A single mom with two adult children and a granddaughter, she is a retired medical technologist who honors her Southern roots in her vegetarian practices. She lives in Amityville.
What inspires you to cook?
I like to eat and I like to experiment with putting different ingredients together, especially fresh vegetables. I remember my grandmother coming home from the market with all these fresh vegetables -- string beans, beets, tomatoes. I became a vegetarian about 30 years ago. At that time, there weren't too many vegetarian choices. Being from the South, I had to tweak the recipes I grew up with so I could eat them.
What are some of your favorite ingredients?
There are non-salt spice mixtures that can help enhance vegetables. I also like to use garlic to make vegetable dishes more tasty. For my greens I use a no-salt seasoning and a butter substitute or olive oil at the end. Everyone should experiment more. Try mixing red bell peppers with cabbage or onions with zucchini. "Fresh is best," that's what my grandmother would always tell me. So forget things like tomatoes when they aren't in season.
If you published a cookbook, what would you call it?
I actually have a book that I've put together. I have the recipes but have to go to a food studio and cook the dishes and have them photographed. I'm going to call it "Vegetarian Cooking for the Soul," which includes both eating to satisfy the soul and also for your physical health. It has healthier vegetarian versions of the Southern food that I grew up with like sweet potato pie, dressing, and macaroni and cheese.
What things should we always have in the pantry or refrigerator?
Greens are a good cold-weather thing to have. I have a garden and regularly have kale, collards, the squashes, colorful bell peppers and sweet potatoes. I'd also have herbs and spices like basil, oregano, garlic, ground cumin, just a good selection of spices.
Sweet Potato Salad
8 medium sweet potatoes (or enough to make 4 cups, cubed)
Coconut or olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon whole celery seeds
Cayenne pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
1. Scrub the skin of the sweet potatoes, towel dry and then rub with a little coconut or olive oil and roast in a 375-degree oven for 40 minutes, or until fork tender.
2. When cool enough to handle, peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1- to 11/2-inch cubes.Add potatoes to a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients comfortably.
3. Add onions, bell pepper, relish, mustard, salad dressing, sour cream, celery seed, cayenne pepper and salt to the sweet potatoes. Combine thoroughly, but gently to avoid breaking up the potatoes. Chill before serving. Makes 10 servings.