lentil

I wanted to be able to say I made it through November with a huge smile in my face and victory in my heart. We wrote our thank you lists, filled our thankfulness tree with leaves, drank apple “pider” and I even made my first fire. I should be feeling triumphant, but I feel like I crawled to a finish line and barely got my feet over the line before collapsing in a heap.

The cold is exhausting, apparently. Or maybe it was the baby who seemed to be awake all night? Perhaps the toddler whose will is strengthening at the same pace as his clever mind is developing creative ways to get around me? Or the 2:30pm twilight and the 3:30pm darkness? I’m taking my vitamins, and I thought it would be enough, but I have spent most days willing my way through while piles of to-be-folded laundry gathered on the floor and my hair that is falling out by the fistful pooled on each stair.

I wanted to think on deep things, write complex words, but all I could do was sit for hours on the couch with my feet up and a mug of tea in my hands. It was simple, quiet restoration. I needed to fall asleep with our baby in my arms at 1am only to wake up at 5am. Both of us slept. Not my idea of how either of us should be sleeping, but we were sleeping.

I thought I wanted to feast at a table of complex food, but the truth is I needed the basics. I made this soup last night, and it felt like I was really cooking for the first time in weeks, and this after cooking multiple meals almost daily for the past month.

Maybe it’s just better when life is simple? When you’re thankful to make it to the finish line even if you weren’t striding toward it with a winning time? Maybe you need some of this soup in your life instead of that fancy stuffed something you had in mind?

Tomato, Lentil and Kale Soup (adapted from The Muffin Myth)

I used The Muffin Myth’s recipe as a base, but I gave the soup an Asian flavour by adding ginger, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. It’s an excellent soup without the modifications, but Husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this “Indian” version of it. 

2 cups small green or beluga lentils
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1  thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander powder
2 cartons (500g each) of diced tomatoes, including juices
4 cups vegetable broth
2 fistfuls of kale (or more, depending on your tastes)
salt and pepper

1. Cook the lentils in a small pot of water until just tender (I slightly undercooked mine at this stage because they will cook in the soup later). Drain and set aside.

2. In a larger pot, sautee your chopped onion in olive oil until the onions turn a lovely brown shade. Add the crushed garlic and sautee for 30 seconds or so, then add the crushed ginger. It’s good if you have all your spices ready so that the garlic and ginger don’t stick to the pan too much. Add in the cinnamon, cumin and coriander. (Note: we love cumin, but if you’re not sure, start with a smaller amount like 1 teaspoon and then keep adding to the soup once it’s all in the pot. Also, the original recipe adds the chili flakes here but I skipped that because I want the toddler to eat it as well.) Stir it all together.

3. Add the boxes of tomato, and stir well. We use boxes because I try to avoid canned tomotoes, but those would be fine as well. Add the vegetable stock, and continue stirring. Check if it needs salt (a very important part of the cooking process if you’re a salt-a-holic like me), and add some and add pepper as well. Bring the soup to a boil then turn it down to simmer.

4. Add the lentils to the soup, set a timer for 15 minutes and let it all come together. This is where I would check to see if you want to add more cumin or cinnamon or any spice you think would go with it.

5. After 15 minutes, add in the two fistfuls of kale and let it cook for five minutes or so. If the soup is too thick because of the lentils, add in some water or vegetable stock.

6. Enjoy in bowls on a cold evening.

We are preparing our home and our hearts for Advent this week, so I’ll be pulling out this Advent calendar I scrapped together last year out of old Pampers boxes and raffia. Last year as I read about the conflict in the DRC, I was overwhelmed by the pain traumatised children face in our world today, and this Advent Calendar was one simple response. I am still overwhelmed when I think about Syria and Tacloban, but this little step is a reminder to me that I can do something every day. Iwrote about how this came about last year, and I’m reposting it today. I’ve also added details about how we did it at the end.

DSC_0190

Before he told raging waters to be still, before he fed 5,000, before the blind saw and the lame walked, before there were prostitutes, tax collectors and fishermen, before the nails and the whips and the thorns, before all of this, he was a baby, he was a child.

What is he thinking about when he looks at the babies and children of the world today? Does he remember what it was like to be hungry, naked, tired, afraid?

Come to me, all of you, Jesus would say, just as he said 2,000 years ago, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. 

When grenades fall in Damascus and little children fearfully huddle in apartment buildings,  Jesus remembers running with his parents to hide for his life.

When a little boy walks the streets of Tacloban because a typhoon obliterated his home, Jesus remembers that he was born in the mess of an animal stable with no home, no safety.

When there is no food to eat again and tiny tummies quake with hunger in Somalia, Jesus remembers 40 days without food and water.

When a child in Gaza prays in the night for peace, Jesus remembers being far from his true home, alone in a cold, hostile, violent world.

When little girls in Cambodia are beaten and exploited, Jesus remembers the sting of the lash and the nail driven through his wrist and the betrayal of his friends.

DSC_0183

He didn’t have evergreens, and there was no bunting of glass balls around the manger. Yes, he knew the safety and security of his mother’s embrace, but he didn’t know – or maybe he did, please no theological debates – that they were in a stable, stinky, dirty, dark and unhygienic in every way. He didn’t know that his parents had very little financial provision, he didn’t know that someone was going to try and end his life before it had barely even begun and that his first two years would be spent on the run.

He was a baby. He was a child. And he knows what it was like to have nothing and to be in danger, and when the chorus of cries from exploited, abused, neglected and unwanted children rise to heaven, he collects them all because he knows.

This Advent season, we are letting our cry from this corner of Sweden join with theirs. As a family for the next 24 days, we will have a different country to briefly look at daily and take a few minutes each day to pray for the needs of its children. Because he was a baby, too. He was once a child, and this year this is how we prepare our hearts for the coming of the perfect Messiah who remembers all of our weaknesses and knows all of our pain and came to bring life to everyone who would receive him.

Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. 

DSC_0166

The How

1. I went to Google Images and searched for photos of children from countries I wanted to pray for, and I also went to Compassion’s and World Vision’s child sponsorship pages and picked specific kids from places that are dear to us and also places that are facing particular challenges.

2. I printed out the photos, cut them out and stuck them on cardboard squares cut out of our old Pampers boxes.

3. I strung the squares out on raffia, and put a numbered clothespin on each one marking the day, then I hung it up in a place where we could easily see it.

4. There’s no need to get religious about this – prayers aren’t long or complicated.  At a certain time (rarely the same one), I would tell Josiah daily that it was time to pray for a “kiddo in another part of the world,” and we would walk over to the photo, pray for the child in it and pray for the land he or she lived in and the other children in it.

kale

When I don’t meal plan, I end up with two situations. Scenario one: The empty refrigerator save eggs and some veggies and some time of carb staple in the pantry like pasta, bulgur wheat or quinoa. Scenario two: Going to the grocery store mid-week with my toddler and baby. You would think both scenarios would keep me meal planning, and well, you would be wrong.

Two days ago after I was down to the last three eggs and had nothing in the veggie basket except for kale, beets and sweet potatoes, I realized I was going to have to resort to scenario two. (We had eggs for breakfast and roasted beets and sweet potatoes for lunch, which the toddler refused.)

Grocery stores with children are not easy in any universe – unless it is for you, in which case let me know immediately where your galaxy is located – but navigating a grocery store in a new country where everything is labeled in a language you don’t know and organized in a different way while you have small children in tow feels like a first-world kind of torture moment.

Enter the Coop at Enebyberg. It’s the largest supermarket close to our house, and we go weekly. Our toddler knows when it’s coming up, and loves riding in the cart inside the store. We have yet to have a mega meltdown experience, which I attribute to two things: fervent prayer and the outstanding customer service of – so far – every single Coop employee I’ve encountered.

It started with the young woman who walked through the aisles after 9pm trying to first understand what I was looking for (chicken stock cubes) and second to look for it. Then there was the butcher who had a friendly chat with me about why I was buying 3.7kg of beef and how I was going to cook it, the fish monger last week who told me about sea bass and how it should be cooked and the ladies at the checkout counters who regularly tell me to get a Coop card. Almost every interaction ends with a, Have a nice day. You would never imagine that you are in northern Europe. (In case anyone is interested, this is not a paid ad, I don’t write sponsored posts, it is a pleasure as a writer to be able to lavish praise on people and companies that make my life a bit easier.)

kale in pan

A few weeks ago as I made my way through the vegetable section, a bunch of thick, green leaves caught my eye: Kale. After years of reading about its super powers but never being able to find it, let’s just say we’ve been eating a lot of kale. As in almost daily for a week or two. It goes into smoothies, salads and even breakfast. We’ve been loving our kale.

I asked on my Facebook page what favourite kale recipes were out there, and there were some helpful responses. The Muffin Myth also has an easy (and tasty) list of recipes for kale.

Every time I’ve cooked kale for us, I’ve defaulted to this method. It is basic, simple, and as long as you like garlic, all will be well. I found that putting the garlic and rock salt (make sure it’s the chunky kind and not table salt) on the leaves while it’s cooking gives the kale a flavour crunch, which I loved.

butternut

Quick Kale

8        kale leaves, stems removed and chopped

1/4    tsp sea salt

2        garlic cloves, crushed

1. Put a bit of olive oil into a good frying pan on high heat, and when it’s warm, toss in your chopped kale. Sautee for a few minutes until it looks like the kale is cooking down a tiny bit. (I splashed a bit of water into the pan if it looked like it was starting to stick.)

2. Crush the garlic, and put the sea salt on the kale and keep stirring until it’s to your preferred level of doneness.

3. We’ve eaten kale cooked this way for breakfast with eggs and mushrooms, as a side dish to meat for dinner, as a salad mixed with roasted butternut squash, bulgur wheat and sauteed mushrooms and some chili flakes.

boots

November is here with dark afternoons, crisp mornings, rain and cold temperatures, and these have been my vows for this month of darkness and cold. These are my prophecies, the words I speak over my life.

I will get out of the house every day even if it is for a short drive or walk, I will make myself put on my rain boots and jacket, whatever the weather may be, I will put myself and my children outside to breathe in the air, soak in the sun and to feel the drops of rain on my face.

buds

I will hunt for signs of life around me, even as the world dies I will search for what lives, for the tiny evidences of new life, and I will find new life in myself and in the people I love, the signs that we are all still growing, stretching, reaching for the new thing, the better way.

I will think about December, how I want to spend Advent, what traditions I want to create, what I want to maintain. I will finish buying and making gifts now, so that I can spend December thinking about a baby in the manger.

I will make apple cider and drink it with my family. I will keep the kettle on, filling my belly with warm tea all day long. I will scoop out honey with long spoons and watch it dissolve in the bottom of my mug.

thanks

I will choose daily to be thankful, to etch words on leaves, to put them on a tree because every day little eyes are watching, little ears are hearing, little hearts are being shaped, and I want them shaped by gratitude, and I want to be shaped by gratitude

I will walk to the park, swing my son high because it brings him joy, I will sit on the papasan-like swing, lie in it, look up at the sky and the trees, feel the air against my face and hold my legs in the sky. Just because I can, because I feel like a kid when I’m in it, because it brings lightness to my soul and joy to my heart.

This November, I will chase my son around the yard, we’ll kick a yellow bouncy ball back and forth to each other, maybe we’ll rake leaves. We will conquer the bus and the Tbana together, we will visit at least one museum in Stockholm, we will survive rainy days and embrace sunshine. I will learn how to make a fire, and I will keep one lit in the fireplace in the morning and evening. I will feast with old friends and new friends.

When November ends, I will look at myself in the mirror and say, Well done, you did it. 

What are your vows for November? 

frittata

Writing the first post for a new blog felt like a lot of pressure, what to say, what to cook, what to photograph, so instead of something weird and complicated, let’s treat this like you’re coming over to hang out at our place.

I’m not great at small talk and will probably forget to take your coat. Tracks of leaves and mud will be on the floor and a few piles of papers and books sit on tables and shelves. If the floor is clean, it’s because my husband picked up a vacuum 15 minutes before you rang the bell while small voices echoed after him in the hallway. I probably haven’t changed from the oil-splattered shirt I was wearing during the cooking, but there is a big smile on my face.

I’m thankful to have you here.

Welcome to the new My Daily Bread & Butter, a place for words about food, family and faith as we gather around the table. I’m so thankful for Melissa and Erin of Wooden Spoons Kitchen, the team that worked with me to redesign this site. They have been thoughtful, thorough and patient, and the process has been fun. I’ve been a fan of both their blogs for a while, but it was great to work with them “in person.”

You’ll see a note at the top of each post indicating the category: food, family, faith, the table, daily or travel. Older posts are much easier to access now, and you can search for it in the beautiful visual archives. You can find out a bit more about me here, and I would love to hear from you via Facebook, Twitter or email. If you’ve been following me via WordPress, you’ll need to re-follow. Subscribing is also another easy way to receive posts in your inbox, and you can do that by entering your email address in the Subscribe box at the very bottom of the site. I’ll be working through the whole site to update it in the next few weeks, and we’ll be working out any of the kinks in the new system. Do let me know if something looks a bit funny or is difficult to read – I would love some feedback.

This blog has changed in the three years I’ve been writing. What began as my hobby of writing about our daily food morphed into thoughts and reflections about faith, family, life, the happenings in the world. I hope there is always space for this blog to continue to grow and change even as I do. You will find, I think, that this place holds the working out of life as I wrestle through it daily in my toddler wrangling, baby nursing, onion sauteeing and tea drinking.

I hope you will encounter Truth in these pages, and I hope you will find yourself on the journey with me as well.

josiah broc

frittata2

So where were we? Ahh yes, you were coming over and I was still in my cooking clothes. Let’s say this was last week around 11, you would have found Josiah and I in the kitchen chopping up broccoli and mushrooms. He was sneaking raw mushrooms off the board to eat behind my back, and trying to beat the eggs, AHHLONE. Frittatas have been on our weekly lunch rotation ever since I realized I have a deep frying pan that is oven friendly, and I found a recipe that doesn’t have dairy. This is as easy as it gets, the perfect lunch meal that my toddler and I both love, and it has broccoli, which means there are only winners, right?

This is the simple food we eat every day, in other words: My daily bread and butter.

Broccoli & Mushroom Frittata adapted from delicious. magazine

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 head of broccoli, cut into small florets

10    mushrooms, sliced

6 eggs, well-beaten

I love this recipe because nothing like cream, milk or cheese is added to the egg, but that means there isn’t a lot of liquid, so the frittata needs the bulk of the veggies to make it thick. The amount of broccoli and mushrooms were determined by our pan, not so much by the recipe. You want the veggies to take up a lot of room in the pan. So before you cut veggies, take a look at your pan size and the beaten eggs and then determine how much vegetables can go in it. You can also add whatever kinds of veggies and herbs you want. We like mushrooms and broccoli. I don’t add salt to egg dishes because it’s a small way I can cut back on our son’s salt intake because I typically heavily salt most other food we eat. This dish takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish, and it’s perfect for a light, healthy lunch. 

1. Warm up the grill in your oven to 200C/400F.

2. Choose an oven-proof frying pan that’s deep enough for your frittata, put it on heat medium to high heat with enough olive oil to coat the whole pan.

3. Sautee the onions for a few minutes, stirring regularly to keep them from getting too brown.

4. In a bowl, combine your eggs and beat until frothy (or arm wrestle your toddler, who is determined to beat the eggs).

5. Add the mushrooms and broccoli and sautee to your preferred level of “doneness.” Add a splash of water if you need to cook it for longer and the oil is gone. (Normally, I would suggest cooking the broccoli especially until it’s slightly before the cooked state because it will keep cooking with the egg and in the oven, but because this was for a toddler who needs his broccoli well done to chew it properly, I cooked mine for quite a while.)

6. Remove the veggies from the pan, add more olive oil (to coat the pan completely, to keep the egg from sticking) then add the veggies back and pour in the egg mixture.

7. Leave it to cook on medium heat and when it starts to set, put it in the oven.

8. It should be done after 5-10 minutes (the top will get puffy).