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Without representation. September 30, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

—Mark Twain

Perhaps if our esteemed members of Congress represented the people of their states and districts rather than the corporations and PACs that buy and sell them, we wouldn’t be facing a standoff between the House, the Senate, and the President, and an imminent government shutdown.

This shutdown will deprive our 1.4 million military, who defend our borders at the cost of their lives and must support their families and pay bills like the rest of us, of their salaries for an indefinite period. I suggest that we send Congress and the President, who presumably will still be drawing their salaries during the shutdown, on the ground in the combat zones where our military is currently deployed, to defend us in their place until they can all stop acting like spoiled children and work together to find a viable solution.

As our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, famously said when urging the representatives of the Thirteen Colonies to sign the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” Unfortunately, in this case, it’s America’s citizens who are left hanging. For shame!

Mac’n’cheese: The good, the bad, and the ugly. September 29, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Fans of that orange-coated chemical gunk from the box (the ugly), you can stop reading now.

Silence Dogood here. It appears that those of us who love homemade macaroni and cheese fall into two very distinct categories. I realized this just this morning while reading an article on how to make “the greatest” mac’n’cheese. It involved milk, flour, and bread, and its goal was to create a milky sauce in which the macaroni swam while the breadcrumbs gave it some crunchy oomph on top.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like mixing carbs. If I’m having pasta, I don’t want breadcrumbs on top of it, much less flour in it or milk thickened with flour subbing for real cream. Yecchhh!!! And I simply hate soupy macaroni. To me, this is like making green bean casserole with a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Eeeewww!!! There are so many great ways to make green beans, why would anyone drown them in a vat of yucky, flavor-destroying gunk?! This version of mac’n’cheese qualifies as the bad.

So let’s move on to the good, which for me involves rich, cheesy sauce enrobing the pasta, clinging to its every side, with nothing dripping off. No fillers like flour, milk, and bread. But don’t I love the crunchy topping? Of course I do! But for me, the perfect crunch comes from the buttery, cheesy topping crisped to a perfect brown.

There are plenty of casserole versions of mac’n’cheese that qualify for either version. But I owe my mac’n’cheese chops to my friend, Delilah, whose version of Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese I adapted. Crispy, crunchy, succulent, non-soupy mac’n’cheese from a slow cooker? You betcha. And it goes so well with fall dishes, it’s ridiculous. Chili or baked beans (we love Bush’s Grillin’ Beans), coleslaw or kale salad, broccoli or broccoflower, roasted or baked sweet potatoes or curried carrots, sauteed green beans (no casserole, please), oh yum. Not to mention barbecue and fried chicken, for all you meat-eaters out there.

But before we get to the recipe, I have to give you the Four Slow-Cooker Mac’n’Cheese Commandments: 1. Thou shalt not cook this dish on high or the cheese will burn. 2. Thou shalt not use sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. 3. Thou shalt not use fresh milk, because it curdles in the Crock-Pot. 4. Thou shalt not cook this dish for more than 4 hours or the pasta will disintegrate. Okay, let’s do it!

The Best Crock-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

1-pound package of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente (I have to admit that I find that regular macaroni holds its texture better in this recipe than any of the “healthier” versions, and I keep trying different ones in the hope of proving myself wrong.)

2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

4 cups (2 packages) shredded sharp white Cheddar (use extra-sharp if you want more flavor)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Paprika

Set aside 1 cup of the Cheddar, the Parmesan, and the paprika. Stir all other ingredients together in the Crock-Pot. Top with reserved Cheddar, Parmesan, and a hearty sprinkling of paprika to give the top a lovely warm color. Cook on low 3 to 4 hours. I like to cook it for the full 4 hours for a crunchier crust.

That’s all there is to it, and boy, is it delicious! Of course, you’re free to try your own variations once you’ve enjoyed the basic recipe. And if you have a favorite mac’n’cheese of your own, please share it with us. Maybe some day we’ll do a Great Mac’n’Cheese Cookoff!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Bathrooms gone bad. September 28, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, I read an article about an “amazing” bathroom transformation that had taken the owner a weekend and just $200. She claimed that it had transformed her small, boring bathroom into a beachfront paradise.

All I can say is, I hope she’s not planning to stay there. If she actually uses this bathroom to wash up, take showers, stash the cat’s litterbox, etc., she’ll quickly discover exactly what she’s done to herself.

What she did was paint over the bathroom tiles, then glue a foot-high layer of sand on the wall, then glue a whole bunch of seashells onto that, then hang netting from the ceiling with tons more shells and etc. in it. And those are just the most egregious “decorator” ideas, there were plenty of others, with clutter galore.

I have a friend who calls all these little bits and pieces “dustables,” i.e., unnecessary work. But in a bathroom, especially a small bathroom, we’re not just talking about dust. We’re talking about moisture and humidity. We’re talking about mold.

The reason tiles are popular in bathrooms is that they resist moisture and are easy to clean. Not so paint, in a moisture- and mold-ridden situation. Not to mention that it’s highly unlikely that paint would even adhere to tile in such circumstances. And how on earth would you clean sand?!! Then there’s the dust, settling on all these textured surfaces and on the unreachable, uncleanable ceiling netting with its load of shells and other dustables.

And last but by no means least, to take a small space and fill it to the brim with a motley array of junk is hardly the way to make it seem larger and more restful. Especially when you paint the formerly white walls a blinding aqua. Good grief! Talk about an invitation to claustrophobia.

This was borne in on me when my friend Delilah, who’s a decorating genius, transformed a small bathroom by putting in a modest but beautiful aquarium. It took up little space, but made the bathroom a welcoming and wonderful place. You could do the same with a plant or a piece of art.

There are other inexpensive ways to make a bathroom welcoming, however small and plain. Candles, incense, scent diffusers, luxurious soaps and lotions: All transform a bathroom into a spa experience. And of course you can up the ante with a plate of fresh fruit and/or a glass of wine and your favorite relaxing music. (No need to install a sound system when you can bring in a boombox, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.)

In my opinion, there’s only one thing a bathroom, however small, genuinely needs, and that’s natural light: a window or skylight. If you have one, then anything’s possible in terms of transformation. But please, don’t use sand.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Why grow native plants? September 26, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading.
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Silence Dogood here. Sitting on my deck yesterday afternoon, I saw the clearest explanation possible for why we should choose to plant the often plainer native plants, or allow them to live and thrive on our properties, when much more stunning cultivated varieties (known in horticulture as cultivars) and species are available.

I’m by no means a native-plant purist. I love my peonies, irises, roses, spring bulbs, chrysanthemums, hostas, Japanese maples, you name it. But I make room for the natives alongside the others: the asters and goldenrods, the gorgeous white-flowered nettles, the milkweeds, the pawpaws, the rudbeckias (black-eyed Susans), the jewelweed along our creek.

Why? Well, because they support life. Last week, at our farmers’ market, I bought some stunning cultivated asters and mums, rich and full, bursting with purple, cream-and-yellow, and red blooms. I wanted to add some color to our deck and eventually plant them out in our yard. Wow, were they colorful!

So there I was, sitting out on the deck enjoying the beautiful afternoon, as the sun began its descent and lit up the leaves of our trees and the foliage of our deck plants. It also happened to light up the blooms of native asters, much paler and lankier than the ones on the deck. And I could see that the blooms were teeming with life, as bees and other insects swarmed over them, collecting pollen and sipping nectar. Looking to the side of the deck, I saw bumblebees galore visiting the orange jewelweed blossoms. Nearby, the white blooms of the nettles were alive with insects.

Meanwhile, there was not a creature to be seen on the souped-up asters or mums on the deck, despite the wealth of flowers. Not one.

I love plants that support all life, not just our life. I allow milkweeds to flourish here because they provide food for monarch butterfly larvae, not just because their flowers are amazing. I grow pawpaws because they provide food for zebra swallowtail larvae, not just because their fruits are so delicious they’re known as “banana custard.” I allow red cedars, generally viewed as a weed tree, to grow here because they provide food and shelter for birds in winter. And I love the clover that grows in our lawn, adding beauty and inviting bees.

I hate it when the nuts crash down from our black walnut, butternut, and shagbark hickory trees every fall. I’m always convinced one of them is going to brain me or our friend Ben or our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, or cause us to slip and break our necks in the dark. Yet these trees provide a wealth of food for squirrels and other local wildlife, just as winter is closing in and they need to build up fat reserves to survive.

Seeing those native asters, lit by the sun, inviting so much life, and seeing the sterile though much more showy version on our deck, really brought the point home to me. Life isn’t just about us. It’s about sharing our beautiful earth. And providing food and shelter for our fellow creatures, rather than creating a sterile landscape solely for our own enjoyment, is the way to do that. No, we don’t have to plant exclusively native plants. Yes, we can allow natives to share our yards with the exotics and cultivated varieties we choose to add for show. In the end, we’ll all be better off.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Wretched Daylight Savings. September 25, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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It’s almost 7 a.m. in our part of scenic PA, and it’s still pitch-black outside. Thank you, Daylight Savings. How is anybody supposed to get up and function in the dark (unless they’re an Orc or vampire)?! This is not good for our biorhythms and health, to say the least. Night: sleep. Light: wake up. How hard is that to understand evolutionally?

Our friend Ben is forced to admit that it was our own hero and blog mentor here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, the great Benjamin Franklin, who first came up with the concept of Daylight Saving Time. But he did it as a joke, people, a joke! And now, unfortunately, the joke is on us, as our ever-more-intrusive government has made it our reality.

I’m sure old Ben would be mortified, or at least enjoying a chuckle at our expense and thinking of a witty remark to put in his Philadelphia newspaper or next almanac about people’s gullibility and government stupidity.

I’ve read many times about how harmful working second- or third-shift jobs is to people’s mental health and health in general, because they disrupt the body’s natural rhythms. And now the government is mandating the disruption of every single citizen’s natural rhythms by extending Daylight Saving Time way past the boundary between dark and light. What were they thinking?! And how dare they intrude on private life in this way?

The best meatless lasagna and pizza. September 23, 2013

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Silence Dogood here. I make an absolutely primo vegetarian spaghetti sauce, jam-packed with veggies (sweet onions, mushrooms, garlic, bell peppers, diced zucchinis) and slowly cooked to rich, caramelized greatness with extra-virgin olive oil, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, a splash of hot sauce, plenty of herbs (basil, thyme, oregano) and salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) and fresh-cracked pepper. Not to mention the two “secret ingredients,” a red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon poured in a circle around the top of the sauce, then stirred in, and a generous dash of sugar to deepen the flavor. (Search “spaghetti sauce” on our search bar at upper right to find the recipe, or just wing it.)

Yum! But, being me, I always make a big Dutch oven of sauce. Even if our friend Ben and I share it with our Friday Night Supper Club, we inevitably come home with a vat of leftover sauce. We love this luscious, warming spaghetti sauce, but, er, we don’t want to eat it day after day. I’ve found two answers to this problem: pizza and lasagna.

You might not immediately think of putting spaghetti sauce on a pizza, but it works perfectly. You already have an incredibly rich, flavorful, veggie-filled sauce. You’ve already done all the work. Now it’s time to take it easy and enjoy! I buy a ready-made crust and a jar or container of pesto, plus shredded mozzarella. When it’s pizza time, I spread the pesto over the crust, top it with my spaghetti sauce, top that with the mozzarella, sprinkle on more dried basil, oregano, and thyme (and crushed red pepper flakes if our heat-loving friends are coming for supper), and pop it into the oven.

Boy, talk about a great, easy meal. Throw a crunchy salad together, pass out the goblets of Cabernet (or iced tea or “fizzy water”), and you’re done!

But let’s talk about lasagna, the other great way to use up extra spaghetti sauce so you’re not faced with “What, spaghetti again?”

I’ve ranted before about how much I hate the so-called “vegetarian lasagna” you’re invariably faced with in restaurants, which is veggies in a white sauce with lasagna noodles. What on earth does this have to do with lasagna? Marinara sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella is both vegetarian and authentic, so why don’t they ever offer that?

Fortunately, if you make your own spaghetti sauce, you can have luscious lasagna that tastes like lasagna, not pasta primavera. And I’ve discovered three tricks to make it even more delicious.

First, make it easy. Use San Giorgio “oven-ready” lasagna noodles so you don’t have to boil the pasta before assembling the lasagna.

Next, replace the ricotta with plain Greek yogurt. I discovered this when I wanted to make lasagna and realized that I didn’t have any ricotta, but had a big carton of plain Greek yogurt. Gulp, I thought, I guess I’ll just try this and see what happens. It was the best lasagna I ever ate! The creamy Greek yogurt was perfect, with all those good probiotics and none of the graininess of ricotta. (Eeeww, sorry, texture-sensitive.)

My final trick was to add eggplant. It happened because I had some slim oriental eggplants on hand and needed to use them. I’d planned to roast them and add them to the lasagna, but was short on time, so I thinly sliced them and sauteed them in olive oil instead, then layered them on top of the spaghetti sauce layer in the lasagna.

Oh, boy! They added meaty richness to the lasagna and made it so incredible I’ve never looked back. Rich, chunky, veggie-filled spaghetti sauce, cooked slowly and given plenty of time to develop its flavors. Sauteed eggplant. Greek yogurt. Mozzarella. Try this and see, it’s so amazing. Go for it!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Potato panic. September 22, 2013

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Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, for the first time I can remember, I had no potatoes in the house. No baking potatoes, no sweet potatoes to roast with olive oil and herbs or bake into caramelized deliciousness, no Yukon Gold potatoes to boil, then mash with cream, butter, salt and pepper into the best mashed potatoes on earth, no new red-skinned potatoes to roast with sweet onions, mushrooms, and asparagus into the best meal ever.

Yow! How could I have run out of potatoes?!! Our friend Ben and I love potatoes, and especially now, when cooler weather has signalled the arrival of fall, our favorite season. I rely on potatoes to fill in gaps in our supper menus. Potatoes aren’t just delicious, filling, and easy, they’re healthy, vitamin-filled additions to any meal. Much as we love pasta and white rice, potatoes have them beat bigtime for nutrients and health benefits.

To think, we went to the grocery just yesterday and I forgot about the potatoes! We also visited our local farmers’ market, and I got some lettuce but was too late to get watercress, failed to get arugula, and then forgot to get mixed lettuces when we stopped by the local Giant. Shame on me!

I guess poor OFB and I will be heading out today to get salad greens and a variety of potatoes. At least it’s a beautiful day!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Great cheese, great fudge, great cause. September 21, 2013

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Silence Dogood here. Now that our friend Ben and I have placed our order, OFB has agreed to let me post about Gethsemani Farms’ delicious cheeses. The Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani, just a few miles from my mother’s birthplace in rural Kentucky, support themselves and their mission by making cheese, fudge, and fruitcake. (You may have heard of one of their monks, Brother Louis, better known as the writer Thomas Merton.)

My parents loved the monks’ cheeses and ordered them every year; their favorite was the aged cheese, which resembles a fine Port du Salut, not suprising since the original group of monks came to Kentucky from France in 1848. Aged “monks’ cheese,” as we called it, was a bit strong for us kids, so our parents got to enjoy it all by themselves. But we loved the mild version and the fudge, and when the monks introduced pesto cheese a few years ago, our friend Ben and I became addicts.

OFB and I simply adore the monks’ bourbon fudge, both classic chocolate pecan and butter walnut. They’re the closest to homemade we’ve ever tasted. (And both our mamas made some mean fudge.) They’re so addictive, we only order them as a treat at Christmas, and of course order them, cheese, and fruitcake as Christmas gifts.

Fruitcake: love it or hate it. It’s either “When’s Christmas coming so I can have some fruitcake?” or “Get even, give fruitcake.” OFB and I fall in the latter category, so we can’t tell you how good the monks’ fruitcake is. But our fruitcake-loving friend Rob and my father both thought it was the best ever (after, of course, my mother’s), and The Wall Street Journal agrees. We order Rob a Gethsemani fruitcake for Christmas every year, and when he’s devoured the last crumb, we start hearing the lamentations (partly as a joke but mostly because he’d really like a second fruitcake). So if you’re a fruitcake fanatic, check it out!

To get back to why I’m just now telling you about the monks’ offerings, last year, for the first time, they offered four new cheeses: Ambrose, the young, buttery cheese that is the basis for their mild, aged, smoky and pesto cheeses, and three herbed varieties of Ambrose, Spicy Italian, Herbs de Provence and Garlic and Chives. We placed an order and were wowed, but when we tried to reorder, they were sold out. Gack!

Apparently, the monks have taken note of the huge success of Ambrose and its herbed varieties, and their latest catalog offers the four cheeses and various cheese, fudge and fruitcake combinations. I immediately ordered three each of the 6-ounce wedges of each cheese, since I didn’t want to run out this year! OFB is already drooling. We’ll order fudge for ourselves and fudge, cheese and fruitcake as Christmas presents when the season draws closer, but for now, our stash of Ambrose and herbed cheeses is secure. Hooray!

We feel great about buying cheese, fudge and gifts from the monks, since we’re not only supporting them, but they use the profits from their products to support the local community, especially the poor and less fortunate. And that of course brings me back to the beloved place of my childhood, spending time with my grandparents just miles from Gethsemani, the happiest time of my entire childhood. How wonderful to be able to eat delicious treats and also give back.

Check them out at http://www.gethsemanifarms.org, or just Google http://www.monks.org and you’ll get to their website. Order, eat, enjoy, and know that you’re supporting a great cause! And make sure you get some of that Ambrose and the herbed cheeses before they’re gone.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Autistic heroes need your support. September 19, 2013

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Our friend Ben has posted about Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site, before. (If you’re a Luddite like us, a crowdfunding site is one where anybody can pledge some money, a little or a lot, to support a cause they believe in. Typically, you’ll get some kind of special reward for your contribution.)

I’ve also posted about autism and Asperger’s syndrome (high-functioning autism, now simply called the high end of the autism spectrum), and of a pair of autistic brothers and their father, and their amazing achievements. (Type “A superhero we can all relate to,” “Autism rocks,” and/or “Autism still rocks” into our search bar at upper right to learn more about this incredible family.)

Autism matters to me because my brother’s two children are autistic. My nephew’s erratic behavior made him ineligible for the high school of his choice in D.C., even though his brilliance should have made him a shoo-in. His sister is far more well-adjusted, but she still has social issues. She loves other people, but her lack of conformity means that other people don’t always love her, and of course, she can’t understand (or sometimes even perceive) this.

I know that my brother’s and sister-in-law’s greatest concern is what will happen to my niece and nephew if they (the parents) die. And we’re talking about two exceptionally intelligent, but eternally innocent, children here. To see my brother and sister-in-law going to extreme measures to keep themselves healthy, to set up funds to take care of their kids in case mortality catches up with them, is heartbreaking. I myself am looking forward to seeing what sort of lives these two exceptionally smart, talented, faith-filled kids make for themselves.

I know that anything is possible, because of Lonnie Smith and his two exceptional sons, Kambel and Kantai. Kambel and Kantai are both severely autistic, a state that many dismiss as hopeless. But Lonnie, a single father with severe health issues of his own, refused to accept this prognosis. He saw the inherent brilliance of his sons, their amazing gifts. Kambel was a natural artist, and Kantai could weave a captivating story. Kantai, the less severely autistic of the brothers, also happens to be a computer genius.

Putting his sons’ talents together, Lonnie encouraged them to create a digital world of their own imagining. And out of this world came an autistic superhero, Survivor, and his archenemy, the League of Diseases, headed by the evil Cheeo, whose chief weapon is depression and who preys on children. When you see their characters, you’ll immediately realize that Kambel’s art is the equal of anybody’s. Well drawn! I was simply amazed by Kambel’s artistic ability. Judge for yourself.

So Lonnie Smith has encouraged his sons to create a world where the autistic (they call them “autisarians”) and anyone else who’s battling a disease or disability can fight it in embodied form. It’s pretty amazing. And not only has he given his sons a mission in life and enabled them to express their exceptional talents, but he has a vision for where Survivor and his friends and enemies could go: To a full-length online feature, video games, and even action figures.

But this kind of initiative costs money, which is where Kickstarter comes in. Please, please, if you have any interest in supporting autistic initiatives or charitable causes in general, head over to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/survivor/flames-of-avasten and check the Smiths’ initiative out. I think, I know, you’ll be as impressed as I am. Not their fantasy hero Survivor, but the real-life Smiths, are my heroes.

Mushrooms steal the show. September 18, 2013

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Silence Dogood here, and geez, it’s suddenly gotten cold—or at least, really cool—here where our friend Ben and I live in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. To me, cold weather calls for hot comfort food. Of course, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes, not to mention roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, certainly qualify. But what if you want something a little more decadent?

Look no further. Mushrooms in Marsala Wine Sauce is so rich and decadent, nobody could believe how easy it is to make. Add a beautiful, colorful salad (more on this below) and you have a complete meal. You can even choose cartons of pre-sliced mushrooms to reduce prep time. But please note, this is an adults-only dish, not one you’d want to serve to the kids, because it’s a little boozy.

Mushrooms in Marsala Wine Sauce

Start with the mushrooms, and plenty of them. I typically mix it up with two cartons of shiitake mushrooms, a large carton of button mushrooms, a carton of baby bellas, and a carton of mixed gourmet mushrooms, including oyster and crimini mushrooms. You can use whatever mushrooms you like, in whatever combination and proportion you like; they’re all good here. Just make sure you don’t use nothing but button mushrooms; this dish requires deeper mushroom flavor or it will taste bland.

To prepare the dish, melt a half-stick to a stick of salted butter in a heavy pan (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this). With most mushroom dishes, I’d use extra-virgin olive oil, but because this dish requires cream, I like to keep it all dairy. Dice a large sweet onion (such as Vidalia or WallaWalla) and saute in the melted butter, adding plenty of salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocamare and lots of fresh-cracked black pepper.

At the same time, heat a large container of water to a boil for the pasta. (You could also use rice, if you’d prefer. If so, prepare rice according to package directions or use a rice cooker. Because the flavors of this dish are delicate, you’ll want to use white rice, such as basmati, rather than brown.)

When the onion has clarified, add the mushrooms and cook until they’ve released their liquids. Now add a good sprinkling of ground fenugreek, garam masala, or ras el-hanout. If the pan starts to dry out, add some veggie broth or water to keep it moist rather than more butter.

Now’s the time to add cream. You can use heavy whipping cream, light cream, or even half-and-half, it’s your choice. Heavy cream will obviously thicken up fastest. In any case, dial down the heat. Add a pint and let it thicken, cook down, and coat the mushrooms and onion as you stir. Once your sauce is thick, it’s time to pour in a good splash (at least a half-cup) of Marsala wine (Madeira is also good, your choice) and let the sauce cook down.

Add spaghetti or fettucine to the boiling water in the pot if you’re going for pasta (our preference) and keep an eye on it; it should be al dente.

Last but by no means least, add a splash of bourbon to the sauce. Why? To cut the richness. Trust me, you’ll need it for the perfect, incredibly yummy dish.

And what about that salad? We’re talking about a super-rich, creamy comfort-food pasta dish here. That means that the salad should counterbalance the richness of the meal. Endive, radicchio, arugula, chicory, watercress, and similar greens will add aggressive bitter and spicy flavors to a salad to cut through the sweetness of the pasta dish. Don’t forget to add scallions (green onion), olives, capers, tomato, cucumber, and the like to up the salad ante!

—‘Til next time,

Silence