Blogging from A to Z Challenge Books

#AtoZChallenge T is for Tia Mowry on the Cooking Channel

Today I have a real treat for you! Because I love food, and really, who doesn’t love food? I’m sharing a recipe today from Tia Mowry. You might remember her from the TV Show Sister, Sister.  Well she’s a young mother (I know!) with a new show premiering on TV and I want to share her recipe for spaghetti and turkey meatballs.

Tia Mowry's Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

We cook a lot with turkey meat at the address so I wanted to see how she does it and see if I can make my own recipe yummier!

Here’s Tia’s recipe:

Turkey Meatballs:

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup milk

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped

1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 large egg

1 pound ground turkey

4 to 8 tablespoons grapeseed oil


Quick Marinara Sauce:

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, chopped


Pinch kosher salt

1 pound spaghetti

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Chopped fresh basil, for garnish

For the turkey meatballs: Add the oats to a food processor and pulse a few times. The consistency should resemble breadcrumbs. Add the oats and milk to a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.

Add the onions, spinach, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic and egg to a large bowl and mix well. Add the oat mixture and combine. Lastly, add the turkey and gently fold into the wet mixture. Keep the mixture light by not over-mixing. Form into bite-size balls using a small cookie scoop for uniform meatballs.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs and brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and repeat with the second batch, adding more oil if needed. Set the meatballs aside but reserve the Dutch oven for the sauce.

For the quick marinara sauce: Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, salt, pepper and garlic to the Dutch oven and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Gently add the browned meatballs to the sauce. Do not overcrowd. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked thoroughly, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

Combine some of the sauce with the cooked spaghetti. Plate the spaghetti and meatballs and add the remaining sauce over everything. Garnish with parsley, basil and more grated Parmesan. Serve hot.


Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Active Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

I personally would omit the milk and the cheese because I can’t have dairy. I’d probably substitute vegan cheese for my own toppings as my kids don’t like it. But the best thing about spaghetti is that you can make it Sunday and make enough to eat all week long, woooooo! Leftovers and packed lunches, here I come, BAM!

Tia’s show starts next week:

Tia Mowry at Home– Premiering Wednesday, April 29th at 9:00pmET/6:00pmPT – SERIES PREMIERE! (COOKING CHANNEL)

Come along as Tia Mowry takes us inside her life, sharing her recipes for success… and for dinner.  As a working actress, wife and mother, Tia is always on the go, but creating tasty and tempting foods for her family is the part of her day that brings the biggest smiles. Growing up with parents in the armed services, she enjoyed tasting a variety of flavors in the different cities they lived, and she loved recreating the dishes with her mother in the kitchen. Ever since she was a young girl, these influences have sparked her desire to cook for her own loved ones – whether it is a healthy meal for her son and husband, or a dinner party for her best friends. It is a busy and full life, but Tia would not change a thing!

Check back later for another T post. It’s your lucky day!

Conferences Travel

Librarian in the Kitchen: Conference Preparations; Cooking for the Family

I love to travel! There’s nothing like learning new things and seeing new places.  As a blogger, I love  to attend several conferences and while it’s fun to travel, there is a certain amount of prep work that must be done to get out of the door. One of the things many of us do to prepare for conferences is prepare meals for the family we’re leaving behind.  In preparing for my trip to Sacramento to attend kidlitcon, I turned to my friend Heather, from Real, the Kitchen and Beyond, for food suggestions.

Chicken is very easy to prepare in numerous ways and my only requirement for Heather was that the meals couldn’t have dairy in them which meant no cheese. Boo.  Anyway, after reading Heather’s recipes here, I had my ideas!  We secured 5-8 pounds of chicken in bulk and I set to work cooking. If you’re like me and don’t have a crock pot big enough for all that cluck, you hafta get creative.

crockpot cooking

My family is the epitome of  picky eaters so we only buy chicken breasts. I like to divide up the chicken according to how many people I think might eat this particular thing i’m going to cook.

For the Crockpot, I placed 3 breasts and covered in water.  I added half a bag of Lipton Chicken Soup for flavoring. Once this had cooked, my Pumpkin shredded it and used it for chicken tacos.

Next I pulled out my dutch oven for the stove top.

stovetop cooking

Three or four chicken breasts should do the trick here. I was making chicken chili, so the more chicken the better.

I just use basic seasonings here; pepper, minced garlic (I prefer fresh but jar or dry will suffice in a pinch), and onion powder. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for hours. Chicken should break apart with a fork.  Do not remove chicken from the pot; just break it apart right there with a giant fork or spoon or whatever you have.

Then add your fave beans. I just used whatever I had on hand: Canneloni beans, Light Red kidney beans, Black beans.  Any beans that you like will do. When I’m making beef chili i don’t drain the beans because I need the liquid but because I’m making chicken and there is plenty of liquid in the pot, I drain the beans. It’s your choice.

After adding the beans, I add

  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • sofrito
  • stewed tomatoes that have some sort of flavoring in them for a little kick like jalapeños or similar.

If your family is’t much on spices totally back off on the spicy flavors. Just for fun I added little alphabet pastas because that’s what I had in the pantry.

Cover and simmer for an hour or so, stirring frequently.  The longer it simmers, the softer your beans will be.  When chili is ready, I IMMEDIATELY freeze half of it so I can enjoy a meal quickly one day when I’m strapped for a meal.

Finally, the remaining chicken went in the oven.


I covered the chicken with water and sprinkled a little bit of minced garlic garlic for flavor. Bake at 250 for several hours until tender.  I made no plans for this chicken so that the family could do what they want with it. My husband likes to put chicken on top of his Lean Cuisines or on a store bought salad; my pumpkin likes to make bbq sandwiches,  so I like to leave them with options.

Because my family has weird eating preferences and also because my kids are 22 and 17, I generally tend to cook only on Sundays. The rest of the week they can heat up leftovers or fix their own meals since I am working.

Now that I know my family will have food in the house, I’m free to hit the skies for my own traveling adventures!

What do you fix for your family when you go away? Don’t forget to pop over to Heather’s site and show her some love!



Bookish Traveler Eats Her Weight in Seafood in Aruba

Yep that’s me! We recently traveled to Aruba (our FIFTH time!) and I ate my weight in yummy seafood!


Wanna see what I ate?

On the night we’re feeling particularly gluttonous, we waddle over to Texas de Brazil.  It’s at this location where swarthy looking men in guaches and boots offer you hunks of meat served on what look like swords.

Texas de Brazil.jpg

Half the time I don’t know what they’re offering me but who cares? When a man offers you meat on a stick you take it, right? Of course we don’t eat the whole day prior or after to make up for our gorging. It’s way fun.

Another yummy meal we enjoyed was at Yemanja which means sea goddess or something and is a sweet little outdoor restaurant tucked in the middle of downtown Oranjestad. The place is so secluded you forget you’re in the middle of the “city!”


Here’s the meal  le grand monsieur enjoyed. It was a yummy veggie burger with a sprouted bun, some crunchy things, a yummy salad, and a kebab of veggies. He swooned! Why men love food on sticks is beyond me.

Le petit madame ordered fish. I’m all about fish when I’m in Aruba, except when I’m gorging on meat on a stick served by men in guachos and boots.


Doesn’t that look FAB?? It was accompanied by lots of veggies and although Pammy Pam is not a friend to vegetables, I loved them they were SO delish!

Especially great about this place is that locals eat here, so you KNOW it’s good.

Wine and dessert made for a wonderful night!



A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker, a FLTW Book Club Pick

A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker


A Well Tempered Heart

I just finished reading A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Philip Sendker which is February’s pick for From Left To Write virtual book club.  I think you’ll laugh at the irony of how I came to read this book: Last year Thein-Kim (of FLTW) and I met Jan-Philip Sendker at a party at BEA, Book Expo America.  Kim was familiar with the author because the club had read his other book, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. I somehow had missed reading that book and since I’m always keen to connect with an author at a party, I tagged along with Kim to say our hellos. We made our niceties and as Kim and Jan-Phillip chatted I found his German accent and his personality appealing.  In a party of suits and ties, his suit was pretty appealing as well; he looked like a priest.

Anyway, as I listened to the two of them reminisce about The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, I felt like perhaps A Well Tempered Heart might make a nice addition to the books we read at the book club I host at work.  Kim and I chatted about the first book and I thought that perhaps I would need to read the first book before picking up the second.  I was disheartened because I know how busy my reading schedule gets and I doubt if I would have time to read a backlisted title. Onward and upward!

Imagine my surprise the next day as I’m roaming the conference floor at BEA and I come across Jan-Philip’s book signing booth!  The night before Jan-Philip and I had spent a few moments chatting about traveling or Germany or Austria or something which left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, although it could have been the wine.  I stood in line to secure a signed copy of the book and what do you know, he remembered me and called me by my name! I was smitten all over again.

A Well Tempered Heart

Can you read his handwriting?

It says For Pam! I hope you will like it! yours jPS

Isn’t that great?  With those memories freshly unearthed I plowed into the book; fearful that, based on my chat with Kim, that I might not be able to follow the story because it’s the second in the series.

How pleasantly surprised I was.  Reading about Julia reminded me about my own wanderlust; always seeking that next adventure, that next place to discover a bit of myself in other foods (mostly) and cultures.  Kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love without Javier Bardem and all her  whining.  The first item of business was to discover where Burma was (it’s in SE Asia near Thailand and now called Myanmar).  The second was to discover what a longyi was.  It’s an item of clothing , much like a sarong, that’s worn by both sexes, although for the life of me I cannot figure how they stay on!

But back to wanderlust. Perhaps it’s a romantic ideal but the thought of living longer than 6 weeks in another country is appealing.  Especially given that we are having a very snowy winter in the Northeast, my thoughts think of nothing but warm climates. I’ve heard it said that in order to truly appreciate something, you should live in another country for longer than a week to 10 days.  I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that: I lived in the Southern Czech Republic for approximately 6 weeks.  I traveled in and around Prague and some of the smaller provinces, learning Czech (difficult), accidentally learning German (easier than Czech), and immersing myself in their culture by devouring Czech writers:

  • Milan Kundera
  • Karel  Capek
  • Josef Skovercky
  • Jaroslav Hasek

Since I’d grown up as a musician I was already familiar with Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana but developed a deep love for Smetana’s symphonic poems Ma Vlast, which means my country.  When my brain needs quieting, these musical pieces sooth my nerves and settle my need to wander.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Burma. I hear it’s not too safe to visit and I’m sure they don’t carry Zyrtec there for my allergies but you never know. Thailand is nearby; and “we are responsible not only for what we do, but also for what we fail to do.”

So there’s that.

Have you ever lived in another country?


This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart.