke Cooks for Big Oak: Home Edition (click on this one to buy it)

By Brooke Collier, MA

ps: as you may have guessed, my commitment to whole real foods pervades this book.

Farewell to Big Oak Child Care Center

Dear Parents,

I’m a bit sad to sit down and write this letter announcing my departure from Big Oak next month. My husband and I have accepted an invitation to move back to my home town of Grand Rapids, MI where we will be joining in the life and work our friends in a small prayer community in a broken neighborhood. In that place, I’ll be cooking still — only this time for 100+ poor and homeless folks who come to the weekly “Love Feasts” (free community meal)! We’re really excited for this move and know that it’s a good choice for us.

Still, if I could pack up Big Oak in its entirety and take it with me, I would! Cooking at Big Oak has been one of my all-time favorite jobs. I want to thank you all for your overwhelming support, encouragement, and cheer-leading as I’ve experimented with some different ways of feeding your kids this past year. I look back at this year and smile at what a lot of progress we’ve all made in forming food awareness and healthy habits in your kids. I feel confident that this trend will continue even after I’ve left because of the administrative support found in Ann and Nicole and all of the teachers. The whole team is on board with this!

My last day will be in the third week of July. Between now and then I hope to train my replacement (as soon as he or she is located), and jot down some favorite recipes to leave behind so they can continue to be used at Big Oak.

Keep up the great work persistently encouraging healthy food choices for your kids. Their little minds and bodies will reap the rewards for years to come.

Many blessings,

Brooke the Cook

70 of 101: peruvian stew for carlitos

it is a long-standing tradition for members of a community to make and bring a meal to a family following a birth or a death.  it’s a tradition that i want to practice more than i have in the past. which is why it is on my list of 101 in 1001.

i recently finished a book that is all about the theology of house-keeping. and it was very good. probably it will be its own post soon enough. but for now, i want to give one excerpt from it that informs this idea of bringing meals to others at times when cooking proves more difficult.

when we cook, we produce things to eat, of course, but we produce something else too: acts of kindness… cooking is something that naturally overflows its boundaries, that leads to there being leftovers to share with someone, a pot of soup that can stretch to feed a guest or two, an extra loaf of bread to give to a neighbor.

(Margaret Kim Peterson, Keeping House: A Litany of Everyday Life, pg 119)

so last week carlos and jeanette had their second son, carlitos (“little carlos”), and it seemed a perfect opportunity to practice this value. when carlos stopped in on sunday and asked me to hold hakobo a moment whilst he switched around car seats, i blurted, “can i cook you guys dinner this week?” “sure,” he said, very casually.

carlos is incredibly hospitable. when he threw a birthday party for hakobo this fall, there were 30 people there with about as much diversity in age, sexual orientation, gender, culturals, and social groups as there could be. he and jeanette are very good at celebrating, very good at keeping an open door. i think, therefore, that it didn’t seem like a significant offer, this idea of me bringing them dinner.

regardless, tonight i made a double batch of peruvian quinoa stew (a favorite recipe from Moosewood Cooks at Home). i ladled half of it into a pyrex, and t and i went across the hall to offer it up. when carlos opened the door, the thick and heady smell of frying meat assaulted our senses. there he was, cooking up what appeared to be about 3 pounds of beef. “i finally went out for food,” he said, smiling.

so i handed over my very vegetarian stew, explaining quinoa, and put it into the fridge for another evening, when perhaps they will be more in need of it. no fuss was made whatsoever, only that sort of thanks that takes for granted that such a kindness would be shown on the ocassion of a birth.

then jeanette brought out carlitos, all wrapped in blue receiving blankets, and for a few glorious moments, i held his 6 lb, 4 oz body in my arms and gazed at his wide-open, big brown eyes. so precious.

i don’t know if they will like our quinoa stew. if i could have done it over, i would have given some notice, would have perhaps attempted to sit down to table with them. but, then again, in this fashion, they can carry on with their adjustment to new life in peace. and eat when they are too weary to cook. and that is enough.

now, as a bonus to you, dear reader, here is the recipe:  Peruvian Quinoa Stew–Moosewood

orange-basil pancakes (and sabbath rest)

i slept poorly last night. probably because i can’t really breath, thanks to this cold i’ve caught, which kept me home sick from work yesterday. but i got up this morning, while tim slept on, and put on a teaching about sabbath, which had been recommended by a friend. (to give credit where it is due, i’ll tell you the teacher of this sermon was Ruth Haley Barton and the title Longing for Rest. it was delivered at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI).

it sorta kicked my butt. I guess I’ve known that I’m bad at resting. but the point was driven home yesterday when i was supposedly having a “sick day”. i slept until 10:30, but when i awoke, i thought i felt a bit better. so i made a smoothie for myself, showered, dressed, and readied myself to go run several errands, then come home to cook a tomato sauce and prepare ice cream mix for later that night. as i got into the car, i realized i still felt like crap and that i wasn’t really resting at all! so,  in an act of rapid repentance, i reduced my errands to one (the only necessary one) and took everything off my to-do list except for the ice cream preparation.

anyway, one part that stuck with me about what Ruth said, was the part about sabbath (or rest) being an act of DEEP TRUST, not to mention humility. she said that when you resolve to keep the sabbath, you will find every week that something or another will some up and scream at you that you cannot afford to take a break. the sabbath takes you the edges of your sense of indispensability and over-responsibility every single week. and when you choose to look at your to-do list square in the face and say, “no, i will rest. God said i needed the sabbath and i will accept that from Him,” it is a radical act of trust, not to mention counter-cultural. so i wrote down my to-do lists and asked for grace to let them go. “For six days i have striven and done my best; now I trust you, Papa, to give what is needed on this seventh day.”

then t and i proceeded to have a perfectly worthless day. we made pancakes (see below), took a bath, saw a movie, ate leftover curry, laid on the couch and read for hours, and consumed some of the homemade ice cream from the day before. i did not cook. i did not email, photo-edit, or facebook. i did not plan menus or make phone calls. it was the first of what i hope will be a string of many successful sabbath days.

so, onto the recipe, which i know you’re dying to snag….

we have gluten-free pancakes every Saturday morning, but we’re always experimenting with new mix-ins and combinations. this one was good enough to make especial note of. sadly, i didn’t photograph these beauties directly, but only a slice of them, plus their reflection in Colette (the french press):

oct 10

  • ½ cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 Tbsp shredded coconut
  • 1 cup hemp milk
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 4 large basil leaves, cigar rolled and finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

In a batter bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, using a rubber spatula to combine. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour batter onto skillet to make pancakes as large or as small as you prefer, cooking each side for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Butter and drizzle with maple syrup each pancake as you stack them.

Makes 3 large pancakes.

savory-sweet stuffed squash

here is one of those recipes born out of creative piecing-together of what was on hand at the moment on a monday night. i was running late one my way home from work, so over the phone i instructed tim on the preparation of the squash and the cooking of the quinoa, so that when i got home, there was only assembly yet to be done.  it was delicious enough to photograph and share, and i’m pretty sure that our boiler room leadership team, who was over for a family business meeting last night, was a little envious as they watched us eat it.

squash-quinoa-sausage

  • 1 medium Delicata squash, cut in half length-wise with a channel scooped down the middle
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 cranberry-cognac chicken sausages (by Amylu), chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 2 Tbsp craisins

Put the quinoa and broth in a small saucepan and cook according to package instructions (10-15 minutes), until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, spread ½ Tbsp butter in each squash half. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the squash halves, cut side upward, in a small baking dish with about 1/3 cup of water in the bottom.

Mix together the sausage pieces and quinoa. Spread the quinoa-sausage mixture into the channels of the squash. Drizzle with the maple syrup and sprinkle with the almond and craisins.

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and bake, covered, for 30-40 minutes, or until squash flesh is fork tender.

Serves 2.

…and then there was dessert

chocolate-coconut-ice-cream-2

after that amazing mayan bake for dinner, we decided to make up a batch of what has become our favorite “ice cream.” this is a recipe that i got from my friend chelsea at one of my wedding showers. you can make it without an ice-cream maker, but it’s lots easier with it. it’s so easy to make, with only 4 ingredients, that the total time from the initial craving to the eating of it is only about 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk (Thai Kitchen brand is best for consistency)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, put the cocoa powder, agave, and vanilla. Whisk in the can of coconut milk.
  • Pour all ingredients into an automated ice cream maker. Turn it on. Wait 20 minutes.
  • Eat immediately. It doesn’t seem to be as great after it’s been in the freezer a while (too hard).
  • Options: you can also stir in mini chocolate chips or frozen blueberries mid-way through the freezing time!

(Serves 2).

mayan harvest bake (a mimicking)

mayan harvest bake

Inspired by the Kashi frozen dinner of the same name.

A few things you should know:

  • I haven’t had the actual frozen dinner. My mom told me about it (she loved it) and it sounded amazing, so I decided to attempt to reproduce it, loosely.
  • I read the ingredient list and worked from there. As usual when I make a recipe, all measurements are [very] approximate.
  • I did not even attempt to incorporate in the Kashi 7-Grain Blend normally found in all Kashi products. It seemed sorta unnecessary to me.
  • I couldn’t find a ready-made ancho chili sauce, so I bought dehydrated ancho chilies at the co-op, which I reconstituted in a small amount of boiling-hot water for 30 minutes or so.
  • This was a LOT of work to make, because there are about 4-5 processes all going on simultaneously. But I think it is probably worth it if you’ve got the time and the inclination.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • ½ cup amaranth
  • ½ cup cornmeal (polenta)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 3-4 fistfuls of kale, shredded
  • 1 large plantain
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 Tbsp roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

For the sauce (which is more like a salsa, uncooked):

  • ½ large red onion
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 dehydrated ancho chilies, reconstituted and deseeded
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp raw sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 2 small tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all the sauce ingredients, EXCEPT for the tomatoes and 1 of the ancho chilies, in a food processor and combine until it’s like a semi-chunky salsa.

Amaranth Polenta: In a small saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of the of  the “salsa” and sauté for 2-3 minutes until it smells great. Stir in ½ cup amaranth and ½ cup of cornmeal. Stir in ½ cup vegetable broth and ½ cup water. Stir often while bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are barely crunchy and the contents have become like a semi-solid mass. Transfer this mixture to a shallow baking dish (9×9 inch or similar) and put aside to cool.

Now, to the remaining “salsa,” add the tomatoes and the remaining 1 ½ ancho chilies, and blend in the food processor. This is the sauce that will go over top of every thing else.

Chop the sweet potato into ¼-inch cubes. Toss with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper and put in a edged roasting dish for 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender.

Meanwhile, In a medium-size skillet, heat 3-4 Tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Peel the plantain and slice into ¼-inch thick slices on the diagonal. Place the slices in the oil in the skillet. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, and salt. Fry for 5-8 minutes on each side until outsides are crispy and inside is tender.

Remove the plantains from the oil and set aside on a small plate. Add the kale to the same skillet and sauté until bright green and tender.

Slice the polenta into 4 equal-sized portions.

Once the sweet potatoes are done roasting, you’re ready to assemble the dish. I assembled it separately for each portion, giving each plate about 1/4th of the total prepared ingredients.

This is the order I assembled it (bottom to top):

  1. Polenta
  2. Black beans (2 Tbsp)
  3. Plantain slices
  4. Roasted sweet potatoes
  5. Kale
  6. Ancho Chili sauce (2 Tbsp)
  7. Pepitas (1/2 Tbsp)

VERDICT: It may or may not taste like the original frozen dinner, but it was still amazingly delicious. Tim and I sat there and marveled at the multi-layered tastes. It’s still lingering pleasantly in my mouth as I write this. And I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.