Almost Wordless Wednesday: People, Places, and Things

The time to write about my graduation ceremony has long passed, and yet I still cling tenaciously to the spare images I captured of that day, as if they might become the catalyst for my next great novel. They stand alone, in the pile of unpublished images, separate from any other event or story I might use them to illustrate, gathering more digital dust with every passing year. Others join them, like the snapshot of a chef at work now halfway around the world. Random facades of buildings that seemed noteworthy, but don’t quite merit a full article by themselves.

I can’t bring myself to trash them, to erase those memories, to simply forget those moments. The camera is my only method of preserving such happy times, more trustworthy than my feeble mind, and far sharper than my often nebulous words. Digging them out of the archive to share them as is, without context, is the only way I can think to certify their existence at this point. A random grab bag of pictures without theme or connection, I’d like to believe that they still speak volumes individually, and perhaps together, in the broader story of a life well lived.

Fritter the Day Away

From the beginning of time, when humans discovered fire and the very concept of cooking itself, fritters have bubbled up across all cultures. Defined primarily as battered and fried morsels, the specifics that flavor these nuggets are limitless. Vegetables, fruits, or proteins could be the main feature, or a combination, or none of the above. The dough could be raised by yeast or baking soda or eggs, or left unleavened altogether. Served at any meal from day break to nightfall and in between, fritters can be sweet or savory, spicy or mild, served hot or cold. When you start trying to pin down exactly what a fritter is, it might be easier to describe what it isn’t instead.

Most Americans are familiar with simple, comforting fritters born primarily in the south; apple fritters are a staple lining in any decent pink doughnut shop box, while corn fritters are essential summer snacks. The French have beignets, while Italians call them bigne. Pakora hail from India, binding together bits of onion, potatoes, cauliflower or other vegetables in savory, seasoned chickpea flour.

While I could write a whole dissertation about the diverse world of fritters, I’d like to draw attention to a less celebrated sort today: the black eyed pea fritter. Known also as accara, this legume-based variant is primarily found in Africa. You could almost think of them as falafel from another motherland. Dried pulses blended coarsely with spices, fried until golden and crisp, they’re irresistible eaten out of hand as a snack, but work well in everything from sandwiches to salads.

This recipe comes from Chef Philip Gelb, who in turn adapted it from Bryant Terry. I was fortunate enough to first taste this beloved street food first hand, at one of his cooking classes eons ago. They were part of a lavish Jamaican spread including jerk cauliflower, calaloo, run down stew, and peas and rice, but I daresay they stole the show. Paired with a tart, tangy, sweet, and spicy tamarind chutney, I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with them, too.

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Be Pro-Active

In this age of antibacterial soaps, lotions, sprays, gels, and for all I know, mouthwashes, it’s easy to lose sight of this simple fact: Bacteria are not the enemy. In fact, we are bacteria, more than anything else! Numbers vary per person, but bacteria and other microbes in our body outnumber our own cells by about 10:1. While we’re working hard to kill the nasty ones that can spread disease, we might be doing more harm than good in the long run.

Just like any compelling story, there’s more than just a good guy and bad guy at play in the human microbiome. Slick marketing likes to lump all bacteria into those two categories, dumbing down the concept to make a quick buck, but there’s much more nuance within this world of single cell microorganisms. Existing everywhere on earth, different strains work in concert to make the most potent cocktail of beneficial probiotics.

That’s why I take probiotic supplements religiously, no matter how much yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut I eat. To make sure I get the full gamut of diverse probiotic species, my go-to booster is Kyo-Dophilus Pro+ Synbiotic. These unassuming, shelf-stable tablets boast beneficial bacteria counts that you can count on.

Kyo-Dophilus Pro+ Synbiotic are berry-flavored, chewable tablets that come in convenient, single-serving packets for easy daily dosage. Each tablet contains powerful prebiotics and nine probiotic strains, working together in harmony to boost everything from immunity to digestion, and far beyond. Non-GMO and free of soy, gluten, dairy, and artificial colors and flavors, this is the probiotic for everyone, despite the inherent intricacies of each person’s highly individual microbiome.

Though I’ve been taking various probiotic supplements for as long as I could open the medicine cabinet unsupervised, they haven’t all worked the same way, to say the least. Generally, your body needs 30 – 60 days to feel the full impact of regular probiotic use, but I knew right away when this one was working. Let’s just say it’s a genuine relief to merely experience basic regularity, and leave it at that.

While the price point is a bit higher than my usual go-to, this is a case where you do get what you pay for. The added prebiotics are essentially fiber that provides food for the probiotics to eat, powering their important work. You’re guaranteed 20 billion CFU (colony forming units) ready to spring into action, packed into every dose. As a believer in being proactive with my health, it’s a smart investment to make.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Wakunaga of America. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Let the Good Times, and Rice Balls, Roll

Get your favorite fat pants on and pull up a chair; it’s almost time for Fat Tuesday! You never need an excuse to indulge, but Mardi Gras is the best excuse to splurge on rich Cajun and Creole fare. No need to repent with fasting and self-denial for Lent, as per the Catholic tradition, though. When you’re eating plant-based, even the most lavish feast can be rationalized as a “healthier” choice. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself when I reach for a third, fourth, and maybe fifth round of fried jambalaya.

Italians would call them arancini, but it just hits different when you say it with a southern twang. Plump, sticky sushi rice is slowly simmered with the holy trinity, tomatoes, garlic, and a powerful punch of savory spices. Morsels of meatless sausage meld with the mixture for a substantial, satisfying bite. It’s a complete meal in one convenient, crispy package.

Dip, dunk, or plate the sizzling hot spheres with creamy remoulade sauce, tangy and punchy, spiked with vinegar and hot sauce to really get the party started. Go all out with a dollop of scallion pesto on top, or for a simpler finishing touch, sprinkle on plain scallions generously and call it a day.

With such bold flavors condensed into these tiny packages, you couldn’t ask for anything else… Except, maybe, one more helping.

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Fiery Love Affair

For a spicy gift that will really set your Valentine’s heart aflame, skip the chocolates this year in favor of a more fiery expression of adoration. Chili crisp is the all-purpose condiment that makes every dish irresistible, even if it’s just a bowlful of plain white rice. Heck, you could spoon it over scoops of vanilla ice cream for dessert with equal success, too.

It’s not just for heat seekers hell-bent on toeing the line between pain and pleasure. Aromatics blend in a delicate balance of nuanced flavors, far more complex than your average hot sauce. Satisfying bites of garlic and shallot define the uniquely crunchy texture, while cinnamon, anise, and ginger, create a symphony of complex seasoning.

Ubiquitous in specialty grocers and online, Lao Gan Ma, (老干妈) or “old godmother” is the brand to beat. This simple red labeled jar has dominated the market since its inception in 1997. Cheap, accessible, deeply satisfying across the board; it’s the gold standard that’s hard to beat. That said, anything homemade always has an edge over the competition.

I’m far from the first to take a DIY approach to chili crisp, nor can I claim to have reinvented the concept. I didn’t even rewrite the recipe. Rather, I took a page from Bon Appetit and would implore you to do the same. Show someone you really care by going the extra mile to make a superlative spicy Valentine this year. The best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and this one will really set their passion ablaze.