My unsophisticated palate.




I’m almost embarrassed about how unsophisticated my palate is.

Tonight I ate a strange salad consisting of raw spinach, strawberries, Teriyaki sauce, plain yogurt, and grated romano cheese.  I pretended to like it, but I actually hated it.  It was just…weird tasting.    I would have preferred a boring ol’ tossed salad with Italian or ranch dressing.

Mind you, I liked all the individual ingredients in the salad (except the yogurt, which I have never liked), but they just didn’t go together.  It was like eating a steak with chocolate sauce.   I couldn’t finish it.

I know some foodies are really into exotic combinations and contrasting tastes, but I’m not a culinary daredevil.  I’m not even a big fan of sushi, which is no longer considered that strange or exotic and everyone but me seems to love.    I’m way too fond of things like macaroni and cheese and spaghetti and meatballs.   I prefer my burgers with mimimal condiments or none at all.   I prefer my BBQ on the mild side.  I like my pizza without weird toppings like pineapple or balsamic strawberries.   I am not a fan of most seafood, apparently a requirement to be a true foodie.

I have the culinary taste of an 8 year old.  It’s kind of embarrassing.

There are a few exceptions though, especially when it comes to chocolate and sweets.   I adored salted dark chocolate before it was a thing.  I always put dark chocolate in my chili (it actually cuts the acidity and you don’t taste the chocolate).   I really can’t stand most mass marketed candy, with the exception of Fifth Avenue bars, which are fucking delicious and almost impossible to find (I can’t stand the much more common Butterfingers, which they’re often compared to).   I prefer marzipan to fondant, I like spicy brown or stoneground mustard better than the yellow kind, and I love pine nuts in almost anything.

Christmas lasagna.


I’m not Italian, but some years ago I started a Christmas tradition — lasagna!

Why not lasagna?

It’s a perfect Christmas meal.   It’s filling, hot, and has red and green in it (well, mine does, because I put spinach and green onions in it).

We’re doing Christmas tonight instead of tomorrow because my daughter has to be at her boyfriend’s parents house tomorrow.    I just finished the lasagna and it’s now just waiting to be eaten.

Here’s the recipe, which I posted last year and will post again.

Lucky Otter’s Lasagna

1 lb. ground beef, drained.
1 32 oz. jar or can of tomato sauce
1 large can of tomato paste
1 box pot-ready lasagna (you can use the kind you have to boil too, but it’s more work and always falls apart for me)
green onions
16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 container Ricotta cheese.
2 eggs (they make the cheese mixture more fluffy)
chopped frozen spinach (1 small box or 1/2 16 oz. bag)
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic (optional–I can’t eat it)

Mix the sauce, tomato paste, a little olive oil and Italian seasoning in saucepan. In another pan, cook the ground beef until done. In another pan, steam the spinach and drain. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese in with the eggs and then add the steamed spinach and the eggs (wait until spinach cools some before doing this).

How to assemble.
Get the pan ready (use a lasagna-sized foil or glass pan) by pouring a little olive oil on the bottom and then a layer of sauce.
On top of that lay the lasagna sheets (if pot ready there is no need to boil them first), then spread half the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Sprinkle about a third of the shredded mozzarella on top of that.
Put half of the ground beef on top of that and spread out.
Pour another layer of sauce on top of that.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets on top.
Spread the other half of the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Put another third of the mozzarella cheese on top.
Sprinkle the other half of the ground beef.
Spread another layer of sauce.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets.
Pour the rest of the sauce on top.
Sprinkle the last third of the mozzarella cheese.
Put a layer of parmesan or romano cheese on top (this browns nicely).
Green onions (chopped) to garnish.

Bake at about 300 ° for about an hour. Serves about 10.


Move over, Hershey’s. I’m a chocolate snob.


I admit it. I’m a chocolate snob.  Although I can barely afford it, you’ll always find me in the “gourmet chocolate” section of the candy department at the grocery store, drooling over (and sometimes buying) big dark chocolate bars studded with sea salt, bits of almonds, filled with raspberry fondant, or just plain naked chocolate.   It’s always dark–and the label usually reads Lindt, Ghirardelli (their huge 60% dark chocolate chips are to die for) or Green and Black’s.   Whatever is available at my local Food Lion, since I lack the funds to visit The Chocolate Fetish downtown, which makes handmade chocolates right on their premises.  I won’t even go near that store–because I would lose my mind if set loose in there.


Around the year 2005, Target noticed its female customers were very different than Wal-Mart’s–thin, professional looking women who were attracted to their boldly colorful, minimalist, and trendy home furnishings and decor–the sort of women who would give side-eye to sentimental picture frames featuring an insert for each of baby’s first twelve years, “Footprints” plaques framed in gold-tinged plastic frames,  and particleboard/wood veneer furnishings of the type Wal-Mart offers.    


Target realized that the commercial boxed chocolates Wal-Mart offers–with Hersheys Pot of Gold,  Russell Stover, and Whitmans Samplers being pretty much its highest-end offerings (all too sweet, too bland, and too focused on the milk chocolate)–would not do for these thin upper middle class women who parked their soccer mom SUVs at the Target up the street and wouldn’t be caught dead at Wal-Mart.   So Target came out with their own brand: Choxie.  

choxie choxie1 choxie3 choxie2 choxie4 choxie5
Yes, those really are all edible.

Choxie was packaged in interesting containers and featured “artisan” chocolates that contained things like infusions of green tea, chili powder, espresso, deep red raspberry puree with no added sugar, sea salt, and other unique ingredients and flavors intended to enhance or provide counterpoint to the taste of the chocolate. Some looked like little packages and just like real presents, they always contained a gustatory surprise. Choxie chocolates were also aesthetically pleasing–little works of art featuring colored candy squiggles worthy of Jackson Pollack, inserts of white or mocha or green mint chocolate, or different colored chocolates all swirled together in a way reminiscent of one of those “spin art” cards we old folks used to make at the fair as kids.    Their unbelievably delicious raspberry bombs were dusted in a sour raspberry powder to give them bite.   I loved the way my fingers turned red after eating a few.   All these candies were way too pretty to be eaten, but I ate them anyway, and they tasted as good as they looked.

About a month ago I went back to Target to find them.   But no one there even knew what Choxie was anymore, so apparently it’s no longer made and hasn’t been in some time.  Tears! I miss those tiny edible masterpieces, but I’ve found something almost as great:  if you’ve never tried Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Turbinado Sea Salt Almonds,  you have not lived.   As you can see from the photo,  they look like little rat turds, but ohhhh, baby, their sorry appearance is misleading! The experience of eating one is better than sex–and you will NOT be able to stop at just one.  They should probably be illegal. I even learned how to make them myself, and they are almost as good as Trader Joe’s.


Recipe: Lucky Otter’s Dark Chocolate Almonds Encrusted with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar

Two bars of plain dark gourmet chocolate–I like Ghirardelli’s.
Melt these over low heat until soft–do not allow chocolate to boil.
Set aside about 30-35 almonds, also a dish spread with sea salt, and another dish spread with about 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar.
Take the melted chocolate off the stove, and with a teaspoon, dip and swirl each almond in the chocolate, and then set each on a cookie sheet. Don’t worry if the chocolate makes a little pool around the almonds.
Allow the chocolate to harden but don’t let it harden completely. It should still be soft and malleable. With a teaspoon, coat each almond in the turbinado sugar, and then sprinkle a little sea salt on each. Be careful you don’t overdo it with the salt–there should be more sugar than salt on each almond. You can test a few to see what proportion tastes best, but they won’t taste good if you use too much salt–they should just have a hint of a salty taste.
Place the covered almonds on a dish and refrigerate for about an hour.