Don’t Regret Missed Opportunities!

“Want to go in on this?” my friend Stacey Hurlin asked in an email proposing a unique way to honor our friend, Phyllis Khare, who—on her birthday—was slated to give us a mini-tutorial on writing effective blog titles. “Any thought?” Stacey prodded.

Even though Stacey’s track record makes it wise to say yes, I thought, No, we shouldn’t do it. Stacey launched award-winning First Friday Art Walks, successful women’s crisis center fundraising events, and international small works exhibits featuring over 300 artists. For Phyllis’s birthday, Stacey wanted to surprise her during class with iced cupcakes topped with tiny posters bearing social media logos. Clever, right?

But a traumatic brain injury I sustained in a car accident four years ago skews my thoughts towards the glass-empty side. Phyllis, a social media guru, vigorously consumes every class minute trying to transmit her mercurial mind’s contents to ours. Mightn’t she feel miffed about us diverting our attention? In the cupcake photo Stacey sent, turquoise icing coiled near the curly edges of pastel paper cups. Couldn’t icky icing end up on—or worse yet inside— students’ keyboards? Stacey proposed buying healthier cupcakes than the ones pictured. No turquoise icing! But our town is marbled with foodies who embrace conflicting opinions about what’s good to eat. Wouldn’t class members regard gluten, sugar, fat, even the mere concept of cupcakes revolting?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I concluded. So I shot off a curmudgeonly, wet-blanket email to Stacey expressing my concerns.   

Ha! Stacey’s entrenched creativity easily survived my feeble attempts to dispel it. Recognizing the futility of searching for cupcakes acceptable to divergent palates, Stacey, herself, baked wheat-based and gluten-free versions. Some she topped with sugarless cream cheese icing tinted pink with beet juice.

While constructing mini-posters of social media logos, Stacey chose vivid versions. She foresaw possibilities that Phyllis later fulfilled by enticing her grandkids to play games with the toddler-friendly posters after the cupcakes were gone. Before they were gone, Stacey’s Pinterest poster towered above the rest: the P, she explained, stood not just for Pinterest but also for Phyllis, our ebullient teacher.

The silver platter Stacey grabbed from a cupboard, the one she stacked concentric circles of cupcake tiers on, turned out to be a lazy Susan. So, although Phyllis did at first protest losing precious class minutes to birthday cake frivolity, when she spotted the vibrant logos and her fingers grazed the silver platter and the cupcakes spun around, the birthday girl and all of us clustered around her sensed how magical the moment was that Stacey had made.

What if,  instead of discouraging Stacey, I’d offered to work alongside her? How much fun did my curmudgeonly attitude cost me? How much healing laughter did I forfeit to fear?

Four years later I’m nearly done grieving the changes I experienced after a drunk dental hygienist rammed my car at 11 AM on a drizzly summer Saturday while my Camry and I were stopped at a red light. Enough already with the glass-empty thinking! When you’re lucky, a red light, a solid stop, is followed by a start. One day, in a room filled with sunlight, cupcakes spun on a silver platter amid a circle of bright, happy women. And I was there. I saw that.




Social Media Marketing Students Fete Trainer Phyllis Khare with SEO-Themed Cupcake Tier

Say Yes to Creativity Every Day

Simple Carrot Salad

Simple Carrot Salad

Simple Carrot Salad

This quick, crisp salad is easy to make with foods you might have on hand. Its stunning color and high nutritional value make it popular at summer potlucks, which often are heavy on meats and desserts but low on healthy veggie dishes.

WHAT YOU NEED: Feel free to tinker with quantities!

1 lemon

1 apple, a crisp sweet variety, such as honeycrisp, pink lady, or gala

water – 1 or more cups (to cover apples)

1 – 2 teaspoons honey or agave (to taste)

¼ cup raisins (I like red flame best.)

about 1 pound carrots (I used a little less here, about 9 medium carrots.)

4 stalks celery

1 scant tablespoon olive oil (or less, can omit)

2 tablespoons unsalted, dry-roasted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds


Lemon Water

Lemon Water

Juice ½ lemon and add to medium-sized bowl.  Add 1 cup water to bowl and stir.

Chop Apple

Chop Apple

Chop apple and add chopped apple to bowl of lemon water.

Soak Chopped Apple

Soak Chopped Apple

If chopped apple isn’t submerged, add more water.  Set bowl of chopped apples in lemon water aside.

Sweeten Lemon Juice

Sweeten Lemon Juice

Juice another ½ lemon and add juice to a small bowl. To balance lemon’s tartness, add a little honey or agave to lemon juice. Stir lemon juice and sweetener together. Set aside.

Peel and Grate Carrots

Peel and Grate Carrots

Wash, peel, and grate carrots. Put grated carrots in large bowl.

Slice Celery

Slice Celery

Wash and slice celery. Add sliced celery to the bowl of grated carrots.

Drain Apples.

Drain Apples

Drain chopped apples. Add drained, chopped apples to carrots and celery. (You can save the lemon-water and sweeten and chill it for drinking later.) Add raisins, too.

Add Olive Oil

Add Olive Oil

Add olive oil.

Toss Salad.

Toss carrots, celery, apples, and raisins to coat with oil. Add lemon juice/sweetener mixture from small bowl. Toss again. If serving immediately, add garnish. Otherwise, chill and garnish right before serving.

Acorn Squash All Dressed Up

A farmer friend gave me three large acorn squash, a vegetable that’s begun to bore me. It’s nutritious and visually stunning, though, with its rippled green exterior and hollowed orange core. Here’s what I did to reignite my interest in acorns.

scoop out seeds

After halving the acorns,  I scraped out pulp and seeds with a serrated grapefruit spoon. Then I bushed the interiors and exteriors very lightly with olive oil.

Brush lightly with olive oil.

Next I whisked together a small handful of crushed dried sage from my garden, about a teaspoon of honey, a couple short squirts of fig vinegar, and a tablespoon or so more of oil.

Crush sage, then whisk into honey, vinegar, and oil to taste.

I brushed the sage mixture over the squash interiors. Then I  spooned the remaining mixture into the acorn hollows.

Brush sage mixture inside squash.

I baked the acorn halves cut side up on a baking sheet at 350° F in my oven for about 45 minutes (until the acorns pierced easily with a fork). I could’ve served the acorn as is, but I wanted to add stuffing. So I prepared stuffing ingredients while the acorns baked. Using ingredients I had on hand, I minced 1/2 a yellow onion, a large tart apple, and a cup of celery. Then I sauteed this mixture in a large skillet with a little olive oil over medium heat. When the onions were aromatic and the celery just tender but not soggy, I tossed in a scant cup of dry, packaged savory bread stuffing and a handful of sliced almonds. I didn’t add salt or other spices, relying instead on the stuffing mix for flavor. After two or three minutes, I took this off the heat and stirred.

sautee filling

When the squash finished baking, I removed it from the oven and divided the stuffing equally, filling the six halves. Then I returned the baking sheet to the oven for about 15 minutes.

To enhance the plate’s visual appeal, I served the squash with lightly sauteed broccolini, orange slices, and cottage cheese garnished with toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Cherry tomatoes would pair well, too. So would brown or basmati rice and vegetarian or regular link sausages.

plated squash

Almond-Encrusted Walleye

Almond Encrusted Walleye

Last night I told the guys I was too busy to cook, so they made almond-encrusted walleye served with sauteed broccolini over garlic spaghetti. Yum!

Morel Mushroom Risotto

Risotto w:Morrels

Biking yesterday, Eric spotted a few morel mushrooms, so he created Morel Mushroom Risotto. He served it with grilled zucchini, spinach salad, and red bartlett pears. Yum!

Eric’s Huevos Mexicanos

Huevos Mexicanos is easy to make and can be quickly prepared using inexpensive and readily available ingredients. This recipe serves 4 to 6.



6 to 8 eggs, whipped

1 medium onion, chopped and divided into 2 parts

1 tomato or a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped

handful of cilantro, stems removed and chopped

1 15-ounce can of pinto beans

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese

2 tablespoons high heat safflower oil, divided

1 cup salsa

4 to 6 whole wheat tortillas, warmed


Chop onion, and divide into two parts. Put 1 tablespoon oil into medium frying pan set on burner turned to medium heat. Add half the onions to the pan and saute a few minutes.


While onions are frying, drain and rinse beans.


When onions are slightly translucent, stir beans into onions in pan and saute a few more minutes. Turn heat to low. Mash beans.

mexicano blog

Grate cheese and sprinkle over beans in pan. Cover and let cheese melt.


In a separate pan, warm remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Saute remaining onions a few minutes. Then add tomatoes and saute a few more minutes. Add eggs.


Cook and scramble egg mixture.


Chop and add cilantro.


Serve eggs hot with beans, salsa, and whole wheat tortilla.


Savory Butternut Squash Soup with Gorgonzola Salmon on English Muffins


Baking the squash enhances its flavor and produces better texture than you can achieve with boiled squash soups. Sauteed sage, onion, and garlic lend the soup a turkey-stuffing-like flavor. Paired with crisp English muffins topped with salmon and melted gorgonzola cheese, this duo makes an extraordinary yet simple and nutritious meal. This meal’s especially easy to assemble with leftover salmon. I used blackened baked salmon from last night’s supper.

Ingredients for Savory Butternut  Squash Soup:

butternut squash  (about 4 pounds)

1 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves

salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon high heat safflower oil

1 tablespoon dried sage

Water or chicken or vegetable broth (enough to produce the consistency you prefer)

Chicken or vegetable bouillon cube (optional, instead of broth)

Preparation of Savory Butternut Squash Soup:

Cut squash into chunks. Scoop out seeds and set aside. (Seeds may be toasted for garnish.)

Melt butter. Brush melted butter onto surfaces of squash (not on peel). Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper.

Bake squash in 400 degree oven until tender (about 25 -30 minutes).


While squash cooks, heat oil in small pan. Add and sauté onion and garlic a few minutes to release flavors. Add sage and sauté a few minutes more.


Put sautéed onion mixture into blender with 1 cup of water or broth. Puree.


Scrape pureed onion mixture into large soup pan.

Remove squash from oven. Cut off peel and cut into smaller chunks.

In batches, add cooked squash to blender with water or broth. Scoop blended squash into soup pan containing onion mixture. Turn burner to medium heat. If using bouillon cube, add it now and stir to dissolve.

Taste and adjust spices. If needed, add more water or broth to achieve desired consistency. Once soup is simmering, turn off burner and serve hot.

Ingredients for Gorgonzola Salmon on English Muffins:

English muffins, 1/2 or 1 per person

Gorgonzola cheese, about 1 tablespoon per person

Salmon, cooked (leftover is perfect), enough to cover English muffins

Preparation of Gorgonzola Salmon on English Muffins:

Use fork to divide muffin tops from bottoms. Crisp muffin halves by setting inside oven a few minutes while squash bakes. Be careful to avoid burning!

Remove muffins from oven. Flake salmon over each muffin half.  Top salmon with gorgonzola cheese.


Slip muffins back in oven to warm salmon and melt cheese. Broil or bake a few minutes, until cheese begins to brown. Again, be careful to avoid burning!


Baked French Toast

Baked French Toast

Baked French Toast

Baking instead of panfrying French toast is great on cold winter mornings, especially if you’re making breakfast or brunch for guests. Prepare the dish at night and bake the next morning while assembling healthy accompaniments, like fresh fruit and sauteed spinach. This recipe produces four to six servings.


3 eggs

¾ cup half-and-half (or whole or 2% milk)

½ cup skim milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon turbinado sugar

2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts (or walnut dust, i.e., the residue that settles at the bottom of a container of walnuts)

1 tablespoon butter

5 or 6 large slices challah bread (enough to cover bottom of 9-x-12 glass pan)


Lightly grease 9-X-12 glass baking pan.

Collect walnut dust and/or finely chop walnuts.


Sprinkle walnuts (and/or walnut dust) onto bottom of greased baking pan.


Slice enough challah bread to cover bottom of pan.


Melt butter.


Brush melted butter onto both sides of each slice of bread. Lay buttered bread in pan, gentlyly pushing it onto walnuts.


Whip together eggs.


Whip in dairy products.


Whip in vanilla.


Pour liquid mixture over each slice of bread. Then, with spatula, gently turn each slice over.


Grate nutmeg.


Sprinkle nutmeg over each slice of bread.

Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until most liquid is absorbed, overnight is okay.

Remove pan from refrigerator and uncover. With spatula, very gently turn each slice of bread over. Sprinkle each slice with turbinado sugar.


Bring pan to room temperature by placing on top of oven while preheating it to 425 degrees Farenheit.

When oven is ready, bake for 20-25 minutes, until bread is puffy and slightly browned.

Serve hot with drizzles of maple syrup.

Mom’s Crescent Rolls


Mom baked these crescent rolls for us during Winter holidays, and making them always makes me feel close to her. They’re rich, fluffy, and time consuming to make, so this is generally a once-a-year treat for me. Making them with friends or family is really fun. Mom’s recipes always yield a lot so you’d have plenty to share. This recipe makes 48 rolls, and they freeze well.


1 package dried baking yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup warm water

3/4 cup evaporated milk (room temperature)

1/3 cup sugar (I use 1/4 cup)

3 eggs (or use two and reserve one egg white)

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/3 stick butter, divided (1 stick softened, room temperature and 1/3 stick melted)

6 or more cups of unbleached white flour (I substitute 1 or 2 cups whole wheat for some white.)

sesame and poppy seeds, about 1-1/2 tablespoons of each


In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Set the bowl in a warm place for 15 minutes and let it bubble. In a blender, blend together the evaporated milk, sugar, salt, eggs (sans shells), and the softened stick of butter. Add this mixture to the bowl of bubbled yeast and stir. Add the flour to the bowl a cup at a time. When the mixture gets too hard to stir and begins to look like dough, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Wash and lightly grease the bowl.  Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume.


Turn risen dough out onto a floured surface and knead a little.


Flatten dough a little with your hands, cover with the inverted bowl, and let rest a few minutes. Meanwhile, put the sesame seeds and poppy seeds nearby.


Melt the 1/3 cup of butter.  Add a little water to the third egg (or to the reserved egg white) and whisk.


Take the bowl off the dough.  Set the bowl aside and roll the dough into a circle.  Divide the circle into six parts.


Roll each part into a ball.  Set five of the balls back into the bowl and cover with the damp cloth.


Keep one ball of dough on the floured surface. Flatten that ball into a circle with your hands.


With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10-inch circle. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, brush melted butter all over the surface of the circle. With a sharp knife, cut the circle into eight triangles.


Roll one triangle up from the outer edge to the tip.


Shape that triangle into a crescent.


Set the crescent on a greased baking sheet, carefully keeping the tip of the triangle underneath the crescent. (Otherwise, the crescent may unfold as it rises and bakes.) Repeat until you use all the triangles and have eight crescents. With a pastry brush or your fingers, brush each crescent roll with the egg mixed with water. Sprinkle the crescent rolls with sesame seeds or poppy seeds and leave some rolls plain. The egg wash helps the seeds adhere and also enhances the baked rolls’ golden color. Take another ball of dough from the bowl and repeat this process. You’ll end up with 48 crescents. Let the crescents rise on the baking sheets about 20 minutes before you bake them.

You can begin baking risen rolls while you continue assembling the rest. Or you can make some rolls and store some unshaped balls of dough in your refrigerator up to four days and make them later. I’ve also tried shaping the rolls and storing them in the refrigerator to bake later. Results are best, though, I feel, when you bake the rolls and freeze them already made.


Bake the risen rolls in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.  The crescents are done when the bottoms are golden and the tops are light brown. Remove from baking sheets to cooling racks.