Saturday, January 31, 2009

Simple Food

The previous Shepherd's pie recipe reminds me that sometimes the very best recipes are the simplest.  One can create great dishes out of complicated, startling and unusual combinations of ingredients.  But sometimes, one or two perfect, quality ingredients are all you need to create a masterpiece.

My mother used to can her homegrown tomatoes, which were so wonderful that we often made a light summer supper out of a bowl of canned tomatoes.  The chili that my grandmother served in her cafe consisted of nothing more than ground beef and chili powder.  I love chili of all kinds, but I have never had anything as good as my grandma's.  

My husband's favorite birthday cake is simple white cake with white icing, and sliced bananas between the layers.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

I recently pulled out this old standby from my childhood. It's something the whole family enjoys and it's really easy to make. I've seen other recipes for Shepherd's Pie, and they're usually more ingredient heavy than our simple dish. We merely brown ground beef, drain and put it in a casserole dish. Top the ground beef with mashed potatoes and sprinkle cheese on the top.

Does anyone else have any really quick meal ideas to share?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Helpful Sites for Writers

In my quest to find FREE things that are helpful to writers, I have come across the Writing for Dollars weekly newletter. The link below will make it very easy to suscribe to this information-packed resource:
http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=GWUVG&m=1ZMQhmHM88C.mr&b=sL80YguxzPb5UpUecDFuWA
Of particular interest to fellow Fatal Foodies may be the January 20, 2009 issue, which includes information on blog tours. Hope you enjoy this newletter as much as I have!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monk and Me

My mother and I borrowed season one of Monk from the library and have been watching them, and last night I got up from talking to my husband and straightened the slats on the venetian blinds. When I changed into my jammies, I found myself thinking about rotating my sweaters in the stack so I wouldn't wear the same one twice in a row. I'm afraid Mr. Monk may not be a good influence on me.

I was persuaded to stop alphabetizing my spices, but I still separate them by ground/powdered and whole, and I still organize the pantry and refrigerator: all pastas together, all soups one place, all canned beans one place, all canned veggies one place, all canned fruit another place, jams here, condiments there.... It sounds nuts, maybe, but how many times has somebody stood in front of the refrigerator, staring in, and asked me--in another part of the house--where something is in the fridge and I could tell them? Many times, that's how many.

So where does efficiency end and OCD start? Where is the line between getting irritated when something is out of place because it's harder to find--and twitching when something is out of place because it's out of place?

We're enjoying Monk, who (in case you don't know the show) uses his OCD focus on details and pattern to deduce what has happened and who did it. It's like Sherlock Holmes on PRESCRIPTION drugs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go straighten all the pictures and comb the fringe on the rugs.

MA

Monday, January 26, 2009

There's Gumbo In My Freezer

Lots of gumbo. Two big bowls of it stuffed with shrimp, Andouille sausage, okra, chunks of fish and I'm not sure what all. This gumbo dates back about six months from a party we had in the summer. Our friend Pete (who, along with our friend Billy, won a gumbo cook-off against Louisiana chefs) came up from Los Angeles to make his award-winning gumbo for the party. Pete loves to cook and specializes in tastebud tantalizing recipes in quantities guaranteed to feed the Russian army.

Pete not only cooks, but comes armed with his own pots and pans, knives and assorted spices. He sends me a list of ingredients beforehand and I either shop the night before or with Pete the morning of our parties. Six pounds of shrimp? No problem! We have a great little Chinese market down the street with yummy tiger shrimp for 3.99 a pound. And Costco is our very best friend when it comes to the quantity shopping Pete requires for his dishes.

The prep work for the actual cooking is started late morning/early afternoon. We usually have at least two to three other people (Pete's son Ernie and his girlfriend, Allie were here the last time) to play sous chef and attend the chopping, slicing, shredding and dicing required. Wine and or single-malt scotch is poured to keep the cook happy. Music blasts through the house and several guests arrive early to participate in the pre-party party that is the food prep.

Our parties are also potlucks. Everyone brings a bottle of their favorite wine or other beverage (usually wine) along with something to contribute to the table. We provide the main dish prepared by our imported chef Pete and your basic party starters: cheese, crackers, bread, fruit, veggies. We end up with enough food and wine to feed the armies of several countries. And when the parties are over, we don't have to grocery shop for a few weeks. The last party...well...did I mention gumbo in the freezer? We had four containers of leftover gumbo. We still have two. And it's going to be time for another party soon.

Lesson learned: buy lots of little faux Tupperware containers and don't let guests leave unless they're taking leftovers!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Food to Feed the Soul

I’ve been AWOL for the past couple of weeks, since my husband Don has been having some pretty incredible health problems lately, involving an ER trip, two hospital stays, kidney failure, dialysis, a defibrillator implant, and a bunch more stuff you really don’t want to hear about.  Suffice it to say that things are not over by a long shot, but they are much improved, and if you are a glutton for punishment and want to know more, I did write about it on my own web site.


One thing this experience has taught me is that the value of friends cannot be overestimated.  Once Don got home from his first hospital stay on the 16th, I have had innumerable friends bringing healthy and delicious food to my house so that I can concentrate on my spousal nursing duties.  We have eaten better in the last couple of weeks than we have in I don’t know how long.  Food, my friends, is love, as any wife/mother/daughter/grandma knows, and here is a rundown of some of the wonderful love we have received since this ordeal began. 


Whole wheat angel hair pasta with red pepper alfredo sauce.

Rotini layered with spinach in marinara

Vegetable shepherd’s pie topped with couscous

Moroccan rice and lentils with yogurt and hard boiled eggs, with Greek salad

Vegetarian lasagna with salad and Italian bread

Southwest veggie bake with a cornbread lattice crust


Not to mention Texas peach cobbler, apple brown betty, lemon squares, lemon poppyseed muffins, ice cream and berries.


Don is, to quote the doctor, “skin and bones”, and her directions are for him to eat like a pig.  He’s been doing very well following her instructions in that area, though of course he may gain enough to look normal, but I am going to look like a blimp when this is over.


Do I care?  Not by a long shot, because we can both use all the love we can get.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cake Decorating With Fondant

Using fondant is something I'm relatively new to myself, so I'm interested in getting better at it. This girl makes it look waaaaay easier than it is, at least, in my experience. But it is a cool video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsrgS9eB1bE

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pink Cupcakes Drive a Man Wild!




Last week, I posted about using my new butane torch on creme brulee. I thought that my husband would be turned on beyond belief as I stood before him, flaming device in hand, and melted sugar. After all, aren't men supposed to like it when women use power tools? Perhaps the fact that I am eight months pregnant, was wearing pajamas, and had my hair pulled up into a knot on my head made the scene a bit less enticing.

Well, this past Saturday, I did something in the kitchen that really had my husband wild with desire! Turns out it was something sweet, not hot, that really sent him into orbit. On a recent trip to Mary's Kitchen Shop, which is one of my favorte local stores, I bought a box of Dean Jacob's White Chocolate Cupcake and Raspberry Frosting Mix. With the addition of butter, oil, and water, I had a dozen perfect pink cupcakes.

They were sooooo good! The cupcakes were ready to eat on Saturday night and gone by Monday night. More than half were eaten by my husband,Todd. These were the kind of treat that had him eating cupcakes for breakfast, right before bed, and talking aobut them in between.

I don't know what they put in these cupcakes, but I too have thought about them obsessively since Todd ate the last one. Just posting about them makes me crave one. I must make another trip to Mary's Kitchen Shop for some more of this mix!









Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Masters and Disasters of Cooking


Today, I'm interviewing Carol Preflatish, one of my favorite foodie writers and author of the anecdotal cookbook MASTERS AND DISASTERS OF COOKING. I bought the book because I know Carol, but I keep it near me because the stories AND the recipes are great!

Carol, tell us about your cookbook. What's different about it?
What makes my cookbook different from many other cookbooks are the stories that accompany each recipe. I wrote this so others could see that it's okay to make mistakes while cooking. I still laugh at myself when I think about all of my disasters, like the 4-H project mentions above. I was making Banana Nut Bread and, of all things, I forgot to add the flour! That was definitely a do-over for my project.

My cookbook, "Masters & Disasters of Cooking" is a collections of humorous stories about some of my best and worst cooking experiences. It dates all the way back to when I was a pre-teen baking something for a 4-H project up to recent years.
What does your family think about it?
Many of the stories are about family events and my family has been pretty receptive about it. Almost all of them have a copy that I either gave them or they purchased themselves. My mother especially enjoyed reading some of the stories. She said she had forgotten about some of my experiences.
What's your favorite cooking story?
I think my favorite story in the book is the one where I thought I had poisoned my husband with a Chicken and Rice dish. We were newlyweds and I tried a new recipe out of a magazine and it didn't turn out so well. Bless his heart, he still ate it, but paid for it later. I still think the recipe was wrong in the magazine and I will stick to that forever.
Are you going to write a sequel?

I probably won't be writing a sequel. This book spans about 40 years of my life while learning to cook. I've improved and while I still make some mistakes, there aren't as many. Currently, I am in the early stages of a pizza cookbook. You'd be amazed how many different types and ways you can make a pizza. I also write romantic suspense and am working on getting published in that genre, too.

Something new this week is that "Masters & Disasters of Cooking" is now available in e-book format and can be ordered at http://www.lulu.com/content/1733122

I'd also like to invite everyone to visit my blog, Carol's Food Bites at http://carolsfoodbites.blogspot.com

Thanks for letting me interview you!
Thank you so much, Marian for interviewing me. I have enjoyed talking with you.
We all have moments of mastery and ... er ... disastery... in the kitchen. Carol has been brave enough and generous enough to share hers with the world. It's good stuff, believe me!

MA

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cross posting!

I am piggybacking on Gayle's post of how to promote ourselves by cross-posting something I put up at Make Mine Mystery about how NOT to promote ourselves! I'm doing this because I'm still just terminally annoyed at a few fellow authors' behavior/posts/attitudes and feel it's worth posting here as well. I am eating a lovely salmon burger with fresh bruschetta and queso fresco, accompanied by broccoli popcorn (covered in an earlier post) and a glass of a truly wonderful red wine from Witch Creek Winery, their Due Pastore. There. I've covered the food portion of my post!

I've read a lot of blogs over the last year, gotten to know many fellow authors, attended and sat on panels and other events. I realize it's necessary to indulge in self-promotion and have done a fair bit of it myself. But nothing turns me off to an author more than one who talks about nothing but his/her own work, rarely has anything positive to say about another writer, and NEVER asks other authors about their work.

If I go to a panel, I want to hear about the subject, be it 'what makes a cozy mystery cozy' or 'sexed up thrillers' or whatever. I do NOT want to to hear an author answer every question by turning it into a reference to his/her book. Once in a while, sure. But every question? Jeez Louise, just shoot me! No, just shoot the author in question. With a tranquilizer dart, of course. An elephant tranquilizer 'cause some of these people have all the subtlety of elephants.

And if you're writing post on a publishers author blog, don't make every post an advertisement for your latest work. Or upcoming or past work, for that matter. Don't tell your readers to 'get those sales going.' Make sure your post will still hold together if you take the words 'I' and 'me' out of it.

Don't get me wrong, the majority of writers I've met are delightful people with genuine interest in other people, supportive and helpful to aspiring writers. Sisters in Crime Nor Cal alone has some of the nicest people I've ever met. Hailey Lind (current president of our chapter) is worth the price of membership alone. She is personally responsible for kick-starting my social life at last year's Left Coast Crime. Without her, I'd probably still be wandering the hotel halls, too shy to talk to anyone. Actually, if you're in SinC NorCal, just assume you're always welcome in my house. Unless you're allergic to cats. If so, you're still welcome, but bring Benadryl.

And so many of the writers I've met through Make Mine Mystery and Fatal Foodies...well, I've enjoyed both getting to know you and (slowly) making my way through all of your books. You offer good, solid advice and what promotion you do for yourself makes me want to read what you write.

Now I want to know, what drives YOU crazy in terms of bad promotion? What makes you turn and run the other way, vowing never to read a word a particular author has written..and if you do, it's only out of a morbid curiosity to see if their work can possibly live up to their own hype? Inquiring minds want to know...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Helping Reporters and Yourself

This post breaks from our food-related posts to talk about another aspect of our business, book/author publicity and promotion.

I just learned about this service yesterday and wanted to share it with you. HelpAReporter.com sends you e-mails with requests from reporters. You can scan through the list to see if any of your specialities are needed. If so, you scroll down the page and get the full information, including the reporter's e-mail, whether or not there is a geographic requirement and deadline.

Here are some of the requests sent today:

#URGENT 0) Aviation bird strikes (Press of Atlantic City)

#BUSINESS AND FINANCE
1) Out-of-work professionals find odd jobs (CNNmoney.com)
2) Women Lawyers Rush To Work Part Time (Web site)
3) Credit Card Specialists & Retailers (CreditCards.com)
4) Biosolids Expert (Growing Magazine)
5) Need Professional Sources @ CPSIA Law (Blog)
6) SB owners and pricing strategies (Publication)

#GENERAL
7) Pet Sitter Sources for Dealing w/ Death (Major Parenting Web Site)
8) Casting for Gen O Documentary (Documentary)
9) Local Politicians headed to Inauguration (Medill News Services)
10) Bankruptcy/Foreclosure (BlogTalkRadio)
11) Young Inventors (Blog)
12) Nonprofit/company partnerships (NonProfit Times)
13) Work-Life Balance & Self Assessment (Book/article)

#LIFESTYLE/ENTERTAINMENT
14) Spring break ideas for families (parenting Mag)
15) Heinous Work Uniforms From Your Past (AOL Lemondrop.com)
16) Bar/Lounge/Club Interior Design Trends (Food & Beverage Mag)
17) 'Heart-healthy' cake and cookie recipes (Blog)
18) Commute by Scooter in Hampton Roads, Va. (Lifestyle Mag)

#TECHNOLOGY
19) US ITC patent complaints (IDG News Service)
20) SEO Experts for Podcast (Podcast)

#TRAVEL
21) Tips on Visiting New Orleans -Mardi Gras (Web site)

I'm off to see if I can offer any advice to any of these people with the byline Gayle Trent, work-from-home mom and author of the cozy mystery Murder Takes The Cake. ;-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

National Food Day: Strawberry Ice Cream


The thermometer when I got up this morning read -10 below zero, so Ice Cream is not the first food I'd choose today.

But according to the American Food Holiday calendar, today is Strawberry Ice Cream day.

Hey, who am I to ask questions?

Bundle up, get out the ice cream and enjoy. Brr!

* Try Emeril's fresh strawberry ice cream.

* Unusual - Strawberry Ice Cream with balsamic vinegar

* Too cold? Play it safe. This ice cream looks good enough to eat, although it's in miniature.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fire in My Kitchen


This weekend, there was fire in my kitchen, and it was very thrilling! My last post mentioned a fondness I have for kitchen gadgets. Most are tame and practical, but I received one device for Christmas that makes me feel dangerous, and even a bit sexy in the kitchen.
I got a butane torch to make the crackled sugar atop creme brulee. I felt like such a little kitchen rebel, pouring gas into the torch, undoing that childproof latch, and turning that flame loose!
Thinking that it would turn him on beyond belief, my husband was forced to watch my pyrotechnics. The tiny device and the tinier flame didn't exactly conjure up images of Jennifer Beals' character in Flashdance. Remember, she was the hot welder/dancer who had us all wearing cut-up sweatshirts in the 80's. Maybe I'll go for the big show this week and try to flambe' something!




Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spicy Pirates

Calm down, calm down, I'm talking about an upcoming children's book by Sunny Frazier, and SPICY PIRATES isn't even the title. Sunny, let's have a little introduction to you and your previous work.

SF: I'm Sunny Frazier and I live and write in Lemoore, California. This small town is located in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the richest agricultural regions in the world. I love this area, despite the outrageous heat in the summers and dense Tule fog in the winters.

I want to introduce you to this part of the country through my mysteries. Twelve of my award-winning stories are found in VALLEY FEVER: WHERE MURDER IS CONTAGIOUS. My novel, FOOLS RUSH IN, introduces astrologer Christy Bristol. She works in the Sheriff's Department, just as I did for 17 years.

Okay, thanks! Now what about this pirates and spices book you were telling me about?

SF: I'm just finishing the rewrites and getting it entered into the computer.

I wrote it 30 years ago. There was no Internet or PC's--I typed it on a typewriter. An editor at Simon & Schuster was excited about it, but then I was told children didn't want to read about pirates. Space was the big thing.

I researched by studying the translated Portuguese logs of Vasco de Gama and Bartholomu Diaz. I researched the origins of foods I thought children would be interested in. I pitch it as Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Food Channel.

What age group were you aiming for?

SF: The age group is 8 to 10. Because I insert real characters (Vasco de Gama is a bad guy), I'd like children to read it as fiction and then recognize it as fact when they study the history of exploration in the 6th grade.

Did the pirates MAKE the first voyage to India for spices, or is it a book about sea adventures in general?
SF: The first book is the first voyage around Africa to India for spices. Captain John Connoisseur is captured by a king with an appetite. The captain talks his way out of the dungeon by promising to sail to India and bring back spices. He is joined by a lively crew, a stowaway princess, an orphan and his cat, and an obnoxious knight to keep him out of trouble.

Sounds like a hoot! Did any surprises come up in your researching?
SF: The three most surprising things for me were the fact that at the time, the voyage around Africa could be compared to going to the moon. Secondly, Vasco de Gama got off lightly in the history books. He was really pretty bad. And third, pajamas came from India. That's another thing John brings back.

Anything else you can tell us without giving too much away? What do you think will "sell" this book to a publisher/reader?
SF: It's funny and there are lots of small "lessons" for children. They will also learn that ginger is a good remedy for seasickness and skillygolee was the mainstay of sailors (hard biscuits soaked in broth and perhaps some meat). Lots of history, information and food facts mixed with fiction and a fun pirate story.

"Fun pirate story" does it for me! Thanks, Sunny, and let us know when the book is out!

MA

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Food? What's that?

A short post today, fellow Fatal Foodies. I've spent the last 10 days writing 6-8 hours to finish my WIP for Ravenous Romance and have been doing an average of 3,000 words a day. My benchmark output was 5,000 words one day and while I did take breaks to eat, I don't remember a lot of details about what actually went in my mouth during this time. I split a lot of breakfast sandwiches with my boyfriend (egg, jack cheese, double bacon) from George's Zoo, our local deli/market/coffee joint across from the zoo and four blocks from the beach. I also had donut samples, little day old bits of sinful goodness that allowed me to do the 'it's just a sample so it can't have any calories in it!' routine. We drank a lot of cheap yet yummy Cava poured over fresh raspberries...and I do vaguely recall making a mega batch of taco salad that lasted several days.

I CAN tell you I am celebrating meeting my deadline with a glass of extremely rich, spicy, fruit forward zinfandel: Fat Boy Zinfandel from Tobin James Winery in Paso Robles.

Now I am going to go collapse in a heap and savor the wine.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Cinnamon . . . It Really IS The Winner, Mon!


One of my New Year's resolutions was to work to find ways to increase my energy level. With the sequel to Murder Takes the Cake and a three book deal from NAL in the works, I knew I'd need all the energy I could get. I was reading the January 26, 2009 issue of First when I came across an article which said, "Fatigue-inducing blood sugar swings are common in the winter, when weak sunlight dampens the body's production of glucose-regulating serotonin. But USDA studies show that consuming 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon daily can offset this effect by slowing the body's absorption of carbohydrates, improving blood sugar control by 29 percent in three days."

I decided to give it a try. So far, so good. I've not been craving sweets as much as I usually do. . . but maybe that's in part due to the fact that with the cinnamon, I feel like it's a dessert. And, I do feel a bit more energetic. Try one of my favorite concoctions to see what you think.

Decaf Cafe Au Lait

Put a splash of fat-free skim milk in your mug. Add a regular amount of decaf coffee. I add two packets of artificial sweetener (you might like more or less), a dollop of fat-free whipped cream and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon.

[You might prefer regular coffee, but I like this cozy drink in the late evening.]

Peanut Cinnabanana Bread

(If you can think of a better name, please let me know. This one is probably not for the faint of heart, but I think Elvis--whose birthday was yesterday, by the way--would have loved it.)

One slice of bread
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1/2 a banana
Cinnamon

Spread peanut butter on your bread, add slices of banana and sprinkle with cinnamon. There's your grain, protein, fruit and blood sugar regulator. Yay-rah!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My New Kitchen Toy

Every Christmas, one of my biggest gift requests is for kitchen things. I usually just browse when I see kitchen items, because if I allowed myself, I could go extremely nuts, and wind up with more than my cabinets and drawers could hold.
After reading Marian's post, I may ask for a smoker next year. It's a whole different level of kitchen gadget that I may decide I can't live without. My neighbor has one in his yard, and the smells that come from it are mighty tempting! One for the kitchen, liker Marian's sounds super-cool.
This year, I go a few smaller, much simpler tools. The one I want to write about this week is my immersion blender. Some people call it a stick blender.
My interest was piqued long ago when I'd seen immersion blenders being used on the Food Network. The blender is long and skinny, like a stick. There's a propeller-like whirly-bird that blends on one end and has controls on the other. It can be stuck down into hot soups, sauces cups of smoothie ingredients, salad dressings, etc.
It could not be simpler or more functional. There's a button to make it blend, and a realease button to seperate the blender from the controls for cleaning. I clean mine by letting it set in a glass of soapy, hot water. The device is small, so storage is a snap. I keep mine at the front of a cabinet, because I use it so much.
These handy-dandy tools are widely available, and don't cost a fortune. Ladies, if you don't have an immersion blender, you don't know what you're missing!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Gizmo for Christmas

If I may paraphrase the words of the immortal Buckwheat:

I got a smoker
I got a smoker
I got a smoker, hey hey hey hey!

It's a small one made to use indoors on the stove burners. Plenty big enough for Charlie and me. We've had smoked pork tenderloin and last night we had smoked vegetables. Both SO YUM. The smoker came with samples of four woods, and it's funny how there IS a difference. Of course, we already knew that from the fireplace and the wood-burning furnace.

Now my inner maniac is wondering if one could put some, oh, tobacco in a smoker and infuse the food with a fatal dose of nicotine. The headlines would read, TOBACCO IN SMOKER CAUSES DEATH and everybody would be going, "...Yes...."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Death By Garlic Fries

Holidays, especially New Year's Eve, are generally thought of as a time of excess. Too much of a good thing as far as rich foods and alcohol. Arguments can occur, stomach pains and headaches abound, and waistband are far too tight the the next day.

Having experienced all of the above over past decade on New Year's Eve and Day, I really wanted to bring in 2009 with moderation. Something quiet and relaxing, with activities that would not have me waking up on January 1st with a hangover (which in my case translates into vilely nauseating migraine). We normally celebrate at our friend Billy's. Billy loves his food and wine and is an amazing cook with a superlative wine cellar. I am incapable of moderation at one of Billy's parties because there is just too much good stuff to try and I know we will be spending the night there, so why NOT have that extra glass of amazing Bordeaux or three? There's something about a party setting which removes my internal moderation censors.

This year Dave and I also had a tagalong on our trip to San Diego - Ghost, a small kitten destined for her new home with my sister in Venice Beach. Lisa always spends New Year's Eve at Billy's as well, so we decided it would be wiser to bring Ghost to our parents' in San Diego and then drop her off on our way back to San Francisco so Lisa would be there to monitor Ghost's integration into her household, which already includes two full grown felines. This decision made it easier to stick to our guns as far as skipping the food and wine fest; we would visit Billy and whoever was still visiting on our drive back up the coast (Billy lives in San Malo, a picturesque little community in between Carlsbad and Oceanside. It looks like a cross between Cabot's Cove and The Village in THE PRISONER.) and spend New Year's Eve with my best friend Maureen.

My folks dropped us off at Maureen's place in La Jolla, along with Ghost (who was becoming quite the well traveled little kitten). The plan was to have dinner somewhere near Mo's house and then have some wine at her house, one of a group of historic cottages on Ivanhoe Avenue. Maybe we'd watch a movie, maybe we'd just talk and play with the kitten. We would take a taxi back to my parents' house in Clairemont, above the Mission Bay Information Center. Low stress, low calorie and quiet. No hangovers, headaches, bad feelings or excess.

The fatal flaw to this plan was not apparent until after dinner. Mo, Dave and I went to Karl Strauss, a local brew pub/restaurant in La Jolla. Maureen got a turkey burger; Dave and I split a couple of appetizers, ahi poke and chicken quesadilla. It was happy hour prices and something light sounded perfect. Maureen suggested the garlic Parmesan fries so the three of us split a plate. Well, folks, they were yummy. Hot, crisp, dripping with Parmesan cheese and grated garlic. We made jokes about boosting our immune systems with all the garlic. An hour and two containers of leftovers later, we went back to Maureen's and settled in for the rest of the evening.

An hour and a half later, the overwhelming taste of garlic was still heavily apparent to all of us. We opened a bottle of Opolo Summit Zinfandel, a rich, jammy and spicy wine. It tasted like garlic. We watched Ghost tear around Maureen's cottage and burped garlic for another three hours. We were unable to get a taxi (I was on hold for 40 minutes), so my parents came back to pick us up around 10:30 (the only party animal that night was Ghost). Garlicky hugs were exchanged with Maureen, Ghost went back into her carrier and we got in my parents' van. My mom reeled from the odor of garlic; if they'd been vampires, we would have lost our ride home. I couldn't smell it from the outside, but from where I was sitting, garlic was my world. It was running through my bloodstream, the taste and smell firmly planted in my mouth and nostrils. Ugh.

Dave and I both brushed our teeth immediately when we arrived at my parents place. Didn't help. We ate some shrimp and toasted in the New Year with a modest half glass of Lucien Albrecht Cremant. It tasted like sparkling garlic. I woke up at 4am still revisiting those garlic fries and immediately brushed my teeth again. 8am, the New Year. Burp. Garlic.

I did not start 2009 with a headache, a hangover, a stomach ache or embarrassing recollections of alcohol fueled arguments. I just started it with bad breath.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fruitcake

Last week I was out to lunch with a girlfriend who told me that she and another friend of hers had spent several minutes on the phone making fun of fruitcake.  “No one likes fruitcake,” she said, and wondered why some women absolutely insist on making fruitcakes the day after Thanksgiving and then sending them to all their relatives and acquaintances  for Christmas when it was perfectly plain that there is no one living who will eat the things.


Poor fruitcake just gets no respect.  In fact, Dave Barry relates that  his mother made an annual ritual of putting her fruitcake gifts  on the kitchen floor and smashing  them to smithereens by slamming the door on them over and over.


Well, I’m here to tell you that I love fruitcake, and I adore receiving fruitcakes as gifts, since I’m far too lazy to make one myself.  This year I got one from a friend who lives in California, and it was a masterpiece.  It was just the kind of extra-dark cake that I love, the kind that has just enough batter in it to hold the fruit and nuts together.  It must have had five hundred calories per slice, and enough candied fruit to put even non-diabetics into a sugar coma.


Fruitcake is the epitome of decadence, and I say it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.  I just finished off my last piece for this year, and washed it down with eggnog.  And now I must go take a nap before I start my annual cleansing diet.