Thanks for joining us on our healthy living journey. Today marks Day Two of The Great Pantry Challenge. To be honest, this whole eating out of the pantry thing has not been hard at all so far. I was expecting to be mopey and have major withdrawals for my weekly Trader Joe's run. Sure, it's only day two, but already I'm discovering I have so much more food than I thought I had when I originally made my careful menu plans last Thursday. (It's amazing what joy a small bag of dried black beans discovered in my freezer can bring!)
One of the main reasons we are in plenty instead of want is because we have family and friends who continue to share with us. My mother-in-law had extra grapes and almonds from a Valley farmer who goes to her office. My mom decided to get creative in her baking and then shared a bread made in her bread maker. For lunch, we invited our friends the Freelands over. They are also doing this Pantry Challenge. They shared extra pizza ingredients for a second flatbread. Sure, they have five kids but our food supply wasn't really depleted when we considered what they shared and the great feeling one gets when sharing fellowship around the table. This evening another couple shared with us a bag of organic raisins from the farmer's market because they couldn't make it through their abundance.
Unbelievable. Mind you, I never solicited food from friends or family members; they just happened to have extras to share. Most of them don't even know we are doing this challenge. Imagine what would happen if people decided to share the abundance we have in the city of Fresno with the homeless. What about sharing the abundance we have in the United States with other countries that are experiencing food crises? Could be revolutionary. I have this feeling this week is going to teach me a lot more than just how I can save a few pennies eating out of my pantry.
Ok, on to dinner. One of the items I discovered when menu planning was a box of whole wheat lasagna noodles. I decided to dig out a recipe I created last winter and try it again with what I had on hand. First, I had to consider the sauce. I didn't have any tomatoes (fresh or canned) so I had to use two cans of organic tomato sauce instead. That was easy enough. I also substituted sliced zucchini from lunch for the mushrooms and chopped swiss chard instead of the purple kale. We didn't have ricotta cheese or anything really close so we tried the lasagna without it. The result was a really yummy entree. The most amazing part of the meal is that my parents joined us and my carnivore of a father actually gobbled up two slices of my mom's homemade wheat bread and two servings of lasagna and then said, "I'm full!" He didn't even realize he had just eaten a mean VEGETARIAN lasagna. Mangia! Mangia!
Don't worry meat-eaters: we have no intentions of going totally vegetarian. Over the last two years we have taken " baby steps" to eating more healthy. We have seriously amped up our daily intake of vegetables and fruits and taken our carnivore tendencies down a notch but we still eat meat. We are just attempting a vegetarian meal once or twice a week to save money, clean out our systems and fight the bad guys (sickness and disease). I like to think of it as a part of prevention rather than paying the big bucks in doctor bills and meds later.
A Note from our Nutrition Guy (aka my Hubby):
What a lot of people don't realize is that our bodies need foods that are filled with nutrients, not just calories. For example, a bowl of raspberries and a bowl of Oreo cookies may have the same amount of calories but the amount of nutrients they contain are drastically different. Nutrients provide more than just energy; they also fight the diseases and chemicals we encounter daily in our environment.
Raw leafy greens have the highest nutrient density of any food. Our family tries to incorporate a serving of raw leafy greens in our menu each day. They are kind of like the superheroes of food. Examples include Swiss chard, kale, spinach, collards, parsley, romaine and more. In this day an age, you don't need to do it Popeye-style and force down a can of spinach. Instead think of creative ways you can incorporate leafy greens in your regular meals. We sneak a handful of greens in our morning smoothies, chop and add them to soups and layer them in lasagnas. Then, of course, there's always the classic salad option.
*Today's featured recipe was created in the kitchen using what we had on hand. I've seen lots of chefs do a kind of zucchini appetizer or pizza like this but I wanted to try for a new crust. After reading several recipes, I put together this one which incorporates spelt flour for added nutrition. The dough was surprisingly tender and easy to make. And the whole ordeal is quite cheap but elegant enough for a fancy holiday party.
Zucchini-Garlic Flat Breads Makes 2 flat breads, 9-inch diameter Ingredients:
Crust: -3 cups unbleached flour (Trader Joe's chemical-free brand) -1/2 cup spelt flour (bought in bulk from Winco) -1/2 teaspoon quick-rising active dry yeast -1 teaspoon honey -2 tablespoons olive oil -2 teaspoons sea salt
1. Combine all crust ingredients in a heavy duty mixer (like Kitchenaid). Using dough hook, mix together on low speed until dough comes together and away from the sides of the bowl (approximately 2 minutes). 2. Remove hook and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for 20 minutes. 3. Reattach dough hook and beat dough for 5 minutes. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise for 1 hour until dough puffs. 4. Divide dough in half. Refrigerate for later or roll out on a floured pizza pan or stone. 5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, add toppings to flatbread dough. 6. Bake approximately 10-15 minutes or until dough is golden brown and cheese is melted. 7. Serve plain, cut into wedges or drizzle with a favorite sauce like honey mustard or Goddess dressing.