Beans, Beans, They’re Good for Your Heart!

I’m so sorry. I’m not sorry. Dave taught Rowan this little ditty and it makes me giggle.

Day 2 Dinner is White Beans! Our slow cooker saves me on nights that I work. It’s hard to get a healthy dinner on the table with two wild little kids underfoot, especially when you’re here by yourself. So I try to give Dave a hand by getting dinner ready ahead of time. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes that means telling him that there’s a frozen pizza in the freezer and broccoli in the fridge. Tonight, though dinner already smells delicious.

Slow Cooker White Beans

1 lb white (Cannellini) beans, soaked overnight

2 lg onions, peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves (at least), chopped

3 carrots, peeled (if you feel like it, I don’t usually) and sliced

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

2 T fresh, chopped rosemary

Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Rinse and pick through your dry beans to look for little pebbles or any other undesirables. Place in a bowl and cover with cool water. Let soak overnight (or 6-8 hours.)

2. Drain and rinse your soaked beans and place into your slow cooker. Add fresh water to just cover the beans. Add onions, garlic, rosemary, carrots, tomatoes and stir. Turn on low for 6 hours.

Rowan and I made some cornbread muffins (half plain and half with raspberries to have for breakfast tomorrow) and prepped some green beans and there you have it! Dinner will be super easy to put together. Now if I can just keep Rowan from talking Dave into making pancakes for dinner…

We Are Back on the 512!

The Luscans are back on the 512 Project! (I am technically shooting for $476, due to the decrease in food assistance benefits.) My last post aired some of my frustrations with how the project was feeling for me in light of hunger and food insecurity issues in our country. I would highly recommend the film A Seat at the Table for everyone, but particularly for those also concerned with these issues. I believe we’ve found a way, also, to make this project work in alignment with doing something about these problems. I’ve decided, with Dave’s support and encouragement, to start a non-profit foundation to bring wellness coaching and healthy food to those who can afford to pay me for it as well as those who can’t. I have A LOT of homework to do on this and any feedback, support, ideas are all welcome. But one way to earn some start-up capital is through the money we’ll save by doing the 512 Project. Aha.

So, tonight’s dinner was very simple and kid-friendly. One easy way to save money on our food budget is by leaving out the meat. We had burritos on whole wheat tortillas with refried beans, rice, cheese, and plain greek yogurt (which is such a great substitute for sour cream that I picked up from my very smart friend Amy F.) We had beets over field greens and romaine with balsamic vinaigrette and a little goat cheese. And sweet potato french fries because Simon and Rowan love them so much. 

Thank you for hanging out with us while we are on our adventure, Take 2! And Happy New Year!

I’m Sorry

I have not posted in about three weeks. We have continued to closely monitor our food budget, but this month, honestly, we didn’t have a choice. Dave travelled for an important (and expensive) education opportunity and a couple weeks later, his work structure changed dramatically and unexpectedly. Don’t get me wrong, we’re fine. That’s what our savings account is for, but my perspective has shifted considerably.
This “project” is weighing heavily on me right now. As I follow the story of reduction of SNAP benefits, the tears won’t stay away. I am embarrassed to have received media attention for my family’s experiment into what is a reality for millions of people in our country. And where is their attention?
I had a conversation with a couple recently that was so rife with misunderstanding and stereotypes, it broke my heart. It went something like this. “So you could really help people who are on food stamps! You could teach the moms and dads, well, moms really, since most of those dads are long gone, how to cook healthy meals! And you could tell them what they could buy instead of all that junk food.” As we talked about food deserts and transportation issues, they assured me that “Oh, I’m sure they can find a ride. They get a ride when they want to go buy cigarettes or drugs.”
And this is what so many people (our congressmen and women, included) seem to think of those receiving food assistance. If they thought otherwise, I don’t see how they could have possibly allowed benefits to decrease from about $1.50 per meal per person to $1.40 per meal per person. What would you feed your family for this amount of money?!
Food pantries and soup kitchens are overwhelmed and the general attitude seems to be, “Screw those people who are lazy and just taking advantage of the system.”
What started out as an attempt to educate myself has started to feel very heavy and sad and I’m trying to think of how to make it into an opportunity to make a difference.
It is really hard to feed the four of us on $16.50 a day. The adjusted budget would be about $15.35 a day and I feel defeated. I don’t feel like I can make it work and I don’t have to. I feel like a white lady of modest means making a game out of what 1 in 10 Virginians are dealing with. If I were on food stamps and came across this blog, I’d want to tell me to go shove my bean soup somewhere.
So I am going to take some time to think about how to make this project right. We will continue to eat healthy food in a mindful and grateful way. And I would encourage all of you to not forget those who are hungry, through no fault of their own. Contact your congressional representative and urge them to think about how a reduction in food benefits has such a crippling effect on so many of our already-vulnerable population. Drop off some stuff at your local Food Bank. Be kind to each other, please?
Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tonight’s Dinner: Bean Soup!

Tonight is the last night of our first month of the 512 Project. I say the first month, because we’ve decided to extend the project for at least another two months. We have made it! Our official total for this month is $484.05. Dave traveled to California for work for four days and I did not include the money he spent on food there. My mom was here visiting with us, so I figured we were still feeding two adults and two kids.

Tonight’s dinner is Ham and Bean Soup, made from Bob’s Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix. If you aren’t familiar with Bob’s Red Mill products, you should be. We love the Vegi Soup Mix, too. I mix it with water and add whatever produce I need to use up. Couldn’t be any easier. And so cheap, when you consider how much it makes. For the bean soup, I double the recipe so that we’ve got leftovers AND enough to freeze for another night. I use one ham hock and one ham chunk. It is so interesting to me how many ham choices you can make in Virginia. I also add a couple of bay leaves, if I’ve got them, because, why not, really?

Here is the basic recipe to modify as you see fit. Note that you need to rinse and soak the beans overnight, so plan ahead with this one. You won’t be able to throw it together last minute. One benefit of soaking beans, though, is that it reduces some of the complex sugars, making them more digestible (ahem…less gas.) You can also do a “quick soak,” where you boil the beans for 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover and allow to soak for only 2 to 4 hours.

This soup can easily be made vegetarian and you can achieve the same smokiness you’d get from the ham by adding Sweet Kombu, a sea vegetable. Just use veggie broth for cooking, instead of water, and throw in whatever veggies you want!

13 BEAN SOUP MIX

These instructions are printed on the bag of 13 Bean Soup. Gluten Free, High Fiber, Lactose Free, Low Sugar, Soy Free.

 

  • 2 cups 13 Bean Soup Mix
  • 1 Ham Hock
  • 1 cup chopped Onion
  • 1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce or 1 quart Tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 tsp to 1 Tbsp Chili Powder*
  • 2 cloves Garlic or 2 tsp Garlic Powder

Directions

Step 1

Wash and soak 13 Bean Soup Mix overnight.

Step 2

Drain and rinse beans. In a large pot, bring 2-1/2 quarts water to boil with beans and ham hock. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 3-1/2 hours.

Step 3

Add chopped onion, tomato sauce or tomatoes, chili powder and garlic. Simmer 30 minutes.

Makes about 8 servings.

Chicken Ginger Soup

This soup makes our whole house smell so good. If anyone is feeling under the weather, this is our go-to dinner. I toss whatever veggies we need to use in here, so consider the carrots and celery just a starting point. I frequently leave off the scallions, since those aren’t typically floating around in our refrigerator, but they do add a nice touch. You can add a starch, if you like. I’ve served this over soba noodles, rice, or regular old pasta. (I store leftovers separately, though, so they don’t get mushy.) I also like mine spiced up a bit. A healthy dash of Cholula is divine in this soup, too. 
Enjoy!
 
Chicken Ginger Soup
2 1/2 lbs skinned chicken (I usually use thighs, since they’re cheaper and have more flavor)
3 long stalks celery
3 carrots
1 bunch scallion
3-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into slivers (I use extra if anyone isn’t feeling well)
sea salt to taste
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
 
Place chicken in a pot with enough water to cover it, then cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add celery, carrots, scallion and ginger.
Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the chicken, allow to cool and pull into small pieces and remove any bones.
Return chicken to the pot and add salt, lemon juice.
 
*This recipe was adapted from the book Integrative Nutrition, the Future of Nutrition, which was the textbook for the course I took in Holistic Health Counseling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I am constantly referring to the simple, whole food recipes in this book.

The Dinner They Didn’t Love

So tonight’s dinner was a sort-of fail. I had some leftover ground turkey from our shepherd’s pie dinner last night. I also had half a can of diced tomatoes, just a few fresh tomatoes, and goat cheese. So I made some pasta and concocted a sauce out of my other hodge podge ingredients. Steamed a head of broccoli and thought we were good to go. Dave is out of town, so it was just the kids and I and I think I’m the only one who enjoyed our dinner. Thank goodness it was cheap and that I know Rowan ate a great breakfast and lunch. Looks like it’s my lunch (and probably dinner) tomorrow, too.

Not every dinner is going to be a smash success, I suppose. And I am proud of using up the straggler food items in our fridge. I am very by-the-book in the kitchen, so it was a risk for me to wing it a little. 

This also touches on the topic of picky eating as it applies to our kids. In our family, what’s for dinner is what’s for dinner. I certainly make an effort to prepare things that I think Rowan will like, but I don’t make special “kid food” or fix her something separate from what David and I are eating. We (strongly) encourage her to try new foods, but it is up to her how much or whether she eats. If she doesn’t eat enough dinner, you can bet she’ll eat a hearty breakfast. And sweet little Simon just eats what we eat. He doesn’t know any better, yet, to be picky about foods. Last night he destroyed some beets (so did Rowan.) 

And on the numbers front, I went shopping at Trader Joe’s yesterday with my mom and spent more than I meant to, but I got what feels like A LOT of food. We’ve got a week left, food to last us a few days, and $50 left to spend. 

PS- my mom left a half bottle of wine and some dark chocolate covered almonds. These indulgences are so NOT in our budget and I am enjoying them to the highest. 

Chopping Garlic

I have probably chopped up garlic 2000 times at this point in my life, but the first time I ever cut into a bulb was in the dark, on a camping trip in Gulfport, Mississippi. With the light from a headlamp, I awkwardly peeled and chopped away, with the top of an electrical transformer box as my work space.
I was there with a group called the Delaware Beach Brigade to help with rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Helping to feed our group was something that felt deeply satisfying and extremely important. I remember thinking about how sticky that garlic was and the fragrance lingered on my hands well into the next day.
Feeding my family carries that same deep satisfaction for me. There are few dishes I make that don’t include garlic. I’ve chopped it up for greens and soups and stir-fries and to swallow raw to fight off a cold. If a recipe calls for two cloves, I up it to six without a second thought. It is the first thing we ever grew in our garden. It is food and flavor and medicine and love.
Cooking for my family and friends does not feel like a chore to me. It isn’t one more thing on my To-Do List. It is love in action.
The time spent in my kitchen is never time wasted. It is a chance to slow down and reconnect with what is really important. The food we eat becomes our bodies, our energy, our thoughts and emotions. I want to fill my family up on the love and care that I put into our food. And the garlic. Always the garlic. When my hands smell of garlic, I know things are alright.
Happy eating.