My Beloved Spouse, Joe DiJulio, Passed Away July 30

Betsy and Joe at DinnerHello friends and supporters.

I am so sorry to have neglected TBP for the last week, but my husband of 25 years (our anniversary is September 15) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on July 30.

You will find his obituary here with an absolute outpouring on Facebook.

Cooking–and eating, for that matter–has not been a priority, as friends have filled our home with food and love.  But I look forward to a new normal that will most certainly include more recipes, especially for heart healthy food.



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Delicious TV’s “Vegan Mash-Up”

Delicious TV--bannerTypically on Sundays from noon to 1 p.m. on our public radio station, WHRV-FM, I listen to “America’s Test Kitchen Radio” from the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated…you know, Christopher Kimball, Bridgett, et al.  The shows (radio/TV) and magazine are hardly vegan, but I have learned so much about the science of cooking from them, as they are completely maniacal recipe testers.  I consider them the authorities on most things culinary.

However, today when I flipped on the radio, I was met with a rebroadcast of “Prairie Home Companion.  I love Garrison Keilor, but that was not what I was looking for and I’m not sure why the program was dropped.  Forlorn, I turned on the TV to rest for the hour before our 1 p.m. dance class.  I dialed through a few channels, ultimately landing on Create TV.  When a door closes a window is thrown open…I was rewarded with a program I previously knew nothing about: the first season of Delicious TV’s “Vegan Mash-Up”!

I encourage you to consult your local station guide to see if you can access Create TV.  And, if so, click HERE to find out when “Vegan Mash-Up” airs.  You won’t be disappointed!  And in the meantime, you can read about DTVs work (TV/DVDs/Cookbooks/Recipes and more) HERE.

You can also support their efforts by donating through their website or via their Kickstarter campaign.

How utterly delicious is that?

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A Blooming Platter Endorsement of Yoga as Part of a Physically and Mentally Healthy Lifestyle

The yoga movement of a few decades ago passed me by.  But I’m making up for lost time!

I spent my youth taking ballet classes, avidly walking, and, in junior and senior high school, cheerleading.  I am a “rabid” walker to this day and I still take dance classes.  But, in graduate school, I was bitten by the aerobics bug–leg warmers and all–which I participated in and even taught for many years.  But one day, I woke up and thought I would run the other direction if someone ever yelled at me to do another knee lift over a pounding soundtrack.  Or, “dog” forbid,” I yelled at someone to do the same!

Also in grad school and/or after, I ice skated a bit, played a little (and I mean a little, like one season) co-ed volleyball, lifted a few weights, and rollerbladed on weekends.  I even ran for 6 months or so until I developed plantar fascittis.  But weightlifting eventually replaced aerobics and I became a gym rat for a long time, up until about 2 years ago when The Blooming Platter Cookbook entered my life.

I worked out at home on the TRX while I was writing and launching the book and began taking Pilates which I still do every Wednesday evening.  But after being away from the gym for so long, I decided that clanging heavy weights around was not what felt like the best fit anymore.

In our town and I suspect yours too, yoga studios had begun to proliferate almost like nail salons and martial arts facilities.  On two teacher friends’ recommendations, I tried this ancient practice last January at our local rec center and was hooked. My husband has been practicing for eight years!  (We are SO fortunate in VA Beach to have an impressive system of municipal recreation centers.  Shame on me for living here 21 years before ever darkening the door.) I practiced twice a week there until summer break when I added two more morning classes taught by a PT who owns Green Turtle Yoga–talk about body knowledge–at the dance studio where I take Pilates.

When school began in September, I had to give up those morning classes, so I started shopping around.  It’s too late to make a long story short, but suffice it to say that I now practice four to five times a week through a combination of classes at the rec center (the best buy around), Angela Phillips Yoga, Atma Bodha Yoga, and Hot House Yoga.  All of these establishments offer outstanding instruction, some with more rigor and longer classes than others, so the combination is ideal.

In the photo, Katherine Jackson, a writing professor at Old Dominion University’s VA Beach campus and one of my dear friends who recommended rec center yoga, showed up unexpectedly at class last night, as the facility closer to her house no longer offers yoga.  We were delighted to see each other–our last visit was in July on our long hike through the Dismal Swamp to Lake Drummond–but tickled that we were not only dressed almost identically in turquoise tops and gray yoga pants, but bearing the same color mats!  So we had to have someone snap a quick photo of the Yin and Yin Twins before class.

Get thee to a yoga class and “go to your mat,” as they say!

Namaste, friends.




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Vegan on Vacation Part 2

The other reason I haven’t posted a recipe in what is surely about a month was a visit to see my family in Laurel, MS, immediately on the heels of my trip to Shenandoah National Park (see previous post).

My father’s tomatoes were sweet and juicy and my mother’s zinnias, as you can see from the photograph, a botanical fiesta!

I don’t remember ever socializing quite so much with my parents’ and sisters’ friends, and it was delightful: a luncheon, happy hour at “the club,” dinner and fireworks the next night, and cocktail parties at a couple of their friends’ homes, one a beautiful contemporary on 40 acres in the country. My best friend since childhood still lives in Laurel and we did 4 mile walks every day. Years ago, we devised this efficient approach to catching up with each other’s lives and getting a heck of a workout.

My mother is a genius at seeking out the best “Ms. Sippy” has to offer. The first day, she had me chauffer her and two friends to Simply TeaVine in Hattiesburg, MS, for one of lady’s birthday luncheon. I told them I was “Driving Miss Daisy, Miss Petunia and Miss Tulip”! The destination was truly divine, located in a log cabin that had been in one of the owner’s families for generations. They had stripped it down to its original bones and updated areas like the detached kitchen, adding a rustic-glam bathroom for guests of their B&B. I fell in love with little touches like the back lit milk bottles of hydrangea blossoms on our table and a real bird’s nest with a tiny abandoned egg in a piece of furniture on the porch.

The meal was lovely. Mine, made specially for me because of my dietary preferences, consisted of wild rice with sauteed summer veggies, sweet and sour green beans, fresh-picked fruit salad and peach cobbler which they had made with non-dairy butter and no egg.

Mama is an adventurous cook and very supportive of my diet, as she has been since I first spurned meat in my teen years. She had devised a list of dishes she wanted to try which included, but wasn’t limited to, a new gazpacho recipe (a hit!), eggplant roll-ups with vegan ricotta (another hit, even with my sister and father who, as he says, doesn’t “wake up screamin’ for eggplant”), a veganized version of a peach cobbler made from peaches she got at the new local Farmer’s Market (and shhh!) white bread–you’d never know it thanks to plenty of Earth Balance, sugar and such–(it was delicious) and a veganized version of her favorite lemon ice cream to inaugurate the Cuisinart ice cream maker I had given them. We made it the last night and I didn’t get to try it, but Mama reports by phone that it was a big thumb’s up. Despite all of the home cooking, she even worked in lunch at a Thai restaurant she had sniffed out also in Hattiesburg where she needed to go for a doctor’s appointment. There are too many of those these days, but nothing much slows her or my dad down. He’s still working at age 82!

The final unexpected treat was running into a long-lost high school friend at the Jackson airport where I fly in and out of. As the barrista was handing me my green tea soy frappucino, I heard a male voice say, “Will you bake me a pie?” My response to the handsome man about my age was, “Sure…but who are you?” It was Lee Fuller, one of the best guys in high school and who, after we had chatted for 45 minutes, evidently still is. The pie question was in reference to him frequently, as my mother recalls, “standing on the front porch with a cake mix” needing something for his Phi Kappa bake sales (I was one of the fraternity’s “Little Sisters”).

Here’s to wonderful families and friends and to fresh food in the deep fried Deep South!
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Vegan on Vacation Part 1

I’ve been experiencing posting withdrawal!

Almost as soon as school was out on June 21, I left for a much anticipated hiking trip to the Shendandoah National Park with my beloved soul mate cousin, Earl III. (Almost immediately afterward, I went to my hometown of Laurel, MS, for a week. See my next post.)

Earl comes the closest to a Renaissance Man of anyone I know: he is a very ethical attorney for Shell Oil in Houston (we had some interesting mountaintop discussions about BP), a musician, a writer, a fairly serious art collector, a great cook, and an intrepid hiker to boot. Oh, and an avid reader. In the car on the way home, he read selections from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s new book, Flow. When we couldn’t take it any more, we stopped for a low-brow moment at the Citgo station: a box of fried potato wedges we ate in the car.

One full day of hiking was sandwiched between half-day hikes on our arrival and departure days. At night, we roughed it in a 2-bedroom/2-bath suite at the brand new Marriott Residence Inn in Waynesboro, no more than 10 minutes from the southern entrance to the Park at Fish Gap. (Earl said he didn’t want insects crawling on him in the middle of the night, so no cabins for us.)

At the local market, we stocked our room with cashews, wine, soymilk and the like for before-dinner gnoshing. Breakfasts were complimentary and quite impressive. Dinner on the patio of the South River Grill & Wine Shop in Waynesboro the first night was very respectable. (The bottle of wine we brought home was even better: Stone Mountain Vineyards 2008 Pinot Grigio.) Dinner the second night at Emilio’s in historic and quaint Staunton (just about 10-15 minutes away) was exceptional (I lapped up a scrumptious bowl of vegan minestrone with some of Earl’s crunchy-juicy bruschetta). Lunch going and coming was the aforementioned potatoes (hardly balanced, but we made up for it at other meals). And in the middle of our full day of hiking, we stopped at a “wayside” located in the park where I enjoyed a very satisfying veggie burger.

Summer is a terrific time to visit the Park, as it’s the shoulder season, so there are few fellow hikers and campers. It is perhaps most beautiful in fall, but lines of cars to get into the Park can be a mile long or more. Fortunately, we’re having a reasonably cool summer, often in the 80s, so we were very happy to be outdoors. Though, there are few people, there are apparently plenty of bears. The people we did run into all had a bear story. And ever since we began planning this trip, our mothers, who are sisters, have spoken of nothing but bears. When I told Earl that this trip was a kind of spiritual quest for me (both the destination and the opportunity for he and I to travel together), he said, “Oh, you mean like J.R.R. Tolkien only with bears?!” Alas, we saw no bears, just fresh bear scat (with, as Earl likes to add, a human finger in it), a deer, a turtle, some birds and an utterly spectacular snake.

It was also an utterly spectacular trip. It’s always good to come back, though I’m looking forward to exploring the upper reaches of the Park, entering from the D.C. side where Earl sometimes goes on business.
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Happy Vegan Birthday to Me! (The 9th Anniversary of my 40th Birthday)

My dear, dear friend, Beth Camper, a National Board Certified English teacher at our school, feted me for my birthday today in a way to rival my mother! She emailed me to say she needed to “see me” and asked when she could come down. I was in a planning block, so I told her to come ahead. A very few minutes later, she appeared in my door with a bakery box full of perfect vegan German chocolate cupcakes and a copy of Bryant Terry’s celebrated new cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen!

I was truly overwhelmed by her generosity and cleverness, especially since professionally baked vegan cupcakes are about as rare as polar bears in our area. When I asked her how she managed to procure them, she explained that she had called Yorgo’s Bageldashery in Norfolk, VA, remembering that they employed a vegan pastry chef. It turns out that the pastry chef no longer works there, but they gave Beth her phone number and she tracked her down to ask if she’d bake a custom order, which she was happy to do. They were delicious–not too sweet or too gloppy with frosting. In fact, they were topped with a perfectly restrained amount of the traditional coconut-pecan frosting, veganized. I say “were” because there are none left.

The cookbook Beth had heard about on “The Splendid Table” which airs on Sundays on our public radio station, WHRV. I had heard the same broadcast and was smitten with the idea of the book. Beth told me that her good friend Mary went with her to purchase it and, as they were looking through it, Mary said, “This all looks like something I’d like to have with a pork chop.” We both had a good laugh about that. I’ve never met Mary, but I know her from the stories Beth tells about her; she is one smart and funny woman. Actually, both of them are.

Since my poor husband had emergency oral surgery last night, I doubt we will be going anywhere tonight. But I still have had a wonderful birthday. Thanks to all for the cards, gifts, Facebook posts, and well-wishes, not to mention vegan cupcakes and cookbook. Not necessary, but very much appreciated.
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