Saturday, February 25, 2006

Brushetta in the kitchen

Remember last week when we made American Brushetta? I had four e-mails from people willing to try using their ovens if it would, in one person's words, "really get me ready for a real recipe." In addition, the young woman whose e-mail had inspired Bonnie and I to put our heads together for a simple, get to know your oven recipe, made it three times and feels she can handle the oven.

A "real" recipe? Here we go, but note that you put more into the oven with last week's recipe than you will with this week's (where all you will be cooking is sliced bread).

8-10 slices of bread
1/3 cup of olive oil

Topping ingredients:
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 cup chopped Romaine lettuce
1 tablespoon of basil spice
1 garlic clove, minced or chopped
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup crumbled cheese (feta or blue cheese)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush olive oil on both sides of bread slices. (I prefer Italian bread but you can also use French bread.) Don't have a cooking brush? Use the back end of a large spoon. Remember, you are dampening the bread, not soaking it. Put bread slices on a baking sheet. Place in the oven. After seven minutes, remove baking sheet, flip bread slices over and bake for seven more minutes. (Remember, oven temperatures may vary. As a guideline, the bread should look the same as you prefer it for your toast.)

While that is going on, take the topping ingredients and put them into a bowl. You can add any left over olive oil to the bowl as well. Stir the ingredients.

When the bread is done, guess what? You are done cooking. Turn off the oven. Now spoon the mixture onto each slice, about 1 tablespoon per slice.

Warning: You can cook the bread in a toaster oven following the same directions; however, I would not recommend that you brush the bread with olive oil and then attempt to cook the bread in a standard toaster.

This is a "real" dish, with a real "name," that is cooked and requested. Wally's mother and I were talking on the phone this week and she prefers to serve it on bagel chips she's bought at the bakery in her local grocery store. For that, or if you don't have an oven and use a standard toaster for the bread, you can brush with olive oil after.

If you are using the oven, congratulations because you've cooked a "real" dish in your oven. You'll find that it wasn't that hard. Marci e-mailed saying she had eaten Brushetta and she looked forward to the recipe but what would really help her would be a "meal." She'd like to serve the Brushetta on small slices as an appetizer and would enjoy having an easy to cook main dish. Which meant I was on the phone with Elaine, Rebecca and Betty checking to see if the recipe I have planned for next weekend was as easy for others as it seemed to be to me. Betty's concern is time because she has three small children. Elaine's concern is "easy" and time because if it's too much work, she's just as likely to stop on her way from work and pick up something instead of cooking. Rebecca feels she's a so-so cook unless she's got someone in the kitchen or on the phone walking and talking her through each step the first time she makes a dish. They helped me pick a recipe that they found easy. Then I ran the idea past Cedric. He's more apt to toss something frozen in the microwave but he's started using the recipes here and is getting comfortable with "cooking more than eggs." Cedric listened to the steps required and said that not only could he handle that but that he could cook it for the woman he's dating now and have a romantic dinner.

So thank you to Marci for the e-mail and next week's recipe will be baked dish to ensure that we're still using our ovens. It will also involve boiling water on the stove and, for some, browning meat in a skillet. If that has some of you excited, great. If it worries some of you, wait until next week and you'll see how easy all the steps are. (Those who don't eat meat or would prefer to skip meat for that dish will just be using the oven and boiling water on the stove.)

I saw something in Ruth's Public Radio Report today that I wanted to pass on:

From KPFT in Houston:
Program Preemption on Tuesday, February 28 - 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Senate hearings on the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program.
I do not doubt that other Pacifica stations may carry this but this morning only KPFT had a note up about it on their main page. Eight in the morning until five in the evening are Central Time Zone times.

That's this coming Tuesday. You can listen to Pacifica radio over the internet if you don't live in one of the areas that broadcasts it over the airwaves. Ruth's noting the 10th anniversary of Democracy Now! in her latest report. That is a program we watch in my house. I get more useful news and information from that program than I do from our local paper. As local TV news becomes more and more a crime watch and focused on the petty misdeeds of city workers, as opposed to the city's elected officials, I've found my desire to watch it has decreased. But Monday through Friday, I make a point to watch the hourly broadcast of Democracy Now! If you've never caught a show (which also airs on the radio and online), take a moment this coming week to check it out. I think you'll be impressed. For her report, Ruth called a number of us and asked us to select a report from the show that has stayed with us. I was impressed with various choices and it brings home just how much the show has covered. If you want to know what's going on in the world, watch or listen to Democracy Now! (and online, you can also read transcripts).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Mike here. Not a recipe, scroll down for Ma's latest. I'm posting something (with her permission from earlier today so chill everybody :D) a number of us worked on tonight/this morning that I'm calling Headlines.

In the United Kingdom today, over 200 people gathered at St Nicholas and Writhington Church, in Radstock, Somerset for the funeral of Corporal Gordon Pritchard who died in Basra on January 31, 2005 becoming the 100th British soldier to die in Iraq. 101 British troops have died in Iraq, official count. Gordon Pritchard, who was 31 years-old, is survived by his wife Julie-Ann and his children Stacey, Harrison and Summer.

Alexander Panetta, of the Associated Press, is reporting that Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay maintains that "latest intelligence" indicates that the four memebers of Christian Peacemaker Teams are still alive. The four members, kidnapped in November, were last seen in a January 29th videotape. The four members are:

James Loney, 41, of Toronto;
Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a former Montreal resident;
Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va., and
Norman Kember, 74, of London [. . .]

Sunday's upsurge in violence continued on Monday. Reuters is reporting that bombings in Mosul and Baghdad today killed "at least 19 people." The Associated Press reports that in Karbala one American soldier was killed in a bombing and that in Mosul, a bomber killed himself in a "restaurant packed with policemen eating breakfast, killing at least five people and wounding 21, including 10 policemen". The Department of Defense has identified Capt. Anthony R. Garcia of Fort Worth, Texas as one of the 34 US military fatalities this month. Garcia died of from gunshot wounds after a February 17th shooting that took place on a military base in Tikrit. Garcia is survived by his wife Doris and his children Kelly and Garrick.

Brian Zimmerman, of Gannet News, is reporting that questions still surround the shooting death of Army Reservist David Douglas who died two weeks after returning to the United States from a one-year stint in Iraq. Commenting on the violent deaths of many returning veterans, National Guardsman Alfonso Williams told Zimmerman:

You have a whole lot of built-up anger from being over there. . . . You can't explain (what it's like) to anybody. And to them, what they may think is screaming and hollering to you is a normal tone.

In 2005, the military reports that 136 active duty personnel committed suicide. No figures are kept for those who are inactive. The current number for US military fatalities in Iraq stands at 2276.

As Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker, early warnings were ignored by the administration about the environment created for abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo. Noting that "Human rights are under threat," Amnesty International is calling for the closing of Guantanamo. Tuesday, Amnesty International will host a live online discussion:

Live chat with Moazzam Begg, ex Guantánamo detainee, on 21 February, 6-7pm GMT

Moazzam Begg, British citizen, was held for "nearly three years," as noted on Democracy Now!. Amnesty International's call echoes the call of the UN investigation team as well as the prime ministers of Germany, France, England and Malaysia. U.S. Charm Minister Karen Hughes, speaking to Al Jazeera, rejected calls to close Gitmo and reportedly maintained that not only are the people imprisoned in Guantanamo wanting to kill Americans but that some released "have gone back to fighting and killing Americans." If the report is accurate, it is surprising that such an assertion would be made by the Minister of Charm and not Bully Boy himself.

In this country, the Associated Press is reporting that Republican governors George Pataki (New York) and Robert Ehrlich (Maryland) have joined the chorus of voices objecting by administration plans to turn over control of "six major U.S. ports" to Dubai Ports World. Senators Robert Menendez (New Jersey) and Hillary Clinton (New York) are also objecting to the proposed plan. Speaking out against the plan involving the Arab company, Mendendez stated today, "We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government. We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."

Feminist Wire Daily is reporting that CWIG (Center for Women in Government and Civil Society) has conducted a study on "the percentage of women in policy-making positions - such as state legislators, elected officials, high court judges, department heads, and top governor's advisors" for the years 1998 to 2005 and found that the rate of growth for women in those positions increased by only 1.6% -- "from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent." FWD notes:

Slow progress for women in state government has national implications, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers. State and local office serve as a "pipeline" to draw women into national politics. Not to mention, adds Walsh, state legislatures themselves are "making a tremendous amount of policy" –- in 2005, 48 state legislatures considered over 500 anti-choice bills.

On the national level, NOW notes, that although "almost nine million more women voted than men" only fourteen women serve in the United States Senate and only sixty-seven in the House, while of the fifty governors in the United States, only eight are women.

As noted on Sunday's KPFA Evening News, Saturday Feb. 25th, a Counter-Recruiting workshop will be held, open to the public, from 2 to 5pm at the Veterans' Memorial Building, Room 219, 401 Van Ness Ave. March 1st is the National Law Student Day Against the Death Penalty (SDADP).

In other news, Philadelphia Indymedia is reporting that Governor Ed Rendell vetoed the Pennsylvania's Voter ID bill. Rendell, who spanked Casey Junior in the 2002 election race, stated, "I see no reason to enact laws that will result in voter confusion and disenfranchise legitimately registered voters." Member of Protect the Vote had successfully fought against the proposed legislation and were on hand for the veto ceremony.

In other civil liberties news, following what BuzzFlash has called "Just Your Average Week of the Bush Administration Betraying America," the ACLU features a snapshot of governmental spying/snooping in the form of Betty Ball who states:

It is true that I have become more motivated to work for justice and social change knowing that the government is abusing its powers like this. But I am worried about how far the government will go to squelch First Amendment rights and silence dissent. Will we all be rounded up and incarcerated? Already so many people have been frightened away from participating in our events, and have asked to have their names removed from our mailing lists, for fear of the consequences of associating with us. I hesitate to call people to discuss plans for rallies or protests because I don’t want them ending up in an FBI file labeled as a "domestic terrorist."

Meanwhile, author and activist Diane Wilson remains in a Victoria County jail in Texas. Wilson was arrested for unfurling a banner that read "Corporate Greed Kills--From Bhopal to Baghdad" at a Dick Cheney attended fundraiser in Houston on December 5, 2005. Wilson's banners are apparently too much for the delicate sensibilities of the foes of democracy. She is currently serving a 150 day sentence for a 2002 action where she climbed a Dow Jones tower and unfurled a banner which read "Justice For Bhopal." CODEPINK is calling for Wilson's release.

In other take action news, is asking you to Take Action: Demand Coverage of Able Danger (more info on the Able Danger program can be found at Able Danger Media Monitoring).

Finally, Monday's Democracy Now! featured:

"Readings From Howard Zinn's 'Voices of a People's History of the UnitedStates:'"
Today we spend the hour with readings from a Voices of a People's History of the United States edited by historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. It is the companion volume to Zinn's legendary People's History of the United States ­ which has sold over a million copies.We will hear dramatic readings of speeches, letters, poems, songs, petitions, and manifestos. These are the voices of people throughout U.S.history who struggled against slavery, racism, and war, against oppression and exploitation, and who articulated a vision for a better world. Performances include Danny Glover as Frederick Douglass, Marisa Tomei as Cindy Sheehan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman as Tecumseh and Chief Joseph, Sandra Oh as Emma Goldman and Yuri Kochiyama, and Viggo Mortensen as Bartolomeo de Las Casas and Mark Twain.

This entry was compiled by:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of
Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of
Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of
The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of
Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of
Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of
Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of
Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of
The Daily Jot.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

American Brushetta in the Kitchen

I had an e-mail from a young woman who wrote that she can't make anything but mashed potatoes (instant) and if there was "an easy recipe" using that, she would try to cook something.
Well there's an easy recipe for mashed potatoes but let's stick with instant mashed potatoes for a moment. Bonnie is a community member that I've exchanged e-mails with for about six months now. (Since she wrote a wonderful guest column in the gina & krista round-robin.) She's someone who enjoys cooking. So I called Bonnie and we discussed mashed potatoes. There are actually a number of things you can use them with. But if you're someone who's scared of your oven, as the e-mailer was, we felt this was the easiest thing that could get you used to using your oven. Here's the recipe.

Instant mashed potatoes
4 slices of bread
1 fresh tomato

Make enough instant mashed potatoes for four servings. Set aside. Heat oven to 400 degrees. (You can use a toaster oven for this recipe but we're trying to get the e-mailer used to using her oven.) Place four slices of the bread of your choice on a cookie sheet, pizza pan, glass pan . . .(whatever you have). Spoon mashed potatoes on bread. Use spoon to spread the mashed potatoes on each slice of bread. Slice your tomato. I prefer slices but Bonnie says that she's made this for her kids with chopped tomatoes as well. Place tomatoes on top of the mashed potatoes. Pepper the open faced sandwiches in the normal amount you would use. If you don't like pepper, skip this step. If you add salt, add it here. Now top the open faced sandwiches with cheese. I always grated cheese when I made these for my kids but Bonnie said that when her eldest turned 12, he started fixing them for his siblings and he would use cheese slices. So use whichever you prefer, grated cheese or a cheese slice you would use for a sandwich.

Place the cookie sheet into the oven. You want the cheese to bubble. When that happens, you're done. Here's where cheese slices might work better because they will trap the heat and make sure the mashed potatoes are warmed as a result. If you overcook, you will burn the bread on the bottom. So watch the sandwiches (it shouldn't take more than five minutes).

Now what do you have? I don't know. I've never had a name for it. My grandmother would make them for us. I asked Bonnie if she ever knew a name for this and she didn't. So we'll call it American Bruschetta. If the reader will work on that recipe and let me know if it turned out, next week, we'll do a recipe for bruschetta.

This recipe is one that probably became popular when kids were hungry and a mother (of a father) was looking through the fridge and trying to figure out what to fix. It is wonderful on a cold day. You've got a warm sandwich that tastes good. It's an easy recipe. (You can probably make it even easier by purchasing already made mashed potatoes.) So I hope the reader will try it and anyone else who is nervous about using their ovens. It will get you over the hump and we'll go a little further with next week's recipe.

I don't see this as a place where I'm going to say, "Cook this! I do! So you should too!" I see it as a place where we can see that cooking isn't difficult. If you're reading this and you can identify something as the reason that keeps you from cooking (either than, "I hate it!"), please let me know and we'll see what we can do about it. Every recipe here will not involve cooking and I was tempted to do another recipe that didn't require cooking after I read the e-mail. But the reader stated she wanted to use oven but she just felt that everything was beyond her. We've exchanged e-mails and she's been using it on frozen pizzas this week so she's less nervous. But hopefully this recipe will make her even less nervous.

Are you a renter? If you are, your rent money pays for the oven. May as well use it. I want to thank Brady and Cedric because they both passed on that they tried last week's recipe (which required no cooking) and it turned out great. If it hadn't, I would still have wanted to note. C.I. mailed an issue of The New Yorker to me this week with a note to read a story inside. The note just said the essay started on page ninety. I was curious as I opened the magazine and discovered Nora Ephron's "Serial Monogamy: My cookbook crushes."

The essay isn't available online but it is still is onsale and you can also check your libraries for the February 13 & 20, 2006 issue. (It's a double issue.)

In "Serial Monogamy," Nora Ephron provides her usual straightforward and humorous commentary. She explains how she began her own cooking life and the various cookbooks that she learned from or was enthralled by. She also points out that, in Heartburn, she "included Lee's recipe for baked lima beans and pears (unfortunately, I left out the brown sugar, and for years people told me they'd tried cooking the recipe and it didn't work) . . ." My point in including that detail is that I love Heartburn (we talked about it two weeks ago) and I've made all the recipes in the book including the lima beans and pears. The first time I made that baked dish, the kids loved it. It was sweet and syrupy. My husband thought it was runny and wasn't interested. But the kids kept asking for it again and anything that gets kids to eat lima beans and pears is a good thing. So I made it a few times when it hit me that brown sugar would probably make it less runny.

That's where you should be in a perfect world. You try a recipe and it doesn't work out so you figure out how you can make it work for you. Cooking is like democracy, you don't just follow what's on the page, you participate.

You shouldn't live in fear in your kitchen (or of it) and you shouldn't live in fear in your country (or of it). When you explore your kitchen, you get comfortable in it. You should explore your country as well. The Patriot Act is being pushed through for renewal with little opposition (Senators Russell Feingold, Jim Jeffords and Robert Byrd were the only exceptions) and Bully Boy has set the terms for the debate on the warrantless spying of Americans because the press has allowed him to do so. It's about "national security." Illegal spying on Americans is not about "national security." If someone is suspected of something, you go a regular court or the FISA court and get a warrant. That's how it works in America.

If someone came in and told you that before you served lasanga, you needed to take the cooked dish, douse it in Palmolive and run hot water over it, you would know they were insane. But that has to do with knowing how things work. You need to know how things work in the kitchen, you need to know how they work in this country. This is your democracy. Use it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Chilled Dill Peas in the Kitchen

Joanie e-mailed that she enjoys reading the recipes but there's been nothing here for her to make. Why? She swears she burns everything on the stove top or in the oven. We're exchanging e-mails and for others, who may have problems with their ovens, let me make this point, because you put the dial on, for instance, 400 degrees does not mean that's what it's cooking at. You can purchase an oven thermometer at most grocery stores. You'd be surprised at how many ovens are cooking at a lower or higher temperature than what the dial says. So if you're having a problem with your oven, please consider doing that. If you know someone who cooks often, you can probably borrow a thermometer from her or him. After you figure out the difference between the dial's temperature and the actual temperature in the oven, you can make a point to add or subtract as needed when cooking.

But Joanie's concern is one that many people sometimes have. I know as my own children have moved into their own homes, any recipe that required little to no cooking seemed to be greeted with a sigh of relief. So here's a recipe that requires no cooking and it's one that my friend Margaret passed on to me in the eighties.

Chilled Dill Peas
1 16-ounce can of peas, drained and rinsed in cold water
1/4 cup fresh snipped dill
1/2 cup fresh snipped chives
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup sour cream

Mix dill, sour cream, chives and curry powder. Add peas to the mix and stir. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Now for some substitutions. First, you can use frozen peas but you'll need to cook them first. On dill and chives, it's always best to use fresh ingredients whenever possible. But the whole point of building up a spice rack is to have seasoning on hand when you might otherwise not be able to get fresh. I have dill and chives on my spice racks. If this is something I'm throwing together at the last minute, I won't have fresh dill or chives on hand. If you're using dried dill or chives, use a tablespoon of chives and a half tablespoon of dill. (Taste it and add more if you'd like.) We always have sour cream in the fridge. Mike and my husband both pour it on their baked potatoes. It's like milk or eggs, a staple in our home. But you can substitute a cup of plain yogurt for the sour cream in this recipe. (And you can use plain yogurt as a substitute for sour cream on baked potatoes.)

You can build a meal around one dish or many dishes without cooking. Many a picnic has proven that. As I said, Joanie and I are exchanging e-mails and we've figured out her oven issue and now are attempting to figure out what's happening on her stove top. But if you're have discomfort with the stove or oven, there are recipes for you. I'll try to note at least one each month and remind me if I forget to. Hopefully, making dishes that require no cooking will give you the satisfaction and comfort to tackle cooking dishes. If you do, and if you're successful, you may find that you prefer making dishes that require no cooking. That's up to you but don't cut off your options out of fear or a belief that you can't do it.

When I got married, I knew a few dishes. And my biggest fear was what happened after I cooked all of them? Was I a failure in the marriage if I didn't learn more? The reality is that most people repeat the same dishes. 365 days doesn't have to mean 365 different dinners. But when I was just married, I was creating this huge problem for myself that didn't exist. I talked about Elaine and my love of books last week and I'll note that one of the things C.I. and I talk about is cooking. C.I. is so much more practical than I was then. Each year, C.I. learns a few new dishes. I would have loved it if someone had given me that advice years ago. So let me pass it on now because it's practical. Purchasing a cookbook and trying to create every recipe in it is something that novices and cooking geniuses attempt (and probably both have the same rate of failure).

So, for instance, if you decide to try this recipe and it's the only one you're willing to try, that's wonderful. You've got one recipe under your belt already in the second month of the year. If you add two more this year, you've got three recipes. That may not seem like much to you; however, if you keep up at that rate, in five years, you've got fifteen recipes you can use with ease.

When we were in DC in September for the rallies, C.I. made two wonderful meals and one of them included a pasta and a sauce that I have permission to share. However, that recipe requires cooking and some may see it as a lot of work. So we'll work up to that recipe.

But fixing a dish or a meal shouldn't scare you. If it does, find a recipe that looks easy to you or a recipe for something you love. It being easy or something you really want to eat will help you get over your discomfort. When we learn that it's not that hard, the fear tends to lessen.

If I seem focused on "fear" this weekend it's because the Bully Boy tried to scare America again with what seems to me a phoney story about a phoney terrorist threat that he falsely claims was averted. Americans were asking hard questions about the NSA spying and you had Michael Brown testifying to Congress on Friday that while the government's response to Hurricane Katrina was to do nothing, they did in fact know how bad it was.

When difficult questions surface, the Bully Boy plays the fear card thinking that if he can scare us, we'll all stop thinking. Fear can be a huge barrier. Don't let it be a barrier to you in the kitchen or in your own life. That's my message for this weekend. And let me thank my son Mike for posting my entry here last weekend. I could not log into my account here at Blogger so I used The Common Ills mirror site. Mike offered to transfer the post over (and did) for me if Blogger started working again. And thank you to C.I. as well for allowing me to use the mirror site. I'll probably cross-post this at the mirror site.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mashed Potatoes in the kitchen

Mike here. Ma couldn't get into this site. She used The Common Ills mirror site to do her post tonight and I'm reposting it here because I'm such a good son. :D Here's Ma:

Trina's Kitchen

C.I. asked me to note that at the top because I'm using The Common Ills mirror site.
I can't pull up the main site or any community website. Mike suggested that I attempt to pull up other sites that use Blogger but no luck there either.

Last Saturday, I did a post and I'll be using the same recipe for the post that never posted. My message, error message, was something about a link not being closed. C.I.'s told me that if that happens again, I just need to click on a box by the error message and I'll be able to publish.
Mike has hounded me, as only one's child can, for not interrupting him and the gang working on the latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review to ask for help. They all work so hard and are trying to so hard to just get the editions completed and up so they can get some sleep. I did wait in the kitchen, I was on the computer we have in our kitchen, hoping Mike would come down at some point for a snack or drink. I also stood outside his door several times listening to see if it seemed calm but I could hear him speaking loudly in the phone so I knew they were all hard at work.

My plan was to ask the next morning and I left the computer on since I couldn't save to draft or publish my post. However, my husband was the first one in the kitchen Sunday morning and he assumed I'd forgotten to turn off the computer. He did turn it off and the post was lost.

Kat has told me that's the best thing that could happen. Her opinion is that I've stated I post only on Saturdays and that I might not post every Saturday so not posting, for whatever reason, early on got my point across.

If so, it wasn't a point I intended to make last Saturday.

It's been an awful week for the country. We've had Alito confirmed to the Supreme Court and we've lost Coretta Scott King. I'm not sure which tragedy wiped me out more.

For mashed potatoes: Put 1 large (or 2 small) potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and place the potatoes back in the pot and shake over low heat to eliminate excess moisture. Peel. Put through a potato ricer and immediately add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and as much melted butter and salt and pepper as you feel like. Eat immediately. Serves one.

That recipe is from Nora Ephron's novel Heartburn which I'll discuss in a moment, page 127.
First, let me discuss the recipe. I don't use it. I have a number of recipes I used for mashed potatoes but that's not one. Cedric wrote asking if I had a simple recipe for mashed potatoes. I think I do. However, my oldest daughter, after she moved out, wanted a recipe for mashed potatoes. I gave her mine and she had no luck with it. I gave her several others and still no luck. In desparation, I remembed this one and suggested it to her. She still makes mashed potatoes with this recipe, increasing the number of potatoes depending upon how many servings she needs.

So it may work for you as well. You may have to adapt it some, for instance if you don't have a potato ricer. Here's how I make mashed potatoes.

Wash potatoes, unpeeled. Peel potatoes. (I never use less than a pound but I'm cooking for a number of people. If it's just for you, I'd suggest two large potatoes or four small ones. One large one? If you're as thin as Ms. Ephron, go for it.) As you peel potatoes, bring water to boil in a large pot. (I usually use a dutch oven or, if I'm making a huge amount, a stock pot.) I usually spread out the day's newspaper and peel over that so that when I'm finished, I can just roll up the paper and the peels with it. Wash your hands. Though you've washed the potatoes before peeling, you will usually have grit of some kind on your hands.

After washing your hands, begin slicing the potatoes. How? However you want. Big chunks, little slices. They don't need to be sliced in a pretty manner. Whatever's easiest for you. (I go for big chunks.) Your water should now be boiling. You can place them in the water or dump them in. I dump them in because I know to move back to avoid the splash (the water will be hot). I let them boil for at least twenty minutes. No simmer. Once the potatoes are in the water, the boiling stops, and I count my twenty minutes from when they're dumped in, not from when the water starts to boil again. If you're cooking additional items, this is the time to start to work on them. If this is all you're cooking, gather your other ingredents: butter, salt, pepper and milk.

I don't salt the water. You can if you have no sodium concerns.

Once twenty minutes have elapsed, I drain the potatoes. You can use a strainer or a collander. WARNING: The water is hot. Watch your hands. I don't rinse the potatoes after draining, they've just boiled -- they are clean. I use a collander so I then dump the potatoes back into the pot I was cooking them in and add butter. Using a potato masher, I then mash them in the pot adding milk as I go along.

Use the milk sparingly. Add a little each time or you may end up with too much milk, in which case, you're going to end up with a soup and not mashed potatoes. Once you're content with the consistency of the mashed potatoes (I don't care for lumps, but some people do), you can add salt and pepper if you choose. I do add both. You should add sparingly, stir with a large spoon and taste as you go along to avoid getting too much of either. You can always add more, you can't take out what you've added.

Once you're content with the taste, they're done.

For me, that's the simplest recipe. You may prefer Nora Ephron's recipe. Use what works for you.

When Mike helped me work on my profile awhile back, e-mails started coming in asking if I just read literary books? No. I read all forms of books. I do enjoy the books I listed. Elaine is the first person I've encountered in a long time with whom I can exchange books and discuss literature. I'm reading some Satre books currently that she passed on to me. (She also said that when a Democrat's in the White House, I should know that C.I. reads and discusses novels. But when a Republican is in the White House, C.I. is in research mode and that's always been the case.)

Heartburn is a wonderful comic novel that I've read many times. Nora Ephron's main character is Rachel who isn't a cooking expert but writes cookbooks. Her husband Mark is a columnist and is always looking for a topic for his latest column. One topic he doesn't write about is the affair he's having.

When Rachel finds out about the affair, she leaves Mark. There are many complications and a lot of humor so if you haven't read Heartburn, that's a book I would highly recommend. If you've seen the film of Heartburn, you may want to avoid the book. I wouldn't blame you for that. Other than Carly Simon's song "Coming Around Again," there was nothing worthy of note to me in the film Heartburn. But the book is much more enjoyable.

There were many enjoyable posts this week and I'd hoped to highlight a number of them. With the sites not displaying, I'm unable to. But Cedric, Rebecca, Elaine, C.I. and my son Mike did fine work all week. If I'm able to, I will carry this post over to my own site later tonight. I should also note that one of my sons will be getting married this month and February's posts may be spotty as a result.

This was a difficult week for the community and today's problems with Blogger probably don't provide much comfort. But we made it through the week. If mashed potatoes aren't your idea of comfort food, and they may not be, fix or purchase something that is. And enjoy your weekend.