Monthly Archives: August 2010

On the playa, be back soon….

Groundnut Stew

This recipe is for an African stew starring groundnuts, aka peanuts. It’s hearty, filling, and simple to make. Not to mention, it’s pretty freakin’ cheap and makes a boatload. If you can’t eat it all, freeze it! I am taking three frozen portions to Burning Man and am excited to defrost and have a nice serving of veggies ready for me!

Alex is excited for stew. This is just known as “the stew” in our house.

Chop, chop, chop! Don’t be too picky about uniformity.

Mmmm ginger, tomatoes, there was garlic there too but I think it was already in the pot.

Alex stole the camera. Several shots of my butt did not make the cut for the post.

Saute onions and cayenne together.

Aww Alex and my mom!

Hippo is hungry for stew. Hippo is always hungry.

Add the sweet potatoes and cabbage.

Add the juices, the ginger and tomatoes. You can also add cilantro here if you wish.

It will be red….and then you add the peanut butter and simmer a little longer.

It turns out to be beautifully orange. I also added cinnamon and some raisins (not shown) and it was a great addition for a little sweetness.

Groundnut Stew (adapted from Casual Kitchen)

Ingredients:

2 medium-to-large onions, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, either minced or pressed
1 small cabbage, chopped
3 medium to large sweet potatoes, cubed coarsely
3 cups tomato juice (more if necessary)
1 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons fresh peeled and grated ginger root
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro (optional)
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use the natural kind and it works beautifully)
A few dashes of cinnamon
A handful of raisins
Directions:
Sauté the onions and the cayenne pepper in oil for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for three minutes. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and sauté for a three minutes.

Add the juices, ginger, cilantro and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the peanut butter, raisins and cinnamon, stir thoroughly, simmer a few more minutes, and serve. Add more juice if necessary to thin it out.

Can be served over millet, a traditional African grain.

Preparing for Radical Self Reliance

It’s almost the last week of August, meaning only one thing: Burning Man starts in 3 days.

If you don’t know what Burning Man is, check out the following links:

For info: www.burningman.com
For photos: http://www.scottlondon.com/photo/burningman/index.html

Here’s a brief description that doesn’t come close to encompassing everything it is: It’s a weeklong festival in the desert in Nevada that requires radical self reliance, encourages self expression, and fosters a community of people from all walks of earth. It’s a makeshift city of 40,000 that stands for a week with a gift economy where the only thing for sale is ice and coffee. Everything you bring in, you have to bring out. And you have to bring everything – water, food, shelter, sunscreen, toilet paper, an open mind and sense of adventure.

Although many will say it’s a big festival of drugs, drinking and debauchery, it is so much more than that. Those things are available for you, should you choose to participate in them. But there are plenty of other things available as well – interactive and innovative art, some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, music, and the chance to disconnect from the rat race and explore who you are and who you want to be.

So how does one prepare for a week in the desert? Most importantly, what do you bring to sustain yourself for a week of having your world turned upside down?

I have been to Burning Man three times. This year will be my fourth. In the past, I’ve gone pretty basic for dinner– boxes of mac and cheese, pasta and sauce, grilled cheese and quesadillas. And it works! This year, I am bringing some of those things, but also preparing a few meals ahead of time and freezing them so we can have a little taste of home out on the playa.

I made a batch of veggie burgers (recipe coming soon) and a batch of Groundnut Stew (recipe coming soon) that will go into Ziplocs and frozen.  Hopefully they will stay nice and cool in the cooler (we are also trying dry ice this year) so we can enjoy some home cooked food throughout the week.

I just realized I’m going backwards in meal times, but since BM is topsy turvy, this post can be too!

For lunch, we usually have cheese sandwiches with condiments and veggies, PB and J, quesadillas or an entire bag of pretzels….in other words, lunch is pretty flexible. Sometimes we are out roving around, and we might not get back in time for lunch. In these times, I always carry at least two energy bars to tide me over. In general, the playa is very friendly and you’ll probably stumble upon someone having a pancake breakfast or bacon wrapped hot dogs (if you’re of the omnivourous variety) but it’s best not to rely on those things. In past years, we’ve gone clif bar, but this year I am trying out LaraBars. I am hoping they can take the heat given that they don’t have as many preservatives as Clif.

Breakfast is breakfast burritos with egg, cheese, salsa or cereal.  This year, I’m adding oatmeal to the mix as well. Neither Alex or I drink milk, so we bring rice or soy – non dairy milk usually fares better because it can sit out of the cooler before it’s opened. My guess is that real milk would spoil pretty fast.

And for in between meal time snacks, we have chips, pretzels, cookies, fruit cups; again this year I am trying the “healthier” versions of these things with fewer preservatives so hopefully they make it through the week. Thankfully we are camping with some of our best friends so I know they wouldn’t leave us starving! We also bring fruit for the beginning of the week – it rarely lasts until the end because of the heat. There is nothing better than coming home after a hot, dusty bike ride to a cold, crisp apple!

Check out this photo of (most) of our food – this doesn’t include all of the water, fresh food, or the frozen meals. You also can’t see some canned beans, rice, and the oats.

Yes that is Tang.

Having said all of this, for some reason I really don’t get as hungry out there as you’d think. Even after biking around all day, my meals are much smaller than they are at home. I think it’s the combination of the heat and gulping down a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated. I always end up bringing food home, but because there’s no store to run to, I’d rather have too much than not enough!

In terms of health, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not my healthiest week. There’s much more snackage and more drinking than I normally do. It’s also not the most sustainable event – 40,000 trekking to one location and then burning a giant wooden statue…you get the picture.

But as the title of this blog suggests, I like to think about my life holistically. Most of the time, I am healthy. Most of the time, I am as green as possible within my limits. Also, Burning Man brings together some of the most ecologically minded people around and some great things come out of it. I’m thrilled to go, and I’m thrilled to share my experience with you when I get back!

Until next time!

The Farmers’ Market Circuit

Growing up, I don’t remember ever visiting a  farmers’ market.

It wasn’t until I moved to San Luis Obispo, CA for college and discovered their rich Thursday night tradition that I became enthralled with them . The SLO Farmers’ Market is a little different than the ones I have discovered up here in Norcal. There’s more music and prepared food, and although there are fruit and veg produce vendors, it’s not the main reason people go.

I hunted through old college photos to try and find some pictures of this fabulous market, but instead I found pictures like this:

No, I dont know why I am making this face.

Now that you’ve seen me sufficiently weird, we can accept it and move on!

Anyway, when I moved up to San Francisco, I heard legends about the epic-quality of the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market. I remember visiting the first two times and only venturing through the booths in the front.  It was great, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. Less music and less prepared food, and it certainly required more fortitude to get up on a Saturday morning than the SLO market on Thursday nights.

It wasn’t until the third visit that I actually went INTO the Ferry Building and through to the back that I discovered the glory that is the Ferry Building. Fresh cheese, pastries, fruit, vegetables;  it’s a mecca of local food. It was new, it was exciting….and everything cost an arm and a leg. I was dismayed to realize that the “Farmers’ Market is a source of cheap produce”  idea didn’t apply here.

I had also just moved to the city, didn’t have a well paying job and was already scraping to make ends meet. Now, I do occasionally shop at the Ferry Building if something strikes my fancy (read: asian pears and A.G.Ferrari toffee).

My newest produce love is the Alemany Farmers’ Market. It’s not nearly as pretty as the market at the Ferry Building, and not everything is organic, and everything is just a little bit grungier. There are fewer (if any) tourists because it’s at the intersection of the freeways in a semi-sketchy part of town.

But I LOVE it because I got all of this for $32:

12 ears of corn, 3 asian pears, 2 bunches of chard, 1 bunch kale, 4 red bell peppers, 4 pluots, 2 peaches

You can’t go wrong with all of that for $32.

So if you are lucky enough to live in a place with multiple markets, explore a little! The first one might not be the best fit for you but you might fall in love with another.

If you don’t have multiple places to visit, that’s okay too.  Buy what you can at your market and supplement from the grocery store – that’s what I did for a long time and it worked out just fine!

Until next time…

Now entering the blogosphere…

Well here I am. I’ve been contemplating entering the blogosphere for a while, and despite the fact that my life is a whirlwind of crazy right now, it seems like the right time to start.

I love food – cooking it, eating it, and talking about it. Food in all its glory will be the focus of this blog.

Let me start off by saying that I’m a vegetarian. My full-fledged switch to vegetarianism is fairly recent – 8 months or so. Prior to that, I was 90% vegetarian for a year or two. My wonderful boyfriend of almost 5 years has been a vegetarian since he was 8, and I am far too lazy to cook two meals for dinner. I’d love to say I came to vegetarianism for health, economic, sustainability, or humane reasons, but frankly, it started because of my unwillingness to spend the time creating two meal plans when vegetarian food was hearty, healthy and delicious.

Having said that, I have always been an advocate for the humane treatment of animals and those issues, along with health and sustainability, did surface shortly after I began exploring my relationship to food.

As I explored, I found a lot of information! I will post about my resources as time goes on. But it brings me to one of my main tenets:

I don’t judge anyone for his or her food choices.

Going vegetarian was a slow process for me – one that took a lot of thought. Even when I was eating 99% vegetarian, to make that final commitment and say it out loud that I was a vegetarian took a few months. I know others who have just jumped into it because that’s what’s worked for them. Everyone is different.

My main concern is that people think about where their food comes from – including meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Vegetarians that eat all packaged food from a plant 2000 miles away or fruit covered in pesticides from halfway around the world are not doing themselves or the planet any favors.  In that case, a meat eater who eats locally raised, grass fed, pastured beef is probably healthier and making a more sustainable choice.

It’s easy for an individual on either side to get on a high horse, but I prefer to stay on the ground and listen and offer my thoughts and advice.

There are so many factors when making food choices: sustainability, human rights, animal treatment, health, politics, money…..not to mention you want your food to taste good.

My goal on this blog is to explore these issues, offer up what I eat and why, share recipes and hear from the blog community about why they make the choices they make. I am constantly learning new things and doing research, so I always want to hear your thoughts!

I am looking forward to sharing my my food journey as well as my life as it goes through some upheaval!

Until next time….