Category Archives: Vegan

It’s no use boiling your cabbage twice…Irish Proverb

So let’s just boil the cabbage once or even not at all! Oh, those beautiful cabbages, the red one, the green one. The humble cabbage turns out to be one of my favorite veggies. I make red cabbage slaw, green cabbage slaw, potato and cabbage soup with fresh dill, cabbage steaks with mustard sauce…and tonight I’m making stuffed cabbage rolls. This is an easy recipe as well as delicious. I use this filling in other stuffed veggies as well — grape leaves, summer squash, peppers. It has happened on occasion that the filling never made it into the veggies, but tonight I’m determined.

STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS

Ingredients 

  • Cabbage, one head
  • Brown Basmati rice, 3 cups cooked
  • Mushrooms, sliced and pan roasted, 1 lb.
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Za’atar, 1-1/2 tsp. (Za’atar is a Middle Eastern mix of herbs, available in bags at Butera, Garden Fresh and online – substitute with thyme and oregano to taste)
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Tomato juice
  • Lemons, juice of 1-2

Directions

  1. Cook 1 cup of dried brown Basmati rice (which will make 3 cups cooked)
  2. Pan roast the sliced mushrooms until the liquid cooks off.
  3. Put the rice, mushrooms, 1⁄4 cup of olive oil, seasonings and lemon juice to taste in the processor, and pulse a
    few times.
  4. The mixture should be gravelly and cohesive.

To prepare the cabbage:

  1. Bring water in a large pot to simmer.
  2. Cut the core out of the cabbage and place the whole head in the simmering pot for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Take the head of cabbage out, remove outer leaves carefully and set aside to use.
  4. Place the remaining head of cabbage back in the pot for a couple of minutes, and again take out and remove leaves. Repeat this process until you have removed all the good-sized leaves.
  5. Chop the remaining cabbage to add to the bottom of your cooking casserole.

To make up the rolls:

  1. You can shave away some of the thick rib to make the cabbage leaves easier to roll.
  2. Place 2-3 Tb of the filling across the base of each leaf, and roll from the stem end up tucking in the
    edges along the way.
  3. Place in casserole with seams down.
  4. Add tomato juice to almost cover the rolls.
  5. Squeeze lemon over the rolls
  6. Cover withfoil, and bake 350°F for 45 minutes.
  7. Garnish with a bit of parsley.

This week we’ll receive kohlrabi again. I’ve tried it now stuffed and as a low carb “potato” salad — and I’ve pickled it. I think my favorite way to eat it is just sliced and used to dip into delicious Middle Eastern spreads like hummus or Muhammara. The bok choy made its way into a delicious stir fry my son made for us — and a soup with soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles. If you make a double batch of the mushroom and rice filling, you’ll be able to stuff the summer squash with them as well. Middle Easterners use an apple corer to hollow out the middle of the squash lengthwise, which makes a very pretty dish. Save up your garlic scapes for more of that pesto recipe I gave you a couple of weeks back. Use lots of basil with it and some summer greens. Speaking of greens, we’re still enjoying our summer chard omelets, and we can’t get enough of those greens like kale and kohlrabi greens — even cabbage and sometimes bok choy — in our morning smoothies. What a wonderful way to start the day!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Fridays I like to cook at the shul

Our kitchen at the shul needs a little work, but it’s big and bright and airy, and I like to cook there on Fridays, prepare a little something for our Friday evening dinners, which more and more of our little family on the prairie are coming to enjoy, and Saturday morning kiddush. During the warmer months, I include veggies from my CSA box as much as possible.

Spelt vegan challot are a standard part of what I do, a couple for Friday evening and a couple for kiddush on Saturday. This week, in addition, I made a stir fry with green onions, red onion, lots of good greens, carrots Julienne and topped with a special treat, snap peas — all from the farm.

Somehow I feel as though the path to resolving the many issues that face us in these times is through food justice in all its dimensions. That’s a thought that will need to wait for another moment for unpacking. Right now I’m just immersing myself in the pleasure of planting, nurturing, harvesting and preparing things that are good to eat.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Saving The Planet: Eat Your Greens, But Don’t Forget Those Roots

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA Newsletter, 6/21/2017.

If you are interested in sustainable agriculture, and your CSA membership says you are, you probably know that those veggies are a lot easier on the environment and our water resources than animal agriculture — so much so that Frances Moore Lappe suggested in 1972 in Diet for a Small Planet that we would be better served to eat the grains we grow for animals than to feed them to animals and eat the animals.

So I’m always excited to bring home my box of CSA veggies! It is one contribution I make to taking care of this beautiful earth. As with last week, we’ll see a lot of greens, wonderful greens, a sure sign that it’s early in the season, and we have many luxurious, fresh vegetable-filled weeks to go. So I want to say a word about greens, but I want to focus this week on turnips and radishes, root veggies which we are also enjoying now.

GREENS. Today was a banner day for me. This morning I enjoyed a kale, spinach, soy milk, seeds, fruit and ice cube “Greenie” for breakfast, a delicious way to start the day.

For lunch, I enjoyed the rest of my greens from last week, two lettuces, one red and one green, some mizuna, tokyo bekana, and kale, topped with red onion, radishes and walnut pieces and dressed with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Be sure to mince the stems and throw them into your salad along with the broken walnuts. Any little bits of veggie waste can go into compost.

ROOT VEGGIES & THE ENVIRONMENT.

Cooked white beans, roasted turnips, chopped & sauteed turnip greens, olive oil, white Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

I just learned this week that of all the veggies, root veggies are some of the easiest on environmental resources. Last week we received two kinds of turnips, white Hakurei turnips and red turnips. I cut mine up, coated them with extra virgin olive oil and roasted them, chopped and briefly sauteed the turnip greens with olive oil, garlic and seasonings, then mixed both with cooked white beans. With the addition of a little more olive oil, white Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, I had a lovely dish to eat warm or cold (as a salad).

RADISHES are also great roasted. They’re delicious as an unusual side dish or make a colorful addition to a roasted veggie platter.

One of my favorite things to do with turnips is to pickle them, Middle Eastern style.  Beets thrown into the pickling mixture give the beets their pink color, which deepens with more beets or longer pickling.  On the occasion pictured here from last summer, I enjoyed my pickled turnips with scrambled  tofu and greens — and beautiful tomatoes included in my box. Next time I make beet pickles, I’m going to try it without the vinegar, let them ferment to get that tangy flavor, which results in a denser population of probiotics.

PICKLED TURNIPS
Make a brine of 4 cups water, 1 cup vinegar and 3 TB kosher salt. Set aside. Wash a wide mouth glass jar. Prepare your pickling veggies, in this case turnips, by washing and cutting (peeling for older or larger turnips). Add sliced garlic if desired. Pack the veggies into the jar, and pour brine over the veggies until the jar is filled, stirring the brine as you work to be certain it stays evenly mixed. you may need a small dish held down by something with weight to keep the turnips under water. If you put your pickles directly into the refrigerator, it will take a couple of weeks for them to pickle. Alternatively, let them pickle on your kitchen counter for 2-5 days, and move to the refrigerator when they taste as you would like.

I love these spring and summer veggies!

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

5 Ways to Use This Week’s CSA Veggies

Prepared for Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA. Visit them on Facebook.

This week we’ll enjoy a wonderful variety of spring greens, mostly Asian and from the mustard family, including Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana, Hon Tsai Tai and Tatsoi as well as the more familiar spinach. We’ll also receive radishes, Hakurai, red stem turnip…and maybe some chives.

Greens, spinach, radishes and carrot with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, salt.

Most of these greens have a slightly peppery flavor. Hon Tsai Tai, somewhat similar to broccoli raab, is a bit more mild and delicious from stem to flower. Tokyo Bekana, closer to lettuce, is a little sweeter and crunchy. Tatsoi has pale lime green leaves in rosettes. The mixture makes beautiful salads, and I always like to make a simple one as soon as I get home with my Box. Spring radishes are a perfect addition. I dress these salads simply with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

But salads are only the beginning of what you can do with those flavorful greens! Here are five other ways to use your greens:

  1. Soba Salads or Entrees. Soba is a buckwheat Japanese noodle available packaged in many grocery stores. Prepare according to directions. Saute minced garlic and fresh ginger root in extra virgin olive oil. Add radishes and even turnips Julienne to the saute if desired. Add the greens and wilt. Turn off the heat. Add a little of salt or soy sauce to taste. Stir into the Soba noodles, or just top them off with a crown of sautéed greens. Serve warm or cold (for a salad).
  2. Patties. Make your favorite veggie patty. I like the Middle Eastern way (falafel), in which the beans are not pre-cooked, just soaked overnight. Try this: 1/2 lb. dried chickpeas rinsed and soaked in a covered container overnight, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 Spanish onion in chunks, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. hot paprika and 3-6 oz. mixed greens, chopped. Using a food processor, place the garlic in first, then the chunked onion, the chickpeas, the seasonings and rough chopped greens. Place everything except beans in bowl, and pulse about 10 times, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then run for about 30 seconds. Scrape down, add the beans, and run another 30 seconds or more, scraping sides periodically, or until you have a uniform gravelly mixture that holds together. If you plan to fry, form the mixture into (falafel) balls. If you plan to saute or bake, form into small patties (I use a 3/4 oz. candy scoop). Deep-frying, the balls will take 3-1/2 minutes. If you saute, you might need to experiment a little. The patties should be browned on the outside and soft but not raw inside. Enjoy with pita, Middle Eastern chopped salad and tahini dressing.
  3. Soups. I’m a soup-lover, in the summer too. Ramen soup is very easy. I use three items that I always keep on hand in my home: 1) Costco has a great Millet and Brown Rice Ramen from Lotus Foods, 2) I order Mori-Nu Silken Tofu Organic Firm by the case from Amazon, which can remain unrefrigerated until opened (I just open one 12.3 oz. package from the case at a time), and 3) quality Miso. Make a delicious Miso broth, and when the broth boils, drop loads of roughly chopped Asian (or other) greens. Finally, drop in a square of Ramen for a moment or two until you can pull it apart. For a more substantial dish and a protein boost, add a few squares of Tofu. The chives would work nicely with this soup as a garnish and for added flavor.
  4. Omelets, Frittatas, Quiches, “Shakshouka.” Those of you who get eggs with your Meal Box remember to enhance all your favorite egg dishes with greens and chives! You’re probably familiar with omelets, frittatas and quiches, but Shakshouka might be new to you. Traditional Shakshouka, made with tomatoes and peppers, originated in North Africa. When the rich and aromatic tomato and pepper sauce is hot, the eggs are cracked into it, poached briefly in a covered pan, then served. In this version, saute some garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add the greens, salt, pepper or other seasonings to taste, and when you have a hot, saucy mixture, add the eggs for poaching covered.
  5. Pizza! Make or buy a whole wheat pizza crust — or use 6″ whole wheat pitas. Pre-heat the oven to high heat (unless you’re fortunate enough to have a small pizza oven). Oil the top of the crust. Add briefly braised and wilted greens to the crust, then thinly sliced onions and halved grape or cherry tomatoes, some pine nuts if you have them, seasonings (oregano, salt, crushed red pepper). Bake until the edges of the pizza crust begin to brown a little. Enjoy!

Next week I’ll write about turnips and radishes, spectacular veggies we take for granted. For now, save those turnip greens to use with other greens in your soups and egg dishes, or just to use as a (sautéed and seasoned) bed for roasted turnips.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

How My CSA Box Keeps My Family Healthy

After 45 years as an off-and-on vegetarian (20 of them strictly vegetarian) including 7 years of owning and operating a vegetarian cafe, I decided four years ago to explore an entirely plant-based diet. This makes Farmer Bob’s CSA “Meal Boxes” (as I like to call them) perfect as the source of my meals, but what about the rest of my family?

For my nutritional advice, I follow drfuhrman.com. Dr. Fuhrman is a “board-certified family physician with over 25 years experience
in nutritional medicine…and an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing…” I like his nutrition recommendations between they are common sense and easy to understand and follow, graphically presented and based on wide-ranging reviews of medical literature.

Dr. Fuhrman is the originator of the Nutritarian Diet, based on Nutrient Density, the maximum nutrition for the calories. His ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) scores put greens right at the top of the list as the most nutrient dense food we can eat. His Food Pyramid recommends whole plant foods for 90% of our daily diet. Based on these recommendations, I am confident that Farmer Bob’s Meal Boxes with the addition of some dried beans, grains, nuts and seeds, satisfy the bulk of my family’s nutritional needs.

As I eagerly wait for our first box, I’m thinking of what I want to make for my family during that week. The box will surely contain lots of beautiful young greens, including butterhead lettuce, kale, spinach, chard and bok choi. I’ll bet we also receive some radishes, which I enjoyed in salads and many a stir fry last year. Be sure to see my article in our last newsletter for information on managing and using those greens and a recipe for a Bok Choi and Radish Stir Fry.

This week I’ll share a few ideas for Kohlrabi, which we’ll see in our Meal Boxes in the early weeks of the season.

KOHLRABI SLICES FOR DIPPING
Last year we were invited to a local get-together at the peak of kohlrabi season. I made this hummus dipping tray with kohlrabi slices instead of pita, which worked very nicely. I regularly make several Middle Eastern style “salads” or dips, which I’ll share in this series as time goes on, including Hummus, Muhammara (walnuts, pomegranate molasses and red bell peppers) and Babaganoush (eggplant) and Matboukha (a Moroccan “salsa”).

Hummus with radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini & red bell peppers.

STUFFED KOHLRABI
Remove the stems from 3-4 kohlrabi and fully peel away the tough outer layers of them. Set aside the greens.

Using a coring tool, insert into the center of the peeled kohlrabi, but do not pierce through to the base. You will probably not be able to remove the plug. Insert again, slightly out more toward the edge, again careful not to pierce the base. Continue this process, circling around the original central plug. Then, using a small serrated knife, remove the plugs and scrape a little to make the central cavity fairly smooth. Reserve what you remove from the kohlrabi.

Oil and salt the kohlrabi inside and out. Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven, place the kohlrabi cavity side down and saute until slightly browned. Turn the kohlrabi over onto its base, turn down the heat, add a little water (2-4 TB), put the lid on the Dutch oven, turn down the flame, and cook until the kohlrabi is as tender as possible (it remains fairly firm), checking the water occasionally. Set aside until ready to assemble.

 

KOHLRABI FILLING

Ingredients

  • Kohlrabi – inside pulp of 3-4 kohlrabi
  • Bok choy – stems, petite diced; greens, chopped 1/4″ pieces
  • Brown Basmati rice, 1 cup dried
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Oregano, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon Juice, 1/2 squeezed

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice until done.
  2. Chop the kohlrabi pulp, and add to a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, and saute.
  3. Add the Bok Chop stems, petite diced, and saute briefly.
  4. Add the rice to a food processor, then the sauteed ingredients and seasonings.
  5. Pulse several times until the mixture is evenly mixed and chopped and looks like coarse grains.
  6. Add seasoning to taste (salt, a little hot paprika if desired)
  7. Use this mixture to fill the reserved kohlrabi.
  8. Add marinara to a dish, and place the stuffed kohlrabi on top of it. Add a little more marinara to the top, and a few garlic scapes for garnish.

KOHLRABI SALAD
Last year, a friend of mine told me he loved the kohlrabi salad he grew up with, much like potato salad. I used my regular dill potato salad recipe (with lots of fresh dill) and substituted kohlrabi for the petite diced potatoes, and it was good! You can use your own favorite potato salad recipe and substitute kohlrabi — and I’d love to hear how it comes out. Or check out this Lebanese version, replacing the potatoes with kohlrabi:

  • 2 lb. kohlrabi, peeled, diced and simmered with turmeric until done)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1-2 tsp. turmeric (added to the kohlrabi cooking water)
  • 1/4 tsp. hot paprika
  • 2-4 TB chopped dill
  • 1-2 green onions chopped
  • 1 large dill pickle, chopped (I prefer Middle Eastern dills or cucumbers in brine, available through Garden Fresh Market in Buffalo Grove or Amazon, but Claussen dills work pretty well)
  • 1-2 TB lemon juice, to taste
  • 2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil

Oh, and those kohlrabi greens? Add them to your greens for the week and use in stir fries, smoothies, wraps and more! And the little stems you cut away when you peel the kohlrabi – save them as well. You can cut them up to saute whenever you use onion. It adds texture and flavor.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Introducing Meal Boxes! Beautiful CSA Veggies On The Way

Maybe you’ve heard about “meal kits.” These are packaged and shipped individual meals to make up fresh at home with recipes and pre-measured ingredients. Meal kits are quite an advance over TV dinners with their fresh whole foods and recipes that often come from  celebrity chefs.

Among the claims for these meal kits, offered by a number of lavishly funded start-up companies with various specializations (gourmet, organic, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), are things like “no waste” and “locally sourced.” It’s true that precisely measured ingredients allow you to avoid purchasing more than you need, but there’s the packaging, each ingredient in its own wrap, and the shipping box. And locally sourced? Would that be local to the business or to you?  Because first the ingredients have to reach the supplier for assembly into kits…and then they have to ship out to you.

These kits come at a time when Americans express an avid interest in cooking (witness all the popular reality TV shows, internet recipe services, and good old-fashioned cookbooks on Amazon). Apparently not so many actually want to cook, though. As for taking what’s on our plates a step farther back to its source in the ground…not so much that either.

But consider this rewarding and effective step you can take toward providing superior quality, truly local, affordable meals to your family with no waste whatsoever. This step makes you part of creating a movement for sustainable agriculture and part of reducing the vast food waste in this country, estimated at 40%. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) near you!!

With most CSAs, there are a variety of levels for participation. The basic idea is that you buy a share for the season at the level you choose and receive fresh, local produce directly from the farmer on that basis. In doing this, you support local, sustainable agriculture and enjoy amazingly fresh, nutritious and delicious food.

Some CSAs offer a worker’s share, which is what I do. This gives you an opportunity to participate at a whole other level in bringing food to your family’s plates. My own participation is something I look forward to with excitement each year. It is spiritually rewarding and makes me feel that I have a part in restoring our earth and our relationship to it.

For those of you already in a CSA, this series of posts will provide suggestions and a couple of recipes to go with your box. I work for my local CSA, Bob’s Fresh and Local, and my recipes address what comes in Farmer Bob’s beautiful boxes each week. I plan to do more than single recipes, though, because what we really have are “Meal Boxes.” Each week, I’ll post about how to use the whole 3/4 bushel box, which at $34.50/week (a 20 week share broken down by the week) easily provides meals for a family with more to preserve for winter or share. I’ll focus on simple, flexible preparation directed at using the entire Meal Box with a couple of more detailed recipes.

In my first post several week back, I wrote about greens, how I handle them when they first arrive and what I do with them through the week. My next post, to go with the first of the boxes, will focus on how our boxes serve my family’s overall nutritional needs. Following that, I’ll dive into expanding our ideas of breakfast.

To follow these posts, other food and sustainability news and nonhuman rights commentaries, subscribe to this blog or like my Vegetating with Leslie Facebook page.

Hope to hear from readers about your own experiences with local sustainable agriculture, delicious whole food preparation ideas and related thoughts.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

CSA Greens: Bok Choi & Radish Stir Fry

We will soon enjoy lots of spring greens in our boxes, and that’s great, because I LOVE greens and missed Bob’s beautiful assortment over the winter. Here’s what I do with them (other than the salad I make first thing when I get home from the farm).

The best way I found to manage my greens in the cafe was to immediately remove all ties and rubber bands, wrap them in a slightly moist towel and put them into the refrigerator. Of course if the greens arrive already moist, there is no need to dampen the towel. I use microfiber towels that I can get in big batches at Home Depot. Even the more sensitive greens keep well this way for several days, often as long as a week. I check the towel periodically to make certain it stays very slightly moist.

As soon as I can get to it, I cut up all the sturdier greens (I prefer Middle Eastern-style salads, where the greens are cut into small pieces). I put the cut greens into a salad spinner, fill it with cold water, swish around, lift the basket to drain the greens, empty the base of the spinner, and return the basket with greens for spinning to dry. If the greens have more dirt particles attached than usual, I may run them through twice.

Then I transfer the greens to a clean microfiber towel to wrap and store in the ‘fridge except for the portion I want to use right away. The stored greens are there, ready for use in various salads … and as they begin to get older, they’re a great addition to a stir-fry.
Speaking of stir-fry, here’s a Bok Choi and Radish Stir-Fry I made last season. Quantities will vary depending on what we get:

BOK CHOI AND RADISH STIR-FRY
Ingredients

  • Garlic, minced
  • *Onion, petite diced
  • Salad radishes, Julienne
  • Bok choi stems, Julienne
  • Bok choi greens, “diced”
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce

Instructions

1. Wash and cut all the veggies
2. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a wok and throw in a little minced garlic
3. Add the onions, sautéing until soft.
4. Add the remaining “hard” veggies, reserving any greens.
5. When the veggies start to brown a bit, add a little salt and soy sauce, stir and cover if needed to steam the veggies for a couple of minutes.
6. Uncover and add the greens, stir together and sauté briefly until the greens are wilted
7. Add salt to taste and/or a bit of soy sauce, and serve.

*Note about cutting onion: let the onion work for you! I cut off the two ends and cut the onion in half, then remove the brown skin. I put half of the onion cut-side down, then slice it at whatever width I want for the dish, keeping the onion together. Then I turn it one-quarter and slice again, perpendicular to the last cuts. This will give you whatever size dice you choose.

Cooking, Pulling Weeds And Resisting

I never thought I’d hear myself say this: Trump gave me a huge gift when he was elected.

It’s hard to imagine myself saying that because my inspiration usually comes from very different kinds of sources. Yet perhaps it’s just the mind- and spirit-numbing nature of Trump’s presidency that compels me to reexamine myself and clarify my course through life.

Like the 2008 recession, Trump’s presidency causes me to take additional steps on my journey toward self-awareness. Taking these steps involves some education and some house-cleaning to bring my values in different segments of my life into alignment. Most importantly I had to recognize both my limitations and my abilities as I figure out how best to respond to an event I experience as nothing less than a cataclysmic step backward in our culture and democracy not to mention our responses to a suffering planet.

I never considered myself a “political” person. In fact, until 2008, I was fairly apathetic for reasons I’ve explored with myself in recent months. Post Jan. 20, I tried to get politically involved in the traditional sense of that word. I attend meetings, I volunteer occasionally, I go on marches. I’ve learned a lot, but one of the things I have learned is that this isn’t the best place for me to contribute passionately and knowledgeably. Of course I’ll still continue to be as involved as I can, but I needed to focus my energies in other directions:

  • I deepened my exploration of veganism through my own cooking and writing.
  • I jumped at the opportunity to create recipes to go with the boxes that come from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Bob’s Fresh and Local.
  • I understand my volunteer work in the farm fields in a different way, as something much deeper and broader than physical and spiritual health.
  • With a fairly extensive background in academics behind me but little involvement for a quarter of a century, I decided to work my way through the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. I wanted to discover in greater depth what it has to say about human life in relation to the planet and other life on it. My blog posts on this topic, largely notes to myself as research, will become the basis of a book. More importantly, my research is providing me with a strong foundation for steps toward meaningful activism. At the very least, it provides me with information I use in evaluating people and policies.
  • I’m teaching for the first time in many years, which demands from me further clarification of my thinking and message.
  • I decided to engage with my synagogue in ways I haven’t before, to take on a role beyond participating in services and preparing food now and then. While it’s shaky ground for me to take on a role in shaping policy, I hope it will be a growth opportunity I can manage.

I think these steps toward more and deeper engagement in various aspects of my life will begin to converge at some point. As my passions become more focused, a path toward taking on my part, however small, in reshaping our world will become apparent.

My engagement with food and the environment developed over the course of 45 years, not so much through academic or professional expertise but through hands-on involvement. I had the opportunity to create a large organic garden in 1972 following the birth of  my first son, the same year that hippies tore up the turf in Berkeley, California. I think part of their impulse probably matched my own, a reaction against Big Food, Big Ag and Big Brother, who don’t always know best. I felt that packaged foods, pesticides and our alienation from nature were somehow an assault on our physical and spiritual health.

I read as much as I could put my hands on at the time. One little book in particular drove my decision to become vegetarian, a path that has had its zigs and zags. That book was Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. Her message still resonates with me today, that there is a social justice connection to what we eat.

Until I worked in the food industry, though, I didn’t make that connection at a gut level. Then one day I was writing a post and came across an article that mentioned the life expectancy is lower in Mississippi than in the rest of the country and related it, at least in part, to food culture — and to the non-availability of truly nutritious food.

As Michael Pollan pointed out, yams in the produce aisle don’t have health claims attached to them since that won’t make money for Big Food, and our government subsidizes things like corn, that produces cheap high fructose corn syrup. And as that article pointed out, large food deserts force people into gas stations for food products, and gas stations are even less likely than supermarkets to feature nutritious life-sustaining foods. Something clicked about the relationship between food, social justice and public policy, and I really got it.

There was another milestone two or three years ago, well after I began my exploration of veganism. As I expanded my understanding of justice beyond the human realm, I worked hard to adjust my cooking practices, to separate from well-loved recipes, to find my new cooking philosophy or adapt my old one (real food) and to represent myself through food passionately and deliciously among family and friends already wearied from my years of vegetarian experiments with them. Then one day I looked down and noticed my leather shoes and realized with some shock how segmented my own thoughts are. I grew up in a world in which animal products were pervasive. There was simply a disconnect for almost all of us between the lives of our fellow creatures and the food we ate and clothes we wore. Despite my efforts to resolve that disconnect, there it was.

It’s curious how  we can think we’re fully conscious, making choices based on our values…and then discover our own human frailty, the ways we are embedded in cultural perspectives. And that took me to a path of reexamining another cultural perspective, our deeply held belief that we are superior to other creatures.  My husband’s offhand comment started me along my thought path. My biblical studies are guiding my next steps.

My studies and cooking are one avenue to focus my thoughts, prod myself to examine my cultural assumptions and modify my course through life. My work at the farm, something I had time to take on once I sold my cafe, is another.

I love the beautiful, fresh real food sparkling in the sun with drops of moisture. I love having my hands in the dirt that produces the food. I love experiencing the rhythm of the seasons in my body as I work out in the fields. I love the little lessons I learn in each moment that I work. I imagine the deep wisdom I find in the Bible comes in part from its source in a more agrarian world.

But it is the complete exhaustion at the end of the time I work in the fields, especially at the beginning of the season when I’m rusty after the cold months when my exercise levels drop, that takes me back to Diet for a Small Planet and the lessons I learned from Frances Moore Lappe about social justice. Considering those who do this work for long hours every day, struggling to support families on little pay and with no recognition or appreciation, living with insecurity and worse, brings me back to her themes.

This connection, this social justice theme, connects me to biblical themes of justice within communities and among nations, justice for all life on the planet, environmental justice. It reminds me that every area impacts and influences the others. It is all interconnected.

I was struck this week by this line from Leviticus 18:28 following a set of moral injunctions: “…that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” Like human beings, like our fellow creatures on the planet, the land itself has moral consciousness. It is all interconnected, and our sins against one impact the other.

Cooking and digging in the dirt along with biblical stories, then meaningful study of this text, have had a significant role throughout my life in shaping and reshaping my consciousness about creation, my place in it and what I need to do at this time in our history.

And so I arrive at how cooking and working the fields became my political activism.  First, my work encouraged me to lift the veil, to look at what is behind the things I see in front of me, whether on my plate, in the claims on commercial foods, or in the pages of the Bible.

Each breath I take with clarity of consciousness, each bite of food, each interaction with another person or with a community of people, is activism. Only with clarity of consciousness about the reasons for my own choices can I have a larger role in shaping my communities.

And there are many ways for me to do that, to be active, including:

  • cultivating the habit of looking behind the veil,
  • sharing ideas about the implications of what we eat
  • sharing the specifics of delicious, healthful, affordable eating,
  • supporting local, sustainable agriculture, and
  • supporting other community efforts directed toward food and environmental justice.

I continue to learn about so many aspects of my world, so many things I didn’t know or that I kept from coming to full consciousness. I’ve lived long enough to see how the action of many individuals can change things and to learn that ONLY the action of many individuals can reshape the culture. And I have Trump to thank for intensifying my effort and compelling me to find the political meaning in my work.

From Bob’s Fresh and Local website:

“But the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” ~ Wendell Berry – The Unsettling of America
For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Inch By Inch And Row By Row…

Today was my first day back at the farm for the season. Although it was my first day, others have been hard at work, installing a new greenhouse (greens through December! yay!), planting starter plants, getting in leeks and garlic and greens and more.

It was a beautiful, windy day, and I enjoyed the sunshine along with the fast-moving clouds. It’s an exciting time as we all look forward to those food boxes starting to fill up with wonderful things to eat.

I learned to use a stirrup hoe today — and another kind of hoe, one to run down the middle of the bed to pull a wider swath of weeds, one to run over the little leek plants to remove weeds on either side. When I finished weeding with my hoes, I walked over to take a look at our new greenhouse and then back to the fields to weed a few rows of garlic.

By the time I finished up, I was exhausted but oh so happy. Here are some highlights from this beautiful place where I work! If you are in the Algonquin/Dundee/Cary/Geneva/Crystal Lake/Woodstock area and would like to enjoy a weekly or bi-weekly box of beautiful, fresh, organic produce, check out Bob’s Fresh and Local and sign up for a share.

Compost pile where I get to take my veggie waste every week.
The leeks I hoed.
Garlic rows for hand weeding.

The old greenhouse…and our big beautiful new one.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A Falafel Feast for Israel Day

This past weekend, I prepared (with a little help from my friends at MCJC) a Falafel Feast for 100 on Israel Day.  The pictures, with the exception of one my son took a while back of the finished product, are from an iPhone so not the best.

We served up Falafel two ways, in a tray with Moroccan Eggplant Salad, Israeli (Jerusalem) Salad with Tahina, Hummus, Muhammara, Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Red Cabbage Slaw … pickled turnips and for the daring, Harif or Z’hug — or in a wrap with Lebanese Pita (from my friends at Sanabel Bakery in Chicago), Hummus and Israeli Salad with Tahina (or any other choice), pickled turnips and Harif or Z’hug on the side.

All the recipes are in this blog except for the Tahina, which I now see I never posted. I’ll do that soon!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.