Fun Food Friday: Rasta Pasta


I am not totally certain what exactly Rasta Pasta is aside from pasta with vegetables in it. I found that children that hate veggies ate this stuff up with relish, like literally finished the pot off.  I made it when I was visiting one of my host families last week, they asked for the recipe and to make it one more time before I left, so here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

Pasta

Oil to cook in and make sauce with (****True Rastas do not use oil unless they press it themselves)

variety of veggies for this one I had:

zucchini

onion

scallion

okra

tomato

red pepper

bok choy (pak chow if you live in Jamaica)

Kale

Chick Peas

All purpose seasoning

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I cooked the pasta to al dente and left it in the pot with some water to keep for the sauce later.  I sautéed up the veggie, leaving the greens until the end.  I added the greens and beans along with some pasta water and seasoning jus to steam the greens down a bit before mixing the pasta.  That’s pretty much it.  Sometimes it has mayonnaise in it, but I do not think it needs that.

The second time I made this I used black beans, Choyote, a can of mixed vegetables, bok choy, zucchini, peppers, onions, okra, yellow tomato,  and a little bit of kale.  This was based on what was available and what I had on hand.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mixed emotions as I come to the end of my time abroad.


This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry BlogChallenge.

 

I am looking forward to going home soon, not because I want to go home, but because I miss my significant other more and more daily.  I feel like I am missing out on stuff.  I try not to think about going home that much.  In fact thanks to a guy I was in Liberia with I have found a way to stay grounded and present in my last few days.  On day 80 I started a countdown with something/someone/place I will miss when I am gone.  This keeps me focused daily on what I will post and keeps me present.  It helps amazingly.

paint party

This last week I attended my only real Jamaican party.  I went to Beach Jouvert, a seriously messy paint party.  I was covered in paint, in fact a week later and I am still covered in paint.  My toenails and fingernails are still green, I have green paint in my armpits, hair and even on my back.   This was incredibly fun and I Easter was spent with other volunteers having dinner at my apartment.  It was also spent with a huge hangover, well deserved and well earned.

Monday I headed to one of my host family home to visit one last time.  Lesson learned when I left Liberia, make certain you have contact information and ways to stay in touch.  I was glad I went on Easter weekend because the whole family was around and we got wonderful pictures together.  I feel like I got the change to say a proper good-bye.  I then headed to Kingston for my COS medical and spent until Friday there.  I got to spend time with volunteers also having medical and the two response volunteers left in country.

Friday afternoon I headed out to Hellshire to my very first host family pon di rock.  I am staying here until Tuesday when I go back into Town to meet the new interim Peace Corps Director.  I will then go back to Discovery Bay where I will not take any more time off except on the weekends to say my final goodbyes to friends and family in my original community.

Looking forward is quite daunting for me.  Many of the other volunteers are looking into grad school, job markets or potential future service.  I am not doing any of this.  My plan is to spend the first 2 weeks with just Richard!  I intend on just being in the moment with him.  Also it looks like he now has a job from home so we will need to look at job options/locations together as we now have the freedom to move wherever we want to.  I could easily allow myself to get pulled into this crazy guessing game, but in reality I want to remain focused on here and now.  By remaining focused I can better serve my current projects and finalize my time in Jamaica.  If I focus on going home, I serve no one.  And that is my biggest struggle.

Fun Food Friday: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


This is not a Jamaican Dish, but more a cheap healthy and delicious dish to make with ingredients that are fairly cheap here.   This recipe is adapted from the Book “We Love Your Body”  which I really enjoyed reading.

Large Head of Cabbage

Onion

Tomatoes or tomato sauce, or both

Rice or quinoa (any type of grain will work, even roast rood veggies (but they will not stay in the roll as well.

Herbs and spices

Oil

Protein source, Chicken, veggie mince, beans, whatever floats your boat, I do not think fish will work though.

Nutritional Yeast or cheese if desired.

Nuts or seeds if desired

Various veggies such at carrot, zucchini and whatever you think will mix well in your grain with a tomato sauce.

First you have to cut the core out of cabbage to ease the removal of leaves.    I like to pull the leaves out and soak in salt water to ensure no extra Protein sources are hiding in the leaves.  If you want you can blanch the the leaves with a quick dip in boiling water for about 1.5 minutes.  Otherwise you can just choose to roll the raw leaves, blanching just makes the rolling easier.

Cook up your grains.  I am a meal prepper so I prep this type of stuff up ahead of time and it almost always ready to go.  Season and add cooked protein along with sauteed veggies as desired.  Mix all ingredients together but not the sauce or cheese/nutritional yeast.  The seeds can go in at this time, they add a nice little crunch to the dish at the end.  You can also use them as garnish when serving.

Once everything is mixed nicely you can start stuffing the rolls.  First you must oil your baking dish or lay down parchment paper.  Hold cabbage leave curve side up. If leaves re too inflexible you can blanche them for a few minutes to soften the large vein down the middle.  Fill with about 1/4 cup of filling, for smaller leaves fill so that you can roll them nicely and they end up like a little burrito.  Lay the rolled leaf face down in baking dish.  (The side that the leaves are loose will go face down, if your leaf is too small use a secondary leaf to ensure filling stays in.  Continue to fill leaves until your dish is full.  and nicely laid out.  The idea is to be able to put a spatula or flipper under the rolls individually to serve them.

Once your rolls are ready you can prepare the sauce.  Even if I actually use a prepared sauce, I typically spruce it up with more veggies finely diced and herbs.  Now cover the rolls by spooning sauce evenly over them.  They do not need to be completely covered unless you love extra sauce, but it makes it much harder to serve that way.  (If you like extra sauce, save some to cover after plating.)

I have a gas stove that I have no idea how hot it gets but for argument sake, 350 degrees.  Light that bad boy up and put your dish in the oven.  Because I have no idea how hot mine actually is, I keep a pretty good eye on it.  I check it after 30 minutes, but around 45 is when I add the cheese/nutritional yeast.  Finish off by allowing the cheese to melt/toast up.

The rolls are super hot when you first pull them out, I suggest waiting a few minutes, more like 15 minutes to allow them to cool some before plating and eating.  As a side note you can prevent the sauce from getting too dry by covering with foil while cooking.

Fun Food Fridays: Tofu Cabbage Wraps with Peanut Sauce


Since Monday I have cut out gluten, dairy, alcohol and added sugar from my diet.  This recipe falls nicely within those parameters.  It is also cabbage season here in Jamaica and cabbage is readily available and cheap right now.

Tofu cabbage wraps/salad

Modified from Eating Well Magazine recipe:

Peanut Sauce Ingredients:

Peanut butter, less sugar better, you can grind your own peanuts into a chunky paste.

salt

garlic

scallion

vinegar (I prefer rice wine vinegar)

liquid aminos (soy sauce)

hot sauce or scotch bonnet

Add all liquid ingredients about (except hot sauce) a 1:1 ratio

salt, garlic and scallion are added to taste.

Hot sauce or scotch bonnet added to taste.

Sesame oil if you like just enough.

This sauce can be jarred and put in refrigeration for up to a week. The longer it sits the thicker and better it tastes. I use this sauce for salads or for stirfrys as well.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Salad Ingredients:

Oil (coconut is best)

Cabbage (1 head whole for wraps)

scallion or onion

tofu or chicken/fish

carrot

cucumber

dark lettuce greens or herbs (basil and cilantro are fantastic) sliced into ribbons. (Cilantro or parsely finely chopped.

Additions for the creative:

Sweet peppers

mushroom

shrimp

celery

small bok choy

any other rawish vegetable

Prepare:

Wraps:

I take the cabbage and cut around the core to ease the removal of whole leaves.  By cutting away the core in a hexagonal shape you create an easier to peel head of cabbage.   The leaves do not rip if pulled slowly from the bottom and the sides are loosened from the head as you lift the bottom.  Once removed rinse and drain.  If the cabbage is too tough to eat raw you can blanche it for a few moments.

Thinly slice the cucumber, scallion, carrots and other veg you choose.  If you use a vegetable peeler you get lovely thin slices.

Ribbon the lettuce or basil, finely chop any herbs.

Cut tofu or fish or chicken into nice sized strips. Saute in oil, I like coconut oil for this. Cook well.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Set up plate of chopped veg and allow tofu or meat to cool to handling temperature. Gather ingredients and set into cabbage leaf. Top with peanut sauce and herbs or lettuce, roll cabbage to hold for eating.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Enjoy!

For salad, simply dice up the cabbage and mix the ingredients to taste and top with peanut sauce and herbs or lettuce ribbons. Top with crushed peanuts for an added crunch.

I thought I would learn about another culture, but I learned about myself.


A letter to my pre-PC self;

This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry Blog Challenge.

 

Dear ChaCha

There are things that will happen in the next two plus years that will be unexpected and sometimes difficult. The thing is, these challenges will change you in ways you never thought possible. They will tax your restraint and your reserves. They will make you uncomfortable and force you to confront deep dark buried issues that you have tried for 40 plus years to avoid. These things will pass, but they will change you and they will build you up, try not to fight them.

The first challenge will be how you see yourself. You view yourself as strong and as resourceful and able to stand up to confrontation. You must let those ideas go. In this new culture women do not confront men, they do not stand up to them and they most certainly never call them out and insult them. This will be the most difficult aspect to deal with. The daily marriage proposals, the constant cat calls and the attention that makes you never want to leave your home will become normal. What will not be normal is how you deal with them. Think about the fact that you are a cultural ambassador and even though you often feel like a slab of meat at the auction, you need to keep your interactions civil and not cross.

The second challenge is to let go of your view of not ever quitting. Sometimes quitting is not failure but realizing that the issues cannot be resolved and they tax your resilience too much. Understanding when to walk away is better than not quitting and drowning in despair and depression. Finding the balance between not quitting and seeing that there is no solution will prove to be an asset. It will be difficult and you will have to swallow that pride.  Remember to count those small wins to help balance those feelings of defeat.

 

The final challenge is confronting your past. Yikes, this really sucks. You moved to a place where most people from your past can no longer reach you, but the pain is still there. Being alone every night forces you to spend some quality time with yourself and your feelings. Ugh, I know that really sucks. Those angry and hurt feelings never really went away, they just got buried deep. Breaking down those walls and confronting them allows you to not only grow but to move forward. Your resentment of your childhood and upbringing, they keep your growth stagnated. Those feelings of anxiety about actually going home, pretending you did not come from your hometown, they hold you down and keep you angry and holding onto the pain. The denial that people hurt you, that your parents made you feel unloved, that holds you back. Facing these things and confronting them within yourself allows you to finally heal, grabbing that happiness is something you should embrace.

Yes you will still be angry and still be hurt, but it will no longer hold you in this space. Allow yourself the freedom to feel relief. To feel that anger and to confront it. To admit and name the things that happened to you, to move forward with more confidence and understanding how you actually process events. Sometimes those things that happen are not exactly as your perceived them. Sometimes people have no idea they wronged you at all, by learning how to recognize the hurt you can address it and confront the offender in a sane and safe way. These are the things you will learn from your service. The fact that there is always pain and hurt but there does not have to be residual anger and pain.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Always look up!

Fun Food Friday: Eggplant Medallions


Baked garden egg for Eggplant Parmesan  or sandwiches

Ingredients:

Eggplant

Salt

Egg

Breadcrumbs

WW Flour

Seasoning (your choice)

coconut oil, just because I refuse to use vegetable oil, nasty mon!

Directions:

Clean and slice the eggplant, best if you do round disks unless you are going to use a french roll

lay the disks on a plate or cutting board and sprinkle salt on both sides of the disk. *This removes the excess water to ensure a crisper texture. Let stand about 30-60 minutes.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Beat an egg or two, depending on how much eggplant you intend on making.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In a separate bowl mix up the flour and breadcrumbs with the seasoning, the more breadcrumbs the better, the ratio should be 2/1 breadcrumb to flour. Season as you like, this might take a couple of tries to get exact, I like a lot of herbs in mine!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

When you are ready to bake, turn the oven on to 300 and lightly grease a pan or cookie sheet. Or if you are really invested layer parchment paper and forget the oil, your choice. Dip a piece of eggplant into the egg batter then toss it in breadcrumbs. Lay it on the baking dish. Repeat until all the eggplant is finished or the baking dish can hold no more.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Bake for about 10-15 minutes depending on how thick you cut the eggplant, the thicker the disks the longer you need to bake, flip over and bake another 10 minutes. Pull out of oven and remove from baking sheet. Repeat until the disks are all done. *** Bonus I tend to use any remaining egg-batter as scrambled eggs for a sandwich. The breadcrumb mixture is not able to be used again so I tend to make small batches at a time to save ingredients.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

At this point you have lovely breaded and baked disks of eggplant. For eggplant parmesan  simply use a store-bought tomato sauce or make your own and heat it up. Place over pasta and layer the eggplant nice on top of sauce. Finish with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

For sandwiches pick a nice bread and desired toppings. I personally use tomato and roasted red pepper along with some Muffeletta or some jalapeno spread, both from Rolands and readily available at some local shops, in Ochi General Foods and Petcom both carry them. This is also nice with a little cream cheese on the bread to keep the bread from getting soggy. Just like any sandwich option, the choices are endless. Enjoy!

Our memories are what sustain us, top 5 memories I will hold onto from my service in Jamaica.


 SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry Blog Challenge.

As I near the end of my service, what an overwhelming and scary point to be! I am full of a mix of emotions, in a way I am relieved that my service will be over, yet sad to see it end. I look forward to life back home with my partner, but I am sad to say good-bye to so many wonderful people in my life.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I want to share my top five memories of my time in Jamaica!

  1. School gardens and the enthusiasm of the children I came in contact with. Read about that in these blogs:https://seaofcarnage.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/sometimes-children-are-your-saving-grace     https://seaofcarnage.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/one-year-later-in-jamaica-cha-chas-hugelkultur-beds-literacy-club-and-thoughts-on-success
  1. Adult literacy and summer reading programs, the joy of adults learning and gaining self confidence, oh the smiles, I will forever cherish the smiles!
  2. Beng able to use my undergrad and learn to SCUBA dive! So much validation in my knowledge that was gathering dust.
  3. Having Richard come and spend a few days in Cuba and being able to be his guide throughout Jamaica. A memory that I will forever cherish. The bus rides were the best.
  4. Building relationships with a few strong women in my communities. Getting to understand them and how relationships work in this culture that is quite different from my own.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

****Bonus memory: The day the three school girls walked past me and asked me if my neck tattoo hurt. After saying yes they asked what it meant, I told them. They started to walk away and one turned around and said: “Miss, dun get nuh mur tattoos, mi mom sey dey es deh murk fi di beast!” 😐 Uhm yeah Ok let me get right on removing these! I smiled and laughed to myself all the way to work and half through the day thinking of this.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Each of these memories brings about a great sense of joy and pride to me. Knowing that I touched a few people’s lives and a few people touched mine is an incredible thing that not everyone gets to experience or understand. Knowing that my memory will stay with those individuals just as their memories will stay with me brings us so much closer together. There are more similarities than differences, and once you become the “other” or the minority you begin to see how that feels, and understand the discomfort that comes with that. These understandings and experiences have forever changed my life and my mental model of how people are and why people do things the way they do. It has helped me to grow and to achieve more as I look forward to the return home. I know there will always be a home for me on this beautiful little island, in many communities, and that I have given and received a great gift of friendship and understanding, the greatest gift of all.