A few years ago, I was waiting to be seen at my doctor’s office and I happened to glance at a framed print he had on the wall. I’d been going to the same doctor for more than 25 years, and I’m fairly certain that it had been hanging on that wall for at least that long. However, not once did I notice it.

As we embark on this new year, this month’s article will be a bit different. Rather than share my thoughts on the month, I am going to share what was in the frame on that wall. It has stuck with me since the very first time I read it, and it is something I reread often. Personally, I feel it is filled with advice we can use not only at the beginning of a new year, but at the beginning of every new month, week and even day.

Titled Desiderata, it was written by Max Ehrmann and was first copyrighted in 1927. It was also widely popular throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Many readers may be familiar with it, but again, I feel its lesson remains eternally appropriate.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others , you may become vain or bitter, for always, there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

For this month’s recipes, I’ve joined the ubiquitous “healthy start” bandwagon and am sharing items that are healthy or at least healthy-ish. They are, however, very tasty and a few of my favorites.

Oscar’s Granola

The first is for my toasted coconut pecan granola. My husband loves it so much that a few years ago I decided to call it “Oscar’s Granola.” It can be eaten on its own as a snack, as a cereal with milk, mixed with plain or vanilla yogurt, or for a more indulgent treat, you can use it as a topping on vanilla ice cream.

Oscar’s Granola

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with
parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently by folding.
3. Pour the granola onto your prepared pan, and use a spatula to
spread it into an even layer. Press mixture down into the pan.
4. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once at the halfway point, then patting it back down to continue baking. The granola will crisp up
as it cools.
5. Let the granola cool completely, undisturbed for at least three hours. You may then break the granola into pieces with your hands.
6. Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for
two to three weeks. Enjoy!

Greek Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

The next recipe is for a simple Greek roasted chicken and potatoes with lemon, white wine and oregano. It’s a perfect weeknight meal (I usually make it once a week). The leftovers are great for chicken salad.

Greek roasted chicken and potatoes

1 whole chicken cut and quartered,
or 4-6 chicken breasts
6 large potatoes peeled and quartered
3 large onions peeled and chopped
12 whole garlic cloves
Juice of 3 lemons
3/4 bottle of white wine (Any kind works here; just don’t use a sweet wine, such as Riesling.)
1/2 cup of good olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4 heaping tablespoons of dried oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 400. In a large roasting pan or oven-safe dish, place the chicken, onions, garlic and potatoes. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and then add the oregano, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well using your hands; make sure everything is equally seasoned.
2. Add the wine, and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the chicken and potatoes, and bake for another 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover carefully with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
For the full Greek experience, serve with warm pitas and tzatziki.

Refrigerator Pickles

For a healthy snack, or to go along with the aforementioned chicken salad you may be making, I often keep a batch of these refrigerator pickles on hand. They are terribly simple and aren’t limited to just cucumbers. I often pickle carrots, zucchini, okra and squash, using the same method.

This recipe will make one large container or four medium-size jars, but you can easily double or triple it as you see fit.

As for the flavorings, you can get as creative as you wish. I usually put some sliced onions, peeled garlic cloves and spicy chilis in mine. You can put fresh herbs or lemon peels, pretty much any flavors you think would go together.

Refrigerator pickles


Vegetable of choice (cucumbers, carrots, okra, squash, etc.)
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon of pickling spice (McCormick makes a wonderful one)
Flavorings of choice (thinly sliced onions, peeled garlic cloves, chilis, citrus peel, etc.)

1. First, cut your cucumbers, squash or carrots into quarter-size pieces
that will fit in the jars. If using okra, they may be left whole.
2. Place them and your onions, herbs or seasonings in the jars. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pickling spice in a pot, and cook the liquid on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, and pour the liquid over the vegetables in the jars until the vegetables are fully submerged.
4. Cover the jars with the lids, and let them cool for about an hour before placing them in the fridge.
5. Wait at least 2 days before eating, so the flavors can really get into the veggies. They’ll last 4-5 weeks in the fridge, but I usually eat them all before then.

The pickled okra goes great as a garnish for a bloody mary, but alas, it is January, so I know, health, health, health.

I wish you and yours a very happy New Year! May health, love and happiness be your companions always.

— Santi Gabino Jr. lives in DeLand with his husband, Oscar, and their two crazy dogs, Hope and Athena. Santi is a self-taught chef who has been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years.


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