monkeygreens


Kitchen Angels and Eggplant Stories
September 7, 2011, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home, How I got Here, Recipes and Ideas

My dear friend Mary was kind enough to pass along a great chard recipe this morning and so I decided to clue her in on what I am preparing for supper at home tonight.

MonkeyMan and I have never been nuts about eggplant. We used to grow them but rarely ate them as they just didn’t offer much pizzazz. My favorite recipe for them is my mothers Eggplant Parmesan but I was never great at reproducing it. I decided to stop being a wimp and make it, and now the Mister is in love and wants it every week.

I will not pretend that devout prayer isnt the primary ingredient in this recipe.

However, ‘the key’ (I cannot stress enough) is to PRESS THE EGGPLANT OVERNIGHT. Since my husband and I are on a tight budget, getting 2 meals out of one eggplant too is really thrifty and a great weeknight supper.

 1 large epplant sliced in ¼ to 1/8 inch thick rounds

1-2 cups marinara

1 garlic clove

Fresh basil (opt)

Extra virgin olive oil

½ cup ricotta cheese or ! cottage cheese put through the blender

1 bag of shredded Italian cheese

Real butter

2 eggs

Fresh tomato rings (opt)

1 roasting pan or brownie pan about 2-4 inches deep

Flour

 

The night before, slice up the eggplant and salt each slice. I recommend using coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt. My method to press is: I load a freezer bag with the eggplant, seal the air out, and place on a roomy shelf of the fridge with two cast iron pans on top. Or you can stack books on a plate (mom did that)

Why press the eggplant: eggplant contains a bitter juice that contributes to its often sinuey and rubbery texture; it also adds an acrid flavor that is not altogether pleasant. When you come back to the eggplant the next day, you will see an ugly puddle of water that looks like weak tea or garbage juice. Drain it all off. Even rinse the eggplant if you must.

The next day, pour some flour and salt and pepper in a paper bag and dust the eggplant while you heat olive oil (with the garlic clove) in a wide skillet on the stove (remove garlic before adding eggplant) and brown until light gold each piece on both sides; drain on paper towels. You can easily whisk up your ricotta, eggs and cheese (like for lasagna) while you fry the eggplant. If you think its too heavy add some milk.

When the eggplant is done, melt some butter in the roaster in your preheated 400 degree oven. Layer the eggplant – eggplant, marinara, ricotta (tomato if you are using it) and keep that up til everything is gone, then smother with remaining grated cheese and bake. I think at least 50 minutes is needed (I like crunchy cheese)

It should be crunchy outside and creamy inside. 

If I were going to eat anything as my last meal, it would be this, made by my mother, with a really nice glass of Pisano.

This may seem irrelevant to the recipe, but the other night I had a major meltdown missing my mom, and I bawled for about an hour or two. Performing this ritual not only reminded me how much I still miss her but how much of her I carry with me daily. For those who have not yet felt the loss of a beloved parent, please please take the time to listen to their stories, enjoy the food they prepare, and the wisdom they impart. Our bodies are only vessels to carry us through this fleeting journey, and yet what we do while we are here is everything. The yellowed pages of a cookbook, and the faded tears of memory may someday be all we have, unless we carry on the beauty of tradition.



I don’t belong here.
July 18, 2011, 4:54 pm
Filed under: How I got Here

Stranger in a strange land. That phrase always makes me think of heavy metal icons Iron Maiden…but really, it couldn’t pertain more to me, and my feeling of utter displacement in corporate America.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate to have a solid, reliable good paying job in this economy. MonkeyMan and I need our biz gigs to be able to sing the good old song of freedom at home. I admittedly do a fine job of wearing the mask and playing the game five days out of the week, but it feels so wrong to my body and soul. I cannot even see outside in the office I occupy, there are no windows. I know they do that to discourage wanderlust but geeeeeeeeeeeez. It only intensifies my whole rat-in-a-cage clausterphobic nightmare.

You know I don’t want to come across as a pessimist, I understand there are all different kinds of people out there. I just happen to like to run free and wild out of doors. I prefer the slow and steady rhythm of accomplished tasks and physical labor. I am not that great at it, but I kinda find my niche. Luckily my husband is a real man’s man and loves to get his hands dirty and DIY the sky…but I am just as happy to calmly plant seeds, or harvest beets and carrots, wash them tenderly and put them up for winter.

For five years as a child, I lived on a farm, a ranch really, in Minnesota. I thought it was paradise, after I got over the whole concept of releasing myself from the comforts of the city. There wasnt always hot water for a bath, and absolutely no such thing as fast food. I had always been a really hard-core fruit eater as a small child, and I loved vegetables, so my stomach was more than happy with country life. Better yet, we had 350 acres that were mine for ample unsupervised exploration…complete with two ponds and endless forests of wild berries. I spent every summer day totally free of boredom; if we werent catching turtles and riding bikes we were swimming and making hay bale forts. I could have as many pets as I wanted and go anywhere I wanted…country kids are set out on a very long leash.

I suppose I may have been programmed in those years that life was meant to be lived a certain way. I grew a real affinity for simplicity and deep seeded love of animals and nature. One summer I taught myself to bake pies, and every day I made a different pie. My mother never placed restrictions upon me in the home or on our acreage…there was no reason to. Everything was perfectly safe, and the timeline was ours. Things got done when you finished them. Television was replaced by conversation, storytelling, reading, and imagination. No one was pumping me full of any agenda that was not of my own making, and that fed my independance and my character.

Because my current home is so similar to my childhood dwelling, there are days I wish to stay there, safe and autonomous in the quiet green forage of our enormous yard….forever. When I glimpse the outside world it feels clinical and cold, mechanical and rigid. I wonder what would happen..what will happen…if our ‘devices’ are taken from us, and we are forced to think and fend for ourselves. Part of me embraces that revolutionary doomsday, if it were not for those I love who would surely perish.

Today I play over the events of the weekend in my mind with a certain melancholic nostalgia, as I do most Mondays. I miss the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and the soft damp of the grass beneath my feet. I miss the varieties of bugs and critters whom have made their home on our little spot of land, because we do not use any chemicals to treat our plants or lawn which would harm them. I see their presence as a sign of happiness, acceptance, and God. I miss the quiet routine of rote tasks to better my life; chopping vegetables and baking bread. My husband spent the entire 99 degree day weeding our garden by hand, and yet he did so with such pleasant patience..it was inspiring. And the garden looks so open and clear, its amazing. The plants are thriving from his efforts.

Often MonkeyMan and I laugh about the truth that we were born in the wrong time. Perhaps the 1800’s would have welcomed us…or maybe we did live then and we cannot shake the acclimation. I do not know how many thirty eight year old customer service representatives in America are dreaming of digging in the dirt right now, or feeding chickens. I guess each and everyone of us has that part of them that feels absolutely right, doing just the right thing, for only themselves.



Sometimes I just feel….Disney
July 12, 2011, 7:06 pm
Filed under: How I got Here

Last night I was relaxing on the deck when my husband came home, just enjoying the late afternoon and a fashion mag, and he asked me how my day was.

“Well you know, it started off horrible. I didn’t feel well. I was shakey, cranky, tired, you name it. But by three o’clock I was fine and now I am dandy.”

And that is pretty much how every day goes. I am not a morning person or a night person, I am an afternoon person. Every day by around ohhhhhh 5pm? I am feeling terrific. Today it is 1:30pm and I am feeling a lot better than usual. I had a fantastic dialogue with a co-worker about swiss chard and the beauty of grass fed beef. I found some real treasures at the library –including a hot off the presses new Dead Weather album, and right now? I am eating fresh, scrumptious, juicy, sweet, amazing organic homegrown peaches from a fellow farmer. I am a little high 🙂 But wait there is more!

Since I started this blog adventure two weeks ago I began browsing other people’s offerings, and I have to tell you it’s really exciting. Today I discovered yearofkindness, which is all about the experiment of adding a random act of kindness to your daily schedule. This is beautiful, meaningful and awesomely Jesusy, and it just kind of made me think about everything in a totally different way, and it really reminded me how grateful I am for the wonderful life I am lucky enough to be living right now. Once I referred to these little bouts of excitement I have to a friend as ‘when I get a little Disney.’ Basically that means that sometimes I see technicolor everywhere and the world has the sheen of a candy-coated cartoon, and I am the happy Little Mermaid swirling around in a lush underwater paradise. The only thing missing is talking bunnies and elves — lots of elves.

So I am reading along today and I determined that my destiny for the day is to spread this blessed word of the kindness experiment, especially since July 13th (TOMORROW) has been deemed Act of Kindness day. If you choose to act, the goal is simple: perform one random act of selfless kindness tomorrow. Thats it. If you ask me the hard part is not garnering up the conviction to do it but picking what it is to do. The world needs so much help, and it all begins with just caring anyway. I havent even discovered my purpose for tomorrow but I am sure it will likely involve food (after all that is kind my thing).

So thats really all I have today. Hug your kids, pet your dog, smell the flowers….and have a fabulous day. It’s summer and we have a lot to be thankful for, no matter who we are.



The Monkey Mind
June 28, 2011, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Activism, How I got Here, The Movement

Now, those of you familiar with some of the new age hoodoo voodoo speak may know of  ‘the monkey mind’ as the extrenuous thought process, which combined with the human ego, can create horrible distractions — like fear, paranoia, greed, gluttony, and on and on. This is in no way related to the mind of MonkeyMan (the mister) and his MonkeyGrrrl (the missus) who produce and grub gobs of green veggies in a weird and wild backyard in the middle of the nowhere America. These monkeys are completely at peace with themselves and the universe, and these are a few of the philosophies, as the MonkeyGreens, that we abide by:

1. Every man, woman, child (and heck even most beasties) should know where their food COMES from. This means, paying attention to how far your food has to travel to get to your table. Better yet? Get to know who is PRODUCING your food. Me? I’m lucky. I live with the crazy farmer who grows what goes in my belly! In fact, many a summer night I see his little headlamp aglow as he lovingly picks slugs off our leaves. Some of our plants even have names! But the best part is, in addition to having the great priviledge of knowing where OUR food comes from, we can offer that to our community.

2. Ahhhh! COMMUNITY. There is a word you don’t hear often enough these days. Do you know your neighbors? Think about it….we allow fear and individuality and LETS  face it– technology–separate us from our sisters and brothers. We don’t care about the people that comprise our community, which means in turn they do not care about us. That is a pretty lonely concept. And in terms of food– it means that rather than sharing what we grow (if we do grow) with our community, we are either stashing it to ourselves…or…we are becomming a slave to the supermarket, where we literally have NO idea what is in what we put into our bodies, or where it came from. In the MonkeyMind, community isnt an abstract concept, its a real, tangible entity, and it lives in each and every one of our hearts.

3. Start asking questions. Lots and lots of questions. Here is a good one to start with. Chemicals that are designed to KILL insects, KILL. In order to kill they must be a form of poison. How long does it last? What is it made up of? What are the ingredients on a can of insecticide? Chemicals designed to kill a living thing. Next question. How long does it take for those chemicals to ‘die?’ In other words, do they ever die? What do they become like when they are old, or mixed with water, or heated, or frozen, or…..touching the food you place in your body. Do you have a yard? Do you go into your yard? Do your children play there? What about your pets. The MonkeyMind lets these questions in, and wants to know the answers. But the best answer is very simple. DO NOT USE CHEMICALS. Not to make your food bigger or bug-free, not to grow grass, not to kill weeds, not to erode your children’s intestines and shrink their reproductive organs. The MonkeyMind says ‘Lets find another way.’

4. LOVE. Love your family, love your fellow human, love animals, love the earth, love your creator. Balance all questions against love. See what answers you come up with. We care too much about the future of the planet to do it any harm now, but even better– we can create change NOW that will improve today and save tomorrow.

5. We believe in the power of using our bodies as modes of alternative transportation. Wow isnt that an amazing concept, to use your legs for walking or peddling a bike? Sorry, sometimes MonkeyGrrrl can be a little sarcasmo. Trust me, MonkeyMan is much nicer. Well, not really, lets just say he has better finesse. Maybe thats why he is the green thumb! He does all the heavy lifting I just write about it. But seriously, folks, a two person family doesnt need 4 cars COME ON!

6. Often times the very best solutions to easily completing everyday tasks have been in action for generations –we as a society just dont want to take the time. That means, to our family, we do it by hand. No machines. No tractors. We use hand held instruments our forefathers used to toil the soil and it works beautifully. Doing things the right way takes work, love, endurance and devotion. THAT is why you may find that the naturally grown, chemical free apple (perhaps even with a worm!) costs more than the apple that was imported from Peru three weeks ago and sprayed with war-zone unnamed chemicals. Yum 😦 Which brings me to….

7. If you find a bug on a piece of produce, that bug sees that it is safe and nutritious (probably also–delicious)to eat. Listen to that bug.

8. Meat! We eat meat! We love meat! Happy animals are tasty animals. Which essentially means the bovine frolicking in the pasture looking like a Laughing Cow ad munching fresh unfettered grass, well, he has it pretty good. When I think of cattle being ‘fed’ truckloads of chemically engineered corn, all I can think of is frois gras. Then I cry, and no one likes a crying monkey. Then there are the chickens. A pretty revealing experiment is to purchase a dozen eggs from a local farmers market. Talk to the farmer. Are these chickens free range (they run around) What do they eat? If they eat bugs and grass and twigs and whatever else the earth provides, that is a bright green light. Now go home and cook one farm egg and one mystery egg and do a taste test. One of them will taste like water (or worse)

9. The insects that destroy plants (and before you think we are bug-loving aliens, we DO have to have concern for our food being damaged by pests, so we are not totally irrational…Daddy needs to bring home the grassfed all natural bacon, after all) have natural predators. They get eaten. Its super fun and really cool to use nature to fight nature. Its not even a fight, its evolution….the circle of life. Ducks, toads, ladybugs…..each of these methods will be discussed in this blog, most in very vivid and entertaining detail. Its all a ‘work in progress.’ But its totally possible. Then when that favorite nephew or your grandchild or — heck — YOU– go out into the garden and want to grab a green bean off the vine and eat it? Pop it straight in your mouth. You won’t grow a tail. Not growing tail=awesome.

10. Putting up the food you grow, i.e. canning, freezing, drying, using root cellars, etc….SAVES YOU MONEY. Shhhhhh don’t tell anyone right? Everyone will jump on that. Yeah sure. Its a lot of work. But thats not hte secret. Other than eating safe, healthy, SCRUMPTIOUS food all winter long….the process? Its super fun. MonkeyMan and I laugh, and tease, and we are SPENDING time together. Nobody wants you to know that honest, hard work feels fantastic, expecially when you reap the rewards later down the line.

There is so much more…but this plants the roots for the tree of life we are growing. Hopefully its branches will reach out and touch your heart, and if anything , make you think.

Life doesnt have to be routine, or unsatisfying, or dull. And it doesnt have to kill our MotherEarth to go on, either. Just little steps each day, and this is the beginning of our story on how we are trying make change.



Greener Pastures
June 28, 2011, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Activism, Home Sweet Home, How I got Here, Saving the Harvest, The Movement

This very first post will serve as an introduction of sorts. I am Mrs. Gibbons. My husband (and I…sometimes hehehehe) run a local, home-owned and operated small business called Gibbons Greens. We specialize in chemical free collard greeens, kale, and swiss chard, but we also grow an endless bounty of fresh and natural goodies for our own consumption. What makes us a bit unusual? Oh, several things, but for starters? We live in the city. Our garm, or farden (whatever you prefer) encompasses the front, side and back of our double lot yard. In addition to our wee business, we are part of a small but growing community of young(ish) local producers who attempt sustainable living. My feeble, but sincere, offering here will be a glimpse at the life of two crazy thirty somethings living life a completely different way; shucking a good portion of society’s technologically dependent ‘norms’ in favor of a slower pace. We have a lot of adventures to share around the garm, and a lot of philosophies and ideas too. Ever wonder what a day in the life of your grandmother from Kansas might of been, and thats a taste of summer at the MonkeyHouse. Yup thats us, just silly monkeys who love fresh veggies. And while most of our livelihood depends upon the food we grow, we also cook, can, dry, and preserve our food for the winter. This all sounds mighty boring right now….but this is just the pilot. Come along and follow us on our journey of doing something totally different. Trust me, we are having a lot of fun.

What comes next? The Monkey Philosophy…….