A Watched Pot (And A Shout Out To Straight Up Food)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on August 4, 2016


Watched Pot charcoal and chalk pastel sketch by MTMIt was a hot and muggy day in northeast Portland. There was no way I could prepare our sweet potatoes the way I thought I like them best–roasted or baked in the oven. But Romeo and I needed some sweet potatoes, so I fell back on my blogger friend Cathy Fisher’s simple tried and true method–boiling. Many a night on Straight Up Food’s facebook page, she posts colorful nutritiously delicious but simple to prepare dinner featuring starchy boiled spuds or sweet potatoes. I always like to go over and “like” what Cathy has on her plate.

I don’t know why, but I always consider boiling a last resort. Perhaps it’s because I came of age at the same time the vegetable steamer did, and so got brainwashed about that being the most nutritious choice. Since Cathy and I are e-mail pals, I wrote and confessed my avoidance of boiling and asked her why she chose it so often.

Because it’s easy, she said. Bingo. Everything in one pot and no time spent cleaning the vegetable steamer afterward.

On this hot muggy day, I wasn’t feeling that well, either, and when I started to drain the potatoes, something told me to save the “broth” and drink it, even though it wasn’t wintertime. Man oh man was it surprisingly tasty. That’s because I used Cathy’s tip of seasoning the cooking water–in this case with garlic and cumin. The good stuff from the sweet potatoes and spices was just what my tired self needed for a pick me up.

This past week I have had to get some rather unpleasant dental work done, leaving me sore and not up to chomping on the summer salads like this  Easy Cabbage, Orange and Cilantro Chopped Salad I love so much.  And I was tired from the treatments. So I turned again to the simple boil. I threw some assorted spuds my daughter-in-law grew in water seasoned with garlic, fennel and thyme, and at the last minute or two, I added some chopped chard and basil from my container garden. I drained the veggies and mashed them in the bowl I was going to eat them in, simply using a fork and adding a little extra garlic. Then I topped them with a red pepper humus I made for the week of dentist appointments.

I have to say I was astonished at how good it was! And also how thoroughly nourished I felt, how easy digestion went. I thought of e-mailing Cathy to tease her that she was turning me into a part-time “boiler” (she is, and it’s perfect for the lazy cook in me who still wants to eat well), but then I remembered that this month is her Kickstarter Campaign for her cookbook Straight Up Food, so I decided to surprise her with this shout-out to her book project. Cathy has worked for years on this book, carefully testing recipes, working with a book designer, and making sure she can do it the way she wants to. The many classes she has taught at the McDougall Center and True North also have contributed to her knowledge of how to help people have fun eating well. Her blog is an excellent resource and even contains a section called My Meals showing people what she actually eats and how easy it is to cook without a recipe, including what she calls “big pile of food.” Now her cookbook takes that to the next level with easy to follow recipes made from whole foods in the form of delicious family favorites that are familiar and simple to prepare, (and made without added oil, salt or sugar, if that is important to you). So please, if you would value a resource like this, go on over to her site. listen to her describe the project, see the book design which is both gorgeous and practical, and order a book.

As you may recall, in an early post on this blog called Reading my way to Straight Up Food, I ended a long  recipe reading learning curve with discovering Cathy’s blog. There I learned what a masterful recipe developer she is. Luckily for me, we started e-mailing each other and grew a friendship that I treasure. I can promise you delight and surprise and really good eating, far beyond throwing spuds in a pot. On the kickstarter site you’ll see beautiful photos of carrot cake cupcakes, guacamole, and one of my favorites, quinoa cornbread, and much more. And all this accomplished with clear instructions to ensure ease in the kitchen. Thank you, Cathy. It has been a pleasure to support you on the sidelines as you brought this project to fruition. Can’t wait to get my copy. I hope, dear readers, you’ll join me in supporting this fabulous whole food plant-based project. And by the way, Cathy didn’t ask me to write this post.  She is going to find out about it the same way you are. It’s just what I felt like doing to support a very worthy project.

Maria (moonwatcher)





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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cathy August 5, 2016 at 8:56 am

And it *was* a surprise!! 🙂 Thank you so much Maria! You’re the best! A friendship to treasure for sure! Many thanks, and talk to you soon! xoxoxox Cathy


2 Maria Theresa Maggi August 5, 2016 at 9:54 am

Yay! Glad I surprised you. 🙂 It is my pleasure and I hope it helps you reach your goal. 🙂 xoxo


3 Lynn August 5, 2016 at 8:58 am

I’ve been eating so many sweet potatoes lately that my skin has taken on an orange hue, haha. I don’t normally boil them either as I find them more flavorful when baked, but I don’t always want to wait that long for them to cook – or heat up the house on a muggy day!

Cathy’s StraightUpFood blog has been an enormous help to me over the years and I can’t wait to receive a hard copy of her creations! 🙂


4 Cathy August 5, 2016 at 9:20 am

Thanks Lynn! 😉 <3


5 Maria Theresa Maggi August 5, 2016 at 9:56 am

Hi Lynn–sometimes I wonder if my own skin is going to turn orange as well. 🙂 I’m with you on roasted sweet potatoes, but really with the spices in the water and just enough water to cover they come out pretty darn tasty. Glad to hear Cathy’s StraighUpFood blog has been such an enormous help to you–and yes, it’s going to be great to have a hard copy of her book! 🙂


6 Kim August 5, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Maria, if you have an Instant Pot (or other electric pressure cooker), it’s so simple to do potatoes inside. I put in enough water to cover the bottom of the IP, put in the wire insert, fill it up with washed, unpeeled, whole sweet potatoes, and then cook on Manual for 12 or 13 mins. Let the pressure come down naturally, take out of pot, let them cool for a few minutes so I can handle without burning my fingers, and then basically just pull the peel off after cutting the ends of the potato. Put in bowl and mash. Easy and fabulous! Can also do regular baking potatoes this way. I think it’s easier than boiling and it uses less water.


7 Maria Theresa Maggi August 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, Kim! 🙂


8 Lynn August 5, 2016 at 6:24 pm

Thank you for a wonderful post. You have such a delightful way of explaining things!


9 Maria Theresa Maggi August 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm

You’re welcome, Lynn! 🙂


10 Jill August 5, 2016 at 7:59 pm

Hi, I too have supported Cathy with an ebook purchase. I live in Australia and an ebook is the best way for me to get a copy. By the way I love reading your blog and always enjoy your art.


11 Jody August 6, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Thank you for letting me know about Cathy’s new book! I love her recipes and was thrilled to read that she has a cookbook coming out. I ordered it before I finished reading your blog.
I also love reading your blog!


12 Lee August 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Straight Up Food is one of my favorite websites! I found out about Cathy and her yummy recipes during my stay at True North a few years back. I’ve liked every recipe of hers I’ve ever tried, and I’m delighted to hear that she’s working on a cookbook. Off to check out the Kickstarter campaign and get myself a copy!


13 Veronica August 8, 2016 at 8:55 am

Sometimes I just have a craving for simple, boiled potatoes (sweet, plain, purple, whatever!). The Czech side of me boils them with caraway seeds and eats them with pan-sauteed sauerkraut. 🙂 I’ve never added hummus to them, but it’s now on my list!
And I’ve purchased a copy of Cathy’s book! I hope she meets her goal.


14 Maria Theresa Maggi August 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Jill, Jody, Lee and Veronica–thanks for your great comments, and THANKS for supporting Cathy’s book! I’m very happy about that. Glad to know you all follow and appreciate her. And Veronica, loved hearing about your Czech side boiling the potatoes with caraway seeds. I wasn’t sure about the hummus until I tried it, but now I’m a fan! 🙂


15 Nicole O'Shea September 2, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Oh yum, that boiled and seasoned water sounds delicious! I’m going to try that was to cook sweet potatoes! xoxo Nicole


16 Maria Theresa Maggi September 2, 2016 at 8:10 pm

You know what, Nicole? It’s so good I sometimes boil the sweets just to have the broth! It also seems to be really good FOR me. Hope you like it.


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