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My re-visiting of the B’fast Burrito is the best thing to come out of non-dairy life. In the last four months (4!), I haven’t had any dairy products. My last post about giving up cheese was a hard realization, my body and my skin could no longer hang with dairy. And although I literally miss cheese every single day, I am seeing some alternatives that I can live with.

The B’fast Burrito can be eaten anytime of day. It starts with a whole wheat tortilla, guacamole, eggs, re-purposed peppers and onions, a spoonful of salsa and my longtime friend, sriracha.


“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” ~ Cesar Chavez

I did not eat dairy – read CHEESE – for the entire month of January. It started as a personal experiment. And ended up with confirmation that dairy and I are not of the best of friends. Insert heartbreak here.

As a long-term cancer survivor of fourteen years, hormone imbalance has been part of my medical path. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me on the outside and then others, like this past September  kicked my butt. I started to break out like a teenager. Actually, worse than any acne I ever had before. Working with a dermatologist confirmed my hormone related skin explosions. I tried to identify what was making my skin change in my diet. And after a few months of ignoring it, I said it out-loud  “I break out the most when I eat cheese.” Heartbreak. Almost immediately, I saw an improvement in my skin and system after removing diary out of my diet.

In our country, most foods, especially dairy products are laden with hormones. There has been very little research done to show the side effect of hormones in food on humans. This Huff Po article from last year was a good breakdown of what we do and don’t know. This also showed me I need to read more about hormones in general from reliable sources. And go see the endocrinologist who can actually calculate my hormone levels and give some educated feedback to what I already know.

As a foodie, we all have our “thing.” For some it’s homemade kumquat jam or homemade pasta or butternut squash ravioli or chocolate ganache. My greatest indulgence has been cheese. All different kinds. All different smells, tastes and colors. Cheese o’ glorious cheese. I’ve made my own ricotta, read cheesemonger tales and dedicated many a glass of wine to the pairing experience. I do not see myself with any extreme dietary changes at the moment, but I do think my hormone crusted foods, especially cheese, will be less and less.

As I re-introduce dairy products back in, to see what bothers my system and skin the most, let’s pray for the cheese.

Murray's Cheese Shopw

If nothing else, the last few weeks have taught me that the “stuff” I had to put into storage is not the only thing being kept away. There is an incredible defense system already built into our “how and I going to deal?” thought process. And just as my “stuff” was put away, so were my emotions. I am no where near the opening of that floodgate, but do know that it has to be sorted into the same piles as all of the other “stuff” – keep, throw out, giveaway and store.

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“The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. The less you have, the more free you are.” ~ Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, over Memorial Day weekend, my dear friend Noel and I cooked up a storm for a local music video shoot. You remember Noel from our City Mouse Country Mouse cooking demo last year.

Local ingredients and meeting multiple needs (gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc.) was quite the challenge. And at the same time, awesome and creative.

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When amazing things happen right in front of your eyes, your imagination starts to work on overdrive.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

Hurricane Irene made her stomp on the east coast. And she was pissed off.  There are many people in the Hudson Valley whose lives have been lost under water. Memories, homes, roads and other  materialistic things have been washed away in many of my neighboring communities. Thankfully, where I live went unscathed, with power outages and road closures being the worst of it. Most of Ulster County has been declared a state of emergency and hopefully this will allow much-needed aid and support to come to the area.

In addition to the hurricane and her wrath,  I have been moved to tears over three different stories. Amazing stories about three human beings. I do not know any of these people personally, but through the channels of social media and the internet I have been introduced to them, their worlds and their footprints left on this earth.

One of my most favorite musicians, Micahel Franti, introduced his fans to Tika Hick. They met at a concert and Tika shared her story.  She and her husband David had become parents to a beautiful baby boy named Indigo, lost their home to foreclosure, and Tika was diagnosed with breast cancer all within a month. Tika and her husband took a trip to Hawaii before she was scheduled for double mastectomy surgery in July. Her husband David was swept from a rock by a rogue wave and drowned in the ocean off Maui. Michael Franti started a fund to help Tika and wished her a very happy birthday, with promises of keeping his fans updated on Tika and Indigo’s new life.

Matt over at Matt’s Bites posted “Bloggers With Out Borders and Helping Jennie.” He told the story of Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen. Her husband, Mikey, suddenly passed away few weeks ago from a heart attack. Suddenly. With out notice. Jennie and her two girls are without a husband and a father. Jennie’s last few post have been how to make the simple things in her kitchen,  straying from her more elaborate recipes and making beans and pancakes. I wish I could make Jennie pancakes. She even encouraged everyone to make their loved ones peanut butter pie, her husband’s favorite. Blogger’s Without Borders is doing what they can to help Jennie and her girls. Their organization banded  together with the internet world to help fellow bloggers, talk about a change in the times.

I learned about Tim LaFollette from one of frequent reads over at Ryan Marshall’s Pacing the Panic Room. Ryan told Tim’s story as he heard it from another blogger over at the The Shallow Brigade. Tim  passed away earlier this month after a serious battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Tim and his wife, Kaylan, are surrounded by an army of people called Often Awesome. This informal group of people keeps the life of Tim alive through is incredible story, fundraising and events. This is the trailer for a 33 part web series that was made to help spread the word and awareness about ALS. The clips are amazing. Take the time to watch Tim’s story. It makes you feel.

It doesn’t matter where I live, the city or the country. I will ALWAYS empathize and see the good in people. I will always try to help those in need. And I will continue to share my story and hopefully, with grace, help spread the stories of others. I believe you can influence through sharing – a story, a picture, a song. In fact, that’s why I have found some of my best work has been through online channels of communication. Please take the time to visit the pages and stories of these amazing people. May the ones who have passed rest in peace. And may we all have an [internet] army sharing our stories when our day arrives.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?” ~  Henry David Thoreau

 

One of the most fun “country bumpkin” activities is the farmers market in uptown Kingston. Not necessarily because of the location, but for the amazing fruit and produce selection and more importantly the COLORS. There is reddest radishes, purple cabbage, yellow corn under the greenest husks and this weeks personal favorite orange (on the edge of dark yellow) cauliflower from Maynard Farms.

I was undecided on what to make with this new vegetable. Steaming it sounded too boring for such a colorfully pretty vegetable.  There are many people in the food world that have gone the “healthy” way with mashed potatoes and substituted cauliflower for the starch. I set off on to the adventure of cauliflower mash.

Here are the pretty friends at home.


I cleaned the cauliflower and chopped it into pieces.

The cauliflower then went into boiling water with salt, pepper, bay leaves and four whole garlic leaves.

Once the cauliflower was soft enough to be stabbed with a fork, the water was drained.


The cauliflower went back into the pot. Two tablespoons of cream cheese, half a cup of skim milk, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and oregano all went into the pot as well.

Then the fun part came along. Mash. Mash. Mash. And then mash. Mash. Mash. At this point you could put the mash into the food processor if you would like a smooth mash, but in our house there was a request for a chunky feel.

The mash was then put into a serving bowl, topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese and fresh crushed pepper.

Finding alternative foods for those that are calorie-conscious is very important. The cauliflower is low in fat and high in fiber, folate and vitamin C. Going to the farmers market opens you to new and different vegetables. The other benefit of new vegetable, just like the golden cauliflower, is the new adventure of making something for the first time. A curse to some, but a blessing to this foodie in the country.

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”  ~ Voltaire

At 16 years old you are concerned about a lot of things – school, clubs, friends, drama, peer pressure, boys, and of course your image. If you had told me then that none of that would really matter I would not have believed you. In July of 1998 I was diagnosed with stage one ki-one non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My family became a sponge for endless recommendations, consultations, diagnoses and information. It wasn’t just me who had cancer, WE had cancer. And the next three months of treatment, hair loss and illness happened to all of us. Without my mother Devi, my father Rob and my sister Ali and the rest of my family and friends, I would not be here today to tell the story of success.

I was treated at Schneider’s Children’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish in New Hyde Park, Long Island, New York. I got “dressed up” to go to the hospital. I reported to my friends and family on how I was doing. I shaved my head as it started to fall out. I made a pledge to help others with this disease. I committed to surviving. And yes, there were dark days, but I never let the idea of beating that disease leave my heart, mind or spirit for too long.

It has been two years since I was told that I never had to go to the oncologist EVER again. It’s been seven years since I was told I was “CURED.” It has been eight years since I joined Relay for Life and the recorded breaking Team Pixie Dust. And it was only this morning, when I woke up, that I appreciated the gift of another day. I am often heard saying I wouldn’t change a thing of my past, that surviving cancer is what has helped to define me as a person and made me the individual I am today.

With hope, dedication and Relay, I am assured that we will all be in a better place on day. I Relay because I join people around the world to celebrate those who have survived cancer, remember the people we’ve lost, and fight back by supporting the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society. This is my 8th year at Relay with Team Pixie Dust, graciously lead by the Gross family in memory of our friend, mother, sister and inspiration, Diane Gross. It has been an amazing journey and we are very excited to add another Relay tomorrow at Alvin P. William Memorial Park in Woodbridge, NJ. Please consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society through my Relay for Life page.

Cancer once defined me. I was the “girl who had cancer.” I was bald or had a wig. For years after, I was titled a “cancer survivor” and it was synonymous to my name and my identity. Today, twelve years later, people I know in this stage of my life may not even know that I had cancer. That I am an extreme advocate of early detection, fair treatment and continuous research. That I will always know what being different is like. That my scars are my battle wounds. That I am stronger than can ever be defined by a title or a disease.

“Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it couldn’t be done, Don’t let nobody ever tell you that we couldn’t be one, Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it shouldn’t be sung, Don’t let nobody ever tell you you’re the only one…” ~ Michael Franti

Théa and Noel have been kookin’.

As a stellar foodie duo, we create healthful Sunday Night Dinners, holiday celebrations and food on-the-fly for our  friends in the Hudson Valley. City Mouse – Thea – brings presentation, creativity and tradition and Country Mouse – Noel – brings style, expertise and vitality to the table every time. It is important that we utilize our resources responsibly to sustain local merchants, farmers and artisinal crafters.

Théa – The City Mouse

Day job: Online brand manager for an international handbag company
For fun: cooking, entertaining, writing, travel
Favorite food: Pizza
Sign: Aquarius
Nicknames: Thay, Theloniuos, Thyza Louise, Thalya
Favorite dish to make: cake (cupcake, cheesecake, ice cream cake, chocolate beet cake, etc.)
Most prized kitchen tool: Kitchenaid Stand Mixer

Why am I a foodie?

When my grandfather, known by all as Pipop, passed away two years ago we taught my Nana a valuable lesson in today’s lingo. We discussed, “We’re out,” “whatup,” and even “redic.” I think one of the only things that stuck that week was, “foodie.” Defined by many as one who enjoys, makes, creates, appreciates, loves and does food.

At some point that week, after many homemade dinners, and even more deli platters and desserts, I said, “Nana, we’re foodies.” All in agreement, my entire immediate family nodded as it made perfect sense to us. I couldn’t tell you when that actually happened though. It could be the hundreds of family dinners, the dozens of holidays, countless BBQs, endless Sunday brunches or the meal that happens when there are a group of people at my parents house and there is a sudden combustion of plates, garlic and hungry mouths.

Being a child of a foodie is a big responsibility. You have to entertain like your parents do. You have to cook with your heart and not just your head. You have to do it just like them, but still in your own style. You have to know how much pasta is for 2, 4, or even 12 people. And perhaps, most importantly, you always have to be able to get back to where it all started. That table where the foodies once ate altogether.

Now that I live two hours away from my parents, I make sure to give notice and let the head-foodie-in-charge know when I will be back, for how long and if I will be there for dinner. That answer is always “yes” and “what do you want for dinner?”

What I think of my relationship with Noel!

Everything happens for a reason. Noel and I ended up at the same table in Uptown Kingston about a year ago. We shared lamb sliders, blood sausage and chocolate cristinis, huge roasted asparagus and sangria. We talked food. And not just what do you do for a living / for fun food. Real food conversations. About the earth, traditions and technique. Not being classically trained myself, I learned a lot about Noel’s culinary experience and trade. And most importantly her love for life. It matched mine.

Common ground found, friendship began and then we entered the kitchen together.  Game changer. Comfort meeting healthy, local meeting mass distribution, dessert meeting vegetables and most importantly, nutrients for the soul created provided and shared.

Noel is the brightness in a dull day, the reminder of the earth we are from and the laughter that makes me spit my wine out, give a ‘lil snort and hide behind my apron.

Noel – The Country Mouse

Day job: Personal chef, community activist and childcare provider
For fun: cook with friends, read, hang with kids, garden and enjoy music
Favorite food: All dark leafy greens
Sign: Sagittarius
Nicknames:  Noey, Curly Pumklin, Queen of Kale
Favorite dish(es) to make: Sauteed Greens, turkey burgers, gourmet pizza, tarts, veggie burgers, fish cakes, roasted veggies and roasted lemon chicken
Most prized kitchen tool: Personalized knife from Japan and onion goggles

Why am I a foodie?

I consider myself a foodie for a number of reasons all of which revolve around my love for people.  I like to work creatively in the kitchen  to share with others, what I call, “premium fuel” for the body.  A good quality life containing  healthful varieties of foods  able to sustain, nourish and enliven others is just so awesome.  Growing up with grandparents who grew and cooked most of their own food and  a father who was adamant about providing well balanced  meals has had an everlasting impact on how I utilize and value food.  I have surrounded myself with friends who are passionate and active about  the quality, health, sustainability and  education of our food system.  The Hudson Valley is booming with hand crafted sustainable farm to table connoisseurs and entrepreneurs, myself aiming to be an active participant.

What I think of my relationship with Théa!

Well…where to begin?  When I think of Théa I always think of good times with good people, food and music. There is never a dull moment with and life is always lived to the fullest, if she has anything to do with it.  I love this about Thea and I love how infectious it is on my life. Since we met,  I have found my life to be more full with friends who enthusiastically sharing their passions and goals.  This is important to me, because I am one who wanders through life exploring the endless possibilities to embrace. It seems there is always a door of opportunity awaiting around the corner  and having  encouragement and excitement from Théa is priceless . I would have to say that I think my relationship with her has been a gift so special that I shall never forget. And I endlessly thank her.

So it’s time to get it right.

29 years of tears, fears, smiles, trials, tribulations, screaming, yelling, carrying on, studying, working my ass off, laughing ’till I cried, laughing ’till I peed, running away, moving, moving to the city, moving to the country, shaking, growing, dieting, dancing, music, travel, living, surving, loving, protecting, reassuring, connecting, pacing, cooking, cleaning, being an advocate, painting nails, running errands, supporting causes, teaching, speaking, writing, being loved, really loved, hurting, fixing, building, getting dirty, dyeing hair, getting pierced, wanting a tatoo, not getting a tatoo, promising, hoping, wanting, lusting, needing, being needed, acting as a conduit, being the shoulder, being the peacemaker, being a daughter / sister / cousin/ niece / granddaughter / friend, singing like no one is watching, gyming, doing yoga, meditating, standing still as the world passed me by and jumping in with two feet just to get in on the fun.

Well that was the past. Today is the future. And today, my 29th birthday is absolutely a gift. A big massive present with a huge bow. It takes these kinds of presents to stand still, peel back the paper, close your eyes and wish that the last time you blew out the candles actually appeared in that box.

Happy 29th Birthday Thea, be good to yourself. xoxo

 

12 years ago today I was told I was in “remission.”

It was a Wednesday afternoon when the phone rang at the house.

I picked up in the kitchen on the second ring.

Dr. Rifkin was happy to report that the LIJ Schneider Children’s Hospital tumor board had agreed my cancer was gone. The chemotherapy had worked. The cell invasion had ceased.

And that is when we started counting years.

The first milestone was the one-year anniversary.

The next major marker was the five-year “cured” mark.

The next was ten years cancer free and no longer needing to report to an oncologist.

Every year was celebrated as if it was my birthday. Sometimes it was just the four of us. Sometimes it was friends and family, too. Never was it forgotten or minimized. This date, October 7, has been and will always be acknowledged by the people who were impacted the most by my cancer. It was a family disease and continues to be a family celebration of life.

Being a 16-year-old cancer patient is complicated and exhausting. It’s a different rollercoaster everyday and you aren’t sure if it’s you, the cancer or your hormones talking. There was a baldhead, a lack of control and cut skin. There was also a strong casted web of determination and love.

Last week, when I found out my parents and sister were driving up on a Thursday night for a celebratory dinner, I realized it doesn’t matter where I live, the city, the country or the moon. It just matters that we remember the gift that was given to us 12 years ago.

The Dave Matthews Band song that became my anthem was and continues to be “Lie in Our Graves.” The lyrics question why would we lie in our graves wondering what would or could have been. I recently came across this choreographed piece:

And then just because I heart him:

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”~ Abraham Lincoln

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