Enjoy Life with Valerie’s Cookies

It is important to enjoy life. Obvious, but bears daily reminder. One thing living in New Orleans has taught me is –frequent celebration is the secret of life. If you ever need a prompt to get your celebration on, check out National Today, a fantastic website that regards every day as a holiday. For example, today is National Squirrel Day. Tomorrow is National Blonde Brownie Day. I think National Beer Can Appreciation day is coming mid-week. Check it out. Not living in New Orleans is no excuse to miss out on having a daily party.

Cookies are very helpful in this regard. I love this cookbook, Valerie’s Home Cooking, by Valerie Bertenelli, such beautiful photography, I’ve flagged page after page after page. I’ve found that cookies are restorative to a call cycle in the hospital. I made these Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies for the last cycle—they were gone before noon. Great texture and flavor. Izzy asked if she could model the book.

Another important stable are easy on-the-go snacks—like all of these sent to me by Enjoy Life. THANK YOU! My white coat pockets are stuffed with teal wrappers and tasty crumbs. #sponsored

Looking forward to hosting a popcorn party on February 4th – the whole point is the popcorn and food for me (and to celebrate the first two days off in a row in 6 weeks), but I imagine the rest of the country will be excited for the football game.

Cake, I Love You

Cake, I love you.

Saints, I love you.

Mardi Gras, I love you.

So many love letters to write, so little time.

Discovered the most wonderful new cookbook, an unabashed testament to the power of cake. Jill O’Connor wrote Cake I Love You which has just cake after cake after cake, and tons of insider secrets like how to make your own vanilla extract. Every recipe starts with “first cream the butter with the sugar,” and it never gets old. I have flagged basically every recipe in the wildly colored pages for future birthday endeavors. Or a day off.

Tonight, I started with the Diner Coffee Cake recipe, and I brought it to a Muses Shoe Decorating party. So much butter. Delish.

Looking forward to the Saints beating the Vikings this weekend…. playoff magic! I’m sure there will be a cake for that celebration,


New Years 2018 with a Side of Superstition

Feeling rounder than usual after the holiday cookie marathon?

One too many holiday macarons from Larsen’s Bakery in Ballard?

Motivated to get moving? To lose weight and feel a little better? Be sure to get an EatSmart scale for you and your chubby pet while you work on changing your eating habits for the millionth time.

While there is no “starting over” in this life or in these arteries, there is always tomorrow. There are SO many good healthy cookbooks right now. Here are a few of my latest favorites:

Sam Talbot’s 100% Real

Cooking that Counts by the editors of Cooking Light

Catherine Gill’s The Dirty Vegan

Complete Months of Meals Collection from the American Diabetic Association

Deep Nutrition by Dr. Catherine Shanahan

Everyday Vegetarian by the editors of Cooking Light

I really like the eating principles of eating vegetarian when you can, as much as you can, AND, real food always beats processed and packaged food. Make dinner yourself AT LEAST two nights a week. As often as you bathe the outside of yourself, make a point to bathe the inside too. For some of you, I would hope this is more than twice a week. Also, I felt this list of simple substitutions in Sam Talbot’s book was a helpful guide. More to come on each of these titles.

Tonight for the New Year, per tradition, KP and I are cooking a variation of the recipe for Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad—substituting black eyed peas for black beans, southern New Years tradition. I love the superstition surrounding a New Year’s Day dinner. Greens confer good luck in money, corn bread (or in my case butternut squash) is a sign of coming gold, and the black eyed peas for prosperity—they swell when cooked.

Delicious and smoky.




Be A Cookie Monster this Christmas with Krusteaz

In Cookie Monster’s dreams, some famous cookie company arrives on his doorstep and puts boxes of their cookie mix and sprinkles in his blue carpet palms and his eyes spin opposite on their orbs like big banged worlds going round in a blink. Well, dreams come true, Cook.

Call me Cookie Monster, and thanks to Krusteaz for putting boxes of their cookie mix in my blue palms and cheering up my holiday ennui.

We made a party out of it! All the wonderful medicine and psychiatry doctors I work with came to do our version of academy awards within our program,

and we decorated little band-aid and prescription bottle gingerbreads, snickerdoodles and sugar cookies. I think I made about 200 strong and they went fast! Rx: cookie.

Krusteaz has a fun tool for those finding themselves in need of inspiration—Holiday Cookie Helper. It’s like a Myers Briggs test for your cookie psychometric profile. Apparently, I’m a chocolate chip and milk shooter kind of person. Can’t wait to try those next! But take the test yourself…

Enjoy your favorite cookies this season and try some new ones– and most important of all, share them with those you love.

Thanks Krusteaz!!!

Acadian Cuisine with Chowder a la Mame and a la Red Beans

The nights have grown cold and dark. Soup season, a time when we bathe ourselves in broths and stews and chowders and tea until the frost burns away. We visited Acadian country last summer and enjoyed many delicious seafood chowders. Simon Thibault has authored a cookbook that is testament to the food of the Acadians, Pantry and Palate.

This book has beautiful photography and hearty recipes that will help readers pack on the lard to protect against the chill. I made this seafood chowder recipe because it resembled the meal we had on Prince Edward Island at a local “dinner club.” Fair warning, this is enough soup to last two weeks between two people. Thibault says this is a family recipe used for celebrations and reunions. In his hometown of 300 people, Church Point, the ocean is in view from his porch. There are haddock hanging from clotheslines in the neighbor’s yards. The scallops and lobsters are brought in by fisherman to their doorstep. This is what I imagined life would be like as we walked around Acadia National Park last July.

Seafood Chowder A Mame

Excerpted from Pantry and Palate by Simon Thibault © 2017, Text by Simon Thibault.

½ pound butter, divided

1 large onion, minced

2 pounds potatoes, diced into ¼ inch cubes

One pound haddock, shredded into pieces

One pound scallops

One pound lobster meat, shredded

½ pound crab meat

1 ½ tsp old bay seasoning

½ tsp paprika

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp salted onions

500 mL heavy cream

2 TB chives, chopped

Melt ¼ cup butter in saucepan and saute onion.

In a large pot, cover potatoes with water and boil  until 2/3rds done, till you can pierce with a fork but not all the way through.

In another skillet, warm up the remaining butter and lobster. Add paprika, seasoning and then the cream.

Bring the potatoes down to a simmer, add the haddock, then add the lobster and cream. Add the scallops, crab meat, and salted onions. Add the bay leaves, keep the temperature low, just to keep warm. Serve with chives.

This is the new Acadian chowder, a la New Orleans.

Red Bean Chowder

Adapted from the Essential Everyday Red Beans package

1/2 lb bacon, cooked and shredded

2 cups chopped onion

1/2 cup diced red bell peppers

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 (16 ounce) package small red beans, cooked

4 cups chicken broth

2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes , undrained

1 cup corn, frozen is fine

1 cup half and half

1/4 cup sliced green onions

In large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, sauté bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels.

Add onions, peppers, garlic and thyme to bacon drippings; salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until onions are softened (about 3-5 minutes).

Stir in cooked beans, broth, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes.

Stir in corn and half & half; continue simmering 5 minutes. Garnish with green onions and bacon.

With your extra beans, decorate a costume and join us this year for Lundi Gras Dead Beans Red Beans parade.

Gochujang Chicken with Crispy Rice

If residency forces a woman to identify with any one particular Disney heroine, I feel that Ariel from The Little Mermaid is who I’ve become. Each time I come home from a 30 hour shift and find myself ELATED to have the simple pleasure of making myself a salad at home or sweeping my own floor like a real human, it is as though I’m coming up for air from under the sea and wondering why I can’t use a giant flipper for legs. “What would I give, if I could live out of these waters. What would I pay to spend a day… [like a normal human].”

In the constant hospital bum rush I’ve really just been making slapdash salads before I crash and burn when I get home, but here is what I plan to make again as soon as our chicken defrosts. Because it was so spicy and delicious.

Gochujang Chicken with Crispy Rice

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 small onion, finely chopped

8 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated

¼ cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more

3 cups cooked short-grain rice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon mustard powder

8 chicken drumsticks, patted dry

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

6 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces


Mix onion, garlic, ginger, gochujang, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sesame oil, and 1 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl to combine; set sauce aside.

Toss rice, cumin, garlic powder, and mustard powder in a medium bowl to combine; spread out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, season chicken generously with salt. Heat butter and vegetable oil in a medium heavy pot over medium. As soon as foaming subsides, add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add reserved sauce and bring to a simmer; cook until sauce appears to thin out, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover pot, and simmer, turning occasionally, until chicken is very tender, 45–55 minutes.

Divide rice into 4 portions; form into ¾”-thick disks (moisten hands with water to prevent sticking). Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. Working in 2 batches, cook rice cakes, turning halfway through, until crisp, puffed, and golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plates.

Add scallions to chicken and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top each cake with 2 chicken legs and a few scallions; spoon plenty of sauce over.

And for burnout, I recommend a splash of humor. And kindred spirits to enjoy your scarce meals with…

Thanksgiving Cake, Pumpkin Butter, Sipp Soda and Pistachio Bites

How is this the first time I’ve ever tasted pumpkin butter? The pride of making and canning your own preserves is a delight I discovered in medical school in what was the year of the tomato with a sudden winter that made me want to bottle the summertime like a jam and savor it through the winter.

I’ve been on a Franny Choi kick lately, and her Strawberry Moon poem strikes a chord with this canning business: “The house was filled with the smell of it, the last misshapen,/ sweet-heavy berries of the season losing their shapes on the/ stove. The house was filled with the smell of fruit unbecoming,/ fruit pulled to its knees at fire’s feet.”

This cookbook, Can It and Ferment It by Stephanie Thurow is the answer to the food problem of the fall—too much harvest and not enough belly room. I started with this pumpkin butter recipe, but Mom just sent me my first crock and so more to come in the fermentation department!

Isn’t that cute how the book has these little old-fashioned notecard spaces in the text?! Okay, for the big Thanksgiving dinner—consider this delight. I’ve made this cake twice, once with all the layers as below, and again, with four layers of ALL pumpkin spice.

“And so, as the light died, we put our mouths/ on the least lovable, the too=full, the easy-bruised, we shouted,/ I choose you, and you, and you, and you, and canned that/ hunger, and spooned it into our mouths on the coldest days.”

I am so grateful for the family whose love surrounds me even when I’m so far, in some cold and lonely call room by myself, I feel loved and cared for and blessed because of you, family; and, also, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be someone’s missing family on a holiday night in the hospital when we have no choice but to band together for healing and hope.

Three Layer Thanksgiving Cake

Adapted from Food and Wine


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for greasing

2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed and drained if frozen

1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 1/4 cups candied pecans, roughly chopped



1 1/4 pounds cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

Kosher salt

Make the cakes first. Preheat the oven to 350° with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds. Butter three 9-by-9-inch metal cake pans and dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 1/4 cups of the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter with the granulated sugar, buttermilk and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Divide the batter among 3 medium bowls (1 1/2 cups per bowl). Whisk the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour into one of the bowls, then scrape the batter into one of the prepared pans. Fold the cranberries and cornmeal into another bowl and scrape into a second prepared pan. Fold the pecans into the final bowl and scrape the batter into the last prepared pan.

Transfer all 3 pans to the oven and bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Meanwhile, make the frosting in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Place the pecan layer on a platter. Scrape 3/4 cup of the frosting on top and spread to the edge. Top with the cranberry layer; scrape another 3/4 cup of the frosting on top and spread to the edge. Top with the pumpkin layer. You could leave it here and display the variety of the layers without putting icing on the sides, or you could spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate until set, 15 minutes. Spread the remaining frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

Look at this MidCity Dinner Club spread for our Friendsgiving this weekend. So grateful for my neighborhood family.

Okay, and then there’s the beverage department—the most refreshing new organic fizzy goodness that arrived on my porch today was from Sipp! DELICIOUS and fresh an au naturale.

My favorite flavor was the elderflower and tarragon sparkling organic bubbly. And then what am I carrying in my scrub pockets for my on-call in-a-rush healthy snack? Setton Farms Pistachio chewy bites! Pistachios and cranberries individually wrapped so I can tuck them into each and every pocket. They are loaded with magnesium, a mineral which is supposed to help relax and calm the anxious. If I could prescribe them, I would.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Over and out.