Forty Days of More-with-Less: What is so convenient about your food?

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook. *(Be sure to read to the end for a special invitation to comment and have your name put in a drawing for a free copy of More-With-Less.)

By Ben and Heather Kulp

While visiting a chef friend in San Francisco last year, we learned a new term: “fast fresh.” The term demarcates those restaurants that are not the traditional burger-and-fries fast food joints, but still offer customers counter service and cheaper food than a sit-down restaurant (think Chipotle, Freshii, Chop’t, etc.). The “fast” is supposed to appeal to those who don’t have a lot of time for lunch during the day, while the “fresh” is supposed to appeal to those who want healthier food options than meal-deals and 99 cent menus can provide. Usually, the target market for fast fresh is young and middle-aged health-conscious professionals—just like us. And we have fallen into that trap again and again, especially when we forget to bring lunch to work or are out running errands during a meal hour.

But what fast fresh and traditional fast food share is the very thing that makes them both tempting and flawed: they are not actually faster than eating food you cook yourself. The draw of such food is in the idea that you don’t have to “work” to get it. Someone else is, very literally, providing for you. This triggers feelings of safety and comfort, even if only for a few moments when you sit down and get exactly what you want.

So what happened this week without the option to engage in this kind of emotional convenience eating?

Last week, we discussed shopping our pantry, and this week, those skills came in handy. We had one evening in particular where nothing was planned for dinner, yet we needed to eat quickly. Thankfully, More-with-Less gives us a tool—the “TS” designation—that indicates recipes that can be made in 30 minutes. Instead of ordering in or grabbing something on the way to the next meeting, Ben proposed making breakfast for dinner (“brinner”).

pancakes Fifteen minutes later (and with plenty of time before the next activity), we had a hot plate of Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes (p. 73) and a side of high-protein eggs and cheese. It was faster and cheaper than takeout and created space for us to have a conversation over the dinner table.

Speaking of dinner table conversations, home-cooked convenience foods allowed us to have more conversations about More-with-Less itself. We traveled to visit Ben’s mother in Vermont for a few days—our son’s first trip out of town. We had planned poorly for our four-hour trip to her house and hadn’t eaten a proper lunch. Normally, we would have stopped to grab fast food; instead, we were surprised with a snack along the way. We stopped briefly at Ben’s sister and brother-in-law’s house to nurse and catch up. Instead of buying a box of our favorite chocolates as a host gift, we made the Whole Wheat Orange Bread (p. 80). whole wheat orange breadEven though it was for them, they immediately sliced it and shared it while we talked. They discussed how they were transitioning to a simpler, “cleaner” diet and were using cookbooks like More-with-Less for inspiration.

We when arrived at Ben’s mother’s home, she had a steaming bowl of Corn and Bean Chowder (p. 202) made for us.black bean corn chowderAs we ate, she described the first time she heard about More-with-Less. She was at a farmworkers gathering in Detroit in the 1970s and a Catholic who heard she was a Mennonite approached her. “Have you heard of that great cookbook your people published? It’s revolutionary.”

Then Ben’s mother brought out her battered, stained 25-year-old copy of the cookbook.

gado gado 2We flipped through it, understanding how many stories must be contained in those recipes. We can’t wait to hear more. Then she made us the truly fast and fresh Indonesian Gado Gado (240) that night.

gado gadoThis week was more challenging than the last, as we experienced some of the circumstances under which people make choices that are more “superconvenient,” as Doris Longacre says and less “responsible, nutritious” (p. 47). Thankfully, she provides some recommendations for how to make the more responsible choices: alternate cooking with others in the household; live in close community with others who can share meals; simplify the menu; plan menus in advance (this will be our challenge next week!); and buy/cook in larger quantities that can be used over time (p. 47-48). So, though less initial thought may go into securing “superconvenient” food, we found out this week that we are more emotionally and socially satisfied than if we had gone out for dinner or purchased (one of Ben’s favorite) frozen pizza.  We look forward to updating you next week on how our week of food preparation and hosting friends is going.

***

MWL_Cover_hard_2011.qxp* What recipe that is not in More-with-Less do you use regularly that helps you cook more with less? Add your comment and your name will be added to a random drawing for a free copy of More-with-Less. Please comment before our next post on March 27, 4 p.m. ET. Deadline! MennoByte_photo

Ben and Heather

17 thoughts on “Forty Days of More-with-Less: What is so convenient about your food?

  1. growing up in Puerto Rico, a staple was arroz con habichuelas… red kidney beans and rice. While my family and I, right now, don’t make the sazon or sofrito from scratch (yet) the recipes are easy enough to include…and they are staple ingredients in Many dishes…

      • I’ll have to grab the recipe for all three parts (sazon, sofrito, and beans) from my wife and post them here. But yeah, that cookbook has been amazing.

        Our favorite recipe so far from there? Stir-fried green beans… especially since our vegetable garden put out something like 20 gallons of green beans last year… gotta do something with fresh beans, yes?

  2. I tried to post earlier, but the message when I clicked Post Comment said I hadn’t entered the password correctly… so my apologies if this posts twice.

    My family and I have done something similar for the past few Lents. We have not eaten exclusively from More With Less, but we have tried to be more intentional about eating more simply and having more vegetarian meals, using More With Less, Extending the Table and, more recently, Simply in Season as inspirations. This year, we are doing something a little bit different — we are eating our way through our pantry and freezer.

    This is a vegetarian recipe from Harrowsmith. It tastes really good, even if you don’t like lentils, and smells even better:

    Herbed Lentil and Rice Casserole:

    Ingredients

    3/4 cup lentils, uncooked
    2 2/3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken)
    1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
    1 onion, chopped
    1/4 cup white wine
    1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon thyme
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    pepper
    1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated

    Directions
    Preheat oven to 350.
    Combine all ingredients except cheese in an ungreased 1 1/2 quart casserole.
    Stir in half the cheese.
    Bake covered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring twice during cooking. Remove cover.
    Spread cheese on top and bake for additional 5 minutes.

    • Dodie, this sound incredible. We’ll definitely make it after the 40 days, since we’ll likely have lots of lentils left!

  3. I still use More-with-Less Cookbook more than any other. I have inserted ZUCCHINI BEEF SKILLET in my book because I garden, and it is a summer favorite. I use home canned and frozen veggies for winter preparation.
    1 lb. ground beef 5 C diced zucchini or summer squash
    1 C chopped onion 2 large tomatoes, chopped
    1 clove garlic 1 1/4 C fresh, whole kernel corn
    3/4 C chopped green pepper 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
    1 1/2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. chili powder
    Sauté beef, onion, green pepper in 12″ skillet until well-browned. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
    Serves 6

  4. When there is nothing planned for a meal we pull out the eggs. With eggs available we have an omlette waiting to be enjoyed. I lightly saute any vegetables waiting in our veggie drawer. A little cheese, and maybe leftover meat bits and we’ve got a good meal. I pull out a jar of homemade salsa as a very tasty topping. Even friends are happy to sit and wait for each omlette to be finished. I keep the omlettes warm in our oven, set to warm so we are able to eat together, with hot omlettes.

      • Homemade salsa… I’ve adapted so you may do same…
        Chop about 8 pounds tomatoes I like Roma style, less juice
        1 cup chopped sweet bell peppers
        1 or 2 cans drained and rinsed black beans ( or soak, cook and use dried beans)
        1 cup corn, from garden or frozen
        1 cup or more chopped onions
        2- 4 oz. can of mild green chopped chilies
        (add a diced fresh jalapeno depending on heat you like)

        Add 1 tsp. cumin (I love cumin so I am generous!)
        chopped cilantro, use according to your love of cilantro
        1/4 cup lemon juice
        6 T. white vinegar or whatever regular vinegar you have
        8 oz. of tomato paste
        2 tsp. oregano
        1 T. salt.
        Heat well, then process at 5 lbs. for 7 minutes in pint jars. this makes about 11 pts,
        Play with what vegetables you have available and enjoy. I love this b/c I know what is in it and trust the heat. I am a mild salsa fan so I don’t add too much heat via hot peppers.

  5. I smiled when I saw the photo of Ben’s mother’s copy of the More With Less Cookbook, because mine is the same vintage and is also stained and battered. The sign of a well-loved cookbook, for sure.

    I also wanted you to know how much I’m enjoying this series. This week I’ve tried to do a better job of “gathering up the fragments” as you wrote about last week, and as Doris Longacre emphasized….

    • So glad you’re journeying with us, Linda! We’re gathering up the fragments tomorrow afternoon by making the honey snack recipe with some graham crackers I accidentally crushed!

  6. We love homemade pizza — we have as reserve of home made dough in the freezer and I shop our pantry and fridge once a week to make a masterpiece that fills that doughy, cheesy desire and uses the provisions we have on hand well.

  7. Probably the two favorite meals are Mac ‘n Cheese and Fried Rice that I make without recipes. The fried rice varies on the leftovers on hand. Always starts with onions, and whatever veggies on hand, leftover scraps of meat, and rice. Hopefully brown rice.

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