the 27 club.

I wrote this last night, on October 29. That sounds weird, because as far as I'm concerned, I'm writing it right now. But you're reading it today, which is tomorrow to the me that is typing right now. But don't you worry about that me, because she's still stuck in yesterday.

Time's a funny thing.

Anyway, it's important to note that I wrote this on October 29, 2010. That is my last day to join the 27 Club. I'm going to assume that many of you do not know what the 27 Club is, so I'll tell you (assuming again that you're too lazy to click on the wikipedia link I provided). The 27 Club is a group made up of musicians that died at the ripe old age of 27. Now, I'm not a musician, and I'm not famous, so even if I died on October 29, 2010, no one would update the Wikipedia article to add my name, picture, and exact age (27 years and 364 days) under Kurt Cobain. So really, it's not even worth trying to join at this point.

I wasn't really worried. For one thing, I wasn't engaging in the kind of activities that are likely to bring about a young rock star death. I didn't do any heroin at all this year. I worry more about Josh, who will be eligible to join the 27 Club for another seven months. He hasn't done any heroin this year either, but he is a musician. He's not famous yet, but he's trying.

It's not worth dying so young if you're not famous. If you're famous, then generations of youth will mourn your untimely death. They will drink too much and do drugs in your memory, because kids suck at irony. They will add your name to the Wikipedia article and think about how cool it must be to go out in a blaze of glory, choked on your own vomit, just like Jimi, man. When you're 15, you can't imagine living much past 27 anyway. Anything older than that is just too old.

If you're not famous, then only your friends and your family are sad. Even if they are particularly devastated, it's just not enough sadness. Unless a whole lot of people are really really sad, like enough people for several impromptu candlelight vigils in the major cities, then you're not a rock 'n' roll martyr. You're just dead. The gap between tragic and legendary is measured in sadness.

If all went well between the time I wrote this and today, I am now too old. But not really. In a few years, maybe on October 29, 2015, I will remember being 28. I'll say to myself, "I remember 28. I was so young." That's what I say about 24 now, as I think about all the things that I did not know then. I remember 24. I was so young. It's like what I say when I look at the pictures of the 27 Club. Look at Janis. She was 27. She was so young.


tired fingers.

For about two weeks there, I was in the ice cream business.

While Josh was not nearly as excited as I was the day that I brought home an ice cream machine, after he tasted the mint julep ice cream, he was on board. He ended up buying the same exact machine for a fellow server at his restaurant who was getting married. The bride was apparently not impressed at first, until someone explained to her how very easy it is to make homemade ice cream. She made three batches in the first two weeks. Pretty soon, she was talking up the ice cream at work, trying to convince the owner of the restaurant that he could sell homemade ice cream there. The owner was skeptical, but then Josh brought in some intensely rich dark chocolate ice cream that we made. It was very convincing.

Our deal was that his coworker would provide strawberry and cappuccino, while Josh would bring chocolate and pistachio. Each serving would sell for $4, which would be split down the middle between the owner and the maker. We looked at recipes to find just the right one, because we hadn't actually made pistachio ice cream before. There are a lot of them out there, but I knew what I was looking for. I wanted one that started out with ingredients as raw as possible. I wanted ones that called for actual nuts in the ingredients, not extract or paste. I found the recipe, we made it, and, man, was it good.

And suddenly, Josh and I had an ice cream business. Our lives suddenly seemed to revolve around dairy. We were always cleaning the machine or visiting new stores to compare prices on pistachios or staying up late to churn another batch. We had a jar of egg whites in the fridge, leftovers from all the yolks that were going into the product. We never did figure out what to do with them, other than make a lot of angel food cake. I bet it would be good with ice cream.

It was all very exciting, and I was trying hard to keep my feet on the ground. We talked about our ice cream futures - seasonal flavors, whether other local restaurants might be interested, the idea of selling it by the pint. Josh wanted to come up with names for our flavors and also for our business, but to me that was too far. We just started making two flavors at one restaurant. Let's see where it goes before we get ahead of ourselves. It did seem to be selling pretty well, though I suspect that was party due to a pair of waiters with vested interest in the enterprise.

It seemed like a story of opportunity in the making. We were just regular people who had a very common countertop home appliance. If this thing really took off, where would it go? Years from now, would we be telling this story in an interview for Gourmet magazine? Even as I was telling myself to take it slowly, I had a vision in my head. I imagined being featured in the Raleigh News & Observer, where they run a column sharing recipes from local eateries. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone wrote in to ask for the recipe to make ice cream just like that little Italian place in Morrisville? I've clipped many a recipe from that column. This was my silly fantasy.

And then it was over. One night we stayed up shelling a pound of pistachios while watching The Muppet Show, the next day Josh made the cream which I churned that night, and the day after that, his boss decided that there was more money to be made by buying ice cream in big batches from the food distributor. I don't doubt that's true, but I also doubt that the distributor's ice cream is as good as ours. They probably didn't even shell the pistachios themselves with their poor tired fingers. Surely tired fingers count for something. That's what we could have called it - Tired Fingers Pistachio Ice Cream.

In some ways, I am disappointed, and in others, I am not. Already, it was getting to be a lot of work. I was never sure that the pistachio was even going to be profitable, because the nuts are so expensive. It's hard to enjoy a quality product when you suspect you're going to be losing money on it. I will still make ice cream at home, the way I intended to when I bought the machine. I will still seek out interesting recipes that use raw ingredients. Now I can just enjoy it.

And so for two weeks, I thought about ice cream differently, and I saw an unexpected future, where my life revolved around it. It seems that unexpected future will not come to pass, but I'm all the more interested to see what will, if even such an unlikely prospect as having an ice cream business was briefly possible.


[citation needed.]

Someday, I will learn to not eat at an Irish pub. They seem like such a good idea. They always have interesting themed decor and a general commitment to joviality. And the food sounds good. It seems like comfort food, yet it's vaguely ethnic and cultural. It's always disappointing. Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps as a whole, the Irish are disappointed about something or other.

We walked into the Irish pub at about fifteen minutes until 11. We were in a strange city and starving in the way that middle-class Americans starve. I'm sure there are lots of places in Washington, D.C. that serve food late night, but we didn't know where any of them were. So we went to Dupont Circle, because I knew there were a lot of bars open late in that neighborhood. The key word there is "bar". We wanted to eat, because all we'd had since lunch had been three breadsticks apiece. Okay, well, and some whiskey. It was time for food.

It's true - Dupont Circle was hoppin'. There were a ton of people out on the street, and every bar was packed with bodies. That wasn't what we were looking for either. It was a dilemma, because we were a pair of hungry introverts, and the only places with food were also full of strangers. We took a chance on the pub, because they said they were serving food for 15 more minutes. She ordered a plate of hummus and I asked for the chicken pot pie. We both had another drink.

The walls were covered with pictures of writers. There was a whole wall dedicated to James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, who was quite a fox, if you're into that whole tortured artist look. The wall behind us had a slew of different book covers. We only recognized a few of the names. The rest were obscure and amazingly freaking Irish. Imagine the fifteen most stereotypically Irish names you can think of, and those were the names on the covers on that wall. Clearly, there was a theme here. I knew Joyce and Yeats were from the Emerald Isle, but I wasn't so sure about some of the others. George Bernard Shaw? Oscar Wilde? Samuel Beckett? C.S. Lewis? Okay, I didn't know for certain, but I was pretty sure that a couple of those guys were just regular English.

Let me save you some googling: they are all Irish. I know, because I used the pub's free wifi and verified. You can look at my phone's internet history from that night and see Wikipedia article after Wikipedia article of Irish authors. Whoever decorated that pub did their homework.

At some point, we were approached by a couple of men. Or rather, she was approached, and her approacher had a wing man, who was for me. His wing man was a short and middle-aged Egyptian. I suppose I could feel bad about being the less-desirable friend, but I think I got the better side of the conversation. She had to deal with a man on the make, while I got to talk to Mo, who was shy and seemed embarrassed about the whole thing. Mo and I talked about Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt's only Nobel laureate in literature.

At some point, the other guy, whose name we never quite cared enough about to catch, brought up Star Trek. Maybe he was trying to play up his dorkiness, since he found out that they were trying to chat up two female computer scientists (what are the chances?). Not knowing anything about programming, he went for the sci-fi angle.

"What do you think about Star Trek?" he asked me.

"I'm in favor."

"Well, yeah." He rolled his eyes. Perhaps he did not know that I was a smart aleck.

"Alright, fine." You want to get into it, buddy? I can do that. "It's like the Odyssey."

Blank stares. That was not what he was expecting.

"Everything can be broken down into either the Iliad or the Odyssey. Star Trek is the Odyssey, because it's man against the unknown. Star Wars is the Iliad, which is man against himself."

I felt triumphant. The conversation went nowhere after that, though I had a lot more to say on the subject. I could have talked about what each story indicates about its writer's vision of the future of mankind. I could have talked about how George Lucas seems to think that man will make great technological, but not necessarily moral, progress, and how Gene Roddenberry hopes that man will someday overcome his tendency to be a jerk. Our new friends were not so interested. They educated us about Scotch instead.

The truth is, that whole conversation could have used a couple of footnotes. While everyone else might have assumed that I pulled all that Iliad/Odyssey stuff from somewhere behind me, the truth was I stole it wholesale. I'm a bright girl, but that is not the sort of thing I would come up with on my own. I lack either the intuition or the training to notice those kinds of parallels in art. But I'm dating someone who is very, very good at seeing those kinds of connections. One day, we had a conversation, or rather, The Conversation, of Star Wars vs. Star Trek. And that's what he said - that whole bit about man vs. man and man vs. the unknown. I remember thinking that it was brilliant and beautifully simple, but maybe I'm just in love. The idea got stuck on a crag in my brain and has been hanging out there ever since.

When I got home, I told Josh about the Irish pub. I told him that we had been approached, and I told him how I'd ripped off his ideas without giving proper credit. I was a little embarrassed about it, just like I had felt like I was stealing at the time. These are not my ideas, and yet I am taking credit for them. Really I just heard them and liked them and then reused them.

I don't know how I expected Josh to react, but it wasn't what I got. He was charmed and flattered. For one thing, he had forgotten all about the whole conversation, so it was like he was hearing this idea for the first time. And when he heard it, he loved it and was even more gratified to find out that he had come up with it in the first place.

It must be nice to be brilliant. You just come up with great ideas and forget them. Me, I take every great idea I've ever had and hide it in a jar under my bed so I can look at it to remind myself that I am capable of coming up with them at all.

Was I expecting him to be angry? No, not really. I was just mildly ashamed to admit that I wasn't always entirely original, because I like to think that I am. This was like cheating. But that's ridiculous. It's not as if everyone else cites their sources all the time.

I've only dated men that had areas of expertise far from my own. A lot of my knowledge about art and music came from a boyfriend, not me. So when those topics come up, I want to contribute, but I feel like prefacing everything with "Well, my boyfriend says..." rather take credit for something that I didn't bother to come up with. I feel stupid and uninformed for not knowing enough about those topics to have formed my own opinions. I feel like a 50s housewife, who has no thoughts but what her man has put into her head.

But I dunno. We're all getting ideas from somewhere. I suspect that other people do it a lot, and some (most?) of them don't think twice about giving credit. Then again, most of it is a mixture of stuff we've heard or read and then stuff that got added to it as we thought about it. That's how progress happens, isn't it? Ideas building upon ideas. And what's the point of ideas, but to spread them?

Maybe next time that guy tries to pick up a dorky girl, he'll compare Star Trek to the Odyssey. And I bet he won't give me any credit at all.



Josh was cleaning the stand mixer before making a pizza crust. The mixer is an old KitchenAid that I bought for $30 at a yard sale. Its name is Captain Dough Hook. After I bought the Captain, I gave him a thorough cleaning, even to the point of using a paperclip to get into the little crevices that were full of gunk. In the couple of years since then, I have not given him another cleaning. Usually it's just a quick swipe with a dish towel when the accumulation of flour gets too thick. A deep cleaning would be to use a wet dish towel. Me, I don't care if something is messy, as long as it's my mess.

Captain Dough Hook is old and monstrous. Maybe the new ones, the ones that come in all the different colors, are incredibly heavy and unwieldy, too. I wouldn't know. My mother has one of the newer ones, in forest green, but she doesn't use it much. I bet I could have taken it from her basement and she would never have known the difference. Or I could have even asked her for it and she probably would have hemmed and hawed and then handed it over. A few years later, she would have forgotten how she never used that one and would have bought another one.

I love you, Mama.

But I like good old Captain Dough Hook. He's vintage. He's sturdy and has already proved the test of time, and he affirms that you can get good stuff at yard sales. He gets a lot of use at my house. He helps me make bread and chocolate pie, and now Josh has taken to making his pizza crust with the Captain.

Anyway, Josh was doing the deep cleaning (wet dish towel), commenting on the dried-on gunk of doughs past.

"Yeah, Captain Dough Hook accumulates a lot of cruft," I said.

"Cruft?" Josh asked.

"Yes. Cruft."

"I've never heard that word. I like it."

"It means gunk. Cruft. I got it from work."

It's not often that I use a word that Josh has never heard before. It's true that I picked it up from other programmers. It's also true that he doesn't hang out with a lot of programmers, but it was still surprising to me that it was unfamiliar to him. It made me wonder whether the word was not all that common. So we looked it up.

It is a programming word. I had figured that it was a regular word that meant generic, but physical gunk, that had then been applied to code, virtual gunk, by some very literate programmer a long time ago. But actually, it was a programming word. The wikipedia article gives an etymology, which is possibly made up. However, it's amusing, so I have decided to believe it.

"The origin of the term is uncertain, but it may be derived from Harvard University Cruft Laboratory, which was the Harvard Physics Department's radar lab during World War II. As late as the early 1990s, unused technical equipment could be seen stacked in front of Cruft Hall's windows. According to students, if the place filled with useless machinery is called Cruft Hall, the machinery itself must be cruft. This image of "discarded technical clutter" quickly migrated from hardware to software."

So it started out referring to physical computer junk, then someone started using it to describe virtual computer gunk. And then, on October 2, 2010, I stretched it to apply to physical, non-computer gunk. Maybe I was the first person to ever expand the use of "cruft" into the kitchen. Look at me, I'm a trendsetter!

Of course, that sort of thing happens all the time. People take words and use them in new ways and other people hear them and start using the word in the new way and maybe some other new ways of their own. It would be impossible to trace the first time someone made that leap for cruft, and it's likely that they didn't even notice the linguistic trails they were blazing.

So that's why I'm documenting the moment that I used "cruft" to describe old pieces of dried-up dough. If this is the first documented use, then I get credit, and someday, I will be in all the dictionaries. I have witnesses, too: Josh and Captain Dough Hook.*

*Note: Okay, I know that if you just google "cruft," you'll come up with lots of examples of people using it to describe dust bunnies or toe jam or some other non-computer, physical gunk. I can only say that those people must have been spying on me last week and then pre-dated their websites in an effort to take credit for my inspired innovation in language.


the bunny.

So after the incredibly ambitious and decadently delicious Mint Julep ice cream, I attempted Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a failure. I burned the caramel, which made it difficult to coat the hazelnuts properly. But the big mistake was in the custard. The final product ended up with weird lumps in it. The taste was phenomenal - very, very rich. Also, the discarded hazelnut pieces made a kind of amazing dessert caviar that we just ate on its own. You could hardly call the experience a loss. But as ice cream, it was not good.

But that's okay! Because I can try to make it again, or I can try something else. I don't know if any of you guys care at all about the world of homemade ice cream, but the more I see of it, the more I am amazed. The possibilities of ice cream seem limitless to me. We have all been wasting so much time eating stuff from the store. Thirty-one flavors is just not enough. I want more options, and I shall have them in my own home. The only trouble is, I never want to make any one flavor again. No matter how amazing it was, the potential of all the other flavors in the wide world of food overcomes me.

While Josh was not that excited about the ice cream machine when I bought it, he is starting to catch my enthusiasm. A couple of weeks ago, he got a craving for ice cream. I tried to feel him out to figure out what he wanted, but he was sort of all over the place, as if he didn't even know. Finally, I realized that what he wanted was The Bunny.

That didn't make any sense to you, so I'll explain it. Hold on to your seats, we're about to veer wildly off-topic. There is a Veggietales retelling of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego about a candy factory where they make chocolate bunnies (it makes sense in the video, I promise). The evil boss of the chocolate factory wants to force the good, overworked employees to eat chocolate bunnies, when we all know they should be eating their vegetables. He sings, as animated pickles are wont to do. The first song is about how he ate the bunny. Then he does a reprise, saying that he ate the bunny, and it was good, but now he has a tummyache. He should have listened to his mama and eaten his vegetables.

I can tell that the above explanation didn't make any dadgum sense, so here is a video. It is of poor quality, but perhaps it will help.

So. At some point in our illustrious history, Josh and I ate banana splits for dinner - neopolitan ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and cherries on top of a banana cut down the length. It was delicious. We got tummyaches. We sang the revised Bunny Song. We did not learn our lesson, because we did it a couple more times, too. This is our decadent, child-free, twenty-something lifestyle. We don't go off to Vegas on a whim, we don't go to cocaine parties, we don't have one-night stands, but we occasionally eat sundaes for supper.

The other night, Josh, still being a decadent and child-free twenty-something, wanted The Bunny. Which is fine, but kind of a tall order for my little Cuisinart ice cream maker. It doesn't do neopolitan. It does strawberry, it does chocolate, it does vanilla, but not all at once. It would take three days to make all that, because you have to freeze the ice cream maker's bowl before you churn. Also, I got the sense that he just wanted to eat junk. He didn't necessarily want The Actual Bunny, but just The Figurative Bunny, which is odd, because The Bunny is pretty darn figurative already.

I suggested a compromise. What if we made Banana Ice Cream? Then he could put the chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and cherries on top of it. He agreed, in a sullen sort of way. He accused me of hijacking his banana split idea and just taking it where I wanted to go. It's a valid complaint. But that did not stop me.

As he was eating the banana ice cream, however, he meekly told me that I had been right after all. The banana ice cream had met his Bunny-wanting and satisfied it. Booyah.

Roasted Banana Ice Cream
Guys, this recipe is way easier than the Mint Julep one. You don't have to use the stove at all. Just the oven and a food processor. You can do that. It's still delicious. The one tricksy part is the caster sugar. Don't buy that stuff, it's just superfine white sugar. You can put regular white sugar in the food processor and give it a whirl for about a minute. Voila - caster sugar.

This ice cream is like bananas melting in your mouth and tripping happily down into your tummy. In my limited experience, homemade ice cream is really about using fresh ingredients. You'll feel like you never knew bananas until that moment.

I am thinking of making some sort of Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake, which sounds like just a bunch of dessert words strung together. But think of it - a Nilla wafer crust, a layer of banana ice cream, a layer of bananas, topped with whipped cream. Why has no one done this yet?


a dispatch from the ministry of silly names.

Last year, I received a package in the mail that was not addressed to me. It came to my house, because it was addressed to the mailbox that sits at the end of my driveway. But it was not addressed to anyone that lives in my house. I get some mail for previous tenants, which I sometimes forward, depending on whether they look like subpeonas or tax refunds. Those names are all familiar, though, and this package was meant to be delivered to someone that I'd never heard of: The Reverend Pamela Pumblebritches.

You're not supposed to open other people's mail, but I did it. I can only hope that Pamela is as forgiving as her title implies.

Actually, the package was for me, because it was my birthday. It was from my old college roommate, who is apparently a very silly person. I'd never known that about her, even after living together for 3 years. She seemed to think that I might be a very silly person, because she sent me earrings that looked like Philips head screws!

So that was a great joke, and the name Pumblebritches gives me a little private giggle even on the days when I don't wear the earrings. Fast forward to a few days ago, when I again received some mail sent to our good friend the Reverend. However, this mail was from State Farm Insurance. It advised Pamela that 70% of drivers that switched to State Farm saved money on their car insurance (makes you wonder about the other 30%, doesn't it?). Inside was even a fake check, addressed to Ms. Pumblebritches, promising her an unspecified amount of SAVINGS.

From this experience, we can learn that the online vendor of amazingly ridiculous earrings, Uncommon Goods, sells personal information to third parties. We can also fight back against the misuse of our information by always sending packages to silly names. That way, State Farm may have our address, but they will always be sending their letters to the wrong person. If you use a different name for each company you order from, you will immediately know who snitched.

Not that it does any good at all. You could complain about it on your blog, I suppose, and not order from that company anymore, but you're still getting fake checks from State Farm. Junk mail, like spam, is sort of inevitable. Then again, how mad can you really get when you are holding a letter addressed to Rev. Pamela Pumblebritches?



Last night, I was making Albondigas Soup, and it came time to add the meatballs to the pot. It was my first time making this recipe, and I was very careful to follow the instructions to the letter. The recipe said to add the meatballs one at a time, rather than just tilting the plate over and allowing them to slide into the hot brothy bath in a meatball avalanche. So I started doing that. One meatball at a time.

Josh thought this was hilarious, that I would bother to pick up each and every meatball and plop it into the pot. But he is the kind of guy that likes to play fast and loose with his albondigas.

"One at a time? What, did you name each one?"

"Don't make fun. That's what the recipe said to do."

"That one is Fred." I dropped a meatball in.

"Stop it."

"And that's Bob." Another one went in.

FINE. If that's the way he wants to play it, then I'm game. I started dropping them in faster, but still one at a time.

"Frank! Larry! Elliot! Steve! Jim! Matthew! Mark! Luke! John! Jesus! Diego! Angelo! Uh, uh, AAAAAHHHH!" He ran out of names while I still had two nameless meatballs on the plate.

"HA! I won! I won the meatball naming race!"

And that is the silly kind of house that I live in.

*Note: The soup was good, but a little too subtle. Needs some oomph.


pancho villa.

There is a Mexican restaurant in my hometown named Pancho Villa. You have likely been to it before, even if you have never been to the small town of Lenoir, nestled in the North Carolina foothills. My experience with Mexcian restaurants is that most (but not all) of them are pretty much the same. The name, location, and the decor might be different, but the food is the same. In Boone, this restaurant was named Dos Amigos. In Winston-Salem, there were several, but the favorite was named La Carreta. They all had the same chips and salsa and the same lunch specials. I favored the Burrito Grande with steak, which is the #8 at Pancho Villa. It might be a different number at other places, but I assure you, they have it. Just like they have several burrito, enchilada, fajita, and quesadilla combos and something else called a Speedy Gonzalez.

There is nothing wrong with these places, of course. There is a place in my world for generic Mexican restaurants. They're cheap and reasonably tasty. Not spectacular, but consistently decent. I never go to one of these places on my own, but if I were going out to eat with other people that wanted to patronize one of these establishements, I would not mind. I would get the Burrito Grande and be happy with it.

The one in Lenoir has a giant margarita, which my parents were obsessed with for a while. It was served in a foot-tall stemmed glass, one meant for holding dinner mints or kittens or something less decadent than a tequila-based mixed drink. It was like buying a pitcher of margaritas, but in a great big silly glass. Every time my parents went to any other Mexican restaurant, say Dos Amigos or La Carreta or whatever it's called in your town, they would ask about the giant margarita. And though I spent a couple of paragraphs telling you that all of these Mexican restaurants are essentially the same, they do not all have giant margaritas. They have margaritas that taste exactly like the ones at Pancho Villa, and you can order them by the normal-sized glass or by the pitcher, but not by the giant novelty glass. I think my parents have finally gotten over the giant margarita, because they don't ask about it anymore. Now they are obsessed with the boot-shaped glass you can get at Texas Roadhouse if you order the Texas Iced Tea. They don't even like Texas Iced Tea, and yet they have ordered enough over several visits to supply themselves and each of their children with a boot glass. They tried to order a margarita in a boot glass once, but the waiter wouldn't allow it.

In any case, I am relieved that they are over the giant margarita, because it turns out that 27 is not too old to be embarrassed by your parents asking the waiter ridiculous questions about huge liquor drinks. I will let you know if I ever find out when too old for that is.

Anyway, the whole reason I started talking about generic Mexican restaurants is to tell you that you don't need to go to them anymore. I've found that learning to cook has absolutely ruined my desire to go out to eat. And let me tell you, I used to love to eat out. When I was growing up, we hardly ever ate out, because we were frugal and practical people. When I grew up, I was a frugal and practical person, but I had a serious weakness when it came to restaurants. I would force limits on myself, because, it's so stupidly expensive. But now I can cook, and I can just make for myself something that is as good as or better than a lot of restaurant food. It never even occurs to me to stop somewhere for a midweek dinner anymore, whereas I used to have to talk myself out of the unnecessary expense. It's not that I have more will power, but the appeal is gone.

Basically, I've turned into my mother. She never liked to eat out at places that served food that she could just as easily make herself. So we never went to Shoney's, and I don't think she likes Cracker Barrel much either. I feel the same way about those places. The better I get at cooking, the more restaurants I cross off my list. I crossed Pancho Villa (and Dos Amigos, La Carreta, etc.) off my list after the first time I made enchiladas.

I have two enchilada recipes in my regular cooking rotation. They are both better than the Burrito Grande and they make a lot of food. When I make enchiladas, I am prepared to eat them for lunch for days. Seeing as how they are so yummy, I am totally okay with that.

Beef Enchiladas
Instead of using her canned sauce variation, I make my own enchilada sauce from this 10-minute recipe. It makes just enough for two-thirds of the enchilada recipe, so I cut the rest of the ingredients accodingly. I also use flour tortillas, but I still fry them for a few seconds, like she recommends. The reason for that is just because I did it that way the first time, and I liked it. Using the giant burrito tortillas, this makes 10 enchiladas, which fit very snugly into a 9x13 baking dish.

Chicken, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas
I'm not sure if this is actually healthier, but it seems like it should be. I ended up baking three chicken breasts at 350 until cooked through in the spice and herb mix she recommends in the article, and it was yummy. I would like to experiment with other fillings besides fresh spinach, which is a bit pricey. Don't be scared by the homemade salsa verde and sour cream sauce - they are totally easy to make. You can get tomatillos at some regular grocery stores, but they are incredibly cheap at Latin grocery stores (as is cilantro).

And, just for my parents, here is my margarita recipe. You can serve it in whatever kind of glass you want.