Thinking Outside the Box, Literally

Life is full of clichés and the one about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is one that holds true. Breakfast boosts lagging blood sugars and fuels us for the day. Given the fact that this is the first food we feed our starving bodies and brains, it would make sense to choose something really nutritious. That’s another reason why I don’t serve breakfast cereal often.

“What do you eat for breakfast then?”

Around here we have very loose ideas of what breakfast food should be. So we’ll eat whatever is around that fills and fuels us for the day. Here is a list of some non-typical weekday breakfasts we might eat to start the day:
-egg fried rice
-pasta with butter and garlic or pesto
-frozen dumplings
-bean and cheese quesadilla
-leftovers from last night’s dinner. This could be just about anything: pasta, noodles, pizza, soup, stir fry, steak and potatoes. Anything.

But we also eat some typical breakfast foods:
-frozen homemade waffles, pancakes or muffins
-French toast
-eggs, omelettes
-homemade granola or muesli with yogurt
-hot cereal (not the instant kind): any combination of oats, barley flakes, quinoa flakes, triticale flakes…

And I’ll round out the breakfast with milk, fruit and sometimes even veggies or a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

“How do you find the time to make breakfast?”

Honestly, boiling up some water for pasta or stir frying rice and eggs takes about as much time as putting the kettle on and making a Bodum-full of coffee.

You get the idea. Pretty much anything goes as long as we have a balanced meal (yes, including all the proverbial food groups) and avoid falling into the clutches of highly processed breakfast cereal. Can your household do without cereal? Think outside of the cereal box and strip away your notion of what breakfast food should be and you’ll come up with a ton of new, quick, more-nutritious-than-cereal alternatives to start your day.

Soup Makes Friends

“Ginger tea makes friends.” ~James Barber

James Barber, the Urban Peasant, got it right. Sharing a hot pot of ginger tea draws people in and opens conversations. A lovely way to make new acquaintances.

For me it was soup.

Last year our son’s elementary school was soliciting silent auction items for a fundraiser. When schools are on the crackdown for cash, they’re pretty happy about any kind of donation: food, gift certificates for stores, services, restaurants. I don’t like canvassing for donations so I couldn’t see myself doing that. I had squeezed out a few knitted items to donate. I desperately wanted to donate something unique, creative and meaningful. Then I came up with an idea for a personal service: The Soup of the Month Club.

For one year, I would deliver soup once a month to the Soup of the Month Club household. It would be made entirely from scratch and catered to the food preferences of the recipients using seasonal, local ingredients whenever possible. In our fast-paced, busy lives, it’s hard to find time to slow down, cook and share a meal. I wanted to create a time, even though it would be only once a month, where parents wouldn’t have to worry about what to make for dinner and the family could sit down, share a nourishing meal and build community around the table.

So I submitted my auction item, not knowing if anyone would be interested since it’s not the run-of-the-mill donation. I was pleased that there were bidders! The winning bid was made by a family of four who lives just a few blocks away.

I was ecstatic that I was able to help the school raise some funds and that I could provide a family in our own neighbourhood with a nutritious meal once a month. Little did I know that our family would be forging a strong relationship with this family.

Over the year we’ve come to know and love the family I supplied soup to. I’ve discovered that we’re on the same wavelength about a lot of parenting, community and food issues. At the kitchen table, we’ve shared many a deep conversation about community building, politics and of course, food. And we’ve shared many, many laughs.

Amazing what kinds of friends you can make with a few pots of soup.

(The weather this June, as well as last June, has been dismal. One shouldn’t be making wintery soup at this time of year. But you just can’t help it.)

June Soup of the Month: Lentil Soup
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium potatoes, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 1/2 cups mixed lentils, rinsed
6 cups broth
2 cups water
2/3 cup puréed tomato
6 stems thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt, pepper
A handful of parsley, chopped

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
Add potatoes, carrots and celery and sauté for a few minutes.
Add lentils, broth, water, tomato purée, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until lentils are soft and veggies are tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Add a bit of water or broth if the soup thickens too much.
Fish out the thyme and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a good sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Makes about 8 servings

Picking up where we left off

Here we are, twelve years after our first post on VanEats. Twelve years of celebrating food and life adventures. And what an adventure it’s been: Roland and I married, became parents, changed careers, travelled, cooked and ate. Mostly with a mini-epicurean in tow. So life took over and we took a long hiatus from VanEats. The world outside our own little vortex has changed exponentially during our break. The blogosphere has exploded. Social media is everyone. And the world of food blogging has evolved beyond all expectations.

Now it’s time for us to pick up where we’ve left off. We present to you, VanEats at Home.

While we haven’t been food blogging, we’ve been more involved with the food world than ever before. We devote a lot of our time to cooking, learning about where our food comes from, growing our own food and teaching our child and others about food literacy. It’s a luxury we are blessed with and hope that we can share it with readers.

VanEats at Home focuses on our daily food life from our trials and tribulations as new food gardeners to the fantastic things we cook to food in our community. You’ll notice a trend towards eating locally and sustainably and towards cooking from scratch. You’ll find more words, stories and recipes than photos (we leave beautiful food photography to the pro’s) as we channel our energy into developing a dialogue about our everyday love affair with food.

Pull a chair up to our table and settle in for a nibble.