What’s In My Lunch Bag, or Evidence That I am a Nomad

January 30, 2009

Remember when I was saying that it’s very important to pack a satisfying amount of food?

Here’s what I packed for lunch yesterday:

One and a half loaves of homemade oatmeal bread

One wedge of homemade cornbread

One tupperware container full of homemade cheese grits and homemade Brazilian black bean soup

An entire box of Stoned Wheat crackers

A tub of hummus

A bag full of almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, raisins, craisins, and dried cherries

Half of a very large carrot, many celery sticks, and a few sprigs of broccoli

An orange

A banana

Six homemade brownies

Do not fear, gentle reader. I did not consume all this food in one setting. So far, I have eaten two lunches, one dinner, many snacks, and I shared some of my bread with Jerry. And I still have leftovers! There’s enough for lunch and snacks tomorrow, too.

Why, you may ask, did I pack enough food for three days? Because I am a nomad, and I like to carry my food with me as I traipse about the law library.

Also, bad things happen when I pack a “normal” amount of food. First, I eat my lunch at 10 a.m. Then, I realize that I am starving and I buy lunch number two. Two hours later, I am starving and I buy a brownie. Basically, I am a bottomless pit.

Finally, carrying a loaf of bread around makes me feel  safe. Laugh if you want, but there’s something very powerful about knowing I have so much food that I cannot possibly run out. And by “powerful” I mean “enables me to walk past coffee shops and falafel stands and keep my money in my pocket.”


Grated Beet-Carrot-Ginger Salad

January 27, 2009

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Now that beets are the new spinach, I thought I’d post the recipe for my favorite beet salad.

Peel and grate 1 beet and 2 carrots and a 2-3 inch piece of ginger. Stir in some balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, and a little oil if you’d like.

The photo is from flickr. You can see more of the photographer’s work here.

I’m entering this dish in January’s In the Bag Event.


How to Pack a Satisfying Lunch

January 27, 2009

For those of us on a tight budget, packing lunch can save a lot of money. This is only true, however, if the lunch is satisfying. If it’s not – if it’s unappetizing, unbalanced, or simply too small – most of us will head straight for a coffee shop or pizza place where we can satisfy our appetites. Saving money requires satisfying lunches.

A satisfying lunch meets five criteria:

1. It has enough calories to be filling. It really doesn’t do any good to restrict the number of calories you pack – if you haven’t packed enough calories to satisfy yourself, you will buy enough calories to satisfy yourself, and that will be more expensive.

2. It is appetizing. If an apple is going a bit rotten or a banana is so badly bruised that you really can’t bear to eat it, you won’t. Packing an unappetizing piece of food is just as bad as not packing at all – food only does you good if you eat it.

3. It is balanced. For a meal to be satisfying, it needs to contain carbohydrate, fat, and protein. If you leave any of these macro-nutrients out, you’re certain to run out and buy whatever you need to make up the deficiency, and for good reason. Your body needs you to feed it all three of these things at reliable intervals, and it panics when you cut one of them out.

4. It tastes good to you. A meal needs to satisfy our mouths, not just our stomachs. If the lunch tastes bad to you, you’re likely to pick at it, then go buy something that does tastes good. You’re much better off packing something tasty in the first place.

5. If there’s something you really need to eat everyday – and by need, I mean something that you crave so strongly that you will run out and buy it at 2 p.m. no matter what you resolved this morning – your lunch should include it. If you can be honest with yourself about what you need, and reliable about providing it, you’ll do much better when it comes to packing and eating your lunch.


The Vegetarian Ripple Effect

January 23, 2009
When I stopped eating meat 12 years ago, so did my family. They didn’t actually become vegetarians – my brother and sister were quite vocal about their carnivorous preferences* – but, six nights out of seven, my mother made red beans and rice, or tofu marbella, or cheesy potato soup.

When I moved into my first real apartment, my omnivorous roommates did the same thing. 12 apartments, 6 cities, 3 countries, and 24 roommates later, I can safely say that this phenomenon is universal. Vegetarian moves in, everyone else drastically reduces meat consumption.

In fact, the vegetarian doesn’t even have to move in for this to work. Your omnivorous friend will totally order vegetable dumplings for lunch, just so you can try them. Your boyfriend’s mother, whom you have never met before, will make you miso soup.

This is amazing.

First, it’s incredible how one vegetarian can change the way dozens or hundreds of people eat. Going vegetarian is the carbon equivalent of switching from a Toyota Camry to a Prius, but the multiplier effect from friends, family, and roommates is far bigger.

Secondly, I am always amazed at how generous people are when it comes to the care and feeding of vegetarians. There are an unbelievable number of people who will put aside their preferences so that the vegetarian in their life can eat something tasty.

So, thanks everyone. Thanks for making black bean soup and ordering the pad thai with tofu and letting me try it. It means a lot.

* They’re very supportive now. My sister just spent the weekend ordering vegetarian dishes for the express purpose of letting me eat off her plate in restaurants. She was also a vegetarian for a couple of years in college.


How to Make a Giant Cinnamon Toast

January 19, 2009

This is what I make for my adopted family in Michigan. It’s basically the focaccia recipe covered in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. You can use butter and jam for a more grown-up version.

Recipe after the jump.

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Curried Sweet Potato-Ginger Lentil Soup

January 19, 2009

This is quite possibly the best soup I have ever made.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Vegetables: 2 onions, 1 chunk of ginger, 4 celery stalks, 1 carrot, 1 parsnip, 2 small sweet potatoes (or one very large sweet potato), 1 bunch of spinach

Spices: Curry, turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt

Fats: Olive oil and butter (you can skip the butter if you like)

Lentils: Red (they look orange)

First, prep all the vegetables. Peel and chop the onions. Peel the ginger and cut part of it into thin slices (you want to end up with about 1/4 cup sliced ginger) and mince about 2 tablespoons worth of ginger. Peel and chop the carrots. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Wash the celery, chop off and discard the ends, and chop. Wash the spinach, chop off the stems, and chop up the spinach.

Second, make the stock. Saute half the chopped onion in olive oil. When the onion starts getting soft add the spices. I didn’t measure when I made this, but I would estimate that I used between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon each of the curry, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Basically, you want to give each spice a vigorous shake or two over the onions and you want all the onions to turn a nice golden color once you stir it all in. Now add the sliced ginger, carrot, celery, parsnip, and 8-9 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it all simmer for half an hour. Put a colander in another big pot, then pour the stock into it. The colander catches all the boiled veggie bits and the pot catches the stock.

Third, rinse out the original stock pot and saute some onions in it. You can use olive oil, butter, or a combination. When the onions start getting soft, add the minced ginger and a generous shake of curry, cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Once the onions are very soft, add the sweet potatoes, 1 cup of red lentils, and the stock. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and let it simmer until the lentils fall apart and the sweet potatoes are very soft. Add the spinach and stir. Be sure to add water as the soup boils down – I think I ended up adding 3-4 cups by the time I was through.

Once the spinach is cooked, taste the soup to see if it needs more salt or more water. If you think you’ve added too much water, just keep cooking for a few more minutes, until the broth is nice and strong.


Year-Round Farmers Markets in New York

January 17, 2009

One of the best things about living in an urban jungle is that you can go out and buy turnips and rutabagas in the middle of January. In fact, there’s a great deal of local produce available year-round in the city, thanks to our amazing network of farmers markets.

Some of the markets are seasonal and some are year-round. I’ve compiled a list of year-round markets for those hearty souls who want to purchase their produce outside, in freezing temperatures, in the middle of winter.

List after the jump.

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