Reprinting from Sun News Archive

Too hot to cook? Try a spiralizer


For The Sun NewsJuly 29, 2014 –missing the photo of

The Paderno Spiralizer slicing up a beet. The tool is a good one to have in the kitchen during the hot summer months when you don’t want to turn on the oven or stand outside over a hot grill.

BY JOAN LEOTTA — For The Sun News

So, it’s too hot to cook.

That’s not a surprise here in the South where summer steams and sizzles enough to chase us away from the stove and often makes standing out by the grill too much to bear.

I think all of this heat and humidity is nature’s way of trying to get us to sample simple preparations of fruits and vegetables as meals. Resorting to ready-made options from the grocery or local restaurant is fine nce in a while. The heat of summer calls out for fresh fruits and vegetables, often uncooked. These options are full of vitamins, fiber and often spiced to help our bodies survive the heat. Homemade is still best, even in the heat.

Tomatoes and mozzarella, salads with canned beans, tuna, and/or cheese for additional protein have been summer staples for no-stove nights at our house for many years. Sometimes I avoid afternoon heat by cooking a pasta or making roast chicken in the morning and using these in cool, room temperature meals in the evening.

While cooking things like pasta in the morning and adding tuna or beans for a dose of protein, or simply eating a salads is something I have always done, preparing a variety of raw veggies for dinner was not that appealing until I recently discovered a new tool that that allows me to prepare them quickly and easily as main course, even in raw form.

This new kitchen toy, one of the most useful and fun items I have purchased over the years is the Paderno Spiralizer. Williams and Sonoma carries the Paderno Spiralizer nationally, although you will have to call to see if it is available that their location at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.

There are other ways to slice and dice for the recipes but the fun of using the spiralizer has been like a kitchen muse to me. There are other brands of spiralizers on the market. My research showed this one to be the easiest to use and to clean. If it seems a bit pricey at around $35, read the alternative preparation directions below. While you will not get the fun curls, the slice and dice matchstick cuts will provide the right size to use the raw veggies successfully in the recipes given. Below you will find two of my own raw food recipes and one for a more traditional pasta salad meal option.

When the little machine arrived, I was awaiting with a zucchini and a yellow squash to try it out. I had decided to rely on the instruction booklet for my first recipes. Surprise! My machine came with one sheet of four languages worth of assembly instructions but no recipes and no description of what each of the blade inserts would produce.

I called the 800 number and a young woman apologized and said she would email me all of that. Two weeks later, still no instructions.

No matter. I did not have to wait until the company responded or my veggies went bad and the post office delivered the missing sheet of instructions because I found This website/blog is written by Alissandra Maffucci who found the machine a while ago, made it her muse, the inspiration for thousands of recipes (cooked and uncooked) and a free source of information for anyone who wants to learn how to use the spiralizer. Her efforts inspired my recipes.

My own efforts with the inpsiralizer began with the squashes. Then I went on to combine beets and chickpeas, inspired in my choice of spices by Maffucci’s Morroccan Beet recipe.

I moved on to a folded accordion string of cucumber in a lovely to look at as well as lovely to eat Greek salad. I am having so much fun wth this little machine, I could go paeo (eating raw food all the time) or vegetarian!

To give the foods a shot of protein, simply add a can of beans (drained and rinsed) to the recipes. Meat lovers who want to add chicken or leftover other meats to the recipes will find they combine well.

Rely on your own instincts as a cook and your own cultural palate of herbs to add zing to any of these vegetable creations. For me that means a lot of parsley, oregano and basil, all three of which I use fresh in the summer, dried in the winter. Middle Eastern spices of cumin, turmeric and cinnamon are next. I like to use good olive oil and either a pomegranate red wine vinegar or balsamic (when I want to add sweetness).

Maffucci says that for those who don’t want to invest in a spiralizer, “Don’t worry, you can still eat zucchini pasta by using other methods. They don’t create “noodles” like the spiralizer – the veggies comes out more like a slaw, but tastes similarly delicious. Also if you haven’t bought a spiralizer yet, this is a great way to test the waters.”

She adds a caution to those who see the close resemblance between spiralized veggies and pasta noodles. She advises that heating them should be done with caution.

“They become too mushy when put over heat (at least the peeled and julienned ones).” But even for light heating on the spiral ones, she and I (albeit from a more limited experience with me) think that they work best for cold sauces (like pesto).

Whether you play with an inspiralizer or use a julienne cutter or painstakingly make matchstick slices with a sharp knife, enjoy these two cold supper vegetable dishes and the more traditional pasta salad. As I said before, add cheese, tuna, beans, salmon, or strips of cold cooked chicken, beef, or lamb to turn these into truly hearty but healthy and cooling summer suppers.

For more recipes, check out You may even want to, as I have, sign up for her newsletter. If you like cookbooks better than the Web for recipes, Maffucci will have a new cookbook out in 2015.


Serves 4. If you are using the spiralizer, after you have cut the cucumber, you might want to farther cut the long ribbon into shorter segments to make it easier to serve.

1 medium size cucumber cut into lenghts on the single blade

1 smallish red onion (will come in half slices—on the large blade of the spiralizer)

6 radishes sliced thinly by hand

1 carrot sliced on the large hole spiralizer blades

3 T apple cider vinegar

4 T olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T fresh dill

8-10 cherry tomatoes cut in half

After cutting the cucumber, carrot and onion, cut the longest spirals into smaller pieces, Place in large bowl. Add the radish and tomatoes. Add the oil, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper.

Serve quickly.

If you are not going to serve for some time wait until just before serving to add the salt. Salt will draw the water out of the cucumber


Inspired by Ali Maffucci. Serves 4.

1 15-oz. can low sodium garbanzo beans washed and drained

1 large beet

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 T cinnamon

1 tsp turmeric

2 T fresh parsley

1 T fresh basil sprinkled over the top at the end

1/4 cup olive oil

3 T balsamic vinegar–the sweetness will complement the cinnamon and the others

Use the spiralizer on large blade setting to make curls. Mix with the garbanzo beans. Mix all of the rest of the ingredients, except for the basil together and use the mixture to dress the beets and beans.

Serve at room temperature as side or main dish.


1 box (16 ox) mini-bowtie pasta

4 c fresh spinach

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 small zucchini, diced

1/2 cup fresh red pepper sliced thin

1/4 cup olive oil

10-12 cherry tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 can black olives drained (largest size olives you can find)

1/4 cup parsley (fresh, chopped)

1 tsp dill

3 T basil (fresh , chopped)

Put all ingredients except pasta into a large bowl. Cook pasta to al dente and drain.

While pasta is still hot, add it to bowl with all of the other ingredients. Stir.

Serve at room temperature.

Tip: To turn this into a more hearty dish add tuna, or cooked chicken or other meat, or a can of drained white cannellini or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.

Short and Sweet

Short story, sweet news.
I’ve been working on flash fiction.
Ready for something silly? A bit of dry, wry humor? Thanks to editor, Tim, my very short tale, “Perspective” will go up on the web magazine, tomorrow

Good News to Share

Cover of my book, Secrets of the Heart has won another contest–This time Ind’Tales voters selected it as book of the week.
Of course, all credit goes to the artist–Gwen Phifer.
This time the win is for more than bragging rights.
We get a quarter page ad!
Gwen is designing it as I write. Thank you , Desert Breeze for assigning such an awesome artist to my books! Yes, wonderful Gwen did all four of my covers. Not only is she an excellent artist–she also really strives to bring out the meaning of the book and is a joy to work with.
Here are all four of the books:

This one, the second in the series, has my mother on the cover! Gwen’s adpatation of a photo of her, that is!

GiuliaGoestoWarCoverArt 2

Free Halloween Story! Midnight Pumbers


This is a non-scary ghost story! It first appeared in Kings River Life, last year. Enjoy with your family–the little girl? Me at age four in the costume made by my Aunt Claudia.

Midnight Plumbers
By Joan Leotta

My name is Tirzah. If you’re a student of the Bible you may have heard of me. My sisters, Mahlah, Hoglah, Milcah and I, daughters of Zelophahad, were the first women to be able to inherit property under Mosaic Law. We were always forward and independent thinkers. So why should it be different now, just because we’re dead?

While alive, as a wealthy girl, I was sought by many. I married the handsome Zeno. He turned out to be a liar, a cheat, a gambler, a drinker, a wife beater and worse. How could I live with that? Well, to be honest, despite the advice of my sisters, I decided I could live with the constant lies. I lived with the heart- rending knowledge that Zeno often spread his seed with other women. I even paid his gambling debts by selling my share of my mother’s jewelry. I silently endured the many nights when, sloppy with wine, he beat me. What I could not live with was the last thing Zeno did. He murdered me.

Looking back on it now, I realize he had planned the crime for some time. Ashamed of the bruises from Zeno’s beatings I usually went alone to the well, in the heat of an afternoon instead of in the morning and late evening with the other village women. One afternoon Zeno followed me. At the very moment I was leaning over the well to pull the bucket up, he hit me over the head with a stick and pushed me in. Only Zeno was there to hear my cry as I tumbled headlong into the water of the narrow well. Just before I hit my head again on the wall of the well and succumbed to eternal sleep, I heard Zeno laughing.

My body became stuck between the wall and the bucket. To be honest, the well was narrow and I was not. Shortly after the fall, I felt myself rise from the well. Not all of me. Just my spirit. I could see my body still wedged in the well, my brand new robe heavy and wet. Not understanding how, I floated along and saw Zeno peer into the well to be sure I wasn’t moving. Then, he took a palm branch and began to walk backwards to our tent, carefully using the palm frond to brush away his footprints as he went. Clever. The Angel of Death fluttered down beside me and whispered, “Wait and watch with me.”

In the cool of early evening, before sundown, the other women came to the well. Unable to pull up the stuck bucket, my sister Mahlah looked down and saw my body. When the screams of the women were loud enough to reach my tent, Zeno came running and began to tear his robes and hair. He loudly proclaimed he had been asleep all afternoon and loudly lamented my passing. The other villagers pulled my body out.

The Angel of Death and I watched it all from the shade of the nearby palm trees. Shades in the shade. Then the Angel escorted me upward to the Almighty, who in a strong but comforting voice, judged me. “You are to be allowed to join in the joy of My presence for all eternity.” At last, a home I would not have to clean. Feeling suddenly bold, I asked the Almighty for a favor.

“Beloved Mighty One, thank you for allowing me into Paradise. But I have a problem. Zeno is going to escape punishment. Despite the suspicions of my sisters, the other villagers believe Zeno’s story. Everyone knows I go to the well alone each day so they believe I fell in. Since the villagers are not going to punish Zeno, I would like you to smite him–or Lord, could I push him into the well?”

God refused my request to punish Zeno myself.

“Vengeance is mine,” the Lord told me. “He will have eternal punishment unless he repents. However, since you are so interested in earthly justice, Tirzah, I will send you back to earth to bring justice for others whenever a crime involves water. You can use water and other natural elements to punish the guilty who might otherwise escape justice.”

Comforted by this new job, I toured the earth in my new status as spirit (some say ghost.)
Usually I could only appear to humans as a face in water but on the day you call Halloween, I could be seen in a full fleshly form. Also, on that one day, I could ask the Lord for special direct intervention.

My first case was in my village. A man from another tribe who often stole our water seemed to always escape punishment. With the help of a few camels, I tripped him. He fell into the well where he remained trapped until our village elders found and punished him. Justice.

I handled crimes large and small –bullies stealing water jugs, young men pressuring young girls into poor relationship choices, thefts, murders and more, as long as lakes, streams, fountains, wells, aqueducts and Roman baths, wherever or whenever water was connected to the crime. Eventually, I heard about the New World and I came.

I arrived in America just in time to deal with Blackbeard, a notorious pirate. One day, he checked his reflection in a pool to see if he was scary looking enough for battle and saw me instead! I yelled “Whoosh!” (I don’t do Boo!) And he was finished. The Governor of Virginia helped.

In what’s known as modern times, I thwarted U-boats sneaking across from Germany to North Carolina. Afterwards, I traveled through various cities, finally landing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city of three rivers. I put myself in the water system and floated about, at last taking up residence in a golden box. I liked the idea of living in a golden house, an idea I admit I copied from a very bad man, Nero.

Actually, my home was a brass box called a water meter. After three thousand years, no water crimes seemed to need me as an instrument of justice, so I began acting as muse to Claudia, the artist who lived in the meter’s house.

At midnight, when there were no other sounds, I often whispered color combinations and ideas for new watercolor paintings to her. Anyone else might have thought it was just water gurgling in the old pipes. Claudia knew better. She listened to me. She was never afraid of my noises.

After many earth years, my friend Claudia grew ill and moved to a place where nurses cared for her. Claudia’s niece, Jenna, checked on the house weekly. She even stayed overnight occasionally.

I decided I liked Jenna as much as I liked Claudia. Around midnight I often called out to her from the pipes, but she slept right through most of my attempts at conversation.

One late October midnight when Jenna was NOT there, I heard scuffing, scraping noises. Raccoon? I went back to sleep. A loud bang and the sound of breaking glass fully woke me. I floated up the basement stairs and into the kitchen. Two young men with black cloth on their faces had smashed through the back door of the house. They were stomping around the kitchen. I stayed invisible–just a cold damp presence in the already chilly room.

“There’s nothing here, Bert.”

“Downstairs, stupid. The copper pipes we want are in the basement. Those will bring us the dough.”

They swept past me and clomped down the stairs carrying a sack.

I followed the unsavory pair and watched them unpack hammers, axes and saws. They tore open the walls and exposed the house’s copper piping. They cut the pipes. Water rushed out onto the floor. I fled back into my brass home’s welcoming walls.

“Look! The meter’s brass, Bert.”

“Often is in these old houses. Brass brings a pretty penny.”

“Don’t these things have numbers on them?”

“We’ll just file it off. Bernie, my salvage man, doesn’t really look too close at what we sell.”

Then the one called Bert pulled a blowtorch out of his sack. Suddenly a flame was aiming at my home! Fire! I tried to interpose myself between the flame and my box but before I could even bid a proper good bye to the brass home I loved, they had torn it away from the wall and pipes. Water spurted all over the place. I wanted to attack the awful pair, but well, I was simply too horrified to take action. Besides, at that moment, I felt this was a crime against me and in such cases, vengeance or justice is the Lord’s. The duo stripped all the copper piping away and stuffed it and my home into plastic sacks. There was water everywhere in the basement.

Then they pulled the bags “bump-a-lump, bump-a-lump” up the steps. I watched as those two awful men dragged the pipes out of the house through the back door, through the yard in back to the street behind and into a waiting truck.

I drifted back to the house and suddenly realized (ok so see how fast you are at age 3,000) that the crime was not just against me. It was against Claudia and Jenna and Claudia’s house. I could act!

So, having gained back my common sense and sense of purpose, I flitted into one of the open pipes, through the city water system, over to the home of Claudia’s niece Jenna. “Aunt Claudia’s house,” I called to her. She went back to sleep! I kept whispering to her and the next morning, her subconscious, filled with my warning, got her to check on Aunt Claudia’s on her way to work. Jenna heard the whoosh of rushing water as soon as she got to the door. The dear girl called the police and sat down on the front stoop to wait until they arrived.

I returned to the basement and noticed one of the thieves had left his saw. In just a few minutes, the police arrived. Two patrol officers exited the car and ran up to Jenna. One was tall and handsome and the other was short and wide. Jenna showed them into the house. The three followed the noise of the rushing water to the basement. Jenna surveyed the scene from halfway down the steps.

The officers slogged into the now knee high water and looked for the meter and water turn off. Jenna pointed to a bit of brass pipe. “I’m pretty sure that’s where the water meter was.”

Short and Wide responded. “Gone but there’s often there is a second one, outside. We’ll call the fire department. No use getting wetter. Let’s wait outside.”

The fire trucks pulled up in a cacophony of siren noise. Finally, a fireman using a metal detector found the water turnoff point. Then they all went downstairs with Jenna to survey the damage and figure out a bailout strategy. No one noticed the saw in the water in the basement. It started to rain.

Handsome checked the back of the house, but found no clues. The firemen recommended a company to pumping out the water and gave Jenna the name of the man in charge of water meters so she could request a new one. Expensive wall and pipe replacement and other repairs would delay the process of selling the home to pay Claudia’s medical bills. I was angry. My poor Claudia and Jenna!

Handsome cop told Jenna, “We call these thieves the midnight plumbers. They strike empty houses and office buildings, steal the copper and leave a mess. We think one particular pair is active in this area, but we can’t prove anything. I hate to say it, but they’ll probably never be caught.”

I was not willing to accept the verdict of the policemen that these fellows would never be caught. After all, resolving water crimes is my specialty.

I floated back down to the basement and hovered over the forgotten saw until I grasped the spirit of the owner. Then I followed the scraps of his disgusting spirit to where he and his partner were selling the stolen copper and my former lovely brass home to their friend Bernie, a salvage yard owner of few scruples (evidently).

I heard them tell Bernie they planned to hit a large deserted office building in a place called East Hills the following Tuesday–Halloween Night.

Through the pipes and off to the police station, I hurried. It was not hard to find Handsome. I floated up to Handsome’s desk. I checked the calendar on his desk and saw he had night duty on Halloween.

I bided my time. Sure enough, he was soon on his way to the men’s room. I plunked myself into the sink but he was in a hurry and the whole time he washed his hands, he simply admired himself in the mirror.

Back at his desk, I tried whispering into his ear:”Tuesday, East Hills”. I said it over and over, but he seemed to think my voice was a fly and kept swatting at his ear. I shifted my efforts to Short and Wide. He didn’t seem to understand either. I changed tactics.

Handsome poured himself a cup of coffee. I slipped into his coffee cup. The cream, I must say, gave my face an attractive glow. As he sipped, I whispered: “Tuesday, East Hills, copper thieves!”

He looked down into the cup, saw me and then stirred the coffee to erase my image. Insulting! I disappeared. I think he didn’t want to admit he’d seen a ghost in his cup. Unsure if the two cops had caught my message, I decided to take charge. After all, Tuesday would be Halloween night. I did not need to tackle the twin bad guys alone. I could enlist some help of the Heavenly kind

Halloween night, the weather was perfect for me–dark clouds blocking the moon and threatening a stormy evening. Despite the problems it might make for little candy seekers, I had requested those clouds from the Almighty. In the deep darkness, I hovered over the thieves’ target building.

At midnight, Bert and his pal arrived. They broke a window in the back of the building. I waited for the yowl of a modern alarm. None came. The abandoned building’s burglar alarm was long gone.
I followed the pair to the basement. They unpacked their new hacksaw and other tools. Bert used the saw to bite into the pipes. As the water flowed freely around them, they packed up a load of long copper pipes. I moaned and muttered. My noises unnerved Bert so much he cut his hand.

“Hey, I’m going to take this copper up to the truck and put some stuff on my cut.”

I signaled the Almighty for help. When Burt was just a few steps from the truck, the Lord tossed a lightning bolt that hit and shook the getaway vehicle. Bert dropped the pipes and stared in horror at the fried Chevy Blazer.


In a jiffy his pal came running up the stairs.

They were both standing in a puddle next to the truck, trying to figure out what to do next when the Lord hurled more lightening down at the ground in front of them. The shock traveled through the water to their feet! Thanks to their shoes’ rubber soles, they were shaken and stirred but not fried.

I laughed! They both turned to the sound of my voice and froze in terror, mouths wide open, unable to utter the screams their mouths had formed. They could see me!

Another lightning bolt cut though the sky, igniting a fire on the building’s roof. The fire alarms were still working. The keening cry of the fire trucks rent the night.

Bert and his friend left the pipes, jumped into the truck, and tried to get their fried engine to turn over. I waved my robes in their headlights.

When the firemen arrived, I hid myself from them; I was only visible to the two miscreants. They jumped out of the truck and pointed at the me only they could see. “A ghost, a witch!”

Babbling, the pair threw themselves into the arms of the firemen who pushed them aside. The firemen had a building to save. I heard another siren.

The thieves heard it too and started to run. I swirled my robes at them and moaned. A police car careened into the parking area. Handsome and his partner stepped out! They had taken my hint after all.

Handsome recognized the felons. “Well, Bert, good to see you! Hands on the truck. I see the piping you were stealing. You’re both under arrest.”

I called up to the Lord, “Please stop the rain so children can collect their candy.” Everything was under control.

I floated over to Jenna’s to tell her about it all. After an initial fright, she accepted me. We talked until dawn when I had to resume invisibility. The Almighty asked me if I wanted to retire. I told Him I would not resign until Justice had been served in Claudia’s case.

Before the bail bondsman could work his magic to release Bert and pal back to the streets, I visited them in jail. I woke them with a “whoosh” of water from the tiny metal sink. Then I spoke. “Lightening can follow you anywhere and water is not your friend. Confess all your crimes.” The next day they changed their pleas to guilty and added a confession to Claudia’s case. Their lawyer was amazed. I was happy. The Lord, to commemorate my good work, sent a good soaking rain down on the city–at midnight that night.

Joan in Print 2015– partial notation

Regular Writing
Myrtle Beach Sun News–series of articles about food and a number of cookbook reviews
Righter Publications–Poems in each monthly edition
Poems accepted this year in a number of other publications online and in print, including a Quiet Courage and Silver Birch Press–for complete list see Hats off in NCWN website
Essays accepted this year–Eastern Iowa Review and more
Books Out this Year
Secrets of the Heart--Desert Breeze
Simply a Smile–Cane Hollow Press
Whoosh! Thea Q

Picture Book  by Joan Leotta

Picture Book
by Joan Leotta

Last book in Legacy of Honor Series

Last book in Legacy of Honor Series

Collection of short stories by Joan Leotta

Collection of short stories by Joan Leotta

Failure is not an option

  1. Good news from Silver Birch. These dear folks have just posted another poem of mine. The thing of interest to other poets., performers, and folks in general is this: this poem wash originally drafted for a contest , ekphrastic using an oil painting of lemons. When  it was rejected by that contest,  I rethought the concept of the bowl of lemons, favorite lemon sweets and reworked it into the poem silver birch liked for their sweet words assemblage of poems. But without the initial failure, rejection by the go test I thought I had really clinched, I might not have had the current success.  Needed to have my thinking progress to , as it is with lemons themselves, to find the sweet spot in what might seem too sharp or sour at first.

Here’s the post.

Visit Jim Jackson, please!

One of the great things about being a writer, is guest blogging–someone else fills in on your blog or I write something for you. It’s a chance for wider exposure , beyond your friends and fan base.
Earlier this week, Jim Jackson (the wonderful Guppy who edited Fish or Cut Bait) hosted me on his blog. He does interviews.
Check this out if you want to know what makes me tick as a writer—okay, maybe I don;t reveal all but there are some hints!