Author: Sasha Martin

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Labneh

For much of December I found myself being entertained rather than entertaining. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend two weeks but I find myself – even now that we’re well into the New Year – looking for a way to make someone else feel special and cared for.  After some recipe rummaging, I had my answer: Labneh. Soup might comfort, jelly might wibble-wobble, but Labneh delights. This Middle Eastern thickened yogurt appetizer seems oh so fancy but is really a set-it-and-forget-it kind of affair – exactly what I need to pay it forward during a busy time of year. It’s mild and tangy – but if you use full fat yogurt, very creamy and indulgent in a… healthy way (it’s made with yogurt, after all). Does your mind ever wander when you cook? Mine does. As the yogurt strained in the cool, dark refrigerator I considered the people who came in my life for no more than a season – perhaps a brilliant season, perhaps a painful one. I reminded myself that letting them go is a gift. Ahhhh, what a gift for my heart. …

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A Polish lunch that’ll clean out your fridge

Whether your child is in a growth spurt or you just need a meal to satisfy you longer than the 20 minutes it takes to eat it, Polish comfort food is the answer. We ate ours back on December 23rd, three hours before locking up the house and flying to spend 11 days with more than a dozen family members (First stop: Cape Charles Virginia, to see one of my brothers and sisters, and their kids. Second stop: Martinsburg, West Viriginia for our cousin’s wedding and most of Keith’s family). In large part, this hurried meal was the kind of “cleaning out the fridge” and “pantry upkeep” situation I engage in every time I travel. It started because the potatoes threatened to grow legs and walk off while we were away.  In the fridge, I had a link of kielbasa sausage and package of fresh sauerkraut with imminent expiration dates, plus some carrots and Brussels sprouts that I just knew would be despondent upon our return. I pan-fried the vegetables and sausage while the potatoes boiled. As the components came together on our trays …

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Why I’m terrified of telling you about my memoir

My dear friend Becky and I had been chatting over drinks for more than an hour when I suddenly mumbled “I’m terrified of telling my readers about my memoir.” The admission took me by surprise, as did the tears that spilled down my cheeks. I added, almost self consciously, “I don’t know how to tell them … isn’t that crazy?” I darted my eyes around R Bar expecting to lock eyes with frowning onlookers, but the only other patrons were engrossed with each other, the flush of new romance in their eyes. Truth is, I’ve been scared to tell you about my memoir for a long time. Sure: I’ve told you about the book casually – in a billboard announcement sort of way (clipped, chirpy, and relatively benign). But I haven’t told you in a pour my soul out through the keyboard sort of way. And – for better or worse – that’s the kind of announcement this book seems to require. My friend took in my tears, then said:  “Tell them the truth: that you’re scared; that you cried at a bar …

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New-Years

10 New Year’s Food Traditions from around the World

Before the confetti and the fireworks glitter through our skies, our global neighbors teach that we must first take a little time to dream. You see, if we imagine our futures as bright and as shiny and as real as the stars above us, we come that much closer to realizing our dreams. It’s called positive thinking. And all around the world, people accomplish this through a brilliant collection of New Year’s food traditions. These food traditions aren’t just another nice meal with a game attached; they’re a way to represent everything we want for ourselves and our loved ones. When we eat symbolic meals, it’s the best kind of positive thinking (hello, happy tummies and hearts). Here are my favorite New Year’s food traditions from around the world, with recipes pulled from our archives. Try one this year to make your very own Global New Year. 1. “RING” in the New Year Rings are a symbol both of continuous love and of “coming full circle.” Any food made in a ring shape is a great choice to celebrate …

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A Central American Lunch

Central America can provide fresh, fun inspiration for the lunchbox (with a generous dash of indulgence). Since our family chose not to opt in for my daughter’s school’s weekly Pizza Day, I’m always looking for something special for Ava’s Friday lunches. When I asked Ava how she enjoyed this particular Around the World lunch, Ava returned my question with wide eyes and an even wider grin. I have a feeling the cheesy pupusas from El Salvador did the trick. Pupusas are made with masa harina and melted cheese or bean filling, then fried. We made them for dinner the night before (when Ava taught papa how to make them with a hilarious, if not entirely authentic “double stuffed” method). Not bad for five years old! The leftovers were a quick reheat in the school microwave, though they’re decent cold, too. To balance things out, I included a cabbage slaw called “curtido” seasoned with dried oregano, vinegar, and a touch of red pepper flakes. The fried plantain chips and sliced avocado were just for fun! Tips Try substituting the …

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Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

A lump of salt cod (baccalà) just might be everything. To use the tough, leathery fillet – more hide than flesh – the cod must first be soaked in fresh clean water. Gradually the salt leaks into the water and clouds it. A change of water, then more salt comes out. Several more water changes. A couple of days go by. The cod becomes soft. Mild. Tender. Italians know: these steps cannot be skipped or the meal will be ruined. I find myself sifting around for meaning this year. Did you notice that Christmas came with Halloween and Thanksgiving was just a speed bump on the road to black Friday (which actually began before the dishes were done or the meal had settled)?  With all the fuss happening earlier and earlier in the year, the excitement of Christmas feels dilute. But as I sit with this idea, restless in my desire to make the holidays special, I realize dilution – as with salt cod – can be a benefit. As the holiday season leeches into the stores earlier, becoming increasingly consumer-based, it …

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South African Lunch

An African lunch for a cold day

Below freezing weather means one thing: the thermos goes on double duty. This week I filled Ava’s hot pink Hello Kitty thermos with a hearty bean stew bolstered with a swirl of red palm oil – a typical element in West African cooking. On the side – a fat hunk of mealie bread. This is southern Africa’s answer to corn bread (especially popular in South Africa). The fresh corn kernels add sweetness and interest beyond anything Jiffy Mix can offer. Tips and Tricks If you’d like a little spice in your mealie bread try adding some blackened chilie peppers (I like poblanos – here’s a recipe from Zambia). Try adding some sliced plantain to your kidney beans stew or swapping the kidney beans for black eyed peas. Why show you Ava’s lunch? Ava’s Around the World Lunches began when I shared a few of Ava’s globally-inspired lunches on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out a lot of people are looking for lunch ideas – whether for school or work. In this weekly column, I share one of our Around the …

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In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World

5 Jaw-dropping books for international food lovers

Every once in a while I browse through my scattered but immense cookbook collection, thumbing for ideas like a hungry hitchhiker: Take me somewhere different. Take me somewhere new. These five books represent a selection of my favorite go-to cookbooks as well as several incredible coffee table books that make excellent gifts for loved ones with an international food obsession. 1. Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater The best cookbooks are like old friends, chatty and not afraid to share their dreams. Nigel Slater’s food descriptions are particularly delectable, especially when paired with honest photography and none of the fussy measurements that make cooking feel like a chore. A glug of this, a dash of that is often all we need, and Nigel knows this. Each volume is organized by ingredient (Tender is all about vegetables and has mostly savory recipes, while Ripe is all about fruit and has mostly sweet ones). These books transport me to Nigel’s British garden, every inch of which contains some food producing plant – a veritable Eden where nothing …

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How cold is too cold for recess? 24 parents around the world weigh in.

How cold is too cold for recess? 24 parents across the globe weigh in.

As a family we’ve always been big on eating and playing outside – even when the weather dips below freezing. Ava’s school is remarkably progressive in this regard – they’ll go out in snow, even if its just for a few minutes. But most schools in Oklahoma keep the kids indoors during recess for one simple reason – we’re more used to heat waves than snow storms. Our closets prove it: I don’t buy Ava a snow suit or snow boots unless a big storm threatens(otherwise it may never get used before her next growth spurt). I remember being all bundled up as a kid during bitter-cold weather in Boston and wanted to know if there was a geographic difference in how kids spend their lunch breaks during “inclement weather.”  Apparently some babies nap outside in freezing weather. So, yup. Turns out there is.   24 Parents answer my question: How cold is too cold for lunchtime recess?   “I live in NE Ohio & if the wind chill is 20°F / -6°C or lower the kids can’t go out for recess” Laura P. “I …

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It's all about the paste, the song.

The latest Viral song is for hummus lovers. Seriously.

Take one part hummus obsession and one part pop sensation – and this video by comedian Remy Munasifi (a.k.a. Go Remy) is the result. I laughed. I fell in love. And then I began rummaging around in my kitchen for hummus ingredients. Thankfully I had what I needed – and I was able to whip up the Lemon Garlic Hummus I made when my family tried Israel. Here’s to all things hummus! (And for those of you that think a video all about hummus will be a welcome break from pumpkin pie? Forget it. Watch the video and you’ll see how even pumpkin pie can “go” with hummus.) P.S. Big thanks to reader Viola S. for sharing this gem with me! So. Much. Fun. P.P.S. Here’s hoping you had an awesome Thanksgiving!

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10 Global Takes on Classic Thanksgiving Dishes

Sure, Thanksgiving is an American holiday but most of us can trace our ancestry back to some other part of the world. Which is why every year I like to bring you a selection of globally-inspired dishes for your Thanksgiving feast. Case in point? While mashed potatoes are classic components of the Thanksgiving table, there’s no reason you can’t add a bit of global flare to your recipe… and you’ll get a couple of ideas how to do so below! Here are 10 global takes on classic Thanksgiving dishes. Try one out and add a touch of adventure to your Thanksgiving feast. You’ll be glad you did! 1.  Sweet & Spicy Korean Braised Turkey 2. Zimbabwe’s Peanut Butter & Butternut Mash (Nhopi) 3. Zimbabwe’s Corn and Cheddar Stuffed Squash 4. Mealie Bread (Corn Bread) – Southern Africa 5. Sweet Potato Biscuits (Mbatata) – Malawi 6. Mashed Potatoes with Veggies | Irio – Tanzania 7. Caribbean Pumpkin & Coconut Cream Bisque 8. Pumpkin Olad’yi – Russia 9. Maple Glazed Rutabaga – Finland 10. Honey & Pistachio Stuffed Quince – Uzbekistan And if all that goodness whets your appetite, check out more Thanksgiving roundups …

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An Indian lunch for kids or work

Indian Curry for Lunch

Ava’s school encourages outdoor play – even when it snows. For this I am  SO grateful (if kids in northern climes like Alaska, Sweden, or Canada can go out to play when it’s cold outside my daughter can handle it, too). But if she’s going to face the elements, she also needs a hearty lunch to keep her furnace running. Curry is great for taking the snarl out of the winter air. This vegetarian chana masala warms with tomato cooked down into a bed of spices – cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic and ginger. A healthy toss with chopped Serrano chilies will add pleasing heat, but it’s easily left out of the dish for mild sensibilities. As for the rest? Like most kids (?) Ava loves rice. And a heaping spoonful of plain yogurt and soft naan balances any heat. Finally: green peas because, yum! That’s Ava’s lunch. What’s in your lunchbox? Tips Add a little salt to the plain yogurt to give it a savory quality little ones will really enjoy While you can certainly make naan (I have a yogurt …

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