Category Archives: Lunch

Easy Broccoli Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce for the Busy Person

Not the prettiest but oh so delicious!

Not the prettiest but oh so delicious!

Happy to start the new year with lots of projects, but that means I need to cook fast!

This has been my go-to super fast lunch for awhile now, and I thought I’d share the recipe here.  It is really easy to make if you have all the ingredients on hand. I usually make just one serving at a time, but you could double or quadruple the recipe pretty easily.

Have you seen the raw broccoli slaw they sell these days in the refrigerated section?  I still prefer my broccoli cooked, but I love the convenience of having it already washed and sliced thinly for stir fries.  I par cook the broccoli in the microwave for about 2 minutes with a spritz of water.  Then I fry it in just a smidgen of sesame oil for flavor in a non-stick pan and add a slice of firm tofu, and an egg white.  As the white cooks, I break it up along with the tofu and season with a bit of soy sauce.  Then I stir it all together with a peanut sauce I make.  You can use this peanut sauce recipe I use for my Asian Chicken Salad with Peanut Noodles, and use as needed.  Or you could just make a bit of sauce fresh (which I’ve been doing) of some peanut butter, peanut flour, coconut milk, and a bit more soy sauce.  In the above picture, I added some leftover shirataki noodles to the mix.  I’m doing a bit of low carbing these days, trying to lose some holiday weight….

Here is the recipe for a single serving:

Easy Broccoli Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

1 1/2 cups of broccoli slaw (I use Trader Joe’s)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 slice of firm tofu

1 egg white (I use liquid whites)

2 teaspoons soy sauce, divided

For sauce:

1 teaspoon peanut butter

2 teaspoons peanut flour (alternatively, just use 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for the sauce)

1 tablespoon coconut milk or water

1.  Steam the broccoli slaw in a bowl in the microwave for about 2 minutes.

2.  Heat sesame oil in a non-stick pan.  Add broccoli, tofu, egg white, and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.  Let whites harden a bit, then stir together and break up tofu into pieces.

3.  Remove from heat and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, peanut flour (or just 1 tablespoon peanut butter) with coconut milk or water and the rest of the soy sauce (1 teaspoon).

4.   Pour over cooked vegetable mixture and stir to incorporate.  Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving

And here’s a small “sketch” I did of a dad I saw at Starbucks last weekend — just because….  🙂

DAD and babya


Filed under Eggs, Lunch, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

72 weight watchers

I’m embarrassed that I have had this cookbook and have been meaning to post a review of it FOREVER.  The nice folks at Saint Martin’s Press sent it to me, and it’s a fantastic cookbook.  The more I use it, the more I love it. I’ve never done Weight Watchers, but I know a lot of people who have with great success.  Even if you are not dieting or involved in Weight Watchers, though, this this is a great cookbook to have in your library.  The recipes are not all about using fat-free ingredients, and shunning food groups, etc.  The focus is on fresh ingredients and healthy cooking tips.

Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad

Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad

There is a blurb about each recipe (a lot are favorites that have been updated).   Servings and portion sizes, and nutritional information with PointsPlus points (if you are following the Weight Watchers 360 program) are also included with the recipes.  Recipes that are vegetarian and/or under 20 minutes to prepare are noted. The recipes are very easy to follow, the photography beautiful, but best of all, the dishes are wonderful.  I have made the Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad about four or five times.  It is my new go to side dish for grilling or having a get together (see recipe below).

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

I made the Pork Chops with Onion Gravy last night, and it was AMAZING.  The cool thing about it is that you cook the onions in chicken broth, rather than sauteing them in a lot of oil and butter (a la The Barefoot Contessa), but you don’t sacrifice flavor at all.  So you are only using 1 teaspoon of olive oil for the whole dish.  I will definitely make this again.  It is key that you use bone-in pork chops so they stay moist, and this is noted in the recipe.

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Another recipe I absolutely love is the Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups.  I make this for myself all the time now. I’m the only one who likes spicy foods, so I just make a single portion using our toaster oven.  I love the idea of making the cups using an inverted ramekin or muffin tin.  It works like a charm. And I love baked eggs and Mexican food, so this is one of my favorites.

There are a lot of really simple recipes that I’ve tried out that I am not reviewing here, but that I use regularly and vary to my liking.  Omelettes for Two (you use 2 large eggs and 3 whites),  Canadian Bacon-Cheddar Frittata, Potato Leek Soup, Kale Chips,  Banana “Ice Cream”, Oven Fried Fish and Chips, Vegetable Quesadillas, to name a few.

I chose to highlight these three because they were all very good, and I learned something from them that I think is valuable and that I’ll incorporate into other recipes (e.g. Including edamame in bean salad, and using lemon juice and zest, rather than vinegar; making tortilla cups; and cooking a pile of onions and softening them in chicken broth).

And there are  TON of recipes I want to try out in the future, like:  Bubble Bread with Herbs and Sun Dried Tomatoes, Southwestern Chicken Vegetable Soup, Mexican Chicken Wraps, Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy, Individual Beef Wellingtons, Boston Cream Pie.  These are just a handful of them.  If I were to wait until I made everything, photographed the dishes, wrote about them, and posted about it, this review would take even longer than it has to get out!

Please enjoy these three dishes from Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook, and buy the book for more great healthy and delicious recipes!

Lemon Basil Three-Bean Salad

From The Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

Serves 6

20 Min or Less


1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 (15-ounce) can small white, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup cooked shelled green soybeans (edamame)

1/3 sweet onion, finely diced

1/3 red bell pepper, finely diced

5 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, salt, and ground pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the black beans, white beans, soybeans, onion, bell pepper, and basil; toss to coat evenly.  Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Per Serving (3/4 cup):  160 Cal, 3 g Total Fat, 0 g Sat Fat, 0 mg Chol, 427 mg Sod, 26g Carb, 8 g Fib, 9g Prot, 94 mg Calc.
PointsPlus value: 4

bean salad

Skillet Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

From Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

Serves 6

4 (6-ounce) bone-in pork loin chops, trimmed

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced

1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1        Sprinkle the chops with the salt and pepper.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I used a cast iron one).  Swirl in the oil, add the chops and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

2        Add the onions, ¼ cup of the broth, and the garlic to the skillet.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender, about 12-15 minutes.

3        Sprinkle the onions with the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add the remaining 1 cup broth, mustard, and thyme.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce bubbles and thickens.  Return the chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chops are heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Per Serving (1 chop with ¼ cup sauce):

253 Cal, 11 g Total Fat, 4g Sat Fat, 76 mg Chol, 420 g Sod, 9 g Carb, 2 g Fiber, 29g Prot, 30 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value: 6

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Serves 4


4 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onion

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup canned diced mild green chiles, drained

2-3 tablespoons mild peepper sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 large eggs

¼ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

  1. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 425 F.  Lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick spray.  Place 4 inverted custard cups on a baking sheet, and drape a tortilla over each to give it a bowl shape.  (You may also use an inverted 12-cup muffin pan, placing the tortillas over alternate cups.)  Bake until the tortillas are crisped and lightly golden around the edges, 10 minutes.  Remove the tortillas and set them on a rack to cool.
  1. Combine the diced tomatoes, beans, chiles, pepper sauce, cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in an ovenproof skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors are blended, 4 minutes.  Break the eggs one at a time, on top of the sauce, spacing them evenly apart.
  1. Immediately place the pan in the oven and bake until the eggs are almost set, 6-8 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs and bake until melted, 1 minute.  to serve, place the tortilla cups on serving plates and spoon the eggs and sauce into the tortilla cups.  Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

Per Serving  (1 filled tortilla cup):  289 Cal, 8g Total fat, 3 g Sat Fat, 216 mg Chol, 840 Sod, 40g, Carb, 8 g fib, 17g Prot, 200 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value:  7


Filed under Breakfast, Eggs, Lunch, Pork, Sides

Onion and Cheese Pie with Walnut Crust and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

onion pie up close2

I’m on a Mollie Katzen kick again.  As you may recall, we love her Pretend Soup book and my husband regularly makes her popovers for a weekend breakfast.

While visiting family on Saturday, I came across her classic, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest book!  I’ve been aware of this book forever, but I had never read it before.  I have to say I’m smitten.  I love her writing, her illustrations, and her amazing recipes.  But mostly I love that when she writes them, there is always room for improvisation which she wholeheartedly encourages.  She fully communicates the joy of making tasty, healthy food, being creative with it, and eating it!

There are a ton of things I want to make from the book.  There are fabulous dressings, dips, bread, vegetable, salad, and soup recipes I know I will be making in the future.

The other night, I made the  Onion Sour Cream Pie, but changed it up a bit.  I made the walnut crust as a base.  For the filling, I omitted the sour cream (because I can’t eat it) and substituted ricotta cheese in its place.  I also omitted the lemon juice and added thyme as a seasoning.

The result was a flavorful savory pie with a nutty, wonderfully crumbly crust.  It was very much like an onion quiche but more rustic.  This pie would also be good with some sauteed mushrooms in the filling!  We ate our slices with crisp green salads which perfectly complimented the buttery, nutty, cheesy richness of the pie.

onion pie up close

Onion and Cheese Pie with Walnut Crust adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen

For the Walnut Crust:
1/2 cup finely minced walnuts (I used a food processor and stopped before it became nut butter.)

a dash of salt

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

1 1/4 cups flour

3-5 tablespoons ice water

1.  Process the nuts, salt, butter and flour in a food processor, pulsing several times to mix up.

2.  While processor is running, drizzle in ice water.  When dough starts to come together, stop machine.

3.  Dump dough out onto floured board and roll out into a circle to fit a pie dish.  Transfer to pie dish and crimp edges. Chill until ready to fill.

For the onion filling:

3 tablespoons butter

4 1/2 cups onion, thinly sliced

dash of salt

dash of thyme

2 tablespoons flour

a couple tablespoons water

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup shredded cheddar

1 whole egg

1 egg, separated

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Saute onions in butter in skillet on stove over medium heat.  Season with salt and thyme until soft.  Add flour to thicken.  Cook until onions are soft.  Add water a little bit at a time to prevent too much sticking to the pan.  Set aside to cool a bit.

3.  Mix yogurt, ricotta, cheddar, one egg, and one egg yolk (reserving egg white in a separate bowl) together in food processor until smooth.  (I used the same unwashed bowl that I processed the crust ingredients in!)    Transfer to a big bowl.

4.  Stir sauteed onions into dairy mixture.

5.  Brush crust with some of the saved egg white.  Pour onion mixture into crust.

6.  Bake for 45 minutes.

onion pie


Filed under Dinner, Lunch, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup and 2012 in Review


Happy 2013 Everyone!

Have you all made your New Year’s resolutions?

I have to say, I have not.  I find that the label, “New Year’s Resolution”, carries too much weight, fraught with emotional baggage–my own craziness.  So my work around is to make goals at other times of the year. 🙂

One art related goal I made back in November is to draw from life every day.  I bought a beautiful Moleskin sketchbook which I LOVE because it’s small and easy to carry everywhere.   It’s really hard to draw in public without anyone noticing.  Hopefully I’m getting better at it.  Here are some samples:

Tim Horton's

Tim Horton’s

Easier to draw strangers when they aren't looking at me!

Starbucks.  It’s easier to draw strangers when they aren’t facing at me!

Jamie on Denis' phone

Jamie on Denis’ phone

In flight

In flight

j an d d

A lot of people make health oriented goals at New Year’s.  I guess the combination of holiday indulgences and pants getting more snug (I’m guilty of this as well!) and the promise of a new year — a clean slate– is part of the appeal.  With the frigid winter temperatures outside, a hot bowl of soup is a great remedy for the winter chill as well as the tighter waistbands!

soup close

We’ve been enjoying this nutrient dense, filling, and comforting Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup recently.  I’m happy to say that even my 8-year old loves this one so much, I don’t have to “hide” what’s in it!  It’s so easy to make too if you have a good blender.  See recipe at end of post. Served with cheese toast or a salad, it makes a delicious, comforting, healthy, guilt-free, New Year’s Resolutions compliant lunch!

Thanks to you all for making 2012 such a great year for this blog!  Followers and views doubled from 2011!  The most popular post of 2012 was Monthly Lego Build and Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Secret Ingredient, one of my favorites. Check it out!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 78,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup

Two small heads of broccoli florets chopped, or about 4 cups chopped broccoli

One small sweet potato

1 3/4 cups to 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Steam broccoli in steamer on stove for about 8 -10 minutes.  Alternatively, steam broccoli in a bowl covered with saran in microwave until cooked, about 4-5 minutes, depending on microwave

2.  Prick holes in sweet potato and cook in microwave for 4 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, peel and remove flesh.

3.  Place broccoli, sweet potato, and broth in blender and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add more broth and reheat if you want a thinner consistency.


Filed under Art Related, Lunch, Soup, Soup, Vegetables

Everybody Eats Lunch

Everybody Eats Lunch Cover72

Before the crazy holiday season began, I was given the opportunity to review Everybody Eats Lunch  by Cricket Azima with pictures by Titus V. Thomas.    I wanted to test out some of the recipes  before reviewing so I could give you a better idea of what the book has to offer.  🙂

This wonderful children’s cookbook, which is charmingly shaped like a lunchbox,  cleverly touches upon concepts of cooking, geography, time, language, AND has great, easy recipes.

Five kids from around the world (Mexico, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, and Jamaica) share with the reader what a  typical lunch from their country is like– what it is called in their language, what time they eat lunch, and what kinds of dishes might be in their lunch.

The book is constructed out of sturdy cardboard and at the beginning, there is a map of the world and lift-the-flaps which also show each character in their respective countries.  It’s a nice way to connect the place with each child that we meet later in the book.


The contents of the lunch are laid out on one side of each spread, and each part can be removed to reveal a recipe behind it. So cute!


Jamie and I loved exploring Everybody Eats Lunch and learning about the  different lunches in each of the cultures.

I decided to try making three recipes in no particular order.  First up was the “Beef Patty” (it really looks like a sort of filled bread pocket, like an empanada, rather than a beef patty) from Jamaica.

beef patty blue 1

The recipe is simple — you just saute beef with onions and spices, then fill crescent roll dough pieces with the filling and bake.  The only thing I changed was to reduce the amount of oil because I used a non-stick pan to saute it in.  I also drained some of the fat after browning because I used 80/20% beef — not the leanest choice for ground beef!

beef patty blue front

The verdict:  They were heavenly!

The second dish I made was the Brazilian style rice and beans.  I had some extra chicken stock in the fridge that I had to use up, so I used that in place of the water.  I have to say that this dish will become a regular in our house.  It was so delicious and comforting!  We had it the next evening with quesadillas.

rice and beans 1
Since the first two dishes that I tried out were savory, I decided to make a sweet one for the third slot.  Jamie wanted me to make the Caramel Sandwiches from Mexico (graham crackers filled with dulce de leche).  I’m sure they are amazing!  But with all the holiday indulgences we’ve been partaking in, I decided to go with something less decadent, and I made the South African rusks.  I’d never heard of these, but apparently they are quite popular.


They are kind of cross between a biscuit, crunchy scone, and fat biscotti.  They would also be great at breakfast and perfect for dipping into hot chocolate or coffee.  They are not too sweet — but delicious with a hint of cinnamon and almond extract.  This one was another winner!

I’m excited to make more of the recipes in the book with Jamie since they all seem interesting, easy to make, and most importantly, flavorful!

Check out Everybody Eats Lunch for yourself at Glitterati Incorporated.  You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Here are the recipes reproduced with permission of the publisher:

Jamaican Beef Patty

beef patty blue side

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 white onion, diced

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup bread crumbs

2/3 cup beef stock

1 8-ounce package crescent rolls

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon tumeric

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2.  In large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes.

3.  Mix in ground beef, thyme, curry powder, salt and pepper, stirring to break up beef.  Cook until beef is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

4.  Add breadcrumbs and stock, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.

5.  Place crescent roll triangles on ungreased baking sheet.  Place generous tablespoon of beef mixture in center of each and fold over.  Seal edges with fork.

6.  In small bowl, combine egg and turmeric.  Brush tops of each patty with egg mixture.

7.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serves 4

beef patty cut

Note:  I did have extra filling leftover.  This wasn’t a problem, however — it was good plain!

rice and beans 2
Brazilian Rice and Beans 

1/4 pound bacon, diced

1 onion, diced

1 15.5-ounce can pinto or red beans, drained and rinsed

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

2 cups rice

4 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

1.  In large saucepan, cook bacon and onion over medium-high heat until browned, about 8 minutes.

2.  Stir in beans, garlic, bay leaves, rice and water nad bring to boil.  reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

3.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serves 4

Note:  I halved this recipe and still had leftovers.  Also, I used brown rice, so I had to add in more liquid and cook it longer.

rusk square

South African Rusks

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 egg, beaten,

1/4 cup melted butter (note: this is about 3/4 stick of butter)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  In large bowl, combine both flours, sugar, wheat germ, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

3.  In separate bowl, mix buttermilk, egg, butter, vanilla and almond extract.  Pour over dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Shape into log about 4 inches by 8 inches, and place on baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, and cut into 1/2-inch slices.

5.  Reduce oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange slices cut-side down on baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes per side, or until lightly golden.

Makes 12 rusks.


Filed under Beef, Books, Children, Lunch, Vegetables

Cats and Curried Tuna Lettuce Wraps

Curried Tuna Salad in Lettuce Wrap
Recipe at end of post

Lo-o-o-ve me.

I recently finished some commissioned cat portraits.  I love cats, and I love painting them.  It’s so sad that I’m highly allergic to them, though, so we can’t live with them (I’ve tried, believe me!)   So painting is the next best option! 🙂

I often add cats to my book illustrations, even if they aren’t mentioned in the text.  I just love their presence.  I usually put in cats I know.  The white one with the black tail below is “Taxi”, my friend’s beloved cat, whom I loved too.  He makes an appearance in my first illustrated book, Night Shift Daddy.

I even devoted a whole parallel narrative to Chanukah Lights Everywhere involving cats.  On each night of Chanukah, more cats appear.  It’s fun to try and find them all.  Below is the 6th night, so hiding cats is getting tricky.  In the winter sometimes our street looks like this (minus all the cats, of course!) I won’t ask you to find all six, because one of them is cut off — a white cat is on one of the rooftops.  There are three cats in the windows, one cat being walked by a woman, and another cat in a green cat carrier in the background.

My husband always had cats before we got together.  I even tried to live with the last pair, Bogey and Misia, for five years, before we found good people to take care of them.

I think all those years of taking care of of cats has made it impossible for him to eat any kind of canned fish.  He can’t help but to associate it with cat food.

I, on the other hand, am happy to eat canned tuna, sardines, salmon, etc.  Also, it’s not like I eat it straight out of the can!  When you season everything it takes on a whole other dimension!
It’s also so good for you, filled with protein, good fats, calcium…

To eat, just roll the thin part of the leaf over and munch!

I made these Curried Tuna Lettuce Wraps for lunch today, and they were so good!  I love eating lettuce instead of bread in the summer because it’s just so darn refreshing and delicious.  You can use iceberg or butter lettuce in place of romaine.  I love the flavor and texture of romaine lettuce though.  The saltiness of the  cashews and sweetness of the golden raisins and apple are a nice complement to the curried tuna which has a bit of a kick!

Curried Tuna Lettuce Wraps

1 can of environmentally safe tuna

1/2 stalk of celery, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 Fuji apple, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

kosher salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped roasted salted cashews

2 tablespoons golden raisins

washed and dried Romaine or other crunchy lettuce leaves

1.  Drain canned tuna and transfer to a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, except lettuce leaves and stir to combine.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

2.  Wrap tuna salad in lettuce leaves.  Eat!


Filed under Art Related, Books, Children, Fish, Lunch

Cancer and Nutrition

Roasted tomato, zucchini, eggplant, and Brie frittata. Recipe at end of post.

Awhile ago I was contacted by a complementary medicine advocate, Jillian McKee, of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance about sharing an article she had written about the importance of healthy nutrition while undergoing cancer treatments.

Though I haven’t had cancer myself, my life has been touched by it.  I’m sure most of you also know someone who has battled cancer, whether it is a loved one, relative, friend, or a friend of a friend or relative of a friend…. It’s such a prevalent disease.

Treating cancer and living with the disease on a day to day basis is such a physically and emotionally draining experience.  It’s important to fuel your body properly to keep up your strength.  Jillian outlines the best way to do this.

This information might already be familiar to some people.  For others it might be new and helpful.  I think it is important to spread the word.


Good Nutrition Can Boost Your Chances of Surviving Cancer

By Jillian McKee

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer or are going through treatments, you may be wondering what you can do to improve your odds for survival. Although surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment methods are important to the recovery process, tailoring good nutritional principles to fit your current condition can help you tolerate the side effects better and give you the mental strength you need to get through this.

Cancer can negatively affect your appetite and sometimes change the way your body handles particular foods such as dairy products; hunger is no longer a good indicator that you’re getting the nutrition you need. For that reason, educating yourself about good nutrition can be as essential to your survival as your individual treatment plan is. Whether you have a lung tumor, a growth on your prostate, or some other type of malignancy, good nutrition can make a difference in the outcome.

When fighting cancer, nutritional guidelines are slightly different from standard recommendations. Many cancer patients struggle to implement these guidelines, especially if they didn’t think about nutrition before their diagnosis. For those who are new to nutrition, here’s a little help.


Cancer patients need additional protein for healing. When you don’t get enough, the body cannot guard itself against infection because it can’t make white blood cells for the immune system. It also can’t repair damaged tissue that treatment might have caused. Protein comes in complete and non-complete forms depending upon the amount of amino acids the food contains.

Proteins such as eggs, yogurt, milk, cheese, soybeans and quinoa contain all eight essential amino acids that the body needs, so they are called complete proteins. Rice, nuts, beans, tortillas, pasta, bread and cereals contain lesser amounts, so they are called incomplete proteins. The body takes the amino acids from one food and mixes them together with the amino acids found in other food; so most protein sources are good for cancer patients.


Carbohydrates are starches and sugars that provide the body with glucose and the calories you need for energy. Fruits, vegetables, and grains also supply vitamins and minerals. It does that with the help of the hormone insulin. When insulin levels rise, it helps the glucose enter your body’s cells for immediate energy. What the body cannot use is stored as glycogen in the liver. If glycogen stores are full, the body will store the glucose as body fat.

Healthy Fats

Many cancer patients have trouble eating enough calories. Healthy fats such as olive oil, peanut oil, nuts, sunflower seeds and avocados supply essential fatty acids the body needs, but they can also be used for energy or calories to help you maintain weight. If you’re having trouble eating enough, healthy, unsaturated fats are a good way to get in additional calories.


Thanks so much, Jillian, for allowing me to share this vital information with my readers!

I made this vegetable frittata last night from local produce grown in Long Island.  Served with a healthy grain, it covers all the nutritional basis in the article.


Roasted Tomato, Zucchini, Eggplant, and Brie Frittata

1 cup grape tomatoes

5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

kosher salt

1 small globe eggplant

1 medium zucchini


1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

8 eggs

1/4 cup grated parmesan

about 1-2 oz. Brie or other soft cheese, cut into small pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

2.  Halve grape  tomatoes, toss in about 1 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and arrange in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet, cut sides up.  Roast in oven for about 40-45 minutes until soft.  Set aside.

3.  Slice ends off eggplant.  Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch slabs vertically.  Salt each side with kosher salt and place in colander.  Let sit about 20 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, cut off ends of zucchini, slice into 1/2-inch slabs vertically.  Then cut into 1/2-inch strips, then cubes.  Place in a large bowl.

5.  Rinse salted eggplant and pat dry.  Cut into 1/2-inch strips, then cubes.  Add to bowl of cubed zucchini and toss mixture with  3 teaspoons olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper, and dried thyme.

6.  Beat eggs in a separate bowl.  Add parmesan and mix to incorporate.  Set aside.

7.  Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large skillet.  Add cubed zucchini and eggplant to skillet.  Saute until slightly browned on sides.  Add 1/4 cup water, cover skillet, cook on low for about 5 more minutes until vegetables are soft.  Uncover and cook until all the liquid has evaporated (if it hasn’t already).  Add roasted tomatoes.  Stir to combine.

8.  Pour egg mixture over vegetables and stir gently to let egg reach the bottom.  Dot top with pieces of Brie.  Cover pan and cook on low for about 8 minutes.

9.  Loosen sides and bottom of frittata with spatula.  Then cover pan with a large plate (larger in diameter than the skillet).  Turn plate covered skillet over so frittata plops onto plate.

10.  Coat skillet with remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil.  Slide frittata back in pan.  Cover and cook for another two minutes.  Flip frittata again in same manner onto plate.  Cut into wedges and serve.



Filed under Dinner, Lunch

Green Egg and Avocado Salad and Saint Patrick’s Day Reunion

My friend, Jennifer, came to visit us on Saint Patrick’s Day this past weekend.  We hadn’t seen each other since 1993!  That was many lifetimes ago when we were both graduate students of Linguistics at Stanford. We had a wonderful morning together catching up and reminiscing.

The year I met Jennifer, my second year of grad school, was the lowest point in my life. I realized I was on the wrong path.

The day I actually made the concrete decision to leave academia was when I was staying with Jennifer and her family in Los Angeles during an LSA (Linguistic Society of America) conference.  Surrounded by brilliant scholars passionate about their work, I felt like an impostor and completely disconnected.  During one of the conference days I cut out and met my dad and his wife for lunch.  We had a long heart to heart talk.  They were amazingly supportive and told me to “go for it” — to pursue my dream of illustrating and writing children’s books.

I also took it as a “sign” that Jennifer’s mom, Caroline Arnold, was (and still is!) an amazing award winning children’s book author and illustrator of over a hundred books.

I dropped out of my program at the end of that year (my department was nice enough to grant me an MA!)  I went to art school in Pasadena and later came to NYC to pursue a career in children’s books.

Jennifer continued successfully at Stanford and eventually became a professor of Psycholinguistics at University of North Carolina.  We had lost touch for many years, but reconnected recently on Facebook.

If you told me nineteen years ago during my “life crisis” that I would someday be having brunch with Jennifer in Brooklyn in 2012, happily married and having my dream career (even sharing a publisher with her mom!), it would seem TOO good to be true.  It is also surprising and wonderful that we both have sons just months apart in age!

Her visit made me remember how blessed I am.  In a visceral, tears-of-joy kind of way.  I am SO lucky to have such supportive people in my life and to have had the opportunity to pursue my passion–no matter how crazy and out of reach it seemed at the time.

This Saint Patrick’s Day was more like a second Thanksgiving Day for me — as corny as that sounds!


Green egg salad in Romaine lettuce leaf--it looked "greener" in person!!

Here is a belated green dish to commemorate Saint Patrick’s Day that I had made the day before.  I used my whipped cottage cheese for extra nonfat protein, but you could substitute mayonnaise.

Unwhipped new container of cottage cheese.

After processing -- silky smooth!

Green Egg and Avocado Salad

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

3 tablespoons whipped cottage cheese (or mayonnaise)

1 tablespoon minced onion

kosher salt to taste

pepper to taste

1/2 ripe avocado, mashed

1.  Mix together and use as a dip, as a sandwich spread, or as part of an hors d’ Oeuvre.

On pita chip

Pita Chips

1 pita

non-stick spray

kosher salt or other seasonings

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Cut pita in half, then fourths, then eighths.  Split each triangle into one layer.

3.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.  Spray with non-stick spray.  Lay pita triangles in a single layer and spray again.  Season with salt or other seasonings.

4.  Bake, watching closely (thinner triangles brown faster) for about 6-9 minutes.  Cool.


Filed under Lunch, Snack, Uncategorized

Experimenting in Making Art and Cooking: Site Update and Okonomiyaki

Today I thought I would share new developments in my artwork and my cooking!

Until recently, the only artwork I was showing on my website was my paintings from books.  I finally found the time to fill in the gap and added a new portfolio section which includes other pieces — both old and new.

                Melissa Iwai 2010 Copyright

I just finished illustrating a picture book written by my husband, Denis Markell, that will be published next fall by Simon and Schuster.  It was a really fun and challenging experience because I approached it differently and used line work painted with India ink along with my acrylic painting.  Working with Denis was great.  We bounce ideas off of each other constantly.  So it was a true collaboration with the author, unlike when I illustrate other authors’ books.    I work independently with the editor and art director, and sometimes I never even meet the person who wrote it!

I can’t show any samples from the book I did with Denis until it’s published, but it’s led me to do other pieces using the same technique which can be found here.

Melissa Iwai 2011 Copyright
Hopefully we’ll have more projects together in the future!

I have also been playing around with painting in thinner layers so my colors reproduce brighter.  There was always a problem when I was painting in thick acrylic layers dark to light, layering colors on top of each other.  I’ve always felt that the printed versions of the originals were always much darker and not as vibrant.  They can easily look “muddy” and dark, especially if the printing is not well done.

I have been recently painting with acrylics and dyes using watercolor and gouache techniques.  I use little or no layering and I paint light to dark.  I’ve been having fun using liquid frisket (which is why I had so much lying around to make my flesh wound!) and regular acetate frisket as well.

Melissa Iwai 2011 Copyright

I’d love to hear from you– Are you a painter?  What medium do you use?  Do you like to experiment with other art making techniques? 

I’m always fascinated to hear how other people create art. 🙂

Now, on to food and cooking — another art form!  Actually this dish is pretty much a classic example of individual expression.  The name “Okonomiyaki” translates to “grilled/cooked to one’s liking”.

Isn't it purrrty?

Okonomiyaki is usually associated with Osaka but it can be found throughout  Japan.  I’ve heard it called a Japanese Pizza, but it’s really more like a Latke, because it’s made up of shredded cabbage and other vegetables.  You can also add  meat or seafood to it.  I’ve even seen a version with bacon.   It is bound together with a mixture of egg, dashi (Japanese soup stock), and okonomi flour.

I was never a big eater of Okonomiyaki when I lived briefly in Japan, but recently, I’ve become obsessed with it, and I’ve been experimenting and making it several times a week for lunch or dinner.    It is such comfort food for me.  The textures and flavors are great.

This  is my version that I came up with — I use soy sauce in place of the stock with a bit of water, and I use plain flour in a smaller amount instead of the okonomi flour.  I also semi steam it to cook it, so I can get away with less oil.

It’s a single serving and a perfect quick meal.  I have bagged frozen shrimp and chopped spinach in my freezer.  I thaw four shrimp in a bowl of cold water and nuke the spinach for 55 seconds while  I chop the raw vegetables and prepare the batter and sauce.  Then I shell and devein the shrimp and chop into pieces.  Everything is stirred together with the batter and fried on the stove.

It’s commonly eaten with mayonnaise, okonomi sauce (I use a mixture of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce), furikake (rice seasoning which comes in different flavors), dried bonito flakes.  This one is with the ketchup Worcestershire mixture and furikake (my favorite is a combo of sesame seeds, dried seaweed and salt).Okonomiyaki (my version)
2 1/2 oz. finely shredded cabbage (about one cup)1 oz. (about 1/3 of a carrot) grated carrot

1 oz. onion (about 2 tablespoons finely chopped

1/4 cup steamed spinach (I nuke some frozen bagged spinach)

4 large shrimp (I use bagged Kirkland frozen– I just grab 4 and thaw them in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes while I am chopping the vegetables.  Then I shell and de-vein), chopped

1 egg and about 2 tablespoons egg white

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon water

12 g flour (about 1 heaping tablespoon)

1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided

For garnish:

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 -2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)

sprinkle of rice seasoning (furikake)

1.  Mix veggies and shrimp in a bowl.  Whisk egg, soy, water and flour in another bowl.

raw ingredients

2.  Coat veggies with egg mixture.

coated with egg

3.  Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet.  Pour everything in and flatten like a pancake.  Cover and cook on low for about 2 minutes.  Loosen with a spatula.  Put a plate on top of skillet and flip over so pancake lands on plate.  Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil in empty skillet.  Slide pancake back in raw side down.  Cover and cook another 2 minutes or so.  Remove to plate.

In skillet

4.  Garnish with sauce  (just mix the ketchup and Worcestershire together) and extra seasonings if desired.


Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Lunch, Vegetables

Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack and Miso Soup

True story:  A few months ago at our local Trader Joe’s, I spied a young woman sitting on a bench at the entrance of the store in a trance-like state eating something from a hurriedly ripped open green package.  With a faraway look in her eyes, she was munching on thin sheets of roasted seaweed, one after another without stopping.  I glanced at her two shopping bags propped up in front of her.  They were filled to the brim with the same green packages–perhaps 20 per shopping bag?  I was intrigued.

They come in paper thin strips.

I grew up eating seasoned roasted seaweed.  My relatives from Hawaii would send large canisters of it every year.  My family never seemed to finish all of it, and most of the strips would always turn soft in defiance of the little white packets of desiccant that came in the container.  I believe they were loaded with MSG so it is probably just as well we never ate the entire batch.

“Was there something different about the Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed?” I wondered.  I decided to see for myself.

What I discovered is that these strips are less salty than the ones I have had in the past, and they are made of only natural ingredients (seaweed, safflower and sesame oil, and salt).  And because they come in a small container of two servings, it is easy to finish it in one sitting with another person when the seaweed is at its peak of crunchiness and freshness.  I have to say that these seaweed snacks are addictive.

Though I don’t sit eating them trance-like, I do love them.  It has even caught on with my son who previously would never eat dried seaweed.  He eats these seaweed strips by the stack full like potato chips.

Recently he’s taken to combine them with his other favorite foods, creating truly Asian-American fusion meals.  He urged me to post it on this blog.  Hee hee.

I present to you — Jamie’s Pizza Sushi (pizza piece rolled in seaweed):

This one is his latest:

Open faced PB and seaweed sandwich

Believe it or not, these inventions of his taste really good!

I’m more of a purist though.  My favorite way to eat them is with hot rice.  The clean flavor and combination of crunchy and soft and sticky textures brings me back to when I lived briefly in Japan.

Paired with a freshly made hot bowl of miso soup and salad, it makes a nice light meal.

Miso Soup

Note:  If you want to make the dashi (Japanese stock) from scratch, kombu (dried kelp) and katsuo boshi (dried bonito flakes) can be found in Asian stores.  You can also make dashi using instant dashi powder– just add water!

Kombu (dried kelp), Wakame (dried seaweed), Katsuo boshi (dried bonito flakes)

4 cups water

1 to 2-inch piece of kombu

Large pinch of katsuo boshi

1.   Heat water and kombu in a saucepan.  Just before water boils, remove kombu and discard.  Add katsuo boshi.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Turn off heat.  Let flakes settle to bottom on pan.

2.  Strain liquid into a bowl or measuring cup (I use the same one I used to measure the water), pushing down on solids to remove as much liquid as possible.

Makes 4 cups.

"shiro" (white) more mild than "aka" (red) -- the darker the miso paste, the stronger the flavor

Miso soup:

4 cups of dashi

4 tablespoons miso paste

Pinch of wakame (dried seaweed — also found in Asian stores)

1 ounce of tofu cut into small cubes

1/2 scallion, finely sliced

1.  Pour about 1/4 cup dashi into a small bowl.  Add miso paste to bowl and whisk until mixture is free of lumps.

miso whisked in a bit of dashi

2.  Pour remaining dashi into sauce pan.  Add whisked miso slurry to pan.  Add tofu, wakame, and green onions.

wakame, tofu cubes, and sliced green onion

3.  Gently heat miso soup over low heat until it is ready to be eaten.  Do not let it boil or simmer.

Makes about 4 servings.


Filed under Children, Condiments, Lunch, Sides, Soup