Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

Tonight we made this Shepherd's Pie recipe that I spotted on the BBC Good Food website. I liked it because it was vegetarian with a lentil based filling and it was made with sweet potato topping rather than white potato. It was really healthy and turned out delicious! I did not follow the recipe exactly. There were not enough flavoring ingredients in it. I mean, it had no garlic! I rarely make any savory type of dish without garlic, and I added 4 cloves to this one.

I was out of canned diced tomatoes, so I omitted them altogether. I had no red wine and omitted that, though it would have been a fine addition. I added a little bag of fresh English peas (six guesses who suggested that!). To punch up the taste, I put 2 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, some worcestershire sauce and some smoked spanish paprika, my new obsession.

I must stop and rhapsodize about smoked Spanish paprika. Andy brought some home this weekend. He made a roasted red bell pepper soup on Saturday seasoned with the paprika. Oh. My. God. I am hooked on that stuff! Go and buy some and do it now. You'll have to search a little, but an upscale grocer or a snooty spice shop will have a good quality one. I promise, you will be hooked.

Anyway, the shepherd's pie was comforting and delicious. I will probably make it again, and the main thing I will do differently is bake the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them. Boiling them makes them much too moist. They just don't firm up enough on the top layer of the pie. They tasted great but they were too loosey goosey. The recipe yields an enormous dish--it says that it serves 4, but you could definitely spread it to 6 if you served it with something else on the side, like steamed broccoli or green beans or salad. Of course, Mr. Cleveland and I just ate a fourth of the huge casserole each! I'm sure I will enjoy the leftovers for my lunch!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Trip to a Foreign Land

This morning, I set my watch alarm for 4:30 and my cell phone alarm for 4:45 just to make sure that I didn't oversleep. I had to leave my house at 5:30 a.m. to make it to Ashburn, VA by 8:30 a.m. Ashburn is a new tour stop for our company, and I drove up to house manage the performances and generally introduce us and make nice. We performed at this mammoth mega-church that has a school in it as well. The people at the church/school were incredibly gracious and glad to have us there. "Church" is not an apt word to describe this place. Maybe "multiplex" or perhaps "Testament to Uber-Tithing."

Good heavens, can you imagine a world where nonprofit arts organizations were lucky enough to reap the benefits of that level of tithing?

Also, I just couldn't help noticing the lack--and I mean true complete absence--of Obama signs as I drove on the secondary highways deeper and deeper into the Washington DC suburbs. I was unaware of the DC suburbs being so conservative. I had heard people talk about it, but seeing it for myself was jarring. It's the polar opposite of my blue collar middle class neighborhood in Richmond's south side.

This day served to remind me of what a historical election I am about to be a part of. I've already scheduled the following day as a vacay day. I figure either way I'm going to be up all night watching the returns and drinking wine!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

School Daze

I am just the biggest blogging slacker there is these days, and I humbly apologize. You see, I have been very busy with big important projects, such as creating pretty portraits like these on

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Congratulations, Chase Kniffen!

I absolutely did not feel like leaving my house tonight. My shoulder ached and I was still tired from going out last night--waaaahhhh, waaaahhh, waaaahhh. Yes. I'm a baby.

But I bought a ticket to the "Ragtime" benefit tonight for Stage 1, the new theatre company started by Chase Kniffen. Now, I have known Chase since he was 10 and played my weak, invalid son in ""The Secret Garden" at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. He was this impossibly healthy looking little boy with the requisite West End haircut. What a treasure he was, entertaining us endlessly in the green room with his antics. We have loved him ever since, and could not have been more proud of him tonight!

Because Chase is so well liked in the theatre community, he was able to summon a huge chorus and principal singers comprised of the cream of the crop of Richmond theatre. Not to mention a full orchestra. They had 3 rehearsals. Chase came out and gave a curtain speech like he'd been doing it for 20 years. Then the concert began, and it was moving and thrilling and amazing!

I was so proud of him, and I can't wait to see what's next for Stage 1.