Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Hollandaise, Everybody!

Hello. I've missed you. I'm hoping that corny title will score some points with my readers, as I have been a total blogging slacker lately. It's not that I'm lazy; It's Facebook's fault, dammit! That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

I made the classic heart attack on a plate for my parents yesterday. Eggs Benedict is absolutely my favorite brunch. It's a nutritional catastrophe, but so delicious. Mom and Dad polished it off with wild abandon.

From Wikipedia:
"Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of butter and lemon juice or vinegar using egg yolks as the emulsifying agent, usually seasoned with salt and a little white pepper or cayenne pepper. It is a French sauce, so named because it was believed to have mimicked a Dutch sauce for the state visit of the King of the Netherlands."

Though it may be caloric and artery clogging, it is a gorgeous and delicious sauce. It tastes light and heavy at the same time. The lemon hits you first, then you get the richness of the butter and egg. A few tablespoons a year won't hurt you too much, right?

I use a recipe from my mom's Betty Crocker cookbook from 1956. It is a gem of a cookbook, replete with those old illustrations of happy caucasian housewives and their satisfied, business-suited caucasian husbands.

Hollandaise has a bad rep as a difficult sauce, and many of you are afraid of screwing it up. I think this method is a great one that has always ended up successful, at least with me. The trick, I believe, is adding the very cold butter. This keeps the sauce from cooking too hot, thus curdling it.

This makes 1 cup of sauce. First, get a double boiler going on the stove. If you don't own one (I do not) just place a little sauce pan in a bigger saucepan filled with simmering water. Barely whisk 2 egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Put this in the double boiler. Add a half stick of very cold unsalted butter and stir gently but constantly. When the butter has melted, add the other half stick. As you continue to stir the butter in, the sauce will thicken. I like a thick, but pourable viscosity.
I love the word viscosity.

If you aren't using the sauce immediately, keep it in the double boiler, but turn the heat off and cover it. Give it a little whisk to re-emulsify right before you serve it.

Egg yolk, butter and lemon are all I put in my hollandaise. Wkipedia says you can season it with other stuff, but I find it to be perfectly tasty with just those 3 ingredients.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sesame Noodles

I recently had sesame noodles from a downtown lunch cart and I really enjoyed them, but I thought I could tweak the noodles to make me like them even more. I just made a pound of whole wheat fettucine yesterday, so I had this lovely fresh pasta to start with. The whole thing took me an hour to knock together and eat. I made a spicy dressing which involved no cooking, and tossed it with sliced scallions and toasted cashews. Here's what I put in it:

One pound (16oz.) of cooked pasta, cooled and drained
1/2 cup of toasted peanuts or cashews
1 bunch of scallions, sliced


1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 1/2 " piece of ginger root, finely grated

My method was very easy. While the pasta water came to boiling, I toasted the nuts and sliced the scallions. I whisked the sauce ingredients together, then threw the noodles in to cook. When the noodles were drained and cooled, I tossed everything together until it was all nicely incorporated. And that is all there is to it. It was dead tasty! I can imagine this with any number of raw veggies added in. Things like snowpeas and cucumbers come to mind. Tofu would be good too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

White Bean Hummous

One of my fave lunch spots near my office is Chez Foushee. I don't know how long they have been there at Grace and Foushee Streets--I know it's as long as I have worked at Theatre IV at least, which is 12 years. It is a charming little restaurant with a menu that is just right. Not too many or too few choices and really fresh, imaginative yet comfy food. They offer this white bean hummous sandwich that I am totally in love with.

I have made tons of hummous with chickpeas, but I love the lightness of white bean hummous. This is the version I made today:

1 14 ounce can of cannellini beans, thoroughly rinsed
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
juice of a small lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
ground black pepper
pinch of dried crushed red chili
about 2 tablespoons water

I just blended this in a food processor until it was super smooth. The water thins it out enough that it seems to get some fluffiness whipped into it. It is so delicious!

I ate it on a sandwich with sundried tomato pesto, spinach, bell pepper, carrot, and purple onion.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Daily Bread

This basic bread is so easy. I don't actually make it "daily" but I certainly could. It's that low maintenance.
This is a spinoff of the uber-popular no-knead bread that Mark Bittman wrote about in the NY Times. This recipe, originally from Sullivan Street Bakery, was an internet sensation. I later found a bunch of modified versions of it, and I have even modified it more on my own. It's gotten easier with each incarnation.

Here's what I do. Before I leave for work in the morning, I mix 2 cups of unbleached white bread flour or all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in a large bowl. I add a scant cup of lukewarm water and mix with my hand until it becomes a cohesive misshapen ball of dough. This takes maybe 2 minutes, tops. Just mix with your hands until all the loose flour is worked in. Then, drizzle a bit of oil on this dough blob, coat the blob with the oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm (about 70 degrees) place.

Go to work and do your best to act like a grownup.

When you get home, you will see the blob has at least doubled in size! It will have lots of bubbles in it. Take a baking sheet and sprinkle it liberally with flour. Turn the dough out of the bowl and onto the sheet. The dough will de-gas and shrink as you coax it out of the bowl--this is okay. It needs to rise again and that will happen next. With a very gentle touch, coax the dough into an approximate loaf shape, making sure it gets coated in flour. Cover with plastic and let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours or so.

This is when you can make soup. Well, at least that's what I did today!

Put the bread into a 400 degree preheated oven and bake it for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is nice and brown and crispy looking.

Red Lentil Soup

Today was a perfect fall day and that makes me want to bake bread and make soup!
While the bread was baking, I concocted a spicy red lentil soup tonight. Split red lentils are a staple in our kitchen. They're a beautiful coral color and very tiny, and they cook quickly and just sort of melt into the mix, giving a thick velvety consistency. Don't spill them on your kitchen floor. You will still be picking them up a decade after the actual spill.

Here's what I used:

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
3 tablespoons of red curry paste
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup dried split red lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
1 small peeled and diced sweet potato
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons red chili powder or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onion until soft. Add the fenugreek and cumin and give it another minute. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and curry paste and swish that around for a couple minutes, until you can really smell the flavors intensifying. Add the veg broth, lentils, sweet potato, cilantro and coconut milk. Finally, add the nutmeg and red chili powder. Simmer partially covered on low heat until the lentils are so tender you can't really find them anymore, and the sweet potato is soft. Blend with an immersion blender until mostly smooth with just a few chunks for texture.
If you don't have an immersion blender, for the love of Darwin, get thee to Target and buy one. Alternatively, just get in there with a whisk and puree it a little.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

I was too lazy to do this tonight, but a sprinkle of chopped fresh mint, stolen from Joe and Debra's yard, would make a perfect garnish for this soup.

I ate the lovely soup with fresh warm slices of bread and (vegan) butter. If you are avoiding dairy and miss the taste of butter, I highly recommend Earth Balance spread. It contains no dairy, but it is just as tasty as butter. You can cook with it, too.

I thought about taking pictures, but this soup eats better than it photographs!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Homemade Vegan Pasta

I'm sure I've mentioned how I love my pasta roller. It is the rock bottom model, at about 60 bucks at any snooty kitchen store. I didn't know this when I bought it, but all the pasta making afficionados will tell you that the plain old simple, hand-cranked machine is the best one to get. So Yay Me! Every once in a while I screw up and do something right. I have an Atlas brand machine, and it is made of very weighty shiny steel. You don't even have to wash it when you're finished using it--you just wipe it with a dry cotton towel.

I wanted to try my hand at vegan pasta today. I found this recipe by Bryanna Clark Grogan on the internet. I loved the simplicity of it--it only called for 3 ingredients: Unbleached white flour, chickpea flour, and water. If you are stumped as to where you would find chickpea flour, have no fear. Go to any Indian grocery and you will easily find it. It also might be labeled by its Indian name, Besan.

Apparently, chickpea flour has proteins, fats and lecethin that act as tenderizers in the dough, the same way eggs would if you were using them. I was very pleased with the dough, and it went through the machine just as smoothly as non-vegan dough does.

We are going to eat the pasta with some roasted and sauteed veggies for a light dinner. Between now and then, I have to get gussied up so I can go sing some songs at a fundraising party for Henley Street Theatre Company.

I may post a pic of the finished dish when I get home tonight. We'll see if it turns out purty enough!

Update: YUM.. Roasted grape tomatoes, red bell peppers and garlic cloves. Sauteed red onion, courgette (that's the posh name for zucchini, which is the posh name for summer squash) and spinach. The homemade pasta cooked in just a minute or so, then we drained it and tossed everything together. We finished it off with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper and sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Mwaahh!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


We are returning to our vegan status once again. We have strayed into lacto-ovo territory for quite a while now, and we have even dipped our toes in a bit of bacon and sausage in the last year. But the truth is, we both feel a whole lot better when we stick to eating plants.

When we turned vegan, we did it cold turkey (or should I say cold tofurkey? Ha ha. I slay me.) We went from full carnivore to vegan, not in stages. That may sound dreadful to some of you, but we enjoyed it and saw it as a culinary challenge. We expanded our repertoire dramatically and really grew and developed as cooks.

I also recall feeling better almost immediately. My guts suddenly worked perfectly with no heartburn or indigestion, and my allergy symptoms were 90% gone within about 2 weeks. So plan on seeing some new stuff on this blog as I rededicate myself to plants!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yum. Yum. Darling.

We had a couple friends over for brunch today and I made these cute little muffins. I found the recipe in a gorgeous cookbook by Rose Elliot called Veggie Chic. They're mini feta and sundried tomato muffins, and they were the perfect little compliment to the spinach frittata and fruit salad that we made!

2 T olive oil
1 egg
2 T sundried tomato pesto
2 T water
1 cup all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
8 oz. feta cheese, tiny diced
8 sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
4 T chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a mini muffin pan with nonstick spray and set aside. Whisk together the olive oil, egg, tomato pesto and water. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl and mix in the feta, sundried tomatoes, basil, and some salt and pepper. Make a well in the center of that and tip the egg/oil mixture into it. Stir this until it is just combined--don't over mix it. Spoon into the muffin tins and fill them well. I seemed to have extra batter and ended up baking 18 muffins. The recipe said to bake them for 10 minutes, but I ended up baking them for more like 20 minutes. They smell incredible when they're baking! Great little nibbles to serve with your brekkie or to take to a party!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pasta a la Carbonara

Pasta a la carbonara is a sumptuous, sinful dish, and it is pretty easy to make. You can knock it together in 15 or 20 minutes, it will impress your friends and probably will fill their arteries with gunk! And oddly, they will love you for it. I recommend not skimping on the ingredients. Cheap parmesan and less-than-heavy cream and Fakin' Bacon do not cut it in this dish! Use really good quality parmesan that's fresh, and grate it yourself. The same goes for the pork--a nice quality pancetta or good center cut bacon.

Man, I sound like such a Bossy-Boots!

This dish is especially quick and yummy with fresh pasta, but dried pasta works very nicely too. Here are the ingredients for enough to serve 4 people:

16 ounces of fettucini or linguini
8 slices of bacon or pancetta
1 cup of heavy cream
6 ounces of very finely shredded parmesan
2 egg yolks
fresh ground pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup of peas (optional)

First, get the pasta water boiling. Then, in a big frying pan with tallish sides, cut up the slices of pork into about 1/2" squares and toss them in the pan to cook. I used a center cut bacon last time and it rendered a surprisingly low amount of fat. But fear not, there will be no shortage of fat in the dish! Once the pork has gotten well cooked (but not dry and crumbly!) remove all but about a tablespoon of the rendered fat. Turn the heat off--the pan is still going to remain pretty hot. Stir in about a cup of heavy cream, then the shredded parmesan and keep this mixture warm, but not sizzling hot.

Time to put the pasta in to cook. If it's fresh it won't take more than a couple of minutes. If you are adding peas, toss those in with the pasta to blanch. I don't think this dish has peas traditionally, but if you live with Andy Cleveland you put peas in just about everything.

When your pasta is practically done, whisk 2 egg yolks into the bacon-cream-parm mixture. Make sure it's warm, not boiling hot, and keep it moving so the egg yolks get incorporated. Drain and toss the hot pasta into the sauce, tossing to thoroughly coat it. The hot pasta also finishes cooking the egg yolk. What you end up with is a fairly thick sauce that really sticks to the noodles.

Transfer the pasta onto plates and garnish generously with fresh cracked pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Stop and notice how pretty it looks.

Your guests will get really quiet when they take the first bite. Then you will see eyes rolling back into sockets and you will hear groaning. Lots of groaning. Don't worry! This is all good. It just means the carbonara tastes so divine that there are no words.

If you decide to round out the meal with a salad, keep it really simple and light. Same goes for dessert--something light and fruity. Otherwise you'll have to remove your dinner guests with a crane.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Now That's More Like It!

I have tried to embrace the green drink. Try as I have, I can't quite like it. The best I have been able to make it is "almost palatable." So let me share another green drink with you that is sure to make you smile. Sure to make you sit on the floor if you drink it too fast!

Janine's Frozen Margarita

Ingredient list:
1 can limeade concentrate
Triple Sec or Cointreau

In a blender, dump the whole cylinder of frozen limeade concentrate
Fill the empty limeade container with tequila and dump it in.
Fill it again halfway with triple sec or cointreau. Dump it in.
Optional-dump in a half-cylinder of any special flavoring, such as strawberries or peaches. Otherwise skip this bit.
Now blend this mixture until it is sssmooooove.

This is your Master Mix. Pour it in a pitcher and set aside.

Now, fill your blender with ice. Pour enough master mix over the ice to cover it. Blend the living daylights out of this mixture until it is a smooth velvety boozy pitcher of perfection. Feed to those you love and prepare to have overnight guests.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kitty in the Bag

I'm learning how to post video. Let's see if this works.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Detoxing a la Dr. Oz

I feel the need for a cleansing and refreshing smoothie-type addition to my regime.
Wait...Does over-consumption of bad carbs and cheese and butter and cream and wine constitute a regime?

I really want to up, up, up the amount of raw food in my diet.

I'm going to begin and end each day by drinking a great big glass of Dr. Oz's Green Drink. It's a totally vegan raw, very pulpy juice made of:

handful of parsley
2 handfuls of spinach
stick of celery
2 apples
juice of a lemon
1/2" piece of peeled ginger root
1 cucumber
spring water to help liquefy

I don't have a juicer, so I use the blender. It makes a very pulpy drink (yes, I know I said "pulpy" twice. That's just how pulpy it is) with a taste that I hope will become acquired soon. It's teeming with vitamins and fiber-chocked goodness. You're allowed to switch up the ingredients a little to suit your taste. When I make tomorrow's batch I'm going to substitute one of the apples for a nice ripe peach to add a little more sweetness.

I will resist the temptation to add champagne to it. Well, maybe just on Sundays...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

There's Something About Boys Called Jack

This is Jack. He's seven, and he has been at Stage Explorers Camp for the last 2 weeks. Just look at that little face.

Jack and I have become thick as thieves. We sit and talk at length about survival in the wild. At Jack's insistence, every day we are different animals. Today we were gorillas. Yesterday we were penguins. Tuesday it was hawks. We talk about what we'll eat, how we'll find our food, and how we will protect ourselves from predators.

Jack's probably not who you'd peg as the teacher's pet, but for some reason he has stolen my heart. As imperfect as he is, he is absolutely perfect. I think Jack will have some significant challenges as he grows up, especially in school. If you happen to meet him, give him a chance to be your friend. You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stage Explorers 2009!

I'm in my fourth of six weeks of Stage Explorers Summer Camp at work. I am so partial to this particular group of kids! They are so focused and attentive and sweet. I officially love them. We did "Head Shots" this week. Some turned out better than others. Here are some really great ones.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How Can I Not Comment

...on Michael Jackson's passing today?

I was standing in line at a Ukrop's checkoout a couple of years ago. There were these two VCU-student-types in back of me, looking at tabloids, and they were saying, "Michael Jackson. He is so weird. Was he ever any good?" And I promptly turned around to face them squarely, and I said "He was fabulous." And he really was. Put aside the controversy, the surgeries, the weirdness. He was simply so bloody gifted. Poor kid--his gift deprived him of anything resembling a childhood.

My first album, played on my little plastic stereo from Sears, was ABC by The Jackson 5. I will never tire of that recording.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Greek Beans with a Chipotle Twist

Andy and I have been experimenting with dishes that meld diverse cultures together. Last weekend, he created an amazing cauliflower in a red sauce that was spiced with Indian flavors. Kind of an India meets Italy thing. He has named this new sauce Maharaja-nara sauce. Isn't he a clever-clogs? I hope to blog about maharajanara sauce soon. I hope he can remember how he made it!

Yesterday I was in my favorite little Greek food store--Nick's Produce on West Broad--and bought a pound of gigantes. Gigantes are huge white beans with a creamy, beautiful texture. After they have soaked overnight, they're even more freakishly huge.

I was going to make the beans the traditional greek way (delicious!) but this recipe from 101 Cookbooks caught my eye. I love the smoky hot flavor of chipotle, and this just sang to me. Giant white beans, baked with greens in a chipotle tomato sauce with queso fresco crumbled on top, served with a scattering of toasted whole wheat bread crumbs and drizzled with a cilantro pesto. Oh yes. Come to Janine.

It was a pretty easy recipe to knock together. While the beans are cooking, you make sauce and pesto. The chipotles in adobo sauce and the queso fresco are really easy to find if your grocery store has a hispanic section. The chipotles come in a little can, and the queso fresco usually is with the Mexican cheeses and is shaped like a little wheel. It is firm and crumbly with a light, slightly salty taste. Feta could be used as a substitute.

The bread crumbs are nice and crunchy because they're toasted in a skillet with olive oil. The pesto is a very liquid consistency and could be made in a blender. I used a hand blender in a coffee cup! Instead of chopping up fresh greens, I used frozen collards. They worked great!

I sat outside with Maggie and a Negra Modelo, watching birds while the beans baked.

This is what it looked like right out of the oven.

And here it is, served with a side of brown rice. I think it's a really pretty dish!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Junk Food Junkie Antidote!

I grew up on crap food, and I freely admit that I loved it.

Every once in a while I'll drive past a Burger King or a McDonald's or Hardeee's and I will almost get sucked in by that comforting greasy smell. The smell that is exactly the same, whether you are in Richmond, Paris, London, or Singapore.

Next time you feel a binge coming on, go to a website called This is Why You're Fat. This website is a photo gallery of the most excessive, cholesterol laden, ridiculously overindulgent and thoroughly disgusting dishes ever created. Scroll down through one hideous dish after the next, and you will soon find yourself feeling queasy and yearning for something fresh and plant-like. If this website should happen to make you salivate and feel ravenously hungry, please seek counseling and/or incarceration immediately.

This example is called The Sandwich of Knowledge. "The bottom tier contains eight strips of bacon, six sausages and four burger paddies; followed by a second tier of black pudding; topped by a third tier comprised of two diced chicken breasts and six fried eggs."

Now, knowledge of what, I don't know. Maybe the knowledge that you are going to die of a massive heart attack while sitting on the terlet with your drawers around your ankles.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Greens. The Other White Meat.

I wanted something flavorful, but super healthy for our dinner tonight. We have this wonderful cookbook called 660 Curries, which I think would be a hilarious gag gift for Jill Bari Steinberg, but that's another post for another day. This book is great if you have an over-abundance of something and need a recipe to use it up. There are just so damn many recipes in the book. The guy who wrote it said he called it 660 Curries because he meant to make it 1001 and just ran out of steam at 660!

This vegan dish is a main dish for us, but maybe a side for a carnivore. I just served it with brown rice, and it was very spicy and delicious, but light. And packed with nutrition! Loads of fiber and vitamins and stuff. In fact, it has 100% of the daily requirement of Stuff. It would also make a really nice side dish for a meat entree. It's a quick fix, and here's how I made it:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 T canola oil
1 t cumin seeds
a puree of 10 garlic cloves, 2"piece of ginger root and 4 hot green chillies
1 pound of fresh spinach, stems removed and rough chopped
1 pound of fresh collard greens or mustard greens, stems and spines removed, rough chopped
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1.5 t garam masala
salt to taste

Saute the onion until it's very done. If you wish, you can add the salt right now--it will help the onions leech moisture and caramelize. Then, add the cumin seeds and fry them until they smell nutty, about 20 seconds. Add the garlic-ginger-chilli paste and swish it around until it colors a bit, about a minute. If it starts to stick to the pan, deglaze with a little water. Now add the greens a handful at a time, and cover between handfuls so they'll wilt. When you have added all the greens and they've wilted down enough, add the can of tomato with the juice. Let that heat through, then add the garam masala. Add more salt if you think it needs it. If it looks too watery, just cook uncovered until some of the water evaporates. Last but not least, and this is optional, give it a whiz with a hand blender. I just did a partial puree because I like the occasional chunks.

I served this with brown rice, but I think it would be lovely with couscous, too! The flavor is very spicy! If you are a wimp, cut down on the hot chillies.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sleepy Old Girl

Gilda is the first kitty I had all to myself. I got her for my 39th birthday from Robyn O'Neill. She was a squirrely little kitten with a short stump where her tail ought to be. I was going through a divorce, living alone, feeling ungrounded, and I am forever grateful that my dear friend recognized that I needed a cat to come home to. I named her Gilda, and she slept in a little pile on my chest the first night she spent in my apartment.

She's 11 now, and officially elderly, but she is really very spry and still lots of fun. I'm pretty sure she spends most of her day sleeping on my bed when I'm at work. She is highly skilled at napping, looking fetching while napping, and displaying her mouthful of teeth with a big yawn.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sally Bell's Kitchen

Have you ever had a Sally Bell's box lunch?

Sally Bell's Kitchen is a Richmond institution. I'm thinking most of you are familiar with this incredibly charming little shop, but just in case you aren't, visit their website!

Yes, Sally Bell's is one of Richmond's shining examples of women's entrepreneurship with a fantastic story that began in 1924. But really, for me, it's the aesthetic aspect of the whole thing. There is no better place to buy a box lunch in Richmond.

Sally Bell's box lunch consists of a sandwich (today it was cream cheese and nut--so delicious), a deviled egg half, a light flaky little cheese cookie with a pecan in the center, a little cup of potato salad--the best I know of, and a cupcake frosted upside down.

I am totally sucked in by the packaging. The darling little box with the logo on top and the black and white checkered tissue paper lining it. It's a compact box, filled with all homemade goodness. I mean sure, they could throw it in a plastic container in a plastic bag like everybody else does, but instead you are handed this little package with cotton string tied to secure it. It's like ordering lunch and being handed a present!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

I feel like I have been on the arugula channel this weekend--all arugula, all the time! But I still had a huge bunch of it to use up, and I found this fabulous recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa). It came together very easily and it was delicious. Mine looked just like the picture, which is actually from a lovely blog called Sweet and Saucy. Don't let the healthy vegetables fool you--they're swirling around in a heavy cream, lemon and parmesan sauce. We really loved it!

Support Our Local Growers and Artists!

I found a ceramics artist at the farmers market yesterday who had the most beautiful stuff for sale! Her name is Jane Fencher Hendley and she has a booth at the Saturday market in Forest Hill Park. Go visit her! You will love her work, and Mothers Day is right around the corner. Her website is

This is the beautiful bowl I bought. I was going to send it to my mom, but I am having second thoughts now. Impure thoughts of keeping it for myself!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Smells Good. Looks Ugly.

The last couple of loaves of whole wheat bread I've baked have done this:

The strange thing is that the dough rises up very nicely, then it seems to sink back down during baking. WTF?? It's not like I'm banging pots and pans and slamming the oven door. I'm being very gentle and it's NOT WORKING. It smells and tastes good, but it looks like a damn brick.

Any bread people out there? This doesn't happen when I use all white flour, by the way. Only when I do part whole wheat. This loaf has 1/3 whole wheat flour.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This Happened Ages Ago, But I Loved It.

Way back in the mid 90's, when I worked as a bank teller at NationsBank at 6th and Grace, I regularly waited on this old, sort of crusty customer--I can't remember his name but he was 70-ish, sharp, trim and impeccably attired. He wasn't grumpy or mean, just not a fan of small talk, usually.

I was surprised one day when he informed me that he was "in the market" to begin dating, as his wife had long been in a facility after some years of living with Alzheimer's.

He pulled his wallet out of a pocket and flipped it open to show me a very worn-looking picture of a lovely woman with glossy, wavy hair and big, expressive dark eyes. It was a picture she had sent him when he was a soldier in WWII. He told me the picture was taken of her while she was writing a letter to him.

I remarked at how beautiful she was, and he agreed. He then commented that his wife no longer knew who he was, which made me so sad. I remarked about how beautiful she'd been and how lucky he must have felt to have her as his wife.

He agreed, and added that "She was magnificent."

After more than 10 years, I can still hear him saying "Magnificent."

What a lovely thing to say about somebody who doesn't even know who you are anymore.

Thursday, April 23, 2009 it!

I have discovered Well, Andy Cleveland really discovered it and told me about it.

Anyway, it's a great website that searches tons of other websites for recipes. The really nice thing is that you can use all kinds of different filters to narrow your search and you can search by ingredient, type of cuisine, special diet restrictions, methods/ techniques and length of prep time. You can save recipes in a recipe box.

How cool is that? This is going to be my new go-to place for recipes until the geniuses come up with something better. I constantly would find myself going to 20 different food sites for a recipe. Now I can just see all of them in one place. I call that excellent!

You have to register for this one. Now, I don't want to hear any whining about how you don't want to register. Just suck it up and register. Geez.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

England Pix

I know, we've been back for a week and no posts.
Here are some pix of our trip. We had a great time, as always.

Gardens at Chatsworth, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Yep, they insisted we come for tea.

Here we are leaving the house and heading towards the gardens. What a dump!

These are all pictures of the charming little park right across from the house Andy grew up in. His parents still live there, and they love it. Who wouldn't? Look how lovely!

The excursion to Brighton was a bit of a bust. We were so weary, after being up for 24+ hours, we would have been better off lounging in a hotel room. We were cranky and squabbly and I was even a bit weepy at one dark moment. Brighton was really quite charming--I just wish my state of mind had been as charming. We did finally find solace in a pub. We sat by the window, which overlooked a bus stop, and we got toasted and made jokes about all the rough looking women passing by.

Highlights of the trip included a 5-hour fantastic tune session at Sandy Bell's Pub in Edinburgh (Andy played his butt off and was every bit as good as the regulars), visiting Edinburgh Castle and Chatsworth. I like a nice castle, don't you?

I also must confess that I had sausage no less than 4 times and a beef pie once. It was mostly delicious, namely the Epworth sausages (made by a butcher in Andy's mom's home village) and a gorgeous beef pie at this charming pub. It was the house specialty, and it was really good! It didn't even give me a meat hangover.

Andy had lots of fish and chips, but I just had chips. Needless to say, I have returned feeling like a frigging zeppelin.

I can't wait to get back to cooking!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Off to England Soon!

It's that time of year again. It's almost England.

We leave on Thursday for our yearly family visit. This year, we are adding a little excursion to the front end of our trip and spending a couple of nights in Edinburgh before we go to Scunthorpe where Andy's family is.

We thought we were so clever when we booked a 9 o'clock flight on Friday morning to Edinburgh. Turns out we actually booked the flight for 9 PM. Now we have something like 14 hours to kill before flying from London to Edinbugh. Crap!

Do we hang around Gatwick Airport for the whole day? Do we get a hotel near the airport and hang there all day? Do we try to exchange the tix for an earlier flight? Actually, the answer to that last question is no, we tried that.

The plan is to hop on a train and go to Brighton for the day. It's a 25 minute train ride and 8 pounds for a round trip ticket. We'll be tired, having been up for hours, but we'll be wired as we usually are that first day.

That is called making lemonade out of idiot juice.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Vietnamese Inspired Noodle Bowl

I first had this dish at Mekong, one of my favorite restaurants in Richmond. They usually make it with pork or shrimp or tofu and cut up spring rolls. I do a vegan version and serve it with peanut sauce rather than the traditional fish sauce. My Janine twist on this is the addition of tart apple cut into matchsticks. It looks pretty, tastes fresh and smacky and goes great with peanut.

Most of this dish is prep work. There's very little actual cooking, except a few seconds to cook the rice noodles and the making of the peanut sauce.

I make the sauce first.

In a small saucepan, heat up a cup of vegetable broth. Add 3 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of molasses, 2 tablespoons of rice or cider vinegar, pureed garlic and pureed ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. If you do not have to worry about sodium, use soy sauce instead of molasses. Heat all this stuff until the peanut butter's all melted and everything's incorporated. Then take a little of the mixture out, dissolve a couple teaspoons of cornstarch in it and stir it back into the sauce. The sauce will become thicker and it will suddenly look all creamy and emulsified.

Yep, it's magic. Set the sauce aside.

Then I just layer all the stuff in the bowls. First, napa cabbage cut into very thin slices.

Then fresh mung bean sprouts and roughly chopped fresh Thai basil. Don't skip the basil! It's a very important flavor component and it tastes divine. Then julienned zucchini.

At this point, I like to drizzle a bit of peanut sauce or some hot sauce, like Sriracha.

Next, I add a layer of rice vermicelli. Then julienned carrot, matchsticks of tart apple, scallions, more peanut sauce and crushed peanut. Oh, what the hell--add a few more Sriracha polka dots.

This may seem like a strange blend of flavors, but the crunch of the raw vegetables, the incredibly aromatic Thai basil, the sweet tartness of the apples and the peanut sauce all work together to throw a gala in your mouth. Enjoy the splendid flavors and textures. You're welcome.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

We awoke to half a foot of snow today--enough to send poor Richmond into a tailspin! We took a trudgy long walk down to Forest Hill Park, where I knew there would be tons of sledding going on! The joy was palpable.

Favorite little doggy down the street. I have no idea what his name is. I call him Petey.

This day reminded me so much of growing up in Michigan.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guatemalan Breakfast for Dinner

We were looking through one of our favorite cookbooks, World Food Cafe 2 by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, and we spotted this Guatemalan breakfast and decided to have it for dinner. At first glance you think it's going to be like Mexican because it's eggs, salsa, guacamole, refried beans.

But upon closer inspection, the ingredients and combinations are very different, and very delicious!

The beans were black beans, cooked with lots of red onion and garlic and a blob of butter. Who can stay mad at butter? I simmered them until they were very tender, then pureed them with a glug of olive oil and served with chopped fresh cilantro.

The salsa had no tomatoes or tomatillos. It was made with carrot, red onion, garlic, hot fresh chillies, cilantro and lime juice. It was processed into a very fine consistency, and tasted ever so smacky and fresh.

The guacamole had fresh basil and finely chopped celery, a combination I'd have never considered. It was divine, and I will make it again. Maybe tomorrow.

The scrambled eggs were even a little special, seasoned with allspice, black pepper and oregano leaves.

We served all this plain flour tortillas scorched in a hot dry pan.

I didn't take piccys, but if you want to see a generous sampling of this lovely book and the actual recipes that we used, click here.

The combination of flavors was a fiesta in my mouth!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Baba Wawa--Warning--Can't Stand Her

Is it just me, or is Barbara Walters getting creepier as she gets older?

I have never been an enormous fan--merely indifferent--but lately when I see her in an interview with somebody, she just sort of makes me feel uncomfortable. She makes my skin crawl.

It seems that she is just out to mine the most lurid, sensational, shameful, embarrassing bits of her subjects, then she brings them to light under the thin guise of actually caring, with the grand prize of bringing the subject to tears on camera. I get the strong impression that she feels it is more valuable to pander to the lowest common denominator than it is to educate as a journalist. Why teach us something we didn't know when you can force-feed us a second helping of trash? Yessiree, this is real journalism. I just think she is generally out of touch with what is interesting to us these days. She insults my intelligence.

I know, I know..trailblazer, feminist icon, etc. I'm sure she had her day, and I give her props for being great when she was great, but those days are gone and she has now evolved into somebody who, in my opinion, is cheap and shallow.

I laughed like crazy when Bette Midler recently commented on Barbara's tell-all biography. She said something like, "Well Barbara has a new book out and apparently she slept with everybody--I never knew she had it in her--so to speak."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

OK Facebook, I Give.

It seems that if I want to be able to find people, it is necessary for me to be on Facebook. It is the year 2009. Do I do this grumpily? Hell yes, but I am in the theatre world and I have all sorts of occasions to hunt people down. Facebook is just plain useful for that. I don't have to love it, I just have to be polite.

But check out this very very funny Facebook send-up I got today from a kindred spirit (where Facebook is concerned, at least):

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Dream Wedding (as discussed with Jan Guarino)

I have already been married and had the nice church wedding with the gown, the man--what was he called--oh yeah, the groom, the flowers and the gifts. I ran out of steam halfway through the thank you notes and I'm pretty sure I never finished them. I just hope that time has erased this from people's memories. Or that a lot of those people who gave me gifts are now deceased.

Anyway, if I ever get married again, I'm going to do something totally different. I'm going to have the wedding in my front yard, like a yard sale. I am going to post signs on the telephone pole at the big road at the end of my street labeled WEDDIN' with a big arrow. Furthermore, I am going to have a whole bunch of our old stuff sitting out on tables. Instead of bringing us presents, I will ask the guests to pretty please and for the love-o-gawd, take something with you when you leave. I mean, what a festive way to get all your friends to help you clean out your attic!

I give thanks to Jan Guarino, who helped me formulate this idea.

Bye, Steve P.

We had a little farewell party after work tonight for Steve Perigard, who has been our Associate Artistic Director since longer than I have been at our company. He has always been so busy and pulled in so many directions, that I can't really say we ever spent loads of time together at the office, and yet I will miss his presence and I have a hard time imagining the place without him.

I'm glad he has agreed to still direct and act in some of our shows. It's a real honor to be in a show with Steve or directed by him. He's just one of the most gifted people I have ever had the good fortune to come in contact with. I have always been in awe of how he can find the very center, the sweet spot, the essence of a play and really nurture the actors to make it shine through in the performance. Damn, I wish I had that skill.

My boss gave a great farewell speech that was just perfect. He talked about how Steve has been his artistic compass all these years, always reminding him that the most important thing to our company was artistic excellence, even when it was tempting to succumb to just looking at the bottom line financially. It wasn't sappy and long, and I wasn't secretly longing for him to shut up. My boss is a very engaging man to listen to. I actually enjoyed the speech, and at the end of a workday I probably have the attention span of a toddler.

Anyway, I'm sure I speak for the whole theatre community in wishing Steve the very best. We all see nothing but promise for him!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Washington D.C.

I am in our nation's capital, right near the Capitol. I'm holed up at the Hyatt Regency at the Kennedy Center Educational Partners Annual Meeting. I have been going to lots of really long meetings--like 4 hour long meetings. And then a meeting afterwards to discuss the meeting, then another meeting to discuss the discussion of the 4 hour long meeting. I am schmoozing around with lots of really sharp people, and I am trying to act like a grownup to the best of my ability.

Now I have to primp because I'm going to the Kennedy Center to see the Alvin Ailey dancers and have dinner. Whee!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


We have been watching this travel/food show on public TV for weeks now. I actually don't know what it's called, but it's Gwyneth Paltrow, Claudia Basols, Mario Batali and Mark Bittman travelling through Spain and eating food. I have had so much fun watching this show! Plus, a companion book has been published, and Andy's son got it for him for Christmas.

I was out of town last week, but I told Andy that I wanted us to try making paella when I got back. Well my excellent boyfriend stepped up to the plate in a big way. I came home to discover he had gone to the snooty kitchen store and bought a paella pan. The pan was really reasonable, but then the special fancy rice was more expensive than the pan!

The paella turned out deeeeeeee-licious and I can't wait to try it again. Of course we made a non-traditional version because I don't eat swimmy things. We made a vegetarian version, but followed the traditional method. Paella pans are very shallow and wide. This does not lend to even cooking on a stovetop. We had to straddle the pan over two burners and stand vigil and rotate the pan to ensure even cooking.

I now want to buy a charcoal grill just so I can cook paella. It's the perfect thing and they're not terribly expensive. Actually, you can buy paella burners, which hook up to a propane tank and are perched on a tripod, which costs extra. Very expensive when you add it all up, and you can only use them for cooking one thing!

But a charcoal grill would do just great.

This dish is traditionally eaten straight out of the pan. Everybody gathers around the table. You put the paella in the center, and you go to town. Doesn't that sound fun? I love the communal arrangement. No place for germophobes.

The dish is cooked to perfection when the rice has absorbed all the liquid and has formed a chewy crust on the bottom. Kind of like when you scrape that last bit of mac and cheese out of the pan. That's why you must eat it out of the pan! And, hey, not too many dishes to do. Not a damn thing wrong with that!

So here's the basic drill. This will feed 2 to 4 people.

Use a generous amount of oil! This will help facilitate the crusty bottom layer later on. I used 1/4 cup.

Let the oil heat until it smokes, then add onion and saute for about 8 minutes. Add a few cloves of minced garlic, a tablespoon of smoked spanish paprika, and any vegetables that may take a long time to cook, like carrots or green beans. Now add pureed tomato, about 3/4 cup. Add a cup of paella rice. Stir this mess around until the rice is nicely coated and incorporated with the tomato mixture (called the sofrito).

Now, you'll add 2 cups of broth. I used vegetable broth infused with 1/2 a teaspoon of saffron threads. If you don't have saffron you can sub with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric-the purpose is the lovely color it imparts. Add the broth slowly, and gently arrange the rice and veggies so they are evenly distributed across the pan. The goal is a nice thin, wide layer of rice, with the veggies attractively arranged.

Now comes the hard part. Leave it the hell alone for about 10 to 20 minutes. No stirring! Otherwise you will not get the hallowed lovely crust on the bottom. Cook it uncovered. The surface should look bubbly and it will make a crackly noise, and you want that!

As I mentioned previously, we had to straddle 2 burners and keep rotating the pan. Yes, high maintenance, but worth it. I won't have to be concerned with that when I buy that charcoal grill I am dreaming of.

When all the liquid has been absorbed, add any additional quick cooking veggies, like asparagus or artichokes or peas. Cover the pan with foil, turn down the heat and give it another 10 to 15 minutes.

What you want to end up with is rice that is cooked but has a little resistance when you bite into it. Squeeze a little lemon juice over it before you dig in. Grains should be separate, not gummy. The whole pan should have a nice crust all over the bottom. Yum--crusty bottom. What a lovely phrase.

PS! I got a great little charcoal grill at Lowe's for $28! Tried the paella again the next Sunday (today) and the grill is brilliant!

It's just the right size for the pan and it cooked evenly and was nice and crusty on the bottom!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cleveland's West Side Market

If you're ever in Cleveland, and you are interested in food, you MUST visit the West Side Market. If I had a market like this in my city, I would never set foot in a supermarket again. This place has everything I need in the way of food, and it's all spectacularly fresh and good quality.

First of all, baked goods. I have never seen so many gorgeous baked goods in one place. Breads, cakes, pies, pastries, sweet and savory. Each stall was more beautiful than the last. I like to bake my own bread, but if I had a West Side Market, I wouldn't bother. There's no type of home baked bread you can't find.

Meats. Now, as you know I don't eat meat, but there is a huge array of butcher stalls with all kinds of fresh meat. Lots of home made sausages, big thick sliced bacon, all kinds of steaks and chops and ground stuff, and some huge whole dead animals. I was a bit grossed out by the meat, but I can imagine that if you were a carnivore and liked to cook meat, this would be a paradise.

Cheese! There were 4 or 5 outstanding cheesemongers. (I love the -monger suffix.) I was stymied by the selection, and ended up with a huge hunk of Petit Basque and a hunk of Stilton.

Produce. The produce has its own big L-shaped wing. The stalls are jam packed with fresh fruits, veggies and flowers. If I weren't an out-of-towner I'd have stocked up big time. Everything was super fresh and the prices were great. The selection was, once again, huge and ranged from the mundane to the exotic.

I bought some Lebanese olive oil from this Lebanese lady. Her shop is called The Olive and the Grape, and they have a satellite stall at this market. She recommended this olive oil to me because she is friends with the family in Lebanon who owns the olive grove from which this oil is produced. I can't wait to taste it!

Urban Herbs has every spice you could dream of and lots of spices you've never heard of. I bought whole nutmeg, Tellicherry peppercorns and real cinnamon sticks. Did you know that most cinnamon sticks you buy in the grocery store are actually not cinnamon at all, but something called Cassia, which is cheaper and easier to come by.

And lastly, I couldn't leave the market without buying a big hunk of chocolate for my sweetie.

I give the West Side Market a big A+. The vendors are extremely friendly and the whole place has a wonderful upbeat feel. If you are ever sent to Cleveland, don't despair. This will be the highlight of your trip!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh The Glamour

I'm in Cleveland. I know, you wish you were me. I know you long to be in the heart of the frozen tundra.

I drove here yesterday instead of flying. I had so much stuff to drag along with me that I actually thought it would be easier to drive. It took 8 hours, and it was clear and sunny all the way. The mountains in Pennsylvania were all snow covered with tall, bare brown trees poking up through. The sun made sharp horizontal shadows across the mountainsides, and everything looked all criss-crossy, as if the land were covered in a rough fabric. It was so pretty!

I'm representing my company at a conference called IPAY, and don't ask me exactly what it stands for. I know it is a meeting of people who do performing arts for young audiences and the entities who book (buy) their products. International Performing Arts for Youth? Yeah, I think that's it. This is not a normal part of my job. I'm substituting for my work spouse, who is performing in "Sanders Family Christmas" this week. Poor Eric has to sing gospel bluegrass holiday music in the end of January. Bless him twice.

I'm being put up in a nice hotel with a giant bed and enough fluffy pillows to comfort a village. I don't travel too much, and when I do, I usually travel to visit my family or Andy's family. Staying in a nice hotel is kind of a treat for me.

I went to the exhibit hall to set up my display yesterday, which was the thing I was most apprehensive about. See, it's this strange contraption that fits into a neat and tidy 50-pound cylindrical wheeled case, but it unfolds like a crazy spider into this big curvy, colorful display with jazzy spotlights and stuff. It's kinda magic. But slightly confounding to put together. I ended up doing fine, and it only took me an hour and 10 minutes, not even all of the 2 hours we were allotted for set-up.

So far, my impression of downtown Cleveland is mediocre. It looks like there's a lot to do here, but I don't see any people. People, where are you? People?

Anyway, tomorrow I am going to play a bit of hookey and I am going to venture out to the West Side Market. It's a huge nationally renowned food market and it's supposed to be cool as crap. Plus, Andy said he would "never forgive me" if I missed seeing it. Those are some strong words. Of course, in my frenzy to leave on time this yesterday, I didn't pack my camera. My words will have to suffice.

More later!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What I Learned on This Cold, Cold Day

My nose felt extra cold when I woke up today. I climbed out of bed, and on my way to the coffee pot, I glanced at the thermostat and it read 52. Huh? I blinked and looked again. Still 52 degrees. I had it set at 62, because I like to sleep in a cool house. 52 is not cool. 52 is cold.

I had run out of propane, which is what my furnace uses. I have these 2 big tanks in my back yard, and they get filled on a regular schedule, but sometimes the weather disrupts that schedule and I run out. An unpleasant side effect of the tanks running out is that your house fills with a smell that is very close to rotten eggs or what I'd imagine wild boar farts to smell like.

I called the gas guys immediately, and I got their answering service. The first person who answered was sort of cheeky. I explained to her that I was completely out of gas, and she informed me that, "Lady, everybody who's calling today is completely out of gas" to which I replied, "well if you guys can't anticipate that customers might run out of gas faster when we have a cold snap it's really not my problem that you're not on the ball blah-blah-blah"...and she just says "hold please" and puts me on hold for a really, really long time.

So now what do I do? Now I have been condescending and snotty to the woman who can hook me up with heat juice. The only thing to do is hang up, call back, and hopefully get another operator. Or if I get the same one, I have to disguise my voice and sound really solicitous.

Got a different operator the next time. I was nice from the get-go, and gee whiz, she was nice to me! Isn't that funny how that works? I still had to wait until 2:30 today to get my propane, and the house took another 3 hours to heat back up. It had gotten down to 47.

Things are just about back to normal now, and I have learned a valuable lesson.
Be nice to the operator and she'll be nice to you?
When you know that cold weather is coming, check your propane tanks and make sure you have enough, because the propane people aren't bright enough to do that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Very First Flu!

Yesterday I awoke with a dry cough and a mild headache. By 2:00 in the afternoon, my entire body hurt, including my hair. Chills fluttered all over me and I had a temperature of 101.5. Today, same thing! Tylenol makes me feel better, but when it wears off I feel crappy again.

My doctor, who should be called Doctor Pill-and-Vaccine-Happy, tried really hard to push a flu shot on me. Of course I refused and stated that I had never had the flu in my life, all superior-like.

So experts, just how long does this last? If I have to sit through another day of this I'm going to plummet into a deep funk.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Carrot Porn

Tan A, my fave Asian market has these freakishly huge carrots.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Black-Eyed Peas!

It's New Year's Day and the traditional southern food for today is black-eyed peas, but we are making them with an Indian twist, with lots of layers of spices. I am using a recipe from Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran. I have used this book so much in the last few years that it is full of stains on my favorite pages. I think a really well-loved cookbook is liberally spotted with stains, and this book is my prime example. I once wrote a fan letter to Suvir Saran, and I squealed like a giddy teen when he wrote back to me--the next day! Since then, I always write a fan letter when I feel the urge.

These black-eyed peas taste so wonderful because of the layering of spices. Cloves, whole peppercorn, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, dried chillies, cumin seeds and bay leaves are sauteed in oil first. Then minced fresh ginger goes into the mix, then chopped onion. The onion is cooked until it is all caramelized, then more spices go in! Garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Then comes pureed tomato and, after a bit of simmering a sauce is born!

A sauce that smells so amazing that you have to crack open the wine a little early just to stave off your hunger.

Finally, the guest of honor is added. Black-eyed peas that have been soaked overnight. Then lots of water to cover, and a nice long simmer. This thickens up beautifully into a stew-like consistency.

When the beans are cooked and tender, add a healthy dose of garam masala. You can purchase garam masala at any Indian grocer--it's a specific blend of powdered dried roasted spices--or you can make your own like my excellent boyfriend does for us! I love having a curry snob in the house.

Last but not least, a big ol' dollop of plain yogurt goes in at the end. I like the Greek Fage brand. It is really thick and rich, more like yogurt on performance enhancing drugs. Good heavens, you'll want to smack your own ass when you taste these black-eyed peas.

I attempted to make naan to go with the legumes. This was my second attempt at naan bread, and though I wouldn't call it a resounding success, it was tasty and we ate it! The really yummy naan I've had in Indian restaurants is a flatbread that is thin, yet light and springy and pliable. Mine was thin enough, but didn't have the springy stretchy quality I love. I'm still working on it. This was the dough before it rose, except an hour later there was not so much rising going on.

We rolled it thin, plastered it with melted butter and minced garlic and baked it in a very hot oven. I'm giving it a 65.

Overall, this was a delicious New Year's Day dish and we ate it with gusto.

Happy 2009, everybody!