Growing into a lifetime partnership is everything at once. Illuminating, life-giving, maddening, a developed + particular sense of humour, unpredictable breaking points, ordering pizza when the fridge is full and feeling kinda meh about it because you’re two capable adults, facing criticism for a shitty thing you did without rising to the occasion (even when it’s hard), saying I love you just because, and saying I love you when the situation could not be more serious. There’s plenty to read on how true and honest love can be ugly; that you have to understand, accept and work through the weaker moments. It’s hard to say this, but I know I have trouble seeing and defining the limits of what it means to be in it for the long haul, what it means to do the heavy lifting.
Sure I think being vulnerable is important, even when it means a minor freakout at the wheel or some other embarrassing/dangerous moment. But I also know that my man needs the reassurance of me at my best decidedly more often. Someone who can work through a problem and go into the light. Someone with the patience and good faith to see something through. It makes us both stronger. It seems kind of normal to settle into routine when relationships go long term, to get too comfortable with those less desirable tendencies and chalk it up to the all-too-ubiquitous overhanging concept/necessity of vulnerability.
Just because I wake up early to make us french press before he has to run out the door to work and just because I have a thousand (some of them admittedly totally dumb) things on my plate, doesn’t give me carte blanche to be a total douchebag when I’m not 110% stoked on the current situation. He doesn’t owe me because I made him coffee (pfffft!) and because work stresses me the eff out sometimes. Maybe it might be a chill time for him to unwind with some nerdy iPad game when he comes home totally zonked after work, and I probably shouldn’t get myself wound up on the idea of quiet dinner without distractions every single night. I know there are selfish tones here (also yes, I hear some of you thinking “Just wait ’til you have kids!”), but I’m also confident that there’s an understanding of how disappointingly easy it is to slip into outward-expressive frustration at the drop of a hat when partnerships are comfortable. All of this is to say that I am working on doing the work of relationship growth–on loving a good man who is strong enough to love me back. In the midst of it all, that connection takes up most of my heart. It has to.
And the only way I can think of to tie this all in with the recipe today is to relay the fact that Mark’s and my favourite kind of food to eat is sloppy stuff on top of starch, and dang if I’m not willing to provide at least that with a side of patience, deep breaths and grace. Curries, pasta, veg ragout/beans on toast, Moroccan-ish tagines with couscous and the like eaten out of a big bowl while we catch up on our stories is how the dinner bell rings most nights. Sweatpants, hair up, dog whining for a few scraps, and any number of variations on the rhetorical “This is good, right?” It makes me happier than a beautifully set table ever could.
I unabashedly love baked beans. From scratch, canned, doesn’t matter. When Kristy from Keepin’ It Kind sent me her new cookbook But I Could Never Go Vegan!, my eyes went right to her maple-baked beans + cornbread dish. Deep comfort in a tidy package. But I didn’t have beans and I had used up all of my cornmeal trying to develop a recipe for my own book, so I had to get creative. Having seen this baked beans approach to lentils from Tara and knowing that millet ground for porridge is very corn/polenta-like, I sort of stumbled into a solution. I like Kristy’s book because, in a very fun way, it’s structured around the idea of “no excuses.” She makes brilliant nut-based versions of cheeses to satiate dairy cravings and thoughtful hearty mains to nip the “rabbit food” criticism in the bud.
This dish, with flavours inspired by her recipe, was so cozy and light at the same time. Once the lentils are cooked, it comes together pretty fast too. I’ve been making homemade barbecue sauce since I learned how to cook and I always find it a satisfying process. The recipe I’ve offered here is my go-to quick and dirty version that’s perfect for this little bowl, but it’s also nice for grilled portobellos, crispy tempeh slices, roasted sweet potato wedges etc.
Kristy’s publisher is letting me give away a copy of the book too. Just leave a comment on this post telling me about one habit/life-y change you’d like to work on this spring. Maybe it’s some deep thoughts or maybe you just wanna eat more banana ice cream? ;) I’ll accept entries until Saturday night (the 14th) at midnight EST (US + Canada pals only). Giveaway is closed, lovelies :) Big hugs.
vegan BBQ lentils with millet polenta recipe
print the recipe here!
inspired by Kristy Turner’s maple-baked beans in But I Could Never Go Vegan! // millet polenta technique from Erin Alderson‘s The Homemade Flour Cookbook
notes: I cook lentils like pasta. Tons of water in the pot and I just keep checking for doneness. Also, with the liquid components of this barbecue sauce, I like to blend them up for total smoothness prior to adding them to the pot, but this is an optional step. A good thing to note as well: I’ve made this sauce with less than half of the specified maple syrup amount, and loved it just the same. If you’re less excited about the play of sweet flavours in a sauce, you can certainly use less.
quick + dirty vegan barbecue sauce ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, peeled + grated on a box grater
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups jarred tomato sauce (I heart Rao’s marinara)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
salt + pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups cooked french or black lentils
2 tsp olive oil
1 small cooking onion, small dice
salt + pepper
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup raw millet, ground into flour/meal
handful of flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
couple stalks of celery, small diced with inner leaves if possible
Make the barbecue sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the grated shallot and minced garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft. About 3 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, mustard powder, and chili powder to the pot and stir for 20 seconds or so. Add the tomato sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and tamari to the pot and stir. Bring the barbecue sauce to a boil and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of sauce for this dish and store the rest covered in your refrigerator.
Combine the cooked lentils and 1 cup of barbecue sauce in a small saucepan and keep very warm. Add a fat pinch of salt and pepper if you like.
Make the polenta. In a medium saucepan/small soup pot, heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until translucent and soft. About 5-7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock to the pot along with a heavy pinch of salt. Bring the stock to a boil and then slowly sprinkle in the ground millet flour while whisking. Keep whisking the ground millet and stock until you have a thick, cooked polenta-like mixture. Remove it from the heat and divide the polenta among two large-ish bowls. Top the polenta with the warm BBQ lentils. In a small bowl, quickly toss the parsley leaves and celery together with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide the little salad amongst the two plates and serve.