Being the author of Animated Ediblez, Feisty Vegetables and Incredible Starches, the first in a three-part series of cookbooks, has brought out creative abilities I didn't know I had.

Wondering how I came upon this title? A couple of years ago each member of our writers' group was asked to write a paper about our food donation to the Christmas party.

Contributed by Vee Ward

I decided to contribute chicken salad. So I thought with a Snidely Whiplash smile on my face why not write something unique. Voila!

My little gray cells went into overdrive as I began my story about the chicken breasts speaking to me. On the day of the party, each of us was asked to read our story.

I was overwhelmed with kudos for my chicken salad and my chicken story, and I might add, was the only member who received loud laughs and applause. That was my cue to pursue this humor thing in a cookbook and make it read like a novella. I wanted to write a cookbook that would appeal to cooks and non-cooks. This idea conjured up all kinds of mischievous writing opportunities. Readers could follow a recipe -- or just have a good laugh.

I'm unique, I can replace meat

I was giving the mushroom selections the once over when I saw a quivering among the big guys -- the Portobellos. Because I felt they had deliberately sought my attention, I bit.

"What's with the quivering?"

The managing partner of the group spoke first in an authoritative voice, "It seems that you and other not-so-smarts have neglected to give us a try. Since you look fairly intelligent, we want you to be the first to break the barrier."

"And what makes you think I want to be the first?" Another partner said, "Last week, as our predecessors were being thrown in the garbage, they told us that you gently rubbed your fingers across them even though you didn't buy any."

"I don't know how to prepare such huge, earthy looking mushrooms" I said uneasily.

A low-level partner advised me to be creative. That appealed to me. It said, "Some TV chefs use us like burgers. And, that's okay. But, grilling is the safe way to use us. Bring us home with you and we will make your reputation flourish."

At home I laid them on my cutting board and uttered, "Give me this recipe that will make me a cast on Iron Chef."

Tia's portobello Italiano

Serves 4


  • 1 package portobello mushroom caps or three large caps
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cooked rice or 1 small box cooked spaghetti


  1. Sauté onions and celery in oil.
  2. Pull off the mushroom stems and rinse the mushrooms under cold running water, pat dry.
  3. Chop mushrooms into bite size pieces and add to celery and onions. When mushrooms are soft, pour in spaghetti sauce. Mix well. Slide in garlic and Italian seasoning. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon mushroom sauce over prepared rice or spaghetti.
  5. Top with Parmesan cheese.

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