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Thursday, March 22, 2012

A new year

It has been a minute since I last blogged, and there is no need to recap what has happened.  However it is a New Year for Baha'is and Persians around the world, and so I will use this time as a renewal of this blog.  When I started this blog, I was dedicating it to food, love, life, and family; that has not changed a bit.  And so with a humble heart, I ask you all, my readers to allow me to reintroduce myself, this year 169 BE (Badi Era).  I have a new conviction to my pastries, to my writing, to my family, to myself, to my God.  I pray that this blog is insightful, uplifting, touching, thought provoking, and a unifying space on the massive place called the web.  Please bring your comments, observations, and opinions.  All I ask is that everything is done with respect.  Agreement is not necessary, but proper decorum is always needed. I hope you enjoy this insight into my world, and that some things stated here may help in areas of your life.   Peace and Blessings.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

2# sweet potato, roasted, peeled, and pureed (1 1/2 cups)
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp.  sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 pkg.  (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp.  vanilla
3 eggs
1T cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp, nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350.  Mix graham crackers and  sugar in a bowl.  Pour melted butter over the mixture, and toss with hands.  Pat evenly into a 9-inch spring pan form.  If you are unsure if yours is leaky, put foil on the outside of your cake form. Bake in oven until golden brown, about 8-12 minutes.  Take out and let cool.
Turn down oven to 275.
Mix cream cheese in a mixer, or hand blender until silky smooth.  SCRAPE DOWN THE SIDES OF BOWL OFTEN.  It makes a huge difference.  Once it  is free of lumps, gradually add sugar.  Again, scrape down.  Add one egg at a time, scrape down. Fold in spices and sweet potato.
Pour mixture into your prepared crust.  Place cake onto a sheet pan and put on middle shelf of oven.  Use a plant watering can, and slowly add water to the sheet pan.  If you don’t have a sheet pan, fill a 9-inch cake pan with water, and place on the lower rack.
Let bake for 20 minutes or when it begins to set, and very carefully, pull the rack out, turn the sheet pan.  Or, carefully turn the cake pan.  Let bake another 25 minutes.  Slightly move the pan to check for  firmness.  If liquidity still, let bake another 10 minutes.  Use a toothpick to check doneness.  It should come out clean.
Once done, take out and cool on a cooling rack.  ONLY WHEN COMPLETELY COOLED,  cover with plastic, not touching the cake, and place in the fridge.  This will help prevent cracks; so will not over cooking.

I always roast the sweet potatoes, it help create criminalization and sweetness in the potatoes.  You can just as easily substitute pumpkin, or other sweet winter squash.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On this the eve of that September day, I think back on how I felt when we were attacked.  I was going to the doctor’s for a horrible cough I developed.  I was living in Providence, in a Dominican and Italian hood with an overweight lesbian mother of two who smoked cigarettes like a chimney.  I was waiting in the waiting room when the first plane hit and didn’t see it.  I got to the exam room and the television was on and I saw the second plane.  My mouth dropped, I thought it was fake, but I knew it was very real.  I don’t remember leaving the doctor’s.  Next I knew I pulled over on the street in front of the CVS parking lot as I heard Howard Stern said one tower just fell.  I instantly started crying, I couldn’t believe it.  I got back home and turned on the news.  I began to hear about the Pentagon, and the flight in Pennsylvania.  I watched the news until I don’t know when.  The girls came home from school, and I told them something bad had happened to our country.  The oldest was 9 and the baby was 5, they understood something big and sad happened, but not really that we were attacked.  I wonder what their memories are 10 years later. 
                Later that day I stepped outside and I saw ash on my car, the street, everything.  New York was here with me.  I remember after 9/11 and the months that followed, the anthrax threat and all, I began to feel American for the first time.  I am a power to the people revolutionary thinker.  And aren’t those the ideals of America?  I had felt that I had a claim to the American personae, yet it eluded me somehow.  I was part of a subgroup that will never be accepted as good enough or as equal.  However, after 9/11 I realized that while yes some may not think I have that claim to America, I am an American.  I had a friend tell me soon after the attacks, “damn right I am American, this is the best country in the fucking world, problems and all, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else!”  I believe in what is right, just and that wrongs are punishable by law and order.  I have friends in NYC and I was worried about their safety.  This hit my home, and despite all of the violence here, we believe we’re safe from outside threats.  The USSR is gone.
                I was proud to donate to the firemen of Providence; I knew it would get to the firemen of NYC.  I drove around for the next 3 years with an American Flag postcard in my windshield for all to see.  I wanted to find out who did this.  It’s something that united a country for a while.  We will never forget.  Then Katrina came and went and we forgot about them.  Then the horrible tornados in the prairie states came and went and we forgot about them.  Hurricanes hit our Eastern seaboard and with time we will forget about them too.  Our country has a wicked past, and a seemingly wicked present with a daunting future.  But it is the only home I know.  And at least I am free to write these thoughts with no fear of being arrested, tortured or killed.  For that reason alone I am proud to be an American. 
                My people died too many horrible deaths to be seen as a person first and an American second for me to denounce this country.  I am the product of all the hopes and dreams of those Americans before me.  So I say with the Spirit of the Revolution and The War between the States, “Don’t tread on me!!”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

50% all Cakes and Pies this month!!!!

Having a couple of last of the season BBQ's?  Order a fresh fruit pie, tart, or cake and receive a 50% discount this month only!!  Taste our great desserts this summer, and start thinking about the holiday season with our famous Sweet Potato Cheesecake with spiced Whipped Cream.  Order at or call 415.269.7836 for more information.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Chicago Culinary Institution

The Chicago culinary scene is a deep, complex one that often is only talked about in terms of the restaurant experience downtown or on the north side.  There is an entire other side of native Chicago food on the south and west sides of the city.  Predominately black and poor, these areas offer a different type of Chicago culinary take that is just as good tasting as its counterparts in other parts of town. 
One such institution is the famous Home of the Hoagy.  This small, unassuming take out only restaurant touts some of the city’s best French fries and mild sauce, along with its famous “Meal on a bun.”  This steak hoagy is chopped steak, onions, and green peppers drenched in a sweet and tangy mild sauce with your choice of sweet, hot, or both peppers and cheese.  It is the type of sandwich that brings back childhood memories of long hot summer days and endless nights.  It is perfection on a bun, a mouthwatering dance of flavors, textures, and temperatures. There are ham, turkey, and mixed cold cuts for hoagies as well.  They all are served with super thinly sliced onions in a vinaigrette, lettuce, tomato, and cheese on a hoagy style bun. 
                But what stands out to me, what makes me crave for this restaurant are its fries with sauce.  Chicago is a town known for mild sauce; everyone has their own version of it.  Home of the Hoagy just happens to do it best to me.  Your fries are given in a regular paper fry bag, placed in a plastic bag with a fork.  What is so wonderful about these fries is that they are so crispy, that the sauce, which is doused on heavily doesn’t make them soggy.  I do not know how they manage that, but they do.  I have eaten cold fries that have been sitting for a while in sauce, and still the French fry has maintained its integrity.  The mild sauce itself is sweet, vinegary, spicy, and just wonderful with a thick sticky consistency. 
                While Hot Doug’s may have fries fried in duck fat, he does not have fries with sauce, let’s venture out of what is the normal Chicago food scene locations, and see the rest of the city.  Home of the Hoagy is located at 1312 W. 111th Street.  The lines are long, the service is questionable, but the food is outstanding.  All of the color adds to a different and exciting dining experience.  Opened Monday- Saturday from 10amish until 11pmish, closed on Sunday.  They have a number but calling ahead is not a guarantee of faster service 773.238.7171.  Explore the other sides of the Chi.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Feeding a Nation

The day I found out I was pregnant was one of the happiest moments in my life.  I immediately began planning her birth.  I am a planner, I like things to go according to my plan, but as we all know that is not real life.  So my plan was an all-natural water-birth where my baby is handed to me bloody and all and nurses for the first time.  Aww, I wanted the total hippie, crunchy granola, motherland experience.  I received an induced labor with an epidural, a little pushing, ending in a c-section.  After being in the hospital for 2 days, no food and now baby cut out of me, all I wanted was to nurse my newborn.  One hour later I finally got to hold my little Amina Sunshine.  I put her tiny mouth to my breasts and ouch!  This feels a little weird and uncomfortable.  A lactation specialist came in and helped me to get her to latch right and we were good to go.
            My next plan was to nurse for at least a year, longer if we both wanted to do it.  The first week my left nipple had scabs all over it. So I let her nurse on the right side which toughened up quickly, and pumped from the left until it was healed.  That first time feeling my milk let down I truly understood why I had breast.  Not to be big in dresses, or fun bags for our partners, but to nourish a nation.  It was the most significant action I had ever made toward humanity.  I was feeding my child.  The ease of it was what I really loved.  Anywhere we were, if she was hungry, I could feed her for free the best stuff on Earth.  I fed her at the mall, the park and restaurants.  I noticed I received a lot of smiles from other moms and stares from most others.  Who cared about them.
            As she got older she would just nose dive toward a breast when she was in my arms.  She fell asleep at night with me singing to her and nursing.  She really started eating solids around 5 months but still nursing most of the time.  She did take a bottle, because I pumped so my husband and others could feed her.  But as a stay at home, I was able to feed her most of the time.  I went back to work when she was 10 months.  The stress of a new job, being away from her, now being a working mom, I just didn’t produce as much milk as before.  She was eating most meals and took a bottle of formula if I didn’t have enough.  But that was short lived, by 1 she was drinking soymilk from a sippy cup and eating food. 
            I didn’t get the 1+ year I was looking for, but I enjoyed the 10 months I had.  Whenever I talk to a pregnant woman I always ask if they plan on breastfeeding.  I encourage young girls to breastfeed.  It is beneficial in many ways.  Yes, you are feeding your baby, but you are doing more, you are bonding in the most simple and profound way.  Plus you are treating your body right.  Your milk is made from what you eat, so you will be more inclined to eat what is right.  I understand the need and convenience of formulas, but hospitals shouldn’t hand it out as routine.  Everyone should at least try nursing.  Maybe you don’t make enough milk, fine use the formula.  But to never try is not using your breast for what they meant for, milk.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Dad is my Hero essay Winner

So I won my first writing contest, "My dad is my Hero Essay Contest!!" I won my pops a weekend retreat! Funny I live in Chicago, he is SF, but my cousin Supervisor Malia Cohen and her dad Evered Cohen were at the event, not knowing about my participation, and accepted the award for my father!! Love it! Thanks!! Here is the essay

One warm Indian summer day, on September 19, 1955 a son was born to an ever growing family.  Lionel James Armstrong was lucky number 7.  The streets of San Francisco raised him from a boy to a man.  Surrounded by family and friends who believed he could make it.  His senior year of high school at one of those old fashion red-light belly rub parties, he met his future wife, Karen Smith.  Their lives were forever changed on July 14, 1977; I was born.
Growing up, my daddy was the king of kings in our house.  At every turn for as long as I can remember I asked him one question, “uh daddy?”  Constantly looking for his approval from, my outfit to my homework, his opinion meant the world to me.  And then one day, it stopped.  I was about twelve and I knew everything anyways so why did I need the approval of anyone, especially my old (34 years old) dad!  And so for a few years I thought I wasn’t listening to him tell me “What is done in the dark will always come to light” and “FIFO, Tiffany, first in, first out.”
So now those teenage years are right upon me, and I hear him speaking, but I don’t want him to know I am paying him any attention.  “Don’t let that boy honk for you, tell him to come to the door, “he said, as I rolled my eyes in my head like, geesh, and secretly tell my boyfriend to come to the door for me next time.  I didn’t fully understand all that he was preparing me for until I went away to college.
Four years in Nashville, three years in Providence, and I always remembered those little nuggets he would spew at me.  I didn’t allow the college men to disrespect me, I tried my hardest not to call him for money, and worked it out on my own.  I left school feeling safe and secure in my future because of the foundation my father had given me on life concerns.
Newly armed with a sense of real independence, I move to Chicago.  This was the first time I saw my daddy act unsure about me.  I didn’t realize until later, that it was his love, and concern of his only child going out into the real world that scared him a bit.    But nevertheless, he helped me sell my car, and ship my things and put down a deposit on my new digs in a far off city.  Over the years I became a mother, and then a wife that he gave away at a beautiful ceremony created by him.  My daddy is my hero because he shows me with actions what a real man does for his family; he is my hero because he loves me dearly.  He’s my hero because he has never been afraid to say sorry, and show vulnerability.  He is my daddy.