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Procrastination. The word alone is intruiging to me. I can hardly pronounce it correctly, and still, I know very well how to do it. Procrastinating I mean, not the pronouncing.
I know nobody who doesn't procrastinate.
Nobody. I think people who claim they never procrastinate on anything, are not being honest.
I think stopping by at the procrastination station is perfectly normal and healthy. Or well, at least I tell myself. I just did a very, very good job on folding the laundry. Instead of uploading stuff for one of my upcoming online classes. In fact, this blogpost is partly procrastination.
The upside: procrastinating on one thing, sometimes leads to something good on something else that you may loath doing if that's all you need to do: doing the dishes, painting a wall, rearrange your living room interior, do grocery shopping, scrubbing the bathroom floor.... Other times it's just sort of paralyzing, and you're spending way too much time browsing through Facebook feed, Instagram art or get buried deeper and deeper into Pinterest.
Now here's the kind of 'productive procrastination' that I really like: making a drawing while putting off doing a drawing. I was working on an illustration that I promised to make for a friend. She's getting married, and we wanted to give her something personal during her bachelorette day. Once I started working on the illustrated cocktail recipe for her, it felt great to be making something personal, but before starting, it just looked like a big mountain to climb, an assignment for which I actually really didn't have any time in my schedule.
Once I planned some after-dinner drawing time, I did some doodling and sketching, but then got so intrigued by drawing orange peels.... this is what happened:
That's what I mean: a fun result of procrastination behaviour, right?
In the end, I managed to finish my sketches and make an illustration. During a round of cocktails (of course!) we gave it to the bride-to be and she's very happy with it! She will hang it on the kitchen wall.
On April 28, my 4-week online workshop 'Draw It Like It's Hot'
I wil show how to make stuff like the above, and much more!
It'll be great fun to work towards the final assignment along with your classmates: creating an illustrated recipe that will be published on the website theydrawandcook.com!
It's only $69
to enroll, so what are you waiting for? Click here to read more and join.
I think I can easily say I enjoy cooking as much as any of my other creative pursuits. Maybe it's the combination of colors (red onion, green spinach, the bright orange of a ripe pepper), or maybe I just love to eat!
Whatever the reason, I've certainly spent quality time in the kitchen, and like many of my interests, cooking seems to overlap everything else I do. It's also taught me some important lessons not just about food preparation, but about life in general (e.g., never read while stirring béchamel sauce; if the pot won't boil it means the stove isn't turned on; pets are your best friends for cleaning broken eggs off the floor). Other handy tips I've learned include:
- Kitchen space, writing space--it's all sacred space. For that reason I like to keep my work areas clean, uncluttered, and a pleasant place to be. The less time I have to spend searching for the right spoon or pen, the more time I have to create.
- Fresh ingredients. Although frozen food can be a wonderful resource on the nights I'm late coming home from work or just don't have time to run to the store, nothing beats fresh. It's the same with writing and painting: the best ideas are the fresh ones.
- Too much (or not enough) salt, sugar, and spice? A bland stew is boring to eat. Overly-spiced and it's inedible. When it comes to our creativity, not enough seasoning turns the work into a big yawn, but add too much and the story or painting becomes scattered, messy, and difficult to pull together.
- Use the right tools. Whether I'm cooking or writing I like to keep my utensils simple: cast iron pans, a few wooden spoons, a really good spatula. For my writing I prefer a fountain pen, a legal pad, and my Alphasmart. Once I have a complete draft I clean it up on Word. That's it.
- Do you really need a lettuce spinner? Depends on how much lettuce you eat! Seriously, though, I've never owned a spinner but I can see its usefulness. Every now and then we need a special gadget to make our work easier and fun. Maybe it's a set of glitter gel pens, or an ultra-expensive watercolor brush. Splurge.
- Shake up the recipe books. I own one cookbook: Sunset Menus and Recipes for Vegetarian Cooking. I bought it years ago while I was living in San Francisco, and the only reason I keep it is purely sentimental. It reminds me of my days walking home up Market Street, then catching the cable car to go grocery shopping. Once upon a time it did teach me how to cook vegetarian meals, but since then I've modified, added, and changed just about every recipe in the book. It's the same with how-to-write books. Read them, then adapt them to suit your own needs and style. Better yet, put all your new ideas and methods into your own how-to book!
- Fusion. There's nothing tastier to me than a dinner that includes more than one cultural influence: Thai burritos, or green chili quiche. My fusion tastes extend to my reading and writing, too. "Mixed genre" and "mixed medium" are two of my favorite terms. A mystery with romance elements; a pen and ink drawing on a collaged background and highlighted with watercolor--the possibilities are endless.
- Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes. There's a reason why you're not supposed to open the oven door while baking a cake. Sometimes you do have to follow the rules, especially when it comes to submitting work for publication: clean, double-spaced manuscript pages; a three-paragraph synopsis; self-addressed envelopes for return or reply. Read publisher's guidelines and follow to the letter!
- Keep a sharp knife for editing. I'm terrified of knives. They scare me more than I can say. And yet I've learned the hard way that a blunt knife is one of the most dangerous things in the kitchen. My manuscripts benefit from bravery and a sharp pair of scissors, too.
- Leftovers. Save your snippets of dialogue, character bio, setting, or unused scenes. They can either be recycled into a new manuscript, or stand alone as a poem or a piece of "flash fiction." Every now and then, though, go through your files and see what's gone past it's "shelf-life." Getting rid of the old makes ways for the new.
- Too many cooks can spoil the broth. Some people can't stand mayonnaise. Others complain because you added cloves to the apple pie. And there's always somebody who will insist you absolutely MUST peel mushrooms before adding them to a sauté. Listen attentively, be polite, then see what works and what you need to ignore. Writer's groups, beta readers, your next door neighbor--everybody has an opinion. At the end of the day, only you know what's best for your manuscript.
- Comfort food feeds the soul. Macaroni cheese; creamy mashed potatoes; endless spaghetti plates; bean soup on a cold day--sometimes old-fashioned is so much better than nouvelle. As much as I enjoy experimental literary fiction and an unconventional narrative, there are days when I need to read and/or write solid, strong, themed fiction that makes me fall in love with my craft all over again. (Hint: re-reading Velda Johnston's Masquerade in Venice never disappoints.)
Tip of the Day: What's a favorite recipe you haven't made in a long time? Examine the reasons for neglecting it: maybe you haven't had the time to spend on the required preparation or to shop at specialty stores for exotic ingredients. Or maybe the needed items are just too expensive, hard to find, and/or disliked by the people you're cooking for. Decide to make it anyway; schedule in a day for shopping and cooking, then invite friends in to share the finished results. While you're eating and socializing, here's a topic for conversation: what other creative projects have you put on hold? Brainstorm ways to get cooking again!
The Gluten-free Chicano CooksTomatillo Sauce Versatile, Naturally Gluten-free
|Sprawling among zucchini plants, tomatillo plants create shade mulch|
Tomatillos naturalize after their first year in a garden. A plant sprawls, fruit drops, rots and deposits seeds. Over the course of the season the seeds, and whole tomatillos, get mixed into the loam.
Throughout late Spring, Summer into early Fall, volunteer tomatillo seedlings need to be weeded out, else they take over the garden.
|This clump grows from a fruit dropped at center right in the foto above.|
An early Spring prize is a small mound of seedlings marking the spot where a tomatillo buried whole has sprung back to life. Here is this season's crop of fresh tomatillos.
The tough seedlings take well to being dug up and transplanted to macetas. When the garden’s established, I plant tomatillos where they’ll sprawl to provide shade mulch and picking excursions. Water usage in drought means reduce water evaporation after you've reduced water usage. My vegetable garden borders a swimming pool, so every drop saved is another day less in purgatory.
There must be an horticultural rule, the bigger the fruit the smaller the flavor. I’ve eaten tomatillos grown larger than a small beefsteak tomato and won’t go out of my way to buy that variety.
My garden grows a tomatillo with fruit the size of a fat radish. It tastes OK, but the most intense flavor comes from a tiny olive-sized tomatillo with a lemony bite that enhances companion flavors. I saw that tomatillo on a Steinbeck walk through Salinas once, but the fruit wasn’t ripe enough for seed. Too bad Steinbeck wasn't born in the Fall.
Tomatillo sauce brings versatility to the kitchen from elegant entrée to finger-licking good snacks. Use this as enchilada sauce. Melt it with grated cheese or just warm it and serve as a dip. Stir ready-made carnitas into a sartén of salsa de tomatillo. Add lots of jalapeños o hueros o serranos o thai and use as taco or nacho sauce.
Modern appliances make speedy work of making tomatillo sauce. Broiler, blender, table.
Once in a cook’s lifetime you deserve to lay a chile and a tomato on an open burner, use your fingers to roll them around while the skin blackens and the juices begin to boil out. Smoke wafts up from the burner. When the chiles are really chilosos the smoke streaming into your nose burns making you cough and sneeze. Juggle the steaming handful as you drop them into the molcahete and run cold water across your palms with a sigh of relief then splash water on your face to stem the glow.
For gente on the go, comida corrida meets lots of needs. Broil. Whiz. Done. This salsa de tomatillo is almost fast.
Cleaning the ingredients takes only a bit of time, yet a busy person might consider making several quarts of sauce on a weekend and freeze in meal-size quantities, or eat it every day, on eggs for breakfast, in a taco for lunch, chile verde for dinner.
Ten minutes under a high flame broiler, or on a slightly oiled frying pan, blackens spots on the onion, tomato, garlic, chile, tomatillo. Add fresh cilantro sprigs to the blender. If the veggies get a little too done, most of the black stuff peels off and the rest adds flavor and character to your dish.
When you whiz up hot liquids keep the blender top ajar and cover the top with a dishrag before turning on the motor. The vegetables produce a good volume of nectar that you can drain off and use as a soup base, or incorporate it into your salsa.
When you use a lot more tomatillo than chiles, you make tomatillo sauce. If you use a few tomatillos and a large number of chiles, you make chile. "Chilly" in English.
Roast some extra chile pods and after the first few seconds in the blender, taste and add chiles to enhance the heat. Brighten the taste with a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt.
Salsa de tomatillo is delicious as a simple dip. Warm it, and do your guests a flavor favor. Break chicharrones into small pieces, warm them to bring out amazing flavor, then serve and sit back and hear your guests exclaim about the most delicious chicharrones they've ever eaten. And oh yeah, that green sauce is really good.Click here for a step-by-step narrative accompanying these fotos.Two Million Eyes < Ten Years
|Scroll to the bottom of La Bloga, in the |
left corner there's the visitor counter.
Back when I was working for a living one of my standard lessons as a corporate trainer was "have a plan, work the plan, if you don't have a plan, any which way will get you there."
That was a bad thing, the any which way
part. Winning by accident, instead of winning on purpose.
All this to bring up the magic of one million people bringing their interest and time to see what La Bloga has today. That's a victory for Chicana Chicano, Latina Latino Literature, y más.
We didn't start out with a goal to do other than write a blog centered around chicana and chicano literature, to reignite ongoing accord with similar minded gente that started at CHICLE. Now, half a year short of our ten year anniversary that magic number rolls around.
Rudy, Manuel, and I had not met in person but only via the auspices of María Teresa Márquez' much-missed CHICLE listserv. When UNM closed down CHICLE in 1999 it shut off one of the nation's only public venues for talking about chicana chicano literature. Rudy and Manuel kicked the idea around the Denver block, they emailed me in LA, and we launched. After a few issues, Daniel Olivas joined and La Bloga's team of writers has grown steadily since.
It's been a pleasure these million times, gente. Thank you for reading La Bloga.Aural On-line Floricanto: Pablo Neruda's "La tierra se llama Juan" read by Elda Martinez
Students recorded this reading of Neruda in a media production class I taught at CSULA in the late 1970s. The kids brought 500 Años del Pueblo Chicano 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures
from their C/S 101 class and I gave them a handful of literature anthologies. These are the central resources of the production Chicano Messages of Liberation
that I am digitizing from audiotape and 35mm slides.
When the team wanted the script to include Neruda I challenged them to defend it as Chicano Literature. "It's in the book!" they proved.
The were happy to edit out the overtly soviet communism at the end, making makes it a better reading and a better poem. Here's the full text.
Click here if media fails to play: http://readraza.com/poem_juan.mp3
My friend Jamie first introduced homemade crepes to me when we used to do Thanksgiving together in Boston. Oh, those were fun times! We’d make crepes in the morning and just cook, cook, cook all day and listen to “Alice’s Restaurant,” that classic Thanksgiving tale.
Before that crepes had seemed so mysterious and fancy, but really, once you do them a couple of times, they’re no more difficult than pancakes. You just have to get the knack of how thick the batter should be (not very) and when to flip them (when the first inch or two of the edges are dry). Turns out it’s super easy to make gluten-free crepes, and they’re quite a bit faster than waffles.
Once again I used Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking with great results. A similar recipe is here on their blog (I didn’t use cinnamon). The one thing I would say is that the batter was a little bit thick, so I had to add a little more milk (I think I used almond milk). You want the batter to be just a bit thinner than regular pancake batter. The photo above is of the very first crepe, before I thinned the batter, so the shape is kinda crazy. But normally the crepes look and taste the same as regular ones. They were a big hit with the family.
Lately I’ve been making blueberry syrup with a big handful of frozen berries and just a tablespoon or so of maple syrup. I put them together in a microwaveable container, heat for a little bit (30 seconds?) and voila!
I’ve been slogging away at my novel, revising and adding new material. Also reading One Summer by Bill Bryson, a history of the summer of 1927. Very interesting. Crazy times!
Also, Wes Anderson’s new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now on my must-see list. Not sure if it’s related, but I’ve been dreaming about weird European hotels lately. Hmmmm…
Coming soon: pics of a recently finished sewing project. Hope you’re having a good week!
I used to make fried rice with stir-fried vegetables on a fairly regular basis. Everyone liked to eat it, but no one liked to help clean up. Also, by the time I was done cooking, I was exhausted. After one too many complaints about the mess it made (from someone who will remain nameless) I vowed never to make stir fry again! Take that!
I stuck to my promise for several months, but I missed the flavors. So I tried to find a way to simplify the process.
Step one: I found a great recipe for baked fried rice. Yes, it involves less oil, and that’s nice and all, but even better, I don’t have to tend to it, and I still get that yummy chewy texture. So much less work! I don’t add the Sriracha that the recipe calls for at this stage since the kids wouldn’t touch it if I did. And I’d love to try the pineapple and cashews she uses—they look so yummy—but so far I’ve just stuck to whatever “usual suspect” veggies I have on hand. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, that kind of thing.
Step two: I pared down my list of vegetables to cut out some of the chopping. I usually feel like I have to put in a little of everything, but really, I don’t.
Step three: I roast veggies instead of stir-frying. Nope, it’s not just the same, but the veggies are still delicious. I cooked everything at about the same temp as the rice until the rice was done, and then I think I turned up the heat a bit.
I let the kids choose the veggies they want before we mix them all together for us. If I have time, I like to make this peanut sauce and of course, the grown ups always get Sriracha.
Now I’d be lying if I said this version isn’t messy or time-consuming. It still requires a fair amount of prep and cleanup. But somehow being able to cook it unattended, all at the same time (rather than in batches) makes it less of a pain to make. Works for me, anyway.
Finished My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. Sigh. I miss it now. Are you reading anything good? I need something to curl up with. The weather here has been horrible this week, and I’m sorry, friends in northern climes, because your weather must be ten times worse. It’s starting to feel like that Ray Bradbury story where the people live on a planet where the sun comes out only once every seven years (All Summer in a Day). We can make it to spring, right?
The school’s book character parade was this morning and as usual was pretty much the cutest thing all year. Hope I can show you a pic of our little Marco Polo soon. The costume is pretty sweet. Marie Antoinette also looked great, though her costume was just a fancy dress we found at the thrift store.
Have a great weekend! And now, back to novel writing….
Blog: Secret Seed Society
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, Seed Agent News
, pancake day
, Shrove Tuesday
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Today is Pancake Day! Also called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday if you take part in Lent. It’s traditionally a day to eat up all sorts of yummy things in your house that you are promising not to eat during Lent, like chocolate. It’s a long month if you’re giving up your junkiest habit so first of all you need to eat a shed-load of pancakes.
It’s strange people MAKE and EAT pancakes only one day a year.
HOW ODD?! Why only eat such a great food one day out of 365? We must change this silliness once and for all.
But how? …Time for a Seed Agent Mission.
WHAT IF?! We rename pancakes Flippers! Every time we make a pancake we call it a Flipper. Everytime we eat a pancake we call it Flipper. Everytime we see a pancake we call it a Flipper. Soon the world will call pancakes – Flippers!! And then we can eat Flippers ALL year round, and not just on Fat Tuesday.
There’s nothing that can’t be used to fill a flipper, sweet or savoury, hot or cold, the choice is yours Seed Agents! Try some veg-flippers! “Move along old-school lemon and sugar”, “Bye-bye gooey joys of chocolate”, “Hello pongy cheese, spinach and mushrooms!”
Have a go at making your own flippers here and experiment eating them with different fillings. Discover which one you like best!
We actually made these around Christmas, as a rainy day activity with the kids. We just followed Martha Stewart’s recipe and added some crushed peppermint candy on top.
We loved the way the concoction of sugar and gelatin morphs into white foam. It made me feel like a chemist (my chemist grandfather, by the way, loves to make candy and measures things out neatly on little squares of waxed paper).
True to form, I tried to cut out some of the sugar, as drowning the finished cubes in yet more white stuff seemed a bit excessive. Turns out, though, that you kind of need the powdered sugar on top at the end to keep the marshmallows from being a total sticky mess. It’s like flour, I guess, when you’re rolling out pizza dough.
Marshmallows weren’t hard to make but they were definitely messy, even for my high mess threshold. I would totally recommend a giveaway plan, since even my kids, who were sure they’d want to eat the whole pan on their own, couldn’t finish them before they were past their prime (a couple of days).
The best part for me was having a giant marshmallow (we call them marsh planets) to put in my hot cocoa, which I made not-too-sweet on purpose.
For more of my cooking and eating adventures, go here.
Around these parts we’re still being absolutely buried by fourth grade homework (what’s up with that?). I’m still loving, really loving My Berlin Kitchen by food blogger Lisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. It’s got love, travel, international friends and family, and recipes to boot. Currently dreaming of baby artichokes with potatoes and separately, braised endive. Never thought I’d be interested in endive, but she makes it sound so exciting! As an added bonus, the book is making me want to keep writing, and in my mind that’s the best kind of book.
I’ve been sewing a bit, some of which you can see on my Instagram feed. You can find me there under Emily Smith Pearce or in the lower righthand corner of my blog homepage.
This interview with writer/ director David O. Russell (of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) was so good I may have to listen to it again. I also loved reading this interview with the author, the illustrator, and the translator of Sydney Taylor Award honor book The War Within These Walls. The translator (Laura Watkinson) is a friend of mine in Amsterdam, and the interviewer (Joyce Moyer Hostetter) is a friend here in North Carolina. Small world!
Also just sent out my nonfiction manuscript to some early reader friends. So excited to be moving ahead with it. How are you? Cooking/ reading/ watching anything good?
We’ve made gluten-free waffles before with our gf oat and buckwheat pancake batter, but these waffles are more traditional and fluffy. My daughter and mother-in-law were the first to try out this recipe, and everyone agreed they were delicious, gluten eaters or no.
Once again, the recipe comes from our go-to GF cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking. You make your own flour blend and then use it for various recipes. Waffle recipe here.
In other news, we have a snow day here. Enough snow to make the roads dangerous, but not quite enough to really play in it. The kids are making do, with gusto. Meanwhile I’m having trouble concentrating on what I should be doing. Keep checking my to-do list. I should mention that our daughter made the waffles again today, and it was surely a nice mid-week treat. Hope you are warm and cozy—-or at least, bundled appropriately and having fun.
For more of my cooking and eating adventures (many of which are gluten-free), click here. I’m about to add a new gluten-free tab so you can see all those in one place. Enjoy!
We served these yesterday to non-gluten-free guests, and they were a hit with everyone, kids and grown-ups alike. They have a nice, chewy texture.
I actually made them egg-free as well (using egg substitute) since one of our guests is allergic to eggs. The cookies have a lot of butter in them, but next time I may try coconut oil, since I’ve made similar cookies with regular flour and coconut oil in the past, and they were great.
The recipe is once again from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Peter and Kelli Bronski. You can find the recipe on their blog here.
Today, we made a little candy! So I’ll show you that when I have time. Hope you’re cozied up with loved ones and enjoying festivities.
P.S. We got a special Christmas supplement to the newspaper today: a cup of water and an earthworm fell out when I removed plastic bag #1! Luckily the paper itself was dry and wormless. Gives you an idea of how much rain we’ve had in the last day or so.
Turns out my recipe for almondy cookies easily adapts to a gluten-free version. I made a half-batch last week just to test it out. Everyone loved them, including visiting gluten-eaters. They are not too sweet and have a nice shortbready-type texture.
I make my own gluten-free flour blend in large batches according to the recipe in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, but you could probably use any GF flour blend.
GLUTEN-FREE ALMONDY CUT-OUT COOKIES (adapted from this cooks.com recipe)
Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cutters, but you can easily halve it if you don’t want that many.
2 sticks butter (I’ll have to try subbing coconut oil another time….)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 cups almond meal
3 cups gluten-free flour blend (homemade or purchased)
pinch of salt
Cream together butter, sugar, egg, and almond extract. Beat in flour, almond meal, and salt.
Make a ball and flatten it, wrap in wax paper and place in the fridge for an hour or a day.
Preheat oven to 325°, roll out dough, and use cutters to cut shapes. Ours were a little thicker—in the 1/4 inch range, but you could go thinner, depending on how crispy or chewy you want yours. Just watch the time—you definitely don’t want to overcook them.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or more. They should be very lightly browned. I should’ve cooked ours a little longer, but I got impatient.
I’m tempted to up the almond meal further and lower the flour portion. Maybe next time. Also hoping to try out a GF molasses cookie recipe. Stay tuned. For other eating and cooking adventures (including gluten-free) click here.
Author: Nisa Burns
Publisher: Kitchenability Press
Buy it at Amazon
It’s so easy for college students to be seduced by pizza and burgers when making meal choices. But are they only choosing these fast food options because they don’t have anything better on-hand? In Kitchenability 101, Nisa Burns shows college students that there is a better way to eat, and it’s much easier than they think.
Kitchenability, as defined by Burns, is the ability to make one’s way around the kitchen. In this book, she provides recipes that can be crafted in dorm rooms or small apartment kitchens. Access to a few tools – stove, blender, good knife, etc. – is required, and some recipes are simpler than others.
Why choose a cheeseburger, when you can have a mint and cucumber sandwich? [bread, cream cheese, cucumber slices, and mint leaves] Maybe a chili burrito is more your style? [tortilla, canned chili, salsa, shredded cheese, and sour cream] Or try your hand at one of the recipes that call for some simple cooking, and treat your friends to a nice meal after mid-terms.
Although some of these recipes are a little more complicated than I expected, they look yummy, and are much healthier than anything you might find on campus. If you’re looking to get creative with food and enjoy some home-cooked meals, Kitchenability 101 would be a great “textbook” to keep in your dorm room.
Reviewer: Alice Berger
It was a great day in the studio. My characters for my story are growing. Can you see how they almost tell their own story? Look at this little pigs face. Does he like cooking? What is he making? What is he thinking?
Writers develop their characters with pen in hand. I also have pen in hand, but mine is to draw the characters first… then move on to writing the story.
There is still so much to do… I have only JUST BEGUN!
Y’all, I’ve tried a LOT of gluten-free pizza. Some baked goods are easy to make GF, but pizza isn’t one of them. It usually tastes kind of card-boardy. The best store-bought kind I’ve found was of a ball of frozen dough from Earth Fare (sorry, I don’t know the brand). But it was crazy, crazy expensive.
This recipe is by far the best I’ve had. Favorito. Really nice texture, not sandy or weird like some others. Even our six-year-old (who is newly gluten-free) loved it. It’s also incredibly easy if you’ve already made your stash of gluten-free flour mix.
And the best part is, the dough only has to rise 10 minutes, so, unlike traditional homemade pizza dough, you don’t have to plan so far in advance. It doesn’t require kneading, either, just mixing.
This recipe is a TOTAL keeper! Like my recent GF recipe trials, it’s also from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski. The recipe for a similar version of it is here.
The book includes a recipe for a bulk batch of GF flour mix, and then you’re all set to use it in many of the recipes. It’s completely worth the effort, and, although not inexpensive, is a better deal than buying pre-mixed GF flour.
One note on the recipe. My hubs grilled it, which went really well, but he had to pay close attention to the cooking time. I like it nice and crispy, but there are also directions for deep dish pizza in the book.
Yes, I hear you, you’re not gluten-free, and you wonder when my regularly scheduled cooking program is coming back. No worries, this is not going to become a blog solely about GF baking. It’s just what I’m excited about right now.
In other news, I’m waiting to get editorial notes on my young adult novel, and I’m currently researching for a nonfiction book project that had been on the back burner for quite awhile (since we were living in Germany over a year ago). Now that I’m researching in the U.S., with access to an American library, it’s way more fun! I’m still struggling with the shape of the project, but I’m happy to find that I’m just as interested in the subject matter. Hopefully I can share more about it when it’s a bit further along.
Meanwhile, I’ve been sewing a lot. Close to finishing a couple of projects that I hope to show you soon.
For more posts on cooking, click here.
Buy it at Amazon
Healthy eating habits are best acquired when we’re young. Letting kids help in the kitchen is a fun way to get them interested in the meals they eat. Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book encourages parents to let their kids touch, taste and smell foods as they get their hands dirty preparing meals.
Not only is this a cookbook, but it’s also filled with photos of kids enjoying their food, as well as images of the interesting dishes presented. Drawings and food facts accompany these photos, and the color palate is as varied as the flavors. Simple, healthy meal ideas use all-natural ingredients and a minimum of processed foods, and the unique combinations create a tasty dish. Fruit is used liberally as a natural sweetener kids will enjoy.
Ella’s Kitchen is known for its healthy organic baby foods. But food preparation done at home can be easy and delicious if you have the right recipes. Encourage your kids to experience the all-natural foods they eat, and be sure to pick up a copy of Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book for your own kitchen. I highly recommend it!
Reviewer: Alice Berger
By: Laura A. H. Elliott,
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4th of July
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, Fourth of July
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Hubby, Oso and I went to a great BBQ potluck on the 4th. We love the mountains and hubby’s family has been going up there for generations. So, there were a lot of new and old friends at the BBQ. Not only did we celebrate the country’s birthday, but a few actual birthdays too Anyway, during most of the party there was this girl in purple pants sitting far away from everyone on her rock. She went and got her food (oh, man was there some AMAZING food!) and went back on her rock to eat by herself. When her brother came and sat beside her, she didn’t really get mad, but she didn’t want anyone to sit with her on her rock either
Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. Any good potluck recipes you shared/ate this weekend? Here’s the recipe for the salad I brought, it’s one of my favorites
Author: Jane Murphy & Allison Fingerhuth
Illustrator: Neal Sharp
Publisher: Mutt Media
Buy it at Amazon
Pipper’s food blog is popular, and her readers expect her to dish up some tasty morsels. But Pipper is stumped, and doesn’t know what her next topic should be. When she meets with her friends, she stumbles on the idea of finding the “secret ingredient” to the best biscuit. They help her make arrangements, and off she goes on a trip around the world.
Unbeknownst to her, Bull Bogus of Bogus Biscuits has sent out a spy, hot on her tail. Bumbles follows diligently behind, leaving chaos in his wake. But Pipper has been warned about Bumbles, and she’s watching for him. Pipper meets some interesting characters and samples some wonderful food along the way. And when she finally discovers the secret ingredient, her friends agree. Her blog is a success, as is her newest enterprise.
Pipper’s Secret Ingredient blends adventure, friendship, and food in delightful proportions. Kids will enjoy Pipper’s travels, while cheering for her to outsmart Bumbles. And everyone will agree that the secret ingredient is perfect, and well worth the search. I highly recommend this entertaining adventure.
Reviewer: Alice Berger
I’m on a cauliflower kick, what can I say? I seem to be eating a lot of it, roasted, with various toppings. I think it’s because my friend Laurel mentioned it, then it was in the paper (something about a cauliflower trend—yes I still read a paper paper) and then I just couldn’t get it out of my head.
Besides cutting out wheat, I’m avoiding large servings of grains in general, so the idea of something mild and non-grain that takes flavors very well —–a sauce depository, if you will—-is very appealing. I was never a huge fan of cauliflower in the past, but I think, as with many veggies, I just had to find my favorite cooking method. Roasting wins.
First, preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the cauliflower into pieces about 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick, brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes (just like the broccoli here). If you’re going to make the vinaigrette below, throw in a clove or two of garlic and roast them while you’re at it.
When the cauliflower is tender but still firm, with browning on the edges, it’s done. At least, that’s the done-ness I like.
At this point you could serve it with any number of sauces or toppings: peanut sauce? bread crumb/ nut topping? curry?
I made this vinaigrette in homage to a bread dipping sauce from a favorite restaurant, Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill. Charlotte area friends, seriously, you MUST go there. It’s this funky little farm-to-fork place in the middle of nowhere. Besides great food, it has loads of character.
But I digress.
The vinaigrette is a loose combination of:
Roasted Garlic, minced
Chopped Olives (I used green ones but kalamata would be excellent)
a spoonful of Capers
a judicious amount of red pepper flakes (I’m addicted)
Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
I usually do a little more olive oil than vinegar and just add however much I like of the rest of the stuff, to taste.
Charlotte friends, I feel compelled to mention a couple of places we’ve eaten recently that, in addition to Passion8 Bistro, were just outstanding.
- The King’s Kitchen (which is owned by the same guy that owns Roosters, which I also love) is outstanding—-sort of re-imagined upscale meat and three, and btw it’s non-profit, which is totally fascinating and you should read about it on their website. I had the hangar steak. Yum!
- Doan’s Vietnamese Restaurant: try the hotpots!! It’s like a Vietnamese broth fondue. So excellent and fun. Best tomyum broth I’ve ever had.
- And one more: Zeitouni’s Mediterranean Grill at Toringdon in Ballantyne. Seriously, how did I not get a clue about this place earlier? The falafel is TO DIE FOR!
Okay, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but really, it’s been good dining lately. What about you? What’s got you inspired in the kitchen/ out to eat lately?
This is Heidi Swanson’s recipe (Broccoli Gribiche) from Super Natural Every Day. But it’s basically a potato salad with more stuff plus a delicious dressing. Check out the recipe here if you don’t have the book.
I’m sure mine would’ve been even better if I’d had the fresh herbs—this was just before we put in our new herb garden. I added roasted cherry tomatoes, and for the dressing, I cooked the shallots on low to soften them up a bit before adding them. I’m sure this cranked down the flavor a bit, but we just don’t do raw onion relatives around here very well.
Anyway, if I make it again, and I probably will, I’ll definitely do the fresh herbs and maybe add a wee bit more vinegar….or a squeeze of lemon.
But the basic idea (roasted veggies and eggs with dressing) is pretty simple and really effective. Also very filling. If you couldn’t tell, I’m really into roasted vegetable salads right now. For more of my posts on less-meatarian cooking, click here.
Hope you have a great weekend! So sorry, friends in northern climates, about the weather. I hope spring will make its way to you very soon. I hear you could use it.
Blog: The Open Book
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Today is Chinese New Year! Traditionally, the night before Chinese New Year, Chinese families will gather around and eat dinner together, much like this plate from the LEE & LOW title, Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic:
Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic author and illustrator Ginnie and Beth Lo were kind enough to share one of their favorite soybean recipes with us: Mapo Tofu! While not a traditional Chinese New Year dish, the Lo sisters say that “mapo tofu is a Lo family favorite that we eat on the holidays, Christmas, and Chinese New Year.”
- Stir fry in small amount of veg. oil about 1lb of ground pork unseasoned over med-med hi heat. Salt lightly. When it is just losing its pink color add 1 ½ to 2T soy sauce and 1T sugar. Stir fry until done. Remove from pan, set aside.
- Stir fry one chopped onion in veg. oil until translucent. Set aside (you can put it in with meat).
- Stir fry in remaining oil, 2T or more hot chili sauce (hot bean paste with chile, or hot chili sauce with garlic etc.), for 30 sec – 1 minute.
- Add 2 packages cubed firm tofu, the pork and the onion, stir fry until well combined. Add edamame, frozen green peas and cook 10 minutes or more, until flavors are well blended. Add salt or more hot sauce to taste.
Just before serving, remove from heat and add 3 scallions, finely chopped and 2T Chinese Sesame oil, stir and serve.
Enjoy, and feel free to let us know how it turned out!
Angelo’s Sosa’s Chilled Edamame and Spring Pea Soup
What is Chinese New Year?
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I know, I’ve been doing a lot of tacos. I can’t help myself. Here’s yet another simple twist.
I’ve had plenty of spinach and mushroom enchiladas before at restaurants but somehow never thought to recreate something similar until the recipe here, in Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson (she of 101cookbooks fame).
Her version is minus the spinach and uses fancier mushrooms (chanterelles, or Pfefferlinge, if you’re German—btw wouldn’t it be great to see this on a seasonal Pfefferlinge menu?). I just used plain brown mushrooms. Along with the mushrooms, there’s garlic, onions, and a serrano pepper involved. Yum.
I used frozen chopped spinach from Trader Joe’s. I definitely recommend spinning or squeezing it dry if you’re going that route. Fresh spinach would also totally work, of course. Either way just saute it a little in the pan, but separately from the mushrooms so each veggie cooks at the right temp and length.
I find the mushrooms really satisfying and a welcome change from my normal array of vegetables. And it was a quick lunch.
Do you get stuck in veggie ruts? I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the local-ish asparagus to come in. I’m guessing it’s still Rotkohl (red cabbage) season in Deutschland? That’s one of those dishes I’ve only appreciated in restaurants and haven’t yet ventured into cooking myself. (If you’re wondering why I’m talking about German vegetables, it’s because last year this time, we were living in Hannover, Germany).
In other news, our local chapter of the WNBA (no, not basketball—the Women’s National Book Association) had a great joint meeting the other night with the Charlotte Writer’s Club. It was a panel about the process of getting published, with lots of great food for thought from industry folk.
Meanwhile I’m still plugging away at my character interviews led by these questions. Writers, have you ever done this? It’s such a Magic-8-ball/ subconscious-channeling kind of exercise. Feels weird at times, but I’m coming up with lots of good character stuff that relates to the plot.
Oh, and one last aside. I did a Skype call to talk about Slowpoke with a class of first graders last week. So fun. Best question, which still has me laughing: “Are you ever afraid you’ll never finish another book?”
You may think I’m a vegetarian from all my veggie posts, but I DO eat meat. Just not a lot of it. More on that here.
We love burgers around here, but I’m always trying to get my people to eat ones that don’t involve red meat. The turkey ones always seem to need a bit of doctoring, in my experience. I love the Mar-a-Lago burgers championed by Oprah, but really, they’re just too much work for a weeknight and the flavors, while delicious, don’t really go with our favorite toppings (like ketchup and pickles).
These are a good compromise, and, with a few recent tweaks, they’ve entered into that rare realm which is the full-family-seal-of-approval. Like, all four members. I’m probably jinxing that status just by typing this, but I’m willing to risk it, just for you.
My recipe is adapted from this one.
Favorite Turkey Burgers
1/2 cup rolled oats*
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I use breast meat)*
3 TB mayonnaise
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion (the finer the better, in order to trick the kids)
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
dash of hot sauce
good sprinkling of sweet paprika
a judicious amount of ground pepper
1. If your turkey meat is fairly dry, moisten the oats with about a tablespoon of water and let rest for a minute or two. If the meat has a fair amount of water content already, skip this step.
2. Combine with other ingredients. I hate doing this with my hands so I use two big spoons. Mix just enough to get it well-combined and make into patties.
3. You can grill these, but I find it’s actually a lot easier to cook them in my cast iron pan on the stove. They fall apart easily on the grill. I cook them at medium low for several minutes on each side to make sure they’re all the way done. This way the outsides don’t burn. Check to make sure there’s no pink.
4. Add toppings and enjoy!
*So, like many turkey burger recipes, the mother recipe called for bread crumbs. Since I’m not eating wheat, I could use GF bread crumbs, but I decided instead to try oatmeal. Bingo! Totally works and in fact is an improvement in my book.
*Last night I discovered I had a pound of turkey, not a pound and a half. The whole mixture was gooey (ew!) so I added a second half cup of oatmeal. I was a little nervous about the gamble, but they turned out great, with no comments from the peanut gallery. And as a bonus, they used less meat.
One question I have for you—-all turkey burger recipes seem to have something like mayo in them for, I guess, texture and flavor. Do you think the mayo nixes the health benefits of changing to turkey meat? Do you think I could skip it?
And one more question: anybody have a fantastic gluten-free vegan burger recipe? I know, sounds like a tall order, but I’m totally convinced there’s one out there. So far I haven’t done any trials, but let me know if you’re ahead of me.
For more recipe trials and food posts, look here.
With my recent down time, I’ve been doing some thinking since I am not doing too much else. I’m thinking writing is a lot like cooking. Now for those of you who know me well, this may seem like a strange comparison considering that I dislike cooking and am rather fond of writing. Allow me to explain.
My husband and I have a blended family of six. Our mixture of his and hers children creates a unique schedule for many meal times. Some nights it’s just the two of us and other nights, we are feeding six. Over the years, meal time caused a certain level of angst for me. Trying to make sure I created meals that were healthy, that pleased everyone, and that were within budget were a challenge. I have never enjoyed cooking but trying to tackle this task made it more daunting. I fretted over meal planning, shopping, preparation, all of it.
As time as passed, I have started to worry less about covering all these bases. I began to focus on creating meals that were a little more fun and different and thought less about trying to please the masses.
And this is why I think cooking is like writing. So often, we are encouraged to write in a genre or style that we are not passionate about or simply have no interest in. As writers, we are sometimes pushed to try a new category because it is what’s “new” and “popular” but when it comes down to it, we may not care a bit about it.
I love writing children’s stories and short stories. I am also working on my memoir about my battle with heart disease. My focus is narrow and I am okay with that. I could try to write paranormal or horror but I promise, it would not worth anyone’s time. I think it is better to stick with what makes you happy. In my case, I write because I enjoy it rather than it being my job. Since I have that luxury, I can be picky. And as for the cooking, I fortunately married a fantastic chef!
* * * * *
Karen Guccione-Englert fell in love with words at an early age and now shares her love of reading with students at Orchard Farm Elementary. Outside of the classroom, she primarily writes children’s stories and short stories. Karen enjoys entering a variety of writing competitions to practice and refine her craft. In addition, she is an active member of Go Red for Women with the St. Louis chapter of the American Heart Association. Karen resides in St. Peters, Missouri with her husband, four children, and loveable pug.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
The ongoing broccoli battle in our house is, I believe, finally won. No, it wasn’t over whether or not certain people will eat it. The kids don’t love it, but they’ll eat it without much of a fuss. The battle is over the best way to cook it.
Hubs prefers stir-frying with soy sauce, but I find that time-consuming and too hands-on to do all the time. For a long time my favorite method was steaming, then rolling in olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. Hubs ate this broccoli dutifully but missed the stir-fry texture.
Enter Mollie Katzen’s vegetable roasting guide from Vegetable Heaven. I’ve used the roasting guide so much that the book naturally opens to that page. It’s great for many a veggie, but at our house, it’s helped us find the broccoli method that results in the perfect texture + flavor+ easy-ness.
Add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, and you have us battling again, over seconds.
So, here’s my adaptation of the original Mollie Katzen recipe. It’s less of a recipe, more of an idea for you:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice your broccoli florets in half. I find this helps things cook a little faster and more evenly.
Brush a cookie tray with olive oil, and arrange the florets on it.
I usually cook about 20 minutes, but check at 15 minutes to see how it’s going. Personally, I like the broccoli still firm but tender, with some brown edges.
Serve with your favorite vinaigrette. Here’s what we use:
In a jar or bottle, combine:
about an inch Balsamic Vinegar
about an inch and a half, maybe more, Olive Oil
a big squirt/ soup spoonful Dijon Mustard (you can use powdered mustard here as a substitute)
small squirt of Honey, to taste
freshly ground Pepper
dusting to half a handful freshly grated Parmesan (*optional)
I always taste the dressing and adjust seasonings to suit.
Enjoy! For more of my cooking posts, click here or on the “Food” category.
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By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Relish by Lucy Knisley
A few years ago, if you were told about the rise of the Internet and asked to predict one of the top things that people would blog and post about, can you honestly say food would have been up there as a contender? And by food, I don’t mean cookery, recipes and dedicated food sites, but Facebook statuses, Tweets, Instagram photos, all that jazz. Out of all the little banalities of life, who would’ve thunk that narrating what we eat would be the common denominator of web sharing, and in such a wholly ubiquitous fashion.
Telling strangers on the net what you’re eating isn’t groundbreaking, constructive or thrilling to others in any way- by and large it reflects a personal enjoyment of consumption that has or is about to take place, made more understandable, I think, if you’re of the view that food is one of life’s true pleasures, and not of my sister’s mindset; she who see food as fuel and a necessity to survive, not caring particularly about taste as long as it’s not detrimental to her health and fulfills her needs (yes, she really is my sister).
Lucy Knisley, it’s safe to say is, is firmly in the former camp. Knisley’s Relish, a book that follows her through various periods and moments in her life framing them in relation to her culinary experiences, has been one of the most anticipated releases of the year for many- not least myself. For Knisley, these ‘taste-memories’ are no tenuous associations: she has been immersed in food culture in some form or manner since she was born- her mother a chef, her father himself a cook and discerning consoeur, her uncle owner of a food-shop selling gourmet comestibles and homemade food- and has generally been raised in an environment filled with ‘cooks and bakers, eaters and critics.’
Growing up, food remained a strong presence in different ways; working in cheese shops, farmer’s markets, growing and sourcing ingredients, getting involved in the business side of things. So Knisley’s relationship with food is much deeper than your average persons, and despite feeling a little different for being a cartoonist, it’s a theme that turns up naturally and with happy regularity in her work. They marry well, do food and comics.
The book is divided into chapters, with each one recounting a specific food-related memory and a recipe for that food then given at chapter’s close. Both the experiences and foods are diverse in range, from a trip to Mexico where her friend Drew learns about the penalties for smuggling porn across the border, backpacking through Europe and discovering the world’s best croissants in Venice and feverishly attempting to recreate them to no avail, to navigating horrible lemonade chicken cooked by good friends.
As someone who salivated over Enid Blyton’s terse descriptions of hard-boiled eggs and cold ginger beer, Knisley’s recollections paired with her drawings are almost a sensory overload (her move to the country with its ripe, colourful fruits and freshly plucked produce left me feeling a little light-headed). That said, what I particularly enjoyed here wasn’t what I expected. And that’s the way in which each memory, each anecdote genuinely tells you a little about the author and her life- it’s not just ‘hey, delicious food art!’, it’s much more thoughtful and reflective than the bright colours and subject matter belie. In between food chopped and dishes cooked, there are insights into her close relationship with her mother, attempts at bonding with her father over dinners, queasy coming of age experiences shared with friends who are still friends, the developing of a cook’s resilience and tenacity.
Having said that (paradoxically) -and this is my sole criticism of the book- there is a strange sense of remove and disconnect of Knisley as a character. The reader is reading about her without any strong emotional investment or relatability on her behalf. Relish arrived in the post the same day I got Christophe Blain’s In The Kitchen with Alain Passard; in that book, a charming and effusive Blain slings an arm around the readers shoulder and guides him around, managing to thoroughly absorb him, as a novice, into the life of a Michelin-starred chef. This may have something to do with the first person narration, planted in the present but talking about the past, making it difficult to get a sense of Knisley as a person today.
I’ve always been a big fan of Knisleys cartooning and it’s as accomplished and attractive as ever here, with line and expression on point. To my mind, she’s the only cartoonist who controls the art so deftly in terms of what it conveys emotionally, perfectly straddling the realms of cartoony while maintaining an aspect of brevity. Make no mistake, Relish is a great achievement, pulling off a truly tricky combination of genres and tones to produce a book that will not only make you want to get into the kitchen and fondling food at the farmer’s market, but one I am confident will be a highlight of the comics year.
Oh, and a top tip for when you’re reading this: surround yourself with tasty snacks because you will be needing them.
By: Emily Smith Pearce,
Blog: Emily Smith Pearce
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I threw this together the other night when I needed something pretty quick and had to use what I had on hand. It was a perfect easy supper.
It’s inspired by Rachael Ray’s Calabacitas Casserole, which is yummy but more involved, with no beans. I once had it at my sister-in-law’s house, and was immediately sold.
My casserole is based on three main ingredients: black beans, salsa, and pre-cooked polenta. Anything else is icing on the cake.
Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole
Measurements are approximated. What you want is enough salsa to give the beans plenty of flavor.
2-3 cups canned or pre-cooked black beans, drained (I used up leftovers I had cooked the day before)
1/2 to 1 jar chunky salsa (I used Herdez salsa, which was great, but would’ve been better semi-drained. I think semi-drained Ro-tel would also be excellent, and maybe even Mexican-style stewed tomatoes)
1 tube prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds (you could also cook your own, then chill and slice)
Optional add-ins: diced scallions, cilantro, chopped veggies, spinach, cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F. I made a smaller version of this (since it was just for me) and cooked it in the toaster oven.
Place the beans in an oiled casserole dish (maybe 8 x 8), and add enough salsa to suit your taste. You want a little less salsa than beans, but enough salsa to add lots of flavor. Lay the polenta rounds on top and brush them with a little olive oil.
Bake for 35 minutes or so at 375 F, then add, if you feel like it, a handful of spinach and chopped scallions, and turn up the heat to 400 F. When the spinach is wilted, the polenta is getting crispy, and the beans are bubbling, it’s done.
The polenta adds structure and has such a great creamy/ crispy texture that I really didn’t miss having cheese. This one will definitely go on my repeat list. I think I’ll add more spinach next time and maybe cilantro. Hmmm…what about sweet potato?
For more of my recipes and recipe trials, click here.
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