Adaptable Recipes, Food Glorious Food, Makeover Monday Meals

Makeover Monday Meal- Summer Salad Edition

It’s hard to believe that we are already more than halfway through the month of July. With summertime temperatures rising across the country, light, refreshing, and easy-to-prepare recipes are the order of the day.

In our search to find the best of light, healthy, and tasty, this recipe from Simply Recipes for Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing fits the bill. Moreover, we were able to adapt it to add protein to fit with vegetarian and vegan diets too.

This recipe fits the dietary requirements for:

  • Gluten-free diets
  • Low Sugar or No Sugar diets
  • Low-Carb
  • Keto-Friendly (don’t add corn or tortilla chips)

Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad by Simply Recipes adapted by Chamein Canton

PREP TIME25 mins
COOK TIME10 mins
TOTAL TIME35 mins
SERVINGS4 servings

Ingredients

  • For the salad
  • 6 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped and packed
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup English or Persian cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon plus1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (2 medium ears) or frozen and thawed
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 package of extra-firm tofu, drained or 1 package seitan)
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix (low-sodium taco seasoning or your favorite taco seasoning in the packet or homemade)
  • 12 corn tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (Feta cheese or Cheddar cheese can be substituted)  (For Vegans mozzarella or cheddar shreds are a good choice)
  • For the dressing
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Combine salad ingredients:

    Combine the lettuce, red pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, and scallions in a large serving bowl. Set aside.

  2. Char the corn:

    Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium or large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the corn.

    Season corn with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until blackened in spots and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  3. Season the chicken:

    Sprinkle the taco seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon salt over the surface of the chicken, rubbing it in and coating it so the chicken is fully seasoned.

  4. Cook the chicken:

    In the same skillet used to cook the corn add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until deeply brown along the bottom and the flesh turns opaque about halfway up the side, 4 to 5 minutes.

    Flip the chicken and continue cooking, until brown on the second side and fully cooked through another 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Cut the chicken:

    Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board. Once it is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

  6. Make the salad dressing:

    Place the lime juice, vinegar, honey, cumin, salt, pepper, cilantro, and olive oil into a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water, if needed, to get the blender going.

    Alternatively, make this dressing by hand. Finely chop the cilantro and place it in a medium bowl. Combine all salad dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth.

  7. Finish and serve the salad:

    Add the corn and chicken into the bowl with the salad ingredients. Crumble the tortilla chips over the top.

    Add about two-thirds of the dressing and toss to lightly coat. Add more dressing and toss again, if needed. Divide salad into 4 bowls, top with crumbled Cotija cheese, and serve.

Notes for Vegan and Vegetarians

  • To replace the chicken, you can use extra-firm tofu or seitan instead. Prepare it as you would the chicken, being mindful not to crowd the pan when sauteing in the pan. To keep it from steaming, cook the tofu or seitan in batches.

For those who don’t like Cilantro

  • You can use parsley to make the dressing in the same proportions.

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Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Chronic Illness- Old-fashioned advice for what you can do to manage and thrive in spite of the pain to continue to live your best and healthiest life.

Like women, fine wines get better with time. Wines become more nuanced and complex with age, also like women. Our value increases as we age and come into our own. We are powerful. However, we’re vulnerable too. Many women who are north of forty have found themselves facing a chronic illness. It can put a damper on our health and affect our mind, body, and soul. The key is to take ownership of it, so we have the condition, but it doesn’t have us.

What is a chronic illness?

Chronic illnesses are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic diseases can include heart disease and autoimmune diseases like MS, Lupus, Epilepsy, and Diabetes. It also encompasses injuries sustained that affect your knees, back, or hips.

According to the CDC, six in ten adults are living with a chronic illness. Four in ten adults have two or more chronic conditions. The leading causes of death and disability are heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. The key risks for these diseases are tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol use (CDC 2020)

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm

Ben Franklin wisely stated that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Many women who are north of forty and fifty-plus, are used to being the person who is counted on. Whether as a wife, mother, daughter, or sister, women tend to be natural caretakers and nurturers. All of us have a role we play in our families, and it’s something we take to heart. Nevertheless, we must realize that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will do it for us. We are our own best resource. So, find the time to take care and deal with your chronic condition.

Your Medical A-Team


The right doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistant is an essential part of your healthcare team. A doctor who is knowledgeable and has your full health history is an important asset in determining the measures taken to mitigate any issues of pain and discomfort that arise from your condition. Talk to them if you’re on medication and would like to add vitamin supplements to boost your health. Vitamins, like over-the-counter medications, can interact with doctor-prescribed medications. Also, if you’re on medication, and you lose weight, be sure to see the doctor particularly if you’re taking something for a condition like hypertension. Your doctor takes your weight and height into consideration when figuring out the dosage. If you lose a significant amount of weight, he or she may want to reevaluate it. The same goes for pain medication.

While your doctor has a lot to do with your well-being, you are always in control. Try to find activities that relieve stress. Low-impact exercises like walking and swimming, provide a workout that lessens stress on your joints if you have issues with your legs, knees, or back. Many things like yoga, pilates, and Tai-Chi, can be modified to accommodate your level of fitness and disability. If you don’t want to join a gym, you can go on YouTube where they have channels dedicated to different types of workouts. Fitbit, Peleton, and more have apps to assist you with finding an exercise program suited to your needs. Find a physical activity you can commit to. You’re more likely to keep up with it when it’s something you enjoy.

Design a diet that works for you

Healthy Food Choices

Moderation is the way

Think about your diet. No need to subscribe to any diet program with pre-measured food that comes in a box. Create a diet that works for you. Drastic changes like veganism or no-carb can be a shock to the body. Eating a healthy diet filled with vegetables, lean protein, fruits, and lots of water is a great way to go. Limit processed foods, salt, and too much sugar. That doesn’t mean you are going to graze and eat tofu for dessert for the rest of your life. The key is moderation. Before there were Weight Watchers, Nutri-System, Jenny Craig, or Keto-anything, there was moderation and portion control. Portions in the United States are larger than most countries. In France, they consume butter, cream, and cheese, but they have a low rate of heart disease. By eating smaller portions throughout the day, the French keep their bodies fueled efficiently. It makes a difference.

Focus on your likes and dislikes to come up with a diet that works for you and your lifestyle. If you can afford it, try a pre-made meal service that delivers weekly. If that doesn’t fit your budget, but you’re not crazy about cooking, keep it simple with recipes that require a minimal amount of ingredients and don’t take much time. Eating healthy is possible on a budget. Shop around to find the best deals and sales. Also, change things up with different cuisines. Or try new food. Variety is the spice of life, and it keeps mealtime interesting.

Lean on family, friends, or call a professional for support

We all need a support system. Many of us are used to being the one who is there for others. There are days when even the toughest and strongest of us need an ear and a shoulder to lean on. Allow your friends and family to be there for you. Moreover, feel free to talk to a professional about your feelings. A little talk therapy goes a long way. Then again when all else fails, try chocolate. This one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from King Arthur is low-fat, dairy-free, and a snap to make.

https://anchor.fm/chamein-stillachicklit
Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

When Stuck behind a creative gate, this writer loves to laminate

Zen with pastry

For as long as I can remember I loved to write. My paternal grandmother, was an avid and voracious reader. She went through about three books a week. She was a big Sidney Sheldon fan. The cover for the Other Side Of Midnight still sticks out in my mind. Grandma Salley, my maternal grandmother loved to read, but she was also an epic letter writer. She corresponded with friends and family weekly, and never seemed to run out of things to write about.

Thankfully, as a professional writer and author, I have never been at a loss when it comes to things to write about. Writer’s block is real thing and feel paralyzing. Conversely, the overabundance of ideas can easily result in choice overload, making it difficult for writers to narrow the choices and make a decision. I tend to fall into the latter situation, and heading into the kitchen helps me get over the hump.

I make the most of the tactile nature of cooking and baking to take my mind off the choices and focus it on another task. Nine times out of ten, I figure out my next steps through baking. However, when I’m not sure what I should do next, I take out the big guns and delve into more complicated recipes for pastries, like croissants.

Cooking something that is a bit more complex like paella or a Bolognese sauce, can work, but it’s the order found in baking that’s more effective for me. In cooking, as long as you stick to the basics of techniques, you can adjust seasoning, add more or less of an ingredient, or even omit something. That’s not the case in baking, it’s a science. You cannot add more leaveners like baking powder, baking soda, or yeast. Eggs are important for structure. Milk and butter add to tenderness and texture. Even in gluten-free and vegan baking, the substitutions must do the same thing, which is a challenge, but can be accomplished. The order in baking works for my writing process and channels stress.

Laminating dough creates thin layers of dough and butter through the process of rolling and folding. It’s tedious, but something about it works for me. With each turn, my mind clears and I find the clarity needed to decide what’s next in my manuscript, whether it’s adding another character, or fleshing another character further to add dimension for the reader. Is the dialogue snappy or too smart or overly witty for witty’s sake. Naturally, this is my process, and every writer is different. Some go running or take a walk. Others go to their favorite diner or park to watch people. A long drive is a good option too. The fact is anything that brings you peace will inspire and break your writer’s block or illuminate the path to making the right choice to move your story forward. Admittedly, if you work it out in the kitchen, both you and the people around you receive a very tasty benefit. In my case today, they get croissants. There’s nothing wrong with that.

King Arthur Baker’s Croissant recipe adaptation by me

Ingredients

Dough

2 large eggs + enough warm water to make 2 cups (454g) of liquid (6 tablespoons Aquafaba or ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda) **

1/4 cup (50g) sugar, divided

5 1/2 to 6 cups (659g to 723g) (gluten-free all-purpose flour or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour)**

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet) 

2 tablespoons (28g) salted butter, melted (vegan butter) **

1/2 cup (56g) Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk, optional

1 scant tablespoon (16g) table salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional; for sweet pastry)

Butter Layer

30 tablespoons (425g) unsalted butter, cool to the touch (vegan butter)**

3/4 teaspoon table salt or ½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (60g) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour)**

Instructions

For the dough: Put the eggs and water in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups (362g) of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until well blended; set aside to let the sponge work.

For the butter: Cut the butter into 1˝ chunks and combine with the salt and flour at low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment just until smooth, with no lumps. Be careful not to beat too much; you don’t want to incorporate any air. My tip, while the stand mixer with the paddle attachment works well, you do run the risk of add air to the butter. I used my pastry cutter and worked the flour and butter into pea-size clumps, then turned it out onto parchment paper, put another sheet of parchment over and rolled the butter until I had the shape I wanted. Then in the fridge it went.

Spread the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and shape into an 8˝ square. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Finish the dough: Add the melted butter to the sponge. Whisk together the remaining sugar, 2 1/2 cups (298g) of the flour, the dry milk, and salt and add to the sponge. Mix until the dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes; touch the dough lightly with your finger. If it’s still sticky, add the remaining flour 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is the desired consistency. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat it into a 9˝ square, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To laminate the dough: Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and gently roll it to a 12″ square.

  1. Unwrap the butter square and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in a square. Pull the corners of the dough into the center of the butter diamond. Moisten the edges with a little water and pinch the seams together well to enclose the butter. Dust the top with flour and turn the packet over.
  2. Tap the dough all over with a rolling pin, encouraging it into a rectangular shape. Once it’s pliable, roll it to a 20˝ x 10˝ rectangle, picking it up and dusting lightly with flour as needed.
  3. When you’ve reached the proper size, use a dry brush to sweep off any excess flour and fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. Take care to keep the edges straight and line them up directly over each other. If the dough slides around, use a little water at the corners to tack them in place. This is your first turn.
  4. Rotate the dough out so it looks like a book about to be opened. Roll the dough out once more to 20˝ x 10˝ and fold it as before. This is the second turn. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
  5. Give the dough two more turns after its rest, then wrap the dough well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using. You can also freeze the dough at this point.

To shape the croissants: Cut the packet of dough in half. Wrap and refrigerate or freeze one half.

  1. Roll the other half to a 13˝ x 18˝ rectangle. Trim the edges about 1/4˝ all the way around with a ruler and pizza cutter. This removes the folded edges that would inhibit the dough’s rise.
  2. Cut the dough in thirds lengthwise and in half down the center. This will give you six 4˝ x 9˝ pieces. Cut these pieces in half diagonally and arrange them so the points are facing away from you. Stretch them gently to make them a little longer, then cut a 1˝ notch in the center of the base of each triangle.
  3. Take the two inside corners of the notch and roll them up toward you, building a curved shape as you roll the base of the dough toward the tip. Make sure the tip ends up under the bottom of the croissant. Place the shaped pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet, curving the ends toward each other. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Take the croissants out of the refrigerator, and let them warm and rise for 60 to 90 minutes at room temperature. They should expand noticeably, and when you gently press one with your finger, the indentation should remain.
  5. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush each croissant with an egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until deep golden brown and no raw dough is visible where the layers overlap. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.

Tips from King Arthur Bakers

Bubbles and leaks: It’s not unusual to have air trapped inside your laminated dough. If this happens, simply pop the bubble with a toothpick and press the dough down to lie flat. If there’s a bare spot where butter is coming through, dust the leak with flour, pressing down lightly so it sticks, and continue on with the fold. Refrigerate the dough as soon as the fold is done, to firm it up.

As you work, keep the dough, work surface, and your rolling pin well dusted with flour. Turn over the dough from time to time. As you roll, you tend to expand the top layers more than the bottom. By flipping the dough over, you’ll even that out. Before folding the dough over on itself, use your pastry brush to sweep off excess flour. This will help the dough stick to itself after folding, so the layers don’t slide around.

When rolling the dough, especially for the first time, be sure the dough and butter are at the same consistency; this will make rolling much smoother and the layers will be more even.

Vegan/non-dairy adaptation tips

** For most vegan bakes that have less than three eggs, I usually list flaxseed or chia seed eggs and egg replacer. We tried that in the test kitchen and both substitutions don’t work as well, it’s too dry even with additional liquid added. To keep the recipe as close to the original as possible the Aquafaba and silken tofu eggs worked beautifully.

** I also normally list more gluten-free flour alternatives, but we found that gluten-free all purpose and the baking blend worked exceedingly well

** Vegan butter is the best alternative. Margarine is too oily and you won’t get the same flaking as you get with butter

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

It’s about time. Hurry up and wait. It’s a part of more than just a day in the life of a writer or literary agent

The clock is always ticking

A day in the life of a writer can be filled with many things. We have appointments, errands to run, kids to raise, meals to cook, and dry cleaning to pick up. Mix in a day job, career, or business to run, and we have more than enough to keep us occupied. However, I have discovered that in the midst of it all, I find time to write. Most of the time, it’s a welcome relief and a way to put the worries of the day out of my mind. Then there are times when literary inspiration comes at a bad time, particularly when I need to focus on something else that’s pressing. Nevertheless, I’ve got that figured out for the most part.

The most difficult aspect of writing is when we have to cool our jets waiting for an answer once we have had our work submitted to an agent or a publisher for review. No matter the subject, fiction or nonfiction, writers pour a piece of themselves into every page. In fiction, we know every character intimately, the emotions in every sentence, the setting, and every verb. For nonfiction, we have researched the subjects thoroughly, done our due diligence, used our experience in an authoritative yet approachable manner. The work put into it is all about love. Writers love to write and we accept that all the time we put into our writing, may or may not be rewarded with an offer to publish.

Moreover, even if a writer gets a literary agent who is going to represent them to publishers, there is more time built into that proposition as well. Publishing is notoriously slow when it comes to reviewing manuscripts and that’s not a dig about editors. These days the business of publishing in terms of reading manuscript submissions is something that happens outside of business hours. That is true of literary agents as well and I can speak to that as an agent. I almost never have an opportunity to review a submission during business hours. I read in the evenings before and after dinner. I also spend weekends reading as well. This is an industry filled with hurry up and wait

I understand the frustration from both sides. I try to let writers know that the best thing they can do is to keep on writing. It’s also a good idea to incorporate other creative outlets to help ease anxiety. Cooking, baking, painting, sewing, or drawing, are just a few things that let you focus creativity and nerves in a productive way. I have several personal projects happening at the moment and if I stay too focused on them, I will drive myself crazy. As it is the winter, it’s not like I can go out and take a walk like I do in the warmer months. I use my kitchen as my ashram and experiment with different recipes or work on adapting recipes to make them healthier, gluten- free, or no-sugar. It keeps my mind busy. It wasn’t long before some story issues I couldn’t figure out, became clearer and I picked back up writing again. So, time does have its advantages

Your next big book idea could be a brushstroke or stir away

My advice to writers is always to write. However, when your mind needs a break, use the time to do something else productive. That said, spend time with the people you love, that helps. A little face time with a nephew or a daughter can do wonders. Attend your family’s next Zoom, call a friend, grab a coffee, bundle up and take a walk if it’s a nice, moderate day. Just take a couple of beats. It won’t derail you, but it will help you take your eyes off the clock.

Working on recipes is what I like to do. I also like to share them.

Pasties Pastry Recipe Recipe from New Orleans Kitchen Queens

1 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 sticks) cold unsalted butter (vegan butter)

1/4 cup ice water

In a large bowl combine the flours with the salt. Dice the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. With the back of a fork press the butter into the flour until the butter is incorporated (there will still be small pieces of butter in the mixture). Make a well in the center of the dough and pour in the ice water. Gently blend the water into the dough until it forms a solid ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and refrigerate for at least on hour before rolling.

Chicken Filled Pasties Recipe adapted from Healthy Nibbles

½ pound chicken breast or tenderloins, cubed

1 large- sweet onion or 2 medium sized onion, diced 

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 large Russet or Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium sweet potato, diced

1 teaspoon ground thyme

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

generous pinch of salt

black pepper

1 large egg, whisked (or 1 tablespoon Aquafaba plus 1 tablespoon water, whisked)

  1. Add diced Russet potatoes and sweet potatoes to a sauce pot. Cover with water, then add a pinch of salt. Cook the potatoes on medium-heat until they are fork tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, add oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the carrots and onions. Cook until the onions begin to soften, and the carrots are getting a little tender.
  3. Add the garlic in, and cook for thirty seconds. Stir in the cubed chicken and cook stirring until no longer pink and cooked through.
  4. Add the potatoes. Sprinkle the thyme and rosemary over the chicken mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook through until heated adjusting seasoning as needed
  5. Let the chicken filling cool before filling the pasties.

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 4 or six pieces on a well floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll into discs about 8 1/2-inch circles. Turn the dough over frequently to prevent it from sticking to the surface. You can roll all the circles out at once, or do it one at a time, depending on your counter space. If you choose to roll out one at a time, refrigerate the dough in between in circle. Cold is essential for flaky, crumbly, pastry without soggy bottoms.

Take a small handful of filling and place it in the center of the rolled out dough. You want to make sure that there is about an inch of clear space around the edge of the dough. Brush the egg white along this empty space.

Fold the dough over the vegetables to create a semi-circle shape. Do this with confidence! Seal the pastry. You can crimp the edges with a fork or fold it like I did. When I folded the edges of the pasty, I brushed some egg along the edge so that the folds stayed put. Brush some of the egg wash over the entire pasty. Repeat these steps for the rest of the dough.

Place the prepared pasties on the baking sheets and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pasties are golden brown.

  • You can make these vegan. Just omit the chicken and replace with more vegetables. Feel free to add traditional swedes (rutabagas) or other vegetables you enjoy.
  • I’ve tried this with shortening and it doesn’t come out the same. It’s a little heavier. Stick with vegan butter, even non-dairy margarine is a good choice.
Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

I was a teenage man snatcher and Martha Stewart is partially to blame

It’s a heck of a thing to call yourself a teenage man snatcher, and to point to Martha Stewart as the reason it happened. Well, I have to be honest, she was just one factor that contributed to my delinquency, and she is in good company. Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte also contributed to my rep as a modern Victorian seductress.

I loved all things baking from a very early age. My dad gave me an Easy Bake oven when I was four, and once I saw a wedding cake, it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on stacking and frosting cakes. Eventually, my baking repertoire grew over time to include cookies, pastries, bread, muffins, and naturally more cakes. At eleven, I had a subscription to the cooking magazine, Cuisine, which eventually became Gourmet. I loved trying new recipes to challenge myself and improve my skills.

I was a teenager in the eighties. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas, and Dynasty. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura were the onscreen soap couple. Cooking shows were limited to PBS on Sundays and for a few precious hours on Monday evenings. I wasn’t allowed to date at the time. So, while other girls were getting ready to go out to a movie on Friday and Saturday night, I was at home or spending the night over my best friend Melissa’s house listening to the Beatles, Adam Ant, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Madonna got some airplay from us too. After all, she was a Leo like Melissa and me. Not to mention, Madonna and I have the same birthday.

I had friends, but my girl circle was fairly small, but I had a lot of guy friends. Who were really friends and not the euphemisms used to define friendship now. Melissa liked being in the kitchen as much as I did. As a result, we were able to monopolize (as other girls and some of their mother’s thought) all of the guys time with scones, chocolate cookies, muffins, and the like. By no means was it a den of ill-repute, we’d either be at Melissa’s house under her parent’s watchful eyes, or at my house with her mothership (my mother) and my younger sister.

In the beginning, learned how to set a table for company from my mother. She worked in my junior high school cafeteria as a lunch lady, but she also worked on and off for Stone catering company. That helped me get a grip on the basics, but I wanted to do it will a little more style. I was fifteen when I went on a mission to find a cookbook that combined both recipes with entertaining. I checked the shelves of my local libraries and bookstores regularly to no avail.

Then one Sunday afternoon PBS had a special on entertaining with a caterer out of Connecticut, Martha Stewart. I’d never heard of her previously, but her name and style made a lasting impression on me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail, her home décor and the way she presented food on a holiday table. Martha was my parents age and everything about her seemed smooth, elegant, and just plain regal. I scoured TV Guide to see when she was going to be on television again. I couldn’t get enough. Then one day at Waldenbooks, I saw it. Entertaining by Martha Stewart. There she was on the cover in a Victorian style white dress presiding over a perfectly decorated table. I was there with my friend Joel, who I begged to buy the book for me. Lucky for me, he bought it with the catch that I’d have him over whenever i made something from the book. That was one of the easiest deals I ever made. There was no way I wasn’t going to cook my way through the book, or die trying.

It felt like my own little storyline was happening in real life. I wasn’t going on dates but I was in the kitchen with Martha and my friend Melissa. I was in my Victorian phase. I loved Gunne Sax dresses and old lace. We made scones, muffins, bread, pies, cakes, and more kinds of biscotti than anyone could shake a stick at. Although I predate Kelis, her Milkshake song is appropriate here, except it wasn’t my milkshake that brought the boys to my yard, it was my pepperoni loaf.

Martha Stewart’s first book was my gateway drug to Cuisinart food processors, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, mini-herb choppers, wedding cake pans, Madeline molds, and more. My entertaining game was on the rise and my guy friends could reap the benefits from my properly set table.

Entertaining worked perfectly, and I had all the eligible guys were at my house and around the kitchen. The funny thing was I didn’t want anything more than friendship. Although I had to admit there was one guy I liked, and my mother was okay with him. My sister didn’t like him that much, but that was neither here nor there at the time. I wasn’t allowed to date, and he was already in college. All the man snatching hullabaloo happened because he was the object of someone else’s affection, and that affection wasn’t returned. I can’t say that I didn’t understand why she and her mother needed a heavy. Who wants to believe a guy rejected them straight out of hand. So, naturally, I was deemed a little Entertaining hussy, tempting men with baked goods and cooked meals. Still, I didn’t let it faze me in the least.


At the height of our entertaining jag, Melissa and I held a formal dinner for all the guys at her house. There was Melissa’s Greek Moussaka, my pepperoni loaf, rolls, roasted vegetables and cake for desert made by me. It was a success and enjoyed thoroughly judging by the number of second helpings and empty plates. It was the only dinner party we ever had as teenagers, but that was okay with us. I had the opportunity to show off my Martha skills long before her name became a verb and before Snoop ever heard of the lady who used to rule over an estate and property in Turkey Hill, Connecticut (at the time). I have come a long way from the wide-eyed sixteen-year-old girl when the first edition of Entertaining was released. My skills have gotten better and while I still prefer to make things from scratch, I am a little more relaxed about it courtesy of another lifestyle/tv-chef maven, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve integrated Martha’s penchant for good things, with Ina’s how easy is that philosophy, and the amalgamation works.

I’m no longer a man snatcher and my milkshake is a little thicker, but I still bring all the boys to the table, only this time, the boys are mine and the loves of my life. My twin sons Sean and Scott, who are my ultimate good thing.

I am including one of the first recipes I ever made from Entertaining by Martha Stewart Copyright 1982.

Banana Bread recipe by Martha Stewart adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitivities, low sugar, and no-sugar dietary needs by Chamein Canton

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (vegan butter, margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
  • 2 large eggs (4 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1//2 cup silken tofu, pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (dairy; light sour cream, plain yogurt) (non-dairy; soy milk, or almond milk yogurt) (vegan sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  2. Step 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.
  3. Step 3 Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Additional Notes

  1. To make a flax or chia seed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed/chia seed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.
Flaxseed Egg photo from Chocolate Covered Katie