When Smaller is Better

Today, I was working and recipe testing in my kitchen. I marveled to myself about how much I love my “newish” Cuisinart food processor. Prior to its trophy-like placement on my baker’s rack, I went through three, count them, three food processors in four years. It’s not that I was grinding nuts and bolts in the canister, but, these appliances just weren’t lasting.

Did I Need a “Big Box” Store?

You know the drill. You park your car in the lot, grab a cart, begin with a mission and end up with your intended purchase and an extra $100 worth of other stuff. Once you leave the store, you might be shrugging your shoulders as you start to pack your car. You safely make it home and go on with your day.

I needed a food processor, simple as that. So, I headed to that store that sells everything. And, I mean everything. I wanted a specific model, one that also dices. As I arrived to the housewares department, I found a team member and asked, “Do you know if this is the Cuisinart that also dices?” I realized in a NY minute that I asked a multi-level question to which there was no response. The blank stare on the worker’s face was endearing, but, he was clueless. However, he did have very nice manners.

Head to the City, Girl

That’s when I thought, “Everything that is old is new again.” So, I went to Fante’s Kitchen Shop, a key member of Philadelphia’s Italian Market since 1906. Fante’s is nationally recognized as one of the finest stores in the housewares industry, and everyone needs to visit Fante’s.

As I entered the store, in a matter of minutes, I was greeted at the door by Mariella, the president, who escorted me to the product. Mariella assigned a team member who was able to provide me with a run-down of the food processor’s capabilities. I was completely sold by two things…common sense and excellent customer service. Another team member grabbed the gigantic food processor’s box while reassuring his colleague, “I got this.”

And, the Price was Right

The food processor was lower-priced than many websites I had visited. As I headed to the “point of purchase” part of the store, I pulled out some cash, and soon became the proud owner of a gorgeous, dicing, slicing, stirring, spinning food processor.

But, Then, This Happened

So, there I was with a new kitchen toy, when all of a sudden, a young male worker says, “Yo, where are you parked?” I let him know that my car was parked in the common lot on Carpenter. He said, “Well, let’s go!” Not only did he carry the box, he loaded it into my car. Who does that? Fante’s, that’s who!

Why Shop Small?

Maybe you’re thinking that isn’t always easy to shop small, but for the local economy to thrive and survive, we must make it work. You want a cup of coffee? Visit a local roaster. Time for lunch? Go to a small cafe or deli, not to a sandwich-making chain. Need a small kitchen appliance? Visit Fante’s.

Proof that there is power in small things.

Fante’s is located at 1006 S. 9th Street in Philadelphia’s historic Italian Market. Do something small that is really big and visit Fante’s soon!

For More Info About Fante’s


I’m Breaking Up with You

The hype was loud. Everyone was talking about the wonders of using an InstaPot. I had to get on the grandstand to see what the discussion was.

This was three years ago, and I can count on one hand, the amount of times I’ve used my InstaPot. Don’t get me wrong. I applaud every person I know who is creating nutrient-dense and and delicious meals for family and friends, but InstaPot, you are not for me.

The first time I used my shiny, new InstaPot, I made water, as the booklet suggested. And, in all honesty, I felt like I was landing a helicopter after the pilot passed out. My palms were sweaty. My heart didn’t race, but something didn’t feel “natural” to me.

Several months passed, and I was feeling guilty about the dust collector in my kitchen’s storage area. Friends were raving about everything they were making, and I was like, “Meh?” I like crunchy, over-baked sweet potatoes. And, I appreciate the color and texture of oven-baked foods.

The reason? I’ve come to understand that I love to regulate a flame, stir ingredients as they simmer, sample, taste, and actually see how foods progress and change during the cooking process. Each time I would open the InstaPot, I felt as though I was opening a NASA capsule–that scientific “click and swoosh” didn’t sound natural to me. It wasn’t a bubble or a boil, and it just sounded too scientific to me.

But, Wait!

I teach plant-based cooking classes in different pockets of my community, and with time (as another component to my lesson plan), I thought, “Why not use the InstaPot in my classes?” It is perfect when I am working with time constraints, but I still miss the stirring of fresh ingredients and the wafting of their aromas. Plus, an element of teaching is diminished, especially when you want to create the tactile experience to cooking.

Yes, I know it is made from stainless steel, and it is super easy to clean, but, it is just one more thing that adds clutter to my very small kitchen. I live in an 80-year old house, and our kitchen is maybe, 100 square feet.

After living in both Brazil and Honduras, believe me, I have been taught by the best, and I can make a mean pot of beans. And, while everyone has told me about roasting potatoes, and making stews and soups, ah, NO, just no.

How We Live

We are fortunate. We can turn on a switch, and electricity runs to propel our lives. We can blow dry our hair, brush our teeth, watch TV, and yes, even make beans.

Not too long ago, I took an electric rice cooker to a mission house in the interior of Honduras. And, while the cook was thrilled with the gift, she joked and said, “This is a great gift, but when the electricity dies, the rice stops cooking.”

I am in the throes of trying to simplify my life, and the InstaPot just seems to add a complex curve to my mission of streamlining. Yes, I know many of you travel with your InstaPot and use it in hotel rooms. But, I am from an era where I can use the hotel’s coffee maker for putting a meal together.

For those of you who post gorgeous photos of the meals you’ve created using an electric pressure-cooker, I am in awe of your creativity. But, for now, I am back to the flame, with a wooden spoon in hand, and a pot holder at my side.

InstaPot, I tried to make it work, but we weren’t meant for one another.

Five Things I Can’t Live Without

  1. A good chef knife and sharpening tool (essential)
  2. Cutting Board
  3. Glass measuring cups
  4. Sturdy, stainless steel stock pot
  5. A good saute pan

I might add two more things, both electric: my ten year old Vitamix and my air-fryer.

That’s It!

Kudos to all that have mastered and appreciate the InstaPot. You all do a great job, but, I am still breaking up and going back to regulating a low-gas flame and hoping I don’t set off the fire alarms.

And the Beet Goes On!

I headed to the pool earlier this week when I started chatting with a woman who was happy to tell me every detail of her three, recent strokes. As she spoke, I turned on the open-air button in my head, and heard silence. Maybe I was on every-other-word of her conversation, because it was very boring.

I found out two things about this lady. A. We were the same age; B. Her dietary reform was to eat chicken and fish, because “they are good for you.” She also shared the laundry list of medications that she takes, then said, “What meds are you on?” The third grader in me likes to gloat a tad when I get to say, “I take no prescription meds.” And truly, it is because of what I eat–only grains, greens, fruits, vegetables, or “anything without a face or a mother.”

Few people know that my parents each had heart disease and cancer. And I want to keep any lifestyle related diseases under the radar, because my excellent health is that important to me. I am a believer that “food is medicine.” I can only attribute one thing to my health and that is because I follow a vegan diet that is free from added oils, salt and sugar. When I started this journey, I weighed 100 pounds more than I do today. And while the journey also includes non-scale victories (like low-blood pressure, low cholesterol and trigylcerides), I hope people don’t judge me purely by my size, because I am much more than that.

As we turn the corner to 2019 (yikes) I thought that I would leave a Recipe of the Week (R.O.W.). It is a simple recipe, too. Once a favorite condiment, commercial catsup is generally loaded with sugars and syrups. This is fun and easy to make, and you can store it in the fridge up to five days. You will grow to appreciate the taste and texture of homemade catsup, so much so that you will not want to eat the “store bought” again.


1 six ounce can of tomato paste

2 ounces of orange or apple juice

1 teaspoon of garlic granules

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Pour into a squeezable bottle. Use on your favorite dish, like air-fried jicama, potatoes, tempeh, etc.  NOTE: you can also use 2 T fruit conserve (fruit spread) in place of the juice. Just make certain that it is pureed enough so that it can pass through.

You can see the homemade catsup is a little darker in color. But, its taste is delicious and a tad more nutrient-dense than the commercial versions. It is also lower in sodium, so it is a win-win all around.

Here’s wishing you and yours the best for 2019, and the final days of 2018.

Turn the beet around,


Turn the Beet Around

It’s day one of a new blog for me, and how I got here entails a very, very long story. While brevity isn’t my strong suit, I’ll tell you, quickly, what happened.

It was a learning experience for me. Perhaps, it was the first time where I didn’t go with my gut, and I should have.

Everyone was saying, “Char, you need a website.” I hired “company A” and the results SUCKED. Then, I hired someone, locally, who had contacted me and said, “Would love to make a website for you.” And in the end, it looked like a website from the 1970’s. Wait, websites weren’t around in the 1970’s, but this site was made in the muted tones of a 1972 Ford Mustang. It was awful. Typos galore. After I paid the developers handsomely, they never showed up, so to speak. And so, we parted our ways, they, with my hard-earned moolah tucked tightly into their wallets.

Anyway, I’m here with a new blog to provide outreach, recipe education, and sometimes, things about me. Things like getting older, not being a “thin vegan,” but being the strongest advocate for a whole-foods, plant-based diet (that also excludes using oil) there is. I bleed green, and it’s not because I also love the Philadelphia Eagles.

Stick with me. Look for a weekly Wednesday blog. I’ll provide original recipes, maybe an interview or two (with some of my plant-based heroes and sheroes), and I will tell you what I think. About everything.

I’ve been plant-based for nine years. The Engine 2 Diet is the prescription for my own good health. I see people who are my age and they are tethered to prescription medications that are definitely related to the poor effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD). And, I want to be a change agent.

I’m figuring out this site, but wanted to let you know three things that I do:

-teach plant-based cooking, privately and in groups;

-conduct grocery store tours for you to have a healthier pantry;

-light-weight catering

I have a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell, am a certified plant-based chef (Rouxbe trained), and a food literacy coach.

Once I figure out the links and such, I will connect everything I do. In the meantime, leave a comment, and we’ll talk. I am Philly-based.

Turn the beet around,