When I am stressed, I like to cook.  It makes me feel better.  I like the precision of following a recipe.  I can accomplish something in the kitchen, even if it feels like I can’t accomplish anything or succeed anywhere else in my life.  In the days after losing Merlin, I was surprised and saddened by the fact that I didn’t want to cook. I actually didn’t want to be in our house at all.  I couldn’t bear to be here when he wasn’t.  I took the Misses out for dinner for many days so I wouldn’t have to be here.  I also couldn’t concentrate on a recipe or feel the joy in cooking.  It was troubling that the solace I normally find in the kitchen wouldn’t come to me…

One of the first things I made when I ventured back into the kitchen was this recipe.  I knew I didn’t want complicated or fussy and I knew I had to be able to succeed.  I needed it.  Cookies, to me, are easy – pretty foolproof – and instant gratification.  The Misses wanted to help make them, so even better.

Pistachio White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and these are reminiscent of those, but not as rich.  I am loving pistachios right now as my afternoon snack, so I was really ready to try this recipe out.  I used a mixture of salted and unsalted pistachios because that’s what I had in the pantry.  I also halved the recipe.

The cookies were great.  And just what I needed.

Pistachio White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: About 5 Dozen

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

12 oz. white chocolate chips

1 1/3 cups shelled, chopped pistachios

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats,  baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with brown sugar until well combined.  One at a time, add the eggs, stirring well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.

4.  Gradually add the flour-oat mixture to butter mixture, mix well.

5.  Stir in chocolate chips and pistachios.

6.  Drop batter by heaping tablespoons (each cookie should contain about 1 1/2 Tbsp. of dough) onto an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the cookies for spreading.

7.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown. (For chewy cookies, do not overbake.)

8.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Using a metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely.

9.  Repeat until all dough is used.  When completely cool, store in airtight container.

Source:  Adapted from a recipe from the (now-defunct) California Pistachio Commission that ran in the Bakersfield Californian, 1995 (Similar here)



I have been silent lately because my world is not quite the same as it was before.

There is a hole in my heart and in our family.  And I am grieving.

The day that I had been dreading for 14 years finally came.  Humor me, I need to do this.  (Or skip this post, up to you.)

The day that I met this boy, I fell in love:

Merlin Day 1

Merlin and me, June 24, 2000.  Instantaneous love.

I actually knew I loved him before I met him – I had dreamed a few months earlier that we had a dog named Merlin.  I woke up and told D that when we got our puppy, he would be Merlin.  The day we picked him up at Chesagrove Kennels in Lithia, Florida, there were four boys to choose from.  I stood in the little pen and asked them “Who wants to be a Merlin?” and this little brown fur ball – already clearly the smartest of the bunch – came bounding over.  We were his too.  He chose us.

We drove to spend the night at a beach house in Tampa with D’s brother and his first introduction to the ocean.  Ran right in, tumbled in the surf, looked shell-shocked for a minute, then went back for more.  Water dog from the start.

Merlin Day 1 beach

We called him Merlin Magoo, for some reason, and that became his AKC name  - Chesagrove’s Merlin Magoo.  We also called him Magoo Bear (because he looked like a bear cub when he was little), the Great Googly-Magoogly, Merman, Merdog, Mister Magoo, Mertle, GooGoo Bear, Boo Boo, and so on.  I was fortunate enough to be called the Mermom.


I know I sound like a lunatic, but he wasn’t our dog, he was our first child (and only son!), and we spoiled him rotten.  He returned the favor by being the smartest, most loyal, most protective, really funny, really stubborn, and amazing boy.  I’ve mentioned him here before, and he was just so protective, of me especially.  When we would take walks alone, he would ever-so-subtly position himself between me and whomever might be walking toward us down the street.  8 times out of ten, that person would cross the street to avoid the 100-pound ferocious Mer who would have licked them to death.  When D would go out-of-town, he wouldn’t sleep.  Every noise or car passing, he was up and barking.
D would come home and he would pass out for days.


Some things you should know about Merlin:

Merlin March 31 2008

From the time he left the crate-training, he slept on our queen sized bed.  This got really fun when he took over half the bed, and not the foot of the bed half.  This only stopped when his hips got bad and he couldn’t jump up and we missed it so much.  The above is his effort to help me clean out my closet by guarding the clothes on the bed.

Merboat 2010

He loved to swim and be on the boat.  We had to physically restrain him when the boat slowed down so he wouldn’t leap overboard.  He couldn’t wait to be in the bay.  On more than one occasion, we stopped mid-channel so he could swim for a few minutes before we continued on.  He also loved puddles on the golf course, and fountains.  Oddly enough, he wouldn’t walk on wet grass after rain…

He loved beer – only Heineken (spoiled, remember?) and would knock over beer bottles to drink the spillage.


When beer wasn’t available, water from the fountain would work!  Miss F and Mer at the park, October 2007.

As a puppy, he would get so tired and hot from walks that he would plop himself inside the bottom little ledge of the fridge for a little rest and coolness.

Coconut Merlin

Fallen palm fronds were meant for tug-of-war and he would carry fallen coconuts home in his mouth for blocks so he could rip them apart on his Merbed at home.  He never actually slept on the bed, it was just for shredding coconuts or eating watermelon rinds, pumpkins, or rawhides.

He was our adventure leader, always showing us the way on hikes and walks, here and in North Carolina.  Running ahead and coming back impatiently for us.

He would give me “Mama hugs” when I would squat down and he would ram his head into my chest and knock me backwards waiting for a full body rub.  I miss those.

Mer&E sofa

Mer and Miss E.  This photo may be less about affection and more about the fact that E got there first and Merlin wanted his couch back… :)

He was so gentle with the girls as babies/toddlers and never got cross when they got a little too grabby.  He simply got up and left.  He also left the room if he tooted.  He would look at his rear end, as if to confirm, and then he would get up and leave us to deal with the unpleasant after effects.

He knew so many things.  Sit, stay, heel, shake, twirl, back-up. I also taught him how to poop on command as a puppy.  Best command ever.

Mer's 10th b'day

He got carrot cake on his birthday every year and it was my pleasure to make it for him.

He cleaned the dishes every night as a puppy by standing ON the dishwasher door, until he got too big and it broke.  :)

There are so, so many more things, just every part of our life for the last 14 years has included him and everywhere I turn, I go, I do, I see him.  And I cry.

It was inevitable.  He was failing.  It was time, but it went too fast and I would never have had enough time with him.

I love you Merlin.

May 2, 2000 – June 27, 2014

~The Mermom

I’ve recently taken to having a handful of unsalted pistachios as my afternoon snack where I once used to avoid nuts like the plague.  I thought they were too fattening and not filling enough to be worth my time.  I was wrong.  Nuts (the better-for-you ones) are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber and vitamins.

These Sweet and Spicy Almonds have been vying for my attention since I made them.  They are sweetened with sugar and honey, but use very little oil and, combined with the spicy cayenne, are totally addictive!  A little goes a long way though, so instead of a handful, I’ll grab 5 and call it quits.

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

I like the cooking method here because the sugar (see it in the picture above?) goes on last, not melted with the oil as in most spiced nuts, so it stays grainy and makes these almonds feel more like a treat.

Just wait to see what these do on a salad! :)

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

Yield:  2 1/2 cups

2 1/2 cups unblanched almonds

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. water

1 tsp. olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Set aside a sheet of waxed paper on the counter.

2.  Spread the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set aside

3.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper.

4.  In a large skillet over medium heat, stir together honey, water, and olive oil and cook until combined, about 1 minute.  Add toasted almonds and toss to coat.

5.  Spoons almonds into sugar mixture (don’t scrape the extra glaze into bowl); toss to coat.

6.  Cool in a single layer.

These nuts will keep for up to 2 weeks; let cook completely, then store in an airtight container.

Source:  Everyday Food, December 2004, p. 144

Friday Fun

So my Friday Cocktail post was supposed to be a Strawberry Shortcake Martini - delish! – but my refrigerator died and with it went the needed strawberry puree  (Vodka I got. No shortage there!).  I will remake and post soon, because it was so good.

However, in lieu of of a cocktail, I thought I’d give you a few fun things I’ve found lately:

Faux leather skirt AT

This faux leather skirt from Ann Taylor that is so buttery, you can’t tell that it is not real.  I felt guilty buying it until I read it was faux.   Now available for $68, I bought mine on a big sale day for under $65.  It is great!

Love these linen sweaters from J. Crew. Lightweight and breathable for Miami summers, and just the right mix of schlubby and dressy. I plan to live in these two at work all summer!

jcrew linen sweater

I love the sleeves on the sweater and the color is kind of mushroomish, not brown.

J. Crew Linen Drop-Shoulder Sweater, color: wet stone, $75

jcrew linen sweater2

J. Crew Linen V-Neck Sweater in Yarn Dye, Color: Sandy Reef, ON SALE for $49.99

I bought this sweater because it is the same color as the trim on these shoes.  :) Paired with the skirt above, it is a perfect night-out ensemble…

J Crew Cork Clutch

And, finally, this cork (I have an ongoing obsession) clutch (J. Crew , on sale for $48!!).  Love it, goes with everything!


May Goals Recap

Checking in for a goals recap!

Newspaper recipes:  Crunchy Fruity Granola (Houston Chronicle, March 7, 2012); Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (Houston Chronicle, July 18, 1992); and Onion Shortcake (Houston Chronicle, April 22, 1998) that is delicious and different, sweet/savory and cornbready.  I must make this again soon and photograph it pretty somehow because it is divine!

The magazine recipes I tried were:  Warm Potato Salad (Everyday Food, January/February 2012) that was good, but nothing spectacular; my new favorite addictive snack Sweet and Spicy Almonds (Everyday Food, December 2004); and killer Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake (Bon Appetit, June 1993).

For Cookbook Roulette, I’ve decided to change my own rules a bit. (It’s my game. I’m allowed.)  The cookbook is still chosen randomly, but I get to search for a recipe.  The two advantages here are that I get to find a recipe that actually works for me and that I get to read through the whole cookbook, not just flip to a page.  I think my success rate might increase in this category!

The first cookbook I chose was

The New Best Recipe by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

I made the Pan Seared Shrimp with Ginger-Hoisin Glaze (p. 520) [the recipe can be found here too] and it was delicious and super-easy.  I halved the recipe and it was great.

The second cookbook I chose was


Moosewood Restaurant Favorites by The Moosewood Collective

Moosewood Restaurant has been on my radar for decades.  At the time I started dabbling with dropping meat out of my diet, Moosewood was one of the first vegetarian restaurants that was widely well known.  I got their first cookbook from the library and pored over it like a good little vegetarian.  :)

Tropical Cuban Black Beans

I chose to make their Cuban Black Beans (page 137), which I have since renamed Tropical Black Beans because it is not a typical Cuban preparation and have a strong flavor of orange that makes it tropical to me.  :)  We liked it a lot!  The cookbook recommends serving with Annatto Rice (page 289) which I did, but my annatto seeds must not have been fresh, because my rice did not turn golden orange, but still tasted better than plain brown rice.

Nothing big crossed off yet, but I feel good about June!  :)


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