This is the view I see every day when I take my dog, Phoebe, and my grand dog, Whiskey for a walk. I call it the Vizsla Vista. It’s Alston Park, an off-leash park that is surrounded by reserved land planted with grape vines.

Did I mention I’m spending the winter in Napa Valley?

I was invited to stay with my son and lovely daughter-in-law to escape the Northeastern winter and work on my new website &  project Recipe For Reinvention. It’s a rare thing if your grown child asks you to come and stay, so there was no way I was going to say anything but “yes” and do whatever I had to do to make it happen! This included finding a tenant to sublet my house for 5 months and getting a letter declaring I need a “therapy dog” so I could bring my elderly Viszla, Phoebe along for the plane ride in comfort.


So far, so good, here in Napa. My daughter-in-law, Theresa, who is on the wine team at The French Laundry has been arranging tastings for us at small, unique wine producers through out the valley. It’s been wonderful to meet these passionate hard-working people who work the land and create these delicious, unique wines. You may never find their work on your local wine shop shelves because they just don’t produce the volume for national distribution, or they sell a bulk of their wines to high-end restaurants with great wine lists, but they all have wine clubs and will ship wine directly to consumers. And having a tasting with these small producers is more like being invited into someone’s home, as opposed to the “bus tour” feel of tastings in the larger, more familiar brand tasting rooms that line the highway.

One I really loved was White Oak. Just a beautiful vineyard, friendly people and a nice picnic table overlooking the vineyard that would make a wonderful stop on a Napa Valley Curated Culinary Tour (I’m hoping to put together for late summer or fall of 2017).



For Thanksgiving we had a big “Friendsgiving” with 20 or so of the young staff from The French Laundry, (where my son is a Sous Chef), who find themselves far from home. Needless to say it was a helluva potluck with all of these talented culinary types bringing dishes.  My son had a fresh ham brining for days and made a rich pork stock with the hoof and bones. The skin is drying out and there will be homemade pork rind to crunch on. I made my Turkey Leg Confit that is based on Thomas Kellers Duck Confit recipe from Bouchon Cookbook and the cornbread stuffing that I posted here a few years back (see link below). Every counter and surface in my son’s little bungalow was covered with food and drink.

So much fun!

Sorry, I did not post this in time for Thanksgiving, but here are a few recipes that may do well for your Christmas feast or potluck. Happy cooking!

Not Your Mama’s Greenbean Casserole

Red Wine Poached Pears with Vanilla Marscapone Cream

Cornbread Stuffing with Bacon, Leeks and Pecans


Pinot Noir Spiced Cranberry Sauce



Give yourself the gift of a Recipe For Reinvention culinary tour in Italy with Chef Rachel. Cook up what’s next for you in your life!

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies


I bought a spiralizer and now I am putting curly-cues of zucchini in just about everything. Or spaghetti-like carrots. Or sweet potato shoe-strings. Think back, if you can, to the Play-Dough Factory you may have had as a kid. I remember there was this distinct thrill in pushing that soft, fresh primary-colored dough into the plastic extruder and then compressing it with the plunger to create star-shaped, or triangle shaped tubes that flowed out of the other end. This is where the spiralizer gleefully takes me.


Can’t you just smell that sweet Play Dough aroma. I love how smells never leave you and take you back in an instant.

Back to the future. Because the nice people at the William Sonoma store in my hometown of Montclair, NJ invited me to do a little demo with the Paderno Spiralizer, I’ve been playing around with some recipes I think might please a mixed crowd of adults and kids. William-Sonoma also happens to sell my favorite gluten-free flour blend, Cup 4 Cup, so this Zuchinni Chocolate Brownie recipe was looking like a great candidate for the demo. Even though the original recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour, with Cup 4 Cup, I was able to substitute the blend, well, cup for cup, for the wheat flour and still get a great result with a nice texture. I love this GF blend because it’s light, not grainy and the results are consistent, but also because it’s GMO free.

Because it was on the fly at the demo, I didn’t get the best pics, but let me just say that the brownies were Hoover’d up in no time by the Saturday afternoon crowd at the shop and over 40 people signed up to receive the recipe. The final result was moist, chocolaty and even kids gobbled it without a hint of zucchini “EWWW!” Try it either GF or with regular flour or whole wheat. And even if you don’t have a spiralizer, just grate the zooks on a regular old box grater.




Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

2 cups zucchini, grated
½ cup melted coconut oil
½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (sub unbleached flour, or Cup4Cup GF flour)
¾ cup whole spelt flour (or an additional ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour, or Cup4Cup GF Flour)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I used a bag of Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Chips)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

  • Grate zucchini. Dump into a mesh colander and squeeze it with a towel to get rid of excess moisture. Fluff it back up with a fork.

  • In a large bowl, beat together the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, honey and vanilla). Stir in the zucchini.

  • In a separate, smaller bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (whole wheat pastry and spelt flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and cinnamon).

  • Pour the dry mixture into the wet/zucchini mixture. Stir just until combined, and then stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.

  • Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine was done baking at 30 minutes). Let cool completely.

  • MAKE IT DAIRY FREE VEGAN: Use your favorite dairy-free chocolate chips instead of regular chocolate chips! Substitute 1/2 cup apple sauce for 1 egg or any other egg substitute you like.

    SERVING SUGGESTIONS: You can eat these warm and fresh from the oven, but I preferred them at room temperature or chilled, so the chocolate is not gooey but a rich, dense contrast to the super moist crumb. Either way, you’ll love them!

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Reinvention in Ravello (and Tuscany Too!)

For a moment, come with me to Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.


Imagine you are seated at this table. In front of you are lemons just picked from the trees that crowd the terraced landscape of the family farm you have been invited to, to learn and feast. Just beyond the railing of the covered patio where this beautiful table is set, is this view:


The day is spent alternating between being in the kitchen with the ultimate “nonna” (grandmother) Mamma Agata, —whose classes and kitchen have been populated with food lovers and celebrities since the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo twirled spaghetti here and discovered the quiet beauty of this place—and sitting and eating what is produced there.

Like this impossibly perfect “farmers’ spaghetti” with freshly plucked tomatoes and a dash of alchemy.


Mama Agata and her daughter, Chiarra treat us like family and for a day we feel as lucky as they are to be living and working in this paradise.


After this blissful day of shared food memories, great conversation, local wine, artisanal breads, homemade Lemoncello and unrelenting smiles that make your face ache, we walk down up a short incline to our private villa, where you retreat to your room for a nap, or grab a book and lounge on the patio to soak up more of the dazzling Mediterranean view.


That evening might be spent taking a slow walk into the village that dates back to the 9th century to sit in the piazza, have wine, some small plates of food and watch local life unfold.

And that is just one day of a 7-day journey that is a trip-of-a-lifetime, that includes private dinners with 5-star chefs, tours of family owned vineyards and hands-on experiences in the workshops of cheese, candy or bread artisans; visiting lemon, olive and cherry orchards and doing tastings, private tours of historical sites and cultural events punctuated by amazing off-the-beaten path meals; staying in private villas or boutique gem hotels, being driven by private drivers, and ushered into exclusive experiences.

Wanna come? You can. I’m ecstatic to say I am partnering with my newest friend and associate, Carol Ketelson of Delectable Destinations to bring these amazing trips to life. We did our first trip together this past May 2016 (she’s been doing these for 15 years), and it was a delicious, life-changing trip for everyone who came along, including me. For more details, read here; or visit Delectable Destinations and Carol’s glorious galleries; or contact me with any questions.

In the meantime, until we meet at Mamma Agata’s make her Farmer’s Spaghetti and dream….


Mamma Agata’s Farmer’s Spaghetti (Spaghetti del Contadino)

400 grams or 1 lb Spaghetti (dried or fresh)
1 1/4 1b ripe cherry tomatoes – the riper the better!
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
24 green olives, pitted
24 black olives, pitted
1 Tbsp capers, packed in salt and rinsed
1 cup fresh arugula leaves

  • Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl with the chopped parsley.  If the cherry tomatoes are very large, you will need to cut them into quarters.

  • Add the parsley to the tomatoes before cooking them in oil to enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. As the parsley sautes in the hot oil, it will lose some of its flavor.  Do not let the parsley burn.

  • Thinly slice the garlic or leave it whole but smashed, depending on the degree of garlic flavor you desire, and add it to the room-temperature extra virgin olive oil.  Slowly heat the garlic and oil over a very low temperature so that the flavor of the garlic will infuse the oil as it is cooking.

    Note:  Add the garlic to room temperature oil and gently heat them both at the same time because if you heat the oil before you add the garlic, the oil will be too hot and will burn the garlic, making it taste very bitter.

    When the oil and garlic are warm and have been gently cooked, add the halved cherry tomatoes, parsley, oregano, green olives, black olives, and rinsed capers to the pan.

  • Boil the pasta until it is al dente.  Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the sauce.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the arugula leaves to the pasta and sauce just before serving so that it does not loose its flavor in the cooking process.

    Drizzle olive oil over the pasta just before serving.

    (Recipe adapted from Mamma Agata, Ravello, Italy)

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Blog Envy

Have you ever stopped doing something you love and couldn’t figure out why? I’m reading food blogs again and it’s a good thing.


I realized I stopped doing this a while back and it was as if I’d just lost interest. I mean how many hours of the day do I have to devote to food, after all!  I’m either cooking it, leading my staff in prepping it, prepping it myself, planning it, writing menus, tweeking recipes, discussing it, researching it or eating it. Most days my staff at Harvest watches me wander around, sometime around noon, with a compostable plate in my hand, and a pained look on my face. I’m trying to decide what to eat and though I’m hungry in a physiological way, I have little appetite. I’ve been tasting all morning and my hair smells like sautéed onions. Eventually I fill the plate with odds and ends: a mound of fresh greens and shredded carrots  from the salad bar, a seared piece of fish from the grill, some roasted veggies from the daily entree  station. I take my plate down to the lower kitchen where the production office is and I sit crouched at a corner of the desk, the fluorescents letting off a low buzz, and eat my lunch facing a wall.  Sometimes the other chef I work with sits at the other corner of the desk, staring into the computer screen fixing numbers on the food ordering system so we don’t accidentally get 400 leeks when we only need 40. We may talk, while I eat, or we may not. If we do it’s about work. I don’t really take a full 30-minute break for lunch, like my union contract tells me I should, nor do I take a full 15-minute break at some other time in the day either. We make sure our staff does, (union rules again) and when they do they can be seen sitting in groups of two or more, in a corner of the public dining area, eating and talking and laughing. I wonder what they are saying in Spanish or Mandarin or Czechoslovakian, but I don’t join them. No one wants to spend their break with the boss, even if they like her.

Later, when I get home from work, after an hour and 15 minute commute, I make myself something to eat. Something easy. Another salad with stuff I may have made in a big batch over the weekend: baked herby chicken breasts, roasted sweet potatoes, marinated beets or artichokes. Or I’ll heat up a container of a soup or one-pot wonder I make in a large batch and put up a dozen containers of in the freezer. I sit on the couch with my old dog, Phoebe, whose been alone all day except for a visit from the dog walker. I turn on the TV. I eat. On my left I keep a bag of unsalted corn tortillas. I occasionally toss one to the dog so she will quit whining the whole time I’m trying to eat. This routine made me think that I’d gotten her trained to stop begging and whimpering while I eat, so I can focus on the latest dvr’d episode of my favorite shows, but the truth is she has trained me to feed her a constant stream of chips by whining me within an inch of my last nerve every night for the past year.

For some reason, a few nights ago, instead of parking myself in front of the TV with the chip monster, I sat at the kitchen table, put my food in front of me on a nice place mat, propped open my laptop and looked at my emails. Not the most inspiring way to spend a meal, I realize, but hey, I never said I was a model of mindfulness. Anyway,  I noticed an update from a blog I subscribe to, one I’ve been deleting without reading for months.  I opened the email and clicked through the the site. Elissa Altman writes beautifully at I’ve enjoyed her writing for a few years, and so have the folks at the James Beard foundation because they awarded her “Best Individual Food Blog” in 2012. Her blog is not about recipes, per se, though she may include one in any given post, or in her book. She writes about food in the kind of personal way that I admire and aspire to do and somehow links her personal stories to larger issues that we as a society, culture or world face (or don’t want to face.) As I read this latest post of hers (not-so-coincidently on the subject of eating alone) I wondered why I hadn’t read her or any of my other favorites that get delivered to my inbox with regularity in the last year. I was deleting them unread to clear them out of my sightline as quickly as possible. Was I really that busy or sick and tired of the subject of food?

If I was going to be honest with myself, it was more like these bloggers with their awards and millions of visitors and book deals were pissing me off. Their success was bugging the shit out of me. I wasn’t writing and they were. They were expressing their voices and their visions and maybe I’d given up on mine, singing the sad song of the work-a-day grind that left me exhausted and the even sadder song of “who-cares-what-I-have-to-say blues.” Their consistency showed up in my inbox to mock and torment me. I didn’t want to read because I didn’t want to write. I had my excuses…the divorce, the full-time job, adjusting to the changes in my life over the passed two years…but each post from these dedicated writers made my excuses feel like a lot of blah, blah, blah. Yea, people tell me, you’ve been through a lot, Rachel. Give yourself a break. Well, I have given myself a break. I gave up on the blog. I gave up on my business and my vision and took a full-time job for less money than I’m worth for the steady paycheck and the “benefits.”  Admitting this was about as comfortable as having a Heimlich-worthy piece of steak stuck in my throat with no one around to give me that life-saving hug.

Then as I read on, I scrolled down to see that Elissa’s new post contained a video of her TED talk and I just knew I was going to have to read the whole post and watch the video. And I realized I wasn’t pissed anymore. I just admired the hell out of her. Good for her! I thought. She’s got something to say and she’s saying it and she figured out a way to find her audience. She’s going about her life and work fearlessly, or judging by her nervousness as she spoke, despite her fears. Once I was free to be proud of her efforts and to celebrate her accomplishment (a TED talk!), I felt something stirring in me that I hadn’t felt in a while, instead of the life-sapping emotion of jealousy. I had to work at figuring out what it was, after I ruled out indigestion, anxiety, and temporary insanity. It was my own creative juices trying to break through the veil of inertia I’d surrounded myself with in the past year. It was my own voice clearing it’s throat and bringing up a doozie of a loogie so it could say,  “HELLO! We are down here being totally neglected!” I heard my inner voices scream in that way that inner voices scream by creating a burning ball of pain in your chest or a rock of a knot in your neck, or a bag of butterflies with teeth in your stomach.

I know what I have to do. And I say this with a long, deep sigh attached to it. I sometimes want life to be like Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes, a simple recipe: 4-5 beautiful ingredients that come together quickly with a moderate amount of prep, a little heat and very little clean up.


BUT NO. It’s more like a TurDuckIn: a riddle, wrapped inside an enigma, wrapped inside a hernia. It has to be Recipe-For-Reinvention Hell once again for Chef Rachel!  I know I’ll have to wake up from my little dream of security and benefits and punching a clock and doing what a lot of people would agree is the sane way to spend the next 10 years of my life so that my old age can be “secure”. (Did I mention I just had double pneumonia and bronchitis for nearly and month and thought I was about to cash in my unsalted chips right now, never mind 10 years from now? So how secure is secure anyway?) I just may have to wake up and live my life and listen to my voices, and live out loud and let my juices flow. What is that going to look like? What would it look like for you?

Stay tuned my friends, stay tuned.

Hint: I’m writing this on a layover at Zurich Airport on my way to the Amalfi Coast for 11 days where I’m leading a group culinary tour!



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Slab Granoloa


Like I don’t already put enough pressure on myself to eat healthy, stay thin, stay positive, work hard, cut out the wine at bedtime (!), get organized, clean the damn house from time to time, do laundry, walk the dog (again), get out and talk to other humans, exercise and try hard to let go of my kids because they are grown-ups and mostly don’t need me to be their Mom-ager. And then New Year’s comes along and it’s got me gnashing my teeth over a short list of resolutions I SHOULD be doing IF I want to have what all the holiday-card-senders and well-wishers seem to want me to have: A HAPPY, HEALTHY, PROSPEROUS, AND PEACEFUL NEW YEAR.

And I want that for myself too, I really do. But with me this leads to ANXIETY. The first couple of weeks of January I worry about how I am going to make that happy, prosperous thing happen. Every year starts with the optimism that it can be done and I don’t know why I am so optimistic on January 1, when just the night before, I might have been thinking how glad I was that I could stop pushing the rock that was last year up the hill and maybe, just maybe coast a bit in the year to come. There is something about a clean slate that we love, don’t we? But, honestly this year it’s making me just a little tired.  I make lists of things I’ve yet to do that must be done. Things I want to do, things that are good, really good, but just can’t seem to make myself do, or stir up the voodoo to manifest. Here is my list and tell me if it doesn’t scare you.

  1. write more: blog, journal, book idea
  2. continue taking classes toward my masters’ degree in mental health counseling
  3. meditate once a day; twice is better
  4. exercise daily, at least 3x a week in the gym w weights
  5. make more money than last year; be in demand for my services, talents.
  6. date. try to date.

Ok, it’s a lot, but you can see I’m trying. Number 1:  I’m writing. It’s torture, but I’m doing it. Why it’s torture, why I avoid it at all costs when it brings me such pleasure, and satisfaction when it’s all said and done, I can’t tell you. Maybe it has to do with an overall difficulty with indulging in pleasurable activities that lead to nothing in particular except pleasure. I was not raised to have fun. (#7. Have more fun.)

Very Brief And Over-Simplified History: My mother was a Nazi concentration camp survivor and my father was a violent, charming, pedophile, so I learned about genocide and sex at an early age and maybe I somehow linked pleasure to pain, and NOT in a sexy way. From my mother I learned that if I wasn’t vigilant, all that I cherished could be lost in an instant, for no good reason other than who or what I happened to be; and from my father I learned that my body, and those I loved, could betray me. Fast-forward childhood to serious adulthood, do not pass Go or collect any carefree playtime. (I repeat: #7!)

Wait, is this a blog about food?, you may be asking yourself right now as you scroll down and search for the unsubscribe link. Bear with me. Yes, it is about food, because with all I’ve been through, food and cooking have been my joyous through-line and life-line. But as my own life has changed over the past two years, I’ve avoided this platform because I knew somehow that it would have to change too: that the sunny family kitchen and the bright photos, and the long days I had to spend on cooking projects were over. I knew Food Fix Kitchen had to change and morph as I continue to do, but I didn’t know in what way. Now I have an idea how I want it to be but I still don’t know if I have the courage to do it, or the talent to pull it off. Or in the end, if anyone gives a s#*t. And even if they don’t, according to my list, it’s something I seem to have to do to satisfy my healthy, happy quotient (and soul).

I want to write about food, but not in the “here’s the recipe and the step by step pictures” way it has been or that you can find copious examples of at the flick of a search engine. I want to write about food and how it makes us feel, how we relate to it, the memories it makes, the pain it suppresses, the pleasure it brings or the way we use it to punish ourselves. I want to explore our food fixes by exploring my own relationship with food—a complicated love affair—and writing in a meaningful way about it, while sometimes using foul (or fowl) language if that’s where my voice takes me (I salute you Thug Kitchen). Yes, there will be recipes, mostly wholesome, healthy recipes that reflect my menu at the restaurant, because that’s where I’m doing most of my cooking these days, but others may be wildly indulgent and have no other possible reason for being other that complete unadulterated pleasure. (That is if I get to #7, and I’m hoping I do.)


And finally, here is a recipe. It’s everything I love and need in a snack which mainly comes down to CRUNCH, followed by sort-of-healthy, not-too-fattening and delicious. AND FUN (#7 ). I found this at my local Whole Foods while rushing past the bakery section with partially-averted eyes, trying hard to ignore the gluten-and-dairy filled treats I can’t have. They call it TRAIL BARK, but I’m warning you now that you won’t find it at all Whole Foods locations—I learned this the hard way while nervously jonesing for it during a trip to Napa Valley to visit my son. Hence this recipe, so I will NEVER have to be without it again. Trail Bark is a good name for it, but I like to call mine, (a very accurate, though slightly tweaked version of it), GRANOLA SLAB. It bakes up, low and slow, as a sheet-pan-sized slab. Cut into squares and enjoy like a cookie, or pound it up into clusters to be eaten like cereal with your milk of choice, sprinkle on yogurt, fruit, salad, ice cream, or PBJ sandwiches.

Full Disclosure: While I begged the bakery team leader at Whole Foods in Montclair, NJ to give me the recipe, verbatim, as used by his team, he politely refused. Instead he sent me a recipe he said  “I found online to be most similar to our recipe. It does call for butter which ours does not, (we use sunflower oil). The only other thing I see it is missing is brown sugar and molasses to help with the sweetness.” Having tried his “similar” recipe, I can say with confidence that it is worthy. I omit the brown sugar, use oil instead of butter, and add a bit of molasses.  The original comes from the Anson Mills website, a producer of superior organic artisan grains and flours.


Slab Granola

16 ounces (3 cups) steel cut oats such as Anson Mills Handmade Toasted Stone Cut Oats
6 ounces (2 cups) raw sliced almonds
3 ounces (1 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
4ounces (1 cup) raw shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds
3.75 ounces (¾ cup) raw hulled sesame seeds
2¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
1½ teaspoons ground ginger (optional)
¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)
5 ounces sunflower oil, or other neutral-tasting oil or fat source you prefer.
9 ounces (scant 1 cup) honey
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet (18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper and set it aside.

  • Place the oats, almonds, coconut, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and spices in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.

  • Heat the oil/fat and honey in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Stir in the salt and vanilla, and then pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Turn the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and press firmly with an offset spatula to create an even layer about ½ inch thick. Cover and refrigerate overnight, time and space permitting.

  • Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Bake the granola until it is firm to the touch and deep golden brown, about 1¼ hours. Let cool in the baking sheet; the granola will become crisper as it cools.

  • When cooled and crisp, lift an edge of the parchment paper to loosen the bark and break the granola into pieces. Store in zipper-lock plastic bags or a container with a tight lid at cool room temperature. The granola will keep at the height of its texture and flavor for 2 weeks.

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