Category Archives: How to Cook Like an Amateur

Restaurants, Foodieism, Obesity, First-World Whining (My Own)

Yesterday, while chatting with my friend at the park about the need–again–to think up something for dinner that wasn’t sucky and wasn’t boring and wasn’t lame (I have the most trouble with vegetable dishes, and I was tired of frozen vegetables and leafy green salads), I had an Actual Thought about Society. I haven’t had one of these in a while, and I’m not sure why; maybe it’s because my exposure to news is so limited, or maybe because I am behind on my podcasts, but whatever it is, this Actual Thought sprang out of my head fully formed like the goddess Athena. It Made a Connect between seemingly disparate things, and even if there is absolutely no data available to support my thought, and it could be one of those random collections of observations that–should I be lucky enough–graduates to the status of Factoid and/or Urban Legend, I’ll be pleased.

I never did find any nice pictures to break up the wall of text that this blog post became, but I helpfully bolded key terms so you can skim the damn thing and more or less catch the gist of it. Meanwhile, enjoy this video clip that I promise is relevant.

The beauty of this is its simplicity. Once a plan gets too complex, everything can go wrong.

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TMI, Or, Too Much Information? Also, Cake.

I’ve been composing this blog mentally since listening to a discussion of the critical reaction to The Killing on the “Firewall & Iceberg” podcast this morning, and it’s gone through a variety of thesis statements and witty titles. I was going to channel my inner Neil Gaiman and call it “Veena Sud Is Not Your Bitch,” until I realized that I have no inner Neil Gaiman and didn’t want to make a fool of myself by presuming so, even facetiously. Then I was going to go on a little Internet Rant about all those people going on Internet Rants about the ending of a show they already didn’t like, but didn’t like even more come Monday morning, but the irony/hypocrisy seized my fingers and I was unable to type. Then it was time for lunch, which was brought to me by a playdate’s parent for free. I didn’t even have to change out of my bathing suit.*

Jack in the Box Egg Rolls**

*Not Shown

**I always thought it was weird that a fast food restaurant could get right old school egg rolls of the kind you can’t even get at Chinese restaurants anymore, until I learned that they make them with MSG. I remember well the year MSG disappeared from all the Chinese restaurants for “health reasons” and “popular demand,” because it was the year egg drop soup became watery and I had to move on to hot and sour.

You can read in a variety of places all about how the show runner of The Killing broke an implicit contract with viewers and insulted them with the ending of the first season and wasted three months of Sundays of people’s time and all kinds of invective ranging from carefully analytic to frothy tirades. All kinds. Critics are mad, fans are mad, and I don’t really understand the rage, but I do understand that there’s rage and there’s Internet Rage, and Internet Rage is a group process that doesn’t necessarily reflect actual emotions on the other side of the keyboard. If I can go by my own habits and the habits of people I post with on boards that discuss TV and other topics. For example, a particularly upsetting episode of, say, The Office Season 3, could have had people seething and hollering in the episode thread, but being funny and charming one minute later in the job thread or the chit chat thread.

Now I have to take a break to put a crumb coat on a cake I’m baking for Husband’s 60-year-old coworker who had a JoP wedding over the weekend and who, if I really had to guess, probably doesn’t need anything as a present. My Aceling of Cakes was excited about making a tiered cake for a while, and claimed first rights to cut off the dome, but now he’s crapping out on the crumb coat. Dude, no one wants to frost the crumb coat. It is admittedly the suckiest of the coats, but it’s the most necessary, especially on a pretend wedding cake with frosting tinted very slightly off-white because I have only real vanilla extract in the house instead that artificial colorless vanilla stuff.

Yes, I Did Drink All That Soda Today

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The Aceling of Cakes

Mr. Fella said he would cut off the dome himself.

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The Mothership Tomato Salad

I am always a big fan of motherships. My first apartment was down the road from the mothership of Thrifty’s drugstores, which took up an entire city block (it was a small city block) and was always open. That first summer after graduating college, when I’d managed to hold on to my little student job at the information booth and my BFF from out of state had finally come to live with me, was like a dream. We’d walk to the mothership at all hours of the night, purchase Thrifty’s ice cream, and browse the hair products. My favorite was two scoops in a cup, usually chocolate brownie and cookie dough, or mint chip and cookie dough.

The ice cream came in these cylindrical scoops, all neatly stacked like blocks. You could get two scoops for $1.19 or something (yeah, yeah–all the old people remember when it was a dime in the 1980s, but I was living in Connecticut in the 1980s and missed out) and they took your ATM card, which meant that I didn’t actually need to have any cash or go get any from a creepy ATM machine in the middle of the night, BFF bodyguard or not. (We lived very, very close to the mothership, on a very nice little street in a good enough neighborhood, but there were some unsavory shadows along our path, strewn with roaches of the Blattarian and Primate varieties.) There were four of us crammed that summer into our little apartment, and just leaving it–even as a foursome–was such a relief. Plus, you know, the heat. The mothership beckoned to us in our dreams, and we’d gather around the ice cream counter waiting sometimes ten minutes in line for our treats. Even after Rite Aid bought the whole franchise and turned the store into something even shinier, they kept the ice cream counter open.

It was a charmed life.

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Old Black Witch (and Blueberry Pancakes)

By Wende Devlin and Harry Devlin

You know, I logged on to WordPress tonight to rave about the pancakes we made from the Old Black Witch book, but because I’m a stats whore I had to analyze my stats page first. Someone linked to me today from a blog I’ve never encountered before, and of course I had to find out why. You may have noticed that WordPress has partnered with SkyNet to make recommendations for other blog posts you might enjoy reading based on tags and key words (I guess). Well, a few weeks ago you may have read my riveting post about the Naked Scientists and Naked Archaeology podcasts; perhaps you have even since subscribed to them on iTunes. Perhaps when you came to the end of the review you were shown a link to a post on a blog called Hootchi Cootchi, which discusses the science, the social, and everything in between (of sex, in case you were wondering). Perhaps that link took you to the June 25, 2009 post that showed you full frontal of a very young, very uncut Tony Danza. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting to see when I was offered the link to “Tony Danza! Naked!” but that’s what I got. He was a real cutie-pie. I didn’t realize. I mean from the waist up, of course. I figured out early on that he had a penis. I didn’t appreciate his adorableness during his sitcom heyday.

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Glee–A Show about Shows

So Fox has finally gone meta! It’s made a show about a show, and they showed it right before (or maybe right after) American Idol, which is a show that is a show. And by doing so, they showed us all.

I watched this while making what we will be calling Tinky Winky and Dipsy Finger Jell-O for a party this afternoon. I’d done the responsible thing and made a pan of what would retroactive be called Po Finger Jell-O, but it turned out that there was a teeny tiny hold in the bottom of the pan, and the liquid Jell-O leaked out the bottom. So it was another one of those recipes where I had to go to the store at the last minute to buy all new versions of the same ingredients and end up rushed and unprepared, even though I planned ahead and did all the right things in advance. I’m not usually in the habit of lifting up my baking dishes to see if any light streams through the bottom before I fill them up, but I am now. I actually don’t know how long that hole has been there, because I usually use that pan for baking chicken in our crappy stove, so even if some liquid did drip through you would never notice it in the crud, and the oven would char it to a powder.

There is a funny story in all this: During breakfast, as I was talking to Fella and Filly about how we had to go to the store to get more Jell-O and how they would get to pick the colors, Fella asked if this time I could go to the store by myself while he and Filly stayed home and play. It’s like he read my mind! He has no idea how many times I’ve wished I could just go to the store, which is less than a mile away, and come back before they even noticed I was gone. And then he went and thought it up independently? I am so impressed. It would have been a lot more fun for all of us. But coming home from the store we discovered some guys with an extension ladder installing new windows for the neighbors, so Fella got to talk to a guy with an extension ladder about the extension ladder, so it was all worth it.

When my friend recommended this show to me, I sort of ignored it, because I don’t really watch the same kinds of shows that he watches, and without ever hearing anyone talk about it, I just assumed that it was a show about a men’s choir. Partly, I suppose, because that woman from Best in Show is in it, and she’s with that crowd that would totally spoof a men’s choir, but partly because when I was little and my dad taught at the Naval Academy, we would go to the Naval Academy Glee Club performances. They stayed at the same lodgings as us that summer we spent in Virginia Beach, and they performed at the Wild Animal Park that time we lived in San Diego before. It was, at the time, a men’s choir. I always associate glee clubs with men, and the possibility that it would be about a high school show choir never occurred to me. Because I’ve blown through all the shows of the 2009 spring season, when I saw this on the computer while I was standing in the kitchen doing dishes so I could then make Finger Jell-O, I figured I’d watch it. I was confused, and then amused.

I was in a show choir in high school, you see.

There’s a funny argument online at the IMDb message board, filled to the brim with the requisite posturing and nitpicking and name calling, about whether this show qualifies as a “musical” or if it is a show about singers that has songs in it. After reading the thread, and carefully considering the arguments from both sides, I have decided that it is in fact a musical. Turns out that show choir people actually do burst into other people’s songs at random times, and there is a lot of singing going on.

There’s also debate over there about whether or not we’ve seen the “Pilot” or a “Show-Length” preview, and whether the “missing eleven minutes” made the show too choppy and difficult to follow. I had no idea there would be comprehension issues, and don’t think that it was overly jumpy, but perhaps my insider’s expertise gave me an advantage over those people who are experiencing show choir for the first time with this program.


First of all, I think the character off Finn is waaayyy too much like Chris Klein’s character in Election. It’s looks, it’s acting, it’s situation, it’s everything. He’s not as dumb as Chris Klein’s character, but he’s just as earnest. I like both boys, so it’s not a complaint, but it’s a replication. I can handle a replicated character in another show, especially if the Tracy Flick replicant–Rachel–is cast as his comrade and not his adversary. It’s interesting to watch what stock characters do with new motivations. I especially liked Finn’s relationship with his mother, who reminded me so much of my cousin that it wasn’t even funny, except that my cousin is funny. We were told that the two of them–Finn and his mother, that is–had a good relationship by the narration, but what we saw of them was pretty potent in its details if brief in its description. It said a lot that the two of them were willing to hang out with Dan from Emerald Dreams, and it said a lot about the mom when she threw the bottle of milk after his car. Dan from Emerald Dreams was pretty darn adorable, and I loved seeing him several years later still with his gal from the Piggly Wiggly. Finding out who played Dan Darren from Emerald Dreams has been more difficult than I had hoped, but I will identify that actor. Oh, yes, I will.

EDITED 10:01 PM: Thank you, Debbie, for identifying Aaron Hendry for me!

I actually felt bad for his friend Hank (with the Mohawk Mullet). Finn and Hank have a friendship that Hank believed was based on shared interests and activities, and it looks like Finn has been phoning it in the whole time. Finn’s contempt for the pranks was easy for Finn to drop because he was never fully satisfied with them, but to go off on Hank like that over the portable toilet prank was a sort of betrayal. I’m not blaming Finn for going off on Hank and intervening–those boys were jerks–but when Hank was watching the show choir rehearsal at the end of the show, he got final confirmation that Finn had abandoned him. It’s a turning point for Hank. He’ll be worth watching. I am assuming that he’ll probably turn into Enemy #1, allied with the Celibate Cheerleader girlfriend who will get upset when Rachel and Finn move from associates to companions.

I didn’t mind the blatant caricatures of the teachers (except for Emma and Will) because they are villains and foils. I did dislike the blatant caricature of Will’s wife, Terri. He needs a real adversary at home, not a cartoon one, because that’s where the real tension of his character’s conflicts come from: music vs. family. The high school villains are just obstacles for our plucky hero to overcome, and it doesn’t matter if they don’t have any purpose outside of causing problems. The supporting cast of show choir kids was pretty blank. They were stock characters, too, but even they were given glimpses of depth. Tina (the Asian one) acted dumb when asked what her specialty was, but she did try out for the choir without coercion. Arty (the wheelchair one) plays the guitar! I also liked his sass when Finn was wheeling him out of the portable toilet and telling off the football players. He wasn’t embarrassed, he wasn’t fawning, he was playing around with his burn-hiss gesture as they rolled away. Kurt (the gay one) hasn’t stepped out of his stereotype, yet, but he has dignity. I adored Mercedes (the Black one). Her smile is so fetching, and her line “Hell to the naw!” was my favorite. I might try that out in writing online somewhere.

I’ve spent too much at the IMDb site looking up character names (I am notoriously bad at character names) to not have deduced that the choir will eventually attract more students (it has to to be competitive), but I’ll probably forget all about it until I see people talking about it on Facebook come Fall or whenever the rest of the show is supposed to air. But I liked it enough to be happy to contribute to the buzz, which I think was part of the promotional plan. Perhaps the fifty people who read this blog will tell fifty people each about the show, and so one, until we’ve taken over the world!

Show Choirs 4-EVR.

Barefoot in the Kitchen for Days–Birthday Cake and Chocolate Cookies

Filly turns two tomorrow! Because I can’t be bothered to plan a party the last few occasions, I do my best with the birthday cake. You should all know by now that my crude, if cute, Robot Cake for Fella’s third made a list (in a good way) but Filly’s first birthday cake was tastier than it was pretty. I can blame that on a lot of things, but I’ll start with the silicon pan. The butterfly cake was one of those things that is a bunch of strangely shaped cupcakes that fit together like tangrams to make a larger picture, but I overfilled the pan and there were too many narrow corners and the whole thing just didn’t sit well. I had trouble frosting it, no clear vision of how to decorate a butterfly, and she didn’t want it anyway. (Filly’s just not that into baked goods.)

February 2008

February 2008

The robot cake was a study in rectangles and candy, and made up in charm what it lacked in finesse. I used the leftover pieces to make two cakes, one twice the area of the other, to celebrate the day that Fella was exactly twice Filly’s age.


I also made some cupcakes for Valentine’s Day this year, but I haven’t really made anything since, but I’ve eaten and seen some beautifully decorated cakes at little kids’ parties, and I was determined to step it up. My mother brought over her old cake decorating tips and bags and tints from my childhood, still stored in the Tupperware of my youth. Either I was using very good and forgiving tools, or I was inspired by the visions of the beautiful cakes from my own birthday parties, or I sufficiently read instructions, or my hands are tired of giving me sloppy work and decided all on their own to step it up, or it really isn’t that hard to do when you aren’t up at midnight trying to decorate the damn thing so you can frikkin go to bed so you can get up early enough in the morning to clean the frikkin floors, but the Flower cake is so cute!



I didn’t really have a theme in mind, until I saw a flower-shaped pan at Party City. I was going to decorate it like a sunflower, with yellow icing and chocolate chips in the middle, but then Mother bought some cute little flowered outfit for Filly to wear tomorrow, and I was inspired by the flowers in the fabric. I went with those colors instead.

I was going to use little white marshmallows for the center, but I didn’t have any in the house, and they were starting to seem too big in my mind for the space. I ended up with dots of frosting and I think it looks just fine. I wanted a bluer green for the green, but I am happy with the green that I got. I added pink as an afterthought, because the blue and green and white just seemed to be missing one thing. My mother’s friend is a feng shui advisor or something, and once told me that my gray and white and silver kitchen (it was like that when we moved here) needed something red or orange, and she was right. Because I had puh-lenty of frosting (two pounds of powdered sugar’s worth!) it was easy to whip up a small batch of pink. Because I had so many tips and tools, I didn’t even have to clean one small mess before making another one!

It was altogether easy, in the end. Too easy. I am half-expecting that the wax paper will stick to the frosting in the fridge overnight and mess up the pattern, but the frosting that I made gets a little crusty and dry because there’s not that much liquid in it (I refer you once again to the recipe on the back of the powdered sugar box), so the wax paper really wasn’t sticking at all when I covered it. Time will tell, but I am only half-expecting that the paper will wreck the cake because I am generally pessimistic; my cold, logical brain is telling me that it will be just fine. No matter what, Filly won’t care, I’ve already taken my show pictures, and I’ll be serving Thai food. Thai food cures all ills.

I am starting to think I need some better platter, though–many cakes of mine have been presented on my old bread board covered with tin foil. It’s bright and cheerful, but it reflects light in a funny way. I have nice dishes for cakes, but the ones I make are always too wide. Perhaps my next cake experiment will be to go vertical…

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I could have sworn–SWORN–that I had a box of white cake mix in the cupboard. I know I bought one, and I think I ended up using it on the Valentine’s Day cupcakes. But I have absolutely no recollection of ever buying a chocolate cake mix. (The flower cake is chocolate.) The buttercream frosting I made was basically white/vanilla, so I’ve been thinking all week that I would make a batch of chocolate cookies to accompany the white cake. Not chocolate chip–chocolate cookies. I got a few recipe recommendations that were too fancy and insisted on things like stand mixers with paddle attachments and high-quality baking chocolate, but that was way too fussy for me. I found a simple, basic recipe that allowed me to easily substitute Hershey’s baking cocoa for real chocolate, and so required no pan for melting. I found it at of all places, a site I actually hate (although far less so now that I don’t allow pop-ups anymore), and yet keep finding recipes on. This particular recipe (linked to above) is hosted by Diana Rattray and maybe posted by her, too, and it was easy and yummy. Amazingly, my cookies came out looking exactly like the cookies in the picture, so I can spare you all from more bad pictures of tasty food.

I was all set Tuesday night to make these cookies, until I realized it was already 9:00 PM and the dough needed two hours to chill. Wednesday night I just frittered away, but yesterday afternoon I mixed it up and put it in the refrigerator until after the kids went to bed. By that point I had discovered I had only a chocolate cake mix in the house (thus rendering the whole point of making chocolate cookies redundant) and was less than enthusiastic about it. Plus it’s the kind of dough that you have to roll into balls in your hands, and it starts to smear this really unappetizing squishy brown. It made way more than four dozen, and it felt like I was there for an hour rolling this crap, and then suddenly my hands were clean, the cookies were in the oven, and the buzzer was ringing before I even had a chance to complain about it in my Facebook status.

Once they were made, I was a lot happier about the cookies. They came in handy this morning when I needed to dash out the door without having a proper breakfast, and they came in handy this evening, when my father stopped by for a pre-party visit. The cookies aren’t terribly sweet, which is good. They are soft and sort of like an airy brownie. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but they would probably be excellent in coffee and you will want to coat them in powdered sugar. I think they need the sweetness boost even if you didn’t care that they wouldn’t be crinkly without cracks appearing in a white outer layer.

I think I did good work this week. Any cake is good cake, but cute cake is something special. And I have made some cute cake. There. I said it aloud. It’s on the table, as it were. Now you all can talk openly about how cute this cake is without feeling embarrassed about having to broach the subject. It’s the least I can do for people who won’t be around to share it.

Quick-Cooked Carrots in Orange Juice

When we were on our trip through Northern California last autumn we spent a day or two at Clara’s house in the mountain. Clara has a fully stocked kitchen, and a grown-up size barbecue, and a deck big enough for a table and chairs, and a propane heater, so one could argue that it was just skill and setting that made the dinner so good. Months later, in my adequate kitchen, on my scratched dining room table, in my messy, cold house I was able to achieve the same results. Shocking! The one constant was the recipe, which came out of an actual book, and which I am so excited about sharing.

I don’t know the name of the book or I would credit it; Clara sent a photocopy of the page to me. It was page 68, for the record, and “The Best Recipe” is at the top of the page. The recipe variations run to page 69, so she sent me both pages, and at the top of the other page it says “Vegetables.” It is probably this book; in fact, I am almost positive that it is. Someday Clara herself will have to stop working for money, manipulating science to improve humanity, and traveling the world to read the blog and confirm it. Until that happens, I’ll copy it out for you. These are some seriously good carrots. I regret not having the presence of mind to take a bad picture of the pan (I always take bad pictures of food) to post here, and I can’t find anything online that looks remotely like it, but I was trying to time dinner right. (I mostly did–the salmon cooked longer than I expected.) You’ll just have to use your imagination.

1. Cut a pound of carrots on the diagonal, in slices about 1/4 inch thick.

2. Throw 2 Tbsp of butter, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp orange zest in a 10-inch saucepan with the sliced carrots. (I used salted butter, so I cut the salt to a 1/4 tsp and didn’t notice a lack.)

ASIDE: Did you know you could buy orange zest in a jar? I had no idea. The hassle of making orange zest has kept me from starting or preparing properly many different dishes over the years. Clara in her infinite wisdom (and without any overt signs of disdain) showed me the jar. It is awesome.

3. Heat everything up over medium-high until the liquid starts to boil. You won’t think that there is nearly enough liquid to boil, but it will and it will be noticeable.

4. Cover the pan and let it cook for three minutes.

5. Uncover the pan and let the liquid evaporate. You won’t think there could possibly be any liquid in the pan after seeing what a paltry amount is boiling at first, but of course the carrots release water, too, and you’ll feel a little silly for worrying about it.

6. After the liquid evaporates, toss in a 1/4 cup of shelled, roasted pistachio nuts. Or more. (No more than 1/2 cup, I think.)

7. Let the whole pan sautee for another minute or two.

These carrots are beautiful, first. The orange is very bright and the pistachio nuts provide a contrast. Plus a sliced carrot has that yellow ring inside. I served them with stuffed salmon, so they weren’t shown off to the absolute best advantage (the salmon already pink and the stuffing cheddar cheesy yellow), but I did have them on my white dishes before the salmon hit the plate and they were gorgeous. The carrots also cook up to the perfect texture. They were not chewy or mushy. I spent way more time prepping the ingredients than cooking, but mostly because I scraped the carrots with a peeler first. I suppose that’s technically an option. I peeled the pistachios by hand, but that’s no big deal. I decided at the last minute to grab the ingredients when I was at the store, so I was guessing about how many pistachios to get and I bought way too many. I’ll have to find something else to use them in, if Husband doesn’t end up eating them all as a snack.

Neither Fella nor Filly wanted their carrots, but they have been ornery about dinner lately. They ate their salmon, which surprised me (I don’t really like salmon myself), but not that much of the salmon stuffing. I think deep down inside where they don’t even know it they liked it but felt there would be too much to lose by admitting it. They like carrots, sugar, butter, nuts, orange juice, and salt independently, and this combination was much, much more than the sum of its parts. I’m sure there’s an eloquent allegory about the human experience buried in there for someone to write, but I’ll content myself with having a good side dish I can make in the future from memory. And with having a friend with good taste in recipes.

Thank you, Clara.

“Too Much Garlic” Only Makes Sense Syntactically

It’s like all those furiously sleeping colorless green ideas. Sure, the adverb “too” modifies the adjective “much,” which modifies the noun “garlic,” but strung together like that the phrase makes no sense. Take it up with Chomsky. I’m too busy making cupcakes and running to the grocery store to pick up the corn, the green chiles, and the bell pepper that I effin forgot to buy at the store two nights ago. What a pain. I suppose it’s “my own fault,” a syntactically correct phrase that makes more sense more often than I’d like.

Crock pots, however, are forgiving. It’s only my timeline that will suffer. Hopefully dusting won’t get knocked off the list, but a girl (read: this girl) can only do so much in one afternoon.

Pretty Good Potatoes

You know: po-ta-toes? Grind ’em, mash ’em, put ’em in a stew? Well, I roasted ’em. I’ve had some red potatoes lying around the house that I thought I would slice up and bake with onions and butter like I’m sure we’ve all had, but a quick search online to get cooking times brought me to a recipe that contains no onions at all. (I’m not sure why it appeared so close to the top of the page in the search.) It’s on a website called “Cooking for Engineers,” which I haven’t fully perused, but intend to. All the pictures on this page crack me up. I thought the instructions were mostly clear, but it’s nice to have a visual of what it looks like exactly to put a baking dish into an oven.

Break! Filly was crying upstairs suddenly so I had to go check. It’s pitch black in her room and I find her by sonar and braille; she’s sitting up in bed against the wall, utterly despondent. I find her light-up seahorse toy just to get my bearings, and as soon as that thing turns on she flings herself onto her pillow and is asleep immediately. I turn her nightlight back on and leave. So she wakes up when a light goes out and she falls asleep when the light goes on. Just what kind of child is this?

Garlic Roasted Potatoes by Michael Chu

These were some darn good potatoes! Because I’m not an engineer, I guess, I missed that they had two bouts of 15 minutes, so I totally mistimed the pork chops (which were succulent and delicious, thanks to the seasoning that I bought them with and lessons hard learned about cooking times and my oven). The chops were juicy, but cold. Too bad. I pretty much followed the potato recipe exactly, although I didn’t weigh out how many potatoes I used and I threw in some fingerling potatoes that were sitting on the counter in a bag. There were too many in the pan I had to make a single layer, which may be why I didn’t get the promised crispiness on the outside. I didn’t mind at all.

I wish I’d used more herbs, but I didn’t have anything fresh and because there were a million things happening in my kitchen at once (including this), so I failed to add anything but salt and pepper before covering it and baking it. I sprinkled some rosemary on top after I removed the foil, but it didn’t really get absorbed into the dish. When I served it, the rosemary pieces just fell off. No biggie. I also wasn’t as careful as Michael Chu about cutting my wedges into identically shaped pieces. Like I said, I’m not an engineer. I know why you are supposed to do that with some foods, but I figured I could get away with it on a starch and I did. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that. I don’t want my IP to be blocked from that site. I didn’t line or spray the pan or anything, and although a couple pieces of potato stuck to the pan and didn’t flip over nicely, it was an easy pan to clean. There was plenty of olive oil. I added way more garlic than recommended. It was worth it.

What I didn’t notice before I started baking–which is frankly inexcusable because I found that recipe hours before dinnertime and had it open in a tab all day–was all the comments. The comments are pretty amazing, and I really would like to meet the guy that makes this with goose fat instead of olive oil. I’m sure that enhances the flavor. We did get the benefit of the pork juices flowing around the plate onto the potato chunks, so that was a plus, but it wasn’t goose fat or lard. Many of the comments went well beyond enhancing this recipe to the point of adding entire birds or new recipes altogether. They are probably delicious recipes to try. What I might do next time I make this is toss freshly grated Parmesan cheese with the garlic.

I failed to provide a beautiful and interesting salad. The frozen green beans added color to the plate, but nothing special to the palate. I just wasn’t thinking green yesterday at the grocery store. I was gabbing with my brother and thinking about the chili I am serving tomorrow night. I was trying to shop for that one-alarm vegetarian chili by memory, and I think I mostly got everything, but it took up all my RAM and I let tonight’s dinner drop in priority. I also only got partway through balancing my checkbook, and think that if I don’t stay up tonight to do it I’ll forget tomorrow, too. Gah.

Dessert was shamefully easy. I had store-bought chocolate chip cookies but made with mini M&Ms and served them as ice cream sandwiches with either Dulce de Leche or Moose Tracks. It hit the spot. I’ve decided that the chocolate to candy ratio is ideal in the mini M&Ms, and the colors brighten any dish.

Michael Chu also has a recipe for buttercream frosting that looks amazing, but because it requires a thermometer and a stand mixer, and I can already forecast me running out of time tomorrow if I have to pick up the ground floors and dust, too, I think I am going to skip it. So far, the recipe on the back of the powdered sugar box works fine for me. I’m making cupcakes. I’m sort of stoked, because I’ve finally figured out how to use those foil Reynold’s Baking Cups that have given me so much trouble in the past. (You don’t need cupcake tins; keep the wax paper in the foil and just line them up on a baking sheet.) I have pink and red sprinkles, and some candy heart toppings, and a touch of red frosting spray paint. I think they’ll come out pretty cute. I can’t do elegant or neat, but I can do cute–especially when I have accessories. I know this for sure now because my Robot Cake from last August has made a list!

20 Awesome Robot Cakes

Even if my cake is one of the fails (and I don’t think it is), I’m jazzed just to be a part of the show. I too love and fear our future robotic overlords. I guess I better figure out who Dalek is before they take over. I don’t want to look bad in front of the new boss.