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Dear Mattel, Ambien Is No Excuse–You People Are Just Wrong. Love, Jenni

7 Oct

So, The Beloved and I spent the day in Pinehurst yesterday, helping Uncle Ray celebrate his 94th birthday.  I made a cake.  See:

birthday cake decorated with fresh flowers

More on this luscious little guy later...

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I’m here to share with you a horror of Immeasurable Proportion perpetrated on an unsuspecting and trusting public by The Burning Hand of Satan Himself (BHS), Mattel. Let me share with you.  Make sure you have an Adult Beverage and that you are Seated.  I shall wait…………………………………………………………………………………….  Ready?  Okay.

We got home at about 9:00 last evening.  The Beloved went over to check on the animals we’re watching for Susan and Chuck:  Loud Howard and the Chick-ettes.  I fed our guys.  We met back up at about 9:30, broke to deal with email and What Not, got a shower around 10:30, and then The Beloved decided that he wanted to watch an episode of Good Eats.  We cued up the DVR and watched a scintillating episode about Paella.  So far, this all sounds pretty normal, pretty un-write-about-able, right?  Well, I’m not finished yet.  The BHS looms ahead.

We brushed our teeth and were in bed by just-before-midnight.  Now, often we save magazines and catalogs to Peruse before bedtime.  Yes, we are that Wild.  At any rate, last night’s offerings included a Penzeys catalog, a King Arthur catalog and a very innocent-seeming mini wish book type Item from the BJ’s Warehouse Store.  Yes, it’s apparently time for the Wee Ones to start earmarking their Orders for Santa or Hanukkah-man or whoever brings presents to your place in December.  Except for those guys who don’t even get to celebrate birthdays.  Rip off.  Sorry guys.

Anyhow, I passed over the two food-related catalogs in favor of toys.  I am drawn to Wish Books.  I think it’s because my brother and I used to fight over the Sears One when it came–he always turned down the corners of pages with sleeping bags and bikes and stuff.  I turned down corners of pages with doll heads with make up and art sets with 50 bajillion oil pastels. I was sleepily thumbing through BJ’s slim Volume of Offerings while The Beloved was Seeing to his Evening Ablutions.  He ablutes a Very Lot.  I saw a keen looking building set thingy with gears and stuff that contained Glow In the Dark Stickers.  I turned down the corner of that page. I like stickers.  I also saw some Fisher Price items, a bunch of dress-up clothes, and a bunch of Wii stuff.  Then, I turned the page, and this is what I saw.  Here’s the Exact Page:Toys

There’s a girl doing the Home Alone Face Cradle, a Rapunzel doll atop Rapunzel Horsie, a baby with an Unfortunate Headband, a fake dog that Poos, a few dolls that are designed to cling onto tweens who have outgrown dolls.  I can almost smell the Desperation.  And then, what’s that we see below the Rapunzels?  Why, it’s a Barbie.  How Cute!  Oh, she’s Video Girl Barbie!  Maybe she comes with a DVD of Barbie music videos.  You know, for sing along fun. But wait!  What’s that sentence on the box?  “I am a real working Video Camera!”  Let that one sink in.  It’s a Barbie–beloved toy of pre-pubescent girls, and a few boys, everywhere.  And her necklace is actually a Lens!  There’s a diminutive screen on her back, under her stylish hoodie, so you can see what what Barbie sees.  And, there’s a USB port right where a real life Barbie would proudly sport a Tramp Stamp.  I think she might even comes with a one-year-membership to Kidlet Pr0n Dot Com.

Do you hear that maniacal laughter?  That’s Creepy St. Peddy, patron saint of Pedophiles everywhere.  Yes, somehow, the BHS reached down and tickled someone’s brain at Mattel, causing them to bolt upright in bed with a Eureka Moment:

“I’ve got it!  Let’s make a doll with a video camera IN HER NECK!  Woo hoo; we’ll be rich, rich, rich!!”

They probably originally considered clothing the doll in a trench coat, giving it a toupee and a fake mustache as well as a Bag O’ Candy and a van.  Then, they realized that Barbie would probably sell better.  After all, making a Pedophile Aid actually look like the stereotypical pedophile might Unsettle the Tots.

Not to beat a dead horse–a very disturbing, ugly dead horse–but let me just propose some possible Disastrous Scenarios:

Scenario 1: Hey, Marcie? Yes, Uncle Pete?  Why don’t you take Barbie into the dressing room so she can help you pick out clothes! Keen idea, Uncle Pete!

Scenario 2Dear Mr. & Mrs. Smith, For some reason, little Billy is bringing a Barbie Doll to school.  While I do not want to pigeonhole him with strict gender role identifiers, I find it disturbing that he often makes Barbie look up the girls’ skirts.  Just wanted to bring this to your attention.  Sincerely, Little Billy’s Teacher

Scenario 3Honey? Yes, Mommy?  How ’bout you not take Barbie into the tub with you when Ernie is babysitting. Oh, okay…

It’s like Mattel, guided by the Burning Hand of Satan, decided to design a product targeted directly at, not young girls, but pedophiles.  Maybe that Mattel designer was on Ambien or something, but I just can’t see that there is any way that this toy can be construed as anything but a pedophile’s Dream Come True.

What do you think?  Am I overreacting, or has Mattel really lost its collective mind?

A Cornucopia of Comfort Food

3 Oct

dinner party menu items

Dinner party menu items

Voting is now open for Challenge #3.  If you’d like to attend my party, please RSVP here.

Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who voted for my Challenge #2 post in Project Food Blog!  I so appreciate the support, and I now invite you to come to a dinner party held in your honor–it’s all about comfort-with-a-twist.  Voting for Challenge #3 in Project Food Blog–Luxury Dinner Party–begins Monday, October 4.  I’ll have a link here as well as over on my Project Food Blog page.  Enjoy!

When you ask a great chef what he or she would like to eat at his/her last meal, you might expect some pretty rarefied responses.  Maybe one of those dishes that you find at very pretentious restaurants whose title takes up five lines of the menu?  Perhaps they’d go for the daring:  live octopus? Fugu?  Mayhap the disturbing:  balutCasu Marzu?  Heck, they’re dying anyway, right?

homemade caramel corn

Here it is!

Many of the actual responses might surprise you:  A perfectly roasted chicken.  A hamburger topped with a fried egg.  A hot dog.  A slice of lemon tart.  In the end, we all crave comfort.

Baked rigatoni

Hello, lovely baked rigatoni.

So, for this dinner party, I knew I wanted to go the comfort route.  Not because this was going to be anybody’s last meal, but because I love the people for whom I was cooking, and I wanted them to be familiar with all the dishes while adding just a bit of a twist to many of them.  I also knew that three of my guests would be under thirteen, and one hasn’t yet reached the “Must Be This Tall to Ride” mark at the fair.  I wanted my young guests to try everything, and I knew they’d be more  likely to try foods with names they’d at least heard.

Bread Pretzels

Thank God for pretzels.

My theme–comfort–was nailed down, but which comfort foods?  Being less-than-uptight when it comes to parties, I decided to throw a few darts into the Hinternet and see what I’d hit.  I hit the mother lode, Reasons-for-Celebrating Central:  an encyclopedic listing of every food observance known to man, from Soup Day to Nuts Week.

Caramel Apples


Of course, I checked out October-as-a-whole, the first week in October and the day of the party, October 1.  There was an exhaustive listing, and these were the ones I chose for the menu:

Month-long Observances

  • National Apple Month
  • National Caramel Month
  • National Chili Month
  • National Cookie Month
  • National Dessert Month
  • National Pasta Month
  • National Pickled Peppers Month
  • National Popcorn Poppin’ Month
  • National Pork Month
  • National Pretzel Month
  • Vegetarian Awareness Month

Week-long Observances

  • National Chili Week

October 1st Observances

  • World Vegetarian Day
  • Pudding Season Begins
  • Homemade Cookies

    Glazed citrus shortbread cookies

    Howdy, citrus shortbread

Here’s the final menu:Dinner Party Menu

And since nothing goes better with dinner than a movie, we also celebrated Richard Harris’s October-1st birthday by watching him portray Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But not inside.  Oh, no, we watched it on Thomas and Roberta’s big old outdoor movie screen!  Plus, we ate over at their place, too; we just carted all the dishes over when I was finished with my marathon cooking session.

Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore

We miss you, Richard Harris.

And there you have it.  A dinner party perfect for adults and kids alike, one without fancy-schmancy table settings or a high price tag.  One that was all about comfort: for ourselves and especially for our guests.

You, too, can throw the same type of party.  Know your guests and their food comfort levels.  Cook for everyone’s tastes.  Get creative with your celebration–after all, just because it’s none of your guests’ birthdays doesn’t mean you can’t throw a birthday party.   Every day is somebody’s birthday.

PS Dinner Party Recipes/Methods

  • caramel corn
  • bread pretzels
  • I didn’t use a recipe for the pasta–I just made a Béchamel sauce and folded al dente pasta, browned Italian sausage and wee cubes of fontina cheese into it.  Bake and done.
  • For the chili, I threw all of my vegetables, including some dried black beans, into a pot with water seasoned with chili-type spices, salt and pepper.  I simmered it all together until the beans were cooked through.  Added a little cocoa powder for a bass note and some corn flour for thickening.  Very easy, very tasty.
  • Trifle–layer together cubed pound cake liberally doused with sherry and raspberry jam.  Pour over homemade vanilla pudding (I made 3 cups worth), making sure it oogies all down in between the cubes of pound cake.  Let that set up in the fridge, and then dollop on as much whipped cream as you want.
  • Dip the apples in boiling water for a few seconds, then shock in ice water.  Rub off the wax with a paper towel.  Make actual caramel for your caramel apples.  I doubled the recipe, doubled the salt and  flavored mine with maple and vanilla extracts.  Then, I either rolled my enrobed apples in mini chocolate chips or sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.

PPS  One of Albus Dumbledore’s favorite foods is raspberry jam.  Hence the raspberry jam in the trifle.

PPPS If you would love to attend a Dinner-and-a-Movie-Comfort-Food-Fest, please consider sending me your RSVP by voting for my entry.  Voting opens Monday, October 4.  Thank you!

Hello, Chickies!

19 Aug
chicken coop

Our one-of-a-kind chicken coop!

Guess what?  Sunday we all drove to the Chicken Getting Place and bought our wee chicks!  Four families went in, and we ended up with eight chicks.  All girls, of course–we’re in it for the eggs, not the crowing!  At the Chicken Getting Place, also known as Ozbert Farms, they had many different kinds of chicks for sale.  They also had a huge poster with all types of breeds of chickens listed, complete with full color Illustration and egg color, and there are a ton of different kinds.  I had no idea.  The poster probably depicted at least 100 different types of chickens.  Wowie.

Let me introduce you to the girls.

1)Our Ameraucano, Vespucci

Ameraucano chick

She will lay light blue/green eggs. Yay!

2)Our Welsummer, Pauli Girl

Welsummer chick

This little girl is The Beloved's. You know how much he loves beer and brewing. He almost named her Wort, until we were able to talk him out of it!

3)Sophie’s Rhode Island Red, Ginger

Rhode Island Red chick

Sophie says that her nickname is "Gigi."

4)Jackson’s Welsummer, Summer

Welsummer chick

She's a little smaller than The Beloved's Welsummer. We'll see how they mature. Welsummers lay chocolate-colored eggs.

5)Don’s Buff Brahma, Henrietta

Buff Brahma chick

This is Henrietta. See her feathery feet? That's a characteristic of Brahmas.

6)Sterner’s Light Brahma, Hoopy

White Brahma chick

The other Brahma, Hoopy. She's one of the smallest of the chicks right now.

7)Grayson’s Rhode Island Red, Copper

Rhode Island Red chick

Hello, Copper--pretty girl!

and last, but not least

8)Abbey’s Ameraucana, Lady

Ameraucana chick

I wish the Ameraucanas hadn't laid down. They have blue-gray feet!

Here is the Awesome chicken house and run dreamt up by Chuck.  Seriously–he had a dream about how to build it, and it is Fabulous.  We still need to paint, of course–we want to make sure that the girls live in a Colorful Environment.

back of the coop

These are the three doors leading to the laying boxes. They open from the outside for easy access. I'm not sure if you can tell, but Chuck put fisheye door peepholes in the doors!

Coop with door open

See--we have a door AND a screen door. Pretty sweet, huh? That Chuck is gifted!

raising chicks

It's the details that count--look at the beautiful knob Susan found for the door.

We won’t be getting eggs until December (they start laying at about 21 weeks), but when the girls start laying, we’re thinking of making some egg custard and egg nog–two Items in which the flavor of the fresh eggs will really shine.

Wanna raise your own chicks?  Here are some Helpful Links:

My Pet Chicken
Back Yard Chickens
Urban Chickens
Raising Backyard Chickens

Sunday Suppers (Tuesday Morning Edition): Fish Tacos

10 Aug
Yummy Fish Tacos

Check out these babies. These aren't mine; mine are still on friend Susan's camera. But, still. Look how yummy!

If you’ve been reading my wee blog for awhile, you might have noted that I’m not a Fan of the seafood.  I’ve tried it–different types–lots of times, and while I can sometimes understand why people seem to like it, to me it all has this underlying I’ve-Lived-Under-the-Ocean-My-Whole-Life flavor that I just don’t like.  I tasted lobster, and I get why people think it’s Amazing.  It’s tender and sweet, but it also has that Ocean-Flavor of which I am not a Devotee.  And then, friend Michael bought a bunch of trout.  Trout, apparently, does not live under the ocean.  It just lives in regular old water.  So it doesn’t have that oceany taste.

The Beloved and I tried it a couple of weeks ago, and although I was a Filled with Trepidation, I actually enjoyed it.  It was mild and Not Fishy.  So now, realizing that I can eat Non-Oceanic-Fish, a whole new world has been opened unto me.  And the first thing  I wanted to try was a fish taco.  At the restaurant, we used to serve lobster tacos, and folks went completely GaGa over them, and I wanted to experience the GaGa Factor with a fresh water fish taco.

So, here’s what I did.  Remember, you can do something else entirely.  This is just to Entice You To Try, especially if you’ve never had fish tacos before.

Fresh Water Fish Tacos
For the fish

  • lovely trout
  • lime juice
  • cumin
  • chili powder (I used Penzeys Chili 3000 because it is Amazing)
  • salt
  • pepper

For the Accoutrement

  • pepper jack cheese
  • guacamole (or sliced avocado)
  • chipotle hot sauce
  • shredded lettuce
  • salsa
  • lime juice
  • corn or flour tortillas

Put the fish in a Vessel of some sort (I used a zip-top bag) and sprinkle liberally with the lime juice and spices.  Let marinate for thirty minutes or so.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add a splash of neutral oil, and cook the fillets until just opaque.  Don’t worry about keeping them whole, just push them around until they’re shredded and cooked through–about five minutes or so.

Warm up your tortilla shells in whatever way you see fit.  Assemble your tacos as desired. They will be drippy, so wear a bib or lean over your plate.  Put in face.

We were fortunate enough to have some of Friend Chuck’s homemade salsa and trout from Friend Michael.  Use whatever you have, though.  You can also dredge and deep fry your fish.  Or poach it.  Cook it however you like, but do consider making tacos once your fish is cooked.  You will not be sorry.  I promise.

How Many Boxes Do I Need to Buy to Make a Sheet Cake? or Backwards Baking

6 Aug

I took that title, verbatim, from my dear friend Susan.  I’m going to help her bake her kids’ birthday cake (it’s a joint celebration) tomorrow, and she wanted to know what she needed.  Hence the question.

I, of course, was horrified.  “How many boxes of what?!” I asked.  Just in case she meant something different that what I thought she meant.  She answered, and my worst fears were confirmed. “Of cake mix.”

“Surely, you jest, ” I said unto her. To which she responded, possibly not verbatim, “We’re not making it from Actual Ingredients, are we?!”

I assured her that we will, indeed, be using Actual Ingredients.  She was intimidated, but I promised to hold her hand and make it not be Scary.

As amused as I was by her trepidation, I also remember how I used to feel when I was just starting out.  I started every recipe with a sense of foreboding:  I wonder what will go wrong, first?  And when something began to go Awry, I would get all sweaty and have an icky feeling in my tummy.  That’s because I learned to cook and bake backwards.  I started by trying to duplicate recipes.  And not just any recipes, mind you.  Not me.  I wanted to make the most complicated dessert possible–one with ganache and glaze and raspberries and What Not.  And I did make it.  It took me Nine Hours.  Honest.  And I had no idea what I was doing–I was simply following along, step by step, with the directions in the The Best of Gourmet, 1993 Edition.

I just finished rereading the recipe I followed (Chocolate Raspberry Cake) for the first time in probably fifteen years.  And I find that the recipe is not really scary at all.  Back in ’93, I just blindly followed along, being very cautious–like I was driving through a downpour and couldn’t see up ahead.  Now, when I read the recipe, it’s a bright sunny day.  Bunnies are cavorting under a tree in a meadow, and wee spotted fawns frolic past.  I can see clearly now: the rain is gone, and I put the top down and Drive.

Perhaps I wax a bit too poetic, but I hope you get the idea.  Now when I look at the rules for my Nine Hour Cake, I see a relatively light (2-egg) chocolate cake leavened by the reaction of baking soda and sour cream.  There’s a ganache with a ratio of 5:3 cream to chocolate, making it soft enough to whip, and a glaze of 2:1 chocolate to butter, allowing for it to be soft enough to slice easily at room temperature.  I see a modified Creaming Method, making emulsions and Stacking Items on Top of Each Other.  Not hard stuff.  Not now, anyway.  But again, I learned to bake backwards.

What I should have done, had I known, was learn everything I could about how to put ingredients together.  About the science of baking.  About the way ingredients function and interact.  I should have learned to make ingredients do what I wanted them to–what temperature to have them, when to melt butter and when to leave it solid, when to use baking powder and when to use soda.  I should have learned all of that first, but I didn’t.  And that made learning to bake Very Difficult.  Instead of learning how to bake, I learned to make one particular cake at a time, and it took me forever–and lots of research and reading–to come to understand that the cakes I was making were all very close cousins from the Creaming Method family.

I think most folks learn to bake backwards.  They want to make grandma’s cherry pie, or Aunt Emma’s pound cake, or the family’s heirloom fruitcake recipe.  But most of us have blinders on when we bake.  We’re too narrowly focused on the particular recipe to realize that the pie crust for grandma’s cherry pie can be used to make almost any pie.  That a fruit filling is basically a fruit filling, cherry or otherwise.  We don’t realize that the proportions in a modern pound cake are pretty much universal, and we rarely check the ratio of batter to fruit in a fruit cake and use that ratio as a template for all sorts of Cakes With A Bunch Of Stuff In Them.

And it’s kind of our fault, actually.  I blame The American Need for Instant Gratification.  How many people–not crazy food-type people, but regular people–buy a cook book and read it as they would a text book?  Not many.  We want the good stuff, not the boring stuff.  Look at this:  I found a review about one of my favorite cookbooks, BakeWise, over at Amazon.  Here is a chunk of his review:

After getting this book, I plunged right in, making her recipe for “Blueberry and Cream Muffins.” The recipe promised moist, delicious muffins. They were really delicious, but the texture was oily and gummy. I tried the recipe a second time, carefully measuring every item, checking my oven temperature with a thermometer, and made a second batch. The second batch was slightly better, but was still greasy and gummy. I was surprised; how could the queen of food science provide recipes that don’t work? I sat down and started reading the book from the beginning. At last, I realized what was wrong.

This book reads more like a set of magazine articles, or a good blog, than a cookbook. You can’t just pick a recipe out of the middle of this book and expect it to work. The recipes in this book are examples of different techniques (like the muffin recipe), not well-tested, authoritative recipes (like in The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition). Shirley gives you the formulas that make recipes successful (ratios of flour, eggs, fat, sugars, and liquids), then often pushes the boundaries of this formulas to show what happens. A good example of this are the pound cake recipes. On page 15 “So that you can see that changes that I made, I have included the original recipe for The Great American Pound Cake; but do not bake it.” The problem with this warning is that you’d never see it if you just flipped to the recipe for “The Great American Pound Cake,” and would end up with a sunken, soggy cake. If you buy this book, make sure to read the whole thing before you bake anything.–Joseph Adler’s Review of BakeWise at

You see, Mr. Adler skipped the Important (boring) Stuff and tried to get right to the goodies with, at least in this case, no real understanding of the mechanics of Goody Making.

But the boring stuff is what makes the good stuff good.  Just ask The Little Red Hen.  Fannie Farmer wanted us to learn to cook and bake.  She really did.  Check out her introduction to cake baking:

THE mixing and baking of cake requires more care and judgment than any other branch of cookery; notwithstanding, it seems the one most frequently attempted by the inexperienced.

Two kinds of cake mixtures are considered: —

I. Without butter. Example : Sponge Cakes.

II. With butter. Examples: Cup and Pound Cakes.

In cake making (1) the best ingredients are essential; (2) great care must be taken in measuring and combining ingredients; (3) pans must be properly prepared; (4) oven heat must be regulated, and cake watched during baking.

Best tub butter, fine granulated sugar, fresh eggs, and pastry flour are essentials for good cake. Coarse granulated sugar, bought by so many, if used in cake making, gives a coarse texture and hard crust. Pastry flour contains more starch and less gluten than bread flour, therefore makes a lighter, more tender cake. If bread flour must be used, allow two tablespoons less for each cup than the recipe calls for. Flour differs greatly in thickening properties; for this reason it is always well when using from a new bag to try a small cake, as the amount of flour given may not make the perfect loaf. In winter, cake may be made of less flour than in summer.

Before attempting to mix cake, study How to Measure (p. 25) and How to Combine Ingredients (p. 26).–The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, 1916 edition, p 497 (via Google Books)

And then guess what she does?  She teaches us how to do the creaming method and the egg foam method!  Not with a specific list of ingredients, but as a general template.  Go, Fannie.  Check it:

To Mix Sponge Cake. Separate yolks from whites of eggs. Beat yolks until thick and lemon-colored, using an egg-beater; add sugar gradually, and continue beating; then add flavoring. Beat whites until stiff and dry, — when they will fly from the beater, — and add to the first mixture. Mix and sift flour with salt, and cut and fold in at the last. If mixture is beaten after the addition of flour, much of the work already done of enclosing a large amount of air will be undone by breaking air bubbles. These rules apply to a mixture where baking powder is not employed.

To Mix Butter Cakes. An earthen bowl should always be used for mixing cake, and a wooden cake-spoon with slits lightens the labor. Measure dry ingredients, and mix and sift baking powder and spices, if used, with flour. Count out number of eggs required, breaking each separately that there may be no loss should a stale egg chance to be found in the number, separating yolks from whites if rule so specifies. Measure butter, then liquid. Having everything in readiness, the mixing may be quickly accomplished. If butter is very hard, by allowing it to stand a short time in a warm room it is measured and creamed much easier. If time cannot be allowed for this to be done, warm bowl by pouring in some hot water, letting stand one minute, then emptying and wiping dry. Avoid overheating bowl, as butter will become oily rather than creamy. Put butter in bowl, and cream by working with a wooden spoon until soft and of a creamy consistency ; then add sugar gradually, and continue beating. Add yolks of eggs or whole eggs beaten until light, liquid, and flour mixed and sifted with baking powder; or liquid and flour may be added alternately.–The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, 1916 edition, p 498 (via Google Books)

I tell you, Fannie should’ve been on television.  She really wanted us to learn how, not just what, to cook.  Somewhere between Fannie and Food Network, the hows fell by the wayside, and it was all about the whats.  People cheered–literally cheeredwhen Emeril put pepper in a recipe.  Folks listened raptly–and followed directions–when Paula told them it was a good idea to start with a cake mix to make some kind of crazy ooey gooey cake.  Because nothing says love like Propylene Glycol Monoesters of Fatty Acids.  And do NOT get me started on Sandra.

Friends, if television had been around in 1916, we might all know how to cook thanks to Fannie Live! but, sadly, it was not to be.  As a result, we’re all learning to cook and bake backwards, and Fannie is spinning in her grave.  Frontwards.

As lots of you know, it has been my goal to teach anyone who is interested how and why to do things, not just what to do.  And I’ll be doing that, up close and personal with friend Susan.  Will she come away from the experience more relaxed about baking?  Maybe.  I guess it depends on her attitude coming in–if she’s excited and open to learning, then I think it’ll be a great experience.  If she looks like she’s about to be ordered t0 walk the plank when she gets here, maybe not.  And if she does look at me as Captain Hook, well, I blame Sandra.

And the one book I couldn’t have lived with out?  The one that helped me learn all the hows and whys?  Shirley Corriher’s 1997 CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking She’s done some revisions since then, but this is the one that I have.  Read it (and BakeWise) like you would read text books, and you’ll start to see the bunnies under the trees instead of the rain on your windshield.  For me, and hopefully for you, it’ll be the start of Forward Baking.  That, and PMAT Live!

Taste Carolina. Thanks; Don’t Mind If I Do.

14 Jul
Taste Carolina

Happy, happy gang finishing up the tour at Foundation.

Friends, I have never enjoyed someone else’s birthday celebration more than I enjoyed Friend Roberta’s 40th Birthday Shindig.  Okay, so maybe the Birthday Activity was partly my idea, but still.  Several months ago, Friend Roberta’s husband, Thomas, sent me a facebook message asking for ideas for a cool Celebrational Endeavor.  Friend Susan and I Googled “cool stuff to do in Raleigh July” or something like that, found this Thing, and sent the link to Thomas.  He liked the idea, added tickets for all and a limo ride from the house, and we were Ready To Go.

Here’s what we found to do:  a walking/riding tour of Keen Places to Eat in downtown Raleigh through Taste Carolina.  I had been looking forward to this for a long time–sampling food and beer at various restaurants.  And then, as some of you might know, I started to change the way I thought about food.  Interested in that?  Read this or this.  Otherwise, keep going.   I was a little concerned that I might not be able to sample everything, especially if they couldn’t tell me where the meat came from and how it was raised.  Thomas messaged me to find out if we had any dietary restrictions (other than No Cannibalism), and I let him know that we were eating only humanely raised and slaughtered meats.  So I began to Steel Myself to the possibility that I’d have to eat bread crusts, cheese rinds and lettuce.

But guess what?  I was delighted to find out that all of the restaurants on the tour were committed to using local, organic and humanely raised meats and vegetables.  We had goat cheese from local farms, house-made tortillas, local heirloom tomatoes.  Local-almost-everything.  And the meats!  Local, grass-fed beef; local happy pork!  I was thrilled that a) farm to fork is alive and well in Raleigh and that a) I could eat everything.  Not necessarily in that order, I admit, but still.

The Beloved and I were thrilled to find such a thriving and vibrant restaurant scene away from the looming shadows of chain restaurants.

And now, without further ado, I give you Itinerary, The Menu and a few Illuminating Photographs:

1.  Dos Taquitos Centro–hibiscus-pomegranate beverage and grass-fed beef and queso fresca quesadillas with sliced mango.  You wish you were me already, right?  Great atmosphere; fresh food.  Fabulous.dos taquitos centro

2.  18 Seaboard–heirloom cherry tomato bruschetta with aged balsamic on house-made focaccia.  Bright, fresh and amazing.  A casual fine dining restaurant, 18 Seaboard specializes in Southern cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere.18 Seaboard

3.  Market–Stewed pork and hominy soft tacos with crack fries.  And what’s a crack fry, you ask?  Allow me to enlighten you: they hand-cut fries  tossed in truffle oil, parmesan, and fresh herbs.  They’re served with homemade ketchup.  Oh, and fried in duck fat.  Crack fries, indeed.  Very cool place in a renovated laundromat.  Young owners and staff, dedicated to serving excellent food made with local ingredients and Animal Welfare Approved meats.Market

4.  Escazu–Artisan chocolates made from South American beans.  And the cool thing?  They make the chocolate from the beans right in their very own store!  I think the guy is like one of just a handful of folks making their own chocolates from scratch in the US.  Plus, they’re right next door to Market.  Yay!  In the fall, I’m going back for their locally-famous hot chocolate.  If you like Hershey bars, maybe this place ain’t for you.  If you taste chocolate like you’d taste a rare bottle of wine, you should definitely check them out.


The antique Spanish cocoa bean roaster-nee-coffee bean roaster at Escazu. Looks a bit like Darth Vader, no?

5.  The Cupcake Shoppe–It’s your typical cupcakery, but I will say that their cupcakes are quite good and obviously made from scratch.  Their icing is also nice–not too sweet and very buttery-tasting.  I had a lemon cupcake, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.The Cupcake Shoppe

6.  The Mint–Shrimp and Grits.  Absolutely the creamiest, tastiest grits I’ve eaten since I left the restaurant in Florida.  Lovely, plump shrimp and lightly roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes that burst  in the mouth like wee umami-bombs.  The tomatoes, not the shrimp. The ultimate in fine dining atmosphere with a focus on local, farm-to-f0rk cuisine.  The Executive Chef, Howard McCall, offers not only inspired cuisine but also brings a mean business sense to the table–the kitchen operates at about a 26% food cost.  That’s amazing.  Whoever said you can’t make money using organic ingredients hasn’t met Chef Howard.The Mint, Raleigh

7.  Foundation–2 local beers.  A wheat beer and a pale ale.  Lovely.  Plus, I bought a house-made ginger ale–very gingery and refreshing.  This place is serves drinks only, and as such is a private club.  Well worth seeking out.  Specializing in US spirits and local beer, there’s no tequila or Scotch, but they feature a ton of bourbons.

Foundation, Raleigh

Foundation was dug out of the red clay foundation of the building above. Those bricks behind the bar are part of the original foundation. Very cool place.

And there you have it.  Much fun was had by all.  Many thanks to the wonderful folks at Taste Carolina for putting together a Plethora of amazing food tours in the Triangle.

Now, I’m gonna have to go back to all those places at least four times.  Each.  Busy, busy, busy…

If It Weren’t for Birthdays, I Might Just Give Up

28 Jun
Shellie's birthday dessert

Oooo, pretty! And tasty, too. Happy Birthday, Shellie!

So, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to what–and how–advertisers are trying to sell me.  And things are not looking good.  If I don’t get a home security system, random people might break down my door.  In the rain.  If I don’t take my calcium supplement, my ankle will break when I jump off a curb.  Seriously–apparently those Sally Field commercials aren’t scary enough, so now women “as young as their 30s” can fracture their ankle when they jump off a curb in red moderately-high heels.  Also, if I don’t take my aspirin, my heart will explode.  My acid reflux disease can be managed by taking a magical pill, but it will give me constipation and gas.  Frankly, I’d rather have acid reflux.


If I don’t get the right insurance, either I’ll be paying too much, or I won’t have enough coverage, or I’ll be in an accident.  In the rain.  My dry eyes are past the point of being managed with silly OTC drops.  Noooo, I’m suffering from an Actual Condition.  I need a prescription that will make me produce more tears.  Of course, a stick in the eye will do that, too, but they can’t charge me for a stick.  Yet.  If anyone in my entire family tree has ever had one of a Number of Specific Diseases, I absolutely need to find a lawyer, because I could be entitled to Compensation.  I’m sorry that you had pink eye, great-great-great grandfather Eli, and someone is going to Pay.

They want me to buy lots of different medicines to make me feel better.  I can take some for antsy legs, for being sad, for being fat, for having a headache, for not getting pregnant.  For low cholesterol, for high cholesterol, for high blood pressure.  And don’t forget the ones that make me Stay Awake or Fall Asleep.  No wait–here’s one that’s even better.  It makes me fall asleep and Stay Asleep.  Guess what else does that?  A vase to the head.  Some of those medicines will make me anxious, make me vomit, give me diarrhea or constipation.  One might make me Drive In My Sleep.  Most of these medicines May make me feel dizzy and groggy.  You know what else does that?  A vase to the head.

I need to buy poisons to kill weeds and other poisons to make my garden grow.  I gotta poison all the bugs (sorry, bees.  And I so used to enjoy honey)–gotta watch out for people sized termites.  If regular old poisons won’t work, I need to call folks who will come to my house with Tanks and Truckloads of poisons.  Professional poison.  Oh yeah–and I need to put poison on my vegetables to keep the bugs away so The Beloved and I can eat them.  Yay for poison tomatoes.

I could go on and reach 500 words, but I’ll cut it short at 468.  I’ll wait while you count.  Anyway, all of this horror and woe doesn’t even begin to touch what the news does to me.  Not only has the bottom of the ocean, assisted by BP, sprung a leak, but the glaciers are melting, the oceans are rising, the deserts are growing and spring is coming earlier and earlier.  And then, add in the people themselves:  posturing and finger-pointing and pouting and stamping of feet and beating on chests.  And a lot of cursing.  And that’s all on in the stands at the kids’ hockey match. (Warning–woman shrieking profanities at the top of her lungs)  Shudder.

All of this could make me Take To My Bed and retreat into the welcoming warmth of a vat of Homemade Pudding.  But, there are still enough bright spots in the world to make me pick myself up and do something moderately useful.  One of those bright spots is birthdays.  I love them.  Especially mine.  The Beloved even got me presents for my half birthday, because I’ve whined about it for years and he just wants to Shut Me Up.  Fine.  I’ll shut up.  Smugly.  With my presents.

Last week, my best friend, Julie, and her daughter came to visit.  Shellie is Irish Dance Girl.  ‘Member her?  Her birthday was Saturday, and she turned 16.  She just got her driver’s license about 2 hours ago.  Yay, Shell!  I first met Shellie at about 3 o’clock in the morning, just a few hours after she was born.  I was with her when she went out to eat for the first time.  At ten days old.  At Backyard Burger.  We had cobbler.  Shellie slept.  I watched her grow up–she’s not quite done, yet–and now she’s visiting colleges.  It’s never too early to start looking, so she’s checking out her options before she starts her junior year.  When I found out they were going to stay the night, and so close to her birthday, I gathered my strength and levered myself out of bed, put away the pudding and made a special dessert in honor of her 16th birthday.  Shellie is a chocolate and berry person.  Julie is a vanilla pudding person.  Not wanting to please one at the expense of the other, I decided to go All In and make a Layered Extravaganza as individual servings.

Shellie’s 16th Birthday Berry Brownie Splendor
I didn’t really call it that, but I could have.  I just said “Here!”


  • The Best Brownies Ever–Swirled with Raspberry/Blackberry/Black Currant Jam
  • Melted Jam
  • Homemade Vanilla-Maple Pudding
  • Lightly sweetened sour cream topping

For the brownies–based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

  • 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 oz. butter (12 Tablespoons)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 16 oz sugar
  • 5 oz cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon extract(s)/liqueur
  • Swirl in(s)/mix in(s) of your choice

The original recipe calls for some nuts.  Use some if you want.  Toast them first.

Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat–or use a double boiler or the microwave on medium power.  Let it cool to warm–maybe 85 degrees or so.

Whisk in the salt, sugar and flavorings.  I used vanilla and a bit of maple flavoring because I had some lying around.  I  knew I was swirling in some jam, and I thought that the maple would be lovely with it.  It was.  Very.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Line a 9″ square pan with nonstick foil (very useful stuff, that).  Pour in some of the batter and tilt to cover the bottom of the pan.  Blob on some jam.  Add some more batter.  Blob on some more jam.  Add the rest of the batter.  Swirl a knife through the whole shebang.  Bake at 325F until risen, firm around the sides and mostly firm in the middle–about 45 minutes.  Let cool.  Cut out circles of brownies to fit in the bottoms of whatever size glasses/dishes you’re using.  Shove them in there.

For the jam

Melt jam.  Stir.  Pour some on top of the brownie layer.  Let cool in the fridge.

For the pudding

For each cup of whole milk, you need:

  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt, to taste
  • sugar, until it’s as sweet as you want it.  Start with 2 tablespoons and go from there.  Use brown sugar, if you want.
  • 1-2 egg yolks (depending on how rich you want it)
  • vanilla extract to taste (I used a touch of the maple, too, just for fun)
  • a couple of tablespoons of butter

Put the butter and vanilla in a bowl that’s big enough to hold your pudding.  Put a fine mesh strainer in the bowl.

Heat the milk, corn starch, salt, sugar and yolks in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Taste for salt/sugar, and adjust to your liking.

Whisk constantly over medium to medium-high heat until the mixture thickens and boils.  You might need to reduce the heat a bit, but let it boil (still whisking) for about a minute to cook off the raw starch taste.

Pour through the strainer and into your waiting bowl.  Press the custard through the strainer with a rubber spatula.  Stir until the butter is melted and the flavorings are incorporated.  Taste again.  You can still adjust the sugar/salt at this point if you need to.

Carefully spoon in the pudding on top of the jam layer, leaving about 1/4″ at the top.  Refrigerate until set.  If you have leftover pudding, good for you–it’ll be ready the next time you have to take to your bed in despair.

For the sour cream topping

Use as much sour cream as you think you need to top each of your desserts by 1/4″.  Put that amount of sour cream in a bowl.  Sweeten with some brown sugar–to taste.  Add a wee pinch of salt and maybe a tiny splash of vanilla.  Let sit for about 15 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved completely.  Stir again, and then top your desserts.

Just for fun

I took some of the jam, melted it again, and dripped three drops on top of each dessert.  Then I ran a toothpick through the drops in a circle, making 1980s-style haute cuisine hearts.  It was her Sweet Sixteenth, after all.  To have made perfect hearts, I should have strained the jam.  I didn’t, so some of them were lumpy.  You will, though, so your hearts will be perfect.

Refrigerate the whole deal until time to serve.  Stick a candle in the center of the birthday one and sing.  Shovel into your face.  These things take about 14.7 seconds to eat, just so you can schedule your time appropriately.

I’m off to the beach on Thursday afternoon to stay with Julie, Shellie, the rest of her family and some of the other Irish Dancing friends.  Should be a great time.  I intend to post again before then, unless another commercial scares me back into bed.  If that happens, enjoy your Fouth of July.  Whether or not you celebrate it as Independence Day, I hope you have a wonderful 4th!

Finally, the Long-Awaited, Much Anticipated PMAT Live! Episode 4: How to Do the Creaming Method

17 Jun

Well, maybe you haven’t been waiting for it, but I’ve certainly been stymied at every turn while trying to edit and get this out to you.   Things I know:   a)When you get a new computer, things don’t always go well with the video editor.  b)When you finally get the editor working, it’s best to click “SAVE” every few minutes.  Not that I lost all my work one time because I was so Passionate about the Creative Process, mind you.  It’s just a friendly reminder to us all.

At any rate, here it is, in all its glory.  Not only do I describe The Creaming Method in Meticulous Detail, but you also get the bonus of a Pure Vanilla Van Halen Sour Cream Pound Cake.  And how can you say no to that?  Exactly:  you Can’t.  Enjoy!

Eating Animals, Harmonic Convergence and Deep Ponderings, Part Deux

26 May

Yesterday, I said that there were a few things that came together in a Harmonic Convergence to bring The Beloved and me around to being very conscious/conscientious eaters (at least).  The first thing was my reading Eating Animals.  Thing #2 happened a week and a half ago.  There is a wonderful event that has occurred in Raleigh for the last five years.  It is the Hen-side the Beltline Tour d’Coop.  And what that is is a self-guided tour of urban chicken coops.  It was maybe one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.

Guess what?  Did you guys know that there are lots of folks raising chickens within a block or two of The Governor’s Mansion?  So keen!  Now, before you get the idea that a bunch of Jethro Bodines live in Raleigh and that traffic comes to a halt whenever chickens wander across the street, keep an open mind.  For the most part, all the coops are tucked away in backyards.  Most folks don’t have roosters (cocks, to you guys overseas), so noise isn’t an issue.  Every coop we saw was large enough to allow the chickens to roam and spread their wings and be chickens.  Wiring over the top of the enclosure keeps them from a) flying away and b) falling prey to Marauding Hawks.

Lots of folks might (and do) take exception to raising chickens and make rules to severely restrict how and where they can be raised.  Many people are worried about the smell.  But, the smell comes from the poo of upwards of 30,000 chickens packed so closely together in climate- and light-controlled buildings that they have to sit/stand in their own waste.  That’s called factory farming.  The only good thing about having those chickens packed in that tightly is that they are bred to have such large, succulent breasts that they can’t stand up by themselves.  Pretty horrifying, huh?  Contrast that with four or six chickens happily clucking about in an open-air 100-200sf coop.  Happy, uncrowded chickens=no smell.

Here are some pictures of happy chickens in Cool Coops:backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickensAnd here was my personal revelation–as I hung out with coop after coop of happy chickens–regarding factory farmed chickens:  Even leaving aside the idea of eating factory farmed meat, I don’t want to eat eggs that come from cramped up, miserable, poo-covered chickens.  And it’s not the chickens’ fault.  They aren’t the ones that decided to live shoulder to shoulder with their chicken friends.  They aren’t the ones who decided to go beakless as some kind of Goth Chicken fashion statement.  They aren’t the ones that decided to have their whole environments totally manipulated a la The Truman Show.  Except Truman had a potty.  Nope.  People did that to them.  And they did that because we consumers stamped our itty bitty feet and Demanded Cheap and Plentiful eggs.  Even in the winter when chickens like to rest.  If The Beloved and I are two folks who choose to vote/pay for eggs from humanely raised chickens, we are also two fewer folks voting/paying for eggs-as-usual.

There you have it.  My own mini-but-no-less-paradigm-changing-for-that Harmonic Convergence.  Eating Animals and Chicken Coops.  The Beloved and I dearly want to raise chickens–we have two sets of neighbors who want to do it, too.  Unfortunately, the Rules and Covenants for our Homeowners’ Association say no animals other than dogs or cats.  But the rules also state that residents can own no more than two pets, and we have four.  So, we’re already the Bonnie and Clyde of the neighborhood.  You’ll never take us alive, Coppers!

Ahem.  As I was saying, we’d really like to raise chickens.  For the eggs, for the compost, for the bug- and weed-eating, and for the comforting clucking sound they make.  I’ll keep you Apprised.

Coming up, Part III:  How does an Egg, Cream and Cheese-Loving pastry chef manage to eat/bake in accordance with our newly crystallizing way of thinking about food.  That’s a toughie, and I’ll be back to tell you my truth as well as I can.

As always, thanks for reading, and all comments–positive and negative–are welcome.

Eating Animals, Harmonic Convergence, and Deep Ponderings, Part Uno

24 May

eating animals

Real chickens have beaks and can walk on their own. I haven't always eaten real chickens. Have you? (Please click on photo for credit).

I am ever so sorry that I’ve been away for almost two weeks.  It is ridiculously undisciplined and selfish of me to be absent for so long, and I apologize.  But friends, I have been Digesting some reading material that was so meaty that it has taken awhile for my Super Enzymes to break it down and assimilate it.  And I’m pretty sure I’ll never be quite the same.

Warning The following could be construed as Presumptuous and Daringly Sacrilegious.  Please do not consider it so. This is really the only metaphor I can use to illustrate the profundity of this personal Sea Change.

Remember in the Bible when everyone was supposed to get taxed and had to go to their birth cities to Pay Up?  And then Mary had a Baby, and all of a sudden, there were Angels and Heavenly Hosts and Night Winds Talking to Little Lambs and visiting shepherds and other such Excitement because her wee bairn was The Savior?  Well, people talked, of course.

But Mary, rather than helping to spread the word, mulled quietly over all that she’d recently learned and pondered it in her heart.  Not because she wasn’t moved or humbled by the goings on, and certainly not because she didn’t believe it, but because she was trying to reconcile her new reality with her old reality.

All of a sudden, she wasn’t the shamed pregnant-before-married girl.  She was the Mother of God.  That’s a big leap, and while the holiest of honors, it would also be a bit disconcerting, to say the least.  I can almost hear her:  Am I good enough?  Can I deal with this?  Can Joseph hang with this?  With me?  Do I really deserve this, and what will happen to this child?

Well, on a much less holy scale, I’ve been pondering just like Mary.  And the ponder I’ve been pondering has made me look at food in a whole new way. As you guys may or may not know, The Beloved and I try very hard to buy humanely raised animals and animal products whenever we can.  Even though that has been the goal for quite a long time, often it was just plain easier to stop at McDonald’s or Burger King or some other fast food place to grab a bite on a road trip.  We’d always thanked the poor little factory farm-raised animal for giving its life and apologized for its having a pretty bad life.  That’s how we were able to justify these trips.

Pretty feeble, right?  We were okay with that feeble-tude, but a few things have transpired recently in sort of a mini Harmonic Convergence that render our weak justifications completely indefensible.

Thing #1:  I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals.  Ultimately what his book does is to make a case for veganism.  But recognizing that eating patterns run the gamut from Oblivious Omnivore to Ascetic Vegan, it also makes the case for if-you-must-eat-meat-eat-happy-meat.  One concept that struck me is the one of eating animals that had “a happy life and a quick death.”

We all have to decide for ourselves what we can live with as a “happy life” and a “quick death.”  We should be able to articulate how much, if any, animal suffering is acceptable to us.  For some of us, no amount of animal suffering is justified since we have an abundance of food choices these days. Others of us can live with eating animals who were allowed to live relatively stress-free lives.  Some of us might even say that someone has to eat those poor factory farmed animals or they will have died in vain so it might as well be me.

Regardless, we all should know where our food comes from.  If we eat meat and animal products bought in most regular grocery stores, we should eat it mindfully, knowing how it was raised and how it was treated.  And once we know, we can decide if we can live with it.

Another quote that is still resonating in my wee brain a couple of weeks after finishing Eating Animals is that (and this is a paraphrase) any time we spend money on protein–be it meat, poultry or fish–we are farming by proxy.  That means that ultimately, buying a Chik-Fil-A Sammich is a vote in favor of the way Chik-Fil-A  chickens are raised and killed.

If we choose to eat animals, I think we can all agree that we eat them after they’ve lived for awhile and then are dead.  And that means that someone has raise them and then kill them.  If we choose to buy the On-Special Chicken at Wal-Mart or someplace, we’re saying Yes! to one way of raising and killing animals.  If we choose to spend extra money to purchase humanely raised, grass fed beef, we’re saying Yes! to what is generally a very different way of raising and killing animals. I think most of us would agree that we would like to say Yes! to the latter.

But here’s the kicker.  When we say Yes! to one, we’re automatically saying No! to the other.  There’s only so much money that folks spend on food, and if they’re spending it on inexpensive factory farmed meats, they’re not spending it on boutique farm/ranch-raised meats.  If the demand is for cheap meat, that is what will be supplied.  If the demand is for meat from humanely treated animals, then that is what will be supplied.

I bet that if a research group surveyed 1000 people regarding which they’d prefer, antibiotic and hormone-free happy animals that were compassionately raised and killed or ‘Roid Rage animals from factory farms, the overwhelming majority would opt for the former.   I also bet that when those same 1000 people next go to the store, the overwhelming majority would opt to spend less and buy the factory farmed meat.  Actions speak more loudly than words, and 1000 well-intentioned folks just unconsciously said Yes! to factory farming and No! to a more expensive, more humane approach.

Since The Beloved and I are not Big & Rich, we have to think very carefully about how we spend our money.  About what our money supports.  I think of our dollars as votes.  Votes for or against certain business practices; votes for or against certain political views.  We have decided that we can eat meat if we can know that the animals who died to provide it had room to roam and be themselves while they were alive, that they were raised free of prophylactic antibiotics and hormones, and that they were compassionately slaughtered.  No, I don’t think that’s an oxymoron.  That’s why rabbis oversee kosher slaughterhouses.

Anyway, since eating in accordance with what we find acceptable (and the definition of acceptable is a personal one) is Expensive, we will just eat less meat.  In our view, less meat of better quality is more acceptable to us than more meat of lesser quality.  Especially in light of the fact that poultry consumption in the US has gone from 30.3lbs/year in 1978 to 58.8lbs/year in 2008.  Corporate farms are here to feed the demand for cheap protein, and people are lining up in droves to support it.  And why? I choose to believe it is a combination of being ignorant of the realities of factory farming coupled with astute marketing on the part of “Big Farma.”  We choose not to continue to support them with our dollars/votes.

Who is still buying their gas from BP as oil continues to spew, barely checked, into the Gulf of Mexico?  Who stopped buying Exxon gas after the Valdez disaster in 1989?  If we can use our pocketbooks to express our outrage against these corporations, why do we hesitate to do the same against corporate farms?  I’m not trying to push any sort of Eating Agenda on you guys.  I am trying to push education, though.  Be aware of where your food comes from.  Be aware of how it was raised.  Eat consciously.  Eat conscientiously.

And that is all I have to say for now.  Join me tomorrow for Thing #2 in our Harmonic Convergence.  And I absolutely want to hear your thoughts.  I’m not sure, even after all the Maryesque pondering, that I’ve been able to really express this new truth we are trying to live, but if I’ve sparked a conversation, I’d love to continue it down in the comments.  Thanks, guys.

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