If you liked it, then you shouldn’t put a sting on it (also Timpano!)

I have been away. Wait, there’s a reason.  Well, there are several, but one of them was this-

The Brown Recluse

I know s/he looks rather menacing there, but like many mind-bendingly venomous things, in actuality s/he is quite small.

(Though I be but little, I am fierce).

So every time I would try to type, this spider, let’s call him Sven, would slap my hand away.

Some of the spider posse are obviously missing limbs, which means they’ve seen some action. And they’re bitter. I was loathe to incite them to further violence.

The irony of a reclusive spider having an insane spider posse is not lost on me.

No, but actually it went more like this – What’s truly ironic is that I have long lived in fear of getting a brown recluse spider bite.  They can get really nasty.  Don’t google it.  Really, don’t.

I warned you.

So anyway, the morning after I was like, “What’s this painful raised lump on my leg that seems to have sprouted since I was roused from slumber?  That’s weird.”

That was stage one.

Stage two (later that day) – “Hmm… wow this sure is painful.  It’s really big on the pain, this lump.  Like it was a depressed young tweenager and pain was a picture of puppies in a basket, that’s the relationship here.”

Stage three (late that night) – “This couldn’t be.  Because that would just be ridiculous.  To have this paranoiac fear of this rare spider bite and then…No.  I’m being hypochondriacal.  I mean, sure it hurts to walk, but that must indicate that it’s healing. Searing pain = on the upswing. I’m almost positive.”

Stage four (really late that night) – “Ok, googles.  WTF.  Help a sister out.  Apply a paste of baking soda to draw out the venom?  Well, alright. If you say so, googles.  You do know all.”

Stage five – “Would gnawing my leg off be slightly less painful?  I think maybe yes.”

Snippet of conversation in the car
from when my parents came for dinner

Jaime- I think I got bitten by a brown recluse spider.
Mom- I think I got bitten by something too, right here under my arm.
Jaime-  Does it hurt to walk?
Mom- No.
Jaime – I win.  I win the insect bite contest.

Snippet of conversation from everyone who saw said bite

Other people – Have you thought about maybe seeing a doctor?
Jaime- It’s something to consider.
Other people- Because um… that looks…
Jaime- I’ll go if it gets any worse.

Snippet of conversation with friend on the third day

Gabriel – Hey, I brought you Doritos.
(which I may or may not have manipulatively mentioned I would really, really, really like, in the abstract, for recovery purposes, naturally.
Also brought: medicinal beer. Not mentioned.  Gabriel is a medical visionary.)
Jaime – Want to see my spider bite?
Gabriel – Um, hrmm.  Look at…that.
Jaime- Yeah, see that dark spot?  I don’t really think it’s black.  I think it’s just dark red.  It’s clearly not the Necrosy.
Gabriel- Have you considered seeing a doctor?
Jaime- See the thing about that is, my staggering lack of insurance.
Gabriel -What about the minute clinic?
Jaime- Zuh?
Gabriel- They have them in CVS. It’ll be like 20-30 bucks.
Jaime- Well, hot damn.  Let’s go!

So off we ventured.  Enter CVS nurse.

Jaime- I think I got bitten by a brown recluse spider.  See?

Medical professionals should probably not recoil in horror.
It also doesn’t inspire confidence when they frantically flip through a binder…

Nurse- Um. Yeah. That’s.  I could be wrong.  But I’m pretty sure that’s the Necrosy. (Ok, fine, she said ‘necrotic’. It’s more fun to say ‘the Necrosy’).  I’m really not qualified.  I need to send you to urgent care.

So, off I went to urgent care.  There may have been a few minutes of hysterical crying, a la *sob, sob*, “Gabriel, I need my leg!  I use it for things.  Like biking and walking and kicking orphans! Those orphans aren’t going to kick themselves.”

Snippet of conversation from urgent care

Doctor- Do you mind if I bring a student in to see this?
Jaime- Sure.
Doctor-Do you mind if we bring in the nursing assistant as well?
(Doctor also has a posse.)
Jaime- Um, ok.
Doctor, (while examining, calmly)- See this, guys?  Clearly the only thing we can do is amputate.
Jaime- WHAT???
Doctor- Just kidding!
(Doctor has jokes.)

Another thing you never want to hear from a medical professional – “Do you mind if I take a picture?  I’ve never seen this before.”

[favorite other snippets from brown-recluse-spider-related conversations]

So, all said and done – steroids were prescribed, beer was drunk, legs were elevated.  And, as the summer wind filtered slowly through the leaves… I began… to heal.  Just kidding, but I did begin to heal.  A couple of weeks later, it’s almost back to normal.  Maybe another week or so.

And it didn’t stop me from having a dinner party!

If you have never seen the movie Big Night, you should.  There’s a dish in it that, for all I know, Stanley Tucci made up.  And if he did, he’s a genius.  Timpano!

In the movie, it’s made in a pasta crust.  But I make mine… in a pie crust.  So when I describe it to people I say, “It’s a pound of noodles, a pound of mozzarella, a pound of meatballs, a half pound of salami, two pounds of sauce, in a pie crust“.  This is pretty much enough information to get people to any dinner party you’re having anywhere, even at your weird aunt Thelma’s, with all the cats.  This recipe just basically culls together a bunch of existing recipes on this site, but here are some pics.

Pie Crust


Take care to cook noodles only 1/2 to 3/4 of the time indicated on package, or they will get soggy. Toss 1/3 of the sauce with noodles, save the rest for the layers.

Save scraps that fall to patch the top at the end.


Fold crust over top and patch.

Bake covered in foil for 45 minutes.  Bake uncovered another 30-45, until golden brown.

Serve with enough liquor to get everyone to play Cranium later…

Reluctantly deal with aftermath.

(If possible, blame reluctance to do so on vestiges of pain from a brown recluse spider bite.)


Julia’s 100th Birthday, my 100th post, and why my part-time job is less than successful.

(skip straight to recipe here.)

And by part-time job, I mean napping.

There’s a reason why my rest is maybe not as restful as it could be.

Three reasons actually.

The amount of pillow I get vs. the amount of pillow the cat gets – to scale.

Also reason 412 why spinsterhood is inevitable.

Perhaps some advice?  Because my bed time goes something like this –

1. Bean.  He needs to be as close to my face as possible.  Sometimes, I mistakenly think it will help to turn my head.

which inevitably results in this :

2. Bourbon – to her, any movement, no matter how virtually imperceptible, means that I am fully awake and that I want to snuggle right now.

No, sure, I wasn’t really that asleep

No, it’s cool. I mean, please get your tongue as close as possible to my face…

Yay for a few minutes of sleep! Yay!


Any chance we’re going back to sleep soon?

3. Belly.

Who’s mostly chill.

 Until she feels the need to demonstrate that she’s the boss of all dogs –

Which is funny when I happen to be upright and out of the line of fire.  Once I’m horizontal and it’s going on right next to me, it kinda feels like doggie Rambo is shooting mortar shells through my dreams.

Given this bedtime adversity, I think it’s a wonder I even have the energy to be productive at all.  And by productive, I mean make eclairs.  Because it’s Julia’s birthday, and I think she’d like that!

Happy Birthday, Julia!                                                                                                 (here’s hoping the hunchback isn’t the fate of all tall women in the kitchen…)

So anyway, Eclairs –

Start with the pastry cream.  I made a half batches of these things but, here’s the full recipes:

Vanilla Pastry Cream
adapted from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher

1 1/2 cup half and half
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

First start the half and half heating in a small pan on medium.  Heat until just steaming.  While the milk is heating, combine egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla past in a bowl.

Whisk to combine.

Slowly stream the milk in while whisking constantly to avoid cooking your eggs.  Once the milk is incorporated, return to pan.

Heat on medium, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles break in the center.* Take off heat immediately. Put into a shallow bowl or pan, straining if desired.

Flavor if desired.  I divided mine into thirds and mixed half cherry jam with half pastry cream.

I also stirred espresso powder into one.

Chocolate would be good (though arguably overkill since we’re glazing with chocolate ganache). Raspberry, orange, cinnamon, whatever pleases you.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge to cool.

*it’s important for the mixture to come to a boil because that’s what makes the cornstarch burst and thicken.  If you do not boil, you run the risk of a starchy-tasting runny pastry cream.  On the otherhand, over cooking will overcook the egg.  Pull it off just as soon as it comes to a boil.

Make the

Pate a Choux

6 ounces half and half
1 stick of butter
1 cup of flour
5 eggs
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425.

Put the half and half and butter in a high sided pot and bring to a boil.  As soon as it boils, add the flour all at once and beat it with a whisk like it owes you money.  Cook it for a good minute or two to get the raw flour taste out, a small film will form on the bottom of the pot.

Remove from heat and set aside a minute.  Now’s a good time to crack your eggs and ready your pastry bag. (If you don’t have a pastry bag you can use a ziploc bag.)

This is important. Incorporate eggs one at a time.

Switching to a wooden spoon makes things easier. Do not add another egg until the first one is fully incorporated.  Err on the side of “too incorporated”.

No trace of egg? Now, you can continue.

If it does not want to cooperate, beat it into submission.  Do not stop stirring or you will cook your egg.  After the third egg, it may “break” or look like a curdled shaggy mass. You didn’t do anything wrong.  It’ll come back together.  You may not need the fifth egg.  Once it’s pipe-able,

stop. Beat in pinch of salt.

Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in long strips.

I got the plastic piping bags from Wilton, because I find no matter how diligent you are about cleaning the reusable ones, they get kinda gross.

They will have tails.  Just wet your finger and press them in.

Did you really need an illustration? Probably not.

Do not leave the tails as they will bake to a burnt crisp. Brush with egg wash if you want them to be shiny, though they will get glazed.

Once they’re puffed and dark brown,

I let these go a little long. It’s because my baking instructor was always harping “not enough color!” Damn you to hell, Belinda Brooks! Look what you’ve done to my eclairs…

15-20 minutes, remove from oven and let them dry out.  They should be fairly open on the inside.

The better to fill you with pastry cream… with. Awkward prepositional moment.

While the pate a choux is baking, make the ganache.  Ganache is one of my favorite things because it sounds fancy, but it’s the simplest thing in the world.

Chocolate Ganache

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or in chip form
3 ounces half and half
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat half and half in a small pan until steaming.  Put chocolate in a bowl.

Ganache is my favorite use for discolored chocolate. Yes, that chocolate is still good. By the time this is whisked, you won’t even know.

Pour cream on chocolate.

Wait 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth.

Add vanilla. Oh by the way.  You should measure.  Or your ganache might be a bit runny…This happened to someone I know.

Put pastry cream in a piping bag.  Insert bag into one end of the eclair or into the bottom

and pipe until the tip comes out.  Dip in ganache.

In the case of the cherry, it might be a bit runny, and the bits of cherry might get stuck in the piping tip, so just slice it open and slather it in.


Ok, completely unrelated but I was right –

Creepy, right?

I was going to use this gif, but it’s creepy for its own reasons.

Really?  Who’s responsible for this??