Friday, March 21, 2008

DINNER FOR ONE - Italian Egg Sandwich

Now that I've raised the bar on what I'm willing to eat, I can never go back to the types of things I used to throw together whenever I was eating alone. I've been scouring my cookbooks for ideas that are quick and easy, but really good. This is one of my favorites, found in Giada's Everyday Italian cookbook. I just cook one of my farm-fresh, cage-free eggs, in a little bit of olive oil, on med., in a covered pan. While that's cooking, I toast a piece of rustic bread from the local bakery (they sold me a great bag that helps keep it fresh longer, or you can freeze it and pull out slices as you need them), brush it with a little EVOO, rub it with a peeled clove of garlic, then top it with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Spoon some strained marinara sauce over the cheese, and top it with your egg. I usually add a little side salad of arugula from my porch pots and a quick vinaigrette using my blood orange-infused EVOO from Texas First Olive Oil Co. Yummalicious!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


You are not going to believe this, but at long last, I have finally caught up on transferring three year's worth of paper journal entries over to this blog (well, almost - except for two that I am withholding while I wait to see if either is going to be published in the Story Circle Network Anthology) . From now on, everything you read here will be happening in real time, with none of those confusing double-dates.


About twenty years ago, John and I were watching MTV, when a Huey Lewis and the News music video came on. It was the one where he and his band were walking down a street en masse, wearing long dark coats that were blowing back behind them - sort of reminded me of an old western movie where the gangs were headed towards each other for a shoot-out. Anyway, John turned to me and asked “Have you ever thought about who you would like to look like, if you could choose anyone in the whole wide world? Well, I think I’d choose that guy.”

I’ve thought about his question often over the years, but never could settle on any one person I would really want to look like. Until now. Not long ago we went to see the movie Across the Universe, and much to my surprise, there I was, up on the stage, belting out a song! Actually, it was singer/actress Dana Fuchs, playing the part of Sadie, and at the risk of sounding even more kooky than you already think me, I have to say that it’s not really that I want to look like this person. It’s more that, in my own mind, I am her, and it always surprises me a bit when I happen to glance up at a mirror, and see this other person looking back at me.

“Sadie” had my same long curly hair, but without the frizz factor going on. Her face wasn’t model perfect, it was interesting, but a little more symmetrical than mine. Her legs were of a length that would balance my long torso and neck, thus turning me into a six foot Amazon. And that voice! That rough, throaty, belt-it-out-Janis kind of voice that I always dreamed of having (but whenever I tried to sing like that, all I got was a sore throat). It’s almost as if I was the beta test, and she’s just the perfected version of me.

So, for all you movie moguls out there who will soon be fighting over the rights to my memoir, here’s a heads up - I won’t settle for anyone less that Dana Fuchs, to play the part of me!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I think the Italians are just brilliant, when it comes to food. My niece Stephanie gave me a gorgeous Under the Tuscan Sun calendar for Christmas, which included a few of Frances Mayes' recipes. This week I tried her version of minestrone. It's a fairly basic soup that starts with the sofrito (sauteed onions, carrots and celery), then you add chicken broth, canned tomatoes, chard and fresh herbs, a cup of wine, and the heel from your chunk of parmigiano. After it has simmered for a while, you throw in some cooked potatoes and cannelini beans. Absolutely delicious. But wait - there's more!

Now comes the brilliant part. On the second day, when you reheat it, you tear up a chunk of stale ciabatta or whatever, and toss the pieces into the soup, then it becomes Ribollita (which means re-boiled). The bread acts as a thickening agent, the soup becomes a yummy stew, and you are saved from wasting that stale bread. Pure genius. I once made Giada De Laurentiis' version of Ribollita, but instead of tearing the bread into the soup, she made little individual ciabatta toasts with melted cheese on them, put one in the bottom of each bowl, then ladled the soup in on top of them. Or you could even throw a bit of uncooked pasta into the soup when you reheated it.

Now, even if I could change it up into four different soups, I still wouldn't want to eat it four days in a row. Fortunately, soup freezes better than most anything else, without losing flavor, so if you made a big batch, divided it into four different freezer containers, and pulled out one each week? Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I've found a way to buy myself a little more time, with regards to finding a job. It's not that John is putting any great pressure on me. It's just that I hate feeling like a kept woman. When I was offered a job at Cowgirls and Lace, I realized that it was going to suck up so much time and energy, that I would probably end up with even less time for writing than before. That thought was so depressing that I just couldn't bring myself to accept the position. Then I found an ad in the paper for a mystery shopper gig, and I thought "Aha! I need to go back to doing contract work. That way I can arrange my own schedule and make it fit around my writing routine." I applied on line and got offered the job the next day. It won't bring in near enough money, but it's a start.

* * * * *

John used to pester me all the time about why I only wrote about Wimberley, and never Houston. Each time I came home telling him some wild story about what was going on at the garden shop where I worked, he'd say "Now that's what you need to write about. People would never believe this shit!" I usually told him that I preferred to write about positive, uplifting things, but the truth was that for some unknown reason, I just couldn't write in Houston - I never felt the urge or inspiration there. That's when I decided that Wimberley must be my muse, but alas, I now see that it was nothing nearly as poetic. It all boils down to the morning paper.

In Houston we always got up at 5:30, fixed our breakfast and sat down with the morning paper. An hour or more later, when John was ready to head out, I was still there reading. With each page, I was sucked more and more out into the world and all its woes. Here in Wimberley, I get up at the same time, but John does not, and there is no daily paper here. So, instead, I go out onto the still, dark porch. There I am able to withdraw inwards, where there is no distraction from my thoughts, and that is when inspiration comes. I do miss those crosswords though.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I love oatmeal now, which is truly astonishing. I mean, I actually find myself waking up in the mornings, thinking "Hot damn, it's oatmeal time!" As soon as my cholesterol hit 200, I tried to eat more of it, hoping it would bring the numbers down, but I never learned to enjoy it. I hated the slimy, soupy texture, and never felt like I'd really had a meal unless I added a couple of pieces of toast, to have something to chew on. I figured I was doing good if I averaged one dose per week.

So, how has it suddenly managed to steal my heart away from whole wheat waffles with peanut butter, and become my breakfast of choice? Well, I have two words for you. Steel Cut. If you have only had instant oatmeal all your life, then I must tell you that the difference between eating that and eating steel cut oats, is the difference between riding a Vespa and riding a Harley. Some would argue that they aren't even in the same family, and I can only wonder why no one bothered to explain this to me before now.

I suppose most people in this day and age, just can't get past the lure of anything instant. Yes, the steel cut oats do take 30 minutes to prepare, but it's not 30 minutes of standing at the stove, stirring. It's 30 minutes of more or less ignoring them, and being able to read the paper, or go get dressed, or do some yoga. How hard is that? And what is your reward for all that "effort"? A breakfast you can really sink your teeth into - literally. With this oatmeal, instead of ending up with a soupy mush that you could suck through the gaps in your teeth, you get a thick, rich concoction full of little chewy morsels. Has anyone ever made for you a luscious bowl of old-fashioned rice pudding or tapioca? If so, compare digging into that with eating a little cup of powdered vanilla pudding from a box, and you will know what I am talking about. One's a Harley, the other's a Vespa. Now if only this Harley will bring my cholesterol down, perhaps I can come out of hiding and face my doctor again, who was threatening me with drugs last time we met.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Years ago, I heard about a book called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. The book came about after Julia, herself a prolific writer, developed workshops that led people through a twelve-week program to help them recover from artist's or writer's block. Since the book also claimed to unleash creativity you never even knew you had, I decided to give it a try. I guess it worked, because if you recall, up until that point I didn't think I had a creative bone in my body.

Last week at the bookstore, I was jolted to a stop when I saw a book called The Writing Diet - Write Yourself Right-Size, by none other than Julia Cameron! I usually get crazy with people who rush out and buy every silly new diet book that comes out, instead of just using common sense, but I ask you, how on earth could I pass this one up? Apparently, after about twenty years of conducting her unblocking workshops, Julia noticed that as her students uncovered their creative selves, they became so invigorated by their work that they often slimmed down.

I'm reading one chapter each day, performing the assigned tasks and allowing it all to soak in, before I go on to the next one. So far, I like what I'm reading. Cameron is using many of the same techniques that she used in her original book: writing "morning pages" every day - a stream-of-consciousness rambling which somehow manages to dig up important but buried truths; keeping a journal in which you log not only what you eat, but also all your thoughts and feelings regarding food; solo walking, not just for exercise but also as a form of meditation and exploration; asking yourself some important questions before you put anything in your mouth, so that it becomes a conscious decision; and my favorite so far, culinary artist's dates.

I loved the idea of going on dates with myself when I read her first book, and it's a guilty pleasure I've indulged in ever since. The point is to prime the pump of your creativity by taking yourself out on festive, creative adventures that expand your comfort zone, only now, instead of exploring art, book and antique shops, I'm roaming the farmer's markets, ethnic food stores, gourmet cookery shops, shelves of cookbooks and magazines, trying new foods and interesting restaurants, and losing weight while doing it!

If you equate diet with deprivation, this is probably an unsettling concept, but what I'm finding is that the more flavor and texture my food has, the less I need to eat, and that standing at my butcher's block, enjoying the feel of a good knife in my hand as I chop ingredients, and the aroma of sauteing onions and garlic wafting about me, are all essential elements to the overall pleasure and satisfaction I get from my food - a sensation you will never experience by nuking something in the microwave, or wolfing something down in the car or in front of the TV.

If you don't believe me, try this little experiment. Think about the last time you gobbled a candy bar while absorbed in your favorite TV show. Now, go out and find a specialty shop that carries Vosges chocolate bars, and select whichever one appeals most to you (my favorite is the Barcelona bar, because I love the combination of salty and sweet). Take it home with you, and wait until you are completely alone, and all is quiet, before you pull it from it's hiding place beneath your lingerie. Now, carefully follow the instructions you will find on the back of the package, taking three deep breaths as you gently stroke the chocolate with your thumb, releasing its aroma. Next, snap off a small piece and place it on your tongue, then press it to the roof of your mouth, where the heat of your tongue will cause it to slowly melt, releasing an explosion of flavor sensations. Now tell me honestly, which experience left you feeling more ... sated?


I’ve been seeing previews for a new kid’s movie that is due out soon. It’s about a boy who finds a secret book in the mysterious old house that his family moves into. He is warned not to open the book, for though it will enable him to see the wondrous, magical world that surrounds us all, but which is invisible to most humans, it will also foist on him an enormous burden of responsibility. Pretty far-fetched, huh? Well, yesterday I went for an early walk, while everything was shrouded in heavy fog. At first I saw just a few cottony webs tucked in the branches of some low, evergreen shrubs. Then I noticed that there were some extremely fragile ones floating on the tips of a few tall grass stalks. Finally I realized that it wasn’t just a few. There were hundreds, if not thousands - a veritable sea of delicate, waving flags - and when an occasional beam of light managed to penetrate the fog, they became tiny, glistening necklaces, spun of silk and diamonds.

This morning I went walking a bit later than usual, and unlike yesterday, it is a gorgeous, sunny day, with nary a cloud in the sky. Try as I might, I could not spot a single one of those webs. Were they all dismantled overnight? Were they so fragile that the wind wrenched them away from their flagpoles, and sent them drifting like tiny parachutes? Or was I, for some unknown reason, granted a once in a lifetime glimpse into a secret, magical world that surrounds us, but which most humans are never allowed to see?