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On Life As A Picky Foodie

OMG it's March (4th) already! Winner of the cookbook giveaway & a Wacky Tahini Recipe

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

Hello Peeps --

I simply can't believe it's March already.  It's madness, I tell you.  

First of all, I'd like to congratulate Liz, the winner of our giveaway!  Liz, please send me your email address via The Picky Foodie Contact sheet and we can take it from there.  I do hope you enjoy Parents Need to Eat Too -- let me know.

Secondly...  hmm... OK... well...

I have something to tell you...

There’s this thing, you see...

I make it thick and dip caramelized sweet potato wedges in it.

I thin it out with lemon juice or water and it dresses my salads well enough to conquer New York by night.

Or I grab my spoon and snack on it straight out of the jar.

The thing with this thing is that I can never make enough.  It seems I am constantly whipping up a batch only to make another because, well, this stuff goes fast around here. 

In case you’re wondering, the family doesn’t eat this quite like I do.  It’s just me, alone, with a spoon and this stuff, or a knife to spread it nice and thick, or a big big bowl of beautiful greens, ready to get gussied up.  Or a sprouted corn tortilla, a sheet of nori, a celery stick. 

Tahini is its nutty, wonderful self.

Miso adds a touch of earthiness.

And apple – cider and vinegar – make it sweet and tangy.

Then we wrap it all up with a nice green cilantro bow for a little left-field depth.

And Bob’s your uncle (or Eric in my case, and I think he’ll like it too)

This isn’t your average little concoction.  It’s rich as an eighties Wall Street Banker, and comforting like when you come home from a long winter hike and someone’s gotten the fire going in anticipation of your return.  It might seem a little strange at first, as if the tastes don’t quite know what to do with one another, but I dare you to stop after a few tastes.  My friend tried it, and while she declared, “this is weird,” she did so while helping herself for the third or fourth time.

Spread it, pour it, drink it.  It’s healthy enough to indulge in and decadent enough to enjoy regardless of how normally eat.

Then comment below, tell me what you think.  And please, be honest.  I’d love to know. 

Tahini Miso Spread


½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (or ¼ cup dried – leaves, not seeds or powder)

1/3 + ¼ cup tahini (I know, weird, but it works)

½ cup apple cider

2 T miso

1 T apple cider vinegar

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 T water


Start by combining 1/3 cup tahini with the apple cider, the vinegar, the lemon juice and the water.  Stir it all together with a fork until the mixture is creamy and smooth.  Then add the miso and the additional tahini and repeat.  You can thin it out until the desired texture is obtained.


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February 18th, 2012: Parents Need to Eat Too (CookBooking Picky Foodie Style)

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

How do you use cookbooks? 

Some have them stacked high on their bedside table, like fiction, others draw on them like Cliff Notes, without getting too involved.  Personally, I tend to turn to them for inspiration.  Such as when I find myself at a loss with a specific ingredient: when my tomatoes are suddenly all overripe I’ll hit the books to see what people like Alice Waters, Ani Phyo or the guys at Moro do.

Many people think I only have raw or vegan cookbooks on my shelves.  Those people are wrong, wrong, wrong.  In fact, I love “regular” cookbooks as much as I love sitting next to people eating all the things I can’t.  For the record, if we ever go out for a meal together, please don’t skimp on ordering exactly what you want.  Don’t assume I’ll suffer because I can’t taste your French toast or your double bacon cheeseburger.  I won’t.  I don’t.  Because what’s more pleasurable than watching people enjoy, truly enjoy their food?  (and, believe me, if you felt as nasty as I do after eating that stuff, you wouldn’t miss it either)

But back to cookbooks.  I love cookbooks.  I love reading about all the ways other people have found to combine ingredients.  To me, recipes are like paintings: each artist has their own style and it’s wonderful to not only study and analyze, but also, to the extent that it is possible, try things for myself.

Of course, as the Picky Foodie, it can get a little tricky.  With all of my restrictions, it is rare that I can actually eat all that a dish calls for.  However, if I’m honest, the thing is, I’m convinced that even if I could eat everything under the sun, I don’t know how good I’d be at actually following recipes.

Whenever I try to follow a recipe, I think back to the time when I made Congo Bars with my grandmother.  She was recovering from a broken hip and so we agreed that, because she wasn’t able to stand or move around, I would be the one actually putting the ingredients together.  It was easy, she said, all I needed to do was follow the recipe… 

Oy Vey.

Let’s just say, it’s a wonder she’s still speaking to me! 

And to be fair, my grandmother’s Congo Bars are, to my mind, proof of the existence of a higher power.  I think her magic ingredient, however, has nothing to do with the ingredients though I’m sure she would disagree.

But anyway.

A few weeks ago, Debbie Koenig, a fellow food blogger and mother, announced that her cookbook, Parents Need to Eat Too (isn’t that a great title?) was coming out.  I was so excited for her and looked forward to getting my hands on it. Parents Need to Eat Too, is geared towards new parents.  It covers everything from slow-cookers (an absolute necessity), to quick dishes you can make during nap time, to lactogenic foods that support breastfeeding and even one-handed jobs (when you can’t put down the baby).    

This book is chock-full of information, tips and tricks – how to make grown-up food more baby friendly, time-savers for the busy parent, recipes for kitchen-illiterate partners, foods to help increase and reduce milk production, how much sugar is too much for babies.  And did I mention the great slow cooker section?

But then, of course, came the real question: was I going to find anything Picky Foodie friendly?

They say you need to follow a recipe at least once so you know what it’s supposed to taste like before changing anything.  And I resolved to do just that.  Or at least give it my best shot. 

Parents Need to Eat Too is pretty animal product heavy – so those bits were not for me, though many of the recipes do sound delicious.  It also relies quite a lot on gluten grains and there’s a lot of dairy involved.  However, there is a nice range of pulse-dishes, most of them ethnic-flavoured, though Debbie, with her characteristic sense of humour and candour, admits she’s not aiming for authenticity.  I decided to attempt one of those.

In London, I crave curry.  In the Middle East, it’s Mjadra.  Since arriving in the US, I’ve been wanting chilli.  So although I flirted with a good few of the slow cooker recipes like the Potato, Split Pea and Cauliflower Dahl and the Moroccan Red Lentil Stew (have I mentioned the slow cooker?), I settled on the sweet potato and homini chilli. 

I tried to follow the recipe.  Believe me, I did.  And, surprisingly, I succeeded for the most part.

There were cans involved – many more than I’m used to -- but then again, as a Mom, I’ve become more open to making use of these helpful time-savers. 

Here’s the bottom line: while I agree that parents might need to eat too, the mark of a good recipe isn’t whether the adults like it.  Only if the little person gobbles it up, can a meal be deemed a success. 

And Gobble she did. 

With leftovers.

Which disappeared quite quickly but were ample enough to take the pressure off for at least one, if not two additional meals. 

So it was a win-win-win.  Or as they say in French, tout le monde a gagne!

Parents Need to Eat Too comes out this week.  If you pre-order a copy before the official launch on Tuesday you'll also get the free Digital Starter Kit, which includes extra recipes and other bonuses.  

If you'd like to know more about Debbie, check out her site here.  Alternatively, you can watch this YouTube video about the book.  

But here’s the good news: I’m giving away a copy!  Yes, it’s the Picky Foodie’s very first giveaway!!!! 

To enter, please leave a comment telling me how you use recipes, whether you try to follow them to the letter, whether you, like me, find it is somehow against your religion, or whether you are somewhere in between…  I’d love to know!  A winner will be picked at random, to be announced on March 1st

catherine f. commented on 19-Feb-2012 03:43 AM
I am sad to say, that I read them re-read them and read them about 25 more times while making the recipe. Recipes are my lifeline while I cook. I aspire to cook like you!!
Móna Wise commented on 19-Feb-2012 09:38 AM
What a cool book. We use all our cook books for inspiration too Gabriela. It has always been our policy to cook only one meal for the big and little people. It is working like a charm now with everyone. Great giveaway Gabriela!
Dia commented on 19-Feb-2012 03:37 PM
I cracked up reading your description of how you cook and your attitude towards eating with loved ones and friends. It was like you are looking at my life. Even before my adult onset food allergies kicked in, and way before I had 2 kids with food allergies
and intolerances, I couldn't follow a recipe for anything. Much to my mothers dismay! I have piles of cookbooks that I flip through for ideas, but I usually end up on my own path. I made Debbies recipe for couch potato cookies dairy/egg/wheatfree and I was
pretty please with my results. My big problem is that I substute and adapt on the fly, so when something comes out great, I don't usually remember my adaptations the next time I try to make it. LOL
Ciara Byrne commented on 19-Feb-2012 06:06 PM
Sounds like a great cookbook. But from the bits you mention I don't think you'd have to be a parent to enjoy it. I think any busy person - such as myself - would probably get a lot out of it. I'm definitely intrigued by the slow cooking section which you
mention a bunch of times as I love throwing everything into a pot in the morning and coming home in the evening to the house full of delicious smells and dinner ready to put on the table. So huge congrats to Debbie. ciara
Victoria Patience commented on 19-Feb-2012 09:50 PM
I, too, love recipe books and have far too many of them. The ones I love best, however, aren't necessarily the ones with the best recipes. In fact, the recipes themselves are often indifferent to me. It's the writer's philosophy/attitude/aesthetic that
I'm interested in. That and the quality of their writing. I love books with long introductions or descriptions or interesting explanations, books that chart the author's childhood favourites, the way their friends reacted to a dish, or why a certain ingredient
or implement excites them so much. As for the recipes, there are some books I turn to for their take on specific dishes I want to make, but I have an unkickable habit of never following a recipes to the letter. I always have to disobey something in it. The
only exception is baking, where I will often do something by the book at least once before riffing it. (BTW, I always wondered if you only read picky foodie-friendly books... and now I know!)
kkd commented on 19-Feb-2012 09:54 PM
Sometimes it's for inspiration. Other times for clear direction. And admittedly there are those times when I turn to recipes out of pure desperation. The cook book looks fabulous -- what mother wouldn't love more ideas for gobbling toddlers!
Liz commented on 20-Feb-2012 03:11 AM
I am Interested to try this cookbook. Mine sit just out of my reach atop the highest shelf in our kitchen. I use two of the 10 with no regularity--Italian home cooking by Hazan and a good old Better Homes "new cook book" from the 60's I think. I use them in utterly different ways... Better homes to know the basic formula for pancakes or cornbread and then I can make my own variation. Hazan I use to spend 3 hours making a sauce full of love. The whole family loves every meatball...and usually also likes the smothered onion sauce in tomato and butter. It takes a lot for me to pause the insanity of after work - come home and greet the kids - tell me about your day - decompress - change out of work clothes and get dinner going to get a cookbook down (requiring a hidden stool to boot). So I usually just rely on what I know.  The other obstacle to cookbooks is having the ingredients... Having the foresight to buy the right stuff at the store that weekend and have it on hand. How many times have I been inspired to try a new recipe to go gather the ingredients and I am missing 2-3 key things... Fresh sage or some nut oil... Truffles!  Who keeps truffles around??
Keisha-Gaye commented on 20-Feb-2012 06:34 PM
I love your writing style! Always so lively and informative. I really appreciated this blog entry. Please, keep up the good work. Your insight is much needed and appreciated!
Sarah B commented on 20-Feb-2012 09:57 PM
This sounds like exactly the book I needed when my daughter was a baby -- especially the "one-handed" meals! Wish I'd had it then, but would love to have it now to give to new moms I know as a really useful gift.
Kristine commented on 21-Feb-2012 03:41 AM
Hello! I always enjoy your writing and found your site through a friend (Joody Marks). As far a cooking goes, I cook almost everyday two meals a day for my husband and myself. Generally I browse through my cookbooks in fits and starts. I will get on a
kick and read them at my leisure and then try all sorts of recipes. Then I will not crack them open for weeks and just use things I have on hand, using techniques and ideas from the recipes I've tried before. When I find a new recipe I like I usually have
to read it several times to get a feel for it and then when I try it I always have all the ingredients prepared and ready, even measured out, before I start it. Otherwise, I'll get lost and forget something. So, that's my m.o. for cookbooks. I'm hoping to
start a family soon, i.e. get pregnant, and this book you wrote about sounds like it will be something I'll want to have on hand to browse through. Thanks for sharing your writing, your thoughts and your life with all of us on the web.
Samantha commented on 21-Feb-2012 10:09 AM
I keep every food magazine I buy, stacked (neatly, ha ha) across any available surface, constantly mocking and reminding me that I need to cut out and store the individual recipes into those beautiful splash proof binders I keep buying and giving away.
But I can't hack them apart because I love the context of the magazine as a whole, the seasonality, the 'food fashion' and it's fun to revisit them at a different time of year or even a year or two later, the hilarity of articles on ingredients that weren’t
the norm, or worse over used (hello “micro herbs” ?!?!) Following recipes though? I do prefer to follow it religiously for the first time (unless the instructions make no technical sense) especially if it’s an authentic recipe or cuisine I'm unfamiliar with.
How else will I learn and improve?
Sidonie commented on 21-Feb-2012 04:35 PM
I love the sound of this book - great idea. I'm afraid I have mostly ditched recipe books though, and rely heavily instead on Riverford's recipe app. I just don't have the mindspace to peruse recipe books, pick something nice, plan to buy the stuff it
needs, then remember to make the thing I planned a week ago. Arrgh! The app works like a slot machine: you pick the veg you have left in the fridge (up to three), and it whirs out the recipes that match. Yesterday we made grilled leeks with olive oil, lemon
juice & goats cheese -sublime. My one exception is Nigel Slater's Fruit & Veg books - they are organised by veg, so if you have e.g. celeriac and are bored of everything you know how to make with it, it gives you inspiration on how to vary it, without being
too prescriptive.
Jason C commented on 22-Feb-2012 05:54 AM
I've just tried cooking for the first time in the last few weeks! So far, much like training wheels on a bicycle, I have absolutely had to rely on recipes. But I can't wait until I reach a point when I can "wing it" like the best chefs. This book sounds
great for mothers. I have a friend that I think will love this book. Thanks for profiling it!
Danielle commented on 22-Feb-2012 07:40 PM
Once again a victim of an identity crisis, as I fall somewhere in between the 2 camps. On the one hand, I thrive on recipes, more than anything as idea-generators. But then, once I get into them, I substitute this for that, add a pinch of that, avoid that
altogether. But in general it's within the 'comfort zone' of straying from what's on paper; no wild nomad behavior for sure. And this book sounds absolutely fantastic.

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