About Jacqueline

Coming Home - a Japanese Lunch to console myself

Leaving Ecuador was harder than I thought. Leaving Guayaquil wasn't hard, it was leaving Galapagos, then San Cristobal...THAT was hard. Even though Guayaquil was dark in the rainy early morning, I wasn't prepared for Boston snowy, sleety, gray, and yucky. I had to keep telling myself "but you LOVE Boston" it's just hard to remember why. I was thinking of the blue-green waters of Galapagos, the color hovers somewhere between emerald and sapphire.

sea lion sunbathing

The lovely, lazy sea lions sleeping on the beaches we shared, swimming by on our snorkeling outings, and even napping at bus stops:

 

Bus stop

 

 

And then we came home to gray, snowy, sleety, yucky Boston. Piles of filthy muck-crusted snow have melted down somewhat; which only means that the ratio of pretty white to yucky gray-brown has shifted. I must accept there will be no lovely sweet white Ecuadorean pineapple at lunch, no happy hour on the sunset deck followed by a briefing on our agenda for tomorrow. Nothing in my day will involved iguanas, sea lions, snorkels or sunscreen. After a quick dinner in Chinatown (why didn't the waiter understand me? oh, I was speaking Spanish!) we began to attack the mountains of laundry and prepare for our first week back in "civilization". With a cold in my chest and the laundry done we called it early.

Today we woke to more snow and sleet. Yippee.

But there's always food. To console myself I made a Japanese lunch. Rolled omelet, "sarado" of shredded cabbage, tomato and homemade "bulldog sauce" rice and loaded miso soup. South River Red Barley miso is my new fave. Loaded wtih mushrooms, carrots, snap peas, tofu.

japanse lunch tamago

 

 

 

As I'm posting the sun is peeking out for the first time today. It's lovely but I can't imagine our sunset will rival this:

Galapagos Sunset

Thoughts on the Boston Globe Travel Expo

As a Globe Correspondent, I was invited to attend the 10th Annual Boston Globe Travel Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center last weekend. Cruises dominated the areas nearest the entrance and Aruba had a huge presence. All I could think was "Norovirus" and "Natalee Holloway". I moved quickly past both.

I wanted to see what companies might be offering different travel experiences - who would be using technology in interesting ways? Who would be talking about reducing the carbon footprint or eco-tourism? Who would speak to the traveler not looking for a family cruise bargain or an adventure trip for millenials?

Who indeed?

Tech disconnect

Nearly every booth I stopped at required you to fill out a form to enter a giveaway. By hand. Usually on one of many paper pads attached to a many clipboards.

And yet, the badge/registration was done electronically so EACH attendee has an electronic confirmation, a QR code designed to be scannable with any smart phone and a free scanning app. No paper. No handwriting. No clipboards. No manual entry later of all the probably illegible entries. I can't read my own handwriting these days, can you?

When practically everyone I know is concerned about reducing our carbon footprint, why completely ignore the technology in the palm of nearly every person's hand and waste all that paper? The cost and hassle of packing and carrying the paper and junk with it, the manual labor of data entry could all be avoided completely? Complete misfire.

 

Food Connects us to each other, memories

I had another two goals for the show: connect with any travel editors there (would Afar? Travel & Leisure? or any publications be there?) No and no.

Would I get to see Chef Pierre Thiam there to demonstrate a Senegalese dish with fonio - saw him but didn't get to actually say hello, sadly. He and I met at IACP years back when his beautiful book Yolele! was nominated for an award. Chef Thiam introduced the Travel Expo crowd to fonio, "the new quinoa", and described waking up in the Sahel to the rhythmic pounding of grain in large mortar and pestles. Immediately I could hear the gentle, bird-like singing of the women in this photo I took in Mali.

 

 

As we turned a corner in Tombouctou I saw what I'd heard in the distance: two women, gently pounding millet and singing gently, rhythmically as they processed the grain. Everywhere we went women carried large pots or bundles on their heads, babies wrapped around their midsection (heads bouncing unsupported) walking, carrying, pounding, fetching water from wells.

Pierre described fonio as the new quinoa, but better, because it is drought resistant and must be grown organically as it withers and dies under pesticides. Must find some of this fonio!

Connecting with your city, new cities

Walking to the seaport area, I crossed the icy channel. It was an interesting contrast to the salsa dancing, the beachy murals and the reminder of warmer places.

One of the great things was connecting "IRL" (in real life) with Max Grinnel AKA The Urbanologist. Max teaches, writes, and speaks on walking through urban environments. I'm a huge fan of this and of Max now, too. I love a walkable city (sorry, L.A. you leave me cold) and share Max's enthusiasm for looking up more overlooked gems in any city; in meeting locals and asking what THEY love, where THEY eat. Check out Max's site.

He share four tips for visiting a new city:

1. Slow down & look up. (I thought I invented the hashtag #lookup - turns out some Architects beat me to it...)

2. Ask Questions. (I love asking cab drivers and people at the bar, on the street.)

3. Do your homework. (Go beyond Yelp! Ever heard of Archive.org?)

4. There's always next time. (When I fall in love with a new place this is my mantra: "it's just reconnaissance for next time!")

Travel Expo Collage

 

Well, thanks to the Boston Globe for hosting. JetBlue, for getting how to use tech and Pierre and Max for inspiring me. It was worth that snowy schlep.

Allons-y!!

See you at the Boston Globe Travel Expo!

So excited to be heading to the Boston Globe Travel Expo. I'm looking forward to the culinary demos, meeting old friends and editors, and making new acquaintances. While many of my regular readers know about my focus on food, they may not be as familiar with the travel writing I've done. As much as I love food, it was travel that first inspired me. From my earliest days, I would lose myself in the Canary-bordered National Geographic Society magazines. How I loved learning about far-flung places around the globe. Secretly, I made lists of destinations: Xi'an and the armies of terra cotta warriors; the Mayan ruins; Machu Picchu.

The sterile environment of Air Force bases I grew up on left me hollow and bored. But, inside those magazines...I could be anywhere. Jungles, deserts, in a swirl of dust around Flamenco dancer's heels. Then, the oceans themselves were illuminated by Jacques Cousteau and Undersea World. I added scuba diving to my list of things to do once I became a grown up.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I once dreamt of filling a passport before it expired but have not come close. Still, I have been so very lucky to sit with penguins in Antarctica, to ride a camel into the Sahara at sunset, to clamber around the ruins in Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza and Tulum. I've walked near active lava flow and tiptoed across a black sand beach. I've done dives with bestie Catherine in Mexico (she figures into half these travels) and dove down to a wreck off the coast of Curaçao. Raced around Florence in a thunderstorm to catch the perfect vantage for a sunset to match my butterscotch flats ruined in the rain. So worth it. Gasped at the color of the sea near Santorini. Slurped belons in Brussels and laughed with rediscovered relatives in a Tokyo tatami matted living room while a Japanese Elvis impersonator sang "Brue Suedo Shoes." Stumbled upon one of Paris' oldest oyster bars and celebrated Jesse's newfound love of les huitres. Ordered more food than our table would hold, more than once, in New Orleans.

Chichen_Itza

More than any passport could hold, my heart is full of these memories and yet hungry for more adventures. Allons-y!

Here are some links to pieces I've written about just a few of my trips.

Check out my full pressfolio set of clips here.

 

atomium_Brussels

Onigiri, Omusubi and a sometimes good Hapa

This article (thanks Rf Koda!) inspired me to create a new Pinterest board. Good Hapa/Bad Hapa which is a phrase I've been kicking around a while. Hapa is a term for half Japanese and used to be derogatory. Now hapas (of many Asian stripes) have relcaimed it as a positive. In my own life, many times I hear an internal voice scolding me for being unJapanese in some small way. Food is one of the best ways in to a culture. I'll collect some things there.

Rice Balls

Onigiri and Omusubi ("O" is feminine honorific, many drop it. In the past, one could tell when a service man learned his Japanese from a woman during the war if he used the feminine expressions of words. In Japan, men do not use these prefixes.)

So "onigiri or omusubi" are two regional words for the same thing: rice balls. Usually, but not always covered in nori. Unilke sushi rice, it is not vinegared rice but just salted. Inside is a filling of some sort, usually pickled or preserved plum or vegetables or some simmered or stewed fish.

So ends our Good Hapa/Bad Hapa lesson for the day. *bows*Final Onigiri collage

Check out this excellent article Around Japan in 47 RiceBalls. Thanks to Rf Koda for flagging this article for me. Her family grows the most excellent Japanese heirloom varietal rices. Check them out - Koda Farms!

* Tea Do in Chinatown makes great onigiri to order! Delicious treat.

Don't Let Food Allergies Ground You - me in the Boston Globe

Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning's Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section's need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don't forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven's recipe.

Letting go and moving forward - a ritual for the new year

Rituals are a comforting thing. They give order to our lives and provide structure to our grieving; sitting shiva or a wake. They frame our celebrations; weddings, birthday parties. My New Years Eve tradition includes a small ritual to help me let go and move forward.

image

Letting go

Take two small pieces of paper; on one write one thing you want to let go of. It can be a grudge you're carrying (a slight or wrong, betrayal of a co-worker or disappointment in a friendship). If you give yourself a moment, one will surface. I am often surprised at what surfaces, how can I be carrying that around? Still?  Or, it can be a negative thought you want to banish from your head (I hate my muffin top). These are like bricks in your backpack. Do you want carry these around all year? Lighten the load.

Moving forward

On the second slip, write a wish or a hope for the new year. Maybe you want world peace. Don't we all! But maybe make it more personal? Here, I try to stay away from goals. There's time for that. This is more playful, a wish. A new tub for soaking baths! A kitchen backsplash. Or a hope - hopefulness is good to cultivate. A good report from mom's next doctor visit. A peaceful end for an ailing kitty.

Now, fold the paper and focus on your grudge. Light it and send it off. Away. Let it go. (This part I do over the kitchen sink - safety first)

Next, do the same with your hope or wish. Focus on it. Then burn it and send that wish to the heavens.

 

This ritual is best followed by a kiss and some champagne.

Healthy, hopeful new year; filled with lightness and laughter.

 

ball bubbles

30 Days of Vitamix - Say hello to Red!

I like red for so many reasons. It's lucky. It's life. It can pull me out of blue. It's the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women's Heart Health. And it's just plain sexeh.

Meet Red

There's my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I'm calling her "Red." She's strong. Powerful. Occasionally loud. Gets the job done. I think we're going to be good friends. I hope she'll last half as long as my old handmixer did. (see Ode to a Handmixer.) That little Black & Decker handmixer, bought my first year of law school just died. I mean, like last week. The Waring anniversary blender a couple weeks ago. I thought I could make do with the food processor but I'm telling you, I'm a fool in love.

Red

There's Red. She's a beauty, isn't she?

 

As I registered her, I saw something about an affiliate program. Well, stay tuned on that.

#30DaysofVitamix

I'm starting a new series here: "30 Days of Vitamix". I'll be including posts on using the Vitamix. I'll cover techniques, ingredients to know, tips, and recipes, including some healthy and some boozy inspirations. Frozen Negroni anyone?  Here's a taste of just some of the things we'll be writing about soon.

 

 

Vitamix Collage

Thanks to my wonderful husband for this terrific gift! A great addition to the family!

Mescal and Apple - a Match Made in Heaven

With gratitude to Misty Kalkofen (goddess of mescal) for the inspiration.

mansana

Mansana de Mañana

1  oz Basque Apple Cider simple syrup 1 1/4 oz Mescal 1/2 oz lime juice (half a lime) 1 cardamom pod, pinch of cinnamon

Muddled cardamom in shaker. Add ice, remaining ingredients. Shake well.

Strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with pinch of cinnamon and apple slice.

Smokey, slightly sweet and appley.

If you don't have hard apple cider of some sort on hand, use apple liqueur or even fresh apple cider might work.

GivingThanks Daily - Today's tips and recipes for a stress-free Thanksgiving

I've just put my pie dough in the fridge. Made crackers for pre dinner nibbles. (Pretzel crisps from Ivy Manning's great Cracker's and Dips book, a gift for anyone with food allergies who cannot find salty, crunchy snacks in the grocery store.) I'll do some other things tonight and work on tomorrow's post and last shopping list. Picking up the turkey tomrrow! How y'all doing? 

Today's To Do:

1. Create a List of Notes for Thanksgiving 2015 (done)

2. Make ginger snaps (done)

3. Make and freeze or can some cranberry something (done)

(okay, this post is a few days in the making...) 

Your New Cranberry Recipe:

This year I'm adding Cranberry-Raspberry sauce from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry. More soon on that. For now, I'll just say, if you've had any thoughts about preserving, making jam, pickles, charcuterie or wondered what to do with those wonderful pantry items after you've created them, this is the book for you. If you've hesitated because you thought you might not be able to do this without someone showing you step-by-step how to do it; this is the book for you. If you thought you really didn't need one more canning book; this is the book for you.

I can't wait to share more with you. I've got a couple other things up my sleeve. For now, let me say this will be part of our Thanksgiving this year and I could not be happier. Many swooning cooks out there are splattering the pages of their copy of this book. Many are posting lovely recipes. I'm sharing this link from from Kate at SnowFlake Kitchen because her post includes a COCKTAIL which was one of the first things I thought of when I tasted this.  Come on who's got a new Thanksgiving cocktail using some cranberry sauce?

 

Cranberry 4

Sexy Sauce

For now, I promised to share my cranberry sauce recipe.  Remember the "I heart spreadsheets" post yesterday? Here's why #3 makes so much sense. Otherwise I may have forgotten that adding pomegranate seeds was a win.

 

Tomorrow: Pie tips

  • Crust dust
  • Breaking rules (AKA "WWDD")
  • Pumpkin pie to beat all pumpkin pies (I pull together three recipes for the single best, most awesome winning pumpkin pie)

 

More Links for You

 

Are you a traditionalist - same menu every Thanksgiving or a try something new type? I've been dying to try an Asian or a Southwest version. Have to do it on one of the other 364 days of the year though.

What are you working on this Thanksgiving?

I heart spreadsheets. For Thanksgiving? You Bet!

Structure binds anxiety.

Sage words from my past life as a corporate trainer.

 

list

Your Grocery List

I love a spreadsheet for this sort of planning. I actually have two. One is the daily to do items. On it the left most column is the menu, the days between today and Thursday across the top. In each cell is the buy/make/prep note that gets the whole shebang done at the right time.

I have a second list/spreadsheet for groceries. It's so easy to forget if you need 4 eggs for one thing and 8 egg whites for another, you won't have 6 whole eggs left for the strata on Friday. Placing the menu on the left column, it's easy to scan and take a quick inventory of all that you need so you don't over-buy in a grocery shopping daze (8 lbs of butter "just to be safe" will take up precious space in your freezer, trust me on that one).

Your To Do List

Remember yesterday's advice about delegating? This will help you clarify all the things you want, in a perfect world with 36 hours a day, to be done before next Thursday. And, it will help you let go of all the things that you really can let go of. For example, my late night craft project might suggest a need for a glue gun. This is beyond ridiculous. Off the list! It's a great feeling to vanquish the demons that threaten to undermine you.

Don't forget to add actual notes to remind yourself to work out. Take a walk is a nice thought, but it's much more likely to happen if it is on the plan, in the calendar, staring at you from the list.

Your 2015 List

Why start now? Because you'll forget on Friday all the little things that worked or didn't, the mental notes you made to do X the day before, to add more herbs to this, less clove to that, which new dish was raving success or one to never try again. Hat tip to Cheryl Sternman Rule for the excellent advice on this one.

Create a list NOW (yes now) to post on the fridge or somewhere handy, to keep a running tally of reminders for next year. You will thank me later.

Some of my items from last year's list:

  • Calibrate Thermapen.
  • Alsace Cremant goes well with appetizers, priced well, bright crisp flavors great with tiny rich bites (like the turkey liver marsala mousse) and oysters. (Apparently I made a turkey liver marsala mousse last year, must've been a last minute improv because I have no recollection nor recipe!)
  • Shaved fennel, green apple, celery salad better to serve in small dishes than big bowl.

At the bottom of the list: Place a reminder in calendar for October 1 (or April or May 1 if you're pitching stories for Thanksgiving) to have the reminder on the calendar gives you a fighting chance at avoiding last minute panic next year. 

 

Next up:

  • Pie tips and recipes.

Aprons inspire - Kitchenwares, Chef Scelfo & Yours Truly in the Boston Globe

How excited was I when none other than @SchmattaHari herself asked me if I'd like to share my opinion on aprons? Pretty darned excited. First of all it's Jill Radsken, smart, funny journalist and owner of the best twitter handle ever. Second, "share my opinion" are probably my three favorite words, maybe even as exciting as "dinner is served." Seriously, though. I'm now on the same page of the  The Boston Globe  with one of the best chefs in town, Chef Michael Scelfo, AND my favorite and most loyal sponsor, KitchenWares -- on the same page! 

 

aprons

Aprons inspire a jump-start in the kitchen - Food & dining - The Boston Globe.

Feels good. Now I better get a fancy new apron, don't you think?

What I'm Doing Instead of the Ice Bucket Challenge - Building Access to Water for Women of the Sahel

If you're doing or thinking of doing the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, or if you've already done it. I appreciate your enthusiastic support of efforts to end that terrible disease. I have been asked a number of times why I haven't done the ice bucket challenge.

This is why. I had the life-changing experience (thank you Catherine, Eva) of seeing the beautiful Sahel - the lower Sahara where people, women often with children, must walk MILES to get water. Water that we get to take for granted many times a day. One day I was awoken by a beautiful sweet singing outside my window. In my sleepy-headed state, I scrambled to find my camera and run to the window. Through the roll down screen I saw a woman walking by. She was singing to herself as she stopped to take her load off her head and re-balance it, then place it back her head and continued on her way.

sangha commuter adjusting load

I wanted to see where she was going, I didn't recall a well near the hotel when we'd checked in.

off to work

I threw on something and went outside to see where the path she was following was headed. I saw her and other women, all following the same trail, as far as the eye could see. The Sahel is flat. I could see pretty far at that point. Then it hit me: this was her morning commute. Early to beat the blazing sun. Women walked. And walked. Many with babies on their backs.

bandiagara commuters

dawn_sanghaIt was only later when our driver took us passed suddenly lush green fields - I realized this was where they were WALKING to - to tend the fields of green onions. An unlikely oasis of green, miles from their simple mud huts.

oasis well (1)

Other women I saw as we hiked to our cliff and La Falaise hike, were walking miles to a well. This was two years ago, not a tap in sight.

baobob dusk

When I returned to Boston, I could not bear to see a faucet run or even an ice cube wasted. I always thought how long and hard women worked for every drop in Mali.

Bandiagara well

Cow well

Cow well (1)

Please watch this heartwarming clip and donate what you can, where you wish. ALS is a horrendous disease and we're contributing to that cause, too. So very many could use that water we're tossing about to make a point. Could we donate without wasting water? Or donate as well to help those who have not a drop to spare?

September Campaign 2014 Trailer: The Sahel from charity: water on Vimeo.

 

Right now a donor is matching every dollar up to $1,000,000.

Do what you can.

The Wrong Kind of Surprise - Epi-Pen? Check. Clear tote? Check? Potential Disaster? Check.

I was packing for my quick trip to Maryland, having been invited to a pre-season Redskins-Patriots game by my brother. Thanks Mike! It was great fun and my first time Tailgating.

photo 2

My first time - I wasn't enjoying it at all.

Mike knows more about the game than most people, and also about the cheerleaders. If you get an invite, go. If you're lucky, like me, your team might spend their whole first half trying to get out of their own end zone, allowing you ample time to preview the team. It was the third quarter before New England earned their second first down and I think a minute 47 left before they put points on the board. But it was a fun time anyway. #HTTR

 

It's in the Bag

Since the NFL now has strict rules about what can or cannot be carried into a stadium, I had to take a close look at what I planned to carry. A wallet, a couple personal items, and that's about all that's allowed. See the statements and exclusions here. You can also carry a one gallon zip top bag, but I found this regulation clear bag was on sale, so why not?

tote

 

The regulation clear totes are meant to streamline the access to any game, making it easy for staff to check what you're carrying.

You'll Never Believe What Happened Next

Don't you hate those teaser headlines? Me too, but it's important info I'm conveying here, so I need to make sure you're paying attention.

Anyone who carries an Epi-Pen knows it's a pain in the butt. It cannot get too hot or it will lose effectiveness - so do NOT store it in your glove compartment. Not even for a short while. Don't think a gel ice pack is the answer, either. It cannot be too cool. So what does one do if one is tailgating and heading to a game in the heat of August? My plan was to bring my gel ice eye mask and place that next to the ice in the cooler, then wrap that loosely around the Epi-pen and bring that in the clear tote into Fedex Field.

I'm grateful to have an Epi-Pen and hope never to have to use it to save my life. Having been through this before, I can tell you, there's nothing in that experience that tempts me to repeat it. And I'm lucky to have lived to tell the story.

epipen

 

See that little window? Where it says "REPLACE if solution is discolored" -? Well I found my back up pen when packing and thought, "Hm, when was the last time I checked the one in my purse?" I couldn't recall. So I checked.

CLOUDY.

I tossed it and placed the newer (clear window) pen in my bag.

Imagine if I'd accidently ingested something that caused anaphylaxis and then took out my expired pen to save my life? Gives me the shivers just to think of it.

  • PLEASE check your pen NOW. Place a note on your calendar to check at some regular intervals - maybe the first of the month is an easy way to remember? It takes only a second to be sure you're safe. In the event of anaphylaxis you do not want to find out - as you're gasping for air - that your pen has lost effectiveness.
  • Please share this post with your friends and family and followers.

 

Skins

As you can see, we had a fun, safe evening at Fedex Field. My brother was sure to place food items for me in separate bags, cooked with separate tongs, and covered my side of the grill with foil. Bonus: it made cleanup easier. We shared food, but not allergens, safely. I picked up hotdogs and buns that were allergen free and my pen survived, too.

The Pats lost but it could have been so much worse. Get your game on and check those pens!

 

My eye on the sparrows

I'm not a religious person but that old song about 'his eye on the sparrow' came to me watching these delightful birds this morning. In the original (and the Barretta theme song version) I think the tune is meant to encourage us to leave our cares behind because Jesus is watching over us, keeping his eye on us (the sparrow). I prefer to think of each of us as each others' keepers. Watching out for our loved ones, for those in need, and even for the animals that pass through our lives.

I found some hominy in the pantry that had gone stale due to a hole in the bag (no critters in there, just a crack in the old cellophane wrapper, which I dismissed and threw into a mason jar.) Rather than waste it, I ground it in the spice grinder and added a little millet or amaranth, today I added sesame seeds.

Sparrows
Sparrows

To my delight, these little guys are loving it. I got to see a mother feeding a hungry baby several times. A gift! I hid behind a bookcase and those peaches ripening nicely, and was still. For a moment, I could forget about the cancelled client, the need of an intern, the age of the cat, whether the knees and rain would let me run today... I just watched, and loved it. (Forgive the windows, these are old old old and unable to be cleaned in between the panes.)

Please do note the marigolds. Fried and dried out on the Lowe's $1 rack. They've blossomed and are doing quite nicely, thank you. Those prayer flags got re-strung, pressed, re-hung.. Hopefully those wind-horses will continue to carry my wishes for fortune out into the universe.

And now, for that run.

Could You Eat Well on $4 a Day? A Cookbook to Help Food Stamp Recipients Cook Cheaply Becomes a Massive Viral Hit

Four dollars a day. What could you do with four dollars a day that would feed your family? You might be surprised.  

four dollars

Maryn McKenna brings us this fantastic story of an upcoming cookbook (available now on PDF) that aims to fill in a critical gap between food assistance and eating well on a budget, even a food stamp budget.

Key ingredients missing? Recipes and skills.

This clever Canadian started out offering a free PDF on her site, that literally overwhelmed her site with 200K downloads more than once. She turned it into a Kickstarter (finally a Kickstarter we can get love!) and launched in May. You can buy it here still in PDF form and the book should be published by year's end.

Leanne's blurb says:

I'm a food-studies scholar and avid home cook in NYC, by way of Canada.

I think everyone should eat great food every day. Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill.

Cooking is easy — you just have to practice.

Recipes are simple, and include photographs of steps to show someone exactly how to to prepare the dishes. Honey and Chipotle Glazed Sweet Potato? Yes, please.

 

good-and-cheap-cover-1024x1024

Read more from the always excellent Maryn McKenna see the National Geographic series "The Plate".

A Cookbook to Help Food Stamp Recipients Cook Cheaply Becomes a Massive Viral Hit – The Plate: Maryn McKenna.

 Eating well on a little more

For another take on the eating well on less theme, I highly recommend Amy McCoy's Poor Girl Gourmet. Amy's book is filled with delicious foods anyone can make and she gives the budget breakdown of every dish. For example: her Height of Summer Blueberry Crumble (p. 164) serves 6 to 8 for $5 - $10 depending on whether you add ice cream. It works out without the ice cream to about $1.21 per person. Amy's Chicken in Cider Gravy is a favorite here, and her Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata gets rave reviews every summer.

PGG_bookcover

Fifteen Million Reasons - - Why I'm Speaking at the 1st Annual Food Allergy Conference

Doing my part - in June - speaking at the first annual Food Allergy Research & Education conference in Chicago. FARE_logo

 

Here's the conference schedule and my speaker page.

 

 

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That's right, 15 million Americans are living with food allergies. That's 15 million reasons to get educated about keeping people with food allergies safe and included.

I'm looking forward to meeting some of the experts whose research I've been following since my diagnosis, hearing what's new and learning from others how my training, consulting and writing can help. With allergies on the rise, more of us are touched in one way or another:

  • grappling with our own food allergies,
  • learning to cook for family members with allergies or
  • understanding how to safely serve customers with food allergies.

 

Read my article in the Washington Post to learn what it's like to negotiate minefields when dining out -- imagine if one careless gesture by server or chef can result in illness or death for you or your loved one.

If you're a chef or restaurant owner or manager and want to learn how I can help you train staff --Email Me.

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Dried Herbs and Spices - Homemade Blends and Resources

People, here's the thing: we all do it. You pick up a spice intending to make some new dish that will dazzle...and you just don't get around to it. Or, you do, but then it wasn't dazzling enough to become a regular thing and here it is six months or maybe a year or two after the "use by" date on the bottle. And yet, we never throw these away. I found a bottle of some "chili spice" in my mom's cabinet that dated from around the time of the first moon landing. There's probably something in my own spice cabinet older than small children I know.

So, one of these snowy days when you've done all the jigsaw puzzles you have and are sick of Netflix, take a box or bag over to the cabinet and begin. If it's too overwhelming, just do one shelf.

I dump the contents and save bottles that can be reused.

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Favorite DIY Spice blends

Making your own spice blends is fun. It's a kick to have your own Chinese Five Spice powder on the next roast chicken or to sprinkle into your next fried rice. Or, make some of these killer spiced nuts.

 

Chinese 5 Spice nuts

 

DIY and better for you "Sazon" 

Make the best yellow rice, season grains, add to soups and sauces to bring some umami and color to a dish. This has turmeric, a bit of dried garlic, some kombu.

Turmeric_OPT Turmeric - terrific for you with anti-inflammatory and other benefits. Turmeric can stand in for saffron in a pinch, but also stand on its own merit in many dishes.

 

Thanksgiving Spice

You may have heard of a spice blend called Bell's Seasoning. I decided one year to make my own. It's a quintessential Thanksgiving fragrance, perfect on turkey, chicken or pork. Sage is the driving force of this one.

spice blend

Fajita Spice

This is a blend I used when marinating meat for burrito or taco night. Making chili? Red beans? Toss it in! Great on pork, chicken, beef. It changes from batch to batch but always includes cumin, various chili powders like ancho, chipotle, and oregano.

Fajita Spice

Tuscan Herb and Garlic Salt

This one is a blast to make because your kitchen smells divine: rosemary, sage, garlic and salt. You'll be singing like a Nonna and dreaming of Tuscany. I follow the recipe on Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Splendid Table whenever I see great looking sage. Sprinkle this over beans, in soup, on a roast chicken. Simple to do, you simply chop all these fresh ingredients together with salt and let it dehydrate - or use your dehydrate function if you have one on your stove.

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Quatre Epices

This sexy little blend enlivens lamb, beef or chicken. It's a classic French blend of warm and slightly sweet spices. I follow Deb Krasner's recipe (try her Red Barn spice, too) and bump it up to Cinq or five spices.

Quatre Epices

Gomashio

I add flax to the traditional sesame salt grinder common in Japanese households.

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Shopping for dried herbs and spices? Don't go to the grocery - latimes.com.

What is the oldest spice in your cabinet?

Drop me an answer in the comments and the oldest one gets a batch of my next custom spice blend!

Inexpensive kitchen tool you'll use every day. Essential Kitchen Equipment: Bench Scrapers

Essential Kitchen Equipment is an occasional series on items I think every well-run kitchen should have. Essential Kitchen Equipment posts are not about the latest gadget. I’m talking about maybe a dozen or so simple items you must have to make your kitchen hum.

Of course one could spend endless amounts on all sorts of fancy equipment and gadgets. Most of those will not make you a better cook, these will:

 Bench and Bowl Scrapers

This was my introduction to this now indispensible kitchen tool. These are so inexpensive and make cooking more efficient. Once you get one, you'll wonder what took you so long.

I was visiting my sister and watching her chef husband in the kitchen. He pulled this out and moved something, dough I think from point A to point B. Then scraped the counter or bowl with it. This was one of those proverbial light bulb moments. An epiphany for me. "WAIT. WHAT IS THAT?!"

He laughed. "It's a bench scraper, want it? Here." Rinsed, dried and handed it over to me. "I get them all the time at culinary shows." 

This one with a rounded edge I use to scrape dough from a bowl. I also use it to ferry items from cutting board to pot or bowl. You can see the edge is slightly beveled. I think John gave this to me maybe 15 years ago.

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I probably use it, or one of these, at least once a day.

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Whether a bench (straight-edged) or bowl (rounded) scraper  - these tools are something every kitchen should have. Endlessly useful - you will find yourself reaching for these over and over again.

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I use this straight-edged bench scraper to:

  • ferry chopped vegetables from cutting board to pot.
  • portion dough.
  • scrape counter after bread kneading.

These little guys I picked up from Kitchenwares. They're cute and also useful when you have say, crushed spices or peppercorns you need to scoop up. Pinching is not efficient. Here you can easily lift mashed or minced garlic or shallot, spices, any little items without losing bits to the side of your hand or knife.

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Do you use bench scrapers? What other equipment do you consider essential?

 

Dead Easy Chocolate Snack Cake - Spiked with Chile

When I was freshly diagnosed with my dairy allergy, I was lamenting to a friend that my days of cake were behind me. Not so fast, she said. You've gotta try this recipe for "Amazon Cake." No dairy needed. Well, I've no idea what part of the "Amazon" this thing hails from, but tongue firmly planted in cheek, I gave it a whirl and added some geographic flair.

Amazon_Collage_tagged

Chocolate-chile Spiked Snack Cake

If you recall the boxed "Snakin' Cake" of the '70s this is something like that. Needs no frosting. A dusting of confectioner's sugar if you like. Or ice it, you could even make a double batch and frost it. Here, I've added a hint of heat, a bit of Kahlua, and some espresso. You may easily omit all three - using a full 1C of water.  Ancho chile is a mild chile with chocolatey undertones, it pairs well with chocolate.

Making with or for kids, simply omit the chile and Kahlua. You could pretend that dusting it with confectioner's sugar is making it snow!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups sifted flour (I use 1 C AP and 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 C cold water minus 1 TBSP
  • 1 TBSP Kahlua
  • 5 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

 Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt.  If using, include espresso powder, chile here.
  3. In a large liquid measuring cup, measure 1C of cold water, replace 1 TBSP of it with 1 TBSP of Kahlua, if using.
  4. Whisk together the oil, vanilla and vinegar with the water.
  5. Whisk into the dry ingredients, blending until completely lump-free.
  6. Pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently.  Cool before removing from pan (yes this matters)  and dusting with confectioners’ sugar, or frosting if desired.

 

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.