Author: Sasha Martin


Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad | Nasi Ulam

Do packaged herbs ever go on strike at the back of your fridge? Now, thanks to Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad, bundles of herbs can finally go to work in a dish that everyone will love. When herbs go on strike I wonder how many partially used packages of fresh herbs lay wilting at the back of fridges across America. I’ve certainly been there. Even though I “store” my herbs in the garden, disgruntled leaves occasionally congregate behind the eggs and mustard (the few remaining upright stems looking like picket signs). The problem? Outside of a putting basil in pesto or parsley in tabbouleh, it’s hard to use most fresh herbs up. To give our herbs a chance, we need to rethink how we use them. A pinch here or there doesn’t really do the trick when it comes to adding flavor or using them up. Standing them in a jar of fresh water helps tremendously (sometimes adding a couple of weeks of life to them). Another idea is to find a recipe that makes good use of …

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Imagination born from a Kenyan Storytelling Chandelier

The stories we share during mealtimes nourish us as much as the food we eat. But sometimes we need a little jump start to get conversation flowing. Kenyans use banana leaves to create artwork that not only evoke ancient folk tales but that inspire the telling of new stories. I found our Kenyan storytelling chandelier at a garden festival called Springfest here in Tulsa. My daughter and I almost breezed right past the booth. The rain had just started coming down in earnest: Ava was dancing in puddles with a friend and I was hunkered beneath my umbrella, feeling grumbly about my wet socks. But then those dancing figures caught my eye. Turns out the chandelier was made by a group of women in Kenya. Proceeds of our sale went back to helping their village. The vendor told me there was a story behind each figure and when I asked her what they were, she coyly responded that it was up to us to tell it. While most might use this sort of art over …

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Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

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A Japanese Sushi-rolling Birthday Party

A Japanese birthday party is a fabulous alternative to the standard princess or pirate birthday party. A couple of years ago my good friend and artist Annie Ferris had a Japanese-themed birthday party for her daughter and was kind enough to share the photos. The girls are 4 years old, proving there’s no age limit to having a fun and educational birthday party. I love how Annie managed to throw together a totally immersive experience while maintaining a down-to-earth vibe. Here are some of my favorite features of her daughter’s Japanese Birthday Party. Sushi Rolling station Ava still asks to make homemade sushi and this party is one reason why. How to set up a Sushi Rolling Station: Set up several low tables – kids craft tables or coffee tables work well – and use cushions for seating. Not only is this set up very Japanese, but it’s also easier for wiggly little ones to manage. At each child’s place you’ll need: a placemat to catch spills (hers were Japanese flags) a bamboo rolling mat a set of children’s chopsticks (plain or zoo animals) a bowl …

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Dipping into Mezze for Lunch

I don’t think a single day has passed without my five-year old eating some sort of food with her hands. While many parents might fret about their child’s “grabby” manners at the dinner table, I encourage her to explore how she eats her food as much as what she eats. My guidelines are simple: only three fingers (the thumb, index and middle fingers of her right hand) and no more than one knuckle deep. Bread should be used whenever possible to help scoop up particularly messy food. Oh, yeah… And use a napkin. Since cooking the world we’ve learned that eating with our hands slows us down and helps us connect to the meal (and each other) in a visceral way. Millions of people eat with their hands – in fact some estimates range from 1 to 2 billion folks daily. That’s people from India to Lebanon, and from Morocco to Ethiopia. The number grows dramatically if you consider the sandwich, popcorn, and pizza munching people right here in the USA. Even hummus  – once considered international food …

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Honeymoon Smoothie | عصر المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

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Eat a country, build a country

Cooking a meal from Nauru, way out in Oceania? What about creating the island nation of Nauru as a supplemental learning project? This interactive sand box is a phenomenal learning tool that utilizes Xbox technology and sand to build topographic models on the fly. As kids push sand around, mountains and rivers are formed. You can even make it “rain” by holding your hand over the land – the rainwater flows realistically down hillsides. Here are some kids playing with it and… … Here’s more of an explanation of how it works. I did some digging and found the directions for how to make the interactive sand box are available to anyone with a bit of coding know-how thanks to the developer, Oliver Kreylos (@okreylos) – a faculty member and self-proclaimed holodeck builder at the University of California Davis. Cool. For those who are serious about bringing this project to their home, school, or local children’s museum: a few resources are available here and here. At the time of writing this article, Oliver Kreylosr’s opensource code page was down (a side …

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Russian Cabbage Pie

This much Russia knows: the chilly, early days of spring go hand-in-hand with cabbage. Throughout the countryside, rows of cabbages can be found poking through the ground even as the last freeze thaws. The tough, squeaky heads are impenetrable to all but the peskiest of creatures, but give them some attention with a sharp knife and persistent flame and you’ll see why cabbage is the pride of Russian home cooking. From cabbage rolls to borscht, Russian cookbooks are fat with ideas to use up the spring harvest – and at a mere $2-$3 per head at the market, it’s tempting to attempt them all. But if I had to pick just one, cabbage pie seems to shows off the humble vegetable’s truest potential. Cook it up with little more than butter, a smattering of onion and lay it between sticky spoonfuls of sour cream batter… bake, then slice into neat squares and you’ll have a feast fit for any potluck. (We took it over to our neighbor’s potluck party; the casserole was cleaned out in mere minutes!) The ingredients …

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What’s the difference? Tasting Ceylon Teas

English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, English Afternoon… Why so many names when they’re all “100% Ceylon Tea”? My husband gave me a box set of black teas for Christmas. I poured intently over the dozen-or-so varieties only to discover that, while the tea names varied, the labels all listed the same ingredient: 100% Ceylon Tea. The issue came up again this month: I am fueling my book tour with gallons of tea … and yet every cuppa is little more than a brew of 100% Ceylon Tea. Isn’t the definition of insanity Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results? I had to find out what was going on. My next move? A literal “pouring over” with hot water. Every morning I sipped a different tea only to remain perplexed: I couldn’t detect a noticeable difference in the teas. Feeling more and more duped, I decided to host an official tea tasting.  And, since I wanted to be sure of the results, I did it with my husband and friend. How to set up an accurate tea tasting: Whether you’re …

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Living with my memoir out in the world

Between recipes and global tips I want to take a moment to pause, breath in, and thank you, my beautiful readers. You continue to welcome me as I tour the country and promote my debut memoir, Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. Your warmth humbles me. You tell me it’s safe to cry with you – and good thing, because I can’t seem to stop. I did it in book signings, on live radio, and in front of live studio audiences. I did it when that one host asked me “What would you tell your ten year old self?” Tears streamed down as I choked out the words “Nothing, I’d just hug her.” If you read the book you know my ten year old self sorely needed hugs. Sharing my life story makes me feel naked on stage but I learned something amazing: when you’re willing to be vulnerable, so are your friends. We’ve cried together, you and I, sometimes without words being exchanged. Just a knowing look can be enough. Others have opened …

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O’Hara’s Irish Red Velvet Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream

Think you need to eat green this Saint Patrick’s Day? Think again. Come Saint Patrick’s Day, few desserts can stand up to the mighty Guinness Chocolate Cake – until now.  Irish Red Velvet Cake is as cheery as a wee leprechaun’s cheeks and as fiery as his beard. The crimson batter contains a dusting of cocoa and is bound with buttermilk – both characteristics of a traditional Red Velvet Cake, popular in the American South. But a few glugs of O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale gives this otherwise ordinary cake Celtic edge. This delightful Irish-American fusion makes an ideal dessert for the 40 million Irish Americans who celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every year. (And, since Saint Patrick’s Day is more widely celebrated by Irish Americans than the Irish, this fusion turns out to be quite apropos.) What is an Irish Red Ale? Irish Red ales are reddish-brown in color and full-bodied. In the case of O’Hara’s, toasted malt sweetens the drink, while a bit of hops deepens the finish. Too much of the bubbly brew can give the Irish Red Velvet Cake a yeasty, bread-like flavor – a modest 1/2 cup does the trick. Cutting back on the …

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Samoan Tropical Salad

Summer can’t come soon enough – the heat of sun on my shoulders, the way my skin smells with sunscreen on, hot evenings under the stars. So today we’re going to Samoa. There’ll be drippy sweetness: papaya and cantaloupe. There’ll be richness, too – buttery avocado and moody – almost bitter – spinach. And to finish it all off? A puckering of lime juice – as bright as a Samoan seascape.   Typically known for rich, coconut milk-laden recipes, this Samoan salad is a healthier twist on island fare. The version I based mine on even won a Samoan recipe challenge! I chose this salad for sentimental reasons – something to set the scene a bit for the release of my new book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. I went to Samoa 2 months before I was born (as a real life stowaway, I suppose). Scientists believe our taste preferences can be affected by what our mother’s ate while we were gestating. I like to think I carry a bit of Samoa with me today. It was an …

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