For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?” Michael Pollan in “Cooked”
Food and family. They belong together. Love is what motivates me to cook a meal for my family most everyday. I love how my kids and husband can taste my love for them when I cook all their favorite foods. When there are lots of roasted veggies on the table, our 11-year-old Maya feels loved. When there is a meal based around rice and beans, our 13-year-old Haeli, feels loved. And when I make soup of any kind (especially one that requires extra sriracha) Andy feels loved!
The same goes for when I cook and bake for my extended spiritual family. I think of the people who will be joining us that night and try to decide what would make the most people happy and I make a lot of it! I didn’t start cooking until I was 20 and just married. I remember those first few months of trying to figure out how to make my new husband feel loved on a very tight budget. It was hard, but I was determined to figure this out until I was expert at it. So I read cookbooks, I watched the Food Network, and I experimented over and over again until it became second nature to me. Since then, a lot of my life has revolved around good food and time spent in the kitchen. I even spent a few years as a private chef, where I would cook dinner in my home, package it up and deliver it to my client’s homes. Those years made me study even harder and try to find the recipes that would last the test of time (and reheat well). So I have years of good recipes, and I’m going to begin to share them here with you.
There will be recipes for all kinds of eaters. I have learned to cook for people with all different sorts of allergies and intolerances, so there will be vegan, gluten free, dairy free, exotic, down home and omnivore offerings – there will be something for everyone! I will concentrate on meals that feed a crowd and ideas for missional community meal themes for you to file away for the next time you don’t know what to do and need a last-minute suggestion!
If you choose to do a meal theme for your MC some night, I suggest that the best way to make sure it works out is to set up a GroupMe group text and invite everyone in your group to chime in. For example, if you choose to do a Taco Night theme it would be good to know that all the basics are covered. This kind of theme can make it possible for even college students without a kitchen to participate. Anyone can pick up a bag of shredded cheese or tortillas! If each person does a quick text of what they are bringing, “taco meat, shredded cheese, tortillas, salsa and chips, shredded lettuce, hot sauce, rice and beans, sour cream and limes…” it is very easy to create a complete meal this way and then it takes the stress off of the host home to feel like they have to provide everything just in case.
If you like the idea of a meal theme where everyone brings a piece of the whole, then you may like this new idea I’ll share with you today.
I call it the “Food Bowl” theme. This can be one of those meals that includes every kind of eater, depending on what people bring. I start with a base of rice or couscous. My family enjoys “Pearl Couscous”, and if you have never tried it, you should. Then you can suggest roasted veggies of all kinds, sauces of different flavors, beans, greens, shredded meat, and falafel (which I will share with you here). This is filling and a true taste of love, because it is what each person makes it!
I have recently developed my version of a simple but tasty recipe for falafel. And simple is key when you are going to be making a lot of food for a lot of people on a regular basis. My kids love this!
- 4 cups of cooked garbanzo beans (boxed, canned or cooked from dried)
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups panko breadcrumbs (can use gluten free)
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 2 Tbsp. pureed garlic (I use the tube of pureed fresh garlic you can find in the produce section)
- 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground coriander (can replace half of this with garam masala if you have it)
- 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 6 Tbsp of olive oil
- Mash garbanzos with a fork (or quickly pulse in a food processor if you prefer).
- Stir in the rest adding more oil or some water if it’s too dry.
- Roll into golf ball sized balls, and flatten a bit on two sides and press into extra breadcrumbs.
- Fry over medium heat in a pan well coated with olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
- You will probably have to fry in batches since this will make a lot of falafel.
- Keep them warm in a glass pan between batches.
- 1 whole roasted red pepper from a jar
- 1 cups of real mayonnaise
- Blend in a food processor until well blended and a lovely pink color.
- This is good for drizzling over a food bowl or dipping roasted potatoes in.