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January 17, 2017

Love and Lamb Bolognese

Rich, Simple, and So Delicious I Couldn't Stop Licking My Bowl

I started off my Saturday morning at 4 AM when I peeled myself off the heated mattress and put one foot onto the cold wooden floor of this almost 100 year old house. Even rising that early left little time for coffee, for I had to assemble my regalia and dress before my ride arrived and we would make the almost 3 hour trek to graduation. I knew I was in for a long day, so Mr. B, who I awoke with my alarm, volunteered to make dinner and have it ready and waiting when I arrived home later in the day.

Cold morning, long drive, and too little sleep didn't matter when I took my rightful place on the stage and extend my hand in congratulations as the students passed by, now graduates and ready to move on with their dreams. It's one of the things I love the most about what I do, especially when the graduates are older and have made so many sacrifices to achieve their success. The joy and love is overwhelming and usually keeps me buoyant--and awake--as I make the seemingly doubly long trek back home.

It's the feeling of love that carries me though the front door and across the threshold and, of course, the heavenly and intoxicating aroma of Mr. B's magical dinner and when he rounds the kitchen corner, dish towel in hand, to kiss me, he exclaims, "I've made something you're going to love." Then, he takes my hand and leads me right into the kitchen and straight to the stove and proudly lifts the lid of the pot and tells me, "I've made lamb Bolognese for you." And, he pronounces it in an old-school Italian accent that draws the word out into at least eight syllables.

I'm startled and he sees the shock register on my face. It's not something that we've ever made before and I'm as shocked by that as I am by the alluring waft of deliciousness that rises, along with the steam, from the pot. But, before I can say anything, he already has a sample on a spoon and it's headed straight toward my lips, "Here--taste this," he says as I open my mouth and fall into pure bliss--the lamb, the tomatoes, the bits of carrot and just enough oregano and garlic are unlike anything I've ever had before. So, I take off my coat and shoes and graciously accept the glass of wine he brings me and wait, as patiently as possible, while he puts the water on to boil the fresh pasta and puts the bread into the toaster oven.

I already know that I'll sleep well, a day filled with love and now, the promise of a bowl of pasta and a glass or two of wine. Not bad for a Saturday evening only days into a New Year.

January 11, 2017

Hello National Hot Toddy Day!

A Better Cure for Whatever Ails You
Could there be any better timing for a National Day recognizing that wonderful wintertime companion--the Hot Toddy? Well, after over 10 inches of rain in 10 days coupled with life in a nearly 100 year old house and teaching, it seems my voice has taken a winter vacation. For me, a guaranteed way to right my world and reclaim my vocal ability is right in my own kitchen, where as I set the tea kettle on the fire, I thank the brandy makers, lemon growers, tea producers and yes, the humble bees for giving me all the ingredients I need to get myself well without a single phone call to the doctor's office or a trip to the pharmacy.

Though there are many versions--some quite elaborate--of the Hot Toddy, I much prefer my recipe, or more appropriately, the version that Mr. B first made me many years ago when we were living in San Francisco and I had a terrible case of pneumonia that I just couldn't shake. Of course, back then, I did need medical intervention, but the powers of this magical elixir certainly hastened my recovery. Plus, who is ever going to say no to a little hot brandy to soothe one's soul and kick off a night of delightfully uninterrupted slumber? Not me!

Here's my recipe. Follow it exactly, or play around and concoct your own version. I'd love to see your recipe, too, so please share.

January 04, 2017

A Southern Breakfast Bowl

I Hit Gold Cleaning Out the Fridge
I love flipping the calendar page to a New Year--it's a perfect blank slate, a time to start fresh, set goals, and plan for the months ahead. January is always a lazy start, too, as people slowly get back to work and in the swing of things. It's winter and here in California, if we're lucky, the start of rainy season and from the looks of it, we're going to have a very wet January--knock on wood!

With the start of a New Year comes an urge to clear away clutter, organize my belongings, and otherwise bring a sense of calm to the chaos. Seemingly, I have the same approach for organizing my refrigerator as I do for my closet, so it was a serendipitous surprise to ferret out the ingredients for a soul satisfying and satiating breakfast bowl.

I'm hoping that most people have the makings for a similar breakfast bowl, but I'm pragmatic enough to realize that not everyone practices the same religion when it comes to a proper New Year's feast. That noted, I'm sure a similar breakfast bowl could be had with whatever scraps you have on hand, but I'm willing to bet it won't be as delicious as mine: collard greens and cabbage, an end piece of cornbread, a spoonful of brown rice, a fried egg, a few shakes of hot sauce, and a thick cut slice of Mr. B's root beer cured bacon.

Happy New Year and here's to 2017!