Friday, May 31, 2013

Cambodia -- Farmers' Market Friday

When I first started following blogs there were a few that instantly grabbed my attention -- and A Couple Cooks was one of them.  Both the stunning photography and their delicious yet healthy approach to eating got me hooked.  But it was the level of compassion and human connected that kept me there.  Sonja and Alex do more than just keep a blog -- they blog with a purpose.  All of the proceeds from their blog goes to bettering the world, whether working with world hunger programs or supporting nutrition education.  They even wrote a cookbook, The Green Mango Cafe, that is helping to fight against trafficking in Cambodia, and providing women with culinary job skills so they have options.  Talk about using what they are blessed with (access to clean, healthy food) to make a difference in the lives around them!  Enjoy this look at a trip to the market while they were in Cambodia, shared by Sonja.


Over the past two years, I've had the privilege of travelling to Cambodia twice. It's a country I never dreamed of visiting, but my husband Alex and I became connected with a culinary program for at-risk young women there, and last year wrote a cookbook to benefit the program. As Americans born and bred in the Midwest, arriving in Cambodia was like entering another world to us! The differences were almost too numerous to count, and were especially apparent at the markets. 

Most cities and towns in Cambodia have open air markets that begin early in the morning to escape the heat. Vendors sit under umbrellas on the perimeter of the market, selling multitudes of fresh fruits and vegetables. Colorful tropical fruits abound -- pineapples, bananas, papayas, mangoes -- and then more exotic fruits like durian, star fruit, tamarind, and dragonfruit. My favorite is mangosteen, a purple fruit about the size of a plum with a hard exterior and sweet and tangy sections of fruit inside.

The interior of the market is usually covered, and here is where the meat and fish are sold. This is one of the most surprising areas for a Westerner, since the raw meat is in the open air, being hacked at by dozens of cleavers as the vendors butcher meat and scale fish a few feet from the customers. I've even gotten sprayed with bits raw meat as I walk through the stalls! Here, you can find delicacies of all sorts: fish and snakes writhing in buckets, frogs, shrimp, pigs heads, and chicken feet. Sometimes, you can even find delicacies like crickets or tarantula. 

People mill about throughout the market, ducking under the umbrellas in the hot sun and moving quickly through the maze of vendors. The air is charged with energy, and you can only imagine the types of smells!    It's a fascinating place to shop. 

Bonus: Here's a video of the market we made last year to help show a bit more of what a Cambodian market is like.


(Tiffany here again...)

I love these pictures.  Such life captured in them!  I have travelled plenty, for sure, but this is a world I do not know.  Thank you, Sonja, for sharing this with us!  When I see the pictures my first thought is, "Wow, it's so different!" But then I look and see families together, people in their work place, fruit and veggies that I do not know alongside those that I do, and I realize that, yes, it is different, but at the core, we are all more similar than not.  What a beautiful reminder!

Go check out more great pictures and find some tasty recipes by visiting their page.   And then get out there and enjoy your farmers' market! :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

I had a moment with my food the other day.  You know the kind, right?  When you are like, This is what it is all about!  Yeah, that was me just a day or two back...

It all started with a drive through the Californian Central Valley.  Now, since I know you all are not Californians yourself, this might mean nothing to you.  So let me throw down some fun facts about California and our great valley in the middle:

  • We have four main regions in California: the beach (to the West), mountains (to the East and some other places), dessert (in the southeast part of the state) and the Central Valley, right down the middle. (Can you tell I am a teacher of California history yet?  Ha!)
  • The Central Valley produces half of the fruit and nuts consumed by Americans and one fourth of the vegetables.
  • All of this food is grown on 1% of the farmland in America, showing how incredibly fertile the soil is.
  • Chances are if you grab any of these, they came from California: tomatoes, almonds, grapes, apricots, or asparagus.
  • Actually, 70% of the entire world's almond supply comes from right here.
// source //

So, as I was saying, it all started with a drive through the Central Valley.  Driving on down the back roads en route to our destination we passed fruit stand after fruit stand.  I wanted to stop so badly, yet I didn't have any cash on me so I figured I would just have to pass this moment by.  Until we drove past a large barn-like store.  Figuring they would accept a card, we flipped-a-U and headed on over. 

Strawberries, red cherries, yellow cherries, blueberries, apples, peaches, plums... so much to choose from!  But then in the corner I spotted some butternut squash, at 68 cents a pound.  

I love butternut squash.  Love.

I know it's a winter veggie (well, technically fruit, but ya know what I mean...) and I am not sure how it wound up on that shelf in 80 degree weather, at the end of May.  But it was there, the price was more-that-right, and I scooped it up, know exactly what I wanted to make with it: risotto.

Back on Valentine's Day this year I tried a butternut squash risotto recipe.  And it was... OK.  That's it.  Well, maybe OK-to-good, but it left a lot to desire.  This time I had the challenge to find the recipe.  The one that would be worthy of my out-of-season find.

Thank you to Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil for creating the perfect recipe.  Standing there in my kitchen, surrounded by freshly toasted pine nuts, a balsamic glaze I made, fried sage leaves, and a roasted butternut squash ready to be pureed and turn into risotto, I realized that this was one of the most gourmet meals I had ever made -- if not the most gourmet.  

And I loved it.  

What a moment, from the finding perfect produce at a hidden barn, to cooking up a dish worthy of a restaurant menu.  

Fresh, local ingredients.  Great food.  Grown by neighbors, put together by me, enjoyed by my husband and I.  THIS is what I was hoping to be able to do some day, back when I started this blog.  And here I am, doing it.  

Yes, this is what it is all about.

by Lindsay Landis at Love and Olive Oil 


·        For Risotto:
1 small butternut squash
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese, divided
·        For Garnishes:
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
8-10 fresh sage leaves
Balsamic Glaze


COST: $10.20     COST PER SERVING (4): $2.55

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Letter to YOU + A Pina Colada Souffle' Pudding

Dear Readers (or Friends, as I would like to consider you),

I am sorry I dropped the ball on the Blog Every Day in May Challenge.  I was actually having tons of fun with.  It gave me ideas of things to write about that I might never think of, and it pushed me creatively.  Plus, it helped me connect a little more with some of you.  And that was fabulous.

You know how it goes.  Life got busy, I got off track, and well -- here we are, ten days later, just now getting back into the swing of things.  I saw that writing a letter to you was the challenge of the day and I thought, "I am all over that!"

The truth is, I am bummed that missed some of the posts.  Especially the one where I was asked to rant.  I almost never rant publicly (or I do and then promptly delete it) and I was looking forward to being able to do that.  Because -- oh! -- I have some things to rant about.  Maybe I will still have to do that one ;)

But here is the thing -- I made myself a promise awhile back.  This promise went like this: "Tiffany, when your blog and your real life compete for time, your real life will always win.  And there will be no apologies."  And so, here I am today, saying sorry that I dropped the ball on the challenge, but not saying sorry for disappearing.  Because, honestly, that wedding I was in last weekend?  Or the visits I had with long lost friends this past week?  Or exploring a beautiful and new-to-me hiking place on a random Wednesday afternoon?  Or just hanging out with my husband, walking through the local festival, eating beer-battered-deep-fried-mushrooms?  Those moments that make my life beautiful.  And this blog?  It is a place for me to record those moments along with my food journey, not a place to take away time from other things I might want to do.

As we head into the summer months, please know that I will not be around all that much.  I will be too busy enjoying the sunshine and making new memories with loved ones.

At the same time, though, please know that I do love sharing with you -- both having you here and by visiting your pages to see what you are up to.  So, thank you.  Thanks for following along on my journey and thank you for your kind words, you uplifting comments, and your presence in my life.  I truly appreciate it.

With gratitude,

PS -- For Sundays with Joy this past week we made her grapefruit souffle', and it was FANTASTIC.  So much so that my husband asked me to make another one the next day.  I got a little creative with the second one and made my favorite flavor ever, pina-colada.  This may not be the most beautiful dessert I have ever made, but it is -- no joke -- possible my favorite.  If you have never made anything else from me, please let this be the one.

(The recipe looks scary, but after you do it once you will see how EASY it is. Please do not be intimidated!)

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker's Grapefruit Souffle' Pudding, found in the Joy the Baker Cookbook


  • ¾ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened coconut shreds
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 ½ tablespoon coconut cream (from the can)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the middle and nothing above it.  Bring a teapot of water to boil.  This will be used later to make a water bath.
  2. Mix the ¾ cup of sugar, sweetened coconut, and butter in mixing bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 1 minute.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating on medium speed until fluffy.  Slowly add the coconut cream.  The egg yolks and coconut cream will need to beat for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and salt and beat until combined.  Alternate between the milk and the juice, and add to the mixer at medium speed until all mixed.  The batter will be soupy.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Clean the mixing bowl and the paddle very well.  Dry and return to stand mixer.  Add the egg whites and cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. 
  5. Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the pineapple-coconut mixture, being very careful not to break the egg whites completely.  They should have a bit of fluff to them still.  Carefully pour the batter into the baking dish (medium sized) or ramekins (6). 
  6. Place the dish or the ramekins into a larger dish (like a casserole dish).  Carefully pull out the rack in the oven just slightly so that you can place the dishes on there.  Very carefully, add the boiling water from the tea kettle so that it goes half way up the outside dish.  Then, push the rack back into the oven and bake until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  This will be about 37 minutes for a full dish, or about 27 minutes for ramekins.

When it is finished and you pull it out, please be VERY careful not to spill the hot water on you!
The souffle’ can be served warm or at room temperature.  It is best the day it is made.

 COST: $3.76             COST PER SERVING (6): $0.63 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Farmers Market Friday -- Strawberries

Watsonville, California.  It's the very same place my Multi-Cultural Education in the Classroom textbook that I used back in college said is also known as "Little Mexico".  I laughed.  Not because it wasn't true, but because I knew it to be very true, as a place where several of my teenage years were spent very close by.  I knew of the fiestas that took place on Cinco de Mayo (NOT Mexican Independence Day as many think) and more importantly -- September 16th (the actual Independence Day for Mexico).  I saw the cowboy hats and boots as I walked through the downtown.  I practiced my Spanish all day long while I worked at Target.   So when I read this in the textbook, I laughed.  At the truth of it and how cool it was that some place I knew so well would show up in my studying one night.

But Watsonville is more than "Little Mexico", as the book described it.  It is a town that is located in a fertile valley close to the beach, keeping the climate pleasant and the produce delicious.  Strawberry fields abound, as do artichokes, apples, and mushrooms.  And a trip to the Farmers Market in Watsonville provides you with all this fruit, plus SO MUCH MORE...

Stalls of food line the market.  From papusas (what you see above), a typical food from El Salvador to chunks of barbecued meat, fresh corn on the cob to horchata, a cinnamon-rice drink popular throughout Latin America, and of course every type of homemade Mexican food you can think of... it's all there, the smells beckoning you to drop a few dollars here or there.  

It is totally worth it.

And then, to the sounds of Mariachi bands playing in the background, you can pick up the produce you need for the coming week.  Or, if you are like me, you can bump into family friends of yours who saw you go through those awkward teenage years... 

End the end, I wound up with cauliflower, an artichoke, some excellent apricots, fresh peas, and some garlic.  Plus a belly full of deliciousness. 

Another successful day exploring farmers markets!

Being Watsonville, with its miles and miles of strawberry fields, I thought it is only fitting to have strawberries as our find of the week.  Link up your strawberry recipes below so we can share in the juicy-red-goodness that these sweet 'berries' provide.  (Yeah, they aren't berries.  Did you know that?  Fun fact of the day, Friends!)

And then go hit up your local farmers market and let us know what you got :)

The 'link-up' tool isn't working, but if you drop your strawberry recipes in the comments I will come visit, for sure! :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Crohn's.  Plain and simple.

That's my answer when asked what is something about 'my lot in life' that I have to deal with.

Here's the thing: most people don't even know I struggle with it.  I am pretty good at keeping it under wraps except with those I am really close to. However, it has been a struggle throughout my life, at least since 4th grade when I started manifesting the symptoms.  Of course, back then the doctors just thought I was making it up and trying to get attention for whatever reason (quite common with early Crohn's symptoms) but my mom knew something was wrong.  So she kept taking me back, taking me back, taking me back to the doctor anytime I was in great pain, until finally one day in 6th grade they checked.

What a relief to prove to others that you weren't faking it.

What a disappointment to find out at 11 years old that you have a chronic illness, a painful and hard to explain one at that.

Since then I have had moments of great heartache because of it. Yes, intense heartache. There are several moments in my life that I felt completely robbed of.  Half of my junior year of high school was spent either in the hospital with feeding tubes in my arm or sitting at home, trying to rebuild my immune system that they killed to keep the crohn's from killing me, all the while listening to my friends talk on the phone about this boy or that football game... it was hard.  There were other moments like that, moments that I felt I should have had but I didn't get to, all because of this stupid illness.

At the same time, however, I have had many more moments of great happiness.  I guess you really appreciate your health when you were told you wouldn't have it.  But I do have it.  Since 2004 (the last time I went to the hospital) I have been very strong.  I have traveled and lived abroad, I went after my dream job and I got it, and then I married the man that I love and we have created a beautiful life together, most of the time Crohn's free.

Of course, there are times when it flairs up.  This year has seen some of that.  And it scares me.  Because I know what it is like to be on prednisone, to live in the hospital, to be afraid of the bathroom and what that might mean.  But I have learned something else -- I know what it is like to live, to fully live, and I will not let this stop me.  It may make things more complicated at times, or really complicated at times, but I will not let it define me.  As much as I can, I will control it so it doesn't control me.  And then I will go out and live my life, realizing that any time it stops me for a bit does not mean it is 'robbing me' of something, but rather just postponing it.

I truly wish I had some great way to wrap this us, some inspirational 'You won't get me down!' sort of thing. But I don't. I just have this: This is a struggle, and it can be very hard. Tears are shed from time to time. Honestly though, I know it could be worse and I realize I am still very active, so I am grateful for that.  I pray daily for it to be gone, and I have hope that someday it will, but until then I take my many victories as they come -- the doctor telling me how healthy my colon looks, so little scarring present (which wasn't expected), the times when I sit down in front of a hearty salad and remember all the years that I wasn't able to do that, the fact that I have such a FULL life and that I can get up and go do what I want to do -- and I celebrate.  So I guess that's what I will leave you with.  Celebrate the victories.  Recognize them, and then celebrate. And store those away for days when you don't feel like you have any, because those days will come and you will need to find a way to get to the other side.  But then when you get there, celebrate again.

Yeah, that's it. Celebrate.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Apologies + Tomato Salad

Dear Friends Who Leave Me Voicemails,
I am sorry I never reply to you.  Actually, I am sorry I never even check your messages but just delete them and call you back when I have time.  I would like to say I have some good excuse, but I don't, other than I simply don't like checking my voice mail.  Sorry.

Dear Other Drivers on the Road,
I am sorry for all the times I wished the CHP upon you when you ticked me off.  I wouldn't like it if you did the same in return... oh wait, I am pretty sure you do do it in return.  Oh well.

Dear Friends Who Invite Me Over,
I am sorry for all the times I brought lame, store bought food to potluck dinners.  I know that you expect more from a woman with a food blog, but it's just so easy to hit up Safeway on the way over...

Dear Digestive Track,
I am sorry for all the times I fed you cheese or popcorn, knowing full well that it would make you miserable, and therefore make me miserable. I apologize for thinking more about the taste buds than I think about you.

Dear College Roommate,
I am sorry that I showed up to your wedding in the wrong colored bridesmaid's dress. You said 'blackberry' and I wrote down 'black', only to find out the day of your wedding that 'blackberry' was code for 'dark purple'.  Oops.  (And thank you for still being my friend, despite that.)

Dear Husband,
I am sorry for all the times I made you sit through The Bachelor with me. I know you have about 1,287,658 things you would rather be doing, but you power through so I can have someone to comment to.  You are a trooper!

And, Meu Amor, while I am at at, I am sorry that I never feed you Brazilian food anymore.  You have given up your country and your language and all the people you knew, and I don't want you to have to give up your food, as well.  I hope this tomato salad can help put us back on the half-American-half-Brazilian track again.  Besides, with fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice it is delicious and there is no reason not to have this on our plate, regularly.  Kind of like pico de gallo as a side dish...  Yum.

Whew!  It was good to get that all off my chest ;)

// Day 13 of Blog Every Day in May //



  • 3-4 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ½ onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice from 1-2 limes or ½ lemon
  • salt, to taste

1.      Mix tomatoes and onions together.  Add cilantro and lime/lemon juice with salt.  Enjoy!

 COST: $3.14       COST PER SERVING (4): $0.79 

Sunday, May 12, 2013


"What do you miss?"

I can't describe it in words.  Really, there is no way you would understand.  And you probably won't even get it with the pictures.  Because honestly, how can you capture love so deep that you didn't know it could exist outside of your own family?  Or share how a small, tiny island in the middle of nowhere -- one that many told you would be the worst spot on the globe -- would open up such beauty to you, despite the ramshackle houses and trash littering the street?

Really, I can't tell it and you won't get it... and I have come to make peace with that.  But yes, I miss THIS.  I miss my name being "Missa" and my hands being constantly held by little fingers covered with dirt.  I miss ice cream on the dock at night when the power was out and the relief of the power coming back on.  I do not miss the cockroaches, but I do miss the adventure they provided.

I miss the growth I felt -- the awareness that the whole world really can exist on an island about a quarter of a square mile in size.  Because really, what is the world?  It is people living, breathing, moving, existing side by side, those you come in contact with on a regular basis and those you have learned to love as your lives weave in and out of each other's.

I miss the joy of simplicity.

The friendships that were unlikely.

The coming-to-an-understanding that my life 'back home' did not define reality.

I miss THIS.

And though Cinderella and her prince lived happily ever after, 
the pointgentlemen, is that they lived
 (quote taken from 'Ever After')

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Basil-Almond-Garlic Pesto + Me, in 10 words

Today I am supposed to sell myself in 10 words.  Hmmm.  This is a tricky one...

But here goes nothing.

Creative, at times.

Life lover.

And since I am a sharer, I am sharing my favorite way to make pesto.  I don't put any cheese in it, keeping it plant based.  Almonds are cheaper than pine nuts and add a bit of flavor that is just right.  It is incredibly garlicky, so if you are sensitive to that you can cut back on the garlic.  We use it on top of pasta, in sandwiches, over chicken... there are SO MANY uses for pesto.  And as always, pesto is naturally gluten free, so even those with sensitivities to gluten can enjoy this over fish or chicken.  Enjoy!



  • 1 cup washed basil leaved, packed
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup almond slices
  • 1/3 - ½ cup olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste

1.      Place all ingredients in food processor or blender.  Run for about 30 seconds.  Add more olive oil to get to desired consistency.
2.      Use on top of cooked pasta, in sandwiches, on top of chicken – wherever you want!

 COST: $3.45           

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Love Your Life (My one piece of advice)

Life can be hard.  It can be good.  Sometimes it is messy.  Or peaceful.  Full of joy, full of heartache.

And let me say it loud and clear -- some things in our lives are downright ugly.

But let me also say loud and clear -- it is beautiful.  It is a gift.  It is ours and we are free to do with it what we want.

You might think, "Yeah, but you don't know my life..."

You are right. I don't.  But I do know my friend who witnessed her parents and brother murdered before her eyes when she was ten.  Life was hard, IS hard, but she smiles every single day.  She laughs.  She loves those around her.  She enjoys life -- her life, with all its complexities.

And my other friend -- one who just got diagnosed with a terminal illness, way too early in life to be faced with what that means.  And yet she LIVES. She struggles, for sure, but then she gets on the phone and laughs and makes plans and enjoys her time with those around her.

There are so many others, friends and acquaintances and friends of friends who have shown me what the power of mind over matter -- thoughts over circumstances -- can do.

So, my one piece of advice?  Love your life. Yes, YOURS.  With all its ups and downs.  It is the only one you've got, so make the most of it.

Linking up with Jenni for the Blog Every Day in May challenge

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Back in early November, 2002, a couple of friends and I were driving back to our college after a night of swing dancing in San Francisco.  We were laughing and having a good time when we passed a billboard for breast cancer awareness.  On the pink background was a beautiful purple butterfly and the words, "Daddy, did Mommy like butterflies?"

It broke my heart.  And I proclaimed right then, "I can't imagine losing my mom.  I am pretty sure I would just cease to exist."

All of us in the car were quiet for a few moments, until a friend said -- hey, don't worry, that's not going to happen to you.

Except it did.  Two days later.  I lost my mom.

It was terrible.

Well, that's a gross understatement.  It was beyond terrible, something you can only understand if you know this pain.  To keep it simple, let me say that it hurt. A lot. And then it hurt some more.

And many times throughout that first year or two I thought those words I had said -- that I would cease to exist -- might come true.  Or I wished they would.

But the thing is this: I didn't cease to exist.  Life continued on and eventually I learned how to embrace that.  Fully.

So, the topic for today is: The thing you are most afraid of?  Easy. Having to go through that again with someone who is so incredibly close to me.  Because I am afraid I would cease to exist...

The truth is, I know I wouldn't.  I know I would find a way through.  I just also know I don't want to have to test that theory.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I "Do" + Cauliflower Mash

The question has been asked, 'What do you do?'

Well, during the day, when my name is 'Teacher' and I am surrounded by nine and ten-year-olds, I do band-aids and hugs, lesson delivery and grading.  I do encouragement. I do discipline. I do high-fives and shushes. I do parent/teacher conferences.  I do report cards and I do assistance with math problems.  I do real-life problem solving.  I do love.

When I am at home and my name is 'Babe' to my husband, I do many other things.  I do laundry and cooking.  I do dishes sometimes and toilet scrubbing when necessary.  I do long conversations over dinner and laughter, a lot.  I do sharing and receiving, compromise and support.  I do kisses and hugs. I do love.

Other times, when my name is 'Friend', I do phone calls and facebook commenting.  I do talking and listening.  I do fun.  I do movies and dinners.  I do nights out and weekend trips. I do hand holding when times are tough and silly dances when times are light.  I do love.

And then, in my free time, I do new recipes and pictures. I do blog posting and very little TV watching.  I do globe-trotting and life-living.

Ultimately, though, I hope the thing that defines me is that I do LOVE.


Recipe inspired by Love & Whimsy


  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus more to top

1.      Wash cauliflower and remove green parts.  Cut into large chunks and steam for 10 minutes with salt.
2.      Remove of pot and carefully spoon into a food processor. Add milk and butter, along with thyme. Blend until pureed.  Top with remaining thyme.

 COST: $2.00           COST PER SERVING (4): $0.50

Nutritional Information
calories 104   •    total fat 8.9g    •    fiber 3.3g    •    sugars 0.9g   •    protein 1.4g
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