Still Going…

August 14, 2023

“One reason cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.”
~ Gwendolyn Brooks



Many of you know about my 21-year-old kitty, Sofia, who I’ve been mom to since her second day on this earth. Over 21 years ago, I found Sofia and her brothers inside a shoe box that had been placed in the child seat compartment of a shopping cart. They had been abandoned without their biological (cat) mom in a grocery store parking lot.

Sofia’s in great shape for such an old kitty. Although she’s a bit wobblier standing and sitting down these days, she still regularly jumps onto the couch to nap, to the bed to sleep at night and still leaps to her 5-foot-tall cat gym by the window to check out what her canine neighbor and local birds, squirrels and people are doing.

Recently Sofia had a health scare.

Sofia fell seriously ill and I had to take her to the emergency vet. My suspicions of a urinary tract infection were confirmed by the vet, who sent me home with antibiotics and pain meds for her. Now, a UTI may not sound like too big a concern, but for a kitty Sofia’s age, it was serious. Prior to the emergency visit, she hadn’t eaten for 3 days, there was blood in her urine and she seemed both emotionally agitated and mentally out of it. I thought I might lose her. At 21 years, that’s always a possibility, but having that eventuality seem imminent was heart-wrenching.

After the first few doses of her antibiotics, she began to eat regularly and her urine became normal again. I suspected that she might be permanently less able and slower, but I was still grateful to have my girl back to health and seeming content again.

Then, on the last day of her antibiotics course, I was looking for her around the house and couldn’t find her. I glanced towards the window and there she was, back to one of her favorite spots:



Sofia had leapt up to the top of her 5-foot-tall cat gym once again. My little old lady was back! She fought like a girl (yes, I used that turn of phrase on purpose) and like the drum-beating rabbit from the battery advertisements, she is still going.

On the subject of “still going..” check out this 8-minute video from the YouTube channel Pasta Grannies that features Irma, a beautiful 103-year-old woman from Mocogno, a comune (town) about 55km/34mi from Modena, Italy. Irma still goes for daily walks and still makes her own tagliatelle pasta:



So, the next time you face adversity, remember to “fight like a girl” or, better yet, “fight like an old lady”.


Microwave-baked High Protein Breakfast Cookies will keep you going without heating up your kitchen.



Microwave-baked High Protein Breakfast Cookies
When you crave a cookie but it’s too hot to turn on the oven, these egg-free, high protein, muesli cookies make for a quick breakfast, snack or dessert that is both heat-free and guilt free. Use a low or no sugar muesli cereal for these (I used Trader Joe’s brand). For the protein powder, I used 365 brand, unsweetened, vanilla-flavored soy protein powder. This recipe is easily doubled.


You will need some parchment (baking) paper and an 8-inch microwave-safe plate for the preparation.

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened, vanilla-flavored protein powder
Dash of cinnamon (1/8 teaspoon)
A pinch of salt (optional, if using salted butter)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 & 1/2 cups muesli cereal


In a small bowl, mix yogurt with chia seeds. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

In a medium bowl, cream butter with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Add yogurt/chia mixture and stir to combine well.

Add flour, protein powder, cinnamon, salt (if using) and baking soda. Combine until smooth.

Stir in muesli cereal and mix well.

Line an 8-inch microwave-safe plate with parchment paper. Do not skip the parchment paper, as the cookies are soft when first taken out of the microwave and firm up as they cool. You will want to move each batch of cookies with the paper to a rack in order to cool and then put a fresh piece of parchment on the plate before adding another batch of cookie dough.

Drop dough by tablespoon onto a parchment-lined, microwave-safe plate, about 1 & 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Do 4 cookies at a time. Flatten the cookies slightly with a fork before cooking. Heat on high for 90 seconds.

Remove parchment with cookies to a rack to cool. Try to avoid the temptation to eat them warm. These cookies will firm up as they cool and end up wonderfully soft-baked anyway.

Microwave ovens vary, of course, so maybe let the first batch of 4 cookies cool completely, so you can sample one before cooking the rest and adjust cooking time if needed. For my microwave, I’ve found that 4 cookies at 90 seconds brings the best results.

Store baked cookies in the fridge, inside a sealed container or zip bag. Eat within 5 days (to be honest, they may last longer, but they’re so yummy they’ve always been eaten within 5 days at my house).

This recipe makes about 16 cookies, at approximately 3 grams of protein each.





Ozone – A World Together

April 18, 2023

“It’s so easy to allow one day to simply follow into the next, but every once in a while we encounter something that shows us that anything is possible, that dramatic change is possible, that something new can be made, that laughter can be shared.”
~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Just after the new year, I read an article titled, “The ozone layer is slowly, but surely, healing, the UN says”.  I had meant to write a post about it soon afterwards, but delayed until now because I have been slowly, but surely, healing as well, from the chaos and uncertainty of the last few years.

With Earth Day approaching, I wanted to share this uplifting and inspiring news with those of you who had missed it and as a little reminder for those of you who already knew, but may have forgotten it.

When I was a kid, warnings about the hole opening up in the ozone layer due to the use of certain chemicals were all over the news. Our planet’s ozone layer helps to shield it and us from harmful radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts as well as damage crops. A gap in that protective layer meant increased exposure to those dangers.

In 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international treaty signed by 197 countries, was finalized. It was the first treaty in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification. This landmark agreement regulates the production and consumption of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, phasing down their consumption and production.

Without this treaty, ozone depletion would have increased tenfold by 2050.

As a result of this world-wide cooperation, 98% of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) have been phased out and, instead of the hole increasing tenfold, the ozone layer is projected to recover by the middle of this century.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the Montreal Protocol is saving an estimated two million people each year from skin cancer, by the year 2030.

This is such hopeful news, not only for the health of the inhabitants of Earth, but because it demonstrates how huge problems can be solved, when we all come together to solve them. Perhaps most of all, the success of this treaty also proves that, in spite of our differences, we can indeed come together.

If you just don’t have it in you today to read the articles linked above, this short video interview below sums it all up nicely in easy to understand language:

“In one of the great environmental success stories of our time, scientists say that a 35-year-old agreement has resulted in the steady and promising recovery of the Earth’s ozone layer, a critical protective shield that blocks harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Dr. Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, joins William Brangham to discuss.”


When you don’t feel like firing up the grill, Oven-fried Coconut Chicken brings island flavor and a delicious sweet and salty crunch to your picnic or table.

Oven-fried Coconut Chicken
This delicious chicken brings a tasty crunch to your table without the mess of deep frying. In place of cooking sprays that are full of additives, you can use canola oil, sunflower seed oil or avocado oil in a refillable oil sprayer. If that seems like a hassle, there are 100% pure oil sprays available, such as Trader Joe’s Avocado Spray. Just check the label to make sure the spray oil you use is additive-free.


1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce*
*You can use up to 1 tablespoon if using a mild hot sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 (14oz or 13.5oz) can light coconut milk
Your choice:
8 skinless chicken thighs
4 skinless chicken breasts
4 thighs & 2 breasts
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp flaked unsweetened coconut, crumbled*
*measure after crumbling
1 rounded cup of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 & 1/4 teaspoon powdered sugar
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Oil spray (I put organic canola oil inside a refillable sprayer)



Combine first 4 ingredients inside a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag and seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 90 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400°F

Crumble coconut flakes until mostly small chips. Measure after crumbling. You should have 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 cup + 1/8 cup).

Combine panko, crumbled flaked coconut, powdered sugar, salt and black pepper in a shallow dish.

Remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade.

Dredge chicken, 1 piece at at time, in panko mixture.

Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Lightly mist both sides of chicken with a neutral flavor oil (such as avocado, canola or sunflower seed oil) using a mister or food-safe spray bottle (alternatively, you could use a cooking spray without additives, such as Trader Joe’s avocado oil spray or Chosen Foods 100% avocado oil spray).

Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully turn chicken over using fork or tongs and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until done.

Remove chicken from oven and leave on baking tray to cool or turn off oven and keep pieces warm in the oven until serving. I turned off oven and left chicken pieces in the warm oven while I prepped side dishes and table (about 30 minutes more). If you do this, keep an eye on the pieces and color of coating by peeking into oven every 10 minutes or so, just to make sure you are not overcooking or burning crust.

Makes 4 servings (1 breast or 2 thighs)



Thought Waves

December 20, 2022

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
~ Carl Jung


This year’s Nobel Prize for physics was won by three scientists who demonstrated that two separate particles can exist in what is known as an “entangled” state, which means that what happens to one of the particles in an entangled pair determines what happens to the other particle, even if they are located too far apart to affect each other. Known as “quantum entanglement”, it is one aspect of quantum mechanics, a theory describing the behavior of nature at the atomic or subatomic level.

When scientists like Albert Einstein and Erwin Shrödinger first discovered the phenomenon of entanglement in the 1930s, they were baffled. This state of entanglement meant that two separated particles somehow remained connected without being in direct contact. Einstein coined the term “spooky action at a distance” to describe this seemingly impossible behavior, because these particles seemed to be communicating instantaneously – faster than the speed of light. It was Einstein’s 1905 Special Theory of Relativity paper which stated that it is impossible for any material object to travel faster than light does (at least without going back in time).

The work of the three scientists that were awarded this year showed that changing the properties of one particle in a pair will immediately change the other particle, even if they are at opposite ends of the galaxy. This news delighted me, because I’ve always wondered if perhaps thought might somehow travel faster than light. I’m not talking about the speed of our body’s reaction to the thoughts we have in our brain, but how thought “waves” might possibly travel through space and time and interact with light or form in some way.

Have you ever experienced some uncanny, inexplicable coincidence or synchronicity in going about your daily life that reminded you of a a loved one who had passed? Have you ever had a dream about a friend or loved one that felt as real as waking life? I wonder if experiences such as these are how we and those we love communicate with each other telepathically. I’ve had a number of very entertaining coincidences happen that seemed like a huge “hello” from a friend who was far away or from someone dear to me who had left earthly life. Perhaps the opposite happens too: when we think of a loved one who has passed on, some odd little thing occurs in their dimension to remind them of us.

I’m not a physicist, and I don’t have the mathematical knowledge to attempt to explain my theory in a clinical, scientific way, but this new research does prove that there can be communication between two entities that are not in physical proximity to one another.

Prior to 1876, the idea of a phone call would have seemed magical. Now it is routine. Radio waves were discovered, not invented. I like to think that wireless communication is not limited to earthly devices and that perhaps there is such a thing as a “thought wave” and that love can cross barriers of time and space, allowing us to “wave” at one another across physical distances or even across the veil between earthly life and whatever comes after it.



“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
~ Helen Keller


Chocolate Lover’s Shortbread Bites are a delicious last-minute gift from your kitchen for a friend, a loved one or yourself.

Chocolate Lover’s Shortbread Bites
These rich and chocolatey, but not to sweet shortbread treats are a perfect reason to utilize that mini-muffin pan you bought and never seem to use. You can find cocoa nibs (or even better: chocolate-covered cocoa nibs) online or at well-stocked grocery stores.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (or turbinado/raw sugar or coconut sugar)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (mini-chips work well for these)
1/2 cup cocoa nibs or chocolate-covered cocoa nibs*
*recipe will still be yummy without the cocoa nibs, but they take the chocolate flavor and intensity up a few notches, so find and add them if you can!

You will need a 24-cup mini-muffin pan


Preheat oven to 325°F


In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend flour and baking powder and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until completely blended and creamy. Beat egg into sugar and butter mixture. Beat in cocoa powder and vanilla extract until everything is well-combined.

Mix flour mixture into butter mixture in 3 batches, mixing until just absorbed after each addition. Use your hands, if necessary, after the last addition.

Add the chocolate chips and cocoa nibs. Mix with your hands until well-combined (dough will be stiff).

Divide dough evenly among 24 mini-muffin cups (no need to grease pan first). Aim for about 2 rounded tablespoons per mini-muffin cup. Pierce the center of each with a fork.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and just beginning to crisp.

Let cool 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack or foil-lined counter to cool completely (these taste best when cooled all the way).

Makes 24 shortbread bites



August 28, 2022

“Looking deeply into your tea, you see that you are drinking fragrant plants that are the gift of Mother Earth. You see the labor of the tea pickers; you see the luscious tea fields and plantations in Sri Lanka, China, and Vietnam. You know that you are drinking a cloud; you are drinking the rain. The tea contains the whole universe.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh


This blog began over 12 years ago, based on the idea that giving thanks for each being and every thing that contributes to the food we eat is the quintessential ingredient for both the physical and spiritual digestion of that nourishment. I called the blog (and the little cookbook that preceded it) The Philosopher’s Spoon in honor of that quintessence. Just as the Philosopher’s Stone functions as the key to enlightenment in the practice of spiritual alchemy, giving thanks for all who contributed to the food that sustains us and gives us life became my Philosopher’s “Spoon” and enabled me to release emotional issues around food and become more outwardly and inwardly healthy.

Part of this practice of giving thanks was a short, silent prayer before meals, thanking, not only a higher power but also my fellow beings on this planet and acknowledging how many contribute to my daily sustenance.

The prayer went something like this:

“Thank you to the plants, animals and people who gave their lives, time and energy to bring me this delicious, nutritious and healing food. Help me transform this beautiful gift of life into a blessing that I can share with each person I meet in thought, word or deed and each in turn who is touched by them.”

Kind of long-winded (insert laughing emoji), but heart-felt and sincere.

For the last couple of years I have become interested in Japanese cuisine. I regularly enjoy cooking shows featuring bento box recipes, etc. I watch Italian programming as well, to improve my language skills, and follow both an Italian man living in Japan and a Japanese woman living in Italy. I’ve noticed that, just before taking a bite, Japanese-speakers say the word “itadakimasu” (pronounced eat-ah-dah-key-mahss – see video below).

I looked up “itadakimasu” one day and learned that it translates as to (humbly) receive. However, the word (related to the Buddhist principle of respect for all living things) holds much more within its deeper meaning.

Saying “itadakimasu” before a meal acknowledges the animals and plants that gave up their lives as well as each human who contributed in bringing the food to your table: farmers, including both planters and harvesters; fisherman and ranchers; packers and drivers and delivery workers; grocery clerks, cooks, chefs, and so on.

For those of you who may feel this acknowledgment of smaller souls somehow denies a higher power (God, the Universe, Allah, etc.) I would clarify that, for me, seeing God within my fellow beings and within every living thing or seemingly inanimate object is the ultimate recognition of an infinite being. My personal spiritual philosophy aims to see a connection to the greater power within all things, no matter how small.

What a joy to discover this lovely little word that holds my entire, wordy prayer of thanks within five simple syllables!

Now, before taking a bite I can smile and simply say “Itadakimasu!”



During these last days of summer, give thanks for no-bake, cool and creamy Matcha Green Tea Cream Pie.

Matcha Green Tea Cream Pie
You can find matcha powder in any well-stocked supermarket tea section, at a Japanese market or on line.


For the crust:
2 cups lemon wafer cookie crumbs (about 32 lemon wafer cookies)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

For the filling:
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons matcha powder
1/2-inch piece of vanilla bean
3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter

Optional to decorate:
Whipped cream
Sliced strawberries or blueberries
1 tablespoon matcha powder combined with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
White chocolate curls


To make the crust:
Using a rolling pin, crush cookies between two pieces of plastic wrap. Combine the melted butter with the crumbs and salt (if using) in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of an 8″ or 9″ springform pan. Refrigerate until set (about 1 hour).

To make the filling:
In a medium, heavy saucepan*, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, salt and matcha powder.

Split open the vanilla bean segment and scrape out seeds into pan with dry ingredients. Add the scraped bean to pan as well. Add milk and stir until thoroughly combined with no lumps.

Remove vanilla bean pod and discard. Turn on heat to between medium & medium-low. Cook, stirring continuously and scraping bottom and sides of pan, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (mine took about 12 minutes). Do not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted and incorporated.

Let cool about 3 minutes, stirring often.

Pour over prepared cookie crust. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill in fridge for at least 3 hours.

Decorate with your choice of whipped cream, sliced berries, sweetened matcha powder, white chocolate curls or a combination.

6 to 8 servings

*Note: a clean, quart-sized mason jar with lid works well for pre-mixing the ingredients, an important step to insure a smooth, lump-free pudding. First, add dry ingredients to jar and whisk to mix. Then add vanilla and milk to jar, screw lid on tightly and shake everything until smooth and mixed, with no lumps. Now add this mixture to the cold pan; remove and discard the vanilla pod, and skip to the heating step.


Five in the Morning

June 22, 2022

“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one; each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
~ Paulo Coelho

From Sky & Telescope


“Look! up in the sky!”

This Friday morning particularly, but really through early July, those up about an hour before sunrise will be treated to a rare view of five of our planets in alignment and in their correct order across the sky. I’m not a morning person, but I’m going to do my best to wake up and peek out at this rare display. Luckily my bedroom window faces east, so hopefully I’ll be able to see it from the comfort of my pajamas.

Our Moon will also appear in the lineup.

The last time a similar view of the planets in the sky was visible from the U.S. was in the summer of 1957. The next time we’ll get a chance to see it won’t be until March of 2041.

Technically, as long as skies are clear or almost clear and you have an unobstructed eastern or southeastern view of the sky, you should be able to view the alignment. More details for how and when to best see this rare event can be found on Sky and Telescope.

Enjoy the view!


Spicy Apple Salsa & Strawberry Salsa are sweet, savory and spicy culinary odes to the summer heat.

Spicy Apple Salsa
This tart and sweet salsa is kind of like apple pie filling with a kick. The pie spice flavor comes from a bag of “chai” spiced tea or (more accurately phrased) “masala chai” spiced tea: basically any spiced tea that contains cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and such.

Try it over a cheddar cheese quesadilla or on top of a grass-fed cheeseburger. Rumiano makes my favorite sharp cheddar cheese. All of their dairies are located on the Pacific Coast region of Northern California. Their cows are grass-fed and humanely treated. Visit for more info and where to buy.


1 teabag of spiced tea (masala chai-style)
2 tablespoons butter
1 large Gala or Fuji Apple, cored and diced into small chunks
(about 1 & 1/2 cups of diced chunks)
1/2 a small red onion, diced (scant 3/4 cup of diced)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar or turbinado sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 minced small hot chile (remove seeds for less heat)
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro (do not pack)

Steep teabag in 1/2 cup hot water for 6 minutes. Remove tea bag, squeezing to extract all of the liquid. Set tea aside.

In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add diced apples and onions and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add tea, lemon juice, brown sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, or until apples are tender-crisp. Remove from heat and let cool completely, uncovered (sauce will thicken as it cools).

Once cooled, stir in chile and cilantro. Taste and add salt, if desired (I didn’t).

Makes about 1 cup


Strawberry Salsa
This salsa will surprise you with its simple but sensational flavor. The strawberry taste is subtle at first, but adds just the right bit of sweetness without overpowering the tomatoes. Use it as you would a typical tomato salsa. It’s also delicious with grilled chicken. You want fresh, ripe (local if possible) organic strawberries and tomatoes for this recipe.


1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 medium-sized ripe organic tomatoes, diced (2 cups diced)
1 small red or green chile pepper, finely minced
(remove seeds if you desire less heat)
10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (2 tablespoons sliced)
1 fresh clove of garlic, minced fine
8 to 10 ripe, organic strawberries, diced (about 1/2 pint)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a medium-sized bowl, combine the chopped onion and lemon juice, set aside.

In a larger bowl, stir together tomatoes, chile pepper, basil, garlic and strawberries. Add reserved onion mixture and stir well. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir again and serve.

Keeps nicely for at least 2 or 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Makes 3 cups


Tower of Understanding

May 24, 2022

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Mole Antonelliana, a landmark in the city of Torino/Turin, location for Eurovision 2022


As I mentioned in my last post, my friend Francesca and I recently attended a concert by the Italian rock band, Måneskin. They put on a fantastic show. The crowd was enthusiastic and the band appreciative. My friend and I had an amazing time sharing the experience, which was especially meaningful after the last couple of years with nearly everything shut down.

One thing stood out for me about the show. The band sings in both Italian and English. There were some Italian speakers at the concert (one of them was kind and patient enough to converse with me and let me practice my spoken Italian while we were in line to enter the theater), but most of the attendees were local and likely only spoke and understood English. What surprised me was that the English speakers in the crowd were also singing along with the Italian lyrics! I’ve noticed the same phenomenon while watching TV appearances by the Korean pop band BTS. American kids were singing along with the Korean lyrics.

The American and British music industries have been dominant in the world since I can remember. Music fans from non-English-speaking countries would often learn to sing along with American and British lyrics. Until recently, I don’t remember many English-speaking kids learning and singing along with pop or rock songs in other languages.

Friends and I followed the recent Eurovision Song Contest, held in Torino/Turin. The winner this year was Kalush Orchestra, a Ukrainian folk rap group. The selection was obviously a sentimental favorite, due to sympathy for Ukraine as it defends itself from the Russian invasion, but the song is quite good, with a catchy musical hook provided by a traditional flute-like folk instrument. Titled “Stefania”, the lyrics were written by the band’s frontman, Oleh Psiuk, as a tribute to his mother. The powerful video for the song serves as a tribute to all mothers, to all women and to the Ukrainian cultural identity. The English translation of the Ukrainian lyrics were included as part of the official video.

In spite of how technology has opened our horizons, social media algorithms have also encouraged information bubbles and often a narrowing of perspectives. This has unfortunately resulted in too many folks pointing fingers and seeing fellow humans as “the other” or even “the enemy” instead of our brothers, sisters and neighbors on Earth.

Breaking down the barriers of language through music can open us up to the reality of our shared experience and, after the last few years of isolation, the desire to share again, to get out into the world and travel and dance together.

In October 2021, the Italian-Tunisian singer and rapper Ghali, released a song in Italian, Arabic, French and a little bit of English. Titled “Wallah” (Swear to God), the lyrics speak of the need for people to dance together and travel to see one another after the pandemic years. The artist explained his reason for writing the song in multiple languages during an interview he gave in Italian, which I’ve translated here, because the sentiment is one we all can relate to:

“I feel the need, after two years like these, to get back to making people dance. Music, dancing are things that people need to feel good and I think that the weight of these last two years on people’s mental health is beginning to be felt. We need to affirm the importance of lightheartedness and “Wallah” is my wish that we will be able to get back to dancing together again very soon.”

I wholeheartedly agree. As that recent concert began, my friend and I jumped to our feet and didn’t sit down for the entire show. It sure does feel good to be dancing together once again.


Feta Guacamole is a delicious culinary mix of cultures.

Feta Guacamole
I had lunch with a friend not long ago and the restaurant featured a guacamole made with feta cheese. It was super yummy and I couldn’t wait to get home and try out my own version. It’s simple to make and the addition of feta to the traditional recipe adds a tang and depth of flavor that’s addictive.

The recipe is easily doubled for more people.


1 large avocado, diced (a creamy type, such as Haas)
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, such as feta
1 rounded tablespoon of mayonnaise
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
Scant 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
Dash or two of your favorite hot sauce
Salt to taste (feta is salty, so use a tiny amount or none)
Black pepper to taste


Remove pit and skin from avocado and cut pulp into chunks. In a medium serving bowl, mash the avocado pulp with the feta/goat cheese and mayonnaise and mix well. Add lemon juice and oregano. Add hot sauce, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix again until combined and smooth and serve immediately (preferably) or cover surface with plastic (to prevent browning) and keep in fridge for an hour or two.

Serve with corn chips, pita chips and/or carrot, celery or cucumber sticks.

Serves two



March 26, 2022

“Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings…
Amble out for love”
~ Issa
(Translated by Peter Beilenson) Japanese Haiku 1955-56


My sweet Sofia (recent photo above) just turned 20 years-old!

It was on March 25, twenty years ago, that I found Sofia and her brothers abandoned in a shoe box, left inside a shopping cart in my local grocery store parking lot. I took them all to the emergency vet and the veterinarian on duty estimated them to be about 1 day old, which would have made their birth date March 24 (Oscar Sunday that year).

At the time Sofia’s entire body fit into the palm of my hand. I had to create make-shift incubators and feed them kitten formula every two hours through tiny bottles. Each had to be fed separately, so the formula would be the correct temperature. I wiped their little backsides with a warm piece of cotton after every bottle, to duplicate the mama cat licking them to encourage “elimination”.  I taught them to eat, to use the litter box and to grow up to be fine, upstanding feline citizens.

Today Sofia is like my “20 year-old kitten”. She can still jump up to the top of her 5-foot-tall cat gym. She continues to respond enthusiastically to peacock feathers waved in the air and she still carries her fave stuffed animal “Birdie” around the house (I don’t think she sees Birdie as prey, but rather as her own kitten). She occasionally walks like someone whose joints are a bit cranky and she has lost a bit of muscle tone, but the conventional idea that her twenty cat years represent 140 “human” years I find impossible to believe. I don’t even know of a 140 year-old human, let alone one that could still run, jump and play sports.

“Vent’anni” (the title of this post) is how you would say twenty years in Italian. It is also the title of one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite musical groups, Måneskin, a good old-fashioned rock band made up of four Italian twenty-somethings. Their album, Teatro d’ira: Vol I (Theater of Wrath: Vol I) is one of the best rock albums I’ve heard in years. The album’s songs were written entirely by the members of the group and recorded live to recreate the feeling of a concert (a rarity in these days full of slick, over-produced pop tracks).

The band writes in both English and Italian. “Vent’anni” has Italian lyrics, so I’ve translated a bit of it here below. To me, the poetry perfectly captures the emotions of someone at the precipice of adult life, filled at once with expectation and uncertainty, enthusiasm and hesitation:


I’m twenty
So don’t be surprised if I make drama out of nothing
I’m scared of leaving only money to the world
And my name disappearing among all the others
But, I’m only 20
And I’m already saying sorry for mistakes I’ve made
But the road is tougher when you’re aiming for the sky
So choose the things that are truly important
Choose love or diamonds
Demons or saints

And will you be ready to fight or to run away?
And will you blame others or will the fault be yours?
Will you run straight to the sun,
Or towards the dark?
~ From “Vent’anni” (Lyrics written by Damiano David)


My friend Francesca and I are planning to see the group live soon. I’ve known Francesca since high school and I have many memories of when we were both entering our twenties, full of hope and plans, the years ahead looming large and full of possibilities.  We’ve gone to many concerts together over the years. I hope the band plays “Vent’anni” at the upcoming show. It’s one of those classic rock anthems that I can imagine our 20 year-old selves raising Bic lighters in the air to and waving them back and forth to the chorus as we stood on tip-toe to get a better glimpse of the stage (the back-in-the-day version of today’s concert attendees watching a live show through a phone screen).

Little did I know, back then, that I would grow up to be mom to a 20 year-old cat and still be going to rock shows with Francesca.


“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”

~ Albert Schweitzer


Make this 20 Layer Icebox Cake for a twenty year old birthday (or just because it’s yummy).

20 Layer Icebox Cake
This easy to make cake recipe is a twist on the classic icebox cake, made of cookies layered with whipped cream. The cookies soften overnight in the fridge and make for a fabulously decadent and rich cake. In this version, I used Joe Joe’s sandwich cookies, from Trader Joe’s, instead of the traditional chocolate wafers. Joe Joe’s are similar to Oreo cookies, the creme-filled sandwich cookie made famous by Nabisco. These days you can find many brands of the popular sandwich cookie. Newman’s Own Organics makes a variety of flavors, as well as Whole Foods 365 brand of “sandwich cremes”.  I used the traditional chocolate cookie with vanilla creme version of Joe’s Joe’s in my cake (two 20 ounce boxes). You could also make this cake with the chocolate-filled or other flavors or even mix and match. By using sandwich cookies instead of wafers, your finished cake will have 10 cookie layers, 5 cookie filling layers and 5 layers of mascarpone cream.


8oz mascarpone cheese
3 cups heavy cream (chilled)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
80 sandwich cookies, such as Joe Joe’s or Oreos
For topping, your choice of one or all three:
Fresh raspberries
Chocolate shavings
Cocoa powder

Make sure bowl, beaters and whisk are well-chilled

In a medium to large bowl (cream will double in size when you whip it), combine mascarpone cheese, cream, sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium-low speed using an electric mixer until soft peaks form (this will take a little while). Switch to a hand-held whisk and whisk by hand until medium-stiff peaks form (finishing by hand makes a big difference in how well and how long the cream holds its shape in your cake).

Assemble cake:
On a platter or cake stand, place 16 cookies flat alongside each other in 4 rows of 4, forming a square. Top the cookie layer with 1 & 1/4 cups of the mascarpone cream and spread this out evenly over the cookie layer. Add another layer of cookies, followed by another layer of 1 & 1/4 cups of the cream. Keep repeating cookies, then cream, until you have 5 layers of each, ending with a cream layer. Spread any remaining cream mixture around the sides of the cake (it’s OK if the cookies show through a bit).

Cover/tent loosely with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (I chilled mine for 21 hours).

Top chilled cake with fresh raspberries, chocolate curls, cocoa powder or all three!

This cake is very rich. Cut into small portions.

Serves 16-32




Green Season

March 13, 2022

“The garden of love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy. Love is beyond either condition: without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.”
~ Rumi



Spring has come a bit early to my house: the Orchid Sisters have returned!

When they bloomed last year, it had been after several years of no blooms at all. So after they had joyously occupied my kitchen for several weeks, I wasn’t sure, as that last flower withered and finally said goodbye, if I would ever see them again. I would say good morning to the plant and occasionally water the roots, her green leaves serenely soaking in the filtered light by the kitchen window; the beautiful, eccentric, pink-spotted blossoms just a memory.

Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that a long, new stem with three little tiny buds had appeared.

Now two of those buds have grown and opened their petals into full and glorious pink polka-dotted bloom. They seem to me to have the same personalities and almost the same exact faces of last year’s flowers. It’s as if the blossoms went away somewhere for awhile and then came back to my kitchen to hang out for a bit with me. This time when they have bloomed for several weeks and are ready to leave again, it won’t feel so sad to say goodbye.

Their return is a beautiful reminder that nothing we love is ever really lost. Like Star Trek’s transporter, a familiar form appears to disappear, but it is not gone. It’s quintessence remains, and has simply reformed and reappeared in a place or time or form that we cannot currently see.



“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown – only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

~ Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Corbomite Maneuver”



Celebrate all things green with Artichoke Heart and Edamame Salad.

Artichoke Heart and Edamame Salad
Artichoke hearts and edamame beans both bring a beautiful bright green to this protein-packed salad. You can find frozen, organic, shelled edamame beans at Whole foods and other grocery stores. Make this salad several hours or the day before you plan to serve it.


2 cups frozen, shelled, organic edamame beans
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (14oz/400g) can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

In a small, heavy saucepan, cook frozen edamame according to package directions. Drain cooked edamame, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Combine cooked edamame, the 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water, garlic, thyme and cumin in the saucepan. Stir well and cover. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes.

Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice and olive oil. Mash some of the beans lightly with a fork. Cut the artichoke hearts into quarters, add to pan with edamame and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Cover and let marinate in fridge for several hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

Serves 4



High(ish) Hopes

February 2, 2022

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


For the last couple of years now, it seems we have been continually swimming in this pandemic, facing down wave after wave, as if caught in a riptide. The shore is in view, but each time we catch our breath and begin to swim for it, a new wave pulls us back.

There have been times when I’ve felt as if I’m drowning in pandemic fatigue. Still, for all the mental, emotional, financial and societal challenges that have presented themselves, one benefit of this time period has been that, often, there has been no choice but to live in the moment.

One of those moments led me to a January 10th announcement by Oregon State University about a study led by Richard van Breemen, a researcher with their Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute. The study found that a pair of cannabinoid acids are able to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking an integral part of the infection process used by the virus.

The compounds are known as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). The spike protein these compounds are able to intercept is the same drug target used in COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapy: it is a molecule whose disruption can block infection or progression of the disease.

The research also showed that CBGA and CBDA were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Additional research, out of the University of Chicago and published January 20th, showed that CBD prevented infection of human epithelial cells by the coronavirus spike protein and prevented entry of SARS-CoV-2 into cells.

Both CBGA and CBDA are derived from the cannabis plant, but from cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG), not tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so neither are mind-altering and both are legal everywhere. In fact, the Chicago research found that combining CBD with THC significantly suppressed CBD’s antiviral effect (in addition, smoking or vaping could cause lung damage that could put someone more at risk if they were to catch COVID-19).

Now researchers hope to move forward with clinical trials. Possible treatments will likely be the first to be tested, then prevention (testing prevention of infection would require sample sizes on the scale of those used to prove the efficacy of vaccination and be more difficult to fund at first).

One day these discoveries and others like them will hopefully lead to lives saved and improved, not only helping us out of the current pandemic, but perhaps future ones as well.

Eventually we’ll get to that shore. One day, like the pandemic of 1918, this time period will be a memory and I’ll be able to get dressed to go out without having to decide which mask best matches my outfit. Until then, as Ralph Waldo Emerson advised in the quote that began this post, I’ll try to adopt nature’s patience; buoyed by hope, humility, a sense of humor and love; moment by moment, if necessary.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
~ Henry David Thoreau, April 23, 1859, Journal, [1906]



Celebrate green with the original 1923 recipe for Classic Green Goddess Salad Dressing.

Classic Green Goddess Salad Dressing
This tarragon flavored dressing is outstanding, but very rich. It works well on any bold-flavored greens, such as arugula or romaine. It’s also wonderful with cold chicken, shrimp or crab. Modern versions of the recipe may use avocado, yogurt or sour cream, but the original is mayonnaise-based. I would advise making the original recipe (it became famous for a reason) before experimenting with variations.

4 anchovy fillets (2 teaspoons)
1 green onion, trimmed and chopped (both green and white parts)
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 & 1/2 cups organic mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 small clove of garlic, chopped


Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, green and creamy. Pour into a container with a lid, seal and chill in refrigerator until serving time. Leftovers keep for several days in the fridge.

Makes about 2 cups



A Winter Wish for You

December 24, 2021


Winter, the quiet season, has arrived. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the current festivities, winter is a time for shorter days, staying indoors and quiet contemplation. It is a season that offers us an opportunity to look back on where we’ve been and to look forward to all the possibilities held in the promise of a new year.

In that spirit, I would like to share a poem with you. Written by Charles Snell and published in 1914 as a small gift book, it has long been one of my favorites:


This Is My Wish For You

This is my wish for you…
That the spirit of beauty may continually hover about you
And fold you close within the tenderness of her wings.
That each beautiful and gracious thing in life
May be unto you as a symbol of good for your soul’s delight.
That sun-glories and star-glories,
Leaf-glories and bark-glories,
Flower-glories and glories that lurk in the grasses of the field,
Glories of mountains and oceans,
Of little streams of running waters,
Glories of song,
Of poesy,
Of all the arts,
May be to you as sweet, abiding influences
That will illumine your life and make you glad.
That your soul may be as an alabaster cup,
Filled to overflowing
With the mystical wine of beauty and love,
That happiness may put her arms around you,
And wisdom make your soul serene,
This is my wish for you.

~ by Charles Snell



Chestnut Chocolate Chip Cookies are a super yummy way to enjoy oven-roasted chestnuts.

Chestnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Years ago on a trip to New York City, I bought some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor and was kind of “meh” about the flavor and texture. Skip to present day when I recently saw some imported Italian chestnuts for sale at Trader Joe’s and decided to give them another try. The win-win was achieved by incorporating the chopped, oven-roasted chestnuts (instructions below cookie recipe) into a batch of buttery, yummy chocolate chip cookies.


2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used Turbinado sugar)
2 large eggs
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (I used salted)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used chunks)
1 cup chopped, oven-roasted chestnuts (instructions below recipe)


Preheat oven to 375°F

In a medium bowl, using a large fork, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until lightened in color. Add vanilla and butter and beat again until fully mixed and creamy.

Gradually beat in dry ingredients.

Add chocolate chips or chunks and chopped chestnuts to batter and mix in well.

Drop by rounded tablespoon, 1-2 inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheets (I lined mine with parchment paper).

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are browned and cookies look firm. Let baked cookies set for a couple of minutes and then move them to a wire rack or foil-lined counter to cool completely (unless you want to try a warm one or three).

Makes 4 or 5 dozen cookies


Oven-roasted Chestnuts
Use fresh, raw chestnuts (not canned). Check each nut for freshness: look for chestnuts that are firm, shiny and feel heavy. Toss any wrinkled or dull-looking ones. I started with a 16oz bag of raw chestnuts and had to throw out several nuts that didn’t seem fresh both before and after roasting, so I ended up with just a bit over 1 cup of chopped nuts.

Preheat oven to 425°F

Put the chestnuts flat-side down on your work surface and use a sharp knife to cut an X shape into the rounded side of each nut. You want to pierce the skin without cutting all the way through the meat of the nut. This keeps the nuts from exploding during roasting and makes them easy to peel.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Don’t crowd them.

Roast the nuts in a 425°F oven for 20 to 40 minutes until the skins have curled back, revealing the softened nut meat. The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the nuts, so check them visually at around 25 minutes. You can test if the nutmeats are done by inserting the tip of a knife into the opening where the skin has pulled back. If it easily pierces through, they are ready. If not, bake for a bit longer.

Cool the roasted nuts completely. After cooling, peel the skins off using your hands. You can use a paring knife for skins that need a bit more effort. Throw out any super hard nutmeats or nuts that look withered. Chop nuts into small chunks and measure out 1 cup for cookie recipe.