My Communal Table

Greens and Potato Soup for Meatless Monday

“Meatless Mondays!” An intiative with the goal to reduce meat consumption by 15% to improve personal health and the health of our planet. I just love the idea and found out that “Meatless Mondays” is not a new concept. It was first introduced to Americans during World War 1 by the US Food Adminstration, though is was reintroduced in 2003 for health, as a way to reduce the consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were born. According to Meatless

The effect was overwhelming. Some 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week. According to a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better”.

Now do not get me wrong, I have said often the I am unapologetic carnivore, but working towards better health and safer planet is really a no-brainer. I make an effort to know where my meat comes from and I no longer desire to have an entire side of beef at one sitting to feel satisfaction. So we, as a family, decided to start not having any meat one day a week. No beef, chicken, pork or fish, so when you have a son that is allergic to dairy and eggs its more like vegan Mondays.

Okay, I was a little scared about doing this, but it has turned out surprisingly well. I have never allowed my child to eat something different then what the adults are eating unless is has to do with his allergies. I am not a short order cook to meet his every whim when it comes to food. I also believe that this really helps with the ability to try new things in many aspects of life. Have you ever know a super picky eater that loves to travel and explore new things? Gabriel know that what is served is what he gets for dinner or he doesn’t eat that evening. That being said, I do try to find things that he will find pleasurable. Soup is my best vehicle for going meatless for my six-year-old. He loves soup.

Super fast, super tasty, super healthy is Greens and Potato Soup. My six-year-old actually ate two bowls full.

Serves 2-4

Kale, one big bunch
3 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into chucks
1 large leek, thinly sliced
2 gloves of garlic
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 big handfuls washed spinach
fresh dill or other herbs that you have on hand.
few pinches hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Finish with purple onion,olive oil, and peashoots.

1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.

2. Remove heavy thick stems from kale and slice up.

3. Place kale in boiling water for about ten minutes. Take a test bite of the kale and make sure that it is tender. When tender, drain.

4. In second sauce pan, place potatoes, leeks, and garlic with broth. Put enough broth in to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cook until tender.

5. Use a potato masher to mash-up the potatoes in the broth.

6. Add cooked kale, spinach, herbs, and seasonings.

7. Add more broth if necessary, then heat through.

8. Taste and adjust seasonings.

9. Serve and garnish as desired. Today I garnished with purple onions, a drizzle of olive oil (would have loved pumpkin seed oil, but I can not find it), and a few sweet pea shoots.

Note: a. You can make this super thick or soupy. I have made it thick like mashed potatoes as well. Just use less broth.
b. You can also mix up your greens. Use whatever ones you have on hand.
c. I have also added curry powder to this soup as well for a different flavor sensation.

Think about Meatless Mondays you and your family. When you join me and my family on Mondays at my communal table you will find us enjoying the bounty of vegetables and grains. I seem to make a new recipe every week to learn more and more about how to cook this way. I would love to hear about your favorite Meatless meals.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth


School Lunches…getting back into the grove.

Gabriel is only given twenty minutes for lunch in first grade. What? Imagine standing in line for hot lunch ten of those twenty minutes. On top of it, imagine that is may be the only meal that I have all day and I have to inhale it in ten minutes. Of course, at this point, why would I care about its nutritional value. I just want to feel full. This scenario plays out everyday for hundreds of thousands students in the US. Now this thought strikes terror and deep sadness straight to my foodie heart.

I pack Gabe’s lunch everyday. We pack it all in a eco-friendly lunch box called Laptop Lunches. I highly recommend it. Super durable and we are now into our second year of using it with little wear and tear. I also have a bento thermos lunch kit that we use for hot pasta dishes or soup in the winter months.

Roasted chicken from the evening before is the main part of this meal. Gabe loves crackers, so I will put them in his lunch instead of making a sandwich. Veggies and fruit round out our meal. Because of Gabe’s dairy allergy, we always pack rice milk.

Chicken and soy cheese quesdilla on a whole wheat tortilla with BBQ sauce are on his main menu today. Grated carrot with raisins, lemon juice and touch of sugar for his salad. (This is so good!) I also use lemon juice on his cut apple. Special treat that day is having two Oreo’s in his lunch. Load with chemicals, but none of them that he is allergic to.

HLT aka Ham, Lettece, and Tomato sandwich on whole wheat roll. Oh, no, we ate the last piece of fruit for breakfast. Hey, I will make air popped popcorn in the microwave. No oils and huge amount of fiber make this one of our family favorites.

Gabe calls this “mac and tease” since he can not have cheese. Cooked pasta leftover heated up with some vegan butter, garlic, peas and ham. Seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. I make this the morning of and stick it in the thermos hot, so that it is warm still at lunch time. He gets well over a cup of pasta and veggies in this thermos. An apple rounds out the meal. He will eat this for breakfast as well, if I let him.

I love the thought that Gabriel is eating food he loves the moment that he opens his lunch box. He doesn’t even need to take the time out of his short lunch break to stand in line or to throw anything away.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Tacos, tacos, tacos… delicioso
May 5, 2010, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Budget Meals, Main Entree | Tags: , , , ,

Carmelized pineapple on a taco. Wow! This good idea came to me via Big Star, a new taqueria by powerhouse chef Paul Kahan. It is also fortunately right down the street from my son’s school. Ordering a few tacos and walking through Wicker Park munching is becoming our regular thing. Above is my inspired version of carmelized pineapple on a taco.

Truth be known, though, making tacos at home is even better and far more cost effective. We have tacos at least once a week in our household because they are real “fast food”. I make them on the run between school and t-ball practice in a huge variety of ways. We use leftover pot roast or pork shoulder. We use fish and seafood. Sometimes we use cheese, sometimes we don’t. They can have an Asian influence or classic Mexican, but always some heat.

I always start out with corn tortillas. They are just better for you and reality is that no self respecting Mexican would have a taco with a flour tortilla.

Heating corn tortilla tip: Two paper towels dampened with water, then wrapped around a small stack of corn tortillas and placed in the microwave for a minute.

Tacos on this night:
Steak: inexpensive cut, cut up and grilled with some adobe chili powder and garlic.
Yogurt: 0% Greek. (Instead of sour cream or Mexican creme. Like creme the best, but yogurt is better for you)
Cabbage: Finely chopped
Tomatillo Sauce: Store bought
Carmelized Pineapple: Pineapple cut up finely cooked down in oil, onion, salt, and pinch of adobe chili powder.

Another favorite filling: Using leftover rotisserie chicken heated up with poblano peppers, garlic, and onions. I try to let each person control the level of heat that they prefer, so I do not add much heat to the meat itself and use the sauces to introduce spice level.

I actually twittered Chef Rick Bayless on his advice when to introduce spice heat to children. He answered me back! He says to introduce it slowly and they will come to enjoy it.

Beer and margaritas are the perfect accompaniment with a taco, but it doesn’t work when I am on way to my son’s t-ball practice for a multitude of reasons. My go-to drink is iced green tea with a touch of pomegranate juice.

Sometimes Chicago’s own Top Chef Rick Bayless joins us for taco night.

Quesadillas are a favorite and we keep it simple. Putting a little cheese and some finely chopped scallions is my favorite filling. A little oil in a skillet heated over a medium flame will perfect for heating up the tortilla. If you want to make a taquitas( little rolled up tortillas of meat or cheese), use a little more oil.

Have a great Cinco de Mayo. Make some tacos this week. Make them next week. They may just become a staple in your house as well. Delicioso.

Chicken pot pie. Need I say more?

Update: Let’s see… I have leftover meat. I have veggies that need to be used or go bad and I have puff pastry in the freezer. I hate to waste food. This is how my pot pies are born every time. No need for an exact recipe. This was my mid-week meal for my family.

This pot pie consisted of turkey, fava beans, mushrooms, leeks, lemon and dill. I always accompany my pies with a crisp tart salad. It is the perfect counter point to the richness of the pie. Twenty minutes prep and thirty minutes cooking time and I have a meal that pleases everyone.

A few minutes after serving everyone, Gabriel announced that he was ready for some more pot pie. I look at his plate and he had only eaten the crunchy pastry off the top. “Hey, you have to eat your meat and vegetables first.”, I said. Gabriel responded “How am I suppose to eat it without more pastry?”

Original Post: I usually bake an entire pie when I make chicken pot pie. I make my grandmothers pie crust and I make the meaty middle with rich cream. I try my hardest not to, but I consume most of the pie. So knowing myself so well, I decided that I would make individual pies and cut out the cream and not put it in a bottom crust like I would normally do. I feel thinner just deciding how I was going to make it.

1.Lightly coated 1 cup ramekins with oil. Put on baking sheet.
2.Heat up a medium size saute pan.
3.Chop up 1 large stalk of celery, 1 med. carrot, half an onion, couple gloves of garlic.
4.Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in pan, then place in chopped veggies. Saute until tender.
5. Add a heaping cup of cooked chopped chicken. (I had leftover from a roasted chicken a couple of nights before. Rotisserie chicken works well here also.) Stir.
6. Take a heaping tablespoon of flour and sprinkle over mixture. Stir in and cook for a few minutes.
7. Pour chicken broth over veggies and chicken until you see the broth come up about 1/2 way the saute pan. Stir occasionally. The sauce will start to thicken.
8. Put in a cup of peas. Fresh or frozen
9. Add chopped herbs. I had parsley and thyme this time. Be flexible about herbs. Do not let fresh herbs go bad in the fridge. Use them. Throw them in recipes, salads, or even sandwiches.
10. Place creamy mixture into each ramekin. With these amounts, I made 3 pot pies.
11. Cut out the right size piece of thawed out puff pastry to fit your dish and place on top. You might need to wet the edges of your dish so that the pastry adheres to it. Cut a vent hole. (Commercial puff pastry is vegan friendly FYI)
12. Place in a preheated oven at 350F for about twenty minutes. The inside is already cooked. You are done when pastry is cooked.

I served my pot pies with an arugula salad. My son ate the whole thing and claimed it was the best dinner he ever had. I know that this is not a low cal meal, but it is way better than it used to be. I didn’t eat the whole pie for once. Small victories count. This is definitely food of love.