I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Category: Recipes

Comfort Food



I’m a little jangled right now. My son started his first day of 11th grade, which I dealt with by feeling overwhelmed with stress on the work front. My daughter leaves tomorrow for her second year of college, which leaves me feeling excited, proud, melancholy, and old. Less stressful than Year 1, but still emotional. I took a too-hard, too-crowded, too-much-rap-music (wtf?) yoga class, which made me angry and tearful: My hip is cranky; who are these people who CAN do this class? Clearly I am getting too old. Maybe I will just sing and knit and get fat. Yowza!


Thursday night, I dreamt that my pet parakeet had a new water dispenser and I realized that she could drown in it if I didn’t watch over her at all times. Do you think I am worried about my children? As our pediatrician counseled us at baby-proofing stage, only half-joking: “Never let them out of your sight.”

Friday night, I dreamt that my hair suddenly was much grayer. I wondered if I should begin to color it, debating between being my authentic self and not wanting to look too old. Do you think I am worried about aging? Who IS that woman in the mirror and what did she do with my 35-year-old self?

When doing some back-to-school errands with my daughter, someone made a strange turn at an intersection. I thought about my son beginning to drive and was overcome with the dangers of driving and the fear of losing them to an accident. Which would be devastating.  Which led me to musing at how wonderful both my children are. Precious, good, honest, empathetic, better than me, better than my husband. How is it possible that these two amazing human beings are my children? Which led me me to tears at a stop light. Praying that they survive the dangers of everyday living.  Overcome with love and gratitude.


Clearly, I am in need of some comfort food. The problem is that traditional comfort foods (Macaroni and Cheese, Oreos and Milk, Pot Roast with Gravy) are too rich. I don’t enjoy these foods. I feel too guilty.  And too full.  For me, comfort food is simple and easy, includes favorite childhood foods, can be eaten in large quantities, and is healthily guilt-free.

When I was a little girl, we had a neighbor with an extensive garden who would let me eat tomatoes warm off the vine. They were perhaps the most delicious food ever. I never tire of good tomatoes but am usually frustrated that they never live up to my memory of those garden tomatoes.  Every summer, my mother would make a simple salad of tomatoes and avocado.  She must be one of the first people who put together a simple composed salad without any lettuce. Who needs lettuce!

The local tomatoes have been pretty good this summer. And, ballerina-eating-trick: you can eat vast quantities of tomatoes without incurring a lot of calories. No need for lettuce, the tomatoes form a delicious base for salads and require minimal dressing. While I don’t eat very much meat any more, I do love chicken and indulge in it occasionally.  This is one of my favorite go-to salads and is what I had for lunch on this day of mixed and jangled emotions.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Yogurt Vinaigrette

  • 1 small grilled chicken breast
  • ½ cup leftover brown rice
  • ½ beefsteak tomato
  • ½ avocado
  • Corn, cut from 1 leftover cob (I always make extra corn on the cob for leftovers)

Dice everything into roughly equal sized small pieces. If you are OCD, like me, you can even make sure that you have the same number of pieces of each ingredient, insuring that each bite has a little bit of everything.

Yogurt Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons plain greek yogurt (ballerina-eating-trick: Replace some fats with plain greek yogurt. Adds tang and has fewer calories and fat. I use plain greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches.)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

Whisk together and spoon over salad.

1 large salad for lunch – good for jangled nerves, especially if you share the salad with your college-bound daughter.

A Simple Roast Turkey


Prepared With Complicated Emotions

For those of us with eating issues, Thanksgiving is fraught. I’ve made the long journey from lonely eater, to competitive pie-baking guest, to overwhelmed hostess, to becoming a more loving and thankful person. I have gradually realized that no one wants the turkey with exotic spices; no one wants the healthy version of mashed potatoes; other people want the sweet potatoes with marshmallows even if I don’t. (Surprise, they are now a favorite of mine!) Like the Grinch, I have very slowly realized that it’s not about me, nor the food, nor my ability to control the holiday experience. It’s about everyone being together. And who wants a hostess that is tense and competitive and judgmental? A hostess should be happy and inviting and joyful, like a beloved yoga teacher, making you feel like the most important and most loved person. Yes, I know. Duh. A mundane epiphany. It only took 52 years.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to enjoy the holidays. Making my resolve more concrete, I shared my decision out loud with my husband. He characteristically said in his no-nonsense way, “Good! Our kids love the holidays and you should be proud that we’ve created traditions that make them feel loved and happy. Besides, the more you enjoy the holidays, the more they will want to come home for the holidays.” Ah. There it is. The circle of life. As they grow older, I want them to want to come home. Unlike me, I want them to want to visit their parents.

I dug out the recipes, made my shopping list, even found the notes I had made a year ago of missing items and ways to improve the process. I was calm, organized, and ready. And So Excited for my daughter to come home from college for the week.

Then my father called. My 92-year old mother was back in the E.R. The “rehab” center where she was barely surviving the recovery from a broken hip had rushed her there. She was on Coumadin and her blood was too thin. This was it, according to my father. I better prepare to abandon my family and my Thanksgiving to rush to her side to say good-bye. I was, sadly, somewhat immune to his dire predictions. He’s been predicting her demise for the last ten years or so. I went through a laundry list of self-questioning:

  • Was my father’s dramatic pessimism warranted? Maybe. After all, she is 92 and one of these days his dire prediction is going to come true.
  • Did it make sense for me to abandon my family and my Thanksgiving to rush to her side and to help my father? Probably not. It was snowing and the worst travel day of the year.
  • How would I feel if my mother died before I could see her? Deeply sad.

The range of emotions over the next 48 hours was wide and intense.

  • Guilt that I am not near by and don’t want to be more of a caretaker.
  • Anger that my father can still make me feel like a scolded bad girl who must resort to explanations of duty and responsibility to explain why I don’t visit more. (I’m busy, busy, busy!) As opposed to the truth: I am angry at what you did. (Make peace with it, Sally. It’s part of your journey.)
  • Compassion for my father who is so devoted to caring for my mother that he feels shattered at this latest crisis leading to her further deterioration. Compassion for his loneliness and worry about his increasing confusion.
  • Despair that the care options for our aging parents are so medicalized and impersonal, based on aiding survival, not on facilitating love.

48 hours later, on Wednesday, after the hospital treated her for the Coumadin overdose and discovered that she had a UT infection which they were now treating with antibiotics, my mom perked up. About to hop on a train, because my father just that morning had insisted that I really probably should come say good-bye, I spoke to the nurse who said she was doing better. Feeling jerked around but relieved, my father held the phone up to my mother’s ear and she kind of squeaked in greeting. My heart jumped up to my throat and I was overcome with emotion.  Would that happy squeak be the last sound of maternal love I hear from my mother?

I decided that I was going to enjoy Thanksgiving. I do believe you can change your thoughts and make thoughtful decisions about how you are going to react and make conscious choices about what emotion will prevail. More and more, I am choosing joy and laughter. I am still angry, guilty, sad, confused, anxious. I am also loving, capable, funny, generous, thoughtful, and frequently happy. My daughter is home. My mother is alive. I am thankful. So thankful that, at midlife, I feel fully thankful along with all the emotions that come with a poignant sense of gratitude.

(P.S. It’s now Saturday and I am, sadly, on my way to say good-bye to her.)

Simple Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

  • Brine the (≅13 lb) turkey Thursday morning.
    • Dissolve 1½ cups kosher salt, ½ cup dark brown sugar, 1 container orange juice concentrate in a quart of boiling water.
    • Remove neck, giblets and metal truss from the turkey.  Throw away because the giblets make your husband gag.  Rinse and place turkey in a cooler or bucket.
    • Pour brine mixture, 1 gallon of cold water, 1 gallon of ice cubes to submerge turkey. Add chicken broth if turkey is not submerged. Place container out on back porch where it is 40°.
    • Let soak in brine for 5-6 hours.

Go take a yoga class. Marvel at how beautiful the class is and wonder what it is about the teacher that makes her so popular. Perhaps it is because she is the most welcoming hostess, making each person feel special. Let the revelation sink in. Maybe I too can be a joyful yoga teacher, a welcoming hostess.

Back home to make sides, side by side with my daughter. Imagine Thanksgiving someday at her house where I hope to be a gracious and loving and helpful and proud guest.

After a light lunch, it’s time to deal with the brined turkey.

  • Preheat the oven to 500°. Lug the turkey inside and haul it into the kitchen sink. Pat it dry. Do NOT stuff it. Slather it with canola oil. Think about how you feel about eating turkey and honor your hesitation. Give thanks to the poor turkey for giving its life so you can honor a family and cultural tradition. Place the turkey on a rack inside a roasting pan and place it in the very hot oven for 25 minutes. Do not peek. (Alton Brown taught me this.)

Go watch football with your husband and son for 25 minutes. Wonder why this violent sport is so popular. Acknowledge that you find the familiar sound of whistles blowing on the tv in the background to be nostalgic and comforting. Muse about what Janay Palmer is doing today and how her relationship with Ray Rice will evolve when it is announced that he is being reinstated into the NFL.

  • After 25 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven. Watch the smoke! (Gotta clean the oven!) Turn the temperature down to 350°. Cover the breast with a double layer of foil, cutting out a little hole for the button to pop so you can see it. Place the turkey back in the oven. For 2 hours. Do nothing. REALLY. No basting, no checking, no nothing. (Alton Brown taught me this.)
  • After an hour and 45 minutes, begin peeking at the button to see if it’s popped. It should pop at 2 hours. If it doesn’t pop at 2 hours, take it out anyway and use your own thermometer to check the temperature. I swear it’s done. Do not overcook.

While it is resting, finish your sides and consider making gravy. Have someone else carve it. Serve buffet style, because you are done! How simple was that?  Ask everyone to help with the clean-up.


Image Credit:  Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young by John James Audubon




Abiding Between Youth and Old Age

I am feeling all of my 51 years, no longer young but not yet old.  There is still so much I want to do.  To say.  To be.

I thought I would be GREAT by now.  Free of all my neuroses and at the height of a successful career.  I was never sure what that career was going to be, but I was going to be At The Top.  Brilliant writer.  Transcendent dancer.  Insightful teacher.  Inspiring leader.

It took my 40’s and several years of mid-life reflection to get to 50.  I find that each decade ends in the next one.  And now, at 51, I am fully ensconced in this one.  51 is simply 51.

51 is not the new 31.  I am angry at the marketers who insist we look and behave younger than we are.  I don’t want to be 31.  It was a good year, don’t get me wrong, filled with all the joyful beginnings of a new decade, with a new marriage and a new home and the promise of new life.  But at 51, I have gone through so much more living.  I’ve loved.  I’ve lost people I love.  I’ve had children (one of the experiences worthy of the word “awesome” in my mind).  I’ve lost a few jobs.  And survived.  And learned a lot about myself and other people along the way.

Why dismiss that experience?  Why do we elevate the giddy impulsiveness and anxiety of youth in favor of the patience and intelligence that comes with living life?

I still nervously pick my cuticles, compulsively measure my food, and procrastinate by getting lost in anxious thoughts.  But it is lessening.  I am aware that my tendency toward a sense of depression is a go-to habit – a vestigial way to elicit attention and make an excuse for my perceived failure to be great.  When I notice my tendency to complain, to feel sad or unworthy, or not ready, I now try to do or say something different, something honest.  It allows me to approach my day and the people in it with a more positive and open energy.  Call it happy?  Could it be?

Cyndi Lee discusses the concept of abiding in her book May I Be Happy.  Abiding is the stage between Arising and Dissolving.  Between Inhaling and Exhaling.  Between Birth and Death.  Between Youth and Age.  We work so hard at living.  What will I be when I grow up?  Who will I be with?  Who will my children be?  What will I achieve?  What will be my legacy?  Suddenly you realize that you are grown up and you are what you are.  Maybe it’s time to pause at the transition and just be.  Let go of the grasping ambition, the punishing hard work.  And just be.  Me.  Abiding.

For me, one of the pleasures of being 51 is enjoying pop culture (well, some of it) with my children and remembering parallel experiences from when I was the same age.  My daughter loves Taylor Swift.  I have happily chaperoned a few concerts and admire Swift’s song-writing talent and ability to capture the essence of her age.  Instead of writing an essay on mid-life filled with regret and dissatisfaction, I decided to turn Swift’s tribute to 22 into an anthem for 51.  I figure it will take me a year to perfect the lyrics and record it for YouTube.  At that point, I can call it 52, which rhymes much better with Ooh-Ooh.

51  (Sung – affectionately and enthusiastically – to the tune of 22, by Taylor Swift)

It feels like a perfect night to dress up like yogis

And stay home with the family, uh uh, uh uh.

It feels like a perfect night for reading The New Yorker

And wait up for my daughter, uh uh, uh uh.


We’re happy, sad, tired, stressed, and wise at the same time

It’s maddening and menopausal.

Oh, yeah

Tonight’s the night when I throw off the covers

In a sweat

Uh oh!

I don’t know about you

But I’m feeling 51

No longer want to be 22

But still have much to do

I finally know about me

And what I want to be

Not sure it will be all right

But let’s keep dancing like we’re

51, ooh-ooh

51, ooh-ooh

It seems like one of those days

Noticed jowls in the mirror

Can’t wear high heels, uh uh, uh uh.

It seems like one of those days

Woke up at 4 in the morning

To do list is growing, uh uh, uh uh.


We’re happy, sad, tired, stressed, and wise at the same time

It’s maddening and menopausal.

Oh, yeah

Tonight’s the night when I throw off the covers

In a sweat

Uh oh!

I don’t know about you

But I’m feeling 51

No longer want to be 22

But still have much to do

I finally know about me

And what I want to be

Not sure it will be all right

But let’s keep dancing like we’re

51, ooh-ooh

51, ooh-ooh

It feels like one of those years

Still living for each paycheck

Thought I’d be rich, uh uh, uh uh

It feels like one of those years

Still seeking the perfect life

Thought I’d be there, uh uh, uh uh


We’re happy, sad, tired, stressed, and wise at the same time

It’s maddening and menopausal.

Oh, yeah

Tonight’s the night when I throw off the covers

In a sweat

Uh oh!

I don’t know about you

But I’m feeling 51

No longer want to be 22

But still have much to do

I finally know about me

And what I want to be

Not sure it will be all right

But let’s keep dancing like we’re

51, ooh-ooh

51, ooh-ooh

As for birthday celebrations, I whole-heartedly believe in them, for me and for you.  This is your day.  Like your name, it is uniquely all about you.  Celebrate you and share in the celebration with your friends and family.  Ask for what you want.  Be sure to have a cake with candles and a wish.  I am not a fan of cake.  And virtually refuse to eat it.  It is dry and tasteless and not worth the calories.  Unless, of course, it is my birthday and the cake is chocolate – dense and moist – and ideally homemade.  With icing smeared off from the plate.  And then I allow myself a sliver and I savor every bite.

Glazed Chocolate Cake with Sprinkles (from Gourmet)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • Sprinkles!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter bottom and side of 9×2 inch round pan, then line bottom with parchment.

Sift together dry ingredients.  Beat together butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla.  Reduce speed to medium-low and add dry ingredients, alternating with milk.

Transfer batter to cake pan.  Bake until cake begins to pull away from side of pan and a wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.  Invert onto a rack and cool completely, 1 hour.

For glaze, bring cream to a simmer in small heavy saucepan over medium heat, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 1 minutes.  Gently whisk until smooth, then stir in corn syrup.  Coll completely, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  It will thicken.

Peel off parchment from cake.  Pour glaze onto center of cake and spread to edges with a spatula.  Decorate with sprinkles!

To Do: Be Here Now


 My List

  1. Yearbooks
  2. Old Navy
  3. Haircut
  4. Key
  5. College prep
  6. Black bean chili
  7. Aspirin

Scrounging for a scrap of paper to write down a few things we need at our vacation house this week, I found this list crumpled in the corner of the purse I brought.  Normally, in my frantic rush to get things done, I would have glossed over this list and just started my new one.  I reuse paper for list-writing with the absurd notion that my attempt to be frugal with bits of paper will help the planet.  But, right now, I am on vacation and I am trying to live in the present moment and to pay attention.  To hear the end of summer crickets, to feel the temperature in the air and the wind on my face, to smell the road-kill on my morning walk, to see – really see – what my eyes are looking at, as Rodney Yee instructed us in the serendipitous yoga class he taught on Tuesday.  It’s just about impossible for me to stay in the present moment.  This week, as my friends with children one year older than mine are dropping them off at college, I am already jumping to a year from now when we will be taking my daughter to college.  I look at the list.  It brings me to a moment in time in my recent past.  When did I write this list?  What was going on?

1.  Yearbooks.  That was a note to myself to order yearbooks for the kids before the deadline.  The year before, when my daughter was in 10th grade, I missed the deadline.  I push everything to the deadline and even then assume I can eek past the deadline and still get by.  Not this time.  There were no yearbooks left.  My daughter’s face crashed with disappointment.  I apologized with shame at my carelessness.  “It’s okay Mom,” she gently but sadly reassured me.  What kind of mom neglects to order yearbooks for their kid?  As usual, I was self-absorbed.  As usual, she pretended not to mind.  I was not going to make that mistake again.

2.  Old Navy.  I needed to order jeans for my son.  Old Navy has the only pair that fits him.  Regular Style Husky.  He is growing but is not tall yet.  He is at that awkward stage where he is stoking up for his big growth spurt.  Most brands are too long and too tight in the waist.  He will be big.  He’s grown a lot this summer, stretching out a bit.  Like a puppy, his feet are now enormous, but his body hasn’t caught up yet.  He’s already outgrown the jeans I ordered for him from that to-do reminder.

3.  Haircut.  The only item on the list that’s about me.  It must have been time for my every 7 weeks trim – my personal hygiene errand.  I can’t even remember to make a haircut appointment any more.  I have to write everything down.  Otherwise I get closed out of the Saturday timeslots at the salon.

4.  Key.  Key?  What was this?  Had we used the spare key and not put it back in its hiding place?  Was it when we replaced the front door and needed to get new keys made?  Were we taking care of my sister-in-law’s dog?  Why did I need a key?  Key to my heart?  Key to my soul?  What mystery was locked away?  Why can’t I remember anything anymore?

5.  College Prep.  Phew, this is a loaded item.  Like I could just check this off as another item on my to-do list.  Get her ready for college.  Check.  No problem!  Her friend’s mother found an SAT/ACT prep class and I jumped on it.  I was grateful that another mom had done the research and found the perfect thing:  5 Sunday afternoons that would focus her productively with test preparation skills, with a friend.  Done!  If only it were that easy.

6.  Black Bean Chili.  This pinpoints the time for me.  The weekend prior to Monday January 14th.  I had signed up on the neighborhood meal train to make dinner for my friend Agnes who lost her husband, suddenly, so sadly, on November 6th.  She was eating more vegetarian choices and so was I.  This was the perfect meal.  Easy, keeps well, and I could make enough for both her family and my family.  I was struggling with how to be a good friend to her.  This was the least I could do.

7.  Aspirin.  My husband does not like to talk about his health.  Whenever I come up with my latest and greatest thought about being healthy, he is quite interested if it is abstract, mildly interested if it is an initiative I am undertaking for my health (Yoga!  Meatless!), and aggressively disinterested if it is an initiative I demand he should undertake for his health.  I haven’t completely cracked this code.  If I can present the concept lightly as something he can opt in to, as opposed to a didactic “You need to do X” he is more amenable.  And so it has been with aspirin.  He has read the evidence that aspirin is an anti-inflammatory that may prevent heart attacks, stroke, and even cancer.  So, we started taking baby aspirin this year.

Funny how this arrangement of seven words sums up so much.  Update this list to now – the present moment – and my list becomes:

1a. Take care of business before the deadline is upon me.  Procrastination cultivates stress and is selfish when other people are affected.

1b. Pay attention to my daughter.  Just because she says it’s okay doesn’t mean it is.  Value what is important to her and try to make it happen when possible.  Don’t be careless.

2.   Buy clothes for my son that fit him properly.  Just because he doesn’t care what he wears doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t help him find clothes that make him feel good about his body and how he looks, especially as he enters high school with some anxiety and curiosity about girls.

3.  Take care of me.  No need to be a martyr.  It’s okay to develop a personal style that doesn’t require a fortune and a lot of professional help.  Enjoy my longer, softer, less edgy hair.

4.  Trust my children with their own key.  Be proud of their increasing independence as they take bigger steps away from me.  Welcome them home with a good night kiss when they come back safe and sound.

5.  Be there for my daughter as she dives into this exciting time, trying on who she might want to be when she grows up.  May she have fun with her friends, enjoy her senior year as a leader in the school, and explore her many options for college next year.

6.  Sustain my friendships.  When I am busy busy busy, I am not good at doing the everyday things that keep a friendship going.  Make time to care.

7.  Tell my husband that the reason I care about his health is because I love him.  I want him around to enjoy our life together as we launch our wonderful children further and further into their own lives.

As for the rest of the list, created at different times on this mini time capsule, the middle set of ingredients (with the exception of shrimp, which was for another dinner) is for my husband’s Veal Bolognese Sauce (adapted from a recipe of Mario Batali’s).  It is delicious.  My husband makes it regularly.  (On the weekends, I go grocery shopping and he cooks at least one sauce that provides leftovers.)  It just so happens that we have leftover Bolognese Sauce waiting for us for when we return from vacation.  But I am getting ahead of myself, as usual.  Right now, I need to buy some coffee for the vacation house and some udder cream (a wonderful moisturizer for sensitive skin) for my husband’s skin which is taking a beating away from home.  After I pause and appreciate the moment.

Eating for One


More Meatless (Part 2)

When my husband decided to take our son skiing for 3 days over Spring Break, my first thought was “I can eat whatever I want!”

I immediately decided to go vegetarian for the time and planned out my meals.  But why?  Because all the other health-oriented middle-aged women are going veg?  I didn’t want it to be just because it is trendy.  On reflection, here are the reasons why eating less meat is right for me:

  1. I feel better, physically, especially with no red meat.  When I eat steak (which I love), my stomach gurgles and I can’t sleep.  I feel lighter and more alert when I eat less meat.
  2. I feel better, mentally, as a global citizen.  A vegetarian diet uses fewer resources than a meat-eating diet.  It just seems the responsible way to eat.
  3. I feel better, emotionally, as a living being.  When I look in an animal’s eyes, I see another soul.  I don’t like to think I am killing other beings.
  4. I feel better, spiritually, as a yogini.  Ahimsa – do no harm – is the first moral restraint of yoga philosophy.

As an obedient rule-follower and laden with eating baggage, do I really need more food rules to live by?  Probably not.  Which is one of the reasons why I have not gone down the vegetarian path more vigorously.   Besides, it would mean rocking the boat on the family dinner front.  Rocking the boat is not something I do.  As I’ve quietly but forcefully acknowledged and embraced who I am, I’ve begun to assert who I am with more confidence.  Part of that assertion occurs around food and consciously choosing what I want to eat.  Not being embarrassed by the way I eat.  Perhaps I am not the one with the eating disorder after all?  Perhaps nothing is wrong with me and I have something to teach others?

My husband and I fell in love over food.  Cooking for each other, cooking with each other, sampling restaurants.  It was fun!  In those early months, merging as one – as couples do in the initial phase of a relationship, we ate the same foods.  As we built our marriage and our family life, a central component has been and continues to be cooking and eating together.  We plan meals, choose recipes, share the cooking and share the eating.  Family dinners are a significant and valued part of our family life together.  About 10 years ago (around 40), I gradually shifted to a more insistently healthy diet.  I had gained the “normal” weight that a 40+ woman puts on after marriage, two children, a sedentary full time job and a lot of pasta and red wine.  I changed my choices for breakfast and lunch but pretty much kept dinner with the family.  Then I eliminated dessert and cut back on wine and switched to whole wheat pasta, whole grain everything.  And lost more than the 15 pounds I had gained over the years.  And felt better.  And slept better.  What does it mean to eat differently than my husband?  He cooks for delicious nourishment.  I cook for healthy nourishment.  Can our diets co-exist?  I tend to compromise more than he does.  After all, doesn’t Ahimsa also apply to appreciating and enjoying his delicious food offerings without my food and eating hang-ups mucking it all up?  The question hovers.

Alone for three days, I sighed with relief and eager anticipation.  Here is what I enjoyed eating.

Day 1

Breakfast:  Shredded Wheat and Bran (64 mini-squares, yes – still counting!) topped with 1 Banana and Vanilla Soy Milk; Grapefruit Juice; Black coffee

Snack:  Siggi’s Yogurt (thick, tart, not sweet, high in protein) and lots of water throughout the day

Lunch:  Peanut Butter & Apricot Jelly on whole wheat bread; Mango;  Iced Venti Half Caf Non-Fat Latte from the ubiquitous Starbucks


I sautéed shitake mushrooms in olive oil and mixed them with farro (a barley-like grain, chewy and flavorful)

Salad of cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado with some olive oil and white wine vinegar

Chardonnay (only 3 ounces…more disrupts my sleep and gives me a headache)

Sweet Riot 85% dark chocolate, 6 squares

Day 2

Breakfast:  Vanilla yogurt (1 cup) with ½ cup Müesli (Familia, no-added-sugar) and blueberries; Grapefruit Juice;  Black Coffee

Lunch:  Hummus and Feta on whole wheat bread;  Sliced apple;  English Breakfast tea

Snack:  1 banana;  lots of Water


My favorite Escarole and Beans

Chardonnay (3 ounces again)

Dark Chocolate (another 6 squares of Sweet Riot 85%)

Day 3

All Bran cereal (2/3 cup) mixed with Early Bird Granola (1/3 cup) topped with blueberries; Grapefruit Juice;  Black Coffee

Snack:  Emmi Swiss Yogurt (creamy and sweet, as delicious as a dessert); lots of water

Lunch:  Whole Wheat cinnamon raisin toast topped with almond butter;  Sliced Pineapple;  English Breakfast Tea


Aha!  My first test.  I had a date with my sister-in-law.  She’s always trying to lose weight (even though she is not heavy) and we were happily fantasizing about grilled brussels sprouts.  I had told her I was eating vegetarian while her brother/my husband was away.  My husband texted me that he would be home in time for dinner.  We switched restaurants to one that was larger and could accommodate all four of us.  What to eat?  I opted for the fish special (roasted Sea Bass in a sherry wine sauce – which was too sweet) and I substituted broccoli rabe for the risotto side.  It was good, but not great.  The problem with restaurant meals is that they cook with too much fat and too much salt.  I missed my healthy dinners.  And was so thirsty from the salt!

Okay, it’s Day 4 and how to continue?  Breakfast and lunch are easy.  I will have a whole wheat bagel with goat cheese for breakfast and a salad of quinoa and black beans for lunch.  For dinner, my daughter returns from Spain today and we are going to make one of her favorite family dinners:  Grilled steak tacos.  These tacos are delicious!  We grill steak, sauté corn and red pepper and red onion, top with guacamole and salsa, and roll it all up in one’s tortilla of choice (corn, plain, whole wheat).  I have been gradually eating mine with less and less steak and will continue to do so tonight.  A little bit of steak, probably 1-2 ounces.  And tomorrow, I will cook for my daughter.  She has been interested in eating more like me, so I will make our favorite Sunday morning oatmeal and our favorite Sunday lunchtime lentil soup.  For dinner, I am fantasizing about my husband’s grilled salmon – the very first thing he cooked for me 20 years ago when I fell in love with him.  I think we will be able to work out our eating differences – with love, respect and some compromise.


Lentil Soup

  • 4 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 cup of celery and carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 cup of Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup of lentils (French Green)
  • 2 Tablespoons barley
  • Thyme, salt and pepper
  • 4 cups of liquid (Water or Vegetable Broth or Chicken Broth)  (I prefer Chicken Broth.  I am not a good vegetarian.  Water is too bland.  Vegetable Broth tastes weird.  Too sweet.  Sigh.)

Saute garlic, celery and carrots, potatoes in olive oil – for 10 minutes until lightly browned.

Add liquid, lentils, barley, seasoning.  Simmer for about an hour.

Serves 4 – 6.

Lunch in the New Year?


Measuring Austerity

The Christmas tree is down.  I am sad.  My kids are sad.  It was a wonderful holiday this year, filled with love.  And now it is January.  Perhaps the best part of January is that my husband’s birthday is this month.  Not only do we have a family occasion to celebrate, but I can feel the days getting longer when his birthday arrives.

But the other truth is:  The Christmas tree is down – I am relieved.  SO relieved to be in the bracingly harsh disciplined January regimen!  No more free-wheeling nonschedule with access to an abundance of food and time on my hands to do nothing.  God forbid I should sit on the couch and watch tv and eat more than my austere allowable allotment of a 120-calorie treat of some kind (2 cookies or a yogurt).  January is the time for exercising more and eating less and feeling smugly virtuous with that twinge of hunger gnawing at me, telling me I am losing the holiday weight.  (Not that I allowed myself to gain any holiday weight.)

I am not proud to feel so proud and smug.

When Dr. Oz (Dr. Oz!  Am I a cliche?  50 year old woman blogs and cites Dr. Oz!) revealed (in the print edition of October 12 Prevention magazine – yes the print edition.  The full article is not online.  It has been bastardized into a slide show to generate more page views for ad selling metrics.  Long live print.) that one of his tactics for reducing stress and keeping slim was to eat the same breakfast every day, I smiled with recognition.  He’s one of us!  A neurotic disciplined ocd control freak.  Well, it does simplify life to have a specific repertoire of meals with a specific balance of calories, taste, and nutrition at your finger-tips.  I rotate between about 4 breakfasts and 4 lunches.  I truly feel unmoored when meals are too unscheduled.  While my methods may not be glamorous, they do work.

When I first conceived of writing about eating, I imagined myself writing an instructive self-help diet book.  As I reflected on my future as the next (wildly celebrated!) diet book guru, I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony.  Self help about dieting from someone with an eating disorder is absurd!  But hey, if you want to lose weight in., advice from a former ballerina should do the trick.

Brown-bagging lunch works better when you have more than one “course” so you feel like your getting a fully satisfying eating experience.  I always have a main course, followed by a measured allotment of dark bitterdark chocolate, and a large quantity of fresh fruit.  The chocolate is decadent and you don’t need much to feel like you’re having a treat (and it’s healthy).  The quantity of fruit is sweet, refreshing, takes time to eat, fills you up, and feels like dessert.  To drink, I eliminated soda (diet) several years ago and switched to homemade unsweetened ice tea.  My skin has improved texture and looks younger.  Amazing.

I estimate that by brown-bagging my lunch, I have saved well over $1,200 and easily lost 4 pounds annually.

While  you are experimenting with brown-bagging it at lunchtime (please use reusable bags), I plan to activate one of my new year’s resolutions:  to be more sociable and go out with a friend at least once a week.

Hummus and Feta Sandwich (a simplified version originally from Bon Appetit)


  • 1 14.5 ounce can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Blend together in food processor to make hummus – keeps for 2 weeks.


  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (I like Vermont Bread Company organic whole wheat.  The slices are not too big which means the sandwich is a normal portion size, not super-sized.  Also, there is not too much sugar.  Many of the more commercial brands add quite a bit of sugar to their whole wheat bread, so that people like my 13 year old son will like whole wheat bread.)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons hummus, spread across both slices
  • 2 ounces Feta

Turkey, Cheddar, and Avocado Sandwich

  • 1 slice of Mestemacher Natural 3 Grain Bread (this bread is tangy-sour), cut in half
  • Spread bread with plain greek yogurt (I use greek yogurt with everything.  It has protein and no fat.  It is tangy-sour, adding more flavor than mayonnaise, and is thicker and more spreadable than regular yogurt.)
  • Add 2-3 slices of turkey.
  • 1.5 ounces of Cheddar (My favorite is 7 year aged Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar – super sharp.)
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced

Peanut Butter and Jelly

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 3 Tablespoons natural chunky peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Simon-Fischer apricot butter

Almond Butter on Raisin Bread

  • 2 slices whole wheat raisin bread (Vermont Bread Company)
  • 3 Tablespoons almond butter

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup prepared black bean salad (I cheat.  My local stores all have decent versions.)

Good as is, or enhance with some chopped radicchio and crumbled feta

Sweet Potato with Greek Yogurt

This is one of my favorite easy, quick meals and is very satisfying.  I microwave a large sweet potato for about 6-7 minutes.  It cooks more evenly if it is not to thick.  Spread the potato with a hefty portion of plain greek yogurt.

Ice Tea

  • Boil 1 quart of water
  • Steep 1 English Breakfast tea bag and 1 Green tea bag for 3 minutes
  • Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Bring with brown bag lunch in a thermos.


6 squares of Sweetriot Pure 85% Dark Chocolate  (It is very bitter, with strong and complex flavor.  My husband stole one of my squares and looked at me aghast, feeling betrayed.  I tried not to mind that he stole it, but generally wound up feeling triumphant that he will not steal from me any time soon.  So ungenerous.)



More Meatless

I love meat.  Juicy, rare, marbled steak is a favorite of mine.  Roast chicken, with the skin on, is another.  But when I hit my 40’s, a variety of disconcerting changes occurred.  15 pounds creeped on.  (The Perimenopausal 15?)  When I ate steak, my stomach complained, gurgling for hours and keeping me up at night.  Speaking of sleep, I couldn’t sleep any more.  Every night around 2 am, I woke up to go to the bathroom (beyond tedious) and then was UP for hours.  One (of many) tactics I employed to lose weight was to eat less meat.  While everyone else was having 3-4 meatballs with their spaghetti, I cut back to 1 meatball with my whole wheat spaghetti.  When going out, I split a steak entrée with my daughter.  Now I forego the steak entrée altogether, opting for fish or a vegetarian option.  My stomach stopped gurgling, I slept better, and the 15 pounds (and more) crept off.

Also around this time, I dove deeper into yoga and yoga philosophy. I studied the Yama’s and the Niyama’s, yoga’s ethical guidelines, the most famous of which is Ahimsa or non-harming.  This “Do/Don’t” is an overarching belief that one should live with love and compassion for all beings and not behave in any way that harms another being.  It is generally cited as the reason for yoga practitioners to adopt a vegetarian diet.

As this virtuous circle expanded:  I ate less meat, I did more yoga, I felt better and slept better, I loved more and stressed less, I ate less meat and did more yoga.  I became a big fan of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman.  Both write with great conviction and adopt a pragmatic approach to eating less meat.  Pollan’s simple advice is to “Eat Food.  Not Too Much.  Mostly Plants.”  Bittman’s approach to eat vegan during the day and loosen the rules at dinner works for me, allowing for more flexibility with my family and our dinners together.

Because, you see, my family does not share my intense über desire to eat healthily and to eat as a responsible world citizen.  It becomes very challenging to eat nurturing meals together when family members have different ideas about what they want to put into their bodies.  We tend to compromise which works fairly well, but it does mean a lot of double cooking and other juggling and shopping for me, the one who is more determined to not just eat something because it’s easy or tastes good.  (My husband, the weekend Italian chef, cooks food that tastes very good.)

Eating less meat makes me feel better.  The health benefits are compelling.  The environmental benefits are compelling.  I made this soup/stew over the holiday break and the whole family enjoyed it (well, not my picky son).  It just got better and thicker as each day passed, a delicious virtuous circle. Turn it into more of a meal by serving over barley, brown rice, or quinoi.

Butternut Squash Soup/Stew

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups of butternut squash, cut into even-sized ¾” cubes
  • 1 large baking potato, cut into even-sized ¾” cubes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans
  • 1 14 ½ oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh thyme or fresh sage
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (or more, to taste) – adds brightness

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place squash and potato on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and roast in oven for about 35 minutes.

Saute onion and garlic in ¼ cup of olive oil until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a gentle boil.  Add squash, potatoes, beans, tomatoes.  Simmer until squash and potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.  Puree half the soup in a food processor until consistency as at desired thickness.  Add thyme or sage.  Stir in lemon juice.

Serves 6, gets thicker and tastier with time

The Year of the Crab


New Year’s Hopes

I love New Year’s Resolutions!  The hopeful promise that this year is the year I will achieve my goals!  New Year’s Resolutions play right to my ocd strengths as a disciplined rule-follower determined to succeed.  I will fill-in-the-blank every day!  While virtuously and successfully achieving all my goals, I will simultaneously stop all my bad habits, cold turkey, January 1!  I will be a perfect person!  (How annoying would that be?)

We all know how this turns out.

This year, instead of resolving, willfully, to stop picking at my skin in anxious rumination; instead of resolving, determinedly, to take 3 yoga classes every week (or more!); instead of resolving, impetuously, to throw away all the clutter in my house – I will refine and build on several goals, hopes, wishes and dreams I started last year that are bringing me more peace, joy, and love in my life.  In 2013, I wish to:

  • Speak my truth.  I know what I think, I just don’t say it in my effort to be liked, or to be right, or to avoid conflict.  It takes a lot of listening to my gut, to my intuition, but my truth is there.  Say it out loud.  Say what I need to say.
  • Listen.  Listen to the people I love.  Let them be themselves, not who I want them to be.  Let them speak their truth.  Encourage them to find their joy.
  • Make eye contact.  It is impossible to hide when you look the other person in the eye.
  • Continue to teach yoga.  Being a teacher brings me joy; connects me to others; encourages me to dig deeper – (and makes me a better student).
  • Continue to practice yoga.  Being a student brings me joy; connects me to others; encourages me to dig deeper – (and makes me a better teacher).
  • Begin to bring meditation into my life, making space for what is meaningful.  Allowing for time to sit still seems symbolic of letting go of the schedule, of the busy-ness.
  • Continue to write.  For now, my writing is where I speak my truth.
  • Be a grown-up.  Do all the financial things that need doing:  will, life insurance, college savings, retirement savings, mortgage.
  • Devote more time to the causes I believe in and have worked hard to develop personal connections with:
    • Gibney Dance, a modern dance company that brings movement training to victims of domestic violence – allowing these women to speak their truth.
    • Give Back Yoga, a nonprofit that brings yoga to PTSD trauma sufferers.
  • Nurture my deepening friendships.  They are more rewarding than my busy busy busy pursuit of my goals.
  • Do and share things with my family.  Let everyone take turns choosing an activity.  Time seems heartbreakingly fleeting.  Get out of myself and reach out to them.
  • Let go of the schedule, the chores, the clutter.  Let in the possibility of more fun.
  • Laugh more.

Food-wise, sigh, too many rules here.  I wish to enjoy my food more and not worry so much about my weight.  I will honor my commitment to my New Year’s Goals with Crab Pasta.  I make this dish frequently, because it is easy, delicious (and a bit indulgent).  Sitting down to crab pasta with my family once a month can be a reminder that my goal for 2013 is to live my life with meaning, true to myself, with love and compassion for the people in my life.  The symbolism of the crab resonates.  Hiding under its shell, ready to shed its shell, is a rich soul.


Crab Pasta

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 3 Tablespoons jalapeno slices (Mt. Olive brand is not too spicy and adds nice tang)
  • 3 Tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any shards of shell
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 pound pasta (Garofalo brand, Calamarata shape – is my favorite for when I am indulging in “regular” pasta instead of healthier whole wheat pasta)
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped fine, to sprinkle on top when serving
  • Bring water to boil and prepare pasta according to package directions, careful not to overcook.
  • While pasta is boiling, prepare the crab.
  • Heat olive oil.  Saute gently on medium-low heat the garlic, jalapeno, pine nuts, and crushed red pepper until garlic and pine nuts are golden, about 5 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Add crab.  Heat together another 5 minutes.  When pasta is done, add to crab and stir together.  Add some of the pasta cooking water (up to ½ cup) if the mixture seems dry.
  • Sprinkle parsley on top to serve.

Serves 4.  (Skeptical children can have butter pasta without the crab, leaving more crab for the grown-ups.)

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
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