Comfort Food

20 Minute Lentil Heaven

January 26, 2018

These days, it’s a challenge to find a dish you can serve to everyone, from your manliest meat-eater to your weight-watcher, the animal-conscious vegan or even a diabetic. Here’s a fast and tasty way to provide bowl full of heavily health in only 20 minutes that’s good enough and healthy enough for almost any diet!

Red Lentils are low in fat, loaded with protein and fiber, and chock full of heart-healthy folate and manganese. They are also pretty to look at, which makes them festive enough for company. The best part? They are extremely easy to prepare because, unlike green or brown lentils, red lentils are very quick cooking, i.e., no soaking,  no waiting.

With it’s fresh splash of lemon and bright mint, this recipe will bring a bit of the Mediterranean to your soup bowl and it will keep you feeling full for hours.


In a small soup pot, boil 2 cups of salted water and add to it:

  • 1 Cup red lentils
  • 1 large, or 2 small, minced garlic teeth
  • 1 Tsp. dried, flaked onion

Simmer about 15 minutes, until lentils are soft. Now add:

  • 1 Can “no salt” diced tomatoes. Your choice, but I prefer to add & control my own salt.
  • 1 Tsp. fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tsp. fresh or jarred lemon juice. Use more or less, to taste.

Simmer soup about 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste and serve.

Notes:  Garnish with fresh Mint or Parsley. Use fresh tomatoes, if you like. Add carrots if that appeals to you.  I did not need to use any type of flavor “cute” or powder as the lentils, garlic, salt I used and fresh herbs created a lot of flavor!

Comfort Food

Caldo Verde, Gringa Style!

January 13, 2018

On a cold day, this soup will bring happy tears to your eyes and warm you to your socks.

I had read that Caldo Verde, a traditional Portuguese soup, was the considered by some to be the comfort soup of all comfort soups and, on this unusually chilly Florida day, it did not disappoint.

Traditionally, Caldo Verde is prepared with true Portuguese sausage called chouriço or linguiça and kale. Since I have never followed a recipe, (or for that matter any agenda one hundred percent), and as I don’t live near a Portuguese butcher, I decided to use the sausages available to me in my local store. I also went for  spinach over kale, because I thought it would appeal to my peeps.

I used both a smoked Polish sausage and a house-made Italian from Publix. I think the smoke factor matters here, but if you have liquid smoke, you could add a few drops of this.

When you create your version of Caldo Verde, try it with the traditional kale (removing the stems) or collard greens (again, sans stems), or a combination of these and/or spinach.

This soup turned out to be dreamy warm, hearty, filling and delicious!
It was a meal in itself.


Into a pot full of salted, boiling water (about 4 cups), add:

  • 3 large, russet potatoes, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 large, white sweet potato, chopped into big chunks (this is non traditional)
  • 1 cube of chicken stock flavor
  • Pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Boil for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, into a heavy pot or Dutch oven, sauté together:

  • 3 slices of smoked bacon
  • 6 sliced or quartered large links of Portuguese or hot Italian sausage (or you can use Andouille, or any smokey, spicy sausage)
  • 3 Large teeth of garlic, minced
  • 1 Medium onion

Sauté until the fat is rendered from the bacon and sausage and the onions and garlic are clear.  You’ll notice the sausages are beginning to brown or caramelize. Now just set all this aside.
Do not toss the fat/oils!

Return to your pot of potatoes and with your favorite hand tool, smash them roughly, enough so that they are both creamy and chunky. Do not change the water! Just take your potato smasher and mash it all up until you see both creamy and chunky.

Place your pot of potato mixture on medium low and add all the sausage, bacon, onion and garlic mix to this,

Now, slice up 3 cups of baby spinach OR kale OR collard greens and add to the pot.

Cook another 10 to 15 minutes and serve with grilled, buttered bread.


Candidly Yours

How to cook (Yuck!) Liver

January 12, 2018

“Mom, is this filet? It’s delicious!” my son asked as he bit into a tender, juicy piece of … wait for it…liver.

I do realize this is not going to be my most popular post but I encourage you to read on…

When I was growing up, if one friend asked another for dinner, the usual reply — or rather the hesitant reply before the reply — was “What are you having?” and if the answer was “Liver,” the RSVP was a speedy and resounding “No!”

The liver my son had that day was during our years in Panama. It was fresh and grass fed, and it was indeed tender and resembled a filet mignon.

People don’t generally like liver because it has a strong, distinctive metallic taste that so many find off-putting. So…why eat liver? Because liver is chock full of nutrients like iron, vitamins A and B12 and so much more!

Like many people, I discovered that I have a serious B12 deficiency due to long-term, over-use of proton pump inhibitors from a reflux disorder. The overuse of PPIs had the eventual  effect of hindering absorption of B12 and make no mistake;  a B12 deficiency is serious business. So,  in addition to supplements, I am eating liver once a week.


  1. Purchase good quality beef liver, sliced very thinly, about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Before cooking it, soak it in some milk. This seems to remove the metallic taste that is so off-putting to so many.
  3. Dredge it in a little flour seasoned with your favorite salt and some pepper.
  4. Melt some good quality butter in a skillet and sauté your sliced onions until soft, translucent and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Put the onions to the side (or on a separate plate), add butter, and sauté your liver, turning only once.  The liver will cook in just  few minutes. Some people like it a little pink in the middle. I’m good with pinkish or done through and through.
  6. If you like, deglaze the pan with a little water, add flour and make a quick gravy to drizzle over your dish.



Delicious, Easy Rice Fritters w/Basil & Parmesan

December 22, 2017

Don’t toss that old, cold rice!

Instead, turn it into tasty rice fritters good enough to serve as a starchy side dish or to pack as a  yummy snack that can be eaten warm or even at room temperature.

I whipped these up –f rom start to finish – in 20 minutes. Then I  packed up what I didn’t eat to take to my teen son who never lets a good munchie snack go to waste.

Here is all you will need to do.

In a bowl, mix together:

  • 2 Cups of cold, or room temperature, left-over rice.
    I always use Basmati but any white rice will do. Also, my rice was actually days old!
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Medium sweet, white onion (Spanish or Vidalia), minced well.
    I ground up mine in a simple, $12 mini electric chopper. I don’t even own a food processor!

Now, into the mix, add the following:

  • 1/2 Tsp good salt (Kosher,  Himalayan, Celtic or Sea Salt)
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch (Grain- and Gluten-Free folk, use Tapioca Starch)
  • 2 Tbsp Flour (I used Quinoa Flour and Gluten-Free people will want to do this, but regular white works fine)
  • 1/2 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs (Gluten-Free eaters, substitute Quinoa Flour).
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 10 – 12 Fresh Basil Leaves,  finely chopped.
  • 1 Large tooth of garlic, or 2 smaller teeth, minced well

Mix everything above very until all your ingredients are fully incorporated.



In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 1 tbsp light olive oil with 1 tbsp butter until very hot.

  1. Using a medium-size serving spoon, scoop and shape rice balls to the size of a ping pong ball.
  2. Place the rice ball in the hot skillet, pressing down with a fork or spatula until they flatten out a bit.
  3. Cook until one side is golden brown and crispy, about  1 minute or a bit longer.
  4. Then turn and cook again until crispy, about 1 minute or a bit more.

TIPS: Feel free to add more Parmesan if you like. Switch up your spices or used a seasoned salt. You might want to try dill, then serve with a dipping roulade sauce. This recipe is open to versatility and creative experimentation!

Comfort Food

You Won’t Believe it’s Vegan!

October 12, 2017

Okay people. I’m not gonna lie.
I can’t believe I made this and I also I can not believe it is vegan, gluten-free, low-cal, spicy and deliciously filling!

This soup was inspired by my beautiful friend, Sanchia, who, as a “Taoist Vegan,” abstains from eating the five pungent vegetables; green onion; garlic; onion; chives; and leeks.

I am not nearly as evolved as my friend so as I said, this is a “Sanchia Inspired” dish.
I did use quite a bit of garlic and even some cheap,  dried onion flakes.
I’m just not ready to give up the pungent…

Also, for meat-eaters who have a hard time getting excited about diving into a pile of vegetables, this is a truly delicious way to fill up on healthy squash that tastes smokey, spicy, and dare I say it? more than a tad Manly!

NOTE:  If you’re a vegetarian who consumes dairy, go ahead and use regular sour cream and even add some Monterrey cheese at the end, melted on top!


  1. Turn your oven on to 400.
  2. Into any oven-friendly dish or tray of your choice, place:
    1 Spaghetti Squash (or any type of Squash of your liking), crudely cut into about 3 or 4 pieces, skin on. That’s right. No fussing with peeling.
    1 Large, Red Pepper, cut into about 3 chunks, pith and seeds removed.
    3 Large garlic teeth, skin on (you will easily remove the skin once roasted).
  3. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of White Truffle Oil OR Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the vegetables, and some Sea Salt.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  5. Now, using a cloth to hold the hot squash, scrape out your softened squash meat with a large, sharp-edged spoon into a large soup pot.  This is going to go onto the stove.
  6. Pop the softened, roasted garlic teeth right out of their skin and toss them into the soup pot.
  7. Place the roasted peppers into the pot as well.
  8. Add 2 cups of water and two teaspoons of vegetable broth base or cubes.
  9. Now, into the pot with the Squash, Peppers, Garlic & Water, ADD:
    1/2 teaspoon of Chipotle Powder (or a teaspoon of Chipotle Chilis from a jar or can)
    1/4 teaspoon of Chili Powder
    1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root
    1/4 teaspoon onion flakes (mine, no kidding, are from a Dollar Store)
  10. Take out your hand blender (or toss the concoction into a good blender) and blend until very smooth.
  11. Simmer on low until you are happy with the flavor, about 20-30 minutes.
  12. Ladle your soup into a bowl.
  13. Swirl of Dollop a tablespoon of Vegan Sour Cream.
  14. Shed a few fresh Thyme Leaves onto the top. If you don’t have fresh thyme, that’s ok. Just sprinkle fresh parsley or oregano for decoration and a bit of flavor.
    I have a sense that a bit of Fresh Mint could be very interesting!

TIP: To create my “swirl” design, all I did was spoon some of my sour cream mixture into a small plastic baggie. Then I snipped a corner and piped! Easy, breazy!

This would be lovely served with some warm, grilled herb bread.


If you are not vegan, just use regular sour cream!
If you don’t have fresh ginger, use powder ginger! Ditto for the thyme, but try to grind it up before adding if it’s dry. This will bring out the flavor.


Candidly Yours

Remembering Frank Bravo, El Salsero

October 2, 2017

Remembering Frank Bravo

There was a rare and lucky time when I found my life suddenly unfolding in the middle of an extended, magical moment in time, a moment that because of my youth, I mistakenly assumed would last forever. I didn’t know then what I know now: That is, that nothing stays the same.

In late February of 1984, I stepped off the rickety bus from Mexico City, and into the richly beautiful pink city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, before even the notion of a thing called “Starbucks” had been conceived. It was a time when only a handful of people had television sets, and absolutely no one had a cell phone.

I was making friends but not just any friends, not your run-of-the-mill twenty somethings. The people I was meeting were bursting with talent, young talent infused with passion and comprised of artistic, poetic, painterly, powerful, musical, idealistic and creative energy. Life suddenly blossomed into an enchanted, mini magical epoch. At the center of this was, of course, music, and at the center of the music was Frank Bravo and his band, La Propia Salsa.

I grew up in suburban Connecticut on classical music and show tunes. My mother didn’t allow any television except Sundays, Ed Sullivan. And no cartoons, no Dr. Seus, either! So, I had never even heard country music so you can be sure the steamy rhythms of Salsa music were a far cry from anything on my radar. But the first time I heard that beat, the clanging cowbell and those super-hot rhythms that just move, I was hooked for life. This music that ignited me came out in the rich and gritty voice of the one and only Frank Bravo, a real talent from Venezuela.

In my opinion, Frank was one of the greatest salsa singers I have ever heard. Because of Frank and his love for classic salsa, I’ve heard the greats and Frank was, for me, one of the very best. It wasn’t just his voice, never off key, never bored or boring. Frank was the whole package. He simply had that ‘thing’, that star quality that comes from more than the having developed a craft or an art. It comes from love, and not just the love of the genre he clearly so appreciated and honored. With Frank, you could literally feel and see his deep affection, amusement and delight in his audience. He was clearly energized by not only the music but the audience he was entertaining.

Frank would watch his the people dancing with a delighted twinkle in his eye. No matter how many thousands of times he sang the same classic songs, they slid off his tongue as fresh as if he were just discovering them for the first time. Never once did I seem him tire of a song or of the people he was entertaining.

Frankie wasn’t doing any of this alone. In the early 1980s, San Miguel was bursting with young talents, both in Frank’s band and working independently. Willie Royal, a young soloist, steamed up the restaurant bar at Mama Mia restaurant, as he practically danced with electric violin. Wolfgang Fink performed in the main dining room, a really good flamenco soloist whose girlfriend, Diana, would sit by him and clap the “palmadas.” Both Willie and Wolf were later paired by Francesca Fisher, of Fisher & Paykel heritage, for a movie she produced, giving birth to the duo Willie & Lobo who enjoyed moderate international success. Also part of the band was Jose Luis Chagoyan, aka Hopalong, who still enjoys his long career in music. There were also Solomon, a jazz musician at heart but then part of Frank’s band, and a firecracker named Mauricio who was the hottest thing on cow bells, ever. There were others whose names escape me.

Frank was the center of the action and we were the ripples around him and his music. Not all were musicians. There were accomplished artists, Keith Keller and Dan Ruffert. Francesca produced the town’s first ever music video. And Frank’s talented wife, Victoria Robbins was at that time earning her masters in global education and would later go on to launch what remains today the very successful Victoria Robbins School.

I think Frank had an intrinsic grasp of the gestalt that is created between the stage and audience. The word “gestalt” is generally misunderstood to be something better than the sum of all its parts but this is inaccurate. A gestalt is something different that the sum of all the parts, and it can be different every time those parts come together. Frank not only understood this, he delighted in the possibility of what could be created freshly with each new gig.

I remember Frank as having a puckish, boyish grin, almost happily devilish at times, a bona fide sparkle in his eye, and a completely genuine love for people and for music. Never once did Frank make me, or I think anyone, feel bad. But his real true love, besides music, was Victoria.

The life of a musician is a noble one but it has its dangers. A musician’s routine isn’t routine at all; it comes with odd, late-night hours, emotional highs before and during performances that can be followed by sudden, echoing silences when the venues shut down. A musician’s schedule not generally ticking on the average 9 to five run and these pitfalls can take their toll. It is a life better held together when the singer has something solid to anchor and support it. And for Frank Bravo, that anchor was Victoria’s steadfast, forever love.

Frank’s gift to us came as much from God as it did from Victoria. She was there through it all and for decades, for the successes, failures, and ultimately illness. Victoria was Frank’s everything. I don’t think he would have flourished as the musician he was or have had the career he did without her. I’m certain of it and I feel certain so was he. Not only did Frank know this, he appreciated it when he was alive. He adored her and he would have been lost without her.

After only a few short years in San Miguel de Allende, I reluctantly moved away, visiting only twice, and I missed Frank and Victoria actively over all those decades. We all have people in our life whom we know will accept us back into their fold as if no time has passed, and Frank and Victoria were two of those rare people for me.

I can both see and hear Frank in my mind and have done so over all the years I missed him. In my memory, he is on a local stage, he’s wearing a fine white outfit, maybe holding a cowbell or some other hand instrument. He’s singing and stamping out those bad-ass salsa steps, vibrating his shoulders, a knowing and slightly devilish glint in his eye, the gritty voice, the joy, Victoria at times in the wings. This is how I will remember Frank Bravo.

I can’t find my old tapes of La Propia Salsa and the Propia Salas. I can no longer find on the net his wonderful voice but I found one link here. It doesn’t do him justice. I miss you, Frankie.

Main Dishes

Make-Ahead Pear Bake (w/Vegan Option)

September 28, 2017

Entertaining is exhausting.  By the time I’ve done the planning, shopping, cleaning, arranging, last-minute cooking to have everything timed just right and served hot, not only am I filling the atmosphere with my nervous fussing, I’m  already on to onto the dishes and I’ve missed out on my own party. My solution? Delicious, make-ahead meals that taste out of this world.

I was able to make this entire dish, including my rice and salad, the night before my gathering.
The day of the party, with my meal cooked, tables set, I went to work a full day.

Once home, I simply popped  my make-ahead pear bake into the oven an hour before my guests were to arrive.  20 minutes before, I simple tossed 1/2 a cup of water into the rice (made the night before and  left on the stovetop, unrefrigerated), poured myself a glass of wine and waited for the eaters to show.

It turned out some people were arriving late but no need to panic! You can leave this dish in the oven until the cows come home. It only gets better. And the rice, once warmed, will happily stay that way on the stovetop, covered. Besides, you are going to spoon piping hot broth from the main dish onto the rice so it doesn’t have to be tongue-singeing hot.

My Goddaughter, Connie from New Zealand, inspired the  recipe below whilst visiting us in Panama.
She claimed it was an easy, fail-safe dish that company just adores. And she was correct.
In her recipe, Connie used local vegetables, pears and pork chops.

I decided to change it a bit, using sausage and chicken, and to brown my meats first.
It was a good call! This was absolutely scrumptious, the sauce had some sophisticated, developed flavors,  and the whole meal was an easy self-serve! So, I got to sit with my company and enjoy the conversation.

The bonus is that this dish is even better the next day and, it’s gluten-free if you omit serving with a roll!

Feel free to change this recipe up or down to suit your personal diet but whatever you decide, you must keep the pears, wine, sage and thyme. I am including a VEGETARIAN/VEGAN option below! So veggie folk, scroll down!  

My peeps and I are meat-eaters, so here is what I did.

Baked Pears with Sausage & Chicken

  • 3 Mild Italian Sausages, cut into halves to make 6
  • 3 Hot Italian Sausages, cut into halves to make 6
  • 4 Large chicken breasts, split into halves, making 8  (Or use 6-8 chicken thighs)
  1.  Brown all the meats in 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil into a large frying pan
  2.  Set them into a very large baking pan. I used a big lasagna pan.
  3.  Now, into the lasagna or baking dish, and arranged evenly, add:
  • 6 small new potatoes, halved
  • 1 Sweet potato, chopped into large chunks
    (If you dislike sweet potatoes, don’t worry. You will like them in this dish. I promise!)
  • 10 or 12 chunks of  peeled carrots, cut to 2″ long pieces
  • 1 Large, sweet visalia onion, cut into 8 chunks
  • 5 Bartlet pears, sliced into half-moon wedges. Ripe is great but semi-ripe will work.

4.  Into the juices from the meats in your saucepan, sautée:

  • 4 large cloves of garlic, just crushed
  • 3 or 4 cups of white wine
  • 1 cube of chicken stock (vegetarians, just use a vegetable flavor)

5.  Pour the hot wine, garlic & broth mixture over the entire meat and pears dish.
6.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of fresh thyme and 1 tbsp. of fresh, cut sage over the entire dish
7.  Salt and Pepper to taste

Bake 335 for 3 hours.
Serve over rice, with a soft dinner roll for dipping into the delicious broth, and a side of salad.

TIP:  When laying an array of food for self-serve, or buffet style, arrange your table so that your guests can serve from both sides of the table. (In other words, do not have your table up against a wall.) All you have to do is add a utensil on each end of the dish. This speeds up service remarkably!

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN OPTION.  Instead of chicken broth, use your favorite vegetarian flavoring.  And in place of the meat, use large chunks of dried bread. Any type of bread you like but they must dry, in the style of a traditional stuffing.  

You don’t have to purchase packages of stuffing mix, but you can.  I prefer cutting up chunks of a favorite bread and place them on a tray into a low oven until they are very firm. Also, this  is a perfect way to make good use of older bread.

Add the dried bread  chunks in after you have cut and distributed your veggies in the pan.  Now, toss  the bread in with all your vegetables and distribute evenly.

Now you are ready to  pour your wine mixture on top.  It is essential that you add the very fresh thyme and sage. You might want to use more sweet potato as well. This will be delicious. I made something similar for thanksgiving last year.


All Eggs are Not Created Equal

September 27, 2017

I love eggs.  I eat them poached, coddled, fried, boiled, scrambled or as an omelette. Sometimes nothing hits the spot better than a simple egg salad sandwich on squishy white bread with crunchy lettuce. (Okay not healthy, but this is one of my guilty comforts!) When I order Chinese, I always have the Egg Foo Young, basically a Chinese frittata.

Eggs are personal. Some people just can’t eat eggs. On the other hand, I once cooked for an ova-lactate vegetarian who could eat eggs all day long. Then there are my vegan friends who don’t eat any animal products at all. Others eat only the whites, but  I love the entire egg, especially the yolk. These are all personal choices and to be respected.

(Some of my vegans make the argument that they don’t eat eggs because all eggs are a potential life, a position that for me holds no water. Eggs are a byproduct of a hen. Whether there is a Rooster hanging around or not, that little lady is going to drop that egg no matter what. To my thinking, if the egg isn’t fertilized,  it’s not really a potential life, is it?).  

Before moving to Panama, I pretty much thought an egg was an egg was an egg. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I only knew what was around me.  Before Panama, I had switched to organic eggs after hearing  the Buddhist monk, Thich That Hahn explain that “If you are going to eat an egg, eat a happy egg from a happy hen.”  But I learned that “organic”  doesn’t guarantee the hen is raised in a happy environment and these so-called organic eggs tasted and looked about the same to me with a very pale yellow yolk inside a runny liquid white.

It’s not all about taste for me.  No, I’m not an activist vegan for several reasons, but I do respect their cause and their commitment.  And, if you haven’t gone online to view how hens are treated at the big egg factories, please do. It is not pleasant. There is nothing remotely good,  appetizing or humane about factory farming.  It’s destructive and cruel. But it lines the pockets of the big companies and it does offer a less expensive product for people who need to shop economically.  The latter point I understand and I have chosen, on my tight budget, to cut corners elsewhere so that I can pay for my happy eggs. My local supermarket, Publix, now offers at least three farm-raised egg options, indicating, at least anecdotally, that the mainstream demand for fresher eggs seems to be increasing. (Links to some of these companies are posted, below.)  When I support a company selling “pasture-raised” eggs, I am supporting the local farmers who provide product for these labels. 

It wasn’t until we moved to mountains of Panama where my neighbors had hens that I had my Come-To-Jesus moment.  These eggs, even those from the supermarket, were delicious!  They were rich, rich, rich! The yolks were a deep cadmium yellow, brighter than a school bus, nearly orange and at first I was actually startled by the intensity of color.  These gorgeous yolks sat in a firm albumen that stood up on its own when you cracked it into a pan.

With fresh eggs, the white around the yolk will stand firmly after cracking. Note the color of the yolk.

All Panama eggs have brown shells.  I’ve never seen a white-shelled egg in Panama, but I think this speaks only to the breed of hen. In Mexico, eggs are white and often called  “blanquillos” meaning whites.  The only drawback to having brown eggs is that if you have little ones, it puts a damper on Easter Egg-dyeing fun … but my neighbor’s hens laid pastel colors eggs, shown in the featured picture for this post, and I was able to get some color on these.

Panama spoiled us forever. I could purchase eggs from my neighbor, Rumelia, for .15cents per. Further up the road, Grandma Gloria , who loved my cakes but who was reluctant to use her propane gas for baking, would share her pastel colored eggs in exchange for some of my oven treats. And at one point, we had a few hens of our own and Honey Bun, the prettiest, sweetest and cleanest hen ever, would come up onto my porch at 7 am, sit outside my kitchen, lay an egg and leave it for me under my table.

The flavor of an egg from a pasture-raised hen is so notably richer that my brother Nicholas, who lives lives in California where there’s a lot of conscious eating going on, exclaimed that the eggs he ate at my Panama house  were the best tasting eggs he had ever had. Ever. And he’s traveled the world.

When we moved back to the USA, my son William, who had grown up on Panama eggs, declared that he simply could not eat the supermarket eggs sold in the USA.  So I resolved to spend the big bucks!  A dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens will cost me anywhere from $4.50 to $5.99 (occasionally more). They are not quite as good as our Panama eggs, but they are noticeably better than the factory raised eggs with their pasty yellow yolks and runny whites.

Note of caution:  “Organic” does not mean cage-free. And “Cage-free” does not necessarily mean “Pasture-raised.”  “Free-range” might mean that a hen has one square foot of space.  So it’s best to get acquainted with the companies who are selling you your eggs. It’s not hard to do: A good company will have a website that answers all your questions under it’s FAQ section. Read on for links…

Here are links from two of the companies I purchase eggs from here in Florida.e Happy Eggs,  Nellies.  You will find good explanations of the differences between “free range,” “cage free,” and “pasture raised.”




Main Dishes

“Wicked Good” Mussels in Wine & Pernod

July 31, 2017

I grew up in New England. I know, I know…Greenwich, CT is on the edge of New York but still, it îs New England. I’m never, ever late for anything. You won’t find me on your doorstep without first calling you, and I refer to those big, long a submarine or hoagie sandwiches as a “grinder” which is very Connecticut.

I spent summer holidays eating oysters and clams raw, sans the cocktail sauce, picked fresh that morning by my dad, straight from the bay in Wellfleet, MA. The first home I ever purchased was in Norwalk, CT, famous for mussels. I also make a wicked, creamy fish chowder.

I love mussels. They are beautiful  as the subject of a painting and they are even better to eat. I only eat them steamed. But once, at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, I had some unbelievably tasty mussels on a stick, swathed in a creamy garlic sauce.

My favorite way to steam mussels is with white wine and a touch of Pernod. I was first introduced to steamed mussels by Tom Nye,  a chef  who cooked for a little restaurant in Greenwich called The Chowder House, where I waitressed as a teenager. It was located on Lewis Street, now long gone, it served only a handful of tables and  Tom Nye made the most delicious chowders and shellfish I have ever tasted.  Ever.

Tom taught me that when mussels are harvested on the full moon, they are extra plump and he showed me so with each full moon catch. Somewhere, tucked away in storage, I have a tiny box full of teensy pink and gray mussel pearls I gathered from my many Tom Nye mussel meals.

Tom steamed his mussels in the most delicious broth, good enough to eat with a spoon. He used only white wine, fresh rosemary, garlic and  shallots. Over the years, I’ve added the Pernod flavor and the tomatoes, substituted a bit of fennel for the rosemary, borrowing here and there from the best of  various restaurants where I have dined on mussels.

Here is how I prepared my mussels in the photo.

By the way, I ate all two pounds by myself.
From me to you, with love and butter.


What you will need to have ready:

  1. 2 pounds fresh mussels, cleaned, Norwalk or Prince Edward Island mussels (or whatever your fish supplier has fresh).Toss out any that have begun to open. Ick…they’re dead.
  2. 2 cups of any dryish, white wine. Try any Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc
    Do not use a sweet wine such as Zinfandel or Riesling.
  3. 3/4 Shot of Pernod, or Ricard, Anise or Ouzo.
  4. 1 Tooth of minced garlic
  5. 1/8 Tsp ground fennel seed (Optional). Grind in a coffee grinder or a mortar & pestle.
  6. 2 Stalks green onion, chopped into small rounds.
  7. 1/2 Cup of grape tomatoes, whole. Or 1/2 cup chunked fresh tomato
  8. 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, in a separate dish, for dipping.
  9. A wedge of lemon

Now do this:
Set your cleaned mussels aside 2 pounds

In a large soup pot, with the flame on medium, sauté together:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tooth minced garlic
  • 1/8 Tsp ground fennel seed (again, optional)
  • 1 or 2 stems of green onion, chopped

After you have sautéed these in ingredients for a few minutes, add:

  • 2 Cups of any dry white wine of your choice.
  • 3/4 Ounce of Pernod, Ricard, Ouzo, or any Anise flavored liquor you have handy.
  • When the wine has been brought to a simmer, dump all the mussels in and cover the pot tightly.
  • Just before covering the pot, add the tomatoes and the sliced green onion.
    If you don’t have grape tomatoes, don’t worry. Just cut up a medium tomato into small bites.
  • Allow the pot to steam for three – five minutes, checking after three or four.
    Your mussels should have gently opened.
    As soon you see nearly all are open, turn off the flame! You do not want to overcook them.
  • Pour out the entire contents into two large bowls  and place the lemon wedge (missing from my picture) and the melted butter within reach.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: If a now-cooked mussel refuses to open, toss it.
    You want to eat only the mussels that are open.
  • Serve with your favorite dipping bread so you can soak up the broth.


Use ONLY Wine, a Tablespoon of fresh rosemary, shallots, a pinch of salt, a little butter.



Comfort Food

Mediterranean Inspired Red Lentil Soup

June 19, 2017

We are attracted to food as much by color as by flavor.To my eye, red lentils have always looked so much more appealing than the typical, muddy-colored lentils I usually cook up with a big old ham hock. Their color lies something between creamy orange sickle and apricot.
Plus, they have the added benefit of cooking up pretty quickly.

The pretty soup took only 25 minutes to make … from beginning to end, yet it has a surprising medley of flavors going for it. It’s has  a bit of heat, a touch of tang, and a few surprises. Plus, it is super quick and easy to prepare.

Here’s how I did it.


Into a deep sauce pan or soup pot, dribble 2 tablespoons of good olive oil.
To this, add:

  • 2 claws garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 small potato, cubed

Sauté the above mixture about two minutes, then add:

  • 1 cup water (adding more as needed as the lentils cook)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 tbsp vegetable bouillon, photo below (or 1 chicken stock cube)
  • 2 tbsp real butter or good butter substitute. I use Earth Balance in just about everything.
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1 shake of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar or white vinegar (or lemon juice). Do not overdo the acid.

Allow this concoction to cook until the lentils are nearly soft, about 10- 15 minutes.
Then add:

  • 10 leaves freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 10 leaves freshly chopped mint leaves

Simmer until the lentils are soft, the carrots and potatoes soft to bite, but not mushy.

TIPS: If you’re a meat-eater and  want to make this into a heartier meal , add 8 ounces of breakfast sausage a few minutes after adding the lentils. Add by breaking the raw sausage up with your fingers or a wooden spatula in order to make small, bite sized bits.  Serve with warm bread or croutons.