Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

I placed a site meter on this blog years ago. And truth be told, I stalked the shit out of that thing. It has been said that there are times that too much information is a bad thing. I can attest this to be true. But I could not help myself and would constantly log onto the site meter, to obsess analyze the traffic and location of my readers. Yes, I was deluded enough to think I had readers; like I was Margaret Dowd. And thankfully, the site meter company legitimized my stalking by labeling the information as ‘statistics’. Yes, that’s right; I was merely an interested observer perusing factoids related to my blog. WRONG. I was a person obsessed and this obsession allowed me to become adept at identifying most of the IP addresses belonging to my friends and other somewhat close beings. Oh but the information did not stop there. I knew how long they were on my blog, how many times in one day, how many times they click on other links on my blog, how they were referred to my amazing blog, even what site they left mine for….INFORMATION OVERLOAD. I came to believe that this was a tool designed by narcissists…obsessive, bored narcissists.

Now, it would make sense to have this information if I was actually running some kind of legitimate business, say an escort service. (I sense some of you leaving). Think about it. The information I listed above would be invaluable to an escort service. Let’s say the majority of your ‘hits’ occur after 10:00 pm. Then it would stand to reason that you would post your best ‘offerings’ during that time. Or, based on ‘clicks’, one would be able to determine which ‘offerings’ visitors were particularly fond of. See, great information.

So, let’s go back to the site meter on a blog, my blog. Why would I need to know any of this? I wasn’t attempting to go national or run a business. It started out as a way to communicate my thoughts and interests. And, post pictures of my dogs. Of course we all want to be relevant and of course that can be validated by the amount of people (mostly strangers) reading our bullshit. Ta-Da! Relevant! Not to say, that for a while, when I was particularly consistent, I had my fair share of ‘readers’. But here’s the rub; you have to spend a great deal of time making other people feel relevant about their bullshit. I not only had to read many other blogs, I also had to comment. There isn’t a ‘like’ option for the lazy. You actually had to type something to let the blogger know that you did in fact read their blog. It was also appreciated if your comment made some reference to what the blogger actually wrote. I’m talking effort people! Yes, daily blowing smoke up some stranger’s ass by way of their blog. And the expectation is they would offer the same in turn. At one point, I was reading 30-40 blogs a day. That’s a hell of a lot of smoke blowing...and ass.

It got to be a problem.

So, one day I just stopped. Stopped writing, stopped reading, and stopped commenting; stopped. I wasn’t willing to keep up the effort for great stats. And I had this thing called a life…

So, here’s why I wrote this post. Let me preface this by saying that I do have friends that have legitimate blog/websites. They are mostly food writers, cooks and professionals that are actually making a living (or attempting to do so) through their blogs. This rant has nothing to do with them. As for the rest of you…. I have noticed that people are now using Facebook as a way to self promote their blogs by providing a link to their newest post. So now, you can guilt some of your actual friends into reading your blog and increasing your stats! Woo Hoo! Who’s the shit now?! I am especially irked because I am operating with the assumption (the unwritten social contract people!) that by reading your Facebook status updates, looking at your pictures, liking your posts and making the effort to leave a comment, that I had already done my part. Done. My. Part. (Oh yes, I still expect this kindness to be returned) But, now I am expected to read and do MORE? Where does it end? How much validation does one person need?

I am making a decision. I am adhering to my belief in the unwritten social contract and validating your existence via your Facebook, period. I am sorry, but if you want more people to read your blog, you’re gonna have to do the time just like the rest of us. No cutting to the front of the line. So, grab your laptop and a drink (you may need it). You will also need to set aside a few hours (DAILY), because you will be doing your FAIR SHARE of reading and commenting.

And that bitches, is how it’s done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A New Family Member

Say hello to my foster son turned adopted son...Vinnie. He's a serious charmer. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Other 'C' Word

Ok, let me just write the word first and then it won’t hurt so much later. 


Done.  I have written worse things…however, not about myself.  As much as I have now grown used to the fact that I do in fact have it, I am still in disbelief.  Is it possible to be completely conscious about your situation and still be in denial?  It must be possible because that pretty much sums up how I feel.  First just let me say that as I write this, my prognosis is excellent and supposedly, if I am going to get cancer, I majorly scored.  I am still working on feeling lucky about that little nugget… 

So, it started with a routine mammogram, my first.  And then I was called back for ‘more pictures’ and then they handed me a consent form to do an ultrasound of my right breast and then I shit my pants.  Once I saw that form I knew they were looking at and for something.  This was seriously going to fuck up my day.  I had planned to get a pedicure and do some thrift shopping.  Getting diagnosed with cancer was nowhere on the list of ‘Things to Do Today’.  What should have been on that list was: not get cancer.  Note to self in the future…

Much of what happened that day is a blur, but I clearly remember that the radiation technician screened the WRONG breast.  As any woman could tell you that has had a mammogram, having your breast smashed together between two cold plastic plates is highly unpleasant and very unwelcomed especially when coupled with the information that it was done in error.  Lucky me.  As I looked around the room, there was an enlarged picture of the offending breast, my offending breast, with a circle around a blurred blob and an arrow pointing to said blob.  Crap.  That is gonna be a problem.  After realizing that she had in fact ‘mammo’d’ the wrong one, she apologized profusely, gave me a hug as I burst into tears and very gently proceeded to screen the correct one.  My world as I knew it was over. But if my world was going to end, a hug from this woman, at that moment, kept me breathing.

There was a ridiculous amount of waiting until I was sent into another room to have the ultrasound.  It took the technician very little time to find the ‘lesion’.  That’s what they call it because I think, they think, that calling it a tumor would send you over the deep end.  But really, it’s just semantics.  It’s a fucking tumor.  And another thing… The medical community needs to place a sign on the ultrasound monitor for all patients that reads: 

Things on this screen look waaay freaking bigger than they actually are. 
Don’t. Lose. It. Yet...”

So, I see the damn thing and it looks like the size of my whole breast and I nearly pass out right there.  The technician attempts to calm me down and tells me that it is an enlarged view.  Mine was somewhere in the neighborhood of one centimeter.  Damn! I knew that I should have paid more attention when they were going over that whole metric system thingy.  Apparently, informing me of the size was supposed to make me feel better.  However, since a centimeter is somewhere in the area of 10 inches (in my very ill-informed mind), I nearly passed out…again.   To lighten the mood, the technician tells me that if it is cancer, no biggie…she’s had lymphoma not once, but twice.  Emily Post hasn’t covered what is socially expected of you when you are being screened for cancer and another person, to make you feel better, tells you that they have had cancer…twice.  A high five perhaps?  Probably not...  Anyway, I do remember stammering out sorry but feeling rather ticked off at the same time.  I really wanted to shout at her that I am sorry that she has…had (whatever) cancer, but I don’t want this happening to me.  And knowing someone else has dealt with this bullshit doesn’t make you having to deal with the bullshit any less…well, bullshitty.

After we were done with the ultrasound, she tells me that I can get dressed so the doctor can ‘go over’ the information with me.  You mean tell me that I have cancer????  You see, I suspected from the blob on the mammogram pictures, the look on the ultrasound technician’s face and my complete and utter panic that I did in fact have cancer.  My momma didn’t raise a fool.  Seriously, we know that if the doctor wants to see you, it’s not to throw you a party or show you a unicorn.

Now, this is where I go from terror, to confusion, to just fucking pissed off.

The doctor, a radiologist, brings me into a room where all my pretty little breast pictures are lined up and he starts to ask me a series of random questions starting with if I had ever had any trauma to my breast.  Wha???  Define trauma…  He never did explain that line of questioning.  And then he asked me if I knew that my breasts were asymmetrical.  Aren’t they all?  Again, I still have no idea where he is going with all this.  He then states that if I want to do a biopsy I can or I don’t have to if I don’t want to.  He mutters that he is required to say that by law. Huh?  I am still processing that statement when he ‘reassures’ me it’s nothing I have done or could have prevented.  What’s nothing that I have done?  What’s nothing that I could have prevented?  I am not even sure that we have established what the ‘it’ is…   I then ask him if ‘it’ could be a cyst.  A calcification? A lumpy breast?  To which he answers no, no, and no. I then ask hopefully, “So, ‘it’ could be a benign lump?”  And he says, “It’s not going to be benign.”  This is basically how I was ‘told’ that I have breast cancer.
The man is a menace.  He has no business dealing with people…you know, people with feelings and stuff.  He’s not comforting.  He’s not compassionate.  This asshole was the first doctor of my cancer journey and to this day, I still fight a compulsion to wring his neck and smack his smug face.  He never once made any attempt to ask how I was doing or soften the blow of the information.  I’m not even sure that he knew my name.  I came alone to that office unprepared for what was in store for me and handed to a doctor that was unwilling to assess the situation and empathize with me, the patient; at that moment, his patient.  And from where I sit today, I now know that there was so much positive information he could have given me at that moment in addition to the negative information.  But he never did.  It was an awful way to start.  However, it is not how we start; it is how we finish.

So, how am I doing now?  This all started July 5, 2012.  Since that day, I had a needle biopsy on July 11, 2012 and learned that I have invasive ductal carcinoma.  After my lumpectomy on August 10, 2012, my tumor turned out to be 1.2 centimeters.  And I now know what a centimeter is.  I am stage one, with a non-aggressive cancer.  As for treatment, I will definitely be doing radiation and hormonal therapy.  At this point, I am one of the lucky ones; chemo is not only an option, but not an advisable one considering my prognosis. 

As for this blog, I most likely won’t be doing a great amount of writing about cancer because it’s not who I am or what I am about; it is something that is happening to me.  Focusing on it any more than I have to does not benefit my health or my state of mind.  Cancer hasn’t changed me all that much. Thing is, before I was told I had cancer; I juiced regularly, had a healthy diet and exercised.  Ironically, it was the healthiest I had ever felt.  But, cancer has shown me what an amazing group of friends and loved ones I have.  And some of the most unexpected people have been so there for me, that I am in awe.  I may not believe in an organized faith, but I can honestly say that I am blessed with the people in my life.  I thank each and every one of them for showing me in big and little ways how much I mean to them.  I guess, that was and still is my “cancer epiphany”. 

However, there is one glaring thing that breast cancer hasn’t changed… I still fucking hate pink. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An unintended public 'roasting'

I recently attended a fundraiser in a neighborhood “on the way up”.  It was themed as a pig roast and the proceeds benefited the local farmer’s market, the slow food movement and various farmers and vendors.  Local chefs, artisans and community leaders volunteered their time, energy and products.  And although the tickets were a bit steep, it was for a good cause and I was able to spend a beautiful day with my friends.  During the day, I had posted a picture of one of the pigs on the roasting spit to credit my cooking brethren for hours in the sweltering sun working on our meal. 

Just like this blog, my Facebook page consists of all things food.  So, imagine my surprise when someone commented on my photo that they were upset by what they saw and provided a veiled suggestion that I remove the offending pic.  I decided to sleep on it before I responded.  I had to identify why I was disturbed by this turn of events.  And I finally identified the source of my ire; censorship and attempted peer pressure.  Oh yeah, and stupidity.

I didn’t post a picture of an animal being slaughtered or a person being beaten; I posted a picture of a fucking roasted pig at a pig feed no less.  When did we come to believe that we should never have to hear, read or see something we don’t like...that we are above being offended?  

Now I must add, that this is coming from people that I would consider rather liberal.  Apparently, the belief system of free “speech” only applies if they aren’t the ones being offended.  These are also the same people that post their political, religious and sexual beliefs regularly.  And you can assume that not everyone will share his or her viewpoints.  Does this mean that the rest of us shouldn’t be allowed to express our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, pursuits, etc.?   Apparently so, unless they are inline with theirs…

I recently read something from Bill Maher that speaks to this exact issue:

“The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.

When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.”

And that is why I want to have dirty hot random sex with Bill Maher.  Oh, did that offend somebody?   

Friday, April 13, 2012

Feeling tied down...

Okay, so this is not a post about food. Although I endeavor to have most of my posts food centric, on occasion I go off the rails. Join me or not.

Recently, I read a trilogy of books, erotica to be exact; currently being referred to as “mommy porn” in the media… The first book in the trilogy is titled Fifty Shades of Grey. Apparently, women that have an interest in something sexual must be participating in some illicit activity, i.e. reading porn. And to be honest, thanks to Kindle we can keep this activity under the sheets, so to speak.

This little trilogy has created quite the firestorm. The humble U.K. based publishing house could not keep up with the demand. The majority of copies were sold electronically; downloaded on Kindles, smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops…utter mayhem. Let’s just say that the purchase of men’s silk neckties has greatly increased. Yes, a little BDSM takes place. Okay, a lot of BDSM. Anyway, the paperback was released in the U.S. last week and it too has been selling out; everywhere. Even Hollywood is not immune and had a huge battle over the rights to the story.  Although, other than outlets like HBO or Showtime, I don’t see how a movie studio can do the story justice without participating in some major x-rated activity. NC-17 ratings usually don’t sell movie tickets…

Despite all the frenzy, I am more surprised at how surprised everyone seems to be that women are interested in sex, reading about sex and experimenting with sex. After all, it’s 2012, not 1962. Then again, I was raised in a Catholic household and it came with all the appropriate trappings and expectations of sexual shame. Although my father had Playboy delivered to our home and left laying about, sexuality was open and allowable for him, not for anyone else.  And if that wasn't understood, my mother made sure that I got that message; loud and clear.  I remember a very uncomfortable and frank discussion I had with my mother about the immorality of oral sex. Yes, my mother went there ... (Insert Edvard Munch visual here) Although I blocked most of the content of that discussion out of my mind and memory, I remember one statement; all good girls stick to the missionary position. Shit mom! I had no idea I was being raised to be a Victorian. This statement coming from the woman who had been married not once, not twice, but three times; the woman who lived with two different men that were not her husband and would never find their way to the altar… To say that I was confused would be an understatement. Do you mean to tell me that my mother held the interest of three husbands, two living partners and a smattering of boyfriends by sticking to the fucking missionary position? Holy hell… Or, was she telling me what was expected for mothers to tell their daughters: sex is dirty, sex is shameful, sex is a duty, sex is an exchange of commodities, sex is for procreation. Only loose women enjoy sex; even with their husbands. 

It made me wonder if we are still, inadvertently perhaps, teaching today’s young women to be shameful.  It doesn’t help that during this shocked frenzy over women’s proclivity towards sexual literature, the conservative movement in this country is validating this viewpoint by shaming us in our use of contraception and attempting control of our abortion rights through some very aggressive legislation. It’s the same story; sexual women are shameful women, or they should be and if they don’t have the decency to be ashamed, we will put laws in place to make sure their wicked ways are held up for public scrutiny. Promiscuous women use contraception and have abortions. Madonna or whore…not really a choice, huh?  Either way, you lose. God, sometimes it must be fucking awesome to be a man. 

So I ask you… I am a divorced 43 year old woman. I am not married. I am not attempting to procreate. I enjoy reading erotica (porn). I am sexual active. I use contraception. I have been perusing the necktie displays at Macy’s. So, am I a whore?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Had Me at Cheese

I’m not sure when macaroni and cheese moved up the epicurean ladder and started showing up on menus at a rather inflated price. And we followed, like eager lambs to the slaughter. Of course, like most things, we may have…over done it. Now that simple dish has morphed into a blank canvas piled with shaved truffles, pork belly, and crab. For me, it’s a situation of, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is not to say that I haven’t gone to the Mac N Cheese dark side….and enjoyed.

But the bastardizing of this dish characterizes how far food has moved from sustenance and simplicity to grandstanding and swagger. As much as I enjoy and appreciate creativity, I am starting to feel as if I am being manipulated; I am expecting to be wowed. But why? Has my palate changed? Has the culinary landscape changed? Has food itself changed? No. The industry changed and our access to it. Now every piece on my plate, every ingredient in my dish is listed on the menu, quite often with its origin attached; right down to the salt.

When I really started to think about this, I started to panic. If I stepped too far in, would I be appreciative of simple things? Could I be happy with a salad simply dressed with a fruity olive oil? Would my happiness hinge on knowing what greens I was eating, where they came from, how they were farmed and how my olive oil was pressed? There is such a thing as too much knowledge.

And to be honest, I felt like an asshole. Why an asshole you ask? As much fun as it is to immerse one’s self in a subject; with a full grasp of terms, technique and history, there is a balance to maintain. It’s very easy to become a pretentious food snob (asshole if you will). And usually, a pretentious food snob/asshole can be one of the most insufferable people to be around. Forget about impressing them…you’ll be lucky if they have anything other than a critique  to throw your way. They have lost their ability to appreciate what simply…is.

I want to hold on to the reason I fell in love with food and cooking and why I ultimately went to culinary school; food and cooking bond people together. Meals are what celebrations and holidays are centered around. When we love families and friends, it is reflected in our cooking.

Yes, it is fun to geek out by accessing rare ingredients, getting creative and thinking outside the box…but it’s a slippery slope. In my house, it’s macaroni and cheese. No truffles, pork belly or crab. And I appreciate every bite.

For crumb crust
  • ¼ stick of butter
  • 1 cup of Panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs) or 1 ½ cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices firm white sandwich bread)
  • ¾ cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
  • ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan

For macaroni and sauce
  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (3 cups)
  • ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan¾ pound elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.


Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.


Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to a butter 9 x 13 glass dish.

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Up, up, up

When we are young we all experience growing pains; physical changes to our bodies that signal our growth. But ultimately, emotionally, we never stop growing…at least that’s the hope. And I always hope that with my growth comes my ability to forgive and find peace. It’s never easy to accept that things and some people cannot, will not, change. I allowed my mother to leave this earth without finding resolution. Given the circumstances, we could never have resolved issues in our relationship, but I could have come to some acceptance of how things were to give myself, my heart, a much needed break. Unfortunately, I was left with unfinished business and no outlet to find a new way to relate to her. But, there is my father. And with him, there are things that I must accept in order to grow.

We will never agree on most topics.

He will never think that I am smart enough or that I can handle…well, anything.

He will never stop drinking, nor admit that there is a problem

He will never acknowledge the hell he put our family through.

I will never find resolution to any of this.

And, I am fine with not having resolution, for I still have my father here on earth. It’s that simple fact that reminds me that the possibility for better things is always there. I have made the choice to put it all away; to accept that this is who he is and try to be a better daughter, despite the fact that in the past, even in the present, he may not deserve it.

I hate confrontations and uncomfortable standoffs. I want to be the idiotic Pollyanna that believes that we can all get along and truly wish the best for one another. But then there is this thing called reality…cold hard truths. In my effort to avoid confrontation and unhealthy relationships, I very deliberately cut my parents out of my life at times when it was necessary to do so. And it does sound so simple…just disengage and move on. But feelings aren’t logical or simple and life moves on and makes those plans nearly impossible. I had to acknowledge some facts…my father is not at the highest point in his life and continuing to punish him for the past (without any improvement) would be akin to kicking him when he is down. What does that say about me?

It’s been said that the true definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. I don’t know if that’s the definition of insanity, but it is definitely a sign that you aren’t growing, you aren’t learning from your mistakes, you aren’t self aware…

At the age of 42, I don’t want epic battles, enemy lines drawn in the sand that’s all in my head. Because often times, I look around and find the only one that thinks there is a war is me. So, I will try to remind myself to….

Speak softly, but with conviction

Don’t jump to conclusions

Assume the best, not the worst

Remember that I am not the only one that gets my feelings hurt

Be mindful of what I say; I would hate for harsh words to be the last ones exchanged.

And most importantly, I have to live with the choices I have made in my life, no excuses, no blaming…nada.

Yep, I am still growing…and it’s a pain in the ass.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

War and Peas

I remember that my first positive experience with split pea soup was in December 1989.  My then boyfriend and I were driving our 1978 VW Bus to Altadena to spend the holidays with his brother.  As luck would have it, the grapevine had frozen over that year and the outside temperature was no longer an interesting fact but more a life and death struggle.  If anyone has ever owned a vintage (old) VW Bus, you are privy to the fact that the heater is more of a novelty than something to rely on to, oh I don’t know…keep WARM.  In addition to the ‘pilot light’ heater, the floorboards where the foot pedals came up from had a very visible hole around the perimeter of each pedal stick, to which you had a clear view of the…road, yes the road.  Normally, nothing too alarming in tepid Sacramento, but when driving in below freezing temperatures, your feet actually go numb from the constant onslaught of cold air.  At one point, we pulled off the highway and into a gas station to procure plastic bags.  My boyfriend then wrapped his socked foot in three layers of plastic bags before he stuffed them back into his shoes.

Finally, out of fear of hypothermia and gut gnawing starvation, we pulled into Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella.  Now mind you, neither one of us was a fan of split pea soup, but we were cold, tired, hungry and low on funds.  They had an all you could eat option…but ONLY for split pea soup with toppings.  SOLD!  We ate buckets of the stuff.  I can’t even say if we stayed and ate so long because we were that hungry or we were just putting off getting back into the bus.  Either way, I had a new found respect for split pea soup.  

We eventually arrived at our destination somewhere around 2:00 in the morning and found a note waiting for us. 

“Glad you made it!  But, since you are the last ones to arrive, you get to sleep on the sofa bed. Better luck next time. See you in the morning!”

I believe my spine had never recovered from the last time I had slept on that sofa bed.  Ironically, we opted to sleep in the bed, back in the bus. 

In the 20 plus years that have passed, I have seldom enjoyed a bowl of split pea soup as much as I did on that cold long night.  Not sure if it was a distant memory or the chill in the fall air, I decided it was time for a big pot of soup.  Here’s my take.

  • 3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cups of chopped celery (include celery leaves)
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 10-14 whole garlic cloves
  • 3 pounds of smoked ham hocks
  • 3 teaspoons dried French thyme
  • 3 cups green split peas
  • 16 cups of water
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ½ cup of chopped fresh parsley.

Melt butter in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, garlic and carrots. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add pork and thyme; stir 1 minute. Add peas, then water, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover pot; simmer soup until pork and vegetables are tender and peas are falling apart, stirring often, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Transfer hocks to a bowl.

At this point, some people elect to remove half of the soup contents to puree.  However, if you refrain from putting salt in the soup until it has completely cooked, the peas will take in more water and this will allow the peas to break down themselves.  I have never pureed this soup and it has always been a perfect mix of pea puree, vegetables and pieces of pork.

To complete, cut pork off bones, dice and return to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with the fresh parsley.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


As a society, we all seem to be rushed; packing too many things into too few hours. I often catch myself scurrying around, frantic to get it all done. It’s no wonder that when it comes to food, shortcuts seem to be inevitable and ultimately sought after. The idea of spending hours preparing one meal seems indulgent, archaic even. But there are some things that cannot be rushed. One of my absolutely favorite things to eat is something that takes hours and is only at its best when time and care are taken. Short ribs were once looked down upon; a lesser cut of meat that required moisture and hours to be edible. However, like many things; what’s old is new again. Short ribs are now a staple on any self respecting bistro menu. And having a well done short rib dish puts that stamp of approval on many people’s list. It’s important to understand that if a restaurant is willing to do the diligence to properly prepare short ribs, then you might be in the company of true food respect and artistry.

So, take advantage of the downtime during the cooking process and pour yourself a glass of wine. I have adapted my short rib recipe from Anne Burrell.

3 bone-in short ribs and 3 boneless short ribs (about 6 pounds)
Olive oil
1 large sweet onion, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into ½ inch pieces
3 peeled carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces
10-12 garlic cloves
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) tomato paste
2-3 cups of hearty red wine (I tend to use a ratio of 3 parts red wine, 1 part port)
2-3 cups of water
1 bunch of thyme tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves

Generously season each short rib with salt. Coat a large Dutch oven with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd the pan. You may need to cook in batches; remove ribs if need be to a plate until you have finished browning them all.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the ribs are all very brown, remove them all from the pan. Leave a small amount of oil in the pan and add the pureed vegetables. Season with salt and brown them until they darken and from a crust on the bottom of the pan; approximately 5-7 minutes. (Onions often hold a good amount of water and this water may hinder the browning. If this is the case, add a teaspoon of sugar during the browning to aid in caramelizing the vegetables.) To assist in the browning, scrape the crust and redistribute to insure even browning. Add the tomato paste to the vegetables and brown paste mixture for 4-5 minutes. Add the wine/port and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze all the bits. Lower the heat to avoid burning the mixture and reduce it by half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups of water or more until the ribs are just covered. Add the thyme and bay leaves. Cover with a lid or tightly secured foil and place in the oven for 3 hours. Check the ribs during the cooking time to ensure that the ribs remain under liquid; add water if necessary. Turn the ribs over halfway through the 3 hours. During the last 30 minutes, remove the lid to release moisture, thicken the braising liquid and encourage additional browning.

Remove the pan from the oven and taste the braising liquid. If necessary, adjust the flavor by adding additional salt and/or sugar to balance out any acidity that may occur when tomatoes are included in a recipe.

I prefer to serve my short ribs over a basic soft polenta. They would also pair well with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sweet Victory

I think anyone that has a passion for cooking and all things food also has their own Achilles Heel. Mine, has always been pie pastry. That is not to say that I did not have success from time to time, but it was never something that I could hope for much less count on. I like having ‘home-runs’ in my cooking arsenal, so a wild card like pastry had no place. I guess many people would just opt to purchase prepared pie pastry and call it a day, but I like to know that what I make has mostly come from my own blood, sweat and swears. Shortcuts are nice, but I feel like a poser and just want to go take a shower. However, I just could not let it go…I was capable of so many things; I should be able to work this out. I sat down with Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, Pie and Pastry Bible to find enlightenment and perhaps some big pastry secret I had missed. Although it is one of the best reference cookbooks out there, I just wasn’t getting what I needed.

Then as I was checking out my friends' Facebook status updates, I saw that Garrett, a local food blogger, placed a post about a Potato and Onion Galette. Normally, I would have read through the post and admired his pastry (secretly hating his ability to do something I can’t) but he caught my attention when he explained that he had become quite skilled with pastry thanks to Elise Bauer, another local food blogger. He provided a link to her recipe (which I had the pleasure of tasting first-hand when she brought a pie to a party) and I followed it; WORD for WORD. And it work. And it worked again. And it continues to work EVERY TIME I prepare it. I have used it for sweet and savory; simple and complex. Finally, I have bested this beast and I am no longer apprehensive about having a pastry item in my cooking arsenal. One of my favorite things to prepare with my “oh so reliable pastry” is a Nutella Galette.

Nutella Galette

Preheat oven to 375

v One prepared pastry using Elise’s recipe

v 1/3 cup of Nutella Spread plus additional for drizzling


v Almond Extract

v ¼ cup of high quality bittersweet chocolate chunks

v ¼ cup of chopped toasted hazelnuts or almonds

Use an inverted sheet pan and cover with parchment paper.

Roll out to a 12 inch diameter, about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface leaving a 1 ½-2 inch border. Place dough on parchment paper

Spread the 1/3 cup of Nutella and toss the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts/almonds over.

In a bowl, mix 3 TB of the additional Nutella and 2-3 TB of milk until you have a syrup consistency. Add 1-2 drops of the almond extract.

Drizzle over the Nutella, chocolate and nuts and then fold over the border slightly over the filling to create a crust.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Growing up, the news that stuffed bell peppers were for dinner was met with the same response held for liver and onions. Needless to say, not well received. Perhaps I would have been more receptive had my Aunt Virgie served said bell peppers with a Syrah or Pinot...but I digress. Along with less than youthful skin, age has brought with it some wisdom and a refined palate.

And as is often the case, meals are made to make use of items that are on their way out. I had purchased some beautiful bell peppers at the farmer's market but had yet to find a use for them. They seemed destined to be cooked. And then I thought of those once dreaded stuffed bell peppers and I was on my path. In keeping with my mantra to 'eat clean', I changed things up a bit; grass fed substainable beef and brown rice. I guess this is where that aged wisdom occasionally makes an appearance.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

4 bell peppers


4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 lb of lean grass-fed ground beef or buffalo

1 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice

1 cup chopped fresh plum tomatoes

4 tbsp chopped fresh italian parsley chopped

1 teaspoon of dried oregano or italian herb blend

1/4 cup fresh grated hard parmesan

Preheat oven to 375

Cut the top off of the bell and remove the stem and seeds. Chop any parts of the bell pepper cut to remove the top and stem. Boil the peppers completely immersed in salted water for 3-4 minutes to soften. Remove and set them upside down to drain and cool.

Place tomatoes, rice, parsley and oregano in a large bowl.

Heat 3 TB of the olive oil and cooked the onions and chopped bell peppers over medium heat, stirring often until they soften, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add to the bowl with the tomato mixture and then add beef and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with hands to ensure that everything is evenly dispersed.

Place peppers in a baking dish and fill with stuffing. Add 1/2 cup of water to baking dish and bake for 50-60 minutes until you reach an internal temperature of 155-160 F.

Prior to serving, I like to brush the top with a very fruity olive oil and finish with a fresh grate of parmesan. However, this step is optional.