In the kitchen with Glory Bracken

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Glory’s Sopa Seca
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. vermicelli, broken in half
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 can petite diced tomatoes in juice
1 can black beans, drained
1 1/2 cups water
1 to 2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. salt
About 3/4 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Sour cream
Serves Four
Heat oven to 350 degrees
In skillet heat 1 tbsp. oil, add vermicelli (med. heat) and stir until pasta is golden brown, about four minutes
Transfer pasta to 13x9 in. baking dish and spread over bottom of dish
Heat remaining oil in skillet and sauté onion until soft and lightly brown
Add garlic and cumin, mix and heat for about 30 seconds
Add tomatoes and juice, black beans, water, peppers and salt
Bring mixture to a boil and pour over pasta
Put baking dish in oven, medium rack position, bake until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes
Remove dish from oven, stir to combine ingredients, sprinkle cheese over top
Return to oven, bake until cheese melts
Garnish each serving with sprinkle of cilantro and dollop of sour cream
Goes nicely with cornmeal biscuits and a green salad


Glory Bracken, a 25-year resident of West Milford, was born in Washington DC and raised in rural Prince Frederick, Maryland, near the Potomac River.

While a student at Miami Dade College in Florida, she met a young man in her townhouse complex, Dave Bracken, a University of Miami student. Thirty-five years ago, Dave and Glory eloped, marrying in Massachusetts.

In the early 1970s, the couple moved to Weehawken for its convenient proximity to New York and because Dave’s parents lived in New Jersey.

For fans of old-time movies, Dave’s father was actor Eddie Bracken who performed on Broadway, in movies and on radio and television. He made many movies in the 1940s, including “Hail the Conquering Hero” and entertained troops during the war. His later cinematic efforts included roles in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” and in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Once settled in New Jersey, Bracken went to work in New York, first in sales and marketing with Billboard Publications and G.P. Putnam and Sons and then moved on to managerial assistant positions in the brokerage business.

The Brackens have one daughter, Caitlin, born in 1992. She graduated from college this year and currently has a management position with Target.

When Caitlin first started school, Bracken, now 62, began working part-time for her husband’s multi-media company, Lakefront Media. She remains a part of the Ramsey-based business.

It was during her daughter’s early school years that she also took on another job, but this time as a volunteer.

“I knew someone who volunteered at the West Milford Animal Shelter Society (WMASS) and I wanted to do something. It started as two hours a week and as Caitlin got older I volunteered more time.”

Bracken finds her volunteer work at the shelter fulfilling, saying “It’s satisfying to your soul.”

She’s held the position of Fundraising/Advertising Director since 2000 and works one day a week at the facility. She writes the West Milford Messenger column featuring adoptable animals, organizes events and handles a multitude of other advertising work.

A life-long animal lover, she’s always had cats in her home. Being around the animals, it may be tempting to adopt more, but Bracken feels the work she does is more beneficial to a host of homeless pets, rather than bringing home another pet.

The WMASS is 100 percent volunteer driven. Established in 1976, it has grown over the years into its current bright, modern, comfortable and comforting facility. Caring for and giving the homeless animals the respect and affection they need is just one part of the picture for volunteers.

Each day there is laundry to do, dishes to wash, litter boxes to be cleaned and dogs to be walked. Volunteers even come back at night for an evening stroll with the dogs.

There are currently around 30 volunteers at the shelter including quite a few senior citizens, with one gentleman in his 80s.

Volunteers must be 15-16 years old to work with the cats, and 18 years old to care for the dogs. Some folks just come in to help with the laundry and all hands are most welcomed. People who would like to help but can’t find the hours can still assist with financial and pet supply donations.

As difficult as it is, Bracken said she has no “favorite.”

“All of us get so excited when an animal is adopted. They are all our favorites.”

They must be doing something very right since they currently boast an 80 percent adoption rate where the norm is 25 percent.

Bracken has some recommendations for people thinking about adoption: consider your lifestyle, do some research, keep an open mind when you visit and see which animal you best connect with.

This past May, the Bracken family commemorated three happy events with a family reunion.

“Our daughter graduated from Marist College, I celebrated five years of being cancer-free and it was our 35th wedding anniversary,” she said.

When not at work or at the shelter, she likes to read, garden and cook.

She is the lone vegetarian in her home but she cooks what her husband likes, too. They tend to eat light dinners, especially after a heavy lunch, and eggs, an English muffin and fruit are often on the dinner table. She sent in a recipe for a Mexican pasta dish that sounds more tummy filling.

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