My brother in Detroit


(From Christmas a few years ago)

The week before last, I took a trip up to Detroit to visit my brother James who is volunteering for an organization called Youthworks Detroit. My biggest regret is that I was too caught up in the whole experience to remember to take any pictures. I did try to make up for it by recording voice memos of my takeaway from the week during my solo 10 hour drive home. I need a good while to process all that I saw in that short period of time. What’s easy to write about is how good it was to see my brother and the work that he’s doing, and be able to participate in it a bit with him. I was so impressed with him, how he assumes his responsibilities and doesn’t complain and is open to learn and grow and has become a real leader and is someone I not only love but respect and admire. If you’ve been to Detroit, you know that it is a very unusual place. It is the skeleton of a once affluent and booming city, and various political, social, and economic calamities have joined forces against it to render it the sprawling emptiness it is now. Nevertheless, I experienced more life there than I have in a long time.

The streets are covered in bright bold graffiti, and the people I met took my breath away.  I was able to sit in on an AA/NA meeting where everyone was so real and true to who they were and what they had experienced, that they were able to help and support those around them in a rare way.  Here in NYC, there are lots of barriers that we build between ourselves and the world to hide behind, and there is a lot of alienation that happens as a result.   In Detroit, what I experienced was an environment that broke down all those barriers and stripped people down to their basic humanity.  The brokenness was certainly very visible, but it was refreshing to be in the presence of so much honesty and authenticity.  I thought to myself, “Marie, if you really want to be educated, if you really want to know what life is all about, don’t let yourself drift too far from places like this.”

It was also very cold.  I was a total weakling, shivering from the time I entered Michigan until the time I arrived back in New Jersey.  And that’s another reason why I was so proud of Jim….for sticking it out through a long gray winter.  He has this hilarious dry cynical sense of humor that helps though.  I get the impression that a good sense of humor is an essential tool to survival in Detroit.  In any case, I can’t wait to see where he goes from there.

Seared Eggplant Parmesan Slices and Moving On


I am here to talk about eggplant, but what I really want to talk about is how the time is coming when I’ll be moving out of Murrayville once again and so I can’t take for granted small wonders like  playing board games of Jeopardy and Stratego with my delightful siblings, and smoking an occasional cigarette with my brother (I know–a bit hypocritical with all the emphasis on health here–so we keep it to a minimum) and sitting on the porch roof outside my bedroom window with Liz and dreaming up our futures.  Today I am grateful for new opportunities, and  for the months of catching up that I’ve been able to enjoy with the people I love most.

Sauteed Eggplant with Parmesan

1 eggplant, slices into orbs
1 can tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp walnut oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano

In a pot, combine tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic and spices. Cook over low heat until the pepper has softened and the onion has become translucent. Use and immersion blender to puree until the mixture has turned to a sauce. Heat the walnut oil in a frying pan and saute the eggplant slices until browned. Set on a plate, cover with the sauce, and top with the grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 2


A Celebration of Beets!


One of the most beautiful things about eating produce in season is discovering how nature is so well in tune with the human body.  In the months when we are most susceptible to depression and lethargy due to lack of exposure to sunlight and often times less physical movement, the winter season brings lots of Vitamin D-rich seafood and loads of tuberous (root) vegetables packed with B Vitamins.  B Vitamins are natural antidepressants and its important to get lots of them in while we can.

Beets contain lots of B vitamins such as niacin, (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5) and pyridoxine (B-6) and are more delicious than swallowing a pill, not to mention their impressive mineral and other vitamin contents.  Beet greens have a nice salty flavor when eaten raw, whereas the stalks taste very similar to the beetroots when cooked.  Beetroots are wonderful when they are pickled and sweetened, or just boiled and eaten on their own.  I like to boil the beets and drink the water that they boil in, which transforms into a sweet red tea full of wonderful nutrients.  I never ate beets growing up and my only experience of them was on Easter morning because my mom used to make pickled hard boiled eggs in beet juice. (Don’t knock it till you try it).  I began eating them this winter and now I love them both for their taste as well as for the energy they give me.  I am just hitting the tip of the iceberg as far as beets are concerned and I’ve seen so many fascinating recipes –including many desserts–where they are featured. I’ll be getting my full share of beets while I wait for warmer weather.

If you still need an extra dose of happiness to shake the winter blues, try playing the Graceland album really loudly.  Works for me at least.

Happy Spring!

In which I apologize for leaving you with beans and broccoli for so long

Not that the soup of the last post is anything to feel sorry for, but I do realize that broccoli has its limits.  I have been eating well in the meantime, but the recipes are not particularly amazing.  Lots of yogurt and sweet potatoes and eggs and chicken, to be honest.   I’ve also had stringy savory corned beef and salty cabbage for St Paddy’s to warm me up after a crazy trek to NYC.  The parade was on Saturday, and because of this it was even more chaotic than I remember; the whole city morphed into an undulating sea of green drunken joy.  It was a good “welcome back” moment, as I had really missed the celebration of St Patrick while I was away for two years.

I am due for lots of recipe postings, but I don’t care because Patrick Murray is more important today.  So I will focus on him while I eat my bok choy salad.

Yesterday the Murray family celebrated Patrick’s baptismal day.  I took two sisters to Target to buy him a gift and try on some of my faves from the boy’s department.  But all the other kids with the pumped up kicks convinced me not to make a purchase yet.

Anyway, during some point in our roaming, I must have dropped the car keys.  We didn’t realize this until we arrived back at the car and so we rushed inside again and retraced our steps and found the nearest Target employee.  She happened to have both dark brown skin and deep cerulean blue contacts and I felt like I was looking at Eurybia reincarnated.  We told her about our predicament and she walked away while we continued searching the isles until I heard a voice behind me saying “Ask and you shall receive.”  I turned and there she was again, goddess of the storms with her cool ocean eyes, holding out my keys.  It was a moment; I knew better than to disregard it so I looked back at her rather intensely and nodded.  Then we drove home.

Profile of Patrick Samuel at age 9

-A real go-getter, motivated and focused
-Excels at most things: extremely athletic, pretty smart, good at the drums
-Loves to laugh, loves having fun
-Likes trying new things like new sports or drawing or anything really

-Goes through great phases: Davy Crockett phase, golf phase, etc.
-Looks up to his older brothers
-Generally fun to be around
-Knowledgable on NBA and NFL stats



-Is a pretty special kid. I love you Patch. First godson I ever had, and born the day before my birthday. Best gift in the world.

Broccoli Bean Soup

In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I usually feel a bit deceptive whenever I record one of my own recipes on this blog (so about 95% of the time).  Recipes are ontologically systematic, and if anything, the way I cook is the opposite of systematic.  I rarely use measurements and I am usually taste-testing everything throughout the whole process and adding spices or throwing in onions according to what my taste buds deem necessary.  The only problem with this is that I am now accountable to a blog, and I cannot just give out a nebulous recipe comprised of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of love all thrown together in a pot.”  I am slowly getting better at self-discipline and training myself to pay attention to the amounts I am using, but I am far from perfect in this regard.  I feel I owe it to people to offer this as both a disclaimer and an encouragement to think a little outside the box and adjust your ingredients to match your gustatory preferences.

That said, this wonderful soup was made in a haphazard fashion, and while I think the measurements of the ingredients provided will yield a most satisfactory result, I cannot be too sure.  So exercise your freedom and edit as you see fit should you decide to stir up this delicious soup in your own pots.


1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
2/3 cup carrot juice (simply puree 3 large steamed carrots with a bit of water)
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked kidney beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Use a food processor to blend together the broccoli with the milk, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese. Pulse until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium size pot over low heat. Add the carrot juice, beans, rice, salt and pepper. Cook for an hour and serve hot. Enjoy! Tastes great with a side of tortilla chips.

Serves about 4

Sesame-Seared Salmon with Spinach


There is something fishy going on.  My pictures keep getting erased from my phone.  I actually have a whole slew of beautiful food that I can no longer account for, and in this day and age, you can’t just put up a post without photographic evidence.  So I guess I’ll have to make everything all over again, or at least re-evaluate and figure out which recipes tasted the best anyway.

This salmon was a winner, but it seems this fish just does not like all the attention, or maybe it’s the camera itself that is sick of my new-founded picture snapping habits.  I’ve had to re-create the meal three times over and I’m starting to get pretty suspicious.  Good thing there’s always Elvis to remind me that my relationship with salmon is worth the time and effort.  Love requires commitment, and it finally paid off to persevere through my suspicions.  Plus it afforded me the opportunity to eat more salmon and work on anger management– a clear win-win situation.

Thanks to BBC Food for the recipe, which I tweaked to match my ingredients. Thanks to all the recent salmon sales that have ensured me with a freezer full of expectant pink fillets.  This particular preparation leaves the kitchen smelling wonderfully similar to a sushi bar.


1 lb fillet of salmon (or a similar amount)
4 lemons
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 large handfuls of spinach

In a large pan, heat the sesame oil. Coat on side of the salmon in sesame seeds and lay seed-side down in the hot oil. Let it brown over medium-high heat. Flip it and begin to brown the other side. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the side with the sesame seeds. In a bowl, combine the juice of four lemons with the soy sauce and stir. Pour the mixture over the salmon, cover and reduce heat to low until salmon has been cooked through. It won’t take too long, as the lemon alone can “cook” the salmon. Remove from heat and wilt the spinach in the extra juices of the pan. Serve hot. Enjoy!


(^^By this point I had run out of cilantro, but it was just fine. I ate it with little sweet peppers instead.^^)

In Which I Decide That Veganism Is Not For Me


There are weeks when I can set myself in the center of such a smorgasbord of plant-based dishes and consider the veganist manifestos of documentaries such as Forks over Knives, and contemplate the horrors revealed in Meet Your Meat or Food, Inc, and for some shining moments think “If I stop eating animal products, maybe I can help the crux of the problem.” And with my steaming bowl of hearty bean chili in hand I think, “Who needs meat anyway?”  Then my brother Joe will do something like bring home this enormous bowl of seafood soup and share half of it with me and I’ll think “Well pescatarianism is a worthy compromise.”


But then, alas, on the following day Joe (who clearly doesn’t know what it means to give away your seafood soup without expecting anything in return) will request my culinary services. I will recall the fact that I have a big fat skirt steak sitting in my possession, and as I lose myself to its peppery perfection and red wine garlic butter sauce I sigh and realize, again, that veganism will always be a noble aspiration that I will never subscribe to as long as my meat-loving heart shall live.


1 grassfed skirt steak (mine was about 1 lb. and was quite enough for 2 people)
1/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground peppercorn
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp walnut oil

Rub both sides of the steak well in salt and pepper. Set in a pan on medium heat in a tbsp of walnut oil. Cook until one side has browned and flip to continue on the other side. In a small separate pot, simmer all other ingredients into a sauce. When the steak has cooked to your liking, serve with the sauce spooned over. I also served mine with SMASHED!! potatoes. (Doesn’t that sound way more fun than mashed potatoes?) Enjoy!


(^^PS. It looks like Cora woke up with a nightmare. Maybe it was all that Vampire talk yesterday. She was ok after I sang to her a little. ^^)

A Celebration of: The Small Stuff

Awhile ago, my sisters and I minus Lulu drove down to Maryland to watch our scrumptious nephew while my brother and sister-in-law went away for the weekend.  In that time we did lots of fun things, including but not limited to watching marathons of Vampire Diaries.  Who says you can’t be an adolescent teenage girl forever??

Anyway, Hannah was not allowed to watch because I was concerned it was maybe too scary and boring for her anyway, so she would do her own thing but still got to hear everything going on in the episode.  At one point, being the neurotic older sister I am, I asked her if the episodes were scaring her.  Our conversation went like this:

Me: Are you having Vampire nightmares?

Hannah: No.  I don’t get nightmares.  Well, sometimes I do when I’m sick, but they are about things that other people wouldn’t think are scary.

Me: Like what?

Hannah: Like me being alone in a big white room and then the Beverly Hillbillies come in.  It’s like claustrophobic or something.


This is what I love about a huge family.  There is always more to discover about my very own siblings.

Or, as Tin Man Sanchez likes to say, “It’s the nitty gritty of life that’s the best part”  


Amen, Tin Man Sanchez!

Enjoy your weekends..and love the ones you’re with!

Lola’s Chicken Adobo and Brown Rice

(^^One of those times where I was too busy stuffing my face to worry about silly things like good photos^^)

I have lived in 7 different houses throughout the course of my childhood, and it just so happens that I have had the same set of neighbors in pretty much all of these locations. We haven’t tried to figure out the chicken-or-egg of who was following who around, but it does seem rather fishy how my family always ended up around the block or down the road or across the street from this family. Anyway, they also happen to be my godparents and I happen to be good friends with their kids, so its a win-win situation. They are half Filipino.

The other night I ate in their home for dinner, as I tend to do, and we ate a prince of a meal called chicken adobo. I was sitting there in awe of what was entering my mouth (and it wasn’t even the first time I had partaken of this delicate masterpiece), when Lola, the little grandmother chef-of-the-night came in. I asked her for her recipe and the gist of the whole thing is simply: Buy a chicken and cut it up and then stick it in a pot with equal parts soy sauce and vinegar. Throw in an onion and some garlic, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer away until the meat is falling off the bones and the chicken has had time to sit in the savory juices and absorb it all up unto itself. Then it’s your turn to absorb the chicken into your lucky little stomach. And in my case, as it was made by Lola, I know there was a lot of love thrown into the pot as well. Lola is quite an amazing woman with an unmistakable laugh that escapes her with (no joke) every sentence she speaks. She’s this steady, faithful and strong woman with a generous heart of gold. You’re lucky to have her recipe.

It is with utmost reverence to Lola and her years of cooking up delicious things that I present to you this Chicken Adobo.


1 free range organic chicken, cut into parts
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup vinegar
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic

2 cups basmati rice

Put everything in a pot (except the rice), bring to a boil and then let it simmer for about an hour. In a separate pot, cook the rice with 4 cups of water on low until moisture is fully absorbed.


When you can’t find the garlic cloves, look behind Marcus’s fishbowl. He’s sneaky like that and loves to hide the garlic. When everything is finished, the chicken will be extremely tender and well-marinated, and there will be lots of extra sauce in the pot. Serve the chicken over the rice and spoon extra juices on top.

Cauliflower Zucchini Curry

The weather has been calling for lots of soups and stews lately, with all this dampness hanging in the air and making everyone sick. Luckily, this curry happens to be a great defense for the immune system, in large part because of its spices. Cumin and turmeric are well known for their healing and fortifying properties. The carrot juice provides the vitamin A, while the kale is chock-full of wonderful vitamins. Both the cauliflower and zucchini are anti-inflammatory vegetables with B vitamins. Cauliflower also contains stores of omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K.
I like using cauliflower because of my impossible weakness for the underdog in every situation. It seems cauliflower doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and if there’s anyone who will side with the losing team, its me. Cauliflower is making a slow come-back these days, as it should, because it is extremely versatile and can be incredibly tasty when treated properly. I like to think that I am playing my part by making this warm toasty curry. This dish is packed with flavor, spice and color, and it’s just the thing to chase away the blues that can come with too many rainy days.


2 medium yellow zucchinis
1/2 head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
2/3 cup pure carrot juice (about 2 large carrots steamed and juiced)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ginger

In a medium size pot, simmer together the tomatoes, carrot juice, and half of the minced garlic on low heat. Stir in one tsp of curry powder along with the cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander and ginger. Dice the zucchini and divide the cauliflower into small florets. (I used blended cauliflower that I had on hand from my cauliflower pizza crust, which also worked fine). Heat olive oil over a stove top and saute the zucchini for about 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oil and add to the pot with the tomato curry sauce. While oil is still hot, add the onion. Saute for about two minutes, then add the cauliflower to the pan and saute for about 8 minutes. Lightly salt, then add the garlic and saute together for a few more minutes until brown. Add to the tomato curry. Stir everything together and add the second teaspoon of curry powder, the rest of the salt, and the chopped kale. Simmer on low until kale has wilted. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Serves 4