Sunday, March 2, 2014

Eat All the Vegetables

As Russia mobilizes its troops, as the Ukraine prepares for war, and as President Obama deliberates his next move...we sit in our little apartment on the edge of the desert in Morocco listening to jazz and looking up vegetarian recipes on the computer. Our Peace Corps world is small – most days it revolves around our small town host community and what we will prepare for dinner, but being in the Peace Corps has made us even more attuned to the happenings in this world.

We have been closely watching the countries near and bordering Morocco - Mali, Algeria, Libya - with a constant hope that unrest and violence will not cross the border of Morocco jeopardizing our work and our service. We have watched the crises in Syria, Egypt, and Turkey with the hope that President Obama would take actions that would avoid war. US interference in such issues could create a strong anti-American sentiment which could easily spread to Morocco. Now we watch things unfold in Eastern Europe as our fellow Peace Corps Volunteers are evacuated out of the Ukraine – with what looks like little hope of returning anytime soon. Peace Corps has a presence in many countries that can quickly become battlegrounds between ideologies, religions, and cultures. Peace Corps and US Embassies closely monitor all situations to ensure the safety of all Volunteers. So we watch the world, perched at our laptops, from the desert, and we always hope for peaceful resolutions.

What's for dinner then? (onto a lighter topic) Vegetables! Always vegetables! Eat all the vegetables! There is so much that we love about Morocco and the Peace Corps. So much. But most of all we absolutely love the challenge of cooking and baking without the conveniences one has in America. There are no supermarkets in the desert. There is no balsamic vinegar in the desert. No blue cheese. No chocolate chip cookies. No cans of diced tomatoes or black beans. No frozen corn kernels to toss into your chilli. No frozen pizza. No coconut oil or agave nectar. No corn chips...

from -
Arie likes to bring home special vegetables that he finds at the farmer's market in order to challenge me to find new, delicious, and creative ways to prepare them. His challenges used to intimidate me, but ultimately they have taught me well. I have learned that once the kitchen is stocked with the basics cooking from scratch is so easy and so fun. I have learned that all you really need to make good food is fat (I like lots of butter or olive oil), onion and garlic, aromatics (fresh cilantro, parsley, and celery are my favorites), spices (homemade curry powder!), and salt (and pepper!). Add your vegetable of choice, cook, and serve with some protein and grains and you have a wholesome and delicious meal. Easy.

Oftentimes we are amazed at how much fresh produce we consume in a week. So this past month we kept track of the fresh fruit and vegetables we bought and consumed. We eat primarily vegetarian and most days we get a variety of fruits and veggies into our diet. Take a look below to see the breakdown of our produce consumption. In the span of a month we eat approximately 53.5 pounds of produce per person or about 13 pounds per person per week. In a month we purchase about 132 pounds, but some of that ends up in the compost bucket (think banana peels and tomato cores) which gets fed to our host family's goats and sheep. 
Produce Consumption
Compost Loss (approximate)
Start of Month: 
14 kilo (30 lbs)

Purchase Week 1: 18.5 kilo (41 lbs) Week 1: 4 kilo
Purchase Week 2: 14.5 kilo (32 lbs) Week 2: 4 kilo
Purchase Week 3: 12.5 kilo (27 lbs) Week 3: 4 kilo
Purchase Week 4: 14.5 kilo (32 lbs) Week 4: 4 kilo
End of Month:
9.5 kilo (20 lbs)

Total purchased: 60 kilo 
(132 lbs)
Total composted: 16 kilo 
(35 lbs)
Total consumed:
+(start) –(end) 
= 64.5 kilo (142 lbs)
(compost 25%) 
= 48.5 kilo (107 lbs)
53.5 pounds per person per month
13 pounds per person per week

After thinking about how much fresh produce we consume, I decided to take a look at what we use to prepare and transform it into delicious meals. Maybe you would like to know what is on our shelves and in our refrigerator? Take a look at this chart which details our normal monthly food consumption. We eat better here in Morocco than we did in the US; although we could use more whole grains. Rarely do we consume meat or 'other' beverages. 
Fresh Vegetables
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Hot Peppers (dried for hot pepper flakes)
Sweet Potatoes
Collard Greens
Beet/Turnip/Radish Greens
Green/Red Peppers
Fresh Fava Beans
Green Peas
Green Beans
Green Onions
Fennel Bulbs/Stems/Fronds
Black Radish
Fresh Fruit
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Apples (fresh, for baking, or apple sauce)
Oranges (fresh and orange juice ice cubes)
Lemons (for cooking and lemon juice ice cubes)

Limes (for cooking and lime juice cubes)
Dried Fruit
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock


Craisins (from US)
Blueberries (from US)
Sun Dried Tomatoes (from US)
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Macaroni Pasta
Spaghetti Pasta
White Rice
Barley Grits
White Flour
Corn Meal
Corn Flour
Oats (from big city)

Brown Rice (from US)
Wild Rice (from US)
Whole Wheat Couscous
Quinoa (from US)
Dried Legumes and Nuts
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Brown Lentils
Split Peas
White Beans
Fava Beans
Black Beans (from US)
Red Beans (from US)
Dairy and Eggs
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Plain Yogurt
Spreadable Cheese
Ricotta Cheese
Parmesan (from big city)
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil

Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

White Vinegar
Spicy Pickled Peppers
Peanut Butter (homemade) or Amalou
Siracha (from US)
Tamari/Soy Sauce (from US)
Maple Syrup (from US)
Spices and Herbs
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Fresh Parsley
Fresh Cilantro
Dried Herbs
Whole Dried Spices
Ground Dried Spices
Bay Leaves
Bullion Cubes

Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Mint
Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Granulated Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Vanilla Sugar
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Vanilla Extract (from US)
Brown Sugar (from US)
Cocoa Powder (from big city)
Active Yeast
Baking Chocolate (from big city)

Constant Stock
Regular Stock
Specialty Stock

Whole Chicken (chicken stock)
Goat (goat stock)
Ground Beef
Ground Turkey

That sums it up. So what do we like to cook and eat? 
Here are some of our favorite recipes that we eat on a regular basis (click the title for the link):

Green, Beans, and Rice using this Moroccan White Beans Recipe
Tunisian Chickpea & Vegetable Soup (also known as Harira)
Crisp Rosemary Flatbread (in place of crackers)

Our sweet potato, potato, and onion storage system.

So many spices!

We have no shame in using lots of oil and butter - fat is healthy when used correctly.

A pile of produce...this is a small and less abundant pile compared
to what Arie normally brings home.
Looks like we are running low on popcorn!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Artisan Morocco - Shop Anou

Our time as Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco is coming to an end. We will complete our service on Friday, May 23rd – 2 years to the day from when we took our oath to serve way back on May 23rd, 2012. On May 23rd we will fly to Turkey where we will spend some time in Istanbul before going to Ankara to visit my AFS host brother and his family. After that we will travel to Amsterdam where we have rented an apartment that comes with two bicycles!  On Friday June 6th we depart Amsterdam and will arrive Home - Sweet Home. One leg of our Peace Corps journey will be over, but that does not mean that the journey is complete. Our Peace Corps experience will last a lifetime!

As we reflect on our experience Arie and I have been talking a lot about all the things we are going to miss (or not miss) about Morocco when we leave. Arie will especially miss going to souk – the local farmers market – where he enthusiastically buys local produce and farm fresh eggs twice a week. He gets so excited about the delicious local treasures he finds there! We both will miss our little desert community – it has been so welcoming and kind. And of course we will miss our host family and our host siblings. Morocco is a beautiful country rich in culture, with kind and welcoming people and endless mountains, coastlines, and oases to explore. We have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and serve in such a amazing country!

One thing that I will miss most about Morocco is the beautiful hand made Moroccan crafts that can be found all over the country (and sometimes hiding on a side street in a little town). Some people may know this already, but I LOVE TO SHOP. I was trained from an early age by my mother, aunts, and grandmothers to be a good shopper. I grew up shopping at local boutiques, thrift stores, antique shops, garage sales, craft shows, and flea markets. I have developed an eye for quality and creativity, and I especially love high-quality hand-made products and bold, unique, creative items. So obviously Morocco was the most perfect place for me to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This country is full of gorgeous artisan products. Have you noticed that in America right now Moroccan style and design is so popular? Have you noticed that Moroccan products are very trendy and are being sold at outrageously high prices in high end catalogs and boutiques?  People are starting to recognize the magic and beauty of Morocco!

This leads me to the highlight of this blog post. Family, friends, and readers – meet Anou! Anou is an online marketplace supporting a community of Moroccan artisans who sell their products directly to the consumer at an affordable fair-trade price. Anou was started by a Peace Corps Volunteer and continues to be supported by Peace Corps Volunteers who work in collaboration with the Moroccan artisans. Currently Peace Corps Volunteers are training and preparing the artisans to completely take over and lead the Anou store on their own. This is an important facet of Peace Corps development work – ideally all Peace Corps led projects can and will become sustainable on their own without a Peace Corps presence. The PCV who started Anou explains: Anou represents a fundamental shift in the fair-trade industry. Instead of asking how organizations can help, we ask how can we build a resilient community of artisans where outside help and fair-trade organizations are no longer needed.” You can learn about how Anou's platform works here:

Why Shop Anou?

Anou is excellent for so many reasons – not only does it support Moroccan artisans country-wide, but it offers the consumer beautiful hand-crafted items at reasonable prices. Anou also offers free shipping all the way to the US (and Europe) - and not only free shipping but also free returns. If you are not satisfied with your item, you can send it back and receive a refund and you will be refunded the cost of shipping. To date Anou has had only one return. Here is what they say about returns: “Anou’s success thus far has been built on the idea that experience is the best teacher. Artisans don’t necessarily suffer from a lack of training, but rather a lack of experience. The more meaningful experiences artisans have, the better they will become at their craft and the more successful they will be. That is why we’ve made sure to make it as easy as possible for customers to return their products. While returns can be costly, we consider it a necessary expense to build the experience needed so artisans can thrive.”

 Custom Orders

Another feature Anou offers is the ability to search by individual artisans or artisan groups. A shopper can search for all items made by the same group or by a specific person. One can also view previously made items that have sold and place a custom order if they see a particular item or color or motif they like. Last October Anou noticed: “that a significant amount of sales on the Anou store...came from custom orders. The most common custom orders were requests to change a product’s size and the second most common were requests for multiples of the same product. The third, but less frequent custom orders, were requests to change the colors of the product.” Offering the customer a personalized experience is a unique benefit of this shopping model.

The Personal Experience

A personalized shopping experience is not the only opportunity offered by Anou. The opportunity to have a personal shopping experience also exists on the site. Customers can connect to each product they are searching or purchasing because each product comes with a photo and bio of the person who hand crafted it as well as information on the materials and techniques that went into creating the product.

Support Communities

Anou not only brings the beauty of Morocco to your home but also the hearts and hands of the Moroccan people who give love and time to each item they make. One way Arie and I will continue to connect to Morocco, its people, and artisan crafts will be through Anou. When we need a special gift or a new rug, we will turn to Anou first. So please take a moment to look at the beautiful hand crafted items on the site, and the next time you need a gift or a new rug for your home please consider supporting the artisans of Morocco by shopping with Anou!
What does Anou mean?
"Anou means a well of water in Tashelheet, the language spoken in the Ait Bouguemez valley of Morocco. Water wells serve as the center and source of growth of the communities that populate the valley."
Shop Anou:
About Anou:
Anou Blog:
Anou Highlighted: