The 50th Anniversary of My 21st Birthday

I would imagine most people can recall where they were on their 21st birthday. Not necessarily the details, as alcohol in excessive amounts may have been in play, but, at least, a general idea.

I definitely remember mine - I was floating off the coast of California. I was still in Uncle Sam's Yacht Club in July of 1973 - A Commissaryman on the USS Ranger (CVA-61).

We had returned from Viet Nam in June, and were back at our homeport of Alameda. I was working 8-hour shifts on the boat, and living with 4 other sailors in a house at 17th and Lincoln in the city, commuting over the Bay Bridge maybe 4 times a week. It was rough, but someone had to do it.

Knowing my 21st birthday was rapidly approaching, I put in for 3 days leave, as the Ranger was going to be out at sea for three days over my birthday. Nothing special, the Navy just had to get us out to sea every once in a while to make sure our lives were properly disrupted.

Military Chain-of-Command is an interesting thing. One starts at the lowest level and things either move up the chain or are stopped at any given level. My leave request was stopped at the first. Our Leading Chief - Chief Tanzio - did not like me. In fact, he really disliked me. He didn't like my attitude, he didn't like that I knew how to get around rules, he didn't like that I was good at any task I was given, and he really didn't like that our Division Head a Warrant Officer named Mr. Dame - did like me - for most of the aforementioned traits.

Chief Tanzio, knowing it was my 21st Birthday, refused my leave. I had no recourse. I was out at sea.

Fifty Years Ago.

Upon separation from the ship and active duty, this same Chief made me get a strict military haircut before he would sign my separation papers - but that's a story for another time.

Fast-forward 50 years and we're camping - at Devil's Lake State Park in Oregon.

The local family up here does at least one family camping trip a season. Last year, it was over my brother's birthday in August. We missed that one because of Covid. Victor caught it and then I did.  We weren't quite past the CDC rules for engagement, so, we stayed home. This year, since my birthday fell on a Friday, it was the perfect date to go. Covid-free.

Camping. The Great Outdoors.

I did a lot of camping and hiking in my youth. When I lived at Tahoe, we went hiking and camping in the Desolation Wilderness, Fallen Leaf Lake, and all over Tahoe National Forest. I even camped atop Half Dome in Yosemite back when it was still allowed. The only time I was atop Half Dome.

But that was then and this is now. Osteoarthritis in knees and hips makes lots of walking less than really enjoyable. [I'm seeing the Orthopedist on August 2nd to work out a treatment plan.]

Victor, the East Coast Boy, had never been camping. He doesn't quite grasp the logic of emptying out half of your house to go somewhere and sit and sleep outside. That's what hotels are for. You need bring nothing but your credit card and a change of clothes and venture in-and-out of nature and luxury as you see fit.  Someone brings you food, you leave them a gratuity. Very civilized.

Instead, we have tents and cots - this old body ain't sleeping on the ground, thankyouverymuch - sleeping bags and pillows, lanterns, coolers with beverages and food, bags with more groceries and snacks, And camp stoves and pots and pans and a sharp knife, a cutting board, plates and flatware, cups and glasses - for 17 adults and 2 toddlers and 4 dogs - not to mention the additional supplies, food, toys and sundry equipment toddlers and dogs require.

Granted, this is drive-up camping where you actually drive up to your site, pitch your tents, and there are flush toilets. But still, the amount of stuff you need to bring with you is mind-boggling!

And then there is the setup.

It's amazing how much work one must do to relax. But relax, we did. And eat. And eat...

This is some gourmet camping, boys and girls! Our first night, our niece, Katie, made a 4-bean chili with kielbasa - just outstanding! There were pasta salads, green salads. I baked cookies for snacking and desserts - and then it was time to sing Happy Birthday!


My sister, Phoebe, baked the cake. Obviously, she knows me well! And it was delicious! I had more than two pieces!

It's finally dark, fire is burning low, and time for the old people to get to bed. The 20-somethings and thirty-somethings stayed up, because that's what 20-somethings and thirty-somethings do.

Into the tent, crawl into the sleeping bag atop out brand-new cots and...

Have you ever heard the story of The Princess and the Pea?!?

Well... let me tell you the story of the Queen and the Boulder.

The cot was extremely hard - properly rigid as a cot should be - but my light and soft sleeping bag just didn't offer any cushioning. Lying on my side was hitting pressure points on my hips, radiating pain all the way down my legs. Lying on my back doesn't work because of sleep apnea. I tossed, I turned, I cursed under my breath - the campground has a 'Quiet Time' after 10pm and I didn't want to scare any wild animals - and stared at the ceiling for hours on end. Three Tylenol PM did no good, at all.

I dozed, fitfully, and finally got up when I heard movement outside. Coffee was perking. I had survived. Barely, but I survived. I was determined not to be cranky - even though I was feeling cranky. The gang started getting up and plans were being laid for cooking breakfast. Food can usually get me out of a cranky mood.

We had bacon and eggs and sausages and pancakes and melons and bagels and English muffins and mini donuts - I got a free dozen for my birthday and bought another three from a great little donut shop close to the house - Pip's, if you're in the neighborhood - and orange juice and... and... and...

We ate well. I was no longer feeling cranky.

Refreshed, Victor and I headed into town to buy air mattresses for the cots. No way could I do two nights in that pain.

First stop, Ace Hardware. They had ONE mattress for $54. Steep, but I would have taken out a second mortgage or sold one of the kids, if necessary. The store employee told us that there was a Bi-Mart down the road that would probably have a bigger selection and better prices. Bi-Mart is a membership discount department store in Oregon. Naturally, I have a membership, so off we went. We walked by the guns and ammo, camo clothing, fishing gear, groceries, beer, and pots and pans, and found the cots.

They had a great selection and we bought two mattresses for $12.99 each - and picked up a queen mattress for my nephew, Bill, whose mattress had sprung a leak. It was $20. Three for less than the price of one.

Armed with a battery-operated pump - of course, no one blows these things up manually -  we filled the mattresses. It was like sleeping on Grandma's Feather Bed - not that my grandmother actually had a feather bed, but you get the idea. It was heavenly.

The rest of the day was total fun - sitting around, laughing and joking, chasing toddlers and dogs, and playing Remember When... There's a 12-year gap between older brother and youngest sister, so it's often fun to hear how different people remember different events - someone who was 5 definitely had a different experience than someone who was 17.

Chili dogs for lunch and burgers with all the fixin's, potato salad, orzo salad, chips and dips, for dinner.

And then S'mores.

Nephew Bill was teaching his daughter how to make them and not fall into the fire pit. I had my obligatory one, but... they really don't do much for me. And they're a sticky mess - when made correctly.

Back to the tent and a blissful nights sleep.

Back up around 6:30am - early to bed, early to rise - and another huge breakfast. These folks really are professional campers.

And then the taking apart of all of those things we spent all of that time putting together. We have a 9'x10'x78" pop-up tent. It takes one person about 90 seconds to put up. Really. It's amazing.

And it takes about 5 minutes to take down because you have to fold it in such a way so it will fit back into its bag. But before doing the tent, we had to empty it out. Deflate the air mattresses and fold them up. Roll the sleeping bags and get them into their bags. Disassemble the cots - which really takes a lot of effort. Collapse the camping nightstand/table my brother gave me for my birthday. Pack the clothes, the lanterns... leftover food and beverages...

And then get it all into the car along with overflow from my sister. We learned tricks to make it all easier, more creature comforts, streamlining techniques...

Easy peasy.

And the final verdict?!?

We'll do it again and again and again - even when it means showing up in our motorized wheelchairs and paying our aides to put everything up.

It was that much fun. And more.

Drag Queens and Guinness World Records

It’s pretty much once in a lifetime that one gets to participate in a Guinness Book World Record, but when we learned of Darcelle XV Showplace trying to set the record for the longest continuous Drag Performance, we knew we had to go!

The criterion is quite strict. There had to be a minimum of 25 people in the audience at all times. The show had strict time limits for emcees and announcements. Performers had set times. And all was regulated by Guinness Inspectors who were there for the entire 48 hours. there was no problem with the audience numbers – it was sold out for the entire 48 hours!

Tickets were sold for 2-hour sets. Ours were for 1pm-3pm on the last day – with 3pm to 4pm as the Grand Finale. We tried, but those tickets were sold out immediately.

The Official Record is now 48 hours, 11 minutes, and 30 seconds!

Darcelle XV – aka Walter Cole – holds the Guinness Record for Worlds Oldest Performing Drag Queen. The record was set in 2016 when she was just shy of 86 and and she performed continually until she passed in March. 2023

We have visited Darcelle’s many times and have always had a great time. It’s an experience everyone should have. A sight to behold was Darcelle performing Rhinestone Cowboy in Rhinestone Chaps – a 92 year old bare ass is definitely something you don’t forget!

The talent and energy of the performers is astounding, and many of the performers seem like old family friends, Poison Waters, Cassie Nova, Mr Mitchell… Great fun, indeed.

And the energy of the performers 45 hours into the record was phenomenal.

The pictures don’t even begin to do justice to the costumes, the make-up, the hair, the shoes – and how ANYONE can dance non-stop across a stage in stilettos is a miracle in and of itself. It was enough to exhaust Tina Turner!

Another great benefit of the Drag-A-Thon was raising over $290,000.00 for The Trevor Project! They provide information & support to LGBTQ 
young people 24/7, all year round. If you would like to donate, please mention Darcelle XV Drag-A-Thon for them to get credit!

While there probably won’t be a repeat of the Drag-A-Thon any time soon, I do encourage all of you to go and visit a drag club near you.

With draconian legislation being passed by Republicans across the country, Drag performers need our support right now, more than ever.

Do your part and have fun doing it!

Pre-Diabetes and Getting Old

I turned 70 back in July. To be honest, I didn't think much of it.

Mentally, I'm a Jr High School kid laughing at fart jokes. Physically, I've slowed down, but... I'm 70, not 20. I'm supposed to slow down.

But slowing down shouldn't mean stopping.

I was doing pretty good after retiring and losing a bunch of weight. Victor and I were gym-rats and spending an inordinate amount of time there. But then Covid hit, we went into lockdown/isolation mode, moved 'cross country, the weight came back, and I turned into a slug. Classic Catch-22 - move less, gain weight, gain weight, move less.

The joints and muscles had tightened up so much that at my last "Wellness Meeting" - old people don't have annual physicals, anymore... we now have Wellness Meetings where things like falling and elder abuse are discussed - my Primary Care Physician set me up with a Physical Therapist to learn how to stretch, again. She also recommended a Pre-Diabetes Program to get me refocused on eating and exercise.

In March of this year I made it up to 260 pounds. 18.6 stone. 118 kilograms. A lot. As of this writing, I'm at 238. Cutting back some, moving a bit more, but I need structure to make this work.

I've always been a Live to Eat person as opposed to an Eat to Live person. I love food. I love new flavors, different cultures, trying new things. Unfortunately, I love it all a bit too much.

I spent 13 years working in Nutrition and Dietetics with some of the best Dietitians in the country. I created recipes for different dietary needs and restrictions. I should know what I need to do. And, in theory, I do. But I also spent years baking and cooking professionally. There are 60+ herbs and spices on the spice shelf, A pantry full of flavorings and ingredients that my impulse-shopping hands grab while my brain is conjuring up what I can do with guava paste, ube, or gooseberry jam. But, obviously, knowing what I should do and actually doing it are two entirely different things.

As I noted above, I need structure - and accountability - to make this work.

September 28th is the fist day of a year-long program of paying attention to what I eat and committing to 150 minutes a week of exercise. The end goal of the program is to lose 7% of my weight - a number that in their studies, has been shown to reduce the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.

Personally, I'd like to lose 15%, but, at this point, I'm just going to go with it.

I'll be heading back to the gym on Monday. I need that structure, as well. I can find a million and one reasons not to do something at home - or even step outside and walk down the street. I need that structure.

I've already started with a daily food diary, logging everything I eat and all of my movement. After we officially start, there will be a weigh-in/check-in every week for the first 14 weeks. It then becomes every other week for the duration.

What's great about the program is it's not focused on "Good" foods vs "Bad" foods, but about paying attention and being aware of what we're putting in our bodies. Looking at triggers that contribute to over-eating or binging. It's about being realistic. There's nothing wrong with having a piece of cake for dessert. It's probably not a good idea to eat a slice every night.

It also stresses that we're human. It's not about beating ourselves up about food or food choices. It's about learning, making better choices - and getting back up after eating that quart of ice cream after having a miserable day.

I don't plan on having any miserable days, but I am glad that I'm starting this in the fall. We're heading right into Holiday Over-Eating Season, and this year, I hope to pay a bit more attention to how many cookies I eat and how many cups of Egg Nog I consume.

I'll be doing weekly updates on Wednesdays because I need the accountability. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate to be wrong and I really hate public humiliation. I really hope my blogging will keep me focused.

Wish me luck.


Homemade Sushi

Our niece, Christine, made sushi for us, last night. Made, as in bought the fish, cooked the rice, and made every single piece of this right in front of us.




I've been eating sushi for years, but my knowledge of sushi is almost non-existent. I have a basic understanding of sushi vs sashimi, but that's pretty much it, so last night's feast was a education, taste, and sensory overload. The only thing I retained was just how fabulous it looked and tasted.

This was not your basic sushi floating by on a little boat.

Some of it was spicy with crunchy dried roe. The flavors and textures were just out of this world. Some of it was double-spiced, with a spicy sauce on top.

The yellow sushi on the right is Tamago Sushi - sweetened egg! Totally delicious. And the fish was just freshfreshfresh. Sublime.

Little serpents that just exploded with flavor.

Barbecued Eel, served with a really spicy condiment I can't remember... Over the top delicious.

And if that wasn't enough, another full tray of assorted flavors.

There was tamari, pickled ginger, wasabi, and a few other condiments I had never heard of - but gladly used and loved. And then there was a sake that was absolutely delicious and refreshing.

I can't even begin to describe how utterly and completely delicious and enjoyable the entire meal was. The skill far exceeds anything I would ever be able to do in my lifetime.

Absolutely delicious.


It's easy to shine when you're surrounded by stars...

And that, boys and girls, sums up my almost 17 years at Trader Joe's. They made it easy. Until the last day.

Thursday, before opening, we were listening to showtunes when One Day More from Les Miserables came on. Someone cranked it up and I was belting it out, channeling my inner Ethel Merman. And then it hit me that I should be taping it, so got the last 50 or so seconds of it on tape...

Right after we opened, my coworkers did a conga line around the store with cutout pictures of me as their heads. I knew at that point I was in serious trouble. I want a picture of that, please... But all and all, it was a more or less a regular day, for me... I was still being bossy and telling people what to do. Just because I'm not going to be there doesn't mean I don't have an opinion of what they should be doing and what should be happening...

They humored me.

And then it was Friday.

I've had jobs that I have danced out, slid out, and stormed out. Never have I had tears streaming down my face. But tears were there - OMG were there tears...

I've spent the better part of the past 17 years embarrassing my coworkers, and they spent the better part of the last month paying me back. There has been a picture of me with a guest book for customers to sign for several weeks with a countdown clock on it. I knew that the last day was going to be excruciating, but, one does what one has to do. I didn't expect it to be so much fun - and so emotional.

The day started out fairly normally. Ryan filled out the Daily Log - our job assignments for our shift - and had me listed as "Anything You Want To Do" for the entire day - not exactly how it was normally written for me, but, what the heck. I knew I had to keep busy even if I wasn't being officially scheduled, so I headed back to the Demo Station.

A dozen bees were hanging from the ceiling and this was on the wall. Okay. I can handle it. But it's also a reminder to never be friends on Facebook with your coworkers. They have access to photographs... Diane was scheduled to work over there but I knew she had a million and one evil things up her sleeves, so I started the coffee, set out the morning treat, and went about things like it was just any other day. I figured I needed to be nice to the woman who was going to be humiliating me later...

The first crack in my defenses came during our Morning Huddle - the time we go over what's happening, share information, eat... Mostly eat... We went through the morning notes and everyone was laughing and congratulating me, when they asked me if I had any final words. The voice cracked and the tears started. So much for my macho cover... Fran got me a box of tissues and marked my name on it - in really big letters.

As blustery and boisterous as I can be, I really, really hate being the center of attention. I've never liked it and I doubt I even will. That, of course, didn't stop anyone...

The morning was running relatively smoothly. I had originally been told that the festivities would begin about 2pm. I was told it was now 11am. A quick text to Victor, because he, Phoebe, and Nancy were going to come up and witness...

It's 11am and the four of us are being shuttled around the store - making sure I couldn't see what was going on. Diane and Sandy called me over to the Demo Station - and it began.

Jen brought over a Depends Retirement Cake she had made.

I then received my retirement apron that Barb handmade. Awesome, or what?!?

I was then given a requisite floppy retirement hat and told to sit in the rocker - with a blanket over my knees. And so it began...

It was a live version of This Is Your Life. Evidently, I have shared a lot of my youth - and youthful indiscretions - with my coworkers over the years. Who knew they were paying attention?!?

Inwardly, I want to crawl into a hole. Outwardly I took turns laughing and trying to dry my eyes. Diane did a fantastic job playing hostess with the mostess and she had me in tears - literally. It really was fun, in a masochistic sort of way.

And then it was schmooze time with customers reminiscing about this and that, kids who I remember as toddlers now off to college, marriages and divorces, cooking tips and cooking philosophies... The same stuff I've been talking about for years - but a lot more political in my waning moments...

And then I escaped to the back room where the food was being set up. It was Pot Luck Heaven with a score of dishes created by the creative crew! The cake that Garvey made was out of this world and it's the only picture of food that I actually got. if any of y'all did, send them to me!

Awesome. Totally awesome.

  • Maria made Spanakopita
  • Liz made Ceviche de Cameron
  • Mariah made Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding
  • Susan made Pineapple Cake
  • Lauren made Veggie Stromboli
  • Barb made Eggplant Parmesan Non-Meatballs
  • Elizabeth made Romesco Sauce
  • Jeff brought Pizza
  • Ryan made Eggrolls in a Bowl
  • Garvey made that cake

I will eventually have all of these recipes online.

Back out into the store...

Sandy made a playlist of music and it was just blasting away... She nailed me with her choices. We were up in the front of the store singing I left My heart in San Francisco, and both of us were crying! Customers were applauding our efforts!

It's now a bit after one and I am emotionally drained - I'm ready to go home. I'm scheduled until 3:30pm, but the Log does say "Anything I want." I figure that means go home. As I start to make my choice known, Sandy tells me I can't leave until 1:30. No explanation, just that I can't leave until at least 1:30. I have worked with Sandy for almost 16 years. if she says I'm staying - I'm staying.

At 1:30, I found out why I couldn't leave... It seems my in-laws planned a little surprise of their own - except they hadn't told Victor - or anyone at the store. Victor had sent a picture to his sister when he got home earlier, and immediately received a panic phone call telling him what was happening! He then called the store, spoke with Sandy, who then, flat-out told me I wasn't leaving.

Over The Top.

At this point, it really was time for me to get the hell out of Dodge. I was your basic mess. I had so many gifts and cards I needed a shopping cart to get them all out.

It's difficult to explain just how much fun I've had over the years, and the awesome people I have had the pleasure of working with.

I have met so many fun people - the customers completely filled my Retirement Book. The comments are heartwarming and humbling. Who knew that simple acts of kindness, a smile, or a snarky-fun comment would really have an impact on someone's day?

The company has changed a lot from the 110 stores they had when I started to the almost 500 today. But what hasn't changed is the love and caring of the people who work at store #632.

We still live 2 miles from the store and we'll still be shopping there. The only thing that's going away is my employee discount.

And having to get up in the morning.

Food, Travel, and No More

Can I ever relate to that quote...

I heard about Anthony Bourdain killing himself this morning, and my first thought was along the lines of wouldn't it be nice if we could all choose the place and time of our own demise?

I realize that's probably a fairly unpopular thought, but... why not? I mean... why do we make suicide so abhorrent? Why do we want someone to keep living when they have decided they've had enough? We label people sad, depressed, fighting demons... we say that if they had only called, spoken, reached out... If we had only seen the signs, asked the right questions, been there... How sad, how sad, how sad...

But no one ever says they ended their life on their own terms. Good for them.

Why not?!?

I thought about suicide 50-something years ago as a young gay kid - and actually didn't follow through with it because I didn't want to hurt my parents - the people I was afraid of hurting because I was gay. Trust me - after all these years, I get the irony.

I'm rather glad I didn't follow through and I'm glad that Anthony Bourdain waited until he was 61 - I liked a lot of what he had to say about food and travel opening up minds. I'm a living example of it. I grew up eating Filipino food and hearing Tagalog spoken because of our friends across the street. It was normal and natural - a loud and crazy family just like mine - except they ate a lot of rice and played mahjong. When I traveled overseas with Uncle Sam's Yacht Club, I got to see even more foods and hear even more languages. I wasn't fearful, I was intrigued. I sought out different foods and ate street food whenever I could.

To this day, the best omelette I have ever eaten was cooked in a wok on a street cornier in Singapore by an older Malaysian gentleman who spoke no English. I can still see his gold-toothed smile and I can still taste the spicy goodness of those eggs and vegetables and spices.

I'm not afraid to hear different languages here in the USofA. I'm not afraid to try different foods. I'm not afraid of immigrants. I'm not afraid of cultures different than my own. I'm not afraid of different skin tones. I love going to different countries and experiencing the foods and culture. I love going to grocery stores and markets and buying local foods to cook myself.

These are things that food and travel have given me. They are things that Anthony Bourdain was able to share on a much broader scale.

And I get the alcohol and drugs he was so open about. I don't even want to think of the amount of money I spent on Bombay martinis and cocaine back in my restaurant and hotel days. The hours, the heat, the stress, the perfection at all times. It really is a brutal profession.

And I regret none of it. It's been a roller coaster of a ride, but, somehow, it brought me to where I am right now - less than 3 weeks from retirement and almost 25 years with the greatest guy on the planet - and a really crazy dog.

I'm really glad the teenage me didn't end things back then, but I still want that option in the future. I don't want Victor changing my pampers and I'll be damned if I will be hooked up to some damned machine for the sole purpose of making me live longer. I want to be able to decide for myself when the quality vs quantity balance shifts. I'm in no hurry. I'd like to stick around for a really long time because there are just so many people I haven't annoyed, yet. A really long time. But I do want that option.

I'll miss Anthony Bourdain and his sardonic wit and view of the world. I'm also glad he stayed around long enough to teach us a few things about food and life.



I came across a great Lentil Recipe site a while back and have been downloading their free recipe brochures ever since.

The site is Check them out!

Chicken with Cous Cous Patties



  • 4 large boneless and skinless chicken thighs
  • tsp. lemon peel
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano
  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. Pepper
  • 6 slice lemon


  • c. chicken broth
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 c. couscous
  • c. grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. chopped oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. Pepper
  • 2 tbsp. bread crumbs


Toss chicken thighs on sheet pan with lemon peel, 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and 6 lemon slices.

Bake in 425 degree F oven 18 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (170 degrees F).

Heat chicken broth and green onions in 1-quart pan, to boil. Stir in couscous. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in grated Parmesan, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, egg, 1 teaspoon chopped oregano, and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Shape into 8 patties; coat with remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs.

Cook in 2 teaspoons olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet on medium, 4 minutes per side. Serve with chicken.

Chicken and Rice Casserole


  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces, patted dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 cup raw, medium or long grain, white rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon each of Italian seasoning and poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Brown the chicken pieces: Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high or high heat (hot enough to brown but not burn). Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on two sides, about 1-2 minutes per batch. Add a little more olive oil if needed with every batch. Remove chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl. Note that the chicken does not have to be cooked through, only browned.

Sauté the onions and garlic: In the same sauté pan add 1 Tbsp olive oil, lower the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 30 seconds more. Remove onions and garlic to a shallow (9 x 13 x 2) casserole dish.

Sauté the mushrooms: Raise heat to medium high, add the sliced mushrooms. Dry sauté them (no need to add butter or oil), allowing the mushrooms to brown lightly, and release some of their moisture. Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish.

Make the sauce: Add 1/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the sherry reduce to about 1 Tbsp, then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cream, and the sour cream.

Assemble the casserole: Add the raw rice to the casserole dish. Then pour the stock, sherry, cream, sour cream mixture over the rice. Add the Italian and poultry seasonings (or fresh herbs) and paprika to the dish. Stir the rice, onion, mushroom, herb mixture so that they are evenly distributed in the casserole dish. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture (in a single layer if you can, they will be crowded).

Bake: Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil. If the casserole still has too much liquid, let it cook a few minutes more, uncovered, until the excess liquid has evaporated away.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Onions


  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


Trim fennel bulbs, and set aside fronds. In a blender or food processor, pulse about 1/2 cup fronds, garlic, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt until finely chopped. Add 1/3 cup oil and purée.

Halve fennel bulbs lengthwise. Slice thinly with a mandoline or very sharp knife.

Season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown chicken until skin is crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving drippings in pan.

Stir fennel seeds into skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Add sliced fennel and onion, seasoning with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Add Pernod and scrape up any browned bits in the bottom of the skillet; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute.

Lay chicken on top of the fennel-onion mixture. Pour 3 tablespoons water into the pan. Cover skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until chicken is just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover and cook off any excess liquid if necessary. Stir in lemon juice.

Serve chicken and vegetables topped with generous dollops of the fennel frond purée.

Cheesy Baked Potatoes


  • 2 tbsp Ghee
  • 4 large Russet Potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 2/3 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup chopped mild jalapeños
  • 1 tbsp of mild jalapeño vinegar brine from jar
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 Large Egg Yolk
  • 1/4 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar


Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with sheet pan liner and set aside. Scrub and clean the potatoes. Pat them dry and rub just enough ghee on each potato to lightly coat the skin. Finish with a light dusting of salt and rub over the skin for even distribution. Place the potatoes on the prepared baking pan and bake for 45min to an hour. (Check potatoes at 45 min.) Check the doneness by inserting a knife into the fattest part of the potato, which will be easy to insert when done.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut off the tops of each potato and set them aside. Use a knife to carve out the middle leaving the walls of the potato thick enough so that the sides do not collapse. Be careful not to cut through the bottom of the potato. Use a spoon to scoop the insides of the potatoes into a mixing bowl.

Sprinkle the inside of the potato with salt and pepper. Set the top into the potato shell skin side down and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the other three potatoes.

Combine the sour cream, butter, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped jalapenos and vinegar from jar, chopped green onion, salt and pepper, into the mixing bowl.

Mix the remaining ingredients together with the scooped potato, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Lastly stir in the egg yolk.

Stuff the potato shells evenly with the filling and place them on the lined baking pan. Bake the potatoes at 400°F for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from oven and sprinkle remaining shredded cheese on top. Return them to the oven for another 4-5 minutes to melt the cheese on top of the potatoes. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Avocado Grilled Cheese


  • 1 avocado
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 slices pepper jack cheese


In a small bowl, mash avocado with lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

Heat pan to medium heat. Spread butter on the outside of each slice of bread, then spread avocado on the non-buttered side of one slice. Top with cheese and close sandwich.

Place sandwich in pan, then cover and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes . Flip and cook other side until cheese is melty and bread is golden brown, 2 minutes more.

Slice in half and serve.