We live in an apartment. There, I said it. I often admit this in hushed tones followed by an apology about how the itinerant nature of my career lately has forced us to seek only semi-permanent lodging, but the truth is that after living in apartments all over this state for basically the past ten years, I’m starting to get used to it. It’s not ideal for the kind of lifestyle my husband and I dream of living but it works for now until we can set down more permanent roots somewhere else.
One of the major downsides to our current apartment (and our previous one) is that our outdoor space is incredibly ill-suited to growing anything of our own, even herbs. We don’t get much light at all and the space is limited. This has forced me to focus my goal of being more self-sufficient on things I can do indoors. Every time I make my own bread from scratch, darn a pair of socks, or pass up some boxed convenience food at the store for the whole ingredient to make it from scratch myself, I feel like it’s a small move in the right direction. I’m telling you this because it would be really easy for me to cop out on feeding my family more whole foods and to give in to modern convenience culture. Super easy, especially being 37 weeks pregnant. And yeah, sometimes I do give in when I’m really exhausted and it’s been ‘one of those days.’ That’s ok. I feel like this is one of the few times in life you can really earn an A just for genuine effort. So the message of this post is that it’s worth trying. Even if you have no clue how to darn a sock (or what that even means), the small things you do matter. They matter for the environment, for your budget (self-sufficiency is fascinatingly frugal), for your own self-esteem (making something yourself is extremely gratifying), and for your family (making things together creates traditions and built-in family time). Give it a shot.
As a bonus, here’s the recipe for the sweet potato casserole I took to my in-laws’ for Thanksgiving last week. Alas, I have no picture as it was devoured pretty quickly, but it’s as pretty as it is delicious.
3 cups peeled, roasted, and smashed sweet potatoes
2 egg whites (easier to beat if kept cold in a cold metal bowl)
2tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1tsp orange zest
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp kosher salt + 1/4tsp (for topping)
1tsp cinnamon + 1/2tsp (for topping)
1/4cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4cup rolled oats
1cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat egg whites with hand mixer (or lots of elbow grease) until soft peaks form in a small bowl. Add 2tbsp sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl, combine smashed sweet potatoes, orange juice, orange zest, ginger, 1/2tsp salt, and 1tsp cinnamon until smooth (I used a hand mixer for this too). Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the smooth sweet potato mixture. Scoop from the bottom of the bowl and sweep over and around until the egg whites are no longer visible. Place sweet potato mixture into medium casserole dish (you could use a 9×13 but it will not be as thick obviously). Next, make topping by combing rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, 1/4tsp salt, and 1/2tsp cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add cubed cold butter and use either a pastry cutter or your fingers to rub in butter until you get a consistency like wet sand that crumbles. Add the nuts if using. Top sweet potato mixture and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until topping starts to brown and is bubbly. You could also add a few marshmallows on top if you wanted for the last 5 minutes for some extra pizzazz.