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.

YaksobaYaksoba

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.

MennoByte_photo

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.

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*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!

 

‘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