The Color Purple

Purple Kohlrabi. states that
“kohlrabi packs nutrients and antioxidants that may support immune health and lower your risk of chronic disease. Also, its fiber content supports a healthy gut microbiome.”

While today’s Andy’s Corner is a laugh-out-loud discussion of the color BLUE, the color purple has been on my mind lately. And the reason is not what you’d guess. It’s not that I’m thinking of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Certainly, given today’s news, it would not be surprising to be thinking about this both sad and joyful novel. Rather I’m looking up info on purple vegetables and fruits – which I’ve learned are particularly good for you because they are high in anthocyanin, which has a positive effect on brain health, inflammation, and heart disease.  And I’m also thinking about politics and how red and blue blended together makes purple.

Back in 2009 professors from Cal State, Syracuse, and the U of Michigan published results of their research the gist of which was that “Colored maps depicting electoral results may exacerbate perceptions of polarization, rather than merely reflecting them.” Or to put it another way – red and blue maps make us believe that the country is more polarized than it actually is. The map above is a 2020 map showing what happens if you use shades of purple to indicate political preferences, rather than the starker red and blue. Does it make things seem a slight bit more optimistic?

from Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat, July 4, 2022

On a cheerier note, I am happy to report that these anthocyanin-rich purple foods are good for you.

You know I’m always looking for ways to keep my (our) brain healthy – and purple may be the direction to go! The Cleveland Clinic states:

Research shows that anthocyanins can help protect and improve your brain function: one study reported anthocyanins increased blood flow to and activated brain areas that control memory, language and attention.

We have lots of fun purple food choices. In our house we always have a head of red (which looks purple) cabbage in the fridge and use it regularly for quick and easy salads, so I’m happy to see that high on the list. Blueberries are ripening along our back fence (they’re beautiful bushes to have in your yard – in addition to their berry’s nutritional value). And I recently planted more elderberry bushes, which have yet to produce much for us but are wonderful for attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinators – and sambucus caerulea, also known as blueberry elder or Mexican elderberry, is even drought-tolerant.

There have been no major studies showing exactly how many anthocyanins we should have per day – so just eat lots of these.
This reminds me of the almost weed-like elderberry bush we had growing at my Colorado home.

If you look through our BigLittleMeals recipes for purple eggplant, you’ll find slim pickings. Even though one of my favorite-cookbook-writers of all time, Yotam Ottolenghi, seems almost obsessed with aubergines, as he calls them, I don’t share his enthusiasm. But after seeing that eggplant – with its purple skin left on – is so high in anthocyanin, I decided to give it another try.

I definitely recommend that you search for varieties other than the common “Globe” eggplant which we see most often at the grocery store.
If you’re into vegetable gardening, consider planting the eggplant variety Orient Express next summer. It’s long, slender, tender – and doesn’t need peeling, so you keep that beautiful, nutritious skin on it

After searching for an eggplant recipe which might satisfy even those who swear they hate eggplant (it appears I’m not the only one who has some negative feelings about this veggie), here’s what I’ve come up with. Give it a try. And when you pull those hot, roasted, crispy, purplish, well-salted eggplant bits from the oven, nibble on a few of them. Even I found them d-lish!

Continue reading

Weaning Ourselves from Wheat

It’s kind of nice to divert your attention from stress-producing to smile-producing events, and our family has been doing a good job of this recently. From watching basketball finals (way to go, Dubs! You’re amazing, Steph! Be sure to try our Lamb Kheema in a Hurry Curry recipe!) to an amazing taco tour in Mexico City (let us know if you want to go on it and our daughter, Sara, will send you the info) to playing soccer in support of charitable causes (way to go, Travis!), the kids and grandkids have been having fun. Andy has been having fun too, studying – and talking a lot about – nutria and other “weird” species. Read all about that in today’s Andy’s Corner. It’s hysterical…definitely a contender for Best Blog of the Year! 🙂 My “fun” has been a little less exciting. I’ve been obsessing over wheat.

Playing soccer at the gorgeous Brooklyn Bridge Park – in support of PlaySoccer2Give and the Homeless World Cup Foundation

More about my kind of fun: it’s reading and researching about food – and then trying out recipes – at least when I’m not out in the garden having fun by using my pickaxe and lopper to dig up and cut back everything – often in the most brutal manner. Just getting my aggressions out so I can smile more 🙂 🙂 :). I’ve found that pounding on a piece of chicken for our chicken-fried-chicken (recipe to come) also releases pent-up frustration and brings a relaxed smile.

And now more about wheat. I’m always on the look-out for tasty and easy recipes, but I have to admit that when I see a recipe that begins “GLUTEN FREE,” I quickly pass on it. But a few recent news articles that caught my attention made me realize that gluten-free foods might be what’s up and coming! And not just for the gluten intolerant.

Wheat being harvested in Colorado. According to our Weld County farmer, this year the wind and drought caused him to lose his dry land wheat crop.

Though Kansas produces the most wheat in the U.S., Colorado (aka “the Homeland”) is among the top 10 wheat-producing states. On a global scale, China is the largest wheat-producer, with India a distant second. Even more relevant to today’s news, Russia and Ukraine provide 30% of the world’s wheat. Check out this WaPo article.

But it’s not only the supply issue. It’s also that wheat and corn and rice crops could be severely impacted by climate change. Even if you’re not worried about the supply issue and the resultant rapidly-rising costs, you might worry about how your health is impacted by a wheat-loaded diet. And you should.

We know that wheat (except for buckwheat) contains gluten. And, yes, some of us have gluten intolerance (here’s an enlightening article from Harvard about the “ifs, ands or buts” about gluten and gluten intolerance). It’s the gluten that’s needed for those moderate to highly-processed foods which the experts are screaming “BAD FOR YOU!!!!!” Are you ready to give up your morning croissant? Your BLT toasted white-bread sandwich for lunch? Your beef and bean burrito for dinner? What about that bourbon-filled flour-heavy 86-Proof Chocolate Cake? And – geeeeeez OMG NOOOOO! – maybe even your noodles and pasta?

Actually, I’m more concerned about the lack of fiber in the heavily-refined white flour. Returning once more to the Homeland and the HomeCity university, Colorado State University, researchers there note that dietary fiber has a number of health benefits — it prevents constipation, lowers blood cholesterol and might help you lose weight. Woohoo! I’m INTO fiber.

So I got to thinking about what sounds sweet and yummy that doesn’t have flour in it – and maybe even has some fiber benefits.

We’ve already posted some d-lish wheat-free desserts: Sweet Potato Pone, Halvah, Huguenot Torte, Almond Crackle Cookies, and Brown Butter Mochiko Muffins. If you want wheat-free AND high fiber, look for desserts like the pone with its sweet potatoes, and the halvah with its tahini, and the cookies with their almonds.

There’s a cute little deli in downtown Sonoma run by a creative Italian chef, Andrea Marino. It’s called Salumeria Ovello. We were lucky enough to taste – or should I say inhale – his Brutti ma Buoni cookies when a friend served them recently. If you don’t know Italian – that names means “ugly but good.” And, yes, they’re wheatless (or that obligatory description: gluten-free). The hazelnuts add fiber. Replicating them was not easy, but I finally found a simple recipe for these yummy-but-ugly cookies to share. And the real plus? They don’t even have butter, so you’ve saved the planet that way too. A little less greenhouse gas production!

Another sweet choice for a wheat-less, dairy-free, fiber-filled dessert is Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, and I’ve included a recipe for them too. You can up the ante with the chocolate by adding chocolate chips in addition to the cocoa powder, but I prefer the cookies sans chips.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, fiber-filled Brutti ma Buoni cookies
Gluten-free, dairy-free, fiber-filled Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Brutti ma Buoni - Ugly But Good Cookies

Adapted from Food & Wine

  • 1 1/2 c hazelnuts (8 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c confectioners sugar (aka powdered sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt (less if using any other kind)
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten (better yet – 2 small egg whites, lightly beaten; 1 just barely adds enough liquid)
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the hazelnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 12 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and the skins blister. Transfer the hazelnuts to a kitchen towel and let cool, then rub them together to remove their skins.

In a food processor, blend the hazelnuts with the confectioners sugar and salt until finely chopped (don’t over blend; you don’t want hazelnut flour!). Mix in the beaten egg white and vanilla.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon tablespoon-size mounds of the hazelnut dough onto the prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart.

Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for about 13 minutes. They will be very lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet before serving.

Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container – or can be frozen.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

  • Servings: about 24 small cookies
  • Print

If chocolate is your thing, you can stir in 1/2 c of semisweet chocolate chips before baking, but we think the cookies are plenty chocolatey as is.

  • 2 1/4 c shredded, unsweetened coconut (take note: unsweetened!)
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted through a wire strainer
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Stir together the coconut, sugar, sifted cocoa power and salt; mix the vanilla into the egg whites and then stir that into the coconut mixture.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out and form round cookie balls (if your hands are ever-so-slightly damp, the dough won’t stick).  Place the balls about 1″ apart on the cookie sheets.  The cookies will not spread, so don’t worry about that.  

Bake for 20 minutes.  Don’t be concerned if the cookies seem a little soft when you take them out of the oven; they will set up as they cool.  After cooling on the pan for 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.

The macaroons will keep in an air-tight container for several days and will freeze well.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

Let’s Eat Grandma

Fortunately, my two grandsons, Silas and Moss, have not rallied behind “Let’s Eat Grandma.” In fact, when I texted them about their reaction, their responses were quick – and negative. Thank goodness!

HA! Bet you didn’t know that Let’s Eat Grandma is a (very) young recording duo from Britain, who just recently released their third – and acclaimed – album, Two Ribbons.

FYI – They’ll be in NYC at Webster Hall Nov, 4, Denver at The Bluebird on Nov. 14, and SF at The Independent Nov. 22.

Obviously, other than relief at Silas’s and Moss’s reaction to Let’s Eat Grandma, I was curious why on earth those British kids chose that name for their recording group. Turns out everyone – except me, perhaps – knows it’s a little bit of punctuation humor:

Ahhhhhh, yes, the importance of commas. I’ll bet you remember hearing this story…

An English professor wrote the words, “Woman without her man is nothing” on the blackboard and directed his (or her!) students to punctuate it correctly.

The male students wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The women wrote: “Woman: Without her, man is nothing.”

And then there’s this…

Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, aka Let’s Eat Grandma, are in their early 20’s. Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Tom Paxton, and Willie Nelson, who are 72, 76, 84, and 89 respectively, also have albums which have been or will be released this year. Tony Bennett, who is 95, released an album with Lady Gaga last year.

If you want to see Bob Dylan, who just turned 81, he’ll be performing in Oakland at the Fox Theater June 9th and 10th.

Andy – in today’s Andy’s Corner – isn’t interested in Tom Paxton, but he is interested in something else “born” in 1937. And it’s even food related – but do we really want to revisit a food dish popular 85 years ago?

It seems that “out with the old and in with the new” has been replaced with “in with both the new AND the pretty-damn old” (could this relate to politics too? I won’t go there).

I may not be a fan of either the very young or the pretty-damn old when it comes to entertainment – or politics – but I do try to be open-minded. I listened to some of Let’s Eat Grandma’s songs and, since I couldn’t understand their words, I looked up the lyrics. If you read some of the poetry from my new favorite poet, Ada Limón, in our last blog, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the comparison. Admittedly, song lyrics don’t claim to be poetry – but you must recall that Bob Dylan received the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature for his lyrics.

Lyrics from “Chocolate Sludge Cake,” released in 2016 by Let’s Eat Grandma:

It’s time to bake a cake
I’m gonna make a carrot cake
No, I’m gonna make an apple cake
No, I’m gonna make a coffee cake (eugh!)
No, I’m gonna make a chocolate cake, a chocolate ca-a-a-a-a-ake
Ca-chocolate ca-a-a-a-a-ake
Ca-chocolate ca-a-a-a-a-ake

Lyrics from “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms,” released 2016 by Let’s Eat Grandma

Shiitake mushroom, how do you grow?
Enchant me with your glow
You were covered in stone, but you made it now

With those lines in mind, recipes for today’s blog are a gimme. We already have a super-favorite recipe which features shiitake mushrooms (Grace Young’s Longevity Noodles) and we’ve already done a number of chocolate cake recipes (Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake is extra-special for everyday snacking and as a simple dessert for a casual dinner party). But you can’t have too many recipes for either shiitakes or chocolate cake, so we’ve got another one of both to tempt your taste buds. Yum.

Shiitake Pancetta Pasta

Shiitake Pancetta Pasta

  • 2 T butter – divided
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-5 oz pancetta, chopped  (I used Columbus Diced Pancetta in a 5 oz pkg, which is easy to find)
  • 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 T sage chopped leaves (about 6 leaves will do it)
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, minced
  • 1/2 c cream
  • salt (about 1/4 tsp)
  • pepper (about 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 c parsley, finely chopped
  • 8 oz (or more) fettuccine, cooked according to package directions, drained, and mixed with 1 T butter

Heat 1 T butter and the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add pancetta and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the mushrooms, sage leaves, garlic, and carrot.  Saute 4-6 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and salt and pepper and saute another 2 minutes of so, stirring.

Gently combine the warm fettuccine with the mushroom sauce; sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

Pepitas and Chocolate Cake/Torte

Pepitas and Chocolate Cake/Torte

Rick Bayless calls this a cake, but we call it a torte.  Whatever…it’s addictively delicious. Adapted from Rick Bayless

  • 8 T butter (4 oz – 1 stick), softened – plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 3/4 c pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), toasted and salted – divided into 1 1/4 c and 1/2 c
  • 1 c plus 2 T sugar – divided like that
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking power
  • 1 T tequila
  • 1/2 c (3 oz) Mexican chocolate (Taza is the brand we use)
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom and slather it with more butter (about a tablespoon). Sprinkle 1/2 c of the pumpkin seeds in an even layer on the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle with 2 T of the sugar. Set aside.

Measure the remaining 1 1/4 c of the pumpkin seeds and 1 c sugar into a food processor. Pulse the machine until the seeds are ground. Add the eggs and the butter and pulse until everything is incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder and tequila and pulse again, just until everything is combined.

Chop the chocolate into pea-sized pieces and add it to the batter. Pulse until the chocolate is mixed in. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool for ten minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack and remove the parchment paper.  To be fancy – sprinkle the cake with a little powdered sugar before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.



I Like the Lady Horses Best

We’ve been pretty focused on dogs lately here at BigLittleMeals. But a couple of things got me off of dogs and (back) to horses (there’s nothing quite like being on the back – bareback, of course – of a horse). While I’m back to horses, Andy in Andy’s Corner is back to Sociology – AND horses. How clever!

First, I saw this article in The Atlantic about the evolution and domestication of horses. According to the author, “They say dogs are man’s best friend, but horses could also claim that title.” It’s a fascinating analysis of horse history and puts dogs and horses – as our helpers and pals – in more of a perspective. For example, did you know that dogs were domesticated 15,000 years ago – and horses weren’t domesticated until almost 10,000 years later?

Then came Mother’s Day and I got a call from my son, Travis, offering to bet on the Kentucky Derby for me in lieu of Mother’s Day flowers! Now I’m not a horse-racing fan, but the decision was simple. Who wants flowers…at least inside and in a vase and from a florist (my apologies to all of you flower-loving mamas out there. To each her own.)?

Rich Strike – the very long shot Derby winner for 2022

You know Andy and I have a ton of fun doing these blogs. We can jump all over the place and there’s no teacher or professor or editor – except ourselves – to tell us that our writing sucks. So I’d like to share the next sequence of events that resulted in this blog so you know just how random our reading and research is.

  1. After Travis placed my $10 bet on Epicenter (yup – way cheaper than flowers!), I started wondering if I should have bet on a filly.
  2. There were no fillies in the Derby this year to bet on – so I researched whether a filly had ever won the Kentucky Derby.
  3. The last (of only 3 fillies) to win the Derby was Winning Colors back in 1988 – 34 years ago!
1988: Winning Colors (a filly) besting Forty-Niner (ironic!) in the Derby
  1. Why don’t fillies win – or even enter?
  2. The answer to the above question is somewhat complicated. Fillies mature later than stallions, so a 3-year-old filly isn’t as strong as a 3-year-old male, and only 3-year-olds run in the Derby. Plus, there’s the “stud” thing. A winner stallion has the potential to bring in way more money as a stud than a mare does as a producer of a foal/year. Finally, the Derby instituted a point system back in 2013 that helps out European and Japanese bred stallions but does nothing to help fillies.

Stay with me here; it’s getting more random 🙂

  1. A week or so ago I skimmed an article in the NYTimes about a 46-year-old poet by the name of Ada Limón and happened to see that she grew up in Glen Ellen (our current home town) and Sonoma – and she lives now in Kentucky. So I read some of her poetry. My favorite? About fillies – and girls. It’s great.
  1. How perfect can this all be…except this is a food/life blog, and I’ve got to factor in food.
  2. I can’t possibly do horse meat – but why?
  3. Why don’t we eat horse meat, at least here in the U.S.? Mr. Beat – who is a YouTube-ing high school teacher in Kansas – has a video about that.

Since I can’t enthusiastically include a recipe for horse meat – or dog – or even cat meat – we’ve got a recipe for a variation on the go-to cocktail while watching horse-racing: the Mint Julep! We’ve even got a Mock Mint Julep recipe. But might I suggest that you enjoy it while you watch next year’s Kentucky Oaks, NOT the Kentucky Derby. It’s a race specifically for 3-year-old fillies. I’ll bet you’ll like “the lady horse swagger.”

My horse Besties, hanging out in the back acreage of our Ft Collins, CO, home in the late 1950’s. Patches – a black and white, pinto, part draft-horse, unregistered gelding, and Fleet – a palomino, purebred, registered Quarter Horse mare. To be perfectly honest, I loved them both equally.

A last minute footnote: Depending upon your feelings about racehorses, you’ll be happy – or sad – to learn that UC Davis has just decided to replace their “elite” racehorse mascot with…ta-da!…a cow. 🙂

Continue reading

The Rag-Tag Award

We started our blog 5 years ago, and each year thereafter – on that May anniversary – we have presented The Raggedy Awards. It’s been a festive occasion, with Andy determining what awards I should get and my determining what, if any, awards Andy should get 🙂

But nothing can go on forever. So this year our awards have been changed. Andy and I have joined forces (can you believe that!?) and are presenting just one REALLY BIG award. And it’s the Rag-Tag award.

I’ll let Andy take it from here:

This year’s REALLY BIG Rag-Tag Award goes to our REALLY SHORT dog – WynnSome. Wynn has been a huge presence in our lives this last year, and we hold her in high regard (despite her low profile).

She’s a real charmer. Whenever she’s with us in public she creates a stir. She loves people and almost everyone who crosses her path falls for her charm with comments about how cute she is and about her pretty brindle coat. 

Then comes the inevitable question:  what kind of dog is she?

While the AKC says “The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is a masterpiece of the breeder’s art”  her appearance has “Rag-Tag” written all over it.  I often have wondered if this breed was designed by a committee. But to provide some concrete proof that Wynn qualifies for the BigLittleMeals 2022 Rag-Tag Award I am offering my very short DOGumentary entitled “The Rag-Tag Corgi.

So here’s to Cardigan Welsh Corgis – and to our Winner, Wynn!

Though Andy’s “dogumentary” focuses on Wynn’s appearance, her demeanor is a little rag-tag too…as in “not very respectable.” She barks when she shouldn’t bark, steals things she shouldn’t have (like a pork chop off the kitchen counter), and gives you a “f*** you” look when you ask her to do something she doesn’t care to do. Which makes me think about The Lincoln Highway, which I just finished reading. It would be hard to find a more rag-tag group of kids than Emmett, Wooly, Duchess, and Billy in Amor Towles’ 2021 novel. Though I didn’t love the book as much as I loved A Gentleman in Moscow, it was still a fun – if long – read. And those 4 boys are all such rascals, and, as the WaPo review put it, they’re a really motley crew. Wynn would be their perfect dog.

Being food-obsessed as I am, I happened to bookmark a page toward the end of the book where Duchess describes the meal he prepares for Emmett, Wooly, Billy, and Sally. Lo and behold, Towles discusses that recipe in an interview and comments that it’s actually a favorite of the Towles family. It’s now also a favorite of our family!

Continue reading
%d bloggers like this: