Archive for August, 2008

New Toy!

Posted in Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Rethink with tags , , on August 30, 2008 by xxxicana

I FINALLY got the toy of my dreams!

Ok, I know, it is a little twisted to get so excited about a mixer. But, I figured I deserved a new toy since I’ve been really “good” lately. How, you ask, did I do it?

First, I had a long corazon a corazon platica with my Mexican Devil. He is my house protector and gives advice on living and cooking (he holds my hand back when I want to put in too much salt). Anyway, here are some of my rationales for buying the mixer:

1. I have resolved to ride my bike to school instead of driving. I live 2.5 miles from the university, the weather is perfect right now, and I need 30 minutes of exercise daily anyway. So, el Diablo said, “Nalgona, ride your bike to school.”

2. I have been recycling like a fiend for a long time now. We are averaging less than one bag of trash per week with our intensive composting and recycling program.

Here’s my homemade compost bin (I couldn’t justify spending $$ for a composter)

and here’s part of our recycle system:

We recycle glass, cardboard/paper board, paper, newspaper, cans, and #1 and 2 plastics. Lincoln does not have curbside recycling (although one can pay to have someone pick up your materials). So, every so often, we schlep our trash to the recycle bins around town. I have been trying to cut down on plastics — I reuse plastic bags and don’t buy overly packaged foods. But it is almost impossible to NOT buy some plastics. As a result, non-recyclable plastics are the bulk of our weekly trash.

3. Organic gardening. Although my garden is limited to a small raised bed and a swath along the driveway, I have been able to produce a little bit of our own food. I am still a fledgling farmer and learning to deal with bugs in a non-pesticide way (not always with success). Our lawn is NEVER watered (it is Zoyza grass) and I plant mostly locally adapted flowers for the front beds that don’t require much water.

Here’s round 2 of my raised bed. I just planted beans, chard, spinach, lettuce, and carrots. The eggplant is still flowering, the tomatoes are still producing, and I have lots of herbs that need to be cut and dried for winter.

4. We have adopted a “Flexitarian” diet. Tom and I still can’t bring ourselves to entirely eliminate animal products from our diet. However, we have really limited our consumption of meat. I buy cage free eggs (and don’t forget, by next year I plan on raising my own hens), and try to buy only fish that is non-endangered and/or raised with ecologically sound practices or wild caught (i.e., Pacific rather than Atlantic salmon). We eat vegetarian meals at least 3-4 nights a week (no fish, pork, poultry, etc.). I have to credit my daughter and her partner (they are vegans) for encouraging us to be more conscious of our use of animal products.

5. Higher energy efficiency. I have replaced at least half of our bulbs with CFLs. Some fixtures in the house don’t work with CFLs, darn! Tom also just replaced the furnace, AC, and water heater with high efficiency models.

6. A mixer will allow me to bake my own bread! This will reduce the amount of plastic we buy and we will be able to eat fresh, preservative free bread made with organic flour!

In sum, I think I have convinced myself that I deserve my new toy!

Why I love Bill Richardson

Posted in Musings with tags on August 29, 2008 by xxxicana

I watched the Democratic Convention last night — WOW! Great speeches all around. Obama did a fab job of hitting all the issues I care about and I hope that he has the opportunity to implement this very ambitious plan. Of course, he will need strong leaders to help him out . . . and Bill Richardson should be considered for a high cabinet appointment.

Check Bill OUT! Now that he is out of the Prez race, he’s grown a very stylish beard which makes him look very hip. I made my first ever political donation to Richardson’s campaign. Not that I was under the delusion that he had a chance to be the Dem candidate up against Obama and Clinton, but I did want him to increase his profile. Richardson’s resume is impressive and we should keep an eye on him for future leadership. Of course I am a big fan — he’s originally from California, is Governor of New Mexico, is Latino, and so unassuming. I LOVE BILL!

Nebraska State Fair 2008

Posted in Musings with tags on August 26, 2008 by xxxicana

Yeehaw!! I won three ribbons at the Nebraska State Fair!

Canning Division: Green Tomato Relish, Third Place

Embroidery: Tea Towel, Second Place

Embroidery: Pillow Case, First Place

Here’s a full view of the Pillowcase

My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was in Kindergarten.

Roasting Chiles, Part Deux

Posted in Urban Farming with tags on August 24, 2008 by xxxicana

Mister Man ordered 25 lbs of Hot Hatch Chiles from Berridge Farms, NM — right after my mom and dad sent 25 lbs to us the week before! We gave some of them to friends, and roasted the rest last night. I am thinking of awarding Tom an “Honorary Mexican” card for being an ace roaster. He also brought out Los Lobos music to work by [plus he’s trying to learn the song ‘Mas y mas y mas”]. Tom also knows the correct response to the New Mexican State Question: “Red or Green” . . . . and he took a ritual dusting at Chimayo a couple of years back . . so, his apprenticeship is going pretty well!

Chiles in a Tub

Waiting for the coals to heat up

Skinning the peppers

Check out the nice grill table hand-made by Mister Man. It is the perfect height for working and looks very nice, too.

Pinto Beans – It’s what’s for dinner

Tonight we’ll be enjoying a pot of pinto beans (with a ham hock thrown in) and green chile.  These pintos are also from New Mexico — I picked them up in Bernalillo last summer.  Any Southwesterner worth her salt knows that the right bean is the pinto.  Black beans, Kidney beans, Navy beans, Garbanzo beans — these area all fabulous beans in their own right . . . but for the perfect southwestern dinner, it’s gotta be a pinto!

Roasting Green Chiles!

Posted in Urban Farming with tags , , on August 20, 2008 by xxxicana

Monday was roasting day! My mom and dad sent a box of Hatch Green Chile from Albuquerque . . . it arrived while we were out of town. For those of you not in the know, Hatch chile is the premier chile . . . and people from New Mexico and Colorado won’t settle for anything less. We will be eating a lot of this vitimine C packed chile over the winter . . . the day after my mom told me she was sending a box, Tom ordered another 25 lbs from the farm!

Step 1: Cleaning

Cleaning is important to wash off any dirt and gunk. Since the chile box sat for a few days, I also checked each chile for rot — fortunately, my neighbor Leslie brought the box indoors for me and opened it up to allow the chile to breathe. We had hardly any chiles that had gone bad.

All clean and ready to go! Note the brown paper bag — this is to “steam” the chiles after they have been roasted. It makes removing the skin easier.

Step 2: Put them on the Barbie

Yummmmmm . . . . can’t you just SMELL the chiles roasting? At this rate, the roasting took all afternoon. In New Mexico the vendors use big propane roasters that take care of the job quickly. But, once roasted, the chiles have to be refrigerated or frozen.

Step 3: Peel and Bag

I didn’t take pictures of the peeling process since it is pretty messy. But be warned – WEAR GLOVES. My daughter one time processed a bunch of jalapeños and had to call the poison control line. Their advice — soak your hands in milk of magnesia!

The final count: 25 lbs = 16 1/2 quart bags. It doesn’t seem like much, but it will do for now.

Chile, it’s whats for dinner. I had pork bones in the freezer, boiled ’em up and made green chile stew and fresh flour tortillas for dinner.

Here’s the recipe: pork (1/2 to 1 pound), fry with onions and garlic. toss in green chile (1 bag), can of fire roasted tomatoes, 1 pound of cut up potatoes, 2 cups of water or stock; salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer until it is time to eat dinner. I forgot to take a picture of the finished stew.

[you are probably wondering who keeps pork bones in the freezer . . . I was brought up with a “waste not, want not” mentality.  The pork bones were from our 4th of July party — I made pulled pork and some of the pork butt had bones.  I threw them in the freezer thinking that at some point boiling the hell out of them would make a nice broth and cook the bits of meat still attached.]

Canning Workshop with Community CROPS

Posted in Urban Farming with tags , , on August 10, 2008 by xxxicana

Yesterday I led a workshop on boiling water canning for Community CROPS (Combining Resources, Opportunities, and People for Sustainability) which works with refugee, immigrant, and low income people in Nebraska. Community CROPS also works diligently with gardeners, local organizations, and schools to promote local, organic food production. I am proud to be able to offer my small part to the efforts.

Our group consisted of nine local women, CROPS Assistant Director Brad Kindler, and myself:

please note: I am scrunched down so everyone would be visible in the photo . . . I am NOT, I repeat, NOT that short!!

As can be seen, we did a simple procedure: hot packed tomatoes (which came from the CROPS farm). All the participants helped to blanch, skin, cut and pack the tomatoes. Once we had the jars in the canners, Brad took everyone out for a visit to the Antelope Brethren Church plot (the church donates the plot for gardeners).

Here are a few picts of our tour.

Brad Kindler explaining the garden. Community members from Bosnia, Africa, Iraq, and Mexico grow over 35 different types of plants in this small garden!

Some of the plants:

These red inflorescences are volunteer Amaranth, a grain from Mexico that is higher in protein than any other grain. Its cultivation was banned by the Spanish due to its association with “pagan” Aztec rituals.

Okra: I had okra for the first time last year — an Iraqi recipe made with tomatoes . . . .YUMMM! Okra really grows well in Nebraska and is popular with lots of people.

Tomatillo: Also from Mexico. These are similar to green tomatoes, except they grow in little papery husks (like chinese lanterns). Tomatillos make the BEST green salasa!

Tree collards: CROPS got the cuttings from California. I had never heard of such a plant. Apparently it is not as susceptible to insects (they don’t know what it is either!) — and has served as cattle forage and human consumption in Africa. The problem CROPS is facing is how to overwinter this California adapted plant!

To end the tour, we received advice on composting from Brad.

Once we got back into the kitchen, we had to wait another 20 minutes for the tomatoes to finish. This was the best part! We sat around and exchanged stories of our mothers, grandmothers, and our own experiences with canning, gardening, and life. What a fulfilling day!

How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , on August 8, 2008 by xxxicana

Yesterday I went with friend and colleague Joy Castro to see “How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer” — DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE! The film follows three Mexican-American women during a hot listless summer in Arizona — as they discover (or rediscover) their sexuality. This is one of the few movies I have ever seen that deals with sexuality as a reality with all its power, sensuality, desires, and frustrations regardless of one’s age or wrinkles. The cast is fab — with Elizabeth Peña, America Ferrera, and Lucy Gallardo. The movie emphasizes the slow pace of small town Arizona through silences and glimpses of the rustic, albeit rundown, barrio. Hilariously, a group of viejitos function as a Greek chorus providing running commentary on women and cars. The movie is in English, but peppered with the particular southwestern “Spanglish” vernacular. Written and directed by Georgina Riedel, the movie was released in 2005, received critical acclaim, but she could not get a national distributor. With the fame of “Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrera, the movie has been picked for selected release.

Check out the trailer on you tube:

Los Lobos Concert!

Posted in Musings with tags on August 4, 2008 by xxxicana

Orale’, we went to see Los Lobos on Saturday all the way over in Council Bluffs, Iowa . . . . and it was a great show! I got some great shots of the band:

We ran into Tom’s daughter, Willa, and son-in-law, Dominique!

I asked Cesar Rosas for a photo (he’s the one with the goatee).

Steve Berlin

Louie Perez

These are great guys. After performing facing into the sun, in 98 degree weather and 150% humidity, they were available for autographs and pictures. We saw them 3 years ago – and same thing, all the guys were super approachable and just great musicians. Tan talentosos!

Tom’s take on the concert . . . “Dame mas y mas y mas y mas” . . . sez that “Colossal Head” is one of his desert island cds.

Back Home

Posted in Urban Farming with tags , on August 2, 2008 by xxxicana

Ahh, there’s nothing like sleeping in one’s own bed! FYI, I did get back to to Lincoln sana y salva. I took yesterday off to recuperate, but did a little gardening. Tom did harvest tomatoes in my absence, here’s the proof:

He left a few tomatoes and two squash for me to pick. I also have a butternut squash growing! Last night we had pasta with tomatoes and tons of fresh herbs with garlic. It is great to eat from our tiny garden . . . hopefully next summer I will have arranged for a larger, more productive garden.

Oh, BTW, I will be leading a canning workshop next Saturday at Antelope Brethren Church through Community CROPS. There is still space for participants and it is free, so contact Community CROPS (link on my sidebar).