ZeHoliday Tradition: A Christmas Angel’s Recipe for Happiness

Caitlin the Christmas Angel

A heartfelt holiday story about my favorite little angel’s first heavenly Christmas — and ZeRecipe for her magical Angel Cloud cookies!

I hope you’ll share Caitlin’s magic (and cookies) with your family and friends, celebrating the happiness of holidays and everydays.

Because love is forever – and every moment is a gift.

Read the story and find the recipe here!


ZeHunger Challenge

ZeBot's Hunger Challenge

Zebras love challenges (including learning to cook and write without the benefit of opposable thumbs). And we’re always hungry for new things—new foods, new friends, new ideas.

So when I heard about the Hunger Challenge, I knew I wanted to give it a try—but in a ZeZillion years, I could never have imagined how powerfully it would help me learn about the world around me.

The Hunger Challenge is a five-day journey initiated by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, whose executive director Paul Ash describes it as a special way to “become an advocate for the hungry.”

ZeBot Lentils

How do you do it? Well, it’s pretty simple, but not easy.

All you need to do is live on a food stamp budget ($4.50 per person/zebra per day) that’s supplemented by a list of fresh seasonal foods and staples that are available at the local food pantry.

By asking people (and zebras) to participate in the challenge, the Food Bank is hoping to create a perspective of understanding and empathy.

“We can read articles and digest statistics,” Paul says, “but until hunger is a visitor at your table, it’s difficult to wrap your head around the complexity of the problem.”

I wanted to wrap my head and heart and stripes around the challenges: I know that 1 in 4 local residents go hungry every day. And in other parts of the country and the world, the problem is even bigger.

ZeBot Peaches

So I went to ZeMarket and stocked up on the Food Pantry groceries that would last me a week: 1 cantaloupe, 6 carrots, 3 onions, 2 oranges, 4 potatoes, 4 peaches, 1 box of strawberries, 1 small watermelon, 6 eggs and 1-lb. of rice.

Then I used my food budget for ZeWeek to buy things like tofu, popcorn, lentils, whole wheat flour, soy sauce, a tiny bottle of canola oil and little bags of a few spices I could afford (garlic powder, black pepper, spicy crushed red pepper). Since zebras REALLY like veggies, I also bought some kale, cabbage and tomatoes.

Now I just needed to figure out how to make my food last for a whole week (because zebras always like to go the distance and a bit beyond).

ZeBot's Crackers

Since I’ve been going to classes with Foodwise Kids at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market, I’ve learned a lot about flavors and nutrients and doing great things with small amounts of food.

That’s where I got my idea to bake whole wheat crackers that I could top with my own fun blends of fruits and vegetables.

And one of ZeCoolest cooks I know taught me the ultimate secret recipe for pure, protein-packed yumminess with just the right balance of sweet and savory flavors to keep me (and my favorite kids) feeling healthy and happy all day long: Caramelized Golden Tofu!

ZeBot Tofu

Well, actually the recipe isn’t secret. You can find it in one of the greatest-ever cookbooks: Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.”

And because my friend Deborah is a super-egalitarian human who includes zebras in that “everyone,” she kindly agreed to let me share her creation here (you’ll find it at the end of this post).

Well, now my hooves were really on a roll—and my imagination was fired up beyond black-and-white. First up was a big fruit salad with all the colors and flavors of the rainbow. I used the eggs, onions, potatoes and veggies to make a frittata (which is kind of like a flat omelet). Lentils and rice were super-good with sauteed veggies and garlic. And popcorn was a perfect snack.

ZeBot Frittata

Everything was going great until one day when I found myself in San Francisco with only one dollar left in my budget—and three days left in my challenge week.

My refrigerator at home still had food inside. But it had been one of those busy mornings when I all could manage to do was get my stripes out ZeDoor, so I hadn’t packed a lunch.

By noon,  breakfast seemed very far away. I hoofed it along the waterfront, trying not to feel kinda left out when I saw people eating wonderful lunches in restaurants.

Yikes, I thought: my energy is running low and I’m starting to feel sort of dark and dreary in a way that zebras NEVER do.

Stay tuned for more exciting zebra culinary adventures!

I totally got what Paul Ash from the Food Bank meant when he said this:

“We view hunger as a problem that affects our heads and our hearts. Eating a diet high in simple carbohydrates – the cheapest calories available – leaves us feeling tired and defeated. A diet rich in healthy fruits and vegetables and lean protein, on the other hand, fuels us mentally and physically to take on the challenges each day brings.”

So THAT was the challenge, I realized. And I began to see how very little I’d known about hunger.

As the sun was slanting to the west in a golden-orange way that made me think of butter and lemon cookies and cheddar cheese, I saw something that made me stop feeling sorry for myself.

In the doorway of one of the old pier buildings sat a mom and two little kids and a skinny dog with fur as black and white as any zebra. There was only one word on the cardboard sign in front of them: “Hungry.”

And in that moment, I really, truly understood what hunger means. It’s a deep emptiness inside that aches all through you. Your stomach. Your mind. Your heart. Your soul.

It’s knowing that you need one of the most essential things in life, but not knowing where or how you’ll get it. It’s a quiet everyday tiredness that never seems to go away.

When I saw the family on the street, all my tiny, temporary zebra hunger faded in the face of their big, ongoing hunger. I wished I had all the food in world to give them—but all I had was a dollar, so I gave them that.

I know what I had to give wasn’t nearly enough—but if everyone who has something to give would give whatever they can, we could make a difference.

I’m just one scraggly little zebra with a lot of big ideas. But I’m really hoping that during this season of thanks and giving, we can all be grateful that we have something to give—and that we’ll keep on giving.

ZeBot's Striped TofuRECIPE: Deborah Madison’s Caramelized Golden Tofu (adapted by a zebra)

I love this tofu so much that I eat it practically every day. You can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge so you always have something wonderful to eat. I like to eat mine on a bed of fresh veggies with a squeeze of citrus, but you can also serve it on steamed rice, tuck it inside a sandwich or just nibble on it straight from your (clean) hands (or hooves).

What You Need

1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu

2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce

3-1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

3 tablespoons water

What You Do

If you are a kid or a zebra, please make sure you have an adult to help you—this is NOT a DIY recipe!

  1. Drain your tofu (it usually comes in a tub of liquid), then gently blot it dry with paper towels.
  2. Slice the tofu into slabs about 3/4″ thick, then cut each slab into four triangles.
  3. Heat the peanut oil in a medium-sized nonstick skillet (or nonstick grill pan, if you want stripes) over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the tofu and fry until it’s golden and yummy looking. This takes about 2-3 minutes, so please be patient and let the tofu triangles cook without disturbing them.
  5. Turn the triangles over and cook the other side (yup: 2-3 minutes).
  6. Take the tofu triangles out of the pan, and drain them on paper towels. Save 1 tablespoon of the oil (this is for the sauce).
  7. Now make your sauce: start by mixing the soy sauce and brown sugar in a small bowl.
  8. Heat a wok or a heavy skillet, adding 1 tablespoon of the oil you used to fry the tofu.
  9. When your pan is hot, add the soy sauce/sugar blend, then reduce the heat to medium and add the tofu.
  10. Use a spatula to gently toss and turn the tofu in the sauce, then simmer for 2 minutes (it will smell like savory-sweet caramel heaven).
  11. Add 3 tablespoons water, and cook until the sauce coats the tofu with a syrupy glaze.
  12. Turn off the heat, then let the tofu cool in the syrup for 10 minutes.
  13. Time to eat: savor every delicious bite!

ZePossibilities of Pumpkins

ZeBot's Pumpkin Patch Buddies

I just made ZeGreatest discovery! You know those orange spheres that are piling up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores? They’re pumpkins! Okay, you probably already knew this, but pumpkins are totally new to me. (Give me a break: I’m a zebra!)

I always figure the best way to find out about something you never knew existed is to do a little detective work. My favorite farmers, food historians and librarians were happy to help out. I even asked a couple of dogs, since if they like something, you KNOW it’s going to be cool.

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

I found out that pumpkins are members of the squash-and-gourd family (it’s always fun to have family, don’t you think?). Some people think pumpkins are vegetables, but they’re actually fruits. You can tell because fruits almost always have seeds on the inside (although berries like to be different and have them on the outside). If you’ve ever scooped the squishy guts out of a pumpkin, you know they have LOTS of seeds.

You might think from their bright orange color that pumpkins give you tons of energy — and you’d be right. They’re loaded with natural sweetness and awesome nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds are packed with good-for-you stuff like protein, B vitamins, iron and vitamin E.

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Chuck Williams Teaches a Zebra ZeWay to Cook!

Chuck & ZeBot-framed“The way to be a good cook? Just cook!” –Chuck Williams

When my friend Chuck Williams told me that being a good cook is something that happens by just cooking, I nodded my head so hard my stripes got all squiggly.

If anyone knows about cooking, it’s Chuck. He’s 99 years old—and cooking is something he’s done ever since he was a kid. Today, Chuck is the author of lots of cookbooks and the founder of a very cool kitchenware store called Williams-Sonoma.

Chuck first started learning to cook back in the early 1900s, when he spent lots of time in the kitchen with his grandmother. In those days, people didn’t have microwave ovens or electric mixers or even many real cookbooks. So how did kids learn to cook?

“I learned to cook by watching my grandmother and listening carefully to everything she said,” Chuck told me .

“I helped her in the kitchen every day. I watched and I listened and I asked questions. One of my favorite things was making pies with her. After she finished trimming the crust, she would give me the scraps and let me try to make my own pie.”

Chuck at Age 12 -ZeBlog

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ZeAmazing Magical Spice Detectives & ZeScience of Taste

ZeGreat Spice Detectives!Do you believe in magic?

That’s what some of my favorite kids and I asking were asking each other the first time we blended our own spices.

When we sprinkled our spices on hot, buttery baked sweet potatoes, the only way we could describe what happened inside our mouths was MAGIC!

But I’m kind of getting ahead of my own stripes by starting in ZeMiddle of my story.

ZeBot Spices for Whole Spice

It all began when I asked my friends Ronit and Shuli Madmone: “What are spices? And why do humans like them so much?”

I thought, considering that they’re experts who own a really cool company called Whole Spice and I’m a just a simple zebra who’s only beginning to explore the world of food, they would have given me a super-simple answer.

But they looked at each other and laughed, “If you really want to understand spices, ZeBot, come to our house.”

It turned out that my questions were the first steps on a journey that would take me into deliciously exciting new worlds.

For a taste of our adventure, please check out the video (below) — then read on!

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ZeGreat Heirloom Tomato Cake

ZeBot Heirloom Tomato CakeSummer is ZePerfect time for celebrations – and all the fresh colors and flavors at ZeFarmer’s Markets make it more fun than ever!

So you can imagine how excited I was to be invited to help host a Farmer’s Market Supper Party with some of the Bay Area’s coolest food bloggers and cookbook authors (links to all ZeRecipes are at the end of this post).

Our mission: to showcase the season’s bounty with a creative vegetarian supper. Everyone was very understanding about my being a novice cook/baker who’s all hooves (and no opposable thumbs) and told me it would be fine if I made up a zebra-friendly dessert.

I figured I’d do what ZeGrandma and ZeMom always taught me: don’t go to a farmer’s market with your stripes totally set on making something in particular.

ZeBot Tomatoes Napa

Instead, have fun wandering around and discovering the day’s freshly harvested treasures, then create a recipe based on what you find.
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Wokkin’ On Sunshine: A Magical Exploration of ZeWok Shop!

Chinatown Gate with ZeBotHey, who wants to go for a wok with me?

When I asked my Chinese-born American buddy Julianne that question, her reply (like yours might be) was: “Um, what’s a wok?”

Well, I knew that a wok is a kind of cooking pan — and being a zebra who loves to roam (and is very fond of puns), I’ve always like saying stuff like “let’s go for a wok.” But Julianne and I wanted to explore all the sizzling secrets to wonderful wok cooking.

Since we think the best way to start on any new  path of culinary discovery is to do some ZeSearch, we decided to begin in my ZeNormous cookbook library.

Julianne Does Research

The next thing we did was call my friend Grace Young, who has written lots of award-winning cookbooks all about the wok and the amazing things it can do.

It turns out that the voyage into the world of woks is deliciously vast and exciting.
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