Archive for the 'Food' Category


good thing they have all those anti-oxidants

Many Celestial Seasonings Teas, despite their claims at being “all natural,” have been found to contain unacceptably high levels of pesticides.

celestialseasoningsOf course, this is reported by a company that has “shorted” the company that controls Celestial Seasonings, so their interests lie in Celestial Seasonings stock falling, so who knows if it’s even really mostly true.

Their disclaimer even includes this sentence: “This report and all statements contained therein are the opinion of Glaucus Research Group California LLC, and are not statements of fact.

Oh. I see. So maybe not even partially true.

How does a report quoting a violation of pesticide standards fall under “opinion”?

Caveat emptor all the way around I guess.


a day in the life, aka parenting in two parts

Can you guess the age of the perpetrator?^ (Left on the kitchen table for 2 days; I actually thought there were still brownies within.)




Only Daughter, as the only remaining-at-home child of a perpetually-distracted parent in her late 40s has developed some bad habits regarding snacking. To be specific, junk food junk food junk food. The daily salt intake could preserve an entire ham. She tried to take salami (no bread) and goldfish (the cracker) in her lunch one day; the day after I had discovered that between when she got home on the bus (4:10 p.m.) and dinner (7:30 p.m.) she had eaten salami, a large cereal bowl full of pistachios, a same-size bowl of tortilla chips and salsa and a same-size bowl of goldfish (the cracker). Yesterday Husband came out to get her dinner while I was at a rehearsal to discover that she was in the process of eating chips and salsa for the THIRD TIME that day.

This morning we had the first of a two-part conversation regarding healthful eating and what’s going to happen to her favorite food choices if she doesn’t start demonstrating some ability to make reasonable decisions.* This includes my approval of what she eats for breakfast, what she puts in her lunch, and permission for any snacks. Like when she was four. (She’s 12 going on 25. As if.)

The second part will include a list of foods that she can eat as much of as she’d like (spinach, carrots, whole wheat toast with peanut butter)(rightthat’llhappen) and foods that need to be approached a bit more judiciously (everything that she eats when given the chance).

Here is my contribution towards judiciousness, waiting to greet her when she arrives home from school today (during which time I will be teaching a piano lesson):


^The perpetrator is 19. He tried to tell me the other day, when I was questioning his decision not to work over spring break, that he was “20” and that I should trust him to make his own decisions. This was two days before he told me that his housing payment had been due a few days earlier, that he needed me to pay it since he was out of savings. It was also the day that he washed his popcorn pan while leaving the rest of the dishes in the sink and was doing all of his laundry in our washing machine using our soap.

You know, some species eat their young. (I hear they taste like chicken.)

*Second Son also tried to convince me the other day that his bad eating habits are my fault. Since I raised him feeding him mostly healthful foods, he has developed a taste for white bread, cereal of the Cap’n Crunch persuasion, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. If I had raised him on junk, he would now be a vegan. He actually told me this, and I believe that he actually believes it.


Pretension, 2013


As opposed to from where every other winery procures its “winegrapes.”

(Autocorrect just tried to change “winegrapes” to “winger apes.” Yet another clue to the word’s ridiculousness.)

Happy New Year!!!


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Am having a bit of a stressful ride lately, and the next 10 days see the culmination of it all. I try to focus on living in the moment, but I’m finding it particularly difficult not to just wish it were December 15.

In a nutshell, two big concerts to perform in, and one to sponsor/produce. Meanwhile, lots of people either not doing their jobs, or trying to do mine — both situations which cause a lot of extra work and/or stress for me right when I have a gazillion other things I really need to be focusing on; or should maybe just be sitting on a cushion with my palms on my thighs chanting Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. . .


I did manage to clear my day today up until around 5 p.m. to stay home and regroup, so I am heading to practice soon (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.). I did start the day making my famous (infamous?) drunken Christmas cake. Actually, I started it last night, as I macerated the dried fruit in a good dose of brandy overnight. I did a fair bit of sampling of the batter as I prepared it, which means I was actually possibly maybe a tiny wee bit hammered before breakfast. I’m sure the coffee will counteract it and there should be no adverse effects.

It is a great recipe, adapted* from my very battered “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, so here it is:

Sheri’s Drunken Christmas Cake

The night before (the fruit can macerate up to 24 hours):

In a large (8-cup) mixing bowl or measuring cup mix 2 c. golden raisins, 2 c. dried currants, and 2 c. chopped dried figs. Pour 3/4 c. of brandy over and stir well. Cover. (Stir occasionally if you can — once before bed, once when you get up in the morning)

When you’re ready to make the cake:

Bring 1 c. of butter out to put on the counter while you make your coffee, assemble ingredients, etc.

Butter 8 small ! bread pans, bottom and sides.

Preheat oven to 300˚ (275˚ if it’s convection)

Put the butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until smooth and creamy.
Add 2 c. packed dark brown sugar, and beat on a fairly high speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-5 minutes.

While this is beating, I mix the dry ingredients:
3 c. unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I heap this one)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Whisk together well with an egg whisk to thoroughly blend and “sift” the flour.

To the butter/brown sugar mixture, add:
1/2 c. dark molasses
grated zest and juice of one orange
grated zest and juice of one lemon
Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

When this has been fully incorporated, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with 3/4 c. of brandy in 2 parts, mixing well (on low speed) after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so all of the flour stuff gets fully incorporated.
So: 1 c. flour mixture, mixmixmixmixmixmix, 1/2 of the brandy, mixmixmixmixmix, 1 c. of flour mixture, etc.

Now mix in the macerated fruits, and 2 c. of coarsely chopped almonds and/or hazelnuts. (I suppose, if you really felt it was necessary, you could use walnuts.*)

Divide the batter between the 8 pans (you can make this into one giant cake in a tube pan, but I like to give them as gifts, and they really serve better if you can cut up one loaf and leave the rest wrapped up until you want/need it).

Bake for 2 1/2 hours. At 1 1/4 hours rotate the pans so the ones on an upper rack get traded for the ones on a lower rack. (The JoC recipe says to bake for 3.5 hours, and to disregard the fact that the cakes look quite thoroughly done an hour earlier, but I have found these to come out a bit dry and crumbly, so I have shortened the baking time.)

Leave cakes in the pans to cool on a rack for at least an hour. At this point, if you like your Christmas cake REALLY hammered (who doesn’t?) you can drizzle (slowly) another tablespoon or two of brandy over each one.

To store: Soak a piece of cheesecloth in brandy, squeeze out the excess. Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, and then put into a sturdy freezer plastic bag. If you wrap the cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, you can actually age the cake up to a month. If I do this, about once a week I remove the cheesecloth and soak in a little more brandy just to keep the cake moist and discourage any molding. I’ve done this year after year, and the cake has NEVER gone bad.

Here’s how it all looked before I put them in the oven:

You know you're a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

You know you’re a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

I wish you could smell how good my house smells right now. Yum.

Yesterday I made candied citrus peel:


(If you click on the picture it should link to where I got the recipe.)

Okay. Enough procrastinating. Must go practice now. (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.)

p.s. Is anybody else having trouble with the updated WordPress platform? I have never had so much trouble inserting pictures and having them go into the post where I want them and not having my links disappear. Grrr. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, y’know?

*Adapted meaning brandy has been added beyond that which has been called for, and that I have omitted things I cannot abide: dates (taste like boogers), walnuts (taste like dirt), candied fruits of any sort (taste like candle wax). Don’t ask me how I know these things, I just do.


wouldn’t it be nice if. . .

Husband and I were just talking about tonight’s upcoming debate as we made our dinner preparations (cornmeal-coated oven-fried chicken tenders; curried sweet potato pancakes with raita).

He’s been reading up on Mitt’s activities during Mitt’s tenure at Bain capital, and on hostile takeovers, buyouts, “reorganizations,” etc. in general. It’s a dirty, cynical, greedy business. Capitalism at it’s most capitalistic.

Tonight’s topic is foreign policy.

My wishes are, basically, two. (I get two wishes, right? Isn’t there a genie in this bottle of bourbon? Drat.)

1. A moderator who actually makes the candidate answer the questions he was asked, and who disallows a candidate talking beyond his allotted time.

2. Candidates who actually tell us something without resorting to campaign-speak. Many argue that the American people don’t know the issues, and respond from a more “intuitive,” reflexive place (somewhere behind their belly button, I think). I argue that if you talk to people like they are children, they think like children, and if you talk to people as if they have a reasonable ability to, well, reason, they will do so.

Call me optimistic, just don’t call me late for dinner.

I’ll be tweeting, if I’m not in the fetal position, moaning.

Didn’t their Mamas teach them it’s not polite to point?


Okay, on everything but that


Never thought I’d think there was something which would not taste better with bacon…but maybe…


speaking of missing the point’s version of a croissant “recipe.”

And I don’t think they were being ironic.

Kind of like the jokes about how to make a million dollars or win a Tony.

Haven’t read far enough down yet to know what I need unscented garbage bags for. Not sure I want to.

Feeling a little like I’ve stumbled into some kind of parallel universe where “recipe” actually means “joke.”


fed up?

I’m sick of politics and politicians, I’m sick of women being treated like chattel, I’m sick of feeling like no matter how I spend my time or my day or my life or my money I could have/should have spent it better.

I peruse headlines for something to write about and I just sigh in a combination of resignation and despair.

I’m going to take the dog for a walk, and then we’re going to have tuna steaks and salad for dinner, with an amusing white wine.  Then I’m going to write a list of things my son should do between now and when he graduates from college and moves to Madison, Wisconsin to start his FIRST REAL JOB (yarly! yeah! go First Son!) (get a credit card, buy clothes for work, figure out what furniture/dishes/potsandpans he needs and how many of those things he can get from our basement on his way from Cleveland to Madison, research cars and think about what kind of a car he wants/needs/can afford, etc. etc.) and then I’m going to read my book or knit.

I’m also going to ponder, as I have been for the past two weeks, two really important questions:

Should I quit at least one of my jobs?

Can I afford/justify these boots?

These two questions are, in case you didn’t notice, directly related.

And the boots are $515, ifthatmakesanydifference.

I’m thinking no, no matter what the answer to the first question is.

And I can’t wait for my glow-in-the-dark paint to come so I can make these jars:

That’s all.



Angioplasty for 4 please?


Husband’s birthday cake, once frosted, will contain 3 sticks of butter. I’m not exaggerating. I’m suggesting we just smoke a carton of cigarettes each and go remove asbestos from some falling down, lead-painted building and call it even.


what I did while I wasn’t here

Apparently, this is one of the most popular blog headlines.

Alas, I’m a cliché, and probably in more ways than this.

But I was in New York City for four fabulous days, at a conference, well, at least some of the time, and having lots of fun with lots of very good friends.

Some highlights of the trip.

What I ate:

The Best Gyro. Ever. (Greek Kitchen)

Miso Menchanko. (54th St. I think, in the block west of 6th St.)

Pad Prik Khang, with shrimp; and a sake-sojo martini that gave me such a headache I thought I might be having a stroke. (Boyd Thai, Greenwich Village)

Spicy tuna sushi, washed down with an ice-cold Sapporo. (Sushi Damo, 58th & 9th)

Savory crepe with chicken, mushroom and asparagus, topped with a tomato-olive tapenade. (Europa Café, 57th St.)

And, believe it or not, at the LaGuardia airport:

Sun-dried tomato and goat cheese panini with a Pilsner Urquell ($8, but never mind.)

I only have pictures of all of my meals because Husband was at home, and I thought he might look at this as a way of our sharing the trip. You’d have to ask him if he agrees, or if he thought I was just being really annoying.

Some other interesting sites:

Rockefeller Center

This looks so much bigger on TV.

St. Mark’s (?) Cathedral

I really should keep track of the identities of these things. Stunning, though, isn't it?

Columbus Circle

Does this coat make my butt look big?

Times Square

I would have taken pictures on our pedicab tour of Central Park but I was too busy hanging on for dear life. This is also why you don’t get a picture of the chocolate almond croissant I got from the Bouchon Bakery. It was, for lack of a better word, amazing. Probably a thousand calories. But worth every single one of them.

I also don’t have pictures of Murray Perahia in concert. They kind of frown on that, although it didn’t seem to be stopping someone on the other side of the hall. I’m sitting in the back of Avery Fisher Hall, with ~ 2,500 people between him and me, and he plays Bach with such a beautiful, delicate, intimate yet singing tone it’s like he’s sitting right next to me. And then oh, how the Chopin roared! I was there with at least a dozen of my music-camp-faculty colleagues, and we were joking that we were going to have T-shirts made to wear at camp this summer that say “Just play it like Murray plays it.” As if.

It was also nice to see a full house, and again the next night for the Interlochen Academy’s anniversary celebration concert. Maybe it’s NOT the end of Classical music after all.

I loved the city. Anything you want to eat, do, see, buy, they have, and probably in the same block on which you find yourself. It was cleaner and safer than I imagined, although there was one poor soul on the subway that I can’t stop thinking about. As my friend Liza, who lives on the upper tip of Manhattan, says, you can’t help everyone. But I do think maybe we should try harder to help more.

And I don’t think I would be very happy about having to drive there, although I might be able to convince myself that I could find that perfect balance between assertive and defensive driving. I certainly wouldn’t bother with wanting a nice car; maybe something pre-dented.

I wrote the poem in the previous post on the plane on the way back after almost a two hour delay while we waited for the mechanics to make repairs. I’m always happy to have people fix things wrong with the plane that I’m supposed to be flying in; not like the pilot can hear a funny noise and decide to pull over onto the shoulder and call AAA. I would however always, selfishly, rather it was someone else’s plane that needed repair. I didn’t really understand the surly young man behind me — would he have rather they had flown without rear pitch control (whateverthatmeans)? And it did make my night’s sleep rather short by the time I got home. I was extremely grateful not to be seated next to the girl who had plopped herself down next to me in the terminal (despite the other 85 empty seats at the gate) and then regaled her father via cellphone with her tales of woe, including an apology for being so drunk last time she called him — apparently her brother had carried her out of the bar after she passed out and she didn’t even realize she had made any phone calls until the next morning. Charming. On so many levels. Not helped by the fact that some other people seemed to think she was with me. Apparently my sympathy only extends so far.

And despite popular opinion, most of the New Yorkers were exceedingly friendly, except for the waitstaff at the Pazza Notte on 6th. We weren’t getting dinner, just drinks and an appetizer, so, despite the fact that it was 10:30 p.m.and there were at least ten empty tables in the restaurant, we were escorted to two uncomfortable chairs and a barrel (I’mnotmakingthisup) in a stinky corner by the kitchen to drink our watered-down cosmopolitans and eat our not-really-all-the-convincing bruschetta. Quite a contrast to the ramen place, where every. single. employee.  thanked us as we left.

Not bad, all things considered.



There has to be a better way. Does anyone have any suggestions?



now about that chicken. . .Updated.


I love the idea that we might feel better about what we eat if we can look at the animal’s picture first, and know his name and his level of happiness. I also love that the waitress refuses to “speak to that level of knowledge.”

It’s come to my attention that the Hulu version only be watched in the U.S. so here is a copy from youtube.


A not-so-soupy Sunday

I know I “promised” at some point to post a soup recipe every Sunday, but we didn’t make soup today.

I did make some kick-ass oatmeal bread recipe yesterday, though. I’ll put the recipe at the end.

Just some observations for now.

1. Veterinarians should seriously reconsider using anesthesia for any surgical procedures involving dogs. I’m thinking peanut butter in a Kong is sufficient.

2. Apparently, the line between political candidates and organizations known as “PACs” is getting blurry, casting doubt on whether it is actually possible that the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.

Um, duh?

3. Many of the leaders in our government seem to think that the U.S. offers some kind of moral compass; an ideal for the rest of the world to strive for.

This, in retaliation for American soldiers openly burning copies of the Koran. (If, as they say, they contained “messages,” couldn’t they have been burned maybe a little more discretely? How would Americans react to Islamists burning Bibles? Sheesh — a little respect wouldn’t hurt anybody.)

This, depicting American soldiers urinating on slain foes.

Or how about this, where our rights of due process etc., etc., seem only to apply to American citizens.

Wouldn’t our arguments about human rights have a little more validity if we applied them to, well, humanity?

4. Mod*el:  perfect example: an excellent example that deserves to be imitated

At the risk of repeating myself.

Um, no.

The last thing I want my daughter to be “modeling” herself after. How about, instead,

5. Started using the “Fitness Tracker” app on Friday. Decided that it was appropriate for me to compare how much I’m actually eating to how much I think I’m eating. It’s been very revealing. You do “earn” calories by exercising, so that’s a good motivation, but most of the calorie information comes from prepared foods and we prepare most of our food ourselves, so that’s a bit of a bother.

Have also discovered that higher-than-expected percentage of my daily caloric intake is in the form of alcohol. That sounds bad. Mostly wine with dinner, but I do enjoy a little tippet of cognac (for medicinal purposes) as well, especially on these cold February nights. Am thinking I can balance it out by walking further or doing more vigorous yoga. Not sure what it says about me that I need to think twice about whether I want cheese on my chili or that 2nd glass of wine. . .

Anyway, according to the tracker, if every day is like yesterday I will have lost 8 lbs in 5 weeks. We’ll see.


Oatmeal Bread (Husband claims this is the best bread he has ever eaten. He might just be being nice, but still.)

Prepare 1.5 c. of steel cut oats (dry) for breakfast, following instructions on the can.

Leave 2 c. of prepared oats in a separate bowl. Eat the rest (giving the lion’s share to Husband, who likes porridge a heck of a lot more than you do), sprinkled with dried cranberries and with maple syrup and soymilk.

Soften 1 pkg. of yeast in 1/3 c. warm water.

When the 2 c. of remaining oatmeal has cooled, with the flat paddle on the mixer and the mixer running, add 3 T. canola oil, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 tsp. salt, and the yeast/water mixture.

Beat well.

Add 2 c. whole wheat flour; keep beating until the dough begins to get very stringy/stretchy.

Switch to the dough hook; add another 2 c. of unbleached flour.

Allow the dough to knead until completely smooth — 5-7 minutes.

Add another scant 1/2 c. of unbleached flour and let knead just until flour completely incorporated.

Allow to raise in a buttered bowl, punching down twice.

Divide and place in 2 buttered 8″ bread pans.

Allow to raise again (this is a good time to take a nap, or a “nap,” whichever you prefer).

Bake for 35 minutes at 350˚, 325˚ if using a convection oven.

Cool out of pans on a wire rack. If you can’t wait and must slice it while hot, turn it on its side first.

Really, really good.



Sunday “funnies,” and the day’s soup

Reading the instructions that came with the washing machine, trying to determine if I can wash our queen-size down comforter in it without ruining it. Found this on the “troubleshooting” page:

Problem: Washer will not start.

Possible Cause: Washer door not closed completely.

Solution: Close washer door.

Wow. Thanks.


What could happen when your sports event accepts corporate sponsorship:


You don’t suppose they mean?

Maybe more like something like this:

There’s even a water hazard.

(Actually, this isn’t really funny. If you click on the picture above it will take you to a National Geographic webpage that shows some of the horrific things we are doing to this planet. Please do what you can to stop it, including avoiding plastic bags whenever possible, recycling EVERYTHING, and using a refillable water bottle instead of buying water bottles at the store.)


Heard on Prairie Home Companion:

This year’s Republican primaries have come down to the Mormon and the Polygamist.



Today’s soup: Beef Chili

In a large pot, sauté one large coarsely chopped onion and 4 cloves minced garlic.

Add 1 lb of stew meat, with the chunks sliced into thin strips. Brown.

Add 1 diced red pepper, 3 dried cayenne and/or chili’s snipped, 1 T. chili powder, 1 T. cumin, and/or 1 T. Southwest Seasoning. Stir until spices release their fragrance.

Add 2. large cans petite diced tomatoes, and 1 can each canned kidney and black beans.

Cover, lower heat, and simmer for however long you want.

About 15 minutes before you want to serve, add 1-2 c. frozen corn.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream or yogurt, and taco chips on the side.


unforeseen consequences

"Nutrition" Information per Twinkie





This might be a problem for Hostess, but it can’t possibly be a problem for anyone else.



something you don’t want to eat every day

Encountered this “dish” recently:


We read the label. Not sure we’d ever seen this before:


(Sorry it’s sideways. My laptop’s in rehab so I’m doing this on my tablet, and I don’t know how to rotate pictures. I’ll try to fix it from the other computer.)

But note: 7 g. saturated fat per serving, and 101% of your RDA of cholesterol.

Gordon Food Service is unconscionable for selling this. It makes me wonder how much more of their food is actually “food.” Eating stuff like this can’t be good for you, even once.

Maybe they should change their name to Gordon “Food” Service.


New Years Eve Dinner 2011

First, make Husband an eggnog.

Shake 1 egg, 2 T. sugar, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 4 or 5 ice cubes together in a jar. Add 2 c. milk. Shake again. Put 5 ice cubes in a tall glass. Add a shot of brandy. Fill with egg mixture.

Now make yourself a Manhattan.

Put 5 ice cubes in a glass. Shake Angostora bitters over the ice. Add a generous shot of Crown Royal and a 1/2 shot of sweet vermouth. Add 2 maraschino cherries and pour in a bit of the cherry juice. Sip slowly. This is serious stuff.

Put 1 c. of faro in a saucepan, add 3 c. water. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn down as low as you can so it doesn’t boil all over and make a mess on your stove. Cover and simmer (carefully! carefully!) for 15 minutes. Drain the extra water off, cover, and let sit until you’re ready to eat.

Meanwhile, mix 2 T. of black sesame seeds and 2 T. of white sesame seeds in a flat dish. Coat 3 or 4 tuna steaks with sesame seeds. If Husband realizes that there aren’t enough sesame seeds in dish, quickly add more.

Peel and finely chop (slice it one way, then slice it the other way, then chop it against the “grains” you’ve just created) a 2″ piece of ginger that you dug out of the back of the freezer.
Cut 1/2-1 lb of broccolini into 2″ pieces.
Open the package of edamame so it’s ready to roll.
Mix 2 T. canola oil, 2 T. rice vinegar (unseasoned!), 1 T. soy sauce in a bowl or 1 c. liquid measuring cup.

Find out when the 1st period of the hockey game is ending so you can time the rest of the dinner preparations accordingly.

When the 1st period of the hockey game is about to be over, put a wok on the 2nd-largest burner, because Husband will need the largest burner for the tuna steaks.

Add 2 T. dark sesame oil to the hot wok. When the oil is almost smoking, add the chopped ginger.

Throw in the broccolini and edamame and ask Husband to start the tuna steaks.
(He should brown them in hot canola oil in a non-stick skillet, 1 minute on each side.)

Keep stirring the vegetables until they start to brown, Pour in the oil/rice vinegar/soy sauce mixture. When it starts to bubble, add 1/2 c. cashews. Stir for 30 seconds or so until everything’s hot, then turn off the heat.

When the tuna steaks are done (no more than one minute per side!), put them on a board and cut them into strips.

Make a bed of arugula in one corner of a large dinner plate. Top with the vegetables, then the strips of tuna. Serve the faro on the side. Spoon out some of the sauce from the pan and drizzle over the tuna.


Serve with a good sparkling white, dry “champagne” of your choice.


Watch the rest of the hockey game.

Toast 2012, and each other, and your children, and your life.

It’s all good.


. . .on second thought

This doesn’t make me hungry, this just makes me feel guilty. And I haven’t even ordered yet.


recipes, a day late

Husband says that the last thing people want to read the day after Thanksgiving is recipes, and I’m sure these would have been a lot more useful to people a week ago, but the problem is I make things up as I go along, so I never have them until after the fact. Maybe they will be of some use for Christmas. I did have two things turn out better than expected, and a result of a combination of two or three recipes, so here you are.

Sorry I don’t have pictures. Too many things to do all at the same time to stop and take snapshots. I must be the Worst. Blogger. Ever.

Yam and Pumpkin Soufflé

Cut 2 lbs of yams into 2-3″ pieces (don’t bother peeling) and cover with water in a medium-sized saucepot. Cover, bring to boil, and then simmer until they are are quite soft.

Remove the yams from the pan and let cool on a plate, then peel and mash in a large bowl. Add 2 c. of pumpkin — either baked or boiled pie pumpkin or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling; just pumpkin), 1/2 c. coconut milk (Silk brand or its equivalent, the kind made to drink, not the really high fat stuff in cans), 1/4 c. brandy (or more, I always think it needs more), 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. galangal (or ginger, but I like the galangal better because it’s a little milder), 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 c. brown sugar. Stir until well mixed. In a separate bowl, beat two eggs until light and frothy. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Put the pumpkin mixture into a deep pie pan or soufflé dish.

Melt 1 T. of butter in a medium-sized skillet. Add 1/3-1/2 c. slivered almonds, and stir, cooking until the almonds just start to brown. Add 2 T. of brown sugar, and keep stirring until the sugar starts to get thickly syrupy (mine didn’t really caramelize, and the almonds were starting to look like they might burn, so I took it off the heat). Spread the sugared almonds over the top of the soufflé.

Bake at 350˚ for an hour, uncovered.

Really light, mildly sweet, even the “children” liked them.

Apple Pie with Drunk Brandied Raisins

The day before:

Put 1/3 c. of golden raisins into a small dish or canning jar. Pour brandy over just to top of raisins. Let sit overnight, shaking to mix and redistribute the raisins whenever you think of it.

Cut 1/2 tsp. of salt into 2 1/2 c. of unbleached flour. Add 3/4 c. really cold butter, cut into tablespoons, and mix with the flat paddle of the mixer until fine crumbs. Sprinkle in 9 T. of ice-cold water, letting the mixer run. When the crumbs start to stick together into clumps, stop the mixer. Assemble the pie dough into a ball, wrap tightly in saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (I usually refrigerate for ~ 30 minutes, but this was by far the flakiest, most delicious pie crust I’ve ever made, and I think it was because I was trying to do stuff ahead, so made the dough and left it in the fridge over night. It was really a lot of work to roll out, my triceps still feel it, but it was definitely worth it.)

The day of:

Mix 1/2 c. brown sugar, 3 T. unbleached flour, 2 heaping tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Peel, core, and slice (1/4″ thick) 7 Granny Smith apples. Add the apples to the sugar mixture and stir until they are completely coated. Pour in the raisins AND the brandy, stir again.

Roll half of the pie dough out on a floured cloth. Fit into deep-dish 10″ pie plate. Add apple mixture to the pie dish, arranging carefully so the slices are really packed in together. Dot with 1-2 T. of butter cut into little pats. Top with the other crust, brush the crust with milk and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake in a 425˚ oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375˚ and bake for another 30-40. Fantastic. (You will taste the brandy, so don’t do it this way thinking the brandy flavor will disappear. Unless you’re like me, and think the dish always needs more brandy.)(Twitter post, @Sheriji1: Husband and I, in a nutshell, on Thanksgiving: Him: I like to stay ahead of the dishes. Me: I think this dish needs more brandy.)


Dinner was fantastic. We made a 21.3 lb. turkey for 5 people because First Son and Step Daughter couldn’t make it back. We missed them, quite a bit, and not just because they are the oldest and therefore the best at making enjoyable conversation around the table and really good at doing dishes. I didn’t make a complete pig of myself, but did eat enough to make a vow that I wouldn’t eat today (Husband claims this is cliché, a vow made by all and sundry aprés Thanksgiving dinner). I did end up thoroughly enjoying a piece of the drunk apple pie for breakfast (I feel no ill effects, but thanks for asking).

Really looking forward to the leftovers. I especially love “my” stuffing, but I can’t take credit for it, because I got the recipe from the Silver Palate cookbook. The Best Stuffing Ever.

It’s a beautiful day outside. Took Dexter for his first walk. After the first 5 minutes of basically being dragged by the leash while he reluctantly kind of paddled his little paws he walked like a champ. No “potty” for the whole walk, though, which seemed a little weird. Husband says he was holding it in so he can go where he thinks he’s supposed to: on the kitchen floor.

Now, what? Read (Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel) or knit? Tough decisions.


One more recipe — really good with turkey leftovers.

Turkey Florentine

Make 3 c. of white sauce — let me know if you need a recipe for this, but I think it’s pretty basic.

Add 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg (or more, if you like it really nutmeggy)

Toast 1/2 c. of slivered almonds.

In a large deep-dish pie pan or 10″ casserole dish, layer:

1/4 of white sauce

a “level” of fresh spinach

a “level” of leftover turkey white meat

1/4 of white sauce



1/4 of white sauce



1/4 of white sauce

top the toasted almonds and a generous layer of grated parmesan cheese

Bake, 350˚, until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden.

Serve over fresh (Reames? is that the brand?) pasta.


well, that’s unfortunate

I’m in the middle of what is probably going to be my busiest week of the semester, so I don’t have time to write much.

I did run across something mildly amusing in an article published by NPR on the difficulties of losing weight. The article is titled: “Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat and Biology.” Being a woman in her, ahem, mid 40s, one who finds that she can keep eating less than she used to and still weigh the same or more, and who has given up the “ghost” sotospeak in terms of losing that 15 lbs because she’d rather have 2 glasses of wine with dinner and eat ice cream once a week, I clicked on the link.

It wasn’t really all that great of an article. It didn’t tell me anything I don’t already know — mainly that your body wants to weigh a particular weight (given balanced, healthful eating, of course), and if you try to weigh less through dieting your brain will just basically flip a switch that tells your body to consume fewer calories so as to keep weighing the same. As they put it, a person who weighs 230 lbs and diets to lose 30 lbs will be able to eat less to maintain that weight than a person who has always weighed 200 lbs. (BTW, I don’t weigh anywhere NEAR 230 lbs. Sheesh.)


ANYWAY, the article included this paragraph:

“It’s a popular misconception, she says, that losing weight is “strictly a matter of willpower.” It’s a gigantic task, she says, because not only do we move through an incredible buffet of food spread before us every day, but we also face a battle with our own biological responses.”

The woman who was quoted is an obesity specialist. I can’t imagine she chose those words in order to try to be funny. (But, still, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!)(Okay, I won’t do that again.)(Well, maybe not for a while.)

I wonder if the “advocacy group for (ugly and) fat women” has filed an official complaint.



soupy sundays, except on saturday, and not soup

Have to go to a conference tomorrow, so won’t be making soup, and won’t have time to post any recipes. Thought I’d post today’s instead.

But first — our day. Husband and I went and bought a couch:

Cuz the one we have is squishy and poorly made and falling apart, and this one was $200 off and we decided that if you only spend $300 on a couch you don’t mind if somebody’s (ahem) piano students climb all over it and stuff.

I really wanted red or purple, but they only had it in “espresso,” so we bought 4 throw pillows, in various colours and embroideries, which cost $90 altogether. Not sure this ends up being a good deal, but you can’t just have a brown couch.

Then we bought groceries. Grocery shopping has been fun since Second Son, a.k.a. Eating Boy, has gone off to college and is eating his money’s worth of (room and) board. We have been spending under $200 every week, even last week, when we bought $96 of wine that would have cost $192 if not on “special”. We call this “saving money.”

This week our groceries added up to almost $300. Maybe partially because we spent/bought so little last week, but we also bought $20 worth of lobster tails and $25 worth of tuna steaks because they were having this aMAzing seafood sale (see? “saving money”); and $12 worth of pistachios because I love pistachios and have decided not to eat gluten for a few weeks to see if I feel better (hypothyroid; it sucks) and am trying not to eat potato chips. We also splurged and bought $7 worth of pine nuts — about a half a cup. Why are these so expensive? And where do these pine nuts come from? Are we negotiating with some really hard-core squirrel unions or something? Are they that hard to grow?  I’m going to sauté green beans in garlic-y olive oil and lemon juice, and then sprinkle 7 pine nuts on top for “flavor.” I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. (It totally was.)

(Do you ever get the feeling that pretty much everything I do, personally and/or professionally, revolves around what I’m going to eat and/or drink next?)(Yeah, me, too.)

Then we came home and raked some more leaves. We live in the forest, and there are a lot of leaves, and there are still a lot of leaves in the trees, but if we wait until they all fall there are too many to rake, so we did what we call stage 1. (Although I did stage .5 yesterday when I raked them all off the driveway so my poor little Prius could make it up the hill without slipping. Wet leaves = snow when you live on a hill.) Husband and Stepson did the front yard, and I did the sidewalk (for the second time today) and the deck and the back path to the compost pile. It was quite windy, so leaves were swirling around me in great wooshes of golden light, and the air is just cold enough to feel crisp and fresh without being so cold to need a coat. Especially when you’re working hard raking. It was lovely. Except for the fact that it felt like I was throwing a half a ton of leaves over the fence onto the compost pile, it was fun. (It probably wasn’t quite that many, but it was a lot. And I’m allergic. And I have a bad back because First Son weighed 10 lbs. 10 ozs. when he was born I’mnotmakingthatup and 30 lbs. when he was a year old but he still wasn’t walking because he couldn’t get his girth off the floor so I carried him around on one hip and walked like someone who has one leg 3″ longer than the other one for a really long time. So yeah, there were a lot of leaves. And I’m a big baby. I like to say “I’m a delicate flower” but Husband usually just snorts before he remembers that he thinks so too. Anyway.)

I have Husband’s permission to post our salmon recipe. This may actually be, basically, why I married him (see two paragraphs above; NOW the secret’s really out!!!) That and his mushroom risotto. And, well, never mind.

The Best (some call it Only) Salmon Recipe Ever

For a 1 1/2 – 2 lb piece of salmon filet:

Chop 1/2 – 3/4 c. olive-packed sun dried tomatoes (the more natural, the better; we do our own; I know, we might be psychopaths)

Chop 1 bunch curly parsley really really fine.

Sprinkle 10 cloves of garlic with a generous amount coarse salt and chop fine.

Mix these three things together and drizzle with olive oil until it kind of holds together.

Stir and cover and let sit for AT LEAST 2 hours.

Put the salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil with the edges of the foil folded up to make sides. Cut through the salmon flesh without cutting through the skin — make a cut down the middle lengthwise, and then slashes every 2-3″ crosswise. Stuff the slits with the tomato/parsley/garlic mixture, and then pack the rest of the stuff along the top of the salmon. (Don’t put this on the portion Stepson will eat, because he will just scrape it all over into a pile in the corner of his plate, and you can’t just throw that away, it’s like $7 worth of sun-dried tomatoes.)

Cook on the foil over red-hot coals (close the lid of the grill) until salmon is thoroughly cooked — 15-20 minutes probably, depending on the thickness of the flesh.

Serve with brown rice (we like organic short-grain) and a lightly-chilled chardonnay.

Apologize to everyone you sit next to the next day because of the garlic aura with which you are surrounded.

It’s totally worth it.

For dessert we’re having Pomegranate Gelato

Mix the seeds from one Pomegranate with a cup of water and simmer over low low low heat until the seeds are pale and soft. (Or you could be a little less of a psycho, and buy the POM stuff.)

Mix 2 c. whole milk with 1/2 c. sugar and 1 1/2 T. of cornstarch. Whisk until foamy. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbly and foamy (don’t boil it over).

Remove from heat. Drain the juice off the pomegranate seeds into the milk mixture.

We were pouring brandy off of raspberries after 6 weeks, so we squeezed 3 c. of raspberries through a cheesecloth to get the brandy and raspberry juice, and added that to the milk mixture. If you don’t happen to have some of that handy (ha!), add 1/2 c. of raspberry, cranberry, or cherry juice.


Process in an ice-cream maker until frozen.

Put into a plastic bowl, cover, and then put in freezer ~ 1 hr. before serving.


annoying for a reason?

First of all, can I just express how disgusted I am that it’s Thursday and I still don’t have internet at home. It’s been out since Monday morning; a technician came last night and tested it and for the two and a half minutes he was there it was working, and then it wasn’t working anymore. Someone’s coming again tomorrow. Hopefully he/she will be more effective than the last guy.

I have also been promised a wiring upgrade, which is supposed to help overall speed, although, at this point, I would just like to be able to get my email, even if via pony express.

Two questions.

1. Is it someone’s job to sit in a room somewhere and either compose or find the most irritating music on the planet to play over the phone line while the customer is on hold? It’s almost a guarantee, if you weren’t irate enough over whatever has prompted you to call in the first place, that you will be Irate Enough by the time you actually get a live person on the other end of the line.

I understand that they want us to be comforted some kind of signal that we are still, actually, “on hold,”  but I wonder if that could be communicated through some soft intermittent clicks, or maybe Tony Bennett or Caetano Veloso or someone.

My theory is that they want your “on hold” experience to be as painful and irritating as possible, as this may cause you just to give up, thereby requiring them to hire fewer customer service people both to man the phones and to actually do any repairs.

2.  What is up with the continuation of “monopoly” practices in divvying up internet service providers to limited areas? As far as I can tell (through my careful research done over 10 minutes yesterday via iPhone) I have two options, and they cost virtually the same, and both have approximately identical reputations for rampant “down” time and indifferent customer service. I thought we were in America, the land of the free access to all and sundry companies-who-want-my-business, where, if I’m willing to spend my money, I can have whatever I want.

Oh, that’s right, that’s just in politics.

Silly me.

Apropos of nothing, I made granola this morning.

It’s delish.



Mix 6 c. raw, whole oats (not the instant kind, the coarser the better) with 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1 c. sesame seeds, and 1/2 – 1 c. chopped (start with sliced) almonds.

In a blender, blend 1/3 c. each canola oil, real maple syrup, and honey + 1 T. vanilla or 2 T. orange juice concentrate until the mixture is opaque and thick.

Pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat.

Spread in two cake pans, and bake at 300˚ for an hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes. (it might take 5 minutes or so less)  Mixture should be quite brown, but may still be a touch moist until it’s cooled completely.

Cool completely. Add 1 c. of dried fruit of choice (we like dried cherries; chopped apricots, apples, raisins work well too.)

Really really good, and way cheaper than Kashi cereal or store-bought muesli. Plus it’s WAY lower in sugar and fat, because I’ve cut the liquid ingredients significantly from most recipes.

Great with soy or almond milk.




Beef, Potato, and Leek Soup

Dice half a large onion and sauté in a little bit of olive oil until softened. Add 2 bay leaves, 2 large beef soup bones, and 6 c. of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for hours and hours. (I took an hour-long nap, graded a set of papers, put homework and quiz grades on Blackboard, made brownies, read the Sunday NY Times, and wrote the previous post.)(It’s been a good day.)

Cut the dark green part off of 3 large leeks and discard. Cut the rest of the leek in half or quarters lengthwise (depending on its circumference), and then slice. Put into a colander and rinse really well, getting all of the dirt. (Don’t underestimate this part of the job. I have never seen as much dirt in, on, or around a vegetable, as I do in between every onion-like layer of a leek.)

Peel, slice, and mash 3-5 cloves of garlic.

Dice 3 large white or red potatoes.

Sauté the garlic and leeks in olive oil until soft. Remove the soup bones from the stock, and add the garlic/leeks and potatoes, cooking until potatoes are completely softened.

Blend the soup in batches in a blender, then return to the soup pot; or, if you prefer a heartier soup, cut the potatoes a little smaller when you dice them, don’t cook quite as long, and skip to the next step without blending. Just as good!

Add several handfuls of coarsely chopped baby spinach (optional), and salt and pepper generously. Heat until the spinach wilts.

Serve with a nice Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay.



stage mom 101

This morning I took Only Daughter for her “photo shoot,” available by approval at the low-low price of $100, and including one year of representation by a local Modeling Agency.

They were “shooting” 52 kids, which generates $5,200 for them up front. This occasion is on a recurring basis, every four months, with “Little Models” being required to have new photos taken every year so that they will be “up to date.” The agency also takes 20% of each booking fee.

You do the math.

Okay, I signed up for it, I shouldn’t complain about it, so I won’t.

I’m hoping this can be something that’s fun, can earn a little college savings money (80% of her “net”) and a little pocket money, but only if it doesn’t interfere with her school, my work, or her positive self image.

I did have a little taste of how easy it could be for this kind of thing to take over your life.

For instance, I absolutely live for Saturdays. It’s the only day of the week I don’t have to set my alarm, and “sleeping in” (albeit only to 8:30 or 9 usually) is such a gift to me – not to wake up to the alarm, but to sleep until I wake up, putter around in a few hours in my pjs over numerous cups of espresso, make waffles for breakfast, read, knit, allow the day to unfold. Alas.

Anyway, I had to set my alarm for 6:50 this morning. And then we had to “get ready.” Now they didn’t want anything fancy, but she needed to shower, with me helping, so her waist-length thick Korean hair could actually, for once in the past two years (since she’s been taking her showers by herself) have all of the shampoo rinsed out of it. And then I had to trim her fingernails and toenails (not because her toes would show, necessarily, but because apparently her mother doesn’t love her enough to keep her groomed; oh, that’s me, hmmm, anyway); then I had to lotion her (Korean skin = dry skin) and put vaseline on her lips (Korean skin = dry lips) and then I had to dry that hair. That took a while.

At one point I sent her off to eat breakfast, and then remembered that I wanted to put a little concealer on this little tiny itty-bitty barely-visible-to-the-naked-eye pimple that she was worrying about, so I called her back to the bathroom. I heard her sigh from 25 feet. I challenged her on it: “Did I hear you sigh at me?” OD: “No, I didn’t sigh.”


I think if this is going to happen on a regular basis she is going to have to learn how to do all these things for herself. I don’t want to be That Mom.

Speaking of That Mom. . .

We drive to the location of the photo shoot. It’s in what looks to be an abandoned factory. I only find it because the pin on my gps tells me I’m there, but I don’t really believe it until I pull in and see the photographer in the weeds with a blond little toddler in an argyle sweater.

As we are exiting the car, a woman in a ginormous SUV roars up and parks next to me. We walk up the steps to a landing of sorts, and there are some chairs there, so we sit, thinking this is where we should be. The woman (I’ll call her Dinah in honor of Lindsay Lohan’s mother) breezes past me, two blond children in her wake, and starts to enter the “factory.” I say: “Oh, do we need to go in?” Dinah: “Hmmm”


So we follow her up the stairs, where we find a women in a large scarf at a make-shift desk, surrounded by children and parents, handing out little slips of paper on clipboards for us to fill out. The photographer has followed us up, and is asking for 3 more kids to photograph. I volunteer that Only Daughter is welcome to go with; I will complete her form and be right behind. Dinah sighs, her mouth in a perturbed and superior pinch. The other moms and dads say hello, admire the babies in their little suits and denim jackets, smile conspiratorially over our children’s heads; except Dinah, who fusses around her children’s hair and drops names with the photographer.


What is it about certain demeanors, facial expressions, attitudes? Would it have been so difficult for her to tell me, someone who obviously didn’t know what to do or where to go, what I needed to know? And why do I react in such a way? Maybe she had a fight with her husband that morning, or just found out that her sister has breast cancer, (tiny mean voice says “Or maybe she’s just a bitch”); who really knows?

When I called Husband to tell her we were done, I told him about her, including a sentence I’m not proud of: “It seems she’s living vicariously through her semi-attractive children.”

OMG: I’m a bitch too! (She started it.)

I will have to be careful about this.

I would like to be the kind of person who had all of this happen and didn’t think twice about it. Who didn’t even notice it enough to mention it.

I Do Not Want To Be That Mom.

Is that enough?


Apropos of nothing, except that we went to the farmer’s market today:

Brussels Sprout Slaw, c/o the New York Times Sunday Magazine

Run 1 lb. of brussels sprouts* through the slicing blade of your food processor (the shredding one will turn them into little tiny bits).

Toss with:

1/2 c. coarsely chopped scallions

1/2 c. coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Mix 1/2 c. mayonnaise with the juice of one lime, 2 T. fish sauce, and ~ 1 tsp. sugar.

Stir into the veggies and chill for a bit. Sprinkle with a few more scallions and some unchopped peanuts before serving.

I have never ever ever liked brussels sprouts until today, and I have a theory why. The farmer at the market this morning told me they take 110 days to mature. I think the ones bought at the store are probably not allowed to grow to maturity, and are therefore tough and/or bitter. These taste quite a bit like cabbage, only greener, if that makes sense. The slaw is fantastic.


fall’s bounty

Here are some recipes from our autumn weekend, enjoying the fruits of the season.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

adapted from Willow Bird Baking

I like more pumpkin-spice flavor in the bread itself, so I added a few things.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

To make the dough:
2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. (+ maybe a little more) unbleached flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 T. unsalted butter

2 T. unsalted butter
1/8 c. brown sugar
2 T. milk
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. rum or brandy

Make the pull-apart bread dough: Grease and flour an 8×8 square baking pan and set aside. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the 2 tablespoons of butter. Let it bubble and foam and until it starts to darken, swirling around in the pan occasionally. When it’s the color of dark honey, remove it from the heat and pour it into a large heat-safe mixer bowl to cool. In the same saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk until it bubbles. Remove it from the heat and pour it into the bowl with the butter. Set the saucepan aside for another use later.

Stir spoonfuls of the pumpkin puree in to cool the butter and milk mixture. When the temperature has lowered to around 110˚, stir the sugar and yeast in and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir in the rest of the pumpkin, salt, spices and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour. If you haven’t already, fit your mixer with a dough hook. Add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time, starting with the wheat, stirring between each addition. Keep kneading with the dough hook on low speed until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes with a mixer). I used home-made cooked pumpkin, so my pumpkin puree was quite moist, and had to add at least another 1/2 c. of flour to get it to the right consistency. It should be somewhat sticky, but spring back when touched.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour until it doubles in size. Mine took longer because my pumpkin was a little cold and it cooled the dough. (After it rises, you can put it in the fridge overnight to use it in the morning, but let it sit out for half an hour before rolling if you do.)

Make the filling: While the dough is rising, whisk the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together in a small bowl. Toward the end of the rising time, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter for the filling in the saucepan over medium-high heat and brown it as directed above. Remove from heat.

Shape and bake pull-apart bread: Knead a sprinkling of flour (about 1 tablespoon) into the dough, deflating it, and re-cover it. Let it sit to relax for 5 minutes. This is important, or it’s way too springy to deal with. Flour a large work surface and turn your rested dough out onto it. Roll it out to a 20 inch long and 12 inch wide rectangle, lifting corners periodically to make sure it’s not sticking. If it seems to be snapping back, cover it with your damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes before continuing (I had to do this twice during the process).

Spread the browned butter over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush and then sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top, patting it down to ensure it mostly sticks.

Cut the dough into 6 strips the long way with a pizza cutter. The best way to do this and have it come out evenly is to cut the rectangle in half, then cut each half into equal thirds. Stack these strips on top of one another and cut the resulting stack into 8 even portions. Place these portions one stack at a time into your greased loaf pan like your filing papers, pressing them up against each other to fit them all in. Cover the pan with your damp cloth and place it in a warm place for 30-45 minutes to double in size.

While dough rises, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 if you have a glass loaf dish instead of a metal pan). When it’s risen, place the loaf in the center of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until dark golden brown on top (if you take it out at light golden brown, it’s liable to be raw in the middle, so let it get good and dark). Cool for 20-30 minutes on a cooling rack in the loaf pan while you make the glaze.

Make the glaze: In your saucepan, bring the butter, milk, and brown sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove it from heat, add the powdered sugar and rum or brandy, and whisk it to a smooth consistency.

Assemble and serve: Use a butter knife to loosen all sides of the bread from the loaf pan and gently turn it out onto a plate. Place another plate on top and flip it to turn it right side up. Drizzle glaze over top. Serve each piece slightly warm with a drizzle of glaze.

Pan-fried Trout with Spinach and Almonds

Mix 1 c. coarse cornmeal with lots of salt and pepper and 1/8 – 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper. Cut 4 trout filets off the skin. (It works best if you work your sharp, fileting knife in under the fish flesh on the short end until you can get a good hold of the skin, and then pull the skin while holding the knife securely. This should take the fish right off the skin. It worked so surprisingly well I was disappointed when I ran out of fish to de-skin.) Pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel, then dredge in the cornmeal, packing it a bit to help it stick, and put on a cookie sheet that you then put in the fridge until ready to cook.

Brown 1/4 c. of sliced almonds in a dry non-stick skillet.

Clean ~ 1 lb of baby spinach and remove stems. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and then throw the spinach in and toss around until wilted. Put into mesh strainer to drain.

Allow the water to cook out of the pan, then add 1 T. butter and 2 T. of olive oil. Let it get good and hot, then pan-fry two of the trout filets at a time, ~ 2 minutes per side. Serve each filet on a small bed of spinach, sprinkle with 1 T. of the almonds.

Healthful Apple Strudel

Strudel dough:
Whirl 1 c. wheat flour, 1/2 c. white flour, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add 1 egg, 2 tsp. melted butter, and 1/4 tsp. vinegar and whirl until it’s all moist crumbs. Warm 3/8 c. milk to just barely warm, and pour through the opening in the top of the food processor bowl with the blade running. Allow to process for up to a minute until it forms a nice ball of dough. Pour out onto a well-floured cloth, roll to cover with flour, and cover with a bowl.

Mix 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 3 T. flour, and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Peel and slice very thinly, 4 c. apples (firm, tart ones are good, but we used just-picked Honey Crisps and it was fantastic!). Stir the apple slices into the sugar/flour mixture until well coated. Add 1/2 c. raisins and 1/4 c. chopped hazelnuts. Stir again.

To roll out dough:
Roll and gently stretch the dough to a 12-16″ square. Be patient, it will happen. Brush with 1 T. of melted butter. Fold in half into a rectangle, brush top with a bit more melted butter. Fold that in half into a square. DON’T BRUSH THE TOP WITH MELTED BUTTER. Roll and gently stretch the dough until it’s back to the size you started with. You want it thin thin thin, but you also want to be able to maneuver it and not have it tear, so be gentle.

Pour filling out just this side of a line down the middle of the rectangle. Leave an inch or so on each end, and a few inches at the edge by you. Dot with just a little bit more butter and sprinkle with brandy.

Fold the ends of the dough up over the ends of the filling, and, this is where it gets a little hairy, oh-so-carefully roll the whole thing up like a jelly roll*. Use the cloth you’ve rolled on to help you. When you get to the end, position a large cookie sheet behind the strudel still on the cloth, and keep rolling the strudel right on to the pan. Phew!

Brush the top with milk and then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar. You can cut slits, but it will probably “explode” in the oven anyway, so don’t worry about it.

Bake at 375˚ for 35 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, plain yogurt, or homemade whipped cream.

*I love this expression — it’s in recipes all the time, and no one I know has ever in his or her life made an actual jelly roll. Yet we all know what is meant. Cool.

Sorry I don’t have pictures of the fish. Too much to do all at once, and then it gets cold quickly, so we ate it instead. Drank a delightful dry riesling with it. Yum.

Happy fall!!!

My allergies are actually killing me, so I’m thinking maybe I wouldn’t mind maybe one teensy weensy hard frost?




Had a wonderful morning this morning; yoga, several cups of espresso, long blog post (travelogue). Topped it off with bacon and eggs, and then dashed out the door because I’d dinked around too long to do my dishes. I did fill the pan with water to help it “soak,” one of the handiest dish-washing techniques known to man.

This is what was waiting for me when I got home:



This can’t be what’s happening inside my body right now, can it? Is there an antidote? (Besides red wine, it’s only 2 p.m.!?)

I mean, look:

Doesn't the one on the right look an awful lot like it's been stuffed with bacon fat?

I know the first picture is blurry. It’s too disgusting. I can’t make myself take another picture.

Does it make it any better that I was a good girl and drank my Metamucil first?

Kashi Go-Lean for me tomorrow. And I really have to start doing my dishes right away. That would all look so much better if I’d run the stuff down the sink.





Drove to a wedding over the weekend — 452 miles there on Saturday, 452 miles back on Sunday. The wedding was lovely, the food was delicious (the filet was like buddah), the bride and groom radiant, and not just because the wedding was outside, in 78˚ sunshine. Unlike our miraculous border experiences on the way there (driving from Michigan to upstate New York through Ontario is the most direct route), the border crossing on the return, at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, was tedious — apparently the 50-minute backup was caused by Ontarionian Buffalo Bills fans returning home. We think this kind of thing shouldn’t be allowed. When you cross into either country you are asked the reason for your visit. If you are going to a Buffalo Bills game you should have to drive around. Or swim. Who knew there  were so many football fans in Canada anyway?

Anyway, here is a log of some of my observations from/during the trip:

I trust no other driver — to stay in their lane, to use their turn signal, not to cut me off. Is this good defensive driving, or paranoia?

I wanted to pull the guy over in the Hummer, with the “Proud of my Son Who’s a Soldier in Iraq” rear-window sticker, and ask if he was being ironic. (Please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but gratitude and respect for everyone fighting in support of our country; I don’t necessarily have that same respect for the people who sent them there to protect our access to Iraqi oil under false pretenses.)

Husband refuses to eat a single peanut M&M. He can’t get past the iridescence of the shell-coating (“that color does not exist in nature”) to the chocolate/peanutty goodness inside. There might be something wrong with him.

Some bloggers will state that they aren’t really writing a blog to “get readers.” If that were the case, wouldn’t you just be writing in your diary?

Flint is just sad. It was sad in the 80s, and it’s sad now. I had a roommate in college from Flint with a Flint-sized chip on her shoulder. Wonder how she’s doing now.

I comment on how much I enjoy the little “ping” of the pin on the GPS which shows us where we are. Husband asks: If you move the pin with your finger do we get there faster?

Who thought of knitting?

Me, observing highway signs: “Does every highway in Canada actually lead to Toronto?” Husband: “Torontonians think so.”

How strong are the rails on the bridges that lead to and from Grand Island? They look like they were made from reclaimed barn wood. Would they actually stop the car if you hit them, or just slow you down enough so as to more enjoy the fall?

And who named “Grand Island?” A misnomer if there ever was one.

There can also be few “sucks to be you” moments to equal the poor schmuck whose car broke down in the right-lane of the bridge to said Island. 2-lanes of road + 5,000 Buffalo Bills fans is not equal to “smooth sailing.”

We stopped at a rest area just past Buffalo (there is, as far as I can tell, one rest area in Ontario. Apparently Canadians don’t have to pee when taking road trips.) There was a fruit stand with locally grown peaches, plums, and apples. I thought this was a really good idea, and could enjoy my plums even more because I felt so self-righteous for eating them rather than french fries or Tim Horton’s fat globules muffins.

Tim Horton's Banana Nut muffin nutrition information

We saw a lot of these signs:

with different distance designations. I don’t suppose they discuss this with the deer? “So, how far do you think you’ll be wandering this fall?” I especially like this one:

Can you just picture them standing there, waiting for the light to blink?

Driving 900 miles in 39 hours is not fun. That tic in your left eye is probably just fatigue, and not a sign of some looming neurological disaster. My husband drove all of it, and gave me equal billing for navigating. He’s my hero.

Lovely wedding, saw some good friends, and it’s very good to be home.


comfort food

I think I’m having a midlife crisis.

Okay, I won’t soft-pedal it; I’m having a midlife crisis.

I can’t alleviate this crisis by leaving my husband and taking up with someone younger/richer/more handsome because I love him dearly and right now he seems like maybe one of the few things I’ve “done” right in my life, and I can’t imagine a day without him.

Besides, the crisis is mostly professional. For the first 10 years after my masters degree I mostly raised children. I couldn’t figure out how to practice 4+ hours a day, teach enough students to help make our budget more-or-less balance-able, and take care of busy toddler boys, so I just did the latter 2 out of 3. I played when I could, a little collaborative work here and there for area graduate students and miscellaneous faculty, accompanying my bff Jackie’s violin studio when she took them to contests or played recitals, that kind of stuff.

I’ve since spent the last 14 years as an adjunct at various colleges, while adopting my daughter from Korea and completing my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in 2005. This was prompted by the realization, as I worked as an adjunct in various college/university music departments, that I was as good a performer and probably a better teacher than a lot of the people I was working with, who had full-time, tenure-track jobs, so why shouldn’t I go for it? But you won’t even be considered for such a position without a Doctorate these days, so, after 5 years of 100-mile-each-way commutes, reading and writing and practicing and studying and performing while still being the primary parent (oldest son was 10 when I started), I had a DMA. And now I’m a fully-credentialed musician in a world with way more fully-credentialed musicians than there are jobs, and in an academic climate which favors piece-work-paid adjuncts over full-time professorships.

I don’t know the numbers on how many pianists graduated with DMAs in the past year, but there is currently ONE tenure-track position in piano posted at the College Music Society. One. In the whole country. One.

So, I’m having a crisis, and as far as I can tell, there are two things I can do about it:

1.) I can suck it up, be grateful I have any work at all, and continue to work at ~ 25% pay for the rest of my life (when compared to what full-time, tenure-track faculty are paid) or

2.) I can find something else to do, and by this I mean something for which I will be paid, which does not include such activities as writing a blog that 135 people read every day or eating my weight in potato chips. Fun as these activities may be, they do not contribute to paying the mortgage.

So. What are my options?

1.) Areas I am interested in and could maybe make a living at:

a) Nursing. Would have to start from scratch, reconcile myself to being a complete “newb” at the age of 50, and probably do things like hold bedpans and inject people with needles.

b) English/Language Arts for secondary school instruction. Would have to  start from scratch, reconcile myself to probably 4 years of school while still paying off loans from my DMA pursuit, still teaching, which can be rewarding, but is also frustrating as there seems to be a general dearth of curiosity/interest in learning amongst “students” today. And are there any teaching jobs anymore?

c) Writing for Pay. Have written two children’s books that start “Nicholas Picholas Tickle-Me . . .” and based on the mischievous antics of my now 18-year old. Also started one called “Hannah’s Hungry,” but haven’t finished it. Don’t know how to get them published, can’t seem to find anyone else who knows. Presumably this is done, routinely, given the number of books out there. And some of them are really dreadful. Have also considered trying to write articles and submit them to magazines, but have not done so, partially in interests of time. Also have a few short story ideas and a family history/memoir/birth-order-memory-what-makes-us-who-we-are book idea but not enough time to really pursue them. Would have to take some time off from earning actual money to see if these lead anywhere, and no windfall/lottery wins/inheritances in sight. Also feel like it’s an act of supreme arrogance to think that I have anything to say that that many people would want to read, and yet here I am. . .

d) Opening some kind of bed-and-breakfast. What I would really like is to move to Italy and buy a few acres and a little villa somewhere and grow my own grapes and host and cook for tourists. I could even teach piano lessons to all the little Italian children in the area, but would have to improve my Italian first. Or offer it as piano -and-English-lessons or something. Although sometimes I don’t even want to teach any more.


Lots of ideas, lots of ways to talk myself out of them.

I joke sometimes that my life’s goal is

2) to be a kept woman.

I don’t think I would be very good at it, though. This is the first semester in a few years I haven’t taught a Music Appreciation class, and, despite still having a pretty full teaching schedule, the lack of this prep has made my days seem rather long.

I’m trying to talk Husband into a dog. A little white Havanese, named Zuzu.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I can always cook. Am making gumbo today. Have thought about starting a second blog called “Soupy Sundays,” and making a different soup every Sunday and writing about my life, my week, what’s going on with my “crisis” although it seems a little too Julie Powell.

Maybe just a new category then.

Today’s soup:


Heat 1/2 c. canola oil in a large cast-iron soup pot, then whisk in 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and lower the heat to low/low-medium. Allow to brown for 5-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop:

1/2 large onion

3 stalks celery

1 large red pepper

1/2 lb. okra (slices)

2 cloves garlic (slice, then mince)

Add the vegetables to the roux, stirring to coat, and allow the vegetables to begin to soften.

Add 8 c. chicken stock (recipe below), 1/2 tsp. cayenne or 1 or 2 dried red chilies, snipped into flakes, or 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (use both cayenne and pepper flakes/chilies if you like it really spicy), 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper.

Bring to a boil, then add

12-16 ozs. andouille sausage (the nitrite-free kind if you can find it)

and allow the soup to simmer for as long as you’d like — 1 – 3 hours.

A few minutes before being ready to eat, add 1 lb. of peeled shrimp (the big ones are great, but cut in half so you have bite-size portions in your soup spoon), bring soup to boil and boil just long enough to cook the shrimp.

Serve with a crusty bread, and over cooked rice if desired.

I’d include a picture, but the shrimp aren’t in the pot yet, and I’m drying 7 bags of leftover bread bits on my stove, so I’m a little embarrassed. Maybe next time.

Homemade chicken stock

Every self-respecting cook should make this themselves. Way too much sodium in even the low-sodium kinds, and it’s easy. I like to roast a chicken for an easy meal, and then make the stock overnight.

In a large soup pot, put one chicken carcass, and add water to cover by several inches. Add coarsely chopped onions and celery (the top part with the leaves is the best), a handful of whole peppercorns, a couple bay leaves. You can leave the skin on the onion if you want a golden broth, and add garlic or carrots if you want it more flavorful, but this will make it a little less adaptable for certain recipes because the garlic especially adds a very distinctive flavor. I don’t use any salt, so I am free to salt the final dish.

Cover and bring to a boil, and then allow to simmer for HOURS. We often leave this overnight and put it in a bowl to chill the next morning.

This part is important: Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl, and chill the broth thoroughly; then skim the fat off the top before putting into 4-cup containers to put in the freezer.


Meanwhile, if anyone has any life- or career advice: Please share!








how to eat more healthfully

PepsiCo is apparently on a mission to become the go-to guys for snacks AND nutrition (I’m not making this up) in the future. They are developing two lines: “Better for You” (well, duh, that shouldn’t be very difficult) and “Good for You.”


Does that mean we can expect substitutions such as






No, actually, (big surprise). The goal is to replace the fats, sugars, and salts in the snack foods and beverages that have contributed to rampant obesity in our country we have come to know and love with “flavor enhancers” that will just make us THINK that the potato chip is as salty as it used to be.

Oh, THAT kind of “better” for you.

More evidence that everything is, in fact, relative.


but is it food?

Making pizza for dinner, but our children don’t like what we put on ours (olives, caramelized onions, sun dried tomatos, etc.) so we’re going to make them what they REALLY want: frozen.

Here’s the list of ingredients.

That can’t be good.

But we can get $15 off a ticket to Six Flags, and the pepperoni is “reduced fat.”

At least there’s that then.


Available at fine groceries everywhere

If you eat them, do you get the munchies?

Or is it more something like this?

01 Rainy Day Women #12 & 35


When life gives you lemons. . .

. . .make limoncino.

Anybody know something productive I can do with these, now that they’re naked?

Okay, never mind.

A friend suggested we make fermented lemons, which can be used in sauces, on pasta, etc., and sounded not only delicious but interesting in a science-experiment sort of way, so we quartered them, salted them, and mashed them in a glass cookie jar that I got when I was 18 and somehow managed to keep for 28 years without breaking. It broke. We threw the 6 lbs. of lemons and chunks of glass in the dumpster.

Despite my sadness over the loss of the lemons, and the cookie jar, I can’t help but be amused by the fact that the lemon on the right in the front row of the picture looks an awful lot like a nipple.

This observation makes me think maybe I should maybe stop reading the bloggess, although this and this are two of the funniest things I’ve ever read. This one was pretty funny, too, and I’m thinking really hard about what I can write on my bananas. “Clean your room,” while both timely AND apt,  just doesn’t seem to cut it.

Which reminds me, in a related story, about leaving the house in the care of the 18-year old. So, I was off teaching at a music camp for three weeks, and my husband was home one or two nights a week, when he wasn’t up at camp with me and Only Daughter. (First Son doesn’t come home anymore — I just keep sending him Tshirts and sweaters that we find in closets and which he has forgotten he ever owns, and trying not to look at his bank balance since there will be a tuition bill in October that he can’t even BEGIN to cover and I’d like this to be hisproblem, notmine.) Since Second Son, for the three weeks I was gone and not forcing him to eat a meal with us (if he eats he has to do the dishes — this creates an intense mental cost/benefit analysis on a nightly basis, and fuhgeddaboudit if the entrée is fish), was basically living on cereal and the free food he could scarf at the-job-he-has-recently-been-let-go-from-for-no-apparent/good-reason (I’m assuming these two things are not related, hmmmmm. . .), Husband would occasionally lay in supplies like organic milk, Tide laundry soap (S.Son is a little OCD) and bananas. The bananas were apparently not getting eaten, as, upon our return, two of them had managed to ripen SO far, past when one has the olfactory and culinary fortitude necessary to pinch one’s nose to squeeze them out of the peel into a bowl to make banana bread with, that they had split their skins and begun to foam.

I think one of them actually said something to me as I scooped it up with a plastic bag, but I can’t be sure. It might have been the sound of me, lightly gagging.


Oh, and I have yet to have any takers on the offer of a teenager for the low, low price of $545, and I found a similar pair of boots at for a little less, so I’m offering a $50 discount for any offers received in the next 24 hours.

Please disregard any disparaging thing I have ever written about either Son; they are a delight, the light of my world, and a comfort in my upcoming old age. Yours for only $495, I’ll even waive the handling charge.

Just let me know.


how do you know when the honeymoon’s over?

Last night Husband and I found ourselves home, alone, for the first time in weeks, and we spent the next two hours, yup, you guessed it, unwrapping marvels of modern engineering and setting them up on the counter. There were no passionate embraces, no shedding of garments, no fevered groping amid piles of cardboard detritus and bubble wrap.

Why, you ask? Is this an indication of a loss of passion? Are the flames of love dwindling? Have we grown tired of each other, bored, listless about what was once, not all that long ago, the driving force of our existence?

Well no, not really; at least I don’t think so.

Rather, the phenomenon can be explained by this single act:

Husband just bought a new espresso machine and coffee grinder.








They are very nice, and very pretty, and very intimidating, and I hope I don’t set the darn things on fire or run the boiler dry accidentally or forget to temperature surf before making my next shots of espresso. (Don’t ask.) (Okay, if you must know):

(Who knew?)

ANYWAY, these “marvels of modern engineering” (I was corrected, firmly, a couple days ago after calling them “contraptions”) came via FedEx yesterday. This was a relief, as the monitoring of the check-in points along the shipping route and the logistics of making sure someone would be home at the pivotal moment was taking up most of our free time.

They are, according to Husband, the best machines available at a comparably reasonable price, with 237 grinding options (I’m not making this up) available on the Baratza Vario grinder and solid stainless steel construction plus some other features I don’t understand well enough to list here on the Rancilio Silvia (we will call her Silvia for short) espresso maker.  (Husband actually launched into a long explanation last night, but all I heard was “Wuh wah wah waaah” like when the teacher talks on Charlie Brown.)

Last night, after the lesson on tamping pressure using a glass and the bathroom scale (I still don’t tamp hard enough, as my espresso comes out in under 15 seconds, and we’re aiming for a leisurely 25), and my ignored Dance of the Seven Veils, I fell asleep while Husband read the instruction manual.

He did wake me at 7:15 this morning. . .

with an expertly foamed cappuccino, followed by a lesson on appropriate grinding (!), brewing, and foaming technique.


He is very cute when he’s all professorial, and it was important that I learn how to run the MoME while home without him here as my barista.

I’m now working on my 5th and 6th shots of espresso, this time with milk that I actually foamed (last time it just got really really hot.)

I’m very proud.

I think they send the 2 lbs of coffee for “free” because they know you’ll use up one of them on Day 1 just practicing. Maybe they should include some tranquilizers to counter the effect of AlL tHaT cAfFeInE!!!!


summer in Michigan

Set my alarm for 8 a.m. this morning (I know, right!?!) so we could go pick sweet cherries before the forecast 90˚/90% humidity hit.

When the alarm went off I sputtered “yeah, right,” turned it off, and went back to sleep for an hour. When I woke up at 9 I realized why that was so easy to do; a) we stayed up til 1 a.m. watching My Cousin Vinny (loved it! “Yeah, you blend.” Ha!), and b) the sky was darker at 9 a.m. than it had been at 9 p.m.

Thunder, lightening, wind, rain, for about 7 minutes, and then ebbed away. All smoke no fire, so to speak.

By about 9:30 the weather looked promising, and the radar map indicated that the weather would be clear until at least 12:30, so off Daughter and I went.

We drove 20 minutes through beautiful, lush countryside, hills and valleys and quaint barns with fences and horses grazing and a beautiful stone home with a pillared porch and vibrant flower baskets. (sigh)*

There it was ahead, with a hand-painted sign, B_______________ Orchard’s (why the apostrophe? why?). We pulled into a tiny little parking lot, gazed with bewilderment at a set of porch steps I wouldn’t trust not to collapse under the weight of a small house cat, encountered a youngish scruffy man talking on a cell phone and carrying a vacuum cleaner (?), and went into the barn where a woman who might have been older than God was talking to her sister on her cell phone. Not quite Deliverance, and not even remotely as bizarre as our experience buying grapes to make wine a couple of years ago, but still.

Two buckets, a short walk down a dirt road, and two very slimy mud puddle encounters later, we found the cherry trees. The cherries came off by the handful. I suggested to Daughter that she might want to pick several buckets and set up a stand at the bottom of our driveway, selling them for half what those suckers at the grocery store are paying for imported (from Washington) cherries, and maybe earning enough to pay for college (ha!). She speculated whether it would be money better spent at Justice (?) and on iTunes, but I disagree, considering that the money she spends on iTunes is JustinBieberSelenaGomezKatyPerrycrap. We filled two buckets, ~ seven pounds, in about 20 minutes. Which was a good thing, because around minute 21 the sky started to glower, clouds chased each other across the sky in interesting folded formations, (not unlike the ceiling at Severance Hall, which is pretty in a concert hall and quite intimidating in a cloud), thunder rumbled, the trees started to dance in the wind.

Daughter: “Mom! Look at those clouds!”

Me: “Wow! Let’s get the heck out of Dodge!”

We walked, muddily, back, paid, and headed towards the car as it began to sprinkle. By the time we reached the end of the (very short) driveway it was pouring.

The cherries are delicious. I’m trying to decide if we just want to eat them all or if I should make Cherry Cordial.

Cherry Cordial

Poke 3 c. of sweet cherries with a fork and put them into a quart jar. Cover just over the top of the cherries with brandy. Cover and let sit for one month. Strain liquid from cherries, add another cup of brandy and 1/2 c. sugar.


Poke 3 c. of sweet cherries with a fork and put them into a quart jar. Add 1/2 c. sugar, then fill jar with brandy. Cover and let sit for one month, shaking gently every week or so to distribute the sugar. Strain liquid from cherries after a month.

Store in a bottle with a screw top or a cork-lined stopper.

*I’ve given up on the hanging baskets. Bought these at World Market yesterday instead. They’re made of glass, so I can’t possibly kill them, although I could break them.


Home Alone

And no, I don’t feel like this

I feel like that a little sometimes when I’m Home With Children (HWC). I haven’t been in this house alone, I think, since April. I try to be a good mom. I try to be a patient mom. I try not to bite my daughter’s head off when she interrupts me for the 47th time to get her the cherry fruit snacks that we’ve hidden from Second Son (a.k.a. the SnackFooderator) or make her some toast or help feed her snake or paint her fingernails or spot her while she practices her walkovers or, well, you get the idea. I worry sometimes that my level of preoccupation is manufactured by my subconscious to mirror the level of my mother’s preoccupation — except she had 8 children, and I only have 3, and only 2 of them live at home, so What’s My Excuse?

Anyway, I’m in my house alone for the first time in almost three months. It feels good. I’m sitting on my (purple) couch in my air conditioned house eating tabbouleh, fresh mozzarela, and sipping delicious coffee. Does it get better than this?

It did, of course, take some kind of divine intervention for this to happen. Planets aligned just right with moons or something.

Stage One:  Second Son is finally working. He had a job lined up in April, they asked him to wait three weeks while they trained their first round of new hires. He waited three weeks, they told him they had hired too many people and didn’t need him. I thought this was really a crappy thing to do, and that they should have at least given him 10 hours a week for a month or six weeks or something to account for the fact that MICHIGAN’S ECONOMY IS IN THE TOILET and he waited through the three most important job hunting weeks for an eighteen year old — the three weeks before all the college kids come home. SO, he started over. Looked for several weeks, got hired in early June to work in the kitchen of a new hotel that was supposed to open on June 20, and which has taken its first bookings yesterday. When he went in last week (finally!) for the scheduled training there wasn’t even a kitchen yet, just a big empty room covered in sawdust. The crew stood around with their hands in their pockets, moved a few 2x4s, the chef bought them lunch and sent them home. So, finally,  Friday they installed shelving, yesterday he worked thirteen (13!!!) hours stocking and learning how to make things like spinach-artichoke dip and risotto (cool! but no, they didn’t get to eat it, and he didn’t bring any home. What’s Wrong With This Picture?). Today he is back for another long day.

Stage Two: Daughter is camping with her dad. There is apparently a pool, a camp store with lots of candy (Daughter: “There’s a camp store! With lots of candy!” Me: “Great! Do you still have all your teeth?”), and two boys, sons of friends of Former Husband, one of whom Daughter likes. I believe she may have told him that she liked him. Such bravery.

She’s ten, and wondering if this is an appropriate wedding dress:

I said no, unless you’re a jellyfish. She also wants to know who my Hollywood Crush* is (not Orange, or Grape, but maybe someone along the lines of that Logan kid who played Percy the Lightning Thief, or godforbidJustinBieber) and if it was okay for her to kiss boys now that she was going into fifth grade. (NO! NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!)

Stage Three: Church was cancelled this morning. I’m the pianist, and this never happens. Every Sunday morning I whine about having to get up, and shower, and practice my little Bach pieces or my little Debussy pieces, and then the sermon goes too long, and I don’t get home until noon, whine whine whine. Not today. I was up, and showered, and had practiced all four of my little Bach pieces yesterday, when my phone rang.

Pastor: “Are you playing today?”

Me, in my head: “The time changed again? I thought I already missed that service back in March!” (I have issues.)

Me, out loud: “Yes?”

Pastor: “Take the day off. The power’s out: no elevator, no parking ramp because the door can’t open, no lights, no sound. . .

Me, in my head: “So?”

Pastor: “. . . no air conditioining.

Me, out loud:  “Oh! Now I get it!”

Anyway, there are lots of elderly people, lots of stairs to get to the sanctuary, it’s going to be VERY warm today. I get the day off. Nice. If only I’d known that before I’d gotten out of bed, showered, gotten dressed, put on makeup. But still. Sunday off. Nice.

Stage Four:  Stepson and Husband are playing paintball. I’m not kidding. Husband bought it on Groupon, and the expiration date is fast approaching, and the friends Stepson wanted to invite couldn’t make it, so they’re off playing paintball. It’s supposed to be 90˚ today, and they’re going to run around like commandoes (not to be confused with going commando) and shoot 500 little paint pellets at each other and anyone else who crosses their paths and have a rip-roaring good time.+ I think it would be kind of fun, definitely more fun than laser tag — a form of entertainment that must be one of the most shameless ripoffs known to man, right up there with bottled water, the ever-shrinking boxes of pasta, and the price of a box of tampons.

I digress.

I’m home alone.

Why does this feel so much better than being home with one teenager who sits in a chair and stares at a screen all day? It’s not like they interfere with my productivity, or prevent me from smoking crack or hooking up with strangers or something.

I can’t quite figure it out.

Anyway, I’m either going to go read my book, the Sunday paper, practice the piano, or, if I get restless, get groceries, or drive to World Market to buy important things like bamboo steamers, honey pots, and a large jar to make Limoncino in.


Using a vegetable peeler, cut the yellow part of the peel from 15 lemons, Be careful not to get any of the white pith.

Pour 750 ml of vodka or everclear into a gallon jug.

Add the lemon zest.

Cover and let sit for at least 10 days, up to 40 — the longer, the better. Don’t stir, or fuss with. Just let it sit.

When done waiting, (patience! patience!), mix 4 c. sugar with 5 c. filtered water in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil for ~ 7 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add sugar syrup to the lemon/alcohol mixture. Cover jar, and let rest for another 10-40 days.

Strain the limoncino through cheesecloth to remove the zest. Pour into smaller individual bottles. Store in the freezer until ready to serve.


+Breaking news: Paintball hurts. Husband’s Observation: Every kid who spends hours in front of video games yelling “Boom! Headshot!” should go and get blasted a few times by someone they never see coming. Something to think about.


*Robert Downey Jr., Javier Bardem ( long as he looks like he did in Biutiful and not like he did in No Country For Old Men), George Clooney, and Johnny Depp.


well that’s a relief


eating italian: pizza

Thanks to alisonamazed for her suggestion for a finer grain flour. This is how I made pizza last night after “fine-grinding” my own.

Put a pizza stone in the oven, and put the oven on 450˚ (if it’s a convection) or 475˚ (if it’s not).

Put 1 c. of whole wheat and 1 c. of unbleached white flour into a food processor with the dough blade. Let the flour whir for 2 minutes (or more), to “sift” it into a finer grain.  Keeping the blade whirring, add 1/2 tsp. yeast and 1/2 tsp. salt. After ~ 30 seconds, add 1/2 tsp. honey and 1/4 c. olive oil, then 6.25 ozs. of warm (100˚ -105˚) water. Allow to process until it forms a ball and rolls around in the bowl a few times. Let rest, covered with plastic, on a  flour-coated cutting board.

Meanwhile, slice an onion into THIN THIN THIN, no, even thinner, slices, and sauté over medium heat in a cast iron skillet until soft and starting to brown. As they cook, you may need to reduce the heat as you go, because you want them to caramelize, not crisp.

Chop a handful of kalamata olives and 1/4 c. of sundried tomatoes (best if they’re the stored-in-olive-oil, no-sulfites-added kind; we dry our own), mix 2 T. of pesto with 1/3 c. of goat cheese, slice authentic Italian salame VERY thinly (as thinly as the onions), and don’t forget to keep stirring the onions.

Roll 1/2 of the pizza dough out on a piece of parchment paper under a piece of saran wrap. (Put the other half in a bowl to use later; it will keep for at least a week.) If you want to put the pizza directly onto the stone, lift the rolled-out dough and sprinkle the parchment with cornmeal so you can get your pizza slip under it. Warm the goat cheese/pesto mixture for about 10 seconds in the microwave, and spread directly on the crust. Put the sun-dried tomatoes on next, and then bury them with the pieces of salame so they don’t dry out and burn. Sprinkle the olives, and then dollop the onions around.

Drizzle olive oil around the outside of the crust that doesn’t have good stuff on it.

Bake ~ 6 minutes (maybe a little more, depending how crispy you like your crust). Enjoy with a Tuscan red wine.


Eating Italian: Coffee Gelato

Heat 1 1/2 c. almond milk to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together 5 egg yolks and 1/2 c. sugar. Add boiling milk to the egg and sugar mixture, then add 1/2 c. strong brewed coffee or espresso. Return to a lower heat, and cook ~ 8 minutes, until custard has thickened (will coat the spoon you’re using to stir it).

Chill at least 3 hours, then process in an ice-cream freezer according to manufacturer’s directions. If there’s any left, freeze it in an air-tight container.


eating Italian

Last night’s Florence/Cinque Terre – inspired pasta dish:

Slice and sauté mushrooms of the button, portabella, and shittake varieties, enough to fill a 10-11″ sauté pan. Sauté in olive oil until they’ve released their juices, set aside.

In a separate sauté pan, infuse olive oil with 4-5 large, minced cloves of garlic over low heat. When garlic is soft, throw in a pint of cherry tomatoes that have been halved. Turn off the heat and let sit for the tomatoes to soften.

Slice a can of black, or kalamata olives, set aside.

Chop the hard rinds of the Parmesan cheese in your refrigerator into slivered-almond sized chunks.

Chop a medium-sized handful of Italian parsley.

Meanwhile, bring a LARGE pot of salted water to a boil, and listen to your son complain about how many dishes you’ve gotten dirty; deflect accusations that this was done on purpose in the manner of your choice.

Cook a pound of twisted pasta — rotini, or, if you can get it, trofie, until just al dente. Drain, rinse briefly, and immediately drizzle with olive oil.

Assemble the pasta in this order: cheese, mushrooms, parsley, garlic/tomatoes, olives.

Serve with a Tuscan red wine. Follow with limoncino and a good movie. Feel free to drool.



Eating in Italy

I’m sure this is pretty much common knowledge, but the food in Italy was amazing. It was very interesting, too, to see how good things could be without a lot of fuss or numerous ingredients. Even the food on the European-run airlines was fantastic. Why can’t American-run airlines serve delicious chicken, garlic-rich mashed potatoes, and dense chewy bread?

Some of our favorite meals in Italy:

Pasta with several kinds of mushrooms, a smattering of diced tomato and black olives, parsley, and olive oil.

Trofie with mussels. Trofie is a type of pasta that’s about three times as thick as a spaghetti noodle, but only a couple inches long, and twisted. The result is a noodle that’s extremely chewy, almost like gnocchi. Of course we had to run across the street and buy 2 bags to bring home.

A serving of chicken, merely a thigh and a leg, that apparently had been cooked in lemon juice for a day and a half until the meat was saturated with flavor and falling off the bone and the lemon had been reduced into a thick, rich, sauce.

Pizza on a cracker-thin crust (does anybody know how to do that? it’s one of my life goals) with a smear of reduced tomato, a few bits of basil and buffalo mozzarella.

For our hiking day in the Cinque Terre we bought salame, provolone, mixed olives, two bread rolls and a quart of locally-grown cherries, all for under 10 Euros, and ate a fantastic picnic under a tree a thousand feet above the Ligurian Sea.

Fantastic coffee — black and thick and strong without being bitter, and pretty reasonably priced. I had one of the best cups of coffee of my life in the car-rental building at the Pisa airport.

And of course, gelato. It seems to be a universal recipe, as all of the gelato stands claim their gelato is “fatto in casa,” but it’s all rich and flavorful without being too sweet. My favorite: frutti di bosco (berries); but the strawberry, coffee, and chocolate flavors were close seconds.

We also enjoyed many “local” wines — Tuscan red in Florence, Chianti in Pisa, a fruity aromatic white in Cinque Terre. If you ask for water you can have either “naturale,” or “frizzante,” which is lightly bubbly, and served chilled but without ice. We just hope they’re recycling all of those water bottles, because they’re everywhere.

What was most interesting to us is that no one will rush you out of a restaurant. They take really good care of you until you’re done eating; after they’ve brought your limoncino or coffee or dessert they leave you alone – you invariably have to get your server’s attention to ask for the bill. We enjoyed the opportunity to linger, a relaxed mind-set which seems to permeate the country.

Next: public transportation.


false advertising

We figure toddler corn, at the very least. Not a minute younger.


spring break adventures

Yesterday was Only Daughter’s first day of spring break, but I had college classes to teach, so today is “our” first day of spring break together.

We started by getting up “early” (8:00) and heading off to Frederick Meijer Gardens to see the butterflies.

Here are some of the pictures.

If you look closely you should be able to see lots of butterflies. The air was just aflutter.

These are feeding on little balls of nectar.

Wonder if this one is wearing enough SPF.

“Does this flower make my wings look bluer?” “Yes! Now hold still!!!”

Ready for takeoff!!!

This next butterfly is quite large, and the inside of its wings are a beautiful powder blue. One of these types kept flying around and around us, and we were hoping it would land on one of us, but it didn’t. It was a bit disconcerting, though, because it liked to circle our legs, which made us afraid to take a step in case we stepped on it. If you look at the first picture, you can see a hint of the blue as a bright streak between the two wings. The second shot, taken more from the side, better shows its striking eye-markings. I stood and waited and waited and waited for it to fly so I could try to capture it with the wings open (he would NOT hold still). As you can tell by the 3rd shot, it didn’t work out so well.

The funnest part is when you leave, you exit through a vestibule of sorts so they can check for hitchikers.

I tried not to let it bother me when oblivious people would push into view between the scene and my camera and stand there, or when one woman stood and watched for many minutes while her daughter tried repeatedly to catch one of the butterflies, inches from the sign that says “Please Do Not Touch the Butterflies.”

We decided to make the most of our visit, so walked through the sculpture gallery, currently featuring works by Jim Dine. Only Daughter summed it up as such: tools, women (he has a fascination with Venus di Milo), hearts, and Pinocchio. My cynical self wonders if taking four completely unrelated ideas and juxtaposing them qualifies one as an “artist.” Most of it I don’t get, including this:

Now that’s one heck of a tool belt!

It is interesting in that all of his sculptures are in bronze, but treated in such a way as to look like wood, or bone, or even rubber. The security guard pointed out that, after 8 hours a day 5 days a week patrolling the sculpture hall, he was noticing more and more details, such as wondering if the tread on the two tractor tires (connecting an axle which bore more farm implements, a “metal” pig, and a rather large skull) was going in two different directions on purpose — was it implying some kind of circle? Hmmmm, good question, but not good enough to balance out the general state of perplexity and lack of emotional connection I had with most of the work.

There was a “bouquet” of Venus di Milos which I kind of liked, but after I took the picture above Only Daughter pointed out the “No Photography” sign, so I decided I better not take another.

The following are part of the permanent installation:

“Seven Saints and Sinners” by Marshall Fredericks

(Daughter liked that the baby has a halo, too.)


“Hagar” by Jacques Lipchitz

Some of you may know Hagar from the story of Genesis: originally the handmaiden of Sarai (Sarah), Abram’s (Abraham) wife, who was offered to Abram by Sarai when she became concerned over her barrenness and believed that she should do this in order to fulfill God’s promise. As you can imagine, Hagar became pregnant before Sarai did, and resentment brewed. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, who became the leader of the Ishmaelites. Hagar is also mentioned in the Koran, although not by name, as it is believed that through her son comes the Prophet Muhammed.

I like this sculpture very much. Its twistings, intertwinings, seem to well represent the complexities of Hagar’s actual and emotional circumstances.

You can see a bit of the Chihuly chandelier in the background.


Phase 2 of Day 1 involves the making of Monkey Bread. Careful consideration of the ingredients (2 sticks of butter, 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks) implies that I will not, however, be eating very much of the monkey bread.

And I think I might have agreed to take her to see a potentially cinematic monstrosity known as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules” this afternoon. It must have been a weak moment.


more of life’s persistent questions

Is it a source of concern that the ribbon of toothpaste in the bottom of the sink looks an awful lot like the ribbon of toothpaste probably looked on Only Daughter’s toothbrush?

Does anyone else wonder, after cleaning their bathroom, how it is that anyone still has any hair on their heads?

If First Cat repeatedly escapes, and spends more time with his Other Family than he does here, should we continue to let him back in and feed him?

Why is it that Governor Rick Snyder can overthrow elected officials and install hired “Emergency Managers” without a recall process, but we can’t do the same to him?

Who knew that nutella + banana = pure delicious-ness, and why wasn’t I informed of this sooner?


Do some things ever change?


a model of pretentiousness, a.k.a. The Wine We Had With Dinner

Should have been warned by the name: Tempra Tantrum

But wait, it gets better.

On the back label:

Go ahead and throw a Tempra Tantrum tonight by drinking in the passion, flavor, style, and emotion that embodies modern Spain. As a new generation global vintner, I love to blend international varietals with the quintessentially Spanish Tempranillo grape for a wine that is vibrant, plush, and in a word — sexy. I have a passion for innovative winemaking, and my 2008 Tempranillo/Grenache is crafted from my family’s low-yielding vineyards in a modern New World style. Critics call it a “Best Value,” but I call it an expression of my life.”


Now I’m not saying there was anything wrong with the wine — it was actually quite delicious — one might even say “vibrant,” although I’m not sure I agree with “plush.” And sexy? What makes a wine sexy? I guess if I drink enough. . . (at first I wrote “I guess if I have drink enough.” I guess that means I have.)

But the self-consciously self-promoting rhetoric is perhaps laid on a bit thick to go with my Greek burger and sweet potato fries, although it wasn’t bad with the Lindt dark-chocolate-with-a-touch-of-sea-salt.

The conversation at dinner went something like this.

Husband: I can’t read this label without my glasses.

Me: I’ll read it.

Husband: You can’t read that.

I read it.


Husband: But the wine’s really good; I’m going back tomorrow to buy a case.

Me: But that will only encourage him!


thwarted expectations

Was digging around for a little something sweet last night, and found this in the freezer.

Now I’m open to the argument that Second Son has been well taught, and is being careful not to be wasteful.

Except there is literally not a single bite of ice cream in this carton.

I posted previously on my theory that his difficulty eating as an infant has triggered an aversion to any kind of effort as relates to the acquisition of food. But is it possible that it’s more work to put the empty carton into the trash bin than it is to put it into the freezer?


the influence of infancy

Scientists continue to make fascinating discoveries about the impact that the gestational environment can have on a fetus, as well as the earliest stages of infancy and their impact on the person for the rest of his or her life.

Did you know that if a mother is stressed while pregnant, her child will be more likely to be easily stressed throughout his or her life?

We all know the stories about babies who, for myriad reasons, aren’t held or stimulated enough — learning delays, personality disorders, inability to form attachments.

I am developing a theory related to this regarding how hard a person is willing to work for something, even if it’s important.

Case in point: when Second Son was a newborn, he had a terrible time breastfeeding. He would act like he was starving, work away furiously for about 3.5 minutes, and then give up with a look and demeanor of extreme and utter exhaustion. When I took him in for his 4-month checkup, it was discovered that he had grown 2″, but only gained 8 ozs. Eventually, the doctor conceded that he was tongue-tied (something I had been telling him for two months, but that’s another story), and the frenulum was clipped a few weeks later.

By 6 months of age, he could drink from a cup, and couldn’t be bothered with either breastfeeding or a bottle. Too much of a time commitment, and he apparently had too much to do.

Now, (he’s 17), we can keep him from eating all of the dried cherries by putting them in the cupboard behind and underneath something. This is a boy who won’t make pasta with pre-made sauce for dinner because it’s too much work. He basically lives on yogurt (for his school lunches — he doesn’t like it, but it’s faster than making a sandwich), cereal, and Doritos. Oh, and bananas. Tonight he actually had to consider, at length, if he and his girlfriend wanted to eat dinner with us (steak, sweet potatoes, green salad) because it would mean that he would have to do the dishes, and that sounded too much like work.

I’m pretty sure he won’t starve in his first two years of college because he will live in the dorm and all of his food will be prepared for him.

Not sure about after that, though. And it’s not like he has any body fat stored up to get him through.


American influence spreads (get it? spreads?)

After a two-year loan to the United States, Michelangelo’s David is being returned to Italy.

His proud sponsors:

(Thanks K.B. — you’re always good for a laugh!)


more thanksgiving

So, my kids are at their dad’s until tomorrow; my husband’s kids are with their mom until tomorrow; tomorrow the hordes descend and we will have 7 people in a 1600 square foot house for 3 days heavenhelpus.

Today, though, we slept in (10), and have been puttering around all morning. The pumpkin is roasted for the pie, the Christmas cake is in the oven (recipe below), hubby is doing extensive research on the life of Saul Bellow after I read a review of his new book of letters in the NYTimes Review of Books.

We still need to wash sheets and towels, clean the bathroom, get the porch furniture off the, well, porch (and the tiki torches; tiki torches still out on November 25!), and I need to practice for hours to prepare for Sunday’s concert (Franck Sonata for PIANO and violin).

But a good day.

I’ve been thinking, as I putter, about the holidays past, especially those of my adulthood, and the wonderful friends I’ve shared them with.

JF and countless Thanksgivings (to her mother’s great chagrin) — we had a tradition of making butter cookies cut out in the shape of turkeys and elaborately decorating them with orange, yellow, red, and brown frosting; then we would make Christmas cookies together and she would take some home with her. Her mother, a terrific food snob, would refuse even to touch the cutouts, and if she wanted a pfeffernuse or springerle or schnecken which happened to be nestled under a cutout, would ask J to move the cutout out of the way for her. Last night J texted me for wine advice for the best stuffing recipe ever (New Basics Cookbook), and when we see each other we go to the bookstore and buy each other’s children books for Christmas, even if it’s August.

Tammyguck (Tammy + Chuck through the mouth of a 2-year old, now 20) — every holiday from around 1986 to 1996 was shared in one way or the other. We were there one Halloween evening while Guck had Phantom of the Opera on really loud on the stereo and some trick-or-treaters were afraid to come to the door. They live in California now (Tammyguck, not the trick-or-treaters); saw Tammy for the first time in 8 years last summer. She looks exactly the same as she did in 1986. Despite this, I was very happy to see her.

These thoughts lead me to thoughts of other wonderful friends, many of whom have gotten me through some pretty difficult times in my life — JK, MS, especially. I don’t know what I would have done without you.

One has only to click here to see some of the articles talking about how psychologically and physically beneficial it is to have close friendships. Even Oprah thinks so, so it must be true. They provide emotional support, honesty and advice and sympathy and recipes, they let you know that you are not alone in the world. I’m very lucky, and very grateful for my friends, and hope that I have been as good a friend to them as they have been to me.

And now for the recipes:

The Best Turkey Stuffing Ever, from The New Basics Cookbook

Cut a large loaf of bread into 1″ squares; spread in a pan for 10-12 hours to dry out. Put in large mixing bowl.


3 c. chopped celery, with leaves

2 c. chopped onions (good if 1/2 is a sweet onion)

in 2 T. vegetable oil over low heat until softened but not browned, ~ 10 minutes. Put veggies in the large mixing bowl with the bread.

Brown 1 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage in pan from the vegetables, breaking into chunks. Add to mixing bowl.

Add to the bowl:

2 tart apples, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 c. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

1 c. dried pitted cherries

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tsp. dried sage leaves

freshly ground black pepper.

Toss together.

Mix 1 c. tawny port (or Gamay Beaujolais, or Marsala) and 1 c. chicken stock.

Add liquid to dressing and toss, smush together with hands until “stuffing” consistency.

Stuff the turkey (but not until right before ready to put it in the oven), and put the remaining stuffing in a bowl and cover with foil.

Roast the turkey at 325˚ on a bed of celery ribs, carrots and onion, basting occasionally with melted butter + 3/4 c. tawny port or the wine you used above, every 15 minutes for the last hour. Roast the remaining stuffing for the last hour, basting with turkey juices once in a while.

Sheriji’s Christmas Cake (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

This recipe has the unique and wonderful direction near the end; it’s how I recognize that I’ve found the recipe every year when I’m trying to remember which cookbook it’s in (I have several, dozen).

And all candied fruits must be removed from the premises before beginning. It would truly be tragic if any accidentally made their way into this cake, for all involved, directly or indirectly.

Put 2 sticks of butter into your mixer and turn it on at medium speed. Allow to beat for a long time so the butter is really smooth and creamy.

While you’re waiting for this, sift together:

3 c. flour (I use a scant 3 c. of whole wheat)

1 tsp. each: baking powder, cinnamon, grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, mace, ground cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

When butter is smooth and creamy, add 2 c. dark brown sugar, and beat 3-5 minutes until lighter in color and texture. Scrape the sides of the bowl at least once so that you are sure all of the butter and sugar are fully incorporated.

Add: 1/2 c. dark molasses, and the grated zest and juice of an orange and a lemon.

When well blended, add the flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with 3/4 c. brandy in 2 parts, beating on low speed and scraping occasionally to make sure everything is worked in.

Then add, gently:

2 c. currants

2 c. raisins (regular or golden)

2 c. dried figs cut into small pieces

You can also add 2 c. walnuts and 2 c. dates, but I don’t like either of these, so I just leave them out.

Put into 3 8-1/2″ bread pans that have been well buttered. Bake at 300˚ for 3 hours. “The cake may appear done at 2-1/2 hours; simply ignore this.” It does say that if the cakes are starting to brown significantly at 2-1/2 hours you can make a foil tent over the top of them. I have done this.

Cool in the pan on the rack for an hour, then remove from the pan. Be very careful about this — they tend to fall apart.

These are good right away, but even better if you make in November, wrap them in cheesecloth, and brush the cheesecloth with brandy every week or so for a month to get them good and drunk just in time for Christmas.

Thanks for reading! I have almost 200 regular visits each day now, and am really enjoying the comments and conversation.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

May your turkey brown perfectly, may your champagne fizz delightfully, and may your J, Z, or Q be useful on a triple-letter or triple-word score.

Ah, scrabble. (Click on and watch — it’s one of the funniest things ever.)


Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

Just had a food orgasm.

The filet was like butter, topped with an au poivre sauce with whole green peppercorns and butter; the mushrooms expertly sautéed in brandy and butter; the onion rings were so good I will probably never have another onion ring anywhere because it couldn’t possibly live up to this precedent; the shiraz a perfect complement to every bite. The cup of decaf and raspberry sorbet was a delightful punctuation to a really good meal, and thankfully did not come with more butter. The service was terrific.

But I am so full I can’t possibly imagine eating again until 2012. I asked the waiter, as he was bringing the coffee and sorbet, if they served Crestor in little dishes with the dessert. He thought I was kidding.

I was thinking, as we exited the restaurant, of the little cameras they have set up at crucially frightening points of roller coaster rides, so that you can see, and take home, pictures of yourself as you scream your head off. I was wondering if they had similar cameras set up so we could see how we looked after we had been beaten by a food club.

We walked all the way around the block to get back to the hotel so I could try to walk off some of the meal. To think I put a bag of Gardettos back at the Subway/Convenience store at lunch time because of the 7 g. of fat.

There isn’t enough Metamucil in the world to undo what I’ve just done to my body.

Unfortunately, Second Son will now have to go to community college given the size of the tab. Every single thing you eat there is priced à la carte, which is apparently a fancy way of saying really really expensive. I think they might have charged us for every time we used our napkin. The waiter did brush up our crumbs, and asked politely if it would be okay if HE put the leftovers in a box for us.

The reservation for tomorrow night’s dinner at the symphony is for 6.

Bon appétit!


Panera Bread

What a gold mine, eh? I’ve never been in one that wasn’t lousy with customers.

Reasonable prices, food seems relatively healthful, plus there’s that beautiful counter of sweet pastries to tempt you on your way in or out.

For those of you not familiar with the Panera system, you are given your choice of sides with your meal: a white or whole-wheat baguette, a bag of chips, or an apple. I always think the offer of the baguette is a little odd when you’ve just ordered a sandwich, but I guess there are people in the world for whom there is no such thing as “too much bread.”  I have yet to get a decent apple there. I’m beginning to suspect some kind of subsidy, paid by the chip distributor, to ensure that the apples on offer are tough, mealy, and tasteless. Well, I guess not completely tasteless, if you consider “styrofoam” a flavor.

Thought I’d do a little research considering the “healthy” factor. Here’s my lunch:

Panera Lunch

Not as good as I’d hoped, but better than it could have been I guess. Seems like a lot of fat grams for half of a sandwich.

At least I didn’t get the chips.

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