Cooking for a crowd

The more I learn about the mainstream food supply, the least I want my family to eat from it. As a mother, I am conscious about creating healthy eating habits and raising children who are healthy in mind and body. For years now, I have been striving to cook from scratch using real ingredients and avoid heavily processed foods. Avoiding processed food is a challenge especially when it comes to school lunches: the need for speed and convenience, both at the assembly and intake levels, tend to trump my best laid plans. It doesn’t help when the teachers consider a jello cup with sad pieces of peaches a “healthy snack” but not a homemade baked oatmeal bar. My eyes rolled so far, I almost injured my shoulder blades.

While in my previous job, I had the opportunity to read briefing material on the raising, transport and slaughter of meat animals. I became increasingly concerned about the ethics and morality of participating in the meat-supply system. Not only for health reasons but also as a Christian: in Christian ethics, man was given dominion over the animals. In exchange for the proteins, we are expected to be good stewards of God’s creation and I am not convinced that we are living up to the task. I dream of the day when I can source all my family’s food to healthy and ethical agriculture, but as the 100-mile diet enters yuppydom, our family of 10 simply cannot keep-up with the double-employed with 1/4 of the children families. We need more vitamins than a $6.99 8-oz crate of local organic strawberries can provide. A Lot More.

Since I couldn’t beat one or join the other, I decided to reduce our family’s meat intake significantly. In the long run, I am hoping to reduce it to a point where we can afford to buy a few local, grass-fed carcasses and store them in the freezer. Learning to cook vegetarian has been a growth experience: after 17 years of feeding my family a certain way, I had to re-think most of my cooking habits and reflexes. I quickly fell into a rut and my children grit their teeth and waited for this “new thing” to be over. But I was not to be so easily defeated! I asked for vegetarian cook book suggestions from my friends and found two pearls on Amazon’s used books service (why pay $34 when you can pay $5.30?): The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd and Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emonds.

No more excuses!

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd is a restaurant’s cookbook with restaurant’s serving sizes: it makes soup by the gallon, which is exactly what I need to feed my family and freeze some leftovers. As I am writing now, I am making a few gallons (how many litres is that?) of vegetable stock ad the house smells heavenly.

The first recipe I tried from Vegetarian Planet was the Thai Tofu with red curry sauce. The recipe has nothing red or containing curry in its ingredient list. I kept feeling like the it would be a disaster somehow but it turned out wonderfully tasty and delicious. The children – against all hope – loved it. The coconut rice with scallions (rice cooked with water and a can of coconut milk) was amazing and even my non-rice-lover loved it.

Thai Tofu and coconut rice with scallions

The second recipe I tried from Vegetarian Planet was equally delicious although my younger children decided not to like it. I made the Deep Dish Pumpkin and Potato Pie. Since I had run out of cheese, I added 2 eggs to the mix to allow it to set. While it was very tasty and fulfilling, the children felt defrauded because it was not a pumpkin pie as advertized. Sad. They declared it a waste of a pumpkin although I am almost certain that they hardly tasted it.

Deep Dish Pumpkin and Potato Pie
Deep Dish Pumpkin and Potato Pie

All in all, the children still insist that they must have steak every day to stave off decrepitude. But having tasty vegetarian recipes on hand sure is making the transition to a less-meat-centered diet more pleasant. Tonight, we are having French Onion soup…. I bet nobody will complain about that one!