Hearty Salad of White Bean, Broccoli, Spinach, Sprouts and Avocado with Soft Egg and Toasted Cheese Bread

If you are anything like us and you like to eat 3 square meals a day, it tends to be a good idea to throw a salad in the mix once or twice a week.  The other night I came home with just such a meal in mind.  I started with an inventory of the fridge.  I gathered up the remaining vegetables that we had on hand, and along with a few items from the pantry, this is what I put together for our supper tonight.

Hearty Salad of White Bean, Broccoli, Spinach, and Avocado with Soft Egg                            Yields 4 Hearty Portions

  • 4 Cups Spinach
  • 1 Cup of Romaine Lettuce – Washed and Cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 Broccoli Crown – Cut into Small Florets
  • 1/8th Cup of a Red Onion – Finely Diced   
  • Large Handful of Julienned Carrots
  • 1—8 ounce can Cannellini Beans – Rinsed and Drained
  • 1 Avocado – peeled and sliced, drizzled with a squeeze of lime juice.
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Can of Tuna – optional

Once I had assembled all of the vegetables I heaped the lettuce and spinach into a medium-sized mixing bowl, began rinsing and chopping the other vegetables, and placed them in the bowl.  At the same time, I started a small saucepan of water heating on the stove to cook the eggs.  When the water came to a boil, I placed 4 eggs in the sauce pan of water, reduced it to a simmer, and set the timer for 6 minutes.  When the bowl seemed to be filled with an ample rainbow of vegetables, I whisked together the ingredients for a spicy and flavorful vinaigrette in a separate bowl. 

Spicy Red Pepper, Honey and Mustard Vinaigrette:

  • 2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – optional: use one or two tablespoons of garlic infused olive oil
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Flavored Vinegar – I used Champagne and Tarragon vinegar
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Spicy Mustard – I used Kühne, a hot prepared mustard from Germany
  • Course Ground Black Pepper – to taste

While I worked on the salad dressing, Bjorn split several yellow, eggy buns in half and topped them with thinly sliced, reduced fat Colby-Jack Cheese, and then placed the buns on a foil-lined sheet pan in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  He also heated a small bowl of leftover spaghetti sauce in the microwave, for dipping the toasted cheese bread.

When the eggs had cooked 6 minutes, I removed two for our supper and carefully peeled them.  I let the remaining eggs continue to cook a few minutes longer so that they would be hard-boiled, making them easier to pack for our lunches tomorrow. 

I drizzled the dressing over the bowl of salad, tossed the salad gently with tongs, and served it on a platter.  I placed the avocado slices on top, and gently sliced the eggs just before serving to expose the warm, soft yellow yolk.  I’m seeing “soft eggs” everywhere, in blogs, such as this tasty-looking and classic presentation on Smitten Kitchen, in magazines and in restaurants on bruschetta, pizza, and salads.  Talk about having a classic food item go trendy!  I’m all for it though, eggs are a versatile, simple yet exquisite food.  Bjorn added about half of a can of tuna to his plate, and mixed it into the salad.  Adding tuna to the omnivore version of this salad added protein and healthy omega 3 fatty acid, a heart-healthy fat.  The Avocado and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the dressing also added heart healthy fats to both of our plates.

The spinach, romaine, sprouts, carrots and broccoli gave the salad a nice crunch and were full of antioxidants, calcium and potassium.  The white beans and egg added a contrasting soft texture to the salad, and protein which made the salad a hearty meal.  The vinaigrette had a pleasant kick of dijony, red-pepper heat, and set off the flavors of the soft egg, avocado and red onion.  The toasted cheese bread made a yummy side dish dipped in the warm spaghetti sauce.  We enjoyed it all.

The salad was huge and made plenty for two servings at supper time, two servings for lunch the next day with a little more to spare.  The salad was hearty enough to be a satisfying, complete meal, and had a healthy rainbow of veggies, good sources of protein and healthy fats to make it a nourishing meal, nutritionally speaking.  It is wonderful to toss together a variety of vegetables and pantry staples into a salad.  It makes for a simple, healthy and satisfying supper that makes you feel good, and that you can feel good about eating.  Give it a try!

Creamy Minnesota Wild Rice Soup slow-cooked in the Crock-Pot

For the past month or two, I have been preparing a meal every Sunday that cooks all day in the Crock-Pot on Monday and welcomes us home for an easy, satisfying supper.  Earlier this week I made a delicious Wild Rice soup in our Crock-Pot.*  I bought Wild Rice that was raised on the Red Lake Reservation, a community about 40 miles from where my parents live in northern Minnesota.  When I buy Wild Rice, I seek out rice raised on a reservation from that region, White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake Bands all harvest and sell wild rice.  It is the very best wild rice, and I like knowing where it comes from, and supporting the local economy in these communities with the purchase. Before establishing a weekly Crock-Pot routine, we often arrived home on a Monday night tired, a little worn down from stress of the new work week and in no mood to cook.  Nights like that, we often end up going out to eat.  Sure, it is nice to be able to give ourselves a night off, but neither of us are thrilled about using part of our “dining” budget on a last-minute meal that we haven’t anticipated as a nice evening out.  As much as I have been resistant to planning meals ahead in the past, I am tentatively starting to use forethought to my advantage.  I am glad I didn’t know I would start doing this 6 years ago though.  I think I would have been scared by the prospect of becoming a crazed Crock-Pot enthusiast, or at least would have hoped that the meal was served with a touch of irony.  It turns out, at this point in my life, the routine is the opposite of scary, and there isn’t a hint of irony involved.  Making a small effort to have a meal ready when I come home is breathing new life into Mondays!  I leave for work in the morning feeling organized and like a real, functioning grown up.  When the evening ahead crosses my mind throughout the day I look forward to being welcomed home by the scent of simmering soup seeping from the cracks of my old house as I approach the door.  As I cross the threshold, I have little to do to enjoy a satisfying supper and a relaxing evening.

To make this week’s soup, I chopped and measured all of the ingredients into the liner of our Crock-Pot on Sunday night, covered it, and placed it in the fridge.

Minnesota Wild Rice Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Stalks of Celery, Diced
  • 1 large Handful of Julienned Carrots, or about 2 Medium Carrots, Chopped
  • 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, Washed and Chopped
  • 5 to 8 Button or Cremini Mushrooms, Wiped Clean and Sliced
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts optional
  • 1 Cup of Minnesota-Grown Wild Rice
  • ½ Cup Brown Rice – not necessary, but it is cheaper, and adds additional texture to the soup.
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon Leaves
  • 1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
  • 2 Bay Leaves – remove before serving.
  • 2 – 32 Ounce Carton of Vegetable, Chicken or Turkey Broth
  • A Splash of Skim Milk, Half and Half or Heavy Cream optional. 
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste.

You might notice that there is no oil or butter in my recipe.  Some soup recipes call for sautéing the onion before putting it in the crock.  I find that step to be unnecessary.  With the long, slow cooking process, everything cooks thoroughly and all of the flavors blend well.  As an added bonus, without sautéing any of the vegetables in butter or oil, calories are spared.  Monday morning, I added the carton of broth, gave it a stir, and set the crock to cook on low heat for 8 hours.  I am not sure if all slow cookers have this feature, but my crock switches to “Warm” when the programmed cooking time is done.  It works wonderfully to keep the soup warm, but not to continue to cook it longer than needed.  This recipe made a nice amount of soup for us for supper and leftovers for lunch.  We don’t need more than two meals of soup, but there would be plenty of room in the crock to double the recipe to feed a larger group, or to freeze extra soup for a later date.  If the entire crock of soup will be devoured the night it is first served, I might add just a touch more Tarragon and Poultry Seasoning, because seasoning was a bit faint on first night.  We thought that the seasoning in the soup came together nicely when we reheated it for our lunches at work.  This is great soup to make in advance and reheat.

If I was making this strictly for meat-eaters,** I would add a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the crock when I added the broth.  The chicken breasts can be chopped and mixed back into the soup right before serving

If there are vegetarians in your house who are not strict about meat juices in their food,*** you could even cook the chicken breasts in the soup, take them out and then add chopped chicken to the bowls of only those who want it.  If you want your soup to be strictly vegetarian, chicken can be cooked separately, and added to the bowls of those who want it, or not cooked at all, if no one is eating meat.  There is a continuum upon which every vegetarian places themselves that ranges from unoffended by some exposure of their food to meat at the one end, to completely avoiding meat coming into contact with their food or having meat juices in their food at the other end of the continuum.  You need to do what works for you and yours, and this recipe is easily adapted to accommodate varied diets.  The only remaining step is optional.  About ten minutes before serving you can stir in a splash of warmed milk, half and half or cream.  The soup would be fine without it, but I really like having a little milk or cream in my soup.

Tonight, we didn’t top our soup with anything, but some sliced almonds or sunflower seeds would be nice.  I also like a little shredded cheddar on my wild rice soup upon occasion.  Some people wouldn’t go near soup without a shot of spicy Rooster Sauce, or Sriracha for those who are less familiar with what has become the most popular condiment in the world.  The soup is very hearty and satisfying on its own, so you don’t need much to round out the meal.  A chunk of warm, crusty bread, with or without butter and cheese would be perfect.  Tonight I pulled out a few crackers from the pantry, which I served with some sliced white cheddar and Asiago cheese.

Growing up, my Mom always served egg salad along with soup or chili, so it is what I crave when we’re having soup for dinner, so of course, I made some.  The egg salad was mostly made before I realized that we had no mayonnaise.  I used Dijonnaise instead, and it turned out to be a surprisingly good substitution for regular mayo.  Dijonnaise has the creaminess of mayo, and with the kick of Dijon mustard flavor, I swear that you cannot tell that it is fat-free.

When life is busy and stressful, there are little things you can do for yourself and your family to provide warmth and calm.  Coming home to delicious soup for supper that has simmered slowly in the Crock-Pot all day feeds the body and soul.  We loved this creamy, comforting soup full of vegetables and wild rice.  I will make it again soon.

*I apologize if trademark dilution offends you.  My slow cooker just so happens to be a Crock-Pot.  Words like Crock-Pot, Kleenex and Kraft Dinner are far too deeply embedded in my vocabulary to use their proper generic terminology, especially since I actually use these brands.

**I can’t think of why I would make this soup solely for meat eaters.  It is so good!  I would want a bowl.  Maybe if I made a separate crock of the meat-free version for a party.

***In my reference to vegetarians who are not strict about being meat-free, I might be politely referring to households with picky children.

Lentil and Chickpea Soup in the Crock Pot

It took me a while to recognize the pattern, but so many Mondays I come home and don’t feel motivated to cook.  I realized that I should figure out how to do something easy that is prepared in advance.  I have finally started to use and appreciate our pretty red crock pot.  On a Monday when I’m adjusting to the transition between weekend life and work life, it helps me to know that when I come home, while I fumble for my keys outside of the kitchen door, I will smell something warming and well-seasoned wafting out of the cracks in my house that has been cooking all day in the crock pot.  A meal slowly simmering at home gives me an all-day attitude adjustment, a sense of impending peace, calm and well-being ahead of me.  It makes the day and the evening better.  Much, much better.  Tonight, we came home to a simmering crock of Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup.
  • 3 cloves of garlic – crushed in the garlic press, or smashed and finely minced;
  • 2-3 inches of fresh ginger – peeled and grated;
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into “chickpea size” chunks;
  • 2 stalks of celery, rinsed, peeled and chopped into “chickpea size” chunks;
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced;
  • 1 cup of red lentils – picked over;
  • 1 14 ounce tin can of Eden Organic garbanzo beans- rinsed and drained;
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric;
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala;
  • 1 pinch saffron threads – chopped,  or crushed and rolled between index finger and thumb;
  • 1 teaspoon cumin;
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper;
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom;
  • 4-5 cups Vegetable Broth;
  • Optional additions:  One 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes or 2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste– we are both needing a rest from acidic canned tomatoes in every soup and sauce we make, so I left them out, no matter how ill-advised that was;  1 diced winter squash or a couple of Yukon Gold potatoes chopped into “chickpea sized” chunks.
  • Toppings, optional, but highly recommended– a squeeze of lime juice 5 minutes before serving and one handful of chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro.  More optional–a dollop of Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream or a tiny dash of saffron-infused heavy cream.  I have never tried saffron-infused cream, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?
  • For serving – cooked rice, or a slice of grainy bread with butter, also optional.

Method:  chop the vegetables and measure the spices on Sunday, or whatever day is right before your most tiring and hectic day of the week, and put everything into the liner of the crock pot, cover it, and placed it in the fridge.

Next morning, add the vegetable broth, give it a gentle stir and place the liner in the crock with the heat on low.  This should cook 8-10 hours on low.  If you want to give the broth a little body, you can blend a few cups of the finished soup with an immersion blender.  Or you can use my trick, and mash some of the soup solids with a potato masher.*  The soup goes well with a nice chunk of bread and butter or a little scoop of rice.  It reheats beautifully.  It is Monday.  This is all I have to offer.

*Still haven’t gotten an immersion blender… it is at the top of my kitchen wish list.  Accepting trade offers.

A Vibrant Quinoa Salad for a Dark Winter’s Day

Some days there is nothing more refreshing and satisfying than having a hearty salad as a meal.  A salad can be extremely handy too, when it is built to last so that it can reappear the next day as our lunch.  That is the sort of meal I had in mind today.  The salad I made was loosely based on a recipe for a Wheatberry Salad that I read about on Macheesmo, a blog I like to visit.  I’ve been trying to follow more recipes because I want well-developed flavors and predictable results when I cook.  Even though I’m trying to follow recipes, I still have to strike a balance.  I am not one to plan meals in advance, and I don’t like to run to the store when I decide to make something.  I began by gathering ingredients.

In my salad, I subbed Quinoa for Wheatberry.  I’ve glanced at a bag of Wheatberry in the grocery store, but haven’t purchased that grain so far.  I am still working on integrating Quinoa into my regular cooking routine.  I also subbed fresh spinach for kale, and half a block of drained and crumbled tofu for feta cheese.  We’ve been working our way through a bag of organic parsnips from the Farmer’s Market that we bought at Thanksgiving, so I decided to add a few.  I started cooking 1 1/2 cup of quinoa in an equal amount of water, and while the quinoa cooked, I chopped the vegetables into small, uniform chunks.  They say you eat with your eyes first; the vibrant rainbow of crunchy vegetables chopped for this salad was a visual feast.

The salad is dressed with the juice of a lemon, the lemon’s zest, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  It gives the salad a lot of kick with zero added fat.  Healthy!!  The lemon juice has the added benefit of keeping the avocado from turning brown.  If I make this again, I will cut back on the lemon zest a little bit.  The zest of a lemon is pretty punchy, especially when you eliminate a creamy dairy component which was included in the original recipe.

Did we notice the substitutions I made to the original recipe?  A little.  Crumbled tofu has a similar texture to feta cheese, but it lacks the tang.  There is also a certain creaminess that feta would add, which would also probably help balance the pungent citrus in the salad.  Neither of us are huge fans of feta, and so it was a fair swap to make, and healthy too.   I am all for subbing spinach for the kale called for in the original recipe.  I have yet to delve into kale, and I love how easy it is to add a big bunch of fresh spinach to almost anything you are cooking and allow it to steam in just a few minutes.  We both enjoyed the salad with a dash of Habenero Chili hot sauce that we brought back from Mexico.

This salad was a success for several reasons.  It contained an antioxidant rainbow of healthy vegetables.  It also contained the healthy fat found in avocado.  The texture was the best part of the salad; it had crunchy carrots, celery, onions, parsnips, peppers which balanced well with the creamy avocado, supple quinoa, tofu and tender steamed spinach.  There was plenty of kicky flavour without any regret with the spicy-citrus dressing.  It was also a win from a vegetarian-protein perspective since it contained both tofu and chickpeas. All in all, it was a light, uplifting, healthy and hearty entrée salad that hit all of the important notes that it needed to pick us up on a grey day in January.  Yes!!

Bjorn said the salad was tastier than he expected, and we both ate it again the next day.  For me, it was both breakfast and lunch.  I need to make a crunchy, kicky, creamy, low-fat, high flavor, protein-rich salad more often.

Cooking for the Kids

At some point this year, we turned a corner.  Without any warning or fanfare, we found ourselves rested enough, organized enough, with enough time, and with our home and our finances in enough order to allow us to commit more than the most minimal effort to trying to do something good.  It comes naturally to some at a younger age, and I truly admire those people.  I have found that I am a one-thing-at a-time type who needs to have their own ducks in a row before signing on for an ongoing commitment.  Better late than never, I hope.   We found the first volunteer experience that suited our combined abilities in an email circulated around Bjorn’s office.  The option that jumped out at us was the opportunity to prepare a dinner for 8 in our own kitchen at home and deliver it to an emergency safe house for homeless youth, ages 16-21 in our neighbourhood operated by Lutheran Social Services.  The guidelines are minimal.  Arrive at 7.  Bring a main dish (no pork) and a few sides; no mysterious looking casseroles, please.  Including a gallon of 2% milk and a bottle of juice is suggested.  Dessert is appreciated but not required.  We signed up for a few dates to give it a try.  I had to ask right away about accommodating special diets:  vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, etc.  We were told they didn’t currently have anyone with those needs.  We still tried to come up with enough variety and flexibility in the menu so that a person who doesn’t eat meat, or a person who doesn’t tolerate gluten could still eat a decent plate of food.

1.  This is the array of groceries and supplies we used for the first meal we prepared.  We spent about $40 on groceries at Target.  At my request, Lunds Grocery Store donated 3 disposable aluminum containers with lids for delivering the food.  We didn’t shop for this meal at Lunds, but we do almost all of our grocery shopping there.

2.  We packed a salad of iceberg and romaine lettuce with sliced cucumbers and julienned carrots.  We bought a package of parmesan croutons and a bottle of Ranch Dressing for the salad.

3.  This fall, Bjorn’s parents stocked our freezer with a generous supply of ground beef, steaks and a few roasts from cows raised on the family farm by Bjorn’s Uncle Stan.  I cannot begin to emphasize how wonderful it is to have a supply of beef raised by a farmer we know and trust.  We absolutely love to cook with this beef.

4.  I taped the typed-out dinner menu on paper grocery bags we used to deliver the food.  Our first meal consisted of Beef Meatballs in Spaghetti Sauce to be served on Hoagie Buns with Provolone Cheese, Roasted Potatoes seasoned with Hidden Valley Ranch Southwest Seasoning and ketchup, A Salad of Iceberg and Romaine Lettuce, Carrots and Cukes, Juice, Milk and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

5.  I tried to think like a caterer when I packed up the meal.  Disposable containers aren’t ideal for food presentation visually, but I think when food is packed neatly, containers are spatter-free and the contents and serving suggestions thoughtfully labeled, it helps a lot.  If this is the best meal or the only meal some of these kids are eating today, I want it to be a great meal.

6.  Bjorn’s meatballs, ready to bake.

7.  Bjorn’s meatballs out of the oven.  They smelled good.

We prepared and delivered our second meal on November 29.  This time when we arrived, we were offered a tour of the house.  It was fun and rewarding to see the safe house and some of the people who will eat our meal.  The house is large and very clean.  We enter through the backyard and after being cleared as “friendly visitors” on the security camera, we enter into the kitchen.  After setting up the meal on the large counter, we were led through the dining room which has a large dining table and shelves stacked with board games.  The next room is a is a livingroom with a huge, flat screen TV.  Upstairs was warm.  There were brightly lit bedrooms  that were already full of people having a boisterous conversation. The safe house has the atmosphere you would hope:  positive, clean, safe and welcoming.  We were told that the house is filled to capacity every night.  The staff also told us that they appreciate having a meal delivered because they don’t have to cook or go out and buy anything.  It saves the program money too, obviously.  Judging by our ease in finding workable dates, they are not at capacity for volunteers.  They report having a meal provided 4-5 nights a week.  They expressed relief that we did not prepare a Thanksgiving meal.  Apparently, they had quite a few of those in the past month and were getting a little tired of Turkey and Stuffing.

We hope our second meal was tasty and satisfying.  Here goes nothing:

1.  We shopped for most of the ingredients for meal number 2 at Trader Joe’s.  Again, we spent around $40.  This wasn’t planned, apparently, it is the price-point of the hearty meals we conceive of for 8.  The cost would be higher if we had to purchase meat.

2.  These are the ingredients to prepare tonight’s meal of Baked Potatoes, Sour Cream, Chili, Mac & Cheese, Roasted Broccoli, Baguette and Butter.

3.  I thought the well-labeled meal looked good the first time we delivered it, so I printed a menu and labels with serving suggestions for the second meal as well.  This time when we walked in the door with our labeled bags and containers we got a “wow!” from one of the staff.  I’m taking that as feedback to indicate that we’re doing okay.

4.  We thought Baked Potatoes would be a hearty side, so we scrubbed some russets to bake in the oven.  I love russets for baking because their peels gets meaty,chewy and crunchy, and their interior stays fluffy and light.   I like to oil the peels and salt them lightly with Kosher salt.

5.  When we have Macaroni and Cheese ourselves, which we do often, it is usually Kraft Dinner.  We decided to bump the Mac & Cheese up a few notches and followed Martha Stewart’s recipe for Perfect Macaroni and Cheese.  Here, Bjorn is stirring a roux that will become the cheese sauce.

6.  We baked the potatoes wrapped in foil which worked well for keeping them warm for delivery in a small paper bag.

7.  We stirred the cheese sauce into Al Dente pasta, it looked like it was creamy and delicious.

9.  Disposable food containers were easy to come by for this meal on the cheap at Walgreens because it was just after Thanksgiving.  We had to fashion a make-shift divider out of aluminum foil to separate the Macaroni and Cheese from the Roasted Broccoli.

10.  My parents gave us a container of frozen Oatmeal Raisin cookie dough, so we made cookies again this week.  My parents also purchase the milk and juice that we bring for each meal.

11.  Tonight’s meal is packed, labeled and ready to go.

12.  This week, we had the sense to save ourselves a serving a macaroni and cheese.  We had it with a salad topped with hard-boiled eggs.  Home made macaroni & cheese is so yummy.  We have set “we’d prepare it for guests in our home” as the standard for the meals we prepare for the safe house, and so far, I think we’ve been consistently able to pull it off.

Meal Number 3, December 21, 2011.

1.  For our third meal we had most of the ingredients and supplies on hand.  What we didn’t have, we bought at Target.

2.  Bjorn made beef meatballs again.  It helps make a substantial meal and keep our costs at a reasonable level when we use our beef.  Bjorn has perfected his meatball recipe.  He seasons the meat with Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salut and mixes in Egg, Breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, and as I said, they smell great when he bakes them.

3.  Meatballs are also convenient because  they can be baked a day ahead.  After baking the meatballs, Bjorn put them into the crock pot with spaghetti sauce.  I take the crock of meatballs out of the fridge and turn it on when I got home from work the night that we deliver the food.

4.  We cut up and steamed carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and made a creamy-cheesy sauce with grated cheese, sour cream and mushroom soup, a little pepper and a crunchy panko bread crumb topping.  It is creamy and delicious, but really, quite light.  After my Mom made the same dish at Christmas with frozen vegetables, I think I would go that route in the future.  It was just as tasty, it was probably cheaper and was definitely less work.

5.  For dessert I made chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Christmas M&M’s.  They were yummy.

6.  Again, we made a make-shift divider in the aluminum container between the cheesy vegetables and slices of ciabatta bread.

7.  We boiled farfalle pasta to go along with the meatballs this week.  I made a last-minute call to Kowalski’s on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul to see if they would be willing to donate some disposable containers for us to deliver the meal in this week.  I barely had to finish my sentence explaining what we were doing and what we needed before the manager agreed to set out several nice, durable aluminum containers for me to pick up.  Those really aren’t cheap, so it helps us a lot.  It has been amazing to discover how generous store managers in our neighbourhood are when we just ask.

Not pictured with this meal are the Christmas cards that we brought along with our meal this week for the kids and the staff, each containing a $5 Subway gift card that we bought and a free 6 inch sub donated by the owners of Subway on Grand and Fairview Avenues and Selby Avenue and Victoria Street in Saint Paul.  This was another example of how people are ready to help and be generous when all we do is ask.  We thought our first 3 meals were a success, so we signed up to prepare and deliver 2 more in January.  We are enjoying the new experience of giving a little time, and at the same time getting to be creative and engaged in a favorite hobby:  cooking!