Spending some time outdoors, even on the most unforgiving coldest days in Winter, is a must for my well being. While I hate it when it rains on the snow, then freezes at night into smooth sheets of black ice, I never fail in my love for the crisp cold air of Winter. Even when it freezes my eyelashes and nose hairs. On such days our walks are brisk and cannot involve letting the dog linger too long over clumps of leaves with interesting smells. (They’re all frozen anyway.)
Romeo loves the cold too. Because his breed is so trim, people worry that he is too cold. But he actually comes alive in the cold weather, will bound across terrain I have to pick my way over, his tail up and his spirits soaring. (Of course he won’t let himself get too far away. If he senses I’m having trouble, or what he considers trouble, he won’t leave my side. After having let him off the leash for a few minutes, he stops and waits for me to catch up, never more than 50 yards away. Even if I tell him I’m alright, he waits to make sure for himself.) With such a wonderful cold weather walking companion it’s easy to see why I brave those cold days with a sense of adventure.
Still, it struck me funny the other day to realize that I might spend more time outside in Winter than some completely able- bodied people I know: two daily walks, and quick forays out to the barn for wood or out back to dump compost and put garbage out.
But the very cold days, the ones in the teens or the single digits make very plain when it’s time to get back inside and warm up. I was having one of those moment back in November as we neared our block. My hands were frozen even swathed in gloves and hidden in my pockets. My nose hairs were frozen, my cheeks were stinging. And I was hungry.
Often as we walk, I think about what food I’ll make, what art, what poetry. Parts of recipes and lines of poems come to me. Or subjects I want to draw. Often, too, this involves compiling an ingredient list and whether or not we should hoof it on over the co-op before heading home. Or go back first and then go out again. (Luckily for me, all these points are within a mile of one another.)
This one morning, even near noon it was so cold that I thought “I can’t be out anymore. What have I got at home that I could make something hot with the minute I get home?” Visualizing hot food on the stove was helping to keep me warm as we moved. Of course, if you read this blog at all, you’ll know I had millet on hand. And lentils. Good, no need to presoak those. This Slow Miracle foodie started channeling my own version of Jeff Novick’s fast food sensibility and took mental inventory of what frozen veggies I had in the freezer: green beans, spinach and–score!–some frozen butternut squash cubes! And there was a big “box” of strained tomatoes in the cupboard. A hot meal was in sight within the hour–or less. Just the thought of it made the sound of my Yak Trax grinding on the icy snow as we clipped along seem to have a little more zip. But not too much. One foot has to be all the way down before the other one comes up, so as not to slip.
Cold Snap Millet and Lentil Stew (Vegan and Gluten and Soy Free)
1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (26 oz)
1/2 cup lentils
millet, cooked, uncooked or both
1/2 cup uncooked plus 2/3 cup cooked or 3/4 cup uncooked
3 1/2 cups water or broth
1/2 pkg of frozen green beans
1/2 pkg of frozen butternut squash cubes
a fist ful of dried mushrooms crumpled in
1/2 pkg frozen spinach and/or kale
1 small or half large red onion
1 large carrot, julienned
2 cloves grated garlic
oregano, to taste
fennel, to taste
poultry seasoning, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste
extra garlic granules, to taste
nutritional yeast, to taste
Saute the onion and carrot for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add seasonings of your choice. Add everything else but the spinach, grated garlic and nutritional yeast. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for half an hour, stirring occasionally, until lentils and millet are cooked and soft. (I just taste them to tell.) Turn off heat. Add spinach, grated garlic and nutritional yeast, if using. Stir into hot stew, cover and let sit for a few minutes. Serve in large bowls with extra garlic and/or nutritional yeast or oregano.
Notes: These vegetables are just a suggestion. Other ones that are good in this are red cabbage and cauliflower. Use what you have. If you don’t have strained tomatoes, you can certainly used diced or crushed, the stew will just have a slightly less overall “red’ tomato hue and taste to it.
This makes a lot, so if you are not feeding several people at once, you’ll have leftovers. The millet will absorb most of the liquid as it sits. What I like to do when I reheat is to spoon a portion out into the steamer and steam it with some fresh greens, put all that into a bowl and then ladle some of the steam water (which I season with garlic granules) over it, making a thick “soup.” A little extra garlic or oregano maybe, a shake of nutritional yeast or ground golden flax or both on top. The steam water reactivates the strained tomato taste. So leftovers are pretty darn yummy.
I finally faced blog facts and realized I have so many recipes with millet as a major player that it deserves its own category. So now there’s a category called “Millet” on the blog where you can find all the nifty things I’ve dreamed up to do with millet so far.
Hope everyone is staying warm!!