Author: Sasha Martin

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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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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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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Part of the "I love you" wall in Paris, by Montmatre. Over 300 languages represented. Concept by Frédéric Baron.

We are the sum of our hearts

Sometimes I feel like I don’t love enough, that I don’t have enough fingers to stay on the pulse of the world – there are so many tragedies, so much hurt that needs tending. Today I have some sort of flu that seems to be attacking my lungs in particular; I’m laying in bed with a low grade fever, feeling each labored breath, reading the news. As I grieve for the city I lived in as a child, I also read about how many other tragedies I missed in different parts of the world. I begin to feel shame, embarrassment. And in the midst of growing shame, I find that I can’t help but to continue to mourn for my old home. Why? Because that’s personal to me. We are most affected by what is personal. And we are most effective at bringing about change when our cause is personal. I often refer to this as “Turning your anguish into your answer.” Personal heartbreak can be fuel for your greatest good. Here’s the thing – we all feel passionate …

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How schools can use Thanksgiving to celebrate diversity

Your school can honor Thanksgiving in a thoughtful way. Modern Thanksgiving celebrations typically mean an overload of turkey and one too many slices of pumpkin pie. Schools often add their own Thanksgiving feasts to the mix, giving our children a double whammy. Unless you love, love, love turkey, you’re likely to have a bit of Thanksgiving fatigue before the weekend is over. We’re doing things differently at my daughter’s school. A little background: Our country is made up Native Americans and immigrants from every corner of the world. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate how we’ve come together as a nation, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to honor where each of us comes from. As our country becomes more blended, it is important to recognize how our unique cultures add to the spirit of the whole. The Challenge As a way to celebrate your multicultural community, invite parents to contribute a dish to a school Thanksgiving potluck from their ancestors’ country (or countries) of origin. Here’s a sample letter that can be sent home in children’s folders or via email, accompanied by …

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How to make Argentine Pumpkin Soup

Argentine Beef Stew in a Pumpkin | Carbonada en Zapallo

In 2011 a young Argentine man went viral in a 6-second video when he laughed about the cost of a burger at a soccer stadium. His exact words were: Con quince peso me hago alto guiso.pum For 15 pesos I could make quite the stew. To put this young man’s remarks in perspective, 15 Argentine pesos is just under $2 USD. It seems as though, relatively speaking, overpriced stadium food is a shared phenomenon – as common as rainy days and sunny dispositions. What is remarkable – and what made the young man’s comment go viral – is the assumption that good, homemade stew can be made for the cost of an overpriced burger. I looked into his logic: here in the USA an overpriced stadium burger in Silicon Valley goes for $12. Surely, I could make a soup for less than $12, even shopping at costly American grocery stores. Testing the theory… Curious (and inspired), I began looking into Argentine stews – sending me down a delicious rabbit hole of beef and root veggie based bowls. I finally emerged …

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Organized spice jars: ground spices on the left, whole on the right. French Square spice jars so they don't turn.

10 Essential tools & ingredients for cooking the world

Curious what it would be like to eat a meal from every country? You’re not alone. More people than ever before are bringing the world into their kitchens. These 10 essentials will help you make eating internationally an easy part of your weekly routine, although only the first two are absolute requirements.  1. A good attitude First things first: All the cookware in the world won’t help a bad outlook. The first requirement for trying international food is to be open minded. No saying “ugh” or “gross” at the dinner table. Think: How would you feel if someone spoke that way about your mom’s cooking? Plus, if an entire country loves the food, is it really a question of preference or is liking a certain dish more about what we’re used to? My rule of thumb? If you can’t think of anything nice to say, hold your tongue. 2. Time with your loved ones Can you cook alone? Yes. Can you eat 195 countries alone? Sure. But I spend enough time alone, in front of a laptop …

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On being happy, even when life is cruddy

Is there something inherently different about people who maintain a positive attitude, even in the most trying circumstances? Happy souls can be found on every continent, in every culture – but when times get tough they become the minority. What keeps a person from constantly looking backwards, becoming a pillar of salt after everything they’ve ever known is destroyed? Today we explore thoughts on happiness from around the world. These philosophers and authors provide joyful medicine for suffering souls. 1. Start with the truth. No matter how insular a life we live, suffering finds us. The question is what will we do when the bully crashes into our heart? The first, inevitable step? Sit with it a while. Understand it. We must face reality before we can ever hope to heal. 2. Change your perspective. Even though grief sits in our hearts, it cannot be our only companion. Healing begins when we look around and begin to see the roses on the thorn bush. Those people who find happiness during cruddy times manage to also see the good around them …

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Recipe for Gingered Pineapple Sundae with Toasted Coconut Flakes

Gingered Pineapple Ice Cream Sundae with Toasted Coconut

Let’s travel to Sub-Saharan Africa, where the flavors of the tropics make an ordinary ice cream sundae outstanding. Start by harvesting real vanilla beans from Madagascar to make the ice cream. Then head to Nigeria to pluck a heavy, sweet pineapple and a knob of ginger root. Nigeria is the world’s 8th largest producer of pineapple and the 4th largest producer of ginger.* Chunk up the golden fruit, then cook it with brown sugar and a whisper of the freshly grated ginger. Ten minutes on a flame will release the pineapple juices into the brown sugar, making a sticky, caramel-like sauce. Look how tall my little girl is getting… Sometime this fall she stopped using the step stool. I always knew bringing the world into our kitchen was good nourishment, but she grew an inch over the summer. <sigh> When you’re done bemoaning how fast life flies, assemble your ice cream sundae. First: Drop two fat scoops of vanilla ice cream into a shallow bowl. Second: Spoon on the hot pineapple and sauce. Work quickly to sprinkle with lightly toasted …

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"Hipp hipp hurra! Konstnärsfest på Skagen - Peder Severin Krøyer" by UFA66 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hipp_hipp_hurra!_Konstn%C3%A4rsfest_p%C3%A5_Skagen_-_Peder_Severin_Kr%C3%B8yer.jpg#/media/File:Hipp_hipp_hurra!_Konstn%C3%A4rsfest_p%C3%A5_Skagen_-_Peder_Severin_Kr%C3%B8yer.jpg

5 Tips for hosting a World Food Day dinner party that matters

World Food Day seems like a strange day to have a party: This isn’t one of those holiday-non-holidays, like Moment of Frustration Day (October 12) or Punk for a Day Day (October 25). World Food Day is a day of action every October 16, when people all over the world make a commitment to eradicate hunger. So why have a dinner party when so many are hungry? Because you’re probably going to have a dinner party sometime soon anyway. Why not make it a meal with a cause? This World Food Day make your table larger by donating the cost of your meal to help make the world hunger free. A World Food Day dinner party is a great way to sample new foods while raising awareness & funds for those most in need around the globe. This year I partnered with HungerFree, an initiative of World Vision, to do something really special – and you’re invited. Imagine if we could fit the whole world around a single table? We can start by making room in our hearts. Here’s how …

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