Tag Archives: Nonie

I can’t believe its butter

My brother told me a telling story about the last days of his mother-in-law’s life. She was dying from cancer at much too young of an age. My brother went into her refrigerator and saw she was still eating a strange product called “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”

“You can have real butter,” he told her.

But that’s how we viewed such things for far too long as it turns out. We thought food scientists could make better, healthier food than the stuff God had sustained life on this planet with since its first global turn. We thought things like butter were death to us and for years we made it a pariah of food. We thought that eating butter was a treat that a dying woman could afford but the rest of us… not unless we wanted to join her.

We thought wrong, way wrong as it turns out.

For decades we’ve been sold a bill of goods that has cost us billions annually and ruined our health. It’s been one of the worst scams ever perpetuated on the American people.

A new all-encompassing study by the reputable National Institutes of Heath found that a high-fat, low-carb diet “improves nearly every health measurement, from reducing our waistlines to keeping our arteries clear, more than the low-fat diets that have been recommended for generations,” a new story in Men’s Journal reported.

“The medical establishment got it wrong,” a cardiologist said in the article. “Their belief system didn’t pan out.”

Indeed, the results were so sweeping it took everything we’ve ever been told about eating a “low-fat diet,” which often centers on food scientist-created products to artificially remove fat from stuff we now call food, and turned it on its ear.

Another physician said the evidence that saturated fat is bad for your heart has “disintegrated.”

“In fact, a new Annals of Internal Medicine review of 72 studies and hundreds of thousands of subjects found no strong evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease,” the story reports. An NIH researcher said in 25 years of clinical trials there has been virtually no opposition to this finding.

The study is truly a game-changer because not only does it explode the billion-dollar, low-fat, processed-food economy and the artificial weight-loss economy that has directly contributed to the epidemic of obesity our country suffers, but it directly challenges the calorie-counting shibboleth that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Because high-fat foods, i.e. natural foods like avocado, nuts, lean meats and yes, the deliciously extravagant culinary delight we call butter, are high in calories, those treating the human body like a calculator have long said simple math would bring weight loss. For the millions who have tried it, and failed, we know how defeating it can be to watch those calories and reduce the joy of food to a computerized intake system only to see our bellies continue to bulge.

The definite word on this is in: “We no longer think low-fat diets are the answer,” says American Heart Association nutritional committee member, Dr. Linda Van Horn.

The practical application is the millions of dollars that went into funding and researching low-fat, contrived diets are finally flowing toward healthier, organic, local, non-processed and yes, high-fat diets.

It turns out, I had it right when I wrote the secret of how I lost 100 pounds: eat right (which means eat real food) and exercise. No, I didn’t make that up. I’m not Al Gore. But after years and years of never-ending diets when I finally said “EFF That!” and just started eating what I knew was good for me and working out with discipline, the weight came off (helped I’m sure by sobriety for the first time in my life).

But you know who knew it? My Nonie.  Until the day she died at the ripe old age of 95 she never went to a hospital for an illness and refused to eat the crap that everyone around her touted as healthy. She loved butter. She insisted on it. I remember when my Aunt came over and made Pasta de Pesto and refused to put in butter because it was unhealthy. Nonie groused. She didn’t eat it much when the food came. Later she was still grousing.

“It needs butter,” she mumbled.

She was right, in so many ways!

I leave you now with my new favorite recipe that I’ve used a couple of times a week recently to combat the trend toward carbs and sugar in breakfast (like in my favorite granolas or English muffins or even many fruit and yogurt smoothies). I call it Butter Bomb Coffee! But really, it’s no more my invention than eat right and exercise. I got it from an earlier story in Men’s Journal, which made the compelling argument that butter in my morning coffee would quell cravings and give me an energy boost. The Bride and I both tried it and felt the immediate impact! Enjoy!

Butter Bomb Coffee



  • 12 oz cup of hot coffee
  • 2 pats of butter
  • 1 spoonful of coconut oil
  • dash of cinnamon
  • splash of half and half

Put all ingredients except the coffee in a mug then pour hot coffee over it swirling until its mixed. It’s da bomb!



Menu takes the Oscar for Effin Artist

As the Oscar night parties wind down in L.A. and the sun comes up, I bask in my own Oscar, awarded by the Bride for best original menu for an Oscar Party. I pout in the knowledge that The Bride won the ballot 7-5. She only missed on the director. I leaned too heavily on David O.Russell, who frankly keeps getting screwed. If you put four actors in the top four categories two years in a row, you at least deserve a writing award or directing award or something… sigh… Sour grapes, I know.

Let’s revisit my award- winning (in my own mind) food:

Course 1:


The roasted mushrooms are stuffed with avocado and pesto. The bread is my old school Italian bread with fresh pomegranate seeds in it, I topped it with roasted tomatoes, drizzled with Webbromance Nudo olive oil. Soooo good.

Course two:


This course was toasted raviolis, Nonie’s sauce, and eggplant pizzas. Leave it to me to ruin a wonderful vegetarian pizza (topped with sauce, mozzarella and ricotta) by tossing on some sausage. I loved it though. Love that sausage hit on the top of it all.

Course 3:


Steak skewers, roasted peppers, topped with a roasted garlic on the end. These flavors just merged and popped. Really, really worked… simple and beautiful. I grilled the steak with Italian rub. The sweet potato fries got the closest yet in my many, many attempts to crispy fries, but they sort of stuck to the pan too, so the effort continues.

Course 4:


These sort of speak for themselves. All homemade. I even broke out the green coloring (cancer fear pushed aside for festive color) to make the mint ice-cream look the part. Soooooo goooood. I haven’t had much sugar in while so this was a blast… a bender… a … Effin delight.

Great night. Great acting, celebrating their art. Great writers getting their due. Great music. Ellen was four-part harmony for hosts.

Oh yeah, and my date was pretty awesome. She didn’t even gloat her victory, but secretly, I know her, she’s pretty damn proud of her Oscar win.

As Ellen said, we’re all winners tonight.

The wonders of an inefficient dinner

I decided to make pasta for dinner. It took me about three hours though I did get a break in the middle for a run.

Three hours for pasta. This would have once seemed normal. Now it’s just inefficient.

I’m well aware for a couple of bucks you can toss perfectly fine fettuccine into a pot of water and in about six minutes have dinner cooked.

For another four bucks you can have a pretty decent Alfredo that you can put in the microwave (if you don’t mind the cancer cells cooked into your food… OK, I shouldn’t have opened the can of worms just yet, but I will… I will…) and it will be ready before the noodles are.

I’m well aware you can drain the noodles, pour the sauce and serve this meal in about ten minutes for less than a ten spot in your pocket, which you can use the change to buy some bread to cut up.

So ten bucks and ten minutes compared to three hours. It’s a tough sell.

But this is one of the biggest changes in my eating patterns within the last few years that I have found is making all the difference. Slow food has so many more benefits than just filling your stomach.

For example:

  • I had to cut back on pasta and bread in my diet. For an Italian who loves making dough you might as well have tied one of those gastric bands around my stomach. But one easy way to accomplish this was to only eat pasta when I made it.
  • Now pasta is a treat, but its also a chance to work creatively and experience the ever-changing process of making it.
  • I can experience the now as as I knead the dough for long minutes until my forearms ache. I can see how slowly I am getting better at this unique, ancient art form.
  • It simply tastes so much better than the store bought I don’t care how much folks argue it’s the same. There is no comparison.
  • Instead of just putting dinner on the table, I nurtured myself hoof to head: I did something creative I enjoy, I took time out to pause and wonder, I went for a run, I shared time with The Bride: none of the things I would have done if I went the ten-buck-ten-minute-route.
  • Instead of ten bucks, it costs me about three.

So my inefficient dinner turns out to be an experience, that part of my day when The Bride asks, “how was your day?” I can say “Great, I made pasta” instead of saying, “It was OK. I sold a couple of stories. My neck is aching because I spent too much time at the computer. And I really haven’t figured out what’s for dinner tonight.”

Today I said the first answer. Then she sat with me playing solitaire on the computer while I finished it up and served it with eggplant fried in Nudo Olive Oil.

I even took the time mid-pasta making to break out the blender and bash up a delightful smoothie with protein powder, flaxseed meal, plain greek yogurt, mangos and cranberry! Super food to rebuild the muscles after all that kneading. This is hoof-to-head living right here:


As we ate our simple meal the wonder of it caused me to pause and be grateful. To me in this day and age making pasta is an exception. To Nonie and her generation it was simply what you did. You made dinner. That’s a connection I’m glad I share now. It firms my feet upon this place in the Earth I call my own, rooted in my past and yet wonderfully present.

It was a good day. Inefficient, but good.

Cyber recipes come up short compared to grandmothers

Dough is my thing. The more I mess with it the more I am enthralled by it. I have painfully neglected my pursuit of chocolate art this last month at least in part because I keep circling back to dough.

But like chocolate, I have a lot of hits and a lot of misses when it comes to dough. That “something,” that fine line between a great dough and a blob, is what keeps me coming back (not to mention the eats afterward– even the blobs taste pretty OK).

In all my kneading I learned something vitally important: All those helpful hints and videos and pins and such don’t do justice to the art of truly creating beautiful food, especially things that require a veteran touch like dough.

I realized this when my dough pursuits wandered off the familiar territory of my Italian heritage and explored working with Hispanic dough’s — tamales and tortillas.

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The methods are similar. Dough is dough at “the root of the root” as the poet said. But the finished product proved to me I have a lot to learn. Second and third tries taught me it wasn’t a measurement or a better recipe, but the deft art of know how. I have it working with things my grandmother taught me. I don’t have it — yet — with things I’d have learned if Nonie was my Abuela.

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We never made tamales when I was a kid. I lack the expertise, the hands-on experience with a true expert who made them so often she didn’t even realize how exceptional they were. Grandmothers cooked in a different time, long before such things made them celebrities. They made food so we could eat and seeing us enjoy it was all the star-power they needed. Nonie made us sauce and ravioli and apple rings and fried bread, things I make with a confidence that comes from seeing her, watching her and eating her creations.

I didn’t have that training with tamales and tortillas and frankly the results prove it.

Don’t get me wrong. I had fun and the product of my labor still ended up getting consumed.

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But the artistry remains elusive, which when you come to think about it, is thrilling! If the art of truly cultural food could be captured in a five-minute YouTube, would it be special?

Remember our favorite sage Jimmy Dugan (“that’s good advice!”) who sums up Effin Artistry when he said: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

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It is the hard that makes it great. I want to discover the great as if I had an Abuela to teach me.

Back to the masa grind stone.

A match made in web heaven — Rosemary Apple Rings

When I enter my kitchen, I am happily surrounded by my roots. Every day I am reminded of who I am.

My grandparents worked from poverty to affluence by spending decades, six nights a week cooking in their restaurant. It started as little more than a pool hall in an out-of-the-way town on the Redwood coast of California.


Then it grew. They moved it and built a place that would become a regional favorite.


As a child, my grandmother babysat my brother and me in her kitchen. I am proud of the splatter-burn scars on my foot I picked up one day in her kitchen, though I’m sure Nonie and my parents were none to pleased to have a toddler howling like a devil with a burn on his foot. I’m glad it happened; it’s a momento to my heritage.

The Big 4 Inn was a Northern California landmark. When my grandmother finally sold out to make way for Interstate 5, the San Francisco Chronicle documented its passing into history. The menus and the napkins and photos of the Big 4 still decorate my kitchen. The recipes are the staple of my cooking, the heritage I pass along to my children and know they will pass along to theirs (if they’d ever buckle down and give me grandkids, damnit).

The Big 4 was beloved, Twenty years after it closed I met a guy in passing in another state. We swapped a few stories. We were both italian. We both had roots in Humboldt County. I mentioned the Big 4. His jaw dropped.

“My God, that was your nona?” he said.

I nodded proudly.

“I swear to God I still taste those raviolli’s in my mouth. I can still taste them, you know. Do you unnerstand?”

I did. I still do to. It was that kind of place.

As an appetizer my grandparents served apple rings with every dish. I grew up on these apple rings. Something about them, to me, goes perfect with the heavy meat sauce Nonie Mary was known for and I still do my best to replicate.

Anyway, I say all this becase I decided to bring back the apple rings the other day when I entered a contest to win some olive oil from my latest WeBromance. I mentioned there were two contests. Nudo’s rosemary olive oil and Nonie’s apple rings seemed like a match made in heaven.

For those keeping score at home, here is my entry in the second one. Try it. The apple rings are wonderfully simple and you’ll experience a small taste of what made The Big 4 Inn truly a magical place.

Rosemary infused apple rings.
Ingredients :
– Nudo Italia Rosemary olive oil
-Four granny smith apples, peeled and cored.
-1 cup 00 flour
– up to 1/4 cup 1/2 n 1/2 cream
-1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp salt, a dash of dried rosemary
– confectioner sugar for dusting

1) put flour in a bowl and create a well. Mix in a hint of dried rosemary.
2)crack egg into the well along with salt and vanilla.
3) use a fork to mix egg gradually incorporating some of the flour.
4) slowly add in cream until batter forms. Should be like pancake batter. Use a couple of tbls of milk if it’s too thick.
5) heat olive oil in a skillet on medium.
6 ) slice apples about 1/2 inch thick. Coat the apples in the batter holding aloft to allow excess to drain off.
7) put apples gently into heated oil. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel. Lightly dust with confectioner sugar. Repeat until all the rings are cooked.
8) arrange on a platter in a circle. Scoop ricotta cheese into the center for optional topping.
9) serve while still warm.

Jelly doughnuts a lot like fried bread

The best breakfast in the world is a simple one. You take risen bread dough (as my Grandma Deer would say, “eh… just get the frozen dough) smoosh it into little pancakes and then fry it in olive oil. Top with Ricotta Cheese and freezer jam. Perfecto! As I’ve said before, breakfast is a vital part of my day, and this breakfast is the top of the top.

It’s been my favorite since Nonie’ made it for as a kid and it’s still my kids favorite and will likely be their kids’ favorites as well when they get to the important task of providing me bambinas and bambinos like they are supposed to do.

I don’t usually mess with perfection, but I did this year. I decided to make Blueberry Jelly doughnuts. I had never done this before, and Christmas morning seems like an odd time to be experimenting, but if I could smoke a turkey for the first time on Thanksgiving, I could do this.

As it turned out, the experiment didn’t fall too far from the lab. What I ended up with was risen fried dough with jam inside instead of on top. I missed the ricotta.

They were good though. Just a lot more work.

Here’s the quick version for those wanting to try these at home:

First make your dough and let it rise:

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Then roll it out and cut a bunch of little circles into the dough:

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Put jam on half the circles:

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Paint the edges with milk, top with the other half of the dough circles, and pinch the edges tight. Then smoosh the pinches back into the dough so it looks more like a doughnut than a ravioli. It took me a while to figure this out, but toward the end they took on the right shape.

Take all the extra dough and shape it into a big fat glazed doughnut and top with fresh coconut, Effin Artist’s favorite doughnut. Think of it like a tribute. You can then mail it to me. Tribute accepted, thank you very much.

Let all this rise for another 30-45 minutes, then fry them in very hot oil. They go quick and you don’t want black, just golden brown.

Roll in super fine sugar as soon as they come out and you’re done. Serve hot or the next morning and the next morning after that.

Enjoy. But then go for a hike or a run, because these are not good for you in any way shape or form except they taste EFFin delightful.