Pom-pom Recipe of the Week

This week, Iskashitaa had a harvest of pomegranates. This prompted me to infuse that ingredient in to this week’s recipe of the week post.

Pomegranates has several health benefits. Pomegranates cure stomach disorders, alleviate heart problems, prevent cancer, offer dental care, assist with the prevention of osteoarthritis, treat anemia, control diabetes, treats anemia, controls diabetes, improves erectile dysfunction and offers assistance with Alzheimer’s disease and prevents low birth weights for infants.[1]

The fruit grows is in its ripening season during the months of September and October. The fruit grows from dingy-grey, finely-fissured bark stems. The shoots are greenish-grey and spiny, one-year wood is yellowish and bare but ends a prickle closely resembling a needle. Leafing season depends on conditions, which usually offer an earlier blossoming period. The higher the elevation, the later in the year the leaves develop. The fruit is easily distinguishable. With a tough, pliable rind that protects the berry-type fruit called “cenocarpium”, seeds surrounded by juicy flesh within a unique two-storied arrangement called nidus.[2]

Included are a selection of 6 easy pomegranate recipes found through the sunset’s website, “sunset.com”.[3]

Pomegranates are enjoyed globally as a rich source of essential nutrients but more so for the seeds that pop in your mouth with an amazing sweet-tart flavor.


[1] “7 Amazing Benefits of Pomegranates,” Organic Facts, https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-pomegranate.html, Accessed Aug 30, 2017.

[2] “Pomegranate Culture in Central Asia,” The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia, http://rfcarchives.org.au/Next/Fruits/Pomegranate/Pomegranate1-94.htm. Accessed Aug 30, 2017.

[3] “6 Easy Ways to Enjoy Pomegranates,” Sunset, http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/kitchen-assistant/pomegranate-recipes#pear-recipes_6, Accessed Aug 30, 2017.

Food From Another World: Purslane

Over the last few weeks, we have had a few big harvests of purslane at Felicia’s Farm.

Purslane is a succulent plant with pinkish stems (in wild variety) or greenish stems (in cultivated variety) and edible leaves. It grows rampantly and is usually weeded out by many but its uses in food are slowly becoming popular among gardeners. The leaves give a lemony and peppery taste. This is a great article that lists the best foods that can be paired with purslane to create your own recipe of a salad, soup or pickle! -

This tiny plant also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins (A, B, C) and antioxidants. Michael Pollan, American author and journalist calls purslane one of the two most nutritious plants on earth - a weed with virtues!

While it is said that purslane is native to Southeast Asian, African and Mediterranean regions, it has been growing and cultivated in all parts of the world for a long time. It grows just about anywhere from fertile garden soil to the poorest arid soils which is why you can see purslane plants growing in just about any garden.

Purslane looks similar to ‘hairy-stemmed spurge’ which is a poisonous plant, so be careful while harvesting and consuming!


Other Sources:



Environmental & Green Living: Saving Energy at Home in the Summer

A couple of weeks ago, we published a blog about a great environmentally friendly way of getting to work - biking. You can continue your green living efforts at home too with a few simple yet impactful actions.

I live in Redlands, CA and have signed up for the ‘Rush Hour Rewards’ program. On days when the electricity service provider experiences high demand for energy (mostly through air conditioning on high temperature summer days), the service provider needs to regulate the total energy consumption and offer the ‘Rush Hour Rewards’ program. On such days, the temperature is regulated by the service provider between 2 to 6 pm and in return one gets credit on their electricity bill! Most cities have similar programs that you can sign up for, especially if you have are away from home for work most days of the week!

For those of you stay-at-home moms/dads or if you’re working from home, there are ways to beat the heat and still save energy with few simple tips that I came across on Tucson Electric Power’s website here:

·         Use a small portable floor or table fan to regulate air flow in the house. Moving air can help you feel cooler without increasing air conditioning use.

·         Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable temperature to minimize your cooling costs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends a setting of 78 degrees in the summer.

·         Close curtains and blinds in the afternoon to block out sunlight that could make cooling more energy-consuming.

·         Indoor gardening is a great way to naturally cool your home!

Most importantly, you can feel cooler from within by consuming cool foods and keeping yourself well-hydrated throughout the day (I learnt this from my grandparents that live in a desert-state called Rajasthan in India. They did not have electricity in their house until the late 1970s!)





Refugee Awareness

Refugees come from all over the world. Many of us do not realize that Refugee Awareness month was last June and June 20th is in fact Refugee Awareness Day. There are hundreds of Refugee Assistance programs globally, ours included, acting towards the benefit of those that have been misplaced from their homes. The unfortunate individuals must move from their homes to distant lands and must ask for help in a strange new language.

What is a refugee?"

"Where do refugees come from?"

"How can I help?"

These are all questions that you might be thinking to yourself as you read the above paragraph. Simply, my friends, I will tell you.

The UN Refugee Agency defines a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. Refugees often have deep fears of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries (1).

Refugees are coming from war-torn and conflict areas. Often, the children that do manage to escape know nothing of time before the conflict. Families have been torn apart due to the ongoing violence. Refugees rely on relatives, caring strangers, and assistance programs to help them move to relatively safe surrounding areas. The leading 5 countries to produce refugees from the dusts of the fighting are Syria, Afghanistan, Lake Chad Basin, South Sudan, and Somalia (2).

If you are still wondering about how you can help, please contact us at Iskashitaa through the contact button at the top of the webpage. We are a non-profit that offers assistance programs for refugees in and around Tucson. To learn more about us, please review all our content we offer on the several web pages we provide.

Alfonso Cavada-Tavares

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Social Media Intern


1. "What is a refugee," USA for UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/, Accessed August 21, 2017.

2. Chris Huber, "Forced to flee: Top 5 countries refugees are coming from," Displacement, World Vision, https://www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/forced-flee-top-5-countries-refugees, Accessed August 21, 2017.

Food From Another World

Food from another world: Lemongrass

I was recently browsing for Thai curry recipes online and one common ingredient I came across was lemongrass. A culinary herb, lemongrass is found as a common ingredient many in Asian cuisines specially Thai. Lemongrass is typically a tropical grass that thrives in hot and humid weather. That said, it can also be grown in temperate regions with some basic care. Check out this article for more guidance on growing lemongrass.



Lemongrass is an immensely fragrant herb – one can smell lemongrass from quite a distance! A lemony-lime zest merged with ginger flavor gives lemongrass a citrusy and herby taste.

Visually, it looks like spring onions or scallions but is much harder; in order to cook it,  the hard outer layers must be peeled until the tender inner layers surface. The outer scraps need not be discarded! They can be used to make a soothing herbal tea by steeping them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool off this summer with this Thai Lemongrass and Ginger Iced Tea!

Lemongrass is also lauded for its several uses apart from in food. Here are just a few:

·         Digestion: For a healthy digestive tract, lemongrass tea consumption on regular basis can help. Where lemongrass is native it is made into a tea called ‘fever tea’ that is used to treat diarrhoea, stomach cramps and headaches.

·         Anti-fungal and Anti-bacterial: Studies have shown that lemongrass kills multiple types of bacteria and fungi and has deodorant properties.

·         Cold and Flu: The antibacterial and antifungal properties help the body cope with coughs, fever and other cold and flu symptoms. Plus, it is loaded with vitamin C that boosts your immune system to fight the infection. You can use lemongrass oil to relieve pain in muscles and joints, as well as headaches resulting from a cold or the flu.

·         Skincare: Lemongrass steam causes pores to open up and clear out pimples and blackheads.

·         Aromatherapy: It is used in aromatherapy as a mood lifter.

Visit the nearest Asian market and grab some lemongrass – use it in curries, stir fry, rice dishes or even in your morning tea!

Lemongrass tea is usually not recommended for small children. Some people could also be allergic to lemongrass. So before consuming it, make sure to research in depth and/or check with you doctor.






Priyanka Kumbhat

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Creative Writing Intern

Volunteer Experience

This week we would like to shift gears. Instead of discussing last week's harvest, which went great I must add, we would like to acknowledge one of Iskashitaa's summer interns. Her name is Cannelle Moriniere. She was with us over the summer and she spent her time helping us at our events. Cannelle also spent time interviewing the refugees we assist. Below is an excerpt from one of her interviews.

We are eternally grateful to have had Cannelle as part of our team. We wish her the best of luck as she returns to Prescott Community College to continue her studies.

What is it?

Cannelle Moriniere

Food is an edible and potable substance in which humans and other living organism metabolize and digest to sustain one’s energy source, growth, health and life. Without food, we wouldn’t have enough nutrition and vitamins to stay alive, thus our bodies will start to break down its own proteins to make glucose for energy. Essentially our bodies will literally cannibalize itself and eat way its own muscle tissue to stay alive (Fiona MacDonald, 6 Aug 2015).

Since food has always been around and is a basic need for humans, it has become a symbolic representation for different cultures. Many cultures have used food to represent special occasions and remember events and their concepts. Food comes from many different places and it uses are endless for recipes.

What makes food part of a culture is that it is passed down from each generation to be practiced and introduce to newer people. Passed down to her, Huda Innabi kindly told us her family recipe for Carob that we have collected from a harvest.  For the first time, she has made Carob jelly and juice which was her families recipe as it was very popular in Jordan (where she from) and in Egypt.  

 At her grandparent’s farm, she recalls good memories of her family members making Carob jelly and has she decided to make some at home. One of the reasons why Carob is a popular food is because it is very healthy. Carob is high in protein, calcium and many other benefits such as acid reflex, diabetes etc. Not only can you use Carob as a jelly or juice but you can also make:

·         Smoothies

·         Pudding

·         Hot or cold tea

·         Pancake syrup

For further information...

Watch: What Would Happen if You Stopped Eating?


6 AUG 2015

Food: An Important Part of Most Cultures

Written by Miranda Marquit 2017

Thank you Cannelle for all your hard work with us this past summer. Best of luck to your education and you always have a place at the Iskashitaa office!

Alfonso Cavada-Tavares

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Social Media Intern


Gardening 101 Post : Gardening Beginner Pro Tips

Gardening 101 Post

“Gardening Beginner”

Gardening seems difficult during the sudden rain and immediate blazing heat. It may seem futile to begin your garden during this part of the year. But you are persistent. You start to say “nay” to the blistering heat and the heavy rains. So now you head to the nearest gardening center, pick up gardening tools, gloves, and dust off those overalls you have hiding in the back of your closet. Geared with your proper tools like the Batman of gardening, you set off.

Now before you start planting the lettuce head remains or using your egg shells as part of your compost, you need to think about your soil. How is it? Seriously. A lot of gardening starters think their soil is ready to go. That is sadly not the case. While it may look just as brown as Farmer Bob’s looks, it may not be so.

Experts mention to take a first look at the soil before you begin. If you have used chemical fertilizers in the last few years, ditch the dirt. The dirt that has been filled with these fertilizers has lost a substantial number of essential microbes and earthworms. You should remove the top 12 inches from your garden soil, just to make sure you are starting with a clean slate.

Once you've removed the first feet of soil, fill the basin with water to flush down fertilizer salts deep in to the roots of the garden. This will create a rich bed of nutrients for your plants to gain roots with, making for strong and healthy plants. You should perform this process three times for maximum effect. Full article on getting your garden started found here.

Now, you can fill with compost. Think “would a worm want to eat this?” If so, then you’re on the right track. Composting does plenty to offer benefits for you and the world around you. It becomes a soil conditioner and acts as a recycling mechanism for kitchen and yard waste. It also introduces beneficial organisms (those worms we mentioned earlier) to the soil while being great for the environment. For a full list of what to compost, check out the article on composting written the Earth Easy website found here.

Have fun gardening, remember to crush your eggshells before composting and wear sunscreen. Add a comment below in the comment section and let us know how you began and what motivated your gardening expedition.

Alfonso Cavada – Tavares

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Social Media Intern

Environment & Green Living : Biking to Work

Environment & Green Living Post

“Biking to work”.

Tucson is a great town for biking anywhere. I bike to work, to the grocery store, and even for 45 minute trips to school from Valencia to the University of Arizona. I always remember having to share a bike as a kid and vowed then to own my own bike when I became an adult. Though I don’t bike as much now as I always swore I would, I do every now and then. It is a great way to be environmentally conscious and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Biking may seem difficult if you are not used to doing this. It was definitely a difficult thing I had to get used to when I switched from four wheels to two. I, like many other newbies, did not own the proper safety gear like a helmet or pads nor did I have a roadside emergency pack that most experienced bikers often carry. It also took several weeks of trial and error before I overcame Tucson’s many hills and incline roads.

I initially started biking a few weeks after I moved to Tucson from Fort Worth, TX which is a large city, several times the size of itty-bitty Tucson. Fort Worth has the benefit of having freeways and large roads that require a car or truck to get from point A to point B.

Tucson however, is a bit different. It is small and the roads here are generally designed to be cyclist friendly. This is especially true around and near the University of Arizona where cycling is encouraged. The speedy and narrow roads are ideal for cycling but one should always be cautious of cars even when they aren't.

You can follow these pro-tips for beginners created by Steven Pease from The Examiner when you start your new lifestyle as a cyclist. For more info on these, read the full article

I have even included a link to The City of Tucson’s very own webpage that has several bike maps which direct which roads to steer clear from and which ones to hit that top gauge on your two-wheeled speedster. Located here.

Always remember to bike safely, follow the pro-tips, drink plenty of water, and mostly, have fun. I like to use my Spotify account for the most influential biking playlists the app offers and it does in fact help. It is scientifically proven that working out with music can lead to better results and an improved psyche. If you would like to read more about the research that has been done on pairing music with exercise, Scientific American has done a great just with this article “Let's Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music.”

Continue to cycle if you already do so! If you are beginning, don’t become discouraged. I support you in all your cyclist endeavors.

Alfonso Cavada-Tavares

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Social Media Intern.


Recipe of the Week : Chinese Red Date Tea

Recipe of the Week.

Drinking tea has many benefits. It’s brings comfort to the soul and strengthens relationships when shared with a chat. Tea time chats are my favorite way of getting to know people. The warming feeling that comes with tea relaxes and relieves stress from any troubling feeling.

According to the UK Tea & Infusions Association, tea is commonly thought of as a British drink but its history goes much further than that. It actually goes all the way to 2737 BC China. As legend has it, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung, was sitting under a tree when leaves fell in to a pot of hot water his servant left for him. Since Shen Nung was a well-known herbalist, he thought he should at least give it a try. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we know call a tea. Full article here.

Whether that legend is true or not, it cannot be argued that tea has a long history of consumption before western expansion. Many ancient tombs, in fact, have been found with containers of tea since the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 BC). It took a while for tea to become the national treasure in China that it is today and soon it was part of a large tea trade where it first went to Japan, Europe, United States and finally the entire Globe.

Since the Red Date aka "Jojobas" have been a huge project for Iskashitaa, it may be interesting to make it part of this week’s recipe of the week. Included in this blog post is a Chinese Red Date Tea that will help keep the drinker healthy as an ox.



3 dried red dates (around ½ inch in diameter)

1-teaspoon honey (manuka is best)

1 cup water




Boil ½ cup water and rinse the red dates. When the water is boiled, place the red dates in the cup and pour over boiling water.

In separate bowl, mix room temperature water to dissolve manuka honey. Since the honey has active cultures, its best not to dissolve it in hot water or it will significantly lose its health benefits.

Slowly add the honey water to the cup and enjoy!

(Source: https://www.doyouyoga.com/easy-chinese-red-date-tea-for-health-recipe/)


Alfonso Cavada – Tavares

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Social Media Intern

Harvest August 9, 2017

Today we had the pleasure of harvesting with students from the University of Arizona's Public Health department. We assisted the students and volunteer farmers at Felicia's Farm, a nonprofit farm located in Catalina Foothills, Arizona.

Harvesters looking for roots, plants, and leafy-greens this morning

Harvesters looking for roots, plants, and leafy-greens this morning

The first group of volunteers left from the Iskashitaa office at 8 am and the second group followed shortly after.  The farm is located on River Road.  We were assisted throughout the day by the farm's own Ashton Inskeep and Sofia Forier-Montes.

Several volunteers hard at work.

Several volunteers hard at work.

The harvesters enjoyed learning about the items they were collecting as well as proper usage. Sweet Potato leaves & Amaranth. Both of which were in abundance today.

Amaranth leaves

Amaranth leaves

Sweet Potato Leaves

Sweet Potato Leaves

We left the farm after having cleared much of the amaranth and sweet potato leaves. But before we did we made sure to take a group photo right in front of the farm as a testament to the hard work we put in today.

"Say 'Amaranth'!"

"Say 'Amaranth'!"

If you would like to be part of our volunteer and harvesting efforts, feel free to contact the office through the contact tab at the top of our website.

As always, have a great day!

Alfonso Cavada-Tavares

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Social Media Intern