Donna Maurillo, food for thought


How’s that for a family activity? Start from your home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, pile the kids in a van named Carlene, and drive 2,500 miles (plus a few side trips) without ever leaving California.

Skillet of polenta with green chili and eggs from “The Forest Feast Road Trip”. (Contributor – Erin Gleeson)

Along the way, photograph the scenery, collect great recipes for meals you enjoyed, add watercolor illustrations, and bring it all together in a cookbook. The result is “The Forest Feast Road Trip” by New York Times bestselling author Erin Gleeson (Abrams Books, 254 pp, $40 hardback).

But wait! There is more! This book is also almost a travelogue, packed full of tips on what to pack, recommended activities, fun places to visit, a reading list on the go, and enough eye-catching photography for you. make you want to pack your bags now.

Judging by the appetizing dishes, you would never suspect that they are all vegetarian or vegan. I mean, too many people believe that if it’s meatless or dairy-free, it’s boring or tasteless. Of course, the smarties among us know that’s not at all true.

Plus, this collection of recipes features many regional specialties that you can experience in almost any region of California. From a friend’s farm in the hills of Los Altos, Gleeson created a spring ricotta platter with snow peas, radishes, ricotta, clementines and pumpkin seeds. The central coast climate inspired his take on Mediterranean nachos.

On a girls’ trip to San Diego, she adapted her friend Mara’s recipe for Blood Orange Margaritas. Her version of curried cauliflower salad was adapted from a dish she had at a restaurant in Santa Barbara. From her parents’ garden in Sonoma County, she created Delicata Squash with Tahini.

The polenta lasagna was from her aunt’s recipe and the 3-way shortbread (lavender, Meyer lemon and brown butter) was from Court Ranch in the Eastern Sierra. And Spicy Hazelnut S’mores came from a Lake Tahoe camping trip experience. I’m already planning to try some of his six versions of Vegan Tacos.

Or maybe the polenta and green chili eggs in the skillet. Seems fair for a weekend breakfast. I have included the recipe here.

Air fryer chips?

I found so many ways to use my air fryer that I was almost tempted to make chips in it. But, it turned out that the recipe I received took a long time.

First, use a mandolin to slice two potatoes. Then soak the slices in ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and let soak for another 15 minutes. Then drain and pat each slice dry with a paper towel. Then spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Then place them in a single layer in the air fryer basket.

Fry at 360F for 15-17 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Then move on to the next batch. It seemed to take a long time, about 90 minutes to prep and cook two potatoes.

I prefer to make corn chips. Start by stacking 4-5 corn tortillas, then cut the stack into 6-8 wedges. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Put them all in the fryer basket. Bake at 375F for about 15 minutes or until crispy. Once or twice, shake the basket during cooking to ensure an even crisp.

Lots of chips and only 20 minutes of work.

Dishwasher safe knives

For good reason, do not wash your good knives in the dishwasher. Detergent can discolor them and high heat can damage wooden handles. High pressure washing can jostle them and damage the cutting edge. This is especially true for ceramic knives, which are brittle and can break easily.

Instead, wash them in the sink with hot water and dish detergent. And sharpen them after a few uses.

sneer, sneer

The hugely popular Snickers bar was invented in 1930 by Frank Mars, who also created the Milky Way bar. But his first wife, Ethel, wanted something that included peanuts. So he created Snickers, which is named after a racehorse.

The 5 cent candy bar became popular not only in the United States, but also in England. However, the British called it the Marathon bar because the Snickers looked too much like breeches.

Another fun fact. Frank Mars’ second wife was also named Ethel. It probably kept him from calling her by the wrong name.


When preparing food, keep a scraper and trash can handy. The scraper can pick up peels, pits, stems and more. Collect everything in the bowl and throw it in the compost bin. Putting it in the trash is a fast track to a clogged drain.


Breakfast will no longer be the same. Here’s a new way to whip up your Sunday morning eggs, inspired by a trip to San Diego’s Little Italy. It’s from “The Forest Feast Road Trip”.


For 6 persons


1 cup dry polenta

4 green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons canned diced green chilies

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup crumbled feta

Salt and black pepper to taste

6 eggs

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 cup green salsa


1. In a large skillet with lid, boil 4 cups of water with a pinch of salt. Slowly add polenta and stir until combined.

2. After 1 minute, add half the green onions, plus the green chiles, garlic powder, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Stir often over medium-low heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.

3. Break the eggs and add them to different places on the surface of the polenta, then cover. Continue cooking, covered, for about 7 minutes over low heat until the egg whites are set.

4. Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro, avocado, remaining green onions and salsa verde. Serve immediately, before the polenta hardens. Serve with additional salsa verde, salt and pepper.


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