Sweet Potato and Chard Enchiladas

Sweet potato and Kale Enchiladas

Sometimes life feels more like a race to the finish line than anything else.  Like a cross country ski marathon on slushy snow or a face-first ride on a skeleton sled at 80 mph.  On the craziest days, we might as well be careening over a ski cross jump—one minute we’re in gold medal form, the next, a jumbled mass in the ditch.  It’s exhausting.  Terrifying.  Unpredictable.  And more.  Our to-do list spans multiple pages, but all we really hope for is a clean pair of pants—without too many wrinkles—and a jug of milk in the fridge—that’s not too far past the freshness date—to start the day.  These are times when texting family members in the next room seems perfectly normal.  When dishes pile in the sink and dirty clothes in the corner, and no one notices.  Clearly, we’re just trying to hang on, and at the end of the day, what we need is food on the table without a crash.  Food that’s soul-soothing—because really, that’s what’s getting us through this patch in one piece.

These are enchilada days.  With a bit of homework done ahead (Olympic gold isn’t won without the training runs), the classic tortilla bundles are a cinch to pull together, and receive raves around a hungry table.  How perfect is that?

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Red Lentil Soup

Red lentil soup

Lately I’m obsessed with lentils.  Our pantry shelves are lined with them—bags and boxes filled with miniature rounds of black, green and brown.  To those who rifle around looking for more readily edible snacks, my compulsion is slightly puzzling.  A collection of shoes in the closet or books on the shelf is easier to understand.  But mothers have other odd obsessions as well, best ignored, as teens well know; simply shove the legumes aside and move on to the chips.

Loving lentils makes sense to me, if to no one else.  I cook dinner every day for a vegetarian family, and legumes and beans offer us a rich source of vegetable protein that’s essential to our diet.  And beyond the nutrition, they’re a treasure trove of inspiration as well.  I’ve no doubt I could add lentils to the pot day after day, week after week, and never repeat the same concoction twice (unless I wanted to).  One day it’s soup, another a main-dish salad.  Then on to a stew or dal.

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Christine’s Crossing — Green Smoothies 101

Starter Green Smoothie

It’s time once again to hear from Health Coach, Christine de la Cruz—this month on the subject of green smoothies…

Do you ever wonder what in the world you are going to do with all of the gorgeous greens you receive on Wednesdays? Some weeks I can barely fit them in my refrigerator—which is actually a great problem to have.  My solution to not wasting one fabulous bit is to make green smoothies!

Include a green smoothie in your diet every day for 30 days, and you will see some of these awesome benefits:  improved digestion, increased energy, weight loss, glowing skin, luxurious hair, improved sleep and better moods. Who’s not on board now?  And the best part is that you don’t have to change anything else you are consuming.

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Scrambled Eggs with Greens and Mushrooms

Scrambled eggs with greens and mushrooms

When it comes to eggs, it’s tough to know what story the labels really tell.  Cage-free, free-roaming, natural, free-range:  In our minds we picture open, grass-flecked barnyards with  black dirt below and blue sky above, and plenty of room to run, extend feathered wings and peck at grubs.  In the simplest sense, a chicken’s life as it should naturally be.  It turns out that labels don’t always mean what they imply and in the case of free-range and free-roaming (the only ones regulated by the USDA), far less.  In order to apply the free-range and free-roaming label the USDA expects that producers allow hens access to the outside.  The labels don’t speak to whether birds have room to move, or actually make it out the door.  Or whether they are treated humanely and allowed to engage in natural behaviors, like pecking in the dirt.  In a free-range barnyard all of these may be true—or may not.

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Almost-Guatemalan Stuffed Squash

Stuffed Summer Squash

One of the fortuitous by-products of writing about food is that friends and acquaintances share tidbits of all sorts.  Emails arrive with bold promises:  Best Brownies Ever!  Incredulity:  Beet Cake?  And practical advice:  Dinner Tonight.  I pour over old family recipes, tips for massaging kale and recipes for tasty green smoothies even kids will love—treasured food secrets, every one.  The more I read, the more I’m struck by what I don’t know about food—and the wealth of what my fellow cooks are willing to share.

The correspondence keeps me plugging away some weeks—like a letter from home invariably will on a lonely stretch at over-night camp—and offers nuggets to ponder just when I’d thought the bottom of the barrel had been scraped.  Earlier this summer I received just such a note from my friend, Liana.  For the past two summers she and her three daughters have ventured to the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, to spend a month immersing in the language and local culture.  And of course, the food.

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