Blogging for Books: Plated, by Elana Karp and Suzanne Dumaine

May 26, 2016

The cookbook Plated is comparable to an analog version of something digital.  You may be familiar with the company Plated.  Like several companies that have followed in its wake, Plated delivers daily meals totally ready for “cooking”, down to pre-measured spices.  The cookbook Plated features the recipes the authors originally developed for their delivery service, but now you can make them at home and do your own grocery shopping and ingredient measuring.

The recipes are pleasant, healthy, easy to make,  focus-tested, like listening to a good Pandora station. I made turkey burgers with a garlic aioli which were simple as anything, and included enough spinach that they qualified (along with a bun) as a one dish meal.  Everyone in the family liked them.  There were instructions on how to incorporate leftovers into a pasta the next day, but we didn’t have any.  Other meals include such items as shrimp tacos  and brown butter pork chops.  Most recipes contain ideas for seasonal adaptation (ie peaches with your pork chops in the summer).  A “weekend feast” section includes more ambitious recipes, like Peking duck.

“PLated” does not tread on new ground, but it does provide plenty of ideas for tasty, easy, nutritious meals.  Tellingly, most of them are serve 2, except for the weekend feasts.  I would suggest this cookbook for newly married couples, or anyone setting up their first household, as an adjunct to a more comprehensive basic cookbook, like Joy of Cooking.   



asparagus recipe up on OPB

May 13, 2016


Please check out my video and recipe for sweet and savory asparagus on OPB!


Blogging for books: The Tabasco Cookbook, by Paul Mc Ilhenny

May 9, 2016

Tabasco sauce is the quintessential Louisiana hot sauce but not the only one or even necessarily the best.  So I  can’t see buying a cookbook specifically centered on this product.  If you are in the market for a good basic Creole cookbook, though, this fits the bill, and you can use any hot sauce you want.  The recipe for chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo is excellent, and there’s recipes for other classic southern delights ranging from cheesy grits to spicy catfish fingers.  There are also recipes based on other Tabasco products, such as sweet and spicy Tabasco sauce and (who knew?) Tabasco soy sauce.  The recipes are easy to follow, easy to prepare, use pretty mainstream ingredients and have a conventional flavor profile…but they are reliably tasty.

More tasty morsels!

May 1, 2016

If you are looking in this category on my blog, “Wendy’s Opinion About Everything,” you are undoubtedly drawn by my recipes. If that is the limit of your interest, enjoy and bon appetit!

However, if you’d like to experience more of Wendy’s Opinion, check out the other categories on my blog.  “Sensible Science”  offers information and commentary on nutrition.  “Blogging for Books” reviews cooking and craft books.  “Cultural Commentary” offers my take on movies, books, music, and contemporary life.  “Political Rants”, are, well…just what it says.  And don’t forget the occasional banal news update.

For something completely different, check out the website for my debut novel, Wrong Highway, coming out June 10, 2016:


Wendy’s recipe file: Chicken and Barley Stew with Spring Herbs

May 1, 2016

This is a lovely spring dinner entrée, using barley, one of my favorite underappreciated grains, fresh dill, and the unique anise-y flavor of tarragon.  Fresh tarragon is sometimes hard to come by in stores but easy to grow.  I have an abundant pot of it that miraculously survived the winter and is sending new tendrils up into the spring sunshine.

This one dish meal requires a half an hour at the stove at most.  Then you can largely relax while it finishes cooking and the herbal aroma fills your kitchen.


1/2  cup all purpose flour

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 11/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup organic canola oil

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices

2 celery stalks, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 3/4 cups pearled barley

1 aseptic container chicken stock ( I like Imagine or Pacific brands)

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

juice of 1 large lemon or 2 small

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

  1. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour with 1 tsp each salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. In a large  Dutch oven, or cast iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons oil.  Add chicken, being careful not to add too much at one time, and cook on both sides until  at medium high heat.  Transfer the chicken to a bowl.
  3. Pour off any excess fat (there may not be any), or add more oil if needed (enough to coat the pan).  Saute the carrots for 2 minutes at medium heat, then add the celery, leek and garlic, and cook another 2 minutes.  Add the barley and a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper.  Stir for approximately 1 minute until the barley starts to toast.  Add the stock and wine and bring to a boil.  cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the barley is almost tender, approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the pot and cook until the stew has thickened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the dill, tarragon, and lemon juice.  Serve the stew in bowls, sprinkled with cheese.

Wendy’s recipe file: carrot top pesto

May 1, 2016

I’m amazed at how many food items I used to regards as throwaways that I am now rediscovering.  Take carrot tops, for example.  They didn’t used to be even an option, chopped off before they even reached the produce aisle.  Not a good idea, because carrot bunches with their tops attached stay more alive, fresher, than those that are shorn of their leaves.

But they are also delicious and nutritious! They’re slightly carroty in taste, I admit, but make a yummy pesto, excellent on pasta, rice, or potatoes, added as a thickener to sauces and soups, used as a mayonnaise substitute in a sandwich, or, even as my fourteen month old granddaughters discovered, licked off your fingertips, all by its lonesome.

Keep in mind that pesto isn’t just for basil anymore.  Any leafy green can be used in pesto, combined with any kind of nut, any kind of oil, salt and pepper.  I usually omit cheese from my pestos, adding it at cooking time if desired.

Carrot tops wilt fast, so I usually make my pesto right when I get home from the market.


1 bunch carrot tops, rinsed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 cup roasted almonds

1 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste

black pepper to taste

  1. Chop the garlic, carrot tops, and almonds in the food processor, then drizzle in the olive oil and run the machine until the mixture is fairly smooth.  You may need to add a little more olive oil to achieve the desired texture.
  2. Add salt and black pepper to taste, combine.


you call this a democracy? part two

February 24, 2016

I’m going to be brief tonight, but I can’t let this one go.  It’s not only the economy that’s rigged, but our electoral process as well.

Bernie Sanders tied in Iowa, won by a landslide in New Hampshire, and lost by 5 points in Nevada, winning many rural counties.  After three primaries he leads the popular vote.

So you think he’d be, at the very least, tied with Hillary in the delegate count.  And when it comes to pledged delegates he is:  51-51.  When you look at the total delegate count, however, it’s another story:  502 for Hillary, 70 for Bernie.

Why the ridiculous disparity?  One word:  superdelegates.  These delegates evidently have superpowers, because aren’t obligated to follow the popular vote, and most of them, long before any voters had a chance to speak, pledged themselves to Hillary.

Now, they can change their vote.  But they don’t have to.  We could see a scenario where Bernie wins the popular vote but loses the nomination, in other words, a coronation of Hillary, slightly delayed, by the Democratic political machine. The message that would send would be clear:  the election is  a sham, your vote doesn’t matter.  Millions of voters would be alienated, they would stay home in November, Trump/Cruz/Rubio wins.    It would a horrible scenario, but the Hillary folks seem bound and determined to take us down that road.

Please let your state’s superdelegates know that this is not democracy.



Blogging for Books:The Indian Family Kitchen, by Anjali Patak

February 19, 2016

From the start, I knew I was going to love this cookbook.  I skimmed through it, identifying recipes I wanted to try, and found that was nearly every one.  Virtually everything looked delicious, and simple enough for a weekday meal.

This is not traditional Indian food, which takes hours to prepare and uses multitudinous pots and pans.  Many of the ingredients too, are not typically found in India:  ricotta cheese?  tortillas?  And most strikingly, beef.  Call it Indian-American.

Pathak is the granddaughter of the founders of the Patak chutneys and pickles company.  She grew up in England and lives in New York.  So her cooking traditions are already twice removed from the mother country.  Authenticity has its place, but I see  nothing wrong with American adaptations of traditional cuisines.  Think of  Caesar salads as “Italian” or cheesy enchiladas as “Mexican”. Both are rarely if ever eaten in the nations they are attributed to, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious.  Food culture is a continually evolving  phenomenon.

These recipes are especially welcome because they retain sophisticated spicing while eliminating a lot of time-consuming steps. I’m sure I will work my way all the way through this book, but in one tasty week I made pulled chicken mini-tortillas (kind of like Indian barbecue); tiger shrimp with lime, ginger, and mustard seeds (fantastic!); radish, peanut, and mint salad  (attractive and refreshing); baked butternut squash with feta, tomato, mint, and Indian spices  (delicious); and Tadka dhal (creamy and gently spicy, made from yellow lentils).  While all these dishes were inherently somewhat labor-intensive, requiring a mix of spices, (often hand-ground and/or sautéed in oil to release their essence) and a lot of chopping, they still were easy enough to put together in an hour or less.  The flavor combinations were sometimes surprising and always yummy.

The book also includes helpful information on basic Indian spices and kitchen necessities, along with lovely photography.  A chatty, personal tone pervades the cookbook but does not overwhelm the main deal, which is the recipes.

My main gripe with this cookbook is an odd font choice, where all the ingredients are listed above in tiny print with recipe title and cooking instructions in larger font in the middle of the page.  My eye naturally went to this latter section first, and I needed to make a special effort to look up, put my reading glasses on, and make sure I had all the ingredients I needed.

judge candidates by the content of their character, not the shape of their genitals

February 8, 2016

Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright grossly overstepped their bounds this past weekend, castigating women as being traitors to their sex by voting for Bernie Sanders.  Steinem even said young women are choosing Bernie over Hillary because “that’s where the boys are”.  Pleeese!!  Who’s sexist now?

Hillary lost me on the feminist front way back in the early ’90s when she pronounced she wasn’t “the type to stay home and bake cookies”.  At that time I was staying home with three young children and baking a lot of cookies.  They were healthy and wholesome and made from scratch.  I viewed my job as a caregiver as the most important job I could possibly be doing. Along with raising my own children and cooking them homemade meals, I supported women who worked outside the home–by choice or circumstance—running their school fundraisers, driving their children to activities, supervising playdates in my home, serving those cookies. Twenty-five or so years later I continue my caregiver role.  I still have one teenager at home, and take care of my baby granddaughters 20-30 hours per week.  I still view this as the most important job I could possibly be doing.  If so many people in my household weren’t so annoyingly gluten-free, I would still be baking plenty of cookies.

The fifties and sixties narrowly defined women’s roles, and many women–my mother among them–chafed against those restrictions.   The point of the feminist movement was supposed to be choice.  I respect women’s choice to be politicians, partners in law firms, and corporate executives, but I do not appreciate their condescending dismissal of women who do not share that choice.  Back in my cookie-baking days, I cannot tell you how many women deemed me unworthy of conversation once they determined I didn’t work outside the home.  My youngest child is 19 years younger than my oldest, and I have found the generational change refreshing.  This new group of Gen X, and now millennial moms largely work outside the home, at least part time, for economic necessity as much or more than fulfillment.  But they don’t define women by their paycheck.  They don’t greet you at parties asking “what do you do?”  They find no shame in baking cookies.  This is the demographic Clinton, Albright, and Steinem find so perplexing.  Yet even among my baby boomer generation–stay at home moms, lawyers, and doctors alike–support for Clinton is very soft, and slipping.

I must admit, when I see Hillary in her helmet hair and dress for success suit, I bristle instinctively. She likes to talk about being a grandmother, but I doubt she changes too many diapers, or spends too many afternoons taking little Charlotte to the playground. But that is not why I don’t support her for President.  I don’t support her because I don’t like her policies and question her integrity (see many previous blogs). I don’t support her because I think she will lose the election in November (see previous blogs).

I can’t think of anything more sexist than voting for a candidate simply because they are a woman, and evidently lots of women agree with me.  To paraphrase Martin Luther King, let’s judge people by the content of their character, not the shape of their genitals.


the center cannot hold

February 7, 2016

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 I thought we’d stepped back from a dangerous cliff. (check my old blog posts for proof)  I was never as enamored with him as many.  He was too moderate for me, but it seemed (and still does) to be a genuine moderateness in his world outlook, as opposed to Hillary’s expedient compromises  And at that time, it did seem the most practical approach to aim for  the center.  I believed, like Obama said, that most Americans shared similar aspirations, albeit different ways of getting there.  What we needed to do was come together, brainstorm as a nation, and compromise.

I no longer believe that.  While I still believe that as human beings we all share some basic desires–food, shelter, love, the well-being of our families–once those personal desires get translated into the public arena, there are differences too vast to bridge.  There are a shocking number of Americans who remain prejudiced against people of other races, religions, nationalities and sexual orientation.  Who deny the existence of climate change.  Who believe we are living in Biblical end times. Who think, in a world where a crazy man can shoot first graders at point blank range, that the Constitution guarantees us the right to trot around with AK-47’s at our hip.

Those people, no doubt, don’t understand a person like me any more than I understand them.  We are very divided.  We do not share remotely the same world view.

I think Hillary Clinton is a grossly compromised candidate.  But if she is nominated for President, I will hold my nose and vote for her.  I respect her intelligence and experience.  I think she believes in the basic constitutional rights our country was founded on, genuinely does care about the rights of women and children, and would be reasonably trustworthy is a position of power.  I think most of my fellow Democrats would follow suit.

My fear is not that Hillary Clinton would win.  My fear is that she won’t.  If she was running against a moderate Republican I might consider switching parties for the first time in my life, or voting for a protest independent candidate.  But unfortunately she will most likely be running against one of the unholy trinity:  Trump, Cruz, or Rubio.  That Rubio is being held up as a “mainstream” Republican is laughable.  He denies climate change and is opposed to ANY environmental regulations.  He wants to bomb the Middle East back to the Stone Age.  He’s enthralled with sending more prisoners to Guantanamo.  He invokes Jesus Christ his savior at every opportunity, apparently unaware of the separation of church and state.

These are bad guys, living in unstable and passionate times, and that makes them very dangerous.  Hillary offers, in response, change so measured as to be anemic, one might say pathetic.  She reminds me of a parent telling her unruly children to calm down, to accept the world as it is, to give up on their dreams. She is running the anti-passion campaign.

I think her supporters–at first complacent, now perplexed–might want to consider our “enemy”, Iran.  Not so long ago, Iran was a stable, culturally progressive, forward-looking country.  To be sure, it was more of an oligarchy than a democracy (aren’t we?).  There was a wealthy class that lived extravagantly, and a relatively large upper middle class that lived off the crumbs.(see the excellent film Persepolis for a great picture of this)  But the huge income inequities between this group and everyone else eventually drove a revolution that found its voice in religious fundamentalism  (does that sound familiar to anyone?).  The first government after the coup was relatively moderate, and it was only later that they consolidated their power, truly cracked down on personal freedom, and created the fundamentalist theocracy we know today.

Those who think “it can’t happen here” might also remember we assumed attacks like 9/11 “couldn’t happen here” either.  We are not immune to the temblors that shake the rest of the world.  I don’t think we are quite at a revolutionary tipping point.  Too many people are still too comfortable in the US, and a vast apathy permeates our culture.  But its taking less and less to tip people out of their comfort zone.  Watch your stock holdings vanish in a flash.  Lose your job.  Be buried under a mound of student loans.  God forbid, get sick and find out how little your health insurance actually covers.

Desperate people can go two ways.  They can be driven by community and idealism, or driven by fear.  Bernie Sanders and Trump/Cruz/Rubio define these two stark choices, while Hillary stands in a melting middle ground.

She dismisses passion at her peril.


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