Lentil Soup Success

Lentil Soup Success | The Zen of Making

Lately, I’ve been busy at work and stressed out in life. Last night, I had the realization that, no matter how I arranged my evening, there was no way I could meet all of my obligations. Usually, when I have too much on my plate, yoga (or the gym) is always the first thing to go, followed by the preparation of healthy meals, then sleep. Because, you know, a hungry, frazzled zombie is incredibly productive.

Yesterday, because I already knew that I couldn’t finish everything, I decided to see what would happen if I took care of myself first, then worked on my other projects. So, off to the gym I went. The workout calmed me and focused my mind, and I felt like I’d had a distinct ending to my work day, and beginning to my evening. When I got back home, I put together a simple lentil soup to simmer on the stove while I worked. The verdict: Taking care of myself resulted in fresher eyes and a healthy, hearty soup that should last me through the week. It’s also very likely that I finished just as much with a refreshed, clear head as I would have had I sat right down at the computer as soon as I got home from the office. I’ll definitely need to remind myself of this next time my life gets crazy (*cough* tonight).

On to the soup:
As most of my pals could tell you, I have a long history of spectacular lentil soup failure. It seems that, the easier something is to make, the more difficult I find it. I’ve been trying to focus on simpler foods lately, so I resisted the urge to over-season, and came up with a very easy lentil soup recipe that is a bit reminiscent of the delicious bean soup from one of my now-closed Brooklyn favorites, Stir It Up.

Cold Weather “Caribbean” Lentil Soup
10 cups water
5 Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cubes (with sea salt & herbs)
1 can coconut milk
1 bag green lentils, washed and sorted
1 can mixed salad beans (I like garbanzo, pinto, kidney)
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup raw carrots, diced
.5 teaspoon cinnamon
.25 teaspoon nutmeg
.25 teaspoon allspice

Combine all except peas in a large soup pot. Simmer with the lid on until lentils are tender. Adjust spices to taste. When soup is almost ready to serve, add peas and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes.

CSA Love or The Mall Cookie

CSA Love or The Mall Cookie | The Zen of Making

I am not a fan of Tuesdays. For me, Tuesday means no yoga, no gym, and having to rush out of work to pick up my CSA share, which is inconveniently located nowhere near any of the trains or busses that head to my apartment. And it always rains. Every Tuesday, it seems like I have too many obligations, and absolutely no time for myself.

The main root of my Tuesday problem is probably my attitude toward picking up my CSA share. I leave my office in a rush, go out of my way, take an unfamiliar train, and add a vegetable share and a fruit share to my already-heavy load of handbag and tote/lunch bag (and whatever else I needed to bring into Manhattan for the day). I invariably get my work clothes wet or dirty, and then I have to walk everything home at the end of a long day. My husband doesn’t get out of work in time to pick it up, so it ends up being my job every week. At this point, the very idea of picking up the CSA share makes me grumpy (given, in a very First World problems kind of way).

The problem with Tuesdays is not the CSA share, though, it’s me. I love my CSA. I love supporting a local fruit farmer and a local vegetable farmer. I love knowing that I’ll have fresh, seasonal organic produce every week. I even love that we members of the CSA are taking a risk every year—I believe that paying a farmer in advance for taking the chance to plant another season of crops is important, and has a positive impact on the survival of small farming culture. The CSA lessens the time I spend at the grocery store, and makes me a more creative cook. It’s completely unfair that being a big ball of stress translates into hating to pick up my share.

So, I’m taking back Tuesdays and reaffirming the CSA love. Instead of being wound up about what I can’t do and what I need to get done, I’m going to make the most of what I can do, namely, deciding to spend a weekday evening in the kitchen without guilt. I need to pick up the CSA share, and I need to get the fruits and vegetables cleaned and stored, but I don’t really need to try to fit in anything else.

Last night, in celebration of the CSA bounty, I made potato leek soup and a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Per usual, I tinkered a bit with my regular recipe (a veganized recipe based on http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/nspired/sunspire/recipeall.d2w/report#sccc), and came up with nothing short of a miracle: chocolate chip cookies that taste just like a certain married-to-the-prairie mall brand. Nothing makes a rough day better than any kind of cookie fresh from the oven, but sometimes you just really want a mall cookie:

CSA Love or The Mall Cookie | The Zen of Making

Mrs. Mountain’s Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies:
* 1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, softened (I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
* .5 cup light brown sugar
* .75 cup granulated sugar
* 2 tbs of flax mixed with 5 tablespoons of water (an egg replacer)
* 1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
* .5 cups whole wheat flour
* 2 tsp baking soda
* .5 tsp sea salt
* .5 bag vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flax with water and set aside. Using a stand mixer, cream together softened margarine and sugar. Add flax mixture and vanilla to the sugar/margarine, and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in batches, mixing until the dough is uniform.

Mix in vegan chocolate chips. Drop a tablespoon or so of dough at a time onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

This recipe makes about 60 tiny cookies. Be warned, they spread out—my cookies from last night spread completely together, and now they’re all square.

Hey! What is this CSA-thingy you’re talking about?

The Books-to-Buttons Project

The Books-to-Buttons Project | The Zen of Making

As planned, Jeremy and I spent a good portion of the afternoon searching for books to use in our books-to-buttons project. Our plan was to find graphically interesting books that were unlikely to be used in the future because of poor condition or outdated information (old science books and atlases), and to recycle them into new sets of buttons using as many of the pictures and pages as we could. With that in mind, we decided to forgo our walk through Brooklyn Flea this afternoon, and headed straight for our local used bookstore.

Unsure about what we would find, we managed to hit the jackpot: an old typography book, an illustrated children’s physics in motion book, and a dictionary of slang and unconventional English from 1961. The typography book yielded visually interesting buttons with multiple letters and odd fonts, and many of the physics buttons ended up being very funny, the drawings taken completely out of context. We didn’t make any buttons using the slang dictionary yet–it’s still in pretty good shape, and I’m considering keeping it around. Did you know that to “shoot the cat” means to vomit? Also, “cat-sticks” are skinny legs.

The buttons are coming along, though we only got through a fraction of the designs we picked out before calling it quits to get ready for bed. Once we get all of them made and sorted into sets, we’ll set up our Etsy store and make them available to anyone who is interested. Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea of the designs that we’re working with:

The Books-to-Buttons Project | The Zen of Making

The Books-to-Buttons Project | The Zen of Making

In case you were wondering:
Where do you buy a good button maker?
We got our button maker at American Button Machines, and couldn’t be more pleased with the quality. We initially made the purchase to make buttons for favors for our wedding, but have had no trouble finding good reasons to keep one in the house.

What are we doing with all that extra paper?
We have indoor composting in our kitchen, and will use the paper scraps as bedding for our worm bin.

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Image via ButtonBiz.com.
Image via ButtonBiz.com.

I’m planning my project(s) for the weekend, and it’s definitely time to break out the button maker!

On Sunday, Jeremy (the husband) and I are heading over to Brooklyn Flea to see about scaring up some worn-out books with interesting pictures/designs to be used in a new set of buttons. Have no fear: In our projects, we only use tattered books that are beyond saving.

Brooklyn-based DIY from a gal in granny glasses