Monday, December 10, 2018

Some days everything turns out right!

  • I got in a hurry making my last batch of moisturizer and it broke - retail value about $350. I made more and put the broken stuff in the fridge rather than throw it away. Usually that is a fatal error. Today I put it into an ice bath and went at it with my stick blender. Success!! Saved, and in fridge for when I need another batch.
  • I balanced my checkbook and found nearly $800 in errors - IN MY FAVOR!
  • The marina quoted me $300 for a new boot to cover the bimini top - just got the bill in the mail and it was for $197. Smiling, smiling, smiling!
  • When I got my new computer, my formatting was hosed on all of my essential oil labels. I discovered the culprit - hadn't carried over Abadi MT Condensed. Found it on a free font website, downloaded. Just opened up computer and the file is fixed. :)
  • Fred hasn't peed in the house for four days now.
Like I said, some days everything turns out right.

Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

A big chunk of my family - something else to be happy about!!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Day with my daughter at Jungle Jim's

My daughter Valerie and I went to Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati - a grocery store that is five acres under one roof! She had been there once, assured me that two hours was about all you could take in one visit. She had a meeting in Zionsville that night (a little over two hours from Jungle Jim's) so we had about three and a half hours max for shopping.

We wandered about a bit, then I found housewares and wandered in awe. My daughter went for groceries, came back to find me, tugged on my arm and informed me that I had been in that department for about two and a half hours. If I wanted any groceries, I had better get out of there stat!

So I reluctantly left. There were some real finds there. I got a new set of dishes last year, and I had broken one plate. I found one that looked pretty much like what I had. And it was! When I got it home, it was exactly the same make! I like my martinis in the old fashioned martini glasses. Had two, broke one, then recently broke the other. They cost a small fortune, but there were the exact glasses that I once had. Two martini glasses into my cart and at a very reasonable price. I found all sorts of tools but left most of them there, realizing how much of the things I was looking at already resided in my cupboards, drawers and china cabinets at home. I did buy a lovely red coffee mug, and I use it every day. I didn't have a RED coffee mug, so I convinced myself I really needed it.

Of course I checked out the sales. I had a Lodge braising pot, very old, very stained as those porcelain lined pots all seem to be with age and hard use, but still worked fine. But be still, my heart, there was a whole rack of Le Creuset ON SALE! And right in the middle of one shelf was a bright yellow braising pan, a little shallower and wider than the one I had at home. I didn't need it, and where would I put it? Aha! I would offer up my old pan for $10 on Facebook. I had three buyers in a flash!! Amy bought it, is using it and loves it. And I am braising in my bright yellow Le Creuset braising pan. It says it is dishwasher safe but having used many cast iron pans with porcelain finish, I beg to differ. My new girl is getting the best treatment. She is hand washed like fine china.

We had such a lovely time. Val got home for her meeting in time. I love every last thing I got. We were going to try to make another trip before the holidays with my son's fiancée Christine in tow, but time has slipped away. It will have to be a trip for another time.

My new braising pan

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Making brioche feuilletes

One of the things I learned to bake when I went to Paris a couple of years ago was a very unique pastry called a brioche feuillete. It starts with rich brioche dough, full of eggs and butter, and then after chilling for 12 hours, it is rolled out and a sheet of cold butter is laid across the center of the dough, and the dough is folded over the butter. Then roll, turn, roll, fold again, and on and on as if you were making puff pastry. However, the base for puff pastry is just flour, salt and water. By starting with brioche dough you end up with a dough that is unbelievably rich, tender and flaky.

I have found that making a pan of cinnamon rolls out of the same dough takes a lot less time, and my customers seem to like them just as well. Here are pictures of Friday's baking, starting with the poolish, which sat in my counter last night and was the base of the dough I made this morning, all the way through taking the finished product out of the oven.

I teach classes on making French baguettes, and have been asked to teach making feuilletes as well, but I'm not sure how I would pull that off. Maybe someday.


Next morning, eggs and milk in bowl

Add flour, sugar, poolish, salt, yeast and mix well

Add 250 grams (a little over 2 sticks) soft butter to dough

Mash butter and add a piece at a time

All butter added, now chill for 12 hours.

Flatten chilled dough by beating with rolling pin

Flatten 125 g of very cold, hard butter

This is messy! Flour flies everywhere

Butter on middle third of dough

Make a package with butter inside

Roll and fold - hard work!

Do it again - two folds each time

Chill for a half hour

Roll out to form pastries - cut for feuilletes

These are about 125 g each

Braid them, then curl them up

and put in buttered ring mold

Roll out dough for cinnamon rolls, sprinkle with sugar & cinnamon

Ready to proof

Into the oven


Voila! Brioche feuilletes

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Getting ready for A Few of My Favorite Things

Our church, First Unitarian Church of South Bend, Indiana, has a fund raiser each fall. We call it a service auction, and it is our largest single source of funds outside of pledges. 

We all try to be inventive, and I love to go through the catalog, and I always buy too much. I get a little carried away with giving too. Last fall I offered a new dinner, which I called These Are A Few of My Favorite Things. 

There are recipes I make over and over and over again, because they taste so, so, so good, and because they are not terribly time consuming to make. Well, I guess a couple of them are, but I make them so often that they are pretty easy for me now. 

So what is the menu? Starters will have to be liver pâté, recipe from a Chicago restaurant no longer there called The Bakery. When the owner Louis Szathmary retired, he closed it. I heard he didn't even try to sell, probably because he thought nobody could do it well enough. I have two of his cookbooks, autographed by him, of course, and once when we were in there, I ended up getting a tour of his kitchen. When one had dinner at the bakery, there was no choice about starters. A small plate with a dollop of this exquisite pâté was brought to each guest with some fresh sour pickle slices and a crusty slice of baguette. There was plenty of unsalted butter available too. But now I have a new favorite starter, so there will be two. This one is so simple that I will give you the recipe right now.
  • Slice some garden fresh tomatoes, pretty thick. Heat some unsalted butter in a cast iron or carbon steel pan. When the butter is browned, put in the tomato slices, flip once (just to get them warm), put them on the plate and pour the browned butter (now with fresh tomato juice in it, of course) over the warm tomato slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and serve. You will definitely need a slice of baguette to mop up the juice. Elixir! 
The salad is one I have made for years. It's from an old Gourmet magazine. It's a happy marriage of Napa cabbage, crispy pancetta and Gorgonzola cheese (I like that better than the blue cheese that is called for in the recipe), topped with a warm salad dressing of Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, garlic, vegetable oil (not olive oil) and the fat rendered from the pancetta. Yum!!

On to the main course. It's green beans, tossed with light olive oil, salt and pepper, then sautéed on a grill pan until there are some brown bits, and into the serving bowl. And of course red potatoes coarsely chopped, lightly salted and boiled until tender, drained, then back in the pot with lots of butter, where they will stay warm until ready to serve. And the piece de resistance is lemon chicken. It's a pain, and I'm not going to go into details here, except to tell you it is really lemony, and served with a lemon butter sauce. It's a little tough to make, but well worth it.

My apple pie recipe has morphed over the years. You can go to and find it more than once, slightly different names, but look for Grandma Ople's apple pie. You'll find it, and they are all virtually the same. I've messed with a bit, including adding some cider vinegar to the filling, a touch of my mom's apple pie spice, and a hefty dose of vanilla. I also bake it in a cast iron skillet, which I saw done on American's Test Kitchen. Choice of New York white cheddar or homemade vanilla bean ice cream on top.

So those are a few of MY favorite things!! Hope my guests like them as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Is diet's relation to cancer really a myth?

I'm struggling with thoughts that all of the years of careful eating really meant nothing so far as cancer is concerned. In fact, my oncologist said that a low carb diet helping to prevent cancer is just a myth that sells books. And when he said it, I agreed with him given that I had just been diagnosed with the dread disease. I have been in ketosis for eight years (VERY low carb) - and still I got cancer.

The outcome was pretty good though, since I am part of the 20% who survive the particular malignancy I had (a GIST, if you want to read up on it) without going onto a prophylactic dose of chemo for the rest of my life. So maybe my diet had something to do with that. I don't know. Life is a crapshoot.

I'm cleaning cupboards this morning - a long overdue job, but one that is indicative of just how good I am feeling now that I'm through the surgery and not on chemo. So what does that have to do with diets and cancer? Well, in addition to finding out I don't need to shop for three months, and coming up with great recipe ideas as I find things hidden away that I forgot I had, I found a cupboard where I had a cache of baking supplies.

And so I have A tale of two coconuts - I had two bags of unsweetened shredded coconut in my cupboard, one organic and one not. The non-organic bag was intact. There was a hole chewed in the side of the organic bag. Unbiased mice prefer organic over non-organic!

Think I'll keep eating my old way. I'm throwing out the non-organic, too. The mice know what's good for them and what's not, and so do I. Now back to cleaning cupboards!

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 10, 2018

I am feeling soooooooooooo good!

At last, my stomach doesn't hurt when Fred decides to crawl onto it. My energy level is almost up to pre-cancer treatment levels. Three weeks from Wednesday, I get to go back to Crossfit. Yesterday afternoon, I mowed the whole lawn (first time since foot and ankle surgery).

I am on a ketogenic diet for health reasons. It has gotten me off a nasty scrip, and has enabled me to lower my dosage for blood pressure meds. Lately I have been taking Celebrex every other day, sometimes I can quit altogether, depending on activity level AND how well I have been eating.

How well have I been eating? Not very. Did you know a Klondike bar has 28 grams of carbs? Cut in half, that's only 14, and I can have 22 a day. That's okay if I haven't had a tiny (or not so tiny) bite of bread, haven't eaten some of my favorite keto recipes that still have 10 grams per serving (so why not have TWO servings?). It had to stop.

Now that I am back in the groove with the keto diet, I am hoping to ditch the Celebrex altogether. Besides, a healthy dropperful of CBD oil works almost as well as Celebrex, especially if I have been in ketosis. I'm happy with 5, but this morning my reading was 15, and I can feel the difference. It's almost like taking speed.

It has been a long road since I had surgery for torn ligament in ankle and torn tendon in foot the day after Christmas. That one was worse than I imagined it would be. I had barely gotten back on my feet when I noticed severe stomach cramps and black, tarry stools. That eventually led to a diagnosis of a malignant sarcoma, known as a GIST (Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumor), planted in my stomach near my esophagus, a particularly bad spot. I was back at Crossfit for only six weeks when I had to go on chemo, which sapped my strength to the point where I didn't go anymore.

In the midst of all of this, I lost my beloved Tashi, 14 years old, pretty ill for the last five years of her life, but we hung in there together. Still miss her so much.

Maybe when so much goes wrong in such a short time, one finally becomes immune to shock. However, I experienced shock when the oncologist told me that I would not need anymore chemo after my surgery. In the hospital after its removal, the surgeon told me three years of chemo! Seems like it was just more bad news to deal with, another challenge I really didn't want to face.

And then three weeks later, after all of the path reports were in, the oncologist gave me the lovely news - NOT an aggressive tumor, although definitely malignant. SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOW growing tumor, in spite of a spurt of growth when I was taken off Gleevec due to liver and heart problems. But it's gone!

So yes, I am shocked! GOOD shock!! I was considering how to deal with having to go back on chemo, which was like poison to my body. I seriously considered just saying no, and letting the chips fall where they may. Better a few years of feeling good than 20 years of the hell of dealing with Gleevec and all of its side effects. I was on a support board, and many of the people on the board have been on Gleevec for 18 years!! Bothering your liver? Then just get on steroids - with all of their side effects - in order to tolerate the chemo. I was the only one on the board with heart issues, so I had no one from whom to get info on that.

CT scan in six months, every six months for two years, then every TEN YEARS! I choose to look at the situation as a cure. If I get bad news in six months, I will deal with it then. In the meantime, living with the firm belief that I am cured has helped me to get back on the wagon and "just say no" to Klondike bars, a small (well, maybe this time a medium) order of well done French fries, and one too many tastes from my samples of the French baguettes I take to market on Saturdays. I am back on the keto train and feeling wonderful!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Here's the scoop - WITH FOLLOWUP!

Jump to the bottom for the update to this post if you want to cut to the chase. I was waiting to post this until after my appointment in Boston on Thursday. I wrote this during the three weeks that I was waiting for results of path reports, and it was not a good time for me.

The good news was that they were able to remove the whole tumor by laparoscopy. I have five slices in my abdomen. The surgeon had to take about 10% of my stomach, and he felt good about the margins being clean. Pathology reports will be available next Wednesday - five days out.

I felt my tumor. It felt like the baby's first few kicks during your first pregnancy. I could sometimes feel it under my hand, a couple of times actually saw the movement under the skin on my abdomen. These things grow on a stalk, and ordinarily it would have been floating outside my stomach, but it was floating on the INSIDE of the stomach. That's why I felt the "baby kicking." The surgeon explained to my daughter how he had to make a hole and push it through so that he could get to it from the correct side. I am not sure, but I think Val said he pushed it from the stomach into the abdomen. Or maybe I have it backwards. Doesn't matter - it's gone!  I am waiting anxiously for the video. I'll get to see the whole thing.

So often, things are not as bad as one fears, but not as good as one hopes. This experience falls into that category. I was hoping that they would find the tumor was completely free of malignancy, even though everything I read (and what my oncologists told me) is that these are NEVER classified as benign. But four needle biopsies showed no sign of malignancy, and I had hoped . . .

So since the tumor is completely gone and the margins appeared to be clean, why should I care that the tumor was most definitely malignant? Here's the bad news. It is follow-up treatment that is the issue. Dr. M. from Harvard appears to have been right - this was a very aggressive tumor. Follow-up will be three YEARS of chemo, or anyway, that is the initial prognosis from my surgeon. More from Dr. M. the oncologist on August 30. My body cannot handle Gleevec, the drug of choice for these. Both my liver and my heart were rather severely affected by the chemo. It didn't really work that great anyway. The growth in the last four weeks (sans Gleevec) was pretty intense, recovering the whole loss during the 2-1/2 months of chemo, plus another 0.3 cm. So by the day of removal, it was actually 0.3 cm larger than when it was initially diagnosed.

I can thank my lucky stars that it must have bled while I was recovering from foot and ankle surgery, because in my boredom, I was well aware of some severe abdominal pain, and there were signs of blood in the stomach when I went to the bathroom. Without those signs, this could have grown quite a while longer. In fact, by the time I got to the gastroenterologist's office, the pain was gone, and I actually said, "Why bother? It must be a bleeding ulcer that is healing on its own." The doctor told me that her mother didn't want the test, but they convinced her and the test revealed that she had cancer. So she said, "Let's just do the test and then you will KNOW that you don't have cancer." Hah! When I woke up and they said no ulcer, I didn't have to hear more to know I was in trouble. Within three weeks, I was diagnosed with GIST, a sarcoma. Never benign.

I have felt so good since going off chemo, more energy, lost the chemo weight, no more Prinzmetal's angina attacks. The thought of going back on is depressing, and even more depressing is the thought that they will not be able to find anything that I can tolerate, hence leaving the door wide open for a recurrence. Sort of like having sex without protection. Only a 20% survival rate if it shows up again. I know, one day at a time, but I'm struggling right now with the uncertainty of my future.

I don't know if anything they find on the path reports will have any effect on the post-op treatment, but I'm leaving this in the draft folder until after my appointments back in Boston on August 30. Maybe there will be some good news then. In the meantime, I am trying not to think about it, staying busy, enjoying the boat and the pets, hoping the appetite comes back. I can eat just so much and the body says, "No more!" I'm there now. Four more bites of salad, but I just cannot do it. The door has closed yet again.


UPDATE: Oncologist in Boston told me on August 30 appointment that it was in fact low risk, not high risk. No Gleevec. Just CT scans every six months for two years, then every ten years. I am cancer free! NO FOLLOWUP CHEMO!!