I assume they are planning heists, but I haven't asked

Guder mariye! Sitz dich anne un bleib e weil! Just a little Pennsylvania Dutch in honor of today's topic (Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult), hope you Englischers weren't too ferhoodled by it. Here is a nice, simple 1-2-3-4 Cake to ease you into the wholesome world of an Amish dairy farm.

Butter and refined sugar, God's own ingredients.

Except ooooops our particular Amish dairy farm has a MURDERED INFANT ON IT! Don't worry, there's a Big City Lady Lawyer on the case and she has short hair like a boy so you know she's all business. I realize this is a bit upsetting. Here, this bowl of Chicken and Dumplings will calm your nerves.

So, look. Obviously this novel was not my particular cup of unpasteurized milk, and I definitely spent some of the more boring stretches of courtroom plot-rehashing debating which aspect of my person was most insulted by it (woman/lawyer/adult human/fan of character development), but I do have a couple of things to say in its defense. First of all, Jodi Picoult personally contributed the cake and dumpling recipes to The Book Lover's Cookbook with notes about living with the Amish and I genuinely appreciate that. These are, without a doubt, the most appropriate recipe-to-character matches to date. I can clearly picture an Amish family of possible baby-murderers sitting down to a slice of that cake.

Second, there's a chance that, as a brown-eyed individual, I am just feeling left out of Picoult's fetishization of blue and green eyes. Every object of affection has eyes that are blue (like the water) or blue (like the sky) or green (like the water, as seen from the sky) (really). Brown eyes can be seductive too, Jodi! Check it!

"The circles under her eyes were a deep, endless purple, a color he had only seen once before in his life, inside a bowl of his mother's eggplant parm."

Third, about three quarters of the way into the book a character who is splattered with chicken blood is described by another character as looking "like you've stepped out of a Kevin Williamson film," and the 90s specificity of that reference delighted me so much that I pretty much forgave it everything. Plus, there are many, many instances of the world ferhoodled. Priceless.

Next up: a re-read of James Herriot's All Things Bright and Beautiful, mostly because I am pretty confident it does not contain any homicide.

A few days before Christmas, Anna informed "Santa" that she wanted a new stuffed cat. This was news to me, but also an easy request to fulfill last minute, so come Christmas morning, a new stuffed cat there was. "Good," said Anna solemnly. "A new member of the Cat Team." The Cat Team was also news to me. Hilarious news.

Yesterday, the Cat Team gained yet another freshman, and Anna spent much of the afternoon giving her a tour of the house and introducing her to the rest of the team.

My point here is that four is a good age.

Two is also very special, of course.


Mood and mobility

Hey guys, I think I might have been a little too hard on spring last time. Sure the late afternoon light seems specifically calibrated to illuminate every dust molecule in the house, but it's also sort of golden and soothing. Sure it's a pain to dress for the hot/cold temperature swings, but three months from now the swings will be from extremely hot to unbearably hot, so throwing a jacket on in the morning isn't really the worst. Sure a family of birds has set up residence in my oven vent, but maybe it will prevent the girls from…being allergic to birds? What I'm trying to say is, I'm feeling better about the season and also my life in general and also the world at large and hey look at that! I no longer have a boot on my foot and feel as though I'm slowly suffocating from the bottom up! So thaaaaat might explain it.

I'm closing in on the end of the March section of Cook This Now, which works out well since we are also closing in on the end of the March section of 2014. Now, obviously Spicy Black Beans with Chorizo and Jalapeño is a good dish. Partly because it's spicy black beans with chorizo and jalapeño and partly because it is served over rice and I have never had a bad combination of beans and rice.

Not gonna start today.

Make sure and let your eyes linger on those bright spicy colors because next up is...Amish food! I will be finished with Plain Truth by the end of this week, one way or another. It will leave my nightstand. Possibly via my bedroom window. I probably could have finished it already, but I have to stop every two pages to close my eyes and exhale deeply. SERENITY NOW.

Anyway, sorry, let's get back to happy thoughts. Nothing stronger than a bond between sisters!

…possibly excepting the bond between one sister and her pop tart!



A little Madness in the Spring

Ah, Spring. Yes indeed. I realize that for some of you in more unforgiving temperate zones, the first official day of spring is a rather sad joke, the same way the "first day of autumn" makes those of us down here think "Yes, I suppose it was slightly under 100 degrees today." So I shall endeavor to enjoy the springiness on your behalf, although to be honest I generally view it as a depressing harbinger of the Endless Furnace Days to come. It means that bugs are back, as are my avian vent-dwelling friends. It calls to mind the word "itchy." Emily Dickinson wrote a lot of poems about spring.

Best bury ourselves in a book project and try to ignore the swiftly tilting planet beneath us, is what I always say. The Accidental Tourist! It was my favorite so far, although the spectre of the murdered-child-premise has outlived the actual reading of the book for me, as expected. If you haven't read or seen it, you will probably not believe me when I say that having been so gruesomely set up, this book goes on to be very funny and engaging. I really, really loved the obsessive-compulsive semi-helplessness of all the Leary brothers, as I could see myself similarly trying and failing to establish order and efficiency were I suddenly on my own. I also thought it ended well, which is pretty rare even in novels that I like a lot. I still have a clear picture of the very last visual. I think I shall read more Anne Tyler.

It's funny that The Book Lover's Cookbook includes two recipes for The Accidental Tourist, as Macon Leary is the least culinarily adventurous protagonist I've encountered…possibly ever. First up, My-wife-just-left-me-and-this-is-my-sad-contribution-to-my-neighbors-sympathy-potluck Macaroni and Cheese. (Accompanied by Wilted Collard Greens with Lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the March section of Cook This Now.)

This was a fine version of macaroni and cheese, and I ate two helpings plus another "clearing the dishes" bonus helping. HOWEVER. I do not believe for a minute that Macon would have put a noticeable amount of Dijon mustard in this dish. Do you know how I can tell? Because I'm pretty certain that he and Anna have the same palate and she flat out refused to eat this. Good thing I cooked the entire two pounds of macaroni, we'll have plenty of chances to try and change her mind! Anywaaaay, let me know if you're in the market for some slightly mustardy macaroni and cheese. Seems like it would ship well.

Next up: Genuine Roasting Idaho Potato Boats. Now, here's where I confess something. I was starting to feel a little bit bad about giving The Book Lover's Cookbook such a hard time regarding the inappropriateness of some recipes for the characters who would theoretically be eating them. Maybe the intention wasn't for it to be authentic, but rather something they consider the best possible version (read: highest possible sugar content) of the food mentioned in the book, and it was mean-spirited of me to interpret it otherwise. BUT THEN THIS RECIPE IS A LITERAL STEP-BY-STEP RECREATION OF WHAT HE EATS IN THE BOOK. It even offers the alternative version (re-stuffing the potatoes) that Macon specifically doesn't like. It makes the paprika optional, because "Personally, Macon could do without paprika altogether." So they ARE trying to tie the food to the characters, sort of, at least sometimes. Is this the saddest, most potato-y "gotcha" you've ever experienced? Probably! Too bad! I am vindicated!

These are just deconstructed baked potatoes, by the way.

Also, I threw in a little more Cook This Now greenery: Raw Mustard Greens Salad with Gruyere and Anchovy Croutons. It's not a kissin'-after kind of salad.

Next up on the book list: Plain Truth. It's my first Jodi Picoult! About a quarter of the way in I'm going to say it's, uuuuuuuhhhhh, probably my last! But who knows. Never say never. I should also note that literally all of my understanding of the Amish comes from pop cultural references to Witness, a movie I have never seen. So, you know, who am I to criticize? Join me, English!

I can certainly appreciate the YMCA's need to supplement their resources by making use of the young charges in their child care room, but I doubt they anticipated the hurricane of charisma that is unleashed when a toddler of mine is put in a position to interact with strangers.

Just a real flurry of salesmanship.


I will not impose on your emotional state, this once

Man, after Lunar New Year, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, and Pi Day, it sort of feels like St. Pat's is the first holiday of 2014 to fall on a non-ULM Official Posting Day and I have to admit, it's a little bit of a relief. I mean, aren't you guys sick of me demanding that you have a happy day of some type? Now the pressure's off! Have a regular Tuesday today, everyone. Have a nice boring March 18th. Festivities will resume…let's see…April Fool's Day, I suppose. Get those hilarious tricks ready.

In the meantime, check out the super low key Irish-ish dinner we rocked last night, via Cook This Now. Baked Stuffed Potatoes with Corned Beef and Dill Butter, roasted cabbage, Irish Soda Bread.

Turns out, if you don't feel like braising a giant hunk of beef all afternoon, you can walk up to a deli counter and ask for 1/2 pound of corned beef and they will just give it to you in exchange for money. Instant corned beef! The more you know! I highly recommend this method. It will give you way more time to scrub all the paint off of your rug OH YEAH DID I MENTION?

I would definitely have assumed that this was the work of an incontinent leprechaun had I not watched Ivy dump out of the entire jar of paint while staring at me defiantly. Also, we didn't even set up a leprechaun trap, so that would make no sense.


Besides, I know for a fact that in two years or so you are going to turn nice and sassy.

I can wait.

Okay, now I'm feeling bad that I condemned you to an ordinary late-winter non-holiday, so to make up for it, here is all of the (un-pie) food we ate in Fort Worth last week.

Rocky Mountain, Glazed Doughnuts & Cafe. It just tasted like chocolate, no hints of crisp mountain air or anything. 

Maple donut tricked out with bacon slice and filled with Bavarian cream, Glazed Donuts & Cafe.  "Simplicity" is overrated as a life goal.

Cinnamon, Apple, and Cranberry Waffle, Brewed. Look, Dan didn't go with me to the Bacon Festival and he's still catching up, okay?

Serrano grits with scrambled egg, Brewed. Serrano in grits! Good idea!

ART BREAK. Sometimes you just get tired of food.

Whatever the fish special was at Café Modern that day. For some reason, Dan doesn't write down exactly what he orders at every meal. So. Live and let live I guess.

(Consults notes) Moroccan Chicken Salad, Café Modern.

Papardelle with butternut squash, prosciutto, and hazelnuts, Nonna Tata.  This pasta is fresh and it is good. Even run-of-the-mill pasta is good, really, so this is extra good.

Tortelli with eggplant, goat cheese, and pistachio butter, Nonna Tata.  PISTACHIO BUTTER I MEAN CAN YOU EVEN.

S'mores in a Jar, Brewed again. Too dark to get a good pictures of the layers, but there were layers. S'moresy, s'moresy layers.

Oyster Sampler, Waters. Let's see if we can just get a closer look at...

Yep, there we go! Perfect.

Mesquite grilled Arctic char with squash ribbons and heirloom tomatoes, Waters. I ate this and Frito pie within about a three hour period. I contain multitudes.

Of hungry people.

Oh, just a wall monkey at the completely normal bed and breakfast where we stayed. Maybe don't click that link if you want to maintain your boring, non-freaked-out Tuesday state.


Weight, vacation

A very merry Pi(e) Day to you, mesdames et messieurs! As you may recall, last year I presented you with a bit of an abomination and on that very day I solemnly vowed that I would never again do you like that. As it happens, Dan and I are currently on holiday (undisclosed location) (obviously) (paparazzi), but that did not stand in the way of my scouring the…ahem…greater Fort Worth, Texas area for pies. All of the pies. Such is my dedication to you, dear reader. BEHOLD:

Pie, classic.

Pie, fancy.

Pie, pizza, redundant.

And obviously, pie, BEST.

You have no idea how many food service professionals Dan had to confuse in order to make our pie mission a success, so you are welcome. And in case you are feeling a bit more hands-on than myself this year, here are some very intriguing pie recipes. PLEASE REPORT BACK.

Salty Honey
Lemon Chess
Peanut Butter Cup
Sour Cherry Slab
Momofuku Crack
Grapefruit Meringue
Sour Cream Apple

We left the girls with my parents, so I'm not sure what they're up to at the moment. Last I saw, half of them were having a pretty good time.

Okay. Back to our mystery retreat.