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Dad’s Day and No Potatoes for Pop

Father’s Day is such a laid back holiday compared to Mother’s Day. No one is rushing around the mall at the last minute looking for the perfect present or trying to get reservations at a favorite restaurant. Dad’s day is pretty much the same every year: gift wrapped boxes of neckties  and grilling outdoors where he gets to be head chef.

Our house has been six months into the low carb experiment and so far we’ve been able to integrate menus into holidays as well as everyday meals. After half a year at this, I’ve learned that potato lovers have an easier time finding tasty alternatives than bread lovers. (If you can’t live without both this may not be the best diet for you to stay on.)

So what do you do when Dad is cutting carbs and other family members aren’t ? I find that dressed up burgers offer something for everyone. Angus burgers for beef eaters and turkey burgers for those who don’t want red meat. You can also cook salmon and vegetarian burgers. For this menu, I’m using the “MMM…” (three “M” treatment) of mustard, Muenster cheese and roasted mushrooms (buns available upon request).

I’ve found that the best swap for potato salad is to use cauliflower.    (I promise this will convert even the most stubborn potato heads.)Start by breaking a head of cauliflower into florets and steaming until tender but not mushy. Drain and cool down in colander while slicing a red bell pepper.Arrange pepper strips on a foil lined baking sheet (always shiny side down) that has been sprayed with an olive oil spray. Spray again on the top layer. Bake in a preheated 400° oven for 10 to 12 minutes until tinged with brown.Cut strips into thirds and set aside. Combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1 Tbs yellow mustard, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Mix  this dressing with cauliflower in a bowl, gently stirring in roasted pepper strips, 1/2 cup sliced scallions, and two coarsely chopped hard cooked eggs.Now for the burgers: Before grilling, prep a baking sheet with foil and olive oil spray, just as you did for the roasted peppers.Coat with another spray of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.After grilling burgers until somewhat rare, remove from heat and spread with Dijon mustard.Top with a slice of Muenster cheese and roasted mushrooms.Return to the grill and continue cooking patties until cheese starts to melt and meat is more thoroughly cooked to medium or well done. Serve with cauliflower salad-and you’re guaranteed to turn any skeptic’s frown…upside down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treat Mom to Ham and Havarti Ricotta Pie

Today I was grabbing lunch on the run in a locally popular restaurant. I couldn’t help but hear the phone ringing off the hook as the hostess kept breaking the bad news to last minute customers. “I’m sorry we’re all booked for Mother’s Day until 7pm”.

If you haven’t noticed by now, Mother’s Day is probably one of the busiest restaurant days of the year and, if you ask many moms what they want on their day they’ll say: “reservations at…” You fill in the blank for her favorite place. Of course, everyone has the same idea and that leads to long, long waits and limited menus that often omitted her favorite dish (at least with our family). Brunch is by far the busiest seating so you can dodge the crowd in the morning by treating her to brunch at home and still take her out to dinner in the evening. She’ll feel twice as special, as she should!

This ricotta pie is similar to a crustless quiche. It’s rich and delicious with no guilt if you are counting carbs. I know I’ve been using a lot of meat in posts these past few months while Jim has been practicing a low carb lifestyle. However, if you are also foregoing meat, this works equally well as a vegetarian dish.  Simply add more asparagus and mushrooms when omitting the ham. The ricotta cheese is actually lighter than a quiche filling using heavy cream.

As for the Havarti cheese, grate it if you have a block or you can cut the sliced cheese into thin julienne shreds with a knife.

We almost always have some prepped omelet fillings in the fridge on hand for breakfast. These include grilled asparagus and roasted mushrooms. Hint: the grilled asparagus are super convenient (and frequently cheaper) if you buy them frozen from Trader Joe’s. Typically, I’m not a fan of frozen asparagus but these grilled ones have a nice flavor and, since you are baking them in a pie, the final dish isn’t really compromised.

To roast mushrooms: I always line a baking sheet with foil, dull side up. Lightly grease with butter (this adds extra flavor and helps them brown). Scatter sliced baby bella mushrooms and spray with a light coating of olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and roast at 350° for 20 minutes until golden brown. 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

1, 15 oz carton of whole milk ricotta cheese

1 cup +2 Tbs grated or julienne sliced shreds of Havarti cheese

3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbs chives

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cracked pepper

About 16 asparagus spears, grilled or use Trader Joes frozen grilled asparagus and cook acording to packaged directions.

2  scallions

1 cup diced ham

1 cup roasted mushrooms

For the filling. Combine eggs ,  whole milk ricotta,  chives,  garlic powder, salt, and  cracked pepper in a mixing bowl.

Beat on medium speed until smooth.

Cut grilled asparagus in half, saving tips for the top of the pie.

Chop up the bottom of the stems for the filling. Slice scallions.

Stir in  diced ham,  roasted mushrooms, asparagus bottoms and scallions. Blend in 1 cup of shredded Havarti cheese and 2 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese. Spread into a pie plate lightly greased with butter, olive oil or non stick cooking spray . 

Top with asparagus tips arranged like the spokes of a wheel. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbs of  Havarti cheese and sprinkle with 1 Tbs of Parmesan cheese.

Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Tadaa! There you have it and yes you can make it the night before. It reheats well covered in foil in a low temperature oven. Or- you can cover the unbaked pie with plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight and then bake it in the morning. Just remember to add extra cooking time when the filling is very cold.

Hope this convinces you to avoid the frazzled crowd and enjoy the morning with Mom!

Green Eggs and Ham

When this whole low carb diet experiment began with Jim, I expected it to last through Lent (if he could stand it) and end with an indulgent Easter dinner complete with comfort foods like scalloped potatoes, coconut cake, jelly beans, Peeps and chocolate marshmallow eggs.  I never suspected this lifestyle would catch on and carry into the holiday feast.

So this year, we are planning a low carb menu for our guests that I’m sure won’t make them feel deprived. As a trial run, we made Easter brunch yesterday.

My menu inspiration was a Dr Seuss Favorite: “Green Eggs and Ham”.  The spinach filling used is very similar to many recipes for spinach and artichoke dip (sans artichokes or baking in the oven). For the ham, I  searched label after label until I discovered that Boar’s Head Sweet Slice Ham has only 1 carb per serving.

“GREEN EGGS”:

You’ll need  2, 10 oz packages of frozen chopped spinach. You can defrost them on the refrigerator for 24 hours or do a quick defrost :One block at a time, place in a colander and run under warm water until defrosted.

Allow water to drainSqueeze out remaining water with your hands over the colander and place on a paper plate. I usually divide one package into four sections and wring out the water leaving wads of spinach. Repeat with second package.

Combine softened cream cheese with 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 Tbs brown mustard, 2 Tbs Parmesan cheese and 1 Tbs chives.

Beat with mixer until creamy and smooth.

Mix in spinach adding salt and pepper to taste.Slice 1 dozen hard cooked eggs in half.

Remove yolks and “rice” by pressing through a garlic press.

Stuff each egg with a heaping Tbs of spinach filling. (I like to use a small ice cream scoop for this.)

Use a smooth spatula to mold the spinach into the contour of an egg on top.

Garnish the edges of eggs with riced  yolks.I love to serve baked ham and asparagus hollandaise! It is my favorite guilt free pleasure when you are eating low carb. (See my technique for stress free hollandaise sauce in my February 2017 post.)

FYI—

Stuffed eggs are an inevitable way to use leftovers from thee Easter basket. You can prepare green eggs again after the holiday or try something new like this bacon-y version of deviled eggs that really hits the spot and works around our house as a low carb,  on the go breakfast. Simply mash the yolks with a little mayonnaise,  brown mustard and crisp crumbled bacon. Garnish the top with what else– more bacon!

A Perfect Storm Inspires A New St Patrick’s Day Dish

For over a week now, we’ve been bracing for a nor’easter to come up the coast and give us cabin fever (I’m one of those that simply hates being involuntarily housebound). This event just happened to coincide with Jim’s decision to go on a low-carb diet for Lent and my good friend Lee convincing me that I must buy an Instant Pot. Year after year, I’ve been cooking multiple corned beef briskets in several slow cookers before a St Patrick’s Day party. The process took most of the day, so the prospect of cooking one in under an hour had me intrigued.

As I braved the pre-blizzard crowd at Stop & Shop, I caught the corned beef fever that was spreading through the store. The prices had been slashed (possibly due to fear of a power failure) and that had motivated just about everyone at check out to turn a snow day into a premature St Patrick’s Day.

But what could I do this year to compensate for the lack of potatoes and soda bread with the traditional meal? Hmmm— the Hungarian idea of stuffing cabbage came to mind in keeping with the great American melting pot. I once tried this years ago but I had added seasoned bread crumbs or potatoes to the filling. This time it had to be strictly low-carb vegetables.

So I filled my Instant Pot with the brisket (don’t forget the little seasoning packet), whole onions, celery and a big red bell pepper, sliced in half and seeded. I then added about 1 1/2 cups of beef broth (be sure to check brands for sugar– you don’t want it). Once the Instant Pot was sealed, I let it pressure cook for 45 minutes and then allowed it to cool down. The end result is as tender as if took hours.

First, skim out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and drain in a collander. Chop up with a knife (these will be kind of mushy — that’s OK). Remove the meat and slice across the grain and then chop. Next mix chopped beef with the onions, celery and bell pepper together in a bowl and set aside.

Peel away outer cabbage leaves and blanch for about a minute in boiling water. (Note: I use two cabbages so I have enough leaves and cooked the centers for another dish.) Allow to drain on a tray.

Spoon corned beef mixture into leaves and roll up. Place seem side down in a baking dish. At this point, I get even more “fusionesque”after pouring the reserved corned beef broth over the rolls (liquid should not completely cover the tops). I sprinkle them with  grated Parmesan cheese to give them a nice brown crunch after baking in the oven at 375° for 25 to 35 minutes.

For a rich but low-carb mustard sauce: Combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with one Tbs brown mustard and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together and warm over a pan of hot water.

Serve cabbage rolls with sauce.

OK– That was dinner on March 14th…

March 15th: Snow wasn’t as deep as expected but a wet sloppy mess and very heavy to clear off the drive. Now for day two of the countdown to St Patrick’s Day. Remember those leftover “cabbage cores” that I had after peeling off the outer leaves for cabbage rolls? I chopped them up and put them in my Instant Pot.Covered them with some reserved broth.

Sealed the Instant Pot and cooked for about 20 minutes. After cooling down I pureed the cabbage.Then I spread it into a casserole and topped it with some grated Swiss and Parmesan Cheese.

Baked in the oven for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

That night we served it with sausages purple cauliflower and asparagus.

Admittedly, I should have bought some Irish bangers but in the spirit of fusion cuisine I found some bratwursts in the freezer and they paired perfectly.

So now that it’s officially St Patrick’s Day, I’ll have to dream up something else low carb out of corned beef. Hey, anyone up for a Reuben omelet with sauerkraut and Russian dressing?

The King of Sauces is the Queen of Hearts

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, I prefer to opt out of eating out. Ask anyone in the restaurant industry and they’ll confirm that Valentine’s Day is right up there with Mother’s Day as a disappointing dining experience. Besides, it’s hardly a night to be part of a crowd.

This year, I decided to surprise Jim with one of his favorites for dinner, swordfish. No chocolates while on a low carb diet so I decided to crown the swordfish steak with my favorite, king of sauces. Hollandaise is sinfully indulgent without having to give a thought about calories (if you’re not counting them) because there’s not a single gram of carbohydrate in the sauce. That is if it’s the real deal.

The same is not true for hollandaise sauce made from a mix. These products are usually thickened with some form of starch and have a disappointing watery flavor. In fact, most brands don’t even resemble hollandaise sauce if you were to do a side by side taste test. Hollandaise from a mix may be lower in calories but higher in carbohydrates. I think most people resort to a mix because hollandaise has a very temperamental reputation. As a teenager, I tried mastering the sauce the old fashioned way over a double boiler of barely simmering water. It was very frustrating as I would hold my breath praying it wouldn’t break down and curdle.

Then came the “blender hollandaise” phase followed by the food processor version. Both are the same idea. Hot melted butter is gradually poured into egg yolks and lemon juice while the blender  or processor is running. This insures a  smooth sauce. However it’s so emulsified and aerated that some of that distinctive hollandaise flavor is lost.

Over time, I came up with this microwave version that is quick to make, holds up reasonably well and has all the full bodied flavor of traditional hollandaise. The key to making this is to know your microwave as some cook faster than others.

Hollandaise sauce usually works out best in small batches and my method is no different. After all, should a disaster strike do you really want to throw out a pound of butter and a dozen eggs! No fears here though. I’ve never had a problem with this recipe.

Begin with 1/2 cup (one stick of butter) and melt in a 1 quart glass measuring cup in your microwave. Proceed slowly as you don’t want to get this so hot that it explodes. I start melting at 20 second intervals until it liquid but not boiling.

Next, beat 3 large egg yolks together with 1 Tbs lemon juice in a microwave safe glass bowl.

Gradually beat in melted butter

Heat 30 seconds in the microwave.  The sauce should thicken around the edges. Blend with a wire whisk.

Return to the microwave and continue cooking at 20 second intervals, whisking smooth  each time until the sauce is lightly thickened.

Here I’ve served it over a poached swordfish steak and served it with asparagus and minced cauliflower.  Love at first bite!

A Christmas Cake They’ll Keep

Fruitcakes are brunt of many bad jokes. So the thought of receiving one actually causes anxiety for some (as in how to dispose of it graciously). I never had this problem because I grew up enjoying what was the most delicious cake-like confection called Manor Fruitcake. It was locally popular in Kansas City at the time. There was nothing bitter about it as it wasn’t flecked with that strange tasting candied citron you’d find in cheaper cakes. No, this was a delightful, concoction of pecans, glazed pineapple, candied cherries and golden raisins with barely enough moist, buttery batter to hold it all together. Best of all, it came in a blue, western-style tin with conestoga wagons blazing the Sante Fe Trail. I felt so sad when I moved to New York and it was no longer available to me. For years, friends would ship us one and then they stopped as they were no longer in KC grocery stores either. Ok… enough of this. If you think I’m going to be baking fruitcakes today, I’m not. I don’t have a recipe that does the memory of that cake justice.

However, Mom always said the real secret to the cake was in the golden raisins, so that lead to a Christmas tradition I came up: Orange Ginger Creamsickle Cake. It’s based on an old colonial recipe with the addition of, you guessed it, GOLDEN RAISINS! then I topped it off with a yummy orange frosting reminiscent of a “Creamsickle” . The best part about this cake is that people don’t look scared when you hand it to them as a gift. These freeze really well and can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s a good thing I did that because I’ve been sort of sidelined . (I pulled out my back out of whack shoveling snow last weekend.)

GINGER CAKE

2 1/2 cups allpurpose flour

1/4 cup shortening, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup molasses

3/4 cup hot water

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cionnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

2 tsp fresh grated orange peel

3/4 cup golden raisins

Creamsickle Frosting (recipe follows)

toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 325°. Line the bottom of a 9″x9″ baking pan with a square of baking parchment. Beat all the ingredients except raisin with an electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down bowl two or thee times as you go.

Stir raisins into batter and spread into pan.

Bake for 50-55 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out until you are ready to frost. and frost with orange cream cheese frosting and garnish with toasted slivered almonds.

CREAMSICKLE FROSTING

4 oz cream cheese softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tsps fresh grated orange peel

1 Tbs frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy and well blended. Beat in remaining ingredients until creamy and smooth.

Tip– in toasting almonds, spread on a pan and bake at 350° for about 6-8 minutes.
Just one more cake story– This is my fiance Jim reverting back to his childhood title of “The Cake Eater” . One of his family’s legends involves his sister’s birthday cake. As a small child, Jim watched it on the kitchen counter while his sister was having her birthday party in another room. Finally the temptaion became too strong and he began scraping all of the icing off the cake to eat for himself. (I guess some things are hard to outgrow!)

As you can see, these are easy to bake as gifts if you buy pans with snap on lids. I often double or quadruple this recipe as it works very well in an assembly line process. Just add a bow and you’re good to go!

 

 

Frozen Turkey for Dessert

Every year I face the same Thanksgiving delimma– what to serve guests who are coming over in the evening for their second Thanksgiving dessert after already having had turkey dinner? The standard pumpkin and pecan pies are already ho hum by now and whatever I present has got to be intriguing enough to tempt them into loosening their belts just one more notch.

Well yesterday I was roaming around Stop & Shop (and yes I’ve been there way too many times this week and confess I even went back there this morning) when I saw this in the refrigerator case:

packaged-dough

These are sheets of pre-rolled gingerbread dough (please excuse my thumb in this photo). I got the idea of making pumpkin ice cream turkeys and using gingerbread for the tails and heads. It really couldn’t be more simple, like working with clay.

scored-gingerbread

First you cut the sheet into strips like this and arrange six pieces in  fan shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

dough-fanPinch the tips and lightly score to resemble feathers without cutting all the way through the dough.2-dough-turkey-tails

Model strips of dough to resemble a neck1-dough-turkey-neck

Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 7-8 minutes and cool completely before removing from baking parchment.

baked-turkey-tails-and-neck-horizontal

For presentation- plate eack turkey tail.plated-turkey-tail

For every turkey, scoop out some pumpkin ice cream on to each plate. This will form the body.ice-cream

Press tail into scoop of ice cream and neck into the other side. Got kids in the house? Not only will they enjoy eating these but will gladly help with the process.

ice-cream-turkey-1

Downsizing Is Hard to Do

It’s the 11th hour on the last day of the month and I’m trying to write a July blog post before midnight and the month turns to August! Where have I been? Doing one of the most unpleasant things I can think of short of extracting my own tooth: I’ve been “downsizing” or at least digging into the process. I always hate asking myself: “Should it stay or should it go?”. Somethings are simple like stuff that never belonged to you in the first place. It’s easy to give all of those re-gifted Christmas presents to Goodwill since you can’t remember who gave them to you last. What’s harder for me are the items that fall into “What if I need it later?” category.  The “If you haven’t used it in the past six months” rule never has worked for me. Sure enough, I toss it out and that’s when I need it in the next sixty days (kind of like losing a Home Goods receipt).

But what really gets to me is that I’m the sentimental type. I’m the family historian with no heirs to even care about the heirlooms. (More on that later as I pack up antiques to be sold at auction in San Francisco). All weekend, I’ve been tackling the library. I thought books should be easy right? Wrong. If you are an author, you accumulate a lot of them that you collect along the way or were given to you (or were just always there). So here I start with a “no brainer”,  Encylopedias:my worldbooksNobody needs these anymore! But in this set, JFK was still president and I had circled my favorite breeds of dogs that I wanted someday. So I move on to the next set of encyclopedias that belonged to my father:Encyclopedias

Well that should be easier except I can read all his notes that he made in margins while writing reports for school. So I go to an simpler shelf. My family had filled the bookcases on one whole side of the room with out-of-date travel guides and guides to country inns (most of which are no longer are in operation).

Country Inns

There are also lots of recipe books from restaurants that no longer exist :stephensonsEvans Farm Inn

All this time I’m wondering: “Where are my childhood books?” As often happens with anything of meaning around here, it can be found rotting in the basement!Childhood favorites

Aghh! How I would have loved to thumb through these pages again but they are sadly, disintigrating upon touch. So parents out there remember to think about what stands the test of time and what doesn’t (and keep what doesn’t in the basement).

Since my very first cookbook, I’ve acccumulated a lifetime supply. Now I have to start weeding out the ones I know I’ll never even flip through. books across the tableIt’s daunting!

What I’m finding is that I’m really not drawn to keeping coffee table books like The French Laundry Cookbook or themed books with some marketing hook.books I don't need5

For me it’s nostalgia, nostalgia nostalgia. Like the first cookbook my grandmother Molinare gave to me (little did she know that I had made a Linzer torte on my own a year before.)My first Cookbook

And then there are those mid century classics like this one:Betty Crocker Hostess

The deeper I get into this the more I realize this could take a long  time so I turn to the other items I must make tough decisions about…

There’s the London bus Dad brought back from England in 1961. He flew home with it on his lap after buying it for us at Harrod’s.pedigree pramJPG

There’s my Mom’s high school “Hollywood Suitcase”. It was a fad back then to collect stickers from all the places you traveled.Mom and Hollywood suitcase

And then there’s lots of eclectic stuff that’s like an armor breast plate and battle axe:Armor

There’s a broken balalaika my brother collected back when he was fascinated by all things Dr Zhivago. The movie came out when he was in grade school and motivated him to learn to play the balalaika. Of course, it was about as difficult to master as his Russian language lessons. He eventually switched to the Saxaphone lessons and French class.

Balalikias

Well it’s close to midnight and you prabably get the idea… I still have A LOT of work to do! So stayed tuned as I try to sort through an entire lifetime, starting in the library.

Beet Noodles—A New Summer Slaw

packaged beet noodles

This weekend I found myself drawn to a package of “beet noodles” in the produce section of Whole Foods. I’ve used raw, shredded beets on salads all of the time and assumed it would be the same thing. Close but not quite… Who remembers the “Mobius Strip” from middle school math class? It’s a sort of symbol for infinity, being a surface with only one side.

mobius stripIf your teacher was anything like mine, she had you take a pair of scissors and split the paper band by cutting it around the middle without touching the sides. This turned into a bigger Mobius strip. Do it again and it just keeps growing into a larger and narrower loop. Well, that’s the best way to describe opening the box of beet noodles. As I kept pulling out the red shreds, It was like an endless tangle with no beginning or end.

bowl of beet noodles

I had to start cutting them into about 4″ sections. My goal was to mix them into a red cabbage slaw. Rather than let the cabbage dilute the dressing as it macerates, I always soak my shredded cabbage overnight in a brine of water.   To do this: Place shredded cabbage in a bowl and cover with water with 1 tsp added salt. Refrigerate at least four hours . Squeeze the cabbage until all of the water is wrung out and allow it to drain in a colander. This reduces the moisture content of the cabbage so your slaw won’t have watered down dressing.

cabbage in colandar

 

brined and squeezed red cabbage

Next, I toss the beet noodles with the cabbage and a creamy coleslaw dressing. Serve garnished with chopped scallions. I can’t tell you how refreshing this on a hot summer night  paired with with something from the grill .

BEET NOODLE AND RED CABBAGE SLAW

3-4 cups of beet noodles

3 -4 cups brined, drained cabbage (as described above)

2 Tbs minced scallion

Creamy slaw dressing

Toss beet noodles and cabbage with dressing and garnish with scallions

CREAMY SLAW DRESSING:

3/4 cup mayonaise

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbs cider vinegar

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 tsp celery seed

2 Tbs minced scallion

salt and pepper to taste.

Combine ingredients for the dressing with a wire whisk until blended. This is approximately the amount of dressing you’ll need give or take so start adding it gradually to the consistency you prefer.

beet noodle salad in bowl

 

 

Happy Friday the 13th

 

OK– most people don’t mark this day on their calendar…

circle around 13

It’s not like you are supposed to prepare a special menu, buy someone a gift or attend a religious service. Nobody gives or gets candy. Nobody fire’s up the BBQ grill.

Although there are many theories as to why mankind has maligned the number 13,  going back to Jesus and the last supper’s 13 diners, it is more likely  a culmination of coincidences. In my life, it’s exactly that…a culmination of coincidences.

Here’s how it all started for me:  I was born on the 13th of May. No it wasn’t a Friday. Mom went into labor on Mother’s day and I came into the world on a Monday morning. (Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to leap out of bed on Monday mornings.) I recall two Friday the 13th birthdays in my childhood and teens. Both parties were preempted by severe weather and tornado watches/warnings. I know, I know, it’s the Midwest in May— what do you expect!

But then it gets creepy. Pets start dying on the 13th or at thirteen years of age. I’ve had a lot of pets in my life although I do concede that none of them passed on a Friday. My parrot, Captain Coco, actually died on Easter Sunday when it was on April 13th. I walked into the dining room carrying a sweet potato casserole and there he was, feet facing up on the floor of his cage.

Then came “the big one”, the San Andreas Fault of superstition. My beloved father died on October 13th. Ironically, as a child I used to barter with him about changing my birthday to an unbirthday celebration on  October 13th because the weather was more predictable that time of year. No, Dad’s death wasn’t on a Friday either. It was Columbus Day, a Monday. Nonetheless I was starting to get a little PSTD about the number “13” on the calendar, especially when it fell on a holiday.

Finally, Friday came through. It was a hot afternoon on July 13th, 2012. I was on my computer in the den and Mom was sitting on the sofa complaining of thirst. I walked into the kitchen to get her some water and heard a thud and a moan behind me. Mom had decided to follow me and apparently tripped on our Boston Terrier, Toby. She broke her hip and our lives have never been the same since.

For three and a half years, Mom has been in hospice at home in our living room. Now, coming up on the 13th of the month, Mom has abruptly been discharged from hospice care. (This is not because she doesn’t still need it but that’s a whole other blog post). So I’m starting to feel the stress set in as my birthday looms closer by the hour.

According to Stuart Vyse, professor of psycology at Connecticut College, “Most superstitions arise as a method of coping with uncertainty”. I totally get that. So now I’m trying to fight back by  owning my superstition and identifying examples to disprove it.    Maybe I can prevail over the Jinxism mentality. Maybe I can avoid noticing patterns in case anything does happen. Maybe I can actually learn to smile when I hear “Happy Friday the 13th!” instead of “Happy Birthday!”.Happy Friday 13th