Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Hijacking of My Grocery Bag Container Garden

Rember my post about the grocery bag container garden?  Well it's gone.  And there he is.  The man who hijacked MY container garden 6 weeks back. Pulled every single one of my plants out of the cloth grocery bags and then planted them directly into the ground in our backyard without discussing it with me.  How dare he!  He's a very, very bad man (imagine that being said in a thick Indian accent) :-)

Yes, I reminded him *again* about how we know nothing about the soil back there.  For all we know the previous gardener sprayed Round Up and who knows what.  So what did he do?  He went and bought garden soil.  The only kind he knows, which is Miracle Gro, in the non organic version. He must have talked to someone who knows something about soil, because he also got chicken poop. And does it look like enough for the huge area we are growing in?  Of course not.  OMG.  Indian dude flexing his macho gardening muscle.   I don't mind that he wants to do the gardening.  I just don't like the way he does it!

And here is how the garden looks today.  These are zucchini squash plants.  We have harvested 3 large zuchini.

Tomato plants, I think only the grape variety...

Beets and rutabagas pulled out today!  

I guess the good thing about moving the plants to this space is that we now have more space to garden....and if we move from this house, the next renters will have a nice bounty of fresh food.  It's all good.  Now we just need to build a fence around it so the dog will stop using it as his bathroom :-/

Sunday, April 20, 2014

WAHFE travels again to North India- Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, we were in North India for almost a month, and wow, it's been over a month already since we returned!  So here I am, determined to get this overdue post completed. I'm going to break it down into 3 separate posts because there are sooo many photos.  "Part 1", is about our time in Roorkee. Part 2 will be Dehradun, and part 3 will be Delhi.   

The above photo was taken behind the high school Vineet graduated from 30 years ago!  He only spoke Hindi at that time because his curriculum was completely in Hindi and of course that was his only language at home.  He was a fierce competitor in mathematics, which brought him to study in the US and complete a second Master's degree, a PhD, and an MBA.  And he has since rocked the computer graphics industry. But enough about him!

When we visit India it's generally not a sightseeing trip.  We go to visit family, and if there is time, we try to squeeze in a day or two of sights or see something new locally. It's a 22 hour flight and a 13 hour time difference, so we are generally exhausted the first week we arrive.  We spend much of our time that first week sleeping during the day and wide awake in the wee hours of the morning.  It's painful.  You'd think after 6 trips I would have figured out how we can adjust quicker.  But there's just no easy way.

This trip was important because it is likely the last trip we will be visiting my in-laws in their home in Roorkee.  While we were there we had things set up for them to have help with cooking, shopping, cleaning and night time care for my father in law who gets up frequently.  However, just one week back there was an incident in their home that I'm not going to explain here other than to say that it was traumatic and scary. So, they have temporarily moved to my sister-in-law's place in Dehradun. 

This is the street my in-laws live on in Roorkee.  Their home is the one with the light green walls and black gate to the left.

The picture above is a very typical scene from our journey between Delhi and Roorkee.   

Now that my inlaws are aging to the point it's difficult for them to shop at the market, they have been relying heavily on the subjeewalla, or vegetable cart guy.  It's so convenient!

These are my MIL's handmade noodles in a dish she calls "jave", pronounced jaw-vay.  She always sends a huge bag back home with us.  It's pure love in a bag because she rolls these noodles individually with her hands!

This is "bhang", or what we call Cannabis.  It grows freely on the outside of Roorkee University.  You won't find it inside the campus, but a short walk outside the main gates and there you have a forest of it.  During our stay in Roorkee there was the festival of Shivaratri where everyone worships lord Shiva, god of cosmic destruction and dance. Bhang is a big part of this celebration because consuming it is supposed to help bring one closer to god.  No, we didn't smoke it.  I'm sure you are wondering.  However, my MIL made Bhang Pakoras, which were batter dipped and fried cannabis. I didn't partake in it, but Vineet did.  He said he didn't feel buzzed afterwards, just tired and hungry.

Here's what bhang looks like in the temple.  Oh mighty Shiva...and bhang.

This is an Indian Coffee Pot.  In India, the only coffee you will drink is instant coffee made in a pot on a gas stove with mostly milk.   If you are addicted to Starbucks, I guess you will not enjoy your time here.

There are men who ride around on their bike and just sell specific kinds of fruit like Papaya.  This is the "Pepitawalli".  He will cut open the fruit and allow you to sample a taste before paying.  He carries a scale to measure the weight of the fruit.

Having a typical North Indian lunch of "subji" (curried vegetable), rice, and chapati.  We look forward to this food but then quickly tire of eating it after 10 days into our trip.  We love Indian food...just not every day.

Vineet likes helping his mom in the kitchen.  You'll never see this at our house because we don't make chapatis. If we had a gas stove, I might try to make them every once in awhile. They are messy to make because when you slap the excess flour off before throwing them on the stove, the flour goes all over the kitchen. Really.

Next up, our trip to Dehradun!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Feed Zone Portables, A Book Review

Back in November I was looking through Competitor magazine and came accross a full page ad picturing these shiny little foil packets of food.  Immediately I thought- "genius idea"!  I've never loved using energy gels before during or after my runs.  Many times I have ended up with an upset stomach, especially when trying out new brands.  I had also been looking for alternatives to sending granola bars, both prepackaged and home made, for my daughter to take to her 3 hour gymnastics practice sessions.  So I was super excited to give Feed Zone Portables recipe book a try! 

I contacted the PR manager and was sent a free copy of the book.  Please know that I only review books and products that I find interesting and helpful to my readers.

The idea behind Feed Zone portables was created by Dr. Allen Lim who teamed up with Chef Biju Thomas to make delicious portable foods for cyclists and other athletes looking for healthier options beyond gels and energy bars.  You can read more about how Lim and Thomas got started with Scratch Labs at Scratch
Pictured above we have the first two layers of the oh so yummy Blueberry and Chocolate Rice Cakes.  If the word "Rice Cake" brings to mind those hard, dried out hocky puck like things you buy in the grocery store, try to erase that image.  These are nothing like store bought rice cakes.  They are moist, they are flavorful, they are what a rice cake should be.

Here they are packaged in little BPA free baggies.  A more affordable option than wrapping in aluminum foil and wax paper.  They are not zip locked and they still held up well for a good 5 days in my refrigerator.  I think the moisture of the coconut milk helps to keep the rice from drying out.  My daughter has been eating one before practice and one after practice each day, along with a Trader Joe's Seaweed Snack.  Besides the Blueberry & Coconut version, we have also enjoyed the Peanut Butter and Jelly and the Cinnamon Apple Rice Cake.

These muffin like things are actually mini gluten free Zuchini and Spinach Fritatas.  They are made with Pasture Raised eggs, so no, they are not vegan.  We have decided to allow two or three times a week, especially for Anika since her competive gymnastics schedule has her working out up to 16 hours weekly and she was having trouble keeping weight on her body through several growth spurts. I did not want to resort to vegan protein powders for her at this age, and since this is working we are feeling good about it.

I will do a follow up post on this book in the future featuring photos of more portables including the baked rice balls and sticky bites. I just wanted to get this review posted since I missed my own personal deadline due to some international travel which I will update you on by next month!

If you want access to the recipe for the Blueberry and Chocolate Coconut Rice Cakes along with the Table of Contents for the book, it can be found at the website

Below is also a video of Chef Biju preparing the rice cakes...


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Experimental Grocery Bag Garden

And here it is...Our "Grocery Bag Garden"!  As mentioned in my last post, we are renting a home here in sunny San Diego, so our best option for growing food is via container garden.  My husband challenged me to do this on a super tight budget of less than $50.  Since we had saved seeds from last year's garden, seed cost didn't count in the budget.   After hours of looking for inexpensive containers, I found some fabric "containers" called Smart Pots on Amazon and even found those to be pricey for what they were.

So, I started thinking about what I already had on hand that resembled the Smart Pots and thought about the fact that I have TONS of fabric grocery bags, many that I received free from the grocery store or as a free "goodie bag" from Half Marathon races I ran.  So I thought, why not use them?!  They allow water to seep through the sides so the plants can never be over watered.  However, I do need to remember to water them every day. These are not "self watering bags" as I wish they were ;-)

We started all of our seeds in a seed tray which you can buy for around $10 from Home Depot or Lowes.  You can also recycle your egg cartons, or borrow them from a neighbor that eats eggs.  Put Organic potting soil in them and place one seed in each egg place.  I used Miracle Gro Organic Potting Soil for Vegetable container gardens.  It's not the best, but it works for people who want to keep it simple in the beginning.   You can also make your own soil by mixing together separately purchased bags of Humus (not to be confused with Hummus that we eat!), Azomite, Vermiculite, Worm Castings, and Compost.  So some of our grocery bag containers will have the Miracle Gro and some will have the soil mix.  I know the Miracle Gro soil will eventually need to be topped off with some of my soil mix as the nutrients deplete.

My husband planted some of the seedlings into the ground, which I warned him was a bad idea for three reasons.  1. The soil is most definitely lacking nutrients (and may contain chemicals!), as apparent by the near death of our existing rose garden.  2. The dog will definitely pee and poo on them.   3. The garden/landscaping crew will eventually forget that the plants are food/ mistake them for weeds, at which time they will be plucked and tossed....which actually already happened.

Let's see which group of seedlings does the best over the Winter/Spring seasons.  If you found this idea helpful please leave a comment in the comments section below this post.  You can also follow me on Facebook.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back to Blogging in 2014!

I'm back from blog death!  Well, technically my blog didn't die, but it was dead here for six months of not posting.  My last post was in July 2013, right after our trip to Barcelona, where I announced we were getting ready to move to San Diego in August.  Well, what a big change it has been for the whole family. Leaving all of our friends and family behind- all of the friends my kids have grown up with and homeschooled with, my daughter's gymnastics team mates, my close mama friends, and some of the neighbors we had become good friends with over the years.  Here my husband and I are at mid life, thousands of miles away, trying to form a new circle of friends that took us years to create.  It's really hard, really really it is.  Our kids will be fine, they will make friends quickly.  In fact, they already have, but for us big people, it's going to take more time. 

In San Diego there is traffic and large crowds of people every where we go. It makes Orlando seem like a rural farming town.  Even grocery shopping can be a rediculous time zapper.  But yes, it's beautiful here.  You cannot beat the near perfect moderate temperatures and sunshine pretty much year round.  Having access to lots of really fresh, organic food from mostly California farms. And being able to see the beach, the desert and the mountains all in one day.  Its' really fantastic.

When we arrived in August we started out in temporary housing at a condo on the beach in La Jolla.  This was a really good thing but it also spoiled us when we started searching for long term rentals.  Once you are on the beach, you really don't want to move to the desert. In fact, it doesn't even feel like you are living in San Diego from that side.  Families choose to live in the desert because it is cheaper, and you can get a big huge house with a big back yard in a neighborhood full of kids. My husband and I will take living as close to the beach as possible in a shack over that option.  And that's pretty much what we did.  Though our home is not really a shack, it is just old, or what I like to call "vintage".  It's a short 10 minute walk and a 3 minute drive to the beach!  So we go pretty much every morning to walk the dog and catch at least two sunsets a week. And guess what that means moving forward?  You will be seeing lots of beach photos like the one above!  Hope you don't mind :-)

You might be wondering what we have been eating all this time, since this is a food blog not a travel blog.  If I have to summarize it, I would say we eat a lot of food from Trader Joe's.  It's the best health food store here, hands down.  I can get in and out in under 45 minutes because the store is small and well stocked.  I can fill my cart to the top including the child seat for $150-160 and it lasts the whole week.  No need to go out for lunch or dinner.  I might have to buy fruit from Von's because their fruit is priced better, but that's my only other stop for groceries during the week.

While not everything sold at TJ's is perfectly Organic and Vegan (or even Gluten Free), their prepared foods section is so crazy convenient.  I mean who doesn't love their Japanese Style Fried Rice with edamame and carrots?   Their Spinach and Kale pies?  And what about their Stuffed Tofu Turkey?   Not having to think too much about what to cook and relaxing the "food rules" some days has helped to make life here a little less stressful for us all in the the past 5 months.  Below is a recent photo of most of the food from a shopping trip.  Missing in the photo are some sprouted wheat bagels, sourdough bread, a few packages of berries, a bottle of California wine called "Cocobon", sparkling water, hummus dip, frozen and fresh berries, bananas, and pomegranite "sherbert".

We are not sure how much of a garden we will be able to build since we have a rental, but I assure you, we will have a garden!!   We have space in the back yard, but we cannot build anything permanent.  So I'm looking into an idea I have about creating some planters out of something I will reveal in a future blog post.

Some other projects I have been busy with and may write posts about in January/February include:

  • Providing feedback to the proprietor of Panda Packs, a vegan kids meal service. (I won't be writing about this because the company is starting up and it's proprietary information, but you can check out their FaceBook page!)
  • Reviewing the book "Feed Zone Portables", a brilliant recipe book of portable packets of yumminess for athletes.
  • Writing a product review for Viva Labs Coconut Oil.  
And that about wraps things up! Thanks for reading this far down :-) I'm going to Home Depot tomorrow to get all the things I need too make awesome soil for the planters, so stayed tuned on FaceBook or subscribe to my feed!