Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Growing our own food

Over the last few years we have been learning to grow our own food. Patch and Carlie do the heavy lifting, and in the past we sort of let Patch try her hand at farming, but this year I have gotten more involved. I am dedicated to growing more produce to make it less expensive to eat healthy foods, and also because then we know exactly what goes into our food rather than wondering when it's from a store.

On top of that, it's really satisfying to eat something which you have nurtured and worked hard to grow in the desert environment of Phoenix, AZ. So this year we are having some good success with an Artichoke (above left) a tree which is 1/2 peach and 1/2 plum and will soon have some great peaches for us.  Beneath the shade of the peach and plum tree are 4 pots of berries which we thought we had lost due to too much sun, but after moving it under the tree and watering it by hand they have begun to revitalize!

This year we planted cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic and jalapenos in pots for the first time, and grapes are growing up a trellace outside my bedroom window which will be delicious AND help provide much needed shade and protection from the heat in a room which gets more than it's fair share of both.  Not far from the grapes grows a nectarine tree which was just planted this year. We should be able to pick it's yummy fruits in about 3 years.

We would like to also harvest our own eggs (like they are talking about tomorrow here: but suspect our HOA is against it. We will see. But because we are trying to live as sustainably as possible, we are investigating methods which use less water, provide more protein, etc. Currently we are doing a lot of container gardening as shown above, and there are 2 raised beds which are not yet in use this year, but which will be planted soon with whichever seedlings make it. We have been making our own compost and striving to grow organically, but I would like to improve this and make it a  more sustainable circle of life through a process called Aquaponics. I've joined a few aquaponics groups such as this one: and have been investigating. I even wrote to to see if we can get a tour and learn about their successful aquaponic efforts in Mesa, AZ. We hope to use the back yard farm skills we are learning along with green building practices to create a more sustainable food source for our house, and probably enough to share with others.   I will post here as we continue learning as we grow.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Market on the Move - Rescuing food that would be lost

Today I am roasting and preserving peppers that I got from Market on the Move (also called MoM) check out their link for one near you:

MoM rescues food that is left at the border and not allowed to cross. For 10 dollars they'll give you a box of up to 60 pounds of food. Basically they give you one large or 2 small boxes to fill up, and then you can eat it, preserve it, or share it with friends and neighbors. I'm thinking about hosting one in our neighborhood cuz they're usually not around here. In a way it's Freeganism. It's food that is not going bad but which for some strange political reason is being abandoned, and the great part is that anyone who wants to pitch in a few bucks can get some. Sometimes friends partner up so it's only 5 bucks each for 30 pounds of produce each. Or you can join their club for 100 dollars which puts you on an email list to tell you when and where to meet up, and you get a box every time they come around instead of pitching in 10 bucks every time which actually adds up to more. Either way, it seems like there is a way almost anyone could benefit from this.

I partnered up with zenjen and Ineda from This is HOW, and together we bought about 120 pounds to divvy up. I gave some of mine to some neighbors of theirs down the street to build comradery and had a great talk with them. The rest I took home. Some of it I didn't preserve soon enough so ended up in our compost but most of it we ate in salads and various healthy and delicious meals like eggplant and zucchini lasanga. I used the roasted peppers in a salad dressing of roasted peppers in olive oil mixed with a pear balsamic. Smokey and DELICIOUS!

Patch hates eggplants and zucchini, so some of the eggplant did go bad. I wasn't sure how to preserve it and didn't look up how in time. But next time I get my hands on eggplant I'll know what to do and handle it better. Still, what we did eat was delicious. The last of the zucchini I have plans for. I'm going to ask Carlie to make some of this delicious looking zucchini risotto I found on All Recipes and the rest of it will be made into little zucchini bread muffins which will be given to neighbors, frozen for later, or gobbled up by Carlie and I pretty quickly I'm guessing!

We didn't go to MoM yesterday to resupply, so I'm going to have to be creative to afford the fruits and veggies we eat this week. We've been trying to eat more produce in general, and organic whenever possible. But there are some farmers markets open around here today I believe, so we may make a trip over there for some fun fresh ingredients. Farmers markets and growing our own vegetables are the way to get the best fresh, flavorful, organic produce, but Market on the Move is best for the budget. Between the 3 methods, we've been getting along well.

Right now the peppers are done roasting and they smell delicious. I'm waiting for them to cool off and then I'll put on some gloves and slice them open (not sure how hot they are, but my hands were burning a little just from rubbing oil on them so I am guessing they're pretty high up on the scoefield scale. If you haven't roasted peppers before, it's really easy!

Preheat your oven to 500F, Wash the peppers off to get any pesticides off or if you grew them organically just a good rinsing to make sure the dirt is all off, rub 2 teaspoons of oil on them, Lay them out on a baking tray, place the baking tray in the oven and keep and eye on them. I found it took about 5 minutes each side. They puffed up really nice in the oven, and they smell so good our mouths are watering! Maybe we'll put some in the salad dressing for tonight

Do not use olive oil it has too low of a burn point and will get really smokey. I forgot that info this time and phew! I'm glad the smoke alarm didn't go off when I opened the oven. It does smell delicious tho, and they still roasted so if you don't have another oil handy I guess it works in a pinch. Next time I'm going to try peanut or walnut oil cuz we have those and I bet it would be delicious. Only down side to peanut oil is you can't give them away to people with allergies, but no one in our house has such allergies so we'd be OK.

I think we'll use market on the move again even tho it's a good bet none of the produce is organic. It just helps spread the money further and I guess it's better to eat non organic produce than none at all! If you have any tips or tricks for rescuing food that would otherwise be lost, please comment below!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Accidentally Veggie - Fried Zuchinni

I have been slacking on my job of planning meals this week. In part, from a lack of energy which I had been thinking was weird, but since rereading my blog, I realize is pretty normal considering my week so far. Day after a migraine usually is a fatigue filled day, and although I didn't have bad migraines yesterday and managed to be productive and rode my trike, I also ended the day with a migraine which was probably due to packaged food I ate. When will I learn and stop eating packaged foods you ask? I don't know. Sometimes ease outweighs caution. I was quite active yesterday so between that and the headaches last night, I think it makes perfect sense that I was sluggish today. HOWEVER ...

We had delicious fried zucchini with mixed grain rice and quinoa for dinner. DELICIOUS!  So much so that we ate it before we thought to take pictures. SORRY! The mixed grain rice and quinoa was prepackaged, but has nothing I'm allergic to. The fried zucchini was made from scratch by Carlie.

The zucchini was from the Market on the Move, so was plentiful and low cost, but we are having a hard time eating all we got there. Market on the move is great because it's $10 for 60 pounds or so of produce, I didn't get to attend the class on how to properly preserve produce bought in large quantities, so I will have to explore that at a future date instead. I was thinking of perhaps asking Zenjen if she will come teach the class in my kitchen, and I can invite neighbors over to join in the fun and learning.

So our dinner was accidentally vegetarian, but it was delicious, nutritious, and I felt energized afterwards. I think perhaps tomorrow I'll try to stop by a store which sells local foods and pick some things up to go with the zucchini. Maybe I'll try my hand at some zucchini parmesan or something. And eventually I'll get around to making zucchini bread, which I loved as a child, but tweak the recipe so it's eggless.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Food Triggered Migraines

This morning I was reminded of why it's so important to read labels. There was a box of cereal taunting me from the pantry for the last couple of weeks which Patch bought for herself. Apparently she wasn't sure if I'd be able to eat it or not. She never spoke to me about the cereal, so I had no idea what was going on in her mind, but as usual I read the label before eating something I'd never seen before. Unfortunately I tried reading the label through blurry, just woke up eyes. It tasted funny to me, and I started getting an upset stomach so I stopped eating it. I started getting flashing lights and other "aura" symptoms so I thought a migraine might be coming on, but I could of sworn there was nothing in it that was on the "No no" list.

When I started getting light sensitive and headachey I got up to look at the label since it was the only possible migraine trigger I'd eaten. Really should have gone to check as soon as I suspected a migraine was coming on, because the meds work best if taken BEFORE it hits. Turns out, it had barley syrup as the last ingredient. I don't know how I missed it. Barley is definitely a trigger for me. I don't know how that didn't pop out at me the first time. I thought I'd read every ingredient, but apparently not. At that point I was worried the meds wouldn't work but took one anyway. A zoloft under the tongue. DISGUSTING and didn't help the nausea at all, if anything made that symptom worse, but it did make me want to lay down in a dark place and knocked me out for most of the day. BUMMER, but at least I woke up without a migraine. Still felt fuzzy headed and only 1/2 here, but at least I was able to get up, feed the kittens, listen to some soft music. I chose to listen to Coyote Grace on low.

It was such a bummer to miss out on my day. I had plans, but it was a good reminder of why I tend to make tentative plans for everything, and an even bigger reminder NOT TO EAT things I'm unsure of. Apparently reading labels first thing in the morning is not a good idea. Because migraines are only unpredictable if I'm not paying attention. For me, they are triggered by a combination of things. I do best when I am eating right, working out, avoiding things I'm chemically sensitive to, and not around flashing lights.

Today was a stay at home in dim light day. It's a reminder to be mindful of what's going on around me, and what I put in my mouth.