Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Yes, You Read it Right   3 comments

Back in the early ’90’s when I was teaching first grade, Fridays were Cooking Day. I had a convection oven in the class room, (don’t  ask  how I got it!) and the class and I would prepare and cook a snack that went along with whatever unit I was teaching. At Halloween time we toasted the pumpkin seeds we’d scraped from our class jack-o-lanterns. When learning fractions we made pizza and sliced it.

When we did a week’s worth of projects centered around the picture book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, we made – what else but cookies.


For frosting, there was vanilla icing and red, blue, and yellow food coloring.  I went around with three bottles of food coloring, one each of red, yellow, and blue. The children were given a choice of one drop from each of any two, which they then mixed into the white icing to come up with either orange, green, or purple icing

I like to believe there are about twenty-five 30-year olds walking around San Jose who never forgot their primary and secondary colors.

Not only were these lessons wonderful for demonstrating that food requires preparation of ingredients but were also great hands-on, non-language-based experiences  for a class made up of children whose parents had emigrated from Vietnam, China, Thailand, India, and the Philippines. I was teaching what was called Structured English to children, most of whom were  born here, but while functional in speaking English, it was not their first language, and who often got by faking that they understood more than they actually did.

For the teacher, it was a well-earned “down day” to end the week.,

I bring this up because lately I’ve been hearing how today’s computer-connected, microwave children are disconnected to food production, and really have no idea where fruits and vegetables were before they were frozen or canned. Several urban schools are conducting pilot programs where the children tend a vegetable patch in a rooftop garden or some reclaimed corner of a concrete playground to gain firsthand knowledge.

I’ve also been seeing proof of this need at the checkout of my local supermarket. I can’t count how many times high school and college-aged clerks, when faced with entering the code of  a bunch of fresh spinach, turn to me blank-faced and  ask  “What is this?”

But yesterday  proof stared me in the face as I entered the store. Right there, just  inside the door, in the section that touts local produce, AND MAINTAINED BY PRODUCE CLERKS, I came across this.



That’s right, in case you couldn’t read the sign, here it is again



OMG, how can you work in produce, and not know the difference between a  radish and a beet!!!!!

I would have laughed if  it weren’t so sad.

Now,  if you’ll excuse me , I have to go and take  an anti-fussiness pill.

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Pretty Pepper Basket   3 comments

Lights, cameras, action. Welcome to my blogumentary. I will be your narrator and my monkey mind will talk to herself (as usual).

Saturday afternoon

I‘m in Manhattan, and as is my usual habit when there, I’m strolling through the Union Square Greenmarket.

Farmer’s markets are not cheap, but my bargain antenna is up. If any are here, I’ll find them (or go home empty-handed).


I don’t have to go far before a sign beckons to me:

 Cilantro – $1.50 a bunch

Wow! that’s a huge bunch. Okay Sunday dinner decided – Mexican. I have a few enchiladas and sour cream left over from last week.  And I have black beans I can soak overnight.

I only cook on Sunday evenings, and I only make things I love since I make enough for the week. Luckily I do love enchiladas so I choose the biggest bunch, and look for someone to pay when…..

Cibolla onions –  $3.00  a basket

Wow – that’s bargain! So tiny and cute, and they’re sweet. Good for lots o’salads, and I can use some in the enchiladas.

All the baskets have the same amount, but I pick out one with the flattest onions. I once heard on TV that the flatter they are, the sweeter.

I look for someone to pay when ……

Ooh, such bright colors and so shiny – orange, yellow, red, and look, one little green one. Hmm, interesting sign  

$3.00 a basket  Various hot peppers.

Wonder what they are, exactly. Doesn’t matter, nothing’s too hot for me.


Sunday evening

Brr, it’s a bit chilly. Glad I’m having Mexican Food. Eating hot peppers always warms me up. Better than wearing a sweater

I cut up one of the cibolla onions and the monkey mind thinks  it’s pretty small so I cut up another one and toss it into the pot with some olive oil.

I mince a clove of garlic but the monkey mind thinks it doesn’t seem to go far amidst the onions so I mince another one and toss it in. Now for the peppers.

Hmm, what kind? I wonder, is this a Scotch Bonnet?


I slit it down the middle and use the paring knife to carefully scrape out all the seeds onto the cutting board.  I’m careful not to touch any of them. Seeds are the hottest part. Professional cooks usually wear gloves because once the oil get on your skin it stays there. You don’t want to touch your eyes after handling a hot pepper (trust me). But since I’m only using one pepper, I forego caution.

I slide the tiny pieces from cutting board into the pot. But as I stir, monkey mind thinks it looks overwhelmed by all the garlic and onions. I add another pepper

And this is the last decision I make with a right mind. Or maybe I should say, a cool mind?

Ooh, my fingers are burning. I never noticed those dry cracks in my skin.   I must have touched the pepper.

Since the night is chilly night, I’ve closed all the windows. Knowing the garlicky smell could linger all night, I switch on the exhaust in the range hood. Then I check the pot to see make sure the heat’s not too high.  As I lean over the pot, my nose starts to run, my chest burns, and my sinuses feel like they’re inhaling volcanic vapors

Tissues, tissues. I need a tissue!

I run through the house to the bedroom and grab a tissue, then another… and  another. On my way back to the kitchen I notice the cat brothers who were keeping me company in the kitchen have deserted the ship for the couch, and as I enter the kitchen I see why. It’s like walking into sulfur and brimstone.

This can’t be good for me. Think what eating this is going to do to my insides. Maybe I should just throw it away. Nah, come on!  Just dilute it with cool stuff.

I put stirring as long as I can, then choose my longest wooden spoon and with a stiff, outstretched arm, stir from a distance.

Ok time for the beans. Shoot, that’s not enough. I should have cooked more.

I stir the mixture and hazard a taste – three beans.

Oh my God, oh my God – my tongue, my mouth, my throat. It’s travelling down my chest. Everything’s on fire. This is serious – scary serious!

I open the refrigerator in search of cool stuff to add.

I almost forgot about the cilantro; good thing I bought such a large bunch. Nice cool cilantro Yuck, it’s sandy.

I wash and start to chop.

This calls for quantity. Little bits won’t do. Throw it all in!

Going heavy on the cilantro does improve things. I can now stir and look into the pot without my face breaking out in a hot sweat. The only problem is ……now, it looks like a pot of ugly soup greens.



I try another taste.

Umm – better

 Ooh ooh, no – my tongue, mouth. It’s just delaying the heat a bit .

But, ok, not quite as hot.

With faith that once all the ingredients are layered and wrapped in the tortilla the h-factor will be watered down, I gather everything on the counter

Of all the times to have selected this flavor!



Cheese, that’ll help – 


Sigh – why do I always go for the hot?

Okay lay out tortilla, slather on some sour cream, – nice cool sour cream; and chunks of avocado,  nice cool avocado, and a handful of cheese,   Okay, (sigh)  time for the bean mixture, just a little.


 OK ready set go


I start nibbling from the end with small bites, and it’s bearably hot, but it’s mostly tortilla.   It gets a bit more fiery as I approach the guts and grits of the middle where the cheese and sour cream ooze out along with the stringy cilantro and beans. Still hot but ……….yep, this is doable.



That was downright delicious.



I always feel like a meal is more healthy when the ingredients are from a farmer’s market. Let’s see – two hot peppers down and


How many to go?



Anybody need peppers?