November is just the beginning. We’re barreling full speed into the holidays, the time of The Full Cold Moon. Winter cold fastens its grip, nights are at their longest and darkest.


The Moon before Yule. The days are ticking away. Soon we’ll exist in a blur of ruby-red gems, parsnips and pies. I’m surrounded by people who live to eat and respect turkey and its trimmings as much as I do. We’re thoughtful and prepared ~ the road from here to the holiday is paved with parsley, sage, rosemary and, well, you know. We’ll be on it most of the time until 2014.  Gosh.  So many days ahead filled with butter, flour, sugar, chocolate and cream, heavy. And no regrets, trust me on this one.

Cookbooks are my BFFs.  I have a few. Let’s start with Jacques.  He taught me and millions of home cooks how to chop an onion and perfect a cheese soufflé.  Any cook book of his is riddled with genius.


Need a gift?  Want one for yourself?  Pick up one of these ~

MOOSEWOOD was listed by the New York Times as one of the top ten best-selling cookbooks of all time. Sophisticated, easy-to-prepare vegetarian recipes, charming drawings, and pages of beautiful full-color food photography. Healthy and great-tasting food from Molly Katzen.

More than 225 recipes in ROOTS ~ salads, soups, side dishes, main courses, drinks, and desserts ~ that bring out the earthy goodness of veggies from artichokes to yams.


Mark Bittman’s collection is absolutely indispensable for anyone who cooks.

Of course, everything looks better, sounds better, and tastes better in Italian.  We discuss dinner at the breakfast table.  I’m not brilliant in the kitchen but I am an authority on eating.  Italian cookbooks comfort, inspire and satisfy me. 

The holiday season can be a bit overwhelming-intimidating-oh goodness gracious what am I going to make-crazy busy. Just play. Whip up some jolly and unbearably wonderful things.  Make time for deep breathing, a little wine, old movies.  It’s living..and it feels really good.



Meet you here next Sunday.

Toni 11/17/13

Day 17


Follow-Up Fest on Oatmeal: Bet You Thought No One Could Use Fest and Oatmeal in the Same Sentence!

Like the good, tough fiber that it is, oatmeal served with a dollop of writing Just. Keeps. Coming.

Mark Bittman has a couple of follow-up notes on his bad review of McDonald’s oatmeal. (

In one he gives several more sources for grand doings with this whole grain food, and he lights the sources in blue so a reader can hit on it and find the recipes.

So I hit and learned about…

Steel cut oats from the Diner’s Journal; Cardamom-Scented Oatmeal Pancakes with Apricots; Home-made granola

He also gives a mention to James Beard, Martha Stewart,and a list for where to find the best oatmeal in NYC!

This man knows his business.

However, it was with some trepidation that I digested Mr. Bittman’s Three Other Thoughts on oatmeal in a second follow-up column. You can find it at:

As is the nature of blogs, the negative review of McDonald’s Oatmeal Cup brought some think-agains via the comment section. And, so, in this follow up, Mr. Bittman raises the grade from a 0 to a 1. I’m reminded of the irate parents who stormed my classroom complaining about little Billy’s F, then leaving, somewhat mollifed, but not really, with a new grade of D. Mr. Bittman says something like, hey, it’s a semi-whole-grain-with-too-much-sugar breakfast that will be healthier at an airport McDonalds than other stuff you could eat on the fly.

I’d buy that. Er, I mean I wouldn’t buy that at an airport. I bring power muffins on airplane trips. (see The Perfect Post-Run, Pre-Dawn Owling Muffin) Think dark chocolate, oats, tons of fruit, real honey and molasses, spelt flour, toasted walnuts, etc. Sound good don’t they? They are, if I do say so myself.

But, I have to hand it to McDonald’s. They know how to advertise. If we advertised reading the way they advertise their food, we’d be the most literate nation on earth. (Jim Trelease makes this point in his Read Aloud Handbook) Even a healthy eater like me is lured by the promo. Check it out. I dare you not to have at least a tiny what’s-not-to-like-thought skip through your head.

So, ever the middle child and wanting to be fair–I mean, I hadn’t actually had the stuff myself!–I went Mickey Dee’s and bought myself a Fruit and Maple Oatmeal with a cup of delicious coffee. The coffee is a winner: Newman’s Own Organics Blend produced by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury Vermont. Hurrah. I should have stopped at the coffee.

Newman's Own Organics Partnered with Green Mountain Coffee from McDonald's

The ingredients in the McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Cup are admirable.

In a cookie.

Apples, brown and golden raisins–two kinds of raisins!–cranberries, diced green and red apples–two kinds of apples!–a touch of cream, and optional brown sugar. Unfortunately I opted, and the sweet tooth in me went ballistic. I do love sweet. But the equivalent of 8 packets (32 grams) of sugar all at once? Nutritionists say 10 packets a day is the limit. I probably got there with the opt-in-brown-sugar decision. But I was getting a nice buzz on as I sipped the coffee and scraped–yes, scraped–the last bit out of the cardboard container.

McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal Closeup

Then I hit the wall.  Not from the sugar high, that would come later. It was the small print. Colors, thickeners, stabilizers, whiteners, and preservatives. Artificial maple.

Do you knowwhat it says on The Other Cardboard container? Quaker Oats - Old Fashioned



 Quaker Oats - Old FashionedThe Only Ingredient are the OATS. And this brings me back to Mark’s original beef with the McDonald’s Cup. I think he should stick with it, the beef that is, not the cup.

Oatmeal isn’t an ingredient.

It’s the thing itself.

Unlike this dessert-like confection.

On second thought, maybe Mark’s right to adjust his Complete Pan to a Partial Pan. (Pan being the operative word in all things culinary.) McDonald’s new menu item is getting us to talk about whole grains.

I hope it isn’t just the choir singing to the choir.



Ice Storm Succor and Food Giveaway: The Lunch Without Lois Bunch and Socca

As I sit here expecting the power to go off any minute and the ice limns the trees right outside my writing window and the birds frenzy themselves at the feeders, I think about food that will sustain me in this time of tightness. Here goes.

This picture show us at Lois’s garden. We all knew it would be her last growing season, but in the true Lois spirit, we planted peas and potatoes. I don’t think we thought this would stave off the inevitable, but it was just what you did if you were Lois. It looks like Jane is holding the peas we harvested on this particular day on our way to lunch. We were able to get back a few more times and finish the pea harvest and dig out the potatoes. Lois’s last order, delivered in her fake gruff manner from the hospice bed was Get the rest of those potatoes out of the ground; not doing anybody any good in there!

After Lois died, we did take the last of the potatoes out and split them up.

We haven’t had Lois for several months now, but our Lunch with Lois bunch still meets for lunch. After some trepidation, a bit of lip-biting and frowning that we were somehow being disrespectful,  we decided that Lois would love for us to call ourselves The Lunch Without Lois Bunch (LWOLB) So, that’s that.

When we were With Lois for these lunches we usually ate at her place in the cafe. We each had certain menu items that we thought about on the drive over. Lori and Margaret loved The Happy Pilgrim. I loved the grilled veggie wrap, dripping with oil and packed with three kinds of squashes and lots of peppers.  Jane loved the chopped salad that contained every one of the food groups.  Lois had the tuna fish with hot coffee, and keep the cup filled if you please. For sides, I ordered fried onion rings; the rest had fruit. We shared the onion rings. I think we ate the fruit, but not with gusto.

Recently the LWOLB met at Margaret’s house.  On our menu was Socca.

Go to (where I describe the beginning of my love affair with socca) and Food We Women Cook (I’ll put a final, PERFECTED recipe there when I’ve figured it all out) for the particulars, but I’ll tantalize your taste buds for a few sentences here.

First off, we think Lois would have adored this bread, more so even when we finally perfect the making of it.  Lois was down to earth and a good cook. She favored fast with no-frills. Socca would have been right up her alley. The ingredients are few: chickpea flour, water, olive oil, coarse salt, and ground pepper.  Prep involves mixing the flour and water, letting it sit for a few hours, and then, after super-heating a pan that’s been smeared with a pour of olive oil, pouring the batter in, and watching it bubble and curl up at the edges in the same very hot oven. Simple.  Elegant. Like Lois.
When made the right way, the socca can sit in place of honor, center table. The eaters can sit around the table and pull and tug at it, talking, and munching. You can’t just pull on your own or the whole thing comes into your lap. On second thought, that might be a good idea; you’d get to eat it all yourself! But in the spirit of community, each puller needs a tugger. Lois would like that aspect of socca too.
Full disclosure: I haven’t yet made socca so that the cooperative eating story works, the consistency isn’t exactly pull and tuggy, if you get my meaning. Right now, until we fuss with the cooking tactic a bit more, it’s a cut in wedges, and serve fast with a spatuala consistency. I say “fast” because the guests start reaching into the pan and burning their fingers on the cast iron if you dwaddle too long.
If you Google the words Mark Bittman and socca, you’ll come to a site with a picture of Mr. Bittman (NYTimes food writer) wandering some abandoned street in France. The caption says something about him hunting in vain for socca. It’s sold by street vendors who bake it in a hot, wood-fired oven while you wait, then after dusting it with a sprinkle of seasalt and a turn or two of pepper, the vendor wraps it in paper, hands it to you and watches while you devour it on the spot, trying to hold the dripping wrapping paper and salt and pepper crusted oblong of bread away from your only travel blouse, opting for fast satisfaction, oil-splatters be darned.
At Margaret’s we worked to replicate the wood-fired oven. We used a broiler setting and a cast-iron pan. We watched while it blistered and started to singe, and then pulled it out with all sorts of sizzle. It was hard not to pick it out of the pan and pull it apart right then and there.
Lois would have loved it.
Patty 2/2/11