Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
Cofrin Nature Park


Tuesday, July 15, 2014


 Have you ever tried to make mouthwatering, light and airy meatballs, only to produce ones good for hockey game pucks? Me too. But not this time!  The leanness of the chicken and the sweet fatty pork combination put this recipe over the top. I think the secret is in the apple and onion additions. But the real secret: I used organic, free-range ground pork from Tracy Lee Farms.  And, I did not overcook the meat or fuss with over-mixing the meat mixture. Golden and delicious results!

I like this recipe better than my Oven Baked Turkey Meatballs recipe, because of the lighter texture and sweeter flavors that I developed in this recipe, however this recipe is more complex. It may also require a trip to your local co-op or farmer for the organic pork, which makes all the difference. This recipe depends upon it--as you know the finest ingredients deliver superb results.

THE JOY OF COOKING cookbook says that meatball and meatloaf recipes are interchangeable. So this recipe should also work for meatloaf, if you want a simpler preparation. Form mixture into a loaf and place on baking sheet, or use a loaf pan. Top loaf with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour.

I've also included an awesome Mushroom Marinara Sauce recipe, below, for serving suggestions when making meatballs. 


1 pound organic ground pork
1 pound organic hand-chopped or ground chicken tenderloins
1  large handful fresh parsley
4 Tablespoons diced apple
½ cup diced onions

4-6 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup rolled oats
2 Tablespoons ground flax meal
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon organic wheat-free soy sauce
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon ground coriander

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using your hands, gently mix ground meat with dry spices, oats and flax meal.  Do not over-mix.
Puree apple, onions, garlic, tomato paste, wine, parsley, sesame oil, soy sauce and egg. I used an emersion blender.

Add the puree to the meat mixture and gently combine, using your hands.

Form into round meatballs, about the size of a baseball. (These are large--One meatball per customer. If you choose to make smaller meatballs, adjust the cooking and baking time accordingly.)

The meatballs will be quite wet. Place meatballs on a plate in refrigerator to set up.

Heat a cast iron Dutch oven or large pan with a small amount of olive oil on medium heat.

Brown the meatballs in batches. Do not over-crowd the pan. Treat them gently or they will fall apart.

Place browned meatballs on a greased baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook!

Cool the meatballs and refrigerate or freeze, in covered containers.

Warm meatballs for meal in marinara sauce and serve with organic brown rice pasta.


½ pound shitake mushrooms (or porcini or button)
½ cup chopped onions
5 chopped garlic cloves
Olive oil and clarified butter for sautéing
1 can San Marzano tomatoes (crushed or blended)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 Tablespoons  pesto sauce
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry red wine (Cabernet)
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon white pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté mushrooms in olive oil and clarified butter. Add onions and garlic and sauté until softened. Deglaze with red wine and reduce for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and reduce for a minute or two.  Add the spices, paste and tomatoes. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until flavors combine. Taste it! Do not boil.

Cook wheat-free pasta according to package directions.

Drain pasta and put back in pot. Add enough of the sauce to coat the pasta. Plate the pasta; add more sauce and a meatball.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Virgin Diet, by J.J. Virgin

Why go on a diet? Because, food is survival. Food choices matter: what you ingest either heals or hurts your body. You really are what you eat. Food is information--it affects gene expression!

That's why I recently read, and attempted to follow, The Virgin Diet, Why Food Intolerance is the Real Cause of Weight Gain, by J.J. Virgin. The tag line: "Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 pounds, Just 7 Days."

I think she means 7 ounces, because that's about all I lost. My fault. No alcohol allowed in the first 2 cycles of her diet, and I did not drop the blood of Christ (aka Cabernet.) However, I did eliminate gluten/wheat from my diet about a year ago and lost 3 or 4 pounds. I have also eliminated sweets, most all processed foods, peanuts and corn years ago, and lost a few pounds from those dietary changes as well, so I'll give her those--even though I ramped up the exercise.

PREMISE: Food Intolerance (FI)
The premise of the Virgin diet: eating foods to which you are sensitive or intolerant triggers inflammation, leads to weight gain and causes other sucky symptoms. Food intolerance (FI) refers to physiological reactions that occur after ingesting the offending food. Such adverse reactions can take several days to manifest. Food intolerance is different from an acute allergic reaction, which can be deadly (like an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, for example.)

Virgin identifies some possible causes of food intolerance: pre-existing conditions (like Celiac Disease;) radiation exposure; eating too much of the same foods daily; taking antibiotics; stress; and my personal favorite, leaky gut.

Eliminate the problematic foods according to the Virgin Diet protocol, and you should feel loads better. (I did feel slightly better during the elimination phase.)

The seven culprits that may lead to FI:
Wheat/Gluten (no surprise there)
Sugar and sugar substitutes

Virgin explains how these 7 foods can adversely affect your body and brain, citing similar studies as others in her field. She lists a host of complications associated with FI: chronic inflammation, insulin resistance/pre-diabetes, hormone disruption, autoimmunity, fatigue, bloating and thyroid disruption. She notes other reasons to avoid FI foods include issues such as toxic mold (on legumes/peanuts) and the GMO debate. (GMO=Genetically Modified Organism)

Virgin adheres to what other authors, like Dr. William Davis in his book Wheat Belly, have stated regarding how food affects the body. However, she believes the reason you must totally eliminate the offending food is because eating it triggers the release of IgG antibodies. Those antibodies ostensibly create problematic immune responses, inducing inflammation and weight gain.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Touring Tracy Lee Farms

Do you wonder about all those cows you drive by on the highway? I do. I’ve always wanted to visit a small farm, and chose Tracy Lee Farms, LLC, in North Central Florida, which was participating in a farm tour. 
Several pigs, over 100 head of cattle, over 300 chickens, horses and 2 donkeys share approximately 200 acres of lush farmland. Although not officially certified organic, Tracy Lee Farms uses organic practices throughout the farm and feeds only USDA certified organic feed. She invites people to come to her farm and see their farm operations first hand. 
At Tracy's side, I learned what it means to love and care for farm animals. I learned respect for the land and the intricate processes that go into preserving that land. I witnessed the dedication, independent spirit and integrity Tracy brings to her vocation. As I crisscrossed the farm, I felt an ever increasing appreciation for the food I eat, and a greater awareness of how it's produced. Thank you, Tracy.
I had watched the documentary Food Inc., so I knew of feed lots and industrial farming. Not a pretty story: scores of miserable-looking and scared-sounding cows corralled for fattening and slaughter. That movie motivated me to go organic and local in the meat department. Not an easy task. The chain grocery stores occasionally have a smattering of organic meats. The Farmer’s Market is a better bet, however many small farms continue to use less expensive commercial feed (GMO soy and corn.) Worse yet, the food industry has begun diluting what "organic" means.
My quest brought me to the local co-op, where I recently purchased some Tracy Lee Farms meat. The taste and texture of Tracy's meat far surpassed any grocery-store product. That experience prompted me to discover more about where my food comes from; especially since an animal is giving up its life to satisfy my occasional meat-eating ways. Off to the farm adventure I go.
When I arrived at Tracy Lee Farms, a wounded baby pig, greeted me like a puppy. She was convalescing in the house in order to keep her wound clean. Tracy had already formed an attachment to her and so did we. The piglet, a registered Berkshire “heritage breed,” will be the next breeding hog. The Berkshire, a rare breed originating from the county of Berkshire, England, yields more tender, juicy and flavorful pork.
After meeting the piglet, we “tip-toed through the tulips” of decomposing “fertilizer,” aka pig-poo, and stepped over a thin, electrified wire, the main type of fence they use to contain the animals. I did not test the “fence,” but the animals seemed to know to stay away from it.  Looked to me like they could just hop over it, especially the cows, but apparently they do not.
The enormous hog and her brood stole my heart. I cannot explain why I have such a fascination with farm animals. They are beautiful.

I played with one of the cows, like you do with a dog, giving it the "challenge" posture, and he scampered away; turned, and then carefully followed me.
Two donkeys share the cows’ calving pasture in order to provide protection against rogue coyotes. Coyotes stalking calves at twilight--their hunt fiercely foiled by an innocent looking donkey? Wish I'd seen that show.
Once the calves mature, they live with the other juveniles on a different pasture where they can take care of themselves without donkey supervision. They hang out, form quilting clubs, practice yoga…they even take their vitamins and minerals from a segregated trough that provides the nutrients missing from the grasses on which they graze.
Tracy Lee Farms tests their grasses in order to determine the proper mineral supplementation. Tracy explained that several pastures grow different grasses and clover for the cows' dining delight. On our visit, the cows were still on the “winter” rye grass pasture. They consume about one and a quarter acres of grass in 24 hours. That’s a lot of salad.
Tracy manages the daily tasks of moving cows and chicken pens by herself! Her husband, Michael, is on hand when he is not working his other job. I thought she must saddle up like a cowboy to move the herd, but that’s not how they do it: They create an opening to the next pasture, "and the cows come a runnin'."
Ever pass an industrial farm in your car and feel nauseated by the burning stench that followed you for miles? Tracy’s farm, although not a perfume parlor, smelled charmingly like a really clean farm or zoo. I didn’t even notice much of an odor at first. The farm smelled better than some people with whom I’ve crossed paths. I used to love the smell of horses and barns when I took riding lessons—the aromas at Tracy Lee Farms happily liberated that fond memory for me. 
Michael hauls us around on a flatbed with his tractor for several miles.
As we headed for the barn on the flatbed trailer, we passed three black steer/cows in the front yard pasture sun-bathing right next to some perfectly good shade. Tracy told us the breed came from Africa and preferred direct sun to shade. Since farming in the sunshine state has its heat-related challenges, Tracy Lee Farms is considering expanding the African-breed for their farm. Seems there’s always something new down on the farm.
The farm tour ended too soon. I could watch those animals all day long, and understand why Tracy devotes her life to her farm. It’s immediate. It’s sacred. It’s spectacular.
I left the farm feeling exhilarated yet exhausted. Think you work hard on that computer all day? Need to work out? Spend some quality time farming.
To see a video montage of the farm tour click on the YouTube link below:



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Easy Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

Do you find that the little things in life matter most? I know mayo does not move mountains, but it does transform leftover roasted chicken into fantastic chicken salad. And that giant head of cabbage you could not resist at the farmer's market and don't know what to do with? It becomes a fabulous crispy, crunchy and creamy cabbage salad (that some call cold slaw, but homemade cold slaw slams the stuff you get in restaurants, so I call the good stuff cabbage salad.)  Classic potato salad anyone? In these delicious salads the mayo is the star. Great mayo, great salad. Sub-par, store brand mayo, yields a pile of mush.

Sometimes it's just better to make it yourself. That is the case with mayo, and for good reason. For example, store brands use soybean oil (which is GMO, unless it's organic.) Products derived from the soybean also have other health-related issues.  Very expensive brands of mayonnaise may be made with healthier oils, like safflower oil. However, almost all brands contain some kind of sweetener, stabilizers and the ubiquitous "natural flavor," whatever that is.

Off to the kitchen to experiment with recipes.

My first attempt at making mayo at home concerned me, due to the raw egg I planned to use, because, well, it's just not mayo unless it has egg! (I tried the egg-free version years ago and uck.)

I had extra-virgin olive oil so I used it. The mayo tasted grassy. Not what I wanted. The olive oil completely overpowered the taste.

My second attempt succeeded! What a thrill to finally have "healthy" mayo without the sugar (which, of course, you can add if you like it sweet, or grew up in the Miracle Whip camp, heaven forbid.) 

My homemade mayonnaise turned out creamy, fluffy and tasty. I used to like regular Hellman's mayo, however, the last time I tried it, I did not like it. It had an odd aftertaste and tasted much sweeter than my palate remembers. My homemade mayo tastes far superior in every way. I immediately used it to make fantastic chicken salad. We loved it! The mayo lasted about a week, and we're still here.

Here's the recipe I tweaked after viewing several recipes online:

An emersion stick blender makes this recipe a snap. I suppose you could whisk by hand and drizzle the oil over several minutes, but why bother when this method works so well? (I do not have a regular blender, so have not tried the traditional blender method.)

Print Friendly and PDF

1 Large Egg (see note below)
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry yellow mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon "real" salt (or sea salt), to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup Safflower oil

Put all ingredients, except the oil, in a tall container.
Use an emersion stick blender to blend ingredients (about 2 seconds.)
Add a small amount of the oil and blend a second, to create an emulsion.
While blending, slowly add the oil for a few seconds and voila! You have mayo!

(NOTE:  To ensure the egg is fresh, submerge it in a glass of water, it must stay on the bottom of the glass. If it rises or floats, don't use it. I also wash the egg shell before cracking the egg into the container.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Novel Reading: THE LOST ART OF MIXING, by Erica Bauermeister

mixing cover

I read a couple of novels last year, because I peruse too many non-fiction books and because I wanted to see what gets published these days. One novel was by a first time author with a freshly minted MFA, who told the story of an abused girl growing up in a trailer park. Well written, yet sad. The other author had previous titles and the book I read, The Lost Art of Mixing, continued the story of Lillian, a restaurateur.

Why bother reading a novel?  Because it's fun and interesting to experience how a writer chooses to advance the story and share the characters in ways that keep you reading instead of using the book as a fly-swatter or a Frisbee. Novel reading may also help you make distinctions in your own life that you have missed. Once you make those distinctions, your life takes on new meaning and gives you renewed energy and you thrive.

Erica Bauermeister knows how to keep the reader interested. I discovered some pertinent distinctions as well.

The Lost Art of Mixing, also made me hungry for some tasty meals, as the story plays out in and around a restaurant. The owner/chef, Lillian, and sous-chef , Chloe, follow cooking rituals that spill over into their personal lives.

 A contrasting character, Isabelle, meanwhile flourishes while losing her "rituals" to Alzheimer, in a soft and touching portrayal of the disease, both through the eyes of Isabelle and through the observations of the other characters.

Erica's prose wafts through you, enticing you to take another bite, all the while thinking "what a lovely way to mix those words with those people, who should not waste time in a life that is not theirs." And who among us can claim to have fully lived in their own skin every day? Who has not spoiled the fresh sweetness of  the fruits we were given?

Erica's novel gives us permission and example for living life fully, despite the messes we inevitably must clean up in our "kitchens." And not just the one you cook in.

The character Finnegan is one example: Finnegan, the 6 foot 7, 19-year old who shows up on Lillian's doorstep, in pursuit of the illusive Chloe, ends up washing dishes and cleaning the restaurant like a saint. He provides the backdrop for the female characters to face their fears and get on with it, as he faced his fear of heights, among others.

The Finnegan character gives readers a fine distinction about facing fear. Finnegan feared his own height, but did not tell his parents of his fears. His parents owned a climbing company and the young Finnegan would climb to the top of the family climbing wall, just so he could relax in his parent's embrace at the end of the climb. Who hasn't done that? Who hasn't done something we hate or fear in order to get love? Finnegan's fears are also realized when he loses his parents who die in a storm while climbing Mount Everest. Finnegan rises from his tragedy and dives into the mix established at the restaurant, with surprising results. He shows us how to grow and love despite a broken heart.

Did you know that merely the act of reading the printed word makes you smarter? (That's right, reading my blog makes you smarter.)

Read a novel and enjoy the timeless art form of storytelling that has the ability to transport you into another world, another's world. You may find yourself changed for the wiser, and learn how to use your story, your life metaphor to change yourself and the world for the better.

With all the stress and distractions in our world, we need to slow down and feel our life. Novel reading can help us do that. Bury yourself in a novel and enjoy!

Read any good books lately? Let's here about it below, in the comments section!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Last Visit with an Alzheimer's Patient

 Even though he only weighed about 90 pounds, it took two of us to help Wes onto the portable commode from his wheelchair next to his bed. The bed sat in the corner of a newly remodeled room built just for the comfortable dying of a kind man stricken with Alzheimer disease.
“Why doesn’t he use a hand-urinal?”
“Wes refuses to use it. He insists on sitting on the toilet. The one in the bathroom is too low and very difficult to use, so we use the portable.”
“We got you, Wes.”
The nurse and I hoisted Wes out of his chair, acting like a boatlift hoisting a runabout out of the lake. Looking out the window, water-skiers whizzed past the pier on a sunny, humid-free summer morning on Rock Lake in the Midwest. I used to slalom ski nearby--my most thrilling youthful endeavor. I loved it so much…

Today I help Wes to pee using a portable potty. Pulling down dress pants, then adult diapers and carefully loading his frail form onto the plastic seat. Waiting with silent patience and listening for little droplets of pee that sounded like raindrops against the window. Then, hoisting Wes off the commode and pulling up the layers of protection.
We tried to reseat Wes in his chair so he could visit an old friend who waited on the porch overlooking the lake. Wes resisted our efforts, however, clinging to our arms, his body locked in hover mode.
“We’ve got you, Wes. The chair is right behind you, you just need to sit down on it.” His clear blue eyes peered into mine.
“It’s scareful,” he whispered with the voice of a ghost. I wanted to cry, but returned his gaze and noted matter-of-factly, “Of course it is. I understand. It’s scary to trust that you will not fall. You feel fearful that you can get hurt. You just made up a word that combines those feelings: ‘scareful.’ Very clever of you, Wes!” I patted the seat and eased his hip-bones onto the seat… 

      Sometimes it seems that’s what my life has been: helping people on and off the commode when they could not do it alone. Children, of course, but they don’t count. Or do they? Maybe they count most of all. Mostly, however, I helped loved ones who suffered stroke, cancer, disease, surgery and needed my help to go to the bathroom. I did so willingly; feeling like it was the most important job in the world. I bet the United States President never helped someone else go to the bathroom (that was not his child.)
      While mourning the death of my fiancé (my third time losing a significant other) my cousin Sandy said, “Maybe that is your purpose in life: to care for people just before their death.” I didn’t like that prophesy, but now it’s too late... 

      As we wheeled Wes onto the porch, where Gene, his longtime friend and business associate of over 40 years awaited, Wes’ eyes lit up. He struggled to sit up as straight as he could in order to greet Gene. Wes’ Alzheimer’s seemed to dissolve, as Wes clearly recognized Gene.
      I sat and watched as Gene’s visit brought Wes back to life, telling stories and joking about the past. In order not to break out in tears, I fiddled with my camera and took some snapshots and video as the two old friends enjoyed each other’s presence.
      I felt honored for such a sacred moment—I got to witness Gene caring and showing love for his friend whom he may never see again. I think Wes knew he was nearing the end too, and he handled the situation with grace and courage.
      At the end of the visit, Gene choked back his tears, trying desperately to give Wes a hopeful sendoff. Gene succeeded… 

      Visiting a person with Alzheimer’s is a spiritually rewarding experience. It’s immediate. It’s significant. It puts life into tightly focused perspective and grants the visitors and patient a moment to touch the Divine. I’m grateful for it all.

Wes and Gene a few weeks before Wes' death.



Friday, December 27, 2013

My BioCored Work with Nathalie Fossé and Fossé Restorative Therapy

Just finished my 5th BioCored session with Nathalie at her studio, Fossé Restorative Therapy, and I feel so much better than when I started! I don't know how she does it. She has some sort of energy force that she transmits to her clients. Nathalie was my last appointment of the day, after a grueling physical therapy session with my foot-guy, Scott, who upped my exercise reps (at least he massaged my calves/Achilles tendons and fixed the strained Achilles tendon issue.)

Again, not in the mood for more exercise work, but Nathalie gently coached me through some easy and some not so easy movements, assessing my progress along the way: "Relax your neck, relax your jaw, lift your abs. You are so determined--relax your brain and close your eyes..." and so it went.

With Nathalie's direction, at some point I felt I became one with the bungees--they became an extension of my arms, instead of a discomfort. I stopped fighting them, and released my control.

Nathalie and I agree that it's up to the patient to do the work with the expert guidance of a professional who gives a damn. She's a teacher in the end. However, she is also a gifted, empathetic healer, vigilant and knowledgeable and always learning herself, she admits. She sees what the patient cannot. Although we all know our own bodies better than anyone, should we pay attention to its messages, Nathalie studies her patients and observes how their bodies have decided to "settle" in order to compensate for years of abuse.

A patient's current posture and way of moving has become the new "normal," which is not normal at all. Nathalie seeks to correct that.

Nathalie's work is very personal and attuned to each individual. Unlike the traditional physical therapy setting, where the physical therapist works with several patients simultaneously, Nathalie devotes the entire time to her patients' needs. She watches you like a hawk. She directs seemingly small adjustments in your body alignment, that really make a world of difference in how you perform the exercise and thus, the progress you make.

In that respect, her work is superior, and why she gets noticeable results. For example, although I felt the burn the next day, the day after that, my posture improved and even though the knots in my back remained, they "softened" and I felt relief! Ahhhhh.....

I'm grateful Nathalie toils away in her studio, teaching clients and patients how to restore their bodies back to a healthy and balanced state. She's taught me in a few short sessions better body awareness, how to correct my posture and the significant role it plays in restorative work and how BioCored exercises complement and encourage those efforts.

In case you missed the video in the last post featuring Nathalie's BioCored work with me: