• Coconut Milk Curry |emilywavering.com
  • Spinach Smoothie | emilywavering.com
  • Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies | emilywavering.com
  • Better-Late-Than-Never Chocolate Cupcakes | emilywavering.com
  • Thanksgiving Sandwich | emilywavering.com
  • Rosemary Olive Oil Bread | emilywavering.com

Latest

Je voudrais un croissant.

Want to know why I haven’t posted in a while? Because between finishing up my first year of grad school and prepping for my second year, I’ve been pulling everything together for a summer abroad! I’ll be spending the next 3 months interning at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva, Switzerland, and so I’ll be shifting the topics of my posts a smidge; you can expect some travel updates sprinkled in with my posts, and Swiss chocolate and cheese will probably become my favorite things to post about.

So, armed with the French vocabulary of a carb-loving 2-year-old and a bursting with excitement for the road ahead, it’s time for this adventure to begin!

Policy Post // SNAP Challenge // Week Two

A lot of things have happened since Part One of my SNAP Challenge. A lot, a lot, a lot, including the passage of the new farm bill, which was signed by President Obama last month. The bill cut the SNAP program (that’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or the food stamp program) by $8 billion over the next 10 years — a compromise between the $40 billion cuts sought by Republicans and the $4 billion cuts sought by Democrats.

Back here in my kitchen, Week Two of my SNAP challenge was a week of classic staples — beans, rice, greens, carrots, mushrooms. A big batch of coconut milk curry was my main dinner staple for the week. Loaded up with white beans, kale, mushrooms and onions and served with white rice, it was good comfort food, but I’ll admit that stretching it through the week meant skimping on portions.

Coconut Milk Curry | emilywavering.com

Coconut Milk Curry |emilywavering.com

Coconut Milk Curry | emilywavering.com

For a second week I was able to get within my SNAP budget, but as was the case in Week One, that budget meant no coffee, no treats, no dinners out. Very small sacrifices to be sure, but they were missed, which yes, says a lot about my own privilege. I’ll have a follow-up post to talk more about SNAP, but my initial thoughts after this little experiment are:

1. It’s possible to eat pretty well within the budgetary constraints of SNAP, at least if you’re a single female with no special dietary needs and no children to feed.

2. The dollar value of SNAP benefits is pretty low, but it is, after all, a supplemental program. SNAP benefits are not meant to be the entire food budget for an individual or family. But how many people use it as a supplement, and how many use it as their sole source of funding for food?

3. It’s possible to a fairly well-balanced, nutritional diet within the budgetary constraints of SNAP — I think. But I’m no nutritionist, and nutrition is an increasingly complex subject, especially in our current food landscape of chemical alteration and genetic modification. Are people in the SNAP program properly informed about nutrition? Are any of us average consumers properly informed about nutrition? Doubt it, for the vast majority of people.

I’ll leave you on that note. Do I have lots of questions? Yep! Do I have any answers? Nope! Do I have a lot more research to do? You betcha. But I think I’ll go eat a bowl of curry while I mull things over.

Coconut Curry

Ingredients:
1 can coconut milk [go ahead, get the full-fat stuff]
2 Tbsp Madras curry powder
2 Tbsp water
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Whatever fixins you like in your curry: white beans, chickpeas, kale, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes…
Pepper and cumin for additional seasoning
White rice, for serving

Directions:
Before you start on the curry, get to cooking your rice, so they’re done at the same time. Once your rice is happily cooking away, sauté your garlic, onion, and additional fixins; once they’re just underdone, set them aside in a bowl. Then, add the 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of curry powder to the heated pan and stir into a paste. Add additional pepper and/or cumin to taste, if you’re so inclined. As soon as you have your paste, add the coconut milk to the pan and stir. Once the coconut milk is a lovely golden color, add your sautéed fixins, and turn the heat up to high. When the curry starts to simmer, turn it down to medium low and cover the pan. Let it cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in a big ol’ bowl over the rice!

Policy Post // SNAP Challenge // Grocery Shopping

$27.25. All of my groceries for this week came to $27.25, falling just under my $31.50 SNAP Challenge budget. That $27.25 got me all the food in the picture below – a good amount (and HEAVY, because of all the cans!), but I’m skeptical about it lasting me through the week.

SNAP Challenge Food | emilywavering.com

SNAP Challenge Receipt | emilywavering.com
{Receipt proof that I stuck to the budget!}

The contents of my grocery basket didn’t change much from my usual basket, but there were some glaring absences. Coffee and spices, for example, were out of the question. Not necessities, I know, but I’ll miss them. I focused on buying things that I could use in a variety of ways, like spinach (for salads, smoothies and sautéing), and canned pineapple (fruit for snacks, juice for smoothies). My post-grocery shopping snack, in fact, was a spinach smoothie sweetened with the extra pineapple juice from a can of pineapple and a banana.

Spinach Smoothie | emilywavering.com

But my dinner – a pasta frittata recipe from my friends at USDA – was not the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It was (is, actually – there’s still 3/4 of it left to be eaten) really bland, really boring, and kind of weirdly crunchy. I paired it with some roasted brussels sprouts, and called it a dinner, but there was something unsatisfying about the whole thing. I have a feeling that that sense of dissatisfaction will dominate my relationship with food for the next couple of weeks.

SNAP Challenge Dinner | emilywavering.com
{Look at the sprouts, not the frittata. The sprouts were tasty, the frittata was not.}

I felt rather triumphant leaving the grocery store – Budgeting ain’t so hard!, I thought –  but just 24 hours later, I’m getting nervous. I bought a little less food than I normally do, and I usually rely on a dinner out during the course of a week. Thinking about my food for the week is adding a rather unexpected level of stress, and I only have myself to worry about. I can handle my own grumbling stomach when I know I have to budget my food, but what if I had a child?

Policy Post // SNAP Challenge

As Congress inches closer and closer to passing the farm bill, it looks likely that funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, for short, or food stamps, if you prefer) will be cut by approximately $9 billion; this figure would be a compromise between the $40 billion cuts championed by Republicans and the $4 billion cuts championed by Democrats. Congressional leadership has recently indicated a renewed focus on passing the long-overdue farm bill, so hopefully, we’ll get an answer on the state of SNAP spending by the end of January.

While we wait for the Congress to compromise and cut deals to get the farm bill through, I wanted to get a more practical understanding of SNAP, and so, enter the SNAP Challenge. The “SNAP Challenge” is an initiative primarily championed by the Food and Action Research Center that gained a great deal of media attention right around the beginning of 2013, when two dozen Democrats pledged to restrict their individual food budget to $4.50 per day based on the reported average benefits that SNAP participants receive.

I’ll spend two weeks following the guidelines of the challenge, and since I do my grocery shopping on Thursdays, my challenge will go from January 23 to February 6. Over those two weeks…

1. My total per-week food budget will be $31.50 (that’s $4.50 per day, or about $1.50 per meal).
2. I’ll only purchase things that are authorized for purchase with SNAP benefits; no alcohol, no meals from restaurants, etc.
3. I won’t use any food that I purchased pre-challenge, or accept any free food (I’m thinking this rule will be he hardest to follow).

In addition, I have a couple of self-imposed rules that I’m going to follow:

1. I’m going to make a concerted effort to plan flavorful meals that don’t skimp on nutrition, because I want to see just how far $4.50 a day can go.
2. I’ll spend the first week using recipes from the SNAP-Ed recipe database, just to get a feel for how the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends spending SNAP benefits. I’ll go rogue the second week, and make up my own recipes, based on what worked (and what don’t) in the first week.

I’ll be using some of these questions posed by Feeding America to guide posts about my SNAP Challenge, and I’ll keep a thorough record of what I buy, what I make, and how much it costs.

Thanks in advance for following along, and I’m now accepting any and all cheap (and nutritious!) recipe ideas that you have!

Warm N’ Gooey Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Last week, my younger brother crashed our family’s unicycle into our water heater.

Yep, you read that correctly.

Our family has a unicycle (a present to my older brother many Christmases ago), which usually lives quietly in the basement and does no harm. But last week, my brother was riding the thing, it shot out from under him, and it crashed into the water heater with the biggest BANG you’ve ever heard. Naturally, it hit the heater juuust right, and knocked off a vital valve. And just like that, no more hot water for the Wavering family.

Fortunately, my father is a wise, crafty man (read: engineer) who jerry-rigged the water heater so that we only had to endure one bitter morning of freezing showers. The day that the whole polar vortex business began, he took off work to properly fix the water heater, but, in the saddest, coldest, cruelest twist of fate, he had to turn off the heat to make the necessary repairs. Earmuffs and parkas for all!

In true Laura Ingalls Wilder style, my mom and I decided to use the oven to heat the house while Pa fixed the water heater. (We might have been looking for an excuse to bake cookies. Post-Christmas cookie withdrawal has been rough, and some warm n’ gooey oatmeal cranberry cookies were in order.)Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies | emilywavering.com

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies | emilywavering.com

Perfectly crunchy on the outside, delightfully soft on the inside, plenty of butter to help me build a layer of cold-busting blubber. Everything I could ask for from a simple little cookie.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies | emilywavering.com

I’m happy to report that our hot water water heater is in full working order once again :) And honestly, if you’ve never tried riding a unicycle before, I highly recommend it. But for the sake of all involved, please, please keep it away from your water heater.

Warm N’ Gooey Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 & 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried cranberries and/or raisins

Directions:
Mix butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla together. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Mix until just blended. Add oats about 1 cup at a time and mix until blended. Fold in dried cranberries. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Just until edges start to turn golden.

[Recipe adapted from a plethora of oatmeal raisin cookie recipes found on Recipes.com.]

2014 Goals // January

January Goals | emilywavering.com

In the spirit of a fresh flip of the calendar, I decided to jump on board with something that Haley over at The Tiny Twig is doing. I loved her January goals post, especially this bit:

“[Goals are] the direction I’m aiming and a firmer declaration of the ideas and hopes God has put on my heart. They are not resolutions, they are not be-all-and-end-alls. No way. My goals are held with a super loose hand, and I know that I’ll pivot and abandon and move towards the better that God has for me in 2014.”

So good. Perfect articulation of so many thoughts I’ve had bouncing around in my brain.

I’d like to make this goal-setting business a monthly thing for 2014 (a resolution in and of itself, I know), but they’ll all be little things. My post-undergrad life is positively riddled with big goals, little goals, and goals that change on a daily basis – this will be a nice way for me to focus on things other than my aspirations for school/career/the future and all its mysterious glory.

So here are three little things I’ve had bouncing around in my head for a while  – I’m not a procrastinator by nature, but I’ve procrastinated on these things for one reason or another. But no more!

January Goals

1. Pick one week in January to do the SNAP Challenge.
2. Maintain a blog post schedule, and get into the habit of doing two recipes posts and two policy posts per month.
3. Watch Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanized. [I bought all three Hustwit documentaries back in October and have yet to watch them…eish.]

What three little goals are you making for January?

Better-Late-Than-Never Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes

Hello to you, and hello to 2014!

A bit of absentmindedness in mid-December left me without my laptop charger for the last bit of 2013 (hence, a lack of blog posts), but that same absentmindedness meant less time on my laptop and more time with my goofy family – so all in all, a blessing in disguise. I hope you had the coziest holiday imaginable, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus!

I’ve been sitting on this cupcake recipe for a good while, and I’ll warn you now – these are pretty indulgent cupcakes. You might want to quietly tuck any salad-and-water New Year’s resolutions away in a closet somewhere, just long enough for you to make these cupcakes, eat one (maybe two), and pawn ‘em off on any unsuspecting relatives still hanging around. Without further ado, I present: Better-Late-Than-Never Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes!

It starts, as always, with a story. Way back in mid-September, one of my roommates – Yishi, an exchange student from China – pulled me aside to ask, “Emily, why do you all bake so much?” My other two (American) roommates and I had gotten into the habit of leaving baked goods aplenty out on the kitchen table with a little “Help Yourself” sign, and I think Yishi was a bit alarmed by the confections piling up.

I then proceeded to explain “stress baking” to Yishi, and was met with the sweetest look of concern and horror. I saw her eyes flick to the plates of uneaten cookies and muffins, and could see a thought dawning on her – Are ALL THREE of my roommates on the verge of mental breakdowns? The absurdity of it hit me then, claiming to my lovely roommate, a non-native English speaker tackling law school, that stress was causing me to bake. I do lots of things to cope with stress – I run (not very far), I do yoga (in my pajamas, usually), I call my mama (always while I’m walking back from class), I scribble in my journal (sporadically, when insomnia and stress strike together), and I cry into my pillow (as a last resort) – but I don’t bake to deal with stress. I bake to express joy, to amplify my happiness, and to spread love. Mostly, I bake to have a one-woman kitchen dance party.

Since that conversation with Yishi, I’ve come to dislike the term “stress baking,” simply because stress is not something I want to associate with baking. This cupcake recipe was created for a friend’s birthday, and although the timing coincided with the beginning of final exam crunch time, I’d like you to know – it wasn’t stress baking, it was celebration baking!

The cake I used for these cupcakes is a variation of a pretty standard chocolate cake recipe. The fun came when I stuffed the cupcakes with Trader Joe’s Cookie & Cocoa Swirl Butter and topped them with chocolate ganache.

Better-Late-Than-Never Chocolate Cupcakes | emilywavering.com

The cupcakes, pre-stuffing and ganache.

Better-Late-Than-Never Chocolate Cupcakes | emilywavering.com

I believe in quality control :)

Better-Late-Than-Never Chocolate Cupcakes | emilywavering.com

I stuffed the cupcakes by mashing the center down with the end of a wooden spoon – this had the added benefit of making the bottom of the cupcake denser and better suited for supporting cookie butter. Make sure the cookie butter is very securely stuffed into the cupcake before dipping it into the ganache, or you’ll soon have cookie butter swimming in ganache (granted, that’s a very happy mistake to make).

Happy cupcake-ing, and cheers to a brand new year!

Better-Late-Than-Never Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:
3 cups sugar
3 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 flax seed eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Enough Cookie Butter to stuff 24 cupcakes (about half a jar).

[For the ganache]
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin cups with paper liner. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and 1 1/2 cups warm water; whisk to combine. Then add the eggs and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth.

2. Divide the batter among muffin cups (filling each about 2/3 full) and bake about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks, 5 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to racks and let cool completely.

3. While the cupcakes are baking, make the ganache: heat the heavy cream until it is just boiling, then take it off the heat, and stir in the chocolate chips. Stir continually until the chocolate chips have all melted, then stir in the vanilla and salt. Allow the ganache to cool completely, then chill briefly until the ganache is thick, but not yet solid.

4. Prepare your assembly area; gather the cupcakes, a wooden spoon, a teaspoon, the cookie butter, and the ganache in a wide bowl. Take a cupcake, press down the center with the end of the wooden spoon, then use the teaspoon to scoop cookie butter into the cupcake. Dip the cupcake into the ganache, or alternatively, drizzle the ganache over the cupcake. Repeat with each cupcake, and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Sandwich

Once upon a muggy Maine August, I ate a game-changing sandwich. It was at a nothing-special deli in a run-down town somewhere between Bar Harbor, ME and the great American hinterlands of the north. I was on vacation with my family, and we were reaching that point in the day when touristy delight is quashed by raging hunger pangs – the deli was an “I don’t care where we eat, but I want food in my stomach now” sort of group decision.

The deli was clean, and it was nice, and it had some funky sandwich combinations that left me feeling good about our restaurant decision. But then I bit into my sandwich and my feelings about the deli shot from good to great. That first bite had it all – the crunch of a toasted wheat baguette followed by the sweet tang of cranberry sauce mixed with honey-roasted turkey and rounded off with a lovely note of creamy pesto mayo. It was all the perfect flavors of Thanksgiving in one bite (and in August, when the flavors of Thanksgiving are usually nowhere to be found). Excuse me while I go wipe the drool off of my chin.

Three entire pages of my journal are devoted to the food I ate in Maine on that vacation, and sitting proudly in the center of the second page is a detailed diagram of the Thanksgiving sandwich. Every component is there, with the proper sandwich layer order recorded, and a little note – “Please, future self, find a way to replicate this sandwich.”

Thanksgiving Sandwich | emilywavering.com

I decided to switch up my version of the Thanksgiving sandwich just a smidge. I used toasted rosemary olive oil bread, added some baked sweet potato (remember my obsession with sweet potatoes?), and used a Thanksgiving chickpea salad instead of turkey. But the Thanksgiving sandwich is very open to personal improvisation, and it is, of course, the perfect opportunity to use up those beautiful Thanksgiving leftovers in your fridge.

Thanksgiving Sandwich | emilywavering.com
(Putting it all together!)

Thanksgiving Sandwich | emilywavering.com
(The final, majestic product.)

Thanksgiving Sandwich | emilywavering.com

Someday I’ll return to the great northern wild, find that deli again, and feast on Thanksgiving sandwiches. But until then, this version will do quite nicely :)

Thanksgiving Sandwich

Ingredients:
2 thick slices of rosemary olive oil bread, toasted
2 Tbsp cranberry sauce (you can use canned or homemade, depending on your preference. I used this recipe.)
2 Tbsp pesto (Again, buy or make, whichever you prefer. I used the classic pesto recipe from The Joy of Cooking.)
Thanksgiving chickpea salad (See recipe below.)
2 slices of baked sweet potato
A couple leaves of fresh spinach

Directions:
I trust that you know how to assemble a sandwich. From the ground up, it’s cranberry sauce, sweet potato, chickpea salad, spinach, pesto. And enjoy!

Thanksgiving Chickpea Salad

Note: This is best made a day or two before sandwich assembly so that all the flavors can meld together.

Ingredients:
1 can of chickpeas
2 Tbsp. tahini
3/4 C. celery, chopped
1/2 C. red apple, chopped
1/4 C. white onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
A sprinkle of salt and more than a sprinkle of black pepper

Directions:
1. Mix the chickpeas, celery, apple and onion together in a large bowl. Add the tahini and mix until everything is well-covered in tahini.

2. Season with the sage, thyme, salt and pepper, and mix it all around again. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it!

Policy Post // Homeless Purges

Happy Thanksgiving! On this glorious day of food, family and friends, I wanted to bring attention to a great Huffington Post blog post written by David Tereshchuk that I read a couple of days ago. The post begins, and I quote:

“It’s a long-standing media tradition, and not just among the BHLM (“bleeding-heart-liberal-media”) to mark Thanksgiving by paying some attention — be it sincere or merely dutiful — to those citizens who clearly don’t have a lot to be thankful for…It’s devoted, though, not so much to the homeless themselves … as to a spreading phenomenon that involves them (is aimed at them, to be blunt about it) in mid-sized American cities from Tampa to Seattle. A phenomenon that has so far generated insufficient media coverage nationally.”

The phenomenon to which Tereshchuk refers are local ‘purges’ of the homeless – actions by state and local governments that further marginalize the homeless by discouraging their presence in downtown areas. Most commonly, local governments are discouraging, or even criminalizing, food distribution to the homeless by charity groups. A recent study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty showed that about 200 cities across the U.S. are currently using this strategy to discourage the homeless from spending time in open, public places.

So, why? Well, the U.S. economy is on a slow, steady climb up from the depths of the Great Recession, and some localities don’t think that the presence of homeless citizens jives with the economic confidence they’d like to inspire in their constituents. But instead of crafting smart, compassionate policy to combat the problem itself, these localities are criminalizing aid to the homeless (that’s called taking the easy way out — at an extraordinarily high cost to those who already have next to nothing).

I promise I’ll do some more research on this topic, and write a future post (or two, or lots) about the specifics of this incredibly troubling trend.

Thank you to anyone and everyone out there who’s ever taken the time to read my blog. I hope you and yours have a peaceful and blessed Thanksgiving!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

I have a confession to make: I have absolutely no claim to my very favorite bread recipe in the whole wide world. It’s not a sacred family recipe passed from my grandmother to my mother to me. I didn’t learn it from a wizened old baker named Pierre who only gave me the recipe after I saved his bakery from a blazing fire. I didn’t slave away in my kitchen, testing and tweaking, pounding and punching, until I triumphantly emerged from a cloud of flour holding a perfect, crusty loaf.

Heck, I wasn’t even the one who found the recipe on Pinterest.

That distinction belongs to an ex-boyfriend of mine who made A Hint of Honey’s rosemary olive oil bread a staple of my senior year of college. Such a wonderful, carbo-loaded time, senior year. And now that it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m craving all things fall more than ever, I thought it was time to bring the carbo-glory to grad school and fill my apartment with the delicious smell of rosemary and fresh-baked bread.

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread | emilywavering.com

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread | emilywavering.com

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread | emilywavering.com
(Don’t mind if I do!)

If you’ve never made your own bread before, please try it. It’s not nearly as hard as it seems – make it a Saturday afternoon project, and you’ll have a delicious loaf of bread for the next week (depending on your level of self-control!). Plus, there’s something about kneading and punching dough that’s wonderfully therapeutic :) Enjoy!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water (100-110 F)
1 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (or pinch of each ground garlic, dried oregano, and dried basil)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups whole wheat flour + extra for kneading
1 egg, whisked + 1 Tbsp. water, for egg wash
dried rosemary, for sprinkling

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit 10 minutes to proof.

2. Stir in the salt, rosemary, seasonings, olive oil, and whole wheat flour. Add the bread flour and stir until the dough forms a ball. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until smooth.

3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl; cover; and let rise until doubled in size, about1 hour.

4. Punch down the dough and form it into a round loaf. Place it on a cornmeal dusted pizza peel or parchment paper; cover; and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 F. Once the dough has risen, gently brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with dried rosemary.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Makes 1 round loaf.

(Adapted from Jessie of A Hint of Honey, who adapted the recipe from Laura A. and All Recipes)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers