Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Notes from a Reclaimer

Reclaiming food has definitely become one of my favorite endeavors. At home, I avidly seek new recipes, though at school with a limited budget, I love stretching my resources and recreating food deliciously. I also joined an organization called The Campus Kitchens Project, which is dedicated to fostering community development and support with a weekly free meal that is from unused food at college campuses. All over the country, those potatoes that you saw at the dining hall a few nights ago may now be frozen in a spare kitchen waiting to be recooked, or perhaps they were served at the local church Monday night with coffee, salad, fajita chicken sandwiches (also reclaimed) and Grape Nut-oatmeal cookies. At least that's how it works here, and I absolutely love it.  We develop relationships and responsibilities to spheres wider than our own, which is always rewarding.
ANYWAY, as I mentioned, the lovely Habitat House may be trashed on the weekends but the full kitchen has its merits. It is stocked with every main cooking utensil (aside from a whisk, that made beating egg whites a challenge.. and a pressure cooker and rice cooker and peeler, but there are other slower ways of going about it!) and is large enough to support a crowd. I make it a point to invite a variety of friends over to cook dinner once a week. Sometimes it's just two of us, throwing together what we could find after texting to arrange it that morning, while other dinners are much more planned with an e-mail thread, group grocery run and then 10 stomachs protruding from the feast.
The photos above were from a more haphazard dinner-for-3 that included curried rice with  carrots, apples and cranberries; carrots baked with brown sugar and butter; and a simple bruschetta of Italian bread from Campus Kitchens, olive oil, tomatoes, grated cheese and spices.
The photo below is actually from a dinner Monday night, with 6 fantastic friends!  I took leftover spaghetti and sauce, mixed it with more cheese and spices and baked it; roasted sweet potatoes with almonds and cranberries (one of my simplest and signature dishes); sauteed vegetables that the ladies bought from the campus Pub (what we call our student center food hub); and then banana bread for dessert I made the night before and apples with various combinations of Nutella, cream cheese, honey and dried fruit.  Everyone was definitely full and thrilled with the outcome.
I just have so much satisfaction and joy from making our own food. We enjoy the process, the time together and it just tastes tremendously better than what the dining hall has to offer. We're in the privacy of my house and the table can fit everyone comfortably. It really makes my day slow down, eating and savoring these like a family.  It feels like home.

Unfortunately, we're all pretty busy people so these divine evenings don't occur all the time, though that makes the occasions all the more exciting!  We also are sure to treat ourselves; last Friday there were ten of us celebrating two birthdays at a wonderful cafe called The Blackbird.  Their foundation is on local sourcing, whether it is for menu inspiration, food inventory, artwork, performances and more.  I was glad that I reserved a table because the restaurant was bursting with people listening to a live jazz performance.  Everyone ordered entrees that came with field green and vinaigrette salads first.  For my main dish, as you can see on the left, I dined on a formidable flat-pita topped with cucumbers, a spicy pepper chutney, field greens and incredible felafels with tzatziki sauce.  It was so tasty, I finished it all and then a baklava!  Ah, it's not like we go out all the time.. it was definitely necessary.

I'm not sure if I should be pleased or ashamed that food brings me such comfort and pleasure, though I suppose it is a testimony that I should never stop exercising.  HA, I already found that doing so tacks on much unwanted blubber.  Whatever, at least I'm happy.

Cheers to doing what makes us happy.


Annie said...

Woooo!!! Love cooking sessions! Great post darling! <3

Ada Beth Croft said...

OH wow. That food all looks so great!! Nice pictures. And yes, "cheers to doing what makes us happy" is a good motto. I'm gonna use those words of wisdom. :)

Alina Anghel said...

the food looks delicious! xx

Olive said...

You've always been such a foodie, I love it ;)! These posts always make me so hungry and inspired to get more into cooking. The Campus Kitchens Project sounds like such an awesome and rewarding group to be a part of, I wish they had that at my school. I'm so glad you have found a place at the dinner table with friends and great food that feels like home :). I really want that bread right now, the dining hall did not leave me satisfied tonight.. I cannot wait until I have the apartment and access to our own kitchen. I definitely applaud you for your excellent use of resources and delicious looking dishes.
Cheers to happiness!
♥ Olive