RecipeRedux: Whiskey-ginger grillin’ sauce

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This month’s RecipeRedux is the perfect theme for chilling and eating in the summer: healthy recipes that use booze!

Check out the whole collection of “spirited” recipes at the end of my post by clicking the blue frog…I have to say, I think the members outdid themselves this month; every picture in the collection looks like it could be on the cover of Bon Appetit!

In our house, summer means grilling: hazy, hot DC evenings spent on the back deck, talking and laughing until the late light disappears on the horizon behind our neighbor’s oversized double deck and the fireflies rats come out.  Ok, so it’s not like life in the country, but the company and food can’t be beat.

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Tonight we are attempting to make a dent in the truly extreme amount of produce in the house, which is at prime status thanks to the farmer’s market being a block from here.  To formulate the recipe, I went with what was on hand: every ingredient except the canned tomatoes was in the pantry (Ok ok, the cupboard.  No one in DC has a pantry.).  Fajitas are an easy vehicle for veggies, and I whipped up some black beans with garlic & cilantro to go inside too.  The sauce makes a spicy, sweet & sour addition, and is also great on the chicken legs we’ll have this weekend – dark meat is higher in B vitamins & iron than white meat, and legs are an easy, higher protein swap for wings.

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Don’t be intimidated by the amount of ingredients here – this is a dump and heat recipe!

Whiskey-ginger grillin’ sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (12 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 3″ fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 c whiskey
  • 1/8 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or omit if you want less spicy!)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 c white vinegar (I used rice)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • dash pepper

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan on the stove and bring to a simmer, stirring gently for 10-12 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit, then puree in a food processor or blender.  Serve hot or cold!

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How to feed 20 people (from vegan to carnivore) on a yoga retreat

The deal:

A few months ago, my friend & yoga teacher Michael mentioned he’d been asked to lead a retreat in West Virginia – it would be held at a lodge in the woods, had a few cabins, a fire pit, a creek, a pond, and an outdoor pavilion to do yoga & meditation.  Would I be interested in doing the food, he wondered?

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Let me tell you how fast I said yes: immediately.  For all that I love DC – the vibrant people, nightlife options, and the fact that every material object I could ever need is a 2 block radius from my house – I miss the forest!  Growing up, camping in the summer was one of the most important and formative experiences of my childhood.  “Campfire” is one of my Top 5 Favorite Scents, and there is nothing more gratifying than jumping in a creek to rinse off the nature that has clung to your body’s sweat (the dirtier you are, the cleaner you get, I say).  So that part was an easy sell.

To sweeten the deal even more, you have to understand a little bit about Michael.  Primarily that he’s one of those life-loving, people-accepting, goofy-with-a-tinge-of-snark joking, thought-provoking, deep-conversation-having, elevating people who also happens to be one of my favorite teachers at Kali (where I work in exchange for yoga).  His classes will make you break a serious sweat and also leave you pondering your humanity and purpose.  And the guy makes an awesome Old Fashioned.

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Michael is also a good partner for deepening side bends.

The challenge:

The trickiest part of cooking for 20 people for 4 full meals + snacks, 2 hours away from where the food would be procured, while timing the serving with the rest of the weekend’s schedule…wasn’t any of that.  It is how to create meals that everyone can enjoy, regardless of eating pattern.  I don’t believe that any eating pattern (vegan, vegetarian, paleo) is “best,” but that people should find the one that gives them the best energy and health.  And of course, I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the food and eat plenty of fresh produce…

The solution:

Bars.  Every meal was built around a bar/buffet concept, with a base that everyone could have and a myriad of topping options.  I provided some baseline suggestions for portions and nutrient distribution, and people chose what they wanted!  The food was purchased on Thursday, chopped when we arrived Friday, and a snap for me to put the final touches on as needed.

One huge help: a huge load of cucumbers, squash, blueberries, tomatoes, and arugula from From The Farmer, DC’s best (& most flexible) CSA.*  They deliver to the greater DC area, and you can always opt out of a week’s delivery if you’ll be out of town or have a surplus of veggies with the click of a button – and without being charged!  They deliver overnight, so the freshness is waiting on your doorstep when you head out for work.  They provided us with amazing, succulent produce and $20 off participants’ first order!  Check ‘em out and sign up.

Breakfast 1: Oatmeal bar
Lunch: Quinoa bowl bar
Dinner: Pasta salad bar with vegan pesto & broiled chicken or tofu on the side
Breakfast 2: Fruit salad bar + nuts or hard boiled eggs

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And resulted in some pretty beautiful meals:

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There was also a trail mix bar constantly available, and endless hot water for tea…plus a fridge stocked just for people to grab cheese, eggs, veggies, fruit, or yogurt from anytime.

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Many, many thanks to KIND for providing complimentary bars to the yogis to fuel up between sessions!*  Their dark chocolate cherry cashew bars are SO delicious, and have a good balance of nutrients (and they’re not “low fat!”  Alleluia!).  They gave us 3 kinds to try, and a 20% off coupon for retreat participants!

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You can even eat them while doing acro :P

The retreat:

The retreat itself was just the ticket after a hot week in DC.  Held at the Lodge at Sleepy Creek, we had porch swings, decks, and cozy nooks for lounging galore – it’s a great spot for hosting 10-20 people and available for rental at very reasonable rates!  The kitchen and dining area were perfect & adequately stocked for our needs, and the setting is perfectly peaceful.

The workshop content & yoga were, of course, amazing – we did some group work, some journaling, breathing, meditation, active yoga, woods-walking, and learned a lot about the theory of “koshas” and how they may relate to neuroscience.  There was also a campfire, complete with roasted marshmallows (the only truly nutrient-deficient food of the trip) and some even some impromptu drumming with beautiful instruments the lodge has!

By the end, let’s just say that everyone had laughed a lot and more than one person teared up a time or two – it’s not every day that most people really sit and reflect, but it sure is something we need more of!

My heartfelt thanks to the participants for their amazing compliments on the food; I’m looking forward to seeing them in the future!

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*I never write about products or services I wouldn’t use or buy myself!  Contact me if you’d like to have your product featured on my blog.

A healthy tea luncheon (+Date Nut Breakfast Bread)

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This month’s RecipeRedux theme is serendipitously perfect: “Cooking with Tea” – just  when I have to do recipe testing and development for a tea lunch I’m hosting at Hinckley Pottery Studio!

First, about the event:  it’s a one time, one-of-a-kind lunch that ties in nutrition information with healthy versions of traditional tea foods (see full menu here), herbal teas with medicinal properties, provided by local herbalist Ally Shutty of Urban Om Tea, AND includes a pottery demo on the wheel by studio owner Jill Hinckley herself!  There are only 10 spots available.  (Sidebar: I’ll be providing a meal monthly through Feastly, each at a unique pop-up venue – this is the first!)  See the flyer below for full details, and sign up here!

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And now, a sneak peek at one of the recipes: Date Nut Breakfast Bread!  I adapted this recipe from one that was in a cookbook put out by a tea shoppe that used to operate in my hometown, but is no longer in business.  So glad the recipes are preserved.  Of course, tea foods aren’t traditionally the healthiest – think: SUGAR.  By cutting back on the sweetness (dates are naturally very sweet!) and focusing on ways to add fiber and protein, this quickbread is a great complement to eggs or yogurt at breakfast, or for a mid-morning snack with tea.  Remember, the heart-health benefits of tea are only seen in research when subjects drink 2-3 cups a day, so use it as your beverage whenever you can! (Note: only brewed teas have cholesterol-reducing, vascular-muscle relaxing properties – NOT powdered, bottled, highly sugared versions!  Those are sold next to the soda for a reason!)

Date Nut Breakfast Bread

An extra twist: there’s tea IN it!  I used an herbal blend we’ll be serving next Wednesday at the lunch, but I suspect any tea with a  neutral, ginger, or cinnamon/clove based flavor profile would work well.

Ingredients:

  • 32 dates, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 c brewed tea, hot
  • 2 T coconut oil

Combine the above in a large mixing bowl, stir then let stand ~10 minutes

  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 banana (the riper, the better – brown is great!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 c finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c finely chopped almonds (I pulse mine in a blender)

Directions:
In a blender or food processor, combine the egg, banana, and brown sugar.  Add this to the date and tea mixture, stirring to blend.  In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and nuts.  Pour the wet ingredients in and stir gently to mix – stop when they are evenly combined, don’t over-mix!  Grease two loaf pans (I used coconut oil) and distribute batter evenly between.  Place in COLD oven, then set the temp to 350 and bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown and spongy to touch.  Allow to cool, remove from pans, and then slice.

*I’ll be tweaking this for the luncheon next week to be a dessert, but this version got great reviews from my fellow pottery students last week!

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Check out more tea recipes here:

Build a better sandwich (+gluten-free turkey & brie crepes)

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I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

With a blog & business called “WhyFoodWorks,” I spend a lot of time thinking about not only why certain food combos are good for you, but also how to easily distill combining foods that taste good together.  People make their food choices primarily based on taste, and I don’t think anything I do for the rest of my career will change that!  Nor should it – but the combo in your mouth needs to have as good an impact on the rest of your digestive system, and certain pairings just work better than others.  Hence my “5 Rules for a Healthy Breakfast,” “Sarah’s Rules of Pesto,” and the “3 P’s of Healthy Eating” that I use to base all my food decisions on and talk about at length during dinner parties, lunch presentations, and cooking classes.

Basically, I want to create guidelines so you can follow a blueprint to better eating for flavor and health.  Sandwiches are one of the easiest lunch or snacks to grab, but can easily go awry nutritionally with portion size, ratio of ingredients, and omission of veggies!  So, here’s the hack:

  • Pick a protein (2-3 oz of meat, sliced egg, cheese)
  • 2 veggies – at least! Many people think that sad little romaine slice counts as a serving – it’s not enough!  A handful of greens and another veg will take you much farther! (Kale, spinach, arugula, roasted red pepper, slices of cucumber or squash, tomatoes, even fruit like apples and pears will make your sandwich next-level.)
  • Season it! A few twists of the pepper grinder, sprinkle of garlic powder, a seasoning mix like Mrs. Dash (we love those and Trader Joe’s  Everyday Seasoning grinder at my house!) will go a long way to make your sandwich or wrap restaurant quality.
  • Spread and bind. Think beyond mayo – a soft avocado, pesto, a greek yogurt-based dip, or even salsa work well.
  • Go whole grain. Bread choice is a whole other post by itself, but skip the white bread!

As my third and final entry to the Breton contest, I used the above to create a sandwich filling that would work on bread, in a wrap, or even in a savory crepe!  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cracker crumbs work well to hold the crepe together, and this was sampled in my pottery class (check out those handmade plates!) by gluten eaters and avoiders alike with equally pleased palettes.

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Speaking of my pottery – you can win a ring holder on Capitol Romance’s blog this week!

Gluten-free turkey & brie crepe with spinach & pesto

Ingredients:

Crepe:

  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c Breton Gluten Free Herb & Garlic cracker crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter + 1 Tbsp butter for coating pan
  • Dash salt

Filling:

  • 8 oz sliced turkey
  • 2 oz brie, sliced
  • 2 c spinach
  • 1 c zucchini ribbons (shave a squash with a peeler)
  • 4 Tbsp pesto
  • A few twists of Everyday Seasoning or other mix or herbs

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with milk and melted butter until evenly combined.  Stir in the cracker crumbs and mix.  Heat an 8″ nonstick pan on high and add butter to coat.  When hot, pour 1/4 c of the batter into the pan and immediately move pan so that it coats the bottom thinly and evenly; reduce heat to medium-high.  Using a spatula, flip once after the first side is set and lightly browned (~2-3 minutes) and cook the second side until light brown blisters form.  (There’s a good tutorial that demonstrates the flipping here, though he has slightly different directions.)  Makes 4 crepes; filling ingredients between the crepes.

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Click the frog for more delicious and healthy Breton cracker recipes!

On Healthy Desserts (+gluten-free crepe with pears and ricotta)

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I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know my stance on desserts: strongly PRO!  Apparently the word is getting around, because I was quoted in this article last month about dietitians’ dessert go-to’s, and my most popular post on “cheesefake” is now over a year old!  But I have some criteria for desserts that are consumed frequently: they should be packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, just like dinner.  And they should be in addition to your healthy meal, not instead of!

I love using yogurt, fruit, fruit purees, and naturally high-fiber ingredients like nuts, dates, and cocoa powder to get the party started – and as anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Chopped knows, you can use crepes as a vehicle for just about anything.  You probably already have the ingredients in your pantry, and by adding a nutrient-dense filling you can make a simple shell go a long way to get a delicious and sweet ending to a meal – without a single regret.

Crepes are, of course, usually flour based.  By using the Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax crackers, you can offer your friends with Celiac’s Disease (hello, it’s their month!) this classic French treat for a fraction of the calories found on Parisian streets.  My crepes are modestly sized, use less butter, and with some ricotta cheese and fruit you get a dessert that’s both light and satisfying.  Bon appetite, oui?

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Gluten-Free Crepes with Ricotta and Pear

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter + 1 Tbsp to coat pan
  • 1/2 c Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax crackers,
    ground in a blender or food processor
  • Dash nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 c  cinnamon-vanilla ricotta
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced (or other fruit as desired)

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with milk, vanilla, sugar, melted butter, and spices until evenly combined.  Stir in the cracker crumbs and mix.  Heat an 8″ nonstick pan on high and add butter to coat.  When hot, pour 1/4 c of the batter into the pan and immediately move pan so that it coats the bottom thinly and evenly; reduce heat to medium-high.  Using a spatula, flip once after the first side is set and lightly browned (~2-3 minutes) and cook the second side until light brown blisters form.  (There’s a good tutorial that demonstrates the flipping here, though he has slightly different directions.)  Makes 4 crepes; divide cheese and pear evenly between the crepes to fill.

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 Check out more Breton cracker recipes here:

Getting crunchy with Breton (+gluten-free goat cheese & quinoa croquettes)

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I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

This week the RecipeReduxers are posting gluten-free recipes using Breton’s Gluten Free crackers in honor of Celiac Disease awareness month…and of course as a part of a no-holds barred recipe death match that will crown a winner for best recipe at the end!  I have a couple up my sleeve…

As a gluten eater (and lover) myself, the cracker aisle has never been a problem to navigate.  But when you start looking for gluten-free options, there are only a few brands available.  I’ve personally never been a fan of the rice wafer, so if you eliminate those at least half the options are out!  These Breton crackers are – well, crackery.  Like wheat-based crackery, even a little Ritz-esque.

To me the great frustration for people who can’t have gluten must be recipes that are based on grains and starches they can eat, but then have one tiny element that contains wheat.  One example: potato or rice croquettes.  People with Celiac’s Disease can eat potatoes and rice, but the bread crumbs in croquette recipes are the problem!  So here I used quinoa (a nutritionally superior grain in terms of fiber/protein content) which is gluten-free and cooked like rice to make a croquette with a crunchy cracker coating (say that 4 times fast!).

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I served them over a salad of fresh greens with another recipe I was testing for a tahini cooking demo – raw vegan tabbuleh!  That one will be posted in the future…until then, whip up some quinoa & goat cheese croquettes!  They’d make a perfect appetizer or hors d’oeuvres, or part of the entree as shown here.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 c frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1.5 c cooked quinoa (I season mine with vegetable broth and some garlic powder!)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c crushed Breton Gluten-Free Herb & Garlic crackers (I pulverized mine in a blender)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling (about 3 Tbsp)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375F. In a mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese and spinach by blending with a fork.  Chill in fridge while preparing the rest of the ingredients: cook quinoa, then fluff with a fork.  Add egg and parmesan; stir until blended thoroughly.  Put cracker crumbs into a bowl with a wide opening, or use a plate.  Remove goat cheese mixture from the fridge and shape into a ball the size of a truffle or large marble.  Gently shape quinoa mixture around it, patting it first onto one side and then the other.  Roll in bread crumbs and place on a cookie sheet.  Repeat until 12 balls are formed.  Drizzle with olive oil and then bake for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned and crisp on the outside.  Serves 4.

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Click the frog for more great recipes! 

RecipeRedux: Stoneware By Sarah in the kitchen

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A few years ago, I thought it would be fun to take a pottery class.  I signed up for a 10-week block at Hinckley Pottery…and then another…and another…and after a few months I realized I was hooked.  Throwing clay (that’s what they call it!) on a wheel is creative, relaxing, and productive – even after the first set of classes I’d made things I could give as gifts, though they were much lumpier and heavier than what I can make now.

This month’s RecipeRedux post features “classic cookware” – pieces that have an emotional or family connection beyond their practicality.  I figured it was the perfect time to share my pottery!  Don’t forget to check out the link at the bottom to see everyone else’s contributions.

Why handmade stoneware is great in the kitchen

  • This stoneware is high-fired – that means it goes into a kiln that gets up to over 2000F! Because those high temperatures are reached, the resulting pots are oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe.
  • Many of the glazes are non-stick, making them easy to clean, and less oil can be used.
  • They’re personalized and practical – the perfect combo for a gift!  I like to melt glass from wine or beer bottles from special occasions (like weddings!) to give.  It makes a sparkly, crackled appearance that is smooth to the touch.  My wedding collection includes a spoon rest, his & hers mugs, or a ring dish – or all 3!  Click the picture  (or here) for more information about how to order for yourself or a loved one.

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I love the idea that pottery I’ve made is now being used and cooked with in my friend’s and family’s homes!  Just another sneaky way I’m encouraging more healthy eating by getting back to the kitchen.  Check out more of my work and see videos on my SBS Facebook Page  (and don’t forget to give a Like if you like it!).

If you’re in the DC area, join us for the Student Show at Hinckley – May 4th, 12-5pm, 1707 Kalorama Rd NW.  I’ll be there with over 20 other student artists, sharing and selling our wares.  We’d love to see you!

Now, for the recipe: my brother got married last year, and their gift is finally ready.  I made them mugs (actually the ones pictured, above!), a salt shaker, and a tarte pan.  Because his birthday is also this month, I baked a carrot cake into it as a gift for that occasion!  I used this recipe from Alton Brown, but healthed it up a little by substituting half the flour with whole wheat, the oil with applesauce, and poured some of my cheesefake filling on top in place of icing!  I’m excited to see what else they bake into it in the future. :)

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Click here for more amazing RecipeReduxer’s recipes using classic cookware!

Cruciferous Veggies 3 Ways (omnivore, vegetarian, vegan)

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The cruciferous family of vegetables includes cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage – all are low in carbohydrates and high in vitamins C, A, and K and cancer-fighting phytonutrients.  Because vitamins A & K are fat-soluble, oils enhance their absorption in your body!  Try each of with a variation on a sauce that fits into your eating pattern.

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Carnivorous: garlicky anchovies

  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 can anchovies packed in oil
  • ½ lemon’s juice

Directions:
Heat a saute pan on the stove; add the anchovies and oil from the can when hot.  Add garlic, saute until soft.  Anchovies should fall apart after a few minutes.  Squeeze in lemon juice.  Puree in a small food processor or use a fork to mash.

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Vegetarian: capers & parmesan

  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ c capers (with liquid)
  • ½ c shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ lemon’s juice

Directions:
Heat a saute pan on the stove; add the oil and garlic, saute until soft.  Add capers.  Squeeze in lemon juice and cook for 2-4 minutes.  Puree in a small food processor or use a fork to mash.  Fold in parmesan.

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Vegan: seaweed & tahini

  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 sheets Nori or 1 package SeaSnax, diced into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • ½ lemon’s juice
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce

Directions:
Heat a saute pan on the stove; add the oil and garlic, saute until soft.  Add soy sauce and seaweed, cook for 1 minute.  Stir in tahini, then squeeze in lemon juice.  Puree in a small food processor or use a fork to mash.

Roasting cruciferous vegetables:

Broccoli & cauliflower: cut into bite-sized pieces and spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil (or lightly spray); toss to coat.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Roast for 15 minutes, remove and coat with sauce of choice, tossing to mix evenly, then roast for an additional 5 minutes.

Brussels sprouts: cut into strips, removing the nub end, and spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil (or lightly spray); toss to coat.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Roast for 10 minutes, remove and coat with sauce of choice, tossing to mix evenly, then roast for an additional 5 minutes.

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A trip to Manna Food Center (+donated dinner party for Spring!)

At my last full time job, I had a flexible schedule and project work that could be done from a computer almost anywhere.  I was on a small team with a high level of communication and interaction, and for the most part a happy, open work environment.  Our normal work weeks were short – only 37.5 hours required, leaving time to take a half hour lunch every day without feeling strapped to a desk.

Given all of that, I thought it would be an easy sell to my boss on the idea of taking a day every month to do some sort of community work, if I accounted for it in my schedule and worked a few extra hours on the other weeks to make up for the time lost.  There wasn’t a downside, in my opinion!  But it didn’t fly – I was told that this would create a slippery slope, and then where would it stop?  Two volunteer days a month?  A week’s trip to aid natural disasters?  How would “community” and “volunteer” be defined?  I was told I could use vacation time if it was that important to me.

I get the reason to have standard policies, I really do – some of those questions are good ones!  I guess I just don’t think it’s hard to create some easy parameters, if that kind of activity is considered an acceptable priority, and therein lies the real reason my request wasn’t granted.  Volunteering isn’t that much of a priority to most people. People (especially in DC) want to contribute to a charity by giving money or attending a party or gala benefit so they can enjoy themselves at the same time.  While important for funding, those activities don’t really meet the needs of whoever is being served at the ground level, and that’s a place where anyone can offer help!  As a small business owner, I don’t have much money to offer right now – what I do have is my time and expertise.  And I think every business should build in a system for giving back as a corporation, while encouraging their employees to find ways to do the same.

This may all sound very higher-than-thou: let me be clear that I am in no way trying to brag, and I certainly don’t have a spotless history of monthly volunteering through my adult life.  What I am doing here is making a public commitment to that goal, and inviting you to think about joining me in your own way!  And I want to share with you the inspiring organization that is Manna Food Center – the people who work here live and breathe giving back on a daily (if not hourly!) basis, and what they accomplish as a whole is amazing.

Some amazing stats:

  • 2 million pounds of food is donated to needy people annually – and that’s food that would otherwise be thrown away!  Everything from dented cans, to about-to-expire food, to food rejected by grocery stores because part of the order was damaged…sometimes perfectly good products are cleared from shelves just because a store is resituating where things are placed!
  • 3,300 families are fed monthly at 14 distribution centers in the area, providing enough food for 3-5 days
  • Balanced boxes of food are created to give recipients by combining the donated items in ways that make sense nutritionally, and they have a Registered Dietitian on staff
  • “Smart Sacks” is a program that gives school children a bag to take home, so their only meal of the day isn’t at school

A quick tour…

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This warehouse is gigantic, and full of people busy as bees!  Some are paid staff, but you can also volunteer here…they are very organized, as Kevin (pictured), their Director of Operations explained the whole system. I’ll be giving the next donated WFW Dinner Party to recipients of Manna’s charity – booking yours this spring will help me reach the 10 needed to initiate getting that on the books!

2ArmadillosCo @Whole Foods Market (+cinnamon chickpea crackers)

Exciting news – I’ll be at the P Street Whole Foods Market tomorrow with 2ArmadillosCo!  They will have stations set up so you can try every flavor, and a few will be partnered with other foods – including my chickpea crackers!  The tomato-basil flavor was so good I tried the same recipe with their rosemary-olive oil, and created a tomato & herb ricotta spread to complement them for the tasting on Saturday.  I planned to stop there, but…

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A few nights ago I got to visit Union Kitchen, where the 2Armadillos chickpeas are roasted, seasoned, and packed by hand with love. These guys really do it all by hand – first the chickpeas are soaked, then roasted, then covered in seasoning, and roasted again to lock in flavor.  Here’s the process, in pictures:

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Cinnamon toast is their latest chickpea flavor, and an idea struck: what if this cozy, cinnamony chickpea were made into a cracker?  What if that cracker was paired with a cinnamon-vanilla ricotta spread I’ve been slathering on everything from toast to tortillas?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is: a sweet, crunchy treat that’s still loaded with protein and fiber.

The recipe is below, but if you’re in Dupont, come by the Whole Foods Market from 4-7pm for a sample and a lot of smiles – see the flyer here.

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Gluten-free cinnamon chickpea crackers

Ingredients:

Directions:
In a blender, grind the first 3 ingredients until the size of crumbs.  Add cornstarch; pulse to combine.  Drizzle in water while blender runs a little at a time.  Dough should be sticky enough to form a ball. Place onto a non-stick cookie sheet and roll thin with a rolling pin or glass. (I put a piece of waxed paper on top so nothing stuck to the pin!) Use a pizza cutter to score into squares, sprinkle salt on top.  Tested trick: sprinkle water around the outside of the dough so crackers bake evenly!  Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and crackery.  Break into squares.

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Cinnamon-vanilla ricotta

Ingredients:

  • 1 c ricotta cheese (I use the real thing, made with whole milk)
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg

Directions:
Blend all ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until spices are evenly distributed.  Spread.  Enjoy.