Sunday, November 10, 2013

Plant Based on a Budget - Risotto with Kale

In September, I spent $300 on food. I live by myself. That's ridiculous. I decided to commit to reducing that bill and did so by 1/2 in October, spending $150 on food. I shopped at a different grocery store with a great bulk section and limited my purchase of specialty foods, like vegan 'meat', 'dairy', and 'cheese'.

This month, I'm being ever cognizant of the economic impact my food decisions have. It's amazing how we can be careless with our food dollars. It's the most empowering and important daily decision we make and too often, we make bad ones! Or at least I have, maybe you're perfect!

The genesis to a better sense of how much I spend on food comes from contributing to Plant Based on a Budget and working with the founder, Toni. In fact, she and other contributors are putting together weekly shopping lists and menus for singles, a two-person household, and a family of four...all for $25/person/week. You can check it out here.

I don't have disposable income, but in terms of my food decisions, I have been living as if I do. With the recipes I create or adapt, I'm really pleased that they are affordable, delicious and, more importantly, they enable people to eat more plant-based foods. This is a win-win.

Here's my most recent contribution - risotto with kale. Fancy sounding, but really affordable. I do a lot of cooking with my slow cooker, so this recipe is adapted for that.

I'm aware that not everyone will be able to find these ingredients - you can adapt this recipe to suit ingredient availability. For example, instead of arborio rice, use any other rice and make it a rice dish instead. If you don't have access to kale - look for frozen spinach or any fresh, dark leafy greens. I was only able to get organic kale so if you buy conventional kale, it will probably be cheaper.

Cost (note: I purchased these items at a northern California discount supermarket)
* Arborio rice: $0.75 (for 1.5 cups), buy it in bulk if possible otherwise price is much steeper
* Organic kale: $1.47 (for a bunch, they only had organic)
* Garlic: $0.20 cents (for 5 cloves)
* Bouillon cubes: 0.33
Total: $2.75
Cost per serving: $0.46


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Canine Like No Other

Twelve years ago, Mina play-bowed her way into my heart and home.

Today, we celebrate 12 years together. And, we celebrate Mina's 15th birthday. I'm sorry I missed those formative years!
Mina circa 2005, no gray hairs to be seen!
Mina used to drive me insane. I would go on walks at odd hours to avoid other people and their dogs. She never listened to me (still doesn't). Three very qualified trainers notified me that Mina was Mina and basically her sassy, bad attitude was just her.

Having a dog who resembles a Pit Bull (and in Mina's case IS a Pit Bull) toughened my then (okay mostly still) sensitive nature. Want to rent a home? Good luck! Want to get homeowner's insurance? Ha! Want to live in Denver? Don't. Want people to run across the street in fear of your 45-lb dog? Yes! Want people to tell you your dog should just die already? Good times!

Things have improved for Pit Bulls and their guardians. Mina has done her part by not eating anyone or robbing any banks. This past Halloween, 200 children flocked to my home for candy. And Mina was ready to greet every single one of them. A young girl asked what kind of dog she was and when she learned she was a Pit Bull, I didn't have to cringe. "I LOVE those kinds of dogs!" she piped up. No parents pulling their child away. No kids screaming in abject horror. Just a sweet dog meeting some sweet kids (enjoying some sweet vegan candy). No big deal.

When Mina was 8.5 years old, I brought home a 7-week-old puppy from Mexico. I planned on fostering her until she found a good home. That is, until Mina took one look at her and declared her family. Mina put up with sharp needle teeth and reveled in having a play-mate. I loved Mina even more.

Before Celeste sprouted legs 
As Mina has aged, her body has declined. And yet, I love her even more. She was diagnosed with mast cell cancer at the beginning of this year. My heart shattered, put itself back together, and was determined to get larger with the love it has for Mina. Just last night, I had a moment in which I thought my gut and heart would reach capacity, that all the joy, tears, sadness, frustration, fierceness, devotion I feel for Mina would explode forth. She leaned against me and sighed. Somehow, someway, I made a little more room in my spirit and body for this little 35-lb dog.

Mina turns 15 today. She celebrates fifteen glorious years of squirrel chasing, fence fighting, rough-housing, leash reactivity, belly rubs, awkward sleeping positions, snuggles, deep thoughts and intense staring contests. Okay, mostly I celebrate, but Mina is getting some puppy cupcakes today so she's probably happy too.

To be clear, I never once believed I could love a nonhuman the way I love Mina. When I look at her, it takes every ounce of restraint not to immediately envelop her in a massive bear hug. When I hear her searching through the house - having lost me once again - I want to rush out to her and tell her "I am here. You are here. We are here!" When I watch her struggle to jump in the car or up on the bed, a little part of my soul designated Mina cracks and re-attaches. When she picks me over barking dogs, I feel pretty honored.

I tried to grieve her death when she was diagnosed with cancer, so certain that every new tumor spelled disaster. She has 24 tumors now. They are impossible to remove and I will never put her through the surgeries - she had one when she was diagnosed, six tumors removed (several more discovered). Her recovery was slow and painful, her stoicism and pain tolerance hurt to witness. It wouldn't be right or fair. So I tried to reconcile my love with the deep grief I feel when I think of her death. I imagine her absence, because it will happen. Eleven months later, I have met with little success in terms of grieving her loss to this world. Fail!

Mina is:

  • An excellent kisser (though her breath is horrifying)
  • A board-approved Snuggler
  • Still young enough to fence fight for 5 seconds with the neighbor's JRTs
  • A fan of small dogs and puppies
  • An excellent soul gazer
  • Great at parties involving food
  • Awesome
  • Certain she can take on the 100-lb dog-aggro Newfoundland at the house on the corner
  • Proud of her ability to take on paper bags and freaking win
  • A fan of food
  • Okay with her sister but wish she'd play more bitey-face
  • Getting slow and old but still way too sassy
  • Currently okay with UPS delivery people and electricians
  • A Canine Like No Other
Love ya, Mina. I hope to achieve 50% of your patience and forgiveness. You are practically at Level 500.

Age 6 + unripened cantaloupe
Age 7, conversations with shrubbery
Age 6 - laps, her favorite spot
Damn beautiful dog
I swear, she's a pointer!
Age 11 - perfecting her noble look
Yes, this really happened.
My favorite dog and favorite cow. Love!
Age 4! Playing with a Cocker Spaniel
Geez, you are so white.
Haha, I'm just kidding. Pit Bulls don't eat Boxers.
True story: This got stuck on her mouth and she had to go to the emergency vet. Sad.
That one time when Mina let kittens nurse off of her 
After her surgery - never again.
Old and perfect.
Has a damn meadow named after her.
Mina's victory - Celeste sitting on her
Motherfucking canine love of my life, yo

Friday, November 1, 2013

How Can You Want to Eat Him?

Nick's Tongue

I can't believe people eat animals like Nicholas. Really, I just can't. I could no more look at Nicholas and want to eat him than I could at Mina and want to eat her. I extrapolate to other bovines and other dogs, because that is how I roll.