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 Mondays.com

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

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Fresh Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Peas.
July 28, 2010, 12:39 pm
Filed under: side dish, Vegan | Tags: , , , , ,

This is recipe is about having the freshest, highest quality ingredients at hand and letting them do the talking. I love this dish. Super simple, but can only be had at this time of year. It is such a treat. I can still get fresh peas in the midwest and tomatoes are starting to reach perfection. I use the best butter that I can buy, a beautiful Chardonnay, and sea salt to make this perfect. I am putting down that this feeds 2 people, but I could eat the entire plate and a glass of Chardonnay and feel completely satisfied.

Serves 2

3 pads of sweet butter
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 splash Chardonnay
sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

1. In my favorite 10 inch skillet, I melt the butter over med-low heat.

2. Add peas, tomatoes, & chives. Cook, tossing occasionally for about 5 minutes.

3. Add splash of wine, s&p and cook until tomatoes start to crack open and peas are tender. About 5 minutes more.

4.Serve warm. So simple and good.

Super delicious does not mean complicated. Hope that you enjoy.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Ham and Sweet Potato Sandwich
June 8, 2010, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Main Entree, Sandwich | Tags: , , , ,

I can get somewhat emotional about sandwiches. I love them. I am always dreaming up my next favorite sandwich and this one has been on the top of the list for quite a while. The saltiness of the meat with the sour dough bread, then throw in the sweet potatoes and the peppery crisp of arugula… OMG, then the creaminess of the brie cheese. This is heaven.

I like it either warmed up like a panini or just assembled cold. It depends how hunger I am, if I can wait to heat it up, I eat it ASAP with some dijon mustard.

For the perfect sandwich:

2 slices of sour dough bread
2 slices of ham, crisped up slightly in some butter
2 slices of brie cheese
handful of arugula
sweet potato fries, see note
dijon mustard

Note: Cut sweet potato in french frie style. Skins and all. Lightly toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and stick into a preheated oven of 400F, tossing a few times, until crisp. Approximently 30 minutes. I alway make extra fries, so I can make this sandwich the next day.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Sauteed Spinach with Kalamata Olives and Raisins
March 12, 2010, 9:42 am
Filed under: side dish | Tags: , , ,

This go-to side dish has saved me on more than one occasion. It is fast, but the flavors are complex. The bitter earthiness of the spinach compliments the saltiness of the olives and the sweetness of the raisins. Adding the pine nuts, give it yet another layer of texture and depth.

It takes about ten minutes to prep and make. No fooling. You will also be surprised how many things that it goes with. I have made it as a side dish at Thanksgiving. It goes well with other poultry, fish, pork and beef. It is really a life savor.

Make the recipe and let me know what you paired it with. It really is a taste explosion. You will have your guests pulling up a chair for more.



Last days of summer.
October 12, 2009, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Main Entree, Vegan | Tags: , , , ,

sept food 002
All summer long we eat our meals on our back porch as often as possible. It is a little refuge in the middle of the city. Eating together is a big part of how our family connects. After my oldest son, Andrew, left to work overseas, my five year old, Gabriel, missed his brother most when he set our table for dinner and he didn’t need to set a place for Andrew. I would have to lift his chin up and wipe away a few tears and talk about the time that we will all sit around the table again.

Chicago has several farmers markets that are open until the end of October. There is a winter green market that is open up through Jan. This trip to the farmers market was just last week and yielded corn on the cob, green beans, red peppers, and squash. A quick toss of the veggies in olive oil with some salt and pepper. Corn steamed with a stick of butter to roll it in. Summer is corn on the cob. Now for the protein… I do not want to go to the grocery store… hmmm. I would love some lobster. Not in the budget. I would love a crab cake. Hey, I make tuna burgers all the time for us. It is essentially a crab cake made with tuna instead. I have that in the pantry. Tuna cake it is with a curry mayo.

sept food 003

Tuna Cake/ Tuna Burger

1 can tuna
2 scallions, chopped
1 glove garlic, chopped
1 egg white
2 T. Dijonaise (A low cal choice from grocery store, but i will also put 1T. mayo, 1T. dijon)
1/2 cup bread crumbs.
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil for saute’

1. Drain tuna. Place in bowl.
2. Add next four ingredients to bowl and stir together.
3. Add half of bread crumbs and stir together.
4. Form in to patties. Depending on the size of your patties is how many you will yield. I usually get 3 nice size patties for a can of tuna.
5. Dredge patties in the remaining bread crumbs.
6. Heat skillet over medium heat.
7. Olive oil to coat bottom of pan.
8. Place patties in pan. Approximately 2-3 minutes per side.
9. Place on plate with paper towel lining. While prepping the rest of dinner.

Notes: I make this as a burger often and I vary the ingredients that I add to the burger as well. I add herbs, hot sauce, chopped red peppers, green or kalamata olives. Top with different cheeses and place on lots of different buns and breads.

Curry sauce:
Soy sour cream (Mayo, yogurt, sour cream all great as well. Non-dairy is the choice
I make for my son with dairy allergies.)
Dijon, curry powder, salt and pepper
Capers, chopped (scallions, garlic,herbs are good options to added or substituted)
Lemon juice to taste. (vinegar another option)
Adjust seasonings to taste.

sept food 008
My stepfather, Bruce, was raised on the Victory gardens during the post WWII era and still looks at a plate of seasonal vegetables with joyful anticipation. Keep exposing your children to vegetables and they will develop a lifetime of love of them.

Good bye Summer. I will dream of you until spring.