Scrumptious Summer Strawberry Cake & Love

Sometimes a girl just needs to wallow in romance. I am not talking about a card and dinner on Valentine’s Day, which is hardly refutable, but let’s talk about the other 364 days of the year – sheer opportunity to live out LOVE.

There is no denying that one’s interpretation of love evolves with time. Certainly, romantic love changes over the years. At first, it manifests itself as being demonstrative, often extremely physically and even somewhat financially driven – dinners, movies, gifts. Then it grows into friendship kindled by passion, and it becomes stolen glances, laughter, unexpected smiles, a graze of a hand, deep kisses that take your breath away, your favorite latte, a walk on the beach, a whispered thought, pajamas tucked into your suitcase with a note, and all of your other bucket list wishes. For as much as I am a realist, I am a believer in the good and a dreamer that love will find a way. Love in all of its glory…just spending time together and not sharing your time becomes a gift.

So where did I pull my inspiration from this week? – cinema, family, and friends! I watched a movie that ignited my love of love and that desire to recapture that compelling feeling of wanting and needing to feel and experience deep emotion.

Call Me by Your Name is a thought-provoking, passionate movie, that admittedly caught me by surprise and sparked my thoughts about the many types of complex love – first love, parental love, marital love, young love and desire, passionate and erotic love, mature love….L-O-V-E. Undeniably, it was an arousal for the soul.

In one of the movie’s loving parental moments, the lead character’s father speaks to him about the loss of love, and truthfully explains that embracing the ‘suck’ of painful moments is worthwhile: “Our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart’s worn out. And as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.” It is worth wading into desire, the movie suggests; it’s the only way to be alive, both in the good parts and the painful ones. This couldn’t be more true because good without bad lacks measurement. Sweet without salt is also not as powerful. Opposites attract in nearly every situation – food/love/emotions. And sometimes we need to be reminded to see and embrace this delicate and powerful balance. To live and to feel alive sometimes is about finding that line between the two opposites. Awareness.

With love in my heart and on my mind, I’ve been reaching deep to get to a place where I can find my stride again to love and nurture my cooking vibe. The vibe is there, it’s just a bit time constrained, so again hope prevails and is ever more present when I am surrounded by my family and friends. Their love of eating inspires my creativity.

The tart strawberry flavor pairs well against the palate of the buttery vanilla cake dough. Even the textures are complimentary with the soften baked fruit juxtaposed against the firmly crusted cake. It is the type of dessert that can easily be eaten as breakfast.

Scrumptious Summer Strawberry Cake


6 TBS unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

½ cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

whipped cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed approximately 3 minutes until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium-low, mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and gradually add in the salt, then baking powder. Mix in the flour and combine well. Arrange strawberries on top of the batter, cut side down, as close as possible.

Bake cake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, approximately 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

Cake can be stored for up to 2 days at room temperature.

Romano Stuffed Artichokes

Some weeks you just can’t hide from your past, it finds you. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing; it is just a fact. This was in fact an unexpected theme throughout my week. It was subtle at first, hardly noticeable, until I attended my son’s open house. I know that it may sound odd, but when I reflected back I realized that three things had rekindled my past. A photo from 2014 that appeared in my FaceBook memory feed transported me back in time to the avocado incident. This mistake and all of the complications it brought with it was in many ways the primer for what was to follow a few years later. An abundance of memories came flooding back into my consciousness.

Upon attending Secondo’s open house, I casually flipped through his work when I came across his adapted poem and I was again reminded of my battle with cancer. On most days of the year it’s something I can put aside, but I know from glimpses into their homework that it is a weight my children carry with them that seeps out into many aspects their lives. While I try to live a life that assures them that is in the past, to convey with my actions that all is well, that I am fine, I do see their stolen glances and need for reassurance. Their pain and worry is disguised in a good night kiss, written in their poems/research papers and surfaced in stories they tell. And while I made it past the FaceBook memory, the poem I read at Secondo’s open house made me take a deep breath, or maybe I was holding my breath.

Where I’m From

By George Alan Lyon

Adapted by ‘Secondo’

I am from Golden Gate fog and feeding my dog,

From dihydrogen monoxide and fur,

I am from my room.

Dense air, with desk and chair.

I am from the oak trees,

Eucalyptus and rosemary.

Whose evergreen glow radiates

And joyful tone illuminates.

I’m from swordfish and video games

From Mati and Tobia

I’m from “See ya”,

“What time is it”,

From “knock it off” and “sit up straight”

I’m from my lord and savior,

Prayer and community,

Qui incrememtum et animae meae.

I’m from Tom Vano and Virginia Anderlini,

Mushroom risotto and pork chops with paprika.

From the cancer,

Death of loved ones.

To those who dispersed,

With them above.

The cruise along the Mediterranean Sea

Close family relaxing in sweet harmony

A tranquil escape from responsibility

A brief moment of peace, in memory I weep.

It was remarkable, I had almost made it through this week with strong emotional undertones, and then, much to my frustration I was asked to write a response, a couple of paragraphs, to my son’s science in the news report… 10pm on a Thursday night! It had been a long day, long week, and I was tired. I opted to take it with me to bed and read it there. I was undeniably annoyed. Entirely to my surprise, the paper was about three very important topics to him – my breast cancer, my mother’s diabetes and his late great-grandmother’s Alzheimers. I was stopped cold in my tracks. He was carrying the weight of the universe on his shoulders. I cried. Cried for all the good in his soul, his love for those around him, his desire to learn how to remove these illnesses from the roster and his ability to tie them into one well-written document in a way that was articulate and relatable.

Most days I wonder if I make a difference. The teenage years are challenging on parents and children. He is often the quieter of the two children and often times more difficult to gauge. To know that he cares well beyond what he shares with me in conversations and that he is reflective of the world around him and able to cope through his words to work on those things that he struggles with is something I couldn’t be more proud of.

The combined sum of these three things reminded me, on the heels of Mother’s Day, about how lucky I am to be their mother and how blessed I am to be here for these moments, even the ones that I am seemingly too tired to cope with but somehow manage to.

There is not putting lipstick on a pig, this is a window into my soul. Feeling emotional and rejuvenated I wanted to get back to creating fun food. It’s something Prima and Secondo always appreciate. This isn’t a very time consuming recipe, which is what makes it such a great weeknight recipe.

Romano Stuffed Artichokes


6 artichokes

6 cloves garlic, pressed

1 ½ cups shredded Romano cheese

2 lemons, quartered

olive oil

salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the stem of the artichokes. Cut about 1 inch off of the top of each one. Using kitchen scissors, snip off he ends of the artichokes removing the sharp edges or thorns.

Use two of the lemon wedges to run lemon juice over the cut portion of the artichoke to prevent it from browning. Spread open the petals and rub a full clove of garlic into each artichoke. Add the parsley and ¼ cup Romano cheese, pressing it down into the leaves, and in between the petals.

Place each artichoke in a square of aluminum foil. Season to taste with salt, pepper. Squeeze a lemon wedge over each artichoke and drizzle with olive oil, then wrap and seal the foil around each artichoke.

Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, for large artichokes. For medium sized artichokes, bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before removing from foil. Place on a warmed plate and drizzle with liquid from the foil packets.

Ginny’s Famous Baked Apples

Most days it is easy to feel invisible. And quite honestly this can be beneficial. As a shy introverted young girl, I often felt most comfortable when I was invisible. In a boisterous Italian family one may wonder how it was even possible to survive on the quieter side of the spectrum, but when you are surrounded by strong personalities you don’t need to compete. As the story goes, my two closest childhood friends will eagerly tell you that I found my voice towards the end of high school and the personality followed to reveal itself in the college years. Continue reading ‘Ginny’s Famous Baked Apples’

Coconut Pistachio Bites – Mermaid and Cinderella Stories

Life gets tricky, relationships get complicated and the unknown can be terrifying. There are certainly a lot of ways to read or read-into that last sentence so I should explain.

Tricky=We are all stretched by time constraints. Picking and choosing what to spend our free and work time on is something that we all navigate.

Complicated Relationships= just a fact. With true communications skills on the decline it is easy to become isolated and wonder if the subtext is really a declaration of more.

Unknown= there can and is some sort of anxiety around that which we cannot yet understand. Even excitement can bring with it elements of this emotion.

And yet, despite all of those factors, life has some amazing high points. Times when you realize just how great it is to be in the midst of your life, and enjoying the here and now. These past few months in many ways felt surreal with a dose of magical.

Dress shopping for my daughter’s junior prom brought with it all of the excitement of a Disney princess movie, eg Cinderella heading off to the ball, with elements of tricky, complicated and the unknown lurking. Life as a young adult is not easy and it wasn’t when I was growing up either. Technology now plays a more prominent roll in the lives of this generation; the struggle is real.

And as you may have read in my last blog post, there was some questionable feelings I had as I approached this next decade of my life. Regardless, this next half century of my life (to quote my daughter), was ushered in by people that brought with them contagious happiness and more fun than could be bottled up. In her usual way, my daughter required me to ‘sparkle’ and I went out of my comfort zone and dawned my mermaid-esque top to show that I would not run or hide but meet this new phase head-on.

With so much fantasy in the works…princesses and mermaids alike, the reality was that I was living large and consumed a few too many calories. It was fun, and well, at a certain point I have to get back to the basics. And while this recipe is hardly glamorous food, it fits the parameters of trimming the waistline, providing fuel and eating on the healthy end of the plant-based spectrum. Like all dichotomies, for as much as I love to get all slicked up for a formal event, I also like to wear my faded blue jeans and embrace my pseudo-inner hippie roots (growing up in Marin County in the 70’s and 80’s had a way of seeping into my blood). This carries over to my food vibe too. I love food that is a showstopper and yet I also love food that is simple and healthy.

Coconut Pistachio Bites – This simple combination should not be underestimated, the flavor of the oats, nuts and maple syrup gives this recipe a good texture and subtle sweet flavor. The recipe is quick to assemble, great leftover and a good energy booster.

Coconut Pistachio Bites


1 cup raw, shelled pistachios plus more for sprinkling on top

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup unsweetened coconut

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp salt

2 TBS olive oil

honey (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8×8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a food processor, using an S blade, combine pistachios, oat and salt and blend for 30-seconds until it is the consistency of a meal. While the motor is still running, slowly add the wet ingredients (maple syrup and olive oil). A dough should start to form.

Firmly press the dough evenly into the pan and sprinkle with coconut flakes and chopped pistachios. . Bake 10-12 minutes until the coconut is golden brown and the dough is baked. Set aside to cool.

Carefully remove the cooled bites out of the pan by holding the sides of the parchment paper. Cut into squares. For extra sweetness, drizzle with honey.

Suzie’s Cinnamon Kahlua Chocolate Cake

This year I celebrated a milestone birthday which was feeling a bit unnerving – there were juxtaposed emotions (1) reality of mortality, (2) being ever so happy to actually be here since I am very aware without the miracles of modern medicine I could easily not have made it to this birthday and (3) the weight of carrying a big number as part of my identity and being vain. Continue reading ‘Suzie’s Cinnamon Kahlua Chocolate Cake’

Southern Hemisphere Meatballs…Meditation and Other Deep Thinking

I’d like to declare that we are officially in the era where meditation is not considered a fringe activity. In the day-to-day busy stressful lives we lead there is seldom time for ‘self-care’ let alone an at the ready tool bag that can help us release from the everyday grind of demands. We are hearing about the benefits of meditative work at the corporate level and even that Western Medicine doctors are prescribing meditation to patients. Continue reading ‘Southern Hemisphere Meatballs…Meditation and Other Deep Thinking’

Creamy Cauliflower Gruyere Soup

I truly feel like life is in transition and I am not quite sure what to make of it all. I am a contradiction of things at any given moment…observant, hurried, reckless, cautious, pensive and opinionated. [Is this what mid-life looks like?] I look for ways to embrace the calm, to smile and to laugh every day. I remind myself about the gravity of the past few years because it is perspective. I remind myself to be thankful for each and every experience – not only the good ones – because it is not without the sour that we know the balance and beauty of the sweet.

I always strive to learn and improve, but I know part of my learning is sometimes allowing for the imperfections and embracing those imperfectly perfect jagged edges. I’ve abandoned my inner ‘Martha Stewart’ and I am learning to embrace my quirky, passionate, satirical, geek techie and foodie undertones >I have no idea which public persona that correlates to, so I guess I’ll have to just be me.<

I can’t make excuses; I am still in soup mode. Perhaps it is because I feel gypped out of winter. I hear about record breaking snow stories on the East Coast, and yet I am wearing a sweater (and sweating) because it is 75 degrees outside. My brain refuses to accept this winter-free season. In sheer protest I am still making soups.

Thinking back on my love of flavors, I am reminded how much I enjoy soups. A large pot, filled to the brim with fresh ingredients, slow simmered with a pinch of this and that, until the wafting aroma fills the corners of the kitchen and you can practically taste it with your eyes. Soups seem so simple to assemble and yet so decadent in composition. While I tend to like ‘day old soups’, feeling their flavors are more robust, the beauty of this recipe is that once cooked it hits its full stride.

Creamy Cauliflower Gruyere Soup

Soup Ingredients

1 TBS olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry white wine

2 heads cauliflower

1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups heavy whip cream

Pesto Rye Crouton Ingredients

1 loaf rye bread

olive oil



In a large stockpot, sauté onions, garlic and salt for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Deglaze pot with white wine and cook until it has evaporated. Add stock, cream and cauliflower and simmer approximately 30 minutes, until cauliflower is tender. Once cooked, transfer this mixture to a blender and puree until texture is smooth and creamy.

Season with salt and pepper. If soup is too thick, think with more stock. While still hot, blend in Gruyere cheese.

To make pesto croutons, slice bread into half-inch cubes and toss lightly with olive oil. Place on baking sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Before serving toss with pesto and finish with chopped chives and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili

There is a quiet Saturday morning space that I’ve discovered. I find it in the alcoves of the sun trying to push its way through the slatted blinds on a cold winter morning. The house is asleep; the neighborhood farm animals are tucked into the cozy spaces, and aside from the humming of the heater as it takes the chill out of the house, there is absence of sound.
Continue reading ‘Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili’

Lentil Soup

There are just certain facts about yourself that are known entities. For example, I’ve always hated mushy cooked carrots (unless they are sweetening up a soup). I function most effectively with everything in its place. My favorite drink is a Negroni; I refuse to pick a favorite color. Chocolate is my favorite food group. Spending time with people I enjoy is always an option. And I have a passion for photos that cannot be satiated. It’s just a fact. I love pictures; I always have. And if you were to scroll through my photo roll on my phone camera you would find that nearly 1/3 of them are food photos.
Continue reading ‘Lentil Soup’

Small Batch Carmel Corn

The holiday season brings with it heaps of food memories. For me, the smells and tastes are triggers. As we work our way through so many of the traditional Sicilian dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation, I feel blessed and cursed. Blessed to have a family so very steeped in traditions in their love of food and cursed that these time intensive delicacies rob me of what little free time I have. There is certainly joy in finding time to cook with my Aunt, Cousin and my Mother, but there is so much pressure to get things done for the big day.

My husband and I are both products of divorced families. As children, having multiple Christmases has its silver lining – seemingly infinite gifts. As adults, the silver lining can sometimes be overwhelming – driving, shopping, cooking (repeat x 4). I end up feeling energy depleted and trying to figure out how I might lighten the load next year.

There is no sugar coating it; four Christmases is A LOT to be merry about. That’s not to say that each celebration is not coveted and special; I love them all. We all do. And we love all of the nice interactions with family and extended family and friends. Yet this year I think I reached my saturation level. I’ve declared that next year I will take the year off. I want to truly appreciate how special it all is, and in order to do that I need to be able to have a holiday where I can just relax. As I shared this with our families the response was very mixed if not perplexed. Even my children were wondering why such measures would be necessary. The reason is simple. I’d like next Christmas to be different. Not complicated or time consuming but indulgent. I am not looking for an epic adventure, just long lazy days, a book and a walk on the beach followed by some festive red cocktail as we head out to dinner.

So I’ve got a dream. Let’s see if I can make it happen. As we head into these final days of 2017, I am making my wish and resolution list and I am going to be a bit selfish with how I spend my time in 2018.

For those interested in a preview (or inspiration) this is what my list is starting to look like.

• Finding the peace in quiet moments

• Work life flow; in the direction of ‘life’ (admittedly there is no ‘balance’)

• More fun, more smiles, more memories, more laughter

• First Friday gatherings with my girlfriends, make a standing date to see the ladies I adore with zero planning

• Travel!

• Be spoiled…

While reflecting on food memories I was ‘reminded’ by Facebook about my favorite childhood caramel corn recipe. This was a ‘camp’ recipe shared with me by the mother of one of my friend’s, and it’s something I’ve never outgrown. >I use the term ‘camp’ loosely because this interlude hardly involved tents or camp fires; it was time away from home in the summer and it was pretty darn amazing!<

This easy Caramel Popcorn is the perfect salty/sweet combo! It starts with fluffy, freshly popped popcorn then it is glazed with real butter and decadent brown sugar, and nuts of your choice — pieces of almonds, cashews and/or pecans make for an irresistible crunch.

Small Batch Carmel Corn


2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

½ cup corn syrup

6 quarts popped corn (1 cup uncooked kernels)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

pecans, walnuts or cashews, to your liking


Put popped corn and nuts into large bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Boil sugar, butter, syrup and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add in baking soda. Stir well over popped corn and nuts. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring in 15 minute intervals. Remove from oven and cool then store in air tight container.