Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Give Sweet Potatoes A Chance

Okay, so sweet potatoes aren't exactly sexy. But don't be fooled. The homely exterior hides a treasure trove of flavor and nutrition.

Sweet potatoes take ordinary mashed potatoes up a notch and blush prettily. See for yourself.

Here, take a closer look. Don't you want a scoop of that?

For the 2 Potato Mash recipe and more reasons why you should give sweet potatoes a chance, check out my article in the San Angelo Standard-Times. Happy reading & eating! :)

And I found a tasty tidbit of a zen poem for you.

Sweet Potato by Shinkichi Takahashi

Of all things living
I'd be a sweet potato,
fresh dug up.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Taking Stock

At the beginning of the year, I chose a guiding mantra for myself:

"Live creatively, consciously, healthfully and simply."

About a month ago, I resigned from my full-time day job. It was a scary step, but I took it because I needed to. The bottom line being:

"Live life well and use the time I have on this earth to its full extent."

So now it's time to take stock and see what I've done in my first month of living on my own terms.
Here's the list:
  1. Took early morning walks with the Cowboy & puppies.
  2. Wrote a novella, and almost done with revisions.
  3. Volunteered at my kids' school --a Diabetes walk, an Academic Carnival, and dressing about 80 kinder kids in caps and gowns for graduation pictures. It's amazing to observe my little people in a different enviroment, the nuance of their personalities revealed by their interactions with teachers and peers.
  4. Coordinated media coverage about the Association of Asian-American Women's efforts to collect donations for Japan. A sister member, Dong Mei, who's half-Chinese, half-Japanese and 100 percent sweet, led the charge.
  5. Returned to help cook at the soup kitchen every Wedneday (while I was working, I basically ended up only doing the large Valentine's Lunch and missed my weekly visits). Many of the old crew still happened to be there and welcomed me back.
  6. Spent time in my garden. I now have sweet potatoes, red potatoes and a jicama plant in the ground.
  7. Spent hours in our new $16 million library, just soaking it in. Read like books were going out of existence. Mailed out 52 packages of books for a contest I'm helping coordinate.
  8. Went on a clutter-busting mission and had a garage sale. Continuing process.
  9. Experimented in the kitchen. Pictured is a refreshing watermelon-strawberry drink with mint and lemon juice. Toss everything in a blender, bzzzz, pour & enjoy! For your poetic pleasure: Watermelons by Charles Simic.
  10. Enjoyed my back porch, played more, laughed more.
Oh, I also organized my kitchen cabinets, refrigerator & freezer, which led to 3 Tips to a Well-Stocked Kitchen.

Not bad me thinks.

* What I haven't had time for: a pedicure. Sheesh!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Romance Magicians: Tips to Stay on Track & Achieve the Writing Dream

Hi all,

Today I'm at one of the wonderful group blogs I participate in with a writing post. Hop on over and check it out if you're interested!

Romance Magicians: Tips to Stay on Track & Achieve the Writing Dream: "A writing career means strapping on your courage and going into a series of battles every day. 1. Writing the book/story. 2. Revising. 3. S..."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to Sweet Success in Texas

One of the best things I like about freelancing is the amazing, interesting and inspiring people I meet. For this week's article I interviewed Tong Sa Vaun, a Cambodian donut shop owner in West Texas.

It was an honor to visit with Tong and hear the incredible story of how as a 15-year-old he escaped the Khemr Rouge and began his American journey. Even better was to hear his take on life -- part zen and all donut.

Here's Tong's story that appeared in today's San Angelo Standard-Times.

And here's a special poem in honor of Tong and other survivors like him:

Waiter in a California Vietnamese Restaurant by Clarence Major

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good @ Any Time: Sweet Potato & 2 Pepper hash with Fried Egg & Avocado

Growing up in Bangladesh, my first glimpses of America came from comics (I was tight with Archie & the gang), movies and tv shows and somewhere along the way I became enamoured with diners.

When I arrived in America, I sought out a real-live diner and there I discovered the joys of crispy hashbrowns, creamy sausage gravy over fluffy buttermilk biscuits, eggs dancing with spicy salsa. All the while, I soaked in the conversations going on all around me: men & women, young & old sharing laughs and stories over coffee and pie. It was the ultimate American experience.

Much of my college career centered around diners --early morning breakfasts after late night parties, cram sessions, dates, girl-talks. Then I graduated and landed my first full-time reporting job.

Single-Asian-Female alone in the wilds of West Texas. I love a good adventure, but I couldn't help feeling a bit lost. So I sought out a diner. The waitress called me "Honey" and all the old guys flirted with me. My first bite sealed the deal and I stayed.

Four years later, just as I got ready to leave West Texas, I met the Cowboy. One Texas-tornado of a romance later, we got married. Both history buffs, we chose the stables of Fort Concho as the venue. The director, a friend of ours, let us spend our wedding night in the restored Officer's Quarter One. Unfortunately, I'd heard one too many ghost stories about that place and didn't sleep a wink (okay, stop snickering y'all). Anyhoo, 5 a.m. in the morning we ended up in a diner sharing our first breakfast as Mr. & Mrs.

My love affair with diner food continues to this day. What's there not to love? Good diner meals are simple, good and comforting. When I crave some but can't go out to a diner, I try to whip up something close in my kitchen...of course, with a Rashda twist.

Sweet Potato & 2 Pepper Hash with Fried Egg & Avocado

3 Tablespoons of oil (reserve 1 tablespoon for later use)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & diced into 1/2-inch cubes
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons panchphoron (you could replace that with 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or anything you prefer)
1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
4 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 large sweet red bell pepper, seeded and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large poblano pepper, seeded and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons of lemon juice or water
4 eggs
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Home-made or store-bought salsa


1. Heat 2 tblsp of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add sweet potatoes. Season them with salt and pepper. Try to get the potatoes in a single layer and don't over-stir so that you get nice browning. But keep an eye on them & the stirrer handy, since you don't want them to burn to black. If you're happy with the caremelization, feel free to sprinkle some water to help with the cooking.

2.When the potatoes are 3/4 cooked, take the pan off the heat. I usually put them in a paper towel lined bowl and set aside.

3.Clean off the pan with another paper towel and get ready for some desi cooking. We Bengalis call this technique baghar, Indians often refer to it as tarka, but it involves cooking the spices in hot oil and adding it to the almost finished dish for a final pop of flavor.

4.Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet.

5. Add the spice seeds and cook for about a minute.

6. Add the onions, and when that starts softening add in the red pepper flakes and ground spices. Cook for about three minutes until well mixed (again, if sticking sprinkle some water on it).

7. Toss in the garlic, ginger, red bell pepper and poblano. Cook for about five minutes.

8. Return the sweet potatoes to the pan, sprinkle with two tablespoons of lemon juice or water and finish cooking until the potatoes are done. Set aside.

9. Fry up your eggs, slice up the avocado (a big round of applause to the Cowboy for helping so we could have every thing ready at about the same time).

10. Plate up your hash, egg and avocado. Sprinkle with cilantro (if using) and serve with a side of salsa. I try to be seasonal in my food and beverage choices...and this was perfectly accompanied by a cold bottle of Shiner Spring Ale. :)

Variations: I considered adding some breakfast sausage to the hash, but decided the egg was protein enough. And I left out any kind of bread because, well, the sweet potatoe is the starch. For a heartier meal, I'd add those in.

To finish up, instead of pie I'm offering you the poem Breakfast by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Happy reading & eating!

To my #Letslunch friends: Sorry, I know I had you thinking quiche...but then I stumbled onto a #spicechat and got inspired to make some sweet potato hash instead.

Some of the other breakfast for lunch posts by #Letslunch pals:

Cinnamon Roll French Toast Sticks

Okra Coins with Fried Eggs & Biscuit

Frittata Salad

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Celebrating Asparagus w/a poem, 2 recipes & some nutrition facts

I find my sustenance from food, words and the human experience. Once in a while, I'm lucky enough to find all three in a delicious bit of poetry. Since April is National Poetry Month and this is a foodie's celebrate I'm going to try and gift you a food poem with every blog post this month. Just some food for thought. :)

ASPARAGUS by Margaret Atwood

This afternoon a man leans over
the hard rolls and the curled
butter, and tells me everything: two
women love him, he loves them, what
should he do?

The sun
sifts down through the imperceptibly
brownish urban air. I'm going to
suffer for this: turn red, get
blisters or else cancer. I eat
asparagus with my fingers, he
plunges into description.
He's at his wit's end, sewed
up in his own frenzy. He has
breadcrumbs in his beard.
I wonder
if I should let my hair go grey
so my advice will be better.
I could wrinkle up my eyelids,
look wise. I could get a pet lizard.
You're not crazy, I tell him.
Others have done this. Me, too.
Messy love is better than none,
I guess. I'm no authority
on sane living.

Which is all true
and no hep at all, because
this form of love is like the pain
of childbirth: so intense
it's hard to remember afterwards,
or what kind of screams and grimaces
it pushed you into.

The shrimp arrive on their skewers,
the courtyard trees unroll
their yellow caterpillars,
pollen powders our shoulders.
He wants them both, he relates
tortures, the coffee
arrives and altogether I am amazed
at his stupidities.

I sit looking at him
with a sort of wonder;
or is it envy?
Listen, I say to him,
you're very lucky.


For the two recipes & nutrition info check out my article in today's San Angelo Standard-Times. Enjoy!