I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: November, 2012

Letting Gluttony Lurk


Learning to be a Joyous Hostess

Just as a compulsive shopper cuts up her credit cards and vows never to step foot in Nordstrom, so the binge eater hides from food triggers, avoiding parties or establishing strict rules around acceptable foods and acceptable quantities that can be eaten – and doing penance when she fails.  It is difficult to hide from Thanksgiving.  My heart goes out to all who find this celebration of gluttony to be a struggle.  No matter how many years go by, I remember the struggle (and struggle still).

Yes, phew!  I survived another Thanksgiving.  And even enjoyed much of it.  Now that is something to be thankful for!  Each year it is better.  As I check in politely with acquaintances this week the general response is:  “Ah, Thanksgiving was wonderful, so relaxing!  Lots of food and wine and family!”  Really?  REALLY?  Does anyone ever answer, “NO!  I hate Thanksgiving!  It’s a lot of work and I eat too much and I feel horrible after it’s all over!  Thank God it’s over!”?  A holiday centered on an abundance of food that encourages binge eating.  That’s a landmine for those of us with eating issues.  Consider:

The Anticipation

I, the competitive, ambitious, my-meal-is-better-than-your-meal over-achiever emerges in full regalia.  Thankfully, this trait has been tempered by time and parenthood.  (I am not a joyous hostess.)

Then:  I compulsively reviewed recipes, looking for the perfect one that would make the most delicious turkey and the most amazing dessert.  No shortcuts allowed.  Time was not a consideration.  Neither was effort.  Neither was expense.  I would design an elaborate menu, shop at multiple stores to find the best ingredients, cook for days until there was no way I was going to enjoy eating the food.  I am not sure my guests enjoyed it either because it was too obviously a performance and not about comfort and generosity.

Now:  After having children, I have found I cannot afford the luxury of time to devote to an elaborate meal, nor do I want to.  Moreover, my family is not interested in some new-fangled dessert or trendy turkey-cooking technique.  They want the same old menu year after year.  It was me who wanted to prove what a great cook I was.  Hmmm.  I suppose I can forego gourmet-dom and do the same old menu.

My kids now want to cook and have ownership of some of the dishes.  Hmmm.  I suppose I can give up some control over the meal.  My son now owns mashed potatoes and I “assisted” him (wink wink) with the stuffing and the gravy.   My daughter now owns pumpkin muffins for breakfast as well as sweet potatoes and pecan pie.  My sister-in-law brings pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  I make the turkey. (Alton Brown’s recipe for brining and roasting the turkey has been the best method yielding the most delicious results, for me.) Plus a salad and roasted radicchio rounded out the meal this year.  Everything was delicious.  I even allowed myself to enjoy the super-sweet marshmallow-y sweet potatoes, a dish I have scorned in the past.  Indeed, I think they were my favorite dish this year!  In spite of a twinge of guilt, I coach myself to not mind that I am not attempting some new complicated dish this year.

The Eating

I, the obsessive-compulsive calorie-counting nutritionivore – with disordered eating patterns a constant backdrop eager to raise its ugly head at a moment’s notice – enjoy an abundant Thanksgiving dinner?  YIKES!

Then:  As a child, before I took over the kitchen, I remember a quiet boring day with my mother cooking and my father and grandfather watching football.  It was just the four of us.  (My parents were not joyous hosts – and thus I never learned how to be one either.  Perhaps there is still time.)  The turkey was a production, with everyone fussing over whether or not it was done.  My grandfather brought a bittertart traditional cranberry sauce and some pies.  My mother made stuffing.  I waited impatiently all day – so bored and lonely – until it was time to eat.  Finally it was time to eat and I basked in that activity, gorging on all the delicious food.  Everything about the food was pleasurable after a boring, lonely day as a young only child.  When I was old enough to cook, I took control over dessert, perfecting piecrust and elaborate renditions of traditional pies.  But by the time I was old enough to cook, I had become self-conscious of my body.  Gorging on an abundance of food to pass the time or fill the loneliness had led to a normal and normally curvy adolescent body that generated unwanted attention.  Better control that appetite – channel that food appetite into cooking not eating.  Like whack-a-mole, though, appetite cannot be suppressed permanently and will rise up again and again until dealt with.  I remember my first Thanksgiving home from college.  Depressed, I just ate and ate and ate, picking at the turkey, picking at the pie.  It was so delicious and so much more delicious than the cafeteria food.  Trying to fill up with comfort and looking for love that was only available through food – or some achievement.

[Note to all parents, aunts/uncles, teachers and friends of adolescents:  Please help young people stay young and to respect their normal bodies and to be confident no-sayers.  It is painful to be a child with a woman’s body lusted after by older boys and men.]

Now:  My hyper-discipline goes into overdrive.  I take one normal sized portion of everything I like, leaving what is not important to me (mashed potatoes and gravy).  I drink one glass of wine with the meal, not before.  Then when everyone goes back for seconds, I take some salad.  For dessert, I have a miniscule sliver of each pie.  After all, the first bite is the most delicious bite. The day after, I revert immediately to my regular eating, refraining from the dessert leftovers.  No guilt from over-indulgence, no penance required.  (And limited joy derived from the meal.)

The Clean-Up

I, the martyr shows up.  No, No, I don’t need any help.  Don’t mind me.  I’m exhausted from cooking all day, but no matter – go have fun!  I’ll just stand here for another hour by myself doing the dishes – a chore from my childhood that I hate – seething with rage.  Don’t mind me. (I am not a joyous hostess.)

Then and Now:  Yowza, I am still struggling with this one.  I asked for help from my children and my nephew kept me company, curious and appreciative of his aunt.  It’s an improving process, but the rage remains.  What is that rage?  Childhood disappointment in an unsatisfying meal where “children are to be seen and not heard.”  Oh, and then do the dishes.

The Week After

When politely asked how my thanksgiving was, I can now answer:  “I loved the time with my family.  My children are becoming wonderful cooks and kitchen companions.  And I am learning to be a more joyous hostess.”


Kiera’s Pumpkin Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 14 oz can pure pumpkin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup golden raisins

Preheat over to 325°F.  Sift or stir together the dry ingredients.  Using electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs.  Beat in the pumpkin, lemon zest, vanilla, and yogurt.  Gradually add in the dry ingredients.  Gently stir in the nuts and raisins.  Spoon batter into muffin tin.  (We use foil liners.)  Bake approximately 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Makes 15 muffins.  Delicious with cranberry sauce.  (Muffins freeze well.)

Grandpa’s Bittertart Cranberry Sauce (the recipe is from the package – so easy)

  • 1 cup water (or orange juice)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh, whole cranberries – a 12 oz package

Bring liquid to a simmer.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add in the cranberries.  Simmer gently until the cranberries begin to pop, about 10 minutes.  Sauce thickens as it cools.

Delicious on muffins and toast (as well as the thanksgiving turkey).

Homage to Hostess

Wonder Bread = Normal

I wanted, desperately, to be normal in a normal household.

I wanted a mother who stayed home like all the other mothers.  My mom, ahead of her time, had a Ph.D. and ran the scientific review committee for NIMH, deciding who merited receiving grant funding for research projects.  She was not home providing after-school snacks like the other moms.

I wanted a sibling.  My best friend in 2nd grade was one of seven kids.  I was so jealous of her tiny cabinet of a bedroom custom built under the staircase, like Harry Potter’s.  My household was quiet, calm, and very orderly.  There were no siblings to fight with.

I wanted to bring my lunch to school instead of buying my lunch every day.  I wanted tunafish (from a can with lots of mayonnaise) on Wonder Bread.  A completely exotic concept in my household.  We had Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread for toast in the morning and lunch was whatever concoction was on the menu at the school cafeteria.

I do remember that I finally convinced my mother to let me bring my lunch and I was very excited to get a Partridge Family lunch box with a thermos.  I also finally convinced her to buy me Wonder Bread.  I loved Wonder Bread!  I would smear it with butter and eat it simply with just the butter.  Another favorite Wonder Bread snack was to take a slice and smoosh it into a ball.  I am not sure what was appealing about this variation, but it amazed me how Wonder Break was so malleable.  I loved the plasticity.

As part of my foray into lunch-making and filling up that beloved lunchbox with treats, I sampled all the Hostess products at the time.  I did not like the chocolate Hostess cupcakes or any of their other chocolate productions.  I still don’t like bland chocolate items.  But I did and do love vanilla.  Twinkies were my favorite and were pretty much my daily dessert.  Spongey, creamy, gooey, sticky sweet.  I would eat one end and then the other end, saving the middle where the majority of the cream was for last.  Of course, now, I would not be caught dead with a Twinkie.

When I heard that Hostess was having trouble in January, I surreptitiously bought a box of Twinkies and brought them home.  Imagine my family’s surprise!  We looked at them skeptically.  We each cautiously took one and unwrapped it.  The stickiness was still there, as my fingers immediately had twinkie cake stuck to each pad.  We each took a bite.  My husband and son took another bite, ultimately finishing theirs.  My daughter rolled her eyes and refused to deign to eat another bite.  I understood why I loved them at the age of 7, 8, 9, but I could not bring myself to finish it.  It was not worth the calories or the guilt associated with indulgence.  The box went to the back of the snack shelf – where I finally threw it out just recently.  (I am pretty sure my husband had several more between January and August.  After all, they are not preservative-free.)

My last memory of being completely attached to a Hostess product is of eating Hostess Apple Pies for lunch in 10th grade.  Indeed, that is all I ate for lunch in 10th grade.  One Hostess apple pie.  Every day.  That was the year I went from growing into a curvy young woman to disciplining myself into a rail thin ballerina.  I craved the syrupy sweetness and didn’t want to forego dessert by wasting calories on nutrition.

When the news hit last week that Hostess may not continue, I joined the outpouring of nostalgia for the snack food of “normal” 1970’s suburban childhood.  Of course, now, I am proud of my mother’s achievements; cognizant  of how my not-so-normal childhood has shaped who I am today; and fully aware that no family is “normal.”  My mother was wise to let me experiment with food as she patiently waited for me to outgrow my love of Hostess as I matured.

I spent the weekend wondering about an adult version of a Twinkie.  If you got rid of the too-sweetness and the spongey airiness, could it be pleasing?  I am not a patient baker any more; could it be easy to make?  I turned to the bible, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and read, re-read, and re-read the recipe for her Butter Spongecake (p 669).  No way was I going to follow all those directions!  Then I got out my Joy of Cooking encyclopedia and reviewed their sponge cake instructions (p 670).  Definitely simpler.  I tackled it, with some Julia Child nuances (butter!), but made a key mistake.  I substituted regular flour for cake flour.  The batter was dense and the cake was heavy.  Then I wondered about what to fill the cake with.  Vanilla Buttercream?  Vanilla Custard?  I settled on Vanilla Whipped Cream.  The outcome was a pleasant cake with delicious vanilla-ness, reminiscent of Twinkie, but not as gooey and not as sweet.  Time to grow up.

Twinkie Cake for Grown-Ups


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder (Julia does not approve)
  • 4 egg whites
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Beat egg yolks for about 7 minutes, using an electric mixer, until they are light yellow and creamy in texture.
  3. Beat in the sugar, butter, and vanilla.
  4. Gradually, beat in the flour and baking powder.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  6. Fold the eggs whites into the cake batter until gently mixed.
  7. Spread the batter into a 9” cake pan (lightly greased and floured).
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cake is done when it is lightly golden and begins pulling away from the pan.  Cool.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  1. Chill pan, beater, and whipping cream for 1-2 hours prior to preparing.
  2. Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla together until thick.


  • Slice cake in half horizontally.  Spread the whipped cream over the bottom layer.  I used about 2/3.  Place the top layer over it.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Offer any remaining whipped cream as an extra dollop on top.


  1. 8-10 normal servings
  2. 12-16 sliver servings for those of us with fear-of-indulgence issues

Walking With God

My Friend Agnes

Agnes means “lamb of God,” according to my friend Agnes.  I would joke that I was walking with God when we walked daily.  Truly, it was no joke.  If God is love and the connection between us, then walking with Agnes was walking with God.  Our walks were sacred.

We walked nearly every day for a year and a half.  Monday through Friday we got up at 5 am and walked about 2 miles from 5:15 to 5:45, year round.  On the weekends, we slept in until 6:15 and doubled our mileage for a 4 mile jaunt.  We texted each other every night to confirm, checking in with the weather and the temperature.  I bought us each flashing safety lights that we wore around our waists when the mornings were dark.  She bought us each a fleece top to layer on when the mornings were cold.

Of course the reason for walking was fitness.  I had a grueling schedule and a commute and couldn’t fit in exercise in any other way.  She was launching her real estate career but still wanted to be home as much as possible for her three children and her husband.  Having an early morning walking/fitness partner insured that we did our walk nearly every day.  After all, Agnes was depending on me to show up.

But really the reason for walking was friendship.  I was the quiet, more reserved one, focused on family and career with seemingly little time for nurturing friendships.  Agnes was the talkative, more effusive one.  Indeed she is the connector, the glue for our entire neighborhood community.  We were perhaps an unlikely pair.  As the talker listened, and the listener talked, we shared everything with each other forming a deep bond.  When I slid into indecision or reluctance to express my point of view, she asked questions creating a safe and nonjudgmental place for me to be me.  I looked up to her as being funny and extroverted and energetic.  She looked up to me as being intelligent and compassionate and honest.

We started with the mundane.  “What did you have for dinner last night?” led to lengthy conversations about food, recipes, and the Flat Belly diet.  I am still skeptical of her Brussels Sprouts roasted with bacon but she swears they are delicious. She thinks my preparation of two batches of pasta at dinnertime (regular for the boys, whole wheat for the girls) is unwieldy and not going to happen in her family.  We are both fans of Mark Bittman and his approach to food and cooking as we incorporate more vegetarian options into our repertoire and hope our families follow suit.

We tackled movies, books, and current events.  We both read Three Cups of Tea and later felt betrayed when the accusations against Greg Mortensen came out. Agnes is never afraid to ask a question or reveal that she doesn’t know something.  I am more protective of how I appear outwardly, not wanting to reveal that I don’t know something.  We usually had read the same articles in the New York Times the previous day and she would launch into her thoughts and questions about it – while allowing me the space to articulate my questions and thoughts as well, instead of pretending I had it all figured out.

We shared our hopes, frustrations, and love for our children.  We shared household tips, best buys, and ideas for birthday celebrations.  We groused about our husbands and complained about ornery bosses and co-workers, while working through conflicts and sticky situations.  We shared our family stories.  Her Italian Catholic upbringing contrasted with my Aetheist upbringing as an only child.  So different.  And yet we were interconnected as busy working moms in the same neighborhood at mid-life (though she is quick to point out that she is three years younger than me and technically not a baby-boomer).  “But you do believe in God.”  She stated during one memorable conversation about religion.  It was not a question.  She understood that I was brought up without religion, but she saw the spiritual side of me and never questioned my faith even though I question it every day and am pretty sure most of the time that I do not believe in God, at least not in the sense of an omnipotent being.  But her faith in my faith was unwavering.

As our second winter of walking approached, I couldn’t face frigid, dark 5 am walks any more.  I had discovered yoga and began to phase out walking with Agnes.  I had embarked on a 9-month 200-hour teaching training program that required all my energy that wasn’t wrapped up in my work and my family.  Busy Busy Busy!  I am always busy doing, learning, achieving – leaving little time for friendships.  Somehow the achievement of some goal seems more important than just being with another human being.  As an only child, I can be self-absorbed and spotty when it comes to valuing relationships.  Agnes said she missed me and missed our walks, but she did not express anger or outrage at being passed over for my latest pursuit.  Indeed, she was supportive and one of my most loyal guinea pig students when I needed to practice teaching yoga.  We always picked up where we left off and talked enthusiastically about some crucial topic of high interest to both of us.  But there was a distance, a gap.  I missed her, but I was busy busy busy.

Last week (two years later) I was at her house using her blow dryer during the power outage.  I had shared how the lack of a hair dryer was a source of both physical discomfort (my hair doesn’t dry and my head is cold!) and aesthetic discomfort (my hair just hangs limply, with no body or style!).  “Come to my house right now and dry your hair!” she commanded.  I obeyed.  About the only good thing about the power outage is that I wasn’t busy busy busy, because there was no light in which to do anything.  We talked for an hour, catching up on each other’s lives.  My friend Agnes.  A few hours later that same day another neighbor called me to tell me that Agnes’ husband had passed away suddenly.  WHAT?!  It was just unfathomable.  What could I do for my friend Agnes who had taught me so much about life and friendship?  I stopped by every day just wanting to be near her and to hold her hand, jealous of the more organized ladies of the neighborhood who seemed to have a knack for knowing what to do, praying that my presence was in some way a help to her.  When she got up to give her eulogy at the funeral, I sobbed.  My brave friend, how could this tragedy have happened?  She stood up and shared her love for her husband and her sadness that he was gone and her profound understanding that he loved her and knew that she loved him.  What a gift to know with certainty that you love and are loved.

On the morning of the funeral, the daily thought from the Buddhist Tricycle was written just for the occasion.  Funny how that happens.  At times of crisis and heightened emotion, we remember that it is important to live every day like it is our last.  It is during the ordinary times that it is hard to hang onto this wisdom.

“If we really faced our fear of death, our lives would ultimately be lighter and more joyful. I don’t propose death awareness to depress us. It enhances our ability to live more fully.”

– Larry Rosenberg, “Only the Practice of Dharma Can Help Us at the Time of Death”

As Agnes rebuilds, I hope to be a friend to her as dearly as she has been a friend to me.  We’re going to begin with some walks.

Mark Bittman’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, p 273

Brussels Sprouts must be cooked thoroughly, but not until they’re mushy; they’re best when the insides are tender but not soft.  And they’re ideal when the exterior is crisp.  This combination of sautéing and roasting does the trick nicely, and these sprouts are good when very, very dark brown, almost burned.  Other vegetables you can use: red cabbage or wedges of radicchio.  [I prefer radicchio.]

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves peeled garlic, or more to taste
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Trim the hard edge of the stem from the Brussels sprouts, then cut each in half through its axis.  Put the oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium-high heat.  When it shimmers, arrange the sprouts in one layer, cut side down.  Toss in the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook, undisturbed, until the sprouts begin to brown, 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to the oven.  Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning; drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, stir, and serve hot or warm.

Serves 4.

Waiting for Con Ed

My Empty Refrigerator

As news of Hurricane Sandy’s ferociousness dominated our area two weekends ago, I alternated between frenetic anxiety (gotta get batteries!) and scornful denial (damn media hype!).  When schools announced their closure, I scoffed at their overreaction, but decided I better get a lot of laundry done.  Just in case.  In my hyper anxious mood, I needed to work off the adrenalin – my son and I went for a walk/bike-ride around the neighborhood Monday morning.  The wind kicked up while we were out and branches started falling.  Hmm, maybe this IS serious.  After all, my sister-in-law is usually right and she said this one would be bad.  I began to panic.  “Aidan, we need to go home!”  We headed home, taking some “before” photos along the way.  Just in case.

I decided to make dinner early.  Just in case.  We frequently lost power in storms and I figured we would lose power this storm as well.  Around 5:00 I set the water on to boil for pasta.  The wind was supposed to be quite bad after 8:00 pm.  Plenty of time for a pre-storm dinner.

Around 5:20, we lost power.  Shit!  Spoiling my dinner!  Not to be thwarted, we all hopped into the car, prepared to head to a local restaurant for dinner.  We couldn’t leave our street.  One tree up the hill had fallen on a telephone pole and knocked out the electrical wires and transformer.  Another tree down the hill had fallen, knocking out more wires and blocking the road.  We were trapped.  Truly, it was shocking – too dangerous, indeed impossible, to drive.  Shaken, we went back home and made the best of our candlelit dinner of room temperature leftovers and discussed possible sleeping arrangements.  We decided on mother-daughter and father-son.  Somehow that seemed the right combination for body warmth, love, and parental protection during a windy scary night.

The next day we rose with the sun (late for me, around 7:30 am) and began our vigil.  Waiting for Con Ed.  And wondering.  How bad is the damage?  What can we do?  But first, coffee.  As someone who is attached to my routines, I feel unmoored when my schedule is disrupted.  I vaguely remembered being able to make coffee during the last outage.  Aidan had insisted we could light the burners last night, but we didn’t listen to him – the baby of the family.  Sure enough, he was right.  Two burners worked in this way.  Coffee and oatmeal for breakfast!  That kept me busy for a while.  That and pacing to the window to see what, if anything, was going on outside.   Around 11:00, we embarked on a walk through the neighborhood to see how everyone fared.  Many neighbors were doing the same thing, in shared dismay.  Trees and wires down throughout the neighborhood, with several houses severely damaged by trees that had fallen on them.  It was awful.  We were lucky.  We had no damage and we were okay. 

Back home and it was time for lunch.  Gotta use up the cold cuts.  Grilled turkey, ham and cheese all around.  Daytime was okay:  we had enough light; we bundled up to stay warm; we kept busy.  And we had hopeful energy.  Stay positive!  Stay busy!  We’re lucky!  Tuesday night’s candlelit dinner was pasta with more leftover sauce.  The boiling pot brought the temperature up a degree.  We huddled around our battery-operated dvd player and watched Ratatouille.  We saved Finding Nemo for Wednesday night, crying over a father’s love and the beautiful connection between beings.

Wednesday my husband trekked to work and the kids and I began our new outage routine.  My daughter and I took a yoga class every morning while my son read his book in the warmth of the sitting area watching over our charging electronic devices.  I was so happy to be in the presence of people!  But as the week wore on, more people got their power restored and returned to normal and I felt isolated in our misery.  Remember, we’re lucky!  By Friday, when the yoga teacher purred about how tragedy brings out the best in people I felt like screaming.  ”Are you kidding?  People are about to kill each other selfishly cutting each other off in gas lines!”  I think tragedy brings out the most primitive emotions in people.  Much of it good and caring, but not all of it.  I wish I were a wise, compassionate, loving yoga teacher.  Oh yeah, I AM a yoga teacher!  I have to remember that!  But I am also a selfish human who wants her electricity back so she can blow-dry her hair, eat her regularly scheduled foods, and drive to her favorite activities without worrying about a gas shortage!  Lucky White Suburban Woman Is Miserable does not make a good headline.

I guess we’re all going to get generators.  That ought to be good for the environment.  Huddled in our individual houses with our gasoline-powered generators rumbling noisily away.  At least we’ll be able to run our hair-dryers.

I am struck by the people who are galvanized to action during disasters.  They deliver meals and clothing to the afflicted.  They open their houses to anyone who needs a meal or a shower.  They open their arms and hearts to all.  My instinct is to hunker down – stoically.  No I don’t need anything, but don’t expect me to give anything either.   My way is a meager way and not the example I want to set for my children.  So, we gratefully accept the hook-up to our neighbor’s generator, powering our heating system for a few hours a day so the house is warmer.  So, we gratefully accept my sister-in-law’s generosity with food, warm beds, hot showers (and a working hair-dryer).  I am not sure how we pay back their generosity.  Perhaps it is simple.  We say thank you graciously and pay it forward. 

By Sunday, I gave up on salvaging anything from the freezer or the refrigerator and threw it all away.  The 5 year old caramel topping for ice cream.  The caper berries I bought when I couldn’t find capers.  The vacuum packed smoked salmon from a Harry & David gift basket – about 10 years ago.  I suppose some of this stuff lasts forever.  But I threw every bit if it away.  Time to move on and start fresh.  It does feel good to have an empty refrigerator, poised with new possibilities.  I cleaned the freezer compartment.  It had never been cleaned.  There was a gogurt from when the kids were little – also about 8-10 years old.  And ancient frozen waffles.  One package of regular.  And one package of whole grain.  And a melted ice cream sandwich.  All gone.  It was sad.  It was freeing.  Time to move on and start fresh.

After a week of oatmeal for breakfast, grilled cheese & omelets for lunch, and pasta & assorted leftovers for dinner, the most delicious meal we had this past week was (leftover) black bean chili served over brown rice. 

Black Bean Chili

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1 link of chorizo, chopped (optional add-in for meat-eaters)
  • 2 15 ounce cans of black beans (use the liquid)
  • 1 16 ounce jar of salsa (whatever is your favorite brand and level of spiciness)
  • 2-4 Tablespoons of pickled jalapenos (adds tang more than heat)


  • Cilantro
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour cream

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions, garlic, bell peppers.  Saute until onions soften – about 10 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano – 2 minutes.  Add in Chorizo, beans, with liquid, salsa, and jalapenos.  Reduce heat and simmer – 15 to 30 minutes.

Serve over brown rice with desired toppings.  Makes terrific leftovers!  You can stretch out this meal by varying the ratio of rice to chili.

Serves about 6

%d bloggers like this: