Thursday, February 25, 2010



Literally.  Yup, the shoulder's still stiff and my knee's still banged up from my sidewalk tumble the other day, but today is a day that screams to the world, "I love L. A!"  Why?  Weather!

 After last night's rain, the sky is clear powder blue, the air smells fresh and the temperature is a beautiful 70-ish.  Some days are diamonds and today is one of them.  It's a day to get out of the house and smell the rose...mary (well, it does seem to grow everywhere here)...  a day to soak up the sun's vitamins (thru sunblock)... a day to chase the blues away...  To hell w/ the economy... to hell w/ divisive politics and to hell w/ my aching butt muscles...  I'll think about that tomorrow (unless it's a day like today).

Crawling out of bed this morning was a chore.   The Advil I'd taken at bedtime had worn off and my bruised muscles wouldn't move... but slowly they came alive not so subtlly reminding me that I'd fallen.  Ouch.  But the sun was streaming thru the windows and when I opened the front door, the air smelled so sweet, I knew it was time to 'work through the pain.'  Hey, I could do it when I was still dancing, why not now?  I won't tell, if you won't that dancing and barre work 'working through the pain' was thirty years ago.  I'm still a dancer at heart and that should count for something, right?

Some of you may remember my Sept. 4th "Kinsey & Me" blog where I mused a Sue Grafton alphabet mystery around one of the 'characters' who makes daily appearances at my favorite outdoor track.  It's a half-mile, wide-open space where I can walk round and round and make up life-stories about my fellow power walkers.  Alec Baldwin sometimes jogs beside me when he's in town, nodding 'hello' as he chugs by (and I mean 'chugs' - he's like the cubby engine that could)... and I can watch, w/o envy, those who are strenuously working out w/ a trainer, racing up and down the baseball diamond stands.  Talk about pain!   But that's an "into the car and drive-to"  track a few miles away and there's a perfectly fine outdoor quarter-mile track I can walk to.  I don't know why I don't like it as well (maybe because I have to go around twice as many times), but it does surround a couple of baseball diamonds w/ stands I can use for 'barre' stretches and stomach crunches lying on a lower bench... and there are a bevy of tennis courts that are always busy (Richard plays tennis there three mornings a week), making the park/track a happening place on any given day.   So, even though I miss seeing my fellow walkers at the old track, I'm lowering my carbon footprint by walking to the smaller track.

The hazards of this decision, however, are the pothole-d streets (ours) and many broken sidewalks caused by tree roots that I must navigate to and from the park.  It was one such sidewalk that jumped out at me earlier this week causing my unscheduled rendevous with the cement pavement.  But to save on gas, I brave these urban jungle pitfalls.  I put on my mini-IPod and venture out on foot listening to Sly Stone, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, et al, w/ a little Reba thrown in (yeh, I'm that old) and, for the most part, arrive home unscathed.  Sometimes I sing along.  Today was a sing along, unscathed day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010



Still doing my diet thing... though it's getting old and I have pounds to go before I sleep.  I needed a perk.  But not one that would take me off my diet.   I've been deprived of pizza and grilled cheese and french fries and mashed potatoes and pasta too long to give up now.  Diamonds would be a nice perk.  But, alas, not this week.  Maybe a week of luxury at the Four Seasons in Maui.  Nope, not on the agenda.  Then what??!!
Richard found the answer... a meal as delicious as homemade mac & cheese w/ truffles or a rare steak dinner w/ all the onion rings/mashed potato trimmings.  A meal that would tantalize and tease my taste buds and have relatively no 'points'...  

So what delectable dinner did he make for me?  Seared sea scallops w/ orange-basil 'sauce' (a sauce!!! on a diet!!!)...  My food hero!!!   Eating this meal made up for the week in Maui and the diamonds...   wait, why is my nose growing? :)

1-1/2 pounds of sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2/3 cup orange juice
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon of butter
Pat scallops dry w/ paper towel.  Coat scallops w/ oil and season both sides w/ salt and pepper.  Set aside.
Whisk together orange juice, mustard, and basil in small bowl.  Set aside.
Heat 12-inch skillet to high.  Add scallops to hot pan; sear until they develop thick, rich brown crust (about 2 minutes).  Turn scallops and continue to cook over high heat until remaining side develops crust (about 2 minutes longer).  Remove from pan.
Add orange juice mixture to empty skillet; boil until reduced by half (about a minute).  Tilting the skillet so that reduced liquid is at one side of pan, whisk in butter and any accumulated scallop juices.  Spoon a little sauce over each portion of scallops; serve immediately.
Serves 4
--- From "How to Cook Without a Book" by Pam Anderson (Broadway Books, 2000)


Sunday, February 21, 2010



As most of you know, I'm dieting...  No pizza!  No chardonnay! No vodka martinis! No cheeseburgers or hot dogs in a roll!  No pastrami or corned beef sandwiches!  (Thank god I'm not a chocolate or sweet lover.) So, I look for my food "rewards" that don't include animal fat and red dye...  Hence, diet pancakes!  Pancakes that are high in protein w/ fiber thrown in.

What are these diet pancakes, you're probably asking?  Well, they're not exactly lo-cal... but, South Beach's "Oatmeal Pancakes" - Yup, oatmeal.  As I just implied, they're not that low in an actual calorie count (or point count), unless you compare it to eggs benedict, but the pancake batter you make from this recipe is enough for two people even though it says "serves 1," which makes breakfast about 150 very tasty calories (2-3 points).

Even when I'm not dieting, Richard makes them.  They're really good.



1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese (or tofu)
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Process the oatmeal, cottage chesse, egg whites, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a blender until smooth.  Yesterday Richard also added some fresh blueberries to the batter (yum!).

Spray a nonstick skillet w/ cooking spray.  Add the batter and cook over medium heat until both sides are lightly browned.

You can top the pancake w/ a low-sugar or non-sugar syrup of your choice.  Or a low sugar jam.

Per serving:  288 calories, 28 grams of protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat,  1 gram saturated fat, 451 mg sodium, 5mg cholesterol, 5 grams of fiber...

But remember, if you're like us and share the pancake (Richard divides the batter between two 8" skillets), everything above is halved.

Saturday, February 20, 2010



Did your mom ever say these words to you when you were growing up:  "Finish your dinner, there are starving children in China," or: "You're not leaving this table until you finish everything on your plate!"

Well my mother said the former - a lot (mostly about vegetables), but I only remember her making me sit at the dinner table once because I wouldn't eat the food on my plate.  That food was fish.  Not the little sunflower seeds (perch) we caught at Lake Boone that had been filleted and floured and breaded and fried up for breakfast like the fish in 'fish & chips,' nor was it delectable golden broiled swordfish.  Sitting there on my plate making me gag was fishy fish - all slimey and white w/ bones!.  I couldn't eat it. I wouldn't eat it!  I don't remember how long I sat at the table, but I know I never ate that fish. 

Well, my distaste for fishy fish 'left the building' the first time I had sole almondine.  Julia Child had it right.  Butter!  And when I reluctantly put that first bite of fish in my mouth, like Julia when she first tasted sole meuniere, my taste buds soared.  The toasted almonds!  The golden brown tender fish!  The butter!  The French really do know how to cook.

Since that life-changing food experience, I have learned to enjoy a whole array of fish dishes, but none compares to sole almondine.  This sole soothes the soul.

As some of you know, I've been 'South Beach Watcher-ing' (my So. Beach-Weight Watchers diet) and have been dining on lettuce, lean meats, fish, chicken and green veggies...  w/ poor results.  I'm frustrated and yearn to fall off the diet horse for a cheeseburger, but decided that that 'tumble' would be too devastating to my taste buds...  I'd never be able to climb back into the 'food deprivation' saddle.  I needed a dish that might be a little over-the-top calorie wise, but wouldn't lead me astray.  Without prior knowledge of my love affair w/ sole almondine, Richard decided he wanted to try making it after watching some show or other on the Food Network.  We had percale sole in the freezer (this is not a dish for Dover sole which tends to get mushy).  We had flour.  We had Kosher salt.  We had eggs and milk.  We had pepper.  We had EVOO.  AND, we had sweet butter.  All he needed was the slivered almonds.  My heart soared in taste anticipation as I sent him on his merry Trader Joe way to get them.

Well, dinner was all I expected it to be.  I haven't had sole almondine in years (don't know why - just haven't) and taking that first bite again reminded me what great food is suppose to taste like.  (Oh, and the veggie he made - another favorite - steamed spinach w/ a bit of butter and lemon juice.)

Lunch today - romaine lettuce and a hard boiled egg... sigh. 


From Tyler Florence
(Food Network)

For the Fish:

2 cups blanched slivered almonds
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
1 cup milk
4 cleaned sole fillets (6 ounces each)

For the Sauce:

1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Set a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat (if you have 2 pans you can work simultaneously at this point, i.e. 2 fillets per pan) and add a 2-count of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to each pan.

Put the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper, to taste. In another shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour, then dip them into the egg mixture. Allow some of the excess egg to drain off, then add them to the hot pan. Cook 2 pieces at a time. Fry for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, then carefully turn the fish over to cook the other side. With a spoon, baste the fillets with the butter sauce. Repeat basting to ensure the fish remains moist. Once the other side is cooked (about 30 seconds) carefully remove the fillets from the pan to a serving platter.

Repeat with remaining 2 fillets and a 2-count of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the fillets have been removed the pan, add the chopped shallots and gently saute over low heat until translucent, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and finish with the lemon juice. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the parsley and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon the sauce over the top of the fillets and sprinkle generously with the toasted almonds.

Thursday, February 18, 2010



Alert the media... dieting is not fun.  Especially when you've reached the point where you stop losing after only dropping five-six pounds.  Drastic measures need to be taken.  Cutting more calories is a must.  Wanting to chuck it all and have a bacon cheeseburger becomes a very tempting option.  And then there's the yearning for a chilled glass of chardonnay or a very dry vodka martini (two olives) after a long, long day of eating lettuce and almonds.  But I'm determined - there's a closet full of designer clothes in my bedroom waiting to be worn (I won't even go into the 'jeans thing')... to come out of the dark and into the sunlight (not to mention that Richard's really tired of seeing me in faded and ripped sweats).

So what to do to free this wonderful waiting wardrobe?  Eat less, exercise more?  Duh!!!  This is where broccoli comes in.  It's green, it's healthful and, most important, it's no points if you doing Weight Watchers or 'free' calories if you're doing South Beach...  I'm doing a new schizophrenic diet I call South Beach Watchers...  I follow the So. Beach guidelines (which really aren't that much different from WW) and count points.  So it's fish, chicken, lean meats, tons of veggies, nuts, a low fat cheese stick now and again, NO alcohol, and little to no starch unless it's multi, multi, multi, multi, multi grain.

So back to my ode to this mini-tree vegetable...

Like President Bush '41, I'm not a fan.  Richard is.  We eat it once - twice a week, usually steamed w/ a dash of butter or margarine (less than a point) and a spritz of fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, though sometimes we've been known to roast those little trees w/ a little EVOO.  But when that is often the only thing on the dinner plate complementing that piece of fish, chicken or lean meat that ole broccoli taste gets old.  Especially, as I've stated, one is not a fan.  Now, I can cheer for asparagus and do cartwheels for steamed spinach and kale, but it's barely a hoot, never mind a holler, coming out of my mouth for broccoli, and certainly no acrobatics.  I look at those little green trees on my plate and wonder why I'm being punished.  I yearn for something rich and creamy.  Well, I've found a satisfying solution.  Mashed broccoli.  I loved South Beach's mashed cauliflower recipe to satisfy a dieter's mashed potato craving... why not mashed broccoli to satisfy my 'rich and creamy' craving?   So I followed the So. Beach mashed cauliflower recipe w/ a little adjustment and improvisation here and there... and voila!  Rich and Creamy!  I might even learn to love broccoli.  Nah.

Rich and Creamy Mashed Broccoli
(serves 4)


4 cups broccoli trees (don't forget to include the 'trunks')
1 ounce of Brummel & Brown yogurt/veggie oil 'margarine' spread
1 ounce fat free half & half (sometimes I add a bit more if needed for 'creaminess')
2-3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper


Steam the broccoli until soft.  Puree in food processor, adding the margarine spread, non-fat half and half, and parmesan cheese.  Season with the salt and pepper.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


(Mom, Bob & Me)


My Aunt Fannie was not your ordinary Aunt Fannie… well, actually she was my mother’s Aunt Fannie - my Great Aunt Fannie (I’m digressing already). Like many Aunt Fannies, she came to America, crossing the Atlantic in steerage, and passing through the gates of Ellis Island near the turn of the century. Also, like so many Aunt Fannie immigrants she worked as a domestic… a cook… even a nanny (though I think the term was ‘governess’ back in her day…). But unlike many of those other Aunt Fannies who worked for wealthy families, she worked for a real WASP 400, wealthy (that’s redundant, I know) banking family. Whether this patriarch was the founder of Chase (which seems stuck in my brain) or some other mega bank, I can’t recall. But it was definitely one of those banks too big to fail… til 1929. He owned mansions in Manhattan and Newport, Rhode Island. And, he owned a yacht. A real yacht with many staterooms, a Captain and crew, and servants. As the cook and nanny, Aunt Fannie traveled the world on that yacht, taking care of his children and catering his lavish parties. Her reward? Investments! Aunt Fannie didn’t need much to live on because she lived with the banker and his family, so Mr. Banker invested her salary and her money grew and grew and grew.

As legend has it, she retired fairly young and divested all her investments before that fateful day in ‘29, stuffing all that cash into shoe boxes under her bed. Was she forewarned by her former employer? I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone knows. But she was shrewd with money and may have read the seemingly never-ending bull market accurately on her own.

She bought a large two-story house on Lake Boone in Massachusetts.  A 'spinister,' and like Elizabeth the lst (the spinsiter queen), Fannie was queen of her kingdom.

The house, named Camp Massasoit after the great New England Chief, was located near her brother (my mother's father) and his seven off-spring, two of whom were my beloved mom and my wonderful Aunt Fritzie. Sadly, I don’t think I ever knew my grandfather’s name. Isn’t that weird? But I do know that he hanged himself when my mother was eighteen. Not the best memory. (I know… digressing).

As Fannie’s myriad number of nieces and nephews grew, they spent endless days at Lake Boone swimming and boating in the summer… ice skating in the winter… often joined by cousins from various parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. For most of the winter, however, Fannie lived in Florida supplementing her income by playing the dogs. Greyhounds, that is.

Eventually, the nieces and nephews went off to college or Boston or New York to find their own way in the world, married and had children of their own… my thirteen cousins, my brother and me. It was now our turn to while away summer days at Camp Massasoit.

(the cousins & Aunt Fritzie - I'm in the yellow shirt)

One of my most vivid memories is the camp itself. The kitchen, with its long farm sink, led into the long (almost the length of the house) screened-in porch where the ice box proudly stood. In the living room was a large stone fireplace

(Bob & me & the fireplace)

 and a piano covered with framed black & white family photos. On the walls were dusty and fading banners of Dartmouth where my Uncle Aarne (my mom’s oldest brother) was a football hero and other college banners where other nieces and nephews attended. The large slip-covered sofa was literally covered w/ souvenir pillows from her travels and the travels of her family and friends. You know the kind. The brightly colored satin pillows w/ tassels that proudly displayed a map of Atlantic City or the Lincoln Memorial or a deer in Yellowstone Park… I loved those pillows, especially a fading shocking pink, chartreuse and yellow one from Las Vegas! On the distressed wooden floor was an enormous “Oriental” rug, faded and threadbare.  But that rug still seemed ‘important’ to my young eyes. Adjacent to the living room was a sun room/bedroom where favored relatives could sleep. Usually a nephew or bachelor uncle (she favored the ‘boys’).

The stairs in the living room led to the pitched-ceiling attic which had two small bedrooms – one for Aunt Fannie, where her false teeth floated in a glass of water at night, and one for the ‘favored’ visiting married couple. Some summers that bedroom was my parents.’ Other summers it was Aunt Fritzie and Uncle Martin’s room. And, some summers it was neither couples', but my grandparents (on my father's side) who got that little room (well, that is until my grandmother and Fannie got into a 'to do' over one thing or another - then they had to sleep w/ us kids).  We almost always spent our vacations with Fritzie and Martin and my cousins Linda and Bruce. But the main room of the attic was an enchanting, cavernous space (at least to me) that we kids shared.  The room was filled w/ antique iron beds and ironstone chamber pots under each bed. At the far end of the room were two floor-to-ceiling wooden ‘doors’ which opened out high above the backyard. I remember sitting there at night with some of my cousins, our legs dangling out of the attic, watching fireflies and waiting for Peter Pan to come and get us. We never tried to fly. We knew we had to have Tinkerbell’s fairy dust to do that.

As I noted above, one thing I learned early on was that Aunt Fannie preferred men. She was a fairly homely woman and never married, but she flirted shamelessly with the men in her life. (I wish I had a picture, but sadly, I don't - only her picture in my memory.) The women, on the other hand, were there to do her bidding: cleaning, shopping and cooking. But they knew she loved them and it was little price to pay for the fun they (and we kids) had.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun for the grown-ups. One year Fritzie and Mom decided they were tired of cleaning the floors and Oriental rug with Fannie’s carpet sweeper, so they went into town and bought a brand new Hoover – only the best would do for Aunt Fannie. I still remember the roar that came out of my great aunt when Fritzie and my mom proudly unveiled the shiny new vacuum cleaner. Fannie hated it! I mean truly hated it. No way was she going to allow that ‘thing’ in HER house she yelled. The carpet sweeper worked perfectly fine, thank you very much, so get that ‘thing’ out of here! The same outrage was repeated when one of my ‘second’ uncles (like a second cousin) bought her a refrigerator so she wouldn’t have to rely on the ‘iceman cometh.’ Nothing doing! Get that monstrosity out of HER house. Her icebox was perfectly fine, thank you very much. So much for some modern amenities.

And then there was the outhouse. Did I forget to mention the camp had NO bathrooms and sometimes there were ten, twelve or more people staying there at one time? The adults conspired to have one installed, but again Fannie Would. Not. Hear. Of it! The outhouse was perfectly fine, thank you very much. And if you didn’t like it – you didn’t have to come and visit. Period. End. Of. Discussion. Somehow the adults managed, even on the rainiest days, and we kids never noticed that we were living so ‘primitively.’

So, now I imagine you might be wondering if we bathed since we had no bathroom. I’m happy to report we did. There was the kitchen sink for 'sponge' baths and we had a makeshift garden hose shower for quick ‘clean-ups.’ But mostly we washed in the lake. Washing our hair was the most fun… suds-ing it up, then diving underwater to rinse the suds away… sometimes we’d suds up each other’s hair, then all of us would hold our noses and dunk each other over and over again…

Aunt Fritzie taught me how to play cards at Lake Boone. Specifically canasta. And Aunt Fannie was so proud of the way I played (we’re a card playing family and play whenever and wherever we can)...

(uncles looking for floating pinochle card)

she had me sit in on a game w/ the ‘grown-ups’ one evening before I had to go to bed. I was so proud, I ‘dined out’ on that special treatment for the rest of my vacation by recounting my tale of ‘favoritism’ at every meal much to my cousins’ annoyance.

Once, before cousin Bruce could swim, my beach ball floated out in the lake. Bruce -- always my hero -- went to save it. But he couldn’t swim, right? Well, he was feeling invincible because he was in one of those colorful plastic tubes we kids used to float in (the ones w/ orange gold fish and green starfish painted on them… d-i-g-r-e-s-s-i-n-g…), so off he paddled and kicked. His mom (Aunt Fritzie) was watching us from the screened-in porch above and called out, but Bruce had made up his mind. He was getting that beach ball! But as he reached for it, he somehow slipped out of that little plastic tube and floundered. Before he had even a mouthful of water, Aunt Fritzie flew down the porch stairs, across the dock and dove in the water in her shirt-waist dress and saddle shoes. A few fast strokes later she had her son locked safely in her arms and began to swim ashore, but not until Bruce grabbed the beach ball and brought it home to me. I don’t remember her scolding Bruce for his gallantry, but I do remember her mourning the destruction of the permanent that my mother had given her earlier that morning. Remember Tonis -- the DIY home permanent??

Lake Boone was also where my brother Bob first got “married.” It didn’t matter that he and his ‘bride’ were only five and the marriage wasn’t legal.

(the wedding)

And Lake Boone was where the 'old' folks and we kids would fish off the dock in the morning w/ bamboo poles, using bits of white bread for bait…

(grandpa fishing at sunrise)

catching little sunfish-like fish that everyone called pumpkin seeds. It’s where my brother stepped on a rusty nail and had to have tetanus shots and where we all listened at the top of the stairs as the grown-ups played cards, drank highballs, laughed and sometimes argued (Finns and their politics!) til the wee hours of the morning. It was during one of those nights that I learned one of my mother’s and Aunt Fritzie’s girlfriends, on a drunken tear some years earlier, grabbed her son out of bed in the middle of the night and dragged him - still in his pajamas - to some seedy hotel where his father was in the midst of a tryst with some “other” woman. I wasn’t sure what a tryst was or exactly why this was awful, but my parents, my aunt and uncle and those at the card table certainly made it clear that it was.

And it was at the lake where we all gathered at the long table in the screened-in-porch that served as the dining room for fried fish breakfasts made w/ fish we had caught that morning (filleted by the ‘men’) and dinners made by my mom and aunts. It was there on that porch my older cousin Linda (Bruce’s sister) played Johnny Ray records and “Earth Angel” with other older cousins and their lake friends, and where Fannie’s neighbor with an antique Model T would give us kids rides. It’s where we all learned to row a boat

(Bruce & me)
and to swim and where we spent quality time w/ our parents.

(mom & me)

(dad & Bob)
(the water-wing wonder)

 It’s also the place where, spying through a crack at an older cousin as he changed out of his wet bathing suit in the little dressing room under the outdoor stairs, I saw my first penis other than my dad’s or brother’s. And, it was then and there I decided I didn’t want one. Sorry, no picture!

The lake was where we kids would stop what we were doing and run into the camp when we smelled Aunt Fannie's deep frying donuts! They’d still be hot, draining on a dish towel (paper towels? – not at Aunt Fannie’s) when we’d grab a few and go out on the un-screened-in porch and sit on the floral cushioned swing hanging from chains and eat donuts til our stomachs nearly burst. Years later, my mom said that Fannie had lost her donut ‘touch’ by the time Bruce, Bob and I had them. She said they were too greasy and heavy. But to us kids… well, me at least… they were the best donuts in the world.

The summer I turned nine was the last summer I would spend at Lake Boone with Aunt Fannie because Fritzie and Martin had bought their cottage on Alexander’s Lake in Dayville, Connecticut and my family would continue to spend vacations with them there. But the memories of Fannie, her home and Lake Boone have never left me.

Until she died Aunt Fannie continued to spend every winter in Florida going to the dog track and betting on the races, supplementing the income from her investments (she did finally take her money out of those shoe boxes and return it to the bank sometime after WWII – or so the legend goes). And when she was at the lake, the camp was still filled with friends and relatives. She never did put in a bathroom, though I think she finally broke down and let someone buy her a vacuum cleaner. To this day, I have no idea where anyone did laundry.  In the lake?

(Mom going I don't know where to do laundry)

Bruce and I, w/ our cousin Mike, did make it back for a brief visit the summer Mike and I turned 16. Fannie flirted with the boys and decided that I would be a perfect match for one of her favorite neighborhood boys. His name was Eric and we had played together when we were kids. Our parents had been friends in their youth. He was 17 or 18 that summer and drop-dead gorgeous. Fannie egged us on. She wanted Eric in the family, but I was a big disappointment to her because I hadn't developed her 'knack' for flirting.  After we left the lake, I never saw him again.

In my early twenties, I went back to Lake Boone one more time when I accompanied my mother to Aunt Fannie’s funeral. I don’t remember who was there, but there seemed to be a lot of first cousins and second cousins and third cousins, most of whom I hadn’t seen since I was 8 or 9. The funeral remains in a fog - maybe because I only want to remember Fannie as she was when I was a kid… taking out her teeth at times to scare us… applying a burning antiseptic on a cut I had on my leg that she’d been using sparingly since before ‘the’ war so many years ago. (Why? Because Uncle Aarne had brought it back for her from Dartmouth so it must be special so she only used it for special occasions. And, I felt special, even if my leg burned for an hour, but I’m back to digressing). I wanted to remember only those things, as well as sneaking into her sparse, whitewashed bedroom seeing those teeth floating in the glass… eating those warm donuts… listening to her yell at her nieces and flirt with their husbands… bossing us kids around… I still wanted to believe that Aunt Fannie would never leave us.  And in some ways, she hasn't.

Monday, February 8, 2010



Super Bowl Sunday is something I've come to look forward to and it's not because of the game.  I mean, I like the game well enough, especially this year's.  It was exciting and I was so pleased for the city of New Orleans.  But why I really look forward to the Super Bowl is the chili... and then there's the Fargo dip, but I'll dip into that a little later.

For a decade or so our friends, Candace & Craig, have given an annual Super Bowl party.   And, as in many Super Bowl parties across America, there are margueritas, beer, wine, dips and chips and chili.  BUT, what makes their Super Bowl party so memorable is the chili (and the Fargo dip, but I'll dip into that a little later).  There's never just one big pot of chili at this party, though.. there's three - sometimes four - to choose from.  Like a 'wine' tasting with protein.  Well, that's probably a bit disingenuous since we all do more than 'taste' the various chilis... we go back for seconds and thirds... sometimes eating a mountain of each, one at a time... sometimes putting all three in our bowls at the same time.  And, of course, there's the shredded cheese, cilantro, chopped onions, sour cream, etc., etc. to adorn these flavorful concoctions.  Though my favorite chili acoutrement is the Fritos.  Yup, Fritos which our chili chef recommends we put on the bottom of the bowl, then pile the chili on top.  BUT, before we dive into the chili, we first have 'appetizers'...

This year Richard went 'retro' and brought the classic spinach dip which he served in a scooped out round peasant bread w/ the cut-out bread torn into pieces to be dipped into the dip.  Friends, Chris & Sandy, brought a palate pleasing pate reminiscent of the Pate Therese I blogged about around Thanksgiving, though this pate was smothered in a wonderful cream cheese 'icing,' served w/ classic Wheat Thins... and then there's Jule's Fargo dip.  Yup - now is the time to dip into this dip.  It's not an onion dip.  It's not a leek soup dip. It's not a mushroom dip.   It's just Fargo dip (yes, that Fargo, so named because Jule grew up in Fargo and this is the dip her mother made for her father every day as his afterwork reward to complement his one-olive vodka martini...stirred not shaken.  Sorry James.)... a dip made from a secret combo of garlic, salt and onion powder and, if you serve it with Ruffles original potato chips, you can’t eat just one. We (those of us who have attended this annual event all these years) have tried to figure out how this dip is made - but sadly, it remains a Jule family secret.  Secret or not, however, it's something we look forward to every year.

By half-time, we were dipped and pate'd out.  We'd had margueritas, wine or beer and were now ready for the chili 'tasting.'  This year, our choices were:

1.  Beef
     New Mexico Chilies
     Chipotle chilies
     Red Peppers
     Red Beans
2.  Pork
     Guajillo chilies
     Jalapeno chilies
     Pinto Beans
     Yellow peppers

3.  Turkey
     White Beans
     Black Beans
     Serrano Chilies
     Banana Chilies

All were delicious, I couldn't pick a favorite, though perhaps I did lean a little to chili #2.  It had bacon!

You'd think we'd be full after dipping and chili-ing, but after the game, the desserts appeared.  I made some classic brownies w/ walnuts - but it was Jule's three desserts that scored!  A master chef, she's particularly brilliant when it comes to desserts and these were no exception.  The first one I tasted was a sweet apricot chocolate and pecan bar. Oh my!  The second was a cappuccino brownie that sent my brownies to the back of the class, and the last, and my favorite, was the pepper roasted pecan chocolate cupcake w/ a caramel center.  It was the most amazing cupcake I'd ever eaten.  Since Jule made it up, there isn't a defined recipe, but if you bake, I think you can figure it out from the directions she gave me.


Raw Pecans
Black Pepper
Chocolate Chips or Chunk (best quality possible)
Your favorite Chocolate Cake recipe

Granulated Sugar
2 –3 TBSP Unsalted Butter
Heavy Cream – slightly heated
Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Put whole raw pecans on a baking sheet, cover with freshly ground black pepper. Roast until the color of the pecans has deepened to dark brown – about 10 minutes. Cool.

Make your favorite chocolate cake batter. I use the one from the Big Yellow Gourmet book.

Use a cupcake pan, put in the cupcake paper holders. Ladle in cake batter so that 1/4 of the cupcake holder is filled. Put in a layer of chocolate chips. Add another thin layer of cake batter. Then add layer of roasted pecans. Then another layer of chocolate chips. Then top off with another chocolate cake batter layer. You’ll be almost to the top now.

Bake at 350 until a knife inserted into cupcake comes out clean.

While they are baking, make your caramel. Cover large saucepan with granulated sugar. Add the butter. Add just a bit of water to lightly wet the sugar. Med-low heat, let the sugar melt until it turns into a caramel. Add the heavy cream and sea salt to taste. Stir.

Once the cupcake is done, while still hot, take a spoon and make a bit of a split in the cupcake, drizzle in as much caramel as you like and then “stick the cake back together”.

You can reheat these when it’s time to serve — but keep a watch so they don’t “cook more”.

Enjoy with ice cream!  I did.

So... the party's over and I'm back to South Beaching it.  But the super chili bowl memory lives on.