Author: Sasha Martin

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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"EarthRender" by Tesseract2 - Own work{{Created wfrrrr xith Blender}}. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EarthRender.png#/media/File:EarthRender.png

To the person who thinks eating international food is an act of white supremacy.

When you say that eating food from other countries helps perpetuate white supremacy – that the very act of eating another group’s food oversimplifies and subjugates the “other” as perpetually foreign – you are conveniently ignoring a few simple truths. If one cannot travel, eating a meal to experience another culture is one of the few visceral ways available to learn about people around the world. Stovetop travel brings book knowledge to life. Consider the poor. The poor do not have the luxury to travel to other countries. Getting a bus ride to work can be a challenge, making the financial burden of crossing the ocean laughable. I grew up poor. My brother and I slept in the living room. My clothes were kept in a dresser in the kitchen. We couldn’t go to other countries for family vacations. We snuck onto empty campsites instead, sleeping in our beat up car whenever we were caught. Many families were and are far worse off than us. But get this. My mother used food as a way to help …

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"Die Gartenlaube (1887) b 437" by Various - Scan from the original work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Die_Gartenlaube_(1887)_b_437.jpg#/media/File:Die_Gartenlaube_(1887)_b_437.jpg

Think you can’t handle spicy food? Think again.

I never thought I could learn to tolerate spicy food, let alone love it. The very idea of enjoying a cup of hot salsa once seemed as unlikely as camping at the North Pole. But recently – somewhere between spooning hot chili sauce on my rice during dinner and eating a piece of ‘scorpion cheddar’ from the sample bin at Whole Foods (complete with warning label “eat at your own risk”) – I began to ponder my path towards eating food high on the Scoville scale. What is the Scoville Scale? Think of it as a game of Mercy… for your mouth. The Scoville scale was developed in 1912 by a man of the same name – Wilbur Scoville. At first sugar water is given to trained testers. Then, little by little, the hot part of the pepper (a.k.a. capsinoid extract) is added to the water until the testers feel the heat. Thanks, Wilbur! For reference: Bell peppers have no heat, while a pepper called the Carolina Reaper tops the charts at 2,200,000 Scoville heat units. That …

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Mary Poppins Birthday Party

A Very British “Mary Poppins” Birthday Party

Why stay home for your child’s birthday party when you can “journey” to 17 Cherry Tree Lane with a very magical Mary Poppins Tea Party? I began reading Mary Poppins to my daughter earlier this year and we soon found ourselves delighted by the adventures. It wasn’t long before Ava asked me if she could have a Mary Poppins themed birthday party. The more we read of the 1024 page story, the more ideas we got. Here are the highlights of my daughter’s Mary Poppins Birthday party. Set the Tone with Floating Invitations Mary Poppins is associated with unexpected, magical adventures. To set the tone, I made “floating” invitations a few weeks before the party. Make it a Costume Party Everyone loves an excuse to dress up! We invited Ava’s friends to wear a costume inspired by the movie, book, or tea parties in general. They did not disappoint! There were several Chimney Sweeps… An adorable Bert in red stripes… And, as is to be expected, several Mary Poppins! We assembled Ava’s costumes from items found at second hand shops, …

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Ugandan Rolex Recipe

Ugandan Rolex | Breakfast Wrap

Uganda’s “Rolex” is breakfast luxury that can be purchased on any street corner. Whipped egg is the gold setting. Precious studs of tomato and purple onion glitter across the surface like garnet and amethyst, while fine strands of cabbage sparkle like peridot. The completed jewel is nestled safely in a soft chapati wrap. Ridiculous? Maybe. But shouldn’t every day food be as precious as a “real” Rolex? What is a Ugandan Rolex? Rolex is classic Ugandan street food. The similarity to the luxury watch brand is happenstance: Once upon a time the vendors who made this treat called out “Rolled Eggs” – nothing more. The basic idea is eggs cooked with cabbage, onion, tomato, and sometimes peppers, which is then wrapped in chapati. But, as the words careened off their tongue, “Rolled Eggs” sounded more like “Rolex” to visitors. Gradually the (quite fun) misinterpretation stuck. How do you make a Rolex? To prepare a Rolex in the true Ugandan spirit, a few steps must be followed. First, make your way to Uganda… … and find a welcoming village …

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