the dish that makes me channel Carmela Soprano


recipe first. that’s the rule.

SAUSAGE, POTATOES, & PEPPERS (I call this an Italian-inspired Sunday dinner meal, you got a problem with that?)

12 sausage links (I used True Story chicken, got them at Costco)

12-15 waxy red bliss or yukon gold potatoes, sliced

1/2 jar sliced peperoncini with bottle juice (I use Jeff’s Naturals)

1-2 evoo, or coconut oil, your choice

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

1 tsp dried oregano

all purpose seasoning, I love FlavorGod Everything)

dash paprika

salt & pepper to taste


I don’t have a life like Carmela Soprano did. I couldn’t ride out The Sopranos until the end. I listened to the conspiracy theorists about the series final episode for fun.

Aside from Tony singing Steely Dan‘s “Dirty Work” in his car with a monotonous “oh yeah…”, Carmela in the kitchen was my favorite part of the show.

If I were Italian, I told myself (and thanks to the DNA tests, turns out I am 13%, I KNEW IT!!!), I would have some kind of claim over the food that is my favorite, the cuisine I most love to cook, the history I get lost in, and the country/destination #1 on my list. Positano. Then Florence. Those museums and architecture, before I die.

For years on Sunday nights, I watched The Sopranos to see what Carmela was cooking.  I love how Uncle Jun knew someone else (Janis?) was trying to pass Carmela’s lasagna off as hers. Meadow cracked me up when she scoffed at her mom for blaming Tony’s vomiting on Indian food. I could go on and on.

Well, I’ll tell ya, thanks to the decade of the 90s, and I mean the explosion of food and cooking networks and shows, and shows like The Sopranos, I learned how to glean the basics from a recipe: proteins, starches, acids, lipids….and get creative on my own, departing from recipes.

I no longer use a recipe for lasagna (and because of Carmela, I use Italian sausage). I make my own bolognese, sometimes doing an all-day sauce like Livia (a strange bird, Livia).

And now that I know I’m Italian, do I ever pull a Rita Moreno and say “Please! I’m Italian!” like in that other movie (The Four Seasons, my husband HATES it, I love it). Yes, I do. Can I do my own scratch sauce, a quick version, a healthy version, an all-day Sunday gravy version? Can I cook it for 2, and up to 75? You bet your a** I can.

Because I’m Italian. Even if it’s just a drop, come on, that drop. It’s Italian.

And I’m a sponge when it comes to food tips, finding foodies, pulling knowledge from even the most old-school, “not-sharing-my-secrets” cook.

If you remember HBO years ago like me, there was carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City at 8pm, saying she skipped meals to buy Vogue because she felt it fed her more.  Then you had The Sopranos at 9pm, when Tony was getting a steak thrown at him by a jilted lover.

I looked forward to 9pm more.

My life isn’t like Carmela Sopranos was. And yeah I’m aware it wasn’t real life.

But when I get to Positano, and I’m eating shrimp by the seaside with my Greek guy just like Marisa Tomei in Only You, I will say “You like shrimp? I like shrimp!” and then tell me that a movie isn’t real life. Go ahead.  Tell me.

I’ll find you in a diner while you’re eating onion rings.



Blizzard in a Tervis (Rule Break Shake)


Recipe first, backstory later. Tick tock, friends 😉

RULE BREAK SHAKE (the shake that is Whole30 compliant other than the fact that it’s a shake)

10 oz. unsweetened coconut or almond milk

1/2 banana

2 tbsp. collagen protein

1 tbsp. cacao nibs

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. almond butter

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. raw cacao powder

1-2 dates ( I use one)

optional: fresh fruit, like melon or berries, about a palmful (hineydew melon or strawberries work great)

Put it all in a blender and whirl-ify. Liquify. Puree. Whatever.

I call this “Blender in a Tervis” because with its little pieces of cacao nibs, creamy cinnamony color, with pieces of date that are the same color of the inside of a Butterfinger, it reminds me of a Dairy Queen dessert, but healthier.

Also because I’m listening to RHCP and I made the correlation…my pseudo-“Blizzard” in the Tervis I personalized with fandom quotes and pictures of my pittie.

This recipe was born on one of those (post-Whole30) mornings where I had no time to make myself an omelette with leftover veggies and sliced avocado. God bless those mornings when they happen, when I can balance a skillet in one hand and sign a permission slip with the other, but that sure isn’t everyday.

Like most of my creations, the ingredients are what I had on hand.

No shakes, that’s the Whole30 rule as I remember it, because it can bring the sugar dragon out of dormancy. I stick to Whole30 guidelines, and when I go off, I’m re-introducing or splurging and I have carefully thought out and planned both.

Knowing the sugar dragon never really held sway over me, I kept this shake in my breakfast rotation and watched myself for pangs of sugar-needing. The experiment reveals, clothes not tighter.  Haven’t jonesed for a Java Chip frapp or pint of Heath Bar Crunch.

But that’s just me. Proceed with self-awareness.

But in case anyone needed a satiating, protein and nutrient packed breakfast, STAT, here it is.

It fills many needs that way.

It also satisfies that rule-breaking need, that urge that hits you out of nowhere, after extended periods of dietary obedience.

I won’t judge 🙂


That Weight Loss Cabbage Soup from the 80’s


Recipe first, backstory last. Time is valuable, especially when you’re hungry.


  • 1-2 tbsp EV olive, coconut or avocado oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2-4 carrots, diced
  • High quality beef bone broth, enough to fill up stock pot
  • 1 large (28.5 oz) can San Marzano tomatoes, diced or stewed, your preference
  • Chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2-1 whole green cabbage, chopped rough is fine
  • 2-4 stalks kale, chopped (stems removed)
  • 2 cups frozen green beans (fresh is fine, but the frozen ones you don’t have to chop into smaller pieces)
  • 1-2 tsp organic better than bouillon beef base*
  • 1-2 tsp smoked Hungarian paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • Juice of one (Meyer preferred) lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Adobo seasoning to taste, optional


Sautee garlic, onions, carrots and celery in oil until soft.

Add broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil.

Add cabbage, kale, and green beans. Return to boil.

Now.  Taste the broth (caution, it’ll be hot!).  Does it need a kick of flavor, meaty depth? Add the bouillon or glace de veau, how much is your call.

Add paprika and cayenne.

When the cabbage and kale are soft, soup is done. Turn off the heat.

Add the turmeric, salt and pepper last. I’ve read turmeric should be added last, I’ve read it should be heat activated for best health benefits. I add turmeric last because I go for the right color, which I can’t discern until the soup has taken on it’s splendid color at the end.

Squeeze in lemon juice.

  • Bouillon vs. glace de veau: I haven’t yet found the bouillon that is 100% clean or Whole30, which is to say, not loaded with sodium, MSG or sugar.  Even the organic stuff.  I’m lucky enough to have a butcher near me that sells glace de veau (veal stock), that’s made with just veal bones and herbs. But if it’s not a big deal to you, it isn’t to me. My family can’t taste the difference between BTB and glace de veau.

Now, the evolution of this recipe…

I love to eat, I always have, this includes when I was a teenager in the 80’s. I did not hit the genetic jackpot to counterbalance my (very) healthy appetite. From the 1980’s until well into the next century, I would go back and forth between Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, natural supplements, carb-deprivation, the paleo diet, liquid diets, detoxes and cleanses to lose weight.

The weight came off and went back on, and kidney stones developed while I was on those protein-heavy diets. Kidney stones suck.

I gave birth to three kids in six years. So my default ancestral code decided I needed to breastfeed and entire county during the next inevitable potato famine, and store fat for a long, Siberian winter. Which was a problem, because I reside in the drought-stricken western United States where there is no winter, and delicious fish tacos and beer are always available.

When Instagram was introduced to me by my kids as they became social media aware, I started following lots of food pages. I’m a foodie. I followed all the pages.

Some people were doing this thing called Whole30. I noticed funny hashtags like #butdidyoudie? That intrigued me. I wondered if I could handle it. 30 days, no cheat days? I thought, no way. That thought bugged me about me. I researched Whole30 a bit.

Whole30 didn’t present itself to me as a diet, it seemed like a philosophy. And I was so over the things that felt liked fads, band-aids, or like I’d paid too much for a used car.

I had just finished a cleanse, followed by a weekend splurge during an out of town soccer tournament. This cycle was nothing new to me. On Weight Watchers, I was so programmed to use my extra points over the weekend that I would wake up Friday morning, starved and conditioned to devour a California Burrito faster than my son or any of his friends. (If you don’t know what a California Burrito is, it’ll be covered in another post, with a recipe. I got you).

Who the hell needs that cycle? What J. Law calls that “competitive mental illness” kicked in with me…me vs. me is the only competition I will engage in, so I bought Whole30 off Amazon.

I jumped right in without reading “It Starts With Food”, the pre-requisite to Whole30. But aside from a Day 1 reboot because of sugarless gum, I managed. The first 12 days almost killed me. I was pure evil. I slept A LOT, I zombie walked from one room to another in a sugar-withdrawal pity party. And I didn’t think I even consumed that much sugar! Sugar wasn’t ever my thing.

Carbs are my thing.


Potatoes, roasted whole cauliflower, cauliflower rice, roasted broccoli, braised cabbage in tomato sauce.

And when you want something bad enough, like me with food that comforts me, you find a way to get it. That is not to say I was completely comforted during the Whole30. By the time I was out of the first-two-weeks fog, I realized what I had taken on, why it needed to be done, and that I really couldn’t ever go back to eating the way I did.

But I didn’t want to. See, I love control.  If I could, I would prepare for every situational variable that my brain manages to create. That ain’t ever gonna happen. So at the very least, I can control what goes in my body. My kid’s bodies. It beats the hell out of sending nastygrams to Weight Watchers, and it felt good to stick it to Big Ag and the liars that try to make me think sh*tloads of additives in my food aren’t hurting me.

Adapting my favorite foods to be Whole30 compliant gave me such creative bliss, and I got really good at it. No one in the house realized they were pretty much doing Whole30 with me. I did adapt the menu for them based on their activity needs.

While I was on that last cleanse just before I started round 1 of Whole30, soups were recommended and I ate a lot of them. I was always on the lookout for new recipes. I remembered the cabbage soup from the 80’s. The self-inflicted three days of torture diet on which you eat peanut butter toast, hard-boiled eggs, black coffee, and cabbage soup for dinner.

During that moment of nostalgic inspiration, I had all of the ingredients you see in the recipe. I made a huge batch, admittedly, for myself. I didn’t think anyone else would like it. I underestimated how the palates of my family had changed….they scarfed it up.

My family and I ate the cabbage soup for about three days straight, for snack, for lunch, as a side for dinner. And my waist whittled noticeably. I only lost 7 pounds on the Whole30, so when the clothes felt looser after I’d been eating the soup, damn, I felt empowered.

These days, I add collagen protein to the soup, and I make my own bone broth (there are so many posts on this, NomNomPaleo’s is what I follow) with roasted grass-fed beef bones from my butcher. I never throw away the tops/bottoms of carrots, celery, or onions, it all goes in the InstaPot for broth.

Maybe sometimes I eat too many potatoes for dinner, maybe I don’t drink eight glasses of water some days, maybe I give myself a cheat meal every three weeks or so. If and when these things happen, a big batch of the cabbage soup is the remedy.

I looked the cabbage soup recipe up on Pinterest, out of curiosity. I don’t recall many references to the three-day cabbage soup diet that emerged in the 80’s.

Doesn’t matter. I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia. Seriously. I’m listening to the SugarHill Gang as I write this. This soup and I, we got history, man. At age 13, I suffered three days of giving up the my favorite middle school cafeteria beef burritos and those peanut butter brownies with the powdered sugar glaze to lose the ten pounds that stupid diet promised me.

Ha. How many years did I waste chasing some number on a scale. I don’t even weigh myself these days. And I’m 45 years old.  This would be hashtagged as #NSV, I suppose.

Recreating something revs me up. When my kid quotes a John Hughes movie, or I catch my teenager listening to AeroSmith, when Supernatural uses our song by The Doors, that s**t just makes my day. Food is no different, I’ve adapted so many of my favorite recipes to be Whole30 compliant, or just clean, that I want to share them. There’s a better way to eat that. I’ll show ya.

Food and nostalgia. I can do this all day.