Jobs, moving, sickness, four-month-old baby: STILL time to cook?

Extending Our Table to a New Apartment

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

We have written a great deal about transitions going on in our lives over the past few months, and how they affect our eating habits.  As we look forward to this next week, Heather moves into a new position at her current job and we are also moving across town. Returning to a small one bedroom apartment in a younger neighborhood after giving birth to our son no longer seemed to fit our lifestyle. We are moving to a larger apartment in a quieter neighborhood just outside of Boston. While we are excited to start living at a new address, moving is never something to which to look forward. The idea of packing everything in to bags, boxes, and cramming it in to a U-Haul and friend’s cars is enough to make anyone lose their appetite.

As we found during our Lenten journey through More With Less, times of stress, busy schedules, and transitions do not always lend themselves to the best of eating habits.  Even with our resources focused on the cost of the move, it still seems easier to order Thai food and pizza for the next few nights until everything is settled in the new apartment. Due to our Lenten discovery with cooking, we now know that this is a time when we can actually make ourselves less stressed and more fulfilled if we take a few moments to cook at the end of each day.

It never ceases to amaze us what we can find, forgotten, at the back of the fridge. Spare parts of ginger, onion, cabbage, kale, and veggie sausage were among the many forgotten tidbits that we found while searching through the fridge during the initial clean out before packing to move. Good friends were visiting from Chicago and asked if we could go out for Korean food while they were here. Conscious of budget and time, we instead opted to make the Spicy Cabbage Salad/Kimchi (p. 108) from Korea instead.  We enjoyed a night of reminiscing about our younger, slightly more care free times in Chicago before getting married and having a son.  The conversation drifted into the night, and the Spicy Cabbage Salad was definitely the catalyst for the nostalgia for our Chicago days.

The morning after our extended dinner conversation with friends, the coffee was brewing and we were still joking about stories from the night before.  Looking around the kitchen, there was only a smattering of materials with which to make breakfast for our guests.  Heather and I have always loved breakfast in the vein of yogurt and granola, so we looked to the Muesli recipe for breakfast (p. 154 in the previous version of Simply in Season).  It was a fulfilling breakfast for all of us, and the time it took the recipe to settle was another excuse to gather over coffee and conversation.


Muesli or granola

We were both struck down (literally) with the flu last week, and the lingering effects of the sickness left us tired and not feeling highly motivated to cook.  As the night was foggy and cold in Boston, we both decided that a nice, warm stew was the answer to our question of dinner after our son had been put to bed.  We decided on the Groundnut Stew (p. 250), as it was a favorite of Ben’s when he was younger.  It’s a wonderful dish to add leftovers to, and we had many small bunches of spinach and kale that found their way in to the stew.  It was also rewarding to think that we were using the leftover food for cooking, as it would regrettably be thrown out during the move.  The warmth and time it took to cook the stew calmed both of us down after a long, harrowing day of childcare and work.GroundNutStew

Groundnut Stew

Over the next week we will be looking for more recipes to use as we move in to our new kitchen.  It will be great to use for our menu as we figure out why the yams were moved in a box with the towels, and where the closest grocery store is for our food needs.  Additionally, we will be able to grow a garden at our new apartment, so look for some fresh veggies to pop into our future recipes.

To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.

Extending the Table: Honoring Dietary Restrictions

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook exclusively from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

Extending the Table

One of the worst feelings a host can have is setting down a plate of food only to realize your guest can’t eat it. Heather had this experience recently when she planned dinner with two friends she hadn’t seen in awhile. She picked a restaurant they had all loved during a younger period in life. When they arrived, though, the friends mentioned that they were following a gluten-free diet. Very little on the menu was gluten-free, so the friends ended up eating plain salad. Heather’s tempeh reuben was less tasty because of it.

We used to be a culture in which it was rude to have dietary restrictions. You were labeled “picky” or even worse, “weird.” Even though Heather’s been a vegetarian for 13 years, her grandmother’s maxim rings through her ears whenever someone serves her meat, “Eat everything on your plate; there are starving children in Africa!”

The funny thing is, most countries do not eat as much wheat or meat as we do in the U.S. and Canada.

Our soil and land space has made farming and animal husbandry easier than in some other countries. Heather’s ancestors grew wheat in Kansas and Oklahoma, even surviving the Dust Bowl in order to grow food for market. Ben’s ancestors raised chickens. But both also had substantial gardens, where they could grow diverse “crops” to be eaten at home. So, the dietary focus was not on wheat or meat alone, but on lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Now, it’s hard to go a meal without having at least two servings of wheat or one serving of meat—that is, unless you cook from home! Well, Grandma, thanks to Extending the Table and other resources about global diets, we understand that our dietary choices—including being “picky” about not eating much meat and focusing on whole grains and vegetables–can actually help reduce starvation in Africa.

One of the new features in the latest edition of Extending the Table is the letters next to each recipe indicating whether it is vegetarian and/or gluten-free. This was particularly helpful this week, as we cooked for many people with dietary restrictions.

First, Heather and our son visited her family in Colorado. With a sister and brother-in-law who both have celiac disease (which means eating gluten can cause severe intestinal damage and even cancer—this is distinct from people who choose to eat gluten-free or have a wheat allergy/sensitivity), the gluten-free designations came in handy. Too often, these relatives find themselves buying expensive “imitation” foods that are trying to be like the wheat-based version: crackers, cookies, and bread that aren’t very wholesome and are rarely tasty. So many recipes are naturally gluten-free, though, so Heather focused on those.

The New Mexico Hominy Soup (p. 102) was a hit. We subbed in chorizo for the pork neck and kicked up the spice a bit (after all, we were in the West, where chili powder is used like salt and pepper!). We even looked up how hominy is made. It seems like a great way for families in cultures without refrigeration to preserve corn. An attempt at Cabbage and Tomato Sauce (p. 128) was less well-received. Though it was wholesome, it didn’t have much flavor. I’ll follow the suggestion in the margin next time and include chunky peanut butter (as long as no one has a peanut allergy!).

The next dietary restriction we faced was a friend who gave birth recently. Babies are quite sensitive to what their mothers eat, so things that cause gas in us—beans, cabbage, broccoli—can be incredibly painful for them. So, we focused on bland and healthful items, especially those high in protein (a necessary nutrient for breastfeeding mothers around the world). While Heather’s grandmother’s sauerkraut and bratwurst is anything but bland, most German food is known for its baseness. So, we stuck with a mostly-German menu. First was the Creamy Carrot Soup (p. 79). Rich in beta carotene, this helps baby’s eye development. We paired it with the Grambrot Hearty Wheat Bread (p. 61), though we found the bread almost too hearty! We laughed at the comment in the recipe’s margin, “It’s real bread that gives you something to chew.” Indeed, it was great dipped in the soup. To honor the new father’s heritage, we also made the Colombian Orange and Peanut Salad (p. 118), subbing spinach for the Boston lettuce. Fresh and rich in both iron and protein, we served the salad after the soup for a cool finish to the meal.

10_OrangePeanutSalad_ExtendTable-1293Colombian Orange and Peanut Salad

The final dietary restriction we had this week was an unpleasant one—both of us got the flu. We lived off of Ginger Tea (p. 39) and other ayurvedic-type dishes. We especially loved the heat of the Assorted Vegetable Saute (Indonesian, p. 138). As the older version of the cookbook recommends, we added some tempeh (fermented bean cake) to increase the protein content. The spices, especially the chilis, used in other countries’ cooking certainly cleared our sinuses and gave us the immunity boost we needed!

IndonesianDishAssorted Vegetable Saute, author photo

As we navigate the increasingly complicated world of the global food trade and its impact on our bodies, we are grateful to have tools to help those who host us, and those we host, honor a variety of dietary choices.

To buy Extending the Tableclick here

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.


Extending beyond our boundaries

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook exclusively from Extending the Table Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

We made a ceremony of it. The first night of our new challenge, to eat out of Extending the Table exclusively for six weeks, we put our little guy to bed, poured ourselves a glass of Menno Tea (it tastes just like Grandmother’s iced tea!), and cracked open the cookbook. As with our More with Less challenge, we wanted to start by getting a sense of how the cookbook was laid out, what was included along with the recipes, and what ingredients we may need to stock to maximize the number of recipes we can make.

Extending the Table

Amid the many beautiful stories, photos, and instructions for when and how the recipes are often eaten, we noticed one thing: we wanted to eat it all!

Soon, though, we realized a limiting factor about Extending the Table that wasn’t present with the potatoes-and-milk recipes in More with Less; we had lots of experience eating food from other countries, but we have far less experience cooking global food. Though they sounded amazing, we had no idea how to measure our success with new (to us) recipes like Tuna Omelet or Beef Wat or Chin Chin.

So, we decided to start our challenge with the familiar.

This week, we cooked dishes from countries that either one or both of us had visited. Since we had tasted the local flavors of that particular country (or at least the region of that country we visited), we figured we would have a good sense about whether or not our end product was authentic.

Our first dish was Cuban-Style Black Beans (p. 165), actually designated as from Puerto Rico. A few years ago, we spent a wonderful week in Puerto Rico celebrating Ben’s mother’s birthday. The simple beans and rice took us back to the easy days of vacation in the El Yunque rainforest.

A quick dish for a busy evening was Tico Tortilla Skillet (p. 188 in the first edition). Ben put it together in 20 minutes so we could trade off eating and putting our son to bed.

The first hot day of the year prompted us to crave salad. Accompanying our simple spinach and almonds was the Greek Salad Dressing (p. 121), which reminded Heather of a mountain town she visited in Greece. Overlooking the ocean, the town enjoyed salty breezes and brined fish, often accompanied by a lemony dressing like the one in Extending the Table.

Heather had a few friends over on Saturday to participate in a clothing, accessories, and book swap. She made them Guacamole (p. 267), with fresh avocado and the first herbs of the season. It reminded her of the few weeks she spent in Mexico building houses. Every morning, noon, and evening, her group would receive handmade tortillas, rice, beans, and guacamole for a meal. And with the intensity of the daily work, it was a comfort to have the same meal three times a day.

After a few “safe” dishes, we decided to branch out. Heather picked a recipe that looked a little more complicated, used ingredients we rarely use (mung beans!), and involved a cooking process we use even less frequently (frying!). The Samosas’ (p. 282) aromatic spice blend—cardamom, curry, coriander, cumin—invigorated our Saturday night air.


A photo of Samosas from the new edition of Extending the Table.

We were so pleased with the Kenyan pastries’ effect on our evening, until Heather began to cook them.

She must have worked the dough too long and filled the pastries too full, because beans and onions spilled out every which way, no matter how much she pinched the dough together. Moreover, she hadn’t paid attention to the instruction to cool the filling before putting it in the dough, so every time she dipped into the bean pot, she pulled her hand back with a start. Anyone ever touched a hot raisin?

Finally, Heather didn’t pay close enough attention to the measurements for the beans. The recipe calls for 1¼ cup cooked beans, but she assumed it was 1¼ cup uncooked beans. After she had fried all the dough, she still had 2+ cups of bean filling. Guess what Ben will have for lunch the next few days!

While the samosas were a mess, they were indeed tasty and they taught us a few things that we’ll take with us on the rest of our Extending journey. First, if there are directions, read them closely—and understand them before you attempt to deviate! Second, the familiar may be comfortable (and we certainly enjoyed some excellent Turkish, Puerto Rican, and Costa Rican comfort foods), but the unfamiliar forces us outside our boundaries. Just like our son, who learned to turn over this week and now wants to explore the entire length of our apartment, we need to stretch beyond our safety blankets if we want to experience the world. The “success” of recipes, just like the success of rolling over for the first time, is not about how fancy or how skillful you are. Success is about trying it out, enjoying the process, and appreciating the new perspective taking such a risk gives you.

Maybe next week, we’ll try the Wat.

Ben and Heather Kulp