Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: food (Page 2 of 4)

I Would Shoot This Week Like I’d Put Down A Rabid Possum, If I Could.

Hey, didja all enjoy the full moon this week? Beautiful, bright, havoc-wreaking full moon that it was? Good god. The Crazy ratcheted up pretty high this week, I must say.

On Wednesday, I met a couple friends for an impromptu lunch at Red Snapper. Upon leaving, I thought my back tire looked low. Indeed, it was. As in almost flat. Yikes! So I hustled across the street, got air back in it, skipped my errands, and came home. It stayed inflated pretty well and looked good the next morning, so we assumed it was a temporary seal thing, hitting a pothole, etc. But now I’m paranoid. So I left work yesterday with paranoia in my heart, looked at my tire, and decided it looked lower. Not like the first time, but lower and something must be wrong. (One thing to know about me: I go from blissfully ignorant to OMFG WE’RE GONNA DIE AND LOSE ALL OUR MONEY FIRST in about 8.2 seconds flat.) So I’m worrying. And as I start to drive in the parking lot, I hear this crazy noise. OMFG! I pull over, spanning four parking spaces, and put the car in park, frozen, listening. I’m quite certain this sound is coming from my tire. Except the sound continues, after I’ve stopped. I finally realized that it was a plane flying overhead. Yay! I’m losing my mind!

Get home, the Wo takes a look, agrees it’s low, and we come up with the game plan: tomorrow at some point, I’ll go in to Firestone, get the thing fixed, get an oil change, and be on my merry way. We refill a bit with the pump he has. He checks it this morning: pretty low again, so now we accelerate the time frame, and I’m heading up there for an 8 am appointment so they can get it taken care of and I can be in Westport by 9:45. Everything seems fine, I’m hanging with Mr. Magoo in the waiting area until he’s finished, then I switch seats so I can keep an eye on things, and get called to the counter around 9. Lookin’ good. Except for one thing. They can’t fix the tire. It’s all shredded on the inside, he says. And my two front tires have wear on the insides of the tires and you can’t see it unless the car is up on the hoochymomma thingy, but it’s really bad and I need four new tires, he gestures at wildly circled numbers on a sheet of paper and can I hang on a sec because he has to run something out to some manager in the parking lot.

I get out the phone, and call the Wo. Tell him briefly that I’m being sold 4 new tires and could he talk to the man when he returns. Which he does, at that moment. I hand the phone over, he goes through the spiel again, and hands the phone back to me.

Now. Here is where, for me, it really broke apart. I can be blissfully clueless and unaware at times. But the rest of the time, my antennae are set on “11”. And so, as I take the phone, and as most people do, my head tilts down to listen and talk. But I am still watching the employee – who is looking at the computer, and I see, in this short second, he rolls his eyes. So as I’m hearing my husband in my left ear “THEYARETRYINGTOSELLYOUTIRESYOUDON’TNEEDYOUNEEDTOGOSOMEWHEREELSE” I’m thinking, “You motherfucker. There are two people standing right here, and the only one who gets to roll their eyes at my husband? IS ME.” So I’m pissed. He’s pissed. The Wo’s pissed. I hang up. Store dude looks at me and I say, “OK, this is why I let him handle these things. Can we just fill the tire with air and I’ll pay for my oil change?” And he says, “Well, he sounded really angry, I’m just saying, if you don’t replace all four tires, you have AWD, you would void your warranty (I’m still puzzling that one, as the dealer’s warranty expired a year ago), and let me take you back in the shop and show you this wear, you can’t see it unless the car’s in the air, so you can explain it to your husband,” and I’m all, “NO, that’s fine, let’s just settle up here.”

Because if I go back into the garage, it’s another point of sales pitch to wear the little lady down, I suspect.

So I wait, and then another employee comes in and tells me all about her morning and how she was t-boned on her way in and blah blah blah, and then a new dude comes in and says it looks like I need to be helped. I decline, saying I’m just waiting. But here’s what I think is interesting. First dude has now gone back into the garage, and never comes back out to interact with me again. New dude is now “handling me” and feigns shock and awe at the numbers on my tires and that I’m going to drive off the lot with my car in such a state, even, but is all smiles and polish and tells me they will give me their recommendations and an estimate, should I want to return. Now, I’m not all-knowing in the world of auto repair but I felt like this guy’s appearance was definitely a planned move and part of the whole schtick. (I heard the schtick given by the t-boned employee over the phone, all the dreadful things they found and how much it would cost.)

I pay, collect my key, my receipt and go. In my car, I look at the price tag: just over $1,100. Yes, eleven-hundred. Dollars.

The Wo is already regretting having sent me there, but he wanted me to have a nice place to sit and wait, but now I’m going where he wished he’d sent me in the first place, to Larry’s Wholesale Tires on Wornall.  Larry, or his other cousin Larry, comes in from the shop to see what I need and sends me down the road to the U-Haul place (which he also owns, and I ponder this, thinking how unassuming he is and he probably is quite well-off), because that’s where they fix tires. Honestly, I don’t know why I ever thought I’d be incapable of driving a car in NYC, because if you can cross two lanes of Wornall without a light and make repeated left-hand turns while you’re on it, I’d say you could take on just about any traffic situation in this country. I get down to the U-Haul spot and for whatever reason, I am instantly reassured. I’m greeted, there’s no problem, just back it in here, okey dokey, the guy finds a 1.5″ metal shiv that’s in the main part of the tread, he extracts it, does other manly things to the tire (including patching it), tells me he doesn’t see any shredding, but at some point I’ll need A new tire, because the side seam looks a little worn, and they all blinked when I told them what their neighbors up the street wanted me to spend.

So then I ate some Indian food at Chai Shai with Beth and knitted and decompressed (and wished I’d gotten the mango shake instead of the iced chai, because o.m.g. is it good,) ran into Dan of Gone Mild there, always nice to see him and say hello.

Then I came home, and discovered the breezeway was filled with bits of foam and bright red maribou feathers. Because Tripper had GONE INTO THE CLOSET, removed one slipper, and systematically shredded it everywhere. Then he took JWo’s old shoe he’d already done a number on, and completely chewed off the toe. That fucking dog isn’t getting out of his crate until he’s 12.

Next on my list? Re-installing software on my laptop that was rebuilt on Wednesday. I told you, this week has just been from hell! TGIF, indeed!

Nommy Sunday

One of the wonderful things that hobbies bring you includes new friends. Between knitting (that would be me) and duck hunting and tomato growing (that would be James), we have an eclectic, delightful group of friends.  Last week, we had the Bhut Jolokia tasting, and we were gifted a jar of homemade mustard from Tomato Town’s Todd & Julie (Farmer T and Farmer J, respectively). Made with whiskey. It looked stupendous:

Homemade Pretzels and Mustard

The first thing James said (after thank you!) was that we needed to get some good bratwurst from Fritz’s. I said, “Homemade pretzels.” Now that we’ve got the pretzels done and covered, I’m all for bratwurst next. This mustard was heavenly! While my pretzels turned out beautifully and delicious, the mustard was really the star of the show.

Homemade Pretzels and Mustard

I made the pretzels from Alton Brown’s recipe; they probably could have been rolled out thinner, but the taste was great. I used Mediterranean Sea Salt instead of pretzel salt, and while I followed the directions to a T with the parchment paper and the oil, I will not go that route again, as the pretzels stuck to the paper and were frustrating to try and remove. Silpats would probably work better.

Homemade Pretzels and Mustard

Utterly delicious! Thanks Julie & Todd!

The Hottest Pepper in the WOooooorld

Yep, the Bhut Jolokia.

Well, ok, as of 9 am, my husband discovered there’s some NEW pepper that has about 130,000 more Scoville units than the Bhut, but I really don’t care. BECAUSE I ATE THE BHUT.

The Ghost Pepper (as it’s commonly called) has over 1 million Scoville units to its pedigree. That means it’s super calicrazyfucking hot. A jalapeno has about 2500 SU. A habanero has 100k-350k SU.

Keep in mind, all the dudes were gung-ho. Oh yeah, gonna eat this chili pepper. And five of them did. My brother-in-law went all out and ended up eating about half a pepper. (HE CRAZY.) I decided to try a chunk of habanero. It really, really burned, but wasn’t debilitating.
Then the Wo finally said he’d try the Bhut. I’d told him I’d do it if he did it. (Which Beth was QUICK to remind me after he’d taken his bite.) So I did. And it really didn’t do much.So I took another bite. Ah, yes, that one …. resonated.

Here’s the crazy thing, about both the habanero and the Bhut: both had an unbelievable fresh, citrus, bright clean flavor. Before the heat even began. They were utterly delicious. Like your brain’s going, “Well, what the hell, you rang up and warned me this was going to be difficult and it’s surprisingly charming and OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD” because then, yes, after that delicious milli-moment, the burn rapidly takes over and it’s as though you’ve maced your tongue. It really does burn. But the endorphin rush is also something to be reckoned with. I felt like I’d had a victorious afternoon hike, followed by a relaxing hot tub. All from a vegetable sliver no wider than a few staples.

And I did get very hot from it. My skin flushed like nobody’s bidness:


But I have bragging rights now, and I can certainly stare down any bowl of salsa in the future and say “I’ve had hotter…”

Summer’s Delight

As we hibernated indoors yesterday, away from the stifling humidity, most of our energies wound up in the kitchen. I had been wanting to make Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Casatiello, and Italian Brioche, studded with bits of spicy salami and gouda cheese. What I love about his book is the complete thoroughness of instruction; he describes the process of how the dough will evolve, and what to expect. This dough has a high butter content, and after the butter has been added, the dough is very sticky, and altogether messy, resembling cookie dough. His instructions tell you to work the dough for 12 minutes, for in that amount of time the butter will distribute evenly and your sticky mass of dough evolves into a beautifully smooth, tacky ball that cleanly rotates around the mixer bowl. It was definitely one of those angels-singing marvel moments as I watched it happen. I baked it in a square springform pan to make one loaf; you can bake it in bags and in smaller sizes more typical of Brioche, too. It’s delicious, and made me wonder about other cheeses and even adding snippets of fresh herbs, such as the French tarragon that is always looking for something to creep into…..

Italian Brioche w/ gouda, sausage

In-between my dough mixing and shaping, James took over the kitchen and used the mixer’s food grinder attachment to make an amazing tomato sauce. The food grinder is great, because you get all of the pulp and meat and juices of the tomato, while efficiently discarding the seeds and skin. We have almost all heirloom tomato plants, and the flavors of these tomatoes are out of this world. Describing a slice of Carbon uses similar language as describing wine… smokey, bold, strong finish. So when you mix all these robust, intense flavors together, and cook them down all afternoon, you have a sauce that literally sings to you. He also incorporated caramelized onions and banana peppers, plus some sauteed chicken tenders. As James put it: summer in a bowl. It was excellent.

homemade tomato sauce

So where’s dessert? Well, this is a good example of how mistakes happen – even to those of us who’ve been cooking and baking for over 30 years. We had leftover egg yolks, because earlier this week, James had made zucchini bread, and one of the most awesome ingredients he uses is candied nuts. He’d done both pecans and walnuts, and the candying process uses a bunch of egg whites. So, what to make with egg yolks? Well, certainly a custard comes to mind – and with the heat, why not ice cream? Sounded good to me. Some things you take for granted, some things you don’t think about, and sometimes, even when you’re standing right there at the stove, stirring your mixture of cream and sugar and eggs and bits of natural vanilla bean, you take your eyes off what you’re doing to talk to your spouse, and the next thing you know, you have bits of cooked egg separating rapidly from your liquid. Gah. I tried plunging it into a water bath, stirring madly, but there are chemical processes that just don’t reverse themselves. I pitched a fit, pissed-off with myself for forgetting how quickly chemistry can happen, and then had to decide what to do.

I decided to give it a try, anyway, because the flavor was amazing, and not eggy, but the big question was texture. I chilled the custard, then put it in my Krups machine that I’ve had for 20 years. And waited.
It never froze. I think it was the fact my custard was too warm, still. So what to do? This is when experience is a good thing, because it makes you more resourceful. Rather than focusing on the failure of ice cream, I focused on what was wrong with my dish, and what could I turn it into? I had it: Milkshakes. I strained the custard through a sieve, removing the bits of hardened egg proteins. Then I added frozen strawberries to the blender until it was completely full. I figured that if any of the egg had made it through the sieve, the texture would be masked by the presence of strawberries (and keep in mind, the mixture never scorched, and was utterly, vanilla-ey delicious, despite the overcooking.)

The result was stupendous. My husband declared it to be one of the top 5 milkshakes of his life.

What was leftover was poured into a dixie cup, popped in the freezer with a fork in it to make a makeshift ice cream bar. The texture on that might be a bit grainy, but at least we know it’ll taste good!

Now it’s Sunday, and I think I’d like to go out for brunch.

Ohhhh Rapiniiiiiiii You Are So Dreaaaammmmyyyyy

I love broccoli. A few years ago, the Wo planted broccoli Rabe and we snarfed it up. This year, he planted a Rapini variety called “Rapa Senza Testa”. Wellza, Weza Liked itz a Lotza!

It helps to like greens, and broccoli and spinach, if you’re going to cook with Rabe or Rapini.

Here are the cleaned leaves from the plant:
Rapini and Sausage Pasta

I picked a variety of leaves – some bigger and older, some were newer and greener. With the older leaves, I tore the leafy part into goodly-sized chunks, and avoided the stem, especially at the base. (That part can get tough.) I left more of the stem on with the younger shoots. Two plants yielded about 5 cups or so of the green stuff – and while that sounds like a lot, you will quickly see how it disappears when cooked!

I started with a big ol’ Vidalia onion, and sauteed it in olive oil until it was semi-soft. Then I added some minced garlic. (So as to not burn the garlic, since it takes a lot less time to cook.)
onions and garlic, mmmmm

Once everything’s soft and cooked, here comes the mound of Rapini:

Rapini and Sausage Pasta

Which quickly becomes this:

Rapini and Sausage Pasta

Meanwhile, a quick trip to Fritz’s yielded the protein in the dish (Sweet Italian Sausage Links):

Rapini and Sausage Pasta

Now, you can use a spicy sausage, and it doesn’t have to be in link form – you can cook it up with the onions, just drain off the fat. I’ve made similar dishes with spicy meat and it’s equally delicious. These links are pre-cooked, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking time. Just sliced them up into delicious rounds, and added them to the mixture.

Rapini and Sausage Pasta

I added freshly-ground pepper, and about a cup of water with a couple chicken bouillon cubes half-dissolved, and let it simmer. This is a brothy pasta topping, and since the bouillon already had plenty of salt, I didn’t add anything else. Since you’ve got a stronger component with the greens, balanced with the sweeter meat (or robustly complemented, if using a spicy version), you really don’t need a lot of herbs or other seasonings – of course if you want to throw in some basil, or something else, experiment away!

Spoon it over a nice curved-shape pasta – these were called “gnocchi” even though they were actually just a little fancier shell-shape. Trumpets, corkscrews, rigatoni – you want shape and the ability to grab a little extra juice. My photo got a little blurry, but you get the idea. Top it with some fancy Parmesan, or powdery, depending on what you did or did not remember to get at CostCo, pour yourself a nice cheerful white wine to keep it light, and savor the flavors!

Rapini and Sausage Pasta

In other gifts from the garden, here’s a shot of the stir fry I made the next night, with four days’ worth of snow pea harvesting:

Snowpea Stir Fry

And People Call Me Picky?

The Wo and I treated ourselves to a dinner out on Friday night. We went to one of our favorite local spots, Red Snapper, where the kimchi is homemade, and everything is delicious. Shortly after our appetizers came, a young couple was seated near us – well within earshot, and it was hard not to hear them as they ordered. The man ordered a tofu dish, and the woman began a long list of what she could/could not eat. We shared a waiter, and he was spot-on professional. She didn’t want peanuts, meat, rice noodles, eggs, seafood or dairy. She did want pad thai (?) but just the sauce, over buckwheat noodles. I puzzled over that order in my head, as many of her absolutely-not ingredients were, like, KEY to making a good pad thai!

Their food arrived. She indignantly told our waiter she did NOT want zucchini, she did NOT say it was ok to give her any kind of squash, WHAT were those peppers doing there, and back to the kitchen it went. Wo and I looked at each other and did that Vulcan mind meld thing, sending each other the “Whoa, wtf?” message. Our entrees arrived, and then shortly after that, our neighboring table’s re-do order came back. This time her voice rose, as it STILL contained vegetables she didn’t want. Our waiter ran over, dutifully listened to what she seemed to want, then ran it back to the kitchen again.

At this point, the Wo and I couldn’t look at each other because it would have been abundantly clear to our neighbors that we were a bit horrified by her.

I had the Spicy Calamari, by the way. Utterly delicious, and brought half of it home with me. JWo had the orange beef, and it was fantastic. We got a side of fried rice that filled an entire carryout container, despite both of us eating some with our meal.

Third time, here comes the dish de impossible. It looked like a pile of seaweed and noodles, but it was met with praise from its recipient. Finally! We kind of look at each other share that smirk of “WTH? Whew, that’s over.”

Oh no.

Two minutes later, she has waved our waiter back over.

“I don’t like the texture of this. It’s not what I expected it would be. What is that over there? (gesturing at our table)” and she proceeds to order some fried rice – but without egg. And, I believe, certain vegetables. We left before that order arrived. Who knows how many times that one went back.

When we got home, I called the manager, and told her that Philip not only was a fantastic waiter, but that they should do something extra for him tonight, like buy him a shot when his shift is over. She laughed and thanked me.  First of all, if you have serious-ass allergies or personal convictions about your food, Pan-Asian cuisine does not strike me as a great place to go for dinner. (All I could think about was how many dishes use fish sauce or shrimp paste!!!) And even then – Red Snapper is the kind of place that  would bend over backwards to make you a dish – just tell them what you can’t have/don’t like. But to make a waiter run back and forth for 20 minutes, and in a pretty condescending manner? I hate to think about how they tipped him.

Weekend Roundup

So far so good on the Diet Coke withdrawal. I had one zinging craving last week, and I told myself I was just thirsty. It seemed to work (consuming some water) and my caffeine dependency seems to be maintained by a couple cups of coffee/day.  I haven’t noticed any miraculous changes, sadly, and the sale ads for it still catch my eye – but like I said, so far so good!

We saw Alice in Wonderland yesterday – I loved it. I guess there have been a number of reviews that ding it for this or for that, but whatever. I literally adored the two books as a kid, and thought Tim Burton’s movie was a great tribute to the imagination those works inspired. The room where Alice finds the door key, the “Drink Me” bottle and “Eat Me” cake? was such a match for what I imagined as a child, it took my breath away. There was one dorky bit – a dance – that I thought was totally disjointed, but such a tiny fragment of the overall movie. And let me just say that those CineSuites are the BOMB. It was our second time going to them, and they really are a treat. We don’t go out a whole lot (frugality!) and we’ve contained our movie-viewing to our Netflix + Roku, and premium cable channels, but the suites are enjoyable. The service has been top-notch, we both feel like we’re getting a good value and the food is good. Plus free refills on popcorn and drinks! (And I went with iced tea…)

James has been a gardening and working machine this weekend – he’s planted the lettuce and spinach seedlings in the garden, plus some French Breakfast radishes and snow peas. And? He’s putting in a small deck at the foot of the small deck on the back of the house. I took a two-hour nap yesterday and he had torn out the mint bed, the straggly rose bush and had the deck half done!  Me, I’ve been knitting. 🙂

Speaking of knitting – I finished my first Wollmeise project as part of the Loopy Ewe Spring Fling KAL on Ravelry. I made WendyKnits’ Talisman shawl, out of a skein of Indisch Rot, and loved it. The pattern, the yarn – and I love blocking lace.

Talisman Shawl
Close up of the pattern:
Talisman Shawl

Because I finished the shawl before the end of the month, I knocked out the rest of my Drifted Pearls scarf (pictures to come). It’s very soft and cozy! Now I’m working on Hemlock Ring Blanket, published by Brooklyn Tweed, as part of the March KAL. Because I have several other things I need to knit (sample cables for the Knitting in the Heartland cable class, for one!) I am churning through this – on the fifth ball of yarn out of ten.

Today is for muddling in the kitchen, running some errands, and trying to finish some laundry. This week is going to be pretty busy, between work projects and life projects, and something tells me things are only going to get curiouser and curiouser…. as she smiles like the Cheshire cat…..

Say Goodbye to My Leetle Friend

Well, y’know, what with working part-time and being frugal (usually) and meal planning and going to the doctor and thinking about all the foods we eat, what’s processed, what’s over-processed, what’s delicious, what’s not,  I started to look at my Diet Coke addiction. Even diet sodas aren’t all they’re banged up to be, apparently, but I didn’t care when I was over-stressed and trying to get through the day at the Last Place. I drank a minimum of 4/day, and on exceptionally busy days, amped that up to 6-8. Telling myself it had no sugar and all the lovely, lovely caffeine was an easy justification.  I had done a mega-stock-up, shortly before my ‘downsizing’, and I started scaling back to a couple per day.  Then I went to the doctor, where I was informed that it wasn’t the best friend I’d hoped it would be. And I felt a shift in my mind, like maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to just start here. Phase out the Diet Coke. Insert water. I’m trying to wean myself from Splenda, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Because we also have a lot of Crystal Light hanging around the house, and I enjoy drinking that, too. Small steps. So today, I stop my regular dosing of Diet Coke. That’s not to say I won’t enjoy one if I’m out to lunch, or NEVER AGAIN will I drink Diet Coke. I just think one of the things I’ve learned/re-learned is how much better regular home-cooked foods and baked things taste, and as I get older, I’m thinking and asking myself more often, “What the hell’s in this?” (Years ago, somebody in this house bought some Hamburger Helper, and since I’m also on a mission to use UP stuff, we had that for dinner – with deer burger, I liked to call it “Venison Assistant” in my head.. anyway, omg, so salty. It fills you up b/c you’re drinking a gallon of water to balance out the sodium!)

But I’m not phasing out caffeine – I love coffee, always have, and that is my regular morning routine (even when I was slamming the Diet Cokes!) I think it’s safe to say I’ve cut back on my dependency – of recent weeks, my daily consumption was a cup of coffee and 1-2 Diet Cokes  – but I’m going to have to incorporate some extra coffee or black teas into the routine now – the withdrawal headaches are a total bitch.

So, Diet Coke, thanks for all you’ve done for me. I’ve got quite a few Coke Rewards points thanks to our years together, so once I’ve entered them all in, I know we’ll have a farewell gift to always remember you by…..

Oatmeal Rediscovered

I am pretty much done with those little pulverized packets of instant oatmeal. (Maybe in a pinch or crisis…) But people eat it because it’s quick, convenient, foolproof and it comes in a bunch of flavors.  And there’s lots of health benefits touted about oatmeal, so we all know it’s good for you, good for your heart and treating cholesterol, and yet if you’re like me, you think of home-cooked oatmeal as a gloppy sticky mass, made only slightly more palatable by a splash of milk and some brown sugar.

Then, on one of my social networks, I kept seeing chatter about “Baked Oatmeal”.  Reviewing several recipes, I decided to give it a whirl – following the recipe but throwing in some extras. This is the recipe I used (discussion on modifications shortly).  I skipped the raisins, threw in some pecans and dried cranberries, put it all in the oven, and waited. Lordy, friends, it only took one batch to make me an instant convert. This is definitely different from dry dusty packets, and it’s a step up from stovetop oatmeal.

Things to consider, starting with the oats. This recipe calls for the quick-cook oats, which will work, and will give you a very smooth-textured end result. That’s alright, but for my taste, I don’t want smooth, it reminds me too much of my lesser-ideal oatmeal dishes.  So I crank up the texture (and fiber)  and what I usually create a mixture of various oats: a cup or so of quick oats, a cup or so of Irish oatmeal/regular oats, and a cup or so of steel-cut oats or my favorite, Bob’s Red Mill 5-Grain Rolled Cereal, which is a wonderful blend including oats, flaxseed, barley and rye.  (I looove all the Bob’s Red Mill line – all the specialty flours and grains you need!) Today’s batch was quick oats, regular oats, steel-cut oats and a handful of flaxseed. I then added about a half-cup of chopped dried apricots, a quarter cup of apricot preserves, and 3/4 of a cup of walnuts that I’d rough-chopped and toasted on the stove with a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. De-lish.  Other adjustments: substitute applesauce for most or all of the oil, and I have used milk powder and water instead of regular milk. (Confession: I’ve also used half-and-half and butter.) I’ve used Splenda in place of the sugar, but I’ve also used brown sugar in varying amounts every time. The nice thing about this sort of recipe is that it’s very accommodating and forgiving. I always use the eggs and the baking powder, but I’ve sometimes added more oats and had a drier mixture going in to the oven – other times it’s been pretty wet and has come out moist. Either way it’s really delicious hot with some milk poured on top, and it reheats beautifully. It’s a great weekend dish, but you can also make it the night before, leave it in the fridge and bake it in the morning. It’s filling, it keeps you full all morning, and it has lots of good fiber. It’s also a nice recipe for those of you who tend to follow every recipe to the letter, and you want to break free and experiment a bit – just keep your wet ratios in line with your dry, and try a variety of dried fruits, nuts and seeds. It’s like fun birdseed for people!

An Extra-Special Christmas Tongue-Twister

My niece Danielle got one of those ‘knot-yourself-a-quilt’ kits for Christmas. She’s quite crafty (and an amazing crocheter), so she got it out of the box yesterday evening and started to work on it next to me at the dining room table. (I was drinking Irish cream liqueur and knitting.) Once she got two squares together, she put it down and complained that it looked bad and wasn’t working. I took a look at it, and realized she needed to make two square knots, not one, in order to get the pieces to stay together.  My mind was moving faster than my mouth, and instead of telling her she needs to knot it twice, out of my mouth came, “You need to twot it.” And I’m leaving the spelling just like that, but it sure sounded like there was an “a” in there instead of an “o”, thanks to the Chicago-esque vowel-flattening I inherited from my dad. And I looked across the table at James, and to my right, at Momma Linda, and all three of us burst into laughter, so then our niece started laughing (she’s 10) and said, “TWOT! ha ha!”…. much to my mortification. We immediately told her not to say it, and that what Auntie Jen MEANT was two knots, but somehow by the next day, the large bottle of  St. Brendan’s Irish Cream Liqueur had been renamed “Twot Juice”.

What can I say? I like to make the holidays special, however I can.

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