a recipe box for all

Cooking for people with allergies and eating preferences can be extremely confusing. It is made all the worse when it is complicated by layering multiple people and preferences together. Before you know it, it's a big hot sticky mess with no flavor whatsoever.

It is exactly this kind of layering that I deal with on a near constant basis living in a food-centric and often naturopathic city with plenty of food needs of my own. My favorite challenge so far? A vegetarian, vegan, paleo dinner party.  Yes, some of those diets are almost exact opposites. Somehow we pulled it off. Not without a fair amount of stressing out, but we did it. As I continue to cook for loved ones, friends, and family with varying needs, I came to the conclusion that something needed to change and I certainly didn't want it to be people coming over for dinner. I want to always be able to say "yes! come!" o matter who they are or what they need to avoid eating. But, I also don't want to tear my hair out.

My solution? A new recipe box system.

recipe box | seekthewelfare

What I wanted to accomplish
A box filled with delicious recipes where each clearly communicates the allergens inside and where anyone can pick up a single card or collection of recipes and know instantly whether they contain common allergens.

How it works

First, I wrote a key card. It lists diets and styles of eating in a color code along the top edge with a notch to mark where it is. The key card also shows where the recipe title goes, how to tell if there are notes on the back, and a code for how long the recipe takes to make.

Next, I started writing the recipe cards themselves. Once the recipe is written, I write in the restrictions it complies with along the top using the key card for placement. Once I have the holes notched, they are easy to identify. Once a second card is finished, all you have to do is hold them up together to see what restrictions they both follow.

How to use it
Say I have a vegan and a sugar free friend coming over for tea. All I need to do is pick recipes out to create a menu, line them all up, and look to make sure that both the "vegan" notch and the "sugar free" notch are punched on every card. It's as simple as that.

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I have also created individual cards for people who come to my home frequently with notches in the proper places for what they avoid. That way, I don't have to always be asking them what they can and cannot have...I can simply pull out their card and check recipes against it.

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Yes, this solution does take time but onmygoodness has it paid off, even just for weekly meals for roommate and myself.

If you do nothing else, find a place to collect all of your recipes in one place. Suddenly I get to browse through favorite childhood recipes  all the way to the new soup we created last week. Before I know it I've got five I know we'll love and I can easily toss in one or two that we still have yet to try.


exploring oils

This past summer, after wandering through some of the world's most vibrant collections of oil paintings and getting to see the real depth and texture of the impressionist's work, I began to explore oils.

exploring oils | seekthewelfare

Every Monday for five weeks I rode a short bus to a nearby academy and spent three (too-short) hours learning how, in many ways, that oil painting is the exact opposite discipline from my familiar watercolors. Darkest first, go slow, be generous with your colors, your drawing is important but not that important as you might think... it was somewhat like turning my head inside out every time I touched the canvas. Difficult, uncomfortable, unfamiliar. Yet, by the end of each session, after hours of scrutiny and self-doubt, I would discover something beautiful on the canvas, as if I had nothing to do with putting it there. I'm still not fully convinced that I do.

exploring oils | seekthewelfare

I dearly loved the structure of the class with our teaching artist showing and guiding us in his style and his choices, especially when I felt like my head seemed filled with a pile of unfolded laundry as I looked at unfamiliar tools and strange color combinations.

Now that the class is over, I find myself with a box of paint, a few full canvases, a few empty ones, and a growing excitement to forge off to discover what these blank canvases will become.

With a much better understanding of all the mistakes I can make (and a handful of solutions) I just need to dive in on my own, break some of the "rules" and see what happens. 

Now to find the table space and some time...

exploring oils | seekthewelfare

remember

Every moment feels like all of the energy from a frenzied week packed into one small classroom. And then all of a sudden there is a snapshot of quiet in front of me. I have found that taking those brief seconds of calm and focusing on their minute details helps me lengthen them out, take a rest, and re-establish my own calm.

remember | seekthewelfare

This calm must come from my voice, my face, my hands, and my touch, consistent, predictable, expected, no matter how many people are lying distracted on the ground or screaming in bursts of disappointment. It needs to come no matter how much I wish I could join them.

It's a calm that I have learned to foster and care for and a calm that these little humans that I spend my time with don't know how to find on their own yet. Imagine how terrifying life would be without the ability to stop crying...without the understanding that life moves forward into tomorrow...that mistakes in math aren't permanent marks of shame.

Such deep truths and such tiny bodies to hold them. I can barely believe such truths myself and so I stop and watch, listening as they walk through the rain hand in hand, their voices muffled by rain coats and jacket hoods.


grilled cheese tomato soup

Fall has hit strong this year...from one day to the next the air went crisp and the leaves started swirling. Suddenly everything seems to burrow, searching for hidden warmth and companionship. I want to join in and find myself wearing thick socks, staying indoors all day without guilt, and cooking the new foods with its fall smells and textures...orange, cinnamon, quiet laughter. One particular joy at this time of year is the end of summer produce melding into the beginning of winter heardiness. So here is a Parmesan tomato soup for you to try. Think of a rich and creamy tomato soup with the grilled cheese stirred right in. Also, perks of not having to clean the griddle.

grilled cheese tomato soup | seekthewelfare

PARMESAN TOMATO SOUP
serves 4

1 stalk celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 onion, fine diced

saute until just browning and fragrant

6 (28 oz) diced tomatoes

add, cook 5 minutes

1 t dried oregano
1/2 c+ fresh basil, chopped
4 c broth
1/2 bay leaf

add, bring to a boil, simmer until all is soft and thickened (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Blend until smooth in a strong blender. Return to pot.

1/4-1/2 c butter
2 c almond/cashew/coconut milk
1 c grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste

stir in until all is melted. Warm to eating temperature. Serve warm.


Yoga for travelers

While in Paris last April and May, it felt as though everything was coming at me all at once from every direction. If you've done any long-term travel I'm sure you understand the feeling. There is so much good and so much difference and so many expectations that it's easy to clam up into an anxious ball. I certainly have to fight against the impulse.

yoga for travelers | seekthewelfare

Something I tried to remind myself to do in those moments was to stretch, breathe, and go through a few comforting yoga positions to ease the tension in my muscles as well as ease the tension in my mind. From days with miles on miles of walking cobbled streets to sleeping every night on a less-than-ideal pull-out couch, there was plenty to work on.

Even the simple act of sitting quietly to determine what in my body needed attention proved helpful all on its own.

walking for miles on miles
sore calves & shins
     -- half splits left and right, up and down.
     -- standing forward bend
     -- one-legged v-splits
sore feet
     -- downward dog moving your feet
     -- cobbler's pose while massaging the bridge of your feet
     -- sitting with your feet under your hips, goes against the floor, heel extended upright

unfamiliar bed
sore neck
     -- mountain pose
     -- child's pose
     -- ear to shoulder neck rolls

heavy bags
sore back
     -- cobra pose
     -- thread the needle pose
     -- lie with your legs up the wall and breathe deeply
sore shoulders
     -- shoulder rolls
     -- cat cow pose
     -- arms pulled across your chest

unfamiliar food
unhappy stomach
     -- knees hugged to your chest, rock back and forth
     -- spinal two leg twist
     -- forward bend, sway back and forth