Sunday, December 17, 2017

What is the sound of one hand washing?

This year I had shoulder surgery, the same procedure I had seven years ago. Back then it was my right shoulder; this time it was my left, and I was better prepared. Following the advice of the ShoulderShirts blog, I practiced with all of these items a week before my surgery, and those muscle memories were most reassuring and useful while I healed.

Here is a list of the not too personal "recovery swag" I found most useful for one-handed hygiene, dressing, and cooking.


Totally mechanical - no batteries needed! You might think this silly, but you just try using only one hand to put toothpaste on your toothbrush (and only the toothbrush, not the sink and the floor and your shirt), mr./ms.smartypants.

Right after surgery, most of my upper and middle body was in shock; bone and muscle had been removed from my shoulder, and the general anaesthesia was something to recover from too. Having a stool in the shower was very reassuring. I liked how this one folds flat, and is nice looking enough to use outside the shower. A bit fussy to close once it's been open a while. 

The handle is heavy-duty and keeps the angle you bend it in.

Purely Me LaPonge Body Brush

Even if you're not injured, it's nice to have a bath brush that covers a large area. The textured handle makes it easy to work with in soapy conditions. 

This wide-mouthed jar and soft whipped soap made for easy one-handed bathing. The jar diameter is about the same as the back scrubber pouf. I liked the refreshing lavender scent, and the charcoal color stood out against lighter-colored surfaces such as the tub and my skin, making the action of rinsing more certain.

Nail Brush with Suction Cup Base

This brush has soft bristles that made it easy to wash my one working hand. I fixed the two suction cups to one side of the sink, and positioned the faucet so water would run over the brush when I turned on the tap. This order came with two brushes, so I left one in the bathroom sink and one in the kitchen sink.



This is not a "cold shoulder" fashion statement, though perhaps that trend makes it possible these days to wear these shirts outside the home or doctor's office with impunity. The lovely folks at Shoulder Shirts ( designed this shirt, which comes in several styles and fabrics in many colors and patterns, to help people get dressed without raising their arms. The shirts fasten at the shoulder with velcro, allowing you to dress yourself one sleeve at a time (an optional white "tether" ribbon helps you get the front and back pieces together). Or if someone is helping you dress, both shoulders can be detached.

These shirts are mostly styled for women, but there is a unisex/men's sizes section too. 

My physical therapists love this shirt, since it allows them to examine and manipulate my shoulder freely during treatment.


One of the higher-priced items in my recovery swag haul, this cutting board made it possible for me to slice any food I needed. The sliding bracket (with red wood ball handle) holds bread and smaller items (the black square pegs can be moved to accommodate different sized things). The spikes were useful for skewering apples etc. in place so I could slice them. All the parts fit nicely in the dishwasher. 


This sturdy but lightweight tray was easy to set up, and without the handle, it looks like a normal plastic tray. Although the handle was easy to remove, it never came off without my wanting it to. 17"L x 12.5"W x 10"H; holds up to 13 pounds. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Cheese! Cherries! Chocolate! or: Mardi Gras for Three

Mardi Gras/Maslenitsa? You bet I did.

Friends came over for dinner this weekend, bringing a special Pauillac wine they lucked into. To celebrate, I put on my toque and made duck in cherry sauce, roast potatoes, steamed spinach.
At this time of year I click with the Lenten spirit – at least the pre-Lenten one, heh, of a celebrating the end of winter with an animal-fattishly festive dinner. The main dish is usually my Ukrainian borshch, but this year, I let the wine lead me in a different direction.

Staying with the classic pairing of Bordeaux with duck in a cherry and/or pepper sauce, I found plenty of luxurious duck/cherry recipes out there, but they were all a little…too…unctuous. To compromise, I toned down a recipe from Epicurous ( with a sauce treatment I found in Cooking Light recipe ( ).

Here’s how I did it:

1. Make the Cooking Light sauce with these changes:  ditch the dried cherries and use the drained canned ones (this ensures you will have nice juicy plump cherries in your sauce, which isn’t cooked long enough to reconstitute dried cherries), and save the honey to add at the end, along with the cherry puree (make only half, and omit the butter).

2. Keep fat on duck breast. Score, salt, and pepper the fat side. Pre-warm a nonstick pan over almost-high heat, and add duck, breast-side down. Cook until skin is deep golden brown, about 7 minutes; as fat renders, pour it into a bowl so you’re not frying the duck in its own fat, and so you can save the duck fat for another use. (Be sure to leave about a teaspoon of fat in the pan when finished cooking the duck, however.) Turn duck over with tongs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes more (interior temperature 125F for medium-rare). Cover with foil and a few dishtowels while you make the sauce.

3. Saute 1 Tbsp finely minced shallots in the duck skillet, using the remaining teaspoon of duck fat to help collect any browned bits into the mix. Add the Cooking Light sauce, amended as above. (Note:  you MUST use homemade beef broth!) Cook for a few minutes, until sauce is reduced by half. Add the canned drained cherries and warm up. Taste. Add honey and the Cooking Light cherry puree to taste, add salt and pepper to taste (it should be ever so slightly peppery), and serve hot over warm up, and pour over sliced duck.

Besides baby spinach steamed in ramekins, the side I made for this dish was potatoes according to the Roastie Gospel of Jamie Oliver. Given the absence of Maris Piper potatoes in New York City (prove me wrong if you can!), I tried both peeled Idahos and strip-peeled red bliss, both organic. I used the mix of olive oil and butter, and added fresh herbs (thyme to the Idahos and rosemary for the red bliss) at ¾ through the roasting process. My guests and I couldn’t tell the difference so I served them together. (The taste profile was very similar but of course the red bliss got crustier thanks to their mostly-remaining skin.)
Since I am not in the mood or budget these days to hand-craft every part of my dinner parties, the dessert course this time was FoodKick’s amazing flourless chocolate cakes. Individually sized, these wee dark beauties pack a wallop of chocolate richness, and at the end of this dinner, we could only manage about half of a cake each.

Very satisfying to send winter off with a celebratory meal like this.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Favorite Recipe: Poached Egg, Ham, and Roasted Tomato and Mushroom Breakfast

I love this breakfast on those days when I need extra energy. It keeps me charged for half the day! I adapted it from several recipes I've read over the years.

This is a recipe for one person, but will serve up to six: just prepare additional egg, ham, and English muffins for each person.

1 pint cherry, grape, or other small tomato
1 pint mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed, quartered
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic
Whole wheat English muffins
Ham (I like Applegate Black Forest)
Parsley (optional), chopped


1.Heat oven to 350F. Toss mushrooms and tomatoes separately with one teaspoon of olive oil each, and salt and pepper to paste, in oven-proof baking dishes. Put the mushroom dish and slice of ham (the latter on its own baking sheet) in the oven and roast for 10 minutes; then add tomato dish alongside it, and roast 20 minutes more. Keep in oven to stay warm.

2. Toast English muffins and lightly rub each toasted half with the clove of garlic. Add to oven to keep warm.

3. Fill a one-quart pan with water and one teaspoon of vinegar. Bring to boil. Add egg(s), one at a time, and soft-boil to desired consistency (I prefer two minutes for a nice runny soft boiled egg).

4. To serve, top the English muffins with cooked ham and poached egg. Spoon heated roasted tomatoes and mushrooms alongside. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top of everything for extra vitamins and happy green color. Nice with tea or coffee.

Prepare-Ahead Instructions

Roast the tomatoes and mushrooms, and keep covered in the refrigerator. Before serving, heat up with the ham, and proceed from #2 above.