Late Afternoon Light at the Joffe Preserve and Venetian Stuffed Chicken

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

I had just finished playing an inspiring faculty chamber music concert at Simons Rock of Bard College. The performance ended in the late afternoon; just enough time to enjoy the late afternoon light at nearby Joffe Preserve in New Marlborough, MA. Melodies from the concert were pleasantly dancing around in my head and as we entered the tiny marshland that surrounds the Joffe Preserve, we encountered another performance. Thousands of frogs were creating an antiphonal early spring concert with bright colorful back and forth calls; we stood still and listened, enchanted by the sounds.

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

The late day light created beautiful reflections and patterns on the water.

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Planning the menu for a dinner with friends, I thought about a recipe that we recently saw on America’s Test Kitchen for turkey breast stuffed with a filling of sage, garlic, fennel, rosemary, parsley and black peppercorns; a normal seasoning used for Italian Porchetta.

As we sat musing about the delicious sounding filling, we concocted a slightly plausible story about how a Jewish Venetian recipe might have been created in the 1500’s:

In 1555, Jews were ordered to live in a section of Venice next to a foundry that made cannons. The Italian word for cannon is giotto and some think that this may be the derivation of the word ghetto.

On a chilly early spring day, an elderly Jewish woman was hurrying through recently restricted Venice. She drew her woolen scarf closely around her shoulders and face to stay warm and at the same time trying not to attract attention to herself. She had been visiting a friend who had been in ill health and was anxious to get home. From a high window of a house on a crowded narrow street, an enticing aroma wafted through the air; fennel, garlic, herbs and spices mixed with the delicious smell of roasting pork.

According to Kosher law, eating pork was strictly forbidden but thinking about the rich and heady smells made her mouth water. When she returned home, she started to prepare Sabbath dinner and looked in her meager larder to see what was available. They had been lucky enough to have money to get a freshly slaughtered kosher chicken and she found fennel seeds, parsley and garlic. She took a few branches of rosemary from a pot on her window sill and pounded this together with olive oil in her worn and ancient mortar and pestle. She spread the mixture over the chicken and lit a fire in her wood burning oven. As the chicken roasted, the same smell she had happened upon earlier filled the air; a new dish was born!

Here is our version of Venetian Stuffed Chicken! Paul remembered the Italian roast chicken and potatoes that his mother and grandmother made with plenty of garlic, black pepper and lemon…. this was a starting point for our creation.

I marinated boneless chicken breasts overnight with minced garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, dried thyme and chopped fresh rosemary. I whirred together fennel seeds, dried thyme and plenty of black peppercorns in a small coffee grinder and then I placed the ground spices in a food processor with fresh sage leaves, parsley, garlic, salt and enough olive oil to make a loose pesto like mixture.

I cut the chicken breasts open and spread generous amounts of the mixture over the chicken and then rolled them up into neat packages. I let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours and then roasted them in a hot oven; the result was heavenly! I hope you enjoy making our invention: Jewish Venetian Stuffed Chicken! We served the chicken with roasted baby potatoes and fresh fennel along with bright green asparagus that a friend contributed to the dinner.

Venetian Stuffed Chicken

Serves Six


6 split boneless chicken breasts with skin left on

Marinade for chicken breasts:

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground pepper

Pesto Mixture:

4 cloves garlic

small bunch Italian parsley

8 sprigs fresh sage

2 teaspoons dried fennel seeds

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (more to taste)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

To Prepare Chicken Breasts:

Pre-heat oven to 380 degrees

Place chicken in a large bowl and add rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt & pepper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Make pesto filling:

Place black pepper mixture from spice grinder into bowl of food processor along with parley, sage, 1 tablespoon rosemary, garlic cloves, olive oil and salt. Process until mixture is finely chopped- add a bit more olive oil if needed to make mixture thinner and smoother.

Cut chicken breasts open and spread mixture on the inside of the chicken. Fold up the chicken into packages and lay seam side down in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle tops with the remaining chopped rosemary and more olive oil.

You can roast the chicken right away, but if you can let the chicken marinate for a few hours, this is even better!

Roast chicken about 45 minutes until the center of the chicken reaches 170 degrees. Place under a broiler for a few minutes to crisp up and brown skin. Let chicken rest a few minutes before serving. ENJOY!!

AND, Here is the “Tree of the Week“!

“Not sure what to think here!”


Kite Hill- Ancram, NY

Spring in Sonoma/ Music and Foodie Explorations: Part 1

Under the auspices of a generous Professional Development Grant from Hofstra University, I recently traveled to California to meet with the legendary jazz oboist, Paul McCandless. I have listened to his lyrical and soaring improvisations for many years with the group Oregon, The Paul Winter Consort and countless other groups. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet together in person.

Reed maker extraordinaire Chris Philpotts and excellent English Hornist with the Cincinnati Symphony had given me Paul’s contact info.

Not sure what to expect or how our sessions would develop, I took a deep breath and decided to plunge into the experience with an open mind and much humility.

I was accompanied for the sessions with my dear friend Carol who is a gifted and talented visual artist. She offered to take pictures and videos and to take notes. As Paul opened the door to his beautiful warm home, I immediately sensed his gentle and intelligent nature. He had set up two chairs next to his bass clarinet and soprano sax and I realized that his intention was to share his knowledge with me. I took out my oboe and he asked me to improvise a simple melody. Over the next two days, he offered tips and advise on the art of improvisation and how he envisioned the use of the oboe as a jazz instrument. His comments were always carefully phrased, insightful and full of useful intention. I came away from our sessions together invigorated and motivated. I will always treasure this short time that we spent together.

I also enjoyed greatly talking to Paul; discussing our careers in music and sharing stories about teachers from our past. It turns out that we both studied with the legendary oboist Robert Bloom. He played tracks from some of his favorite improvisations, including a piece from a recording that he made with The Paul Winter Consort and the exquisite Brazilian singer, Renato Braz. Listening to Paul’s lyrical and soaring lines along with the singer’s soulful voice was moving and inspirational beyond words.

At some point, almost inevitably, the conversation turned to food. Paul asked where we had dinner the night before and we described the excellent Butternut Squash Gnocchi with sage brown butter topped with crushed Amaretti cookie crumbs that we had a cozy small restaurant in Healdsburg called Spinster Sisters.

As we described the flavor and texture of the dish, Paul’s eyes lit up in recognition. His group Oregon had been on a tour to Italy, traveling through the part of the alps that borders Austria and Italy. A local restaurant owner was a fan of their group. To honor the group, he created an entire menu with dishes inspired by some of his favorite compositions; one of the entrees was butternut squash ravioli; a magical blend of music and food!

After our all too short time together, Carol and I set off on a planned foodie exploration in the surrounding Napa Valley.

Our base was the small unpretentious town of Santa Rosa; home of Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanut’s comic strip. We flew into the tiny Santa Rosa airport, nick named the “Snoopy Airport”; the bathrooms walls were lined with Peanut themed mosaics!

Statues from the Peanuts comic strip were placed throughout the town of Santa Rosa.

One of our favorite lunch spots was a charming plant-based restaurant Little Saint in Healdsburg. We shared an artfully arranged salad dressed with winter citrus and herbs and dressed with a delicate Meyer lemon vinaigrette.

Along with a mug of frothy hot chocolate made with almond milk, I enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich made with cashew cheddar on crunchy sour dough bread flecked with sea salt; with a side of marinated carrots and spicy home made whole grain mustard it was a perfect combination of tastes and textures!

Carol had an equally delicious black bean burger, but it was the dessert that was the unexpected star of the day. We shared a small vegan chocolate tart made with whipped ganache, almond paste and candied orange. It tasted rich and decadent; hard to believe that no butter, cream or eggs were involved. I asked if it might be possible to get the recipe, the answer was the expected polite “sorry, but, no”!

After lunch we had a short rest at our lovely small hotel, the historic Hotel La Rose built in 1907. The staff was friendly and helpful, the building was charming and full of character, the rooms spacious and clean with the price of the rooms surprisingly affordable.

Hotel La Rose- Santa Rosa, CA

Courtyard Hotel La Rose- Santa Rosa, CA

And then, it was time to head out to our dinner destination, the Glen Ellen Star in the idyllic small town of Glen Ellen which is nestled in the hills of Sonoma Valley. Glen Ellen is the home of the American novelist Jack London, who wrote Call of the Wild. He lived there from 1905 until his death in 1916.

On the way to Glen Ellen, we stopped often to take pictures and to admire the stunning landscape. Because of the long drought that California has endured, the hills would normally be rusty brown. This year in early March, as a result of the abnormal rainfall, the landscape was a verdant green.

The Glen Ellen Star Restaurant was a little gem, with an excellent farm to table menu. We started the meal with a round of freshly baked sour dough bread topped with grated parmesan and served with herb butter.

This along with roasted cauliflower with a sauce of tahini, dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend of nuts,sesame seeds, coriande and cumin) and sunflower seeds would have made a complete meal!

But the menu was too tempting, so we soldiered on and ordered tender roast chicken served over creamy polenta made with sweet red cornmeal.

We managed to find the room to share one dessert; delicate Panna Cotta with salted caramel sauce. It was cool, smooth and not too sweet- a perfect ending to a beautiful day!

I did find a few California candidates for “Tree of the Week. This is one of my very reptilian like favorites!

Part 2 of our California Foodie Exploration coming soon!

Montini Preserve- Sonoma, CA


Hamlin Bear Trail and Colombian Empanadas!

I am back from my trip to California where I collaborated with the legendary jazz oboist Paul McCandless. It was an amazing and life changing experience and now I am happily sorting through pictures and notes. While I am getting everything organized into what will probably be a two or three part blog, here is a shorter post from this past week.

After my usual Friday commute to teach at Hofstra, I stay over in Manhattan; the next morning I decided to find a new neighborhood to explore. I thought that the Morris Park neighborhood in the Bronx might be interesting. First, I headed up to Columbia University for a delicious breakfast treat at one of my favorite haunts, Community on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets. I enjoyed the Veggie Scramble: egg whites, market vegetables, with avocado wedges and 7-grain toast served with crunchy home fried potatoes mixed with shredded carrots along with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea.

Across the street, with views of the imposing Cathedral of Saint John the Devine, is a branch of the excellent bookstore, Book Culture. I was looking for a copy of MFK Fisher’s classic, How to Cook a Wolf and ended up buying sale copies of a collection of short stories by Edith Wharton and Tocqueville’s classic, Democracy in America. At the corner of West 113th is a tiny bubble tea cafe. I ordered a lightly sweetened Chai Bubble Tea with almond milk for later in the day. Fortified, I was ready for my exploration!

Several years ago I traveled on small tours with a flute, oboe and guitar ensemble called Trio Sonata; the group had an old style manager who always offered this sage advice: “When you arrive at your destination, before you go to your hotel or eat anything, make sure that you secure the location!” This directive has served me well, and on this day, the location I wanted to secure was an empanada restaurant in Morris Park that I had read about called La Masa. I found the restaurant and parked my car nearby.

Whenever I go to a new area, I like to walk slowly around and see what catches my eye. The side streets were filled with tidy one and two story homes with a feeling of a solidly working class neighborhood. The main street was lined with small mom and pop businesses; I entered the tiny Morris Park Meat Market and enjoyed listening to the heavy thick New York accents in the easy going banter between the owner/butcher and longtime customers. When the butcher saw me looking at the display case he asked me what I would like to purchase. I was curious about the coils of parley flecked sausages. He described the different kinds of sausage and I said I would return in the near future with my cooler, he said, “Smart Lady”- or as I heard it- it sounded like “Smat laydee!”

Across the street, I saw an Italian bakery that looked inviting; Faglione Brothers.

In the display case, I saw some curious looking crackers; the counter person told me they were called Taralli. I had never seen this particular cracker and asked what part of Italy they were from; they were not sure. I found out later that Taralli is a peculiar Italian bread from the region of Puglia. They were created in the 8th century by poor workers in Puglia from leftover scraps of dough. The crunchy cracker is typically made from just flour, salt, olive oil and white wine. I bought a few to take home and also could not resist a delicious crispy sfogliatelle pastry filled with lemony ricotta- one almost made it home intact!

Taralli and Breadsticks- Faglione Brothers Bakery

Sfogiatelle- Faglione Brothers

My next stop was for Columbian Empanadas from the restaurant La Masa. I entered the bright and welcoming space and was greeted by the effusive owner.

I ordered several different empanadas to eat on my way home; chicken lime cilantro, roasted vegetables and shrimp salteados (onions, green pepper and pureed potato). The covering for Columbian empanadas are made from masa corn flour; called masarepa and are deep fried. I took a bag of piping hot empanadas and enjoyed them as I headed home. The cornmeal covering was light, not at all greasy and was crunchy and slightly chewy inside. All of the fillings were delicate and delicious. Just 2 1/2 miles from the New York Botanical Gardens and 2 minutes from the Hutchinson Parkway North, this is a place that I will definitely return to many more times. A great discovery and a few empanadas did make it home for my husband to try!

Empanadas from Masa

This particular day, it was sunny with a bright blue sky; spring was in the air! As I neared home, it was late afternoon and there were beautiful clouds- maybe time for a short walk? I turned onto a dirt road that leads to the Hamlin Bear Trail in Sharon, CT and luckily I had my waterproof hiking boots in the car.

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

I headed down the muddy, very slushy trail, hoping that I would not end the day slipping and coming home covered in mud! After sitting in the car for a few hours, I was rewarded by the fresh cold air, brilliant blue sky and billowy clouds.

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

A perfect ending for this day!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week” which I am proud to say that my husband Paul found this one!

” I do have a lot to say on the subject”

California blog coming soon!


A Frosty Winter Walk and Spiced Apple/Sour Cherry Cobbler

It’s hard to believe that three years have gone by since the beginning of the pandemic, when we searched for places to walk where we would encounter few other people. My husband Paul had come across an article in an old New Yorker magazine that was about to join the recycle pile. The writer Alan Weisman, who wrote the book: The World Without Us, was waiting out the pandemic at his home in rural Cummington, Massachusetts. He took daily inspiration from his walks at the bucolic William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington.

We decided to seek out the site and discovered a place of great natural beauty; it had a timeless air of peace and solitude. Since then, we have returned countless times during all of the seasons. One of our favorite trails is the Sugar Bush Trail that winds through an old maple sugaring farm. A few weeks ago, we bundled up to take a walk there on a cold and frosty day. At the beginning of the trail one of Bryant’s poems is posted- “Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs no school of long experience, that the world is full of guilt and misery and hast seen enough of all its sorrows, crimes and cares. To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature. The calm shade shall bring a kindred calm.”

So fitting for our time with the devastation in Turkey and Ukraine and our current climate of political divide and mistrust. Nature continues to be a balm for the soul!

Make a cup of hot tea and join us on a virtual walk through the woods!

And as always, thinking about food and particularly cooking and dreaming up delicious combinations of flavors is centering and calming.

I have been using a vegan recipe for spelt biscuits from Erin McKennas’s Baby Cakes Cookbook for several years; the biscuits make a great topping for either savory potpies or fruit cobblers.

We enjoy fruit cobblers with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and peaches, whatever is in season. Recently Paul asked about mixing cherries and apples and at first, I admit that I turned up my nose at the idea. But, we had a bag of frozen sour cherries in the freezer and I decided to give it a try. I placed the frozen cherries and a few peeled and sliced apples in a medium pot. We have gotten used to desserts without any added sugar, but if you desire a sweeter taste, feel free to add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to the fruit as it cooks. I thought that some warming spices might be nice; cinnamon and a pinch each of allspice and ground cloves. I cooked down the mixture until the fruit softened and added a slurry of cornstarch mixed with water. The mixture quickly thickened and bubbled up with a lovely aroma and with the addition of vanilla extract it smelled even better. And, it turns out that the combination of cherries and apples was delicious!

Next week I travel to California for a collaboration with the jazz oboist Paul McCandless. I will be accompanied by my intrepid travel buddy Carol and after the sessions with Paul McCandless, we are going on a foodie road trip to nearby Sonoma county; we were lucky enough to snare a reservation at the famous restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley! I have been eagerly reading the menu and lo and behold, a featured dessert is apple and sour cherry Galette! Much more to come from our California culinary adventures…..

Spiced Apple and Sour Cherry Cobbler

Pre- heat oven to 350 degrees


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole grain spelt flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup hot water

To Make Biscuits:

In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder. Mix well.

Add oil and hot water, stir to combine and knead mixture gently a few times with your hands.



3-4 large apples peeled and thinly sliced

8 ounces frozen sour cherries (a mixture of sweet or sour cherries is fine)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with about 2 teaspoons water- more if needed.

Make the Filling:

Place frozen cherries in a medium sized pot and cook over a low heat until cherries soften and start to release a bit of their juice.

Add apples and cook mixture until apples start to soften slightly.

Add cornstarch mixture and whisk mixture until it thickens and the cornstarch turns clear. Stir in vanilla.

Place mixture in bottom of a baking dish and form biscuits on top.

Bake about 40 minutes until filling bubbles up and biscuits brown nicely.

Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.


AND: Here’s the Tree of the Week

“It’s really cold out here, but the sun does feel good!!”

Parsons Marsh- Lenox, MA


A Snowy Day at the Killarney Bridge and Warming Red Curry Thai Chicken Stew

Extreme weather dominated the holiday season with catastrophic amounts of snow and disrupted travel plans. Just a few days before, we experienced a normal amount of snow- the kind that softly blankets everything, muffles sound and makes one want to walk slowly through the woods, breath in the cold fresh air and enjoy the pristine surroundings.

Barbour Woods, Norfolk, CT

We drove to nearby Barbour Woods in Norfolk, Connecticut with trails that wind through old carriage roads, one of which leads to an old stone arch bridge built in 1908. The Killarney Bridge built by Norfolk resident Frederick Shepard, takes it’s name from a similar bridge in Killarney, Ireland.

The woods were peaceful and perfectly still with the snow weighing down the branches and with the trail a bit slippery in spots, I trod carefully. Through the trees, we could see the crumbling foundation of the abandoned bridge and it felt as if we were on a treasure hunt. In 1908, this area of Norfolk was a bustling industrial center manufacturing knitting cotton and included several tanneries and an iron works. Broad swaths of the forest were cleared and the lumber produced charcoal to smelt iron ore.

When we return in the summer, it will be possible to walk almost underneath the bridge. For now, the path down to the edge of the bridge was icy and slippery; the day raw and chilly. It was time to return home for hot chocolate and start to put together the ingredients for a warming Red Curry Thai Chicken Stew!

The dish is based on a recipe from NYT Cooking, Brothy Thai Curry with Silken Tofu. I swapped out boneless chicken thighs for the tofu and the dish was the perfect thing for a cold winter’s night. We served it over brown rice, sprinkled with chopped peanuts and it was aromatic, piping hot and delicious!

Red Curry Thai Chicken Stew


  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2shallots, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1(1-inch) piece ginger, scrubbed and grated
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1(14-ounce) can cherry tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1 quart water
  • 1(13.5-ounce) can low-fat coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½cups mixed fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil.
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for squeezing


Heat a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high.

Add the oil and shallots, and stir until softened, 2 minutes. Add chicken and brown on all sides.

Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste, stir, and cook until fragrant and the paste turns deep red, 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the tomato juices thicken slightly, 4 minutes.

Add the water and coconut milk and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 1 hour until chicken is very tender.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in cilantro and basil.

Serve with lime wedges.


AND: Here is the first “Tree of the Week” for the New Year! For those new to my blog, I love photographing old trees and greatly enjoy imagining various facial expressions. A definition of the word pareidolia recently featured in the Word of the Day aptly described my fixation: “the tendency for perception to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object, pattern, or meaning where there is none.” This may be more common then I might have thought. Last spring, I was strolling through Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, New York. I had stopped by an old gnarly cherry tree and was looking closely at it. An elderly Asian woman walking by, observed me and said softly: “Do you see the smile?” Case in point!

“So you say??”


Winter Light and the Ultimate Comfort Food: Twice Baked Potatoes

Kite Hill- Ancram, New York

The days are short and the late afternoon sun slips quickly into darkness. I have a break from teaching with just enough time to take a walk at nearby Kite Hill in Ancram, New York. The light is beautiful with rich shades of brown and dark blue clouds; the cold air is brisk and invigorating.

Kite Hill: Ancram, New York

All to soon, the light starts to fade. I anticipate returning home after teaching to make a fire in the wood stove and sit with a cup of hot tea while I think about what to make for a quick dinner. Comfort food comes to mind- maybe baked double stuffed potatoes. This could turn into one of my favorite dinners that we call “German Night”; assembled with whatever ingredients are in the freezer or refrigerator. This evening’s feast includes sauteed apples spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, stone ground German mustard with organic chicken/mushroom sausages, Hosta Hill spicy Crimson Sauerkraut and twice baked potatoes.

Potatoes are baked in a hot oven until the skin is crisp and the insides are soft. I scoop out middle of the potatoes and usually mash the mixture with butter and milk. I decided to try a less rich method using extra virgin olive oil, kefir and plenty of salt and pepper. This gave the mixture a tangy rich taste. Topped off with grated parmesan cheese and baked until the cheese is melted and browned, they are the perfect comfort food to eat in front of a hot fire!

Baked Double Stuffed Potatoes

This really is a no-recipe dish. I usually make 2 potatoes, but you can make as many as you want.

Pre heat the oven to 375 Degrees.

Rinse off potatoes and make a few slashes with a sharp paring knife in each potato.

Bake about an hour until the skin is crisp and the inside of the potatoes are very soft.

Cut around the circumference of the potatoes, scoop out the middles and place in a medium pot. Pour in a few glugs of olive oil and enough kefir so that when you mash the mixture you get a soft filling. You could also use yogurt or buttermilk. You can’t go wrong here- any amount of oil or kefir will make a delicious filling. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place filling into potato shells and sprinkle tops with plenty of grated parmesan. Bake in oven about 30-35 minutes. The potatoes should be steaming hot and the parmesan will be brown and crispy. ENJOY!!

At this time of the year, I often take stock of how fortunate we are in our neck of the woods and I am so grateful that music and art is such an important part of my life. When I look at the sweet earnest faces of the members of my Recorder Ensemble from Hofstra University before a recent concert, all of this is brought home to me!

Hofstra University Recorder Ensemble

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

“I may have eaten too many baked stuffed potatoes!”

Best Wishes for Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

Lime Kiln Preserve: Sheffield, MA

Savory Tomato Bread Pudding and Mountain Meadow Preserve

Mountain Meadow Preserve- Williamstown, MA

A bucolic sunny afternoon on Labor Day weekend … of our last summer forays! My husband Paul, the intrepid trail blazer, found a walk at the Mountain Meadow Preserve in Williamstown, Massachusetts complete with stunning views of Mt. Greylock in the distance.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

The sun was strong and bright; a hot day. We walked slowly uphill through a fragrant meadow.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

Even with the warm temperature, we saw signs of fall; milkweed pods hung languidly from their stalks and we were delighted to come across late summer wildflowers. The air smelled sweet; at the edges of the field we peered into the cool woods. Ferns were starting to turn brown and gave off a slightly nutty aroma; almost like coconut.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

Mountain Meadow Preserve

We have been gifted with yet one more talented gardener’s summer bounty. We also had a rather large amount of stale sourdough bread hanging around from the Hungry Ghost Bakery in Northampton, MA; our new addiction!

Stuffing is one of my favorite cold weather comfort foods. I came up with a dish that combines my love of stuffing. It was a good use for stale bread and also for a surplus of cherry tomatoes. The combination of the crunchy savory bread moistened with chicken stock and vegetables full of flavor was irresistible; even better with a glass of chilled rose!


Savory Tomato Bread Pudding


3 cups stale sourdough bread cut into medium cubes

1 medium onion chopped finely

1/2 bunch lacinato kale chopped, tough center stem removed

5 mushrooms chopped

1 medium zucchini chopped into small pieces

1 cup chicken stock (more if needed) If you have home made stock on hand, this would be great.

1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled

12-13 cherry tomatoes halved

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make Bread Pudding:

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy saucepan.

Add chopped onions and saute until slightly softened over medium heat.

Add dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Add mushrooms and zucchini and saute about 5 minutes until mushrooms release their liquid and zucchini starts to soften.

Add kale and cook a few minutes.

Remove pan from heat and add bread cubes. Add chicken stock a bit at a time to let the bread absorb the liquid slowly. If the bread mixture seems to dry, you can always add a bit more stock.

Pre heat oven to 375 Degrees Farenheit

Place mixture in a lightly greased casserole dish.

Place tomatoes on top of the bread/vegetable mixture and sprinkle feta cheese over the tomatoes.

Pour a good glug of olive oil over the mixture and bake about 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes start to burst, the mixture bubbles and the bread is crunchy and browned around the edges of the pan.


AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Feeling a bit long in the face!”

William Cullen Bryant Homestead Cummington, MA


Foodie Heaven, Continued: Iceland Part 4

Tryggvaskali Restaurant- Selfloss, Iceland

On the second night of our Iceland adventure, we had dinner in the small town of Selfloss about an hour from Reykjavik. The charming Tryggvaskali Restaurant is housed in a historic building that was built in 1880 and since 1900 has been in continually in operation; either as a store, inn or restaurant.

The building even has it’s own ghost. According to local lore: “On September 30, 1929, there was a loud knock on the west door of Tryggvaskála, and when Óli J. Ísfeld, a restaurateur, opened the door, he saw a tall and thin woman with an 8-10 year old child with her. This vision disappeared from the restaurateur as quickly as it appeared. Testified later that it was a maid who was supposed to start at Tryggvaskála that day, but had died during the summer, without it being reported in Selfoss. She had been paid in advance for the work, and throughout the years the staff of Tryggvaskála have felt that they have been helped at times of stress.”

From our table by the window we looked out at lupines hugging the shore of the pristine Olfusa river.

Selfloss, Iceland

The fish in Iceland was incredibly fresh with many meals featuring either cod or salmon. At the Tryggvaskali restaurant I noticed an unusual appetizer on the menu; whale tataki with garlic soy wasabi and sesame seed. I had to try this, I wasn’t sure when I would have the opportunity to sample whale again! The fish was lightly grilled and similar to sashimi. The texture was a tiny bit rubbery but the flavor was delicate and briny.

Whale Tataki

For entrees we enjoyed beautiful presentations of pan fried ling cod served with garlic potato salad, grilled corn and honey glazed carrots and salmon with pesto and charred broccoli over barley.

We had many excellent meals, but one simple lunch stands out. We found the Geirabakari Kaffihus totally by accident. Once we left Reykjavik, the landscape changed dramatically, stark and atmospheric with waterfalls cascading down mountains that at one time were covered with trees.

On a cloudy overcast day, we drove down a desolate road and approached the small town of Borgarnes. We were looking for a place to have lunch, not setting our sights too high.

Geirabakari Kaffihus stands next to a few nondescript small businesses, slightly run down around the heel. But when we entered the bakery, we were met by the yeasty aroma of freshly baked goods and the cafe was filled with local people queued up to the counter. Keeping with the plan of the trip to indulge in whatever we wanted to eat, we chose flaky buttery croissant sandwiches filled to the brim with ham, cheese, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato; all covered with a creamy dill sauce. This was accompanied with mugs of rich steamy hot chocolate- simply delicious!

Geirabakari Kaffihus Borgarnes, Iceland

Way too soon, our Iceland adventure was coming to an end. On our last day of the trip, we returned to Reykjavik. For dinner that evening we had made a reservation at the Public House, a trendy gastro pub with Asian influences. The best way to describe the eclectic menu would be Asian Tapas. We ordered probably too much food: vegetable dumplings; crispy tacos with roasted beets, goat cheese, fig jam and truffle mayo and grilled lamb kebabs with miso, ginger and pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds. I am not a great fan of lamb, but this was the most tender and full of flavor lamb that I have ever tasted. The spicy and assertive flavor combinations from the various dishes were perfect with mugs of frosty Icelandic beer!

We left a tiny bit of room for two desserts: skyr panna cotta with coconut and salted caramel and strawberries with oat crumble and strawberry sorbet; then it really was time to travel back home!

Many of the restaurants and cafes that we visited offered excellent fish chowders; all unique and equally delicious. What they all had in common is that they were not thick and gluey like some New England fish chowders.

This past week I found myself with a surplus of sweet fresh corn and fish chowder came to mind. I channeled all of the Icelandic chowders that I had tasted and came up with up with a chowder filled with corn, cod, leeks, potatoes, celery and onion; garnished with crisp bits of prosciutto, scallion and parsley. This would also work with shrimp or chunks of salmon. You can also add a few pieces of fresh kale; I was lucky to be given the most tender kale from a friend’s garden. We ate this with hunks of rosemary sourdough bread from the Hungry Ghost Bakery and a salad of fresh greens and local tomatoes with balsamic dressing. A glass of chilled rose would also be lovely with this! Enjoy!

Summer Fish Chowder


1 /2 pound cod cut into chunks

3 medium red potatoes cut into small pieces

1 onion finely chopped

1 medium leek, rinsed well finely chopped

4 ears fresh corn

2 stalks celery finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

few pieces fresh kale torn into small pieces (optional)

For garnish:

a few tablespoons of finely chopped parley

2 scallions finely chopped

1/8 pound prosciutto

2 tablespoons flour

Make Stock:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add corn. Cook briefly for one minute and remove corn from pot.

With a sharp knife, scrape corn kernels from cobs and place in a small bowl. Put corn cobs back in pot and simmer for about 1/2 hour. Strain liquid and reserve stock.

In a clean soup pot, heat olive oil over and add onions.

Saute until onions soften slightly.

Add leeks and celery- cook for about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and combine well.

Add potatoes, thyme, bay leaf.

Add stock- it should come to about 1/2 way up the pot.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Cover pot and simmer until potatoes are soft and then add corn and pieces of fish. Cook only a few minutes, just until fish flakes easily.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a small pan heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Drain on paper towel and break into small pieces.

Add garnishes of scallions, parsley and prosciutto if desired.


AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“It’s safe in here- I’ll just stay a little while!”


Kite Hill- Ancram, NY

Foodie Heaven! Iceland: Part 3

Tryggvas- Selfloss, Iceland

When planning our recent trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restaurant scene in Iceland. I had heard that the food was boring and not very creative; I decided to plan with an open mind and with not very high expectations. What I discovered was a vibrant food scene that has changed greatly in the last few years. We found restaurants that used the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients; the food was creative and lovingly prepared.

The first day of our trip was spent in Reykjavik; we arrived early in the morning and dropped off our bags at the charming Apotek Hotel. We asked the desk clerk to recommend a good bakery and her eyes lit up. She said, “You must try Baka Baka for the most delicious pastries”. We decided early on that for this trip there were no holds barred; we were going to enjoy as much sugar and rich food as we wanted! We headed down the street, walked up a small hill and saw the open door of Baka Baka beckoning to us.

As we entered we were welcomed with the rich smell of coffee and freshly baked pastries. We ordered a yeasty fragrant Cardamom Bun filled with almond paste and enjoyed it with coffee and a pot of herbal tea that had the light delicate taste of currents.

The plan for our first day was to explore Reykjavik and at the the same time try to stave off jetlag. We spent the next few hours walking slowly around the quaint streets and adjusting gradually to the lovely cool windy temperature of 50 degrees F!

The time flew by and we were ready for our first lunch reservation at Hosilo, a small unpretentious restaurant on a quiet side street. The other diners were young Icelanders and as we waited for our food to arrive, we enjoyed listening to the lyrical sounds of the Icelandic language. The food was creatively presented; I started with an appetizer of “watermelon” sushi-cool, rosy slices of fruit in a savory gingery sauce. Expecting the taste of raw fish, my taste buds were jolted awake- a good remedy for my sleepy mind!

I had some of the freshest and most tender shrimp I have ever tasted with house made pasta, basil, tomato and roasted garlic.

It was all bathed in extra virgin olive and served with a slice of crunchy parmesan toast.

We were starting to fade quickly, but thought a walk down the hill to the harbor and to the Harpa Concert Hall might revive us.

Harpa- Reykjavik, Iceland

Luckily for us, we discovered that there was a short interactive visual installation offered; Circuleight. As we entered a large gallery, we were surrounded by animations that were inspired by eight natural elements: lava, glacier, water, algae, micro organism, flora, basalt, and volcanic gas. If you waved your hand or came close to one of the images, the image would respond to the motion; it gave the effect of the artwork improvising. The installation was accompanied by a score written by the Icelandic composer Hogni Egilsson. I found a place to curl up, leaned against one of the walls and immersed myself in the experience; although I confess, I fell briefly asleep! It was time for a short nap at our hotel.

Circuleight Installation- Harpa

Just an hour of sleep and we were refreshed and ready to continue on our culinary adventures of the day! For dinner, I had a made a reservation at The CooCoo’s Nest. From our hotel, we walked a few miles to the quirky, newly developed section of the waterfront with art galleries, specialty food shops and restaurants. CooCoo’s Nest was opened in 2013 by Anna and Lucas Keller.

The CooCoo’s Nest- Reykjavik, Iceland

A passionate chef, Lucas is originally from California and trained and worked in Italy. Since opening, the restaurant has gained a loyal local clientele.

It was Taco Tuesday, so we ordered the sampling menu of 3 different tacos that included tequila marinated fish with guacamole, shredded cabbage and spicy sour cream; slow cooked lamb, salsa verde and pickled raddish; and a vegetarian taco with sweet potato, charred broccoli and a spicy romesco sauce. They were delicious and the flavors danced in our mouths.

The CooCoo’s Nest- Reykjavik, Iceland

We ate our dinner outside the restaurant at a picnic table and watched young families strolling by; several of which were licking ice cream cones. Glancing to our right we saw an inviting ice cream shop- well one more treat for the day!

An interesting flavor was listed on the wall that looked very similar to my last name- “Danskur lakkris”. I asked for a taste and the young clerk told me that the flavor was Danish licorice. Very nice, but I settled for a double dish with dark chocolate and lemon ginger crunch and then enjoying our ice cream, we walked oh so slowly back to our hotel; the sky still bright blue in the late evening. Shortly after we returned to our room we fell into a deep slumber!

Thus ended our first day in Reykjavik. Coming soon…. one more Icelandic blog detailing the other food highlights of our trip; some from restaurants where the food was simply but expertly prepared in lovely peaceful settings.

Silfra Restaurant- Nesjavellir, Iceland

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Well, THEY sure ate a lot!”

Twin Lakes- Salisbury, CT


Spring Woodland Wildflowers, Yellow Violets and Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti!

There they were– our little patch of yellow violets; waiting for us to rediscover them and coo over their delicate beauty! Last year, we went on a prolonged search for the seemingly elusive flowers and they turned out to be right under our noses; just across the street from the trailhead to the Pine Loop Trail at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead.

With so much uncertainty and turbulence in our times, the predictable cycle of seasons is comforting and small observances are a delight!

During the pandemic when we were sequestered in place and could not perform in public, I found inspiration and a creative outlet by playing short improvisations in woodland and other outdoor settings. This past year, I have been back to playing indoor concerts and it is wonderful to once again communicate with live audiences; case in point, a performance of the Mozart Coronation Mass that I performed in this past weekend. Written in 1779 in Salzburg, the composition became known as a preferred piece of music for the Imperial Court of Vienna to commemorate royal and imperial coronations. The entire mass is in the cheerful key of C major; full of lively and at the same time poignant oboe duets with lovely lyrical lines.

Enveloped by the sounds of Mozart’s ethereal music with violins, viola, cello and double bass along with two resonant oboes playing in close harmonies was an intense aural experience; one that I realized I had missed dearly.

Even though this was a heartwarming and wonderful experience, I realized that I also missed my solo impromptu concerts! When we went on our yellow violet exploration, I brought along my alto recorder. Although playing outside alone was a very different, I enjoyed hearing the sound of the recorder waft off gently into the distance. Here is a short “Ode to the Yellow Violet” inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem:

The Yellow Violet


When beechen buds begin to swell,

  And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,

The yellow violet’s modest bell

  Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.

Ere russet fields their green resume,

  Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,

To meet thee, when thy faint perfume

  Alone is in the virgin air.

Of all her train, the hands of Spring

  First plant thee in the watery mould,

And I have seen thee blossoming

  Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.

Thy parent sun, who bade thee view

  Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,

Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,

  And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.

Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,

  And earthward bent thy gentle eye,

Unapt the passing view to meet

  When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.

Oft, in the sunless April day,

  Thy early smile has stayed my walk;

But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,

  I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

So they, who climb to wealth, forget

  The friends in darker fortunes tried.

I copied them—but I regret

  That I should ape the ways of pride.

And when again the genial hour

  Awakes the painted tribes of light,

I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower

  That made the woods of April bright.

“An Ode to a Yellow Violet”- William Cullen Bryant Homestead

On our walks we were excited to see the return of many beautiful woodland wildflowers from last season and we also made a few new discoveries.

At the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut, columbines lined the forest floor.

White Memorial Conservation Center- Litchfield, CT

A gentle brook flowed down a hillside that led to a marsh area with beautiful yellow flowers.

At the Steeple Top Preserve in New Marlborough, MA, speckled trout lilies lined the trail.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Tiny daisy like yellow flowers nestled next to rocks in a stream.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

At the D’Alton Preserve in the Ellsworth section of Sharon, CT, we happened upon flowers we had not seen before; white star shaped flowers and delicate pink flowers capped with yellow tops. On a rainy day I plan to look up all of their names!

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

A pert line of flowers at the Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, Massachusetts……..

We often find ourselves in Northampton, MA and have become addicted to the sourdough bread at the Hungry Ghost Bakery. Made from excellent ingredients, it has an delicious sourdough flavor and if we are lucky, we arrive when fresh wholegrain sesame loaves have just come out of the oven. We take our treasure back to the car and break off crusty hunks of piping hot bread; so good it is almost enough for dinner! They also sell scones, cookies and biscotti. I tried an irresistible lemon fennel almond biscotti that was rich with butter and sugar. I decided to try to create an equally good biscotti that was guilt free. I used the same basic recipe that I created for Gingerbread Biscotti featured in my Ol’ Stoney Lonesome Blog. I swapped out the warming winter spices; ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and star anise and used lemon zest, fennel seeds and toasted almonds. They were delicious and they quickly disappeared! The biscotti would be good dipped in iced coffee or with a bowl of fresh strawberries. I hope you enjoy making these!!

Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti


  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • zest from one organic lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
  • cup whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour


  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, egg white, both sugars, salt, baking soda, almond extract and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed just to combine, scrape down the bowl and beater, then increase the speed to high and beat for a full 90 seconds or until the mixture is slightly paler, thick and ribbon like.
  3. Add the flour. Beat on low speed until mostly combined, stopping the beater just before all the flour is incorporated so you don’t overmix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry bits into the dough. Add fennel and almonds.
  4. Gather the dough with your hands, kneading lightly in the bowl just to bring everything together into a cohesive mass. Place the dough on the center of the prepared sheet, then dampen your hands with water and mold the dough into a 9-by-4-inch log about 1 inch tall. Bake until the log puffs and spreads a little, turns golden brown at the edges and is firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut at a diagonal into 12 (¾-inch-wide) slices. Turn the slices on their sides and return to the oven.
  6. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until slightly browned and dry in the centers, 10 to 15 minutes. Bake longer for drier, crunchier biscotti. Remove from the oven and cool the biscotti on the sheet. Turn the slices top sides up.
  7. The biscotti will last for a couple of weeks in an airtight container at room temperature- well maybe!!


AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Oh Gee, Feeling a Bit Silly Today”