Monday, January 28, 2013

Recipe for Healthy Berry-Pecan Muffins

“Well, dog-gone,” my father replied when I told him that hickories are in the same family of trees as pecans.  You see, we hail from a place where hickories are in abundance, while it is also the furthest northeastern boundary of where pecans grow in the United States, a deep-country-place in Southern Ohio that back in our early days there was so insulated from the rest of the world that it almost had a life of its own.  Neither my father nor I can remember whether or not we have actually seen a tree giving forth pecans rather than hickory nuts in our area.  It was also news to us that American Indians were responsible for naming both of the trees.  The word "hickory" is said to have come from the Algonquian Indian word "pawcohiccora," while the Algonquian term “pacane,” or “paccan,” or “pakan,” meaning “a nut so hard it has to be cracked with a stone,” evolved into “pecan.” 
                If we were sons and daughters of Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, New Orleans, and other warmhearted places along the “Pecan Belt,” we would be familiar with the resumé of pecans—we would know, for instance, that the trees can grow to be one hundred feet tall and live to be one thousand years old—quite a bit taller and much older than hickories.  Now that’s a lot of nuts!  In addition, after peanuts, which aren’t a tree-nut at all, pecans are the most popular nuts in North America.  In fact, the United States produces over eighty percent of the world’s crop of this indigenous commodity.  This is true even though along with John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, George Clooney, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, telephones and countless other good things from North America, with the help of humankind, pecan trees eventually set root in other places around the globe:  Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Peru, and South Africa among them. 

                Along with many other firsts credited to him, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the nation, is recognized as the person who introduced the pecan to areas east of the Mississippi Valley, its native ground.  Having discovered them during a trip to the area, he carried some nuts and seedlings back to his home in Virginia.  He also introduced them to his friend, fellow Virginian, and first president of their homeland, George Washington.  Thereafter, both of the statesmem grew the trees on their plantations, an enterprise that spread to the southern states of the country.  Subsequent to the Civil War, Union soldiers transported the seedlings and nuts to the north, which increased the regard for the buttery-flavored nut even further.  It was a black-slave-gardener named “Antoine,” at Louisiana’s Oak Alley plantation, however, who was responsible for developing the first cultivar of the tree.  In 1876, it was dubbed, “Centennial,” in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the United States.  Since then, in deference to the people who fostered them originally, many of the current, five-hundred cultivars of the plant have been named for American Indian tribes including “Cheyenne,” “Kiowa,” “Sioux,” “Choctaw,” and “Creek.” 
                No overview of pecans would be complete without including pralines, the nutty confection originated in France using almonds rather than pecans.  Stories abound regarding its appearance in the French cuisine.  One account is that Clement Lassagne, chef of Marshal du Plesses-Praslin (1598-1675) concocted it after watching children in his kitchen nibbling on almonds and caramel.  Or, it might have happened when one of his young and clumsy apprentices knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel.  The most popular version involves Marshal du Plessis-Praslin himself.  A notorious ladies man, he is purported to have asked Lassagne to develop an alluring treat for his paramours, which he presented to them in decorative little packets.  For a time, the treat was referred to as “praslin,” after the lascivious gentleman, but evolved into praline. 

              Brought to Louisiana by French settlers, chefs in New Orleans eventually substituted pecans for almonds and added cream to the French praline recipe.  The basic “Big Easy” recipe for this Creole treat comprises pecans, brown sugar, white sugar, cream, and butter added to either rum, vanilla, chocolate, coconut, or peanut butter.  Pronounced “prah-leen” in Louisiana, it is “pray-leen” to the rest of us, but regardless of the way one pronounces it, it is a Southern delicacy.  Having always been sold on the streets of New Orleans, passers-by are lured to the Vieux Carré-stalls of praline vendors by the mouth-watering aroma, as well as the Creole call, “Belles Pralines!”  “Belles Pralines!

                Pecans are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.  Clinical research has found that eating about a handful of plain pecans each day may help lower cholesterol as effectively as designated medications.  They also promote neurological health, as well as delay age-related muscle-nerve degeneration.  If you have a hankering for baked-goods, but want to avoid the unhealthy ingredients in traditional recipes, the following is a tasty and healthy substitute, one that accepts nuts, berries and fruit nicely.  It is also a better choice for people sensitive to gluten, as well as for sufferers of irritable bowel disorder, Crohns and Colitis.  The batter of the recipe can be used for basic bread, pancakes, crepes and cupcakes (add maple syrup to sweeten the batter), crackers, etc.:   

Healthy Berry-Pecan Muffins
(The recipe normally substitutes almond flour for white or wheat flour.  I have found that by adding garbanzo/fava bean flour to the almond flour, a smoother and finer batter is the result.  It also calms the rather strong flavor of almond flour.  Cranberries are featured in this recipe, but any berry, or fruit, will do.)

Heat the oven to 325° (160°C).  Line a muffin tin with large baking cups


1 Tbsp. (15 ml) ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp. (25 ml) maple syrup

1 Tbsp. (15 ml) unsalted butter

(Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix well)

Muffin Batter

2 ½ cups (625 ml) almond & garbanzo/fava flour mixture

1 cup (250 ml) chopped pecans

¼ tsp (1 ml) salt

½ tsp (2 ml) baking soda

1 tsp (5ml) ground cinnamon

(Combine ingredients in a separate bowl)

2 eggs

½ cup (125 ml) Yogurt

½ cup (125 ml) maple syrup

1 ½ cups (375 ml) cranberries (or berries or fruit of choice)

(Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl and pour into the first bowl of the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add enough water to make the batter about the consistency of toothpaste.  Evenly fill each baking cup with the batter and drizzle the topping over each one.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.)*
*With some alterations of my own, this recipe is taken from one of my cooking Bibles:  Grain-free GOURMET by JODI BAGER and JENNY LASS

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Return of the Ditsy Disco Diva

I thought that I had done away with her in the last installment of my yet-to-be-published autobiography, a book that hopefully will be a work in progress for a long time to come because I’m far from being finished with this life.  With any luck, I’ll be lucid enough in my last hours to dash it off to my publisher, and it will be my final wave to the world.  But the Ditsy Disco Diva popped up again recently, and she arrived arrayed in her usual veil of obtuseness.  Thank goodness a friend was having none of it and saw to it that our girl was apprised of her dim-wittedness and in so doing, made sure she experienced her just desserts.  You see, the thing about the Ditsy Disco Diva that is most disturbing to me is her blissful state of self-delusion, a condition that so often blinds her to the truth about other people, as well as herself, both good and bad.  

                By now, you might have guessed that the Ditsy Disco Diva is me, and this little incident reminded me of other times that I’ve been on the receiving end of a much-needed comeuppance.  I don’t know about you, but episodes like this serve as life-shaping moments for me, and although they are jarring at the time, eventually I regard them as little gifts of grace that communicate to me that my old identity has worn out and that I’m ready for a change.  They are breakthroughs, epiphanies.  They are the kisses that bring me to my true self; the someone, or something, that cracks my wall of thorns; the fairy godmother that transports me to an improved existence.  The following story is an example:


Finally, I felt confident that I had extricated myself from an on again and off again relationship in which I had been involved for far too long than was good for me, and I had begun to date other men again.  This was back in the days of disco, and the city where I reside played host to a swinging disco scene (which I loved, by the way…it is really great dance music).  During the time that we were together, my former boyfriend (I’ll call him “Tipsy”) and I frequented the several discothèques on a regular basis where, because of his two left feet, he sat out the dancing and drank to excess while putting the moves on other women, and I, with my dancing-teacher-twinkle-toes, whirled and twirled with other partners at will.  I held my own on the dance floor, which made me pretty popular, as well as pretty full of myself.  All of this activity also kept me sober, which for obvious reasons was a good thing.  In addition, my clear-headedness made it possible for me to weed through the stable of gorgeous and studly guys ever-present in each of the clubs, not only for the purpose of finding suitable dance partners, but also for determining among them the most likely replacement for Tipsy.  I might add that all of the guys were ready and willing.  I didn’t know then, as I do now, that what is uppermost in the minds of guys like this is closing the deal, and it isn’t until they’ve suffered the consequences of a few bad deals that they learn to act cautiously around the corral.   

                Being a bit timid following my long ordeal with Tipsy, my first candidate was safe Steve, my good friend of many years, and my best dance partner.  We had met in the early 1960s when we were fellow teachers at one of the Arthur Murray Dance Studios in town.  Subsequent to my one marriage and divorce and his two marriages and two divorces, we had run into each other again at a discothèque, renewed our friendship, and made a point of dancing together whenever possible.  My breakup with Tipsy being official, Steve and I took to making the rounds at the clubs as platonic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers wannabes. 

                In the meantime, Tipsy wasn’t taking so well to my decision to break up with him once and for all.  He got it in his mind that he needed to follow me, and wherever Steve and I went, a fuming Tipsy was sure to show up.  At the close of one evening, as we approached it to leave, we discovered that the front tires of Steve’s car were slashed.  On another night, a cocktail glass full of booze and cubes was hurled through the air and glanced off of the side of Steve’s head.  A nasty gash and copious blood ensued.  Needless to say, Steve grew wary of being seen with me, thereafter.

                Not to worry—there were still plenty of studlies in my stable of Baryshnikovs.  I chose Tony as candidate number two.  With Tony, I got smarter than I had been with Steve.  I managed to steer Tony to nightclubs on the opposite side of town where I was sure Tipsy would never find us.  Three or four dates into our time together, Tony and I were blissfully happy.  Finally, I had found my one true romance, and to top it off, I had managed to give Tipsy the slip.  Moreover, Tony and I were approaching a turning point:  all of the signs were clear that we were ready to declare ourselves a couple before God and all of His creation. 

                One balmy evening, Tony and I were cozied up to the bar of an out-of-the-way nightclub, and with heads touching, we whispered sweet nothings into each other’s ear.  A large and familiar shadow sneakily slid up the side of my face, and lo and behold, it was…you guessed it:  Tipsy.  Nonchalantly, Tipsy grabbed the backrest of the barstool to the right side of Tony, scraped it away from the bar, and turned it to face Tony.  Lowering himself onto the barstool, Tipsy commenced to stare down my date.  Remembering Steve’s fate, I held my breath in fear of Tony’s destiny at the hands of this crazy man with whom I had allowed myself to be infatuated for a time. 

“This is my woman, Guy,” Tipsy said to Tony with a threatening jerk of his hand that I was sure was aimed at Tony’s nose, but to my relief, Tipsy stretched out his right leg and plunged the hand into the front pocket of his trousers.  The reprieve was short-lived as I realized the possible implications of such a move and nearly fainted in fear of the gun I imagined would appear in his hand.  Recovering my equilibrium, I screeched a high c note that shook the rafters of the room while digging my long and hard fingernails into Tony’s left arm.  A large roll of bills in denominations of fifties and one hundreds (Tipsy was wealthy and always carried this kind of cash) appeared in his beefy palm instead.  “I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you leave right now and never see Linda again,” Tipsy said as he slapped a crisp bill on the bar in front of Tony.

One arm folded over the other in front of him on the bar, Tony leaned forward as if to confirm to himself the authenticity of the bill.  His head swiveled to Tipsy for a moment or two.  It swiveled back to the cash.  At long last, Tony’s head swiveled to me.  Dropping my hands from his gouged arm in readiness of our leaving Tipsy in our wake as we exited the club, I raised my confident eyes to Tony’s.  His head swiveled back to the bill just as his right arm swiveled toward it, too.  As swiftly as a cobra making a strike, Tony scooped the money into his hand, jumped up from his barstool, and high-tailed it out of the place.


Dear Reader:  If you find evidence of obtuseness in this posting, I implore you to have pity on me and to let it slide.  I promise you that it isn’t intentional.  I suspect it is the loss of a slew of brain cells that occurred with each bad choice of a man in my life.  No, no, I’ve changed my mind.  Please let me have it, if you are of a mind to do so.  I can take it!  If I survived Tipsy and Tony, I can survive anything!


A direct link to my current novel, Guardians and Other Angels is at 

To learn more about me and my books, I invite you to visit me at

To view an online exhibition of my artwork, please log onto                        

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Orange & White Affair : National MS Society

An Orange & White Affair : National MS Society

Help us kick off MS Awareness Month at An Orange and White Affair art show. You will have the opportunity to view artwork by people impacted by MS and other Ohio artists, learn more about Walk MS, volunteer opportunities, and other programs and services we provide.
There will be a silent auction of the art pieces as well as a 50/50 raffle. Hors d'oeuvres will be provided and a cash bar will be available.
This year we will be hosting two events. Please note that attendees are able to attend both events, but tickets must be purchased separately. Tickets are $10 in advance and $20 at the door.
ClevelandPurchase tickets. Advance tickets may be purchased until Monday, February 25.
When: Friday, March 1
Where: Around the Corner, 18616-20 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, OH 44107
Time: 5:00 – 9:00 P.M.
ColumbusPurchase tickets. Advance tickets may be purchased until Monday, March 4.
When: Thursday, March 7
Where: The Bluestone, 583 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215
Time: 5:00 – 9:00 P.M.

Seeking Artists
We are currently seeking artists interested in participating in An Orange and White Affair. Artists have the option to participate in three ways – for sale, for show and for auction. Anyone is welcome to submit art for the show, you do not have to have MS or have a connection to MS to participate. Art will need to be collected no later than February 7.
For sale, the artist selects the price of the piece. We will handle the transaction and 20% of the sale price to be donated back to MS.
For auction, the artist donates a piece of art to us to auction off at the event. 100% of the proceeds will go towards the MS movement.
For show, the artist provides us with an item that will be listed as for display only. The artist will receive the item back shortly after the event.
We reserve the right to determine what show(s) the art will be placed in based on venue accommodations and style. It is our goal to ensure that both shows have a variety of art.
If you would like more information on participating as an artist or would like to submit a piece, please contact Ana Cairns at 614-515-4623.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No Sex in St. Tropez


If Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother showed up in my boudoir and offered to give me a make-over, I’d ask to be changed into Barbra Streisand—the voice that is second to none, the profile that is the eighth wonder of the world, the yummy hubby (aka James Brolin) who is the ninth wonder of the world, and all of the rest.  But, if that request were impossible—if there were too many people in line ahead of me with the same request, which more than likely would be the case, my alternate choice would be to be cloned as Ohio author, Rosalie Linver Ungar. 

While some of you are aware of Rosalie, many of you aren’t, therefore, I’ve decided to make it my job today to tell you what I know about her.   At the end of my soliloquy, you might want to become her too, but you are on notice that I got here first, so you’ll have to get in line behind me. 

You will note that Barbra and Rosalie share at least four characteristics of which I am aware:  they are both Jewish; they are both lovely; they are both talented; and they both have chutzpah—that’s Jewish for gutsy.  Barbra’s chutzpah is well-known and needs no endorsement from me, but to authenticate my claim of Rosalie’s grit, I offer as evidence her forthright and seriously entertaining memoir, No Sex in San Tropez, a story about her exploits, well maybe it is more accurately described as her odyssey, in 1974 in the United Kingdom, France and other locations in Europe. 

1974 was a year that was not only pivotal in Rosalie’s empowerment as a person, but it marked a time when the Women’s Liberation Movement was in full force.  In no small measure to the credit of two inspired feminists:  first, the American journalist, and social/political activist, Gloria Steinem, who is recognized as the leader and spokesperson of the movement, and second, Canadian singer, Helen Reddy, whose hit song, I Am Woman, struck a chord with its “divinely inspired”[1] anthem, “I am strong; I am invincible; I am woman,” and set in motion the conversion of countless women of their day from doormats to powerhouses.  Along with Rosalie Linver Ungar and the others, I was one of those women.

The switch was slow-going for many of us—many of us only secretly harbored a dream of our freedom and our equality in our hearts and minds—some of us only took baby steps in that direction—but intrepid Rosalie…well, she took giant steps and seized hers in actuality.  Faced with a second divorce, a humdrum job, and her two teenage sons having elected to live with their father more than two thousand miles away, rather than becoming paralyzed by her grief and guilt, Rosalie chose to transform her pain into an adventure—the greatest adventure any of us can take:  she went inside of herself while in the guise of a care-free, thirty-six year-old, itinerant domestic on the other side of the planet.

What kind of courage does it take for a woman to defy convention, as well as the exhortations of her very Jewish Mother (we all know about the powers of manipulation of very Jewish Mothers), quit her job, and on the uncertain hospitality of a friend of a friend in England, pack her one suitcase, $2,500 in cash and a couple of soon-to-expire credit cards, board an airplane in California where she lived at the time, and fly into an unknown destiny on the other side of the world?  My respect for her would have been enormous if she had trekked from one coast to the other of her own country…but to set sail for England, ultimately alone, no less, as a way of nursing her broken heart…?!

Don’t get me wrong.  Never is the phrase, “My broken heart,” penned to paper in her charming memoir.  Even as she bluffs her way into a position as a French-speaking au pair in St. Tropez, when in actuality she had never uttered a word of the language, and ends up with the entire town at her feet, you get the sense that in caring for the two children and running the household, that Rosalie is working through the maze of her own hurt and disappointments.  But to detect it, you have to read between the lines because I think she had discovered by then the value of some well-placed denial, at times, a mind-set that keeps her memoir an upbeat and entertaining read.    

Even though her children had actually left her, “Am I a bad mother for leaving my children?” does show up once in awhile in the book, but she presses on despite personal uncertainty and her mother’s guilt-trip-laced letters, and takes control of her life.  A friend says to her, “Rosalie, you live a charmed life.”  But I have a sneaking suspicion that she lives a charmed life because, as demonstrated in her book, she has an impeccable sense of timing, feels comfortable in her own skin and in her own stretch of real estate with never a doubt that all of the rest of the planet is her oyster, as well.  But mostly she is who she is, and she lives the way she lives, because she has chutzpah, I think, and the positive aspects of a very Jewish Mother ringing inside of her head.  All of us could do well with a bit of that kind of mothering.

No Sex in St. Tropez is a tour de force you shouldn’t miss.  The book is available in paperback and eBook at      

[1]Helen Reddy, 2003 interview in Australia’s Sunday Magazine (published with the Sunday Herald Sun and Sunday Telegraph).