Put your money where your mouth is

Last weekend, in lieu of watching football and eating as much meat as I could stomach, which is honestly something I have done in the past with great vigor and enjoyment, my husband and I decided to celebrate Candlemas/Imbolc with our friends. When we made the decision in late December, we had no idea that the Superbowl was on the same Sunday, but when invitations to Superbowl parties started popping up, I was happy to be able to decline.

Since you ask, “what in the world is Candlemas?” I guess I should tell you.

Candlemas is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, commonly celebrated by the lighting of candles, cleaning out of closets, and eating tamales in Latin American countries. Well, candles are cool, and cleaning is okay. But, the opportunity to cook tamales was irresistible. So, we decided to begin a tradition of our own by having a second installment of our vegan “Friendsgiving” celebration, we invited all of our close friends over to make vegan tamales and have a bonfire.

As you have surely noticed in my profile picture, I’m a white girl, and therefore very inexperienced at making tamales. I didn’t let that stop me though! I love cooking, especially with spices that are new to me. In order to be respectful to Latin American culture, I challenged my friends to purchase all of their ingredients locally, preferably at a business owned by a Latin American person. Luckily, my town has several grocery stores that fit those criteria. We had a blast poking around in stores that were unfamiliar, primarily in a different language, and full of delicious looking food that will surely inspire a future holiday built around tacos or empanadas.

We started cooking around 12 and finally ate at 4:30. We collectively made four types of salsa, pico de gallo, fresh tortilla chips, fried plantains, roasted zucchini, “pulled pork” jackfruit, guacamole, mashed malanga root, Cuban style black beans, and a beautiful array of tropical fruits. As you can imagine, the six of us had quite the feast and leftovers to spare.

Imagine if more holidays were more intentional and filled with meaning. I have always dreaded traditional holidays, because for my family it always means hours of cooking, a few minutes of eating, and an hour of doing dishes before leaving. I much prefer the alternative “friendsgiving” style, which can definitely be done by families as well. Instead of one family hosting and providing most of the dishes, every person is responsible for making one dish. This way, no one is exhausted, and everyone participates. For my friends and I, this means hours of cooking together in my kitchen. We all contribute an equal, small amount of money to gather the necessary ingredients, and we all work together to make a communal meal. In my opinion, this is a much more enjoyable and sustainable way to have a holiday.

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(Photo by Jessica To’oto’o on Unsplash) Unfortunately, my husband’s computer crashed while he was saving and deleting all of our gorgeous food photos.

I can’t take all of the credit for this idea of course, as it is by no means original. My new cooking icon, Samin Nosrat, known for Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, inspired me to have these kinds of meals at my house. I don’t have access to the luxurious grocery store that Samin visits in her Netflix show, but I can shop at my local grocers: supporting their families and building beautiful meals at the same time.

With all of this in mind, I challenge you, if you care about eating good food, if you are sick of supporting giant corporations like Walmart, and if you want to have a great time cooking, go to a local store and buy food from a human being. The money that you hand them goes directly to feeding their family and growing their business. And if you are tired of having holidays that never break the mold, start your own tradition. Eating good food with people you love will never fail to please. Bon Apetit!

I will make the “pulled pork” jackfruit tamale filling again, and hopefully the photos will not be lost to the void. Meanwhile, if you google “jackfruit pulled pork,” you are sure to find several good recipes.

Originally posted on Medium.com

Source: Photo by Erik Dungan on Unsplash

Easy $10 Outdoor Compost Bin

As many of you already know, I try to live as sustainably as possible. I grow as much of my own food as I can (a work in progress), re-use my weekly vegetable scraps to make stock, and I compost. Since I just moved across the country, again, I needed to start composting again. But money is tight and I have a rental property. This means that I needed to find a way to compost using the space that I have close to my house in a non-intrusive way, in other words, I need to not dig holes or kill any of the precious grass.


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It turns out that you can buy rolls of chicken wire at Lowe’s for $8, 50 ft by 2 ft. I bought one of these and wrapped it around to be about 3 ft in diameter. I made two circles and twisted the ends together on opposite sides and started wrapping the rest of the wire around, which made about four and a half circles around. After that, I secured the layers together at the middle with zipties, which account for the other $2 in this project.

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For those who don’t know how to compost, you need a pretty equal number of “browns” and “greens.” Browns are leaves, grass clippings, soil, paper, and cardboard. Browns break down into carbon mostly. Greens are vegetable and fruit scraps. They mostly break down into nitrogen. A healthy, happy compost pile needs both. So, when you add greens, throw in a handful of leaves, paper, or cardboard.

It is also helpful if your compost is able to be moist, but it shouldn’t hold standing water. The chicken wire is just enough to keep the scraps and dirt in without retaining any water. In a few months, I will post more pictures to update you on how my compost bin is doing. Happy Composting!

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

I did not like minestrone when I was a kid, not one little bit! Vegetable soup was okay, but I didn't eat tomatoes. Therefore, a bunch of vegetables floating around in tomato juice did not appeal at all! But, when I learned to eat tomatoes, I also learned to love minestrone. I've been working on this recipe for a few months now, adding and subtracting ingredients until I found the perfect taste. Really, you can put any vegetables you want in this soup, but I'll tell you my favorites. This recipe is for eight servings and takes about 4 hours to slow cook. It could be done in less than an hour on the stove. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 quart of vegetable stock (I make my own batch of stock every other week, but I recommend Pacific or Imagine brand, too.) 
  • 1 16 oz can of tomato paste
  • 2 tsp of thyme
  • 1 tsp of nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1 tbsp of Italian seasoning
  • 8 servings of the noodles of your choice (I recommend rotini, elbow, or penne. I use the banza brand, which is made entirely of chickpeas.)
  • 1 small container of fresh baby spinach 
  • 2 zucchini or yellow squash
  • 2 cans of dark red kidney beans
  • 2 cans of cannelini beans (white kidney beans)
  • 2 cups of fresh green beans, cut into bite sizes (Or you can get a bag from the frozen aisle) 
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Instructions: 

  1. Heat your vegetable stock and tomato paste in the slow cooker. This may take an hour. Once they are fully blended, you can add the rest of the ingredients. If you have an immersion blender or feel like whisking it, it can happen in less than 2 minutes. 
  2. Add the rest of your ingredients (except the noodles) and stir. 
  3. Add salt to taste. 
  4. Add noodles prior to serving or storing. I don't recommend letting the noodles sit in the slow cooker for more than a few minutes if you are serving the soup immediately. 

You may alternatively serve this soup over rice, quinoa, or with potatoes. You can add carrots, celery, beets... try out different versions for yourself! This can either feed eight people a lovely dinner, or it can be lunch for two people for four days!