This year’s event by The Giving Table focuses on South Africa, and The Lunchbox Fund, which “…..has been feeding impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren since 2005. It brings communities together with the help of small local businesses and entrepreneurs, and provides vulnerable students with healthy meals that nourish their bodies and minds.”
The Lunchbox Fund identifies schools or forms partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. It funds distributers to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a Project Manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation.
Maybe you were here last year when I told my own personal tale of being hungry, and the impact it had on me. Last year’s cause focused on children in the USA that went hungry every day, on families that struggled to make ends meet and provide enough food. But children go hungry all over the world. And we know they do. But what do we do about it?
What have YOU done about it? What are you WILLING you do about it?
While breakfast is one of my favorite meals ever, lunchtime is a treasured routine, a suspension in the middle of any day when all activity stops and we sit down to nourish ourselves for the rest of the day. As far back as I can recall, I have so many memories of lunchtime; from being able to come home for lunch when I was just a kid (do any school children actually do this anymore?? It was such a treat.) to a break in the action of high school to gather in the lunchroom and catch up with everyone. Then, we enter the workplace, and those moments when work ceases and we pick up our lunch totes, or head out for a quick fix. Weekend lunches of leisure and leftovers. It all resonates. I’ve always enjoyed lunchtime, no matter where I am, or how old I’ve become.
I cannot imagine being in school and not being able to eat lunch. When my boy was young, and when he allowed me to pack a lunch for him, I wanted it to be something special that he enjoyed and we worked together to make it fun, to be something he looked forward to and would eat when the time came. He would help me pack his tote, make sure that he had a napkin or the right utensil for his yogurt, a cup of dressing to dip his carrots in, an apple cut up just so. When he wasn’t looking, I would slip in a note just for him. Eventually, he wanted school lunch just like the other kids, and when he got home, we always talked about what he ate, why he liked it and what he didn’t. One day, I clearly recall when he told me how he and a few friends shared their lunch with a new boy in their class who had no food. When he asked me why that boy wasn’t given lunch, or didn’t bring any with him, I had no answer. We talked about how it was always a good idea to share if someone had none.
Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential; without food, a child’s attendance and performance at school is severely jeopardized.
65% of all South African children live in poverty. Receiving food encourages these children to stay in school and obtain their education.
We know, as adults, that being hungry makes it hard to concentrate. We know how it can affect our work, and most of us keep snacks at hand to ward off hunger if our meals don’t carry us through, but imagine being a child, in school and trying to concentrate while hunger gnaws at your belly. There are no snacks. Likely there’s little at home to even start the day. And there may even be no promise of food throughout the entire school day. No one should have to live like that.
Can you find it in your heart to donate even a small dollar amount to help? All you have to do is click on this link..….. it’s so easy, and so profound. We all spend money throughout our days that provides us with simple pleasures that we take solely for granted; our daily latte fix, that cup of yogurt with all the fancy toppings, a candy bar, a soda, the latest fashion or gossip magazine, even the money we spend on our own daily lunches. Where does that money go? Would you consider donating only $10 dollars? Most people spend that every day and rarely can recall on what, but $10 would help fill The Lunchbox Fund and provide 100 school children their only meal of the day for an entire year. Can you imagine the impact of that small of a donation? Compare that to a cup of yogurt, or your fancy latte and I think you’d agree it’s money well spent.
My lunch now is always fairly simple. I like quick, nourishing salads for my midday meal, or simple foods like an apple and peanut butter, a handful of nuts, hummus and vegetables, a quick meal of leftovers from the previous night. I like the calm of a quiet half hour to eat, to taste and enjoy, to watch the sun out the window and just be.
This raw kale salad has been on repeat in my lunch repertoire since discovering it’s simple tastes, the crunch of pistachios and the dreamy, chewy dates that bounce off the tart dressing. It’s a breeze to prepare, and taste much better the next day, after the lime juice, miso and sesame oil have a chance to penetrate the kale, soften it fully and infuse it with flavor. Make it the night before and by lunchtime, it will be perfect.
Raw Kale Salad with Lime-Sesame Dressing,
Pistachios & Dates
For the salad:
One bunch Lacinato Kale, washed, stems removed and rough chopped
1/3 c. pistachios, roasted & salted (or raw, if you prefer)
2 Medjool dates, pits removed and minced
1 t. fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of sea salt
For the dressing:
2 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 t. white or brown miso
2 t. honey
2 T. white or brown sesame seeds, crushed
Pinch of sea salt
Place kale in a bowl. Drizzle with the teaspoon of lime juice and the pinch of sea salt. With your hands, gently massage the lime juice and kale for a few minutes until it becomes soft. Set aside
In a measuring cup or small bowl, place the crushed sesame seeds and sea salt. Drizzle with the lime juice, sesame and olive oils and whisk gently to combine. Add the miso and honey and whisk together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning. It should have a nice balance of tangy, salty and sweet. Adjust with a bit more miso or honey, if desired. Drizzle half the dressing over the massaged kale and toss to combine. Add more dressing if needed, but you may not use all of it. Add the pistachios and minced dates, toss well and serve. Salad will deepen in flavor if allowed to sit for a few hours, or overnight.
I gave in yesterday to some unhealthy eating, including things fried, and eating meat. While the meat isn’t exactly unhealthy, it did it’s usual number on me with stomach upset and I found once again that after a few bites of it, I wasn’t enjoying it. Still, I ate what was remaining on my plate to be polite because my staff bought me that lunch, and they were thrilled to share with me.
Then for dinner, I was unmotivated, not to mention alone, as Mike and Griffin were at their Sunday night youth group gathering and dinner ideas just slipped in and out of my mind as the dark afternoon gathered in the quiet house. I was feeling off from the afternoon fare, and a few perusals of the refrigerator didn’t reveal anything exciting. Except a small wheel of Brie.
Soon enough, this delightfully warm and enchanting snack lay on the table in front of me. A variety of nuts, chopped and toasted, were spread over the top of the heated cheese, then drizzled with a fragrant balsamic-honey glaze. A sturdy knife, some multi-grain crackers and Etta James crooning over iTunes radio to me, and an unsettled day, busy with work and people, gave way to a calmer and more focused evening.
This creation would make a delicious and unique appetizer for a holiday party. It’s so simple to make too; I used pistachios, almonds and pecans for my nut topping. You could use whatever nuts appeal to you. My wheel of Brie was fairly small, and I used a cup of assorted nuts. I chopped them coarsely, and toasted them in a pan until golden and fragrant. Just before I removed them, I made space in the center and dropped in about a half tablespoon of butter. When it melted and the foam disappeared, I stirred it into the nuts, then scraped them in to a bowl.
Placing the same pan back on the burner, I poured about a half cup of balsamic vinegar in the pan and warmed it to steaming. The Brie was in a 375° oven on a small stoneware pan while I worked on the topping. When the balsamic was warm, I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of honey in to the pan and just let it melt and mix with the vinegar until the Brie was warmed through. Removing the Brie from the oven, I topped it with the nuts, then poured the warmed glaze over it, scraping the pan with a rubber spatula. The Brie wheel was in the oven for maybe 10 minutes, but I could have gone longer as the rind seemed a bit thick and the cheese was still firm in some spots. Time will depend on how warm and melty you want your cheese, and the thickness of the rind.
My apologies for starting this post out using the word ‘Winter’ in the title. Those of us in the northern climes are still experiencing a gorgeous Fall- and the sunshine that we’ve had through the early part of November is dazzling. And so unexpected. November around here is equated with a dense gray expanse of sky that rarely seems to break. It’s a gloomy month, usually, and for the sun and blue sky to be greeting us each morning is a gift. A true weather gift. One that I am savoring with all my might.
But then I go and say ‘Winter’.
But bear with me friends, as you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Even with the still mild days of November to wrap around us, my mind is gearing up for cold. It’s inevitable, and I think people are taking bets around here on when the first real snowfall will drop from that leaden sky that we know so well. The first snow that sticks, snarls traffic, makes people grumble inside…. we know how it is around here. We may have resided here all our lives but there comes that first coating of white and it’s like folks have wiped any memory of it clear from their heads.
Like who could forget something like this?
Sorry, there I went and did it again.
But the thing is, it’s coming and when it does, and we wake on those chilly Winter mornings craving all forms of comfort food to fill our Minnesota bellies with warmth, what you should be making is this simple and delicious compote. It tops so many winter breakfast foods like it was meant to be, like the way Winter will eventually lead us to Spring. A spoonful in your Oatmeal is heavenly; a spread across your pancakes, waffles or french toast is worthy of your best food-lovin’ eye roll and exclamations of ‘Oh dear! This is good!’. It’s endlessly versatile and needs no special ingredients. And if you make it in your flannel jammies, with thick slippers on your feet while the furnace hums it’s way to warming your home, it might just make those Winter mornings a bit more pleasant.
And as Minnesota goes, in the wintertime, we need as much of that as we can get.
Winter Fruit Compote
1 medium tart apple, washed, cored and diced fine
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. currants
1 T. butter
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple. Saute for a few minutes until the apple is soft, then stir in the pecans and cook, stirring regularly, until the nuts are slightly toasted and fragrant. Pour in the maple syrup and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally until the maple syrup has been absorbed. Stir in the currants and heat through. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles. Will keep refrigerated for several days. If you can resist. Reheat in the microwave if desired. This tastes amazing if sprinkled with a light dusting of sea salt prior to serving. Something about that salty sweet crunch…..
Winter pears, like Anjou or Red or even the Bosc would make a good substitute for the apple in this. Change up the nuts, use raisins instead of currants, or add other dried fruit. Toss in some shredded coconut if it’s your thing. Or even chop up an orange, mix it with dried cranberries and chopped pistachios and a dash of cardamom for an exotic option. The possibilities are endless, people. Endless.
I can’t say I’m thrilled to see August because it’s sort of reminding me of all the summer that’s now past and how little I’ve been able to enjoy a most fleeting time. I can count on one hand the number of farmers market trips I’ve made. Just yesterday I shook out my swimsuit from the drawer where it’s been buried and ignored. The sun goes down quicker, and with a more resigned feeling than just a few weeks ago. People are talking about returning to school. Somehow, August just feels different; it feels like a slow, warm denouement, like the last dance of a spirited, eloquent party full of flushed faces and sighs of ‘The next one will be just as much fun.’
But at the same time, August is abundance. Corn is everywhere. And the heat of July is making my tomato plants nearly burst with crimson globes of homegrown tomato glory. Like this…. in one day.
Yes, that’s one day of harvest. But those tomatoes need barely a thing on them save a dash of good sea salt and a few grinds of pepper to make their way eagerly to my mouth. My Rutgers and Bonny’s Guy plants are nearly 5 feet tall, and still loaded with potential. There are peppers galore hanging from the seven pepper plants and I am eagerly awaiting the ripening of the mysterious Italian Heirloom peppers of which I discovered late in the Spring. Four plants, fully adorned with long and cylindrical deep green peppers hold a bounty and so much more. I eye them, thinking of stuffing, or sauteing or simply slicing on a salad. I love the anticipation held within the tiny patch out my window.
The rain has been copious in Minnesota, and the resulting humidity oppressive, but what the rain has done is unavoidable. My tiny Japanese lilac bushes, which faded so fast after an untimely Mother’s Day frost, sprung back into a lush fragrant bloom in mid-July, bringing a welcome surprise amidst the waves of high summer heat. The Delphinium is on a second bloom too, and the yard has stayed a rich verdant green. I even find humor in the huge weed that’s formed in our neglected fire pit, it’s long stems sneaking up and over the walls, potentially snagging unsuspecting varmints. The toad population in my garden is copious. Mike even found a small frog clinging to our sunroom window one evening. Just about the same time, we discovered a tiny amphibian clinging to a baking pan in the midst of the kitchen at work. It was a moment of surprise, and likely shock for the poor little green creature, which I quickly captured and took outside to release in the grass. His legs were too miniscule anyway, as luck would have it.
This past week has been very simple around the house. The Teen is off an the adventure of his young lifetime, away in the mountains of West Virginia spreading his faith and employing his helping hands. He returns to our fold this weekend, and I’ve missed his smile. Mike and I have enjoyed some much-needed quiet time, and a reprieve from chauffeur duties. My schedule, and the last of the July heat has kept the cooking to a minimum. Good bread, some cheese and those wonderful tomatoes have really been all I crave anyway.
I did turn on the oven for one short burst of creativity when I came across this Chipotle Lime Roasted Peanut recipe on Susan’s site. I’ve been indulging in this delicious smoothie , utilizing the frozen blueberries from my yearly berry picking adventure, and upon seeing her quick and simple method for this spicy snack, I jumped into action. One food item that we always keep on hand for snacking is nuts. Our favorite is almonds, with pistachios and peanuts coming in close behind. I took Susan’s recipe one step further, using all three nuts when I made my version.
With the first nibble, I was hooked. The nuts aren’t spicy right away, but a bit of heat builds up in the back of your mouth as you crunch away, and a slight salty tang of lime tangoes a little over your tongue. They’re utterly addictive. It’s a good thing I needed to run out to work soon after fixing up a batch of them, or I might have poured myself a cold drink, taken a book out to the patio along with a bowl of these nuts and settled in to satisfied munching. It would be nice of me to save some for Mike, don’t you think?