Feeding the Chef and Celebrating with Mocktails.

After many years being married to a chef I realized that sticking to quality ingredients and keeping it simple often creates the most memorable meals. We would like this website to be a resource for people with dietary restrictions. Carl’s dietary focus is on maximizing the amount of nutrients he intakes, while maintaing his weight and energy. We are eating clean, and focusing on a low glycemic index. Since cooking is our passion we are trying to re-invent our favorite meals. The goal is to keep the flavors intense, and change the perspective that “healthy eating is boring.”

New Orleans is the birthplace of brunch. Like everything else in our beloved city, it is not just a meal but a celebration!  Cocktails on Sunday morning are as routine as the Catholic mass itself. In true New Orleans Spirit, and my own personal love for craft cocktails, I will attempt to come up with fresh “mocktails” throughout the journey to quench the thirst and cool down with all of our followers (feel free to add your favorite liquor to these recipes…trust us we are dreaming of the day we can do the same).  Hope you enjoy.

Pecan buckwheat pancakes with strawberry-maple compote and vanilla bean yogurt


  • 1 cup buckwheat flour (or ½ buckwheat and ½ flour of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups vanilla bean greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Butter, for the skillet
Strawberry Maple Compote
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced into bite-sized quarters or halves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • Chopped pecans to taste
  • 1 tsp. salt
  1. Make the pancakes: in a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour(s), sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the yogurt. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.  Add chopped pecans, let batter sit 10 minutes.  Make the compote while resting the batter
  2. Make the compote:  Place 1/2 sliced berries into a pot, gently toss berries with the sugar and maple syrup/honey.  On Medium heat bring all ingredients to simmer.  Cook 5 minutes, remove, keep warm.  reserve 1/2 berries for garnish.
  3. Preheat your skillet over medium-low heat and brush with 1½ teaspoons of butter (I like to brown the butter for a second to accent accent the nutty flavor). Give the batter a light swirl with a spoon in case the buckwheat is starting to separate from the liquid. Using a ¼-cup measure, scoop the batter onto the warm skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes (you’ll know it’s ready to flip when about 1 inch of the perimeter is matte instead of glossy), and flip. Cook on the opposite sides for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 degree Fahrenheit oven to keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more butter when needed. Garnish plate with more yogurt, top pancakes with compote.  Add some more reserved fresh strawberries .  Serve immediately.




Strawberry, Basil, and Blood Orange Fizz


(makes 2 drinks)-2 Pint Glasses Needed


10 strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 large basil leaves julienned

2 tsp sugar

½ cup blood orange juice (2 blood oranges)

¼ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)

2 Tbs lime juice (1-2 limes)

ICE! Don’t forget the ice!

Orange Sparkling water

Blood orange slices and strawberries for garnish

Add strawberries and sugar to a cocktail shaker and muddle until they’re broken down and sugar is dissolved add the basil. Add the citrus juices, ice, shake, and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large glass or liquid measuring cup. Press on the pulp to extract all of the juice. pour on ice filling each pint glass 1/2 full with liquid and top with orange sparkling water. Add fresh julienned basil and a strawberry to decorate the pint glass.


Back to My Roots

Week one of chemotherapy and radiation is behind us.  Onto week two.

This beautiful Easter holiday weekend had me aching for my family. Holidays in my family were always special. I come from a long line of “party throwers” and “party-goers” and given the sheer size of my family, there was no such thing as a small celebration. In fact, in my family, there was no small anything.

But, after my parents’ divorce, I stopped enjoying family gatherings of this magnitude. Or more truthfully, family gatherings in general.

My family dynamics began with my grandparents, two amazing forces in life. My Grandfather, Jim Varley, would walk into a room and captivate his audience in a heart beat. He was fiercely competitive; and always wanted the best from his children and grandchildren. His love of music, food, entertaining, sports, and his uncanny good looks made him quite the show stopper. My grandmother, June, would make Emily Post and her etiquette rules look second rate when compared to her spectacular party throwing, perfect manners, and impeccable correspondence. This social fortitude was maintained while raising 14 children, running soup kitchens, and being an amazing Catholic. (I have to also mention, that my Grandmother’s sense of style was flawless, timeless…and I was always holding my breath as she entered a room.)

My own mother was “the chief” of their pack of 14, and she is powerhouse in her own right. A woman with a very sharp, intellectual mind.  She inherited her mother’s beauty and love for traditions; she has her father’s charisma and a secret yearning to be the best at all times.  But my mother is also different from her family in many ways.  She always urged, even demanded, that we wear our emotions on our sleeves and encouraged us to communicate our feelings openly.  Given that there were six of us, and all six of us were very verbal, many opinions and endless talking filled the house I grew up in. In her recent years, she enjoys smaller gatherings and a peaceful life on the beaches of 30-A. Still a very strong woman of faith, she never gives up on anyone. My mother’s hugs could heal the world.

My father is a more reserved man, kind and gentle.  He is a caregiver, a thinker, a scholar. My father has a smile that could light up a room. And he has always understood my wild streak, allowing me to make mistakes and letting me find my own way. Falling fifth in a line of six, I was constantly the talk of the family. “Alix should do this, Alix should have done that, Alix should be more like this sister, or that brother”…

I went to Auburn University in search of some peace and quiet, where I found a way to silence the opinions of my family, and learn to be myself.  Or, rather, a younger version of myself. Many years have gone by since I decided to take my own path…years filled with both good decisions and bad decisions. Subconsciously, I was fighting hard to distance myself from my family, and finally found refuge in Carl’s family here in New Orleans, where everything was a little easier, a lot smaller, and a lot less theatrical. I have felt an amazing sense of home since I met them, knowing that simply being myself was more than okay.  And never did I feel like I had to be more than that.

But, when all of this started and I was disheveled and speechless (for once), my family was there to pick up the slack, doing all the things I could not even think to ask for. Right now, my sister Lindsey is house-hunting, in order to finally make our lifelong dream of raising our kids to be best friends a reality.  My oldest sister Vicky has sent us all the books and cooking supplies needed to keep Carl and I reading and cooking (our true passions) throughout this journey. My brother Bradford, always with his big heart and pragmatic outward appearance, gave me sound financial advice first and then followed up with boundless encouragement. He even offered up an apology for a recent tiff. My oldest brother Trip, the most Varley of them all, just wanted to let me talk…to see how I was really feeling. As always, right there at a time when I really needed to talk out all my fears without judgement. My baby sister Fallon has been her bigger-than-life self and continues to send me amazing digital videos and uplifting messages daily to keep my attitude positive.  My father has shared his amazing words of comfort and admitted that though bad things do happen, you have to press on. And my mother…well, she is recovering from a hip surgery. And yet, in her usual fashion, still ready to jump (literally) on a plane and come take care of us.

It is difficult to believe that Carl’s diagnosis came just 21 days ago today.

As I sit here looking into his tired eyes, listening to machines pump him full of what I like to imagine is the “magic cure” that will erase this madness called cancer, I even now find my thoughts drifting to my family. I am thinking about how deep our roots run within us.  I am thinking of how my mother’s example of verbal exhaustion gave us quite a large and rare gift. I am thinking that I know my siblings and mother better than most, as they do me. In fact, they often know me better than I know myself.

My family is a force to be reckoned with…loud, emotional, competitive, and sometimes downright intrusive. They love to talk to you, about you, and all around you. And it has kept me somewhat distant from them in recent years, perhaps because I was not open to seeing the true beauty of it all.

But, this is my family.  And through cancer, God has revealed to me how lucky I am to have them at my side. These people who will be there always, and who know me absolutely. I am blessed beyond words to have this family. I am an O’Neil, and for the first time in a really long time, I know what a true blessing it is to be a part of all this chaos.

I have had a harder time writing this week, although recent reflection on my life has shown me that blessings seem to come through in the craziest of ways. Through this searching I have realized that family is everything. Family comes in all shapes and sizes. Some born, some created, some chosen, some not.  I urge you to find the blessings in your family, as we fight to save our own young family.  And hope, one day, that our children will know just how much we love them.



A Mother’s Perspective.

Father Harold Cohen was one of the best homilists and a deeply holy man with a tremendous faith and a captivating charisma. He presided at our wedding in 1975. Yes, we were very young and very much in love. From that union came three great children who are now adults. Fr. Cohen ended every mass by saying “Glory be to Him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we ask or imagine!”

Today I am asking for a cure of Carl’s cancer. I am imagining a world without suffering. As a mom, I want to protect my children and loved ones from all harm and certainly from suffering. At this time when I am an active participant with my son Carl on his cancer journey, I am asking the Lord to remove his suffering and to cure the cancer. I am asking the Lord to let me take this journey for him knowing that each of us is traveling our own path.

Over the past two weeks since the initial news on April 1st, I feel a deep peace which comes from my time in prayer with Jesus. Jesus is assuring me that this cancer journey too will pass. We will be stronger for having gone through this journey. Jesus has always sent me abundant graces through times of suffering. Graces are given to me so that I experience His presence, graces are shared which bring me closer to Him. I am also asking that those graces and blessings are given to each of my family members so that we can each cope with this difficult challenge. But most importantly, I am asking that Carl and Alix grow stronger in their unselfish love of each other and their family. They are blessed with a beautiful family and such loving friends.

I am feeling very protective right now because I do not want anything bad to happen to any of my loved ones. It does not seem right that my child is fighting for his life at his young age. This is not within my control, though. Even during my most peaceful moments, I am not far from tears of uncertainty wondering how this will all play out. I cannot help but think of Jesus’ mother Mary who watched the passion and death of Our Lord, her son. She witnessed Him do so much good for others yet He died a criminal after being beaten and tortured then nailed to a cross. I am sure that she felt the unjust treatment of her son by others. He did fulfill His promise to us at the Resurrection, though and she was there to be with Him.

To speak about how much each of my children mean to me is like speaking about my arm or my leg…each child is a part of me and I see a part of me in them. We are made from the same mold. We are each fashioned as a child of God. I can see parts of me and parts of my husband in each of them both physically, intellectually and emotionally. Each of my children holds a special place in my heart.

When each child takes on a spouse, my love is shared to the new family member. I love them as my own child and the circle of life continues in this way. New children are born out of that same mold, created as a child of God. I know that by surrendering this journey to Jesus, He will lead us through this adversity. We will come to a better place, a place of new opportunity which never seemed possible before the challenges. We give glory to Him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine!

One blessing already realized is the outpouring of support that Carl and Alix have received from so many friends and loved ones. Thanks to each and every one of you for your words of support, your time, effort, energy and your generosity. It is gratifying to know there is so much love out there for us.


Life Goes On, But Maybe in a New Way


“The art of life is to live in the present moment and to make that moment as perfect as we can by the realization that we are the instruments and expression of God himself. The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to make today all that it should be.” Emmet Fox

I can hear the roaring laughter of Carr as daddy chases him around the house today, Cate crawling and giggling, and the overwhelming joy in my heart for a moment erases all my fears and worries. It is as if nothing has changed, and it is a usual Sunday. Carl in the kitchen cooking, a lot “cleaner” than usual, but the smells of our everyday life fill the house and instantly my mind and body relax. Our family is coming to share a meal, one that Carl will ever so delicately put together with so much heart and love. This is our Sunday, and though we have done this a thousand times, today it is different, today I am stopping to thank God for all my blessings. I hear each giggle, and the all the sounds of everyday love as they fill our home. Life does not stop when the person you share your life with gets diagnosed with a serious illness, it keeps moving. It swirls all around you, and all the while you are frozen, staring around at all the movement trying to catch your breath. It is the part of cancer I hope to never lose. I want to remember this clarity of just how precious life is. I want to always remember how my husband smells when he wraps his arms around me. I want to always know how lucky I am to have a home filled with this much energy and love. Each day is a gift, and like most things in life, it is often taken for granted. Life of course goes on, but for us maybe in a new way. I pray to each and everyone who reads this blog that you too find the beauty in your life ,and cherish each day, for it is a gift. I also pray for all to know how much all the love and prayers you have given us have been like a good night’s rest, filling my family with a positive energy to carry us through this fight. We prepare for tomorrow, by making the best of today. The road ahead for me is filled with fear and so many unknowns, but today I will give it my best…..and maybe tomorrow will turn out just as happy.


Keep Your Head Up


My family is more medical than most I know. My wife, mother, aunt, uncle, mother in law, father in law, and sister in law are all in the field of medicine. I have lots of friends old and young who span specialties, states, and even countries in this area of expertise. Not one would deny that a state of positive mental well-being would help result in a successful outcome in a battle against cancer. What reason would anyone have to disagree that a positive outlook is the way to go? What is the alternative? Throughout this two-week process (I cannot believe it has only been two weeks), I have tried to turn every negative into a positive. It is the only way for me. There is no alternative. Someone asked me recently if I was mad about the “unfair” nature of this disease and the “why me” factor. I will not ask “why me”? I will not be mad at this. One of my best friends put it this way: Everyone in life has his cross to bear, and I feel this is mine. This will be the hardest thing I will have gone through up to this point in my life, so all that I can do is fight it as fiercely as possible. If not now, when? This will take all my energy, emotion, and will. I know that. I am ready for it physically. I need to be ready for it mentally.   Being positive is my preparation. There is a litany of positives to conquer negatives on a peripheral outlook in this process. I am going to be out of work/pay for at least three months. Conversely, I have not had a true vacation in almost three years. I have brought my son to the first movie since he has been born. This was a true joy that I always missed out on. And for those who have not seen the Lego movie, I am a fan. I may actually see my daughter’s first steps, as she is so close right now. My wife and I have spent more time together in the past two weeks than we do in two months. I realize more everyday why we fell in love and why we need to spend 50 more years together. I will be in and out of work throughout all of this, but mentally my thoughts are on treatment and my family. This is not easy to admit, but this is the first time in my career that the restaurant has not come first. This was hard for me to deal with at first, but it is the reality. Nothing is more important than family. Nothing. And right now my health and outcome of this battle is what will allow me many more years with this family that I so love. Stay tuned for more in the series of turning negatives into positives throughout the battle with cancer. I am finding more everyday.


The more the merrier

Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Suffice it to say ole Ben, though great man he was, never traveled to South Louisiana. He might have rethought his simile. First of all, good fish would never last three days without being turned into a good pot of courtbouillon. Secondly, we cherish our guests, for good reason. Family and friends are the lifeblood of our culture. We are a social bunch of people and we really do not like to be alone. We embrace one another’s company, in good times and in bad. We come together in times of strife just as much as times of joy. I was recently descended upon by not one or two but about eight of my closest, high school buddies a couple of days ago. They brought a computer to help with this blog, a video camera to diary my experience, and a bunch of useful hands to help “hunker down” for this fight we are about to face. Amazingly, I still had all six beers that were in my fridge when they arrived. There was no pretense, no motive. I did not ask them to come. They just wanted to be around their buddy who was going through some hard times. Alix’ sisters and best buds from back home have been in and out of the house as well. They have traveled hundreds of miles to spend the weekend and provide us with help that is appreciated beyond words. They have left behind babies, husbands, and jobs in an instant just to give us a hand, a shoulder, and a hug. Family dinners every night that I was never really able to enjoy or often took for granted are now so much more meaningful. I truly feel like sometimes we get too caught up in our own lives and we lose touch with those we love. Sometimes pain or joy reunites us and we realize that the love for our friends and family never leaves, it has always been there. It shows up stronger than ever right when you need it. We are blessed to go about this journey with family and friends. Not everyone has that blessing. So I will end this post on a lighter note with yet another quote, “If you threw a party, and invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say ‘thank you for being a friend.” Thank you all for the love and support. The fight is just beginning and we could not do it without you. Kicking cancer in the gut one day at a time!


Waiting to exhale.

It is with great pleasure that I can say we just received a call letting us know that the cancer remains only in the GE junction and surrounding lymph nodes. God is good! Let the chemotherapy and radiation begin! Thank you for all the well wishes, donations, and support!!!! The support is amazing. We are hugging tight, and thankful for this first great piece of news!!!! The plan remains starting Chemo and radiation combination therapy on Wednesday. Then it will be followed by six weeks of therapy and surgery. Amen. Plan of attack is finally officially in place.

And so the fight begins.



Sitting in a surgical waiting room, trying to breathe.  In one short week our entire life flipped upside down, and we’ve spent the interim trying to suppress the constant low-level anxiety that comes along with the severity of what we are facing. Today is the beginning of “the fight,” one to which we will give every ounce of life we have. I watch him wheel away for the surgical insertion of his central line,  and it becomes so real, the fragility of life staring me down through those beautiful dark brown eyes…a life with so much purpose, passion, and love. Carl is my soul-mate.  He is everything and more that you could ask for in a partner. He is the beat of my heart. The years we have had together, making two tiny perfect humans, our house into a home, our marriage into a strong and thriving partnership. It is painful that such a gentle man could be faced with so much loss, given that his daily focus is giving to others and perfecting their dining experience. He has lived his life through his stomach, mastering all his senses, and making food art. Now ironically, it is his stomach that threatens that very life.

I remember the first time Carl and I met and had our first real conversation. Even then, it was as if he was speaking to my heart. I became alive in a way that I never knew possible through the growth of our relationship. Carl, never settling for anything but the best for himself, and for those whom he loves, has pushed me to be the best person I can be. His love has made me want to be a better person, wife, mother, nurse, friend, and sister.

Our love story is one that came out of tragedy. He, displaced and homeless post Hurricane Katrina. And myself? I was lost, drifting through my life after a nasty divorce that broke up my family, and in so many ways my entire path of life.  Circumstances sent us both to a beautiful sleepy beach community located on Florida’s 30-A coast.  It was through our love our hearts mended and a new family was created. Our two beautiful children embody not only our love for each other but God’s love for us. Those little people have all the best qualities of their daddy (thankfully much more focus than their mother).

Today is the beginning of our fight. Today (and every day hereafter) I must remember to cherish the joys and victories, however small they may be. I mustn’t forget the everyday delight of hearing our happy children waking up for school or their excitement at seeing us when we pick them up at the end of the day, or hugs and kisses and prayers and one more story after the last story at bedtime. I must remember that our love has brought us to this place and trust that this, too, shall pass…but love remains. Always.