Author: Sasha Martin

Ava's first food

What my baby thinks about eating the world

We began cooking the world with Afghanistan, when my daughter was 7-months old. We completed the final country, Zimbabwe, when she was 4 1/2. Now she’s 6 1/2 and we continue to try new foods weekly. Below is a unique look into my daughter’s perspective about our Global Table Adventure – as I like to imagine it. This first installment is her perspective in the first six months of the adventure, from 7-13 months old.  Who says you need teeth to eat the world? I’m only seven months old but mom tells me we’re going to eat a meal from every country in the world. That’s more than 195 countries! It’s hard to imagine – especially since I just ate my first foods last month and I don’t have any teeth. Mama talked to my pediatrician (as you should before giving your baby any new foods) and learned all about Baby Led Weaning.  Turns out I’m not destined to months of jarred baby food! Instead, I can gum my way through softer bits of age-appropriate …

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Life from Scratch book signing with Booksmart Tulsa

What really matters to authors

No one prepares authors for what can happen after they publish their first book. Of course they tell us lots of things in preparation for “magical” book launch day: Come up with a marketing plan (huh?); Pick out a favorite pen for signings (Oooo, how I adore my blue-ink fountain pen); Look presentable (learned how to use a curling iron at 35 years old – huzzah!). The advice is mostly the same whether you’re self published or going through a traditional publisher. None of this prepared me for what actually mattered to me as a first-time author. You see, I stopped checking sales early on after Life from Scratch came out. I couldn’t bring myself to care about statistics, weekly trends and blah, blah, blah.  Instead, I found myself running to my email and opening messages like this: I am in the middle of your book right now and I’m loving it!!! When I’m not reading it, I’m thinking about your story and your words all the time. We just started fostering little ones last August and …

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Recipe for Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani for my “Rickshaw Girl”

Cooking a pot of Biryani can be deer-in-the-headlights overwhelming – so much so, most people wouldn’t consider getting the spiced rice dish anywhere but a restaurant. But – ah! I recently learned a few tricks that make cooking this party dish less like facing an oncoming semi-truck, and more like conducting a well-orchestrated fireworks show. A lesson in perseverance Real talk: The first time I made biryani I crashed, burned, and vowed to never make it again. Though you can also find the recipe in India and other nearby countries, I first got the idea of tackling biryani while reading Rickshaw Girl with my daughter. This empowering Bangladeshi chapter book features a young artist who wants to help her struggling family. Though the little girl can’t make money with her Alpana drawings, she hatches a plan to drive her sick father’s rickshaw to supplement the family’s income. Though men traditionally earn the money in her community, she perseveres, proving that girls contribute as much as boys. When the girl’s family shares a platter of biryani on International Mother Language Day (February 21 – “to promote the …

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Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings: Medicine for happy hearts

Forget red wine! Whether your heart is broken or bursting with love, Cherokee Grape Dumplings provide the sweetest Valentine’s Day medicine, full of antioxidants known to improve heart health and reduce inflammation (among other cool things). Oh, and unlike red wine, Grape Dumplings are family-friendly… so go ahead, give your littlest sweethearts a bowl. It’s sure to make their hearts smile. But – wait! What are Grape Dumplings? I asked myself this exact question when my friend Deborah handed me a thin cookbook autographed by Cherokee National Treasure, Betty Jo Bean Smith. Constructed with 5 sheets of computer paper and two staples, Traditions in the Kitchen: Favorite Cherokee Meals isn’t available online or in bookstores, but it contains Cherokee treasures such as Poke Eggs and Fried Squirrel. Most of Betty’s recipes use ingredients that locals could easily forage in Oklahoma (as with poke, a leafy plant many might mistake for a weed… and, of course, squirrel, those innocent critters who practically offer themselves up for dinner at Tulsa’s Rose Garden, where I’ve witnessed them climbing people’s …

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cooking-scrapbook-101

Food Scrapbooking 101: Create a travelog of your cooking adventures

Cooking the world was the greatest gift I could give my family – full of delicious memories and learning opportunities. But what to do with all the pictures we took? As food tourists we armed ourselves with cameras and, just like real tourists trekking across the globe, we snapped pictures of every culinary landmark in our kitchens and around our dining tables. Hundreds of them! We uploaded our pictures here and on Instagram, feeling pleased with our work as parents. But children don’t live on Instagram. I had an uncomfortable realization the other day. My daughter, Ava, is just six years old. She ate a meal from the world’s 195+ countries by the time she was 4 1/2 years old. It is a scientific fact that, though her taste buds will always remember our adventure (making her much less picky than she otherwise might be), she might not. The only time Ava sees photos from our Global Table Adventure is when I explicitly sit down with her at the computer. Our lives are incredibly busy. As you can …

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Recipe for Tanzanian Coconut Potato Soup

Tanzania’s Fairytale “Coconut Potato Soup” | Supu Viazi

A spoonful of Tanzania’s Coconut Potato Soup garnished with moons of buttery avocado will transport you to the windswept slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Never fear: The howl you’ll hear as you chow down won’t be the wind on your face, or some dangerous beast – but rather the horn of the Wakonyingo, calling for help. Wakonyingo: Fact or fiction? More than a hiker’s haven, Mount Kilimanjaro is a wellspring of legends involving the Wakonyingo pygmies. The stories fall somewhere between history and fairy tale. History reports that the Wakonyingo were an early tribe inhabiting Kilimanjaro, driven out or absorbed by invading tribes. The fairy tales report a far more interesting story – that the Wakonyingo fled beneath the mountain, where they remain today. Legends claim they are still down there, hidden from sight in a network of tunnels and caves, living a life any gnome would love. They keep their cattle with them and even grow banana trees in their earthen lairs. Ladders from their caves are said to reach the heavens. Turns out this underground lifestyle isn’t so far-fetched. The Chagga people (also Chaga), who’ve …

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Marion S. Trikosko
Title	Martin Luther King press conference

Make the world a better place by living with “Vision”

What would you do today if you knew you’d be gone tomorrow? News of David Bowie’s death has stunned the world. He managed to keep his 18-month battle with cancer secret and, though he left us suddenly, he has not left us alone. He spent his last 18 months feverishly at work on his latest album and it was released just two days before his battle with cancer ended. Meanwhile, next week is Martin Luther King Day, a celebration of the man’s life and achievements. Though nearly fifty years has passed since his death, no one can say “I have a dream” without invoking King’s legacy as a leader of the African American civil rights movement. He spent his life working towards equality for all. On the surface, Bowie and King couldn’t seem more different. The first was a British glam rock artist. He wore face paint and embraced multiple characters over his long singing career. “Weird” is used as a term of endearment for the man and his work. The latter was a buttoned up Baptist …

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Recipe for hot hummus with caramelized onion and mushroom

Warm Hummus with Mushrooms & Caramelized Onion

Israeli folks know – loaded hummus is everything. An entire meal can be made from a cozy bowl of warm chickpea puree when loaded with caramelized onion and cumin-laced mushrooms. A raggedy pile of pita bread is the exclamation point on this edible yes. To get your fix in Israel you’d head down to a hummusia restaurant. There you can order up warm or cold hummus with your favorite filling – anything from cooked cauliflower, to ground beef or lamb. You can even find the classic tomato and poached egg dish, shakshouka, in the middle of hummus! But you don’t need to travel to Israel to bring these amazing flavors into your kitchen. Today’s hot mushroom filling is just the warmth a 25F degree freeze calls for, and is a welcome break from the heavy meals (and mountains of dishes!) of the holiday season. Real Talk: I need a cooking win. I’m 100% in the middle of a scary cooking carnival … in the last month of 2015 I made two bad lasagnas (in which the lasagna noodles actually dissolved), one excellent lasagna (finally!), …

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christmas-tree-featured

The greatest of gifts

The greatest of gifts don’t come in wrapping paper.  Sharing a loaf of just-baked bread with a friend, butter slipping into each steaming crevice. Washing the day down with a daring new drink – just enough to take the chill out of the air. And, above all, filling our hearts with gratitude for simple moments. These are the best gifts of all. Especially that last item – gratitude. With gratitude every moment is a gift. Gratitude fills up the giver and the receiver. Gratitude isn’t about whether the glass if half full or half empty. Gratitude is being glad there’s a drink there in the first place. I’ve had some half full and half empty moments over the last few years. I became best friends with my mom. She was a huge support throughout my twenties and when I began this blog. And then I wrote a book and … I don’t know. Everything changed. We spoke every day while I was writing – laughing and sorting out dates – but now she’s gone into …

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Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Smoking Bishop from “A Christmas Carol”

Twice a month I head up the road to a 1920’s mansion where I meet with several writers (many 25 years my senior). For two hours we laugh and ramble. Brief critiques soon devolve into spirited discussions about the good old days (most of which were well before my time). Writing exercises, often based on bizarre photos from the 1890’s, are read aloud. These displays of wit and absurdity often leave me in tears. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Seuss, and Chretiens de Troyes get equal billing, but not by all members. In an era of masterminds and conferences, this little Writer’s Group does not provide a leg up nor much in the way of pretense. At least one third of the attendees dismiss Facebook and have no idea what a tweet is. We’re a motley crew bound only by our love of the written word. And we’re not entirely productive. But goodness, it’s fun. We just had our annual holiday party, which required I bring something hot, boozy, and – for extra credit – bookish.  I’m making a vegetable lasagna but that …

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gifts-from-the-heart-featured

Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

We’re a few days post Thanksgiving. The words “hurry now” and “save 50%” have left our fingers twitching towards our wallets. In most cases we don’t even know what we want to buy – we just want to SAVE. Friends, we’re in the liminal zone – wandering in a post-Thanksgiving haze, headed towards the New Year, just a few short weeks away. The time can easily be spent in a craze of shopping that we hope will somehow transform us into happier, more fulfilled versions of ourselves, but that only ends up dumping us on the other side of the New Year with more stuff. We wobble through the first days of the New Year, staggered by the weight of our new belongings, grappling for a resolution that will make the future somehow more meaningful. Can we just… stop? Instead of following the signs – “hurry now” and “save 50%” – let’s slow down and spend 100% on each other. A family tradition After my daughter’s first Christmas, when she got a million and one gifts, I realized I’d have …

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Flemish Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Flemish Sauteed Brussels Sprouts | Spruitjes

The Holy Grail of Brussels sprouts is a perfectly sauteed specimen. Done poorly, they are stinky, squishy, and muddy in color. Generally, I don’t even bother – preferring instead to roast Brussels sprouts with a bit of olive oil and herbs. Straightforward. Foolproof. Delicious. Long ago I vowed never to disgrace my sprouts by cooking them any other way. But this time of year there’s not much room in the oven for roasted veggies – hefty turkeys, geese, and hams elbow out all semblances of health food. Little choice remains for Brussels sprout fanatics but to relegate our baby cabbages to the stove top. Seeking perfection overseas I began my search for the perfect sauteed Brussels sprout in the logical place – Belgium, whose capital city is the Brussels sprout’s namesake. While several countries enjoy Brussels sprouts (including Italy and the United Kingdom), I figured Belgium would have the largest assortment of recipes to choose from. I was wrong. For starters, of the five Flemish restaurants I looked up in Brussels, none of them had Brussels sprouts on …

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