Minimalist Kitchen or 14 Weeks Without a Full Kitchen

“1-6 weeks and you’ll have your household goods,” so said the moving company. That was 14+ weeks ago, and our goods are somewhere between here and there still with no arrival date, still. In many ways it has been a really nice lesson in minimalism and what household items do we really need and what things are just baggage. (Hint, far more than I’d like to admit is probably just baggage.) Personally, I really want the dryer back and to cook in a well-stocked kitchen again. (We broke down and got a cheap secondhand washer about 4 weeks ago. It’ll be resold when ours arrives. Line drying has been the name of the game here, which would be much easier if it was not 80-99% humidity and/or cloudy/rainy/foggy much of the time.)

That being said, with a fairly limited set of kitchen gear we have been making and eating almost everything we usually do. Currently we have:

a 3 qt pot

a 3 cup pot

an 8 inch skillet

a 2 qt pot that was supposed to be for camping only and doesn’t really have a handle

various supposed to be disposable but we’ve been reusing them aluminum pans

utensils including a ladle, one spatula, a set of measuring spoons and cups, one wooden mixing spoon, a couple knives, flatware etc

2 midsized glass mixing bowls

Honestly, typing it all out it doesn’t feel that minimal, but it sure can while cooking! I tend to find that one of the biggest challenges is reheating things/keeping multiple dishes hot until it’s time to eat. We also don’t have a microwave any longer because in our old apartment it was built in and there wasn’t a built in one here and we decided to not waste the limited counter space on it. Mostly it’s not missed though occasionally it would make things MUCH easier with keeping things at the right temperature. While it’s been a challenge at times to cook with what we have, it IS quite doable, and I also would never have been brave enough to ditch most of our kitchen goods to experiment with minimalism to this extent, so thanks, World’s Worst Moving Company for helping me grow!

Corn Chowder

(So originally, Randy and I decided I would just post recipes with zero background or info, but sometimes I find that I really just want to say something about the recipe. So, while you won’t find gushing tales of things unrelated to the recipe, I will start saying what I want about the recipe at the beginning.

This soup is me trying to recreate a childhood classic – my grandmother’s dump corn chowder. I’ll never achieve it regardless of it being a vegan version or not because it will never quite have that little something that hers did, but I’ll try!)

Saute in 1/4 c oil, 1 diced onion, 1/3 green pepper, 2 cloves garlic, and 2 diced potatoes until the onion is softened. Add 1/2 c flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add in 1/2 c diced tomatoes, 1 can corn, 3 c veg broth, 2 c unsweetened soymilk, 1 t thyme, 1/2 t paprika, 1/4 t black pepper and salt to taste. Cook stirring occasionally until potatoes are done – adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Red Lentil Soup ala Pasha

Heat 1/3 c olive oil in a large soup pot, and saute 3 cloves finely minced garlic. Add in 1 T cumin, 1/2 t paprika, 3 T tomato paste, and 2 c red lentils and saute 2 minutes. Add 6-9 C veg broth (depending on if you want a stew or soup) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 min-2 h ( really you are just doing it at least until the lentils are very soft but doing it longer will make the soup even better). Adjust salt and pepper to taste, then blend most or all of the soup in the blender (depending on how smooth you want the soup to be) then serve with lemon wedges as a dash of lemon really elevates the soup, but the amount of lemon preferred can be quite personal!

It’s been pretty wild of late…

It’s been pretty wild around here of late. On May 13, we loaded up Old Bess (aka the new to us Outback) and left Ohio for good. Randy graduated with his PhD in late April and took a job in…… Canada! (He’s a Canadian citizen.) It was quite a frenzy as my last day of work was April 30 and the moving truck came May 12. Moving is always an intense process but throw in an international component, visa application, and ever shifting c*vid rules and restrictions and it was a hoot and a half.  Thankfully it all came together somehow. (Thank God, thank my parents for watching TD and helping pack, and thank many friends for their help and moral support.)

And so May 13 found us saying bye to the only place we’d lived together and where TD came home to at 2 days old. We had to stop back in upstate NY in the town where we’d met during grad school to drop off library books at the University (they won’t let one graduate with outstanding library loans, understandably), pick up a few things of Randy’s from his office there, and most importantly see old friends there. We got to spend time (though never enough!) with TD’s godparents, see Randy’s godson and his wife, numerous others who are dear to us, and take TD to liturgy at the church where her parents met and where our wedding was. 

Not a bad spot for a picnic in upstate NY

Next we headed further north and east to Boston. Not only was that a convenient stopping point, but we had three dear friends there. We enjoyed Boston and were blessed to see our friends there and introduce TD to more important people in our lives. 

We’d initially planned to go through Maine pretty quickly but with importing Old Bess and needing c*vid tests to enter Canada it became apparent we’d need to spend more time in Maine. Not that that was a hardship in the least! We started in Portland, enjoyed a long walk around the city, saw the most photographed lighthouse in the US, and introduced TD to the Atlantic. She was a surprisingly big fan given how cold it was! 

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park – well worth the visit!

We then headed up to the greater Bangor/Bar Harbor area and visited the city of Bangor forest and bog. HIGHLY recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area. Ohio gave us an appreciation for bogs as there were quite a few nice ones in our area, and we now seek them out when we go places. We made Ellsworth our home base for the next few days and greatly enjoyed our time there.

A sideways view of the bog in Bangor

May 21, late in the evening we entered Canada, spent 2ish hours at the border importing Old Bess, importing *Randy’s* things and getting me a 12 month visitor record. (I’ve applied for permanent residency but it is a long process, so it hadn’t come through by then. However, so long as the border guard could honestly believe that *I* wasn’t moving to Canada, just visiting, it was supposed to be straightforward – Randy (and as it turned out TD) were returning citizens and I was a visitor. Hence all the paperwork for the stuff being imported had to be in his name only, etc. We weren’t sure if TD would be let in as an American or Canadian, but she was let in as a Canadian on the basis of having proof of a Canadian parent. Despite an awful lot of worrying about everything that could go wrong at the border, it DID all go smoothly, thank God, and I got the 12 month visitor visa instead of the standard 6 month one, without even having to ask, which was a major answer to prayer.) Anyway, after shlepping through all that paperwork at 10 pm, we drove the hour to our new home and began our mandatory 14-day self-isolation.

We did a lot of things like painting during isolation
We were VERY glad to have a deck during isolation so we cold at least get fresh air.

A 14-day self-isolation with a 1 year old was quite an event. Thankfully TD is a patient and happy girl and we all survived it, but boy were we glad when it was over and we were free to explore our new town. We’re in a coastal city and loving all the beaches. TD has discovered a very deep love of the water. Very deep.

Nighttime view of our new town
We keep looking at each other and saying “We LIVE here! I can’t believe it!” It is really, truly breathtakingly beautiful here.
TD in her natural habitat

Now we’re as settled in as one can be when the vast majority of one’s possessions are Somewhere Between Here and There with no known arrival date. (I REALLY want the washer and dryer back – a yeast infection for TD while needing to stay in cloth diapers to avoid becoming yet more irritated by disposables really sapped any novelty out of washing in the bathtub or the laundromat…) We’re making friends, finding our bearings, and developing new routines slowly but surely.

Tofu Tikka Marsala

One of my favorite meals, ever.

Drain and press one 15 oz block firm or extra firm tofu then cut in 1/4-1/2 inch cubes. Whisk together 1/2 C full fat coconut milk (just get a can of coconut milk and use 1/2 c here and the rest will be used in the sauce, 1 T oil, 1 T vinegar, 1/2 t salt, 1 t chili powder, 1 t turmeric, and 1 t garam marsala. Pour into a seal-able container, add tofu and toss to coat. The recipe is best if you can let this sit for 30 min -4 h in the frig. If you can’t, it still is delicious. Put tofu chunks on baking sheet (highly recommend lining with foil) and bake at 400 F for 25-35 minutes.* Reserve any liquid left to put in the sauce.

* (Yes, this is a wide range but it will depend on your personal preference for how crunchy or soft you want the tofu.)

While tofu is baking, heat 1 T oil in a saucepan, add 1 t paprika and 1 t garlic powder and cook for 1 minute, then add 1-28 oz canned crushed tomatoes and 1 .5 C full fat coconut milk (i.e. the remains of the can after you used a 1/2 C of it for the marinade) and any of the marinade that didn’t soak into the tofu. Heat for about 10-15 minutes, add the tofu and adjust salt to taste. Serve with rice.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Makes 2 doz

Preheat oven to 400 F, and grease or line 24 muffin cups. Whisk together 1 c almond flour, 2 c flour, 1/2 c sugar, 1 T baking powder, and 1.5 t salt. Whisk together separately 1.5 C soy milk and 2/3 c oil then stir into dry ingredients mixing until just mixed. Fold in 1-1.5 C blueberries fresh or frozen, and divide batter equally between tins. Bake 400 15-25 min (seems to depend on how thawed the blueberries are if they were frozen).

Vegan baking solution – almond flour

One of the things I find most frustrating about being married to a vegan is the serious crimp it puts in my baking. I want to make things that he will eat, but I’ll be honest, an awful lot of vegan baked goods just don’t quite cut it for me. By accident though, I discovered that subbing almond flour for regular flour in a 1:2 ratio does a lot. A whole lot – like best coffee cake I’ve ever eaten and best blueberry muffins I’ve ever eaten, lot. I suspect it is that it adds a lot of the fullness in texture and fattiness that eggs do, and that egg substitutes (looking at you flax “egg”) never seem to. Anyway, if vegan baking annoys you because of its low quality, definitely try the almond flour trick!

Feels like freedom

On June 9, 2020 I went back to work after maternity leave for what we hoped would be just a couple months. My desire has been to stay at home with TD full time since the day I knew there was a baby on the way. Sometimes God has other plans.

Who wouldn’t want to be with a little girl with feet that cute?

I never expected to be a full-time working mom for 10+ months, and definitely wouldn’t have chosen it, but yesterday I resigned. Glory to God! It’s been a long road for all three of us – Randy finishing his degree, job hunting in a pandemic and facing rejection after rejection, only to get in the end what’s really the perfect situation for him and our family. TD’s put up with having Mommy work from home and have to split her attention. I’ve struggled with anger over working longer than I thought, guilt over knowing I’ve had to give TD less attention than she deserves, (and many days feeling like she and my job both get less than full attention). It’s going to be a huge change for us, but we are ready and so thankful that God’s plans are not ours, but infinitely better.

Here’s to more snuggles with that sweet blond head with far less guilt that I’m ignoring my paid job.

There’s also a bittersweetness to this. We won’t be 4 hours from my parents any longer. We’ll be 20 hours and an international border away. We’re leaving behind friends and a great parish and a goddaughter. Overall though, we are so excited to close the grad school for Randy and working full time for me chapter! Glory to God!

It was challenging making the phone calls yesterday morning to let my manager and boss know before sending the formal resignation email, but afterwards it felt fantastic. For the first time in months it doesn’t feel like I’m living a lie at work as people make long term plans and I had to go along with the plans. I also for the first time ever told people that I’m leaving for my dream job of stay-at-home mom and it was freeing. No more having the pressure of being a woman scientist and feeling like I’m letting people down by saying that raising children is my career goal. Thank God for all things!

(P.S. While I know the life of a SAHM is full of challenges, here’s to facing different challenges from my current ones. 🙂 )

Tofu Scramble ala Christopher’s

Drain and press* two 14 oz blocks of firm or extra firm tofu. Crumble with your hands and toss with a mixture of 2 T Worcestershire sauce, 2 T low sodium soy sauce, 2 T oil, and 2 T apple cider vinegar. It’s preferable if you can let this sit for 30 minutes to an hour, but you can definitely just use as is.

Saute 1 diced onion, 1/2 red or green pepper diced, in 1/4 C oil. Add tofu and saute until the tofu starts to get golden brown in a few places (about 10 minutes). Add 1-2 C finely chopped broccoli** and 1 small grated carrot***. Cook 2 minutes. Add 1 t turmeric, 1/2 t ground sage, 1/2 t thyme, 1 t oregano, 1/2-1 t black pepper, 2 T nutritional yeast, and cook for 5-10 minutes. Adjust to your tastes (you may want to add a bit more oil and salt, for starters, depending on your palate.)

*No fancy tofu press needed. Wrap the block(s) in a clean towel, place under something decently hefty (heavy cookbook, tin of oil etc) for 15-30 minutes. The heavier your object, the faster it will press and vice versa.

** Fresh, or frozen. Other vegetables would probably work just as well as this.

Lentil Stew

Saute 1 diced onion, and 1-8oz package of sliced mushrooms* in 1/4 C oil. Add 2 grated carrots, 2 C green or French lentils,** 2-14 oz cans of diced tomatoes, and cook 5 minutes. Add 4 C broth, 2-4 C water, 1 t dried basil, 1 t dried oregano, 1/2 -1 t black pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are cooked (~35 minutes). Adjust seasonings/salt as desired, and adjust consistency by adding more water/broth, or simmering longer to reduce volume.

*Fun fact – when you find a good sale on mushrooms you can pop the box of mushrooms into the freezer as is and then pop the frozen mushrooms right into the pot after a quick rinse.

** Presumably normal brown lentils would work too.

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