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Ava's first food

What my baby thinks about eating the world

Ava's first food

We began cooking the world with Afghanistan, when my daughter was 7-months old. We completed the final country, Zimbabwe, when she was 4 1/2. Now she’s 6 1/2 and we continue to try new foods weekly. Below is a unique look into my daughter’s perspective about our Global Table Adventure – as I like to imagine it. This first installment is her perspective in the first six months of the adventure, from 7-13 months old. 

Who says you need teeth to eat the world?

I’m only seven months old but mom tells me we’re going to eat a meal from every country in the world. That’s more than 195 countries! It’s hard to imagine – especially since I just ate my first foods last month and I don’t have any teeth.

Mama talked to my pediatrician (as you should before giving your baby any new foods) and learned all about Baby Led Weaning.  Turns out I’m not destined to months of jarred baby food! Instead, I can gum my way through softer bits of age-appropriate whole foods. And since babies all over the world eat a variety of flavors – no reason for my food to be bland. Since Mama is starting with Afghanistan, my first meal will be Kabeli Palau – Mama says I can gum some soft bits of chicken!

What my baby thinks of cooking the world

If you can’t stand the heat, your mom can help.

If grownups want to eat spicy food they can have ready a glass of milk, some yogurt, or a slice of bread – all of which help block the burning effects of capsicum. But what about for a baby? Well, I’m 11-months old and Mama just found out that, in Bhutan, moms give their babies spicy food without much worry. This is a country that cooks and serves chili peppers as a dish, just like my mom might serve up steamed carrots! Imagine eating an entire bowl of hot chili peppers!

The key, she learned, was that moms in Bhutan share with their babies… perhaps not a bowl of chili peppers, but any number of mild ingredients cooked in a spicy sauce. They’ll wipe off the sauce in their own mouth for baby. Inevitably, some of the sauce’s heat and flavor sticks around – but is generally much milder. Over time, they wipe off less and less sauce. Eventually, babies work up to eating the bowls of cooked spicy chilies. Mama took it easy with me this time but says she’s going to use this method as I grow bigger!

Parents don’t know it all!

So Mama and Papa were all gung-ho about cooking the world, but last night they made a rice dish with fermented locust beans, spinach, and anchovies called Babenda from Burkina Faso. I’m just 13-months old but I ate loads more than they did. It was fishy, tasted like blue cheese and was loaded with greens – I’d totally eat it again! I guess older people become more set in their ways when it comes to trying bold flavors??? My pediatrician says babies are completely open-minded – we’ll try anything! I guess I’m a good influence on them!

For more videos of little Ava trying food from around the world, go to our YouTube Channel (keep in mind Ava gets younger the further back in the feed you go)! Enjoy – and happy cooking!

Life from Scratch book signing with Booksmart Tulsa

What really matters to authors

Life from scratch book signings

No one prepares authors for what can happen after they publish their first book. Of course they tell us lots of things in preparation for “magical” book launch day: Come up with a marketing plan (huh?); Pick out a favorite pen for signings (Oooo, how I adore my blue-ink fountain pen); Look presentable (learned how to use a curling iron at 35 years old – huzzah!). The advice is mostly the same whether you’re self published or going through a traditional publisher.

None of this prepared me for what actually mattered to me as a first-time author.

Life from Scratch book signings with Booksmart Tulsa

You see, I stopped checking sales early on after Life from Scratch came out. I couldn’t bring myself to care about statistics, weekly trends and blah, blah, blah.  Instead, I found myself running to my email and opening messages like this:

I am in the middle of your book right now and I’m loving it!!! When I’m not reading it, I’m thinking about your story and your words all the time. We just started fostering little ones last August and it has changed my view on fostering. The experiences you went through (the other side of the coin) has made me want to love these kids so much more. Bringing kids into the home, I, like Patricia, wanted to keep them at arms length. I didn’t want to bring them into my love circle because I knew they would eventually leave and I would get hurt. Your book is so inspiring and has truly changed me as a momma (2biokids 3fosterbabies). I also love being in the kitchen so the book has inspired me to get in the kitchen as well. God has given you such an amazing testimony with your life story. I’m blessed to have been a recipient of the book. – Elizabeth B.

and this:

While I have not encountered nearly the heartache you have experienced, I do know adversity. And I know that thru it, you can either whither away in self-pity, or you can look at life thru a different set of lenses than those who have not shared those difficult times. It has become a part of who I am, each and every day. Whether it be at work, in my neighborhood, or in my travels, I let my heart tell me to embrace each and every moment as a gift. You clearly demonstrate that same passion, and perhaps that is what touched me so deeply when listening to your story. Continue to cherish the simple things that make life so very special. Thank you for your wonderful story, I will tuck it away in my treasure of memories of what makes life important. – Jody Z.

and this:

Well. I have loved loved your book on all the levels it should be enjoyed – humour, honesty, intrigue, creativity, self reflection, cooking, love, struggle, acceptance AND may I say only one other book has ever sat me bolt upright with a punch to the heart – a wholly unexpected sudden shocking complete understanding of the grief & mess in my heart PLUS a way through . Thank you Sasha for writing this book. I hope you don’t mind knowing I have a page of your book taped to my bedroom wall. P. 114 [hardcover] – Catherine S.

These letters I’ve received? This is the magic that fuels authors. This is what makes us content with our craft. There will never be a sales statistic that moves me like the words above.

You are why I do what I do. Your big hearts astonish me. Helping you, helping others – it’s all a glorious gift… and if my story can be the catalyst to such conversation and change, I am honored, humbled, and grateful.

Life from Scratch comes out in paperback this week…

… which means I’m headed out for another round of signings to celebrate! I can’t wait to come out and meet you… give you hugs, hear your stories.



Wednesday  March 2 |  11:30am – 2:00pm | CHICAGO

Lake Forest Book Store @ The Grille on Laurel, 181 E. Laurel Ave. Lake Forest, IL 60045

Ticketed Luncheon, talk & signing. Tickets are $45.00 for luncheon with book included. Register at Lake Forest Book Store at 847-234-4420

Tuesday March 8 |  7:00 pm | SAN FRANCISCO

Book Passage51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA 94925

Talk, Q&A, and signing.

Recipe for Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani for my “Rickshaw Girl”

Vegetable Biriyani Recipe

Cooking a pot of Biryani can be deer-in-the-headlights overwhelming – so much so, most people wouldn’t consider getting the spiced rice dish anywhere but a restaurant. But – ah! I recently learned a few tricks that make cooking this party dish less like facing an oncoming semi-truck, and more like conducting a well-orchestrated fireworks show.

A lesson in perseverance

"Dhaka banner" by Zac Hinton - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Rickshaws in Dhaka” by Zac Hinton.

Real talk: The first time I made biryani I crashed, burned, and vowed to never make it again. Though you can also find the recipe in India and other nearby countries, I first got the idea of tackling biryani while reading Rickshaw Girl with my daughter. This empowering Bangladeshi chapter book features a young artist who wants to help her struggling family. Though the little girl can’t make money with her Alpana drawings, she hatches a plan to drive her sick father’s rickshaw to supplement the family’s income. Though men traditionally earn the money in her community, she perseveres, proving that girls contribute as much as boys.

"Rickshaw in Sonargaon" by Nafis Kamal - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Rickshaw in Sonargaon” by Nafis Kamal.

When the girl’s family shares a platter of biryani on International Mother Language Day (February 21 – “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by people of the world”) I thought how fun – bringing biryani into our kitchen is the perfect way to bring Rickshaw Girl to life for my daughter… and extend the book discussion to the dinner table.

I went into the process with little preparation or experience (unless you count the dozens of rice dishes from around the world we tried – but many of those were quite simple). After the first failure, wherein my kitchen was inundated with dirty dishes, spills, and questionable scraps, I struggled with whether to try making biryani again.

Tasting the dish was all the courage I needed.

This recipe is full of bold spice, tender vegetables, and feather-light grains of basmati rice

Taking inspiration from Rickshaw Girl herself, I reminded myself that not everything that’s good is easy. Plus, my family loved the dish – even eating with their hands, in the traditional manner.

Enjoying a vegetalble Biriyani

After some practice and streamlining, I came up with a recipe I’m thrilled to add to our meal rotation. So, without further ado…

Here’s how to make Biryani without losing your mind:

1. Plan (& prep) ahead

Homemade Biriyani recipe

Do not – I repeat – do not attempt biryani if you haven’t prepped your food ahead of time. I watched dozens of people make biryani over the years and the only ones not breaking a sweat were the ones who had nice little bowls with all their ingredients laid out in  front of them. In cooking school we called this mise-en-place, or everything in its place. It can take a good thirty minutes to cut and organize each ingredient… but I promise you this is time well-spent.

2. Take your time

How to make vegetable biriyani (recipe)

Cooking isn’t fun if the process is rushed, especially if you’re trying a recipe for the first time. I consider biryani one of our “Weekend Projects” — I’d recommend setting aside an afternoon to make it when you have nowhere in particular to be.

Put on some tunes, tie on your favorite apron, sip a little wine and hunker down for an afternoon in the kitchen with no other distractions.

You’ll be glad to have the music and wine while you’re browning your vegetables and caramelizing your onion. That step alone cannot be rushed – if you do, the fact-of-the-matter is your dish will lack depth of flavor.

3. Make your rice nice

Homemade Vegetable Biriyani recipe

A good biryani is all about the rice. Long grain basmati rice is necessary; it should be washed and parboiled before steaming among the vegetables. These extra steps will make the grains light, fluffy, and distinct, instead of heavy, mushy, and clumped together. While it might seem like a lot of work, the results are well-worth it.

4. Add flavor in layers (but use one pot)

How to make Vegetable Biryani

Taking the time to prepare each layer of flavor gives great dimension to the finished biryani. First, in goes the spices and aromatics. Then, some yogurt for creaminess.

Vegetable Biryani recipe

Finally you’ll toss it with those veggies you browned.


Can you smell that amazing aroma through your screen!? Yum.

Each of these steps adds BIG flavor to the finished dish.

Also: I borrowed a trick from a famous biryani chain in Bangladesh, Fakruddin – After I make my vegetable curry, I add the rice in one thick layer on top of the vegetables to steam, only tossing it after cooking. This is a little less fussy and comes out just as good as if you’d alternated layers.

5. Finishing touches

Recipe for Vegetable Biryani

The best biryanis really are like well-orchestrated fireworks displays – but instead of exploding in the sky, they light up your taste buds. You’ll find sweet notes thanks to a handful of raisins and caramelized onion. There’s a hefty crunch of slivered almonds. And all those deeply browned vegetables are balanced out by a few freshly torn cilantro leaves. You could switch from almond to cashew, from raisins to prunes, and from cilantro to mint, but whatever you do, don’t skimp or your biryani display will be lackluster.

Most important of all? Have fun cooking and eating with the spirit of discovery!

Tools & Resources:

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
International Mother Language Day: 1, 2
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Biryani-making video from Fakruddin (starts around 9 min)

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Packed with flavor, vegetable biryani is well-worth the effort. Set aside an afternoon the first time you attempt the recipe and don't do anything before you cut up and measure out the ingredients. Trust me. It'll save you a minor breakdown if this is your first time making biryani. Note - if your pot's lid doesn't seal perfectly, as with a Le Creuset, you will lose too much moisture for this recipe to work properly. To remedy this press aluminum foil onto the pot before covering OR seal the lid onto the pot with a piece of dough made with flour and water (this latter is the traditional method).Vegetable Biryani
Servings Prep Time
6-8people 45minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
90minutes 30minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8people 45minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
90minutes 30minutes
Basmati Rice
Masala, a.k.a. spice mixture
For assembly
  1. Peel, slice, and prep all ingredients. To make things easier, set them out in small dishes, ready to go.
Soak the rice:
  1. Wash the basmati rice under cool water until the liquid is no longer cloudy. Soak in a bowl of clean, cool water for 30 minutes (this can soak while you prepare the vegetable masala). This step helps keep the rice from getting sticky. While the rice is soaking, put on 6 cups of water in a pot along with the whole spices and salt. Cover and gently bring to a simmer (there's no rush here, but it speeds up getting the water to a boil later, and it helps the spices infuse the water).
  2. Keep prepping the rest of the recipe as written below - whenever the 30-minute timer goes off, follow these steps to parcook the rice: Crank the heat up on the simmering pot of water to a full boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pot. Gently boil for 5 minutes. The rice needs to have a little raw bite in the center or it will be mushy at the end! Strain the rice and spread in a very large platter to stop the cooking (I just use the serving platter).
Fry the garnish & brown vegetables:
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot with well fitting lid (you'll use that later), heat ghee and fry the sliced onion until deep brown over medium-high. Stir often to keep from burning. When done, remove with slotted spoon onto a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside. Season with salt.
  2. Fry the potatoes, cauliflower and carrot in the remaining ghee until browned on all sides (watch for splatters when adding them to the pot). Stir once to coat everything with the ghee, then only stir occasionally or you'll get in the way of browning. This can take a good 10-15 minutes. Season with salt, remove and set aside.
Fry the vegetable masala:
  1. To the same pot with the remaining ghee, fry the second onion (minced) along with the tomato over medium high until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, sliced green chili peppers, and the spices (red chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric). Stir until well combined and fragrant. Cool slightly, then stir in the yogurt. Add the chopped vegetables and stir to coat in the masala. Season with salt as desired.
Layer the biryani:
  1. This is the last cooking step! Scatter the raisins on top of the vegetables, then spoon on the parcooked rice (Remove the whole spices from the rice if desired). Smooth the surface and drizzle with rose water. Drizzle on the melted ghee if you want a more indulgent biryani (I usually skip it). Cover and cook over low/medium-low for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. (To help prevent excessive browning of the ingredients on the bottom of the pot, you can put a comal between the pot and flame*).
To serve:
  1. Taste the rice to make sure it is cooked to your liking. Tip onto a large family-style platter, stirring gently to combine all ingredients as you go. Top with reserved fried onion, slivered almonds, and cilantro.
  2. Enjoy the fireworks of flavor!
Recipe Notes

*A comal is a flat piece of cookware typically used to make tortillas etc - placing it between the pot and the heat source keeps thinner pots from scorching the bottom of the food. A comal is *not* nonstick (you never want to heat up nonstick cookware without food in it - the fumes can be toxic). I don't typically use one because my pot is so heavy-bottomed and I don't mind some browned bits.


Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings: Medicine for happy hearts

Cherokee Grape Dumpling Recipe

Forget red wine! Whether your heart is broken or bursting with love, Cherokee Grape Dumplings provide the sweetest Valentine’s Day medicine, full of antioxidants known to improve heart health and reduce inflammation (among other cool things).

Oh, and unlike red wine, Grape Dumplings are family-friendly… so go ahead, give your littlest sweethearts a bowl. It’s sure to make their hearts smile.

But – wait! What are Grape Dumplings?

I asked myself this exact question when my friend Deborah handed me a thin cookbook autographed by Cherokee National Treasure, Betty Jo Bean Smith. Constructed with 5 sheets of computer paper and two staples, Traditions in the Kitchen: Favorite Cherokee Meals isn’t available online or in bookstores, but it contains Cherokee treasures such as Poke Eggs and Fried Squirrel. Most of Betty’s recipes use ingredients that locals could easily forage in Oklahoma (as with poke, a leafy plant many might mistake for a weed… and, of course, squirrel, those innocent critters who practically offer themselves up for dinner at Tulsa’s Rose Garden, where I’ve witnessed them climbing people’s legs for peanuts). But it was the grape dumpling recipe that stopped me in my tracks – a concept I’d never heard of before.

Cherokee Cookbook

Grape dumplings are everything good.

Think soft strips of dough poached in an entire pot of grape juice. Some dumplings are no more than water (or grape juice) and flour, while others are more like a biscuit, leavened with baking powder and butter or shortening. Many roll them out thinly, but I like them a bit on the plumper side.

Here’s the best part… As the dumplings simmer, flour from the dumplings naturally thickens the grape juice into a sweet, dark purple gravy that makes wine seem bitter and hot fudge boring. While some might serve the warm dumplings in a bowl without fuss or ceremony, a little cream or vanilla ice cream on the side is lovely.

Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumpling Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

What kind of grape juice to use?

Grape Dumplings are a traditional part of Cherokee and Choctaw cooking. You can use a bottle of concord grape juice to keep things simple, but the first Grape Dumplings were simmered in a mash of wild Muscadine grapes (which grow from Oklahoma to Florida and from Texas to Delaware). These deep purple, thick-skinned grapes are also known as Possum Grapes and are rumored to be sour until the first freeze:

These grapes are sour even after they’ve turned a dark purple until a hard freeze came along, then they turn sweet. In other words, they “play possum” until a freeze and that’s how they got their name of “possum grapes.” Though I never tested this personally, my mother and stepfather swore it was true. (Garden Forums)

"Vitis rotundifolia". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

The dessert’s creation, a result of locals needing to use up a plentiful harvest, reminds me of Canadian Maple Dumplings, which are – get this – soft bits of dough simmered in maple syrup (star, exclamation point, bevel and emboss!!). As you can imagine, Canadians came up with Maple Dumplings thanks to the availability of maple trees and so, so, so much maple syrup. We can thank plentiful harvests and creative local cooks for both of these Oh-my-goodness-that’s-good desserts.

When plants get the feels, medicine is born.

So, you’re on board with Grape Dumplings, but you’re wondering why I’ve dubbed them Medicine for a happy heart. Here’s the skinny: plants have long provided special nutrients and even medicine to humans. Cherokee Indians have a long tradition of acknowledging and even celebrating the contributions of foraged plants to medicine. In fact, there’s an old Cherokee legend that explains why wild plants have been giving humans medicine since waaaaaaay before pharmacies became a street corner standard.

Cherokee Village - seeing how Cherokees lived in 1710

Ava & I inside a winter family house, listening to our guide | Cherokee Village reconstruction (c. 1710)

My husband is part Cherokee on his mother’s side; we recently went to Cherokee Village in Tahlequah, Oklahoma to learn more about this part of his heritage. There isn’t much known except that the Cherokee woman married a white man, moved out of state, and never put her name on the roll. Many Cherokee tried to hide this way so they could avoid discrimination. We felt it was important for Ava to learn more about this part of her lineage. We also want to start telling her Cherokee stories, like the History of Medicine, which I’ve retold in my own words below.

A Cherokee Legend tells the History of Medicine:

There once was a time when all of Creation lived in harmony. Every type of creature and object was able to speak easily together. In those days humans were few in number and helpless. The Plant People, Standing People, and Stone People (representing the plants, trees, and rocks) gave the two-leggeds everything they needed. Even the Animals sacrificed themselves for food. Their only request was that the two-leggeds ask before taking anything, give thanks for the sacrifice, and take only what was needed.

But when the two-leggeds grew in numbers they began to think that the Web of Life revolved around them. They soon forgot their promises and began to kill without asking, never gave thanks, and greedily snatched more than what was needed. The Animals, now feeling threatened, banded together and discussed what to do to protect themselves. They decided that, if a two-legged killed an animal and did not give thanks for the sacrifice, the Chief Animal Spirit would afflict them with a terrible disease.

But the plants felt this was too harsh. “If humans don’t find their place in the Web of Life, they will be wiped out by disease. Though the two-leggeds trample, dig, and burn us, we feel compassion for them. If they will listen, we will help them. For every disease the Chief Animal Spirit brings to them, the Plant People will provide a cure. They simply need to pay attention when we speak.”

Cherokee Tribal Council

Tribal council house with logs facing each of the 4 major directions | Cherokee Village reconstruction (c. 1710)

A “Cure” for your Valentine?

After learning Cherokee’s history of medicine, I have a feeling the Plant People spread wild Muscadine grapes around Oklahoma for more than bird food.

My husband, Keith grew up in rural Oklahoma on a meat-and-potatoes diet and has a lot of heart issues (specifically high blood-pressure and atrial fibrillation). I can’t help but wonder if the antioxidants in grapes can help with his troubles. I’ve read that they can help widen blood vessels, which would theoretically help reduce the likelihood of stroke or inflammation. While I don’t see him getting off his medicine after one helping of Grape Dumplings (no, really… don’t go off your medicine after eating these!), the way I look at it, eating a few extra antioxidants can’t hurt… especially in a guy who, when given the chance, will put half a jar of grape jelly on a slice of toast. At the very least, it will connect my husband and daughter a little more to their Cherokee ancestors.

Keith and Ava | Global Table Adventure

P.S. Three different times while writing this post I accidentally typed the word “Grumplings.” #newfavoriteword


Traditions in the Kitchen: Favorite Cherokee Meals from Betty Jo Bean Smith, Cherokee National Treasure (sold locally)
Choctaw & Cherokee Recipes (with video)
Cherokee Recipes, Cooking Tips and Lore, by Dean Tackett
Washington Post: Concord Grape Dumplings
Oklahoma Foraging

Cherokee Grape Dumplings just might be the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert. When you share a warm bowl of Grape Dumplings with your lover, you’ll give them a smile and a healthier heart.

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This traditional Cherokee Grape Dumpling recipe makes for a fun dessert. Unless birds have scattered possum grape seed in your garden, you'll have to settle for concord grape juice. Ultimately this is quite a bit quicker than mashing your own grapes. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of cream.Cherokee Grape Dumplings: Medicine for happy hearts
Servings Prep Time
6people 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
6people 15minutes
Cook Time
For the dumplings
For cooking
Serving suggestions
For the dumplings
  1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the butter is pea-sized or smaller. Add in the 1/2 cup grape juice and mix until just combined. (If you overmix it, it'll be tough)
  2. On a heavily floured board, press the dough into a flat disc. You can roll it thinly, but I like them a little on the thick side. Cut into bite-sized bits with a pastry cutter or ravioli wheel.
For cooking
  1. Heat up the remaining grape juice and sugar in a large skillet with high sides until simmering. Drop in the dumplings and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure they don't stick together. The grape juice should thicken into a sweet gravy. Serve immediately in bowls either plain, with heavy cream drizzled on top, or a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.


Food Scrapbooking 101: Create a travelog of your cooking adventures


Cooking the world was the greatest gift I could give my family – full of delicious memories and learning opportunities. But what to do with all the pictures we took? As food tourists we armed ourselves with cameras and, just like real tourists trekking across the globe, we snapped pictures of every culinary landmark in our kitchens and around our dining tables. Hundreds of them! We uploaded our pictures here and on Instagram, feeling pleased with our work as parents.

But children don’t live on Instagram.

I had an uncomfortable realization the other day. My daughter, Ava, is just six years old. She ate a meal from the world’s 195+ countries by the time she was 4 1/2 years old. It is a scientific fact that, though her taste buds will always remember our adventure (making her much less picky than she otherwise might be), she might not.

The only time Ava sees photos from our Global Table Adventure is when I explicitly sit down with her at the computer. Our lives are incredibly busy. As you can imagine, this rarely happens.

Since the littlest among us don’t scroll through feeds to take in their world (thank goodness) we need to come up with something else.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Food Scrapbooking 101

We can help our children cherish their Global Table Adventures with a Food Scrapbook – something they can hold in their hands, store on their bookshelves, and update as much as they’d like. They can keep their scrapbook until they’re grown, at which time they can recreate the dishes for their children. How beautiful is that?

Longtime readers, Midori and Brian, recently shared the scrapbook they made for their niece and nephew and I fell in love.

It was so great I wanted to share it with you, along with 5 Tips for creating a fantastic, fun, fascinating… Food Scrapbook!

1. Only scrapbook your favorite meals


It doesn’t matter whether you started cooking the world a decade ago or last weekend. Just jump in where you are. Remember, only the most remarkable meals are worth scrapbooking (I’d rather have a Food Scrapbook filled with 16 awesome memories than one hundred mediocre ones). Oh, and then there’s this little nugget to keep in mind:

Originally, we wanted to keep track of every recipe and any adjustments we made (or wanted to make), but we quickly fell behind and realized how long it would take to actually do that. (Brian)

Start by creating a page for your top 5 favorite recipes. You can always add more later.

2. Embrace imperfection


Look how happy these kids are! This is the moment they got their Global Table Adventure scrapbook from Brian and Midori. It is more important to enjoy the scrapbook than fuss over making every detail perfect. True story: I still have the scrapbook I started for my wedding. It’s unfinished, collecting dust at the back of the closet… all because I put pressure on myself to make it “just right.” Unfortunately, “just right” meant it never got done. When I switched to an online editor I filled 300+ pages (including scans of our wedding cards and more) in a short amount of time.

  • If you’ve already completed your Global Table Adventure, you might find working digitally is quicker. I love Blurb (that’s what I used for my wedding book).
  • If you are still cooking the world and need the ability to keep adding to your Food Scrapbook, a simple 3-ring binder with plastic inserts will do the job. That’s what Midori and Brian did! The plastic inserts also make it spill resistant.

Whatever version you choose, all scrapbooks can be embellished with markers and glue… a sure way to get the kids involved.

3. Use a map for the table of contents


This is my favorite part about Brian and Midori’s Food Scrapbook. They used a world map as the table of contents! Simply write page numbers next to each country or continent. When the urge to recreate a favorite meal overtakes your family, you’ll be able to flip to the appropriate section in seconds. It’s also super easy to update – genius!

4. Make your Food Scrapbook personal


The most important (and fun) part of a Food Scrapbook is personalizing it. Do you like to match photos of your meal with anime? Midori, Brian and their friends do! Your interests make your Global Table Adventure different than mine. Your scrapbook should also reflect your personality.

Include unique details like:

  • Photos of the people involved
    Did you cook with your great grandfather or a cousin you rarely see?
  • Photos of the cooking process
    Document unusual experiences like working with banana leaves or rolling your own sushi for the first time.
  • Photos (or drawings) of traditional decorations
    Did a meal call for a special piece of equipment, like a tagine? Did the cooking method have an unusual step? Do a little sketch or include a photo!
  • Photos of the countries
    Find an old atlas or encyclopedia at the thrift store and cut it up to add international flavor to each page.
  • Recipes with your own special tweaks
    It’s okay to clip recipes from outside sources as long as they’re for your eyes only (ie. you aren’t making copies or selling your scrapbook at a fundraiser). Otherwise you’ll need special permission.
  • Receipts from interesting purchases
    Did you go to a cool international market and buy your first 50 pound bag of rice? Tape the receipt in your book.
  • Unusual food packaging
    Food packaging can be a work of art, especially if written in another language. Make sure it’s clean, then glue it in your scrapbook!
  • List of favorite resources
    When your child grows up, they might want to continue their Global Table Adventure. Add a list of resources in the back to help guide them on their stovetop travels.


5. Stay inspired


Inspiration can come from many places. These photos are just a few of the photos shared by the amazing Global Table Adventure community on Instagram (#GlobalTableAdventure).  Browse around, get inspired and continue your adventure knowing you’re in great company!  You might think of a new dish to try – or a new way to serve it, perfect for your beautiful, new scrapbook.

Instagram photos by the lovely…  @midorifaye (blog),  @ckeegan_foodandfoto (blog),  @busymamas (blog),  @mamadances,  @d.nev.richardson,  @sarah.jean,  @rebalowrie,  @laurenaiken1,  @haleyy_summers,  @backofthetaptap (blog).  Thank you for being a part of our community!


To help you on your Global Table Adventure, I created a FREE Starter Guide. These 45 pages are complete with tips for dealing with picky eaters, a “pact” for the whole family to sign, tips for hosting potlucks, and more – all to help make cooking the world a fun part of your lifestyle. Teachers and home educators will also enjoy my FREE Printable Passport Book for tracking progress through the countries (you might even want to create a mini food scrap book with it!).

Cheers, from our Global Table Adventure to yours!


Recipe for Tanzanian Coconut Potato Soup

Tanzania’s Fairytale “Coconut Potato Soup” | Supu Viazi

Recipe for Tanzania's Coconut Potato Soup

A spoonful of Tanzania’s Coconut Potato Soup garnished with moons of buttery avocado will transport you to the windswept slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Never fear: The howl you’ll hear as you chow down won’t be the wind on your face, or some dangerous beast – but rather the horn of the Wakonyingo, calling for help.

Wakonyingo: Fact or fiction?

"Mawenzi Cone at sunrise from Kilimanjaro crater rim" by Sbork - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Sunrise view from Kilimanjaro Crater Rim towards the Mawenzi Cone” by Sbork.

More than a hiker’s haven, Mount Kilimanjaro is a wellspring of legends involving the Wakonyingo pygmies. The stories fall somewhere between history and fairy tale. History reports that the Wakonyingo were an early tribe inhabiting Kilimanjaro, driven out or absorbed by invading tribes. The fairy tales report a far more interesting story – that the Wakonyingo fled beneath the mountain, where they remain today.

Legends claim they are still down there, hidden from sight in a network of tunnels and caves, living a life any gnome would love. They keep their cattle with them and even grow banana trees in their earthen lairs. Ladders from their caves are said to reach the heavens.

Turns out this underground lifestyle isn’t so far-fetched.

Tanzania's Tunnels - Photo by Robbie Todorovich, The Big Adventure

Chagga tunnel, Mount Kilimanjaro – Photos by Robbie Todorovich, The Big Adventure


Chagga caves and tunnels were often masked by huts (photo by Meku84) and accessed by wooden ladders (photo by Robbie Todorovich, The Big Adventure).

The Chagga people (also Chaga), who’ve lived on the slopes of Kilimanjaro for several hundred years now, once dug tunnels to hide from invaders. They went so far as to keep their cows and kitchen underground. To stay secret, they used elaborate passwords at the mouths of the tunnels and even placed the underground kitchen beneath an above-ground hut. The hut always had a fire lit so the extra smoke wouldn’t be noticed by enemies. These tunnels can still be seen today.

The original Mr. Potato Head

Most hikers will never see the Wakonyingo, but if you venture off the beaten path you might catch one on a rare above-ground excursion. It is said that if you stumble upon a Wakonyingo, you will know him by his enormous head.

Legend states Wakonyingo’s heads are so heavy they sleep upright (for fear of being unable to pick themselves back up, off the ground). I searched for drawings in vain, but I like to imagine their epic noggins are similar in scale to Mr. Potato Head.

No doubt this is a dangerous life – any stumble or slip would leave the Wakonyingo incapacitated. As a safety precaution, they wear horns around their necks.

Sounding the horn is the fairyland equivalent of “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Will you eat dinner tonight? Depends.

Ernst Platz, Eingeborenensiedlung vor dem Kilimandscharo, 1898

“Eingeborenensiedlung vor dem Kilimandscharo,” Ernst Platz (1898)

The Wakonyingo like to help the poor and play tricks on the greedy. A popular Chagga folkstory relates two brothers walking through the mountainside:

The first came upon an old woman who asked him to clean her eyes. He refused and walked on until he found a circle of the Wakonyingo, but not understanding who they were, he referred to them as children, asking when their fathers would be home. They told him to wait, as their fathers would return soon, and every time he renewed his question, they told him the same thing. Finally when night fell, he gave up, and and had to stumble home hungry in the dark. His brother went the same way some time later, and helped the old woman, who out of gratitude told him not to insult the Wakonyingo by calling them children. When he came upon their circle, he spoke to them as venerated elders, relating his family’s troubles with their cattle, and asking their chief for his advice. In return, he was rewarded with food, drink, and sent home with a full herd of cattle from the tribe. (Fairies on Kilimanjaro)

In summary, the Wakonyingo remind you to be polite to strangers and those who appear different from yourself. They’re not above delaying your dinner if you can’t handle these basic social skills. On the other hand, they will be more than happy to invite you to dinner if you show some interest in their community.

I’m a fan.

Eating “Supa Viazi” with the Wakonyingo

Recipe for Tanzanian Potato Soup

If you’d like to share a meal with the Wakonyingo (and get in their good graces), try whipping up a pot of homemade soup.

Many Tanzanian soups are thickened with coconut milk and include raw bananas (not plantains) or potatoes for filler. If meat is available, chicken or beef may be added. I recently stumbled across a Peace Corps cookbook with  recipe for Tanzanian Supu Viazi, or Coconut Potato Soup on National Geographic’s blog, The Plate and thought making an adaptation would be a fun way to get in the Wakonyingo’s good graces.

What is Supu Viazi?

At it’s heart, Supu Viazi is a simple potato soup with Tanzanian flare.

The coconut milk is key. Coconut trees flourish on Tanzania’s coastline, east of Kilimanjaro, making it a signature of local soups.

[In Tanzania] About 25 million coconut palms are cultivated on approximately  252,000 ha. The crop supports the livelihood of more than 300,000 rural households.*

A ladle or two of coconut milk is enough to give a large pot a swirl of creamy, tropical flavor.

Another signature component of Supu Viazi is the pepper, onion, and tomato base. This trio is so popular in Tanzania (and throughout sub-Saharan cooking), one bite tastes like home to locals (in much the same way as the cooking base “mirepoix” – onion, carrot, and celery – is classically French). Spicy or bell peppers work equally well in this base.

Recipe for Tanzanian Coconut Potato Soup

Last, but not least, be sure to cook the base down until the wet mixture dries into a paste. As it toasts, the flavor will deepen.  Give the whole mix a gentle bubble; the coconut will mingle with the softened potatoes in a dreamy way…


Finally, add the avocado garnish and you’ve created quite the fairy tale.

And that is a story I want to be a part of.

Recipe for Tanzania's Coconut Potato Soup

Texts & Resources

Kilimanjaro and Its People by Charles Dundas
Myths and Legends of the Bantu by Alice Werner
The Heartbeat of Indigenous Africa by R. Sambuli Mosha
Fairies on Kilimanjaro
Kumbe I can Cook! (2012 Peace Corps Cookbook)

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Soups in Tanzania are typically thickened with coconut milk, which gives our Supu Viazi lovely, tropical flare. Substitute in one green banana for one potato to add even more local flavor. Enjoy on a cold winter's day, while huddled by a fire ... or in an underground tunnel with the mysterious Wakonyingo people. My version is inspired by the recipe in "Kumbe I can Cook," the 2012 Peace Corps Tanzania Cookbook.Tanzania's Coconut Potato Soup | Supu Viazi
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 15minutes
Cook Time
  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, sweat onion and garlic in oil until translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the peppers and carrots. Continue cooking another 5 minutes.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes, then increase heat to medium-high and cook vigorously until the juices evaporate and the tomatoes soften into a dry paste - this could take 10-15 minutes. Season and stir occasionally. While you could skip this step, toasting the tomatoes adds great flavor to an otherwise simple soup.
  3. Add the potatoes, the coconut milk and water. Add the salt and pepper and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender (20-30 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Serve hot with slices of avocado.

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

Marion S. Trikosko
Title	Martin Luther King press conference

Make the world a better place by living with “Vision”

 David Bowie by Avro. Martin Luther King by Marion S. Trikosko.

What would you do today if you knew you’d be gone tomorrow?

News of David Bowie’s death has stunned the world. He managed to keep his 18-month battle with cancer secret and, though he left us suddenly, he has not left us alone. He spent his last 18 months feverishly at work on his latest album and it was released just two days before his battle with cancer ended.

Meanwhile, next week is Martin Luther King Day, a celebration of the man’s life and achievements. Though nearly fifty years has passed since his death, no one can say “I have a dream” without invoking King’s legacy as a leader of the African American civil rights movement. He spent his life working towards equality for all.

On the surface, Bowie and King couldn’t seem more different.

The first was a British glam rock artist. He wore face paint and embraced multiple characters over his long singing career. “Weird” is used as a term of endearment for the man and his work. The latter was a buttoned up Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, versed in the art of public speaking. Rather than paint his face, King tried to strip away the brushstrokes of prejudice in the dawn of desegregation.

Though they came from different sides of the world, both men were visionaries.

What is a visionary?

Crop of "Heinrich Vogeler Sehnsucht (Träumerei) c1900" by Heinrich Vogeler - Künstlerkolonie Worpswede. 2011, ISBN 978-3-7913-4523-9. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

A visionary is a person with strong ideas about what the future could be. Typically their ideas aren’t mainstream or popular… at first.  The difference between an idle thinker and a visionary is the visionary doesn’t just sit on their laurels imagining a different future, they take actions to help shape the future.

No one skill has a monopoly on the ability to change the future, by the way. The world can be changed with a song just as well as it can by science.

Bowie’s landmark concert

Berlin Wall - Creative Commons

Bowie helped change the world forever when he performed his love song “Heroes” in his former residence – Berlin, Germany, 1987. In those days the Berlin Wall unfairly separated the East and West parts of the city. Despite police presence, thousands of oppressed East Berliners pushed past barricades, drawing nearer to the wall so they could hear the rock legend perform. David Bowie describes the scene:

They’d backed up the stage to the wall itself so that the wall was acting as our backdrop.We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get a chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realize in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. So it was like a double concert where the wall was the division, and we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart […] However well we do it these days it’s almost like walking through it compared to that night, because it meant so much more. That’s the town where it was written, and that’s the particular situation it was written about.”

In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk about the Creative Process by Bill DeMain

The concert brought about riots in East Berlin and Mikhail Gorbachev tore down the wall shortly afterward. In reaction to David Bowie’s death, German officials acknowledged his help in shaping Germany’s future. Here’s just one of many tweets, this one from the German Foreign Office:

Good-bye, David Bowie. You are now among . Thank you for helping to bring down the .

Small actions of the great Dr. King

I have a dream marker courtesy of National Park Service Digital Image Archives

The list of Dr. King’s contributions are well-known and many. Most famous of all was his “I have a dream” speech, delivered to 200,000 civil rights supporters in Washington D.C. Few might know that “I have a dream” was an off the cuff insertion to his carefully crafted speech (source) – Turns out this small change had a huge impact on history. By allowing himself to be swept up in this vivid language, Dr. King shared his hope for the future with absolute clarity – and it caught like wildfire among the people.

Consider another small action of this great man. Rarely discussed is what Dr. King did with the original, type-written “I have a dream” speech. On the stage that day was a young basketball player, George Raveling, who later became the first African-American basketball coach at the University of Iowa and is now Nike’s Global Basketball Sports Marketing Director.  On the day of King’s speech, Raveling had none of those accolades. He was simply a 26-year old volunteer serving as extra security on the stage. After the speech, Raveling asked Dr. King if he could have the papers. Dr. King readily complied even though he knew how valuable the speech would be. After all, he opened his speech that day with:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

By choosing to hand off the original to one of his security guards, Dr. King showed where his values stood (typically he kept his speeches). This stunning gift surely endowed Raveling with something much greater than those papers. A sense of inclusion, acceptance and worth.

Today the speech is estimated to be worth up to $25,000,000. Raveling has no plans to sell.

What will your legacy be?

Time is short on this blue rock. You don’t have to be a performer like Bowie or an activist like Dr. King to shape the future. We don’t need to be superstars or stand on a stage to create a better world. But we do need to get clear with what our gifts are and how we can best use them right now, where we are, with what we have.

Start by creating a vision board.

If all this sounds overwhelming, I get it. Figuring out how to help the world seems really big. But I’d argue it’s simpler than doing your own taxes. To make it manageable, start small: create a vision board.

Creating a vision board is a relaxing and meditative process that can help you hone in on what is important to you, what projects you want to work on, and what kind of future you’d like to see. My husband, daughter, and I made our vision boards for 2016 together one afternoon earlier this month. Already, mine has been a big help in my home and work life.


How to create a vision board

1. Embrace the messy process.

You will need to cut your way through a pile of magazines to end up with a small selection of iconic images for your vision board. At the end of this process you’ll have one sheet of card stock decorated with your vision but you’ll also have an enormous mess on the floor. This mess is the ultimate reminder that we must cut away a lot of junk to get at the heart of what’s important in life.

2. Don’t try to fit it all in.

Avoid gluing anything down until you’ve cut out all of your favorite images. Once you have everything you can start playing around with layout. You might find that some things you thought were important don’t actually fit. Rather than adding a second vision board when you run low on space (kidding, not kidding), get serious about what is most important to you. Just like a page, our lives our finite – and we can only fit so much in. You’ll be more effective if you are selective.

3. Your vision board won’t look like anyone else’s.

What is important to me isn’t necessarily important to my husband or daughter. We all have different things to contribute to the world – as well as different passions.

Creating a Vision Board

Ava’s focused on helping the environment and animals. Even more incredible, she created a scene with her symbolic images. The teacup represents her wish to be cozy and take time for tea… and she placed it as rain. The candle represents her wish to be surrounded by light… and she placed it as the sun. She made a tree with scraps to represent the environment and placed a stitched owl on the branch to show her desire to sew more. She also wants to help animals, do yoga, and have creative play (the fairy).

My husband’s includes using his skills to get creative (such as by reinventing Star Wars with his woodworking tools), just starting (when he’s not sure what to do), camping more, eating fruits and veggies … Prioritizing family and friends … with love at the center of everything.

My vision board asserts that I am responsible for my own happy ending – and that, ultimately, I want my story to be one of love. In the end that is all that matters. The umbrella symbolizes that I have the power to protect myself whatever the “weather” of life brings. The window is about bringing light into our home, and the wild plant is a reminder to trust my own creativity. There’s so much more, especially about what I want to GIVE to the world – the candle and champagne flute represent giving people a sense of peace and warmth while also letting them know they are celebrated and special, regardless of who they are or where they come from. I also included a castle – another reminder  to continue the fairy tale I started during NaNoWriMo.

There is no one right way to do this life.

Vision, photo by D Sharon Pruitt.

Who knows what happens when we are gone from this world. But if we choose to live by Bowie and Dr. King’s example, we can make tomorrow better for all – whether or not we live to see the results. When we are of service to our community – even in small ways – the future improves for all. There is no doubt: Our choices today directly impact tomorrow. What tomorrow will you help create?

Do your thing. Enjoy your sliver of infinity and spread goodness while you can.

P.S. I want to leave you with a demo young David Bowie recorded around the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It never made it onto an album as far as I can tell and I’m not convinced the 1968 date on the video is correct as the words were written by Leslie Duncan and she didn’t release the single herself until 1970. All that aside, I hear his beautiful rendition with a different ear when I think about Dr. King’s message of freedom for all.

Photo of David Bowie by Avro. Martin Luther King by Marion S. Trikosko. Crop of painting by Heinrich Vogeler Sehnsucht (Träumerei). Photo of hand with light by D Sharon Pruitt.

Recipe for hot hummus with caramelized onion and mushroom

Warm Hummus with Mushrooms & Caramelized Onion

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and 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.

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and caramelized onion

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.

Hummusia photo by White City Boy

Hummusia in Tel Aviv. Photo by White City Boy

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!), and a whole lot of Smoking Bishop (in one miserable lapse of attention I managed to boil off all the boozy goodness). Also, I made my first French King’s Cake which leaked everywhere (but was still somehow as delicious as the King’s Cake we made from Liechtenstein). Today, I’m too tired to cook elaborate feasts, but too cold to snack on the chilly leftovers lingering in the back of the fridge.

It just so happens that my 2016 Vision Board includes a mushroom – a symbol of my dedication to share my quirky loves with all of you. Thankfully, warm hummus with spiced mushrooms is just such a dish. It might not be for everyone, but for those who are willing to indulge? It’s a wholesome and comforting affair.

2016 Vision Boards

Moving counter clockwise from the top: Vision Boards made by Keith, Ava, and me.

How to make warm hummus with spiced mushrooms

The first step is to get that hummus warm.

Spread a thick layer of hummus in a shallow, oven safe dish and use the back of a spoon to create a cavity. You can make your own Lemon Garlic Hummus, or use prepared hummus if you… can’t. wait. another. minute.

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and caramelized onion

Did you know that grocers in the Middle East sell canned hummus to keep on hand for last minute meals? It’s better than the refrigerator stuff because you don’t need to add a bunch of junk to the hummus to preserve it, plus hummus is best served at room temperature or warm. Apparently we’re finally wising up in the USA – Sager Creek now offers small batch, kettle cooked Hummus for easy entertaining.

Whatever hummus you choose, drizzle generously with olive oil, cover with foil, and pop the whole shebang in the oven for a few minutes. Easy peasy.

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and caramelized onion

While the hummus is warming up, saute the onion and  mushrooms in several glugs of olive oil (the more the better), along with some cumin and hot paprika. It’ll take a good 20-30 minutes to caramelize the onion and brown the mushroom.

Full disclosure: While the onion and mushroom slip into acquiescence, the most ridiculous scents will perfume your home. Good luck not sneaking one (or five) of those mushrooms from the pan before you ever sit down to eat.

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and caramelized onion

Load the hot hummus with the mushrooms and garnish with pine nuts, parsley, and paprika. Drizzle on a little more olive oil if desired – it gives the finished dip unmistakable richness. Enjoy immediately with pita bread.

Recipe for hot hummus with caramelized onion and mushroom

The garlic, cumin, and paprika come together with the mushrooms’ umami and the onion’s sweetness to form a wild, hearty riff on hummus.  Whether you keep your ingredients separate or stir them all together, one thing is certain: this dip will not soon be forgotten.

I went nuts for the mushrooms, while Ava went nuts for the… pine nuts.

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and caramelized onion

As for Keith, he wanted to know who ate all the caramelized onion (that’d be me!)

Recipe for Israeli hummus with mushrooms and caramelized onionEnjoy with a view of Israel’s stunning mountains, wherever you are.

Perhaps in the company of a friendly goat.

Israeli mountain goat by Sigal Ben Amram.

Israeli mountain goat by Sigal Ben Amram.

This post in partnership with Sager Creek Vegetable Company


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Loaded hummus is an Israeli favorite. This mushroom version is hearty enough to make a light meal for 2 people (serve with a salad on the side), or an appetizer for 4 or more folks. I love it on a cold winter's day.Warm Hummus with Spiced Mushrooms
Servings Prep Time
4people 10minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4people 10minutes
Cook Time
Serve with
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, prep all the ingredients - wipe down the mushrooms and halve them (large ones may need to be quartered), slice the onion thinly, and toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown.
  2. Place the hummus in an oven-safe baking dish or shallow bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven until needed.
  3. Meanwhile, saute onion in 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add the chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender and the onion is very soft - a good 10-15 minutes. I like it best after 15 minutes as this gives the onion time to caramelize and the mushrooms become very browned.
  4. Pile the mushroom mixture into the hummus, garnish as desired, and serve hot with pita bread.

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.


The greatest of gifts

christmas tree

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 retreat. This time, instead of Samoa, Mom went to India and the Vatican. She’s sent newspaper clippings and rosaries.

All I know is that these objects don’t soften the blow. I miss her. My sister and I cry about it sometimes. Grown women, crying for our mother. Mom would call that tragicomedy. And she’d be right.

Perhaps it was too much, sharing our lives on the page like that. Editors will remind you to be mindful of one thing when writing memoir: no one asked to be in your book but you. It has to be difficult, people say. At least that much is true.

So I focus on my daughter. I teach her the holiday traditions Mom taught me. We’re making yarn ornaments and homemade pasta. Cooking and crafting keeps me busy. Seeing my daughter smile keeps my heart from breaking too much.

Oh, the gratitude I feel for this little girl’s smile.

It’s a funny thing. Gratitude fills you up, even when your heart is broken.

sasha and ava

Since Life from Scratch came out in March many of you have written to share your stories of overcoming hardship, of reconnecting with family, of finding your own peace, even if you cannot change circumstances. This holiday season, I find myself humbled by your stories. You say my story has helped you? Your stories have helped me.

Who knows what the New Year will hold.

I know there will be more half full and half empty moments.

Things will change. They always do. Nothing is written in stone.

Meanwhile, I am determined to remain hopeful – and grateful.

For this life, this day, this heart.

"Happiness is not a destination: Being happy takes constant weeding, a tending of emotions and circumstances as they arise. There’s no happily ever after, or any one person or place that can bring happiness. It takes work to be calm in the midst of turmoil. But releasing the need to control it – well, that’s a start." - Excerpt of 'Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness'' by Sasha Martin.

Just for you

For those of you who have read the book or purchased one for a friend, I want to say thank you. Please know that I wouldn’t change a word. My heart is true on those pages.

As an expression of gratitude I am offering an autographed Bookplate Sticker to the first 50 respondents. Consider it a virtual book signing… All you have to do is email me who the bookplate is for, what the message is, and the address where it needs to be sent. If you don’t want it personalized just let me know and I’ll simply sign my name and put a standard message. For details, see the image below.

Thank you for being a part of this adventure.

See you in 2016.

Pop up book signing - Life from Scratch

Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Smoking Bishop from “A Christmas Carol”

Recipe for Smoking Bishop

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 only satisfies the first criteria. Thankfully, Charles Dickens has the answer for the rest.

How to make a Smoking Bishop


Recipe for Smoking Bishop

What is a Smoking Bishop?

Originating in Britain and immortalized by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), a Smoking Bishop is a ‘smoking’ hot drink of wine and port mulled together with the juice of roasted bitter oranges, cloves, star anise, sugar and (occasionally) cinnamon. Compared to traditional mulled wine, which can sometimes be overwhelming, the spices take a minor role in a Smoking Bishop. With port, oranges and sugar, one would expect an overly sweet drink. But the after-punch of bitter fruit is the real star here, pulling our taste buds along a pleasant tightrope of flavor. Finding the balance is key to a good Smoking Bishop… and people have been trying since the 1800’s.

On December 17, 1843, the Smoking Bishop became etched in history with the publication of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Dickens places the drink in the final scene of the book, when Ebenezer Scrooge offers his overworked employee, Bob Cratchit (the dad of Tiny Tim), a bowl of Smoking Bishop, along with his promise to be, well… less of a Scrooge. Considering the book sold 5,000 copies by Christmas Eve (6 days later) and has never been out of print, I’d say readers felt this merry conclusion was a success.

Original woodblock artwork

This original woodblock illustration, “The Christmas Bowl,” is the final image in A Christmas Carol. Art by John Leech (1843)

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i Bob Cratchit!

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more…”

– A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.

Scrooge and Cratchit share Smoking Bishop in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

1984 Illustration of “The Christmas Bowl” by Mark Peppé.

A note on the ingredients

How to make a Smoking Bishop

Back in the 1800’s, thirsty revelers roasted Seville oranges by the hearth for their Smoking Bishops. Seville oranges are bitter, especially when the skin has been browned by fire (this releases the oils and provides a bit of smoky char to the dish). When eaten in large quantities (particularly if one ingests the essential oil), Seville oranges are known to increase blood pressure and heart rate. The stimulant effect is perhaps one reason why the drink was so popular, though the bitter pith and sour pulp remains a signature element of a good Smoking Bishop.

Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Finding Seville oranges can be hard – there were none in my local market. Many folks will substitute a few sweet oranges with a lemon or grapefruit in the mix to give a bitter note. For this adaptation, I took inspiration from my local market and subbed in an Etrog (also known as Citron). The gnarly, pithy, acidic fruit is virtually inedible unless candied. One Etrog adds the ideal amount of bitters to balance out the port, sugar and sweeter oranges. Use one if you can. A grapefruit would be the next best thing. You could also just use a healthy dose of bottled bitters, but where’s the fun in that?

Also: Whatever you choose, be sure to buy organic, wax-free citrus (or scrub it well). Wax is not tasty.

How to make a Smoking Bishop

Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Preheat the oven to 350F. Stick 5 oranges with 5 whole cloves each, then slice in half. Slice the etrog (or grapefruit or lemon) in half as well. Place fruit on a sheet pan and roast for 35-45 minutes until the bottom is blackened and the fruit bulges open.

A recipe for Smoking Bishop

Using tongs, nestle the hot fruit in a non-reactive container (glass or ceramic works well). Add the brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and star anise.

How to make Smoking Bishop

Pour on a bottle of red wine. I used a Cabernet Sauvignon because it balances out the sweet port well, but any good red wine will do.

Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Cover and set in a sunny window for 24 hours. This will give time for the fruit to release some of its essential oils.  And, apparently, get really steamy.

Recipe for Smoking Bishop

The next day, remove the fruit and juice it through a strainer set over a large pot. Press the pulp through the strainer as best you can to get every last drop. Discard the fruit skins. Now strain the wine mixture into the same pot.  Add the cinnamon sticks and star anise back into the pot. Heat until “smoking” hot (just below a simmer). Add the port and return to “smoking.”

A recipe for Smoking Bishop

Remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise; serve hot from a punch bowl (alternatively a good quality Air Pot will keep it at a merry temperature for 12-24 hours – that’s what I used for our holiday party!).

Charles Dickens's favorite writing spot

This Swiss Chalet became Charles Dickens’s favorite writing spot after the actor Charles Fechter gifted it to him in 1864 (The Life of Charles Dickens, by John Forster)

Sip with a view of one of Charles Dickens’s favorite writing spots – this Swiss chalet.

… and enjoy with a group of bookish friends.

Tulsa Writer's Cafe

Note: This old photo is missing several members (and we plum forgot to take one at the holiday party). Also: I am fascinated by the effect of using “panorama mode” on my phone. One guy lost his hand and has had his face twisted… but at least it’ll give you a sense of the group.

A word of gratitude

Finally, a special thanks to Mr. Dickens for keeping the Smoking Bishop tradition alive more than 150 years after his death.

Cheers to 26-year old Dickens and his puppy dog eyes (he’d already started writing Oliver Twist when this portrait was commissioned)…

"Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise" by Daniel Maclise (died 1870) - National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1172While Commons policy accepts the use of this media, one or more third parties have made copyright claims against Wikimedia Commons in relation to the work from which this is sourced or a purely mechanical reproduction thereof. This may be due to recognition of the "sweat of the brow" doctrine, allowing works to be eligible for protection through skill and labour, and not purely by originality as is the case in the United States (where this website is hosted). These claims may or may not be valid in all jurisdictions.As such, use of this image in the jurisdiction of the claimant or other countries may be regarded as copyright infringement. Please see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag for more information.See User:Dcoetzee/NPG legal threat for more information.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.English | Español | Français | Magyar | Italiano | Македонски | Türkmençe | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise” (1838)

Cheers to 40 year-old Dickens with a dozen books and stories under his belt, including A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield (not to mention his fabulous sense of style which would also be under his belt, if they had been in fashion)…

"Charles Dickens by Antoine Claudet, 1852" by Antoine Francois Jean Claudet - Library Company of Philadelphia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -,_1852.png#/media/File:Charles_Dickens_by_Antoine_Claudet,_1852.png

“Charles Dickens by Antoine Claudet, 1852” by Antoine Francois Jean Claudet.

And cheers to wizened Dickens, in his later years – with so many classics written (When this photo was taken the ink may have been wet on A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations)

Charles Dickens, circa 1860

Charles Dickens, circa 1860

That beard, though!

Charles Dickens circa 1860.

Charles Dickens circa 1860.

Who knows what other delights Charles Dickens would have given us had he lived past 58.

As we scuttle our way through winter, let’s remember what Dickens’s beloved Scrooge and Tiny Tim taught us:

Cheer is as much a raising of the glass in toast, as a cracking and melting of the heart towards goodwill and blessings for all.

May it be so this holiday season!

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A Victorian era drink from the United Kingdom. The drink was immortalized by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. A balance of wine and port mulled with bittersweet fruit and spices. Wonderful served hot on a cold winter's day. Garnish with a little orange rind if desired. Makes just over 1 1/2 quarts.Smoking Bishop
Servings Prep Time
6-8people 15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 24hours
Servings Prep Time
6-8people 15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 24hours
Day 1
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Stick 5 oranges with 5 whole cloves each, then slice in half. Slice the etrog (or grapefruit or lemon) in half as well. Place fruit on a sheet pan and roast for 35-45 minutes until the bottom is blackened and the fruit bulges open.
  2. Using tongs, nestle the hot fruit in a non-reactive container (glass or ceramic works well). Add the brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and star anise.
  3. Pour on a bottle of red wine. I used a Cabernet Sauvignon because it balances out the sweet port well, but any good red wine will do.
  4. Cover and set in a sunny window for 24 hours. This will give time for the fruit to release some of its essential oils.
Day 2
  1. The next day, remove the fruit and juice it through a strainer set over a large pot. Press the pulp through the strainer as best you can to get every last drop. Discard the fruit skins. Now strain the wine mixture into the same pot. Add the cinnamon sticks and star anise back into the pot. Heat until "smoking" hot (just below a simmer). Add the port and return to "smoking."
  2. Remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise; serve hot from a punch bowl (alternatively a good quality Air Pot will keep it at a merry temperature for 12-24 hours!).

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.


Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

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

Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

After my daughter’s first Christmas, when she got a million and one gifts, I realized I’d have to make a serious effort to help her understand that the holidays have nothing to do with how much loot she has under the tree. Now that she’s in school, this is even more critical (yes, even first-graders compare gifts).

I want her to know the holidays are about…

  • Believing in something bigger than ourselves.
  • Taking time to enjoy each other’s company.
  • Loving each other.

Instead of giving her PJ’s or a book on Christmas Eve, I realized I could use this quiet night to celebrate the things that money cannot buy.  That way, come Christmas Day, she would enjoy her tangible gifts with a little perspective – namely, that it’s not all about the object in the box, but the love and thought that goes into it.

And so our tradition was born. We call it Gifts from the Heart.

Gifts from the Heart

Every year since Ava’s first Christmas, my husband and I have marked Christmas Eve with a tradition of getting each other NOTHING. We even pass around an empty box to underscore the point.

Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

Giving each other “nothing” is really about celebrating the gifts that cannot be wrapped – time, love, and intention. It works like this: During Christmas Eve dinner, we take turns passing around the empty box, offering each other something intangible.  We usually do it at the dinner table, after we’ve eaten. We take our time and turn the moment into a sweet celebration.

Examples from our family:

Last year, I knew that Ava wanted to have a lemonade stand. I also knew (from reading stories with her at bedtime) that she was smitten by Amelia Bedelia’s lemon meringue pie. When it was my turn I said:

Ava, I give you the gift of helping you organize a lemonade stand and making a lemon meringue pie together.

I then presented her with the box. In turn, she made a production of opening the drawstring and hugging the box to her heart.

Accepting the gift with some sort of drama is an beloved part of the ritual. It makes us laugh but it also helps us slow down, take a moment to acknowledge each other’s gifts. Rushing through the giving defeats the purpose.

After I gave Ava her gift, then she gave hers – time for me and Keith to play in her cardboard castle together (as well as “wings” to fly together – so cute!).

I gave Keith “7 boxes of donations” to help simplify our belongings. Keith turned around and gave me 7 boxes of donations and topped it off with a promise to take me out on a fancy date night. He gave Ava a fancy Father-Daughter night out, too, along with a night to bake cookies.

In the past we’ve given each other promises to be digital-free at certain times, to close the office door after 5 p.m. (we both work from home), and to eat breakfast together whenever possible.

And so it goes.

Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

We wrote down our Gifts from the Heart in a notebook so that we could remember them from year to year. Plus, things like lemonade stands can’t be done in cold weather, so it helps my fuzzy brain to have a written record of exactly what I gifted my family for accountability purposes.

Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

About the box

Why I'm giving my family nothing this Christmas

Passing an empty box for your Gifts from the Heart is symbolic and fun, though not entirely necessary. If you choose to use one, don’t fuss about finding something fancy.

Ours had a rather humble beginning. I found it nearly a decade ago on a shelf at the local thrift store, on top of a clothing rack near the candles. In fact, I think it used to hold candles. I was drawn to the box because it was so unusual – a lightweight metal frame wrapped in sheer cloth. The cloth pulls together on top with a drawstring, making it as much a bag as a box. I purchased it to transport our rings when Keith and I got married (instead of using a traditional pillow). I tied an “X” across the top frame with some ribbon and dangled the rings from the center. The rings remained visible as the terrified ring bearer walked them down the aisle.

Very cute.

After the wedding, I tucked the box in the back of a closet and forgot about it until we started our Gifts from the Heart tradition.

Why “nothing” is so great

Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas


By giving each other “nothing,” we’re actually setting intentions for the New Year – how we plan to spend time together, what’s important to us. It serves as a mini-vision board for family time.

Gifts from the Heart is about slowing down and spending 100%… on what matters.

That way, when the tide of gifts rises at dawn (as it inevitably does), there’s a small life raft of meaning for our children to grab onto. While I’ll always get Ava gifts on Christmas Day, I hope that, when she’s an adult, she’ll remember those intangible Gifts from the Heart most fondly.

Cultivating Gratitude

Another hope is to teach our children to appreciate what they’re given, no matter how small or large, real or intangible. Last year, I knew we were getting somewhere when Ava wrote us these spontaneous thank you notes. She did it late one night, after bedtime stories.

Why I’m giving my family nothing for ChristmasNo one asked her to do it.

She was 5-years old.

What a gift.

Here’s what she wrote:

To: mom

I lov the presets tha yoou gav me. I lov you.


To: Popo

I lov the presets that you gav me. I lov you.

I mean… c’mon.

You’re invited

If you like the idea of giving your family “nothing” this year, remember you don’t need a fancy box. Two cupped hands will do for sharing gifts from the heart. I think doing it around the dinner table is a nice touch, though what night you choose will certainly depend on your family traditions. Again: this is not about replacing traditional gift giving, but about underscoring the fact that the most important things in life can’t be wrapped.

Finally, remember the GTA community is here to support each other. I invite you to share  your photos and stories on Instagram with #GlobalTableAdventure and #Giftfromtheheart. Let’s cheer each other on!

Flemish Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Flemish Sauteed Brussels Sprouts | Spruitjes

Flemish Brussels Sprouts Recipe

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.


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.

"Floréal 04". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Floréal” in Brussels, Belgium.

I was wrong.

For starters, of the five Flemish restaurants I looked up in Brussels, none of them had Brussels sprouts on the menu (Was this perhaps a stubborn desire to defy expectations, I wonder?). Next, I reached out to a few contacts who’d lived in Belgium. Turns out, the traditional Flemish recipe varies little. For the most part, Belgians parcook their sprouts in either steam or boiling water, then finish them off by sauteing them in butter. A shallot or onion sweetens the mix, while a really creative recipe will add some cream or lemon juice. Nearly all recipes include a pinch of nutmeg.

Simplicity is a true test of a cook.

Any recipe with just a few ingredients has little margin for error. This recipe has fewer than five ingredients. No squeezed, slathered, or dusted ingredient is included to mask any overcooked specimens.

You might as well hope for a magical, bike-riding elf.

Oh wait…

Flemish Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Game Day pressure

I decided to bring my first attempt to a friend’s house for Game Night. Not only was I unsure how many friends actually liked the little cabbages, I had no idea if this new-to-me recipe was going to “work.”

Plus I spent an inordinate amount of time posing a doll and bicycle with a stalk of Brussels sprouts, which made everything a little more rushed in the end.

And ridiculous.

And fabulous.

And ridiculous.

Flemish Brussels Sprouts Recipe

The actual cooking process was painless and quick. In a mere 15 minutes I was ready to go, casserole in hand. My biggest fear? That when I took the lid off to reveal a puff of warm, fragrant steam, everyone was going to sniff, grimace, and take ten steps back.

Surpassing expectations

Instead of running for the door, our friends ate the buttery Brussels sprouts with gusto. Not one green leaf was left at the end of the night.

Even more pleasing, I managed to make a believer of… myself.

There was a lusciousness to the sauteed sprouts that cannot be replicated in the oven. Where the latter is bold and nutty, properly sauteed sprouts are buttery, each nibble silken and sweet.

Tips for perfect sauteed sprouts:

Flemish Brussels Sprouts Recipe

  • Trim off any tough outer leaves.
  • Use a timer when steaming the sprouts so they don’t get mushy.
  • Cool them off in an ice bath if not sauteing them right away (this will help keep them bright green).
  • When sauteing, use a large pan so they aren’t crammed in there. This is the only way to keep them from steaming further and getting mushy.
  • Season well because… yum.

One more thing.

For complete enjoyment of this dish, be sure to enjoy your sprouts with a dash of Brussels and your Brussels with a dash of sprouts.

Confused? Check out this map.

Turns out Brussels looks a lot like a Brussels sprout.

"Brussel 1657 Janssonius" by Janssonius, Johannes - Sanderusmaps. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Map of Brussels from 1657, by Johannes Janssonius, Johannes

I mean, c’mon…

"Chou de Bruxelles ordinaire Vilmorin-Andrieux 1904" by Mettais & VAC = Vilmorin-Andrieux & Compagnie - Vilmorin-Andrieux & Cie, 1904. Les plantes potagères. Description et culture des principaux légumes des climats tempérés. ed. 3. Paris, Vilmorin-Andrieux. fig., XX-804 p.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Chou de Bruxelles ordinaire” by Mettais (1904)


Only of the most delicious kind…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sasha & family

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A quick stove top method for making Brussels sprouts in the traditional Flemish way. Flemish Brussels Sprouts | Spruitjes
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 10minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 10minutes
Cook Time
  1. Steam the Brussels sprouts 8 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook over medium-high until soft.
  2. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook 3-5 minutes to brown lightly, stirring occasionally. Season with nutmeg, salt & pepper.

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.