Friday, February 12, 2010

The secret to a life of love

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,

“Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud:


Someone would call the cops.

These lines by the 13th Century poet Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky) seem especially meaningful as Valentine’s Day approaches.

Have you noticed how men are looking like deer in the headlights?
“It’s just a marketing ploy,” they protest, dreading the occasion because they feel they must do something special, something just right—my husband Ted included. Who can blame them?

My single women friends feel pressured to have a date or romantic plans that day. They feel excluded if they don’t.

Enough! I believe there is a secret to filling a life with love. And so does our poet Hafiz as he continues . . .

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying,

With that sweet moon


What every other eye in this world

Is dying to hear.

No matter how much love comes our way, unless we ourselves cultivate a capacity to openly give others the very feelings we seek, no amount of obligated fawning or admiration can satisfy.

I’ve learned that to be a happy, healthy human being, I must be the source of my own buoyancy and joyful feelings. So here is what I’m doing to make my Valentine's Day feelings special.

Today, I’m in my kitchen making a double batch of my Divine Fudge. I’m stirring my best wishes into the rich, molten mixture while my favorite love songs play in the background. I’m pouring it into a pan lined with wax paper.

When cool, I will cut the fudge into pieces and place two squares in each of many little clear cellophane treat bags available at craft stores.

I will tie them with a ribbon and give these to everyone I meet tomorrow—even the check out gal at the market, the postman, and put some in my all my neighbor’s mailboxes.

And, you must absolutely do something romantic for yourself this Valentine’s Day! My best suggestion this year is to order one of the fragrant candles made of real scented wax that are flameless! (Click on the link to order.)

Batteries need replacing only once a month. They come in all sizes and shapes, and they make a most romantic flickering bedroom night-lights.

You always look your very best in candlelight!


Here is the epicurean fudge recipe I have more requests for than any other. I continue to tweak it, trying all kinds of nuts and other ingredients. Because it doesn't require a candy thermometer, it is easier than the old-fashioned kind and much more dependable.

For approximately 64 squares

14 ounces dark chocolate, broken up or chopped (see Note)

1¼ cups finely chopped walnuts, or other nuts, lightly toasted (optional)

10 tablespoons soft butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 cups sugar

1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk

22 large marshmallows

Note: Today my preference is to use 4 (3.5 ounce) bars of Valrhona chocolate (2 bars dark bittersweet, 1 barsemisweet, and 1 bar dark bitter), purchased most economically at Trader Joe's.

Combine the chocolate pieces, nuts, butter, and vanilla in a large heatproof bowl, preferably one with a spout for easy pouring.

Combine the sugar, evaporated milk and marshmallows in a heavy-bottomed 5- to 6-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a large wire whisk or a sturdy wooden spoon or large whisk. When the marshmallows melt and the mixture comes to a boil set your timer for 8 minutes. Stir almost constantly until the buzzer rings. Now is a good time to stir in your wishes or prayers for those who will enjoy your Divine Fudge.

Remove from the heat and very carefully (it is super hot!) pour the marshmallow mixture over the chocolate, butter and nuts. Whisk or beat constantly until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture is very smooth. Quickly pour into the prepared pan(s) or onto a cold surface, using a rubber spatula for spreading the fudge evenly and making a few decorative swirls in the top.

Cool overnight before removing from pans. If not making in mini-loaves, cut into pieces. For best flavor, serve fudge at room temperature.

To prepare in advance: Fudge becomes firmer the longer it is stored and keeps beautifully at room temperature for up to a week, in the refrigerator up to a month, or in the freezer indefinitely.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Love Experiment

My dear readers:

Do you know I also publish a blog on

I hope you enjoy it!

And, if you have a minute, please know I love hearing from you!

Love to you!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

My work is loving the world . . .

This new year I have promised myself I will learn a new poem BY HEART every week. What an enlightening project this is turning out to be!

Trekking up and down hills on my morning walk, written poem in hand, I rhythmically pound uplifting words into my body and memory with each step.

And, like a mantra, or a prayer, words carry me into a transcendent appreciation for everything. The flowers, the trees, the animals along my path seems to burst with an extra dimension of beauty.

This week's poem is Messenger by Mary Oliver.

My work is loving the world . . .

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

She is saying that loving the world means noticing ALL the beauty.

(Look! This flowering kale begged me to take its photo this morning.)

As a student of Oliver's transcendent poetry, I have been paying attention to my cooking too--noticing and basking in the beauty of what is in season and bountiful in the markets. There is something deeply nourishing and satisfying about eating foods in their season.

Bright orange butternut squash, along with its elegant cousin Tahitian squash, is spilling off tables at our farmer’s market.

Now, it is even winking at me from clear packages at Costco.

I remember from years past how warming and heartening butternut squash soup is, and so, so easy to make. Truly it takes only minutes.

Best of all, it tastes rich, yet has less than 100 calories in a cupful.

The only seasoning you need to add is a blend of warming and fragrant curry spices. In India, where curry originated, the spices are traditionally prepared fresh, just before using. But a really good brand of commercial ready-mixed curry powder works beautifully. I love Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder, available in many markets and on Amazon.

Just lightly brown the onions, stir in curry, and add squash and chicken broth. See how lovely it looks while cooking.

Let it cool a bit, then pour into the blender and turn it into a smooth puree.

As Mary Oliver reminds us:

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be


Let's not rush through winter and all its comforting bounty. Spring may be just beginning to bloom in the form of flowering plum trees on our block, just peeking around the corner at us with ideas of her own.

But while winter lingers, I want to sip a steaming cup of squash soup while writing to you at my computer, and savor each and every moment.


12 cups, or 12 first course servings

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter

2 large onions, sliced

1 tablespoon curry powder

10 cups (about 3-1/2 pounds) Tahitian or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch chunks

42 ounces chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

In a 4 or 5 quart saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until golden and tender, stirring occasionally. Add remaining butter and curry powder and cook 1 minute, stirring, to remove any raw flavor. Add squash, broth, and salt, heat to boiling. Simmer over low heat until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool until luke warm.

Transfer half the soup to blender. With dish towel covering the top blend at low speed until very smooth. Pour soup into storage containers.

Reheat soup before serving.

To prepare in advance: Soup may be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for at least a week, or in the freezer for months.