Chatter: My Hometown Mass Shooting

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I lived in Washington, DC for eight years and have now been in London for nearly six, yet when I think of “home” I always think of the Skagit Valley. The beautiful, green oasis filled with farmland and the winding Skagit River, and surrounded by snow topped mountains. Where tourists flock to from all over the world to view the hundreds of acres of tulip fields. Where strangers smile and wave when they pass on the street, and you can’t go to the grocery store without seeing at least three people you know. The Skagit Valley is a very wholesome, small community to grow up in; it is certainly not the kind of place where you would expect someone would walk into a department store and kill five people with a rifle. 

With Seattle over an hour’s drive away, residents of the valley tend to stay local. My friends and I used to go to our local mall–The Cascade Mall–for anything we needed to buy: clothes, gifts, etc. I flirted with boys in that mall, I bought my prom dresses in that mall, I even worked in that mall (as did my sister and my nephew). As an adult, I have taken my kids to the mall, had family pictures taken at the mall, and spent many hours shopping at the mall with my mom. The Cascade Mall is a fixture of life in the valley and this horrific act of violence came as an absolute shock to this small community. 

In retrospect, however, it was really just a matter of time before a mass shooting came to my lovely valley; gun violence in America has become unavoidable. It doesn’t matter how close knit your community is, or how friendly the people are, or how beautiful your surroundings are. Gun violence in America is no longer something that only happens to other people.

I want to shower you with statistics on gun violence, and explain how it is completely avoidable, but I won’t. Surely you have seen it already. I want to discuss how more Americans have died from gun-toting toddlers this year than from terrorists, but surely you already know this as well. What I do what to tell you is that if a mass shooting can happen in the Skagit Valley, it can also happen in your community (if it hasn’t already). You are no longer safe to go to church. Your kids are no longer safe to go to school. You are not safe to go to the movie theatre. Very soon, if it hasn’t happened already, you or someone you know will be personally affected by gun violence. It has become an inevitable part of life in America.

Should your skin have more pigmentation than mine, you are at even greater risk. You are not able to drive a carhelp someone who is having a mental break down, or even go for a walk in your own neighbourhood. (PS: #blacklivesmatter) But what most Americans don’t seem to realise, is that though this is a reality in the US, this isn’t the case in other comparable countries.

After one mass school shooting in the UK in 1996, the government decided they wouldn’t allow it to happen again. The UK has had one mass shooting since the one in 1996. By comparison, the US currently clocks one mass shooting every single day.  Every. Single. Day. It’s not that we have fewer instances of mental illness here in the UK, or fewer radicals, it is simply that people do not have access to guns here. Even most police officers in the UK don’t carry guns (yes, really). It is a basic fact that restricted access to guns in the UK has resulted in less gun violence. Yet many people in America continue to argue that more guns will result in less gun violence. So far the opposite has been true.

My friends here in the UK are shocked when I tell them that I have to ask my parents to hide the guns in the house before I bring my kids to visit. They are even more shocked when I tell them that my dad is licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Is he a police officer? No. Does he live in a particularly dangerous neighbourhood? Nope. Is he just a bad ass? Not really. In fact, my dad is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but he is a typical American in this way: he loves his guns, and believes it is his right to carry one; I will never convince him otherwise. This is completely normal behaviour in America, but absolutely bizarre to much of the rest of the world. America always been “extraordinary”, in good ways and bad, but the balance is heading in the wrong direction. (PS: when I called my dad to ask him if it was okay that I write about this, my mom got on the phone and wanted me to make a note of the fact that she is going to get a gun as well.)

After the Sandy Hook shooting I was certain that America would make a change. The deaths of those 20 children and 7 adults were so horrific and the nation was so outraged that I was certain we had finally reached the tipping point . . . but nothing happened. Then the next day there was another mass shooting and the next day another. Soon, to add insult to injury, instead of discussing gun control, politicians discussed the need for even more guns. More guns to prevent gun deaths is such poor logic. Guns will not make America safer. More guns will only mean more gun deaths. Just as fire won’t put put out a fire, and alcohol won’t cure an alcoholic, more guns won’t solve the gun problem in America. That isn’t a political statement. It is just basic logic.

My hometown is now forever changed, and for those of you in America, soon yours will be as well. Soon you won’t look on an article like this in an abstract way. You will look on an article like this and you will tear up because you will finally relate to it. You will think about the senselessness of the deaths that occurred in your community. You will remember those who died and think of the families they left behind. You’ll be frustrated and angry that this sort of nonsense has been allowed to spiral out of control with absolutely no real efforts made to stop it.

This week it was my home town, but next week it could be yours. Until Americans decide that the lives of its citizens are more important than their desire to bear arms, this is the future of our great county.

BIG NEWS (and lettuce wraps)

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Kate and I have been friends for nearly 25 years. For nearly a quarter of a century, we have laughed together, cried together, traveled together, and even lived together. I more or less think of her as a sister. 

When I started to think that I could use some help keeping up with the blog, Kate was an obvious choice. Not only is she one of the best cooks I know (she studied at the Culinary Institute of America), but she is also one of my most favourite people on the planet. Though she has never blogged before, she is a much better writer than I am, and I know she is going to be awesome. You guys will totally love her. 

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Kate has two biological children (one is nine and the other is four months) and two step-children aged seven and ten. She has been married for two blissful years to the doctor husband of her dreams, and they live in a big beautiful house in Seattle. 

I am so pleased to announce that Kate has joined the Hungermama bandwagon and will be a regular weekly poster from here on out! Given her classical training, Kate’s cooking style is quite a bit different from mine: she will be able to share tips and tricks with us that we don’t even know exist. But don’t be intimidated! At the end of the day, Kate is just another mama trying to feed a family of six (!) with limited time and patience (and she’s totally rocking it). Please give a warm welcome to my girl, Kate! 

Bethie xx

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picture from circa 1996

Lettuce Wraps-by Kate Davies

At least once a week we try to have a ‘make your own’ style dinner. The ingredients are displayed on the table in separate dishes (a drawback when it comes time to do dishes, but well worth it), and the kids are allowed to assemble their own meals. It’s incredible how much more appealing a taco, a salad, a panini, or a lettuce wrap can be when they make it for themselves.

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It’s quite difficult to make an objectionable lettuce wrap at our table. I make sure that even if someone goes overboard on one or two ingredients, they will still end up well-fed and reasonably well-nourished. If you can find living lettuce (Boston or Butter Lettuce), it is the most flexible and forgiving for little hands. Romaine or green leaf work well, too. Tofu and chicken are my go-to proteins; Chinese sausage, ground pork, and white fish are also delicious. Have fun with the sauces. We like soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, and teriyaki for our wraps, but you can find your own favorite dressings or dips to keep on hand.

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ingredients:
-4 boneless, skinless thighs
-120 ml (1/2 cup) soy sauce
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp sesame oil
-1 head lettuce (Butter Lettuce, Green Leaf, Red Leaf), or 3 heads Romaine
-400g (2 cups) brown rice, cooked
-1 sliced bell pepper
-2 medium carrots, grated
-1 large handful (1 cup) bean sprouts
-2 scallions, chopped
-1/2 English cucumber, sliced
-chopped toasted peanuts
-fresh herbs (such as mint, cilantro, and/or Thai basil)

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-Wash the lettuce, and set aside to dry on a clean dish towel.
-Add the chicken thighs to the combined ingredients for the marinade, and store in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
-While the chicken hangs and the rice cooks, arrange the garnishes on plates or in separate bowls.
-Heat a skillet to medium high, and add 1/4 tsp vegetable oil. Immediately add the chicken thighs, allowing them to sear (without stirring or moving them) for about 2 minutes, or until a dark crust begins to form around the edges*.
-Flip the chicken pieces, add a splash of water or chicken stock, and finish in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165° F, or 74° C.
-Chop the chicken into manageable chunks, throw everything on the table, and call your peeps to dinner.

*if you use tofu, flip it once and stop there.

Store bought or homemade Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) is delicious with lettuce wraps, but if fish sauce isn’t your favorite you can use sesame vinaigrette, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or sweet chili sauce from the supermarket.

Meal Plan 34

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Look at me catching up with the blog! Whoop!

We have eight people staying at our house at the moment. In addition to our own four-person family we have my niece who has moved in with us for three months, my friend Kate and her baby girl, and her nanny. It has been busy (and SUPER fun!!) around here! In true Hungermama form, I have meal planned for the entire week and included meals that are both easy to prepare, and hearty enough to feed a crowd. I’ve simplified things even further by sticking to recipes I know and love. <3 (The recipe for the lettuce wraps are coming later this week!)

Monday:
Brown Rice and Quinoa Enchilada Bake
(Hungermama recipe)

Tuesday:
Lettuce Wraps

Wednesday: 
Asparagus and Pea Quiche with Smoked Cheese
(Hungermama recipe featured on Ladyland!)

Thursday:
Lentil Soup
(Hungermama recipe)

Friday:
Hawaiian BBQ Salmon Burgers
(Hungermama recipe)

Seasoned Sweet Potato Fries

I made these fries for dinner a few weeks ago and at long last I am posting them! Lots has been going on behind the scenes here at Hungermama HQ and we (yes, WE!) will have an announcement coming soon!

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I made these to accompany a homemade fish and chips dinner. (I loosely based the fish on this recipe.) It all ended up being a  much bigger undertaking than I usually take on for a weeknight, but it was all SO yummy that I am likely to make it all again soon!

The original recipe for the fries can be found here. I love this recipe for the ice bath (which helps make them nice and crispy) and the awesome seasoning. They were so good!

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Ingredients:
-5 medium sweet potatoes
-2 tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch)
-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (not olive oil) — I used rapeseed oil
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-1 tablespoon smoked paprika
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-salt to season

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Method:
-preheat your oven to  225° C (435° F)
-cut the sweet potatoes into thin, evenly sliced sticks (they need to be the same size so they cook at the same rate)
-fill a bowl full of ice water, and place your sliced sweet potatoes in the water while you prepare your spices
-mix all your spices (NO salt yet) with the cornflour
-remove the sweet potatoes from the water and pat dry
-place sweet potatoes in a bowl and drizzle oil over the the sweet potatoes. Mix with your hands until all of the sweet potatoes are covered.
-sprinkle your spice mixture over the top. Mix until all sides are covered.

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-place sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet topped with either a silpat or wax paper. Make sure they aren’t touching each other as this will make them soggy!
-cook for 10-15 minutes before flipping potatoes to their other sides and then let cook for another 10-15 minutes
-season with salt

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Meal Plan 33

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I am pulling out some of our favourite recipes for my niece’s first week with us. The quinoa patties we’re having tonight are definitely a favourite, and Charlotte still says the pea carbonara is her favourite food! I am personally looking forward to the honey walnut shrimp. It is SO yummy!

In other news, I am back in the game this week. I now have ample childcare AND Pete starts preschool this week! I’m even going to join the gym and try to shed the extra fluff I gained this summer (I currently cannot button my jeans!!). I have a backlog of recipes to share with you, as well as quite a few “Friends with Recipes” submissions that I’ve been hoarding. Bring it on, Monday! I’m ready!

Monday:
Sweet Potato and Kale Quinoa Patties
(Hungermama recipe)

Tuesday:
Potato Curry
(a recipe my niece picked out for the week)

Wednesday: 
Pea Carbonara
(Hungermama Recipe)

Thursday:
Honey Walnut Shrimp
(Hungermama Recipe)

Friday:
Pizza!

Meal Plan 32

I have been looking forward to this week all summer: at the end of this week my niece, Devon, arrives from America to stay with us for three months!! We are SO excited for her to get here!

Devon grew up on an urban farm in Seattle where she and her family eat a vegetarian/pescatarian diet of seasonal, locally grown foods. They have chickens in the garden who give them lots of fresh eggs, and even have honey bees. They completely tore up their back yard and even removed their driveway to plant crops. Because most of what they need they can either grow, barter for, or fill into jars at their local food coop, they produce barely any waste in a given week.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling a bit self-conscious about all of the out-of-season foods we eat on a regular basis, and also feeling quite guilty about all of the packaging that comes surrounding the foods we eat. I am hoping that having Devon here will help us to make more of a habit of hitting the farmer’s market on the weekend, or at least buying fruit and veg at our (amazing) local organic green grocer instead of buying it covered in packaging from Ocado.

I am sure Devon will have some fun tips to share with you about eating locally and growing your own fruit and veg. She is also a great cook, so it is likely she’ll have a few recipes to share as well!

Monday:
Mushroom and Courgette Hungerpot
(Hungermama recipe)

Tuesday:
Homemade Fish Fingers and Sweet Potato Chips
(I’ll post this recipe if it turns out!)

Wednesday: 
Pizza

Thursday:
Jason Cooks

Friday:
Teriyaki Salmon with Spinach and Avocado
(This was SO delicious last week, that we all wanted it again this week!)

This is an article I wrote on meal planning last year for Babyccino Kids before I started this blog. I’ve often thought that I should have this info on my own blog and finally asked the girls if I could repost it! I’ve made a few edits, but it is mostly the same content as it originally appeared. 

Bethie xx

meal-planning-Bethie

I try to make meal planning as easy as possible. For me, this means using my smart phone to help me plan and organise. There are three apps I use to help me prepare our nightly meals: Pinterest, iPhone “notes”, and my grocery app. I use Pinterest to inspire me to try new recipes (though flipping through favourite cookbooks also works!), my iPhone “notes” to make a list of dinners for the week (with links to online recipes), and my grocery app to make sure I have all the groceries I need for the week in advance.

When I browse Pinterest during the week I keep an eye out for easy, weeknight meals. Pictures can be deceiving, so I always read the recipe to make sure there isn’t anything too involved. If I find something that looks yummy, relatively healthy, and easy to make (or easy to adapt), I’ll pin it to my “Vegetarian/Pescatarian Dinners“, “Meaty Meals“, or “Crockpot Adventures” boards. I also follow some fun and inspirational Instagram accounts. These also serve as great inspiration to help me add new recipes into the mix.

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Once a week, usually on Saturday, my daughter (Charlotte) and I sit down to meal plan together. We start by looking at the calendar. What does our week look like? Are there any nights where we won’t be in for dinner? Will we have guests? Any nights where we need a really quick meal? From there I go to my “notes” app where I have an ongoing list of our weeknight meals. (I started this a few years ago and now have a big list to browse if I’m stuck for ideas!) Depending on what our week looks like, I choose a few meals to cook from scratch and a few quick meals. Charlotte likes to help me choose meals which is helpful to make her feel a part of the process. She is less likely to complain at mealtimes this way! I try to choose things she can help with, and any given week could look like this (see my “weekly meal plans” for more examples):

Monday: Sweet Potato and Kale Quinoa Patties
Tuesday: pre-made falafel with hummus, spinach and pita
Wednesday: Salmon Curry Hungerpot
Thursday: Lentil Soup
Friday: pizza

Tuesday’s pre-made falafel and Friday’s pizza are the quick meals for the week. They can be prepped and cooked in under 30 minutes. The other three meals are also prepped in under 20 minutes or so, but take additional time to cook.

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On a side note, we aren’t vegetarians, but we eat primarily vegetarian meals during the week. Vegetarian meals often cost less and take less time to cook which is helpful. I also like that my kids can help with the meal prep more with vegetarian meals (mashing potatoes, adding ingredients, stirring, etc.) where I would worry about helping as much when raw meat is involved.

Once I have a plan for the week, I order everything from my grocery app. (We don’t have a car, so ordering online is much easier for us!) This way I have no excuses when dinnertime rolls around on Monday.

There you have it! This is what works for me and my family, but I would love to hear what works for you! Please share!!

PS: These pics are from our old flat with its tiny (but super cute!) kitchen!

Meal Plan 31

sweet pot

This is our last week of Charlotte’s summer holidays! She is back to school on Thursday and Pete starts school mid-September. It will be odd to actually have time to myself again! I can’t wait! 😀

I’m excited to be making the teriyaki salmon recipe again this week. It is definitely one of our favourites! I’ll also be trying out a new hungerpot recipe this week. Fingers crossed it turns out!

Monday:
Tacos al Carbon (Jason made these and they were delish!)

Tuesday:
Eating out with Friends

Wednesday: 
Homemade Refried Beans Foldovers
(based loosely on a recipe from “River Cottage Veg Everyday”)

Thursday:
Teriyaki Salmon with Spinach and Avocado
(Hungermama Recipe)

Friday:
Basil Pasta Hungerpot

Easy Salmon Burgers

This easy salmon burger recipe makes for a super easy weeknight meal. I’ve made these in a food processor, but you can also just chop all the ingredients finely if you don’t have one. You can also substitute out the dill and smoked paprika for whatever you have on hand that sounds good. (The chia seeds caught my eye in the pantry so I threw them in there, but they’re not necessary). Basically, as long as you have the salmon, breadcrumbs, and an egg, you can add (within reason!) whatever else you fancy! Have fun, and let me know what you try!

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Easy Salmon Burgers:

burger ingredients:
-240g (1/2 lb)boneless, skinless salmon fillets
-half an onion, chopped
-two (or more!) cloves of garlic, chopped
-3 tablespoons of chia seeds
-1 egg
-1 cup panko breadcrumbs
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons of dill
-1 tablespoon smoked paprika
-a squeeze of lemon juice

other ingredients:
-a drizzle of olive oil
-1/2 cup of mayonnaise
-a hefty squirt of sriracha or two spoonfuls of pickle relish

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method:
-place all burger ingredients in a food processor and blend until fully combined
-drizzle enough olive to lightly coat your pan and cook the burgers over a medium heat until lightly browned on each side
-mix mayonnaise and sriracha together for adults, and mayo and pickle relish for the kids. Serve a dollop on top of each burger.

Meal Plan 30

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Are the summer holidays kicking anyone else’s butt? I do truly enjoy the leisure time with the kids, but I will definitely appreciate having a bit of breathing room once they are (both!!) in school. I feel so behind on everything!

We have recovered from our jet lag and are enjoying a few weekends away before the summer ends. I’m keeping dinners fairly easy, but had to try out this new Thai coconut curry recipe I saw on Pinterest. It looks so yummy!

Monday:
Mediterranean Tapas

Tuesday:
Salmon Burgers

Wednesday: 
Thai Coconut Curry Noodles

Thursday:
Tuna Melts

Friday:
Heading to Oxford for the weekend!