Tag Archives For: Food

22 Jun, 2016

The Cosy Teashop in the Castle

/ posted in: Reading The Cosy Teashop in the Castle The Cosy Teashop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts
on February 25, 2016
Genres: Love & Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

“When Ellie Hall lands her dream job running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy.
When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew.”

Ellie has always wanted to bake for a living but her parents have encouraged her to get a steady and reliable job.  Now she has a chance to run a seasonal tea shop in a castle in the northeast part of England.  She is even allowed to live in – a fact that horrifies her mother.  She doesn’t see how Ellie will survive in a remote area that is *gasp* over an hour drive from her parents’ house.  Ah, bless the British and their warped sense of distance.  It always makes me laugh in books when they discussed drives that Americans would do without thought to go to a restaurant as epic adventures requiring careful planning lest disaster fall upon them.

The owner of the castle isn’t a fan of business or of letting people come traipsing around his family home.  He needs the money to keep the place up though.  The castle isn’t a huge tourist attraction so keeping it afloat and learning how to make a small tea shop profitable isn’t easy.

Soon Ellie is scraping by and mostly eating left over pastries for every meal.  She doesn’t want to admit to her parents that things aren’t going well.  She determined to make a go of her little tea shop.

I couldn’t sleep one night and downloaded and read this book all in one sitting.  It was sweet and cute.  It was perfect for a light read. I would recommend this for any chick lit or light romance fans or anyone who ever dreamed of quitting their job and cooking for a living.

I’m jealous of British high tea. You can’t get anything like it around here. I torture myself by following Kelly Michelle on Twitter. She has gluten free high tea a lot. I just look at her pictures and drool. I’m going to Washington DC in July and you can get afternoon tea at a few of the fancy hotels. I’m taking the opportunity while I’m there.

04 Jan, 2016


/ posted in: Reading Starbucked Starbucked by Taylor Clark
on 2007
Pages: 297
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

STARBUCKED will be the first book to explore the incredible rise of the Starbucks Corporation and the caffeine-crazy culture that fueled its success.
In STARBUCKED, Taylor Clark provides an objective, meticulously reported look at the volatile issues like gentrification and fair trade that distress activists and coffee zealots alike. Through a cast of characters that includes coffee-wild hippies, business sharks, slackers, Hollywood trendsetters and more, STARBUCKED explores how America transformed into a nation of coffee gourmets in only a few years, how Starbucks manipulates psyches and social habits to snare loyal customers, and why many of the things we think we know about the coffee commodity chain are false.


How did a country where people were generally satisfied with instant coffee become a nation of people who order things like 185 degree, non-fat, no whip, double caramel venti macchiato with an extra shot of vanilla?

How did a specialty coffee roaster in Seattle transform into one of the most common shops on Earth?

Starbucked is the story of how a few people who really cared about decent coffee started to spread the word, became super successful, and then lost part of what made them successful in the push to be ubiquitous.

One of the things that Starbucks pushed early was the idea of “the third space.” It is a place that isn’t home or work where you go and spend time.  It is encouraging people to go hang out at a coffee shop.  I don’t understand that.  I hate being in a coffee shop.  Sometimes my husband wants to go and hang out and read.  I don’t get it.  Why go hang out in uncomfortable chairs around a lot of other people when you can just stay home and read?  I won’t go to a Starbucks unless there is a drive through (something executives fought hard against – almost as hard as they fought against Frappucinos).

This book was published in 2007 so some of the data may be out of date but it is still interesting to read the story of how Starbucks became successful.

  • Why do they put stores close together?  Quick answer – marketing, convenience, and shortening lines.
  • Does Starbucks coming into a town kill local coffee shops?  Quick answer – usually no.
  • Is the spread of Starbucks around the world the death of regional differences or just giving consumers what they want?

I also learned a lot about the history of coffee.  I know about the difference between arabica and robusta beans now and how that ties in with imperialism.  I understand terms like shade grown, free trade, and bird friendly.

If you are a Starbucks fan or if you aren’t, there is a lot of great information here about how coffee is grown and harvested, roasted and brewed, consumed and loved by millions.

14 Nov, 2015

Foodies Read 2016 Sign Up Page

/ posted in: FoodReading


Welcome to Foodies Read 2016!


Do you love reading books about food?  Do you want to find more recommendations of books to read and to sing the praises of books that you’ve loved?

You’re in the right place.  Starting in January 2016, I’ll be taking over Foodie Reads.

We will still have a challenge levels and for those of us who don’t like to plan that much there will be an a la carte option.

Want to challenge yourself?  Pick a level below.

Short-Order Cook: 1 to 3 books
Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books
Sous-Chef: 9 to 13 books
Chef de Cuisine: 14 to 18
Cordon-Bleu Chef: More than 19

Don’t like to plan?  Choose the a la carte option and let us know when you read a book about food.

What counts as a food book?  Any genre – fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, etc.  If food is a major part of the plot then it counts!

Each month I’ll have a new page for book reviews that you post.  You can find the page for the month linked here and on the blog’s right sidebar.  Each month will feature some posts from the last month.  Posts will be pinned to Pinterest and publicized on Twitter to get the word out.  Along the way there may be giveaways for participants.


January Link Up Page



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24 Oct, 2015

Books about Food

/ posted in: Reading


I read a lot of books about food.  I love them.  Here’s some of the ones I’ve read this year that are set outside of the United States.


Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and ForgivenessLife from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which she launched her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream OrchidVanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid by Tim Ecott


From Papantla in Mexico-“the city that perfumed the world”-to the Indian Ocean islands, Vanilla traces the story of the vanilla plant and its secretive trade. From the golden cups of Aztec emperors to the ice-cream dishes of U.S. presidents, Vanilla has mystified and tantalized man for centuries. The only orchid that produces an agriculturally valuable crop, vanilla can mask unpleasant tastes and smells, but also makes pleasant tastes stronger, smoother, and longer lasting. Because it has over four hundred separate flavor components, choosing premium vanilla beans is as complex as judging the aroma and taste of fine wine. Vanilla finds its way into over half of all dessert products sold worldwide, as well as the finest perfumes, well-known brands of rum and vodka, and even Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Yes, ChefYes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.

Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors RemixedAfro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


African, Caribbean, and southern food are all known and loved as vibrant and flavor-packed cuisines. In Afro-Vegan, renowned chef and food justice activist Bryant Terry reworks and remixes the favorite staples, ingredients, and classic dishes of the African Diaspora to present wholly new, creative culinary combinations that will amaze vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.

This is the only cookbook I’ve ever seen that comes with book recommendations for some of the recipes.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the WorldBanana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


To most people, a banana is a banana: a simple yellow fruit. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. In others parts of the world, bananas are what keep millions of people alive. But for all its ubiquity, the banana is surprisingly mysterious; nobody knows how bananas evolved or exactly where they originated. Rich cultural lore surrounds the fruit: In ancient translations of the Bible, the ‘apple’ consumed by Eve is actually a banana (it makes sense, doesn’t it?). Entire Central American nations have been said to rise and fall over the banana.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese FoodThe Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


If you think McDonald’s is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese). In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food.


Soy Sauce for BeginnersSoy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business.

Where to Start

I loved Banana!  I still drop random banana facts into conversation and now I only buy organic bananas.  Actually, all these books were really good.  Try them all!

This is a good time to announce that I am taking over the Foodies Read Challenge in 2016.  If you like reading about food, this is a great place to get more recommendations and to link up your reviews.  Stay tuned for more information in November.


16 Oct, 2015

Life From Scratch

/ posted in: Reading Life From Scratch Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin
on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Witty, warm, and poignant, food blogger Sasha Martin's memoir about cooking her way to happiness and self-acceptance is a culinary journey like no other.

Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook--and eat--a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which she launched her own cooking adventure, Martin's heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal--and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.



Sasha Martin’s life hasn’t been easy.  She grew up with her brother and mother in poverty in Boston.  Her mother had given custody of three older children to her ex-husband and would not tell her two youngest children who their father was.  Her mother was warm and creative and loved to cook meals with her kids, which instilled a love of cooking in Sasha.

After a few rounds of going into foster care and back out into their mother’s care, Sasha and her brother went to live with a family friend in entirely different circumstances.  Suddenly, she is traveling the world and living in Europe during high school.  That life ended when she went to college and had to find a way to make it on her own.

Years later, after marrying and having a child, she decides to start a blog and cook one meal a week from a different country of the world.  She starts with Afghanistan in week one and goes alphabetically through all 195 countries.

Although this is marketed as a food blogger memoir, most of the book is about her childhood and life before the blog.  The story is harrowing and sad and would be unbelievable if written in a fictional book.  Her mother is a larger than life character who is in turns inspiring and exasperating.

When the book turns to blogging there are interesting discussions about what went on behind the scenes and her decision making processes about what should go on the blog.  Should she admit that she poisoned herself with one meal?  How do you deal with furious commenters who are mad that her Indian meal was simple foods for a child’s birthday party?

There are several recipes in the book.  Some of them are incredibly intense and some are simple.  I’m not sure that I’m going to try any of them because a lot are meat based but there are some that could be adapted.  There is a chocolate rice pudding that sounds good.

This book would be good for people who like memoirs like Julie and Julia.

10 Oct, 2015

Bento Box in the Heartland

/ posted in: Reading Bento Box in the Heartland Bento Box in the Heartland by Linda Furiya
on 2006
Pages: 307
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Cooking, Regional & Ethnic, Japanese
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

While growing up in Versailles, an Indiana farm community, Linda Furiya tried to balance the outside world of Midwestern America with the Japanese traditions of her home life. As the only Asian family in a tiny township, Furiya's life revolved around Japanese food and the extraordinary lengths her parents went to in order to gather the ingredients needed to prepare it. As immigrants, her parents approached the challenges of living in America, and maintaining their Japanese diets, with optimism and gusto. Furiva, meanwhile, was acutely aware of how food set her apart from her peers: She spent her first day of school hiding in the girls' restroom, examining her rice balls and chopsticks, and longing for a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. Bento Box in the Heartland is an insightful and reflective coming-of-age tale. Beautifully written, each chapter is accompanied by a family recipe of mouth-watering Japanese comfort food.


Linda Furiya grew up in rural Indiana, far away from the traditional Japanese culture that her parents tried hard to emulate.  She didn’t understand why her lunches were different than other kids’.  She was embarrassed to hear her parents trying to talk to people in public, especially when other people didn’t make an effort to understand them.  She didn’t want to invite people over to her house because it was so different than other peoples’.

Her parents had amazing life stories that she didn’t appreciate until she was much older.  Her father was a U.S. citizen who went back to Japan as a child.  He was then sent away as an indentured servant.  He ended up as a Russian translator in the Japanese army during World War II.  He came back to the United States and worked in the poultry farming industry because it was the only work he could get.

Her mother was the daughter of rice merchants in Tokyo.  Her mother died and her father remarried and had other children.  This dropped her status in the family to that of a servant.  After the war, she lived on her own and had a job but gave it up to marry a stranger who lived the United States.

Her parents longed to have familiar Japanese food but couldn’t find it in Indiana.  They made monthly trips to stores in Cincinnati or Chicago to find the ingredients they needed or had things shipped from Japan.  Japanese comfort food became a common link between people who were very different but only had each other to rely on.

The author tells the story of growing up as the child of immigrants through the food that they loved.  Each chapter ends with a recipe.  Most of them are heavy on the meat so I won’t be trying them but there is one recipe for Rice Balls that sounds good.  There is also a dessert recipe using agar agar instead of gelatin to make a Jello-like dish that I’d like to try since gelatin is made from animals and agar agar is from algae.

The author doesn’t shy away from talking about how she treated her parents horribly for being Japanese.  It wasn’t until after college that she lived in a city with a large Asian population and understood that being Asian wasn’t automatically a bad thing.  This book is a great look into the immigrant experience through the eyes of a child.

About Linda Furiya

Furiya grew up in rural Indiana, where her Japanese family went to great lengths to acquire traditional Asian ingredients. She became a journalist and food writer; Bento Box In The Heartland, her memoir of growing up in the Midwest, is her first book. She lives in Vermont.

25 Sep, 2015

Vegan Rum Caramel Cashew Butter Cups

/ posted in: Food

I made these cups based on Minimalist Baker’s Caramel Almond Butter Cups.

The hardest part of trying to be vegan for me hasn’t been cheese. It has been caramel. I love chocolate and caramel together. This vegan caramel sauce is amazing.  It is easier to make than date based caramel since I don’t have a super duper blender to make that smooth and it is less expensive.  Dates cost a lot.  The original recipe she posts for the caramel sauce isn’t vegan.  It used heavy cream.  The notes on the almond butter cups though explain making it with the thick part of coconut milk.  Do that.  It is incredible.

The caramel recipe makes a lot so you can find good uses for it.  So far I’ve used it as glue to attach chocolate chips to popcorn!

The cups are fussy to make but not as hard as I thought.  Just use a spoon to put a little melted chocolate in a mini cupcake liner and then spread some on the sides of the liner with the back of the spoon.  I used melted dark chocolate chips.  Then put in a small amount of a nut butter – powdered sugar mixture and pour some caramel sauce over it.  Top with more chocolate to seal it all and freeze.


Clean up ended up being tasty too. I had an improvised double broiler with chocolate all over the sides and some left over filling. I poured the filling in the double broiler and stirred. The filling scooped the chocolate off the sides. I rolled it in balls, refrigerated it to set, and called it truffles.

Not pretty but yummy.

I doubled the amounts used in the original recipe. I think I was a little heavy handed on the chocolate because it didn’t make double the expected amount of cups for me.

11 Sep, 2015

Eating in England

/ posted in: Foodtravel

The main reason that the husband didn’t want to go to England with me is because he declared that there was no food in England. That surprised me because I haven’t heard of their famine, the poor souls. He likes to pick vacation destinations based on the local cuisine. When I travel with him, meals are a huge part of the days.

On the other hand, my mother doesn’t eat. Actually she has breakfast and then around 3 PM she has a meal and declares herself done for the day.

I think that we ate very well in England. We were staying in apartments through airBnB so we had a kitchen in London. We were across the street from a small grocery store so we picked up some fruit and oatmeal for breakfasts.

Lunches and Dinners

Ping Pong

Ping Pong is at St. Katherine’s Dock near the Tower of London and easy walking distance from our apartment.  It is a dim sum restaurant.  I love Chinese food but can’t eat it much because of the husband’s sesame allergies.  We had a lovely meal with vegetable sticky rice and spring rolls being among a whole lot of vegetarian options to choose from.  I celebrated the fact that I was openly eating Chinese food without worrying about brushing my teeth and lips and washing my hands and clothes before talking to the husband.

CAU (Carne Argentina Unica)

This restaurant is also at St. Katherine’s Dock and yes, it is all about the meat.  I would usually ignore it but they actually had some great vegetarian options.

I had one of each of the vegetarian empanadas and they were fabulous. I also had some bruschetta.

Pret a Manger

My mother fell in love with Pret a Manger for lunch.  They have soups, sandwiches, and salads made up in coolers and you go grab what you want.  She would have eaten there every meal.  She was also fascinated with the people watching there.  Most people grab and go but we’d fight for one of the limited tables and she’d be amazed every time with how many people were going in and out.

All About The Pies

When I posted about going to Bath, I got a comment recommending The Raven as a great place to eat.  I looked at the menu online and got very excited.  When we got to bath we tried to go for dinner but it was so crowded that we couldn’t get in.  It is a small place.  We came back for lunch the next day right as they opened.  That was a good choice because it got crowded soon after.

We were here for the pies.

Look at that!  If you aren’t vegetarian you may not notice what I saw right away.  Not only is there a choice of vegetarian pies but ALL THE GRAVIES ARE VEGETARIAN!  Yes, I will cross an ocean for you.  Being a vegetarian means asking for no gravy on everything in restaurants.  I bring my own gravy to Thanksgiving.  Here is a restaurant serving 3 — count ’em THREE — vegetarian gravies as the only options.

I had the Heidi Pie with sage and onion and my mother had the fungi chicken also with sage and onion.  This place also inspired me to make a cabernet gravy I found on pinterest at home.  Vegetarian gravies are awesome.

I emailed this picture to the husband with the caption. “I’m eating amazing food with small sprinkles of death on top!”

Riverside Restaurant at the Carlton Mitre Hotel

This restaurant is across the road from Hampton Court.  There is an outside eating area right on the Thames.  There were people rowing boats and a swan hung out near us.

There were many vegetarian choices but I went with the Veg Pie.  Field Mushrooms, Wilted Spinach and Hazelnuts, PanFried In White Truffle Oil, Topped With A Layer Of Béchamel Sauce Encased In Short Crust Pastry. My mother had fish and chips because she said she would have felt wrong not trying it.

So, eating in England went much better than my husband thought.  I got my scandalized, tee-totaling mother into a few pubs.  A few times we were too tired to care and grabbed prepared food from the grocery store for dinner.

We never did quite get the hang of restaurant etiquette.  We could never figure out how to pay.  We’re American.  We expect to have the check dropped off after the food to pay at our leisure.  Here we never saw a server after the food came so we had to flag people down and beg to pay.  There is probably some British procedure for this that we were flagrantly flouting and adding the image of crass Americans.  Sorry.


Linking up to British Isles Friday and Weekend Cooking.

27 Apr, 2015

Plain Vanilla?

/ posted in: Reading Plain Vanilla? Vanilla by Tim Ecott
on 2005-03
Pages: 278
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

From the islands of Tahiti to the botanical gardens of London and Paris, "Vanilla traces the story of the vanilla plant and its secretive trade, from the golden cups of Aztee emperors to the ice-cream dishes of U.S. presidents. Vanilla has mystified and tantalized man for centuries. The only orchid that porduces and agriculturally valuable crop. vanilla can mask unpleasant tastes and smells, but also makes pleasant tastes stronger, smoother, and longer lasting. Because of its over four hundred separate flavor components. choosing premium-quality vanilla beans is as complex as judging the aroma and taste of fine wine. Vanilla finds its way into over half of all dessert products sold worldwide, from ice cream to chocolate mousse, as well as the finest perfumes., well-known brands of rum and vodka, and even Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Americans consume more vanilla than anyone else on Earth--a fact that has helped drive the price of vanilla beans and flavor extracts to an all-time high, and forced growers and traders to mount armed guard over their plants in the tropical jungle. The traders who travel the world in search of America's favorite flavor are a small and secretive elite. From Papantla in Mexico--"the city that perfumed the world"--to the South Seas, Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean islands, "Vanilla is a globe-trotting adventure that follows buccancers, aristocrats, and gourmets. all in search of the ice cream orchid.


Vanilla is my favorite scent.  I choose it for candles and air fresheners and perfumes and body washes.  I love vanilla flavored food and drinks.  My mother used to laugh at me because I’d go to ice cream parlors and pick vanilla out of the all the flavors.

Did you know:

  • Vanilla was first used in Mexico to flavor chocolate drinks?
  • The vanilla orchid can only be fertilized by a specific bee species in central America which made growing it anywhere else impossible until a young slave boy in Reunion figured out how to fertilize it by hand?
  • Vanilla is hard to grow but the real art comes in slowly drying the pods after they are picked?
  • So much money can be made selling vanilla that warehouses where pods are kept have to be constantly guarded so people don’t steal it?
  • Buying vanilla is mostly a cash business so it is not unusual for buyers to be robbed or murdered sort of like drug dealers?

My vanilla is from Madagascar, where most of the commercial crops comes from now.  In honor of this book I made some vanilla chia seed pudding to enjoy and added some extra vanilla to really appreciate the flavor that is so difficult to make.

About Tim Ecott

“Tim Ecott grew up in Ireland, the Far East and Africa. He studied Social Anthropology and then worked in the film industry before joining the BBC World Service. As a programme maker and correspondent in Africa he specialised in reporting from the Indian Ocean islands for more than a decade.

Based in London, Tim Ecott continues to contribute to BBC programmes, and his journalism has appeared widely in British and international publications.” from his agents’ website

21 Sep, 2012

What I didn’t eat

/ posted in: Food

So I lost all my nutrition points as expected because dinner was pizza and salad.  I considered eating just salad until they dumped a bunch of cheese on it making it illegal too.

But, you should see what I didn’t eat!

I got here and my secretary for the weekend who didn’t know about my food situation said, “Are you feeling sugar deprived?”  She then handed me a huge bag of candy.  I didn’t have any all day.

Then someone who owns a doughnut store came over.  They had a dozen doughnuts decorated as elaborately as some of the cupcakes you see on pinterest.  I didn’t have any.  I love doughnuts.

There was dessert with dinner.  Had none of it.

There was birthday cake after dinner.  Didn’t have that either.

I wasn’t even tempted by any of it.  I don’t know whether to be proud or afraid that they’ve broken my will to live.

23 Jul, 2012

Taste Testing

/ posted in: PetsWork

I’ve been taking an online Chinese food therapy course.  I’m most of the way through the lectures so I decided to start making some of the foods and testing them out on my pets.

First up – asparagus:

I kept hearing over and over in lectures that cats love asparagus.  That seems odd.  But last night I steamed a big bunch of asparagus for dinner.  I took the left overs and started chopping up the flowery end finely to offer the cats when I noticed Freckles.  She was at my feet in full on begging mode.  She usually reserves that for getting steak or cheese from her daddy.  I handed her a piece of stalk.  She slurped it up and kept begging.  Usually with veggies she takes it enthusiastically and then is disappointed that it isn’t something better.  She never lost her love for the asparagus.

I put the finely chopped flowery part in the cat bowl.  Powder gobbled it all down.  She had been eating her dry food but stopped and preferentially ate the asparagus. This is a cat who once ate an entire salad so I wanted to test Riley too.  I didn’t have a chance until this morning.  I had two ziploc bags.  One had chopped up stems for Freckles and one had chopped up flowers for the cats.  I put some in the cat bowl but Riley wasn’t allowed to have any.  Powder got them all.  So I went and hand fed Riley and he loved them too.

Meanwhile, I went to feed Freckles and left the stem bag open.  I came back to Powder with her whole head in the bag, gobbling up huge mouthfuls of asparagus stems.

Result – asparagus gets three enthusiastic paws up but the only vegetarian (Jules the parrot) hated it so she gave it one beak down.

Recipe two – marrow soup

Here’s where we get into hard things for vegetarians.  It called for chicken bones.  I don’t have that.  So I collected a steak bone and a pork shoulder bone from the husband’s meals this week.  Then I put them in a big pot, covered them with water, added 1/4 cup of vinegar and a handful of baby carrots.  The vinegar and carrots are to make the broth acidic enough to leech the minerals from the bones and dissolve them enough to release the marrow.  I cooked it on low for 5 hours.  The pork bone dissolved enough to let me crack the bone.  The steak bone didn’t do much.  Using the chicken bones makes more sense now because they would probably totally dissolve.

I strained out the broth and threw out the bones and carrots.


Cats- 2 huge paws down.  Maybe there was too much vinegar taste

Freckles – The. Best. Thing. Ever!!  I gave her a bit of soup and I’ve never seen her so happy.  She kept going back to the bowl to check if more had magically appeared.  I had a hard time getting her to come to bed since she wanted to stay by her bowl just in case.  For now she’ll be getting a bit daily until this batch is gone.  I guess the husband is going to have to start eating chicken wings every so often so I can get bones. 

Marrow soup is full of minerals and in Chinese terms it is a jing tonic.  That means that it is good for very young and very old animals because it has a lot of easily digestible nutrients from the marrow. 

More tasting testing to come…

09 Oct, 2011

What I Learned Vegan Mofo Week 1

/ posted in: Food

I’ve been working diligently to keep up with the blog feed I subscribed to for Vegan Month of Food. I’ve learned a few things.

From Veggie Converter I learned about putting veggie scraps (the ones I’m too lazy to carry to the compost pile) into a freezer bag until I have enough for homemade veggie broth. That’s a good idea.

I’ve also been inspired to cook more. This almost lead to homicide today. Z is of the opinion that I can’t cook. That would be mainly because my food is made of, well, food, instead of whatever she is used too. For example she won’t eat macaroni and cheese I make because I don’t use the right type of noodles. She can not describe or identify the right type of noodles but no matter what I make it is wrong. That’s fine with me since that means there is more for me. But today she crossed a line.

I made brownies. She was hovering around the oven and generally being annoying while waiting for the brownies to be done. Then, she refused to eat them. When asked why she told me that I messed up the frosting because it wasn’t “hard and crunchy.”

My head about exploded. I’m sorry she lives in a culinary wasteland where she gets stale frosting on her brownies but don’t tell me that my homemade cream cheese icing is another example of my lack of cooking skills. I had to go for a walk with the dog after that. Z couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t invited to go along.

What bothers me isn’t so much that she is totally ignorant. She’s eight. I understand that she is totally ignorant. It is her smugness in the rightness of her ignorance that makes me crazy. It is something I would expect from a 15 year old, not an 8 year old. Open your mind, kid. You might be shocked at what else is out there in the world.

She has been sent home to her mother so we can eat a decent meal in peace. I’m making pasta e fagioli.

4 cups homemade vegetable broth
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can mixed beans
2 stalks chopped celery
2 chopped carrots
1 clove garlic
Parsley from the garden

This is in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.

I have some leftover jumbo shells that I broke up to use in the soup. I cooked the pieces separately. This was a nice way to get rid of the leftover pasta in my pantry.

Then I got a call from the SO. He asked what was for dinner. I told him and he replied, “That’s soup.” I said he was very smart. He asked if maybe there was some special bread being made to go with that. I said no and that he could feel free to pick up whatever he would rather eat while he was out and bring it home. I believe there was a Tone to my reply. This is where the wisdom born of maturity comes in. He backpedalled like crazy and offered to pick up some nice bread to go with the wonderful soup I am making. Smart boy. Hopefully his child will eventually also learn some tact. LOL.

05 Oct, 2011

A nice relaxing day off – yeah, right

/ posted in: FoodPets

It’s Vegan Mofo time again! All through October vegan blogs across the universe are posting daily recipes, food thoughts, menus, etc. There is a group of RSS feeds that you can sign up for since there are WAY too blogs involved to be able to get to every one. I signed up for the Healthy, Whole Foods group while staying away from the Desserts group. There were over 1000 posts in my RSS feed as soon as I signed up. I cleared those and started from today.

I also have been reading Dr. Khalsa’s Natural Dog: A Holistic Guide for Healthier Dogs which is about nutrition. She advocates mixing fresh foods into a dog’s diet if they are eating dog food. Ideally, she advocates cooking the whole diet.

With the combination of these two cooking inspirations I hit the kitchen. First I cleaned out my pantry cupboard. I threw out the food that expired in the last decade. I found enough canned tuna, salmon, and herring (still in date) to serve as a base for the dog and cats’ food for a while. I also had a lot of almost empty bags of pasta. So I decided that Jules needs to eat better too. She refuses to eat her high quality, high dollar, organic pellets and wants seeds. I cooked up some pasta for her. She’s had a few noodles and some cooked frozen veggies today. How did that go over? Let me demonstrate what she does.

1. Run enthusiastically to the bowl when I put it in.
2. Grab a zucchini piece and jump over to a perch. Take a bite while I smile at what a good bird she is.
3. Spit in onto the floor of her cage after the first bite.
4. Repeat with other veggies.

Oh well, at least she’s getting a few bites of each one.

Freckles had a piece of pear and then tuna mixed with canned pumpkin as a topping for her food. She was thrilled with everything but the pear.

The cats got tuna and some herring. The tuna was a hit. The herring – not so much. (Why do I even have herring? When I think herring I think of The Holy Grail and the need to cut down a tree with a herring.)


If you don’t want that Riley I’ll clean it up for you.



Is becoming vegetable stock in the slow cooker. It is old vegetables and some marked down short dated mushrooms from the store. My house smells amazing!

Then I made some Pickled Riley. You’d think that since my animals live with a vet that they’d have quality health care. Here’s the truth of how it works.

1. I notice that Riley has crusty nasty spots on his head. I say, “Damnit, Riley, knock it off.” Wait a week. It gets worse.
2. Repeat the “Damnit, Riley” and reapply his fleas meds. Give him a steroid injection. He quits itching. The spots stay. Wait a week.
3. Repeat the “Damnit, Riley” and give him some antibiotics since they are a bit oozy. They don’t ooze anymore but they are starting to spread. Wait a week.
4. Start using stronger cuss words. Think this might be ringworm. Try to apply topical meds. Get in fight with cat who then licks it off. Consider bathing cat in antifungal shampoo. Swear more.
5. Sit at the computer with a glass of apple cider vinegar and water. Dip a flea comb in the mix. Look very busy with important computer things which draws a Riley cat like a magnet. Comb him with vinegar mix. Be surprised at how long it takes him to notice that he is getting wet and he smells funny.
6. Consider finding getting him some antifungal drugs. Think about how bad he is to pill. Swear more.

Then I went to visit the Prizeypony. She had a job interview on Saturday. The equestrian team from a local college has moved into her barn. They rode her Saturday to see if they want to play with her some. I hear that she behaved herself but they didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about working her. I just want somebody to ride her. I keep forgetting to take pictures of her so she can be on the blog. I took the camera today so she could be represented. I still forgot to take pictures.

Now I’m making pumpkin bread and muffins. The bread has chocolate chips in it. The muffins are plain so the bird can have some as a treat. Notice that in all this cooking this is the first thing that I can eat. Guess what the highlight of my culinary day was?


BooBerry cereal is back in the grocery store for Halloween. I love that stuff. I never was a Count Chocula fan and Frankenberry is ok but I love me some BooBerry! One again the pets all eat better than me. LOL

08 Aug, 2011

Iron Chef Heather

/ posted in: Food

The SO mentioned Saturday that we were invited to a picnic on Sunday.

On Sunday as he was running around between acting in a play and tearing down the set. He stopped home to change his clothes. As he was literally walking out the door he turned around and said, “What are we taking to the picnic?” 

I stared at him. This had not been mentioned before. It hadn’t come up when we discussed the grocery list that morning. It hadn’t been mentioned when I left to go to the grocery store. We’ve been on a mostly liquid diet for a month. He knows we don’t have picnic food in the house. At that point he bolted.

Fine, I can make a pasta salad. I just needed to run to the store. I had about an hour. I grabbed my purse and ran out the door. Then I came to a screeching halt when I saw that he had rearranged the cars to get the truck out and had parked me in!

Ok, it was time for Iron Chef Heather. I looked around the kitchen. I had a basket of not quite ripe peaches. Peach cobbler came to mind. I found a recipe online

Preheat oven to 375. Put 1/2 cup butter in a 13×9 pan in the oven until it is melted.
Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 T baking powder, and 1 cup milk.
Pour this over melted butter. Do not stir.
Score the skin of the peaches. Blanch peaches in boiling water for one minute and then submerge in ice bath. Peel off the skins. Slice up 4 cups of peaches.
Mix the peaches, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 T lemon juice in a sauce pan until they boil, stirring constantly.
Pour over batter.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Magically the batter rises to the surface and makes a very good cobbler.

At this point the SO strolled back in. I explained the error of his ways. He said that he gave me plenty of time to make something. He is not dead because I’m a nice person.

By the way, the cobbler was devoured but it wasn’t a potluck afterall so all this brain stress he put me through was not even necessary.  

03 Nov, 2010

Kids’ Food Toy Ban

/ posted in: Current EventsFood

I was minding my own business reading my Facebook page when I came across this story from NPR. San Francisco city council has voted to ban toys in kids’ meals that are unhealthy. They define that as over 600 calories, over 600 mg of sodium, and over 35 grams of fat.

I hate those cheap little toys that Z shows up with.  I end up stepping on them and breaking either it or my skin. Then I feel guilty about throwing them in the trash. Ban the suckers I say.

But I wasn’t emotionally involved until the last paragraph when a person said that this was unrealistic but kids won’t eat any meals that fit the healthy standards.


Z was a fast food addict a few years ago. Through much pain and suffering on all our parts she now knows not to even ask for McDonalds when she is at our house.

How to break your kids’ fast food addiction:

1.  Don’t buy it for them.

Sure, that’s easier said than done. There were days when she flat out refused to eat because we wouldn’t get her fast food. Guess what? She didn’t starve to death. She threw a lot of screaming fits but my ears have recovered. Her father may have diverted a lot of fits by telling her that sometimes all the McDonalds in our town were closed for health code violations.

“They look open Daddy.’
“Those are the workers trying to clean up the mess.”

He also invented my deadly McDonalds food allergy that will kill me if we even set foot in the restaurant. Someday he’ll probably get in trouble when she figures out what a liar he is.

She did ask us once why we insisted on being so mean to her. It isn’t our job as adults to make her happy. Our job is to make her healthy.

But, she eats better now. She is nowhere near perfect. She still refuses most food without benefit of trying it. She will eat baked chicken now which she used to refuse because it didn’t look like nuggets.  Vegetarian me wishes she would try more veggies. But it is in no way impossible to get kids to eat healthier food.


02 Nov, 2010

Food Favors

/ posted in: Food

I crawled into bed last night after the SO had already gone to sleep. He woke up and rolled over and cuddled up to me. Then he said ever so sweetly, “Can I ask you for a favor?”

Yeah, so my brain goes right to, “How is this even possible? You were just asleep seconds ago! How can you even think about sex 0.002 seconds after you wake up?”

He says, “Can you make stew?”

Ok, mind out of gutter.

Him: “With carrots and potatoes and onions”
Me: “Ok”
Him: “And beer”
Me: “Beer?”
Him: “Yeah, beer.” Big pause followed by a small voice “And beef”
Me: “What should I eat after I make this stew with beef?”
Him: “That’s why it is a favor.”

So I had to go to the store this morning and buy beef and beer. They are both things that I know nothing about. I’m totally embarrassed to go into the meat department of the grocery store. I feel like I’m losing all my vegetarian street cred. Not that anyone there knows I’m a vegetarian but I feel like I should be wearing a sign that says, “Vegetarian just buying this for boyfriend since he asked nice.”

November is Vegan MoFo month which is a celebration of vegan food blogs. I’m making Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Cornbread tonight. Cornbread recipes make me nervous because I think traditional cornbread is too dry and tasteless. I have the best cornbread recipe ever so I’m not likely to try others but who can resist Maple-Glazed Pumpkin anything?

I’m having mashed sweet potatoes, a veggie burger, and some cornbread. Hopefully that will up my vegetarian self esteem.

25 Apr, 2010

More food torture

/ posted in: FamilyFood

Another weekend, another chance to torture small children with vegetables. This weekend’s secret weapon for making eating better fun was fondue.

The first course was cheese. Z hates cheese. We had bread, apples, and cauliflower to dip. She ate some of the apples but no cheese. That’s ok. She’s been crazily ambivalent about apples. One week she says she wants to eat apples and the next she says that she won’t ever eat anything apple flavored. So eating apples was an improvement. There was some screaming about the proximity of cheese to her. She needs to learn to deal.

After that we had veggie broth to cook snow peas, peppers, green beans, carrots, cheese tortellini, and shrimp (for the SO). There was more half hearted screaming about how scary it was to put the veggies in the broth since she didn’t know what it was. We started talking about saving the chocolate fondue until after she went to bed and then she got motivated to try things. The big deal was that we got her to try to tortellini with some tomato sauce. She has always refused pasta. I’m sure her Italian grandmother is spinning in her grave every time she declares pasta to be icky. But she liked the tortellini. Since she tried new stuff she got to have some dessert.

Today for lunch we had veggie stir fry over rice. She likes rice so she had a bowl of plain brown rice with some raw veggies around the edge of the bowl. She was disturbed about “dunking” the veggies in the rice. She ate the rice and then her father was brilliant. She is in a Tinkerbell phase. He told her that she needed to eat carrots to improve her eyesight so she could spot hawks that might eat fairies. That made her eat all her carrots. Then he told her that green beans help your vocal cords so she can yell out warnings after she spots the hawks. Lying liar but it was effective. Finishing her rice was going to help her be strong enough to fight off hawks. It is teamwork – I make the food and he cons her into eating it!

11 Apr, 2010


/ posted in: FamilyFoodJewelryPhotos

Since I’ve been home I’ve been catching up on shows I missed. One of them was Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. After watching Z eat french fries all week I was ready to fight to get her to eat some decent food. I just had to convince her father not to give in. He’s great at standing up to her but he’ll give her something bad to eat if she is hungry a few hours later if she skips the healthy dinner which ruins that whole thing.

We had the throwdown last night. She had asked if we could roast marshmallows. I told her that we could if she ate a good dinner. She agreed but I knew she didn’t mean it.

I made Caribbean Corn Bread which any kid should love since it is moist and sweet. She walked through the kitchen while I was cooking and asked what I was making. I said bread. She said that she wouldn’t eat that. I watched this kid chow down on restaurant bread all week. She just wouldn’t eat it because it was homemade. That’s equal to dirty and icky in her mind. She started going through the refrigerator to see what she could eat for dinner. I told her she was eating what was put on the table. She obviously didn’t believe me.

I also made orzo stuffed peppers for the SO and me and a salad. I put cut up cucumbers, baby carrots, grapes, and green beans on a plate so everyone could decorate their own salad. I’ve seen her eat lettuce and she likes green beans. So she had options that she is known to like.

When her father told her that yes she was eating with us she went ballistic. Blood curdling screams started. You’d have thought we were sawing off her arm to have for dinner. She called me every name that a six year old knows. I was also a “bad cooker” and a “mean cooker.” Through the whole tantrum the SO and I calmly ate our dinner and discussed our day. It was funny. She was across the table screaming and crying and trailing mucus in a most unappetizing way while we did a parody of high tea. “How was your day darling?” “Oh just smashing, and you?” For some reason she doesn’t find us nearly as amusing as we find ourselves.

Every few minutes she’d scream, “Fine! I’ll eat the stupid food!” Then she would proceed not to eat it. She’d throw green beans across the table. Her father told her to stop that the first time. After that she’d pantomime doing throwing food and then look at her father out of the corner of her eye to see if she was getting a rise out of him. She wasn’t. “So my dear, after dinner do you think we should commence to beating the child?” “Lovely idea. Is your pepper alright?”

At first she claimed the green beans were too hot. Then she finally ate a few because she was getting nowhere with her tantrum. By this time she declared that they were too cold. Can’t imagine why. She ate all the green beans in a huff. Then he suggested she try a carrot. She ate them all. He asked if she liked grapes. She said that she tried them a long time ago and didn’t like them. He told her to bite one in half and taste the juice. She made all kinds of faces but did it. Then he told her to eat the other half because it would hurt the grape’s feelings if she didn’t. For some reason that worked. Then she sheepishly ate all the grapes. You could tell that she didn’t want to admit that she liked them but she wanted them. We didn’t comment. Afterwards he told her that he was proud of her and sent her on her way. He asked me if that really just happened that she ate a whole plate of vegetables. I said yes. Amazing what happens when you can convince people not to give in to temper tantrums.

Then we had to hold up our end of the bargain and roast marshmallows and do s’mores. I of course had to eat some to show solidarity. I would have been wrong not to.

(Now on to way too much information – Z’s mother has been giving her laxatives since she has zero fiber in her diet and is always constipated. As I was typing this post this morning Z came running to me in a panic saying that she has diarrhea. I think her body is rebelling from the totally unknown onslaught of fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. I told her that she’d live.)

After she went to bed the SO wanted to watch the episodes of Food Revolution that I’d been telling him about. We got about 1/4 of the way through when he paused it and gave me this.


It is really hard to get a good picture of it. He asked me if I was surprised. I knew he was picking it up soon but I answered that if absolutely never expected to get it in the middle of watching Jamie Oliver on the computer. But since he’s been proposing to me on a fairly regular basis for the last two years I guess it is ok. We aren’t actually planning on getting married but getting sparkly things is always good! Then we went back to watching the show. We’re such romantics.

23 Jan, 2010

Food journal

/ posted in: General

I have a coworker who is doing a YMCA fitness challenge and needs to keep a food journal. After reviewing her journal for the first week her trainer told her that she needs to eat more veggies. She wasn’t sure how to go about doing this since she doesn’t like them so she showed me her food journal to get my opinion.

That week she had a cup of potato soup.

That was her only vegetable consumption for the entire week. This was a normal week for her. I think that as a vegetarian I tend to not get enough fresh vegetables in my diet but I never really considered that it was possible for an omnivorous adult human to avoid them entirely. I invited her to go to lunch with me since I go to a restaurant with a huge salad bar but when I listed off the veggies on the salad bar she declared that she didn’t like any of them. I think I got her talked into trying baked sweet potatoes at home. She likes broccoli and cauliflower chopped up small so I told her my cold veggie pizza recipe. It isn’t healthy but it may force feed her vegetables.

My mother always wondered how I could be a vegetarian when I didn’t eat vegetables as a kid. I think I’m better now. To find out and to give my coworker an example of what you can eat with vegetables in it, I’ll keep a food journal this week too. I’ll start with yesterday which was a bad food day just so I won’t just list things that are good to eat since I’m reporting it now. Hopefully, knowing that I have to report will shame me into making better choices too!

Breakfast – one chocolate luna bar on the way to a Dr’s appointment
Lunch – California Pizza Kitchen cup of southwestern tortilla soup and the hummus appetizer with mango lemonade
Dinner – Chipotle veggie burrito with rice, beans, corn salsa, tomato salsa, and cheese. Root beer
Snack – mini bag of salt and lime popcorn

Verdict – too much restaurant food and sugary drinks! But that was a weird day since I was away from home before work and starving afterwards.

Breakfast – fat free Greek yogurt with honey and fresh mango pieces. I don’t like the taste of plain Greek yogurt but the dog and cat love it so it ought to count as a workout to try to eat this and shoo them away at the same time.
Snack – 2 pieces of celery with peanut butter. This isn’t something I’d normally eat but the celery is soon to go bad in my fridge and I’m trying to eat more protein. I’m not a natural fan of protein packed food like yogurt or peanut butter so I’m easing into it by just doing little bits at a time. This tasted pretty good though.
Lunch – mashed sweet potato with 1/4 cup of black beans and 1/4 cup salsa. I couldn’t eat all this at one sitting so I’m saving it for later.
Snacks – more celery and peanut butter. Then I had a small double chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard. I thought long and hard about this because I knew I’d have to write it down but I did it anyway.
Dinner – potato soup. 2 cans of sliced potatoes, 1/2 carton of vegetable broth, and 1 cup of salsa in the crockpot all day. Blend with immersion blender. I topped it with a bit of cheddar cheese and some soy milk.
Snack – apple and cheese

Verdict – Not bad except for the blizzard. Pretty potato heavy but I was thinking of potatoes while writing this post.

04 Sep, 2009


/ posted in: General

I think part of the reason I’m not losing weight is that I’m being lazy with my cooking. I’m eating way too many carbs because they are fast and easy.

I’ve written before about my love affair with soup. Soup is going to be my answer. It can be made up in advance and is veggie heavy instead of starchy. I picked up a new book today, 365 Vegetarian Soups by Gregg R. Gillespie. I can’t wait to cook my way through this book. Just reading it is making me gasp in delight. Mexican carrot soup, tomato vegetable soup, cuban black bean soup, and countless variations on the cheese soup theme for example.

Not everything sounds yummy which may be due to my broccoli aversion in part but I also am not game to try the Cream of Lima Bean. The author is not a vegetarian-only writer so there are a few problems. Tuna flakes are recommended in one stock. Fish are not vegetables. A few non-veggie prepared sauces are used but can be worked around. It isn’t the most vegan friendly book either. There is a bit of discussion about combining foods for “complete protein” which isn’t the accepted nutritional wisdom anymore. But other than that the recipes look great!

This isn’t a book where soup = diet food necessarily. Lots of recipes with cheese and cream in here. But there are enough pure veggie soups to keep me busy for quite a while. The only problem is going to be deciding what to make first.