family, Health

LIVE BEYOND 102 DIET (or the world according to Herb Horowitz diet)

“Herbie, (aka my grandfather), do you eat brussel sprouts?” I asked him this week as I was trying to combine my “clean” eating style with his how Herbie eats style. 

“Not really.” 

“What do you want with your chicken tonight? How about brown rice pilaf?” I asked.

“Not a big fan of brown rice,” said Herb.

“How about if I make chicken pot pie tonight for dinner?” Thinking this would be a sure way to warm his heart and stomach.

“Not too many carrots,” Herb said.

As I stood there, incredulous at his lack of vegetable consumption separating the carrots out of the frozen pea carrot mix, I thought, who has it right here? By the way, there are way more carrots than peas in a frozen pea carrot mix bag in case you ever find yourself making chicken pot pie for a 102 year old man who requests not too many carrots.Are peas even a vegetable? I thought.

As I made the pie using frozen pie crust and two cans of Campbells Cream of Celery soup, I laughed to myself. My grandfather has eaten more processed food than I have likely eaten in my entire life. 

Here is a picture of his pantry and freezer to show some examples.

Pretzels, chips, cookies, crackers, canned soup, muffins, danish, Eggo Waffles, ice cream— it makes my years of Paleo, Whole 30, Vegan, Plant Based, Clean eating turn themselves on their holier than thou head.

Herbie Horowitz is 102. This Saturday will be his 25th leap year alive on this planet. He still takes a receipt home from the grocery store and analyzes it line by line when he gets home to make sure he wasn’t over charged. Herbie will still drive to a gas station further away to save a few cents on a gallon. He was born in 1917 and has lived on a “fixed” income for over thirty seven years. 

a catnap after a thorough receipt analysis.

Organic eggs, milk fruits and vegetables stay right there on the shelves as he makes his way through the aisles of Publix or Costco in favor of what is on sale. “Organic schmanic,” he will say anytime I lug in my $150 of groceries where I barely glanced at a price as I added them to my cart from Whole Foods that make up two bags. “That’s a bunch of crap,” he will say.

He drinks wine every single night and has since I have known him. It used to be a couple glasses of scotch in his “younger years.” He eats Wispread cheese and crackers as an appetizer before dinner to “nosh” along with his two or sometimes three glasses of the red version of “2 buck chuck” that is now six bucks from Trader Joes that he buys by the case and promptly places in the refrigerator, a bottle at a time. 

Herb buys whatever deli meat is on sale and eats it with mayonnaise on rye bread along with a nice pile of potato chips topped off with a few cookies for dessert. Pancakes, waffles or danish depending on his mood are part of his daily diet depending on what caregiver cooks up for him based on her ability and his mood. He has trouble sleeping, though  I have mentioned that maybe it could be the cup of Tetley caffeinated tea and cookies he has every night before bed. I get the usual response of EHH. Like, what do I know. Touché.

I scratch my head at the irony of it all. In reviewing his daily diet intake with my Aunt today, she reminded me of my other Grandfather who died when he was about 85. He was smoking one of his unfiltered English Oval cigarettes as he did for his entire life when the chest pains started. He called the ambulance, as he put out what would be his last cigarette of his life. My aunt found it that night half smoked in the ashtray where he had left it.

Grandpa Bill used to eat cereal every late morning that my grandmother would put out for him after he would wake up (like around eleven- I guess we could call this early afternoon), pour heavy cream over it and add about a quarter cup of sugar. The white table variety that was a staple on most kitchen tables in most of the twentieth century. 

This all makes me go hmmmm. Is it the food we eat? Doesn’t seem to be in these two examples. Is it the exercise we do? Not that either, since neither of them ever had any exercise routine except that of the social variety on walks. Walks that would take no more than thirty minutes, but would turn into three or four hours with all of the stopping and chatting along the way. 

 About ten years ago, when asked if he had to do anything over again, what would it be, Herb replied, “I would have started at the Y sooner.” He had joined when he was about 80. I am convinced that the- less than twenty- years he spent at the Y could be one of the reasons his heart is still going strong. This and his incredible outlook on life. His approach to people. His notion about doing the right thing, saying what is on his mind (sometimes to a fault on this one) to remembering and constantly connecting with family and friends. All of this seem to be his Herb Horowitz diet for a better life, a well lived life. A long life. 

With all of the constant discussion about what we eat, what we should and shouldn’t be adding to our mouths and our bodies, Herb Horowitz breaks every single rule in the 2020 playbook. He watches the news with breakfast, watches the news with dinner. He drinks this weird pink soda water that looks like it has about ten tablespoons of red dye # 3 in it. I am perpetually speechless when I am here visiting filling his fridge with pounds of organic fruits and vegetables and grass fed beef. 

The older I get with the delightful privilege of getting to still have my very coherent grandfather around, the more I like to think that health is more about living well, making choices in our mental attitudes, staying calm in the chaos that guides a life without illness and demobilization. At least this is the case for the grandparents I have had and still get to have as I approach my definitive mid fifties. 

As we tooled around in the motorized scooter in his new favorite recently opened grocery store, we came upon the oranges native to this neck of the Florida woods and only out for a short spell. 

“Grandpa, look, the Honey Bell’s are out!” I exclaimed. Ready to pile some into the bag to bring home.

“Nahh.. I can’t eat those— too much sugar.” 

Can’t make it up.




Burn the butter along with the many other little lessons my grandmother taught me without trying to teach me is some of the best cooking and life advice from a woman who was born and raised in the Midwest and found her way to Boston in her post college years. For those cooks out there scratching their heads at the notion that burning the butter is actually a good piece of cooking advice, march forth. When it comes to scrambled eggs, burn the butter is the secret ingredient to the tastiest scrambled eggs bringing me back to my childhood, a childhood layered with butter and cream and coats upon coats of rich dairy staples. Burn the butter should be more like brown the butter, not really burning it, but getting it to the point when the butter is melting and it gets that rich caramel like smell. If you added a teaspoon of sugar, it could almost be dessert itself. But you don’t, you add two scrambled eggs and mix well until they are ladened with the butter, just soft enough to feel creamy, but not wet enough to be slimy. The perfect scrambled egg was one of the many morning routines from my grandmother, put on sliced thin Pepperidge Farm white toast (do they still even make this?) also with just a hint of butter as her morning staple. And a small carafe of black coffee.

My grandmother, Kitsie, my mother’s mother had lots of one liners and sometimes my Aunt and I try to remember them. “There’s enough blue in the sky to make a dutchman’s pants.” would mean that the sky would be clearing and it wouldn’t rain if the sky had the clouds in it that otherwise would make you think it was about to. “She was a colorless girl,” to describe someone who was bland and nondescript. “He who hath no expectations, shan’t be disappointed,” was another frequent phrase, spoken from a woman who had to work on this for a good part of her life. Like recipes, the pearls of wisdom from long gone family members instilled in our hearts and souls is often the words they left us with that we find ourselves reflecting upon in our daily lives especially now that I am getting older.

My neighbor Dottie, has lots of these one liners, too that are already embedded in my heart. One of my favorites is, “You can’t see it from Fall River,” meaning don’t worry about it. Just forge ahead. Like a recipe from our childhood, the words that are said often innocently are the ones that stick around in our daily mantras without really thinking about them that much; they just appear out of nowhere almost letting us know that these important people in our lives are very much still with us. I like the comfort of that.

Like this morning when I decided to make my eggs in my grandmother’s style almost burning the butter, having toast for a change also with butter and a little strawberry jam. I went out on my front porch to eat my breakfast. Rather than try to balance the plate, the tea and my laptop, its own recipe for a spill, I did it the civilized way, placed it on my favorite tray and made my way to the fresh air in the early morning light. My grandmother did this almost every time I slept at her house except she ate breakfast in bed reading one of her library books. For her morning ritual she would wake up, get breakfast ready and place it on a tray and bring it into her bedroom. I always remember her eating breakfast in bed. I can’t remember the last time I did that and actually it doesn’t really speak to me like breakfast outside on the front porch the morning after a rain and thunderstorm in one of my many sitting areas I have created.

Rituals of sitting and resting, like rituals of language are an important part of my life. I love to exercise and write, but creating spaces in my space is something that really speaks to me. When I freed myself from the boundaries of social norms like having a dining room, a living room, a tv area, my house opened up like Pandora’s box. I created multiple sitting areas in my house, in my business and outside so that at any given point in time, I could have a place to read or write or contemplate. When I say multiple, I’m not kidding, I counted and came up with eleven! Just by giving myself permission to not have a traditional dining room and living room, the world of my home became my oyster and my dining room became the perfect nook for writing on a cold winter day or a bird singing spring morning. The kitchen became a great place for a rocker to look at my garden and write in my garden journal all the plans that if I get to even a quarter of them will be success. Maybe it was my grandmother’s influence all these years later of watching her draw her evening bath before bed or make her breakfast and have her own party in her bed that stuck with me in the importance of self love, self care and .

Every time I smell butter or put a plate on a tray, she is with me. These simple root filled memories are the ones that stick. As I make my way today to the second funeral I am attending of another much too young woman who died this past week, it is those little nuggets in our lives that are the literal bread and butter of our daily grind. These are the joys and memories I keep close to my heart as I once again realize how precious and fragile life is. Short for sure. This is why the butter tasted so good today.




For anyone who knows me, I am on a constant partnership with myself. I am like my own science experiment when it comes to indulging in sugar, bread and alcohol. My composition and personal affirmation of yesteryear has been to label myself as an addictive personality. Drinking or not drinking, eating sugar or not, eating clean or not, the question from my friends when planning a dinner party is humorously, “are you eating sugar?” I roll my eyes at the tedious and boring person I had become. Notice the word had. Besides, labeling myself as any one thing just affirms that and I don’t know about you, but why the hell would I want to affirm addictive as a trait. I prefer charitable, kind, generous as my personal affirmations.

I made a conscious decision this 2018 to stop the madness and try to live in a more grey area. This is a big change for me, but as I had several epiphanies as of late regarding the concept of DAY 1, this notion of living in between appeals to me. So as many of us plod into January with our back pocket list of resolutions, I chose not to. I decided to just be more gentle with myself and seeing what that felt like. So as I gave up the sugar and the bread and the alcohol (like the three basic food groups of women I know) like I most often do, I made the decision that I would allow the occasional without the usual label of failure (again). What a load of crap. So the first eighteen days or so, nothing really came up that would cause the detour. Then this past week was to be the last week my son was home before headed back to college and as usual I had a menu plan that would make Julia Child proud or in this case, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, the authors of my favorite cookbook as of late, Jerusalem.

I perused the page after page delectable choices, food porn, mouth watering at every turn when I came across a full two page recipe. No pictures either, just words and directions of a recipe called Chocolate Krantz cakes as the first recipe in a section categorized as Yeasted Cakes. I love a good cooking challenge and yeast is one of those ingredients ‘who’ has been my personal nemesis. I use the word ‘who’ because I seriously think of yeast as my personal antagonist over the years as I have attempted numerous times and ended up with a pile of flour mixture that resembles Playdough that had been left out for a few days. Not pretty and surely not worthy of serving warm to my twenty year old son on his last week of his holiday break of his sophomore year. Yeast to this yeast virgin is a risky proposition and mastering yeast has become my New Year resolution. So I jumped into this recipe that I would say is like a combination of streudel and chocolate babka. Two pages of directions followed by two pages of photos on assembly. Intimidating to say the least. But my new cookbook paramour, Yotam, promised me the end result would satisfy. This was followed by these opening lines: Making a krantz isn’t easy or quick (see pictures on pages 283 and 286–287). You need to let the dough rise overnight and then fill and shape it which is an elaborate process…. You know when a recipe has three pages of pictures, well say no more.

Because I am on a constant quest for mother of the year status, I decided to dive in. I mean chocolate, butter, sugar and flour, what could go wrong? So I started the night before prepping, which thank you pink Kitchen Aid and dough hook, took only about twenty minutes and went to bed. Next morning at my usual 4:30 am wake up, I got up and felt the connection with the women in the old world who didn’t have the luxury of a grocery store or Seven Stars bakery to get their bread and even if they did, wouldn’t cross their thresholds as their own cooking would always be superior. I saw Yotam’s mother or grandmother in Israel waking up before sunrise, adorning her apron and having her morning meditation along with her coffee before the kids and the bustle of the day started. I was part of this tribe as I dove in full-hearted with the hopes and dreams of a successful babka.

This was my second attempt at a Yotam yeast recipe so I had some confidence going in, but surely not a cocky one. This recipe though loaded with flour of course, didn’t have as much sugar in it as one would think looking at the dripping chocolate oozing out of the six layers of gooiness. As I made my way through the rolling and the layering and rolling and twisting, I had made the decision I was definitely chowing on this. The recipe made three loaves! I made a chocolate almond, a plain chocolate and a cinnamon sugar. Yotam, my friend and pretend lover, you did not disappoint again. I wish I could describe the taste, the smell and the joy I had in my success yesterday. I shared pieces all day with my clients, my friends and my neighbors, of course my son.. and me. Super Yum. It was that good. My friend, Morgan and I promptly named the potential store in my barn the Babka Barn.

Here’s the “why am I surprised’ part of this story. Because I barely eat sugar or bread anymore, when I do, I get the blaring reminder by my body. The tell tale signs of what I did to it that I have no regrets and would do it all over again, but this is what happens to me as I know my body so well now it is like a fine tuned machine of awareness. First off wake up two or three times in the night, 2:11, 3;11, 4:15, yes. Achy all over, yes. Swollen eyes, joints, yes. Inflamed thyroid nodule in my throat area, yes. This is not bullshit. I have tested this for the past five years and I am never wrong with the link between flour, sugar and body aching and mind spinning. The scattered thoughts, the lessening of assuredness, the questioning of decisions I never questioned just a few days ago, and the weird desire to shop come into my being like an uninvited guest who shows up at your door and you know you don’t want to spend time with them, but you let them in anyway.

The thing about food as thy medicine is that when you are hyper aware of what makes you tick, when you dive in, you know this is going to be how you feel. You also know that like a bad hangover, this too shall pass and in this case, it was worth every buttery bite (or bites in my case). Food is powerful, it represents a surplus of emotion. Food can be our worst enemy and our best friend in times of sadness, grief and celebrations. Women have a much twisted relationship with food as it comes at us at every turn tempting our weak spots like a pharmaceutical commercial. Like sex, it is all around us, but we seldom have the conversations about it. In my family, food like shopping was a loaded gun. It represented lots of love but layered with shame and lack of willpower and control as the same time. I have been my own science project and have loved the experiment in self awareness. Every buttery sugary bite brings me closer to a positive connection as I move into my 53rd year, I have made peace with my body and this is worth the occasional detour for sure.

i have this wonder woman doll since my first diagnosis and my son pointed out that her face is actually mine, for real. how did this happen and who gave me this? i can’t remember! Isn’t that hilarious? And how about these cakes! #crushonyotamottolenghi



Well not really. I mean he has a family, children, I am sure a lovely wife. I am a devout monogamist. So let me clarify before the rumors start flying. My love affair is with Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, his food, his ethnicity, his restaurants in London. Like the way I feel enriched by reading Ann Patchett, I am also a hungry cookbook enthusiast. I don’t collect them, but I do have a lot of cookbooks, not as many now since I began my de-cluttering quest, but I kept all my favorites and I consider them gems among my library of great reads.

When I saw his cookbook, PLENTY, in the bookstore featuring grilled eggplant slathered with Middle Eastern yogurt and pomegranate seeds on the “You had me at hello” bookcover, I was hooked. Who was this man who would soon be my kitchen paramour and my bedtime companion?

Truth be told I love to read and as much as I enjoy a great novel, I equally enjoy reading cookbooks from cover to cover. I am the (likely hopeful to the writer) geek who reads the intros because I like to know the author’s food stories. How did they get here? What are the roots of the recipes that follow? Often it is mothers’ and grandmothers’ and great grandmothers’ influence that brought them from their childhood kitchens to their cookbooks and often restaurants as is in Yotam’s case, (I am such a fan of his I feel we can be on a first name basis at this point.) And it is just as true in my own narrative in the kitchen,

Back in the day, when the Food Network didn’t exist and Julia Child was the originator of the solo television female cook on PBS, I used to get Gourmet magazine and read Ruth Reichl’s eloquent descriptions of what would be following in that month’s features. She would often refer to some of her travels and (total cheesy pun intended) I ate it up. I traveled right along side of her as I made my way as a young wife through Gourmet’s complicated recipes. I wanted to master them as some statement that I was a successful cook in my early and amateur kitchen. Ruth in her beautiful writing also opened my eyes to the notion that I could write stories weaving my recipes and food experiences within them as she did in one of my favorite books, Not Becoming My Mother.

So as I traversed the pages of PLENTY trying these unique vegetarian recipes (I am not a vegetarian, but I love all dishes containing vegetables) I fell in love. Then to my delight he, along with Sami Tamimi, came out with a follow up cookbook, JERUSALEM. These recipes filled with the lusciously simple and highly flavored Hummus recipes that are known in Israeli restaurants and homes along with hundreds of others that float me happily back to my too few visits of one of my favorite places on earth. There is a humble quote on page 13, “We draw deep inspiration from Jerusalem and its food but are in no way trying to represent its realities.” I would say in the political landscape Jerusalem finds itself recently, this was some serious foreshadowing. In reality though, Jersualem is always in a hotbed of political debate on any given time in history.

But this writing today is non political as most of mine are so let me get back to my love affair with Yotam and his cooking. I will confess, I have lovingly digested the recipes and the photos of this cookbook, but have only tried one or two. They have been delicious and like my rule about trying on the first piece of clothing in the dressing room, if it looks great, the rest will follow, but if it is a failure then that usually is a premonition of what will follow. Cookbooks are like this for me. If I try the first few recipes and they meet or exceed my expectations, the cookbooks and their authors usually become my go to gurus. Ina Garten immediately comes to mind. I have never made an Ina Garten recipe I didn’t love. She has taught me perfect roast chicken, easy tiramisu, and countless other food combinations that find their way into my kitchen from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. I love her style, her ease and simplicity and her blatant in your face use of butter. I adore, as I am sure so many romantics like myself do, her love for her husband that I, keeping my fingers crossed, hope is as great on the inside as it appears on the outside. The opposite is true for Rachel Ray’s recipes, (my father loved your recipes, Rachel, but sorry Rachel, though I love and admire your entrepreneurial brilliance, I have never had success with your recipes. I should be weary of any cookbooks that don’t contain at least a paltry dessert section. Rachel Ray is not my style anyway. Though I respect her intent, I don’t need the amateur approach she brings to the kitchen. I am kind of past that thanks to my mother and grandmother who taught me early on that whip cream does not come in a can and neither do vegetables.

I have my grandmother’s original Betty Crocker recipe book that has every staple you could imagine, worn buttery and torn pages especially of her Christmas cookies, pies and pancakes that I still use today way more then fifty years later. I also use my great grandmother’s Libby Hillman cookbook that was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me and still has a very pragmatic plastic clear book cover on it to protect it from all future food stains. Gotta love the Depression conservation mentality. I wish this had been instilled in me along with my love of food. Maybe my next life I will be the frugal fanny of my great grandmother’s generation.

So like this past Sunday when I was reminded of my deep admiration for Ann Patchett as I read her opinion piece in the Sunday Times, I opened the paper yesterday morning and lo and behold in the Wednesday NYT food section, there is a happy piece by my pretend kitchen partner, Yotam himself. Not only was I transported into my pantry to pull out the aforementioned cookbooks, but I was sent back in my travel reflection time machine to last January with my son and cousins in London on our last night eating at where else, OTTOLENGHI! One of our highlights of the many foodie stops on our week in glorious London. It did not disappoint. So when I spotted his sweet take on brunch and weekend morning eating in his writing this morning, Slow Down, It’s the Weekend, I gobbled it up. I identified with his comments about weekday rushing and weekend not rushing and the joy of a great breakfast. I realized I had all of the ingredients in my cabinets to try his Maple Cardamom Saffron Sticky Buns. (Totally honest though and I am sorry Yotam and all of the purists out there, I did not have the fresh vanilla bean or the cardamom pods so I made due. I hope you will forgive me. I also had no saffron threads so I used cinnamon instead, please do not think less of me). I had the time because I have been still waking up at 4am. I had the yeast too. Now yeast and I have not had very good luck. I consider myself a great baker, but yeast is its own character and as many times as I have attempted to make things with yeast, I am seldom satisfied with the bricks I end up with. So as a result, needless to say, I don’t often move in the yeast direction. But today, the first morning my son is back from college, I fantasized about the freshly baked moist buns wafting their scented aroma up to my son’s bedroom almost forcing him awake. There are the realities of motherhood and the fantasy world of motherhood surely and this sticky bun making experience could go either way. I trust Yolam as previously stated, but I am slightly intimidated by yeast and like our pets and their intuitive ability to pick up our energy, yeast too picks up this vibe and the end result is the energy you put into it.

So here I sat at 9am waiting for the dough to rise in the draft free space. My fantasy was that they would rise as Yolam said they would. The reality though is that this would be unlikely because the dough never was soft and elasticky as my cooking guide said it would. I mean relationships can’t all be perfect all the time. I refused to admit defeat though, whether they rise to the double size he promised or not, I will still bake them so at least the smell will reveal that I tried. That my intention for this first morning my son has returned expecting something home cooked from his mother, is a good one. But I still walked down to Bristol Bagels and picked up his favorite bagels and cream cheese as a back up just in case. If these did not work out, I already knew I would try again because I know Yolam will not let me down. I forged ahead and followed the recipe rolling them into the balls, continuing on though frankly still loaded with self-doubt. I refused to give in and I can’t stand throwing away food so there is the depression influence as I my mind began considering what I could turn the potential failures into so as not to throw them away. Within five minutes, though, the aroma became intoxicating and as they continued to cook, I took another look at the black and white photo of them and I realized that their bumpiness actually matched the photo! Be still my beating heart, could this turn out to be a success? As I made my way to the stovetop to make the maple cardamom buttery glaze, my son made his way downstairs and all was well in my world. I pulled the buns out and brushed the tops excited to take my first bite and to watch Michael. Success indeed. And as I watched the nine of the buttery delights dwindle to two throughout the day, I fell deeper in love with my man Yotam and I can’t wait to try the next one.

recipes, side dishes



Dearest Michael,

We are just coming off our weekend away celebrating your great grandfather’s 100th birthday. You are lucky. I am lucky. We are lucky. You got to go and witness along with all of your cousins spending that precious time together we don’t often get to have. A 100TH birthday celebration though warrants the excuse and with it is comes the joys and stark realities that this time like the many visits before could be the last one. This trip is humbling more than any before because even though 100 is a significant milestone, what lies behind is much more than what lies ahead. This is just simple math. I as your mother sit with a watchful eye and you as my son get to go back to your young life with the appreciation of the time you have had in your twenty young years.

This trip even though this is on Grandpa Dave’s side of the family, brings notice of Grandma Ann. Grandma Ann, your grandmother, my estranged mother by her choice is the only person besides dad’s siblings and direct relatives who would know Grandpa Herbie longer than we do. Because she got married to Grandpa Dave at the age you are now, she is in the seat of knowing grandpa for a little more than me and he knew her longer than I knew her again because of simple math.

This trip and the reflection of a life well lived has caused a stir in me that made me write a letter to Grandma while I was sunning at the beach on my last day in Florida. Life is short. Grandma’s hard to repair disconnect of us has caused harm in the way we all go forward in our family. Not for you and me. Not for you and me and Dad. But her purposeful detachment has forever changed the dynamic of a grandson and grandmother interact. This is sad as I think about all of the life events that lie ahead that she doesn’t get to share with her own daughter with you as our centerpiece. These are projections. Though, anything is possible and I hope the one thing I teach you is to never cut someone off, that part of the family history on Grandma Ann’s side is prevalent and it is not helpful to your soul. I hope that the lesson I teach you by reaching back out helps you know that there is always time when there is time.

I don’t think she ever really thought the ramifications through when she asked that I not contact her again, but as Grandpa Herbie would say, “Be that as it may.” She is still my mother, and with that comes my need to focus on all that was good. All that is good. And a majority of this goodness that surrounds me is the food conversation. The three women in my life who had the most food and kitchen influence on me were Grandma Kitsie, Grandma Belle and Grandma Ann. And as a result you get their influence. You can add to this Grandma Sandy and Dad with a capital D and there was no chance you would not appreciate and love all things food. One of my favorite go to recipes of Grandma Ann (and actually this was Grandma Kitsie’s recipe) was RICE PILAF. Not the kind you buy in a box, but like everything these women made, from scratch.

I loved this recipe and I made it a lot in my young married days. I am pretty sure Dad loved it and I hope you will too. I know mushrooms are not one of your favorite, but they add a great flavor to this. You can chop them fine if it is a texture thing. I suppose you could leave them out too, but they do add a wonderful flavor.



1 stick of good butter

2 cans of BEEF CONSOMME (I think College Inn or Campbells)

1 Cup of Uncle Bens Long Grain Rice

1 medium onion chopped fine

1 package of mushrooms sliced or diced to whatever size works for you.

Preheat oven to 375.

Using a covered Corning Ware dish, pour the consomme into a measuring cup and add enough water so you end up with 2 ¼ cups. (I think 2 cans may be a little shy or a little over, I can’t remember as I write this, regardless just make sure that the amount of liquid is total 2 ¼ cups.

Place uncovered into the oven while it is preheating and leave it there while you are preparing the rice.

In a good size sauté skillet, the big cast iron is a good one, melt butter on medium heat and add the cup of rice sautéing it until it is lightly golden.

Add chopped onion and mushrooms sautéing together until fragrant, about five minutes or so.

Take the consomme out of the oven and turn the oven down to 350.

Add rice mixture to consomme and stir lightly. Place back in oven covered for about 35 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Stir before serving.




Dearest Michael,

“You’re a really great baker,” you said so matter of factly to me when we were driving somewhere the other day. You were actually driving as you have sort of become my driver since you have had your license. Not sure if this is something you enjoy as much as I do, but I must confess, I love being driven.

These words from son to mother are like the sound of my favorite cardinal in the morning. I love to bake, I am good at it and baking anything connects me to your great grandmother, Kitsie and the happier times with my own mother. It also reminds me of the strength and connection you and I have because of what I learned the sad and hard way in my relationship with Ann. Baking is a great connection. It is repairing and centering and filled with love. There is no anger in my kitchen, it is always a happy spot and a grounding one.

Anytime I am in the kitchen, this is my zen place. Pulling out pans and sticks of butter to prepare something for you or any guests gives me such a warm feeling in my heart. I hope that when you have your own kitchen, this feeling will always be your go to place anytime you feel anxious or may be overthinking something. The kitchen, like the garden always propels me into the present and before I know it, any worry has disappeared. Just pulling out a special pan, or a certain wooden spoon knowing the thousands of recipes it has stirred or held is enough to feel like I just did a yoga class.

As I thought about the next recipe this morning when I woke up at 3:30 am, besides the brownie recipe (which as you know cannot be made public and is in the vault until I exit), it would have to be the CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE recipe. There are some recipes that are made so often, you don’t even need the recipe. This one I have changed slightly from the original because I have made so many of them, I have discovered a better way to make them over the years.

This dessert is super easy especially if you use a store bought frozen pie crust. For some purist bakers, the thought of a frozen pie crust is counter intuitive, but I have yet to perfect an easy go to pie crust and this is a really awesome time saver. (Likely loaded with every preservative I am always barking about, but what the hell.) I always keep a few in the freezer, Grandma Ann turned me onto Oronoque Orchards Frozen Pie Crusts years before I got married like in 1985 or something. This was a time in my life when I should have been finishing college, but instead was living with a boyfriend, searching for some home life or stability that for some reason I didn’t think I could provide for myself. Thank goodness that silly notion has changed. I have evolved and so has this recipe as years of baking any one recipe does.

This pie recipe I found on the back of one of the hundreds of Nestle Chocolate Chip packages I have had as a baking staple in the kitchen for my entire life since my first apartment. Thank goodness for BJS because they sell the nuclear version of Nestle Chocolate Chips and I always have at least one but more often two in my pantry and or freezer. I hope that anytime you see the golden yellow package of Nestle Chocolate Chips in your adult life, it transports you to the smells and sweetness of our kitchen when you were younger.

CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE (original recipe taken from the back of a Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip package at least twenty five years ago. I have doubled this recipe but I wouldn’t suggest it for your first rodeo of baking it, you have to get to know its personality first before assuming that simple doubling is just multiplying by 2 in a baking recipe, it is not).

2 eggs

½ cup of flour

½ cup of sugar

½ cup of brown sugar

3/4 stick of butter melted (if for some reason you only have a ½ stick this has worked too, this is an area where precision doesn’t’ really matter as much.)

1 stick of butter softened (not melted-like the way it is softened in BLUEBERRY CAKE. This part of the butter ingredient requires the entire stick so no cutting corners on this part.)

1 C of Nestle Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (I have used Ghiradelli and other brands over the years, for some reason, this is the best for this recipe, maybe it is just tradition)

1 Oronoque Orchard Frozen Pie Crust — not deep dish, regular size.

(they come in a two pack, when you have one left, put it in a large Ziploc baggie and stick it back in the freezer for the next round. These crusts last “forever” see? Preservatives do have an occasional place in my life.

1 nice pie plate to put the piecrust in (keep the foil base on the shell and just insert the whole thing in the plate before baking, it looks better but it is also for the occasional spillage that occurs when it starts to bake).

Preheat oven to 325.

Put unfilled piecrust into oven while oven is preheating, this just softens it a bit before baking. Not totally necessary if you forget.

Melt 1 stick of butter and set aside

Beat eggs and the 1 stick of softened butter in a mixer or with a mixer until somewhat smooth. (hopefully you have my pink one and are enjoying its place in your kitchen.)

Add flour, brown sugar, regular sugar and melted butter and beat well until everything is nice and smooth. Go easy on the speed so everything doesn’t fly out.

Manually stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into pie shell and put on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. This is only necessary if the crust looks a little too full to avoid a mess in your oven.

Place in preheated oven and bake for almost an hour or until golden brown and not jiggly when you go to take it out.


the original recipe, but my improvement is way better, the pink kitchen aid mixer I hope never lands in Jays Junk and the nuclear package of chips (those are my feet)



The only thing about life returning to normal, is that normal is no longer. Sure, I can move through my day speckling it with my concept of normal ‘BC’ (before cancer, before brch2, before Ann not speaking to me). I can fill my days with what used to be the norm of normal and those things are still in this category. Going to the movies, out to dinner with friends, walking my colorful and energized garden, hanging out with my partner, my son, are all classified on the outside as normal. The truth is that these outside parts of my world are forever changed because they all have a totally different meaning now inside.

When I think of how fast seven weeks has gone by and how quickly my recovery has been, I am even more struck by what I now deem important and how I spend my time. I decided to really clean up all of the excess I have accumulated for a few reasons. One is that it feels like if I were to go to a feng shui expert, she would say I am literally weighted down with stuff. The second reason is because cancer makes me feel like I am closer to the mirror of my own mortality and because of this, what I leave my son to have to deal with when the time comes is my legacy. I want my legacy for him to be that when he walks into this house, the only stuff he has to deal with is the stuff that is meaningful and important to keep.

This means a lot of work, but in my healing and I am talking emotional here, not so much physical, the catharsis is going through the stuff and contemplating its residence in my life. In addition to the stuff in my basement, my closets and in my house; it also includes all of the crap I have stored in my computer. I actually spent a few hours the other day going through every document I have and deleting and organizing. I can’t explain the incredible feeling of satisfaction I had when I completed this. Now that I have the goal of creating a legacy of coolness for my son so he doesn’t have to deal with the decisions of what to toss or not to toss when that day ever comes, I have a really clear purpose of what needs to happen and I have the motivation too.

I decided I am going to create a little mini store of my things that are no longer useful in my own life and allow people to just come and make a donation if they find something that would be useful in their lives. This feels like a great way to repurpose things. I have even named it, Miss Alayneous. It will be a small store within my Bristol, RI location. I am intrigued by the notion that I have enough stuff to actually open a store. Clothes, hats, shoes, glasses, housewares, rugs, furniture. It is unbelievable what I have considered important previously and no longer feel an attachment to. This is what I mean when I talk about how normal has changed for me. I will never be who I was again. I actually welcome this new visitor in my body. I have become strikingly more patient and kind to this new friend, I call ‘myself.’ Is it a combination of traumatic events and the natural aging process that has redirected me into this new lovely dominant feeling of true self acceptance? Probably. I was out with my friend for dinner last night and we were reviewing all of the traumatic events that have occurred in my world, not in a way that is negative, but more in the scope of how I have approached these things. She was commenting on how positive I have looked at these challenges. The funny thing for me is that the way I look at these darts and arrows is organic. It is not like I wake up and try to transform my thinking to turn it into a more positive outlook, it is just the way I think automatically.

A quote by Wayne Dyer I have lived by is, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”


One of my dearest friends and I at one of my most favorite restaurants, Al Forno.