Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm Too Healthy to Be Sick

Oh, germs. They can really get you. Usually when my husband Rick gets sick, I manage to stay healthy from my incredible vegetable consumption. Somehow with the holidays and the frenetic energy at this time of year, the little buggers got me. I lost the entire day after Christmas to sleep. The cough I've had since then isn't so pleasant either but I can live with it. What's really bothering me is my stomach. It's upset and it aches. Therefore I just cannot eat the way that I truly want to.

It's almost unheard of but I haven't eaten salad 4 days. I'm still eating my veggies but only in small, cooked portions. I've added ginger, garlic and miso to my spinach in the hopes that the combo will speed my healing.

I don't usually get sick so the best part is when I feel better and can appreciate how well I usually feel.

I am contemplating making a big pot of black eyed peas and serving them with greens and cornbread for traditional Southern good luck on New Year's Day. I find it a great way to start the year. And my guys can skip the greens and that means there's more for me.

If you want your peas to have a smoky flavor you can buy some veggie bacon oir ham and cut it up after the peas are cooked, or add some Smoked Spanish paprika (look for this on my website in 2006) when cooking the beans. Either way they will be delicious.

Here's to your good luck in 2006. May your life be filled with health, happiness, prosperity and peace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Rain, Cold and Delicious Kale

Last Saturday was the first time that I'd done any kind of cooking at a market in the rain. It was really storming; so much so that many vendors packed up and went home. The 5 quarts of soup I'd made and brought didn't even last 2 hours although the samples were only a few tablespoons. It did add some warmth but I still left cold and wet.

When I got home I couldn't wait to make more soup so I cooked up some Potato Leek soup that was thick and creamy. I used All Red potatoes which are pink inside but still the soup was green. I hoped to see a light pink soup.

I also cooked more kale but this time I used my pressure cooker. I am somewhat of a pressure cooker fanatic. I put the kale leaves in the cooker with a couple of chopped cloves of garlic, half a hot pepper and some salt. I brought it to high pressure for 2 minutes and then quick-released it. It was perhaps the most delicious and tender kale that I have ever had. I am going to repeat this with a bunch of Red Russian kale that I purchased that rainy Saturday and check the results.

I also learned that cold and wet farmers may be more likely to give you deals on their produce rather than have to pack it up in the cold and rain. I got an extra bunch of leeks, a bag of Satsuma mandarins and 33% off a bunch of green onions. I suspect that there may have been other deals but I was too wet to care.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Another Day, Another Adventure

The moon is almost full and it has an effect but not sure exactly what. Last night I actually sat with my family and watched TV - PBS, and saw a show on Antartica with Jon Krakauer in it. He mentioned that an adventure (when climbing high mountains in treacherous conditions) is due to lack of planning. For me, adventure adds to life and is usually not life-threatening. It allows me to be flexible and see what there is to see.

Today I had an extremely tasty lunch of Rising Moon artichoke and organic olive ravioli with just a drizzle of McEvoy olive oil, some salad mix on the side and an orange for dessert. I am working on a week long menu for a client and it has me focusing more on meals and snacks. I tend to graze. I suspect that like most people I eat "what is there" which I heard for years from private nutrition counseling clients. I know what I've got around and if it's not what one might consider "healthy" it was a choice. But, hey, it's the holidays and this time of year only comes around once.

As I've previously mentioned, I don't deviate much in what I eat. I always feel best when I eat lots of veggies. This morning at the farmer's market I bought a bag of kale. I can't wait to cook it all up with garlic and drizzle balsamic vinegar over it. Yummy. The farmer reminded me that the kale will taste really good now because we've had a frost. He's right.

On Saturday I will be standing out in the cold at the farmer's market in Santa Rosa and handing out my Curried Pear and Squash Soup for all to taste (see my website for the recipe). I want to add some warmth to day for market shoppers. While I usually use only Delicata squash I am going to mix my squash and put lots of it in, along with some ginger and maybe even a bit of hot pepper to really take the chill off the day.

P.S. And what a cold and stormy day it was. But more about that at another time.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Opening Your Eyes

There are lots of people in the world who want to meet you. I am sure of it even if you are not. I am not an extrovert (although writing a book and trying to sell it has forced me out in the world a bit beyond my comfort level) but I find that connecting with people is important. So, in my daily dealings in my somewhat insulated little world, I often manage to say hello or how are you?

The other day I met Kathi of Full Circle Farm Soaps (see links) at a Gift Faire that has gone from carrying locally made goods to having all kinds of "stuff". We spoke for a bit. I had met Kathi many times before as she attends an annual local craft fair that I usually attend with my family. She said, "I didn't see you at Finley this year." I explained that I had been there but was rushing through.

Now, I don't know if you know much about soap but I took a soap making class with a friend of mine. We were thinking about making soap together as a holiday gift one year. After taking the class I suggested that we make jam or something else a bit easier. Making soap is like baking in the science, chemistry and exactness departments. It's too difficult for me to stick to the guidelines. I have been known to not even follow my own recipes in a class (which caused one of my students who is just learning to cook to comment about it). For me, a recipe is a jumping off point.

In fact yesterday I was selling my books as part of an open house at Mom's Head Gardens ( in the very south part of Santa Rosa. I knew that I wanted to bring food but just wasn't sure what. I had made hummus on Friday and had a bit left (having given Cynthia of Biz Diva the rest of the roasted red pepper hummus). I decided to make more so once again I added a half cup of roasted red pepper to make reddish hummus. Then I realized that I would't have enough hummus to fill my container and remembered that I had some frozen spinach so I squeezed the liquid out of it. Then I made spinach hummus. I created a beautiful yet easy layered hummus dip in less than 10 minutes. I lined an unusual looking plastic container (leftover from organic chocolate chip cookies) with plastic wrap. I put in the plain hummus, then the red pepper and then the spinach. When I got to the open house I put a plate on the top of the open container and flipped it over. I had a beautiful dip that I surrounded with my favorite crackers from Dr. Kracker (see links) and voila - the almost instant anti-Martha alter ego emerged. People loved what I did and so did I. It was a brief moment of inspiration so easy to do that I knew that I wanted to share it with you.

What I keep discovering is that the connections that we make with others in life keeps life interesting, entertaining and worthwhile. I do what I do for that reason- so I can spread the vegetable- and healthy-eating message in a delicious way. (But if any of you know Oprah personally, please let me know.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Overstuffed at The Holidays

I don't tend to overeat during the holiday season since veggies are my favorite food. OK, I will admit that I am a sucker for chocolate but only the dark kind and as we know it provides beneficial antioxidants. Heck eating chocolate may even lower my blood pressure although it's already just fine. I'll even eat the 85% dark which truly has minimal sugar and lots of attractive bitter flavor. My favorite bar is made by Dagoba ( and is called Xocolatl (the Mayan name for chocolate). It's 74% dark with chilies, cacao nibs, maca and nutmeg. Maybe it gets my endorphins going or is an aphrodisiac but for me it's all about the bittersweet and hot taste.

I heard about chocolate with smoked sea salt on it from Seattle. Sounds strange to me but since I really like smoked salt (look for it on my website early next year) I might give it a try. This is a good reminder about being open to possibilities, for one never knows.

I like to take time during the holiday season to show appreciation. I find that the best gifts are those that someone would not get for themselves - be it a hug, a smile, a warm hat, a massage, expensive oil, a three dollar chocolate bar and on and on. Or make gifts.

There's nothing easier to make than flavored vinegar. Get a nice bottle, some halfway decent or better red wine, white wine or golden balsamic (the best is Spectrum organic) vinegar. Put clean herb sprigs in the bottle along with peppercorns, garlic cloves, chile peppers or a combination of these and fill the bottle with vinegar. Put in the closet until gift giving time and there you go. Some of my favorite combinations are basil, garlic and peppercorns or rosemary and garlic. Let you imagination go wild. This vinegar can be sprinkled on salads, eliminating the need for oil, or used in your favorite salad dressing recipe.

I also like to make vegan biscotti as a gift since they last a long time and people think that they are hard to make. There is a great article about them (but alas without my wonderful recipe but feel free to email me for it) at Vegetarian Resouce Group (

Remember to take the time to breather deeply, the holidays are coming. And then we can look forward to a New Year.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving - It's All About The Veggies

Maybe it's because I am a vegetarian but Thanksgiving for me has always been about what goes with the turkey - not the poor bird itself. I just read in the newspaper that now that people are eating healthier (which I am not sure is TRUE), they eat turkey year round. So, maybe the big bird on the table isn't as special as it used to be. I think that people like to eat the stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy anyway.

I gave a speech (of sorts) at The Rotary in Sonoma (CA) last week and said that I was the one who brought color to the Thanksgiving table. I am bringing Fruited Wild Rice with dried cranberries, cherries, other dried fruit and spices, Wild Mushroom gravy (with locally harvested mushrooms given to me as a gift), Roasted Root Vegetables, Curried Pear and Squash Soup and Pear and Toasted Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette which are all recipes from my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment which is available from my website at

I'd cook more veggies but this family (my husband's) just wouldn't appreciate them. My own family back east is feasting on all the veggies inlcuding Brussels Sprouts which I wrote about and called "The vegetable we love to say we hate." Yet when I make them in my classes they always disappear. Oh, now to head to the oven and get those roots roasting. I can't wait.

I hope that your Thanksgiving is filled with fine veggies, family and fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Andrew Weil, M.D., and I Featured on Radio

This past Monday I was featured on KPFA radio on the About Health show with Dr. Michael LeNoir. Andrew Weil, M.D. was featured on the same show the previous week. We were NOT on the show together. But Rachel Grant who interviewed Dr. Weil said that she thought that I was much more personable (that made me grin). She really wanted a copy of my book and wanted to trade Dr. LeNoir for Dr. Weil's new book on aging. To my great surprise and delight Dr. LeNoir wouldn't relinquish my book.

I was also quite pleased to have had the opportunity to be on the show. I had thought that the show was archived on the KPFA website and was going to provide a link but it's now all history except to those who actually got to listen.

What I found out on the show is that NOT EVERYONE knows that tomatoes from the store don't taste good in January. Heck, even my editor/friend Laurie didn't know that the same holds true for eggplant. For that, Laurie got a mention in my book on my story called "Eggplant Around the Globe", one of 37 stories and snippets to be found in The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, available from my website at

Before the show I told Rachel Grant that one day I hoped to be as "big" as Andrew Weil, yet she advised me otherwise. What I really want is to have my vegetable-eating message reach as many people. So, now to go shop for veggies for tomorrow's Elderhostel class in Healdsburg, CA.

Call me a Turkey Even though I'm The Veggie Queen

I've been so proud of my new bookmarks that go with my book that I've been handing them out like crazy. Yesterday for some reason I decided to look at the phone number listed on it and realized that the number is WRONG. This was due to my graphic designer (and my inability to proof his work as well as it needs to be -- obviously). However, for my quickie on-line business cards I also managed to put the wrong 800 number (matching the wrong one on the bookmark).

It gets even better. I decided to call the wrong number to see 1) if it was available and 2) if not, who people would be calling. The voice answered, "Electric turkey fryer, how can I help you?" I thought to myself, "This is a cruel cosmic joke. Why me?" and I laughed out loud. I had a nice conversation with the turkey fryer woman and gave her my correct 800 number which is 1-800-919-1834 (VEG). I am still shaking my head - it would have been more fitting even if it was one of those onion flower fryers. Oh, well.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

GE Free Lost but Not Forever

The voters in Sonoma County did not support a 10 year ban on GMOs but hopefully they are now more aware of the issues surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops. The defeat will turn into a victory once the people involved in GE Free Sonoma figure out which direction we need to take. But enough of that.

Last night I taught an appetizers class that was so much fun. There were 5 recipes and no agreement on which was the favorite among Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms, Szechuan Eggplant Roll-ups, Rice Paper Wrapped Rolls with Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce, Won Ton Ravioli and Dolmas. The best part for me was that I got to take home leftovers. What a delicious breakfast I had.

This past Tuesday I did a book signing and cooking demonstration at Santa Rosa Junior College bookstore. I got a very warm welcome and in exchange those attending got some good tastes of Lemon Scented Spinach Spread and Polenta Triangles with Roasted Red Pepper Relish, They are both quick and easy and from my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.

I am already anxious to start work on my next book about spices but I still have to finish up a number of projects - a couple of which are waiting for me on my countertop and frig -- red, Anaheim and jalapeno peppers to roast and freeze and tomatoes to sauce and can or freeze. I hope that I can squeeze in the time to do this as I so enjoy it in the winter when I am inundated with brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower and their relatives), winter squash and potatoes. Nothing like the addition of some tomatoes and peppers to perk up a dish.

In fact, on the last rainy Sunday after a cooking demonstration I came home and made Spicy Winter Vegetable and Tomato Soup with marrow fat beans from Rancho Gordo ( ) and some chipotle pepper from Tierra Vegetables ( who also grow marrow fat beans. It was so good that my husband asked me to make more. I hope that I can repeat it since I am not sure exactly what I did. But that's how some of my best recipes have taken shape. I make them a time or two and then get out my pen and measuring devices. It seems to work.

If you would like help me do recipe testing for my next book, please send me an email to I will need help. Running off to cook my non-GMO produce and other foods.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Winter is Coming So are the 'Shrooms

We have now had a few bouts of rain and that means that winter will be coming. Along with it is mushroom hunting season. I unfortunately have been too busy to go out and hunt but hope to one day soon. Next Saturday November 12th I will be doing 2 cooking demonstrations for the Mendocino Wine and Mushroom Festival using domesticated wild mushrooms from Gourmet Mushroom growers of Mycopia brand mushrooms since I will unable to forage for my own. I am grateful for 'shrooms to cook.

So far this season looks good but I just have not squeezed in the time to hunt - the only kind of hunting that I believe in doing.

I encourage you to find a local mushroom group where you live. Here in Sonoma County it is It's great fun and good excuse to get outside. Happy hunting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gone Coastal

I am happily back from the East Coast without any major impact from Hurricane Wilma. I do truly feel for all those who were affected. It must be a nightmare.

The highlights of my trip were (in no particular order):

  • Time spent at Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, MA teaching staff and students about the benefits of heatlhy eating
  • My absolutely wonderful flight attendant Heather on Jet Blue who gave me a massage in-flight and helped heal my aching back
  • A day sitting and reading the Sunday New York Times
  • A fantastic Indian dinner at Masala Art in Needham, MA
  • Being featured on Radio at WFNX in Lynn, MA and on TV on Comcast Cable 8's Nightbeat Show from Boston that went to 3 million homes
  • And most importantly coming home safe and sound

While I enjoy being away, although I spent most of this trip working, I am most comfortable being at home. I immediately got back to real life and working on the Measure M campaign to have a 10-year moratorium on GE crops in our county (see

I urge you to watch The Future of Food as you will learn a lot about this movement and why we MUST pay attention or our food supply will be in danger, thus endangering us.

It's time to think about the vegetables. Check out my book at

Sunday, October 16, 2005

GE Free Battle Heats Up

The GE Free campaign here has forced people to take sides, as they ought to. I am of the mind that I don't want people to mess with my food. I get to choose if there are GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in what I eat. If GMOs are introduced into our food supply in this county, we are almost assured of losing organic agriculture. It's too much for me to think about. So I am spending some time telling people about Measure M, a 10 year moratorium on GMOs in Sonoma County. If you want to read more please go to

As I prepare to leave town for Boston, Measure M will stay behind. I'll focus on getting out the word about my vegetable-eating message. Now to see how I can pack some of my cooking equipment safely in my suitcase. Carry on is not an option on this trip but I will go armed with some extra fruit just to keep my fiber intake up -- it's crucial when you travel along with lots of water.

It will be an adventure to find what's fresh on the "other" coast. I am ready for fall.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Okra -- For Me??

Yesterday at the Santa Rosa farmer's market a woman who looked familiar said, "You're that healthy vegetable woman, aren't you?" Of course my reply was, "Yes."

We were busy picking out ripe peppers, red and orange ones for me and yellow for her. I asked her name and she told me Mary Ann. She went on to say, "I'm not sure why but this year everything tastes so great. Maybe because it's in season now." I told her that all seasonal vegetables taste great. We both paid and moved on.

I ran into Mary Ann a while later while I was eyeing eggplant and wax beans for an upcoming Spice class recipe for Green Beans with Tomatoes and Cinnamon. (It is alluring and delicious and wax beans will work well with the green beans for contrast. I will actually use 3-4 kinds of beans including Romano, pole and perhaps dragon tongue.) The next thing I heard was Mary Ann saying, "I have some okra for you. I already paid for it. Have fun with it."

It makes me wonder about my farmer's market shopping experiences and how they might differ from yours. Has anyone ever dropped some okra into your shopping bag on purpose? This was a first for me. Although I did recently contribute a dollar toward someone's green onion purchase. Maybe this was part of the "what goes around comes around" energy.

Indian or Creole food springs to mind with okra. I don't fry so it will end up as part of a mixed dish. I've made vegetarian gumbo before, at the request of a student who failed to show up that night for class. The soup was great and gave me a new appreciation for okra.

Today is GE Free Day here at the Sebastopol Farmer's Market. I want to support the effort. While I would go shop anyway, the main event featuring Percy Schmeiser, the farmer in the Future of Food, isn't until noon. There will also be 4 bands who will donate tips to the GE Free campaign ( In my opinion we must stop GMOs in Sonoma County so that we don't end up contaminating our food supply. So, off to shop and support clean, organic, seasonal and most of all delicious food.

I am more fired up now than before I went to see Percy Schmeiser. He's a farmer would could be anyone's grandpa, yet he is passionate about keeping the food supply safe for everyone. He actually spend half a million dollars to fight Monsanto and the Supreme Court still ruled that Monsanto owns the patent on their GE canola and he used their technology (even though he truly didn't want to). Percy says that the government doesn't want labeling of GMO food and wants to take away our choice. I certainly hope that people here vote YES on Measure M - banning the use of GMOs here in Sonoma County for the next 10 years. Anyone who cares about what they eat HAS to care about this. My soapbox is getting wobbly so it's time to step down.

My non-GMO lunch was so delicious today that I ate it all - eggplant, potatoes, peppers, okra, corn and tomatoes with Indian spices, topped with chopped organic cilantro. All I needed was a bowl of quinoa or red or black rice and it would have been complete but forgeoing that, I ate three bowls. That's what I so enjoy about fresh vegetables, you can eat abundant amounts. And, I get a workout carrying them at the market. Life is good.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Eggplant -- The End of the Season

I just wrote a blog about eggplant the other day and then the whole system was down. My blog just vanished into well, I just don't know where.

I went into great detail about the regular globe, white and lavender eggplant that I have been buying and how the season was short this year. I have not had quite enough.

My husband Rick and I went out for dinner to an unnamed (at this point) restaurant here in Santa Rosa. Along with the Caesar Salad that was far too expensive at $6.95 for 6 inner leaves of romaine with a tasty dressing, I ordered eggplant Parmesan. The 3 large eggplant slices were splendidly fresh and delicious. This dish wasn't layered and the rounds were delicately drizzled with a light bechamel sauce, cradled with marinara and served with pesto pasta topped with toasted pine nuts. All together it was yummy with the eggplant rounds retaining their firm but meaty texture -- the pleasant surprise being that it was not at all oily, which is often the case as eggplant just loves to soak up oil.

I like to slice eggplant and bake it and then use it in a variety of ways. Or maybe I make a quick (in the pressure cooker) eggplant and potato curry or Thai eggplant dish with red rice. I also like to grill eggplant but especially the Asian varieties which I did not purchase this year from Triple T Ranch and Farm (a Santa Rosa establishment with 2 nice farmers named Larry). So, while I lament the end of eggplant I am still relishing the thought of colored peppers that will appear for a few more weeks, along with the late season tomatoes.

Winter squash has started to arrive but I like to wait until November to eat it just so I can hang onto summer vegetables just a bit longer. While I enjoy winter squash, the time to eat it is when the weather is a bit coooler here.

I am going back east to Boston to do a cooking demonstration and talk at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival ( on the 22nd of October. There I will l use squash since the cooler autumn air will make it seem more normal. If you are in the area, please stop by.

It's time to survey the vegetable drawer and figure out what to make for dinner.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The SF Vegetarian Festival and Potatoes

I've just returned from an entire long day at the San Francisco World Vegetarian Day celebration but on the San Francisco Vegetarian Society ( They are an incredibly organized and hard working group of volunteers. I can't thank them enough for letting me do a cooking demonstration. I had fun but had hoped that more people would be interested in my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. I think that for the holidays I may have a sale and offer a 3-fer but I've yet to decide on a price. So, if you are considering a great gift item, think of me, The Veggie Queen, and my book. I would highly recommend attending the festival next year as there are lots of free samples, great speakers and quite an array of food and other stuff to buy if you are so inclined.

Now, for the potatoes... I had been thinking that perhaps Oh! Tommy Boy's potatoes was going to be absent from the farmer's market this year since I had not yet seen them. But wrong. And on Saturday they showed up with about 8 varieties of their 30 kinds of potatoes. I am a real potato nut and now I have an assortment of colors, shapes and textures of potatoes to play with. It's really exciting for me. If you've not had fresh-dug potatoes, I urge you to try them. Please, whatever you do, stay away from those 10 pound bags in the supermarket as it could ruin your impression of what potato is supposed to be like.

Time to go make some pink and purple garlic mashed potatoes. And maybe I'll make an eggplant and potato curry with some Black Molly potatoes that are deep, dark purple. So many choices to contemplate. Can my food life get much better than this? We shall see.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The people I know

Last week's local paper, The Press Democrat (owned by The New York Times), contained a section that looks like a magazine - it's called Savor. It is mostly advertising and a few stories. I knew the people written about in 2 of the stories. Scott and Erica Lindstrom-Dake are two of the nicest people that I know. They are the winemaker, co-owners, proprietors of Thumbprint Cellars Tasting Lounge in Healdsburg, CA . My book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment is available there, and they are vegetarians which is even better. Did I mention that their hand-crafted wine is superb? If you're in Healdsburg be sure to stop by their lounge and taste some wine.

The other couple featured in Savor is Sue Ellery and Tom Hunter of Philo, CA (Mendocino County), proprietors of Stella Cadente Olive Oil . Their oil is pricey and even their extra-virgin oil is too good for everyday use except as a flavoring oil. The Meyer lemon oil and blood orange oil are quite tasty and a drizzle or two will perk up your dishes. I have a recipe for Red Rice (from Lotus Foods) Salad with Lemony Roasted Cauliflower in my book which is a great way to use their Meyer lemon oil. I bought 8 ounces of blood orange oil in bulk today and at $1 an ounce, I can guarantee that it will last a while.

I will not likely be making the recipe for Asian orange vinaigrette by John Ash that Sue handed me at the Healdsburg farmer's market this morning. It calls for 1/4 cup of the precious gold liquid which is far too much oil for me to include in a dressing, as I prefer low-fat dressing, and it's too expensive. I prefer to save my money for good chocolate, wine or for putting gas in my car so that I can drive to yet another farmer's market for choice edibles.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's Not JUST Tofu

Do things sometimes happen to you that seem somewhat unexplainable? Well, it happens to me. Take this morning for instance when I looked at my bill for the Small Planet tofu ( I had purcahsed the previous day and noticed that the price had gone up considerably. Now, this is not JUST tofu. This tofu, is in my opinion, the best regional tofu that you can buy. It is available in Northern California, the Northewest and just a bit beyond (so don't look for it in New York). I thought, I will still buy this tofu even if it is the most expensive on the market since I like tofu and eat it regularly. I deserve the best.

Then the phone rings and it's Tofu Phil calling from Small Planet. He tells me that he is starting an e-newsletter (which you can sign up for at his website listed above) and that the email that he had for me at least a couple of years ago doesn't work. He said that he didn't want to lose contact with me. Well, let's make this a two-way street since my son Shane (a vegetarian until he was 5 years old and a confirmed tofu eater) would not want to be without Small Planet Tofu. And neither would my husband Rick who has never been a vegerarian but has come to prefer my Baked Tofu (found in my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment) to any meat in his burritos.

Anyway, back to Phil. We had a long discussion about tofu, specifically his tofu, because so many people think that all tofu is the same. It is not. Phil's tofu has a different texture and taste than most commercial tofu, and I am referring to the plain, not flavored or baked tofu. If you can find it, buy it and you will hopefully see that all tofu is not the same. If you don't live in a Small Planet region seek out the best locally produced tofu to see if it is significantly different or better than other tofu.

I do have mass produced tofu that I can fall back on here such as Wildwood and Soy Deli but the difference is immense. But enough tofu talk for now.

I am still impressed that Tofu Phil called me and hopes that we can work together to provide education about the importance of buying organic and delicious products.

BTW, my e-newsletter sign up is available too on my website at I hope to have you on board.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Getting Confirmation

When you are as enthused about vegetables as I am, it's hard to know if you just think that something is great, or if it really is. Yesterday I was shopping at Trader Joe's and ran into Susan and Tony who have been growing vegetables for years. (I wish that I could remember the name of their farm.) Susan was a bit frazzled but Tony seemed ready to engage. "Are you still growing the trombocino squash?" I asked.
"Yes," replied Tony. "They are one of my two favorites."
"What's the other?" I questioned.
I had hoped that his answer would echo mine. "Costata Romanesca," was his answer. I went on to say that they were my favorites, too. We talked about the flavors and why these varieties, especially the trombocino which needs to be trellised, are not grown commercially. This is even more of a reason why growing your own food is important (but if you aren't a good gardener or just can't or won't grow food then support local growers, please).

A big issue here in Sonoma County is that of genetically engineered foods. A ban on growing GE crops will be on our ballot. I hope that enough people can be educated to support the ban. See for more information. Maybe this is something that you want to think about getting going wherever you live.

To switch subjects rather abruptly here, I just want to mention that I finally have a sign up box on my website for my e-newsletter which will start in October. I also have a name the newsletter contest since I have not yet had the one perfect name pop into my head. I'd love to hear your ideas. Stay tuned for more adventures with me, Jill, The Veggie Queen.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

We Can Count on Change

I have been known to say that one thing that we can count on is change. Whether we see it in the world around us or within us, or even choose to ignore it, change takes place.

This morning I discovered a Japanese cucumber that I had been hiding in the foilage and was way over the hill - yellowed with big seeds. It will change into compost. I rescued a large Middle Eastern cucumber from the same fate but in just another day or two, it would have joined its distant relative. (I say this with sadness at what has occurred along the Gulf Coast with Hurricane Katrina.) But one of the best parts of being human, is that we forget, and forge ahead. Perhaps my cucumber plants do the same although I see that with the changes in the September weather and sun, that the plants are waning. I still hope for a few more cukes. And I am still waiting for my tomatoes to ripen. (Thank goodness that I am not a farmer for many reasons but the waiting would be painful.)

This November we have a ballot measure to vote on here in Sonoma County called Measure M. It is a ban on GMOs, genetically modified organisms, for 10 years here. I do not want my food messed around with, especially with the possible resulting detrimental environmental and unknown health effects. If you have not yet had a chance to watch the DVD The Future of Food, I suggest that you do so. It will help open your eyes about this issue. The science can be scary and perhaps difficult to understand. Maybe that's why people don't realize why we must say NO - loud and clear. (I feel like I have studied enough science to realize the potential impact of GMOs running wild in field and stream (or ocean).)

Enjoy your long weekend, cook and eat well, as you are able. Remember that one ripe tomato (peach, avocado, or your choice) is better than a whole basket that's unripe and without flavor. Spend your dollars wisely, and be ready for change.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ahhh, Eggplant and Peppers

Today was the first day at the Santa Rosa market that I could purchase both eggplant and peppers from Triple T Ranch and Farm at the same time. It automatically makes me think of cooking and the Grilled Ratatouille recipe from my book. I had already bought both vegetables in Sebastopol from Neil at EasySweet Farm for a class that I did. Those became part of Quinoa, Corn, Eggplant and Chile Pilaf for a South Beach Summer class. At the end of class there was only a taste left. It was quite yummy and I wished that I had more. With the big push toward whole grains these days, people are finally starting to eat quinoa which is one of my favorites. (You will hear this over and over. Sorry.)

The weather here in Sonoma County has finally caught on that it is SUMMER. We are having our second heat wave since July, and it's hot but only in the 90s (yet in an effort to make us feel cooler the newspaper predicts weather in the 80s. It does not help cool me). The tomatoes are finally quickly ripening on the vine but my cucmbers are getting parched. It doesn't usually rain here in the summer so watering is crucial. I hand water so that I can inspect my plants daily to be sure that they are healthy and producing - they way that you will be once you eat their fruits (which are vegetables). I am gearing up for a talk on the health benefits of phytochemicals but I'll save that for another day.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Santa Rosa Heirloom Tomato Tasting

I spent the morning demonstrating 3 different tomato salads at my "home" market in Santa Rosa. Radio station KSRO was there and I got my 5 minutes on air with Steve Garner of The Good Food Hour. He knows the right questions to ask and we talked about The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. He was amazed (as you might be) that Romano green beans only take 15 seconds in the pressure cooker to be perfectly cooked. They went into the Green Bean, Bulgur and Tomato Salad.

Salads like this one are incredibly versatile. If I had leftover cooked quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), barley or rice, I would have used that but in the interest of time, and the fact that bulgur only needs hot water to get "cooked" I used it successfully. Unfortunately each dish I made this morning had wheat in it. I got to see how many people are either avoiding wheat or carbs.I also demonstrated Italian Bread Salad (much easeir to pronounce than Panzanella) and Fattoush (Middle Eastern Bread Salad). These salads all let the color and flavor of the various tomatoes shine through. Fresh veggies at their best.

I got to see my own personal demonstration of "torching" goat cheese by Pascal of Pug's Leap Farm in Healdsburg, our latest and perhaps most authentic entry into the goat cheese market. My son Shane ate almost the entire cheese with the crackers that I brought from Dr. Kracker . These no-fat added, seedy spelt crackers are cruchy and tasty and go well with so many toppings -- and taste great solo.

The downfall of being featured at a market is that I don't get to shop, so I go home empty handed. Tomorrow I'll go to the market and shop. Maybe I'll even sell a book or two.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A New Market Experience

I went to check out the Windsor Farmer's Market ( ) where I will be doing a cooking demonstration at their Tomato and Pepper Festival on September 18th. I wanted to meet Glenda Castelli, the market manager and introduce myself.
It is a smallish market that has some good produce - lots of great tomatoes, and friendly farmers. Yet, at this week night market there were as many prepared food booths as farmers. It was the last week and it seems like people attend to have dinner and sit out on the lawn and socialize. I suspect that the Sunday morning market I will attend will be different .
I find the "market' world interesting. Each market is its own story with new characters each time. This time I met Tom Noble of Armstrong Valley Farms from a small town called Guerneville. His heirloom tomatoes were large and something to behold. His melons were ripe and ready. Tom had somehow managed to misplace his tags and couldn't tell which tomatoes or melons were which. They probably all tasted great so it doesn't matter but some people want to know what they are eating. In the back of Tom's pick up there was a box of sauce or juice tomatoes, large heirlooms with small defects or bruises. Most farmer's will have some of these and if you are ready to process large quantities of tomatoes and don't want to pay top price, just ask around. You might be amazed at what you can get. Remember that the farmer's goal is to go home with money and no product. Help the farmers out when you can. It'll be good for both of you. Treat your farmers with respect and they will do the same.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Weekend Shopping and More

My son Shane is away visiting relatives back East so my husband Rick and I got to play "grown-ups", and had a lot of fun. We went to two great free local events. The first was a ribbon cutting for a local dog park where we got our dog Bear some freebie treats and a coupon for a free rabies shot (guess which he'll like better?). Later on we went to a sculpture dedication and outdoor sculpture fair with good, free music by Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums. The weather was great and so was my "date". Rick and I stopped in at an open house of the Source Design Gallery in downtown Santa Rosa to see great design items including concrete sinks and countertops, Quartz Carpet made from recycled mirrors and co-owner Stefan Jonson's handpainted shoes. And even though I rarely drink hard alcohol, I had a taste of Charbay vodka and boy was it smooth. Just like my trips to the farmer's markets for produce.

I don't know what it's like where you live but we are coming close to the height of harvest season here which I can tell because we now have sweet and hot peppers, eggplant and potatoes. This calls for making my eggplant and potato curry. I enjoy using the strangely shaped fingerling potatoes. Stuart, the farmer at Stone Horse Farms in Santa Rosa who grew them, explained that they have a very complex root system. Take one look at their gnarled presence and you have to believe it - it;s more complex than the sculptures we saw yesterday - nature's sculptures eclipse all.

The proliferation of melons continues here and the apples are starting to arrive en masse. I have a gift bag of appleas awaiting my attention but I haven't yet figured out what to make. I also got a freebie bag of walnuts that need cracking but I'll have to wait for Shane's return tomorrow evening for that. He is the master walnut-sheller.

My one tomato on the vine turning color is coming along but the cool mornings and not-too-hot afternoons keep them from getting ripe. This weather feels like early fall, not summer but maybe it will extend the growing season, keeping us in tomatoes until December (which has happened before).

My creative juices are flowing these days with all my quiet time in the kitchen - lunch of shiitake, onion, potato and squash soft tacos with avocado and onion sprouts was great although it wasn't nearly as tasty as the baked tofu, quinoa and salsa wraps that I made the other day using Food for Life sprouted grain tortillas. Leave me alone in the kitchen with the veggies, spices and staples and watch out. Time to make more vegetable creations.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Veggie Queen arrives Late

Even though I showed up at the Farmer's market at 11:30 a.m. and not my usual 9 a.m. there was produce to be had, and that's because it is a middle of the week market. The pace is slower. My finds for the day were orange Roma tomatoes, Romano beans, salad greens and wax beans. I also got some perfectly ripe fruit -- a Charentais melon (French cantaloupe), a Spanish sugar nut (Casaba type) and white nectarines.

I did not come home and feast but prepared food for a class to sample. Did you know that green, wax or purple beans are done perfectly when cooked in the pressure cooker for 30 seconds? Amazing.

I encourage you to attend your local farmer's market and see what's new. Every day is an adventure and a chance to learn something about the farmer, the produce or you. You just never know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Blog Begins

I just realized that it's Wednesday and I am not at the Farmer's Market as I usually am. I started the day with a conference call and it threw off my routine. I am busy online promoting my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, neglecting the outside world, my errands and the fact that I will want food in the house later. So, off to search for the freshest veggies of the season, along with fruit, bread and more. Now on to the food.