Takes Root

Vegan Sprout

Thanks to Allison Nordahl and her software developer husband, creators of, it is now easier than ever to “root out” the 411 on vegan cookbooks, recipes and products (including, uh-hum, The Blooming Platter Cookbook)!

Read and write reviews to make informed purchasing decisions and help others do the same.

I would have loved to interview Allison, but I didn’t want to ask her to answer the same questions that she answered so completely HERE on Tastespace, so just click the link and read all the skinny.

Congrats, Allison, on your “growing” endeavor and thanks for including The Blooming Platter on Sprout!

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Cocina Mexicana! Don’t Miss Blooming Platter Author, Betsy DiJulio’s, Food Feature in VegNews Magazine!

Cocina Mexicana--Page 1Boy, has it been challenging to keep this zesty secret since last August when I was awarded this Mexican food feature and began creating and testing recipes in earnest!

The whole experience of working with the *team at VegNews and in my own kitchen, trying out recipes on my friends (and on one friend’s horse, Rocky who loved the cilantro!), has been deliciously rewarding on every level.

I am humbled to be associated with VegNews, as it is the award-winning vegan magazine and website packed with recipes, travel, news, food, reviews, and so much more.

Run, don’t walk, to the nearest newsstand–or better yet, subscribe to VegNews–to get your copy.  Inside the May-June issue, you will find my tasty and easy take on:

Crispy Potato Tacos with Queso Fresco

Cheesy Spinach and Black Bean Quesadillas with Cucumber-Mango Salsa

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Tamales with Red Wine Sauce (Escabeche Sauce)

Churros with Coconut-Kahlua Chocolate Sauce

Gimlet Guadelajara

You will only find these recipes in the May-June print issue of VegNews Magazine (with additional recipes online).  So, for the whole enchilada, as it were, be sure to pick up your copy as soon as it hits the stands!

*Olé (!) to my fabulous editor, Jennifer Chen, photographer, Vanessa K. Rees, and graphic designer, Sutton Long (who originally hails from Richmond, VA, right up  I64).  They brought my recipes to mouth-watering, eye-popping life!

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Move Over Le Crueset! Lodge is My Highly Affordable Choice for a Handsome, High-Quality Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Lodge Dutch Oven--6 quart--pumpkinRecently, when I went on a mission to create “THE BEST” Vegan Gumbo, I started feeling the itch for a Dutch oven.  You  know, the ones for which the brand name Le Crueset is synonymous.  (Theirs are, technically, “French Ovens.”)

These cooking vessels are enameled cast iron beauties that do what they do (like braise) without parallel in the culinary world.  Or so one would believe…

Fortunately, when I waltzed into one of our high-end kitchen boutiques on a whim, ready to make the commitment, they didn’t have the size and color I wanted in stock–and it was a few days before “pay day” anyway–so my impulse buying was derailed.  Fortunately.   By vowing to come back after “pay day” to place an order, I inadvertently saved myself about $250!

One of my close foodie friends who works part-time at the shop saw me on my way out, inquired about what I was shopping for, and when I told her, she quietly asked, “Have you looked around?”  That planted the seed for the prudence of doing a bit of online research, which I actually enjoy doing unless it gets to protracted and baffling, say, when researching something technological, like a camera.

When faced with a technical culinary question, I typically turn first to two sources: the Food Network’s mad kitchen scientist Alton Brown for cooking questions, and Cook’s Illustrated/Cook’s Country for both cooking and product-related questions.

The latter highly recommended the Tramontina 6-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven available, believe it or not, at Wal-Mart among other places.  It currently retails for $59.97 there and a bit higher elsewhere.  So, at a sixth of the price, I thought, “Why not?” as I rarely second-guess Cook’s Illustrated.  But I wasn’t wild about the limited color selection, so I decided to read some reviews which, despite the Cook’s endorsement, weren’t glowing.  One of the biggest complaints seemed to be an ill-fitting lid which is problematic when the point is to contain moisture.  And I began to have second thoughts.

The gold standard for enameled cast iron Dutch ovens is unquestionably Le Creuset, but I wasn’t sure I needed an “heirloom” pot.  I certainly wanted excellent quality, but I also wanted a good value.  So then I heard about a highly touted Costco brand called the Kirkland.  It’s 6-quart model sells for in the neighborhood of $50 as well.  But, again, the colors were limited, though the reviews I read were a bit more convincing.

Certainly, Calphalon, Staub and all the major manufacturers of high- to moderate-end kitchen equipment make their own versions.  But since I wasn’t sure how often I’d use the pot–there are just the two of us dining most weeknights (if you don’t count Minnie and Huff!)–I really didn’t even want to spend $160 or so.  Then I remembered that I had seen both jewel- and earth-toned enameled cast iron Dutch ovens by Lodge, the makers of my cast iron skillet and grill pan which I use virtually every day.  Indeed, the reviews were excellent, the price was right at Ka-Tom Restaurant Supply ($57.75 + $12 shipping), and it came in my color of choice: rich “Pumpkin.”

The only negative I recall was that one reviewer said the lid was made with 3 raised points so that it would sit flat like a three-legged stool on the pot rim without the extra expense/labor of planing it to fit flush.  Hence, some steam escaped.  But either that reviewer or another one said he had heard that Lodge had started planing their lids for a perfect fit so that escaping steam is no longer an issue.  Plus, the pots have an anti-chip coating, a fairly common issue with Dutch ovens.

Convinced, I decided to take the plunge, ordered it, and it arrived this week with a perfectly fitting lid, no chips, and in a glorious pumpkin tone.  It is so handsome and a perfect weight.  Everything feels exactly right about it from the lid knob, to the handles, to the way my bamboo spoon glides across the interior surface. I was happy to rearrange a cabinet so that it had it’s very own, easily accessible storage spot.

It’s maiden voyage was a vegan tagine I made yesterday for a dinner with two gal pals last night (Joe is out of town–home today!), and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  I will post that recipe soon, as it is definitely a keeper!  The pot cooked it beautifully, creating lots of moisture and allowing yummy caramelized browned bits to form but not stick on the bottom.  And it cleaned up in a breeze.

If, like me, you’ve been contemplating such a purchase, but have yet to commit.  I highly recommend the enameled cast iron Dutch oven from Lodge, a trusted, long-established, American company.

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My New Vegan Friend, Rocky the Horse, Invites Himself to Our Vegan Picnic

As owners of Great Danes and other hounds, my husband, Joe, and I have had many a dog’s head in our own plates and, a bit embarrassingly, that of our guests.  We joke about our “horses,” but neither of us have ever really experienced a horse’s head in our plate…until yesterday.

My dear friend, Maggie Test, recently purchased a gorgeous eight year old gelding named Rocky.  He boards at a lovely barn tucked into the woods in the back of nowhere in a quasi-rural section of VA Beach.  There he lives in horse heaven with 5 other lucky equines.

I’ve been wanting to meet him and have needed to test some recipes for a potential project, so Maggie and I decided to have a picnic lunch yesterday at the barn.  When she asked if I wanted to dine in the barn or at the picnic table, I chose the latter–it was a beautiful, mild summer day–asking if Rocky, grazing nearby, would be interested in our food.

Her response was that she didn’t think so but that, if he was, he would just sniff.  No sooner had we sat down than he walked right over and stuck his humungous head in my plate.  But, indeed, he just sniffed–all over the table–finally deciding on a nice fluffy mound of cilantro.  It was a little unsettling, but utterly delightful.

And the beauty of a true horse head in your plate, as opposed to that of a horse-like dog, is that a horse doesn’t drool!  His beautiful face was quite dry and, all in all, he exhibited rather remarkable etiquette.

I’ll share my lunch with this magnificent vegan beast any time!

Note: We weren’t fast enough to snap a photo of him caught in the act and this photo doesn’t really do him justice, but you get the idea.  And, by the way, the rather odd looking food in the gratin dish was DELICIOUS eggplant and portabella enchiladas with sundried tomato sauce absent their garnish. 


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Jazzy Vegetarian Blog Talk Radio Features On-Air Guest Betsy DiJulio and The Blooming Platter Cookbook

What a fun 25 minute break from my already fun drawing and painting class!  Today I was the invited guest of the inimitable and accomplished Laura Theodore and  Jazzy Vegetarian on Blog Talk Radio, and you can read all about it HERE.  What an honor!

While my dear friend and colleague David Prescott worked with my class–he is our choral director, but has a great ear AND eye–I slipped down the hall into an administrator’s office for the live phone interview.

The articulate and engaging Laura Theodore is the most energetic and delightful host.  Her advance preparation and her wealth of knowledge (as a vegan chef, T.V. and radio host, AND award-winning jazz singer/actor) made the interview flow naturally and conversationally.  She moves with ease between a range of topics, manages the time perfectly, and exudes warmth, vibrancy and charm.

And you can catch her and The Jazzy Vegetarian later this month on Create, an invaluable public television network for, well, creative people and those who aspire to be.

Thanks to Laura for all her generous praise for The Blooming Platter Cookbook, including its “beauty”!  (To an art teacher, that’s no small thing!)  High praise from anyone fills me with gratitude, but when it comes from someone like her, it has the added bonus of the stamp of approval from a talented and influential professional in the field.  Best wishes to her in all her jazzy endeavors!

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The Blooming Platter Cookbook’s Betsy DiJulio is Chosen as Author of the Day for–Monday, December 12!

Betsy DiJulio, Author, The Blooming Platter Cookbook

Imagine my shock–and, yes, complete and utter delight–when I recently received an email from the good folks at Cookstr–“The World’s #1 Collection of Cookbook Recipes Online”–notifying me that I had been selected as their “Author of the Day” for Monday, December 12!  No one is more shocked (pleased, grateful, amazed…) than me!

So I invite you to check out their home page where, as they told me, “…your name and photo will be  — the first thing our visitors see when they click onto the site.”  (Note, the illustration at the bottom of this post is The Blooming Platter Cookbook’s page on Cookstr because, at the time of this post, I’m not yet the “Author of the Day.”)

Cookstr was founded in New York City in 2008 by Will Schwalbe, together with Katie Workman, Art Chang and the Tipping Point Partners team. The Author of Send,Will left his job as SVP and Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books to found Cookstr.

The organization’s stated mission is to:

“…organize the world‘s best cookbooks and recipes and make them universally accessible.

We are setting the standard for innovation in the delivery of 100% trusted, tested, recipes to home cooks around the world. Our online recipe library offers thousands of recipes by hundreds of the top chefs and cookbook authors, that are free for everyone on This year alone, powered recipe searches in over 20,000 cities and 200 countries!”

Here are a few additional reasons to visit Cookstr besides sharing in my 15 minutes, or rather 24 hours, of fame:

  • Search and browse THOUSANDS of recipes from cookbooks, all with photos.
  • Visit the iBooks library.
  • Access the profiles, with photos, of hundreds of top authors, including celebrity chefs.
  • And, my favorite feature:  access nutritional information for EVERY recipe and search recipes by dietary considerations

By signing up with Cookstr, for free of course, you will receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly; be able to save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr; and get updates on new Cookstr features and tools.

Cookstr really is creating “meaningful experiences around food, and support(ing) healthy lifestyles.”  Let’s all be a part!

Thank you, Cookstr!

The Blooming Platter Cookbook on Cookstr
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Food Network Magazine’s Food Truck Contest: The Zooming Platter

Darn!  I didn’t win.

Last summer, I entered this competition to design a hypothetical food truck and menu because as soon as I read about it in the Food Network Magazine, “The Zooming Platter” leaped into my mind.

The winners were announced in this month’s magazine and they were quite clever.   But, more to the point, none of them were vegan or even vegetarian.

Has anyone noticed–or does it go without saying–that the Food Network is not only not terribly supportive of plant-based diets (have they ever even presented a vegetarian special?), but that many of their celebrity chefs–talented and personable though they may be–seem a bit cavalier in regard to animal slaughter?

Oh, well.  Honk if you love The Zooming Platter!

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Blooming Platter Cookbook Author a Featured Guest on PRN’s “It’s All About Food”

Yesterday, it was my distinct honor and heck of a lot of fun to be one of two featured guests on Caryn Hartglass’s super-informative and highly conversational internet radio program, “It’s All About Food,” on PRN (Progressive Radio Network) to talk about The Blooming Platter Cookbook and much, much more.

Just click here to access the program.

And while you’re on the site, stay awhile and poke around. You’ll find lots to hold your attention.  Caryn’s nonprofit “REAL” (Responible Eating and Living) was chosen by VegNews Magazine as one of the top ten nonprofits we all need to know about in 2011.  After one visit, you’ll see why!

Congrats, Caryn, on yet another accomplishment! (Caryn is one impressive gal.  Check out her bio here.)

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