Sweet Potato Split Pea Soup

A great split peas soup – feeds a crowd


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
3 cups sweet potatoes, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon pepper (I like white pepper for this soup)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 pound yellow or green split peas
5 cups vegetable stock
5 cups water
Tony Chacheres spice to taste (or other spice blend)
3 bay leaves


In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the carrots, celery, onions and garlic with the olive oil, spices, salt, and pepper until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add split peas, stock, water, bay leaves, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, add sweet potatoes, cover and simmer 60 minutes. Check seasonings, adjust if necessary.

At this point, you can serve it as is for chunky soup or puree part or all. (I use an emersion blender to blend it a bit.)

Avocado Soup with Chicken and Lime (quick)

Serves 4     10 minute prep      20 minute cook time


4 (6 inch) corn tortillas, julienned
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, sliced thinly
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into thin strips
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tomato, seeded and diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

2. Arrange tortilla strips on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion, garlic and jalapenos in olive oil until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in chicken, chicken broth, lime juice, tomato, salt and pepper. Gently simmer until chicken is cooked, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in avocado and cilantro and heat through. Adjust seasonings.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with tortilla strips to serve.

Agnes Martin – The Starling

Agnes - early morning

Agnes – early morning

This last week has been one filled with angst, pride, responsibility and delight. A fledgling starling needed help and with my friend Roberta, we rescued the bird we call Agnes Martin. Perhaps the greatest benefit has been getting to know Roberta. Because of Agnes, we are becoming fast friends.

Why Agnes Martin? There is a current exhibit at LACMA by this wonderful artist, from Wikipedia:

“Agnes Bernice Martin, born in Canada, was an American abstract painter. Often referred to as a minimalist, Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist. She once stated, ‘Artwork is a representation of our devotion to life.'”

Back to the bird…. After many trips to Petco, phone calls to wildlife rescue organizations, emails and phone calls between the two of us, Roberta and I have learned much about starlings. For the first week, we were obsessed with keeping her alive, while pushing her toward independence. Roberta spent hours sitting in my yard, just observing and protecting her. My friend Rachelle fed her when I could not. We listen for her calls, then whistle for her. She swoops down from the trees, hops on a shoulder and chirps away. She’s been to yoga class and Friday night dinners.


Here’s the story that went in the LACMA Docent Newsletter:

Headline:  Docents rescue Agnes Martin or is it Agnus Martin

On a recent Friday, docents, Linda Eifer and Roberta Bloom were heading back to the Plaza after a Spotlight tour when they discovered a little bird hopping around on the second floor near the Hammer mezzanine.  She had wool or threads tangled around her leg which they removed with scissors provided by Lacma Staff.  They had immediately recognized the bird as a work of art and named her Agnes Martin, that is till they realized she might be a he and offered up a gender neutral spelling. Leaving the bird hopping about near the escalator was not an option. There was also the possibility that Esmeralda, (our hired falcon) might be working weekends. A quick decision was made to temporarily remove the bird from museum grounds. Linda drove Roberta home with the bird sitting on her shoulder and came back for her several hours later after the two docents had done their research.  Agnes/Agnus is a European Starling.  She is probably a fledgling and her hopping indicates that she is was 3-5 days from being able to fly and feed herself.  California Bird Rescue recommended a diet of fruit, moistened dog food and meal worms.

Roberta and Linda assumed  joint custody of Agnes/Agnus, and Linda took home the bird for the first two nights. Too young to peck for food, she opens her beak and waits for her mothers to feed her. And Linda did – at 8PM, midnight and 4AM. Agnes loves blueberries, eggs  and mushy kibble. Meal worms were added to her diet after the folks at Petco patently offered her various sizes.

By evening, Agnes learned to hop and wing her way to the nearest shoulder, her favorite place to hang out. Like most toddlers, she is sweet, social and demanding.

Roberta took over for the next two nights and Agnes grew and prospered. Back at Linda’s house, Agnes settled in. Now capable of full flight, she takes off at night, but shows up early mornings squawking for breakfast…then lunch, frequent snacks, and dinner. She spends her days taunting the dogs and charming anyone who comes into the backyard. She bathes daily in the fountain and after a few harrowing rescues, learned to navigate the pond.

On a personal note, we love Agnes, and want her to become less dependent on us for food. That said, we just ordered 1000 meal worms. After all, starlings can live for 20 years.

Please come and visit her,

Roberta and Linda – proud foster moms of Agnes Martin, LACMA Starling


Lentil soup with greens and ginger

Lentil soup with greens and ginger
Servings: 4 – Easy   Another perfect soup for a cold winter day. Based on Mayo Clinic lentils with spinach and ginger recipe

1 teaspoon white or black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup yellow lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk or reg. and water
2 cups spinach, arugula, or greens
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)

Toast only the white sesame seeds before using. To toast, place the sesame seeds in a small, dry saute or frying pan over medium heat. Cook briefly, shaking the pan often and watching carefully to prevent burning. Remove the seeds from the pan as soon as they begin to turn brown. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, ginger, curry powder and turmeric and cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils, stock and coconut milk. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 12 minutes. The mixture should be brothy; add a little water if needed.

Stir in the spinach, cover and simmer for about 3 minutes longer. The lentils should still hold their shape. Uncover and stir in the salt. Serve hot, garnished with the cilantro and toasted white or untoasted black sesame seeds.