Author Archives for theRaggedys

The Raggedy Awards: Year Four

Welcome to our fourth annual BigLIttleMeals Raggedy Awards.  Each year at this time Ann and I select our favorites from each other’s posts from the past year (see the entire list here).  Aside from our blog, perhaps the best thing about this past year is that it has passed into the past.

Note: We’ve added a new category to our awards – a one-time only thing: the BEST SERIES TO WATCH TO KEEP YOUR MIND OFF OF A PANDEMIC. Choosing the winner has been rough. Just like the pandemic.

We estimate that we spent 360 evenings since March 2020 watching episodes of the following series:

One Day at a Time, Schitt’s Creek, Never Have I Ever, Jane the Virgin, Ramy, Better Things, Killing Eve, and Recitfy.

And the winner of this special Pandemic Year award goes to (tah-dah): RECTIFY!

Yes, Rectify may be slow-paced but the series has moved us, disturbed us, occasionally made us smile, made us contemplate the complexities of families, but – more than anything – made us go deep into thoughts about guilt and innocence – and rebirth – in both the religious and secular sense.

And now to the Presentation of the REAL Raggedy Awards:

ANDY’S PICKS

Andy’s pick for Ann’s BEST BLOG goes to:  The Bluebirds of Happiness

This post is my favorite of the year for two reasons. First, the symbolism of the bluebird is the perfect metaphorical salve for the less than happy year we were experiencing. The opening quote from Margaret Renkl’s NY Times opinion column hits it on the head for me:

… think of happiness as neither distant nor grand. Perhaps it would help to remember that even now happiness is only what it has ever been: something that lights before us, immediate and insistent and always fleeting. Not a promise at all but a temporary gift. It lands, and lifts away, and returns again, ever flashing its wings.

The second reason I selected this post is that the featured blueberry muffins are more than a metaphor for happiness – they are literal happiness straight from the oven.

The Runner up for Ann’s BEST BLOG go to:  Biden Thyme

To my way of thinking Biden Thyme skillfully stitches together some of the more crucial aspects of our everyday lives: puns, cocktails, chocolate cake, drinkable shrubs, and (not-so-nuanced) political references. Published just five days after the new administration officially started, the thyming of the post couldn’t have been better.

ANN’S PICKS

Ann’s pick for the best ANDY’S CORNER  goes to: I’m a Taurus: Does that Mean I’m Full of Bull (and that I Should Avoid Criadillas in my Diet)?

This Andy’s Corner had several things going for it that vaulted it to the top of my picks. First, it paired nicely with my blog The Age of Aquarius (which regrettably was not selected for a Raggedy Award). It cleverly incorporated some touchy culinary issues within an astrological framework. But most important, it included a photo of Andy and me looking just (well, almost) like George and Amal Clooney.

The Runner up for THE BEST ANDY’S CORNER goes to:

Fly Fishing, Pitch, and Salty Dogs: Hygge or Friluftsliv?

Was fishing an incidental part of the fishing trips?

My Andy’s Corner runner-up selection was especially nostalgic for me. Even though I was never invited to my dad’s men’s-only fishing trips to North Park, Colorado, I grew up hearing many stories of these infamous outings. It wasn’t until Andy married into the family and was invited by my dad to join the old-timers that I found out that fishing was somewhat of an incidental activity compared to heated Pitch card games and the consumption of Salty Dogs.


In addition to the above Raggedy Awards, we present awards for Best Video and Best Recipes. We end our presentation ceremony by naming our Food Item of the Year.

The Raggedy for BEST VIDEO goes to: Picky and Piggy: A (Culinary) Tale of Two Kitties

Closing scene from Picky and Piggy

Selecting this video as the best of the last year was a no-brainer, largely because we had only one BigLittleMeals video for the year. Produced, directed, and edited by Andy, you are taken behind the scenes to witness the culinary world of our two kitties: Ono and Choco (aka Picky and Piggy).


Next up are our Raggedys for Best Recipes. Picking out favorite recipes is sort of like having to say which of your kids is the favorite.  Each recipe is a work of love which involves much testing, tasting, and at times, rejecting. But since we have to choose, here are our picks.

The Raggedy for BEST RECIPE (according to Andy) goes to: Turkey Chili. The Moroccan Stew recipe was a VERY close runner-up.

Adapted from a Ruth Reichl recipe, our Turkey Chili features ground turkey and white beans with a fresh tomatillo sauce spiked with chipotle chilis and topped with Mexican crema. It’s always a hit.

Our Moroccan Stew recipe can be made with lamb or be vegetarian without the lamb. It is a delightful tomato-based stew with chickpeas and raisins (or dates if you prefer) spiced to perfection with cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, and ginger. We recommend serving it over a bed of couscous.


The Raggedy for BEST RECIPE (according to Ann) goes to: Chicken Fried Chicken. Our Brown Sugar Blondies recipe is a VERY close runner-up.

Those who know of my undying quest for the perfect chicken-fried steak won’t be surprised that our Chicken Fried Chicken is my top recipe pick The chicken coated with a buttermilk and egg batter comes out of the frying pan with a wonderful golden crust that begs for cream gravy. This would be a star in any diner in rural America. The irony of choosing this fried dish as my favorite – after writing a blog decrying the frying process – does not escape me.

My runner-up recipe for Brown Sugar Blondies has the perfect ingredients for a super-simple yet deliciously-decadent treat – brown sugar, pecans, and lots and lots of butter. Not only are these blondies irresistible, the recipe is adapted from Sara Deseran’s Picnics cookbook (nepotism is alive and well at the BigLittleMeals award ceremonies).


The Raggedy for OUR FAVORITE FOOD ITEM OF THE YEAR goes to:  SOUR CREAM

Whether it’s Mexican Crema or Sour Cream, we’ve used it over and over this year. We think almost every stew tastes better with a little dollop on top, often with a little lime juice and salt added to it. But mostly we’ve come to appreciate what sour cream does for batters, such as in pancakes and muffins and cakes. Here’s a great article which details the value of sour cream way more than I can. We’ve already raved about Blueberry Muffins made with a mixture of crema and sour cream and we’ve posted a yummy Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe with sour cream.

And here’s a recipe to conclude our Annual Raggedy Award ceremony. Ann’s assessment?

I’m pretty fussy about my pancakes; it’s actually hard for me to rave about anything other than Swedish pancakes and I have consistently resisted Andy’s efforts to impress me with his pecan pancakes or his oatmeal pancakes or even his sour dough pancakes. But I like these. REALLY like them. It’s all about the sour cream – and the tenderness and lightness achieved by its use.

Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes

  • Servings: 2-3 or about 12 small pancakes
  • Print

NOTE: this isn’t enough batter to feed a family of 4 – so be sure to increase accordingly! Adapted from The PioneerWoman and SmittenKitchen

7 T flour
1 T sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/ 2 tsp salt
1 c sour cream (or a combination of sour cream and Mexican crema)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla 
Butter
Maple syrup and/or Fresh Strawberry Sauce 

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat; you want it to slowly get nice and hot.

Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in the bottom of a medium bowl. Dump the sour cream in on top and stir it together very gently. Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and stir them into the sour cream mixture, once again, being careful not to overmix.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in your skillet or griddle and pour the batter in, a scant 1/4 cup at a time. You’re aiming for about 4″ pancakes. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, or until bubbles appear all over the surface, flipping them carefully and cooking for about a minute on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Lagniappe: Friands and Family

Nope, that title is not a typo. We’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of our friends and families lately. And I think it’s ironic that one of our favorite new recipes is for “friands.” A friand is simply an Aussie (we love Aussies 🙂 ) version of a French financier – often with an added piece of fruit on the top. They’re simple little cakes, usually made with at least some almond flour.

We may love this Aussie most!

Friands are perfect to serve to friends and family at the end of a meal – or with coffee on your patio in the morning. Because we are all ecstatic that we actually HAVE post-vaccination-unmasked friends sitting at our table now or chatting with us on our patio, it seems the right time to share this recipe. The little cakes freeze perfectly, so you can make a batch whenever and just pull them out as needed, as your friends and family gather (newly) around. Embrace them (friends and family). Enjoy them (friands).

Friands

Friands

Adapted from Epicurious.com

  • 14 T butter (1 stick  plus 3/4 stick) 
  • 3/4 c pistachio nuts, plus a few extra to serve (pecans may be substituted if you add about 1/4 c more – for a total of 1 cup, but the pistachio nuts make this YUM!  And don’t worry if you only can find shelled, salted pistachios.  Just cut back a tad on the salt.)
  • 1 2/3 c confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 c plus 2 T finely ground almonds (or almond flour)
  • 2/3 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 5 large egg whites
  • fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
  • powdered sugar to dust on top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin pan (muffin pans seem to vary in size.  This will make enough for 8-12 muffins.  There are also special friand pans, which are oval instead of round and on the small-ish side).

Melt the butter in a small pan, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. 

Grind 2/3 c of the pistachio nuts in a food processor with the confectioners’ sugar until very finely chopped.  Roughly chop the remaining pistachio nuts and set aside.

In another bowl blend together the ground almonds, flour, and salt, and then add the ground pistachio/flour mixture to that and mix again.  

Beat the egg whites with a fork until frothy, then pour into the nuts and flour mixture with the melted butter and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, filling each tin about 3/4 full; add a few strawberries slices to the top of each one, then scatter with the chopped pistachios. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the friands are browned on the edges and springy to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  If using powdered sugar, dust the friands just before serving.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

All But Forgotten: An Ode to Kohlrabi

mature kohlrabi in the garden

The 20th-century Nobel-prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote a series of Odes about vegetables, including “Oda al tomate“, “Oda la alcachofa“, “Oda a la cebolla“, and “Oda al maíz” (to the tomato, artichoke, onion, and corn). But he didn’t write one about kohlrabi. What a shame. It would have been perfect for today’s blog. And it deserves an ode.

I grew up eating the kohlrabi which we planted and picked in our big garden in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now I wish I could ask my mother how she knew about it.

Though kohlrabi was grown throughout Europe in the late 1500’s, it seems that today kohlrabi has been all but forgotten.

I’ve recently introduced it to at least a half dozen friends, all of whom are smitten with it.  It’s surprising to me how many folks have never experienced kohlrabi’s raw, slightly sweet, crispy, better-than-radish and much-better-than-turnip taste.  All you have to do is peel it and slice it and it’s ready to devour – or use it to dip into any dip of your choice. We’re especially fond of kohlrabi dipped into Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Carrot Ginger Dip.

Yotam Ottolenghi in his cookbook Jerusalem has this amusing description:

Kohlrabi is a weird vegetable…it is weird because of its look [and] because people in the West, Germany excepted, have no clue what to do with it. Perhaps because of its oddity and eccentricity, or maybe because it is so easy to grow and tastes so fresh, people in Israel love it.

Andrea Nguyen, from VietworldKitchen.com., wrote a post about “su hao”, which is kohlrabi in Vietnamese. She was looking for suggestions on recipes using it and got the following comment on her blog:

I love Kohlrabi! Here in Germany, it’s one of the most common vegetables. We just cook it slowly with some butter or in a roux with milk, with some bacon bits added. You can even slice it, coat it with breadcrumbs (and parmigiano) and fry it like a schnitzel. I also like it thai-style, with a bit of green curry paste and coconut milk.

Andrea posted this recipe of hers for Vietnamese-style kohlrobi – “su-hao-xao-toi”, kohlrabi stir-fried with garlic and egg.

I can’t imagine anyone not liking kohlrabi’s mild taste, but Andy has the solution for any nay-sayer. “Eat it!” That’s also what he yells at our cat, Ono, on a daily basis. See today’s special Andy’s Corner (yes, they’re ALL special! :).

Like kohlrabi, Ono’s stuffed toys are all but forgotten – even after she drug them out of the house.

It’s shocking how many delicious and easily-grown vegetables never make it into our gardens or onto our plates. If you’re from the Sonoma area, you’re probably familiar with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a shop in Petaluma and they have an online site for mail order. You’ve got to check out the array of unusual seeds they carry. My order went in today.

I just read in our local Press Democrat newspaper about two women in Sebastopol who are planting and selling unusual German and Asian vegetables. They call themselves Radical Family Farms, and their vegetable photos alone are enough to make you want to start experimenting in your garden and in your kitchen. You could even buy Sara Deseran’s 2001 Asian Vegetables cookbook and choose to plant new-to-you veggies according to the recipes that sound d-lish. Get it here while you can! (shameless promotion of our daughter.) 🙂

by Sara Deseran

When you’re lucky enough to find kohlrabi at your market – or get it delivered in your fresh-from-the-farm box, remember to peel it (removing the stems and bottom and top with a knife and then peeling with a vegetable peeler works best for me). The bottom will be tough and will definitely require a little effort to cut it off. I just move my knife up until I begin to find the tender spot and make the cut there. If you’ve got leaves included, they’re edible too – and can be cooked and served like spinach.

Is kohlrabi good for us? Well, the Harvard Health blog states it is a “cruciferous vegetable. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, and turnips. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals including indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles, which may prevent against some types of cancer.” I’m impressed!

And here are a couple of my favorite recipes. Nope, I JUST CAN’T DO IT. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend any kohlrabi recipe. Sure, you can be adventurous and boil it, roast it, fry it, julienne it for a slaw, dice it for a salad, but trust me – you’ll enjoy kohlrabi’s taste and crunch most if it’s just sliced and served. Maybe with a dip – but even that isn’t necessary. It’s the perfect simple, quick, non-fattening, healthy, yummy snacking food. And it’s way too good to be forgotten (or even obfuscated – big word! – in a recipe with other more-domineering ingredients!).

Kohlrabi

As Andy’s Corner recommends today: Just EAT IT!  No recipe needed or wanted.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Let’s Embrace – for a Long and Bright and Happy Life

My extroversion muscles have atrophied while my introversion muscles are bulging,” writes David Brooks in a recent NYTimes column. How true is that?!

My CC college friends (friends for almost 60 years) echoed that same feeling on a Zoom call the other day. But we labeled it “inertia,” and most felt it was a COVID-related issue. It seems that getting back into the post-vaccination socializing groove isn’t coming easily.

A BBC series on Worklife recently posted a helpful article “Why we may have to re-learn to socialise.” (which, oddly, enough is followed up by this article: “Can online sex fill the connection void.” I’ll save that topic for another blog…in hopes that you keep reading! 🙂

Yes, we may want to take it slowly, but we’d better get off our couch (or up from our computer chair) and get back out into the world. It doesn’t take much reading or research to figure out why.

Are dogs and cats enough? I don’t think so.

Hot off the press is a UC San Diego School of Medicine study which focuses on loneliness and gut health, as well as wisdom and gut health. I’ve been interested in gut health and food ever since my blog from a while back, so I know that richness and diversity in the gut microbiome is good. But I didn’t realize that gut health may possibly be improved if you’re socially engaged – and not lonely. To quote the researchers: “It is possible that loneliness may result in decreased stability of the gut microbiome and, consequently, reduced resistance and resilience to stress-related disruptions, leading to downstream physiological effects, such as systemic inflammation.”

The light?

In 2010 (notably pre-Pandemic) researchers from BYU published an article in PLOS Medicine which analyzes 148 studies (totaling over 308,000 participants of all ages, races, and genders). Their conclusion? Social relationships influence the health outcomes of adults – and lack of social interaction negatively impacts our longevity the same as does smoking, not exercising, drinking too much, and obesity (how many of us in this last year have had little social interaction – AND have been drinking a lot, eating more than we should, and not exercising? How much is that all going to impact our life span? Yikes.)

Maybe the most interesting research on this topic comes from a Harvard study. I’m sure it was the title that caught my attention – “Good genes are nice, but joy is better.” Beginning in 1938, Harvard tracked 268 of their students over an 80-year time period, observing their physical and mental health. The result?

Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.” 

That’s pretty up-beat, don’t you think? We may have little or no control over social class, IQ, or genes, but we sure can work at forming and maintaining close relationships.

The truth?

Now I tend to think that all Harvard studies must be perfect, but I believe there’s an important caveat here that maybe isn’t addressed adequately. The study followed men. Why? Because there were no women at Harvard when the study began. I discussed that concern about no women participants with my CC sorority-sister friends. And they all agreed – the way men react wouldn’t necessarily predict the way women may react. That said, I’m hoping the study’s findings apply to us women too.

Pre-vaccination social distancing in Sonoma…I’ll eat at the counter and you eat at the table! The question is: did that help our longevity because at least we were under one roof – or hurt our longevity because we weren’t exactly hugging?

We plan to meet and greet – and, yes, embrace…lots of friends this next year. Andy is hoping to laugh with lots of friends this year – see today’s Andy’s Corner – where Andy will also introduce “The Sunshine Lady.”

There are so many folks we’ve missed…including our Waco/Houston friends who didn’t come to SF this year because the American Sociological Association meeting there was cancelled due to COVID; Sonoma friends who moved to Toronto during the pandemic – and haven’t been able to get back for a visit nor has Canada welcomed visitors there; Boulder friends whom we normally would have seen when we take our biannual trip to visit Colorado and my Fort Collins brother.

In my effort to keep these special social connections active (and my brain brighter), I emailed each of these foodie/friends and asked them to send me a favorite recipe that they’ve been cooking this weird year, and explain why they chose it. The explanations are as special as the recipes: we appreciate the aroma of food; we crave something simple and quick and one that provides more than one meal; most-importantly, we need a dinner with good food and with that necessary social companionship that can help cheer up the gloomiest of days. I’ll embrace that!

Continue reading

Lagniappe: Mountain Goats and Debbie’s Sugar Cookies


To refresh your memory, lagniappe (LAN-yap) is a Creole term meaning something a little extra, sort of like a “baker’s dozen.” It’s a word we heard often during our Louisiana years. We like to think of our “Lagniappe” posts as little digital extras we add to our regular bi-weekly posts.


[Note: Andy is taking the reins for today’s Lagniappe blog].

Appropriately enough, this post was inspired by a little something extra I received recently following a ride with a group of fellow cyclists who call themselves the Mountain Goats (or just “Goats” for short). For me the route had been particularly challenging and by the time we got back to our vehicles I was tuckered out and ready to head home. While stowing my bike in the back of my car, Debbie, one of the “Goats,” was going from vehicle to vehicle offering festively decorated cookies that she had baked. Just seeing these colorful, sweet gems brightened me up. And biting into one was heavenly – the perfect picker-upper after a long ride.

As soon as I took that bite I knew that I had to convince Debbie to share the secret of her cookies for BigLittleMeals. What could be more appropriate for a pre-Easter edition, or for that matter, any pre-festive-occasion edition? She was kind enough to agree, so I asked her to write a little something about herself and how she creates her amazing cookies.

A little something by Debbie about Debbie:

Debbie is an amateur baker, cookie aficionado, and semi-retired educator (who keeps teaching because she needs the dough. Who knew powdered sugar was so expensive?) Other than attending her first-and-only decorating class and watching countless Youtube videos, Debbie is a self-taught baker who learns through trial and error (and eating her mistakes. Yay, yummy mistakes). When not baking, Debbie can often be found cycling with her Mountain Goat friends, climbing hills around Sonoma County.

[Editors note: Debbie was too modest to mention that among her accomplishments she was the 1993 Amateur World Champion (Triathlon Short Course) and the 1994 US Amateur Triathlete of the Year. She went on to compete professionally as a triathlete. This was all prior to her becoming a world class cookie maker.]

Here’s the scoop on her cookies:

Below are Debbie’s preferred recipes for sugar cookies and for their icing. You need to go no further than the straightforward cookie recipe to produce a batch of cookies that would please anyone. But it’s the icing and decorating part that gives them that special pizzaz and – well, just makes everyone who sees them happy. That part is a bit less straightforward, but Debbie offers some helpful tips for the uninitiated.

Debbie’s decorating tips

As I have learned from many, many mistakes, successful cookie decorating depends on icing consistency. Icing consistency is really important! If the icing is too runny, it will run off the cookie. Too stiff and it will not dry flat. For newcomers to decorating, there are a number of youtube videos that explain how to make icing the proper consistency. You can check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAfBRU3WK_0

You also need practice! My first attempts at decorating were not-so-pretty…[actually, they were just so sad!]. However, like most things, decorating cookies gets easier and better with practice.

There are also so many resources online, you can become a self-taught decorator in no time! Pinterest is a wonderful resource for decorating ideas and images. 
This royal icing recipe [below] comes courtesy of Sugared Sentiments and is available at: https://sugaredsentiments.com/soft-royal-icing-recipe/

Essential tools include icing bags, couplers, icing tips, a scribe (or toothpick!) and, of course, food color. Gel dyes are more effective than liquid dyes.

Happy holiday – or any day that provides an excuse to make these happy cookies.

Continue reading
1 2 33
%d bloggers like this: