Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tables, Turkeys and Thank You's

Tom's Table or Lack Thereof
Two Turkeys - One Roasted in the Oven with Herbs & Butter

The Other cooked on the Grill w/a Cajun Rub

Well at least we had a table.  Not sure what my friend Tom ended up eating off of this past Thursday, but I’m sure he still managed to ask one of his seven sister-in-laws to pass the gravy.    Thaaat’s right, seven.   While I don’t have seven, my one and only sister can muster up a good gust of energy on her own.  My little brother is an attorney, need I say more?  But alas, my siblings and I didn’t sit at the same table this year.  Actually, there were a few players missing from the stage this year.   And I gotta say, those drama queens, and loud mouths, geezer and geeks, users and losers, and scene stealing freaks really add something to the gathering.  While the house was plentiful with family and friends this Thanksgiving holiday, none of us had any real issues to bring to the table. 
   Of course there was ample Jameson and ginger ale, wine and beer, but no one passed out, face down, in their Le Creuset crock of sautéed mushrooms.   Right there at the table.  We were fifteen minutes into the meal before anyone noticed.   Thank God there was only a small amount of clarified butter in that crock; otherwise Uncle Ron could’ve drowned.  At least according to Grandma Millie.  Who continued to go on and on about how she really didn’t want that drink.  I had wondered which one, since I had seen four different family members hand her glasses of wine with the most generous of pours.  Most entertaining that year was over-hearing my nephews cook up a plan to cinch the tube on her oxygen tank after the twenty-seventh announcement she made regarding her current air flow reading.  Really Grandma Millie, do we need to know you’re still holding at 83%?  The boys were curious about what a reading of 64% looked like.
    “Not enough to make her pass out, but let’s see if she gets more drunk with less air.”  The meanest of my cousin whispered.  Mind you, is the same cousin I caught wrapping one of my cats around the hose when he was about 7 years old.  At least he had learned his lesson and didn’t hide it in the freezer as he’d done when he was 5.  It took us forever to find that damn cat.  My sister had told everybody to quiet down, she could hear something.  I can still see her, frozen, shoulders hunched, only her eyes moving in quick sharp movements in all directions.  When she finally got everyone quiet, which took a fair amount of time, because no one listens to kids at these gatherings, sure enough we could hear the slightest “mew . . . mew.”   Now whenever there’s a missing pet, we all will undoubtedly look at Franklin accusingly.  “It wasn’t me this time!”  He’s sure to cry out.  But it is.  It’s always Franklin. 

     One year, when we were older another cousin arrived at the table as we were sitting down to eat.  She had in tow with her the biggest, hairiest biker dude I had ever seen.  They both wore leathers.  November in Las Vegas can still run temperatures in the 70’s.   Cousin Kari brought the “girls” to the party, as my dad likes to say.  Since it was indeed a particularly warm Thanksgiving, Kari opted out of wearing anything but a push-up bra under her black leather vest.  Needless to say the men at the table shuffled about, sliding over to make room for Kari and her attributes.  No effort was made for the big guy.  Probably because it appeared to be impossible to even make enough room for him.  Kari said they just stopped by say hello and grab a little bit of food since this was their third Thanksgiving dinner of the day.  And grab they did.  Kari made her way into Auntie’s kitchen returned to the table with some Tupperware and proceeded to load up.
    “Since we’re too full to eat anymore, I thought we would just make some to take home for tomorrow.  You don’t care do you Mom?
     Auntie sat speechless, still stunned that the daughter she had sent to charm school not 7 years ago was dressed in skin tight black pants, boobs out for a good airing and a massive man, who had yet to say anything beyond “Hey,” standing patiently by the door holding Kari’s helmet under his left arm.  The right hand never left his pocket, an insult to the men of our family.  Of course their appearance made for good fodder immediately after they left the house. 
    “Oh my Gawd!”  Exclaimed Aunt Joan.  “Roslyn how could you just sit there like that?”  Aunt Joan continued to fuel the fires of discussion regarding how disrespectful kids are now-a-days.  Grandpa Bernie emerged from his stint of silence to give a dissertation on how parents have turned into handiwipes afraid to give kids a good whipp’n because someone might turn them into the authorities.  We all waited to see if Grandpa was going to continue.  Really, none of us had heard him utter a word in days.  No one dare interrupt in case he returned to his personal Cone of Silence for another indeterminate amount of time.
     But that was nothing compared to the year Aunt Roslyn threatened Uncle Jim’s life.  Yup.  It was her first time hosting Thanksgiving for the entire family.  She had decided to give Grandma Millie a break that year, since Grandma was beginning to develop breathing problems.  To say nothing of the other problems she had going on.  Her husband Grandpa Antonio was still alive and kicking then.  Actually “kicking it” with every blond bombshell, (as he like to refer to them), that walked into his bar.  Grandpa Antonio took great pride in his Italian heritage and virility.  Grandma may have been slowing down, but not Grandpa.  He told us kids;
  “Your Grandma there was a real looker when she was young.  Yes she was.  But these days I enjoy looking in all directions.”  Did I mention Grandpa Antonio was a real classy guy?  My mom tried to talk Aunt Roslyn out of hosting that year since she was about 7 months pregnant with her third child.   “Whaat?  This isn’t my first pregnancy.  It’s not my first rodeo, (Roslyn had recently discovered country music), what’s a little hitchhiker in my belly gonna do?”
Well the little hitchhiker didn’t do anything but Auntie sure did.  I’m not sure what happened in the kitchen, because we kids were always scooted out.  I was playing Barbies with my girl cousins.  The boys had just joined in with their G.I. Joes.  So our play had turned into playing the Beatles.  Melody put her Midge doll wigs on the 2 of the Joes, so they looked like Ringo and George.  I was bummed because I was in love with Paul back then.  Suddenly we heard shouting; “If you don’t get out of here I’m gonna cut you!!”
We kids ran to the kitchen careful not to cross the threshold and actually end up in the kitchen.   Except for 4 year Blake, he went in.  There we saw Auntie Roslyn, her apron loose and hanging half off, making her look even more maniacal, holding a knife so big it extended past her swollen belly.  It was pointed right at Uncle Jim’s stomach.  The scene looked like something out of a gangster movie.   No one in the kitchen was moving.  But you should have seen the look of shock on Uncle Jim’s mom’s face. 
     “You’re not gonna cut my daddy!”  Yelled Kevin as he ran towards Uncle Jim grabbing onto Uncle’s leg with one hand, the other still holding Ringo.    
“I am sick of him yammering at me!  I'm here doing everything, (“What does she mean she’s doing everything?”  I heard some lady I didn’t know ask), working so hard to put together a nice dinner for the whole damn family!”  Fortunately Grandma Millie was still well and mobile enough to tell Aunt Roslyn Uncle Jim didn’t mean what he said as she slowly reached over and slid the knife from Auntie’s hand.  Both Grandpa’s had come in to see what the commotion was about and were escorted Uncle Jim out.  My mom walked over to Uncle Jim’s mom and told her Aunt Roslyn didn’t mean it.  It was just the hormones talking and the stress of her first Thanksgiving dinner.  “Well yes, but my Goodness.  We’re all here helping her.”  The unknown lady said as she and Mom sat Auntie down at the little table and poured her a glass of something.  Then Grandma Millie kicked everyone out of the kitchen, even the grownups, except for Aunt Roslyn.  My guess was that Auntie was really in for it.
Yes, its memories like these that make us feel thankful.  Thankful for family, friends and those years of reprieve in between.   Still, I look forward to creating memories for my kids to reminisce about.  And of course I hold to tradition by preparing foods my Grandmas, Grandpas and all my Aunties, Uncles and cousins would expect to see on the table.  At least I have one and of course I’m thankful for that too.  


Monday, November 17, 2014

The Comfort of Pudding

The Morning Platter of Doughnuts
The way I remember it, I had walked into the ultra-modern hotel room with its low-back chairs, sharp-edged tables and three large platinum frames over the bed, displaying canvases with smears and splatters of paint.  Poor references to the artist Pollack.  The early morning sun was streaming in through the sliding glass door but was not so bright I was prevented from seeing the arrangement of fragmented doughnuts on the room service cart.  Each doughnut lay sadly impaired and disfigured, a mangled bite ripped from one of its glazed, powdered or sprinkled and rounded sides.  Beside the dozen or so doughnuts was a half full glass of orange juice, on the television played a re-run of The King of Queens.  In spite of all this evidence, there didn’t appear to be anyone in the room.
I stood in the small rectangular doorway, trying to make sense of the surreal scene before me.  I felt as though I were experiencing one of those moments when once familiar surroundings slide into a thick haze then turn into a freeze-frame of time.  I was reminded of a favoured book I’d read in college.  I think it was “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.”  One of the characters shuffles his way into the bathroom in the morning to wash up and upon opening the medicine cabinet door sees all the shelves slightly askew and the contents upon them jumbled together at one end. He wonders if what he’s seeing is real or imagined.   
That portion of the book is a poignant one for me since my little sister swears she saw the tooth fairy in our family medicine cabinet one morning when she opened the door to reach for her toothbrush.  Startled, the twinkling figure let out a high pitched squeal, causing my sister to slam the door shut.  My sister was five at the time.  Upon re-opening the door, she says there was a swish and a – poof!  And the fairy was gone.  To this day my sister swears her story is true.  You can even discern a note of sadness in her voice when she re-tells this story.  Still disappointed the tooth fairy disappeared so suddenly.  Sis muses; she shouldn’t have slammed the door shut. 
Back to the predicament of those doughnuts.  I continued standing in the foyer of the room when I heard sounds of retching and vomiting coming through the closed door of the bathroom. 
“Martie?  Martie is that you?  Are you okay?”  I called out.
The sounds continued.
“Martie!  Let me in!” I shouted.
“It’s open you idiot!”  Martie gagged back at me.
I slowly opened the door and saw my travel buddy, a woman I’ve known and loved for years, scrunched up on her knees, bent over the toilet, holding her mane of auburn hair back. 
“Oh no, what can I do to help?”  I asked, ignoring her offending adjective.
“I need a wet washcloth.”  Martie mumbled.
I hurriedly wet one of the soon to be, not-so-white washcloths and handed it to her.
“Thanks Deborah, I didn’t mean to snap at you and call you an idiot.  I’m just sick.  And mad at myself I guess.”
After dabbing her face and scooting a few inches away from the porcelain bus she had been driving, my dear friend proceeded to tell me what had happened.  Martie had succumbed to ordering the “Morning Plate of Assorted Doughnuts” from room service, reasoning if she only took one small bite from each one, she would be able to enjoy the taste without suffering the consequences that usually follows when she consumes bread.    
     “Of course I considered ordering something else from the room service menu for breakfast.”  Martie matter-of-factly explained.
“There was the Tropical Fruit & Yogurt Parfait, the Red Potato and Rosemary Frittata and oh gosh, the Tomato Gratin with grated Asiago cheese looked wonderful.  But my eyes kept drifting back to that Morning Plate.  Then I thought, Martie, you love doughnuts.  You haven’t had a doughnut in months.  Doughnuts aren’t exactly bread.  They’re lighter, softer, and airier.  So after careful deliberation . . . “
“Yea, real careful I see.”  I interrupted.
“After careful deliberation,” Martie continued, “I ordered the Morning Platter.  I gotta tell you Deb, when he wheeled in that cart and I saw those rotund gleams of deliciousness, I was in awe.  How can things so small give so much pleasure?”

“Yup, that’s always the way, isn’t it?”  I glibly replied.
Martie was lost in her doughnut-dream and didn’t appear to hear me.    
“I gave the guy his tip, then plopped down on the edge of my bed, placed the tray on my lap and proceeded to take a teeny-tiny bite of the doughnut closest to me. The simple yet popular, raised maple. I slooowly bit into it, savoring how the rich, mapleness of it melted in my mouth balancing with the chewy, softness of the dough.  I munched ever so slowly, being very careful when swallowing, while eyeing the platter contemplating which one would be next.  I went for the chocolate Old Fashioned, your . . . .”
“My favourite!!”  I interrupted.   I leaned out the bathroom to see if the remains of the chocolate Old Fashioned was still intact.  It was. 
     “That one I ate a little less slowly.  But I did take a moment to note the difference between cake doughnuts and raised ones.  Very different indeed, yet both chocolate and maple icing linger on your tongue just enough to entice you into taking another bite.  Have you ever noticed that Deborah?”
I couldn’t recall taking that much care when eating a doughnut.  Certainly I’ve never done a taste or texture comparison.  Martie went deeper into sharing her doughnut discoveries.
     “I actually smiled with pleasure as the custard-filled bar oozed its French vanilla cream from the corners of my mouth.  I was alone in my room, so I licked my lips as far as my tongue could reach then used my fingers to get the rest of it so none  escaped.  After that bite, I tried the cinnamon and sugar doughnut holes.  Those were a too sugary, but overall the doughnuts were everything I remembered.  Every bite was blissful satisfaction.  I was filled with glee as I took one teeny-tiny bite of each nectarean celestial sphere.”
     “I saw the doughnuts out there Martie.  Those weren’t exactly teeny bites.”

“Well anyway, I figured one little morsel of each would satisfy my craving and wouldn’t be too much for me to digest.  Obviously I was wrong.”  Martie spoke with the same despair my little sister has when she re-tells the tooth fairy story. 
My friend, who has willingly tasted her way through Paris, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, New Orleans and Miami Beach Florida with me, has a sweet tooth that could rival even “Elf.”  You know that Christmas movie and the scene where he pours syrup all over his spaghetti? 
This was never more evident than when Martie had just come home from the hospital following her weight loss surgery.  I had been to the hospital the day of and the day after, as always, my upbeat and energetic friend was in the best of spirits.  In spite of her pain and inability to keep down even water.  But on the about the third or fourth day of recovery at home when I called  to ask how she felt, Martie chirpped;
“Great!  Well I’m a little uncomfortable, but Deb, I have a serious craving for your home-made chocolate pudding.”
“I thought you could only have clear liquids for the next few days following your surgery.”

“Well yes.”  Martie slowly replied, as though she really didn’t want to admit it.

“Martie, my chocolate pudding is anything but clear.” 

“I know that Deborah,” Martie retorted in a tone that only the youngest child in the family can sustain well into adulthood, “but I really want some.”

It was apparent, the soothing warmth promised by a serving of my home-made chocolate pudding was just the consolation Martie felt she needed.  When she told me she couldn’t get the thought of that earthy-dark, velvety-rich, inviting aroma out of her head, I knew I had to do what any good friend would do.  According to Martie, my fudge-like pudding invoked in her a comforting solace from the sterile offerings of broth she had been enduring the last few days.  Nothing on her current menu could offer the same snuggley, culinary embrace of that slow-cooked mixture of Scharffenberger chocolate, instant espresso, chili powder and sweet milk.  I’ve been told this recipe is a luxuriant meld that coats the tongue creating almost a veneer of pleasurable taste over your teeth and gums.  Martie even loves eating the skin that forms on top of the pudding when I forget to cover it with plastic wrap.  She claims it serves as edible insurance to the goodness that lies beneath.  It’s comments like that, I can’t resist.

So of course, what could I do but prepare for her, something so simple, yet serves as a testament of my commitment to our friendship?  I prepared the pudding and later that evening made the drive over to her house.  Watching a good movie, Martie and I sat together spooning our definition of comfort into our receptive mouths.  It was glorious. 


1   14-oz can low-fat sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half and half
½ cup fine granulated sugar
4 ounces Scharffenberger unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large eggs plus 1 additional egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract    
Garnish, if desired; 1 cup heavy cream whipped with 4 tablespoons powdered sugar

1)       In small mixing bowl whisk together ½ the can of condensed milk, cornstarch, whole eggs and egg yolk heavy – set aside.

2)      In medium saucepot combine remaining can of condensed milk with all the half and half, sugar and cocoa powder whisking over medium heat.  Continue whisking until mixture begins to simmer.  Do not allow to boil.

3)      Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate pieces, until melted and blended

4)      Return saucepot to stove and temper egg mixture with one ladle of warm chocolate mixture then add a second ladle then slowly pour remaining cornstarch mixture into warm chocolate mixture whisking constantly until well blended and mixture begins to thicken.  About 5 – 7 minutes

5)      Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract, espresso powder and chili powder.  Ladle into individual ramekins and serve warm or chilled, if preferred.

               Garnish with a dollop of freshly prepared whipped cream

                                                                                               Makes 6  4-ounce servings


Friday, November 14, 2014

Mushroom Soup with Dumplings

Not a great pic - but these ramekins are filled with dark, rich Mushroom Soup



2 small onions - diced
1/2 lb baby portobello mushrooms - brushed clean & sliced
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms - brushed clean & sliced
1/4 lb shitake or oyster mushrooms, again, brushed clean & sliced
 Note:if any of the mushrooms you have selected are dried, you must re-hydrate them in a small bowl of water or broth.
2 cloves garlic - minced
2 quarts vegetable stock                                                   1 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tablespoons good Bourbon
1 Tablespoon olive oil                      1 Tablespoon unsalted butter     2 Tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste         2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese       2 Tablespoons fresh thyme

For the biscuit/dumplings
2 cups flour    1 Tablespoon baking powder   1 cup half and half   salt/pepper to taste
You may be able to discern from the photo I used refrigerator biscuits

1)  In a large, heavy Dutch oven, (soup pot), combine olive oil, butter and flour over low heat.  Whish together making a blond roux, (yes, mixing these 2 fats w/flour is referred to as a roux and will aide in thickening your soup).
2) When your roux has come together and you've cooked out the starchy flavour of the flour, about 5-7 minutes, add diced onions, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, continue cooking until onions are soft and translucent
3) add minced garlic and cook another 5 or so minutes
4) whisk in vegetable broth, mushrooms and heavy cream, simmer soup about 15 minutes
5) Meanwhile prepare your dumplings by mixing all ingredients in large mixing bowl creating a sticky dough mixture - set to the side until ready to use
6) add bourbon and fresh thyme to soup pot, taste soup for seasoning, which it will need, then drop dumplings by large spoonfuls into simmering soup - cover and allow dumplings to steam for 3-5 minutes until cooked through

Ladle soup into individual serving bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese - Serve!

Note: If you decide to make traditional biscuits, because you know how and you have a recipe that works, omit the dumplings and simply pour finished soup into individual serving bowls, top with unbaked biscuits, sprinkle with grated cheese and place in oven on broil until your soup is bubbling hot and the biscuits are golden brown. 

                               This recipe makes 6 servings

See, my biscuits look more like puffy marshmallows!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fool Proof? Really?

Well, they tasted okay - not really
Add caption

My second try

   #FoodBlog - Yes my last entry was a bit off.   A wave of immense aggravation washed over me and I allowed myself to succumb to a rip tide-like need to express the sentiment, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  But my frustrations have been assuaged since then with a mixture of good friends and comfort food.
I did, in fact, indulge in that juicy steak, marinated in a combination of olive oil, dark rich balsamic, soy sauce, plenty of freshly minced garlic and a good dousing of Kosher salt and cracked pepper.  Then lovingly placed on a charcoal grill, the only way to grill, and festooned with a heavy dose of my most favourite of compound butters; unsalted butter and bleu cheese.  Actually, I came dangerously close to having a little steak with my butter, but no matter, I am appeased and all is right with the world. 
    So back to food!  My Sunday mornings are dedicated to  early swims or walks through the desert canyon behind my house,  followed by a long hot shower and  a cup or two of strong, hot coffee brewed with the best of freshly ground whole beans, in my French press.  I then commence upon the preparation of my newest waffle idea or one of the left-overs, I have carefully wrapped in parchment paper and encased in a Ziploc bag. 
About every six weeks or so, I embark upon new and uncharted waffle territory.  Conceptions that go beyond your average buttermilk, blueberry or chocolate chip, (I have yet to find a white, butterscotch or chocolate chip waffle that doesn’t leave a melted mess in the iron).  In my July blog, I shared with you my recipe for lemon waffles, topped with homemade lemon curd and blueberry compote.  They are amazing.  I’ve also had great success cooking up pumpkin, carrot cake, and sour cream/raisin waffles.  I did not, however, do so well my creation of a granola waffle.  In my head this waffle would’ve been a balanced combination of healthy fiber and breakfast sweet-tooth.  Unfortunately, my recipe was lacking in structure and fell apart in the waffle iron like crumbled bits of tile intended for a mosaic.  I had to scrape the remains out with a fork.  Another recent concoction was my Tropics Waffle.  A blend of beyond ripe, mashed bananas, shredded coconut and macadamia nuts, this made for a most delicious batter, (for those of us who still lick the spoon).  The waffle itself was actually better eaten unadorned as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea.  It was far too sweet to have maple syrup poured into its receptive squares or sprinkled with powdered sugar.
But this week is not about waffles, rather I am going to be brutally honest and share with you that not everything turns out.  Before my obsession with waffles, Sunday mornings were always dedicated to preparing something special for breakfast, yet only sometimes was experimental in nature.  Bacon and egg casseroles, frittatas, monstrous omelet’s, mushroom soufflés, you name it.  I was in.  Scones, oven-puffed pancakes, oatmeal cooked overnight in the Crockpot, biscuits!  Wait . . . biscuits.  I have not had much success with biscuits.  I’ve been trying to get biscuits right since Home Ec.  No matter which recipe fool-proof recipe I’ve used or what “secret ingredient” I added, my biscuits have always been better suited as paper weights than breakfast fare.  For a short period of time I was married to a Texan, and let me tell you, biscuits and gravy as well as chicken and dumplings, are a marital expectation.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get to light and fluffy.  Instead my level of biscuit making was bleak, stuck-to-the-pan-burnt, hockey puck.  We’re not married anymore.  But I’m still trying to make the biscuit thing work. 
Doughnuts, how hard can they be?  I’m adept at making crullers, beignets and sopapillas.  All are deep-fried pastries topped with sugary confections.  So why not try my hand at doughnut making?  But I didn’t want your average doughnut; I wanted to make my favourtie, the Old Fashioned doughnut.  A cake doughnut with a crispy, crunchy top and light and fluffy, (there’s that light & fluffy again), interior.  Not a sickeningly sweet confection, rather a poised disposition between satisfying yet plain.  I can’t tell you what happened.  I don’t know where I went wrong.  I followed the recipe exactly.  I used the very best ingredients.  But my doughnuts were like a Shakespearian tragedy.  They fell apart like funnel cake recklessly thrown into the cotton candy machine.  I didn’t give up.  I kept trying, but then the oil got dirty and I really had a mess on my hands.  More like in my hands. 
Jell-O-shots anyone?  Nope, not at my house.  I can’t make Jell-O either.  I’m not kidding.  I was recently inspired by a friend’s contribution to a potluck.  She had gone “retro” and brought a perfect Jell-O-salad mold.  What’s more this woman is way under fifty!  How does she even know about Jell-O molds?  Obviously this is a recipe that has been passed down to her.  Anyway, I decided to discard the old notion that I can’t make Jell-O.  To disregard those memories of a watery sugar-gelatinous jumble with grapes or fruit cocktail swimming freely in my fish shaped mold, (given to me by my grandmother).  No, I was now a grownup cook, who has gone to culinary school, worked as a personal chef and teaches cooking classes.  Of course I can make Jell-O now!  What’s to make?  Boiling water mixed with some colourful sugary powder.  Much to my dismay, I still cannot make Jell-O.  It had been over eight hours, I stood gaping at the unmoving fish mold, haunted by those same memories as once again I ended up with a mixture resembling Gack left sitting in a hot car to morph into a slimy, squishy mess.  My Jell-O never took shape. 
But I am not deterred.  I’ll try my hand at Jell-O making and doughnut frying sometime in the future.  Meanwhile I’m staying focused on those damn biscuits.  You may have better luck than I do with the biscuit portion, but I'll share my recipe for a comforting Mushroom and Dumpling Soup later this week  :o)

I wish!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Experience I Didn't Get To Experience

Who is that behind those Foster Grants?  Some will never know.

A wag of the finger, a shake of the fist to those who put out welcome mats, but are actually less than welcoming. They invite us to their woodsy and rustic or white linen draped bungalows to learn the art of meditation and yoga while we commune with others seeking that elevated state of consciousness. They claim we will be refreshed with fruit infused spring water, we will sip herbal teas and dine on gourmet vegetarian meals. Beware, the visions depicted on their web sites as they may only be illusions. I only got as far as the vitrual door. I tried to cross the threshold of positive change. I wanted to experience changes within, from hard clumps of brown sugar to the viscis fluidity of maple syrup. But I discovered I had been fooled. Guess I’ll have to go make my gourmet vegetarian lunch. Of course it will be light and healthy. Something to enliven my spirits and delight my tastebuds. Something easy and quick to prepare. tastebuds. A Veggie Wrap!

1 can water chestnuts drained, sliced

2 large carrots peeled and julienned

1 red bell pepper roasted or 1 jar thinly sliced

1 cup bean sprouts

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

½ cup crushed peanuts

1 head Butter lettuce-washed and dried with paper towels

Lemongrass and Peanut Vinaigrette;
1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, thinly sliced (if you don't have any lemongrass laying around use fresh lemon zest from one large lemon)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon low-salt soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons honey

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

In large mixing bowl whisk together first 8 ingredients for vinaigrette until well mixed. Continue whisking as you add olive oil in a single fine stream until mixture is emulsified. Set aside.
Stir in list of ingredients for lettuce wrap from water chestnuts up to and including cilantro into vinaigrette.
Using the best 6-8 of whole leaves from the head of lettuce, place a large spoonful of vegetable-vinaigrette mixture. Garnish each lettuce wrap with chopped nuts.
Serve immediately Makes 6-8 wraps

Apparently, if you have already achieved a socially acceptable Zen-like state, and you exist in that unbalanced realm of monetary Nirvana, money-in, money-out, money-in, money-out, money-in, money-in and more money-in, then your idiosyncrasies will not be noted nor will you be prevented from crossing their welcome mat. However, if that is not the case and you are more or the wax-on, wax-off type, financially and you are a bit of a variant, then it is likely you will not be permitted to experience their offerings.

I refer to those of us who are frank about our hours spent sitting stiffly in over-stuffed chairs in offices of therapists. Or perhaps extended in prone positions on crackling faux-leather sofas in our psych’s office. I feel your pain and disappointment that nary a glass of wine or morsel of a snicker-snacker is offered. Maybe we’d get to the point of what’s ailing us within that allotted hour if they were.

Anyway, should you admit, as the iconic Joanie Mitchell described, that within the last five years, "your analyst told you, you were right out of your head." And "that you need treatment . . . You were the kind that was most inclined, when out of your head to be out of your mind . . ." Well then you’re not invited! You will not be allowed to seek alternative methods of balancing mind, body and spirit. You might as well, "Put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up," then swallow your meds like a good girl or boy. Here's recipe for that.

Limeade Refresher

1 container of frozen limeade, thawed

2 cans water-use the container of limeade

1 cup coconut water

1/4 cup half and half

1-2 Tablespoons fresh mint

1 cup ice

*1/2 cup white rum (only if you’re not taking meds)

Blend all ingredients together in blender until smooth and frothy

Serves 6

Don’t get me wrong. Years of working in the retail and hospitality business have taught me the do’s and don’ts of providing excellent customer service. What and how to present to customers and what to shield them from. What to tell them to get entice the purchasing of more or coming back again. I understand the importance of weighing factors when hiring staff or collecting a group together. But is it right to adhere to tactics that incite an exclusionary culture based upon presumptions or ignorance in order to exhibit a mainstream and non-threatening image? I say nay!

Would you agree that in any yoga studio, any Yert, any classroom or government office cubicle there exist a microcosm of society at large? We find ways to get along in these environments, because we have to. Just as we do at the Thanksgiving table. But in this case,while filling out the application as a prospective guest, you openly and honestly answer the questions; "Do you take medication?" and "Do you take medication daily?" Yet opt out of answering the question; "What reason do you take medication?" Because you’ve decided to employ your right to privacy, something to do with the HIPPA Act, or I don’t know, being an American living in the United States. Well then may Yaweh help you! Applicant reviewers will be alerted.

You will soon figure out your invitation to be ensconced in harmony with nature, self and God has been rescinded. Learn how to self-sooth through meditation and the chanting of mantras? Not you sir! Engage in the mercurial effects of holding yoga poses for longer than it takes to whisk a perfect Zabaglioni? So rich and creamy your third Chakra would shine the brightest of yellows when you eat it? No siree ma’am! You’re an enigma they are not willing to get acquainted with. They’ll never know if your medication is related to allergies, chronic sleeplessness or restless leg syndrome. Since you chose not to tell them all your business, I guess there are some who presume the worst.

All I know is I didn’t get to experience the experience. What stands behind those doors will forever be a mystery. Apparently the sensitivity of some who claim to be enlightened is lacking. I saw this with my own Third Eye and felt the prejudice penetrate my own Aura.

Shame on them! I expect higher levels of compassion and mentoring at these high-priced retreats than perhaps your average KOA. Wait, come to think of it, every time I’ve stayed at a KOA there were plenty of folks willing to teach me how to hook my camper up to the electrical and water sources. Gave me plenty of detailed accounts of the conditions of the bathrooms too, and happily shared a pot of franks ‘n beans. Nice people there.

Not quite my experience at the meditation and yoga retreat. Oh wait I didn’t get one. Think I’ll go make myself a nice juicy steak laden with bleu cheese butter then afterwards, roll out my yoga mat and sit and contemplate my navel.

At Least Someone is welcoming