Saturday, February 28, 2015


Every once in a while I would like to honor those who have survived breast cancer. This post will be one of many that I would like to share with everyone, and it gives me an opportunity to write in a way that I haven't attempted before. I have asked many breast cancer survivor groups to share their stories with me, not only for my blog, but for my new book being edited presently. I truly would like to hear from as many of you as possible as it relates to your story of survival as well as surviving siblings, spouses, children or parents whose family member couldn't win that frightful battle. Of course many of you know of my mothers struggle(Mary's cousin) with breast cancer, but her story will be told in my next cookbook that is dedicated to her and all survivors and those who could not survive breast cancer.
I would like to begin with another lady who is close to home as well.....

Meet Mary M G of Maine

Breast cancer Survivor- 1 year

Mary was born in 1965 to my great aunt Rita Barbara Meeks. Aunt Rita was my mothers' aunt and had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast while in her late 30s. She recovered, only to have cancer return in her kidney(which she had removed), lung(she also had removed) and esophagus. Aunt Rita died March 1, 1991 from the esophageal cancer and she is truly missed by all those who knew her. I often think about her as being joyous and comforting to us children when my Mom passed on.

Her daughter, Mary, my cousin, has endured tribulation as well from this devastating affliction. Although Mary led an active, fulfilling and cautious life, that other-worldly voice still found time to whisper in her ear that dreaded 'C' word. Rich, her husband of 26 years, doted on her as passionately as if on their first date.
It was the day he came home from another, solo mountaineering trip that his caring persistence paid off when he found a lump in her breast.Always the mountain climber, adventurer and caring father and husband, he knew of Mary's genetic susceptibility when it came to cancer and often double checked his wife's self-examination.
"I'll never forget how his hand snapped back, like it touched something hot when he felt it.".

 Although Rich was concerned, Mary was hopeful that this oblong lump would disappear on its own, so she decided not to pursue another opinion, even though Rich was vehemently suggesting otherwise.

A few months later, because of a chest cold, she visited a doctor. After this checkup, and getting ready to leave, the physician asked her if she had any questions. She mentioned that her husband had found a lump and she may as well have it finally looked at if he had the time. Within 2 weeks, Mary, Rich and the rest of the family received word of her breast cancer.

She reflects "As soon as I heard it, a calm washed over me, tears fell silently, and my first thought was not why me, but why not me." After all, Mary's mother and her aunt died of cancer, and she had lost her brother from a different illness. "If I am cured through treatment, great. If I end up passing, then I was okay too because I would be in God's presence with Mom, Eddie, and everyone I loved that went before. "

Chemotherapy was ruled out as treatment for Mary, but she did have 2 surgeries to remove the tumor and lymph nodes, followed by 3 months of radiation treatment.

She survives today, cancer free, but not without her and her three children going through another tribulation. Her husband who had been so cautious, determined to never leave Mary's side throughout every doctors visit during those emotionally frightening days throughout her ordeal, was to be embraced by Mary's mother, aunts and brother before she would be reunited with them. Rich took one last adventure to the high mountains of Canada, all alone as he enjoyed. After failing to check in with his wife at a predetermined day and time, the Canadian government fount him on August 16, 2013, dangling from his climbing gear, unresponsive.

This day is significant in her family. It was Mary's mother's birthday and the same day of her cousins death from breast cancer.


Friday, February 13, 2015

There Is Always A Reason

Remember when our parents sent us off to school after eating a rather large bowl of hot oatmeal? Or if you are(or were) a cook, you always had that small double boiler filled with stringy, gloppy oatmeal we plopped in a bowl for a customer?

The origins of oatmeal is referred to as beginning with a research scientist at British Adhesives and Sealants Association mistakenly finding oatmeal was great as an adhesives during a botched experiment trying to find the best industrial glue.

Although the British Adhesives and Sealants Association is real, the story is not. BUT, I must add that in Cambridge, England, contestants vie for the Golden Spurtle every year. The.spurtle is a 15th century wooden, fancy club for stirring the beloved English oatmeal, or porridge. This is the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship and is, by far, the most anticipated food even in all of England.

Although looking back, I find the flavor of plain oatmeal that took Mom 15-20 minutes(the true Scottish method) to make in the morning boring and almost too bland to eat, it filled our bellies. The only sweetener was sugar and then we added some milk to it so that it wouldn't ball up on us. I enjoyed eating it, however, but my kids would NEVER touch it now, at least not the way we had it growing up.

The main reason(besides the inexpensive cost) is that oatmeal stays with you for hours and hours after ingesting, especially Steel-Cut oats(see below). THAT is why our parents so gladly fed us this "porridge" before school and I will gladly say thank you for caring.

But now that we are older and cooking it ourselves, there are many of us who are still vague on the differences between the varieties. Here is a quick rundown and then I will add two fantastic recipes using rolled oats.


Rolled oats are simply oat groats that have had their inedible husks(chaff) removed, then they are steamed and rolled into flakes. They then are toasted for shelf stabilization. Oat groats, also called berries, contain the fiber-laden bran, endosperm and the germ itself. I remember well my Dad eating Wheat Germ often, which was the germ of the wheat plant. There are also different types of groats, such as wheat and rye, but seen much less often, regrettably.

Rolled oats can be easily turned into oat flour by putting some in a food processor or blender and pulsing until a powder is formed. If you find yourself without breading for seafood or anything that requires flour as a coating, try giving some oats a whirl in your processor or blender as a substitute. You will be glad you did.

There are four different types of rolled oats.


The thinnest of them is the instant oatmeal you see on grocery shelves.

Next is the Quick Cooking Oats, a tad thicker. Used in many recipes calling for oats.

Then we have the Regular(Old-Fashioned) Rolled Oats and lastly...

Extra Thick Rolled Oats. You remember, the kind our parents made us eat before school!?!?


Then what is the oatmeal found in baby food jars? That is oatmeal that is pulverized so that it is a powder. Mixed with boiling water and then cooled, it is the base of all baby food. Sound too simple NOT to do at home, rather than paying .50 a jar, huh?

Generations ago. our fore-families ate porridge, which was much like baby food oatmeal powder, just not as finely pulverized.

Then there are steel-cut oats(aka Irish and Pinhead), which is the same thing as sliced oat groats, but chopped fine before steaming. Steel Cut are not recommended for baking because they do not soften much at all, resulting in quite a chewy texture. BUT, I must confess, I enjoy the texture of Steel-Cut for my morning breakfast because it simply stays with you for hours and hours. And out of all the different types of oats, these are best for controlling blood sugar levels as well, taking the longest to break down in your body, thereby controling sugar "spikes".

Quick Question...

Why has oatmeal been a family favorite for treating itching, bug bites and other minor skin ailments?

Answer: Because it is the ONLY food item in the world that contains avenanthramides. Averanthramides are alkaloids that are proven to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant and is a great anti-oxidant compound.

And lastly. With all the talk about gluten now-a-days, I am often asked if oatmeal is gluten free. You bet it is. But because it is often processed in the same area as gluten rich grains and even grown in the same fields as wheat, it is best to check the package just to be on the safe side, but all in all, oats are gluten free.


Now how about two great recipes that give rolled oats a new attitude?

Yanked Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie Cake

The ooey, gooey goodness of oatmeal cookies is only made better with the addition of chocolate. This recipe is so great during our long winters here in New England. Although dryer and more crumbly than other cakes, this cookie cake should be enjoyed hot and with a mound of whipped cream or ice cream topping each serving so that no crumb is left behind.


Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, very soft
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate covered raisins or cranberries
Whipped topping or ice cream if desired

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray: set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the oats, flour, cocoa, cinnamon and baking soda. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar, on high, until smooth. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and continue beating for an additional 10 seconds, or until smooth and fluffy. Mix the wet with the dry, combining very well. Fold in the raisins, pour into prepared pan. The mixture will be very thick, but still slightly thinner than cookie dough. Bake 25-27 minutes, or until firm but still slightly soft and the edges have pulled away from the sides slightly. Remove from oven to cool slightly before slicing and serving hot with whipped topping or ice cream.

Apple Dipper Oatmeal Cookies
If you enjoy dipping wedges of apple into peanut butter, then you are going to love these cookies. The instant cider mix is found in supermarkets everywhere here in New England, but you may need to order it online if you live elsewhere, but at least look. During the winter months, it is widely available. These cookies are so delicious, moist and packed with apple flavor, you won't be able to put them down.

1 cup sugar
2 cups oats
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
4(.74-ounce)packets apple cider instant drink mix*
1/4 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth
2 eggs, beaten with 3 tablespoons water


Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large bowl, blend the oats, flour, sugar, apple cider mix, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter, peanut butter and egg mixture until well incorporated. Drop by the tablespoon on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between mounds, and cook 13-15 minutes. The cookies will be done when the underside is lightly browned and the edges are slightly crisp. The cookie itself will still be soft, making it hard to determine when to pull them from the oven. When the centers are soft but not soupy, then they are ready. Let cool in pan for 3 minutes before carefully transferring to plates to completely cool. the cookies will firm up once cooled.

Makes about 25 cookies

* I used alpine Spiced Apple Cider Drink Mix but any variety can be used. If you would like, substitute 2 teaspoons apple extract, or flavoring, or even melt down some apple hard candies.