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.)


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

Forty Days of More-with-Less: Promises Made

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

(*Don’t forget the fine print at the bottom for a Mennobyte discount that’s also available to anyone who just stumbles onto it.)

By Ben and Heather Kulp

There comes a moment in any type of resolution where the promises you made to yourself are tested or challenged.  The initial rush of changing and forging a new way fades away and you are left with the feelings of how easy it would be to sink back in to the habit or habits that you were looking to change.

This was the thought process for both of us as we shifted in to the newest phase of having a little boy in our lives.  Heather went back to work full time, and Ben adjusted to running his business from home, freelancing, and teaching cello while taking care of the new baby.  The days were a lot longer for both of us, and when new stressors appear, it’s easy for old habits to emerge.  We live in the Allston neighborhood in Boston, and within a two block radius of our house we can go and eat Afghani, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Japanese,  and Thai, to name a few.  Such were the temptations as we dealt with a screaming child in the back seat, and a clogged, rush hour public transit system.  How nice and gratifying it would be to simply stop in and get (Ben’s favorite) Pad Thai, or (Heather’s favorite) Red Curry at the end of a long and busy day.

But, dear reader (Ben has always wanted to write “dear reader,” so thank you indulging him) we only sampled the smells of our favorite restaurants as we drove or walked by.  Once back home we dutifully opened More With Less, and looked to the recipes.

After the stress of the day had been left outside on the sidewalk in the hustle and bustle of city life, we were able to focus more on the task of preparing dinner for one another. The first dish we made was the Soybean Curd Sauté (page 115). We also received an unexpected gift in the mail that day of a bottle of wine from friends in Budapest, and decided to open that with dinner. Ben lit the candles as Heather put our son to bed, and turned on Ben’s favorite John Coltrane album, Blue Train.

SauteSoybean Curd Sauté

We discussed Heather’s first day back at work, and Ben juggling practicing, business phone calls, and giving the needed attention to our infant son. After the meal was finished, we continued talking and relaxing after our busy days. It struck us both that we were much more relaxed and fulfilled than if we had gone to a restaurant. Going out to eat can be a wonderful experience as someone will bring to your table exactly what you want. There is no cleaning of dishes or wiping away of crumbs. However, as we sat and decompressed from our days, it struck us both that we gained more by cooking for one another and intentionally spending the time at home together. The recipe Soybean Curd Sauté did not take any more effort than waiting in line to be seated at a restaurant, and after the meal was done, we were able to share a few moments together in the comfort of our apartment.

With this lesson in mind, we approached the rest of the week’s meals with the same intention. Breaking the habit of stopping in for lunch or dinner at a restaurant or café is one that continues to cross our minds as we trek across Boston for our jobs. The decompressing from our days was even more needed the second day that Heather was back at work, as the initial rush and newness began to wear off. Heather loved the mental stimulation of her job, and Ben appreciated so many private moments with an incredibly cute little baby boy.


However, as evening rolled around, all we wanted to do was take a break and have someone else prepare our food. New habits are built in very small increments, and we stepped up on to the small block of cooking homemade food from the evening before. This time Ben rocked the baby to sleep, and Heather made Yaksoba (page 139). We both love Asian cuisine, and instead of going to our favorite noodle shop in the neighborhood, we felt more wholesome at the end of the meal having made it at home and shared it with one another as we discussed the happenings of the day.

This past week was about renewal in our lives. Heather went back to work and renewed her focus on her professional life, and Ben renewed his commitment to his business and baby boy by earning how to balance both during the day.  Neither of us was perfect at the new steps we took after Heather’s maternity leave.  However, after having shared food and conversation around the recipes from More With Less during our evenings together, we were able to continue and renew our Lenten vow, and feel like we had a community –both together and through the recipes- that would help us move forward in to the next phase of our lives.


Ben 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 their newborn son, 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 Thursday from now through Easter, under the special series category, Forty Days of More-with-Less. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.


*If you are like Ben and Heather and enjoy eating foods from all around the world, watch for the newly revised Extending the Table Cookbook coming in May, now with helpful color food photos, now on pre-publication discount.

Extending the Table

And buy the More-with-Less cookbook here!

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Forty Days of More-with-Less: Cooking like Jazz: Planning and Improvising Means Better Meals

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

By Ben and Heather Kulp

This week, Ben and Heather spent time celebrating two months with our new baby boy. We also grieved a little, because this marker means Heather returns to work full-time next week. With this (another) major transition on the horizon, we took the opportunity to focus on planning. We made sure all of baby’s 3 month clothes were ready to go (he does seem to be growing out of one thing every day!). Heather pressed and re-hung her business clothes (though yoga pants and sweatshirts have been nice for a few weeks!). Most importantly, we thought about how to ensure we had nutritious food available during the coming weeks’ unpredictable schedules. As with all life transitions, we understand the need to be flexible even while planning.

More-with-Less offered many helpful tools so we can prepare in advance for mornings and evenings as a busy family of three. Ben remembers fondly a large container tucked away in his family’s pantry when he was growing up. Every few months, his father would mix up a batch of the Pancake Mix (73). Then, each Saturday morning, a member of the family could easily pull out the tub of mix and put together a quick breakfast of pancakes or waffles. That person could also customize the mix, adding coconut or chocolate chips or (Ben’s favorite) fresh-picked blueberries.

We found it to be true with other recipes this week; the more you know the basic recipes (in which More-with-Less specializes), the more you can customize to your tastes. This week, we took the idea of a stir-fry and combined two recipes to increase flavor and use what we had. The result: a colorful concoction of Sweet and Sour Soybeans (p. 113) and Skillet Cabbage (p. 225).

sweet sour soybeansSweet and Sour Soybeans

sweet potato sausage bakeSweet Potato Sausage Bake

We also used the ingredients from the Sausage Sweet Potato Bake (p. 140) with the spices of the Turkey Apple Casserole (p. 141) to produce a comforting curried roast vegetable casserole.

Our favorite riff was a version of the seasonal craving Heather had for Asparagus Soup (203).

asparagus soupAsparagus Soup

The bitter, fresh asparagus is complimented by a rich creamy sour cream. Because we knew the sour cream added creaminess more than flavor, we subbed in plain yogurt instead. We also substituted dill from our garden for pepper. The week-ahead planning (we knew asparagus would be in season and had this recipe on our weekly meal list) allowed us to be creative rather than desperate because we didn’t have the “right” ingredients.

But, customization takes understanding the purpose of ingredients, which takes practice—and practice takes intentionally cooking together as a family.

Through the 10 Day Marriage Challenge we are doing, we realized that one of the lessons we most want our son to learn from us is how to cook. We are planning ahead so he will not only see us model healthy and simple cooking, but also that he will participate in meal preparation as soon as he is able. Multiple stories within the More-with-Less pages refer to the recipes helping parents teach their kids important values. We also expect to use the Simply in Season kid’s cookbook and Herb the Vegetarian Dragon cookbook  we found this week on a roadtrip to Montague Bookmill.

Until he can join us at the stove, we hope to focus our mornings and evenings on the ordinary miracles of parenting, with all its unpredictability, rather than on throwing together sandwiches or ordering take-out to fill our bellies. Now, with a pantry full of Crunchy Granola (p. 92) and a freezer full of Asparagus Soup, Blackbean Soup (p. 209), Pot-of-Gold Peanut Soup (p. 217), Brown Breadsticks (p. 66), and casseroles, we can do just that.

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 their newborn son, 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 Thursday from now through Easter, under the new special series category, Forty Days of More-with-Less. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.

MWL_Cover_hard_2011.qxpAnd buy the cookbook here!