moroccan roasted vegetables

The markets and orchards of Central New York are swollen with colors more vibrant than a box of Lucky Charms. From procuring ingredients for my first salsa to picking apples with visiting family, all this bounty has kept me busy.

And then there was Saturday night’s excursion to the bedimmed Manlius Theater to see Food, Inc., a new documentary on the evils of the modern food industry. There were the expected appearances by Michael Pollan and his crony EricSchlosser of Fast Food Nation. There were undercover slaughterhouse cameras and dejected farmers. There was an appearance by the grieving mother of a 2-year-old poisoned by contaminated ground beef.

There were as many “corporation X refused to comment for this film” as there were new reasons to eat real food.

Check out this quote by Pollan on the backwardness of the modern food industry:

It’s a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot … the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their newfound ‘whole-grain goodness’ to the rafters. Watch out for those health claims.

We have a warped system where Coke and Doritos are more affordable than the ingredients for a salad. We sit blindly by while a handful of corporations mess with our kitchens. I watch documentaries like King Corn and Food, Inc., and still it’s hard to say no sometimes to chicken wings. Ignorance may truly be bliss, but for me a daily commitment to  real, raw, unprocessed food brings a more continuous joy.

Take these delicious Moroccan roasted vegetables, an idea lifted from my old standby, the Moosewood New Classics. Plain old yam wrested from the earth, shiny purple eggplant and zucchini from a local farmer, red pepper and onion all tossed with lemon juice and the fire-colored spices of northern Africa. Easy as chopping, seasoning and baking, this saucy mix yields enough to last for a few days.

Better than the lack of additives and sweeteners was the simplicity of flavors. The original Happy Meal was never patented and is not sold along suburban byways. It’s right here, in our fields and on our plates.

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sandwiches, sweeping the clouds away

Sometimes I miss watching Sesame Street. I don’t even know if it’s on anymore, or what name it’s going by now, or what they’re teaching kids these days. I feel so out of the loop.

Maybe what I miss is waking up on a Saturday morning with nothing but cartoons on the agenda. Maybe it’s that unapologetic and unproductive laziness we’re so discouraged from as adults. I miss the time when play was serious business and games my most prized accomplishments. Sometimes my nostalgia points its compass squarely in the direction of childhood.

Today was one of those drifty days. I felt a pervasive lack of direction, the clouds of limbo thickening around me. Today was a day I ached to be too busy, and then chided myself for this wish. I made a mental note to be evermore grateful for a full schedule. Today was a day that reminded me of the exquisite balance needed to live a healthy life. Rest and involvement in equal measure, calm and momentum in an intricate dance.

As I thought about youth and adulthood, playing and working, being and doing, my thoughts naturally led to peanut butter. (But it could be the influence of Peanut Butter Planet, a cookbook I recently picked up at the library.) If there’s one thing that’s inseperable from childhood, it’s peanut butter. Yet in adulthood, as I strive to eat less meat and still get all the nutrients I need, peanut butter has risen to new heights in my protein cache. It’s convenient, bursting with fiber, protein and unsaturated fats while being almost endless in versatility.

This book also reminded me that peanut butter is (hold onto your celery) really just ground peanuts. I’m sorry to break it to you, but we’ve been had. This revelation isn’t new; I recall trying to make it with a bowl of peanuts, some water and a fork. Needless to say, what we eight-year-olds ended up with looked like something that hadn’t agreed with her cat’s palate.

We go through PB around here like the nuts are going extinct. And that’s when my fellow peanut butter monster remembered the food processor attachment that came with our hand blender. I tell you, forgetting about this piece de resistance has been my biggest kitchen blunder since getting hitched. Not charring stuff, not poisoning dinner guests, but realizing that I actually could have made ALL THOSE THINGS THAT CALLED FOR A FOOD PROCESSOR and didn’t. Just thinking about the pestos, dressings and ground-up things we’ve missed out on brings me deep sorrow, but boy am I ever going to make up for lost time.

3 cups of bulk roasted peanuts + 5 minutes with electrical magic wand = 14 ounces of peanut butter so smooth and airy I’m don’t think I’ll ever go back. Sorry Teddie. It’s not even about the savings, or eliminating the packaging and transportation. This pure peanuts-and-that’s-it goodness is enough to keep me on the Skippy boycotting bandwagon for at least a few more idealistic years.

And in hopes of bringing on my own “sunny day,” I whipped up this little open-faced sandwich on some new sprouted grain bread I’ve discovered. And even though I didn’t see even a feather of that old yellow friend of mine, the sun did come out to greet me, if only for a minute or two.

Sunny Day Sandwiches

serves 2, half the recipe for one person

Combine the following in a small bowl, and spread on whole-grain or sprouted bread:

½ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup shredded carrot

2 Tbsp. sunflower or pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp. raisins or craisins

2 tsp maple syrup

Homemade Peanut Butter

In a food processor, grind 2 cups of good-quality roasted peanuts at a time until they turn buttery. This may take about 2 minutes. For a crunchy version, grind up another cup of peanuts into small pieces and add them to the peanut butter. For an even higher fiber variety, use the peanuts with the reddish skins on them. Enjoy!