Jica…what?

And a happy recipe

Hello again, Adventurers! Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long. The 10,543 things Team TOA has been working on behind the scenes to improve your experience here have been taking muuuch longer than I’d hoped. In the meantime, how’s about a quickie? Recipe, that is!

This is a happy little slaw I created based on a side dish from a long-ago restaurant meal. It’s cold, crunchy and light, yet still filling, which makes it ideal for these hot summer days.

It’s also free of animal products, gluten and many common allergens like nuts, so it’s perfect for potlucks, cookouts and other group occasions.

The featured ingredient is jicama (HICK-ah-mah…No, Cletus, I’m not talking about your mother again) and I’ve been asked a number of times what that is. I give you…the jicama:

Jicama is the root of a tropical vining plant. As you can see, it’s oval-shaped and has a somewhat papery skin. (Is anyone feeling like they’ve wandered into Randall’s Honey Badger video?) They can vary greatly in size, but most that you’ll see in stores are softball-sized. The peel is easy to remove, just cut off the top and bottom, nick the peel at the top of the cut and pull it off with your fingers (or with the flattened knife).

The flesh is white; it reminds me of a radish. Some people say it tastes slightly sweet, but it doesn’t taste like anything to me, which makes it very versatile. The texture is fantastic though: crisp and crunchy, but not as hard as a carrot. Nutritionally, it’s high in fiber and a great prebiotic and vitamin C source, while being low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. In other words, it’s a great snack!

If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you may be able to find jicama at your favorite farmers market. Otherwise, try Asian markets. Mainstream groceries might carry them; try looking with the other “exotic” or tropical offerings (ginger and turmeric root, yucca, etc.) or ask the produce manager.

On to the recipe!

Happy Jicama Slaw
Servings: A lot. I don’t know. I forgot to count, but it’s plenty for a potluck. If you served it for dinner, there’d be leftovers for sure. Partly because Sally never eats her vegetables. Brat.

Ingredients:

1 jicama root, peeled and julienned
1 1/2 carrots, peeled and julienned
3 roasted red peppers, chopped
1 large mango, seeded, peeled and chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a small Persian lime
Optional: Kosher salt (a sprinkle can help make the sweet mango flavor pop)
Optional: Chili powder (or cayenne pepper if that’s what you have)

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a large bowl, toss and taste. If you feel like it needs something, try a light sprinkle of kosher salt, stir and taste again. I liked it as is, so I didn’t bother with the spices, but chili powder is a popular jicama seasoning (which I could see being fab on thin, roasted jicama chips). If you still feel like it needs some punch, try stirring in a little chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste.

Have you ever tried jicama? Share your favorite recipe in the comments below! Questions? Share those too!

Happy jicama-ing!

Rooterville: The love story of rescued farm animals and a Valentine’s Day brunch

Okay, so add this one to the long list of things I’ve been meaning to post. Still, it’s a beautiful tale, so I’m calling it better late than never.

Our adventures the day after Valentine’s Day took Mr. TOA and I out, way out, to a farm sanctuary that I’d been hearing a lot about. Rooterville was started by Elaine West on five acres in Archer, Florida. More than 300 animals now spend peaceful days on 20 acres in Melrose. They include rescued pigs, cows, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, goats and more.

Where do these animals come from? Well, you may remember the big bust of the illegal slaughterhouse in Miami-Dade back in March. Thousands of animals were being kept in unsanitary conditions, starved and drinking polluted water. Dead and dying animals blanketed the property. Rooterville was one of the rescues that stepped in to help. They’ve also provided a home to some of the pigs surrendered by a farmer, Bob Comis, who could no longer bear to kill them and homes to many animals who have been abandoned.

Lucy, one of the lucky piggies who call Rooterville home.

In addition to rescuing and caring for animals, Rooterville’s mission includes educating people about factory farming and the many health, environmental and ethical reasons to eat a plant-based diet. In fact, this year they’ve started Camp Rooterville, a weekend retreat for 8-15-year-olds, where the kids will get to spend time with the animals; participate in lessons and exercises in awareness and compassion; and enjoy healthy, plant-based meals. Rooterville also hosts school groups, offers tours and participates in a whole host of initiatives.

Of course as a nonprofit, they must continuously seek funds to support all of those programs and, most importantly, the care of the animals, so they host fundraising events like their fun annual Valenswine’s Day Brunch. On this occasion, friendly volunteers met incoming cars and helped with parking.

The Rooterville sanctuary at the end of a long dirt road…so peaceful!

The brunch was held in Rooterville’s lovely events barn. On the way in, guests could enter a raffle for some great prizes and drop off any donations they may have brought, like blankets or peanut butter for the animals.

The checkered tablecloths, centerpieces of red geraniums and adorable “Cupig” drink coasters were so inviting.

Elaine and her husband Dale welcomed everyone and gave a short slideshow presentation on the important work done at Rooterville.

Dale West, one half of Rooterville’s compassionate leadership, welcoming guests.

Then everyone got to dig in to the most delicious buffet brunch ever. Garden Truck catered the event with all of their customer favorites, like Chick-un Salad, as well as some special brunch dishes like “Crab” Cakes Benedict.

Ron Patak, of Garden Truck, saucin’ it up.

I had mostly finished before I thought to take a picture; it’s THAT good!

And, of course, there was plenty of champagne and local orange juice for mimosas. No one saved room for cupcakes, cookies and other treats…but we ate them anyway!

After the meal, guests ventured out to meet the residents of Rooterville. The pigs, as well as all the other friendly animals, were eager for belly rubs, head scratches, hugs and conversations. The pigs really seemed to be leading tours of their own!

These guys were so sweet!

Goats love scratches too!

All the animals came right up to visitors; they know they have nothing to fear from people anymore!

Piggy palaces in the shade.

The Rooterville Valenswine’s Day brunch is a wonderful event, but they host others (and others are hosted for them, like the upcoming Yoga Brunch Benefit) throughout the year, so like their Facebook page and don’t miss the opportunity to visit this sanctuary dedicated to loving animals!

A follow-up: Not too long after that slaughterhouse bust, Dale West passed away suddenly. We had just met the Wests, but it was very clear that they were a team, partners in every sense, and that Dale put his all into rescuing and caring for animals. His passing has meant that Rooterville is more in need than ever of volunteers and donations, financial and otherwise, so even if you can’t help by attending a fundraising event, consider the gifts of time, labor and some material comforts for the animals. Visit the Rooterville website for details and contact information.