Sunday, April 27, 2008

Earth Day Week -- The Veggie Queen Speaks Out

OK, this may have been my busiest week of the year with 9 events within 1 week, with 4 cooking classes in less than 48 hours. But boy, was it fun. Although this has not been a great spring for vegetables, so far, I still had an abundance of beautiful produce to show off.

On Wednesday, the day after Earth Day, it was pouring here. Before that, it had been freezing and frosting every night so say goodbye to some strawberries and asparagus (but not all) for a while.

On hand were asparagus, fava beans, green garlic, Spring onions, baby beets, sugar snap peas, a variety of herbs, and many varieties of lettuce from La Bonne Terre Farm in Healdsburg. Marie and Bert Villamaire grow amazing lettuce. I had varieties at my disposal such as the incredibly deep red Merlot, Oak Leaf, Speckles (a red-tinged) butter lettuce (a cousin to Freckles, a spotted romaine-type), and a few others that I cannot recall. I also had wonderful arugula from Healdsburg and my very own dandelion greens.

Additionally, I got my hands on some special Nebrodini Bianco mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms here in Sebastopol, CA. They are their newest cultivated wild variety and I must say that they are pretty spectacular. Some of these dense and meaty white beauties weigh 3 ounces or more. They remind me of GM's Trumpet Royale but they are even better. So, it's been a big week of cooking, sampling and turning people on to new and delicious foods, and the pressure cooker.

I did a cooking demonstration at Medtronic, a local corporation, that employs a lot of engineers. The pressure cooker definitely got their attention. They kept wanting to look at the lid and see how it works. It's an amazing piece of cooking equipment. I'd like everyone to get one, just so you can see how it can change your life -- at least in the kitchen.

And then I went on to do 2 more cooking demonstrations for another 70+ people, one for the Sonoma County Culinary Guild and the other for The McDougall program. Some of the same dishes, some different.

And I ended the week signing my book in Calistoga in Napa Valley, to raise money for a music festival that happens each summer. The event I did is called Kitchens in the Vineyard. All I know is that I sold a number of books, and it was brutally hot. It took a few hours of drinking copious amounts of water to recover fully. Although the next day I was so tired, I was sure that I hadn't really recovered.

After eating lots of greens, including my own tender little dandelions from my wonderful dandelion garden, I felt renewed and ready to go on, with less pressure this week -- in many ways.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vegetarian Adventure Travel

I think that anytime you travel, it's likely to be an adventure -- there's always the possibility for something to happen. And this week with all the American Airlines flight cancellations, there are probably more adventures than usual.

It didn't affect me in my travels but I've had other things. I arrived at the airport for a 6 a.m. flight at 5:28 and they closed the baggage check-in. Granted the airport has 1 ticket counter and only 1 flight at that time but I had the issue of liquids in my bag. Luckily the guy behind me said that he'd carry my extra bag through security.

Then it turned out that he didn't have his correct boarding pass so he had to get out of line, with my liquids, in hand and get the pass. I knew he'd come back because his wife had already gone through and they were on their way to Oaxaca, Mexico. And he did return.

Other than two women sitting behind me drinking beer at 6 in the morning and talking and laughing raucously, the flight was uneventful. And that's a good thing.

And most of my day went the same way until I realized that I couldn't sleep in the afternoon although I needed a nap. (It didn't feel that way as my head bobbed during a dietitian's talk with the lights dimmed.) So I went for a walk.

As I headed out the door so did a tall man. We walked together and he introduced himself as Keith but with an awfully strong Aussie accent. He said that he was going to go for a walk, and I said that I was, too. So we walked down Century Blvd. in Los Angeles. Ugly area right near a strip club and nondescript fast food joints and office buildings. This was his only time in LA. Ugh.

I told him that he needed to get a cab and go to the beach-- Marina del Rey, Venice or Santa Monica. Keith was in LA just overnight because his American Airlines flight had been cancelled. He is in the Australian military and on his way to Virginia.

We had a good chat and he explained the economic state of affairs in Australia. We talked about fast food, and there's plenty there, along with kids who aren't so active. So be on the lookout for obesity in Australia.

At the very first light we came to Keith was confused about whether or not he could cross the street. It was green our way, so I said that it was fine. As I stepped into the street, a young man driving a BMW, busy on his cell phone, almost hit me -- as close a call as I've ever had. But we kept on walking, and I guess being tired made the incident not so big for me.

Keith asked if I'd like to take he and his buddies on a taxi tour of LA. And believe me, I wanted to but I am going out to eat at House of Vege in Lomita for dinner with others who want to eat vegetarian. If I hadn't helped set up the dinner, I would have gone with Keith and his friends -- as a friendly American thing to do. I am sure that he understood.

As for the vegetarian adventure travel -- anytime I go, it's an adventure but I am actually taking a small group to Umbria, Italy in September. If you'd like to check it out, take a look at http://www, You can bet that it will truly be an adventure, because I know that every trip is.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Veggie Queen Spreads Her Wings

While travel can sometimes be exhausting, it can also be an adventure. And those of you who know me, know that I love an adventure, which is party why the world of vegetables is so exciting.

These days you can get out in the world (at least the cyberworld) without leaving your cozy home by using the computer. You can now find my writing at and I will also be writing for more consumer publications for the rest of year.

Fellow blogger and yoga practitioner, Jenni, wrote about my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment on her Hugger Food blog She was only the 2nd person to notice and alert me to a mistake in one of the recipes -- the directions for the Roasted Asparagus, Potato and Mushroom Salad are really for a Beet and Asparagus Salad with citrus vinaigrette. If you are one of my lucky email newsletter readers you now have the corrected recipe for the recipe in the book. I think that next month I will send out the Beet and Asparagus Salad.

Last night in my Salads and Salad Dressings class at Santa Rosa Junior College, the students made their own recipes. About one quarter of the class chose beet salads. I find that fascinating.
One of my students used a pressure cooker for the first time to cook whole small to medium beets in less than 15 minutes. She said that it wasn't nearly as scary as she thought that it would be. In fact, it was easy. Hopefully I have another pressure cooking convert.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Veggie Queen on the Subway

I am no stranger to New York City (Manhattan) as I grew up in New York, on Long Island. "The City" as we called it, was a big part of my teen years. I missed some school because the lure of it and riding the train was too strong, and classes were too boring to waste my time. As I was mostly an A student, I figured that I'd learn more from the adventure of NY than I would in a classroom.

One thing that I didn't do much of was ride the subway. It was pretty grimy then and you never knew what danger lurked. Besides, I love to walk so I did that as much as possible. Also, the subway can be very confusing to figure out, so why bother?

Well, on my most recent trip to "The City", I was instructed by my friend Fran to take the express train out of Penn Station. It was only 2 stops to go meet her. That was very easy. Buying the ticket to get on the subway proved to be a bit more difficult.

I learned that a one pass card is only good for 2 hours. So when I returned to the subway after meeting with Fran, with my pass in hand, it had expired. Then I tried to buy another pass (while I was in a hurry) and the machine didn't work. So I asked the woman in the glassed-in booth about it and she sent me to a different machine. I bought the pass and it didn't work. So that very nice woman let me through a special gate that was being blocked by a homeless guy's stuff. He got angry and called me names as I rushed to get on the subway.

In my haste, I forgot to notice if I was getting on the express train. And I did not. So, a number of stops later I arrived at Penn Station, a bit anxious, only to find out that I had to exit the station and go across the street and back in to catch my train to Long Island.

It was all an adventure, and I must admit that it was not nearly as much fun as it was when I was a teenager. But then again, the only way to pay at that time was with money or tokens. Now you need to "dip your card" which is a strange way of saying, "swipe your card". But maybe in New York, swipe is not a nice thing to say. In California, it's just fine. And we don't have a subway, so it seems that I am safe.