Coming Home - a Japanese Lunch to console myself

Leaving Ecuador was harder than I thought. Leaving Guayaquil wasn't hard, it was leaving Galapagos, then San Cristobal...THAT was hard. Even though Guayaquil was dark in the rainy early morning, I wasn't prepared for Boston snowy, sleety, gray, and yucky. I had to keep telling myself "but you LOVE Boston" it's just hard to remember why. I was thinking of the blue-green waters of Galapagos, the color hovers somewhere between emerald and sapphire.

sea lion sunbathing

The lovely, lazy sea lions sleeping on the beaches we shared, swimming by on our snorkeling outings, and even napping at bus stops:


Bus stop



And then we came home to gray, snowy, sleety, yucky Boston. Piles of filthy muck-crusted snow have melted down somewhat; which only means that the ratio of pretty white to yucky gray-brown has shifted. I must accept there will be no lovely sweet white Ecuadorean pineapple at lunch, no happy hour on the sunset deck followed by a briefing on our agenda for tomorrow. Nothing in my day will involved iguanas, sea lions, snorkels or sunscreen. After a quick dinner in Chinatown (why didn't the waiter understand me? oh, I was speaking Spanish!) we began to attack the mountains of laundry and prepare for our first week back in "civilization". With a cold in my chest and the laundry done we called it early.

Today we woke to more snow and sleet. Yippee.

But there's always food. To console myself I made a Japanese lunch. Rolled omelet, "sarado" of shredded cabbage, tomato and homemade "bulldog sauce" rice and loaded miso soup. South River Red Barley miso is my new fave. Loaded wtih mushrooms, carrots, snap peas, tofu.

japanse lunch tamago




As I'm posting the sun is peeking out for the first time today. It's lovely but I can't imagine our sunset will rival this:

Galapagos Sunset

30 Days of Vitamix: Vert du Jour (Green of the day smoothie)

Green smoothie of the day - today's green smoothie has a smooth frothy texture, fiber, a bit of protein and lots of refreshing sweet-tart flavor. Sweetness comes entirely from the citrus and we get an antioxidant boost from the matcha and the mint. With a Vitamix you can blend oats and even seeds into a perfectly smooth drink. Enjoy! Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 Sumo (or other) orange
  • 1 1/2 small Japanese (or English) cucumber
  • Two small frozen kale chunks*
  • two springs fresh mint leaves, stripped off stem
  • 3 TBSP oats soaked in water ten minutes
  • 1 tsp matcha
  • small handful fresh baby spinach
  • juice of one small lime
  • juice of half Meyer lemon
  • 1 TBSP pepitas (raw unsalted pumpkin seeds)


Soak oats in cold water while you chop other ingredients.

Chunks of apple, citrus in bottom, then add cucumber. Sprinkle in matcha, seeds, mint. Add a handful of ice and about 1/4C of cold water.



Vert du Jour

With the greens and mint and oats I kept thinking of that very old children's ditty my father once told me about: "Mairzy doats" anyone remember it? ("Mares eat oats and Does eat oats and Little Lambs eat Ivy, a Kidd'll eat Ivy too, wouldn't you? or Mairzy Doats and Dosey Doats and liddle amzy divey a kiddly divey too wooden shoe.")


*Blanch and freeze mint, or greens like spinach or kale. Freeze in Mini muffin tin or small ice cube trays then pop into zip top bags. These portioned out ready to go ingredients in your freezer make a quick smoothie a breeze. Once blanched and frozen, greens are easy to add to pastas, soups, stews, as well as your next Vert du Jour.


Mint leaves ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Baby Spinach

30 Days of Vitamix: Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie - The Un-chunky Monkey

Yesterday started out with a frenzy of work, the early morning punctuated by the image of some gorgeous brownies topped with salted peanut butter frosting. Occupational hazard of food writing is that you get a steady stream of enticing food images and recipes every minute of every day. I was so tempted. Brownies, after all, are so quick to make. But the day was stacked. I began to think of simply scooping peanut butter with hunks of chocolate. Not that I've ever done that before. Of course I have. Then I remembered Red, AKA my sexy new pro Vitamix. I decided to make a smoothie version of the decadent treat. After all, I could always make the brownies tomorrow.

Smoothie Pro Tips

One of the best uses for muffin tins is to portion things. Here, I've portioned a bunch of banana slices. Once they're frozen, I pop the blocks into a zip top bag and every time I want a smoothie with a creamy base, all I have to do is grab one or two of the banana blocks to start.



Now on to our smoothie du jour...I wanted to amp up the nutrition of the decidedly dessertish treat.

Pro tip #2

Adding oats to your diet is a good thing. I eat them almost every day and I find that reducing the decision-making in the morning is a very good thing. Knowing I'll have oats one way or another means less options to choose something unhealthy, reducing the likelihood I'll skip breakfast altogether, and a morning base of oats keeps you full and keeps the blood sugar steady for quite a while.

If I am in a smoothie rather than porridgey mood: I often start by soaking the oats in the Vitamix for about ten minutes. (That's about two tweets, one Facebook scan or enough time to burn a piece of toast. Trust me, it's no time at all.)

Here, my oats are resting in So Delicious coconut milk. You could use regular milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp...whatever.

PB Chocolate smoothie 3

The Un-chunky Monkey Smoothie

PB Chocolate smoothie 1


So you can see clockwise from the milk, I started with about 1/2 C; then peanut butter, cocoa, oats, flax seed, bananas and two dates. Plenty of sweetness there. Can you guess what else I added for additional nutrition?

PB Chocolate smoothie 2


Baby spinach leaves. They're so delicate in flavor you don't taste them in the smoothie but you're adding fiber, vitamin A & C, plus iron.

The result?

PB Chocolate smoothie 4


The Un-chunky Monkey - a very filling smoothie. Given the sugar in the shake and the oats, I found this easy to use in place of a meal. That's to say I wasn't hungry for a long time. It satisifed the chocolate-peanut butter urge, it kept my blood sugar steady and it gave me some protein, minerals, antioxidants, but best of all: Delicious!



  • 3/4 C of milk of your choice
  • 3 TBSP smooth organic peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP cocoa
  • 1/4 C oats
  • ~ 1 TBSP ground golden flax
  • 2-4 dates to taste (2 was plenty for me but I don't love sweet)
  • ~ 1/3 C of frozen banana
  • ~ 1/2 oz of baby spinach leaves (a small handful)


  1. Place oats and milk in blender, let soak for 10 minutes for extra smoothness.
  2. Add rest of ingredients, top with a handful of ice.
  3. Blend, adding ice or milk to desired consistency.


Remember to follow #30daysofVitamix and my Pinterest board of the same name for more smoothie tips and recipes.

Thoughts on the Boston Globe Travel Expo

As a Globe Correspondent, I was invited to attend the 10th Annual Boston Globe Travel Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center last weekend. Cruises dominated the areas nearest the entrance and Aruba had a huge presence. All I could think was "Norovirus" and "Natalee Holloway". I moved quickly past both.

I wanted to see what companies might be offering different travel experiences - who would be using technology in interesting ways? Who would be talking about reducing the carbon footprint or eco-tourism? Who would speak to the traveler not looking for a family cruise bargain or an adventure trip for millenials?

Who indeed?

Tech disconnect

Nearly every booth I stopped at required you to fill out a form to enter a giveaway. By hand. Usually on one of many paper pads attached to a many clipboards.

And yet, the badge/registration was done electronically so EACH attendee has an electronic confirmation, a QR code designed to be scannable with any smart phone and a free scanning app. No paper. No handwriting. No clipboards. No manual entry later of all the probably illegible entries. I can't read my own handwriting these days, can you?

When practically everyone I know is concerned about reducing our carbon footprint, why completely ignore the technology in the palm of nearly every person's hand and waste all that paper? The cost and hassle of packing and carrying the paper and junk with it, the manual labor of data entry could all be avoided completely? Complete misfire.


Food Connects us to each other, memories

I had another two goals for the show: connect with any travel editors there (would Afar? Travel & Leisure? or any publications be there?) No and no.

Would I get to see Chef Pierre Thiam there to demonstrate a Senegalese dish with fonio - saw him but didn't get to actually say hello, sadly. He and I met at IACP years back when his beautiful book Yolele! was nominated for an award. Chef Thiam introduced the Travel Expo crowd to fonio, "the new quinoa", and described waking up in the Sahel to the rhythmic pounding of grain in large mortar and pestles. Immediately I could hear the gentle, bird-like singing of the women in this photo I took in Mali.



As we turned a corner in Tombouctou I saw what I'd heard in the distance: two women, gently pounding millet and singing gently, rhythmically as they processed the grain. Everywhere we went women carried large pots or bundles on their heads, babies wrapped around their midsection (heads bouncing unsupported) walking, carrying, pounding, fetching water from wells.

Pierre described fonio as the new quinoa, but better, because it is drought resistant and must be grown organically as it withers and dies under pesticides. Must find some of this fonio!

Connecting with your city, new cities

Walking to the seaport area, I crossed the icy channel. It was an interesting contrast to the salsa dancing, the beachy murals and the reminder of warmer places.

One of the great things was connecting "IRL" (in real life) with Max Grinnel AKA The Urbanologist. Max teaches, writes, and speaks on walking through urban environments. I'm a huge fan of this and of Max now, too. I love a walkable city (sorry, L.A. you leave me cold) and share Max's enthusiasm for looking up more overlooked gems in any city; in meeting locals and asking what THEY love, where THEY eat. Check out Max's site.

He share four tips for visiting a new city:

1. Slow down & look up. (I thought I invented the hashtag #lookup - turns out some Architects beat me to it...)

2. Ask Questions. (I love asking cab drivers and people at the bar, on the street.)

3. Do your homework. (Go beyond Yelp! Ever heard of

4. There's always next time. (When I fall in love with a new place this is my mantra: "it's just reconnaissance for next time!")

Travel Expo Collage


Well, thanks to the Boston Globe for hosting. JetBlue, for getting how to use tech and Pierre and Max for inspiring me. It was worth that snowy schlep.


See you at the Boston Globe Travel Expo!

So excited to be heading to the Boston Globe Travel Expo. I'm looking forward to the culinary demos, meeting old friends and editors, and making new acquaintances. While many of my regular readers know about my focus on food, they may not be as familiar with the travel writing I've done. As much as I love food, it was travel that first inspired me. From my earliest days, I would lose myself in the Canary-bordered National Geographic Society magazines. How I loved learning about far-flung places around the globe. Secretly, I made lists of destinations: Xi'an and the armies of terra cotta warriors; the Mayan ruins; Machu Picchu.

The sterile environment of Air Force bases I grew up on left me hollow and bored. But, inside those magazines...I could be anywhere. Jungles, deserts, in a swirl of dust around Flamenco dancer's heels. Then, the oceans themselves were illuminated by Jacques Cousteau and Undersea World. I added scuba diving to my list of things to do once I became a grown up.


I once dreamt of filling a passport before it expired but have not come close. Still, I have been so very lucky to sit with penguins in Antarctica, to ride a camel into the Sahara at sunset, to clamber around the ruins in Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza and Tulum. I've walked near active lava flow and tiptoed across a black sand beach. I've done dives with bestie Catherine in Mexico (she figures into half these travels) and dove down to a wreck off the coast of Curaçao. Raced around Florence in a thunderstorm to catch the perfect vantage for a sunset to match my butterscotch flats ruined in the rain. So worth it. Gasped at the color of the sea near Santorini. Slurped belons in Brussels and laughed with rediscovered relatives in a Tokyo tatami matted living room while a Japanese Elvis impersonator sang "Brue Suedo Shoes." Stumbled upon one of Paris' oldest oyster bars and celebrated Jesse's newfound love of les huitres. Ordered more food than our table would hold, more than once, in New Orleans.


More than any passport could hold, my heart is full of these memories and yet hungry for more adventures. Allons-y!

Here are some links to pieces I've written about just a few of my trips.

Check out my full pressfolio set of clips here.



Onigiri, Omusubi and a sometimes good Hapa

This article (thanks Rf Koda!) inspired me to create a new Pinterest board. Good Hapa/Bad Hapa which is a phrase I've been kicking around a while. Hapa is a term for half Japanese and used to be derogatory. Now hapas (of many Asian stripes) have relcaimed it as a positive. In my own life, many times I hear an internal voice scolding me for being unJapanese in some small way. Food is one of the best ways in to a culture. I'll collect some things there.

Rice Balls

Onigiri and Omusubi ("O" is feminine honorific, many drop it. In the past, one could tell when a service man learned his Japanese from a woman during the war if he used the feminine expressions of words. In Japan, men do not use these prefixes.)

So "onigiri or omusubi" are two regional words for the same thing: rice balls. Usually, but not always covered in nori. Unilke sushi rice, it is not vinegared rice but just salted. Inside is a filling of some sort, usually pickled or preserved plum or vegetables or some simmered or stewed fish.

So ends our Good Hapa/Bad Hapa lesson for the day. *bows*Final Onigiri collage

Check out this excellent article Around Japan in 47 RiceBalls. Thanks to Rf Koda for flagging this article for me. Her family grows the most excellent Japanese heirloom varietal rices. Check them out - Koda Farms!

* Tea Do in Chinatown makes great onigiri to order! Delicious treat.

Oyster News!

Come slurp with me: Saturday January 31 -- SOLD OUT (where should be bring the show next?)

Boston Wine School is hosting "Oysters Deluxe" a master class including fun oyster facts, a shucking demo, and Capt. Marden's lobster dinner to follow. We'll learn about merroir and pair oysters with various wines. Ticket price also includes membership in the Oyster Century Club, your own tasting sheet and shucking knife. Learn why BostInno said the OCC is one of five social clubs Bostonians must join!

You're over your resolutions, you want a break from shoveling. Come let the bubbles and bivalves carry you away...

Saturday February 14

A special Valentine for my beloved bivalve....can't announce yet but mark your calendars and skip amateur night in the restaurants. Why sit home feeling like you should be out having fun when you can come join us, slurp, savor all for a good cause. EEk, I really can't say more but do mark your calendars!


Row 34

Don't Let Food Allergies Ground You - me in the Boston Globe

Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning's Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section's need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don't forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven's recipe.

So Glad You Asked! What is Canola Oil?

I'm starting a new feature here, a series called "So Glad You Asked!" - I want to hear from you. I'll tackle topics like ingredients you're curious about, techniques, recipe revisions or whatever piques your culinary curiosity...for example:

  • What coriander is? How to use it?
  • Wondering about a new cuisine and looking for a starter recipe?
  • Curious about an ingredient?
  • Pros and Cons of the latest fad or trend?

All are fair game. Simply drop a comment with your question. If you're curious, you know lots of other people are, too. I'm going to get the ball rolling by answering a question one of my private cooking clients asked about.

What is Canola Oil? 

Some people have shied away from canola oil because they don't know where it comes from. We know peanut oil comes from peanuts. Olive oil from olives. Corn oil from corn. But what the heck is a "canola" anyway?

Turns out - nothing! It's actually a made up name for rapeseed oil, originated by the Canadian rapeseed oil marketers to get around the unfortunate association we have with the word "rape" in English. Rapeseed is from the rape plant -brassica napum -from the Latin rāpum turnip. It's a member of the mustard family - see the color of the flowers below? What does that remind you of? Think of "broccoli rabe"  or "rape" ("rah-pay"), rapini. These are all derived from the same plant and name. In fact broccoli rabe is cime di rape which is "head of the turnip" in Italian. So this whole turnip/mustard/brassicacae plant family - it's one you need to know. First, because, well, brassicas = YUM. Second, they're really healthy. Third, they're easier to incorporate than you may think. Try blanching and freezing in a muffin tin. Then you've got portions ready to go into a soup, stew or smoothie.

Did you know?

Another superfood we all love today goes by a new name, it used to be called Colewort. Do you know what this is? Kale!

In fact, the Colewort family includes kale, collards, cabbages, broccoli, kolrabi ...

rapeseed oil AKA Canola


But what about that nasty "scientific" report I heard about? 

There is no shortage of misinformation on this product but I urge you to look at for a handy analysis of this silliness. One of the oft-cited "dangers" goes back to the historic uses of rapeseed oil in China. Taking what was grown primarily for livestock feed (a common purpose for the plant to this day) the seeds were pressed into oil but not refined. Today's Canola oil is refined. What difference does this make? Nutritionally the older version of unrefined rapeseed oil was not healthy for high heat cooking. It contained potentially unhealthy levels of erucic acid. Some animal studies in the 1970s showed ill effects from erucic acid.

Today's Canola oil is a different product. The composition is actually a very healthy oil. Canola oil contains more oleic acid and alpha linoleic acid than erucic.

From WebMD

  • Canola oil has 7% saturated fat, compared to 12% for sunflower oil, 13% for corn oil, and 15% for olive oil. There's solid evidence low fat is not the answer, it's the type of fat we should be concerned about.
  • It is very high in healthier unsaturated fats. It's higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except flaxseed oil.


Uses for Canola oil

Rapeseed oil has a light, neutral flavor and high smoke point. It's a great choice for dishes when you don't want the flavor of olive oil or peanut oil. It can be used in salads, stir fries, even baking.

Look at this gorgeous Chiffon Cake made with Canola oil in place of butter.

  • Canola oil has the lowest saturated fat
  • is trans-fat free
  • is a good plant-based source of Omega 3 fatty acids

More info on Omega 3s.

And if you have food allergies, as I do, you need to know what oil your restaurant is using. "Vegetable oil" can be problematic if you have soy allergy, for example. Here's a great post by Amy (Adventures of an Allergic Foodie) that covers some of the fine points. Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know. From what I've read, there's some room for disagreement on whether highly refined oils contain enough particles to trigger a reaction. As Amy discovered, you may have to learn what your body will tolerate. Hopefully you can avoid trauma in the education process.


So Glad You Asked about Canola Oil. 

Now, what other culinary questions do you have?


30 Days of Vitamix: Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

One of the best things about winter is citrus. Enjoying citrus on a cold, snowy morning is one of our digressions from "eating local." I have had lemon chess pie, lemon bars, and lemon meringue pie on my mind. Thanks to my in-laws, I have a big supply of beautiful, organic Meyer lemons. This is a delicious and healthy smoothie that evokes a lemon meringue pie, with a side of virtue.


Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

  • Juice & zest of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
  • 1/4 C plain soy yogurt (you can use any plain yogurt you prefer)
  • 2 Tbsp oats
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 tsp ground flax
  • 1/3 C frozen banana slices
  • 1/3 C frozen mango chunks
  • 1 tsp honey, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • handful of ice

Lemon meringue pie smoothie


  1. Buzz up the oats in the Vitamix first, for a smoother texture.
  2. Add fruit, mango for sweetness and banana for custardy texture. Yogurt also adds protein and smooth tartness.
  3. Add ground flax seed, ginger, lemon juice and zest, egg whites. (If you're worried about raw egg whites or immune compromised, omit or use pasteurized cartoned egg whites.)
  4. Top with a handful of ice and set your Vitamix on smoothie.





  • Did you know: heart healthy oats are a cinch to incorporate in smoothies? In this one, I buzzed up the oats first for a really smooth texture.
  • Egg whites are a good source of protein
  • Flax seed brings all kinds of nutrition- ALA or alpha-linoleic acid for one. Buy whole flax seeds and store in your freezer. I grind about a half a cup at a time and keep it in a shaker jar on the counter. Shake on/in smoothies, shake on oatmeal in the morning, salads at night.

Tomorrow's Bean

This video is going around asking you to imagine your life in jelly beans and how you will statistically speaking, spend them. It's an interesting graphic depiction of the fact that our days ARE numbered. On average (US stats) we have 28,835 days (that's 79 years y'all). [embed][/embed]


My Beans

Maybe we could reimagine this bean count in terms I can relate to:

- start with coffee beans - calculate the number of beans spent acquiring coffee beans - take away the number of beans spent worrying about whether said beans are fair trade, organic, shade grown, locally roasted - take away the time you spend grinding, french pressing and thermal carafe washing - take away the time you spend wondering "where did I put my coffee mug?" - take away the number of beans representing the time you walk to the kitchen to refill your coffee mug, leaving your coffee mug at your desk - take away the number of beans representing the time you walk to your local roasters to get both your fresh air fix and your coffee fix at the same time - add the number of beans representing the time  you didn't have to grind and press at home - add the time you spent writing an article about shade grown coffee and the deforestation of equatorial coffee plantations - take away a bean for the number of times you will lay awake thinking "I defintely cannot drink coffee after 8 pm anymore"

SO yeah, we each have a limited number of beans. The reality is we are not guaranteed even one more than the one enjoy today.

The video doesn't account for nontraditional ways of living, working, and counting.

FOR EXAMPLE: I don't commute - add beans. I do cook, write about food, and LOVE cooking for others - add beans. LOVE teaching others to cook. Enjoy reading about food. Planning to make new food.

My beans are not parsed in the same way as the jelly bean video. Yours may not be either. But if you find yourself at the end, thinking "Yikes" --  make one change today to re-order priorities tomorrow, should you get a tomorrow. Just one small change. Make a lunch date with a friend that's been too long out of your life. Put a reminder in your calendar to go to bed one hour early and bring a book you've been wanting to read. Find someone you want to sleep next to and make that happen.

Whatever it is that's missing, make one small step toward it.

We can get overwhelmed during this resolution-y time of year and wholesale life changes like running off to Italy to eat, pray, love can seem far beyond our reach. What IS in our reach today, is one small change. And one small change today can lead to another tomorrow.


What will you do with tomorrow's bean?

Letting go and moving forward - a ritual for the new year

Rituals are a comforting thing. They give order to our lives and provide structure to our grieving; sitting shiva or a wake. They frame our celebrations; weddings, birthday parties. My New Years Eve tradition includes a small ritual to help me let go and move forward.


Letting go

Take two small pieces of paper; on one write one thing you want to let go of. It can be a grudge you're carrying (a slight or wrong, betrayal of a co-worker or disappointment in a friendship). If you give yourself a moment, one will surface. I am often surprised at what surfaces, how can I be carrying that around? Still?  Or, it can be a negative thought you want to banish from your head (I hate my muffin top). These are like bricks in your backpack. Do you want carry these around all year? Lighten the load.

Moving forward

On the second slip, write a wish or a hope for the new year. Maybe you want world peace. Don't we all! But maybe make it more personal? Here, I try to stay away from goals. There's time for that. This is more playful, a wish. A new tub for soaking baths! A kitchen backsplash. Or a hope - hopefulness is good to cultivate. A good report from mom's next doctor visit. A peaceful end for an ailing kitty.

Now, fold the paper and focus on your grudge. Light it and send it off. Away. Let it go. (This part I do over the kitchen sink - safety first)

Next, do the same with your hope or wish. Focus on it. Then burn it and send that wish to the heavens.


This ritual is best followed by a kiss and some champagne.

Healthy, hopeful new year; filled with lightness and laughter.


ball bubbles

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies - Dipped and Salted and Wonderful

It's easy to love a site that delivers consistent recipes you can trust. There are a couple I turn to often, particularly if I'm making something I haven't made in awhile. I know I can trust their straightforward technique and reliable results. Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes is as advertised. Simply Recipes. Check out her chocolate crinkles. I have adopted her recipe as a regular in my rotation and I like to mix matcha powder in the confectioner's sugar. Michael Ruhlman also writes in a confident, clear voice and I enjoy the expert comments and his wife Donna Turner Ruhlman's beautiful photographs. Check out his All Strain cloths. I'm a new convert and I'll be writing about them soon so stay tuned.

Milk and _______

COOKIES - yes? YES. I favor savory and salty more than sweets, maybe that's why I cannot stop eating these peanut butter cookies. This is positively the best recipe I've found for peanut butter cookies. Many of my clients seek Kitchen Confidence help when they'd like to improve their health and their enjoyment of food. Sometimes they think it means they have to give up cookies like these.

PB Cookies2 4 (1)


Personally, I don't do deprivation well. If I try to deny myself something I like, I only wind up craving it more. Instead, I've worked on other things, like portion control and exercise. Another new rule is that any "junk" should be homemade. Much easier to control the quality of the food if you make it yourself. Cookies are a perfect example. Buy a box at the store and you're likely to get all sorts of salt and sugar and chemicals you don't need. And they won't be as satisfying as homemade. Ever.

When I bake cookies, I can not only omit the dairy, eliminate contact with tree nuts, for my allergies (very hard to control in store-bought); I can also use healthier flours and make just the cookies I want. The other thing you can do when you follow the "if I make it myself" rule is to freeze dough and just make a small batch at a time. Just because a recipe produces 6 dozen cookies doesn't mean I have to have 6 dozen cookies sitting around making eyes at me.

PB Cookies2 2 (1) PB Cookies2 1 (1)



I made a couple dozen for sharing and rolled the dough in parchment paper  and popped it in the freezer. When the next craving came on, I did some exercise first then sliced and baked one dozen. Inspiration and good dairy-free chocolate struck, so I melted, dipped and sprinkled with a little bit of crunchy Maldon Sea Salt.


Big Thanks to David Leite, Founder of Leite's Culinaria - another of my favorite and very reliable sites. I had the pleasure of interviewing David years ago, around the time his first book came out. He was already quite well-known but could not have been nicer to talk to. I love his book. His site has one thing many sites do not have: testers! You KNOW a recipe he posts will WORK. This is culinary gold, especially for new or less confident cooks. Nothing irritates me more than when a client shows me a recipe they "failed" at - and I look at it and can instantly see it's a crap recipe. From an untested site.

I recommend these sites, this cookie recipe and don't worry about having cookies in the house. You know "Leite" is Portugese for milk? How perfect is that?

 Cookie PlatterPeanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Crinkles, and Bourbon Orange Chocolate Truffles

Jam thumbprints in the back.

Oysters Deluxe at The Boston Wine School - a great gift for yourself or a friend

Aren't you starting to think about next year already? I know I am. In the last flush of holiday hustle, there are so many decisions to make. I've been intrigued by the notion of decision-fatigue. Even President Obama understands the power of eliminating decision-fatigue. I think I read that he wears only one or two suits, completely eliminating wasted energy on unimportant decisions. Having some constraints actually can be freeing since it turns out, our brains seem to have a finite ability to make decisions. Even unimportant ones seem to detract from our ability to make later decisions. This applies to critical and non-critical things. It applies to will-power and food decisions. If you're starting to think about resolutions, it's an interesting thing to consider. While I love diversity in food, I've found that having the breakfast routine really helps me start the day on a positive note and that leads to better food choices throughout the day. But before we get to resolutions, let's finish up our holiday decisions, shall we?

Should we bake more cookies? What should we put on the menu for Christmas dinner - duck? Seafood? Turkey? Is it too late to do a year-in-review TinyLetter? (TinyLetters are shorter and more personal than a newsletter, sign up here and let me know what you think.) What's the best gift I could give myself or my favorite person?

My goal is always to make your life more delicious, more grounded, more informed, and more fun. So here we go, I'm reducing your decision fatigue right here and now:

1. Cookies: While some of us have been requested to "stop baking cookies" by those watching their figures. I think cookies are such a simple joy. I say yes! Bake one more batch. You can help moderate your sweet tooth in a couple of ways. Most all cookie doughs freeze well. This means you can bake a small batch and roll the rest in parchment and wrap well for future slice-and-bake treats. I have a log of peanut butter cookie dough in the freezer now. Okay, most of a log of peanut butter cookie dough...

Cookie Platter

2. Christmas menu: Unlike Thanksgiving which tends to be traditional, with favorites requested again and again; Christmas dinner around here seems to be the time for a little flexibility. This year I think we'll do a seafood risotto Christmas Eve and a roast duck Christmas day. Or maybe a turkey breast. I've got that killer cranberry-raspberry sauce from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry and those crackly, sparkling cranberries are begging to be made again.duck_sugared_cranberries

3. TinyLetter: We do love to re-connect with loved ones this time of year. Newsy updates, photo cards, and year-end emails and "listicles". If it seems too much to create your newsletter from scratch, check out TinyLetter. I got great feedback on my first one sent just before Thanksgiving. (Included two recipes for apple cake, too. If you missed it let me know, I'll be happy to re-send.) I've got a special one coming out soon. BOLO: TinyLetter.

4. Killer gift ideas: Okay. I know some of you might still be hunting for the perfect gift. Only three days left to Christmas - how did that happen?  I love to give and get experience gifts. Who needs more stuff?

  • For Cooks: How about private cooking lesson in your own kitchen with a skilled and patient cook at your side? Learn to make food you love with Kitchen Confidence. Email me to set a time for a free consult call. What have you been dying to learn?
  • For the Bivalve Curious: A night out with a special meal, delicious wines, charming company sounds heavenly, doesn't it? Even better, how about a lobster dinner with the "snob-free" Boston Wine School preceded by an everything you always wanted to know about oysters but were afraid to ask class with me? Come join me for this fun tasting adventure, see what wines you prefer with your oysters, discover a few surprises, impress your friends with your new-found oyster lore. What better way to kick off the new year: well-fed, well-lubricated and full of new tastes and ideas. Also, did I mention? OYSTERS. Guests get Oyster Century Club membership and a special gift in addition to dinner and the oyster class. Jonathon's classes sell out and seating is limited so click today!


Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

This is one of our holiday favorites, albeit it newer tradition. This year, I had a bottle of Basque still cider that I wasn't fond enough of to drink, it was so yeasty and apple-y I couldn't toss it. What to do? Cranberries, of course! The added benefit: at the end of the process you have lovely spiced apple simple syrup that goes so well with Mescal. It would be fantastic with a hot rum or Bourbon drink, too. So really, you end up with TWO terrific products. Now, if you're not familiar with apple ciders I urge you to get to a good wine shop and ask for an intro. There are so many lovely ciders out there now, many made with heirloom apples. They're great with pork chops (in brine or a pan sauce) and they are fantastic with cranberries.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

For this recipe, start with whole fresh cranberries. If you have frozen whole cranberries it should work, but I've not yet tried it so I can't guarantee it. Begin this recipe a day ahead as the cranberries will get an overnight rest in their syrup. The active time for this recipe is minimal but you'll want to include resting/drying time and start the day before you plan to serve these.



  • 1 lb. Whole fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups Granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (most of one bottle) apple cider
  • Raw or brown sugar (here I used turbinado)
  • a few cloves, a star anise, (a cinnamon stick would probably be great, too.)


  1. Line a half sheet pan with waxed paper.
  2. Place sugar, spices, and cider in sauce pan, heat and stir to dissolve sugar.
  3. When sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Rinse cranberries, pick out stems.
  5. Syrup should still be pretty warm but not scalding. Dump the cranberries into a container that will go into the fridge overnight. Pour hot syrup over the cranberries.
  6. Rest overnight in the fridge (the cranberries not you, you've got other things to do.)

Next day:

  1. Remove cranberries strain from syrup (and save that syrup!)
  2. Place turbinado sugar on a dinner plate. Take cranberries about a cup at a time and roll around in sugar, then place on prepared sheet pan.
  3. Rolling cranberries in small batches prevents too much dripping and caking of the sugar. Should you get lots of lumps in it, just remove the lumps into the simple syrup.
  4. When all your cranberries have their first coating of sugar, move the tray to a cool, dry spot to rest and dry completely. Should take a few hours.
  5. For the second toss in sugar, you can simply re-roll. I find a light brushing of the simple syrup helps the second coating adhere better.
  6. Let dry completely.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

crackly, sparkly cranberries

Spiced Apple Simple Syrup

spiced Basque apple cider syrup


sparkling cranberries and a roast duck

Gather platter cranberry

sparkling cranberries, small chestnut apples and kale surround the Thanksgiving platter

30 Days of Vitamix - Say hello to Red!

I like red for so many reasons. It's lucky. It's life. It can pull me out of blue. It's the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women's Heart Health. And it's just plain sexeh.

Meet Red

There's my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I'm calling her "Red." She's strong. Powerful. Occasionally loud. Gets the job done. I think we're going to be good friends. I hope she'll last half as long as my old handmixer did. (see Ode to a Handmixer.) That little Black & Decker handmixer, bought my first year of law school just died. I mean, like last week. The Waring anniversary blender a couple weeks ago. I thought I could make do with the food processor but I'm telling you, I'm a fool in love.


There's Red. She's a beauty, isn't she?


As I registered her, I saw something about an affiliate program. Well, stay tuned on that.


I'm starting a new series here: "30 Days of Vitamix". I'll be including posts on using the Vitamix. I'll cover techniques, ingredients to know, tips, and recipes, including some healthy and some boozy inspirations. Frozen Negroni anyone?  Here's a taste of just some of the things we'll be writing about soon.



Vitamix Collage

Thanks to my wonderful husband for this terrific gift! A great addition to the family!

Foodservice East | Guest Column: Ten Points of Liability & Ten Best Practices

15 Million Americans have food allergies and we crave a great dining experience just as much as our non-allergic friends and families do. Restaurants that "get it" and offer us a relaxing and safe dining experience will be rewarded with repeat business. Restaurant staff in all positions - front of the house, back of the house, bar - each member of the staff need to know how to avoid making guests with food allergies sick, or worse. Where can allergens hide? What are the differences between intolerance and allergies? What is the difference between cross-contaminiation and cross-contact?

Foodservice East

Foodservice East, a business publication for the Northeast foodservice industry, began in 1926 as Hotel & Restaurant News in Boston. Susan Holaday the current editor and publisher invited me to write this guest column on the topic of food allergies.

Food Allergy Service Checklist


no room for error

I wrote this column as a risk assessment checklist. It includes ten ways to get it wrong and ten accompanying best practices. Click here to read the post: Foodservice East | News and information for the Northeast foodservice industry. Interested in a training  or consult for your restaurant? I've designed a one hour session that can be delivered in a normal staff training hour or pre-meal meeting. I also offer a menu consult, and risk assessment.

Mescal and Apple - a Match Made in Heaven

With gratitude to Misty Kalkofen (goddess of mescal) for the inspiration.


Mansana de Mañana

1  oz Basque Apple Cider simple syrup 1 1/4 oz Mescal 1/2 oz lime juice (half a lime) 1 cardamom pod, pinch of cinnamon

Muddled cardamom in shaker. Add ice, remaining ingredients. Shake well.

Strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with pinch of cinnamon and apple slice.

Smokey, slightly sweet and appley.

If you don't have hard apple cider of some sort on hand, use apple liqueur or even fresh apple cider might work.

No Soggy Bottoms! One Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Meringue Topping for Thanksgiving

Who doesn't love pie? I do, and I have had to learn to make them at home since the advent of my dairy allergy. Impossible to eat one out. Pie without butter? Is it any good? Yes. Yes it is. This recipe represents the best of three different recipes and many years of hosting, preparing, feasting. I culled two techniques from the venerable Rose Levy Berenbaum, a crust I love from Amy Traverso and a meringue topping from David Leite. I'll share the full recipe below along with some other terrific tips I've picked up along the way. Won't you join me? Pull up a fork!

two apple pies
two apple pies

Apple Pies for a birthday girl


Strawberry Rhubarb 

sweet potato pie
sweet potato pie
pm pie
pm pie

One Pumpkin Pie to Rule Them All

Pie Nation, Pie Boxes and more

  • Crust Dust: If you're making a fruit pie, this tip from Pie it Forward is worth the book. Gesine Bullock-Prado makes beautiful pies and some of her best tips can be yours. A soggy bottom is not a good thing. Not in most situations and certainly not in pies.
  • If you're taking a pie to someone's house, the Pie Box is essential!
Pie box 2
Pie box 2

Large enough to accommodate an Emile Henry pie dish

Pie Rules

There are some rules I'd say are non-negotiable.

  1. Make sure the fats are cold, and stay cold.
  2. Work quickly, calmly and with authority. If the fats get warm then pop it back into the fridge
  3. Always let the dough rest before rolling it out. But wait - Dorie Greenspan doyenne of Parisienne food says maybe not? Leite's Culinaria's Renaee Schettler Rossi asks "WWDD"? What Would Dorie Do?

Hm. Seems we have been given permission to ignore some of the rules. I'M IN!

Unified Pie Theory

So here's my unified theory of pie. It's okay to break rules and pick the best parts of various recipes.

My favorite crust at the moment is from Amy Traverso's Apple Lover's Cookbook. The Double Crust pie is a winner. To that, I add Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie & Pastry Bible. I use the cooked custard technique as well as her terrific technique of crushed gingersnaps to line the bottom of the pie. It helps prevent the dreaded soggy bottom, much like the Crust Dust above for fruit pies. If you can enjoy nuts add pecans to the gingersnaps. 4 (2") gingersnaps and 1/4 C pecan halves. I just use 6 Snappy Gingersnaps.

Also, cooking the pumpkin puree and spices, blending in the food processor makes for a smooth, rich filling.

Finally, I loved the addition of a meringue topping and all who enjoyed it agreed. I have Leite's Culinaria to thank for that inspiration. Pumpkin Meringue Pie. And if you need some pie crimping ideas, say no more.