Back when we were in Tucson and I had a cold, I didn’t feel like planning meals or shopping for food. Lucky us, I had the simple ingredients on hand to make an extremely easy “comfort food” soup that I had never tried before: New England Sweet Potato Soup. I’d saved the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens “Ultimate Slow Cooker” magazine back in 2008 (!), and finally decided to buy the sweet potatoes when I realized I had all the other ingredients on hand.
This is the perfect recipe for when you don’t have the time or energy for anything complex – just load the ingredients in the crockpot, come back 5-6 hours later (say, after a nice nap), mash, season and serve. I topped it with chopped green onions and coarsely chopped, roasted pecans. Vegetarian as I made it (with milk); vegan if you leave the milk out (soy or almond milk would be a good substitute); for omnivores if you add the optional crumbled bacon topping. Odel particularly liked this soup (probably due to the unusual sweetness). Next time, I plan to serve it with a moist, chewy bran muffin with cranberries or raisins. Great, easy, and somewhat unusual meal for a cold day!
Omnivore, vegetarian, vegan… there has been a good deal of talk about the options around our house lately. Back when Bill Clinton lost 20+ pounds after reading The China Study and switching to a (mostly) vegan diet, Odel and I talked a little about cutting meat out of our diet. Nah, never went anywhere with that – but I did cut back on the amount of meat we eat. Odel filled in with KFC or a hot dog whenever his carnivore gene objected.
Recently, The China Study surfaced in our conversation again, and with more force when we read an email from my sister Sydney, a vegetarian who recently bought the book and wrote: “It is a REAL EYE OPENER!!!!! You should really get it.”
It is difficult for me to imagine Odel and I becoming vegans, but I do plan to read the book. In the meantime, I’m fascinated with the cookbook and heirloom beans I bought when we were in Tucson, at Native Seeds/SEARCH. If anything could replace meat in our diet, it would be beans. Both Odel and I love them, and their meaty texture and flavor – along with a dollop of olive oil (or bacon fat – he, he) – provides a lot of the texture and richness that we appreciate in meat dishes. Plus, they are a natural for the crockpot, one of the few kitchen appliances that earned a ride along when we hit the road.
During our two days of snowy/rainy/cold weather, quite a bit of cooking took place in our little kitchen. Homemade cookies, a dinner of Red Scarlett Runner Beans in Tomato Sauce on Creamy Polenta, and my other new favorite, Wilted Kale with Beans and Squash (supposed to be Cranberry Beans and Delicata Squash, but I had Anasazi Beans and Butternut Squash – so that’s what I made). Like the New England Sweet Potato Soup, this is recipe has a surprising (and intriguing) sweetness. Totally vegan… but we accompanied it with organic, all beef, bratwurst that we picked up at the Tucson farmers’ market just before we left town. Omnivores.
Our current food philosophy? Light on meat (and more of it comes from farmers/ranchers at the farmer’s markets), even lighter on dairy (Odel doesn’t like cheese; I buy milk about once every three months; and our freezer can’t keep ice cream frozen). Heavy on plant foods: grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, purchased as close to our current location as possible (farmers’ markets whenever possible; foods in season and not from the southern hemisphere as the next best thing). Guess you’d call us omnivores with a locavore bent. :)
The number one thing we could do to improve our diet is to cut out crackers, chips, and store-bought cookies. We both love salty, crunchy snacks; processed snacks and baked goods are our biggest downfall – along with overindulgence in general!
This morning, before Odel headed off to the golf course (yes, our warm sunshine has returned), he made a batch of his fantastic pasta sauce (with meat), which we’ll put in the freezer to reheat and enjoy on whole wheat pasta (which we both prefer) as we continue to travel north over the next few weeks. (I might try adapting that recipe one of these days, replacing the Italian sausage with small beans; beans and pasta have a long and honorable partnership.)
When his cooking was done, I put Lima Beans with Smoked Turkey in the crockpot for tonight’s dinner: beans, lots of vegies (added kale this time, and replaced celery – which I didn’t have – with a bulb of fennel, which I did). A little meat, a lot of vegetables.
We may not eat “right”, but we sure do eat “good”. :)