Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Remembering Michael Oro and his Legacy

Today's blog post is dedicated to the memory of my nephew, Michael Oro.  Below are the two posts I've written in the past about him and the recipe he created which I call "Michael's Sauce".  He would have been 31 on Friday, June 22nd.  Michael died of an accidental overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl on July 23, 2015, but he was so much more than his drug addiction.

Michael was a true friend.  He was able to help others with their addictions, but couldn't save himself.  Michael loved children and was a special friend to my collie, Abbey.  He helped me pack and unpack my classrooms so many times during my teaching career, that I've lost count.  He loved working out at Planet Fitness and LA Fitness.  He made lifelong friends at his job at Chick-Fil-A in both Waterford Lakes and Winter Park.  And, in my opinion, he was a fantastic barista at the Belle Isle (Conway) Starbucks.  Michael became interested in writing electronic music.  He was completely self-taught, and I remember one of his friends calling him a "beat genius".

Michael was finishing his AA at Valencia College and our family recently received his degree posthumously.  He wanted to major in Computer Science at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where his mother works.  His mother, Glenna Oaldon Oro and some special donors established the Michael M. Oro Memorial Scholarship at UCF in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.  The scholarship is open to full-time undergraduates majoring in Computer Science.  Preference will be given to graduates of Timber Creek High School, where Michael attended high school in Orlando, Florida.  The scholarship will be awarded in September.  If you know of anyone who would like to apply, here is a link to the scholarship page.  http://www.cecs.ucf.edu/college-of-engineering-scholarships/  The window to apply will be in the fall, so check back to the link often.  If you would care to donate to Michael's scholarship, please click the link https://www.ucffoundation.org/givenow  Under the "Search for a Fund" box, there is a drop down menu and the Michael M. Oro Memorial Scholarship is listed.

Since Michael's death, my sister and I have learned so much more about drug addiction.  The opioid crisis in our country is ongoing.  The stigma and shame many addicts feel is one of the main reasons they do not seek help.  Families suffer right along with the addict, not knowing what to do or where to seek help.  Sometimes help is extremely hard to find, and if you do find it, it may not be the help that individual needs and in most cases, assistance is not covered by insurance.  There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for addiction.  What works for one person may not work for another.  It is extremely complex.  It is important to try to find that moment of clarity the addict has to try to intervene.  They have to want to be helped.  No one can do it for them.  Here is a link to the National Helpline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.  https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline  That is a good place to start.  Here are links to Narcotics Anonymous https://www.na.org/ and Alcoholics Anonymous.  https://www.aa.org/

Michael had dreams and goals for his life.  He always wanted to be married and have a family.  He wanted a degree from UCF and a career.  He dreamed of having his own home and a Siberian Husky. He wanted to name his dog, Ayla.  All of his dreams vanished in a second.  The message here is that drugs do not discriminate.  Anyone can become addicted.  If you are, I implore you to go to a family member or friend and ask for help.
Michael Oro

Michael's Sauce (See recipe below.)

Links to Michael's electronic music:

"With You"   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIWnfi70kOw

"The Halo Effect" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uq3cpYeb-U

"Revive"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVEtXEs-ohM&t=3s

"Melodic Tears"--dedicated to the innocent children and staff who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjVJCNTboqE

"Impact" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VOQQ3nMD-c

"Boomshakalaka"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUF5_SMeGuc

"Dynamics"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1lsiXHTaRo

"Illusion"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELwvF2kfgu4

"Deliquium" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KdzMMrcuO0

(First published on August 6, 2015)

This blog is bittersweet today.  It is written in memory of my nephew, Michael Oro, who recently passed away.  Among Michael's many loves was cooking, especially healthy cooking.  Michael enjoyed cuisine from all over the world.  He especially liked octopus from Galicia in Spain.  Our family also enjoyed going to Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine Restaurant in Winter Park, Florida. We would all normally order the Chicken Adana Kebab dinner.  On that evening, I would usually cheat a bit on my yeast-free lifestyle and have the naan bread.  However, Michael was really proud of the fact that I was sticking to yeast-free living about 90% of the time.  He enjoyed working out at the gym, writing electronic music, and making everyone laugh.  Michael was loved by his family and friends.  So, I am running the post "Michael's Sauce" again as a tribute to him today.  This remains one of my favorite dinners.

Michael Oro

(First published on March 30, 2014)

Last night I made one of my favorite yeast-free dinners.  Then I realized that I never shared it on this blog.  I actually got this idea/recipe from my nephew, Michael.  He was making this sauce one day when I was over visiting him.  He works out and eats a healthy diet, so it was normal to see him cooking with ground turkey.  He doesn't know it (I guess he will when the blog is published), but I am naming the recipe "Michael's Sauce".

Here is the recipe:

  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup of spaghetti sauce
  • 2 tsp. of Italian seasoning 
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes (a few)--Optional
Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and cook until softened.  Add garlic. While the onion is cooking, in a separate pan, brown the ground turkey.  Add the cooked ground turkey to the onion and garlic mixture.  Begin to add the spinach a few handfuls at a time to the turkey mixture until the spinach is wilted.  Add the spaghetti sauce and seasonings. Simmer for 10 minutes or so until the sauce is heated.

Serve over quinoa or brown rice.

There are many variations you can make to this recipe.  Mushrooms can be added if you are not on a yeast-free diet.  Also, green, yellow, or red peppers can be added.  In addition, you could add fresh tomatoes.  Broccoli can be used instead of spinach.  What is nice about this recipe is that you can use leftovers you may have in your refrigerator or pantry to complete the sauce.  I actually had most of a yellow onion and part of a jar of spaghetti sauce leftover which I used for the recipe I made last evening.  All I had to purchase was the bag of fresh spinach.  Everything else I had on hand.  That is why it is one of my "Go-To" recipies now.

I hope you enjoy making "Michael's Sauce" as much as Mike and I do!

 "Michael's Sauce" over brown rice

Michael at St. Augustine Beach

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cream of Spinach Soup from #theprettydish

Welcome to the daily rains in Florida!  Sometimes it rains in the late afternoon.  Other times it is in the evenings.  The great thing about the rain is that now all of our ponds are filled, some swimming pools are actually overflowing, and our lawns are green!  During one rainy day, I turned to The Pretty Dish Cookbook and found a comforting and tasty soup. Cream of Spinach Soup is found on page 132-133 of #theprettydish.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 16 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (I used vegetable broth.)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (I used plain full-fat Greek yogurt.)
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red-pepper flakes and stir.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are softened.  Stir in the spinach.  Add the stock (broth) and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Very carefully transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.  (You can also use an immersion blender here!)  Return the soup to the pot and heat it over low heat.  Stir in the yogurt right before serving.  Top with a dollop of yogurt and serve with Mary's Crackers.

I made this soup twice.  The first time I used my regular blender (not a high-powered one) and vegetable stock.  I made the soup again mainly because I felt it did not photograph well, although it was tasty.  When I made the soup the second time, I used vegetable broth to lighten the color of the soup and an immersion blender.  I really liked the taste and color of the soup using the vegetable broth and the immersion blender.  I feel that the immersion blender made the soup a lighter, frothier texture.  Instead of making the shoestring fries (which I wish I could have had, but I was trying to stay true to yeast-free living), I had the soup with Mary's Crackers.  

Cream of Spinach Soup

Milo also likes to chill out during rainy days with his toys!

Also, these days are great to curl up with a good book after eating Cream of Spinach Soup.  What are you reading this summer?  These are the books I read in May.  My two favorites were The Light We Lost and The Heart's Invisible Furies.

May Books I Read

I just finished How to Walk Away and am now reading My Oxford Year.  I really enjoyed How to Walk Away and I really like My Oxford Year, too!  I don't want to spoil them for you!

Here's to summer rains, summer cooking and summer reading!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Frozen Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca from How Sweet Eats

I was looking for a mocktail that had watermelon, would be refreshing, and had just a few ingredients.  Of course, I went to Jessica Merchant's website How Sweet Eats and found exactly what I wanted!  The recipe is called "Frozen Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca" and it was published on her blog/website on June 22, 2017.

Here is the recipe:
  • 1/2 large watermelon, seeded and cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest, plus extra for topping
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (I left it out.  You could use Truvia if you need more sweetness.  I would start with one packet and then add more, if necessary.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups of ice
For serving:
  • lime wedges
  • watermelon wedges
  • Place the watermelon, lime juice and zest, sugar (Truvia), salt and ice in a blender.  Blend until you have a slushy consistency and the mixture is cold and frozen.  Again, you can taste and add more sugar if desired.
  • Pour into glasses and top with a sprinkle of freshly grated lime zest.  Add a lime wedge and watermelon slice.  Serve immediately.
Isn't it beautiful?!?!
This recipe serves four.  When I made my mocktail, I made 1/2 of a batch.  I do not have a high powered blender, and my drink turned out frozen and slushy.  
This mocktail is as refreshing as it looks. It is so delicious and would go with any summer event.  Of course your family and friends could always add a little silver tequila to their batch to make it a true summer cocktail.  That is the beauty of yeast-free living.  We can still have great tasting drinks, just minus the alcohol. 

Of course, I had mine while I was watching Milo in the backyard.  My grass is so green now from all of the rain.  My flowers are blooming, too.  After this photo was taken, Milo ran by the planter of flowers, took a mouthful of them and ran away as fast as he could!  Puppies!

Milo enjoying the sunshine in the backyard!

I hope you will try the Frozen Watermelon Lime Aqua Fresca.  I plan on sharing more mocktails this summer.  Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Atlanta Road Trip to Attend Jessica Merchant's Book Signing!

Surprise!  I actually met Jessica Merchant, author of The Pretty Dish, the cookbook and recipes I have been featuring on my blog.  I found out that she was going to be in Atlanta for a book signing at Eagle Eye Book Shop on May 19th.  So, accompanied by my sister (who is also a fan) we set out on a 4-day weekend to Atlanta.  The definite highlight of the weekend was the book signing.  Jessica is as down-to-earth in person as she is in her blog.  She is very humble, especially about her photography, which everyone there absolutely LOVED!  Jessica was able to tell us how #theprettydish came to be published, how her readers were able to vote on her cover, and the ins and outs of blogging and styling for food photography.  I loved every minute.  The best moment was the actual book signing and meeting her. 

A Great Moment

I have to give a shout out to Eagle Eye Book Shop.  I loved the bookstore.  It had great sales, as well as a wonderful selection of new books.  I bought my first summer reading book there, The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews.  Ms. Andrews is actually going to be speaking at the Aurora Theater on Sunday, June 3rd at 6:00 p.m. if you are in the Atlanta area.  The event is free and is sponsored in conjunction by the Gwinnett County Public Library.

One more thing!  Mary Kay Andrews loves to cook and has a cookbook out called The Beach House Cookbook.  I'll have to check it out!

The Perfect Summer Reading Book!!

What have you made lately from The Pretty Dish?  What are you reading this summer?  Let me know!


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Creamy Spinach & Spiced Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Seriously Delish

Did you know that Jessica Merchant, author of #theprettydish has another cookbook?  Seriously Delish was published in 2014.  I bought a copy recently from Barnes and Noble.  It is also available on Amazon where it has 4.6 stars.  The contents (with a super introduction to each) are broken down into Breakfast, Snack Time, Sandwiches & Stuff on Toast (her great sense of humor is also present!), Salads, Soups & Vegetable-Like Things, Tex-Mex, Burgers, Pizza & Everything Else, Stuff to Sip On, Lighten Up, and Celebrations.  Her "Introduction" is a great read.  She writes that her grandmothers were an influence on her cooking, and how she cooked her way into her husband Eddie's heart.  The recipes in the cookbook can all be made in 20-45 minutes.  Part of her introduction focuses on what is in her pantry with explanations, great cooking tips, and a few of her favorite things.  After reading her introduction, I feel another sense of inspiration for my cooking and this blog. Thank you, Jessica!

The recipe I chose was a savory sweet potato on page 215 of Seriously Delish.  I was lucky; there was only one ingredient I did not have on hand to make this recipe.  I only had to buy cardamom, and I only needed a pinch!  As Jessica mentions in her introduction to the recipe, there are many ways to eat a sweet potato other than with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows (even though we all love that!)  I used the recipe two ways, and as Jessica states, it can be a stand alone side dish as well.

Creamy Spinach & Spiced Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes 
Serves 2     Time:  65 minutes (because of the sweet potato cooking time)


2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 garlic cloves
10 ounces fresh spinach
1/3 cup canned coconut milk
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmetg
Pinch of ground cardamom
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1.. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking sheet.  Bake until tender to the touch, 45 to 60 minutes.  Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool slightly on the baking sheet.

2.  A few minutes before the sweet potatoes are finished cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the coconut oil and the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the spinach.  Cook until the spinach wilts, tossing occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium and add the coconut milk.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low.

3.  In a bowl, combine the chickpeas with the nutmeg, cardamom, and cayenne.  Add the chickpeas to the spinach, cooking until the mixture is warmed through.  Season with the salt and pepper and stir.

4.  Slice the sweet potatoes open through the center.  Use a fork to scrape some of the sweet potato flesh loose, just so it's easier to eat.  Stuff each potato with the creamy spinach and chickpea mixture.

It is "Seriously Delish!"

Not only is this recipe delicious, it is healthy!  Win-Win!  I had enough left over to put some of the creamy spinach and chickpea mixture over eggs the next morning.  Clever me!  It was "Seriously Delish", too!

Over eggs--yummy!

I hope you will consider purchasing Jessica's cookbook, Seriously Delish, if you do not already own it.  Again, I receive no compensation for my endorsement of her cookbooks.  It is all for the love of good, healthy food!

Next week I'm planning a surprise for all of the readers.  I hope all goes as planned.  Just a little teaser.

Are you done vacuuming yet!

Had to share this!  I looked over while I was vacuuming and saw this!  Guess Milo doesn't like vacuum cleaner noise!

Have a wonderful week.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Coconut Carrot Soup and Gruyere French Onion Grilled Cheese from The Pretty Dish

Ok, I know what you are saying.  How can you have a grilled cheese sandwich on a yeast-free food blog?  Well, you are correct.  There is no substitute for Gruyere cheese in this yummy sandwich.  I'm including it because if you make the Coconut Carrot Soup for your family, someone may want a sandwich to go with the soup.  This sandwich is fantastic, so I'm including it for your family.  I did go off the plan to eat this sandwich, and I can attest that it is delicious!!!

The recipe for Coconut Carrot Soup is on pages 128-129 of The Pretty Dish.  This is one recipe where no substitutions are needed!!


3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch + 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 pound carrots, chopped into 1" pieces
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk, plus extra for drizzling
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, or cilantro
Toast or baguettes, for serving (did not do that; optional for your family)


In a large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and stir.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the ginger and stir until it is incorporated.  Add the carrots and stock.  Cover the pot and increase the heat to medium.  Cook for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.

Turn off the heat and very carefully transfer the mixture to a blender.  Blend until the soup is pureed and smooth.  Return the soup to the pot and place over medium-low heat.  Stir in almost the entire can of the coconut milk (reserving a few tablespoons for drizzling), lime juice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until warmed.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve the soup with a drizzle of coconut milk and garnished with fresh herbs, along with toast or baguettes on the side.  This makes 4 servings.

Coconut Carrot Soup

The recipe for Gruyere French Onion Grilled Cheese is on page 140-141 of The Pretty Dish.  The Thyme Butter used in the recipe is to die for!  It really inflates the flavor of the sandwich, so be sure to take the time to make the special butter. 

Ingredients for Thyme Butter:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for Sandwiches:

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 sweet onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices of bread (I'm going to discuss bread options below.)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, freshly grated

Directions for Thyme Butter:

In a small bowl, stir together the butter, thyme, and salt.  Set aside.

Directions for Sandwiches:
In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the onion, thyme, and salt.  Stir well.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden and caramelized.  This will take a full 30 to 40 minutes.  (It is worth it!!)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Spread 1 side of each bread slice with the thyme butter.  Turn the slices over and top 2 slices with a quarter of the cheese each, then a spoonful of the caramelized onions.  Top with the rest of the cheese and the other slices of bread.

Cook the sandwiches in the skillet until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the bread is a golden brown.  Serve immediately.  This makes 2 servings.

Gruyere French Onion Grilled Cheese

The sandwich is just as good as it looks!  I put it on store-bought sourdough bread, but there are options for yeast-free breads.  I have previously mentioned Yeast Free Bread Mix from Breads from Anna in my March 29, 2015 blog.  Also, Julian's Bakery carries and almond and coconut bread.  They are found in most health food stores, and are in their frozen section.  This was featured in my April 13, 2013 blog.

Have any of you tried sourdough bread starter?  It does not contain any yeast, just the yeast that is naturally in the air.  I may try this with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour.  I am always looking for options.  I've found a few recipes online that I want to try that just need a little tweaking.  So, I will be working on that for you.

Of course, I have to show you one of my favorite photos of Milo.  My sister took this one on a recent visit to my house.  I think he is a pretty handsome dude! 

I love my Aunt Glenna!
Have a wonderful week! 


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Our Favorite Bolognese--The Yeast Free Way

This is one of my favorite recipes from The Pretty Dish by Jessica Merchant.  Many readers of How Sweet Eats, Jessica's blog, are now making Our Favorite Bolognese as part of their weekly rotation of meals.  It is delicious, and I was able to easily make a few substitutions to the dish so it follows the Candida diet.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch + 1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped  (So sad that mushrooms are a no-no)
1 pound of ground beef  (I made it with 2 pounds of ground beef, no pork. Ground turkey would work)
1 pound of ground pork (See substitution above)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
2 tablespoons brown sugar  (I used 1 tablespoon of Truvia brown sugar blend)
1/2 cup half-and-half  (I used Silk Sweet & Creamy Almond Creamer)
1 cup dry red wine  (I left it out; so sad)
2 cans (14 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Try to find all of the canned tomatoes and tomato paste without citric acid, if possible.)
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I left it out.)


1.  Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large pot.
2.  Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt.   Cook for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. 
3.  Increase the heat to medium and add the beef, pushing the vegetables to the sides, and breaking apart the meat with a wooden spoon.
4.  Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, basil, oregano, and red-pepper flakes.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking the meat into small pieces, or until the meat is browned.
5.  Add the Truvia brown sugar, almond creamer, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Stir well.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 
6.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. 
7.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

There are many possibilities for serving the bolognese.  I put it over zucchini noodles.  Another night I put it over Tinkyada Brown Rice Linguine.  I gave some of the bolognese to my sister.  She put it over garbanzo beans.  I thought that was genius!  Since this recipe makes 6 to 8 servings, I was also able to give a few servings to my mother.  It freezes well, too. 

Our Favorite Bolognese over Zucchini Noodles

Our Favorite Bolognese over Brown Rice Linguine

Our Favorite Bolognese over Garbanzo Beans

Milo at the park.  He turned 9 months on April 28th!!

I hope you enjoy the bolognese.  Share it with your family and friends.  Remember to "Like" my page, and feel free to leave a comment or a photo of your dish.