Friday, December 29, 2006

The Veggie Queen Travels

Yes, it's true. I went away. This time it was purely for fun and relaxation, needing lots of the latter after a truly busy year. My family and I took a cruise vacation. We last did this 4 years ago and found that it was a great way for me and my husband to be alone while our son was safe and entertained. I like it because I don't have any of my usual routines that include work, cooking, cleaning, driving and the like. We took a Carnival cruise to Mexico. I'll sum it up here:

I came back tanned, relaxed and rested, until we entered the chaos zone at the Oakland airport. But that was a minor price to pay for many days of mostly stress-free living.

I did have some food issues such as eating breakfast. I like what I like, don't you? Well, I'm not someone who eats bacon, eggs, sausage or hash browns for breakfast. I also don't eat standard breakfast cereal with milk, or usually pancakes or French toast. (I know, you're wondering what I do eat.) If pushed, I will eat oatmeal but I prefer other hot cereals but only now when it's winter, not when it's 80+ degrees outside (as it was in Mexico). Still, I did eat oatmeal but I had to smuggle raisins into the dining room from the casual place upstairs. I learned to ask for the bananas, blueberries and strawberries that go with the pancakes (hold the pancakes, please. I felt like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces asking for his toast.). One day I got a piece of the worst not-very-whole wheat toast with peanut butter and jelly just for something different. But that was only a minor glitch, but not a good way to start every day.

Lunch and dinner were somewhat better as there were more choices, especially at lunch where they had stations set up in the casual eatery. I often choose the Chinese where there were lots of fresh veggies, or the salad bar with many different types of salads that almost made up for the lack of anything too green except Caesar salad (which is too greasy, gooey and cheesey for me), I saw more iceberg lettuce than one ought to see in the entire world.

The first night's Indian Vegetarian Dinner was the best and should have been repeated nightly or at least every other night, for my satisfaction. They did serve Indian at the lunch buffet once and I'd already eaten which was fine since I had a veggie samosa for dessert.

Our dining room waiter, Jaime from the Philippines, was a good singer and dancer and knew how to provide good service. His assistant, Wanida from Thailand, was so cute and nice, We had a great table by the window and enjoyed our quiet section of the dining room a lot.

My favorite port of call was Zihuatenejo, where we spent our time at La Playa Ropa (the clothes beach?) enjoying food, drink, the ocean and getting my hair braided.

I took all the yoga classes offered on the ship, which was 4, one for each day at sea. While they were not my regular routine, or type of class, it was great to do it although balancing on a moving vessel is quite difficult, at least for me.

It's been quite chilly here in the mornings and I already long for those 80 degree days and my time being served but I made quite a wonderful New Year Good Luck Soup. I gave some away already and have been asked for the recipe but I still haven't written it down. It does contain black eyed peas and greens for the luck. May your travels and New Year be filled with luck, health, happiness and abundance. Ahhhh...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Vegetable Power

I am not talking antioxidants here but something that often seems even better. Yesterday was a pumpkin pie eating contest at Tierra Vegetables Tierra is affectionately nicknamed The Cheers of Farmstands in my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. All the judges in the contest were kids, one of them being my 13-year old son. But the problem was that it was too close to Christmas and the pie makers must have been busy so they didn't show up. (Last year there must have been close to 15 pies.) So while one of the parents ran to the store to get a premade pie, the other parents hung around the farm stand and shopped. This is where the veggie power comes in.

I was eyeing a large Graffiti Purple Cauliflower. My son wanted it (I am not sure why since he doesn't really eat it). And so did I but it was too big. A woman standing there was also admiring it. I asked her if she'd like to share it, and she said yes. Yippee. We both had what we wanted. Now, isn't there power in that? But it gets better.

Another woman, this time one of the moms, asked. "Are you the person that does something with vegetables?" She may have said The Veggie Queen but I'm not sure. She said that she read my blog and had commented on it. Then I recognized her as Kate from Sky Saddle Winery http://www,, that zin that I had (written about here previously) that was so jammy, yummy, unctuous. Well, Kate told me that she's a vegetarian. It was getting even better.

I asked if she might want to trade wine for a copy of The Veggie Queen cookbook. And we made a deal. Now, it was truly my lucky day as Kate happened to have a bottle of Sky Saddle organic, biodynamically produced wine in the car because she had intended to ship it to Scotland but it turned out to be prohibitively expensive. I didn't have any copies of my cookbook in the car but I knew that Evie at Tierra had some so I borrowed a copy and voila, Kate and I were both happy. So there's the power of vegetables for you.

I suggest that you hang around veggies as much as possible, as they can definitely enhance your life, in many ways beyond the physical.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Thanks-- calls and emails to The Veggie Queen

This morning I received a call from a woman who lives in a remote area of California who had borrowed my DVD Creative Low-fat Vegan Cuisine from a friend. She was watching it, got the 800 and was convinced that she needed a copy of my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. She said that she used to have a bookstore nearby but it closed. And she doesn't use the internet. She's got 4 children and needs to lose a bunch of weight. She wanted to know what you put on your pizza if there is no cheese. I told her about Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, that actually melts, but I can also eat pizza with homemade pesto and veggies, or summer fresh frozen tomato sauce and veggies, or caramelized onions, black or kalamata olives and fresh thyme. The possibilities are endless for me. But you don't have to be a vegan to eat healthy food. Nor do all vegans eat healthy food but it is easier. And for me it's OK to veer from the path every once in a while.

Ray Sikora, an amazing woman and animal rights activist who was living in New Mexico when I met her this past summer at Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA, says that vegans who cheat are cheegans. I don't need any labels for you. What you choose to eat is completely up to you. But I must encourage you to make the healthiest choices possible. The best way to do that is to eat lots of veggies, of course.

So, in this season of excess, please see if you can eat an excessive amount of vegetables. It's best to go with those in season - root crops such as parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery root and more, cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and more, plus shiitake mushrooms, ginger and garlic for your immune system. Maybe in my January newsletter I will share my "secret" recipe for immune-boosting soup.

Until then, Happy Healthy Holidays and a cheery New Year. And if you want to send me an email just to say hi, or how eating veggies has changed your life, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wake UP and Eat -- Biodynamic Farming

My sister Donna and I are working on a project together called Wake UP and Eat which will one day become a book and DVD. (Later in 2007.) Please view the website at

The following is my adaptation of what she wrote just the other day (December 2007):
Thanks go to Allan Balliett of Shephardstown, West Virginia, who runs the Fresh and Local CSA there. We were recently fortunate to sample his "biodynamic" greens and meet Alan in person near our home in Maryland.Biodynamics, for those who may not have heard of it, is a way of growing food that seeks to ensure that our food provides vitality. The system, which was largely a reaction to the growing use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, predates today's "organic" food by decades, having been first developed in the early 1920s. Biodynamic farming shuns all chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers and instead stresses the use of various types of compost and natural cycle planting.

Alan and his wife brought bins of fresh greens including several types of kale (curly and Red Russian), Bok Choy, lettuces, Napa cabbage, Tatsoi, collards, cardoons, broccoli and more. His happy customers waited for his truck to arrive and sprang out of their cars to gather around the array of wonderful produce. Once we were handed our goodies, we immediately tore off some of the Red Russian kale and found it sweet and flavorful. As we were walking back to our car, Alan smiled and reminded us to "eat it right away" to get the most of its "life force". Not long after, stopping first to walk through the woods in search of late Fall oyster mushrooms, we got to taste the biodynamic greens. The kale was lightly sauteed until it was just tender and brightly colored, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper, and sure enough, it was undeniably sensational kale and truly, as we ate, we could almost feel our bodies being nourished.

Coincidentally, my lunch today was pressure cooked tofu, oyster mushrooms, onions, garlic and ginger with wilted spinach (I'm saving my greens for a potato and greens gratin), a bit of peanut butter and some hot sauce. Not the same "life force energy" but still incredibly nourishing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Veggie Queen DVD - well, almost

My DVD is going on sale. When it was produced in conjunction with John McDougall, MD almost 2 years ago, we went round and round about the title. So, while I wish that I could say that it's called Cooking with The Veggie Queen, Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, it is really called Creative Low-Fat Vegan Cuisine, Simply Healthful Meals. My sister who eats much the way that I do said that she wouldn't even be likely to watch a DVD with the curent title (but of course she did). Dr. McDougall and I went round and round and eventually I just gave in and let him name it whatever he wanted. But my next DVD on pressure cooking (it's in the planning stages now) will have the title that I choose. Maybe I'll have a contest to see who can make up the best title for it.

Anyway, the DVD will be on sale for a short time for $17.95 plus shipping. There are a limited number of copies available. And that's it. If you are interested in getting a copy please email me at or go to The Veggie Queen website at

Happy Holidays. The DVD sale is only on until December 15th, 2006 for holiday shipping.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Veggies or Vegetables Three Times Daily

I don't know about you but I could really eat vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And heck, when you're supposed to eat 9 to 11 servings each day, this is a great way to do it. I've written before about my new, unusual breakfast but I just keep remembering how good it makes me feel to eat tofu and mixed veggies early in the day. This morning I switched to a new breakfast and I might need to stick with it for a while and see how I feel.

I had a smoothie with Nutiva hempseed protein powder (this is kind of like a vegetable, isn't it?), grated ginger, half a banana, a little soy milk and a smaller amount of juice. It was only 8 ounces and it was a great beginning, along with some Earthseed Essene bread with a bit of nut butter. And that lasted a few hours until I was ready for my early lunch of yummy leftovers -- all veggie based plus some leftover tofu. It was a large bowl of veggies+, and as I savored it I realized that if I eat veggies often, I can eat more. And that's really why I eat so many vegetables. I can eat a lot. Don't you like that?

A book called Volumetrics by Barbara Rolls, Ph. D. goes along with this theory about eating what we call "nutrient dense" foods that provide a lot of nutrition along with foods that don't contain a lot of calories such as vegetables, fruit and soups. Did you ever think about how soups fill you up, especially if they are brothy?

Sorry to say that I prefer thicker soups such as my Roasted Squash and Pear or Shane's Fabulous Lentil but since this is a great time of year for soup, any will do. In fact, the other evening I cooked some onion and garlic and threw in a half cup of leftover cooked black beans with a can of Amy's Southwestern Vegetable Soup. My husband really liked it.

Using processed foods occasionally is OK, especially if you are adding more veggies to them to make them taste fresher and help decrease the overall sodium content by increasing the volume. Once again, many food issues often relate to volume.

And with that, it's time to put together my farmer's market shopping list for my Wednesday night class and then for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mushrooms and Election Day

I like Election Day. It's one day that I know that I can accomplish something before 8 a.m. that I feel good about doing, other than walking the dog. But I'm not going to get into politics here. Let's just say that I encourage you to vote -- and do what you think is right for you.

It's like eating and making food choices, there's lots of information out there and a lot of it is confusing. You do the best that you can. You won't hear me say, "Just listen to me, I'll tell you exactly what to do." Nope, you've got to decide for yourself.

But when it comes to mushrooms, I have a lot to say. I'll start with, "Eat them." They taste good and they're likely very good for you. Hunt them for recreation but don't eat them unless you are with a professional who is sure of which kind you have picked. We've had our first rain and I noticed the mushrooms peeking out of the duff while I'm out walking the dog.

As for my walks, I have to say that although they are mostly a sniff-and-pee fest for my dog Bear, that my morning walks have kept me in good shape since we've had him. I don't do much other exercise. So, that's my vote for walking -- DAILY - rain, shine, heat or cold. We don't have snow but if we did I'd head somewhere indoors for my exercise or take up cross-country skiiing or something aerobic.

Remember that we need air, water and food plus love to have a fulfilling life. OH, but back to mushrooms. Eat them as often as you an, especially shiitakes in the winter for an immune system boost.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Savory Cashew Cream Sauce

I must give credit where creidt is due. And this recipe is an adaptation of a recipe in the new book The Nut Gourmet by Zel Allen. The book is filled with nut recipes. If you are afraid of eating too much fat, take some comfort knowing that although nuts are high in fats, they contain all-natural fat and antioxidants. Since nuts are rich, they fill you up and then it's less likely that you will overeat. If you eat the sauce with lots of veggies, you are doing something that is good for you.

Enjoy this sauce over grains, veggies, beans and more. It freezes well and can be flavored in an almsot endless number of ways by varying the herbs and/or spices that you add -- curry poweder, smoked paprika, Italian herbs and more.

Savory Wine Cashew Cream Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
If you don't want to add wine, increase the amount of water or soy milk.
½ cup finely ground cashews
½ cup soy milk
1 cup water
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup white wine

Grind the cashews in a coffee grinder until they are powdered.
Combine the soy milk, water and nutritional yeast in a saucepan over medium
high heat. Bring to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over. Add the salt and
pepper. Whisk in the ground cashews. Continue whisking for a minute, until the
mixture thickens. Stir in the wine. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the mixture
seems too thick, add water, wine or more soy milk.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
8 minutes at high pressure; natural pressure release; 5 minutes stovetop cooking
Serves 6 to 8
Inspired by a recipe in Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin

The colors are reminiscent of Halloween but there's nothing scary about this dish.
The sweet potatoes provide an interesting taste and texture to this chili. The smokiness of the chipotle pepper adds a special dimension and flavor. If corn is in season, you can add at the end of cooking for another textural and flavor variation.

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large onions, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or 1 chipotle chili, chopped, seeds removed
2 medium yams, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 cups black beans, presoaked
1 1/2 cups water

3 cups finely chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in the cooker over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red peppers and spices and cook another 2 minutes. Add the yams, black beans and water. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce the heat to low to maintain high pressure.
After 8 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure come down naturally.
When the pressure is down, remove the lid tilting it away from you. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down into a sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over rice, or other grain, garnished with cilantro.

Note: This is best imade int he pressue cooker and ifyou don't have one ask for one for a gift. In the meantime, just cook this on the stove top, using high quaility orgnaic canned beans such as Eden or Westbrae. Follow the directions, cooking the yams until partially done. Add 2 drained cans of black, or your favorite, beans. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste andsalt. Add extra liquid at any time, if you need it. This should be thick and delicious.

Veggie Stone Soup

Yesterday's meal in the field featured Stone Soup. Chef Eric Tucker from Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco made the vegan version and Chef Kevin McKenzie from Healdsburg made the chicken (rooster) version. Well, not to my surprise, the Posole, Marrow Fat Bean and Tomato-based veggie soup was the taste winner (even the meat-eaters said so). I cannot give you the recipe because I don't have it, and I am quite sure that Eric doesn't either since it was truly a stone soup. I know that it had squash, herbs, carrots and more, and the leftover soup made a great breakfast today.

In addition to the soup, there was a coleslaw, sauteed peppers and a cauliflower and broccoli dish plus fresh wood-fire oven baked bread from Lou Preston, red jug wine from Preston Vineyards and some wonderful Sky Saddle Zinfandel made from biodynamic grapes. The setting was amazing right there in the middle of the crops. the meal ended with pear and apple crisp. We celebrated 2 birthdays, community and good use of our open space land. Here's to Tierra Vegetables and all other farmers who work hard to give us great food.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Farmer's Market Joy

I like to be the fly-on-the-wall, so to speak, at the farmer's market. I hear a lot of interesting things while strolling through the market and doing my shopping. I am often shopping for around 25 people (in one of my Santa Rosa Junior College classes) so it takes me a long time. There's a lot to overhear. I certainly don't want to say that I eavesdrop.

This morning I heard a man talking to a woman (it may have been his partner, companion or wife). "I like to buy from this smaller stand since they almost always throw in an extra tomato." This was an important comment - one that many farmers ought to take seriously. People want a deal. They appreciate what the farmer is doing but really like being noticed and feeling like they are getting special treatment.

Ed from Twin Peaks Ranch which sells fruit does this quite often. This morning I got 2 Satsuma tangerines in my bag of Angelino plums (the latest of the season). Brenda from Hamlow Ranch asked me if she could put a couple more Fuyu persimmons in my bag and make it an even 6 dollars? And why would I argue since an extra persimmon could come in handy? I ended up eating one at the next place I went which was a beautiful new park of 1200+ acres in Petaluma, part of our open space district spending.

The second persimmon became part of my Bright Autumn Salad, a recipe from my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, available on my website at It was a dish brought to a potluck Halloween party where I was one of the costume winners with my Evil Queen costume, the only packaged costume I have ever worn. Perhaps it was my Queenly persona that made it work so well, or the fact that it was purple and black, 2 of my favorite colors.

Tomorrow I go to Tierra Vegetables ( for an event in the field with fixings from the farm that is also on open space land. There's nothing like fresh and local food to help boost your mood -- on our first dreary day of the new time change.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Roasted Pepper Time

I like to gauge the season by what I can do at that time of year. Right now it's roasting peppers. There seem to be so many colored peppers available right now. I can never eat enough of them, unless they are green (and I don't consider that a good color for peppers as they are ripe and quite undigestible to me).

I also was invited to pick apples the other day so I am going to be creative in cooking them and supplying recipes for them. So far, most of that has been only in my mind, as we are having a warm spell here with temperatures in the 80s. It's hot and I am ready for turtlenecks, sweaters and some rain. (I know that it could be worse but...)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Brussels Sprouts and Hemp Milk

I'm in New York. My sister is getting married tomorrow, in lower upstate (not to be confused with places such as Utica, Rochester, Buffalo). It's very exciting. And it's also my father's birthday. So we'll have a double celebration. Heck, we can also toast to my anniversary which was less than a week ago.

I had planned to come east to go to the Natural Foods Product Expo in Baltimore anyway so it worked out great for me. Yesterday I saw a number of new products at the show. Perhaps the most interesting thing that I noticed was Hemp Milk. It has plenty of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, the kind of fat that we need, and it tastes good. I don't drink a lot of nondairy milk but when I do, I choose unsweetened soy or multigrain. I will likely switch to hemp when it arrives on the market.

There was also sprouted flax and hempseed, a soft hempseed (with all the shells removed), wonderful hempseed multigrain bagels from French Meadow, gluten-free tortillas from La Tortilla Factory made from teff, a new Flax Plus cereal from Nature's Path (my favorite morning cereal company) and lots of flavored waters, some with sweeteners and many without.

I had to speed through the show and still managed to stop and chat, seeing a number of surprised friends from Sonoma County. I mean, who would have expected to see me in Baltimore? It certainly is a long way to fly, just to check out new products. I was sorry that I couldn't have stayed longer. But it did leave me a day to rest in New York.

My mother took me to a local Italian deli where they prepare a variety of dishes from stuffed artichokes to eggplant florentine (which unfortunately contained proscuitto), lasagne, sausage and peppers and more. Although it is primarily meat-oriented they do have some beautiful vegetable and pasta dishes. I could have had a grilled veggie wrap but instead we got carrot and spinach cakes which were tasty. There was sauteed broccoli raab which we didn't get but we did buy the roasted Brussels sprouts. Oh my goodness -- those sprouts are almost as good as mine but much easier since someone else cooked them. So, if you're in New York and on Long Island, check out Iavarone Bros I was really surprised and pleased to get such tasty vegetable dishes there.

If you do any traveling, you know that eating well on the road isn't always easy. I'm glad that it has been this time. Still, just to be sure, I have my special trail mix, seaweed and Mary's Gone crackers crackers with me. On the plane coming, I had a salad and a large organic apple. I didn't go hungry although I do lament not being able to bring my own water on the plane (without the exorbitant $2.50 a bottle at the airport charge).

Please don't ask me about my cosmetics and what a nightmare that is, with quart ziploc bags and such. Have you ever heard of a mascara terrorist? You just might if the TSA keeps up the cosmetic nonsense. But that's another story.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

California Culinary Academy Class

Yesterday I taught my first class at the California Culinary Academy. I must say that it was an interesting day. It started out by my meeting up in the parking lot near the CCA with my sort-of former brother-in-law chef who was also wearing red clogs. He was judging a Pellegrino water cooking competition which actually sounded like more fun than what I was doing.

I hauled my butt and a box of books over to the school which is housed in an older San Francisco building near the Civic Center.

I met my class of 13 in the basement dining room and we all got into the elevator and went up to the 4th floor kitchen. It's always a bit strange to teach in a new kitchen but this one had even more eccentricities, it seemed. I had to ask for every piece of equipment which I didn't know so I kept my student assistant Kate, very busy. She did a great job.

My students consisted of a 13-year old who had taken 51 classes at the CCA, someone who had not really cooked at all (they worked together which was great), a few mother-daughter pairs and other repeat CCA students. We had a great time, or at least I did.

A young couple Hansa and Sami worked on the Tomato Basil Tart with a Toasted Pine Nut Crust. They made the dough, rolled it out and put in the refrigerator to chill. I was checking on their progress so walked over to the frig with them. "How long has the dough been in?", I questioned. Simultaneously I heard 3 minutes from Hansa and 6 to 7 minutes from Sami.

I laughed, hard. "I guess that you have a difference of opinion," I said. Hansa told me that they often have a different perspective. I told them that it's most likely because he has a Y chromosome and she doesn't. The scene was classic.

Upon further reflection, I realized that something as simple as how long an item has been refrigerated can be tested against reality with a tool such as a timer. That would eliminate any confusion. But still there are likely to be perspective differences between people that cannot be pasted against reality as a guideline. And that's why I can give large groups the same recipes to prepare and end up with varying results. There's individual variation, perception and the creative factor. I'll chalk most of the differences up to the latter, although some are far too creative for me. That's saying a lot.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fresh Spinach - Please Don't Get Me Started

I keep wondering who the genius in the FDA is who issued the decree that recommends that people avoid eating all fresh spinach. I live in Sonoma County, a good 100+ miles from Salinas where they bagged the E. coli infested spinach but still we are not allowed to eat fresh spinach. My farmer friend Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm just plowed under his spinach to plant more lettuce. The cook at the Kaisier cafeteria in Santa Rosa where we installed a healthy salad bar is trying to figure out what to do with 6 pounds of baby spinach that she's been told not to serve. I said that I'd sit in the cafeteria and let people watch me eat it. Larry grew it and it is NOT contaminated. It is just fine.

What is wrong with people? We suggest eating 9 to 11 servings of veggies and fruits each day, yet we send out a blanket statement not to eat fresh spinach. What about saying, "Don't eat bagged spinach or suspect spinach"? If your spinach is locally grown and you know its source, eat it, please.

I was quoted in The Press Democrat on Saturday, September 23rd along with Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm about this spinach issue.

Also please check out the website for Wake Up and Eat to read a bit more about the spinach scare. and look at Principle number 9 -- Consider the Source. This book and DVD will be out in 2007 and I will keep you up to date on the progress with it.

In the meantime, please shop at the farmer's market and buy local when possible. It could save your life, or at least make you feel better about your choices.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My New Breakfast

Just over a month ago (August 8th, 2006) a very close friend passed away unexpectedly and suddenly a week after he turned 44 years old. It definitely sent my life into a tailspin -- a downward spiral that has taken time to climb out of. But during this time I started making myself a nourishing and nontraditional breakfast. (I'm glad to know that my subconscious mind can take over even during a period of grief.)

Those of you who know me know about my love affair with my pressure cooker, and with fresh, seasonal vegetables. So for my breakfast I have concocted a combination that produces a tasty and satisfying veggie breakfast bowl or wrap.

Here's what I do:

Heat the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add a bit of oil, or not, and put in diced onions, garlic, carrots, tofu, potatoes, a tablespoon of Bragg's liquid amino acids or somewhat less tamari and a few tablespoons of water. You can also add chopped red, yelllow or orange pepper and a bit of jalapeno or serrano chile.(And honestly any veggie that takes a few minutes to cook plus your favorite seasoning such as curry powder.) Lock on the lid, bring to high pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Quick release the pressure and add 1/2 cup chopped summer squash and/or green or wax beans, and 1 small chopped tomato (optional). Lock the lid on and pressure cook for 30 more seconds. Quick release the pressure and serve in a bowl over brown or brown and wild rice or for sheer decadence put into a whole wheat, multigrain (from La Tortilla Factory) or a sprouted grain tortilla. This will hold you for at least a few hours. You can add any seasonal veggies. I've done it with eggplant and also add chopped greens and herbs. I eat the leftovers the next day for lunch or dinner.

It's an easy and satisfying way to start the day. Now I just need a name for it. Any ideas?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

No Mac n Cheese Growing Up

OK. So I had a kind of strange childhood but I thought that everyone did. Didn't you?

I just heard two friends talking about what they ate for dinner when growing up -- casseroles, ground beef and tomato sauce, possibly macaroni and cheese. I never had macaroni and cheese as a kid. I am sure that the reason for most of this was that my father didn't like it, or never ate it. He hated casseroles and most mixed food although I do remember tuna casserole once in a while. But what I remember most was being served steak or roast beef (or as I called it, roast beast). I couldn't stand the stuff and I am sure that it inspired me to become a vegetarian. And for that I am thankful.

Some people see me and remark about how clear my skin is, and it must be because I don't eat meat. I'd like to think that years of eating lots of veggies has given me an antioxidant advantage that shows in my complexion and overall health. I suspect that gentics plays a big role, too.

Or maybe it's just that I didn't eat macaroni and cheese while I was growing up and instead I ate my veggies. So, tell me what do you think has changed since then? Mac and cheese still isn't so good for you and the veggies are. Eat extra veggies today to make up for your mac and cheese childhood, if you had one.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sizzling Tandoor - Santa Rosa

Sizzling Tandoor has been on Mendocino Avenue in downtown Santa Rosa for many years. I read that recently someone new began running it and that on Wednesday and Saturday they offered South Indian cuisine. It has been many years since I have eaten there since we've had other Indian restaurants pop up in town -- one being a fast food type place right near the junior college that is much more convenient and doesn't require service and waiting for food (which doesn't work well with our son). But Shane was out so we headed to Sizzling Tandoor on the spur of the moment on an early Saturday evening.

There were only a few occupied tables. It was quiet unlike so many restaurants these days. There are Indian artifacts hung on the walls. The lights are a bit bright but environmentally correct flourescent bulbs.

The menu is extensive. My husband asked if I'd like samosas or pakora for an appetizer. And since I know that the pakora is usually deep fried, I picked samosa. And yummy samosa they were with a delicious potato and pea filling. A small dish with three chutneys (a sweet dark one, green cilantro and then a yellow lentil) arrived with the samosa. I only ate half of mine, anticipating other delicious food to come.

I ordered Masala Dosa which is like a big crispy crepe filled with potatoes and onions. It came with a coconut chutney and a bowl of lentil and vegetable soup (which seemed to be prepared in the pressure cooker because it was so hot that it took more than 10 minutes before the temperature was tolerable for my mouth). The dosa was delicious and filling. It had some tantalizing spices and also little bits of something that I thought were possibly lentils. I had to ask and a man who seemed like the owner and/or chef told me that they are roasted split dahl or lentils. He also showed me some tiny black mustard seeds. I ended up taking about half my dish home, even though my husband Rick ate some, and wanted more.

He ordered Chicken Vindaloo and a dish of rice. He said that his dish was very spicy and there wasn't enough chicken but it was really tasty. He also brought food home.

We were both too stuffed to eat dessert. I couldn't even think about it. The meal cost about $40 (including tip) but we used our Sonoma Express so it was less. On a scale of 1 to 10 forks, Sizzling Tandoor rates at least an 8. I will definitely go back -- soon, I hope.

Willow Wood Restaurant -- Graton, CA

This past winter I went to Willow Wood's upscale sister, Underwood Restaurant, directly across the street in downtown Graton. My late friend Jon really wanted to go to Willow Wood but it was closed for remodeling so... Underwood's food was tasty and well presented but also expensive, with entrees in the $20 plus range.

To do something special for Jon's parents we took them out to Willow Wood which has been open for a few months now. I'd been there for a breakfast meeting but didn't eat or really look at the menu but had an idea that things had changed. The interior of the once mildly funky place had been opened up. The tables now match, as do the chairs. The interesting items for sale are relegated to a small, unobtrusive wall. Local art hangs on brightened up walls. And the menu has also changed.

They still offer their wonderful black bean soup by the cup or the bowl. But I guess that somehow they needed to pay for the fancy upgrade and the prices have gone up. And alas, to my husband's dismay, the hamburger is not on the dinner menu.

There were 5 of us for dinner and the tab was $125 and my husband anad I ordered sandwiches. Our son ate the black bean soup and Ceasar salad. Jon's mom ate lemon crab risotto (which they need a good cooking lesson about) and Jon's dad had a half roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed greens. We also shared an antipasto plate which was an ample appetizer (filled with cheese and meat).

I had visions of an opulent eggplant sandwich but that's not what I got for $10+. A small piece of artisan bread had been cut in half. Inside was one small slice of eggplant, a few crumbles of goat cheese, a nice slice of freshly roasted red pepper and that was it because I requested the very fatty aioli be put on the side. With my sandwich was an ample amount of very, tasty red potato salad with a viniagrette dressing. There were a couple of cornichons on the plate which were a nice accompaniment.

I cannot speak much about my husband's turkey and Swiss sandwich but he was also disappointed in the size of it. Shane had so much Ceasar salad that he needed more dressing and could not finish all the greens. It was huge and very pretty with the whole inner leaves of romaine lettuce.

The risotto didn't look very good at first glance with the rice grains not looking very congealed. First I thought that they mistakenly used long grain rice but it must have been the crab that I saw. Jackie said that she really didn't like it so I tasted it and the risotto was flat and without body (which is to me a crime at almost $20).

The desserts fared much better with a fruit and pastry dessert in a small dish topped with vanilla ice cream (and 4 spoons) and a coconut creme brulee, definitely disappearing. I tasted one bite of the fruit which was fresh and delicious but cannot directly comment on the creme brulee which Shane easily and happily ate.

This visit to Willow Wood was disappointing and we won't be back any time soon. On a scale of 1 to 10 forks, Willow Wood gets a 6.

Fresh China -- Santa Rosa

It's unusual for me to eat in restaurants often but when I do, it seems to happen in threes. My first local visit was to Fresh China restaurant at Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa. I met my veg friend Barbara there since they have a special vegetarian menu (which you won't get unless you ask for it). There wasn't much veg on the regular menu but the veg menu had so many choices that it took us a while to decide what to eat.

Barbara doesn't like spicy food so that ruled out many dishes that I would have usually ordered since we like to share, especially when eating Chinese food. We finally settled on Shiitake Mushrooms and Tofu in ginger sauce and Seasonal Vegetables with Coconut Curry Sauce and a bowl of brown and wild rice.

Having just made a pot of brown and wild rice earlier in the week I realized that many restaurants make a lot of money on selling rice at $2.50 a bowl but we wanted some anyway.

The dishes arrived at our table quickly, served in rather odd plates which were deep dish pyrex pie plates (the one that I use most at home when making fruit crisp or baked tofu). Everything seemed fresh except the rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms and there were lots of them. The portions were large. We ate as much as we could and still had about half of each dish left over.

Something didn't seem right about the food and it took me a while to figure it out. The presentation was sorely lacking -- not only in the dish department but in the lack of color and shape in entrees themselves. The shiitakes were served whole which not only made them difficult to eat but they didn't look at all interesting. There wasn't one bit of green in that dish. It was brown and white. Imagine what a strip or two of green onion would have accomplished. The seaonal veggies were not especially seasonal since they included both asparagus and winter squash. There was far too much sauce on that for it to be attractive as it was bright yellow and gloppy. And again, there wasn't any color. I mean since it is summer a few slices of red pepper could have added both color, taste and some seasonality. On a scale of 1 to 10 forks, I'd give Fresh China a 7. I might try it again but it will be a while.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vegetable Commuinity - Your Local Farmer's Market

I spent a couple of hours this past Monday morning cooking for a friend who is grieving over the loss of her sister. She said that no one brought her food so I thought that maybe it would be good for me, and for her and her children, to cook. I made brown and wild rice (it comes that way) in the pressure cooker and it took less than 30 minutes. While that was cooking, I prepped the veggies for the Summer Veggie and Quinoa Soup, and got my food processor and the ingredients together for Spiced Gravenstein Appple Slaw. When the rice was done, I cooked the soup which takes less than 10 minutes to cook and finish, using the pressure cooker. When I washed up from the 2 quarts of soup, I made Sweet and Sour Tofu with Summer Squash and Pineapple. It seemed like enough food to keep them eating well for at least a few days.

I was told by an acquaintance that the reason that no food appeared for my friend Marilyn is because we just don't have community the way that we used to. And while I agree that is true, I find that shopping at the farmer's markets gives me a connection to people that would not likely occur at the supermarket.

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the market later than usual and the last bag of onion sprouts had been sold, to the woman standing in front of the booth. Not only did she sell me her bag but she also gave me a jar of Meyer Lemons with xylitol (which I have not yet had a chance to try). Candie told me about her Mexican restaruant and gave me her phone number. I'd never met her before.

Just last week another woman (whose name I do not yet know), saw me buying cabbage to make the appple slaw and shared her recipe for fresh sauerkraut, which is basically finely cut cabbage with salt, weighted with a plate and left on your countertop for 5 days. I guess that you pour off the juice and drink it, and then eat the sauerkraut. For those of you who don't know it, fermented foods are good for your internal flora. My next book, co-authored with my sister, will have information on this. Check out the preliminary website at

Anyway, back to the farmer's market. I spent the next 40 minutes shopping with the unknown woman at various stalls. She is selling her house and moving to Australia soon. But while she is waiting she will eat well -- making dishes from locally grown food. And I encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My First Cucumber

This past week has been difficult. Our family lost a very close friend. He was only 44 years old. Oh, right, I am going to write about my cucumber plant. And plants remind me of life and there we go - Jon is gone. But my cucumber arrived.

My poor Amira cucumber plant has had come problems this year. The Master Gardeners that I spoke with attribute it to the lack of bees for pollination. My plant looked very good to start. There were lots of little cucumbers. But each one got yellow and then shriveled. I had almost given up hope of having cucumbers although I noticed that a few of the most recent ones had finally grown a bit larger. For that, I am thankful. While examining the plant (you can tell that I am a small scale gardener not a farmer), I felt under one of the leaves and there was a perfect 8-inch cucumber. It became part of my husband's lunch.

I am so glad that I continued to water, feed and talk to my plant even when things were looking bad. Now I am anticipating more cucumbers in the future.

I also picked my first Copia tomato. It is an orange and yellow striped medium-sized (at least for me) variety. I had to verify the color with Cliff, the farmer that sold me that plant. The tomato didn't look like it would turn red but I just didn't know. Copia was tasty but not the best tomato that I've had. This year the black Brandywines seem best but the season is still young. And there are many more tomatoes on the way.

We are at the height of the season for fruit and veggies here in Sonoma County. My friend Cynthia saw me at the farmer's market and asked what I am into these days. And I answered, "Melons." "Not veggies?", she inquired. Of course, those, too, it goes without saying.

Last year at the market I introduced Cynthia to Romano beans - the flat Italian green beans. Now she eats them and has also bought the yellow ones and likes those, too.

A big part of my enjoyment comes from introducing people to new foods, especially new vegetables. Try them all, I say. And remember to enjoy life; you never know how long you have.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Barilla Plus Pasta - Plus What?

I don't know why but it amazes me that I must (and I stress must) read almost every package label. I bought some Barilla Plus pasta which seems innocent enough, touting "more nutritious, naturally delicious" on the front, a good source of fiber and protein, contains ALA Omega-3. Well, all that sounded great.

The pasta tasted pretty good, too, for one that's partially whole grain. While the pasta water was boiling I noticed the side panel listed the amounts of protein in various products such as chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp and more. It wasn't until after I ate the pasta that I started wondering why it was so high in protein.

Well, to start, they were comparing 1 cup of UNCOOKED pasta with cooked animal proteins. But I thought it best to read the label to see the pasta ingredients. In addition to semolina, it contains a grain and legume flour blend that has lentils, chick peas, oats, spelt, barley, egg whites, ground flax seed and wheat fiber. I read it again to be sure that it really said EGGS. And under the ingredients, it is repeated: Contains: Wheat and Egg Ingredients.

Usually pasta that contains eggs says something to that effect but not this kind. I just wanted to remind you to read labels if you want to be sure of what IS or ISN"T in your food.

The good and bad part is that this pasta tasted way better than many other whole grain pastas that I have tried. One of my other favorite kinds is the Trader Joe's whole wheat pasta with no added eggs. It is lighter and flavorful and makes a great accompaniment to my Oil-Free Pesto or Un-Meatballs.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Too Much Zucchini? Try Summer Squash “Vichyssoise”

Summer Squash “Vichyssoise” by Jill Nussinow, MS, RD --The Veggie Queen
Serves 6
I like this soup because it tastes so fresh, is low in fat and can be served hot or cold.

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups diced new potatoes
3 ½ cups water

3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tablespoon chicken flavored or vegetable broth powder
4 cups sliced summer squash, use a mixture of pattypan, zucchini, scallopini, crookneck or Ronde de Nice
½ cup chopped basil
1 cup multigrain, rice or soy milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Basil sprigs, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put in the potatoes and about ¼ cup water to keep the vegetables from sticking. Cook for about 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Add the remaining water, garlic, broth powder and squash. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the basil and cook another 5 minutes or until the squash is soft. Blend with an immersion blender or in the blender or food processor, in 2 batches, until smooth. Return to the pot, if using a blender or processor. Add the milk and heat through. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold. Garnish with basil sprigs.

If this soup is not flavorful enough for you, add lots more basil or your favorite herb or spice.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fancy Food Show, NYC and then Mendocino

I have had many travels so far this year. I am now happy to be at home for a while.

After my sojourn to Vegetarian Summerfest I went directly to the Fancy Food Show in New York City with my mother. Good thing that I had bulked up on all kinds of fresh food because the Fancy Food Show is all about cheese, chocolate, salt, vinegar, salsa and other tasty items. One of the most intriguing was a fruit (vegetable) called Peppadew. It looks like a small red pickling pepper and it has a spicy and addictive kick to it. I also perused the specialty salts and ought to have them in stock by September. I viewed some wonderful looking spices from Spain that come in grinders but are not yet available here. (Maybe a trip is in order.). And I got to stop by the Dr. Kracker both and see the great new crackers and small packages that are available. George promised me at tie-dyed Dr. Kracker t-shirt and he delivered. Yippee.

At Family Camp in Mendocino, I got my cookng fix, helping to prepare vegan food for a small contingent of vegetarians and many other campers. I made meatless meatballs from a recipe straight from my head, and helped devise a decadent and delicious version of mango mousse as a way to use very ripe mangoes. My mushroom gravy quickly vanished. And I had a chance to be creative with vegan cobbler because someone at camp had some interesting "allergies". As always I had a great time in the kitchen. But a few days is all I can take of that. Somehow, though, because most of my other meals were prepared for me, and we had dishwashers, it seems like less work than making 3 meals a day at home.

I am actually thrilled, though, to be in the midst of summer produce and have been eating real tomatoes, including the first two ripe Green Zebra tomatoes from my garden. Oh, time to go water it now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Vegetarian Summerfest 2006: Vegetarians on a MIssion

Johnstown, PA truly is pretty much in the middle-of-nowhere in western Pennsylvania. Getting there isn't easy. It's 2 hours east of Pittsburgh. Yet, 500 or so vegetarians, mostly the radical vegan kind (this is a joke which is a tough thing to tell in print), get there from all over the United States, plus Canada and perhaps even from other countries.

The speaker line up was impressive, not just because it included me, but Howard Lyman, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., Erik Marcus, and more took to the podium. If you want to see who was there so that you can plan your trip for next year, take a look at

In addition to lectures there are also cooking demonstrations, short talks, entertainment and exercise classes. I did make it to one (just one unfortunately) early morning yoga class and part of a wand exercise class. Just walking from the Living/Learning Center at The University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown to the cafeteria would seem like plenty of exercise were it not for the unlimited quanity of food served at each meal. While the non-veg among us (and there were some) didn't get their meat, egg or dairy fix, they did not go hungry.

In addition to 2 salad bars, there was fruit available at every meal, and at dinner there were 2 buffet lines of cooked foods, a stir-fry station and a raw food line. There was also dessert at both lunch and dinner. Usually I need to eat between meals but with exhibitors such as Primal Spirit and their Primal strips and Lara Bar with Lara bar samples, I was never hungry. There were only 4 hours between the end of lunch and the start of dinner. Although I usually like to eat early, dinner at 5:30 when lunch ended at 1:30 (perhaps with cooking demo tastes in between) was too much for me. Yet, I didn't skip a single meal except on the day that I arrived when I skipped both breakfast and lunch but not by choice. My next few days of eating got me back into balance (or I should say tipped the scales the other way).

If you have the time to attend Summerfest, look into it for next year. It's an amazing vegetarian/vegan experience - like summer camp for your mind and body.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Vegetarian Summerfest Here I Come

On the road again, almost. I will be heading to Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. It's 2 hours east of Pittsburgh. I'd been so busy until about a week ago that I actually had no idea where in PA I would be heading. Even though I won't be driving (I am going to take a shuttle if my plane isn't late), I do like to know where I am in time and space.

My topics at Summerfest are Spice It Up: For Flavor and Nutrition, and Mushroooms: Combining Taste, Culinary and Medicinal Uses. I will also be participating on a panel about careers in the culinary arena. I do hope that I can add something to that.

What I am most looking forward to is not cooking for a few days with the promise of vegetarian meals without having to search them out. I also hope to get to a yoga class or two but they begin at 6 a.m. and I will be in an altered sleep state so that remains to be seen.

I have devised a plan when traveling to be sure that I stay healthy. I take along a bag of sea palm fronds (yes, seaweed), a box of Mary's Gone Crackers crackers or Dr. Kracker crackers, plenty of water, a few packets of Emergen-C and some Rainbow Light Deep Defense tablets. Usually I have some dried fruit (this time some delectable Deglet Noor dates dried right on the stalk), a couple of Lara Bars, Clif Nectar bars or Luna bars in case I get stranded in an airport without food worth eating (which is most of them). It is much better to be prepared than to not eat and be cranky.

I'll report on my Summerfest experience when I return. I hope that I don't have too much to say about thunderstorms (which are predicted for Wednesday, July 5th) and lots to say about what I learned.

Blackberries, Tomatoes, Zucchini - It's Summer

You can call me a purist - please. This morning while walking my dog Bear, I picked my first ripe blackberry and ate it. While it wasn't the sweetest or tastiest blackberry I've ever eaten, it was remarkably delicious just because it was there for my picking.

A few days ago my friend Patrick picked 2 Costata Romanesco squash from his garden and gave them to me. What a wonderful gift. I took the smaller of the two and made a simple dish of it by cutting it into half-moon pieces with one half a sliced torpedo onion and adding it to my little packet of Thai Kitchen Garlic and Vegetable Instant Rice Noodle Soup in the last minute of cooking. A few shots of my sister Donna's hot sauce and it was an easy dinner. If I had some chopped cilantro and cubed tofu to add, it would have been even better but that's life. still yummy as it was.

Yesterday I bought my first of the season locally grown vine ripe tomatoes. It's still early here and if I am lucky I may have ripe tomatoes by mid-August but only if the weather heats up a bit.

The food that Mothe Nature provides is just the best. Last night my husband and I went to a store with an incredible salad bar (Oliver's market in Cotati, CA). Rick ordered a veggie burrito while I heaped the salad into one of their fancy paper-like containers. In addition to the usual salad bar options there were many others such as shredded Mexican chicken, marinated tofu, lentil salad, quinoa, Asian noodle salad, Creole potato salad and much more. About two thirds of what I took was greens, carrots, cucumbers, red and green onions and then I went for the adidtions. At $6.99 a pound, I managed to take almost a pound of salad. It cost more than the burrito but salad, especially the greens, is essential and delicious food which our bodies crave.

I have been reminded of this more and more as I travel. Because between my trips I have found it more difficult to get the oomph to shop and cook. This means more restaurant meals. In the past week I have eaten at Cafe Zazzle in Petaluma (CA) where they serve some incredibly tasty Zazzle slaw for $2 for a large bowl. I keep thinking that the cabbage and other veggies contained therein can make up for the creamy dressing. But the food at Zazzle if fresh, delicious and mostly less than $10. I recommend it.

A bit less successful was a trip to a new Middle Eastern restaurant, Pita Cafe, in Rohnert Park. My son Shane said that his rice pilaf was the best he'd ever had, and the salad served with his dish (lamb schwarma - YUCK) was plentiful and fresh. I had the mezze plate with whole wheat pita (for which they get extra credit) but nothing really was outstanding nor was it terrible. There was tabbouleh, hummus, dolma, felafel, mummarah, baba ganouj. I am not sure what didn't work but I was not wowed. It seemd like Middle Eastern food for the Mid-Western palate which isn't to my liking. I wanted to taste some exotic spices - sumac, zatar, cumin, a little cayenne. It was missing zing. Maybe the rice pilaf had it but Shane didn't offer any to me. I'd try the place again since they just opened but this time was just OK (which is about 2 stars out of 5).

I am excited by the foods of summer and I am anxiously awaiting my own cucumbers and tomatoes and more of Mother Nature's marvels.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Way With Words

Twice in the past week I have had people tell me (in email, of course) that they like my way with words. I certainly hope so since I am a writer. Two people thought that what I wrote was funny. Sometimes I use food-related metaphors and don't even realize it. I said, "My computer spit out the message twice but it got eaten up."

I've thought about trading my cooking teacher gig for writing and performing stand-up comedy. But I already do that when I am teaching so I might as well just continue. I just got it, I can do comedy cooking classes like comedy traffic school, or at least bill my classes that way. Or perhaps, I will just sit here at my computer and be witty with words.

I can work on my next book, Wake Up and Eat, or even the one after that, The Veggie Queen Spices it Up. The options are endless. Or I can...

The words keep on flowing, and for that I am thankful. if you need an witty words written for you, just let me know.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Walnut Creek Farmer's Market

A day at a farmer's market doing a cooking demo and selling books is always interesting and most often fun. Sometimes, though, it is just fantastic. My day spent at the Walnut Creek farmer's market ( with Lesley Stiles, demo coordinator, was like a dream come true.

Lesley was incredibly organized, having all the necessary produce for my recipe when I got there, an EZ up tent, along with a great spot for me under a stand of trees. It was hot but the breeze was nice. We were stationed on a corner and Lesley seemed to know almost everyone who came by. She helped me pass out the salad that I made and lured people over to by books. It was one of my most successful market days.

A dietitian friend, Vivian Cohen, stopped by to say hello, as did Jill Reyman who just finished her diet tech program at Mills College.

The best part of the day, though, was when two guys came by and each took a sample of salad. They then said, "If you'd like a massage just stop by." I thought that I might have only been imagining that they said that to me.

When I was done selling and giving away salad, I wandered over to Ed and ?, oh my goodness now I've forgotten his name, just a few steps from my nice spot, to see if they were serious about their offer. And indeed they were.

I didn't realize how stressed I was until the two of them started to touch my upper back and shoulders, hands and arms. I had 4 hands rubbing me, and we chatted while I sat in the chair. I moaned a lot and did a lot of deep breathing. And about 45 minutes later, I realized that I was expected at home and had to leave. Most likely an all-afternoon massage might not have been enough but I was more than thankful for what I had received -- and all because of my desire to give away some salad. I know that veggies are powerful but I find that I never quite know what they'll bring into my life. I am incredibly thankful.

If you go to the Walnut Creek Farmer's Market, I strongly suggest a chair massage under the trees, it may transform your day. Tell them that The Veggie Queen sent you. (When I find their contact info, I will post it in my blog.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I overheard this at the farmer's market this past Sunday and it is classic. I suspect that it will make you laugh. I did.

A mother said happily to her young son, sitting in a wagon, "Would you like to plant some Hollyhocks?" as she was holding a plant, intending to purchase it.

He responded with joy and glee, "I want to plant some pollywogs."

I turned to the woman and said, "That's every boy's dream, to plant pollywogs."

We both laughed, as did my 13-year old son Shane. It's always important with children to clarify what you really said.

The 4-year old boy probably had visions of planting pollywogs and shortly thereafter having full grown frogs.

Overhearing and participating in conversations at the farmer's market is often a great form of entertainment.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Google -- Food to LIve For

Sometimes I feel as if I am the luckiest person in the world. I do very interesting things in very interesting places. I had the chance to go to the Google campus in Mountain View, California. I say it like this because I told a class that I went to Google and they thought that I was searching on my computer.

Truth is that in March at the Seaweed Convivium in Philo (see Seaweed and More Bread in My Life in this blog in March) I met Renee Rohrig who works as a chef at Google. She is in charge of the vegetarian and mostly vegan food in the No Name Cafe on the Google campus. We arranged a meeting where I could come and see and taste the food that she prepares for the employees.

When I tell you that the food looks and tastes great, I mean it. There are 6 cafes at Google. And they have many different types of food. If you are lucky enough to work there, the food is FREE. Although I don't even know exactly what they do at Google, I'd think about working there just for the food.

Renee doesn't really interact with the employees to ask them what they do but from her perspective she said that she sees the same people playing volleyball and sitting around regularly. Her impression is that they don't do much work but I think that they do a lot of thinking. They must need all that fresh food to keep their brains sharp so that we can just enter words on a screen and find what we need.

But what we (being the rest of us) really need every day is food as fresh, attractive and delicious as what they serve at Google. If you want to know more, just ask me. (I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement when I entered the campus so I am not sure what I can divulge.)

Most impressive were the fresh shots of wheatgrass at lunch and kombucha cockatils in the morning. Free food also means mostly free reign for the chefs which results in food that makes showing up at work worth it.

I hope that I get invited for a return visit to see what's on the menu next time.

Third Corner, San Diego - Wine Galore

One very interesting stop in San Diego was at The Third Corner, a restaurant in a wine shop. They serve small plates, tapas style and you get to choose your wine from their truly fabulous selection of wine from around the world. Since I was alone, I didn't eat there only because I can truly only drink a glass of wine with some food and that's my limit (at least according to the chart that they sent me with my license renewal). I was also on my way to someone's house for a visit. But I enjoyed perusing the wine selection and viewing the menu. When I get back to San Diego, I'll take a friend and check out the food and ambiance. They are only open for dinner. It will give me another reason, other than yoga and the coop to return to Ocean Beach.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dining Out and Being Green

Having had the chance to travel a bit this year, I have eaten in a number of restaurants -- actually more than I care to. By now, you probably know that I like fairly simple and very fresh meals that I prepare at home. But when I was in San Diego recently someone suggested that I eat a restaurant named Region.

They are a certified green restaurant. I like that idea but I found the menu far too meaty for me. The chef, Michael Stegner, focused on the meat and didn't have a vegetarian entree on the menu, and other than salad fthere were few vegetarian choices. I called ahead and asked what they could make me and it was going to be pasta with any of the available veggies. I figured that would be fine. (And it was delicious with mushrooms and snow peas albeit far too oily.)

What I didn't ask about were the prices. When i saw that most of the entrees were in the $25+ price range it made me feel like I come from some hick town but the truth is that I live in Sonoma County which is Wine Country. Region did not appear to be an incredibly upscale place but maybe it is. Or maybe being green boosts the prices.

In any case, the food was fresh but not especially plentiful. I expect more greens in a $7 salad since at wholesale a pound of great lettuce probably doesn't cost more than $4. By now, you know that I am a salad fiend.

The meal did end on a very sweet note, as I ordered the strawberry rhubarb crisp. It was as good or better than what I would make at home. I would have preferred it without the vanilla ice cream but that was my only gripe there.

I guess that eating at Lark in Seattle gave me a great meal by which to gauge others. Region didn't live up to that for me. If you eat there, please let me know what you think.

Also while in San Diego, I ate at Kung Food -- a vegetarian, organic restaurant and salad bar that has a drive-through window for burgers and fries. It's pretty close to the airport so I stopped there for some sustenance for my trip home to Santa Rosa. Their food really hit the spot. For less than $10, I ate a very filling burger, topped with mushrooms and grilled onions, and a salad. They also offered entrees by the pound (I think around $7) to eat there or to go. I would highly recommend that you stop there for tasty, fresh and filling food that will fit almost any budget.

Angels and Healthy Food

Yesterday I left the safe confines of Sonoma County and headed to the big city, San Francisco, to attend a workshop about Healthy Food in hospitals, cafeterias and other institutions held at UCSF Medical Center. The event was from 1 to 3:30 which couldn't be a much worse time of day for me and the traffic coming home.

I am working on a project to help make the food in the local Kaiser Permanente Cafeteria healthier. It's a concept that just has to happen. But the logistics of making this change are not simple.

I parked in the huge public garage, made sure that I had my cup for tea (as requested by the green team running the event), grabbed my brief case and headed off. It wasn't until I was leaving the conference room and heading back to my car that I started searching for my keys.

I realized within a moment of looking that I just did not have them. I must have left them on the trunk of my car. I knew that no one would steal my car and just hoped to find my keys.

And I did. Some Good Samaritan left them on the front seat with a note and a smiley face, saying that they had found them. The only problem was that they had now locked them in my car.

I had to get the security guard. He showed up but had to get another security guard to help. The two of them managed to get my car open in about 25 mintues.While watching the security guard antics, a chef colleague walked by. I asked him a few questions and I had a chance to learn more about making healthy changes in a cafeteria. He told me that he now uses local, organic produce and while it costs more, people love it.

I got a late start out of SF and managed to get home without too much time in traffic. Having an angel find my keys and leaving them for me makes me realize that all roads lead to healthy food.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Big Time Score

I went early to the farmer's market today as my son needed to get to school early (most likely to do the work that he says that he doesn't have). It gives me the opportunity to get my hands on the "god stuff" right away.
First I got a basket of organic strawberries. And then the rest came to me all from Little (what a misnomer) Larry from Triple Ranch and Farm here in Santa Rosa. He kind of whispered, "Look at this" and held up a beautiful carrot. I had just run out of the real ones (not the precut bagged ones) for my husband's lunch this morning. I had to buy a bunch of those which he hand selected for me. I also scored a purple kohlrabi, small white spring onions and salad mix. Yippee. More yummy salads will be coming my way.
Last night I went to a meeting on spices and created a dish that I called Moroccan Spiced Quinoa. It was pretty tasty last night. The little bit that I had leftover will become today's lunch as I have to drive to San Francisco for a meeting. I'll get to see if the dish is the same or better. Can't wait.
Two more markets are starting tonight. And yours might be happening soon. Find your local farmers and make them your friends, you never know what they might whisper in your ear.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Melon Coupons - Make Me Happy

I like to scan the Sunday newspaper coupon sections to see what the food companies are trying to get people to eat. I have been encouraged lately by seeing improvements in processed products such as whole grain rice mixes produced by Rice-A-Roni and Di Giorno pizza with whole wheat crust. I am a bit amazed as this morning as I saw a coupon for melons - a real food being advertised with a 1 dollar off coupon. Of course it is branded, not organic and most likely hybridized but still, it's real food. Look for Dulcinea seedless watermelons or Tuscan style cantaloupes. Or even better, shop your farmer's market to buy what's fresh and local.

Another interesting observation -- Pom, the company that introduced pomegranate juice to the US in a big way, now has a pomegranate and tea combo for sale. I saw this at Safeway the other day and it seemed expensive to me. I drink tea all day long whenever I can. It's not likely that I would be paying more than 2 dollars for a glass jar of tea but it's definitely better than drinking some fancy coffee drink with lots of fat and caffeine. It's all a matter of choice (and hopefully it's not choosing your poison).

That leads me to the last thing that I noticed while scanning the coupons (which I consider some kind of reflection of society) was that Smart Beat now has a complete line of foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. They have put them in margarine, mayonnaise and peanut butter. I find it strange that they would add Omega-3s to peanut butter but it might be an easy way to get kids to eat more of them. And children definitely need them for healthy brains. Kids are not likely to eat fatty fish, walnuts, greens, flax or hemp seed or other good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. I'd still rather suggest that they eat a bowl of Bob's Red Mill "Right Stuff" cereal (which contains flax) each morning with cinnamon and raisins than manipulated peanut butter. But perhaps it's because my son doesn't like peanut butter. For me, real food still rules.

But I'll keep looking at the coupons to stay in touch with what's out there, even if a lot of it is scary.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Strawberry Salad Wins Recipe Contest

A few years ago I entered this unusual Baby Greens and Spinach Salad with Strawberry Dressing and Spiced Almonds in a local radio cooking contest for which the featured ingredient was almonds -- and I was one of the winners. You need sweet, dead ripe strawberries to make this. Since the time I developed the recipe I have used the dressing far more than I have used the almonds. All together, though, yumm yumm. Use organic strawberries because I care about your health.

Mixed Baby Greens with Strawberry Dressing and Spiced Almonds
Serves 4-6
This makes one very large salad. You an always use less greens and keep some of the dressing to use in the next day or two. You can use pecans or walnuts if you prefer them.

2 pint baskets strawberries, quartered, reserve 3/4 cup of them
3 tablespoons raspberry, champagne or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon agave syrup or Sucanat
2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon Sucanat or brown sugar
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin

6 cups mixed baby greens
6 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots or spring onion

Combine 1 ½ cups of strawberries, the vinegar, agave or Sucanat, olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender or small food processor. Blend until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil and add the almonds over medium heat. After 2-3 minutes, when the almonds smell toasty, add the Sucanat and stir to coat the almonds. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne and the cumin. Remove the spiced nuts from the pan to some parchment or wax paper and let cool.

Combine the greens, spinach and shallots. Toss gently. Mix in the dressing and toss. Garnish with the reserved strawberries and almonds.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

San Diego - Great News

On May Day when people all around the country were protesting, I was flying to San Diego to teach at a cooking school called Great News. It was definitely great news for me. I feel privileged to have made it into their catalog, finding myself listed on the celebrity chef page in the same sidebar as John Ash.
The veggie class that I taught was attended by 40+ people. The kitchen there is fabulous. They have all kinds of great equipment. I got to try out a new pressure cooker, a WMF, and it worked just fine. I'm not sure that I am ready to trade any of my others in for that brand, and I have too many right now as it is.
The store sold out of the 20 copies of my book that they pre-ordered. I had 2 people assisting me, along with 4 volunteers, and a back kitchen dishwasher who I never met but who definitely deserved a big hug for her hard work. They know how to run a successful class. I do wish that the cooking schools in my area were as organized. The school is attached to a retail cookware store that I really didn't get to explore until I went back the next day to return a folder for my class that had mistakenly been put with my folder to take with me. Oooops.
The good part was that I got to look around the store a bit and buy a gift for a friend as well as to replace my mutliple setting kitchen timer which stopped working a few months ago. I was thrilled. It's the little things that can make me happy.
The weather has been overcast and that's jut fine, too.
I have taken 2 wonderful yoga classes. What more could I want, other than some organic strawberries?

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Nourishing Lunch

Today I made a very quick and easy lunch for myself to help cure the effects of my allergies which include feeling as if my brain has turned to cotton. To counteract that I included leeks, garlic, ginger, and greens in my standard pressure cooked braised tofu dish. What makes this dish standard is that it has tofu in it, otherwise all the other ingredients are flexible.

I put the pressure cooker over medium heat and added a teaspoon of canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil (or not if I am teaching McDougall) and added onion or leek, garlic, ginger, tofu and saute. Today I added diagonally cut carrots and sliced fresh shiitake mushroom caps to this, stirring for a bit. I added a tablespoon or so of tamari and a few tablespoons of water. I cooked this for another minute, then added 8 spears of asparagus that had been cut into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces. They lay on top of the mixture. I locked the lid in place and brought the cooker to high pressure. Once at high pressure, I turned down the heat and let it stay there for 2 minutes.

I quick-released the pressure and added 2 cups of chopped baby red Russian kale leaves and stirred them in until they were cooked. When I served it, I added a sprinkling of nori with cayenne (from Maine Coast Sea Vegatbles) and also gomasio (from Eden foods), a grind of flax seeds and some chopped cilantro. This could have been served over black, brown or red rice or quinoa, if I had any cooked. Or I could have put the mixture into a sprouted grain or whole wheat tortilla to make a wrap. Today I ate it as is.

It was tasty and while I don't feel all better, I do feel like I took good care of myself. I was nourished. I encourage you to do the same.

Spring is Here - And all that comes with it

After one of the rainiest and longest Sonoma County winters on record, we finally have spring here. It went from rainy and in the 50s to sunny and close to 80, with very little transition. I personally like transitions a lot. I wouldn't, for instance, like to be able to travel from here to San Diego (where I am headed early next week, and that's just 3 days away) in a split second like on Star Trek.

I could live without driving an hour and a half to the airport, parking and that transitional time but the time on the plane serves me well with the physicality of getting to a new place. I can reflect on where I've been and where I am going.

And back to that physical part and how it relates to spring -- allergies. It seems like every plant that has ever existed in this county has now sprung to life, creating an unbelievably high level of stuff in the air. It often takes me a few days of trying to figure out why I just can't think straight before the sneezing starts and then I realize that I have been attacked by allergies.

Now this is a bad thing when one (especially a woman with closet issues) is packing to leave town for almost a week. My usual indecision in what to bring with me is made worse by the fog in my head, the fact that I will be presenting at a professional conference and how I hauled way too much to Seattle just a few weeks ago when I was traveling. I told myself that I would, and could, pack less.

Instead of putting The Veggie Queen books that I will sell in my suitcase I am going to ship them to a friend. She has most likely already received a few boxes of items which I will hand out at the Vegetarian Dietitians booth at the conference, as well as the spice samples that I will provide at my Spice it Up talk.

I will be repeating that talk at Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA in July. And hope to find many other venues. And don't worry, I will be well dressed as I am sure that I still packed too many clothes. But at least for now I can blame it on my allergies.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Favorite Spring Risotto in the Pressure Cooker

There is nothing like making risotto quickly in the pressure cooker to assure that it gets on the table really hot and in a timely manner. It takes only 5 minutes on the heat and with minimal stirring. Sure, it's not a whole grain but it is creamy and delicious, and comforting. And it's simple to adjust the veggies in it according to what you find at the farmer's market or store. I like to use saffron in mine and then add what's fresh - aspargus, green garlic, peas, or anything else (traditionally it would have cheese, cream or butter). Follow the tips that I give you for making it, the most important is that the quick cooking veggies get added after the risottto has been cooked and you remove the pressure cooker lid.

Here's the recipe:
Saffron Risotto with Peas and Asparagus
Use the vegetables that look the best to you.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 stalks green garlic, sliced well
1 leek, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 ½ cups arborio rice
½ teaspoon saffron dissolved in hot water
3 ½-4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen peas, thawed or 1 cup sugar snap or snow peas, cut in half
1 cup asparagus stalks and tips
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, chives or garlic chives
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Add the garlic and leek and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the rice, stirring well to coat the rice with oil. Add the saffron and the water and then add 3 ½ cups of the broth. Stir well and lock the lid on the cooker. Turn the heat to high and bring to high pressure. Lower the heat and maintain high pressure for 5 minutes. Reduce the pressure using a quick release method. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you.
If the risotto isn’t creamy enough, add the remaining stock and cook on the stove top, stirring until you get the desired consistency. Stir in the salt, peas, asparagus and herbs. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve right away.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bread Reflections -- TOAST

As long as I can remember I have had a thing for toast. There's something about its crunchy texture and the browning from the Maillard reaction (a term that I learned in graduate school that I can finally use somewhere) that makes it so much better than just bread. I knew that my son inherited the toast gene from me when he was little and one of his favorite foods was toast, except he liked his very dark.

Yesterday the bread fairy entered my life again at Community Market in Santa Rosa. I saw Mario of Grindstone Bakery and he handed me two loaves of bread. I must say that in my effort to give as well as receive I handed one to a friend, Page, who was one of 4 people that I encountered there at the store. But the Sprouted Seed Spelt made it to my toaster today. And I am still swooning. I had to stop myself from eatng a third piece (at least right now) since it tasted so delicious. This hearty, naturally leavened bread is one of my favorite types to eat versus something light and airy. But I must admit that I am not able to resist other delicious bread and my bread box (yes, I do have one) often has a few different loaves lurking inside waiting to become toast.

Each year I go to camp in Mendocino at the Mendocino Woodlands in Jackson State Forest and my biggest complaint until last year was that I couldn't have toast. Last year there was a toaster there and my life felt very full and complete. A life in the woods with great food that includes toast. Ahh, just a small slice of heaven.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rainy Sonoma County

While spring has arrived in many other parts of the country, we are still deep in winter here in Sonoma County. I feel incredibly privileged that my April birthday brought sun and balmy weather but that was short-lived.

The most distressing part of all the rain is that the farmers have either lost part of their crops, the plants are growing very slowly and they cannot get into the fields to plant. Hopefully we will have local food in the summer when our crops start appearing. In a usual year, we would have the first zucchini and other squash as early as May. We can only wait to see what occurs. We cannot change or control the weather - not as far as I can tell.

I hope that more sun is on the horizon. We'll all feel better, especially the farmers and the plants.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Seattle Sun - Not Impossible

I was in Seattle for 5 days at the very end of March and into the beginning of April. I started out teaching at my friend Carol Dearth's Rain City Cooking School . The class was small but attentive and the meal they produced was as good as what you would find in any upscale vegetarian restaurant. The menu included Potato & Watercress Soup with Sorrel Cream, Roasted Asparagus and Beet Salad with Herbed Citrus Dressing, Caramelized Onions, Leeks and Vegetables Wrapped in Phyllo Pastry, Braised Baby Artichokes with Dried Tomatoes, White Wine, Shallots and Garlic and for dessert -- Marinated Spring Strawberries . The rainy weather here in California made baby artichokes unavailable so I substituted water packed canned hearts and the dish was wonderful. The strawberries needed a bit of sugar but all was delicious. The class had the most fun with the phyllo dough which is one of my favorite ingredients to use in teaching since so many people are intimidated by the thought of using it, and then find it it's really not very difficult to use.

I went to Seattle to attend a conference of The International Associaton of Culinary Professionals. Many high profile chefs were in attendance including Jacques Pepin, Rick Bayless, Charlie Trotter, Roland Messier and more. I go for the education. Mostly what I learned is that I know a bit more than I sometimes think that I do. Charlie Trotter commented that seaweed is going to become more common place. You heard it here first.

As I got up from a talk at breakfast to use the rest room I ran into my friend Ken from Lotus Foods who carries the Bhutanese red rice. He was going to be doing a presentation that day. It was great to chat with him.

As I skipped out of another session with a well known Indian chef, I ran into a friend who works for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. She followed me out of the room so that we could set up a dinner meeting. And we did.

Since the weather was almost balmy we walked to the Elysian Brewery to possibly have dinner but the atmosphere didn't seem right. So we got directions to Lark, a 50 seat restaurant just 2 blocks away where they don't take reservations for small parties.
Laura and I didn't have to wait long for a table. The stafff made us feel very welcome and cared for. It was like eating in someone's home but they really knew how to cook. There wer no incredibly memorable small plates but the pasta with nettles was yummy. We were treated to a wonderful frozen Meyer lemon mousse, which was an extremely tasting end to the meal. Kelly, the hostess, called a cab for us and we left for our respective hotels.

The conference was interesting while somewhat exhausting. I was happy to arrive home except that I left the Seattle sun for the Sonoma County rain. Funny, isn't it?