Food bank …

I love my mandoline for slicing onions!

The past two years, I’ve been dealing with some ongoing health problems that have made it difficult to work, even part-time.   And writing has even become a tricky undertaking.  All that to say, money’s been super tight for a couple of years.  SUPER tight.  On my birthday and Christmas, my dad always gifts me a generous check from my grandfather’s trust fund that helps supplement my meager income.  Unfortunately, there’s a long stretch between my birthday in February and the December holidays.  Usually about July I’m starting to struggle financially.  The past two months have been worse than usual.

Anyway, I’m not sharing all that to make you feel sorry for me.  I’m doing fine.  I just wanted to set the stage for this post which wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

I frequently drive a disabled neighbor to the local Food Bank so she can get food, and the past two months I’ve been going in and getting food for myself.  The summer produce is coming in so there’s a lot more produce than usual.  Fewer canned and boxed things.  More salad fixings and fresh fruit.

We went to the Food Bank yesterday, and when I came home, I set everything out on the counter to see what I had.  As I’m no longer eating meat, they gave me extra produce.  I had 17 red delicious apples, 10 white onions, 12 cucumbers, 4 large red peppers, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, bread, yogurt, milk, granola, 4 boxes of cherry tomatoes, 1 pizza, 1 pizza crust, multiple bags of chips, shredded cheese, and some purple potatoes.   It’s a LOT of food for one person, but most of it is perishable so I needed to figure out what to do with it so it doesn’t all go bad.  I find that if I don’t plan ahead specifically how to use things, I often forget about them until it’s too late.

While I was staring at the food on my counter, I remembered something my mom did when I was growing up when we had a lot of cucumbers.  She called it Marinated Cucumbers.  She’d just slice cucumbers and onions, toss them into a large bowl, toss them with salt and pepper and garlic, and then cover them with olive oil, white vinegar, and water.  Stir it all up and refrigerate overnight.  It was one of my favorite snacks as a kid.  I was allowed to help myself to cucumbers from the fridge throughout the day.  I loved sour things, so this was a great treat.  I liked sour things so much, my grandfather used to call me Pickle Puss.

So I made up a big batch of marinated cucumbers.

I decided to make a big chopped salad out of the kale, cabbage, cucumber, peppers, onions, and cauliflower.  When I make chop salad, I never use a recipe.  I just chop up whatever veggies I have in my fridge, and then stir in some salad dressing (whatever I have).  It can ended up as a Salsa Chop Salad, or an Oriental Chop Salad, or a Ranch Chop Salad, depending on what dressing I have handy or feel like eating.  People always ask for my recipe when they have my chop salad.  It’s easy.  Chop veggies.  Stir in dressing.  Refrigerate.  Serve.

So I made a big batch of chop salad.  Poppy seed dressing this time.

And I cooked up some seashell pasta, chopped up some veggies (mainly cucumber and onions for this), and then tossed it all with Italian dressing.

It’s nice to know there will be three big bowls of salads/veggies in the fridge all ready to go.  Easy, healthy, summertime meals for lunches and dinners.  Nachos for lunches.  Granola, yogurt, and fruit for breakfasts.  Chips for snacks.  I’m all set!  Now I need to decide what to do with 17 apples.   I’m thinking apple pancakes, apple pie, apple crisp, apple dessert bread, Waldorf salad.  Several of those can be made ahead and frozen to use later.  Yay, frozen assets!  🙂

I shared this mainly because I was proud of myself for figuring out ways to use the food I was given.  It can be challenging, sometimes, to come up with ways to use combinations of food I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself.

My goal for the rest of the month is to not spend any money at all if I can help it.  Actually, I wouldn’t have money to spend even if I wanted to, hence the trip to the Food Bank. There are some things on the horizon that could be coming to change my financial situation in the Fall.  Might actually be able to finally start getting my feet back on the ground after a long, long time of barely scraping by.

So, how would you use up an overabundance of cucumbers, onions, and apples?

Until next time …




The Accidental Vegetarian …

People often threaten to eat my bunny. 😦

I’ve been unable to eat beef for many years. The doctors never figured out why. It isn’t an allergy. It’s not a general digestive issue. Just beef. So the easiest way to deal with it was to stop eating it. Believe me, it caused me so much pain if I did eat it, you might as well just take me out back and put me out of misery. I literally passed out from the pain, it was so severe. Ended up being the easiest food item I’ve ever given up (although I do sometimes miss a good medium-rare steak or a juicy hamburger).

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was about to bite into a chicken drumstick and suddenly all I could think was, “I’m about to take a bite out of someone’s leg.” I set the drumstick down and haven’t eaten chicken since. Just the thought of it makes me ill.

I was talking with a friend of mine who’s a vegetarian (pescatarian, actually … she eats fish) about my sudden aversion to chicken. I knew she could relate. She looked at me and said, “You might as well become a vegetarian. There’s really only one thing more you’d need to give up. Pork. You already don’t eat beef. And now you don’t eat chicken.”

Well, pork is one of those things I try to trick myself into eating. My friend, Kristina, has a lovely pet pig named Priscilla and if a slice of bacon actually looked like it had been cut from Priscilla’s body, I wouldn’t eat it. But you know how denial works. It’s bacon. It’s not pig.

Yeah, right.

So here I am, realizing that I think I’ve always been a vegetarian at heart. But with a major case of denial. I know it’s not for everyone and I would never try to convince someone else to live by my personal decisions, but I think it’s time for me to live by my own personal feelings.

But I find that now I can’t even stand the smell of chicken (raw or cooked). It smells like something dead. It had been starting to taste that way to me, too.

I even asked my Facebook friends (many of whom are vegetarians), “How long does a person have to go without eating meat before they can call themselves a vegetarian?” Basically they all laughed at me. Nicely. One said I could call myself a flexitarian.

Anyway, technically I guess I’m now a ovo-lacto-pescetarian rather than a vegetarian. I eat eggs, dairy, and fish. Partly because I can’t eat some meat, partly because I don’t want to eat some meat, and partly to reduce my carbon footprint. Yeah, even my impact on the earth comes into my thinking. One thing I’ve discovered since giving up meat is that it’s nice to not be in denial about eating anymore. I don’t have to have internal arguments with myself about whether I want to eat bacon or sausage with my eggs.  The decision’s already made for me.

Honestly, I always sort of thought of vegetarians as being legalistic about their food choices, but I’ve found for myself it’s not legalism so much as it is freedom. Which is sort of surprising to me.

And I want to gently repeat myself, just to make sure it’s clear. This isn’t a message saying everyone should do as I do, foodwise. It’s more of a statement about being true to you, whoever and whatever that might entail. You’ll most likely find freedom in being true to yourself.

And also, it may be time to write another Frozen Assets cookbook since the other books were pretty heavy in meat recipes.  Do I see a project in my future?  😉

Until next time!


PS: Play nice in the comment section. This is just my personal experience. Your mileage may (will) vary.