Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What to do with eggplant but no eggplant lovers?

Today I did a search on the internet for recipes which will win over non eggplant lovers since no one in my household is particularly fond of them. They are usually expensive, so we don't bother buying them and forcing ourselves to try them. But this week we got 60 pounds of produce from Market on the Move for 10 dollars. Included were 4 or 5 large eggplants. So now we're trying out eggplant recipes for all sorts of stuff.

In my search I happened across this great food blog on which the author posts an eggplant recipe a week:, this article about eggplant recipes from,:, and later this week we'll try the Eggplant Papriksash from the Fat Free Vegan: I'll take pictures and be sure to let you know if it wins over my household, a group of non eggplant lovers, but who love eggplant. I think I'll also try her Eggplant Pesto and Rigatoni with Zucchini and Eggplants since the box also had plenty of zucchini, and I love Pesto but rarely eat it because it has so much oil.

In particular Carlie and I found this one interesting. Since we're the ones home right now, we thought we'd be trying it tonight with some slight alterations based on what we happened to have in the pantry. But it turned out to take an hour and we weren't willing to wait. Quick and easy eggplant parm it is: We used milk instead of egg because of my egg allergy, and sliced them slightly thinner which made them a bit crispier which I particularly liked. It's the texture of eggplant that I usually have a hard time with. I'll take pictures and post how we like it, but in the mean time check out this awesome blog entry:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pork Ribs and Mash with Salad

Tonight we are having guests over for dinner. We don't do that very often, but we wanted to spend some time with our friends, and they happen to be free on a day Patch has off. We ran to the store to make sure we had everything we needed, picked up a couple extra items, and it's going to be delicious. I'm preparing a slightly altered version of a recipe I got from a food magazine for the mashed potatoes and making a salad. Patch is cooking ribs, which were on sale, just in case there's not quite enough food to go around. Leftovers will be eaten I'm sure, so that's not a problem. We got some delicious organic sweet peppers and oranges which I plan to have in the salad along with some smoked gouda, so it should be delicious!  I'll upload pics as soon as I have them. Our friends brought strawberries and we had them over angel food cake for dessert since Patch didn't get a birthday cake. (well she had cupcakes, but apparently she wanted this instead)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Food, a Mindful Meditation

Some of you who read my blog may realize that I am a person who does not consider myself religious, but does consider myself spiritual. I have a very eclectic spiritual practice, from many different methods. One of my favorite methods is Dharma Punk meditations. You can learn some great ones here:

The Buddha said "I was hesitant to teach because this spiritual awakening that I've had is so against the stream of ordinary untrained human consciousness that I doubt the many will be able to comprehend the subtle and profound path." Meaning it's not as obvious as it might seem. I like to remind myself of this, and to find new and interesting ways to meditate and to be mindful in my practice whatever that may look like. I am not at this time in my life meditating daily, but I am starting to become more aware of and make more conscious decisions around that.

One thing I have really found a beautiful practice in being mindful is a mindful meditation around food. It is really simple to do, and is to a large extent about gratitude. I don't do this every time I eat, but every time that I do it, I find myself enjoying my meals even more than when I do not. Feel free to try this yourself, I didn't make it up, but I don't know where  I got the idea. Probably one of my friends who practices daily gratitude.

I make my food mindful of what I am trying to accomplish. I choose ingredients that lead to health and well-being in my body, and if I focus on it, in my spirit. Each meal I have the opportunity to think through what I am preparing and how will it benefit myself and the others eating it, and the world around me. You may not think the food you eat can impact the world around you. I used to think this. The closest to understanding this as a child, was when my mother would say "finish that food there are starving children in china." Which never made much sense to me. But what this mindful meditation on my food teaches me, is to think of where the food came from and what kind of impact that has on the world we live in. Rather than talking about it any more, let me describe the actual act of mindfulness. Let's say I chose to eat hummus with pita and bell peppers that I did not grow the ingredients for or make myself. It can make a simple meal last longer, but it is so worth it.

I look at the pita bread and think or say out loud, "I am grateful for this pita bread." I pause and think about what it takes to make the pita bread and get it to me. I take a bite and then I continue to think, "I am grateful for Patch preparing this meal for me... I am grateful for Carlie buying this food" I pause and experience the bread I am eating fully feeling it's texture in my mouth, it's flavor on my tongue, it's nourishment as I eat. "I am grateful for the bakers who  made it" I pause and visualize the act of baking bread.  "I am grateful for the farmers who raised the ingredients ... I am grateful for the earth from which the ingredients came and the workers who built the equipment it was farmed with... I am grateful for water, without which we would not have the wheat which feeds us." I dip the pita into the hummus and think about the ingredients with which it was made and I think, "I am grateful for the workers in the store we bought this hummus from... I am grateful for the farmers who grew the sesame and garbanso beans... I am grateful for the person who prepared the hummus."

It is important to pause between bites as you think about what went into creating that bite. And before combining parts of the meal, I taste each part of the meal. Each ingredient may have come from a different place. One thing this has made me mindful of as well, is that some food travels great distances to get to us. If I shop without being mindful of where the food is coming from, it might take a large amount of fuel and time to get that food to the store's warehouse, and then to the store. The act of bringing food long distances can add polution to the world we live in. I think about that, and if I feel guilty, I let my guilt go and focus instead on how I might do things differently so that less stress and trauma go into the preparation of my food.

Doing this has helped me to become more aware of things. Where does my food come from. How is it grown? If it is grown with non GMO seeds in healthy soil with healthy water but travels around the world to get to me, is it worth it? Making healthy decisions for me, my family, and the world we live in is all about being mindful. I may not meditate on each piece of food I eat, but doing so on occasion has really helped me to become more aware. It has inspired us to grow more of our own food and be conscious of what we are putting in the earth we grow it in. Recently we have resumed planting and composting and we try to buy locally produced foods if we can. It's a great experience and when it comes time for harvest, it will be some of the best food we've eaten all year.

You may think this post is silly and it may not be up your alley, but I thought I would share for those who this speaks to. I hope it helps.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's a start

The other day Carlie and I stopped by the Fruit and Bread Barn, and they gave us some empty fruit pallets which make some great starter boxes with a bit of ingenuity and working in the dirt, I'm looking forward to seeing plants start growing all over the place in Phoenix! To start with, we are working on raised beds at some friend's place on 1st Ave. We just call it the 1st Ave House.

Michael D. brought some compost soil, Tamara brought some recycling bins, and we brought the starter boxes. Tammy cut three bins apart I believe. One she cut the bottom off, and left the top so it became a composter. I don't have a photo of that right now, although I did take pictures with my nice camera, I haven't uploaded them yet. For now you can check out the 1sts Ave garden of past, present and future in this video where Mellow and John gave me a tour.

After some urban hiking around Phoenix (John walked and pushed my chair, thanks John!) where we picked up some trash, talked with locals, etc. We came back to the house and did some night gardening. Here's a starter box full of sweet corn kernels.

It's not yet a full garden, but it's a start!

Dinner by Teamwork

The problem with planning meals based on recipes in magazines or from health food sites is simple. They are not based on what is low cost and available locally.

The positive thing is, it gives us new ideas, encourages us to try new things and is really fun! Plus eating delicious healthy food is a good thing. Plus it gives us a chance to cook together or for each other. This one was dinner by teamwork. Patch took me to my favorite store where I bought the fruits, veggies and cherry preserves. Carlie bought the meat. Patch prepped the meal, and Carlie cooked it. Teamwork!

Tonight we had lamb rib chops with cherry sauce and salad. Patch and carlie had hash browns with theirs. I had cherry cider with mine which i like watered down 50/50 cuz otherwise its too strong.

It was delicious! And of course if you use terriaki sauce without gluten, it's gluten free, which is good for my gluten intolerant friends. I believe it was one of Rachel rays recipes and it us super easy. We just seasoned them with salt and pepper, mixed cherry preserves with terriaki and cooked them about a

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Veggie Lunch Take 2 - Even more delicious!

Got home from the mobile gardening party exhausted and happy. Hated to leave early, but I need to rest, eat good food, make sure I'm well hydrated because I've been invited onto the Laveen Reservation for a sweat. I've never done it before, but I was told to make sure I'm well hydrated and healthy if I'm going to do this. It's meant to be a healing and grounding sweat before Big Mike takes me to see the part of South Mountain that the city of Phoenix wants to put a freeway through despite the local indigenous people having voted no on the project. His wife Antonia contacted me to see if I am willing to help make a video of the area so that people will better understand what is happening right here in Laveen.

But back to the deliciousness!

If you want to make an amazing vegetarian sandwhich for lunch, I recommend the following. Start with your favorite white french bread. Toast it, and then drizzle with your favorite balsamic vinegar.  Then add 1 large leaf of lettuce, 3 slices bell pepper, 1 slice of heirloom tomato, 3 more slices of bell pepper, 2 thin slices of quality Jack cheese. We tend to stick to quality cheese and eat less of it whenever possible. It ends up being about the same cost in the end if you don't eat too much of it, and it helps the pounds strip off my gut to avoid over eating cheese. But it also adds protein to this meal. For healthy fat you might want to add some avacado. I've thought of blending some with some balsamic and spreading it on the bread. Maybe I'll give that a try tomorrow.

The produce and bread is from the Fruit and Bread Barn on Baseline near 24th St or so.  (One of these days I'll get their address down LOL) The cheese is form AJ's and the 100 year old balsamic was a gift from Carlie's sister. Organic fruits and veggies from the store are the next best thing from getting them from the CSA, local farmer's markets are even better, and fresh off the vine is divine. Can't wait to start harvesting from our backyard garden.

I tell, ya, IT WAS SO GOOD! I highly recommend you try making similar sandwiches. The parts of the pepper, lettuce and tomato that weren't edible went into our compost. Unfortunately we'd forgotten a head of lettuce was in the crisper so it had started to go bad. The worms will love it tho, and it will become compost to help our garden and those of our friends grow. Hopefully when I get my trike next week I will soon be able to bike down to the store and get supplies in smaller amounts and less frequently which would lead to less spoiled fruits and veggies. We will still have more to compost because the store sets aside any of their unsellable produce and I pick it up when I'm there. Whatever I can't plant, scavenge seeds from or otherwise use, goes into a compost bin to help nourish community gardens.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Accidentally Veggie

Vegetarian meals for the day:

Breakfast: pear, strawberries and blood orange salad with toast.

Lunch: mango date shake at the fruit and bread barn plus some of carlie's chili fritos. We were going to share the shake and sandwich, but it turned out the store put mayo and mustard on the bread without asking. They also gave us packets of mustard. I can't eat mayo and have always hated mustard, so missed out on the meatloaf sandwich. Interestingly enough, that meant a meatless day. Who knew? Didn't try for it, which is clear when you look over what I ate. Not enough protein, and not enough at all.

And best yet, a dinner of tomato, red bell pepper, dark lettuce, and jack cheese on french white bread, toasted. We bought the bread and veggies 2 days ago at the Fruit and Bread Barn and the cheese Patch got from her work. It was Deeeeelicious. You have got to try this sandwich, preferably with home made bread or freshly made bread from your favorite local bakery. Gotta tell ya, these tomatoes are incredibly flavorful and juicy. I can only imagine how much better they are straight off the vine. If my sister reads this she'll probably flip cuz I hated tomatoes as a kid. I still get a little squeamish when I think of it, but I know they are good for me, and I know that I like the taste if not always into the texture. This one however was amazing.

Snack: apples, crackers and cheddar cheese with unsweetened tea

Dessert: strawberries

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fruit and Bread Barn, help wanted and more on urban potato farming

You all may get bored of me talking about planting potatoes by the time I finally manage to do it, but at least you'll get pictures and a clear story of how it works out once I try a few methods of urban potato farming. I'm going to try multiple types.

We just got home from the Fruit and Bread barn. Unfortunatly they threw out the potatoes I was going to plant. They were a buck per bag of fingerling potatoes that had eyes all over them but were otherwise fine. Edible sitll if you cut off the eyes, or perfect for planting. If you haven't tried fresh grown potatoes, they are sweeter and earthier tasting than the bland store bought ones usually are. Fingerling potatoes are something I really enjoy, so I was thinking I'd buy 2 bags and plant a few different types of potato gardens. One set at my house, one set at 1st Ave house, and one set at another undecided location, then compare the results over time.

"That's too bad!" I said, "They were perfect for planting" "Huh, people don't usually think like that." She replied. Well... sometimes people need a little help to be aware of such things. I probably would not have thought of it that way if I hadn't been talking with local urban gardeners a lot lately and looking for cheap, organic produce or seeds that would grow well in Phoenix and could be grown by urban gardeners in small spaces. Next time they should put a sign up with them that says that, "Perfect for planting!" because yeah sure, you can buy any potatoes, treat them right, and they'll grow eyes and soon be ready for planting. You can, but those were cheap and ready! Oh shoot, I just had a thought that I should have asked where they disposed of them I probably could have picked them out of their compost pile for free. Maybe I'll go back tomorrow and ask :D

On a successful note, we did manage to get every fruit and vegetable on my list for the various meals we will be trying in the next few days. Plus they had some great day old bread which is going to be perfect for toast and paninis, and one of the recipes I found was for paninis. Plus we got some delicious looking preserved cherries from a small orchard grower. I am going to use them on lamb rib chops which I've heard called Lamb Lollipops. After I try the recipe I'll let you know how it goes and pass it on. They put the whole of what we bought into a box that fruit probably had been delivered to them in, and which I will use to put starter soil in and start a bunch of seeds growing and ready for transplant.

P.S. They also had a notice up that they're looking for a full time employee. I wish I could work full time there, it would be a job I'd really enjoy, especially if they'd let me play in their garden and care for their compost. I know that sounds odd, but I do enjoy those things and it would be great to get paid to do them. Plus it's such a small and local store that would be a neat atmosphere I'd think. If you're looking for work and this sounds up your alley, they're on Baseline near 24th Street just down and across the street from PetSmart. I didn't ask about what the job entails, so you'll have to do that on your own

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Urban and Mobile Gardening - Potatoes

We've been growing fruits and veggies in our backyard as much as we can since moving to Arizona. Ironically, we had citrus and herbs in LA, but that's about it. One thing we've never tried to plant is potatoes. But since getting together with some other urban gardeners, I've discovered some neat techniques for planting potatoes like verticle potatoe gardens that start out as just a 2 foot by 2 foot box of 2x4's filled with dirt, potatoes are placed in the dirt, and when the sprout grows above the top the dirt, another box of the same size is placed on top and dirt is added, and so it continues. Much like #6 in this post:,5

This is the method I'd most like to try, and I think it could be made using scavenged wood pallets and the like. Tomorrow we are going back to the Fruit and Bread Barn, and we will see if the fingerling potatoes we spotted there the other day are still around. Unfortunately they were unable to take our debit card so this time we're going to bring cash.

P.S. Was up too late with the kittens (bottle feeding) and overslept this morning when Carlie and Patch took over feeding for a while, so didn't get to the store *sniff* BUT some friends stopped by and they're going to this place that sells compost and potting soil in large amounts for less money and some huge sturdy bags you can use as raised beds that are only 5 bucks each!!! I'm super excited!

Down but Not Out, Desert Food Lover is Back!

I feel like I'm coming out of a darkness and into the light around health issues. It's been a great but hard year in that I was feeling healthier so got more active and I also gave into the temptation of eating out and making poor food choices, and peer pressure to eat things I know I shouldn't, but I'm back! And I'm going to refocus on eating healthy. Last night I finally gave into people saying nah you're not really allergic to ginger, it's probably a food intolerance and now that you haven't had it in ages you can have it. So I drank a cup of ginger ale. It was delicious, and horrible. I spent the night itchy despite allergy meds, with swollen scars from surgerys I went through last year and hives. I have some magazines left from last year's attempts which have recipes in them I liked and which I was working on revising so that they matched my allergy and food intolerance list.

I've been having some allergy problems and health problems which I know are related to eating the wrong foods, so I need to get more consistent. I think the place to start is planning meals and going shopping to get the food to make healthy meals. Or rather, finding healhty foods we can afford, and then planning meals that I can make with those fruits, veggies, nuts and the occasional meat. Tomorrow Patch is taking me to the local fruit and veggie store. I'm excited. Last time we went, we picked out all these yummy looking foods that fit in our budget, and then boom debit card didn't work. This time we will take cash with us. The other good thing about taking cash is we will stick to our budget.

Carlie just recently said she thinks the 2 of us need to commit to losing weight, which is great to hear. Because last time I tried to eat healthy I didn't feel like Patch and Carlie were on the same page. They wanted to be supportive, but that's not the same thing as the whole household being dedicated to eating healthy. For Carlie, this means a desire to lose weight which comes from within, instead of just doctors telling her to do so. Same for me of course. Although for me it's less about weight, and more about eating healthy which, for me, naturally results in weight loss. I think we are coming at the same issue from different directions, but this time at least we're both committed to change if our conversations are to be believed. She also got down the magazines and was the one to suggest it was time I start making food plans and we go shopping for healthy foods.

One challenge this year is that I was told my vertigo is due to inner ear problems, and is unlikely to get better without surgery which is at this time considered unnecessary. I agree, I have no desire to have surgery any more at this point in my life. Maybe after a break my body and spirit will be OK with me. I know there are still things that need some work. But I have found there is a strong component between what I eat and my migraines, and my vertigo gets worse when my allergies act up. Because of the vertigo, I was told to give up on my hope to drive, that it's not going to happen again in this lifetime. My vertigo can get worse, but not better due to the type of inner ear problems. At first I was very upset to give up on my dream of getting my licence back. It seemed like I was being told I was losing all hope of independent travel in my life. But then I got an idea...

My next health goal is to get or make a recumbent trike. I can't drive. OK, well that's one less driver putting pollution into the air. But I think that I will be safe on a trike. I can go as fast or slow as I'm able, and it would be a way that I could get outside to workout alone, without having to wait till someone is able to go with me. (Since when I walk by myself I sometimes lose my balance and fall) Riding a bike isn't doable, but riding a trike might be. I want to try it. I've gotten a lot better at controling my vertigo (it tends to hit when I look over my right shoulder too fast) It might be a bit over my physical ability right now to go very far, but I was thinking that I could get an electric motor assist, the kind you can turn on or off so you can peddle with or without. I could go to the stores, farmers markets, and library by myself, and become more independent. Who knows, eventually perhaps I can even ride it to the bus, put it on the front of the bus, and get around town if I can get healthy enough to sit up on a bus when it goes around corners, I could get around a lot better than I do now, without adding more pollution to the planet, and I believe I would work up to where I could use it on an almost daily basis, which would allow me to get cardio, which I don't get enough of walking. Especially since right now I can't do a ton of walking if other people aren't around and I can't get to the gym alone, which limits where I can work out. I'm really hopeful and looking forward to getting out there on a trike. If I can't afford one maybe I can go to the rusty spoke bicycle collective and maybe they could help me build one. Plus I found out you can get a kit to make it an electric bike. So I'm hoping that's really simple too. They say it is and it doesn't look like it's beyond me. A good project that could lead to a more productive, and self sustainable lifestyle.

Looking through these magazines I've got some great ideas. After we try them out I'll share the successes and failures. Please let me know of any vegetarian or vegan recipes you like since I'll be doing Meatless Mondays.