Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli for Meatless Monday Dinner

Some foods are magical. They evoke happy memories of people, places and times and can be very powerful. Most often, they are memories of childhood and family. I grew up the product of an Italian Father and a Mother who was mostly English and German. As in most households at the time, Mom did most of the cooking but there were those special occasions when my Dad would take over the kitchen. As I'm sure many of you know, every Italian family has a spaghetti sauce (gravy, if you must) that is from a recipe that verges on being sacred. We did -- it came from Calabria with my grandparents and was spoken of in hushed and reverent tones. In our home, my Dad made the sauce, but that's not what I'm writing about today. There was one other very important meal he prepared and it's the one that, even more so than the sauce, evokes those strong, deja vu like feelings. I'm talking about pasta e fagioli, or in English, pasta and beans.

When Cynthia first started making pasta e fagioli for us, she followed my family recipe religiously. Over time, as is her wont, she tweaked a little here, a little there and (forgive me for this oh ancient ancestral spirits) made it better. One important component that did remain the same in both the original and Cyn's improved version was the addition of a good sized hunk of salt pork to the soup as it simmered. The richness and depth of flavor that it contributed was noticeable and delicious.

So when I asked if we could have pasta e fagioli for Meatless Monday last week, she looked at me like I had lost my mind. "What about the salt pork?" she said. "Just leave it out" was my ill-considered answer. After she stopped laughing, I saw the wheels start to turn and I knew I was going to get a perfectly delicious, meatless, version of pasta e fagioli for Monday dinner. Here's how it came together.

This is not a dish that is put together quickly, so if you need something now, this isn't it.

Ingredients (the beans)
1 lb dried white beans - cannelini preferred (you can use canned but the texture will be different)
2 bay leaves
1 parmigiano rind
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot whole
1 stalk celery, whole
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 cup tomatoes (pureed, chopped fresh, even salsa will do)
6 cups water

Ingredients (the soup)
2 carrots
1 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic peeled
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 parmigiano rinds
2 quarts water
1 tbsp tomato paste

Preparation (the beans)
  • If using dry, wash and pick over the beans to remove impurities.
  • Add beans, water, bay leaves, garlic, rosemary, carrot, celery and parmigiano rind to a slow cooker/crock pot.
  • Cook on high for one hour then add tomatoes and reduce heat to low.
  • Cook beans until tender (typically 8 hours). We do ours overnight.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Reserve.

Preparation (the soup)
  • Place carrots, garlic, celery and onion in a food processor and let it go for about a minute. You're looking for a paste or a battato
  • In a large stockpot on medium heat, cover the bottom with a couple of tablespoons of oil.  Don't be chintzy, you can always skim some of it off later but you're going to need the fat to saute the paste until the water evaporates and the paste turns a nice golden brown.  Hit the paste with some salt early in the process to help draw out the moisture and concentrate the flavors, and for goodness sake, baby this saute by stirring very often, or it will burn and you'll be sad.  About half way through, 10 minutes in, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and continue until golden.  You can't rush this step - let the browning occur, it's where a lot of the flavor of this soup comes from.  

  • Once it's golden brown, add the 2 quarts of water and the other two parm rinds.
  • Bring it to a simmer and then add 4-6 ounces of pasta. One of the smaller shapes like ditalini or elbows works well.
  • Slowly add the beans to the pot and cook until the pasta is done keeping it at a simmer to stop the pasta from sticking.
  • Remove the whole carrots, celery, bay leaves and whatever is left of the rinds.
  • Serve piping hot with grated parmigiano on top.

Note: This soup stores and reheats wonderfully with the addition of a very small amount of water to the leftover portion.

Did I miss the salt pork? I won't lie, I did, a little. But that may be because the taste of this soup is so hard wired into my senses that I noticed the difference. Was it still good? Absolutely!

There are literally hundreds of pasta e fagioli recipes floating around out there. I've had quite a few other versions over the years but this one remains the best. If you've never made it using the rinds and the battuto method, try it once this way. You'll probably never make it any other way again.

Ciao for now!

Visit my blogger friends at Delicieux_fr and Eat Your Veg!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Restaurant at Potawmack Farms

In another of our ongoing first Saturday of the month dinners out, Cyn and I took a one hour leisurely drive through the Virginia countryside to Lovettsville, VA and the Restaurant at Potowmack Farms. There, high on a hill overlooking the Potomac River, Chef Christopher Edwards treated us to what was, quite possibly, the very best restaurant meal we've had since moving to Virginia. Did you hear that Chef Patrick O'Connell?

Potowmack, named after George Washington's trading company and the local Indians of the time, is an real working farm, growing vegetables and herbs for use in the restaurant. They are committed to a farm to table, seasonal and certified organic dining experience. The menu reflects what is available from their own farm and from other local purveyors.

Before we get to the food, I need to mention one small but thoughtful touch that set the tone for the meal. When we arrived, we were greeted and seated by the owner, Beverly Billand, and presented with the evening's menu. Note the personalization at the top.

In keeping with the theme of serving what is locally available, the menus are printed daily and the chef offers a prix fixe menu (with paired wines optional), and a very nice selection of a la carte items. We both decided to go with the prix fixe menu although a few of the items on the a la carte menu were very tempting -- particularly the Briars Farmstead suckling pig. Maybe next time. Since we had the same meal (with one exception I'll note later), we'll both offer our individual comments on each course.

Amuse Bouche
Lobster beignet, sea urchin butter, jumbo crab, mustard vinaigrette

Come on, really? A beignet? With lobster and crab? This was like a little bit of perfection, several bites to be more precise since the portion was very generous. The sea urchin butter added a deep richness without overwhelming the other ingredients and the whole mustard seed vinaigrette provided the acid needed to complete the dish. Oh look, there was a pretty little purple flower too. Simply stated, I wanted more of this.

Yeah, what he said. The beignet was piping hot and full of chunks of lobster. Crispy outside, creamy inside. The crab was succulent and sweet and topped the beignet after it was tossed in the urchin butter. As a gardener, I deeply appreciated the fresh flowers adorning certain dishes on a visual level and as an eater, they added a beautiful freshness to the dish.  Could have embarrassed myself by climbing into chefs lap and eating these babies as they came out of the oil.  I don't say this often, but this was a perfect amuse, I couldn't wait for the next course.

Watermelon radish, asparagus, red cabbage, baby carrot, kimchi broth, garden herbs

I don't use the word pretty very often, but this dish was pretty, and right in the sweet spot for a restaurant that specializes in serving local and fresh ingredients. Everything seemed to be fresh out of the ground. Not quite a salad but more than the name crudite would typically imply, every element in this bowl was meant for each other. I particularly enjoyed the crisp purple cabbage that seemed designed to carry the kimchi broth in it's folds. I kept hoping everyone in the restaurant would simultaneously turn away so I could pick up the bowl and drink the broth -- didn't happen.

Umm, yeah, what he said.  Kimchi broth was a revelation and why didn't I think of this?  The salty umami-ness of it was the seasoning for the crispy veg, and the watermelon radish was luscious as it had soaked up some of the broth but kept a nice toothiness.  Balance was perfect and the dish was incredibly 'clean' - this chef doesn't feel the need to add more frou frou crap to create a masterpiece.  Great example of less is more.

Carolina Golden Rice Middlins
soft cooked farm egg, mirepoix vegetables, Ayrshire chicken foot gravy, aged jalapeno

My favorite course of the night, and that's saying a lot! The gold rice middlins were a revelation to me. They a a shorter grain rice, sometimes called "rice grits", or broken rice, that were perfectly suited to taking on flavors such as the chicken foot gravy that made this dish quite spectacular. The depth of flavor the chef developed here was almost the essence of chicken and the foot itself was wonderfully crispy on the outside without giving up that gelatinous quality that defines them. Note to the observant reader: I don't eat eggs, so I had this course without the soft cooked farm egg and wasn't clever enough to take a photo of Cynthia's, which had the egg. One last note, I don't know what aged jalapenos are, but they were perfectly suited to add both a little heat and acid to this dish. I need to find out what they are and where to get them.

At this point, after two fabu courses, I'm expecting a lull in the action.  Can they possibly maintain this level of delicious?  No. They can't.  They take delicious and crank it to crazy fabulous.  The rice middlins I could eat every day and never tire of them.  Rich with a slight chewiness, drenched in the chicken foot gravy, my mouth is watering just writing about them.  And with the fine dice of the vinegary jalapenos and the river of molten egg yolk, pretty damn perfect.  Balance, balance, balance.  I should mention that this dish is served with one of the feet from the chicken foot gravy.  If you're not into chicken feet, I just happen to be, but if you aren't or haven't had the experience yet, this should be the chicken foot that you give your virginity to.  Trust me.

sour cherry sorbet, rosemary blossom, creme fraiche

I'm going to be very picky here. This was the one course that wasn't a home run for me. The sorbet has a pleasant enough sour cherry flavor but the texture seemed a bit off, icy, more like a granita than a sorbet. The creme fraiche was at the bottom of the frozen shot glass and was rock hard. Like I said, I'm being picky here.

Yup, this was a hiccup.  It was palate cleansing and I enjoyed the hit of rosemary blossom astringency, but the creme fraiche didn't make sense - we're cleansing not coating, right?  Sour cherry flavor was fine and Al's right about the texture - we have an Italian gelato maker in house and he eats a lot of sorbet.

Hedgeapple Farm Beef Short Ribs
parsley potatoes, red wine marmalade, mushroom meleange

Hedgeapple Farm is a local (Buckeystown, MD) has been in existence since 1731and has been continuously operated by the Jorgenson family since 1956. I am not a huge beef eater, but these reminded me of just how good a well prepared beef dish can be. These were everything good short ribs should be: succulent, super tender, perfectly balance between lean and fat and just bursting with real beef flavor. The red wine marmalade added a slightly sweet element that complemented the the richness of the ribs.

Al forgot to mention the potatoes were butter poached and the short rib was sublimely glazed.  There are a lot of short ribs out there nowadays, they're trendy.  There aren't a lot of memorable short ribs out there. I knew the second my fork hit this bad boy that I would be remembering this rib - it sunk in, but there was a little resistance, and when I pulled, the meat parted and hallelujah! the juices ran.  Juice!  In a shortrib. Amazing. The juice and the marmalade and the butter from the potatoes, oh my.

Cherry Glen Monocacy Gold
andrew crush's smowmegeddon honey, beet meringue, pomegranate, orange

Those of you that follow along know that when it comes to dessert, I prefer cheese over sweets anytime. If you're following ever more closely, you know that I have mentioned Cherry Glen cheeses more than once before. So, I was more than happy to see that our dessert course consisted on their Monocacy gold, a soft ripened goat cheese! Paired perfectly with what seemed to be a raw honey, candied orange rind, beet meringue and pomegranate, this, for me, was the perfect finishing course.

Cherry Glen cheeses have an excellent depth of flavor tempered with a grassy backnote and a fresh cheese loveliness.  Paired perfectly with the honey and candied orange rind and my favorite bites were all that topped with pomegranate seeds.  Creamy, rich, sweet, chewy with a bright crispy pop.

I'm all for beets, love them.  This beet meringue did not work for me.  At all.  I tried to like them, I really did. But they were just so....beet-y.  I vote for a switch to a nut meringue, or perhaps mint.  Fennel?  Fennel would be perfect, candied fennel seeds even perfect-er.  I have my dessert for the next dinner party.

The menu called out one more item, a Friandise, which tuns out to translate to something small and dainty. To close the meal, we were served what was obviously a house made marshmallow that had been sprinkled with pink peppercorns. It was, as the menu indicated, a sweet surprise.

Al - the last word
I'll make this simple. One of the best meals I've ever had. We are already planning our return and will likely take advantage of an offer that the chef would prepare a vegetarian tasting menu if ordered in advance. 

Cyn - the last word
We didn't mention beverages, but upon arrival, I indulged in a Pimm's Cup cocktail that has to be mentioned - it was sprinkled with pink peppercorns which were a delight and a wonderful surprise. I should have known then that this restaurant was an incredible find and that I would have a truly delicious and memorable meal.  I can't wait for my next visit.

Restaurant at Patowmack Farm on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2008 was a very good year....

...for tomatoes in Newburgh, NY. That's where we lived then and where we grew, roasted and canned tomato sauce. We actually did that every year but there was something magical about the quart mason jars full of that 2008 vintage. Last night, as part of Meatless Monday dinner, we opened the last one.  Nearly 4 year old tomato sauce you say? Isn't that, um, dangerous? Not at all if the jars are initially prepared correctly, the canning process is carried out properly and the seal remains intact. It was both exciting and a little sad to crack open that seal, but the finished meal made it all worth it. Cynthia's original recipe was a perfect use for that special vintage.

Herbed Crepes with Ricotta, Spinach and Chard Filling

Ingredients (crepes)
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup + 2-4 tbsp liquid of your choice, could be stock, milk, beer, water or any combination thereof - I used 1 cup Better than Bouillon No Chicken and 3 tablespoons of Duck Rabbit Milk Stout beer
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp unsalted quality butter melted and cooled or same amount EVOO
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup minced herbs, I used a combination of chervil, chives, rosemary, dill and basil

Ingredients (filling)
  • 4 big handfuls spinach and swiss chard
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano, romano or grana padano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • generous grating of nutmeg
  • black pepper
 Ingredients (finished dish)
  • tomato sauce -- ours is from garden grown plum tomatoes, roasted with whole garlic and olive oil -- to this we added a pinch of sugar, 2 oz. red wine, a pinch of salt and a few stems of basil, crushed (later this summer I'll write a whole post about our roasting/canning process)
  • grated parmigiano
  • peas (fresh or frozen/thawed)
Preparation (crepes)

In your favorite blender blitz everything but herbs for 5 seconds on high speed.  Add finely chopped herbs and let sit for 1 hour.  Batter should be about as thick as heavy cream, add a little more liquid if too thick, otherwise you'll have pancakes and not crepes.

To make crepes, heat at least an 8" skillet over medium high heat.  If it's a regular surface (not non-stick) be sure to melt a little butter in the pan to insure easy crepe release, using a pastry brush to evenly distribute over the cooking area.  Add 1/4 cup of stirred batter to pan for each crepe, swirling the pan to evenly distribute batter.  Cook for about a minute on the first side, use spatula to loosen edges and using your fingers, two hands please, flip crepe to other side for another 30 seconds or so.  Perfect circles aren't necessary as you'll be filling and rolling, which hides a plethora of mistakes.

Preparation (filling)
  • saute spinach, chard and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until fully wilted, adding salt and crushed red pepper to taste
  • remove from heat and allow to cool
  • combine ricotta, grated cheese, egg, and cooled greens in a bowl and combine thoroughly
  • add nutmeg and pepper to taste
Preparation (finished dish)
  • fill each crepe with two generous tablespoons of the blended filling, placing it in a line along the lower third of the crepe 
  • begin rolling the crepe then fold the edges of the crepe in and continuing to roll until you have enclosed the filling completely
  • layer the bottom of an oven safe dish with tomato sauce
  • lay stuffed crepe in dish
  • cover with additional tomato sauce
  • dust with grated cheese
Three stages -- pre-sauce, sauced and "cheesed"
  • cook in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes
  • remove from oven and add sprinkling of peas
  • serve hot

The finished dish is reminiscent of a good cannelloni but the crepes are much more tender than a typical pasta. The mouth feel is almost silky and the cheese and greens become the stars. 

We will miss the 2008 tomato sauce. There is some 2010 in the pantry -- a good but not great year -- our first here in Virginia. With have some high hope for 2012 based on some soil amendments we've made this spring. Is it almost August yet?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Going Persian for Meatless Monday

Recently I've been trying to infuse our Meatless Mondays with ethnic dishes from all over the world. Last week we made falafel, a typical Middle Eastern dish based on chickpeas. This week we decided to go Persian, thanks to a suggestion from my Twitter friend, Leila J. @PersianLiving. Leila is of Iranian decent, living in the UK and writes a wonderful food blog called, of all things, Persian Living!

When I asked her to recommend a Meatless Monday dish that was truly Persian, she immediately told me to make adasi. The main ingredients are lentils and potatoes and her wonderful recipe can be found here. We were inspired by her recipe, but ended up going in a slightly different direction. Leila's recipe called for green lentils which tend require a longer cooking time and break down less. Since we had red lentils in the house we decided to use them, knowing they would break down during cooking more and create more of a stew like consistency.

Here's how it came together.


  • 1.5 cups of red lentils (soaked for 4-8 hours)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seed (best to be ground from seeds as needed for freshness)
  • 2 small potatoes, peeled, washed and cubed to 1/2 inch or smaller
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar (can substitute lemon juice)
  •  In a large pot, heat cooking oil to medium heat and saute onion and two cloves crush garlic until golden brown.
  • Add pepper, turmeric, fenugreek, 1 tbsp Better than Bullion No Chicken and a big pinch of crushed red pepper and 4 cups of  hot water.
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add lentils, lower heat and simmer covered 15-20 minutes until the lentils are tender and starting to fall apart.
  •  Add potatoes, tomato paste and remaining garlic (crushed). Continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender, stirring regularly to prevent potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

  • The dish should be fairly thick when finished. If it becomes overly thick you can add up to 1/4 cup more water.
  • Add vinegar and cook for 5 minutes more. 
  • Remove from heat and serve.

We served ours with a simple salad of cucumber, yellow pepper, purple cabbage, radish, onion and tomato dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and parsley.

This delicious and simple meal has sparked an interest in knowing more about Persian foods. I'll be spending more time reading the Persian Living Blog. Thanks Leila!


Friday, April 6, 2012

No seriously, no need to applaud....

Note: this post originally ran on as a guest post.'s really not that big a deal.

OK, maybe it is kind of a big deal -- for me. Six months ago I decided to give Meatless Mondays a try. I outlined my reasons in my very first blog post. In part, I wrote "I'm not a vegetarian. I firmly believe a life devoid of (good) bacon isn't worth living. That having been said, I am embarking on what I hope will be a year-long journey of Meatless Mondays."  

Why Meatless Mondays? The official movement is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. They offer evidence that cutting back on meat consumption by 15%, one day a week, will yield significant environmental and health benefits. This link provides more information. Additionally, here is the history of Meatless Monday which has been around a lot longer than you might think! A growing number of doctors, nutrition experts and celebrities have voiced their public support for the movement including Sir Paul McCartney who is a strong supporter of the affiliated Meat Free Monday movement in Great Britain.

Cynthia and I were never the "meat and potatoes" types anyway. There were always several nights each week that were either meat-free or, in a phrase I think we might have coined, "meat as a flavoring." Many of our dinners were were either a pasta or a big salad (I couldn't help picturing Elaine Benes when I wrote that -- Seinfeld fans will understand). These were almost always meatless, or used a very small amount of meat to flavor the base. Think adding salt pork to a slow cooking pot of tomato sauce.

Well, 26 Mondays later I'm still not a vegetarian, and with apologies to my vegetarian friends, I still feel the same way about bacon. However, I'm making a small but important revision to my statement. I am no longer hoping this will be a one year journey. I now believe that this is a permanent part of my life.  

Having successfully eliminated meat (and for the record that includes seafood) from my diet one day a week, has more than anything else, opened my eyes to the vast array of vegetables, fruits and grains that are out there and just how delicious they can be. I simply want this discovery to continue because I am truly enjoying this. It doesn't hurt that I'm married to a wonderful woman who is an amazing cook and has come along for the Meatless Monday ride.

So, what have I learned in the past six months?

I've learned that you can make a very good home version of one of my favorite veggie meals -- the Chipotle vegetarian bowl -- at home.

I've learned that you can get a great meatless meal while out on business in Fairfax at the Villa Mozart

I've learned that, if you hide it and spice it well enough, I will eat tofu. OK, I admit I liked it.

I've learned that you can take a classic pasta dish and reinvent it in a fun and interesting way.

I've learned that mac and cheese doesn't need to come out of box, be just for kids or have that unnatural orange color.

I've learned that I like okra even more that I thought I did -- yes, I already liked it.

I've learned that potato pancakes are a fun, easy and delicious comfort food on a Meatless Monday.

I've learned that Cynthia can turn slow cooked eggs and pistachios into a work of art.

I've learned that I can even be out of the country, in a 4-star restaurant, and get a wonderful meat free meal.

I learned that Shepherds Pie doesn't need meat to be savory and soul satisfying and that green lentils mimic beef really well. 

I've learned that grilled cheese can be pretty darn exciting.

I've learned what forbidden black rice is, and why it pairs so well with sweet potatoes.

I've learned that farro is different than Pharaoh and that's it's really delicious.

I've learned what quinoa is, how to pronounce it, that it's not a grain but that it may be my favorite Meatless Monday meal yet. 

    More than anything, I've learned that expanding my horizons to include more vegetables, grains and fruits has been been both exciting and delicious.

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Making Falafel for Meatless Monday

    One of the advantages of Meatless Mondays that I've written about previously is the ongoing pressure/desire to stray out of our comfort zone and into less than familiar home cooking territory. This week, I suggested we try making falafel, the ubiquitous Middle Eastern street food that is now commonly found in most major US metropolitan areas. Why not? After all, we love chickpeas -- and they're deep fried -- what a deal!

    Wading into the internet for a workable home recipe, we ended up in a familiar place. Seems that lately all roads lead to Mark Bittman, our "go to" New York Times food guy. Here is his recipe for falafel.

    • 1 3/4 cups of dried chickpeas
    • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
    • 1 small onion, quartered
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tbsp ground cumin
    • scant tsp of cayenne (or to taste)
    • i cup chopped parsley (or cilantro)
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • Neutral oil (grapeseed or corn for frying)
    • Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 4 to 4 inches. Soak overnight. Expect the beans to triple in volume.
    • Drain beans and reserve the soaking water. Transfer to a food processor. (Note: we are fortunate to have a VitaMix blender. To get the proper consistency, a strong blender is needed). Add the remaining ingredients except the oil. Pulse until minced but not pureed. Add small amounts (no more than a tablespoon at a time) of the soaking water if needed to allow your blender to work. Adding too much water will make blending easier but will insure that your falafel falls apart during cooking. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.
    • Add oil to a deep sauce pan. Set heat to medium high and heat to 350 F (if you have thermometer, use it).
    • Scoop heaping tablespoons of the batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until golden brown, turning as needed. Total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temp.

    Traditionally, falafel is served in a kind of sandwich made with pita bread, a salad made from cucumber, green pepper and tomato all diced and lightly dressed with oil and lemon (we used white balsamic in place of the lemon juice). It is typically finished with a tahini sauce. The sandwiches can either be in the pita pocket or in an open face style, eaten with a knife and fork. Either way, they are delicious, and have a heartiness that makes you forget there is no meat involved. If you've had falafel on the street and liked it, try making it at home. If you haven't had it before, I highly recommend you try it!


      Monday, April 2, 2012

      Around the world in 50 blog posts....Wait - make that 100 countries in 65 blog posts!

      An Update

      When I originally posted this on April 2nd, 2012, I was pretty amazed that in 5 months my blog had reached into 50 countries around the world. Today, just about two additional months later, the blog was read by someone in another country. To the person in Nigeria that read my blog giving me 100 countries, thank you very much. To all of you who have read and (hopefully) will continue to read my future posts, a big thank you. I hope you continue to find it interesting and informative.

      When I started writing this blog, I did it mostly for myself. You other blogger understand, right? We all think we have something to say and that people will flock to our sites to hear it (OK, read it), leave glowing comments, and holler (at least figuratively) for more.

      However, after I had a few blog posts under my belt, I found out building an audience was a little harder than I had realized. My wife was reading it -- thanks honey. I quickly twisted the arms of few people I work with to read it too. Beyond that, who knew. So I set up a twitter account and started shamelessly plugging my blog. I established a Reluctant Foodie Facebook page and posted a link to every blog entry there. I even started a Pinterest account and posted pictures from the blog hoping people would link back.

      Like many bloggers, I became addicted to watching the page hit number roll up daily, weekly and monthly. Getting that first 100 hit day was exciting and reaching 1000 total page hits seemed staggering to me at the time. Now, I average nearly 100 hits per day, but recently I'm more fascinated by the geographical reach this blog seems to be getting.

      Like most blogging platforms, Blogger provides an integrated stats tracker. Embedded in the package is a feature that identifies the country that each page hit comes from. I began keeping track of each new country that hit my blog. Yeah, I was that kid in grade school that really, really liked geography. This week, I wrote my 50th blog post. I also received a hit from my 50th different country, Croatia! At some level, I am amazed that people all over the world are reading the words I write here.

      I won't bore you by listing all fifty, but I have had people from 6 continents (come on, there must be someone doing research down in Antarctica with an internet connection and some free time on their hands), and two places I had to look up, Montenegro and St. Pierre & Miquelon (I bet you need to look this one up too). I feel so, um, global. There seems to be some controversy about how many countries exist in the world today -- the numbers range from 195-198 depending on who's counting them. In any case, I have quite a few more to go, but knowing I've had readers in more than 25% still seems pretty cool.

      Thanks everyone.

      Pea on this, Pea on that

      Peas have a reputation.  And it ain't good - starchy and a weird color, very often the color of something a babe has recycled. But in fa...