Cosmopolitan magazine...circa 1988. It's the last place I ever thought I'd find a usable recipe. But I did. And it was so simple, I commmitted it to memory in the confines of that sweat bath of a studio apartment I rented on the upper west side that summer.
There's no sugar in this, which is amazing for a cranberry recipe. Use it any way you like: in yogurt, oatmeal, on ice cream, waffles. No rules. Except one: don't under any circumstances leave the stove while this is simmering. You haven't really cleaned until you've cleaned molten cranberry sauce off a burner.
I'm naming this concoction in honor of the woman who (on some level) must have given it the green light:
Cranberry Sauce A La Helen Gurley Brown
1 bag fresh cranberries 1 can frozen grape juice concentrate (100% juice...corn syrup need not apply)
Place both ingredients in a sauce pan on medium heat and cover. Cook about 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to simmer. Uncover and turn heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool before serving or storing. Keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator. Months if frozen.
All those weeks of training religiously (and declining a food writer's trip to Italy) paid off. I went, I walked, and I didn't even get a blister. How Miraculous is that? All those long-distance walks from home to Flex Appeal, coupled with the Broken Tables, Road Warriors, and Crunches from the YRG DVD's whipped me into a Marathon-Ready state of being. Even more Miraculous? Walking 20 miles the first day. I was hoping to get to 13. And when I did, I inexplicably wanted to keep going. Good thing, the view from the Brooklyn Bridge is spectacular. The whole weekend was inspiring and humbling. Thousands of participants had names emblazoned on their backs of mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends either lost to or suffering with breast cancer. Every step I took, through Riverside Park, Harlem, Chelsea Market, and City Hall Park, was in Gratitude for my health:
Pre-Dawn at the Pier
Taking the A Train home after 20 miles, and too catatonic for a thumbs-up
Renewed strength on day two
Avon even appointed court jesters to keep us laughing...
Like the hot pink pashmina? Did a little street vendor shopping on Fifth.
The loyal and supportive Sarah & John made the trek from upstate to welcome me over the finish line
My Brooklyn Bridge Sistas
The adorable Kathy 'KT' Travis, who magnanimously got me an audience with:
SUZE! Who's dazzingly lovely in person...
Yes, the day got even more perfect: Middle Eastern-Mediterranean fusion with Aunt Connie at Taboon. And she brought me French Tulips!
For those of you who haven't seen me in a few months...or years, I've made a few changes this year. None of which I thought would ever happen, but Life had other ideas. It all began on Jan. 5, when the voyeur in me taped Oprah to hear how and why she fell off the wagon. What I got instead was my jaw dropping in awe when the camera cut to Carnie Wilson, who was beamed in via satellite for a guest appearance to explain how she got on the wagon.
If you’re not familiar with her story, Carnie’s a pop singer descended from the royal bloodlines of Beach Boy Brian Wilson. She’s also had the mixed blessing of struggling with significant excess weight under public scrutiny in the extreme. She and I suffered the same way, but I got to do it in relative privacy. There was never a thunderclap of flashbulbs exploding in front of me when I went to the mall, or say, Kentucky Fried Chicken for a particular bucket I’d grown fond of.
Now would be a good time to share with you what I call my ‘wake-up-call-from-hell’ photo, taken in December after a holiday feast. It was the echoing moment that I realized I could no longer live under the illusion that black made me look smaller:
Back to January 5th: What I saw in Carnie Wilson that day transcended ordinary weight loss. She was luminous and serene and also undeniably lighter than she’d ever been. Carnie and I are essentially genetic twins (except where singing’s concerned), so I knew, absolutely knew, that whatever helped Carnie could help me.
…which led me to:
Diamond Dallas Page, a former pro-wrestler and current fitness guru who rehabilitated his suplex-battered body by devising a system of cardio-yoga called YRG. The combination of breathing, stretching, and isometric moves DDP devised proved to be the Holy Grail of transformation for me. Dallas is no hand-holder, which is a good thing because that would have allowed room for staying encased in my rut. He is however, motivating and supportive…you could say he's a blend of the nail-spitting Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket,” combined with the level-headed guidance of Dr. Drew.
I also started corresponding with Terri Lange from Atlanta, Ga., who stars in a few of the YRG DVD’s. I admired how she transformed herself through YRG and wanted to learn from her. Terri has kept 50+ pounds off for eight years. Anyone who keeps their weight off that long has my vote, and my attention.
All this past winter, Dallas and Terri (or as I like to call them, Zeus and Athena) steered me through the sometimes-choppy waters of withdrawal from foods I’d become addicted to. I didn’t do it all at once…I’ve had enough experience climbing on and bungee jumping off the wagon to know if I attempt to change too much too soon, it’s going to backfire down the road. First thing to go was the white stuff: sugar, bread, pasta, etc. What got me through the first month was living on dairy (which I ADORE) and eating as many plant-based foods as I could tolerate. At about month-two, Dallas strongly suggested (OK, he insisted) that I stop eating gluten and cow-dairy, two components of the All-American diet that are as poisonous as they are ubiquitous. A session with Atlanta-based nutritionist Dr. Bernadette Saviano backed it up, so I listened. Thank God I was ready to listen this time. I’m neither celiac nor lactose-intolerant, but basically eat as if I am. All I can say is, I’ve never seen or felt change like this before in my body. It sort of hums now because it’s working so well.
And 9 months later: I’m down 100 pounds (so far) and feel so different, it’s hard to describe. Photo by Joan K. Lentini of JSL Photography, Lake Luzerne, N.Y.
Whether you're interested in weight release, better flexibility, better cardio health or overall well-being, here's the place to get started: www.yrgfitness.com .
Which brings me back to the Rocky soundtrack. It cliché to say that all roads lead to Oprah, but in my case, they do. A few weeks ago, while catching up on back issues of O magazine, my eyes landed on a full-page ad for Avon’s Walk to Cure Breast Cancer. The magazine was nine months old and most of the national walks had already taken place, but not the one on October 10 and 11 in New York. It's a 26-mile marathon and signing on would mean less than a month to train. But within seconds, I knew I’d be in New York that weekend and doing it...then I realized why. The truth is, I’ve been given a new life. I’m in a place I’d long ago given up on ever being. But I’m here and it’s real and what better way to usher in this new phase of my life? Oh, and I’ll be crossing the finish line the day of my 45th birthday. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate it. Photo by Joan K. Lentini of JSL Photography, Lake Luzerne, N.Y.
This whole training thing is giving me Rocky flashbacks…circa 1977. Every morning when I lace my sneakers I can hear track 3 “Going the Distance.” That’s OK, I’ll take motivation from wherever it comes. No one-armed push-ups yet...maybe in October...
My other deadline: I have a month to raise $1,800 for Avon's Marathon (they don't let you walk for anything less). To be a part of it, click here, or copy & paste:
There are many, especially during harvest season. And chief among them are Gardenworks and Sheldon Farms, both in Salem, N.Y.
Each business has behind it an enterprising and creative woman fueling its progress.
Sheldon Farms has made a name for itself for its signature blue potatoes, corn, tomatoes, homemade pies and other delights that crowd the small retail space at the edge of a stretch of potato fields on Route 22. But Pat Sheldon takes it all a step further, rounding out the inventory with savory imports like Haloumi cheese from Greece and aromatic butter from Parma, Italy. It's also the only place I know of where you can get Coca-Cola in glass bottles, with an old-school formula that uses sugar instead of corn syrup. Oh, and Pat LOVES to entertain...witness the recent Slow Food Convivium:
Post-Star Features Editor and Food Blogger Doug Gruse talks with Pat
Artist and Travel Writer Serena Kovalosky and Doc Sconzo, mover and shaker of Saratoga Slow Food.
And of course....
...Food made with local ingredients, and Love.
Al and Pat Sheldon...who don't get a moment's rest until the first snowflake of the season falls.
And then there's Gardenworks, the retail store/berry patch on Route 30 in Salem that Meg Southerland reincarnated from a dairy farm that had been in the family for three generations.
Southerland and her husband, Joe, started out selling local crafts and art, as well as Meg's signature dried floral arrangements and wreaths, made from flowers grown in her fields. Today, it's grown into a mini-grocery store that brims with local meats, cheeses, eggs, and condiments.
And the raspberries are IN:
...two and a half hours in the fields yielded 8 pounds of berries, and a slight tan.
Meg and Joe Southerland, at the end of another productive day.
I say this because Ron Viola is not only a brilliant engineer, but a genius in the kitchen. And a native of New England, which means if he's doing a lobster bake and you're invited...it's your lucky day:
...Mouthwatering simplicity at its best
Sarah Viola and her creative-genius-film-maker husband, John Tegan...purring after the meal.
Beautiful as the Adirondacks are, living here is a package deal that includes the existence of wildly uneven seasons. And guess which is the shortest? Since I’m not into winter carnivals or downhill skiing, I tend to start counting the days to solstice right around Labor Day. But until then, these are some of the things I’ve been drinking in while the sun is still shining at 7 p.m.:
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Even the walk in is lovely
The New York City Ballet
If you zoom in, you’ll see that it was in fact “American Girl” night at the ballet.
Making It Elegant
Two industrious ladies from Albany named Jinx and Mary started this tradition about a decade ago. Every summer, they load their cars with banquet tables, flatware, a candelabra, and all the other ingredients necessary for a moveable feast and head to the ballet in high culinary style:
Blueberry Season Blueberries picked at Winney’s Blueberry Farm in Bacon Hill
Maggie The Wonder Dog, along for the ride...
The Hollyhocks at Sheldon Farm
…and their fried fish on Sundays
Growing herbs on the balcony
The Hudson River encased in a palate of emerald
Booksignings at Red Fox Books in Glens Falls
Kim Sunee autographs her best-selling memoir, ‘Trail of Crumbs.’
The man who lands the big names: Suvir Saran, owner of Devi restaurant in Manhattan and author of "American Masala" and "Indian Home Cooking" cookbooks. I speak from experience: Suvir's books will change your life.
And the one who really has my Heart: Lake George
Where I Swim
Thank God for Mrs. Lapham! She's the one who provides this incomparable and stunning swimming hole. And the drive in isn't bad either:
I know he stuck pretty much to The Berkshires, but sometimes it feels like Emerson’s Spirit casts a veil over this spot: