Author: Sasha Martin

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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Recipe for Thai Pumpkin Custard

Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya

This fall put Thailand on the table: steam sweet coconut custard inside tiny gourds. Let’s be real: Give someone a single tiny gourd filled with custard and a spoon and they’re guaranteed to smile (And possibly love you forever). Whether you use a squash or a pumpkin, Sankaya eats like a deconstructed pumpkin pie. The center of the gourd is filled with coconut custard, rich with egg and vanilla extract. As the steam heats the custard, the palm sugar and coconut milk butters the gourd’s tender, orange flesh from the inside. But unlike chilled pie, Sankaya is at it’s best a few clicks above room temperature. Sankaya earns an A+ in the “fun for kids” department. My daughter and this tiger her nephew love helping in the kitchen. The gourmet treat forgives wobbly hands and giggly attention spans. As long as most of the custard makes it into the pumpkin, this dessert is in good shape! While the ingredient list is short, a few simple tips will keep you from a soggy pumpkin and raw custard. Here are the top 4 …

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Build a bigger table, not a higher fence

Are you ready to stumble into the heartbeat of the world? A little while back I shared this meme on Facebook: If you have more than you need build a bigger table – not a higher fence.  I went to bed and didn’t think much of it. Just a few days later and more than 1.75 million people had viewed it (and counting). It was clear that I’d stumbled onto the pulse of something enormous. What was happening? Why did so many people see, share and like this simple statement? I have a few theories. We’re tired of living in a boxed-in world. Our fence is as tall as the rest of them. Presumably tall fences exist so that we can water our plants in our jammies. I’ll admit: There’s something freeing about lounging in my robe while sipping a cup of tea – secure in the knowledge that no one has to shield their children from my fuzzy slippers or towel turban. But this comfort comes at a cost. Tall fences interrupt casual encounters with our neighbors. Those fifteen-minute chats that …

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Australian Vegemite Breadsticks Recipe

Aussie Twisted Vegemite Breadsticks

Homemade breadsticks are such a grown-up move. Only the most organized adult takes the time to add homemade breadsticks to an already jam-packed dinner party menu.  More importantly, only an adult can resist eating all the breadsticks. Aussie breadsticks do not apologize for their allure. These brash wands of dough smirk from their buttery throne – glistening with parmesan and Vegemite – daring you to show restraint before the main course arrives. Once you succumb? You’ll be too full for prime rib, too sleepy for Pavlova. Forget about fitting into anything but elastic. Unless, of course, you’re one of those adults who can take one trim nibble, lay down the breadstick and casually carry on a conversation for 20 minutes without the Medial Forebrain Bundle (that’s the pleasure seeking part of the brain for those who don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy) going into full on panic mode. I’ve always envied people with such restraint. Those are the real grown-ups. I’m 36 years old and still waiting. My husband and daughter? They don’t stand a chance.   What is an Aussie breadstick? Aussie …

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How to organize your book collection

Whether you have a crazy cookbook collection or an overflowing child’s bookcase, a few simple tricks can help you get organized. I know because last month I organized my daughter’s bookshelves. She has 300+ books from all over the world spread over 2 bookcases. There are floppy soft covers and tiny collectibles. There are boxed sets who’ve long since lost their boxes. After 6 years of use the bookshelves were so disorganized they were barely functional. Heavy books shoved smaller editions to the back of the shelf where they’d be lost for weeks at a time. Random art projects were strewn in with the toppled volumes, making finding a favorite book near impossible. Organizing the bookshelves was my daughter’s idea. Even though I was annoyed with the state of the bookshelves, I had mostly accepted the weekly grind of reshuffling things. And even though I’m becoming more and more of a minimalist, I draw the line at downsizing my daughter’s book collection – books build creativity and knowledge. We’ll always have well-stocked bookshelves. It was my six-year …

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Swedish Cheese Custard Recipe

Swedish Cheese Custard

“Winters are long in Sweden,” Alex reminded me. I’d just flipped to the Swedish Cheese Custard in my 100-year old copy of the “Pan Pacific Cookbook” and lifted my eyebrows. My eyebrows lifted further as I scanned the main ingredients – cheese, eggs, and milk. She laughed and nodded. Turns out Cheese Custard is a dairy farmer’s happy place. Perfect after a casual ski through deep snow. But one question remained… Is cheese custard good? Cheese custard is a question mark on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. We don’t typically eat savory chilled custards. But Swede’s know it is a silky, indulgent affair. It’s as if someone took the ingredients to a quiche and mixed them up – there’s fewer eggs, more cheese and much more milk. All that milk? It makes for a delicate spoonful. The most fun? As the custard cools the cheese creates a soft, flaky crust. The golden top looks similar to the crust of France’s often swooned over crème brûlée. My friend recommended using Jalsburg cheese – unless you can find Sweden’s whiskey-cured Prästost. Jalsburg gives the custard a mild, nutty flavor with a little extra …

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"Watching Sunset Salar de Uyuni Bolivia Luca Galuzzi 2006" by I, Luca Galuzzi. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Watching_Sunset_Salar_de_Uyuni_Bolivia_Luca_Galuzzi_2006.jpg#/media/File:Watching_Sunset_Salar_de_Uyuni_Bolivia_Luca_Galuzzi_2006.jpg

Trade fantasies & overcome hate by cooking together

In my early 20’s I had a few friends who liked to play Grand Theft Auto. They’d lay on the floor for hours, only emerging to pay the pizza delivery boy and refill their coozies. Curious (and eager for a slice), I grabbed a controller and joined them a few times. Here’s what I discovered: “GTA” is a really violent game based on the premise of becoming the most powerful criminal possible. Stomping characters until they… perish… (something many young players do while laughing) is not uncommon. It’s completely gross. And this isn’t just about violence – its about choosing to be the bad guy.  If I really step back and look at the “fantasy” this game provides, I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed for the game developers and I am embarrassed for ever picking up a controller. The fantasies we engage might never affect our lives, but they definitely reflect our realities. Lots of people would tell me to lighten up – they might say “it’s just a game” or  “a video game does not make killers.” And perhaps they’re right. I haven’t done a …

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Recipe for Colombian Steak & Eggs | Bistec a Caballo

Colombian Steak & Eggs | Bistec a caballo

Bistec a caballo is the kind of hearty, Colombian chow that will feed a child with a full grown appetite – and grow the appetite of an aged person. The seasoned steak and eggs are as easily gobbled up by children on the back porch (barefoot from playing in the creek, their minds already on the next adventure), as they are sliced up during a late summer dinner party (complete with twinkling candles, and bottles of Cerveza Ancla – a popular Colombian brew). Feeding children’s imagination Though I had an overactive imagination as a child, I was never much good at certain types of pretend. I specifically remember trying to make myself have an imaginary friend because all the other kids had one. I drug a rope around as a leash for two pitiful minutes before I gave up. Even though I couldn’t conjure up characters, going on adventures in character was one of my favorite pastimes. My brother Michael and I ran the neighborhood as any number of characters. Often he was the Lone Ranger and I was Tonto …

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Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexicans offer up an unexpected appetizer for the margarita lover in all of us. Take a walk along a Mexican beach and you’re likely to find carts of mangoes being peeled and cut into elaborate flowers and wands. Mango carving is not unique to Mexico – the art can be found wherever the fruit is grown – but Mexican mango flowers smack of lime juice with puffs of chili powder and salt. Just look at this video: I planned to make a mango flower for you today. How could I not? Real Talk: When I tried to replicate his mango carving technique I ran into trouble. My first problem was that the ripe mango slid down any stick I put it on (I tried chopsticks and skewers). And, without the proper handle, carving the flower became a slippery, dangerous mess. By the end of the afternoon I’d hobbled together a few cranky looking flowers but, as I had nothing to stand them on, I’ll leave their appearance to your imagination. The happy solution? A ridiculously simple approach …

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