Thursday, August 30, 2012

Growing ginger

Zingiber officinale

The easiest way to get started growing ginger root is to just buy some from a grocery store. Look for pieces with well developed "eyes" or growth buds. The buds look like little horns. Make sure you only select fresh rhizomes. Soak the rhizomes in water over night, since store bought ginger is often treated with a growth retardant.

You'll need really good soil to start with as it needs to be rich enough to feed your ginger, it needs to hold enough moisture so it doesn't dry out, but it needs to be free draining so the ginger doesn't become water logged.

Cut the rhizomes in thumb sized pieces with a couple of growing buds on each piece. A 14 inch pot easily holds three average rhizomes. Plant each five to ten centimetres deep, with the growing buds facing up. Every rhizome you plant will first only grow a few leaves, in the one spot. Over time it will become densely clumped and very slowly get bigger, but only if it isn't harvested. The rhizomes underground also don't seem to mind if they become a bit crowded. Ginger only grows to about two to three feet in height.

Ginger needs a lot of moisture while actively growing. The soil should never dry out. Don't overwater, though, because the water that drains away will take nutrients with it. Ginger loves humidity. If you have problems with dry air then mist daily. Dry air can cause problems with spider mites. Set near your forced air register or radiator to keep it warm during the winter. 

Feed it regularly. Work in some organic slow release fertilizer at planting time. After that you can use some liquid fertilizer like seaweed extract or fish fertilizer every few weeks.

The best time to harvest ginger is any time after the leaves have died down. Usually it takes eight to ten months to get to that point. You can dig up the whole plant. Growing ginger in containers makes the harvest so easy, you don't have to dig, just tip out the whole thing. 

Break up the rhizomes, select a few nice ones with good growing buds for replanting, you can replant them straight away, and keep the rest for the kitchen. The rhizomes that have been replanted or left in the soil won't need any water or attention until the weather warms up again. 

If you are serious about growing ginger for eating and not just as an ornamental, then resist the urge to harvest it for a year or two. You won't see any flowers until it is two years old. If you want ginger for eating, just dig very carefully at the edges of it to harvest bits here and there.

The ginger has sprouted and is growing fast!

Since the weather is still so nice, I've left the containers outside in full sun. Once the plant breaks through the surface and the temps drop below 60 degrees, I'll bring them in and set them in the kitchen near the floor register.

The ginger has put out leaves
that the cats find irresistible. 

The kitchen gets alot of indirect sunlight and stays comfortably around 65 degrees year round. Sitting near the register and daily misting will keep the plants happy until outside temps rise over 65 degrees consistently in the late spring/early summer, when they'll be taken back out and set in partial shade.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Eating well on the cheap

Lately I've been fielding a lot of questions. They often are followed by statements that I can't really be working poor because: my pictures are too nice, I go to fancy places to eat, I make fancy food, I have a whole bunch of websites (actually I only have two), I make dishes using organic ingredients, and so on and so on.

The thing is, I do all of those things because I'm smart about it and have figured out how to feed five people on about $700 a month. The USDA Food Plan works out to $1,215, nearly $500 more than what we're spending. These numbers are from 2009 and don't reflect the rise in food costs. 

I compared the cost of organic to conventional one month, writing down the cost every time I purchased something organic and I noted it's non-organic counterpart's cost and found only a $117.34 difference. I basically purchase the same food stuffs every month. I look for buy one, get one sales. Thursday's at Wegmans are when the Special of the Day prices get slapped on many of the organic meats and poultry, these are sometimes as much as 50% off. 

I sometimes pick up fruits and veggies that may not be organic but have labels that read that they were not grown using pesticides and such. Getting that USDA organic label is a very lengthy and expensive process and there are many farmers that farm with low or no chemical interventions but cannot afford to get the certification. This is where it's good to talk to your local growers, send them an email, call up corporate and ask questions. 

I buy organic if the fruit or veggie has an edible peel or is likely to absorb whatever is sprayed on it, for example, bananas are notorious for being yellow chem-bombs (something I've only discovered over the last two years). The following can be chem-bombs too; strawberries (actually any berries), lettuces (includes spinach), mangos, tomatoes, apples, blueberries, cherries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, figs, celery, bell peppers, kale/collard greens,  carrots, and potatoes. 

Unless you can buy everything organic, focus mostly on foods with edible skins. Technically, pesticides can be absorbed by any plant during the growth cycle, but much of the chemical sits on the peel and doesn't wash off entirely. If you can peel off the outer layer, it should be safe to eat the non-organic version. So I save by buying conventional low or no spray squash, pineapples, nuts, and peas and beans that can be shucked. 

When my tax return rolls in, I commit $400 of it to purchasing olive, sesame seed and peanut oils, rices, large canned whole organic tomatoes, large canned beans in all sorts of varieties, white and apple cider vinegar, locally made pastas and sauces, canning and soap making supplies, and baking staples like flours, oatmeal, sugars, salt, baking powder and soda, and yeast to be used over the next 6 to 7 months.

Photos come off my two year old Galaxy S phone. I actually read the manual on how to operate the phone, including it's amazing camera feature. If I ever take a bad photo, it's user error, so I always shoot between 100 to 150 photos for events and restaurant/store reviews. Dishes are between 10 to 45 shots. Trips to the garden 1 to 7. I do all of the post production work on a 5 year old Apple mini using iPhoto (though for the really nice stuff like my recent 'Silos in the evening' series I use 
an equally aged copy of Photoshop).

I wait until the latter end of the farmer's market to pick up fruits and veggies farmers don't want to lug back home for often as much as half the cost it was three hours earlier. I grow herbs and some veggies like chard during the summer months. Herbs can be arranged to make repetitive dishes seem different. I can my own jelly, hot peppers, salsas, and tzatziki base.

As to the events and shops and restaurants? I go to events that are free or donation. When I head to a shop, I purchase the minimum amount to photograph well and to taste and/or add to a recipe. Restaurants are a bit more difficult as they are often $10 to $15 a visit, and so I visit less frequently, but sometimes I'm served a free meal when I mention I'm a blogger.

I use free websites, sources, links and web page builders like Blogger and Wix

The International Dinners run about $70 to $120 per-event. The door prizes are usually donated. Guest performers and speakers come for free, though I usually present them with a thank you gift and a fine meal. The food is often donated, or the money placed in the donation basket goes towards the next dinner, so that very little actually comes out of pocket.

So that's about it. 

Live well. Live frugally. Live smart. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Raita and Naan

2 tsp each of yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water, 3 cups of flour, 4 tbls sesame seed oil, and 1 tbls salt

Proof the yeast for 20 minutes. Blend all of the ingredients together. Allow to rise in a covered, oiled bowl for 1 hour. Divide into six even pieces. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and add the cookie sheet to warm. Roll out each piece and lay them on the hot pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot. Oil,  minced garlic, flake salt, and parsley are great on these!

Raita is slivered cucumber, strained yogurt, juiced ginger, mint, crushed coriander seeds and ground cumin. Blend well and chill before serving. Excellent with spicy dishes.


1 lb lean ground beef or 1 lb lamb
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas, thawed
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
(I left these out when I made this the first time, since I served this dish with Aloo Dum, which has loads of potatoes.)
10 oz tomato sauce (I made mine using garden tomatoes and tomatillos.)
1/2 cup water
1 cup chickpeas, canned, rinsed

Brown the beef in a large skillet. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Add chopped onions, garlic, and ginger and the salt to beef. Sauté 2 minutes. Stir in spices and mix well. Cook 1 minute over medium high heat. Add peas, potatoes and mix again. Cover pan and cook over medium heat 10 minutes. Stir in sauce, water and chickpeas. Cover again and cook until chickpeas and potatoes are heated through. Serve over rice or in Pita or Naan bread, with yogurt or raita, fresh tomatoes and sliced cucumbers.

Aloo Dum (Potatoes In Masala) Vegan

6 medium red skinned potatoes, chopped to bite size
4 tbls sesame oil
6 big garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbls flake salt

Put in a large pan and cook until potato pieces are lightly browned and fully cooked. Slide the potatoes into a large casserole dish and set aside.

8 medium sized ripe tomatoes, each cut into four quarters
1 medium sized yellow onion, chopped
1 tbls corriander seeds
1 oz slivered fresh ginger
4 tbls cup fresh finely powdered coconut
3 chillies, minced
1 tbls cumin seeds 
2 tsp cumin powdered
½ teaspoon cracked peppercorns
1 tsp cardamon, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp clove, ground
2 tsp seasame seed oil

Put all of the ingredients into a sauce pot, cover, and cook on high for ten minutes. Turn down the heat and blend with a stick blender a few bursts until the sauce is chunky, not pureed.

Pour over the potatoes and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with a large salad, raita, and naan.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ben & Jerry's Style Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream - No Eggs!

Since we got this ice cream machine, we've made pineapple/orange/lemon sorbet, strawberry, chipped vanilla bean, and chocolate peanut butter. Here I've made chocolate chip cookie dough.

You need to make a batch of cookies at least two days prior to making this. The bonus is you could also try making ice cream sandwiches with them. Go to this link for the best no egg recipe ever. Line a small cookie sheet with wax paper and spoon 1/2" inch dollops of cookie dough onto the paper. Set into the freezer and let there for 24 to 48 hours.

The ice cream is one pint heavy cream, one and a half cups 2% milk, 1/2 cup half & half, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1 tbls vanilla.

During the last five minutes, drop the bits of cookie into the mixer.

When the thirty minute cycle is up, pack the ice cream evenly into two tupperware containers, smoothing down the top. Cover and freeze for at least one hour before serving.

Friday, August 24, 2012

NOFA-NY Locavore Challenge - Doubling Up

This year  I will be posting articles on Buffalo's Locavore Challenge on Mondays and Fridays only.

One - Mondays will talk about what can be done to increase our impact on the local community's economy.

Two - Fridays will be a list of locally sourced foods I used during the week and will include helpful information like where I found them, links, prices and recipe suggestions.

After each article, I will include a list of fellow food justice blogger's articles, websites focused on different food movements, and ways you can engage in the conversation on food in small but meaningful ways.

I look forward to hearing from you over the next month about your local adventures!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bread & Books

Sarah Gilmartin of B. Ferrante's Italian Bakery in the Westside has only recently taken an excursion into bread at the shop. She presented me with this dense, sweetly flavored, salty and yeasty scented loaf to try. It was easy to slice thinly, and it toasted beautifully. It's density and tight sponge held onto the butter and crunched delightfully!

Now unfortunately not everyone can stop by this sweet little shop, but if you'd like to try this bread, here is an excellent recipe.
Westside Stories has an extensive
number of unusual cookbooks and more
1 1/2 tablespoons aniseed
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 3/4 cups bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon water

Place aniseed in a pot with the water and bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast, aniseed water (including the seeds), and sugar to the bowl and mix. Let rest five minutes.

Add the flour, butter, and salt and knead together by hand.

Slowly add the bread flour and continue to knead for about ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic and pulls away smoothly from the sides of the bowl. Add a couple more tablespoons flour if the dough seems to sticky.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise for one hour.

Punch down dough and roll into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for ten minutes.

Flatten into an slighly oval shape, using a rolling pin if necessary. Starting at one end of the oval, roll dough up into a spiral. Place seam side down on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let the loaf rise in a warm place for a half hour. 

Bake for twenty five minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm, room temperature, or toasted.

Both B.Ferrante's and Westside Stories are a great combination of inspiration, fine company, and excellent offerings. If you are in WNY, I recommend adding visiting these two spots to your itinerary.

Read world-wide in 130 countries and in 46 languages!

The Land of Peapodriot is read world-wide in 130 countries and in 46 languages!

From the US to Canada, and the UK (That's England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland!), as well as Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Denmark, Egypt, Lebanon, Spain, Norway, South Korea, and India, Malaysia, Bolivia, Italy, Netherlands, France, Qatar, Russia, Brazil, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Romania, Czech Republic, Columbia, Philippines, Indonesia, Ukraine, Malta, Israel, Belgium, Sweden, Serbia, Latvia, South Africa, China, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Turkey, Peru, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Ghana, Jordan, Libya, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Oman, Armenia, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Morocco, Mexico, Georgia, Uruguay, Austria, Taiwan, Iceland, Tajikistan, Cyprus, Slovakia, Suriname, Laos, Kuwait, Kenya, Bangladesh, Singapore, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Greece, Moldova, Fiji, Nigeria. Iran, Serbia, Albania, Brunei, Panama, Namibia, Lithuania, Bahrain, Sudan, Venezuela, Argentina, Yemen, Turks and Caicos Islands, Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia, Cambodia, Slovenia, Nigeria, Belarus, Guam, Tanzania, Estonia, Mongolia, Algeria, Cameroon, Iraq, Isle of Man, Luxembourg, Portugal, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Antigua, Barbuda, Guernsey, Palestinian Territories, Barbados, Macedonia, Bhutan and Nicaragua!

All are welcome to the Land of Peapodriot!

"Eat global, but stay local.
Have your passport ready!"

IN - 3rd Event Nuit Blanche

Chef Corey Kley of Rue Franklin presented this delicately mint and dill scented smoked couscous salad. A blend of couscous, melon, herbs, tomato, and fromage blanc, it was a fresh take on an oft abused granulated semolina. I've never particularly liked couscous, but was mightly impressed by the skill and restraint used in creating this dish, which prevented it from being destroyed and turned into a dry crumb or overcooked to a slurry.

Chef Edward Forester of Mike A at Hotel Lafayette plated a dish that highlighted quark. There were three variations of quark and three of asparagus and the complicated combination was tame but so lovely to look at.

Quark - Vermont Creamery - German for “fresh curd,” it is similar to old-fashioned cream cheese.

Mascarpone - Vermont Creamery - Like Quark, this cream cheese spreads smoothly, but is often used in place of butter in many Italian dishes as it has a voluptuousness in taste and creaminess.
Crème Fraîche - Vermont Creamery - A thick, smooth, tart cheese, not too dissimilar to Greek yogurt in texture and flavor.

Fromage Blanc - Vermont Creamery - A smooth, whipped cheese, flavor and feel is quite close to a French styled sweet yogurt.
Chef Michael Obarka of Ristorante Lombardo produced this plate of Cavatelli, handmade in-house, in a mascarpone sauce and tossed with arugula, saba, salt, and pepper.

Chef Jennifer Boye of Mansion on Delaware Avenue stylized these tasty bites which included crispy fried chicken skin, caraway crème fraîche and kimchi jam.

These crisps were paired with thinly sliced Scandinavian gravlax, very small slivered pickles, dill, and gin soaked tomatillos.

Once again, thanks to Christa Glennie Seychew, the Feed Your Soul team, the staff at Seabar and for all who came for yet another excellent evening!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Super Gyro Shawarma

Art by Anna Rettberg
So by now I should be able to post this and not worry about posting *Spoiler Alert*, right? If you haven't seen it yet, stay till the very end. You never leave a Marvel movie till the projector shuts off. If you stayed, congratulations, you're awesome! I decided to try my hand at making some Super Gyro Shawarma...

2 lbs  lamb fillet (picked up from African Market Halal in the Westside)
3 1/2 oz. tallow, suet or lard
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp each of nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, ground cloves, allspice, finely ground pepper, mistika (pestle ground gum mastic also called arabic gum), and sea salt

Cut the lamb fillet and fat into very thin strips.

Mix the seasoning together with the vinegar and the olive oil.

Combine the lamb and fat strips in a bowl with the seasoning mixture and let marinate overnight, or at least for three hours.

Homemade pita bread

Heat a large skillet, set to high. Add the lamb and fat strips and cook over high heat until the fat melts and the lamb strips turn brown.

Serve with lemon juice thinned tahini sauce, thinly sliced red onion, thin strips of lettuce, hummus (red pepper hummus from the Lexington Co-op), tomatoes, tzatziki, and cracked pepper all rolled in a warmed fluffy pita bread.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mexican Soup and a Story - Inspired by 'Mexicali Soup' by Kathryn Hitte and William D. Hayes

Mexicali Soup

by Kathryn Hitte and William D. Hayes
(New York: Parents' Magazine Press, 1970--currently out of print)

All the way across town Mama sang to herself--to herself and the little one, little Juanita. Here on the streets of he great fine city, she sang an old tune from the old home in the mountains. And she thought of what she would buy in the markets.
Only the best of everything. Potatoes and peppers--the best! Tomatoes and onions--the best! The best garlic. The best celery. And then, cooked all together, ah! The best soup in the world! Mama's Special Mexicali Soup. The soup that always made everyone say, "Mama makes the best soup in the world."
"Ah, si!" Mama thought with a smile. "Yes! Our supper tonight will be a very special supper for my Rosie and Antonio and Juan and Manuel and Maria, and for the little one--and for Papa, too. A very special supper of my Mexicali Soup."
"Mama! Yoo-hoo, Mama!"
There was the fine new school building where Juan and Manuel and maria went to school, and there was Maria with her new city friend, waving and calling.
"Wait a minute, Mama!" Maria came running to put her schoolbooks in the stroller with Juanita. "Mama, may I play a while at Marjorie's house? Please?"
"Very well," Mama said. "A while. But do not be late for supper, Maria. I am making my special soup tonight."
"Mmmm-mmm, Mexicali Soup!" Maria said. Then she looked thoughtful. then she frowned. "But--Mama?"
"Yes, Maria?"
"Mama, there is such a lot of potatoes in your Mexicali Soup."
"Of course," Mama said, smiling.
"Marjorie doesn't eat potatoes. Her mother doesn't eat them. Her sister doesn't eat them. Potatoes are too fattening, Mama. They are too fattening for many people in the city. I think we should do what others do here. We are no longer in the mountains of the West, Mama, where everyone eats potatoes. We are in the city now. So would you--Mama, would you please leave out the potatoes?"
"No potatoes," Mama said thoughtfully. She looked at Maria's anxious face. She shrugged. "Well, there are plenty of good things in the Mexicali Soup without potatoes. I will add more of everything else. It will still make good soup."
Maria kissed Mama's cheek. "Of course it will, Mama. You make the best soup in the world."
Mama went on with Juanita to the markets, to the street of little markets, thinking aloud as she went, "Tomatoes, onions, celery. Red peppers, chili peppers, good and hot. And garlic. But no potatoes."
Mama went to Mr. Santini's little market for the best tomatoes and celery. She went to Mr. Vierra's little market for the best onions and garlic. "And the peppers," she said to Juanita. "We will buy the peppers from Antonio. Our own Antonio, at the market of Mr. Fernandez. Here is the place. Ah! What beautiful peppers!"
Antonio came hurrying out of the store to the little stand on the sidewalk.
"Let me help you, Mama!" I hope you want something very good for our supper tonight. I get very hungry working here," Antonio said.
"Ah, si!" Mama said. "Yes, Antonio. For tonight--something special!" She reached for the hot red peppers strung above her head. "Mexicali Soup."
"Hey! That's great," Antonio exclaimed. Then he looked thoughtful. Then he frowned. "But--Mama--"
"Yes?" Mama said, putting some peppers in the scale.
"Well--Mama, you use a lot of hot peppers in your soup."
"Of course," Mama said, smiling.
"A lot," Antonio repeated. "Too many, Mama. People here don't do that. They don't cook that way. They don't eat the way we did in the mountains of the West. I know, Mama. I have worked here for weeks now, after school and Saturdays. And in all that time, Mama, I have not sold as many hot peppers to other ladies as you use in a week. "Mamacita," Antonio said. "Please don't put hot peppers in the soup."
"No peppers," Mama said thoughtfully. She looked at Antonio's anxious face. "Well--" Mama shrugged. "There are plenty of good things in the soup without peppers. I will add more of something else. It will still make good soup."
Antonio took the peppers out of the scale and put them back on the stand. "Of course it will, Mama." He kissed her cheek. "Everyone knows you make the best soup in the world."
Mama went on with Juanita toward home. "Tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery," she said to herself. "Yes, I can still make a good soup with those." She hummed softly to herself as she crossed a street blocked off from traffic, and street that was only for play.
"Hey, Mama! Mamacita!"
Juan and Manuel left the game of stickball in the play street. They raced each other to the spot where Mama stood.
"Oh, boy! food!" said Juan when he saw the bags in the stroller. He opened one of the bags. "Tomatoes and celery--I know what that means."
"Me, too, said Manuel. he peeked into the other bag. "Onions and garlic. Mexicali Soup! Right, Mama?" Manuel rubbed his stomach and grinned. Then he looked thoughtful. Then he frowned. "But, Mama--listen, Mama."
"I am listening," Mama said.
"Well, I think we use an awful lot of onions," Manuel said. "They don't use so many onions in the lunchroom at school, or at the Boys' Club picnics. You know, Mama, they have different ways of doing things here, different from the ways of our town on the side of the mountain. I think we should try new ways. I think we shouldn't use so many onions. Mamacita, please make the Mexicali Soup without onions."
"Manuel is right!" Juan said. "My teacher said only today that there is nothing that cannot be changed, and there is nothing so good that it cannot be made better, if we will only try. I think there may be better ways of making soup than our old way. Make the soup tonight without tomatoes, Mama!"
"No tomatoes?" Mama said. "And no onions? In Mexicali soup?" Mama looked at the anxious faces of Juan and Manuel. Then she shrugged. She closed the two bags of groceries carefully. She pushed the stroller away from the play street. She shrugged again.
Voices came after her. Juan's voice said, "We will be hungry for your soup tonight, Mama!"
Manuel's voice called, "Mamacita! You make the best soup in the world."
In the big kitchen at home, Mama put the groceries on the table by the stove. She hummed a little soft tune that only Mama could hear. She stood looking at the groceries. No potatoes. No peppers. Tomatoes--Mama pushed the tomatoes aside. Onions--she pushed the onions aside.
Mama sat down and looked at what was left.
The front door clicked open and shut. Rosie came into the kitchen. Rosita, the young lady of the family.
"Hi, Mama. Oh, Mama--I hope I'm in time! I heard you were making--" Rosie stopped to catch her breath. She frowned at the groceries on the table. "All the way home I heard it. The boys and Maria--they all told me--and Mama! I want to ask you--please! No garlic."
Mama stopped humming.
Rosie turned up her nose and spread out her hands. "No garlic. Please. Listen, Mama. Last night when my friend took me to dinner, I had such a fine soup. Delicious! the place was so elegant, mama--so refined. So expensive. And no garlic at all in the soup!"
Rosie bent over and kissed Mama's cheek. "Just leave out the garlic, Mamacita. You make the best soup in the world.
A deep voice and many other voices called all at once, and the front door shut with a bang. "Mama! We are home, Mama!"
Then all of them, Juan and Manuel and Antonio, with Maria pulling Papa by the hand--all of them came to stand in the kitchen doorway. Papa reached for the baby, the little Juanita, and swung her onto his shoulders.
"I have heard of something special," Papa said. "I have heard we are having Mexicali Soup tonight."
Mama said nothing. But Mama's eyes flashed fire. She waited.
"Your soup, Mama--" Papa said. "It is simply the best soup in the world!"
"Ah, si! But you want me to leave out something?" Mama's voice rose high. "the celery, perhaps? You want me to make my Mexicali Soup without the celery?"
Papa raised his eyebrows. "Celery?" Papa opened his hands wide and shrugged. "What is celery? It is a little nothing! Put it in or leave it out, Mamacita--it does not matter. The soup will be just as--"
"Enough!" Mama said. "Out of my kitchen--all of you!" mama waved her arms wide in the air. The fire in Mama's eyes flashed again. "I am busy! I am busy getting your supper. I will call you. Go."
"But, Mama," said Rosie, "we always help you with--"
"No!" Mama said. "Out!"
Rosie and Juan and Manuel, Antonio and Maria, and Papa with the baby, tiptoed away to the living room.
There was only silence coming from the kitchen. Then the sound of a quiet humming. Soon the humming mixed with the clatter of plates and spoons, the good sounds of the table being set for supper.
The humming turned into singing. Mama was singing a happy song from the old home in the mountains. Juan and manuel, Antonio and maria, Rosie and Papa, looked at one another and smiled and nodded. Mama was singing.
Then from the kitchen Mama's voice called to them. "The soup is finished. Your supper is ready. come and eat now."
"ah! that is what I like to hear," said Papa, jumping up with Juanita. The soup is ready before I have even begun to smell it cooking."
"Mmm-mmm!" said Juan and Manuel, racing for the big kitchen table.
"Mmm-mmm!" said Maria and Antonio and Rosie, when they saw the steaming bowls on the table. "Mama makes the best soup in the world."
But what was the matter?
"This doesn't look like Mexicali Soup," said Maria, staring at the bowl before her.
"It doesn't smell like Mexicali Soup," said Antonio, sniffing the steam that rose from his bowl.
"It doesn't taste like Mexicali Soup," said Juan and Manuel, sipping a sip from their spoons.
"This is not Mexicali Soup," said Rosie, setting her spoon down hard with a clang. "this is nothing but hot water."
Everyone looked at Mama.
Mama smiled and hummed the old tune from the mountains.
"You have forgotten to bring the soup, Mamacita?" suggested Papa.
"No," Mama said, still smiling. "The soup is in your bowls. And it is just what you wanted. I made the soup the way my family asked me to make it.
"I left out the potatoes that Maria does not want.
"I left out the peppers Antonio does not want.
"I left out the tomatoes that Juan does not want.
"I left out the onions that Manuel does not want.
"For Rosita, I left out the garlic.
"And for Papa, I left out the celery, the little nothing that does not matter.
"The new Mexicali Soup!
"It is so simple! So quick! So easy to make," Mama said. "You just leave everything out of it."

I hear nothing but ,"I don't like tomatoes."or "It's too spicy!" I can't please everyone in this house, so I cook for myself. If they eat it, great, otherwise....

So here is my take on a Mexican Soup with no corn nibblets, no chunky tomatoes, not too spicy, but just right. Though to be honest, my youngest one snubbed her nose just a little.

Boil and then shred two large chicken breasts.

Drain and wash clear 1 large can of black beans.

Start a pot with 6 cups of water, set to boil then add 1 quart of vegetable broth.

You can make your own using pureed carrots, tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic, and leeks and seasoned with sea salt, parsley, thyme and bay leaves.

Wash and de-seed one pepper, mince and add to the boiling pot along with the beans and 1 1/2 cups of dry rice.

Mince garlic scapes, crush 3 tbls of coriander seed with the flat of your blade and add these to the pot along with 2 tbls of dehydrated sweet peppers, 2 tbls of dehydrated onions, 2 tsp of salt and pepper and then shredded chicken.

Serve with rough chopped parsley or cilantro, depending on taste.

Crumbled tortilla chips are a tasty garnish, as are bite sized pieces of avocado and spoonfuls of salsa verde.