Animals & Vegetables

I like food

I like food

I usually get to read books for 10-20 minutes per day if I’m lucky. There are plenty of days when I don’t get to read at all and I hate that. But life is life. I’ve finally completed Barbara Kingsolver’s incredible book, called “Animal Vegetable Miracle,” a work of non-fiction where she tells the story of her own family and their quest to eat 100% local food. I don’t mean they bought local food. They actually made an all-out attempt to grow and eat their own food, own their own livestock and make thier own cheese and bread. Or, to put it another way, they lived off their family farm.

In addition to the truly captivating stories of how the family did this, including an awfully bloody chapter where she details the day(s) they had to kill livestock, the book also provides a narrative of just how much we in America have gotten away from the concept of food. So there are, effectively, two parallel tracks going on in this book, both of which left me pretty astounded – and inspired as well.

Now, I can tell you here with great confidence that Steph and I will not be owning and killing chickens. Nor will we make any kind of attempt to eat 100% locally (this is an emerging trend, btw). We will, however, aspire to do what we can to take more advantage of local food. This isn’t to say we haven’t done that in the past, either, as we are pretty careful about what we eat and we visit the Maynard Farmers Market every week to stock up. But this year and hopefully every year that follows, we will make a concerted effort to put our freezer in the garage to good use by stocking up on local fruit and veggies and freezing them for the winter months.

What Kingsolver really moved me on, though, was putting true thought into how you acquire your food and what that food went through to get to your local stores. For example, if you’re buying asparagus in November here in the northeast, it took a long, hard trip and most likely an oil-heavy rig to get here.  In all liklihood, it also cost you more because of that. It wasn’t that long ago that people in the U.S. simply didn’t eat certain vegetables because they weren’t in season. Nowadays, in today’s now-now-now world, we don’t even think about that. And it’s sad.

Why, for example, are we ok only eating corn-on-the-cob from August to October and we’re ok with that, but you can’t forego tomatoes or asparagus when they are not in season? For me personally, NOT having corn-on-the-cob during the off months makes August to October even more of a delight. Why can’t it be like that with all vegetables? Well, it can. And it should. I suppose I could write another few paragraphs on how much money you can save by buying/eating locally as well or how it will benefit your local economy. But I think you’re getting the picture. I won’t preach anymore. The book is a real eye-opener. One that makes you want to take real action. I can’t recommend it enough.

Food Ruts?

Chicken Mole w/ Green Beans

Chicken Mole w/ Green Beans

I forgot to post this from a few weeks back – February 25th to be specific. Pictured here is a dish called Chicken Mole with Green Beans. It’s a recipe we picked up way back in 2000 from Cooking Light and has remained a relative staple for us through the years. It is painfully easy to make and is a nice right turn if you feel like you’re in a food rut. Ever get in a food rut? It happens sometimes. You either don’t have the energy or the time to try new stuff so you end up rotating the same few meals for a while. Steph and I will have this happen for a couple of weeks, then we’ll go on a tangent where we try a bunch of new things for a week – then we’ll hit the rut again. The key is finding good enough stuff to make during the ruts. Our typical “dinner rut” rotation in the winter looks something like this:

  • Tacos (with either chicken, ground turkey or TJ’s pork carnitas)
  • Pasta (with any of the following: eggplant, sausage, mushrooms)
  • Stir fry (TJ’s potstickers, green peppers, mushrooms, rice)
  • Beans & Rice (goya black  beans and TJ’s brown rice with fried egg and sprinkle of cheese and salsa)
  • Pizza (TJ’s whole wheat dough with pizza sauce, fresh mozz and usually mushrooms and green peppers)

The nice thing about the rut meals is that you can add some stuff (and subtract) here and there so it feels like less of a rut. Perhaps “rut” is a bad word to use for this, because it indicates something kind of negative. Might be best to just call these our staples. I’d love to hear what your regular staples are in the comments section if you’re up for it. Anyway, here’s the recipe for the Mole w/ Green Beans (cut the recipe in half if it’s just two people eating):

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of boneless chicken breast
  • 1  pound  green beans, trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 1  cup  finely chopped onion
  • 1  tablespoon  chili powder (optional)
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons  bottled minced garlic
  • 2  teaspoons  unsweetened cocoa
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  • 2  teaspoons  dried thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon  sugar
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 3/4  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Preparation:Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until done. Remove chicken and set aside, rinse pan (or get another one) and cook the beans for 7-10 minutes, add the chicken and keep on low. While chicken/beans are cooking, heat oil in another skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and the next 7 ingredients (onion through salt); cook for 3 minutes or until onion is soft, stirring frequently. Add broth, and cook until thick (about 2 minutes). Spoon sauce over chicken mixture. EAT.