Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Corn Chowder

For Christmas, my parents gave me some new dishes. The desire for dishes is a family gene passed down from my mother, so it was fitting that she and I picked them out together. They are a beautiful creamy yellow with a great feel. I'm looking forward to enjoying a lot of home-cooked meals on these plates. Among the first pieces I picked out were soup bowls designed to hold a generous portion.

With new soup bowls waiting to be filled, the obvious course of action is to try out some new soup recipes. On Monday night we had corn chowder. It was the perfect recipe for my new yellow bowls.

Mama's Corn Chowder
2 T butter
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup instant mashed potatoes
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can cream-style corn (w/ liquid)
1 15 oz can whole kernel corn (w/ liquid)
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
½ c flour
1 ½ cups half & half (or milk)

Sauté the celery, onion, and carrot in butter for 5 minutes in a large stockpot. Don't brown the veggies; sweat them instead. Add 4 cups broth, instant mashed potatoes, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your pot will look like this as you bring it to a boil:
Add the cans of corn (with their liquid), sugar, and white pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The soup will be getting thicker. By now, your pot will look like this:
Combine flour with half & half (or milk) and stir with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add this mixture to the soup and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until thick. Serve in your brand new yellow soup bowls:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tiny Treat

My Christmas stocking is clear evidence that Santa (or perhaps Mrs. Claus?) has an Etsy account. Santa's stocking acquisition agent picked out all sorts of things to amuse me, a girl who clearly hasn't fully grown up.

Exhibit A? These ponytail holders with tiny pocketbooks printed on a pink background:

They are available from this Etsy shop, one of my favorite places to browse.

Perfect for all of my varied ponytail needs. And trust me, those needs are significant.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No Longer Taking My Calls

Over the weekend, my friend A and her cousin T joined us at Sassafras House to meet the parents and enjoy some post-Christmas cheer. My friend A has been my lifesaver on more than one occasion and regular readers will recall her cousin T from the bathroom re-tiling project earlier this month. Let's just say they are part of my (extensive) team of Jersey-based angels.

T is handy (and amazingly willing to help) so I asked her to bring a drill to hang the new outdoor clock that the Sassafras Sister gave me for Christmas. That project went off with out a hitch and looks great, ready for my summer back deck lounging pleasure:
Then T was also called into service to replace the toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old seat suffered from a loose bolt and had become a pain in the backside (pun intended). It's not just any friend that you implore to help replace your toilet seat, of course. And it turns out that mine wasn't just any toilet seat. Affixed to the house since who knows when, the loose bolt on the seat was stuck. Thus, it could not be tightened to prevent the seat from moving. But neither could it be easily loosened to get a new seat on board.

Internet, I must apologize for inducing you to read about the toilet seat at my home. But imagine how much worse it would be for you if you were T, who not only had to hear about the toilet seat but got to fix it.

That entailed lying on the cold bathroom floor under the toilet. And while A suggested it wasn't the first night T had spent lying on a cold bathroom floor, we were all able to agree that it may have been her first time doing so while sober.

It took a lot of patience and more than an hour to loosen the bolts and replace the seat. T invoked very few swearwords, which is unheard of at this house when home improvement is on the agenda.

But now we have a new seat in the upstairs bathroom. One that doesn't move around. That's most happy.
And the cousins had their revenge by giving my family and I a complete drubbing in a new card game. So it wasn't a complete waste of an evening for A and T.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Real Life Conversations with JT: Poor Service Edition

The backstory: The grandparents recently reminded me of a time years ago when my family was in NYC and had ordered supper at a restaurant. Service was slow and then the waitress appeared at our table to explain that the chef had quit. JT was tickled by the story and kept asking his grandparents to repeat it. On Friday, after we'd all been outside to do some yard work, I made lunch. JT served as the waiter, taking sandwich orders and then delivering the plates to the diners. After all the orders had been served up, as he was taking his own plate to the table, he announced, "I quit." We all laughed. After lunch, he and I had the following conversation:

Mama: JT, would the waiter please clear the dishes from the table?

JT: I quit. I can't do that.

He's turned the story into a game of his own.

Friday, December 26, 2008


There is nothing quite like the joy of Christmas day. My son's big shining eyes on that morning just makes all the rough spots in life suddenly smoother.

He's nearly nine years old this year and though he's had some doubts here and there (and a whole lot of questions about Santa's logistics), he's still a believer. His excitement on Christmas Eve was palpable. And yesterday morning, with its abundance of toys and a stocking full of treats, did not disappoint.
Suffice it to say that thanks to Santa, we now own nearly every cactus-themed item in the Playmobil catalog.

Grandma and Grandpa and his Auntie KO and Uncle M supplemented the Western assortment, thus enabling the pirates to join the invasion (and have a place to dock their sloop).
We emptied our stockings of their tiny little treats (every year, that's my favorite part of the day).
Then, while invasions proceeded apace in the living room, I got in a Christmas Day nap (a tradition that anyone who has been up until 1 am on the 24th deserves to enjoy). We had some snacks in the afternoon.
Our friends the R-K family joined us for Christmas supper.
This is my third Christmas as a single mama; there are still moments in the day when I miss my old life and the promise it once held. But Christmas was rich and happy and for at least one day I lived in the moment.

And the moment was most goodly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa Cam

A few weeks ago, JT announced that he'd like to install a secret camera in the living room so that he could see the Man in Red when he arrived on Christmas Eve. I suggested that a Santa Cam would be intrusive and might spoil the fun. The boy reluctantly agreed to allow Santa his workplace privacy.

Now that Santa has filled the stockings and cleared out of Jersey for his travels west, it seemed perfectly acceptable to snap a photo of the treasures awaiting a little boy come Christmas morning.
PS: I hope that Santa found Tiger helpful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Most days, Tiger the cat spends some quality time lurking under the tree. JT thinks Tiger is checking to see if there are packages for him. I think that Tiger has more nefarious purposes.
Each morning I walk downstairs expecting to see that the tree has been tossed over so the cats can have their way with it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


When I was in the 2nd grade and living in northern California, my grandmother came to visit and we went to San Francisco to enjoy the sights of the city at Christmas. So it seemed only fair to continue the tradition more than 30 years later.

The city this time around is New York. The scenes: Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree and Santa at Macy's on Herald Square. And did I mention the biggest cold spell of the season? The temperature was below 20 degrees as we set off on the city-bound train Monday morning. JT's Grandma is a California native and not used to temperatures below 40, let alone below 20. But she had a warm coat and gloves and we hooked her up with a hat and a fleecy scarf. She was quite the trooper.

We saw the tree and walked around to view the windows uptown.
We braved the crowds at Macys....
....and patiently waited to see Santa.
Once we were in Santa's innner sanctum, JT gave a shy smile and let the man in red know that he'd like some Playmobil toys.
A most lovely way to spend the day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Real Life Conversations with Dad: Smart Mouth Edition

The backstory: Last' weeks adventures in furnace repair ended with the discovery that I have been somewhat remiss in my furnace maintenance duties. The boiler which serves up the steam heat in my home needed some cleaning and general attention that my friendly PSE&G repair man completed under the watchful eye of my father. The end result of repair number three: a much, much warmer home. It's like the furnace has been waiting for years to serve up this much heat.

I came home from yesterday's shopping adventure to a warm and toasty home. So toasty that when I started to make supper, I needed to take off my sweater (relax, I had on a shirt underneath).

Me: It's so hot in here that I feel like I'm in Florida.

Dad: Yeah, well if we're in Florida, where are the damn bugs?

As they say, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sassafras Clone

Sitting around is not exactly my style. In fact, I'm the sort of person who is always hoping to have a little extra time to get a few more things done. I have often thought about how much more efficient I would be if only I had a clone on hand.

My clone could grade papers while I do the laundry. The clone could change the sheets while I grab a shower. The clone could get supper on the table while I clean the bathroom. Really, the prospects are endless. Yesterday morning I needed to bake some cookies for the basketball game bake sale and I also wanted to work out. This job really called for a clone.

So, while I got in a run, my clone (also known as my mother) baked 6 dozen cookies.
I could get used to this sort of thing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Day!

On Friday, instead of having our last day of classes before Winter Break, we had a snow day. No complaints from me, as I was pretty tired out. By the afternoon, I'd had a nap and was ready to take on the in-house snow monster.
He'd used his snowball molding device to build up our arsenal. Then we engaged in a little snowball fight. He's got a good arm for this sort of thing and it must be said that he's a lot faster than me.
But little boys should never underestimate their mama's cunning desire to win a round or two. Or aim a snowball at a retreating backside.
Photos were snapped by Grandpa, from the (relative) safety of the front porch.

Friday, December 19, 2008


More than ten years ago, when my sister was pregnant with the boy who is my parent's eldest grandchild, I recall my father gently mocking my mother and me for our excitement about the coming baby. "It's just a baby," he reminded us.

Then that baby was born and my father had cause to eat his words. When I paid my first visit to meet the new member of the family, my father was flush with joy in his grandson. And Mr. Ho-Hum had become Grandpa Euphoric. "I thought you girls were pretty special," he told me, "but this boy...." the sentence went unfinished, as normally talkative Grandpa was overwhelmed with love and pride in his tiny grandson.

Within two years, two more grandsons joined the family. And now my father is rich in grandsons, God's payment for having endured teenage daughters, I expect.

While his cousins live in California, just down the street from their grandparents, JT lives across the country. We visit often and he's gotten to be a pretty chatty phone buddy, but there is no substitute for having your grandparents at hand. Yesterday, they flew in from California to spend the next two weeks with us.

On Thursday, JT flew out of bed, excited about the afternoon's airport run. When he joined me in my classroom yesterday, he announced that "this is the longest day EVER," excited as he was to fetch Grandma and Grandpa. They are here now, ensconced in our care for the next two weeks.

Let the spoiling begin!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Question for the Universe

Why is it then when I get in bed each night Lucy the cat decides that she must join me? And by join me, I mean climb on my chest. So there I am, snuggling under the covers, reading the book du jour, and here comes Lucy.

She fusses and meows at me and then steps (none-too-delicately) all over my sternum, sometimes sticking her bootie right in my face. This is neither comfortable nor pleasing. And when I gently push Lucy over, she is irate, returning for another stomp on my sternum.

Memo to Lucy: I do not find this to be a comforting routine. Please stop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


One of the things my students quickly learn about me is that I like a cold classroom. I always joke that I keep it cold so that they stay awake to prevent hypothermia from claiming them. The truth is that I move around a great deal when I teach and I don't like to be over-heated. Risk of hypothermia is funnier.

But things around here are not so funny at the moment. On Monday, it was 60 degrees and raining. Yesterday the rain switched to a slurry of snow and ice and the temperatures sank to right at freezing. My furnace chose this moment to quit heating my home, which I discovered when I got home last night. I think that pilot light is out. Actually, I hope it's just the pilot light as that's a fairly inexpensive prospect. Furnace repair comes between noon and 4 pm later today. It's quiet around here without the furnace. No roar as it snaps to life. No clinking pipes. Just a quiet cold and the sound of my chattering teeth.

3:45 pm, furnace update:
Happily, the repair man showed up within seconds of my arrival home. He headed downstairs to check things out. The pilot light (which JT calls the pirate light) was working so then he did some stuff. And then the furnace was furnacing.

The diagnosis: not sure. I have a steam furnace and sometimes you need to drain the water. He did that and then re-filled it. Flipped the breaker; turned on the thermostat and bingo! back in business. It took a bit to get the water heated and the steam moving through but within a couple of hours, the house was warm again. Or warmish, anyway.....the thermostat is still set at 65, after all.

Let's not get crazy.

8 pm furnace update: Ummmm. Not working again. version 2 tomorrow morning. Let's hope I meet with greater success.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And So It Begins

Small children are always fascinated by dinosaurs and garbage trucks. Both are loud. Both are large. And in a few quick seconds, both could kill your mama, that woman who frequently says no to you.

Happily, JT has largely outgrown his fascination with large objects that could destroy Mama. Sadly, a new obsession has replaced it. He's fascinated by a series of books he found at the school library. The premise of the series is an exploration of things "You Wouldn't Want to Be" and the illustrated and fact-rich books feature a range of things you really would rather not endure: being a pirate's prisoner (keel-hauling sounds dreadful); being the sheriff in a lawless Wild West town (bad guys abounded and would often try to shoot you); being an American pioneer (those wagons could have used some shock absorbers); or serving in the Civil War (death from your gangrenous seeping wound totally bites). His appetite for these sorts of details is impressive. So I knew it would happen one day: he'd bring home a book about the Egyptian pyramids.

I may be a History teacher who has taken any number of courses in ancient history, almost all of which mention Egypt. But...I don't really care about ancient Egypt and the pyramids. Mummification? Whatever. King Tut? Yawn. Marvels! Wonders! Amazing! How did they manage to build those pyramids? Actually, I don't much care. I'm down with the plague and castle invasions that feature boiling oil sloshed over the side. When it comes to studying the Druids or the Crusades, I'll get on board with the human sacrifice and suffering. I'll pony up for some good old-fashioned Inquisition torture. But Egypt is just not my thing. Sadly, JT brought this book home from the library last week:
I'm fearful of years and years of those amazing pyramids in my future.


Monday, December 15, 2008

JT's Advent Calendar

Lately, I've been thinking about the tiny things that help to make the holidays special for a child. I know that nothing can quite compete with the excitement of Santa and Christmas morning and I'm not looking to de-throne the big man. But some of my best holiday memories are the little things that went along with Santa: the lovely paper advent calendar my sister and I opened each day in December, the Christmas eve snowball treat, the fresh, cool evergreen smell of the Christmas tree. As an adult, these moments mean as much to me as the shiny bike or the smiling doll that I received one year. So I try to create small moments of pleasure to go along with the big. One of those small moments comes from JT's advent calendar.

When JT was three years old, some friends sent him a beautiful advent calendar. It's a real marvel; a lovely wooden box that contains a small drawer for each day before Christmas, a total of 24 in all.
Its annual appearance on the 1st of December is one of the very first signs that Christmas is coming. The calendar may be filled with treats for JT, but it's one of the holiday traditions that I enjoy the most. I look for tiny toys or Christmas ornaments to fit in some of the boxes. Other boxes have a note with a little treat: extra reading time at night; a trip to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast; an invitation to play a game on a weeknight. JT is always excited to see what prize the day's tiny box holds.

And it must be noted that the one thing that this advent calendar guarantees is a boy eager to get out of bed with lightening speed each morning. That is a miracle of its own kind

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Thursday and Friday were cookie day in my classroom. It's the annual sweet reward I give students for enduring my nonsense all year long. This year's cookie assortment was an impressive array. We had toffee bars, peppermint chocolate chip cookies, molasses spice cookies, brandied cranberry white chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, and rocky road fudge.

I had been baking a batch or two most every night of the past week, leading up to the excess at the end of the week. My homeroom takes the record for most cookies consumed --- nearly 3 dozen --- in the shortest amount of time (less than 15 minutes). Yesterday, for the last period of the day, my American Government class got cookies and we played Apples to Apples.
There is still another week of classes and next week I return to my regular programming of lessons and assignments. But we'll all be a little more festive as we prepare for the upcoming break.

Cookie day is one of my favorite holiday traditions because it reminds me that it's the small pleasures and treats that make December special.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Most every morning when I come downstairs, a little stuffed bear dressed as Santa can be found lying under the Christmas tree, a forlorn ornament snatched from the tree by the cats in the overnight hours.
I think that Tiger is the most likely culprit for this assault on the tree and I'm amused by the ordinary regularity of the crime.

I imagine that the stuffed bear is less amused by the nightly assault.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Home Improvement Day 3: Success!

On Sunday, the task at hand was grouting. I'd chosen a grout that is close to the color of the tile. The old grout had a number of problems; the most significant among them was its light color. It was impossible to keep pristine or even clean-ish. I live with an 8 year old boy and I wouldn't say that careful aim is always a high priority. That grout like to kill me.

So the new grout is darker and blends in with the tiles. It won't improve anyone's aim, but it will cover a multitude of sins. I had mis-estimated the amount of grout we'd need to complete the room and that necessitated an emergency grout run to Lowe's. But within the hour after my return, T had the room grouted. Then came the tricky part: she had to wait several hours for the grout to set before re-installing the toilet. We would be wiping up the excess grout and cleaning the surface but that doesn't really take all that long in a 5x5 room. What to do?
Normal people would spend their downtime laying about watching football and barking orders for cold beer and nachos.

I say this with the greatest respect for her endless energy: T is not normal. So instead of down time, we had project time. A new curtain rod was installed in JT's playroom. At some point (I have no idea where I'd gone off to) T vaccumed underneath the furnace in my basement (eeek!). Then T hauled out her leaf blower and organized the rest of the leaves in the backyard. JT did some leaf pile jumping and then helped me to fill the bags. Not to be outdone by T's work ethic, I recruited the boy to help me plant the rest of my fall bulbs and then hang up the outdoor Christmas lights.
The trash piled in the front yard was testament to a weekend of hard work.
Once indoors, I made a little celebration supper and enjoyed our last meal with the toilet in the dining room. Reinstallation of the toilet was a little trickier than we liked, but once the plumbing was up to speed (i.e. a person with actual skill tightened the valve attaching the toilet to the water supply) it was all good. The door was re-hung with a minimum of profanity, all of it coming from my mouth. I was even allowed to use the drill (with no adverse affects on the project).

I couldn't be happier with the results. I'm like a kid with a new toy, happily standing in my bathroom and admiring the new floor.

Thanks, T. I owe you one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Home Improvement Day 2: Beware the Cats

On Saturday morning, I lay in bed second-guessing my decision not to carve my initials in the new floor before it cured hard and fast. I came downstairs to find that the cats had not been so reluctant to mark their territory.
JT and I were horrified, like parents of a couple of very difficult teenagers. While the guilty parties retreated to the attic playroom for a stern lecture from JT, T assured me that we could work around this snafu. And work was her strong suit that day. As I struggled to fully awaken, she set up the wet saw for tile cutting on the back deck.
The day's task was laying the tile. With precision and speed, that's exactly what T did.

Not to appear indolent, JT and I hauled the Christmas tree indoors and started to decorate. That was the theme of Saturday: holidays and heavy equipment. By the evening, there was a lovely Christmas tree in the living room.
In the bathroom, the new tiles lay affixed to the floor, awaiting Sunday's festival of grouting. Things were starting to come together.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Good Time on a Friday Night

The first day of my home improvement weekend featured the greatest amount of destruction. Because nothing says "have a relaxing weekend" like tearing stuff apart and filling the living room with equipment and Christmas decorations.
In must be noted that when my friend T sets her mind to fixing up your hovel of a home, she means business. While I got supper to the table on Friday night, she unloaded supplies into the house. Then, she and JT fired up her compressor to use the air gun to nail up my indigent cabinet kickplates. And presto, a problem I've been living with for years was magically fixed. Ten minutes into home improvement weekend, and we were off to an impressive start.
After that appetizer, a little destruction was on the menu. The bathroom door was removed from the hinges to enable a little more breathing space in the tiny room. That kind of job is always more fun if the screws are stripped, as were the screws holding my door. The toilet was pulled out and carried to the dining room, where the throne would spend the better part of the weekend as the butt of many jokes.
The tile was torn up, revealing a rather corroded floor underneath, including barely recognizable lino that last saw daylight circa 1960, I'd guess. The worst part of the corrosion featured some black ants who were less than delighted to see us. The feeling was mutual. Bug spray and bleach were deployed to aid in 1) their demise and 2) ensure mildew removal. The old tile was hauled to the trash bin. That work completed, we headed to Lowe's to contemplate some new sub-floor materials.
The new sub-floor would be a combination of heavy mesh metal nailed to the floor and finished with Mega Bond mortar. And no December trip to Lowe's is complete without securing a Christmas tree, so we did that as well. Upon our return, T played with the sheet of metal in the living room.
Her next challenge: nailing the mesh into the bathroom floor.
JT and I secured the Christmas tree in its stand and left it on the front porch to shake out (not to mention taunt the cats).
By the end of the evening, the new floor was in place, providing a nice even surface to affix tile the next morning. While the floor was still wet, T encouraged me to carve my initials in. I deferred, but that's a story for tomorrow.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Ultimate Weekend Update: Home Improvement

When JT was in kindergarten and 1st grade, Monday morning would feature an activity called Weekend Update. In a journal with space for pictures and words, JT would report about his weekend activities. On our Monday morning drive to school, we'd review the weekend's activities so that he would have something to write about. It was always easier to write and illustrate the Weekend Update if we'd had a busy weekend.

Sadly, Weekend Update is gone. And that's a shame because this Monday would have been the best Weekend Update ever, thanks to my friend T, a veritable whirlwind of home improvement. I'm not exactly a slacker when it comes to home repair projects, but compared to T, I'm practically a sloth.

The primary task for the weekend: repair and restoration of the downstairs powder room, a 5 x 5 room off the kitchen and pantry in the back of the house. Some of the floor tiles had broken and crumbled loose. The grout was impossible to keep clean. There was reason to believe that the floor beneath could use a little repair. And my attempts at repair were both unsightly and ineffective. Pictured below is the bathroom in it's "before" state, with sample replacement tiles against the back wall:
Things look much better now. And that will be the story of this week, as I chronicle the ultimate Weekend Update. Tomorrow: nothing decorates the dining room quite as nicely as placing your toilet next to the supper table.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Earlier this week, JT had a homework assignment that required him to solve some math problems in order to find the answer to a riddle.

The question part of the riddle read: "How is a T-Rex like an explosion?"

Though he has a good enough work ethic, JT is never an overly-enthusiastic homework scholar. But this assignment caught his interest such that he was actually eager to find the answer.

He quickly solved the puzzle. The answer to that age-old question, "How is a T-Rex like an explosion?" He's full of dino-might.

JT read the answer, looked at me, and said evenly, "Well that was disappointing."


Friday, December 05, 2008

Real Life Conversations with JT: Bad Parenting Edition

The backstory: A few weeks ago, JT and I were driving and another driver cut me off. Seconds later, I blew by the cut-off artist and offered him a non-verbal demonstration of my sentiments. JT apparently took note, as I learned one morning this week.

Mama (speaking to the slow driver in front of me): Move it, lady, that light isn't going to get any greener.

Seconds later, the driver turned right. I followed and now we were side by side, waiting for the next light to turn green so we could head off our separate ways. We were now side-by-side with the slow driver.

JT: Mama, should I show my finger to that lady?

And I look in the rear-view mirror, to find JT carefully arranging his fingers for a little sign-language presentation of his own. I hastened to put a damper on his symbolic speech efforts.

Classy. My son and I are obviously classy.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Last Supper

My raving about the many virtues of chilaquiles led to a discussion with my bother-in-law Uncle M, who is married to the Sassafras Sister. The topic? What would you eat for your last meal on earth?

Uncle M had an immediate response to the question: A can of Spaghetti-O's, heated and with a hot dog sliced in. He'll have the O's with a grilled cheese sandwich made with sourdough bread. He intends to dip the sandwich into the O's.

To each his own, I think, though props to Uncle M for the sourdough grilled cheese, as that's also a house favorite around here.

As for me, I'm eating chilaquiles before I go to the great beyond. I will enjoy them with a Coke. JT has weighed in with a request for his Mama's guacamole tacos (good answer son, especially diplomatic with the Santa-season drawing near).

What's on your table for your last meal on earth?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Food Nirvana: Chilaquiles

I am a regular reader of Simply Recipes, a recipe website maintained by a woman named Elise who lives in Sacramento, California. One of the reasons I like the site is that Elise writes fairly often about locally grown food. And in her case, local is the central valley of California, where I grew up. So Simply Recipes is a taste of home for me, way out here in New Jersey.

Among the site's many virtues is the collection of Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes. Each and every one of them is excellent and you should hop on over there and fire up the stove to make them. Now.

Today I would like to take a moment for some special reverence for Elise's chilaquiles recipe. As soon as she posted the recipe I knew that I would be making it. And that's what I did last night.

Every once in a while, I read an interview where an individual is asked what the menu for their last night on earth would be and the answer is some nonsense about steak and lobster. But it always makes me pause, because I've never really had an answer to that question.

But now I know the answer: chilaquiles. I basically followed Elise's recipe and made the red chile sauce, substituting 4 dried anaheim peppers for the anchos because 1) I wanted a milder pepper in case I could induce JT to give it a try (go ahead and laugh.....that's what he did when I suggested it) ; and 2) I love anaheim peppers, not to mention 3) my Wegmans (a very reliable source of Mexican ingredients) was out of dried anchos. I used a combination of mild cheddar and monterey jack cheese instead of the cotija, because that's what I was in the mood to eat. I kept some El Pato by my side in case a little more heat was necessary.

I served the chilaquiles with lettuce, cilantro, red onion, and avocado, some refried beans, and a poached egg.
Heaven on a plate. Seriously, heaven. Go make yourself some chilaquiles. Not only will you thank me, now you'll know what to serve for your last night on earth.