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What started as an urge to try growing corn (again) became an obsession when I learned of the Haudenosaunee tradition of the “Three Sisters” crops.  In this centuries-old system, the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) are planted in concentric circles successionally.  The big sister, corn, is planted first and provides support for the second sister, beans, to climb. The bean sister hugs the corn and helps to keep her upright against strong winds.  Beans also provide nitrogen in the soil to help her sisters grow.  The baby sister, squash, is planted last.  Her wide leaves shade the ground and help choke out weeds so her big sisters have enough to eat and drink.   The plant sisters are kind to people too, in that they provide a complete and balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.  Other sisters can live in harmony with this mix – sunflowers, melons, amaranth. It’s a beautiful thing.

In past years my failed attempts at growing corn resulted in sad plants that dried up and blew away. This year I was determined things would be different. I did research, I took notes, I drew up plans and I made appeals. Then I drew more pictures and decorated them with washi tape, like so:

Three Sisters Garden Plans

I remember asking nicely.  I might have begged.  For sure I pleaded.  I even attempted bartering. All to no avail. Finally, I  commanded: Earth be tilled!

And so it was.

With 12 x 12 feet of tilled earth at the ready, I could map out the physical space and layout the mounds.  Armed with chopsticks, plastic spoons, and a measuring tape (of the sewing sort) I set to work! Maybe these are not the traditional tools of the trade, but this is what I had on hand to make things happen.

I wound up planting corn, sunflowers, zucchini, crooked neck and straight neck squash, acorn squash, loofa gourds, pumpkin, a watermelon, beans, and peas.  Two interloping tomato plants joined the party of their own accord, apparently from seeds tossed out in the compost.  My three sisters garden turned into an extended family.  Or maybe a commune? I don’t know what to call it anymore, but let me tell you, there’s a lot happening out there. Well here, I’ll just show you:

sister garden

The day I stood in the garden and unwrapped the husk from the first ear of corn, I cried. Actual tears. It was quite suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelming. There was the quiet murmur of tassels, leaves, silks and stalks rustling in the breeze. There was the soft hum of the bees on the sunflower heads above me – all our faces raised to the sky. There was a caress of leaves.  There was a knowing of the circles and cycles, extending away in ever-widening ripples. There was row after golden row of kernels linking one generation to the next. There was something wild and free and profoundly life-force-y let loose in the garden. 


And then, as suddenly and unexpectedly, there was just me again, standing there mundanely amid the corn sniffling and wondering what sort of problem I was having now.

So, I went inside and googled it.  Yes, I did.  That’s when I learned of Hun Hunahpu.  Life is weird.


The corn, zucchini, and sunflowers in the picture above were picked this week from the sisters garden. The butternut squash and cucumbers are from the raised beds garden, but that’s a different tale for another day.


Dana of Zona Pellucida seduced me into making homemade sauerkraut recently.

It’s not entirely her fault.  The Angry Russian is also to blame.  To this day he raves about his dad’s homemade kraut, which was made in huge barrels with yellow apples.  When I started reading about candida, sugar,  the digestive system and probiotics, my kraut fate was sealed. I had to grow some bacteria myself.


The other day I popped open the first jar. It bubbled and gurgled its fermented secrets at me.

It’s ALIVE!!!

I love having these sorts of mad-scientist moments with my food.  I’m pretty useless, even dangerous, when it comes to working the normal kitchen gadgetry (e.g., ovens, microwaves, knives, etc.), but I excel at stuff that takes days in dark places to transform (See Sprout it Out Loud for additional evidence of my culinary nerdiness).

So anyway, I shared a serving of the kraut with The Angry Russian. His rapt expression at first bite made all the trouble worth the while.  I have another jar still fermenting and I will definitely be making another batch.  Maybe with apples.

One of the blogs I read, Garden Variety, featured artist Lynn Karlin today. You can check out her gorgeous work in the link below:

On a Pedestal | Lynn Karlin’s Vegetable Art.

berriesIn the garden I did no crime.

–Tori Amos

The raspberry bush has been sputtering out berries this summer and I’ve been racing the birds to get them.  It’s our relatively peaceful version of The Hunger Games. Victori spolia.

Did you know that the raspberry fruit is not a true berry? Neither did I until I read a report from Cornell Univeristy. The fruit is apparently an “aggregate of many individual drupelets” with each drupelet being “anatomically analogous to a cherry.”

Who knew?

My garden raspberries are different from the ones I buy at the store. They are sun-warmed, sweeter, and burstier.  Each of their drupelets is an explosion of sunlight, frogsong, and butterfly wings on the tongue. They have virtually no shelf life. Frogsongs fade fast when plucked from the earth; you must eat them while their echos still vibrate to taste the music.

Berries in general are highly perishable. There’s a significant loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants within just a couple days of harvest. So I’ve been inventing ways to infuse my cells with berry goodness as often as possible.  Here are just a few of my favorite berry treats.

july 20 2013 011

While they need no accompaniment, sometimes it’s fun to let them frolic with friends.  It’s really fun to sing along with Tori Amos’ Raspberry Swirl as I spin them around in a blender.  I toss in strawberries, a squeeze of lemon, a squirt of lime, and a splash of cranberry juice and grape juice.

This concotion makes yummy popsicles.  I call them Raspberry Zingers.

july 20 2013 014

Sometimes I throw in a little peach to a get different texture.  After filling the popsicle molds, I add a dallop of yogurt and a dash of milk to whatever is left in the blender to make a smoothie.

Fun fact: The phytonutrients in raspberries and strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties when consumed regularly (about three times a week).

Another fun way to get my berry bliss on and to make myself feel incredibly fancy in the process is with “spa water.”

july 20 2013 012

The idea is to send sliced fruit floating in water for hours to infuse the water with flavor. I’ve been experimenting with variations, but so far my favorite is sliced up strawberries, squished raspberries, cucumber, a little squirt of lime (or sometimes lime slices), and fresh mint.  This week the pineapple basil is making a spectacular comeback after the rain we’ve had, so I added a few leaves. It’s tasty!

Fun fact: Raspberries are rich in vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K.  They also contain folate, vitamin E, and potassium.

Here’s what was on last week’s menu.   You can following the links (in bold) for recipes.

january 2012 004

quinoa and avocado salad


Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt on toffee granola topped with fresh raspberries, and tea.  As far as nutrition, we’ve got calcium, fiber, iron and B-12.  The raspberries add a little extra  fiber,  vitamin C and a whole lot of yum.

Lunch: Arugula salad (picked fresh!) with oil and vinegar dressing, flatbread, and an orange.

Dinner: Ok, I admit this is an odd combination — corn chips and guacamole and a side of grilled asparagus.



Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt on toffee granola topped with fresh raspberries, and tea.

Lunch: Annie’s Shells & Cheese with fresh steamed broccoli.

Snack: Rice pudding

Dinner: a 3-ounce fillet of salmon, sauteed squash, and 1/2 an avocado.  Yes, I ate fish. This was the main source of my B-12 this week.



Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt on toffee granola topped with fresh raspberries, and tea.

Lunch: Vanilla yogurt on toffee granola topped with fresh raspberries.  Again!  It’s that good.

Dinner: Eggplant parmesean and a salad.

Dessert: Eggless chocolate cake.



Breakfast: Leftover chocolate cake and tea.

Lunch: Homemade yeast roll drenched in butter and honey.  I know — sugar, sugar, sugar!

Dinner: Blackbean tortillas, salsa, cheese dip and salad.

Dessert: Eggless apple cake.



Breakfast: Leftover apple cake.

Lunch: El-D’s amazing vegetable soup with yeast rolls.

Dinner: Sharky’s for El-D’s birthday.  I had fried oysters, a bit of fried fish, and edamame and corn succotash.



Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt on toffee granola topped with fresh raspberries.

Lunch: Quinoa and avocado salad.

Dinner: El-D’s amazing vegetable soup.



Breakfast: Yeast roll with butter and honey.

Lunch: Bombay House vegetarian lunch buffet. I treated myself to my comfort food.

Dinner: Mushroom stroganoff and roasted cauliflower.



Breakfast: Peanutbutter on crackers.

Lunch: Popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

Dinner: Not sure yet.


A Week in the Food Life of a Vegetarian

First a disclaimer: I am not a dietician! Please consult with someone more knowledgable if you want medical advice about your diet.  I am merely a carnivore turned (mostly) vegetarian, trying to find my way in a meat-eater’s world.

I say I am “mostly” vegetarian because I have added the occasional dash of seafood (usually one meal a week) to my diet to get vitamins B-12 and D.  For example, just a few ounces of shellfish (e.g., oysters) are loaded with B-12. There are other ways to get these vitamins, but my personal preference in avoiding malnutrition does not involve chugging milk by the gallon nor ingesting tablets made in a lab or factory.

So this week I’m posting what’s been on this vegetarian’s menu.  If folks want recipes, maybe El-D will provide them, ’cause he’s the chef around here.

Friday Breakfast: I skipped it.  Bad me.

Friday Lunch: Veggie plate at the Silver Caboose, which included cream corn, okra and tomatoes, and sweet potato casserole.

Friday Dinner: Mushroom Stroganoff.  (You can click the bold link for the recipe.  Scroll down it’s the second recipe. It’s delicious.)

Saturday Breakfast: Waffle with maple syrup and a banana smoothie. I know he uses Bob’s Old Mill Waffle mix, Flax seed meal, and EnerG Egg replacer (in place of eggs) for the waffles.  Oh, and rum — El-D recently informed me he also puts homemade vanilla rum in those waffles.  Who knew? The banana smooth is easy – he just tosses about 5 frozen bananas in the blender with about a cup of almond milk.  He garnishes the smoothie with nutmeg and honey.

Saturday Lunch: Bombay House — This is my absolute favorite Indian restaurant in Memphis.  They know how to make hearty vegetarian fare.  I call it my “comfort food.” I feasted on the buffet, which included Aleo Tiki (I call ’em potato fritters), Mushroom Bhaji, Sag Paneer (a creamy spinach), Aloo Bangan (eggplant), Naan (flat pancake-like bread), and Desert Burfi, Rice Pudding, and Chai.

Saturday Dinner: I ate so much for lunch that I didn’t need dinner.  I may have eaten some popcorn as a snack.  I don’t remember.

Sunday Breakfast: Amish Friendship rolls smothered with butter and cranberry-strawberry preserves with tea.

Sunday Lunch/Dinner: El-D’s amazing homemade carmelized onion pizza.

Monday Breakfast: Amish Friendship rolls smothered with butter and cranberry-strawberry preserves with tea.

Monday Lunch: El-D’s leftover amazing homemade carmelized onion pizza with grape juice.

Monday Dinner: Amish Friendship rolls smothered with butter and cranberry-strawberry preserves.

Tuesday Breakfast: Amish Friendship rolls smothered with butter and cranberry-strawberry preserves with tea.

Tuesday Lunch: Two plums and two flatbread crackers with tea.

Tuesday Dinner: Blackbean and avocado dip wraps.

So that’s the last five days of my food life.  I’ve probably consumed enough sugar to kill a hummingbird.  I’m not sure if this qualifies as “healthy” but it’s been really, really tastey!

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.

–Charles Dickens

Today was exactly like that quote from Charles Dickens.

Spring Break was a couple weeks ago. Quite suddenly the frenetic pace in which I have grown accustomed to functioning, came to a screeching halt. Then there was silence and time. I can’t remember when I had such a vast expanse of both.

Last year at this same time I was learning new ways to kneel and kiss the ground even as that ground was spinning away beneath my wheels and shifting beneath my feet.  Prayers were being flung to the heavens. Finally, the ground gave way and I poured right through the hourglass into a completely different life. And here I am.

This year I am learning to operate at a slower pace.  The curriculum is challenging, but the lessons are definitely worth the while….as well as delicious!    El Diablo made these fluffy rolls this week the slow way.

Amish Friendship Bread

Amish Friendship Rolls

They took *forever.*

Piping hot and drenched with melted butter and maple syrup as they were, I ate entirely too many of them.

Now, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes are ready to be planted. This season’s new seeds will be planted soon, along with the seeds collected from last year’s garden.

seeds for the planting

seeds for the planting

As we are making way for slow food, I’m remembering some of the things I read in Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life about how to rely less on fossil fuels through the food choices we make. So I leave you today with food for thought.

  • Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars.
  •  The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations…. an average of 1,500 miles….
  • If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.

–Barbara Kingsolver

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Arugula, freshly picked

Arugula, freshly picked

I’m the black sheep vegetarian in a family of meat eaters. It’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

This is not a brand new thing.  It’s been two years since I converted. Still, when I get invitations to family functions they say things like this:

We’re having a party. I know you don’t eat x or y…or z — good lord aren’t you starving yet?? Well, you can come anyway.

I swear I am not trying to wreck havoc on people’s dinner parties (unlike The Good Greatsby, whose humorous post can be found HERE). I don’t mean to be difficult, but I might be a little complicated. The vegetarian thing is just what makes sense in my heart and in my head.  I’ve tried to explain it all, but I obviously haven’t really done a good job of it because just a week ago I was asked (again):

So…I still don’t understand…are you doing this for religious reasons or what?

And then there was there was the following exchange with the Resident Teaologist, who when preparing lunch couldn’t find what she needed:

Resident Teaologist: You said you had arugula, so I didn’t get any at the store, but I don’t see any in the fridge…

Me: That’s because it’s out in the yard.

Resident Teaologist:….oh.

So we go out to the yard to pick the arugula.  She stares at it and says,

It’s so weird that you are about to eat something that was just growing in your ground.

I had to giggle. That this bewilders others bewilders me.  How did we ever get so far removed from our food? And what have we lost as a result of this distance?  And what exactly have we gained?

Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm — which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of American farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems.

–Wendell Berry

Sweet Potato Sugar Cookies.

Since I can’t keep up with his awesomeness, El Diablo took it upon himself to share his latest in kitchen alchemy on his blog.  Yes, he has a blog…who knew?

At any rate these cookies are the business. They are relatively healthy as cookies go and they have received rave reviews and endorsements from Amy’s kiddos including, “I love it! It’s my favorite!”

They are my favorite too.

Check out his recipe in the above link. I may return when I come down from the mountain of grading to tell the story of how the cookies came to be.

God made food; the devil cooks.

–James Joyce, Ulysses


The Devil insists his Sin-a-Buns are easy and quick to make.  One must wonder why then he started them in the morning and then made me wait ALL DAY (until dinner!) until they were “ready” to eat.

The answer to that mystery is this: because he’s The Devil.


The Devil’s Sin-a-Buns

4.5 C all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp dry yeast
1 C almond milk
 1/6 C butter, room temperature
1/6 C coconut oil, room temperature
1/3 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
 4.5 tsp ENER-G plus 6 tbsp water, mix before adding to recipe (OR you can just use 3 eggs if you’re in to that sort of thing)
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese (1/2 box)
4 Tbsp (heaping) powdered sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp Vanilla Rum
1 Tbsp almond milk (if needed for thinning)
Place all dough ingredients into a bread machine set to ‘dough’ setting.  The Devil’s bread machine takes about 1.5 hours to complete.  Make sure all ingredients are mixed well and you have a smooth, lightly elastic dough.
Remove dough from bread machine and place on a lightly floured surface.  Separate dough into four equal pieces and roll each piece by hand to form a long baguette.  Let rest for a few minutes, then roll out each piece, one at a time, to form a thin layer of dough in the shape of a rectangle.
Mix all filling ingredients until a grainy paste is achieved.  Divide the filling into four parts, and use a flat spatula to spread 1/4 of the filling evenly on each piece of rolled-out dough.  Roll up the dough longways and take a sharp knife to slice the roll into 6 rolls.  You should end up with 6+6+6 [+6] rolls.
Place the rolls into a greased 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish and bake in a 375 F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until light brown on top.
Heat icing ingredients in microwave for 30 secs.- 1 minute, then stir and drizzle on top of the rolls as they cool.  Then enjoy the sinful, gooey goodness.

They are nothing short of amazing.

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