Forty Days of More-with-Less: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

Holy Week for Christians is here, and towards the end of any period of resolution it is a great to time to reflect on the experience. We kept true to our commitment to not go out to eat during the Lenten season.

It was a fulfilling experience to focus on inviting people in to our home to share hospitality and recipes from More with Less. We post this blog on our respective Facebook pages every week, and have been surprised by the responses sent to us from friends. Some of our friends are discovering More with Less for the first time, and one friend wrote to tell us that she was using the book to responsibly clean out her cupboard before moving to a new apartment. It has been heartwarming to receive e-mails and suggestions from people (strangers, even!) that read the blog. Grandpa Kulp, when visiting our little boy for the first time last week, brought his own copy of More with Less along for the trip.

african_groundnutAs we were planning our meals for this week, we flipped past an old favorite of ours, the West African Groundnut Stew (p. 172). We substituted tofu for the beef, and enjoyed the stew together as the weather (regretfully) turned cold and snowy again here in Boston. (Heather did not grow up hearing the term “wintry mix” on the weather forecast in Colorado, where “sleet” was the term used, but has now become familiar with the phrase after two New England winters under her belt). Ben has been eating the West African Groundnut stew since childhood, and Heather quickly welcomed the recipe in to our regular eating routine when we began dating. It’s a wonderful recipe to use to wait out the last few nights of chill and ice on the sidewalk, as well as a great way to focus on breathing and relaxation after putting an infant to bed after two hours of fussing.

pizzaLast week we wrote about the temptation of eating out in a neighborhood that hosts many ethnic restaurants and wonderful ways to grab a fast and temporarily gratifying meal. A restaurant that Ben passes at the end of his daily run is the Regina Pizzeria. It is in the last half mile of the running route, and always boasts a wonderful aroma of buttery crust and melted cheese as Ben runs by. This past week, the waft of baking pizza was more than could be handled at the end of a long run, so pizza appeared on the dinner table that evening. Ben used the dough recipe to make homemade pizza dough (p. 142). To help clean out the fridge of all of the little containers that we (regretfully) let go bad more often than not (though less so now that we’ve been thinking about the Fragments), Ben made the pizza toppings from what could be scavenged. The pizza for Heather was vegetarian and featured left over roasted sweet potato cubes, pieces of a seitan loaf, and herbed Vermont goat cheese to top it off. Ben’s pizza was a little more utilitarian, and featured ham and green peppers, a Kulp family staple of pizza topping combinations for as long as can be remembered. A simple kale salad topped with stray vegetables from the fridge was an excellent way to balance out the meal.

The best resolutions change us gradually, and subtly, over a period of time. As we are ending the blog postings about our More with Less, we have been talking and meditating on how to extend the lessons learned towards the future. We have no doubt that we will occasionally stumble and grab Thai take out on a busy day, or not take the time to share a meal with each other at the end of a day. However, there have been subtle positive changes as well. We have begun discussing what we should make for dinner as opposed to what we should do for dinner.

We are moving to a new apartment in a month, and are happy that the landlord has agreed to let us turn a patch of crabgrass on the side of the house in to a garden. We are already planning where the cucumbers should go, and if there is enough sun to grow tomatoes. The local listings for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares are spread throughout the house and organized by different pricing schemes, and pick up locations. With the announcement that there is a new edition of Extending The Table, as well as our annual tradition of using Simply In Season to appropriately use our summer vegetables,

Ben decided to go exploring in our current neighborhood. In addition to hosting many restaurants featuring food from all over the world, our neighborhood has a plethora of small grocery stores from different countries. One of the more prominent shops is the Hong Kong Supermarket, known to locals as “Super 88.” He wandered through Super 88 looking at the many different types of vegetables and tofu. He could only hazard a guess as to what most of the vegetables were, as they were described in a foreign language. He decided to pick up some bok choy on sale, as well as some tofu. That night, in celebration of our resolution coming to an end, Ben made Heather a new stir fry (“Asian style” stir fry being one of the staples in the Kulp household) using the bok choy, tofu, and purple sweet potatoes. The flavors were rounded out with walnuts, lemon juice, and cinnamon. The meal was inexpensive to make, and in conversation we realized we had borrowed the values from our More with Less resolution, and it had come through in the stir fry. (It’s also worth noting that Ben gleefully named the dish “Ben’s Bok Choy Surprise”). Instead of buying Thai or Chinese food on the way home, we went to a market a block away and made a much less expensive meal.

bok_choyHeather and Ben would both like to thank everyone who has read our blog series and Melodie Davis for posting it for us each week. Moving forward, we hope to keep the values we have learned and renewed through our process and to instill them on our little boy.

Thank you for reading,

Ben and Heather Kulp

BenAndHeatherFavShopBen and Heather hope to celebrate the successful completion of their Forty Days of More-with-Less at one of their favorite restaurants, Sonoma Station. (Photo from a year ago at Sonoma Station.)

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Ben and Heather learned much through their 40 day experiment. What is the best or biggest thing you have learned, either through their blog posts, or on your own?

The Kulps mention Extending the Table, which is on pre-publication discount until April 30.

Extending the Table

‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple: Forty Days of More-with-Less

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

The nature of what a true gift is or should be is something that has been discussed much in the Scheiwe-Kulp household this week. We are both, by nature, giving people. With the birthday of a soon-to-be-in-law coming up on April 1st, there was much discussion as to what to get this person. What is too much? What is too little? What would be best for this person? The discussion has been ongoing over the past month.

As has happened the past few weeks, the discussion around the dinner table turned towards what we were going to write about for this week’s blog posting. It took us only a few moments to put our conversation about gifts to good work with the More with Less mentality.

The image of Ben’s mother’s stained copy of More-with-Less cookbook seen in the blog post from last week was the starting point to resolving our question about gift giving. When the questions of the birthday gift again arose this past week, Ben, without hesitation, exclaimed, “Page 287!” To answer Heather’s perplexed look, Ben went on to describe that one of his favorite recipes (of “ALL TIME,” according to Ben) is the Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies on p. 287.  This cookie recipe has been used by Ben’s family for as long as he can remember.

cookiesChocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

What better birthday gift to give to someone who will soon be marrying in to the Kulp family than a treasured recipe? (It also helps, by the way, that the intended recipient of this gift loves cookies). All of the ingredients for the cookies were already located in our pantry, and Ben had fun making them late at night this week in between baby feedings. Further discussion about the birthday gift, after mailing the cookies earlier this week, made us realize that we were giving our gift to someone who himself is a very giving person. Our future in-law created the Parkinson’s Comfort Project, a not-for-profit dedicated to assisting people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers in hard-to-reach rural areas of Vermont and New Hampshire. What better birthday gift to share with someone who himself has given to his local community?

It is an easy rhetorical step to talk of gifts at this time in our lives, especially as we both continue to fall more in love with our newborn son. However, the entrance of our baby boy in to our lives in early February has led to a plethora of changes – both expected and unexpected. After the dust settled from the first month, we took stock of what was in fridge and freezer. The abundance of edible gifts from friends, family, and church congregation is humbling. We enjoyed a meal last night with members of the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Knowing of our goal of cooking only from More-with-Less for the Lenten season, they brought over the Garden Vegetable Curry (p. 134), and added chickpeas to the recipe.

chickpea veggie curryGarden Vegetable Curry

What was intended to be a shorter dinner hour while Heather and Ben took turns rocking the baby to sleep turned in to a long conversation until 10 pm (a late night for parents of a newborn). The gift of food and intentional preparation for friends naturally extended our time together much later than any of us would have planned for a week night.

The weekends are a time of flux in the Scheiwe-Kulp household as Ben’s job as a freelance musician takes him to venues all over New England.  Fitting in time to be together on Saturdays and Sundays as a family has always been a challenge on what is considered to be the traditional time off from work. This past weekend, as the “gigging season” is not quite yet in full swing, we found some free time on our hands. A friend stopped by with a quiche for brunch, and while Heather, baby, and our friend talked in the living room, Ben put together the Cinnamon Topped Oatmeal Muffins (p. 71), and added strawberries that needed to be used.

muffin2Cinnamon Topped Oatmeal Muffins

The three (adults) sipped coffee and ate fresh muffins before digging in to the quiche our friend had cooked. There are few things more relaxing in life than enjoying the sunshine on a weekend with a steaming cup of coffee.

muffinThis week we learned to expand, and re-examine our notion of gifts to other people as well as recognizing the gifts we received from our community. A pantry full of food from well-wishers after our baby was born is the gift of not only resources, but of the time and care put in to making the dishes. It’s a wonderful meditation as we share our prepared meals as a family. Additionally, the time and care we put in to the present we made is as important as the gift itself, and was a reminder for both of us as to what is truly worth giving to others in our community.

The winner of the More-with-Less cookbook “comment” drawing from last week is Nancy! Thanks to everyone who contributed favorite tips, recipes and comments.

All recipes come from More-with-Less cookbook, available here.

MWL_Cover_hard_2011.qxpDo you have a favorite recipe or food to give as a gift?

How have you come up with a creative gift idea without making a trip to a store?

MennoByte_photo–Ben and Heather Kulp

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.

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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