Welcome to Food Bloggers Against Hunger, a call to action for changes to our food system from over 200 participating food bloggers! Whenever the topic of child hunger comes up I can’t tell you the reaction that my body produces. Anger, sadness, more anger, and then an unrelenting feeling that something must be done. And not later, and not by someone else. But by me, right now, and with anyone around me with just one or two hands to lend.
It’s a topic that gets discussed often, as I spend much of my time planning, thinking, scheming on what more we can do to have truly lasting impact. Helping others isn’t always easy, but it can be done, and we all know there is so much more to do. America’s hunger problem is growing, and here at home in Canada the statistics are not much better. Our food systems and governments are so tightly intertwined that what affects one nation affects another nation and we are all in this together. Access and affordability to good healthy food is far from where it should be, and in my opinion, we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get folks back into the heart of the home: the kitchen.
At Not So Fast, we’ve been cooking with kids in our poorest neighbourhood on a regular basis since last year, and sending them home with healthy affordable food & recipes they can make at home. It’s the least we can do and we plan to do more. A lot more. If you want to stay updated on our progress, follow me here or drop me a line. Our plan doesn’t stop there.
I’ve never shared this on the blog before today, but this is a matter dear to my heart for very good reason. As children, my siblings and I grew up with parents who fed us well and made healthy food a priority despite having extremely limited funds. My folks were impressively resourceful and took food seriously, and as a result I can (very) proudly say that looking back, I never felt poor a single day of my life, and I can boldly speak for my three other siblings as well when I say that.
Our tummies were always full of good food, and that was all that mattered. My mom and dad may not have had money to buy us lots of things, but we never went without and not a meal passed without saying grace for our good fortune of having yet another delicious meal to enjoy together. We ate simply, and we ate well. We hadn’t much money, but my parents had the will and put their energies where it mattered. And it worked. Today and everyday, I make it my mission to share that love of healthy affordable food with my readers, and to take that a step further and share it with those who may not be as lucky as I was as a child. So while our food system requires change at every level to correct the problems an unacceptable too many families face everyday, I hope more folks will continue to share recipes that don’t require a full pay check to pay for at your local organic food store.
Coriander Spiced Lentils:
(1.5) cups green or brown lentils
(3) cups water
(2-3) tbsp olive or vegetable oil
(2) tsp whole coriander seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle and set aside (or use ground coriander)
(1) tsp cumin seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle (or ground cumin)
(1/4) tsp black mustard seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle (optional)
(4-6) cloves fresh garlic, minced
(1) fresh lemon
(1) tsp salt, or to taste
Butter or ghee to finish (optional)
Start by combining the lentils and water in a medium pot with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to medium, and keep the lentils simmering with the lid just ajar until soft, adding more water as necessary to keep the lentils moist (but not runny). Add the ground coriander to the lentils as they cook. Once you put up the lentils and they are simmering, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the ground cumin, mustard seeds, and chopped garlic and cook, until fragrant for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add this mixture to the pot of cooking lentils & coriander as it is ready. The whole cooking process will be about 30-40 minutes and should produce cooked lentils that are a thick, ‘mashable’ consistency without needing draining.
When the lentils are cooked, add the juice of one lemon (or to taste) and season with salt and optional butter or ghee. Set aside until ready to serve. To reheat, simply add more water as necessary to attain the desired consistency and warm on the stove a few minutes until hot.
The Chapatis or Indian Flat Bread:
(1) cup whole wheat flour
(1) cup white all purpose flour
(1) tsp salt
(3/4-1) cup hot water from the tap
up to (1/4) cup olive or vegetable oil for cooking
This recipe is so unbelievably easy and fun to make I can’t believe it took me 20 years of living out of the house to make them. At literally pennies per wrap, this one recipe fed our family of six well for many many years. Use freshly ground flour if you can find it, it makes a world of difference. Start by mixing the two flours in a large bowl and adding the salt. With your hands as your mixers, add the pre-measured warm water with one hand while mixing in with your other hand until you get a sticky round ball of dough. Next, prepare a lightly floured surface and turn the dough out from the bowl. This is the fun part, and if you are looking for an arm workout, you are in the right place (now I know how my dad stayed so ripped all those years). Knead the dough roughly, using more flour as needed, for as long as you can muster, pounding it hard with your fists to release the gluten in the flour. The better job you do, the better the end result, keep in mind I am a brutal kneader and my chapatis still turned out great. Yours will too 🙂
Once you have sufficiently roughed up the dough (about 10 minutes if you make it that far), shape it into an oblong shape with your hands. Break off golf ball sized pieces of dough and roll them into round balls as best you can. With a rolling pin, roll them out as thinly as possible using the same floured work surface, doing your best to make circle-like shapes (this part will take a few tries). Personally, I like them like I like my pizza dough – beautifully irregular. Roll until they are all ready. Prepare the olive oil and a pastry brush and set beside the cooking station. To cook, heat a large flat frying pan on high until water sizzles on contact. Drop the rolled chapatis one at a time and cook as follows: heat on the first side for 20 seconds, then flip over and (very) lightly brush with olive oil, cook for about 30 seconds pushing down hard in the center with your spatula – you will see air pockets rising up in the dough as it cooks, a very good sign! Flip and press, adding a small amount of oil to the other side so they are both lightly oiled, and cook for a total of two minutes all in, until you have a spotted, puffed up flatbread that makes you proud!
Repeat until all are cooked. If serving right away, cover the chapatis with foil or a clean tea towel to keep warm. They can also be covered in foil and kept hot in the oven at 300 degrees or so until ready to eat. For leftovers, simply heat in the microwave, or my fave, warmed right over a gas heating element on the stove.
To serve, do as we did (or do as you like but this is so delicious). Grate some carrots, which are always available and are always cheap, and get some enzyme rich alfalfa sprouts – grow your own – or buy them at your local grocer. Make a delicious sauce, such as this easy cilantro sauce (a new one is coming soon), or your favourite hot sauce (like my dad did). Layer the hot spiced lentils over the warm chapatis, and top with grated carrots, sprouts, and sauce. Wrap up burrito style and enjoy. Maybe say grace either out loud or to yourself before you do too. After all, aren’t we are all so blessed to have good food on the table every day? Leftover chapatis can be used in all manner of ways: for quesadillas, wrapped up with butter and jam and cut into bite-sized pieces, or used as a pizza base layer for kids to enjoy.