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!