Tales From A Hungry Life

October 11, 2016

Cooking On A Lazy Day

By Maria Schulz

Some people don’t like rainy weekend days, but I do. Especially a rainy day that comes after a really busy, fun-filled Saturday.

Look! A rainbow.

Look! A rainbow.

I love waking up to the sound of soft rain dancing against the windows and the wind rustling through the trees. Yes, my dog and I still walk in the rain, but not for long.

Short walks on rainy days

Short walks on rainy days

The best part of a cool, rainy Sunday is that I feel free to bake and cook. The last couple of weeks have been so warm that I’ve still been using my barbecue. Turning on the oven was a welcome change.

I baked muffins in the morning. The rich smell of cornflour, eggs, milk and butter made me think of weekend visits with Irene, my mother-in-law. She loved corn muffins.

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Sundays are also the perfect time to make a batch of sauce that we can use later in the week. I love putting on a big pot of sauce to simmer on the stove. That smell immediately transports me back to Sundays with my parents. Mom made her sauce while Dad listened to Frank Sinatra on the radio or watched Meet the Press on television. I can still see my mom handing me a piece of bread as she stirred the sauce, asking me what I thought. img_0012

“Perfect!” I’d reply, because Mom’s sauce always was the best.

Later in the day, I made some memories for my own family by making a batch of Chicken Tetrazzini. My husband, girls, and dog always hover near the kitchen as I cook the chicken, stir the sauce, add the sherry, and make the pasta. When it all goes into the casserole dish and into the oven, I have to reassure them that it will be ready soon.

Giada's recipe

Giada’s recipe

My husband even made his mom’s baked apple recipe, filling the whole house with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, apples and maple syrup.

Makes the whole house smell great

Makes the whole house smell great

It was a day filled with comforting food, happy memories, and much-loved family.

As Martha Stewart would say, it was a very good thing.


Chicken Tetrazzini

Giada’s recipe is a lot more involved than mine, but it’s still delicious. I use a lot less butter, no bread crumbs (I put parmesan cheese on top of mine) and I add a quarter of a cup of sherry to my sauce, which gives it a wonderful flavor.

Baked Apples

This recipe includes things like cherries and nuts, which add an interesting texture and flavor to the baked apple. You can go a much simpler route by just cleaning and coring your apples and stuffing them with cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup. Your call.


My corn muffin recipe is a little less fussy. I open two packages of Betty Crocker’s Corn bread & muffin mix, double the ingredients (except for the butter–I find that doubling the butter makes them too greasy. So I use 3 tablespoons of butter instead of 4) and bake. Yes, this is an indulgence and doubles the caloric hit but I like a jumbo muffin every once in a while. I have tried every type of corn muffin mix and have even made them from scratch, but this brand of corn muffins is by far my favorite. These are great in the mornings and also wonderful to make as a side dish to a big pot of chili. But that’s a recipe for another day.

So…what’s your favorite comfort food? What do you like doing on a lazy, rainy day? Please leave a comment with your thoughts or your favorite recipe. If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new ones to try. Thanks!


September 14, 2016

Carb Love

by Maria Schulz

For the past year, I’ve been watching my calories and trying to eat better. I have not forsaken all of the things that I love because to do so would send me into the old, familiar spiral of binging on everything I just declared I would never touch again.

Now if this was hanging from the tree...

Now if this was hanging from the tree…

Forbidden fruit was not just Eve’s problem. I would’ve never gotten thrown out of The Garden of Eden for eating an apple. If there were cookies, pancakes, waffles, or donuts hanging from the trees, that’s another story.

I can remember playing in my family’s basement with my twin brother as my older brothers and mother milled about on a lazy Sunday morning. My Dad would walk triumphantly through the door holding a bag that smelled like heaven.

Inside of that bag were 9 glistening donuts. My mom handed me one and I bit into it, feeling the steaming hot dough traveling into my waiting belly as jelly trickled down my fingers and across my face. Meanwhile, my brothers stuck their jelly-laden tongues out at me and smiled with jelly all over their teeth.

D'oh! Donuts!

D’oh! Donuts!

The bakery down the block called to us with its siren song of fresh donuts, Italian bread, zeppole, tri-color cookies, crullers, pies, and pizza. Late at night, when the windows were open and the bakery ovens were lit, you could smell the bread and desserts baking. I could look out the window and see the stars in the skies and drift off to sleep while breathing in what I began to think of as family parties and laughter.

More recently, my cousin Eleanor has invited me over to her home for breakfast on weekend mornings. She and her husband, Bob, make light, fluffy homemade waffles. Each one comes out out thick and fresh, simultaneously soft and crunchy. I smother mine in syrup and eat it with gusto as we share stories from our lives.

From tales of growing up in Corona or Bayside, living in Alaska or Ridgewood, books we’re reading or the current state of affairs in America, there is always great food, great conversation, and lots of laughs.

Eleanor and Maria, a few years ago

Eleanor and Maria, a few years ago

From those early days of jelly donuts to my more recent waffle breakfasts, delicious carbs have always equaled good times. The trick for me now is letting myself enjoy a treat every now and then so I don’t go stark raving mad and eat every carb I can lay my hands on.

Here’s one of the many recipes that I found that offers a taste of the best of both worlds. Take the humble waffle and combine it with your favorite donut flavors, and what have you got? The Wonut, of course.

Yum! Wonuts

Yum! Wonuts

This is a pretty clever way to make an easy dessert with your waffle iron. The article above suggests using chocolate and sprinkles, which I love. Here’s the recipe.

I can’t change my love for waffles and donuts. They are so closely intertwined with happy memories for me that I will never be happy without them. Let’s face it: I’m a carb addict, and when a carb addict dreams, they aren’t dreaming of kale and protein drinks.

My carb dreams include Italian bread just pulled from the oven, ready to be slathered in whipped butter; Boston crème donuts (my favorite, and part of my Slim’s Bagels lunch special during my high school years); and Belgian waffles smothered in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.

Did somebody say wonut?

Did somebody say wonut?

So for now, I’m rewriting the script on my relationship with carbs. They can be in my life, but our love affair has to be redefined. In the wise words of that ear-worm song that Selena Gomez sings, “I’m so sick of that same old love. My body’s had enough!” You said it, sister.

Recipe: Wonut with Sliced Strawberries, Blueberries, and Bananas



¼ cup Strawberries

¼ cup Blueberries

½ Banana

1-2 tablespoons whipped cream

Let’s face facts: the Wonut is not a healthy treat. Still, you can enjoy one as long as you add some fiber, vitamins, and minerals (not to mention healthy sugars) along with our carb fix, while slashing the calories.

Strawberries are in season, and I’ve got a ton of them. I also just bought two pints of blueberries, as well as organic bananas. Slice your fruit and put it on top of your wonut/waffle creation. Add a little whipped cream and voila! You’ve got a delicious and satisfying treat that isn’t a total calorie bomb.



If you’re desperate for some chocolate, melt some and dip your strawberries. Put them in the refrigerator overnight and they’ll be ready to enjoy in the morning, or anytime. Start with a bar of high quality semisweet or bittersweet baking chocolate. Chop it up into squares. Put it in a microwave safe bowl and place it in the microwave for about a minute on medium high. Stir and repeat at 15 to 20 second intervals until it’s melted and has a smooth consistency. You can use it to dip your fruit or just drizzle a little bit over your wonut for a chocolaty hit.

Good eats

Good eats

For those of us without a waffle iron, here’s a trick: use frozen waffles. Try to get one that is higher in fiber to maximize your fiber intake.

To get the full “wonut” experience, take it out of the fridge and toast it. Then, take a large juice glass, press it into the waffle and make a circular indentation. Pull of the edges so you have a perfect circle. Take a smaller juice glass and press out the middle (less bread = less carbs). Or, buy the kind of waffles that are already round. Add your toppings and enjoy your Wonut. You’ve earned it!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite carb-heavy treat? How would you decorate your Wonut? What food combination is your favorite? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

August 24, 2016

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness

They look happy

They look happy

I just read an article about happiness that got me thinking.

A Harvard psychologist says that too many people have got this happiness thing all wrong. Instead of sitting around thinking up ways to be happier, the researchers say that you should just go out and live your life. Stop thinking about it! It’s okay to be unhappy, just don’t sit around worrying about how to be happier. The key finding was: in order to find happiness, you have to be okay with being unhappy sometimes. Just accept it. Sometimes, you’re not going to be happy. Embrace it, man! It’s okay. Don’t sweep those bad feelings under the rug. Apparently, the key to a happier life is being emotionally agile and becoming your true, authentic self.


I am no psychologist. I don’t even play one on TV. But I have to ask…do we really need to research this kind of thing? I thought everyone was basically unhappy anyway. To paraphrase another Seinfeld episode (substituting the word happiness for humor) “happiness is like gossamer. One does not dissect gossamer.”

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

So, in the interests of helping the unhappy be more authentic and tap into their happier selves, I’m going to offer my:

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness…Or At Least My Version of It

  1. Laugh. A lot. Life can be frustrating, energy draining, infuriating, and disappointing. So what? If you can’t find something to laugh at in the idiocy all around you, you’re just not trying hard enough.
  2. Feed Your Soul. Whether you like to paint waterlilies or sing the entire soundtrack of Grease, do it. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do what you love and that happiness thing will come a’calling.

    Just have fun

    Just have fun

  3. Feed Your Face. Yeah, I’m going there. I’m not suggesting you bury your emotions in a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but if you’ve had a rough day and all you want in the whole world is some Chunky Monkey, HAVE IT. Don’t make it bigger than it already is. And the key to not making yourself bigger than you already are is Portion Control. The key word here is control. You’re in charge.
  4. Remember: You’re In Charge. That’s right. No one else is responsible for your happiness. It’s all on you, baby. Own your mistakes. Own your disappointments. Only you can change what makes you unhappy, and only you can identify what you need in your life. So what are you waiting for?
  5. Don’t Ignore Your Inner Cynic. Listen to what he/she has to say, because you will probably learn what you really need from him or her. But by the same token, don’t always listen. Your Inner Cynic is a jerk sometimes.

    Hello, I'm your Inner Cynic

    Hello, I’m your Inner Cynic

  6. Get Out of Your House. And while you’re at it, get out of your head. Want to meet people? Tired of being lonely? Think everyone but you is having a good time? Leave the house! Unless you live in Grand Central Station, chances are all the fun stuff is going on elsewhere. Get out there and find it. Join a bicycle club, running club, baking club, whatever. Don’t go there with the thought: I have to meet my one true love! Go there thinking: I’m sick of watching The Bachelor. Que sera, sera. Just go with it.
  7. Volunteer. It’s true: doing things for others is a really great way to find happiness. Walk dogs at the local shelter (they’re always desperate for help); attend a Special Olympics event and cheer on people who are competing; help the local food pantry stock their shelves. There are a million ways to help other people. Go find one that is meaningful to you and reap the rewards.

    Don't you want to walk me?

    Don’t you want to walk me?

  8. Change the World. Or at least your corner of it. Campaign for a worthy candidate. Raise funds for your school at the next bake sale. Go down the block and clear trash out of your local park. Don’t just sit there waiting for love, romance, happiness, and meaning to come to you. Go find it while you’re not looking for it.

If none of these suggestions work for you, that’s okay. I never said I was a Happiness Guru. It all goes back to #4 (see above). You need to figure out what you can do for YOURSELF. You don’t need to read about ways to make yourself happier. Get lost in pursuing your dreams or making life better for others and that happiness thing will naturally take care of itself.

So good!

So good!


Chunky Monkey Ice Cream

Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Get that monkey off your back and have some of this delicious ice cream! You can follow these recipes from allrecipes.com as is or make modifications based on reader comments–less sugar, more ripe bananas, etc. Follow your taste buds and I bet you’ll be happy!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite way to be happy? Are you in touch with your authentic self? What comfort food makes you smile from ear to ear? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!


August 10, 2016

Every Day is National Book Lover’s Day

by Maria Schulz

Yesterday was National Book Lover’s Day. I don’t really need a special day designated for this, since it’s almost like saying: “Today is National Get Up and Breathe Day.” Since I was a young child, every day is National Book Lover’s Day.

Tales From A Hungry Life A Memoir with Recipes cover

Available on amazon.com

Reading inspires me every single day. When the memoir category got hot, I read every single book: Glass Castle, Running with Scissors, Angela’s Ashes. It even inspired me to write my own book–Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes. I wanted to write a book about a happy family. Yes, a memoir topic that seemed harder to find than a Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, and Sasquatch all rolled up into one.

My mother started me on my love of books by reading “Sleeping Beauty” to me every night before bed. I loved the beautiful illustrations and enjoyed the power of that classic fairy tale. I wondered what happened to Maleficent to make her such a meanie…I mean, not getting invited to a party is hurtful, but come on! It’s not like it was Aurora’s/Briar Rose’s/Sleeping Beauty’s fault.

sleeping-beauty and maleficent

I struggled with reading on my own until my third grade teacher, Mrs. Grille, kept me after school every day for a month and helped me. She pointed me towards the box of biographies and got me started reading about John F. Kennedy, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Once she realized I had mastered the mechanics, she set me free to read anything I liked, and I’ve never looked back.

When I hit high school, I was lucky to have some awesome English teachers. They encouraged my curiosity and nurtured my love for reading and writing. There was Mr. Reines, who had us read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, and The Great Stories Collection featuring University Days by James Thurber, Willa Cather (Paul’s Case), D.H. Lawrence (The Rocking Horse Winner), The Waltz (Dorothy Parker), The Jilting of Granny Weatherall (Katherine Anne Porter), Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth (John Updike), Everything That Rises Must Converge (Flannery O’Connor), and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, among others.

Great Stories

Yes, I still have my copy!

As a book lover himself, he enjoyed talking about the many themes, plot lines, and historical contexts that influenced the stories. The authors and their characters became like distant relatives or friends as we discussed their motivations and flaws. Why did Leora love Martin so much in Arrowsmith? Did he deserve her? Why did Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye complain so much? What was his problem? Why was Paul from Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” so desperate? How did James Thurber use himself as a comic foil?

Props to Mr. Reines for engaging this snarky teenager and making me want to keep reading, turning the page, and finding out more about every character I encountered.

I was an English major geek through and through, and even though high school and college are far away in the rearview mirror, I am still a book lover. I read over the short stories that inspired me to go on to an undergraduate and graduate degree in Creative Writing, and every time I re-read them, I understand a little bit more about myself–and how to make my stories better.

I still read every day. Here are some of the books I’ve read in the past that I love and I hope you’ll enjoy too.

12 Great Reads and Must-Reads for Book Lovers Everywhere

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

pride and prejudice

Read the book. Then watch this version

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

Molokai by Alan Brennert


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

the book thief

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Recipe: Creamy Rice Pudding

creamy rice pudding

Guess what? Not only was it National Book Lover’s Day, it was also National Rice Pudding Day! I have had an intimate affair with rice pudding since working as a deli cook back in my teen years. My former boss taught me how to make rice pudding that was legendary, but then told me that if I shared the recipe, she’d have to kill me. So enjoy this recipe from allrecipes.com. Read a book, eat some rice pudding, and while you’re at it, read all about my tragi-comic life in my book (of course, my favorite of all): Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes. Enjoy!

So, Hungry Lifers: What’s your favorite book? Who inspired you to read? Do you like rice pudding? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!





August 6, 2016

This is My Idea of a Good Morning

by Maria Schulz

Everybody starts their day in a different way. Over at The Daily Post, they challenged bloggers to take a photo that says “morning” to us. Here’s one of mine.

The nearby pizzeria gets their morning delivery of Italian bread from the local bakery. You can smell the fresh bread from blocks away. There’s a coffee shop next door that’s another hot spot for the neighborhood. Freshly roasted coffee and egg sandwiches make it a delight to pass by.

My dog knows she’ll encounter some amazing smells in the morning, so she moves as fast as she can towards the stores. She is getting older now, so I know it’s a great day when she can walk all the way towards the sights, sounds, and people she’s always enjoyed seeing.

img_0010-1It’s a very good morning indeed!

Recipe: Eggs, Herbs, & Tomato Omelette

Make the morning even better with fresh organic eggs plus tomatoes and herbs picked fresh from the garden.


2 Eggs

1 tomato, chopped

Italian Parsley leaves, chopped

Basil leaves, chopped

Sage, chopped



2 tablespoons Olive oil (or Pam)

Cheese (Cheddar,mozzerella, or goat cheese, optional)

Spray Pam or add Olive Oil to heated pan. Beat the eggs and add them to the hot pan. When the eggs have begun to firm up, add the tomatoes, herbs, and cheese. After about two minutes, flip it and brown the other side. You can eat this as is or add it to a low carb wrap. You can also add broccoli or spinach if you like.

To read about how other bloggers spend their mornings (and see their photos), check out Morning at the Daily Post. Enjoy!

So, what’s your favorite way to spend the morning? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and have a great day.


July 20, 2016

Finding Beauty

by Maria Schulz

The world can be ugly sometimes. The news is filled with stories of murder,  bloodshed, hatred, racial injustice, cops killing innocent people, people killing innocent cops, despair, lies, plagiarism and politicians. It can really drag you down.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find beauty if you just open your eyes and look for it.

There’s a song that I learned way, way back in my folk group days in grammar school. It’s an adaptation of the Prayer of St. Francis, and some of the words go like this:

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.”

No matter what your religious persuasion may be, I think those are some pretty fantastic words to live by. So, in that spirit, I’m going to post some photos that brought me happiness, hope, and joy despite all of the sadness, backbiting, and darkness in the world around us.

From now through Labor Day, I’m challenging myself to find beauty, laughter, kindness, and joy in the world around me. I may not change the world, but I can change the way I perceive it. For the next month and a half, I’ll focus on the things that lift us up and not the things that tear us down.


Beautiful and delicious

Beautiful and delicious

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint Recipe by Jacques Pepin

Watermelon and Feta Salad from PBS

Watermelon and Feta Salad is one of those things that can turn an ordinary, ho-hum meal into an extraordinary, highlight-reel-kind-of-meal. I’ve seen recipes that included olives (like Jacques Pepin’s), blueberries for another hit of color, and even balsamic vinaigrette. The possibilities are endless!

So, Hungry Lifers…what makes you happy? Where do you go to find beauty? What have you seen around you that brings you joy? Please post a comment and let us all know. Thanks! Have a great day.

July 8, 2016

The 12 Annoying Habits of Highly Irritating Co-Workers

by Maria Schulz

Great co-workers

Great co-workers

Let me just say: I have had the privilege to work with some of the best people in the world. My colleagues, past and present, are creative, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and capable. They are true problem solvers and go-getters who come to the office every day and produce great work under all kinds of conditions. They show their humanity by holding doors open for others, taking care of their families, helping old ladies cross the street, volunteering at soup kitchens, saving animals in need, and giving of themselves relentlessly.

debbie downer

But let’s be honest: I have also worked with some real lemons. Some co-workers have had all the charm of a Manson family member and yet none of the manners. They floated through life with disgusting habits, a Debbie Downer attitude, no work ethic, verbal incontinence, and zero compassion.

It’s inevitable that people at work will get on your nerves. After all, you spend more time with those people then you do with the people you love. Forty hours a week is a lot of time for people to do annoying things.

You may be saying to yourself: really? Give me one good example of an annoying thing someone has done. Well, guess what? You’re in luck, because here are:

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

The Twelve Annoying Habits of Highly Irritating Co-Workers

  1. Using the office scissors to clip your toenails. There are some things you should NEVER do at work. Certainly, if you have a private office with a door you can lock, you can save me the horror of witnessing this moment in your personal hygiene regimen. I don’t understand why you’re clipping your toenails at work, or why you feel the need to attend to your cruddy feet during office hours—but at least you’ve got the good sense to HIDE. However, if you are one of the unwashed masses working in an open floor plan or you are in an open cubicle, skip this nasty chore. That’s what home is for. And for your health as well as mine, invest in your own pair of scissors.

Oh the horror…

  1. Reading the Avon catalog like it’s Playboy. You never know who might walk into the coffee room, so if you’re ogling the ladies in bras and lingerie from the Avon catalog like it’s a XXX mag, I beg of you: STOP. And please, wash your hands before you touch the coffee pot.
  1. Stealing the Avon catalog. Hey! There are lots of other people in the office who want to buy Avon and/or ogle the pretty ladies. Your poor underpaid co-worker is trying to make a second living here.

Foxy lady

  1. Touching every single munchkin before deciding you don’t want one anyway because you think you may have the stomach virus. Do I need to explain this one?
  1. Coming to work when you think you have the stomach virus. And hanging around in my doorway, telling me about your severe GI distress. Ditto if you’ve got a raging cold, scabies, lice, or a wound that just won’t close. By the way, I don’t need to know how you contracted malaria. 

    Stay home

    Stay home

  1. Making believe you don’t know how to make coffee after you just drank your twelfth cup. Come on…really?
  1. Eating someone else’s lunch. You know you didn’t make yourself lunch. Just in case you’re wondering, the lunch gods didn’t make you one either.
My Mom really does hate you

My Mom really does hate you

  1. Bringing your small child to work and letting him run up and down the aisles screaming: “MY MOTHER HATES YOU ALL!” While I find this hilarious, you may get in trouble.
  1. Heating up your smelly, disgusting lunch in the tiny, windowless room we call our kitchen. How I love working as the smell of rancid Tiger Fish Surprise wafts all around me.
Can't we all just get along?

Yes, I left the microwave a mess

  1. Leaving the only working microwave so full of tomato sauce, it looks like a murder victim was in there. Just in case you missed the memo, your momma doesn’t work here. Clean up your mess.
I had nothing to do with your car's damage

I had nothing to do with your car’s damage

  1. Parking so close to my car that I would have to be Harry Houdini to get into it. I find this especially annoying when there are twelve empty spots adjacent to where you parked. Also, making believe you aren’t the one who smashed my car door makes you King of the Jerks. Just sayin’.
Popcorn and toast, anyone?

When in doubt, popcorn is the answer

  1. Arguing with your soon-to-be ex on the phone in a voice so loud it would make a carnival barker blush. Am I supposed to comfort you when you start sobbing? Make believe I don’t hear you? Bring popcorn? I’m never really sure. But I do know one thing…I’m not making popcorn in the microwave because it will stink up the place.

Recipe: 38 Grilled Fish Recipes

This looks delicious

This looks delicious

You’ll find Foil-Pack Shrimp Scampi, Grilled Cod Tacos with Chipotle Crema, Lemony Grilled Salmon, Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Siracha Slaw, Thai Catfish Skewers, and more. Just think how delighted your co-workers will be when you put your leftovers in the shared office microwave the next day.

So, Hungry Lifers: what crazy, thoughtless, or completely over-the-top habits have you encountered in the small, cramped, Nirvanah-like space you call work? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

June 15, 2016

Feeling Saucy

by Maria Schulz

The warmer weather is here at last, and it’s inspired me to get saucy…with spaghetti sauce made from tomatoes and herbs plucked straight from my garden.no-cream pasta primavera

I am a city girl at heart, born and bred. I never had a backyard garden until a few years ago when I planted all sorts of delicious things, including tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, and cucumbers. I watered, I pruned, I fed my plants, and gazed out my window with pride when they started to grow. Then, I walked outside one morning to find that the squirrels, bunnies, and assorted other animals ate all of my vegetables.

When I think of my feeble attempts to grow stuff, I feel like Ava Gabor on Green Acres. Remember that show? The lines from the opening credits make me think of myself in the early days of living out in the boonies: “New York is where I’d rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view. Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”

Green Acres, we are here

Green Acres, we are here

I’ve since moved out of that house and into a new one. I don’t have a “proper” garden, but for the past two years, I have had container pots on my deck. Since I have no idea what I’m doing, there have been some bumps along the way. Let’s just say that if I was trying to grow plants to feed myself and others and hold us over in the event of an apocalypse, we would all be in big trouble.

When I mentioned that I wanted to try growing tomatoes last year, my florist gave me a tiny cherry tomato plant and told me that maybe I’d get one or two tomatoes from it. I ended up with over three dozen tomatoes, and I found lots of ways to get those tomatoes into my diet. Sauces, sandwiches, omelettes, tomato caprese…you name it, I probably ate it. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn red.


The little plant that could

I loved that little plant. It required very little of me, beyond water and a makeshift stake or two, and it just kept pumping out those little tomatoes. They were very flavorful and I enjoyed sharing them with my family…even though I’m pretty sure that they had sworn off tomatoes by the Fall.

Little beauties

Little beauties

My wild success last year led me to this year. I bought what I thought was another cherry tomato plant and put it in a small pot in the same sun-drenched location. But suddenly, it started to grow like crazy. I thought I had bought the same plant that Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, had gotten. To honor Jack, I named my plant Jackie. Also for Jackie O, who turned heads and was a real looker.

I quickly learned that what I bought was something else entirely. A beefsteak tomato plant was my new “baby,” and within a week or two, it had grown beyond anything I originally imagined.

You go, girl

You go, girl

A quick chat with friends who actually know what they’re doing enlightened me to what I was in for. Tomato cages and stakes became part of my little vegetable grower’s world, even though last week I might have said: “Nobody puts Jackie in a cage!” You know, like Patrick Swayze said about putting Baby in the corner…. Anyway, before a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea you needed to put your tomatoes in a cage (or a corner).

We picked up a giant pot, some special soil, the all-important stake, and suddenly, we were in business. Jackie, my tomato plant, is doing very well and will soon be a few feet taller than me, which figures. Everyone who comes into this house ends up taller than me.

Grow, baby, grow

Grow, baby, grow

While I was out buying my tomato plant, I picked up this herb garden too. It’s also growing so fast that I don’t know what to do with all of it. It’s going into my sauces, sandwiches, salads, omelettes…you get the picture. Soon it will be going into small baggies and left in unsuspecting friends’ mailboxes.

Italian herbs

Italian herbs

Sage, oregano, thyme, Italian parsley, and basil round out this little basket of herbs that have been the stars in my most recent batches of spaghetti sauce. My husband and kids thought it tasted pretty awesome, and I’m really glad about that…because they will be eating lots more where that came from.

Be like a Mike.

Hey…it’s Uncle Mike

If you couldn’t tell, I now enjoy living out here in Green Acres. I haven’t met Arnold the Pig yet, but I’m pretty sure we will cross paths soon enough.

Arnold and friend

Arnold and friend

Recipe: Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

This sauce recipe calls for fresh tomatoes or canned, and it seems pretty easy to follow. I am no stranger to jar sauce (especially on a weeknight), but is there anything better than fresh, homemade tomato sauce? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Try this recipe and enjoy!


Also an excellent way to use your tomatoes

So, Hungry Lifers…have you ever grown anything? What are your best tips? Do you have a good tomato sauce recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!


June 3, 2016

My Salad Days

By Maria Schulz

Recently, I started trying to get more fruits and vegetables into my everyday eating rotation. This may be a no brainer for most people, but it took some getting used to for me.

Did someone say pizza?

Did someone say pizza?

I’ll admit it, I like pizza (the more cheese the better), tacos (sour cream! Guacamole!), and sandwiches (chicken! Cheese! More please!), fully sweetened sodas, and cookies. My carb heavy lunches were leaving me exhausted and made staying conscious problematic. This would be fine if I spent my days sitting poolside, but HR people tend to get cranky when you’re in a carb-induced coma at your desk.

Too much pizza

Too much pizza

It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve started to enjoy my salad days. I found out that the more colors you can get into your salad, the better, so I’ve begun adding dark blueberries, bold yellow cherub tomatoes, fire-engine-red strawberries (yay! They’re in season and look so great in my salad), shredded carrots, and purple cabbage. I will admit, I add a couple of tablespoons of beige crotons because I like the contrast between the tan of the croutons and the green of my lettuce leaves. Also, I’m a carb-a-holic. Baby steps, people.

Looks good and tastes good too

Looks good and tastes good too

Since I need protein to get through my day, I add some roasted turkey or chicken to the mix. If my cravings are strong, I will opt for some chopped up bacon or slices of ham. Otherwise, my salad days become BORING.


Don’t get me wrong. I love a big old cheeseburger with fries and a glass of soda, or even a milkshake. So, every once in a while (like my husband’s birthday or Mother’s Day), I let myself have those things. Ice cream in particular conjures up all sort of happy memories (not to mention the fact that it tastes AWESOME). My parents used to take us to Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor to get us shakes or sundaes. Those were good times. So naturally. I was delighted by my coffee-flavored shake the last time I had it. Then I found out it had SEVEN HUNDRED calories! Not so in love anymore. For now, we’ve broken up. But next time I bow to that particular siren song, I will ask for a second glass and drink half.

You evil temptress

You evil temptress

The thing is, once I started cutting back on the enormous portions and carb-laden goodies, I actually felt better. So my occasional HUGE cheeseburger, fries, and soda become a small, homemade cheeseburger (I can control what goes into that burger), a measured portion of homemade fries (slash the salt), and a bottle of water. If I am dying for pizza, I’ll have one slice and I try to get it with ricotta cheese and either spinach or broccoli. A regular slice is good too, as long as it’s thin crust (no stuffed crust. Too many calories, too little time).

I use an app on my phone to log the calories since I had no idea how many calories I was taking in. That’s been the most helpful change I made, since I think about what I’m going to eat. If I want to have McDonald’s  or White Castle that day (old habits die hard), I know to eat less calories at other meals. That way, I stay on track and don’t feel deprived.

Take human bites

Take human bites

What works for me may not work for you, but here’s what I found: deprivation awakens my inner BINGE MONSTER. If I am desperate for some ice cream, I have it. The difference between before and now is that I measure it out. I don’t eat artificially sweetened or low fat ice cream. It’s full fat and full flavor all the way, and I don’t eat it every single day. I tap into my inner lazy self and put the carton away once I’ve measured out my portion. Somehow, it’s enough. I don’t need to eat a giant soup bowl of ice cream with a side of angst-ridden guilt.

Portion size is key

Portion size is key

I try to remember that salads can also be calorie bombs, so I look for ways to limit the excess calories. Again, I measure out cheese if I absolutely have to have it (tip: a couple of teaspoons of shredded mozzarella will give you a burst of cheesy flavor with a low calorie hit). Then, I choose a low fat, high flavor salad dressing (Balsamic vinegar to the rescue). I add about 3 ounces of lean protein, and yes, croutons if I want them, and I’m good to go. A glass of wine every once in a while is a much needed treat that I hear can be good for you too.

Less carbs and better choices mean that no afternoon naps are required.

Brain food.

Brain food.

Recipe: Turkey and Strawberry Salad

I love a salad that includes protein, fruit, and vegetables. Be like Mikey from Life cereal fame: try it! You’ll like it!

2 cups greens (spinach, romaine, iceberg…you choose)

2-3 ounces of turkey (or chicken)

½ cup strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced

½ cup blueberries

½ cup yellow cherub tomatoes

½ cup Shredded carrots (optional)

½ cup Shredded purple cabbage (optional)

2 tbsp. croutons

2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinaigrette

Put your greens, veggies, and fruit into a bowl. Add your turkey/chicken, cut up into bite-sized pieces) and croutons. Pour on the Balsamic and toss to coat. Enjoy!

TIP: I work all week, so I find it helps to roast a big chicken on Sunday. I serve that for dinner and then save leftovers for the week. Then, I cut up my greens and fruit and store them in airtight containers. That way, I can pull out whatever I need and make a quick lunch all week long.

Mix it up, people

Mix it up, people

For 10 more fruit and veggie salad recipes and inspiration, go to: http://dailyburn.com/life/recipes/creative-fruit-salad-recipes/

So…what’s your favorite type of salad? Have any healthy eating tips? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

May 26, 2016

When Driving With Teenagers…

By Maria Schulz

As a mom, I’ve played many different roles: Chef; Laundress; Bottle Washer; Maid; Gardener; Entertainment Coordinator (think Julie from the Love Boat); Procurement Specialist; Captain of the Cheerleading Squad; Disciplinarian; Hand Holder; Head of Emergency Medical Services; Fashion Police; Emotional Support Services; Godzilla Rampaging Through Tokyo; Drill Sergeant; Attorney; Dog Walker; Head Coach; Executive Assistant.

My childhood limo

My childhood limo

But by far, my favorite job has always been Chauffeur.

When my girls were little, they loved listening to music in the car and singing along with me. They enjoyed my witty repartee with their little friends and they laughed at all of my jokes. They danced to songs with me and laughed when I belted out the words to all of the songs they knew.


Oh…the horror!

But then…they suddenly morphed into teenagers. Enter hormones, lightning-fast mood changes, and constant, inexplicable, irrational thought processes. Too young to drive and too old to be happy having me in the car, it was the perfect storm of angst and outright anger.

That's one angry bunch

That’s one angry bunch

Were you always one of those parents who looked at teenagers and said, “Oh, my little Sally/Richie would never act like that!” Did you look at befuddled parents of teens and shake your head in silent disgust? Now that you find yourself the parent of a teen, do you wonder how you landed in this foreign land, filled with strange beings that sort of look like you? Did you ever think you’d be a source of embarrassment…just like your parents? Geez, if you didn’t have a license, your kids might not even find a use for you.

For those of you who have not yet had the joy of experiencing this phenomenon first hand, don’t worry (too much). This startling transformation can be dealt with, but only if you have a road map, a sense of humor, and a thick skin. In the interest of helping you weather this particular storm, I’m going to give you a Master Class in Parenting/Driving With Your Teens. Think of me as Oprah, only without any money and certainly without any clout.

Welcome to my Master Class

Welcome to my Master Class

15 Things to Remember When Driving With Teens

  1. For the love of God, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING!
  2. While you’re at it, DO NOT EVER SING!

    Sing it with me one more time!

    Sing it with me one more time!

  3. Please, please, please…do not try to interact with your teen’s friends. That’s like, AWKWARD! Just because they don’t make you wear a uniform, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to certain informalities.
  4. If Elle King comes on the radio, do not show a car filled with teens how cool you are by singing X’s and Ohs. This is definitely NOT COOL. When in doubt, remember Rules #1 & 2.
  5. Likewise, NEVER, EVER share funny little tidbits about your past dating life. Like, EWWWW! #DONTGOTHERE
  6. If Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake starts playing on the radio, DO NOT ASK your teen’s friends if they know how to twerk
  7. And please…do NOT EVER offer to show them how to twerk

    This is what your dancing looks like to them

    This is what your dancing looks like to them

  8. If a new guy or girl gets into the car, DO NOT EVER ask them “where they see themselves in 5 years.” LAME!
  9. When someone you interpret as a gawky teenager whizzes by on his skateboard, do not make chit chat by saying “Hey, who’s that man child riding a skateboard?” Like, he’s Hunter, only the COOLEST BOY in the ENTIRE 12th grade! DUH!
  10. When your teen puts on a 90s station and he/she and his/her friends start taking about how great that era’s music was, NEVER exclaim: “Oh yeah, man. It was great—AND I WAS THERE!”
  11. If and when you offer to drive the neighbor kids to school, please don’t forget they’re in the back seat and start driving away before they get out of the car
  12. DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, yell out the window as your teen walks away: “I LOVE YOU!,” “HOPE YOU HAVE A SUPER DAY,” or “MOMMY/DADDY THINKS YOU’RE THE GREATEST!”
  13. There are some things you should never do. NEVER, EVER reenact the scene from Wayne’s World where they rock out to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody…even if it’s just the two of you in that car

    Party on, Garth

    Party on, Garth

  14. Restrain yourself from beeping, waving, or stopping the car to greet and chat with passing teachers, principals, priests, nuns, parents, relatives, friends, or classmates your teen would rather die than be seen with (basically, that means anyone). NOT COOL!
  15. Always remember: you can drop your teen off at the mall, at school, or at any fast food joint they like, but NEVER at the front door. And if anyone asks, YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR TEENAGER!


Eating Well Frozen Mochaachino

Low Cal and Delicious!

Low Cal and Delicious!

Here’s a great alternative to Starbucks (since you’re not allowed within a thousand yards of it anyway). This low cal, low fat frozen drink rings in at 127 calories (instead of 270 for a small mocha frappuccino) and gives you just the jolt you need to deal with your teen and keep a smile on your face.

So, Hungry Lifers…has your teen ever been EMBARRASSED TO DEATH by the very sight of you breathing? Are your kids too little for you to believe any of this? Have your kids grown out of this phase? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

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