Friday, November 26, 2010

Sisterspeak: But what if I don't have tinned pumpkin?

Okay, here's a good one for you. A few years ago, Miguel and I went to a Thanksgiving dinner (in Ireland) hosted and prepared by my American friend, Rachael. To this day, he still talks rapturously of her pumpkin pie. Which, I concur, was very, very good.

So this past Wednesday night, when I forced him to sit down and plan our Thanksgiving menu -- we're celebrating with friends this Sunday -- he refused all dessert options that weren't pumpkin pie. I threw lots of options at him too -- chocolate mousse, jam tarts, chocolate bread pudding. He was having none of it.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm afraid of making pumpkin pie. But tinned pumpkin is hard to find in Ireland and, well, mama's feelin' a little lazy, come the weekend. I don't mind carving the suckers up at Halloween, but spending my Friday night making pumpkin goo filling just isn't my idea of a good time. (Instead I'll be spending it addressing and stamping my wedding save-the-dates, which wouldn't be high on my list of "good times" either, but I digress...some things in life are necessary evils.)

And now, Nick, for my ask: is there something I can use instead of real pumpkin that isn't tinned pumpkin, but that will taste Just Like Pumpkin for my pie? I'm sure with your deep knowledge of gourds, you can pull this one out of left field for me.

I eagerly (and hopefully) await your reply. And Happy Black Friday. (You're totally out shopping right now, aren't you?)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Entertaining made a little easier

Ok, as a disclaimer, I actually enjoy going way over the top and cooking 5 course seated dinners with all the stops pulled out. However, I DO NOT enjoy the cleanup involved after such affairs, and more to the point, neither does my beloved. Usually, I plan so much kitchen work that she is invariably left struggling to do everything else to get the party ready. This is really pretty unfair because I enjoy my part of the work, whereas I don't think Danielle actually gets a very big kick out of scrubbing our bathroom "clean for the guests", or trying to remove the fine coating of dog hair that seems to coat pretty much everything in the condo (kitchen not included, don't worry dinner guests). So, that being said I have agreed to tone down my culinary exploits to a heavy hors d'ouevres and lots of wine. I think it'll be a nice change....a little more low key, lots of different flavors in little bites, LESS MESS. So I'm going to give you 3 dead easy, delicious hors d'oeuvres that will take the guesswork, and just a lot of the work out of throwing a holiday/whenever party. No more chafing dishes full of tepid swedish meatballs for us, but if you're like me, your wife may still make you dust the inside of your towel cupboard or some such other non-sensical pre-party cleaning activity......easier not to debate the value of said task by the way, you will lose in the end, and will just be dusting later.

Puff Pastry Squares with Green Olive Tapenade and Shaved Parmesan

Simple, but delicious, and a good option for all those annoying vegetarians who show up (to all my vegetarian friends, just kidding, I love cooking for you :)

1 cup green olives, pitted

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

1 tblsp sundried tomatoes

2 tblsp Olive Oil

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

2 fillets of anchovies (use white anchovies if you can find them)

1 tsp red chili flake

1 pckg puff pastry - unless you have a dough sheeter, if you do, feel free to make your own

1/8 lb good quality parmesan, shaved with a peeler

1)Heat oven to 400 degrees

2)Place pastry on baking sheet lined with parchment/wax paper

3)Using a fork, prick the dough all over. This prevents it from puffing too much

4)Bake 12-14 minutes until light, golden brown all over, remove and set aside

5)Puree all of the top group of ingredients in a food processer till mostly smooth, but with just a little chunk to it

6)Spread a thin layer of tapenade all over pastry. Cut into 1/2 inch squares and top each with a curl of shaved parmesan.

Marinated Crab Salad on Cucumber Rounds with Citrus and Mint

Doesn't get much easier than this, but it's crab so everyone will fawn over it

1 lb lump or jumbo lump crab meat

2 tblsp fresh mint, chopped

2 scallions, chopped thin

1 clove garlic, minced

juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange

1 small thai chile, deseeded and chopped fine

1 tblsp italian parsley, chopped fine

2 tblsp mayonaisse

1 tblsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp clover honey

1 tblsp toasted white sesame seeds

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 large european (seedless) cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch rounds

1)GENTLY fold together all of the ingredients in top list, other than sesame seeds.

2)Let marinate at least one hour in the fridge

3)Scoop a nice quenelle of the crab onto each cucumber round and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds

Herb Crusted Tenderloin on Crostini with Horseradish-Basil Aioli

Very easy once again, and it will satisfy the carnivores in your crowd

Crostini - Thinly slice baguettes, toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake at 400 till golden brown


1/2 c mayonaisse

2 tblsp basil chiffonade

1 tblsp fresh grated horseradish

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1)Mix all together and chill in fridge at least one hour

Beef - I like mine pretty red, so that is how I'll lay out the recipe. If you like yours a little more done, just leave it in the oven longer

2 lb beef tenderloin

1 tblsp fresh rosemary

1 tblsp fresh thyme

1 tblsp mustard powder

1 tblsp cracked black pepper

1 tblsp kosher salt

2 tblsp olive oil

1)Mix together all the spices, herbs, and oil, and rub all over the beef. Refrigerate at least two hours, then pull from fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 500 degrees

2)Pour excess oil from marinating pan into large skillet and set on high heat. Sear beef on all sides for 1-2 minutes, or until nicely browned. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes, until internal temperature is 135.

3)Let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

4)To plate, top each crostini with a nice heavy smear of the aioli, then place a very thin slice (BTW, always cut the meat against the grain, it is more tender this way) on top folded once.

5)Garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt and some rough chopped parsley.

Just put platters of these three things out, accompanied by many, many drinks, and everyone, hosts included, will have a relaxing, easier to clean up, "dinner" party.

"The best number for a dinner party is two -- myself and a damned good head waiter"
--Nubar Gulbenkian

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's November, I guess we should start the Thanksgiving recipes now

Well, it's that time of year again. Here in Georgia, it doesn't exactly feel like fall, let alone winter yet....we are still enjoying 60-70 degree weather (sorry to all those out there in the NE or say...Ireland), but that doesn't mean we can't get into the spirit of things.

I don't know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals of the entire year. Really it's just an excuse to cook to much and overeat, followed by football watching, and some friendly family vs. family gambling. However, I will admit to a small degree of snobbery when it comes to Thanksgiving food. All of this should be taken with a grain of salt since I have been known to create such Thanksgiving classics as whole roasted lobe of foie gras with cranberry chutney, or replace the gravy with a foie gras infused bordelaise sauce, but my idea of good eats is not sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows or green beans mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped with onion straws. Far be it from me to judge however, so if those are your or your family favorites, there is much to be said for tradition. This post is just meant to offer up some different, not necessarily better (although I think they are.....see what I mean about my snobbery, I just can't help it), ways of cooking these Thanksgiving staples.

First up, the sweet potato.................

Recipe 1 - Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cayenne Pepper and Smoked Paprika - The potatoes in this recipe get a very nice sweet/spicy/savory balance from the different ingredients coming together....simple but tasty

3 lbs Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 stick butter
2 tblsp oil, not olive
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Smoked Paprika, you can sub in regular Paprika if smoked is unavailable, but smoked is better
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped fine

1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2)melt butter in a pan over low heat and add cayenne, paprika, sugar, garlic powder and salt
3)Turn pan off, and mix in the olive oil. Let sit ten minutes
4)Toss sweet potatoes in oil/butter mixture and spread out on a roasting sheet, make sure that your sheet is big enough to put potatoes in a single layer, or they will roast unevenly and not caramelize
5)Bake for 25-30 minutes until potatoes are tender and lightly caramelized
6)Put potatoes in a serving dish and toss with thyme and any excess butter from the roasting dish and enjoy.

Recipe #2 Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Garlic and Bananas...yes bananas

2 lbs Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large slightly underripe banana
10 cloves roasted garlic (to make roasted garlic, simply cover garlic in a vegetable oil in an oven proof dish, cover and roast at 250 degrees for about an hour. They are done when they are deep golden and very soft. It softens and sweetens the garlic flavor and is a great ingredient to keep around for every day use)
4 oz milk
1/4 stick of butter
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste

1)Slice banana in half lengthwise and place under broiler until well caramelized. Remove fruit from skin and set aside
2)Boil sweet potatoes until fork tender in salted water
3)Place potatoes, banana, & garlic cloves in large mixing bowl and mash until smooth
4)Melt butter and milk together...this is probably one of the few times when I will suggest a microwave, just don't tell anyone I told you to do it that way
5)Mix milk/butter into potato mixture and add cayenne & nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper
6)OPTIONAL - You can then take this and serve as is, or mix 1/2 cup pankot breadcrumbs with 1/4 stick of melted butter and 1/8 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans together, top the potatoes with this mixture and bake until topping is golden brown...approximately 20 minutes

Both of these are interesting, balanced (flavor-wise), and fairly easy substitutes for the overly sweet, goopy concoctions that grace many a Thanksgiving table. Give them a shot.

And now, on to les haricots verts......I mean green beans, I'd probably get some dirty looks from the southern Thanksgiving cook calling them by that fancy french name.

Recipe 1 - Marinated Green Bean Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette and Candied Pecans - we are going to break this recipe down into a few different parts since it can be made a little in advance and then put together at the last minute. This is useful if, like me, your Thanksgiving menu gets a little ambitious, and your list of side dishes is longer than your actual guest list.

1 lb pecan halves
1 egg white
1 tblsp H2O
1 c sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence, this is a common spice mix and is easily found, if unable to locate, go with rosemary, but this only shows that you are lazy and unwilling to source good ingredients...just kidding, sort of

1)Heat oven to 250 and grease one baking sheet lightly
2)Whip egg white and water together until THICK and frothy...soft peaks
3)In a seperate bowl, mix sugar, salt, and spices
4)Toss pecans into egg mixture and stir gently to coat
5)Take pecans out of egg mixture and mix into sugar. Toss to coat
6)Bake 1 hour, mix them around every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

These are great just to snack on or to put out when folks come over for drinks. I do feel a little bit like Martha Stewart with that last sentence, but it's true

Marinated Green Beans
2 lbs green beans, topped, not tailed
1 tblsp olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp FRESH ground black pepper

1)Blanch green beans in salted water until just slightly tender. I like my beans with a bit of crunch and you need it to stand up to the bacon vinaigrette later.
2)Shock beans in ice water once you remove them from the boiling water, transfer to a dish, and toss with remaining ingredients.

These are also a nice addition to a salad, or as a cold side for a grilled steak in summer, but those days are behind us. Just remember to refer back to this post come May.

BACON Vinaigrette
1/4 lb, bacon, diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated fine
1 clove fresh garlic, diced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp fresh thyme
1 red onion, diced small
2 tblsp dijon mustard
1/4 c cider vinegar
2 oz apple juice
1 tblsp sugar
1 small chile (thai chile would be a good option), diced very small, OPTIONAL
Salt and Pepper to taste

1)Put bacon in a cold pan and place over medium heat. Cook until fat is thoroughly rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove 90% of the rendered fat and set aside. Remove crispy bacon to a paper towel and save for garnish
2)Add oil to pan, then add onion, garlic, & chiles. Cook 3 minutes until onions have some color to them. Add fresh ginger and thyme and cook 1 more minute.
3)Add remaining ingredients, except mustard and reduce the volume of the liquid by 1/4.
4)Remove from heat and whisk mustard in until smooth. Whisk in reserved bacon fat, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
5)Get chilled green beans out, and toss with warm bacon vinaigrette....mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Sorry, got distracted for a second there.
6)Place in serving dish, and top with reserved crispy bacon and candied pecans. Save some to share with your dinner guests if possible.

This vinaigrette is great on a lot of things....avocados, sliced tomatoes, cream? I mean bacon + apple juice + sugar, what isn't this going to taste good on?

So, there you have it. The first post taking a few traditional Thanksgiving ingredients and making them a little more interesting, (less cloyingly sweet or covered in canned mush would be how my inner snob that I'm trying really hard to suppress would phrase it), and maybe a bit lighter along the way too. That way we'll all be a little more healthy this Thanksgiving, or at least have room for yet another slice of pecan pie or Candied Apple Flan (you might get lucky and see this one in the near future).

Happy Early Turkey Day Everyone

"It was dramatic to watch my grandmother decapitate a turkey with an ax the day before Thanksgiving. Nowadays the expense of hiring grandmothers for the ax work would probably qualify all turkeys so honored with 'gourmet' status." - Russel Baker

"You can tell you ate too much at Thanksgiving when you have to loosen the belt.....on your bathrobe" - Jay Leno

"Vegetables are a must when on a diet. I suggest zuccini bread, carrot cake, and pumpkin pie"
- Jim Davis

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hated Foods.....but should they be?

So there are a ton of foods out there that people just have an ingrained, adverse, and repellent opinion of. I think a lot of it is born in childhood, and then either through close-mindedness, or inadventurousness (pretty sure that's a word, if not, you get the gist), stick around into adulthood. Well, we here at SMSCC (first time I've gone anacronym on you, let's see if it sticks) are going to blow the lid off of these narrow-minded preconceptions that are preventing you from enjoying some of the best foods out there. Specifically this time we are going to be tackling brussels sprouts and fennel. I think brussel sprouts are probably the best example of what I am talking about, but fennel, while it avoids some of the absolute hatred that brussels have attained, suffers from a lack of use. It is a great, versatile veggie, and should be in everyones repertoire. We'll hit some basics on each, and then give you a couple starter recipes for both. Think of these as the training wheels of culinary open-mindedness.
Brussels Sprouts - First off, they are a member of the cabbage family, and are very high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folic acid. They are also thought to prevent colon cancer and thyroid disease (you could say this about pretty much every cabbage, but few are as tasty as the brussels sprout). I think that where they get their bad rap is basically from bad cooks. If you overcook them, it releases some sort of compound/element/something (I am not a scientist, so I have probably not named the correct THING that is released, try to stay big picture and not nitpick me) that smells and tastes of SULFUR. Not appetizing. However, just don't overcook them and all is avoided. To get them ready to cook, a few simple steps must be taken
  • If they are on the stem, remove them from it. If they have already been removed, then cut away the small stump that remains. It will be the hard, whitish thingy at the bottom of your sprout.
  • Peel away the tougher, darker leaves around the bottom. These are technically fine, but don't get as tender as the rest of the sprout, and we don't want that.
RECIPE 1 - Blanched Brussels with Walnut Oil and Shaved Parmesan
It really isn't going to get much easier than this one, so if this stumps you.......
1 lb Brussel Sprouts, prepped as above and then cut into quarters (lengthwise)
2 tblsp salt
1 tblsp walnut oil
1 tsp FRESH cracked black pepper, i like it pretty coarse, but whatever you prefer
1 tblsp butter, unsalted
2 tblsp chives, finely chopped
1 tblsp italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt to taste - I know salt is in here twice, it's not a mistake
1/4 c Parmesan, shaved into long strands, use a veggie peeler
1)Place oil, butter, chives, parsley, and pepper in a serving bowl and set aside
2)Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then add 2 tblsp salt and brussel sprouts. Boil 7-8 minutes till tender. It depends on the size of your sprout, but fork tender is a good judge
3)Drain sprouts, put in serving, toss to melt butter and evenly coat all sprouts, season to taste with salt, and top with shaved parmesan. Serve and enjoy....pretty simple no?
RECIPE 2 - Sauteed Brussels with bacon and shallots
This is the Thanksgiving favorite around chez Leahy...anything is easier to get someone to try with bacon right? Also, as a side note, ask my sister about properly cooking bacon lardons such as these, she knows the secret :)
1 lb Brussels Sprouts, prepped as above and cut into quarters (lengthwise)
2 tblsp bacon, diced small
1 lg shallot diced small
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
1/2 tblsp rosemary, chopped fine
1/2 tblsp thyme, chopped fine
2 tblsp dry white wine
1/8 cup stock, I'm sure you now have a stash since you have been making it since we talked about the importance of stock in August, but if not, low sodium veggie or chicken
Salt & Pepper to taste
1)Bring a pot of water with 2 tblsp salt to a rolling boil as in the first recipe, but this time only cook the sprouts 4-5 minutes until they START to become tender. Drain and reserve
2)Heat a 10-12 inch saute pan over medium heat, and place the bacon in even before it starts to get hot. This will render the fat better from the bacon, and give us all we need to saute in
3)Saute bacon 3 minutes until nicely rendered and getting crispy. Remove bacon from pan (not the fat, keep the fat in there) and place on paper towel to drip off. Add shallot and garlic to pan and saute 1 minute. Add sprouts and saute 2 more minutes
4)Increase heat to high, add wine and stock, and cook until it has reduced by 80% and is starting to get glazy. Add herbs, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy....
RECIPE 3 - Shaved Brussels with lemon, basil, and chili flake
A little fresher take on the SPROUT...quick note, chiffonade means very thinly sliced. To chiffonade basil, or really anything, take the basil leaves and stack them on top of eachother about 10-12 at a time, roll into a tight bundle, and thinly slice across.
1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 tsp red chili flake
1 small red onion, sliced fine
zest and juice of 1 lg lemon
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
1/8 c stock, see above recipe for my rant about stock yet again
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tblps butter
1)Shave Brussels very thinly into rounds. I use a mandolin, and if you have one, you should too. If you don't, cut the brussel in half so you have a flat surface, then thinly slice across into half circles
2)Melt butter over medium high heat, add onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to color.
3)Add brussels, and toss to coat with butter. Saute for 2-3 minutes until starting to become translucent. Add lemon, stock and chili flake, and cook until liquid has reduced at least 80%
4)Toss basil through, and season with salt and pepper.
These brussels will be a little more "toothsome" than the first two recipes...that's ok.
And now, on to.....
FENNEL - This plant/herb...whatever, I think suffers less from a hatred, but more from a "what the f*c! do I do with that" sort of situtation, and therefore is sadly left off of the menus of many the home cook, sadly. It is a delicious plant, quite versatile, and it fronds are a great addition to salads, salad dressings, potato salads, and on and on and on. You could also make your own absinthe from it, if you can locate any wormwood anyway, but that's another blog for another time......chasing the green fairy mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Prepwise, there is one really KEY step. Cut off the fronds, and reserve for later use as we talked about above. Then, cut the fennel bulb in half from top to bottom. If you look at the cross section of what you have just cut, there will be a very distinctive, slightly differently colored triangle on each side. You must cut this tastes extremely bitter, and no amount of anything you do will change that. Now on to cooking.
RECIPE 1 - Shaved fennel salad, with citrus, mint, & chiles (drop the chile if your not a spice fan, this is still a delicious salad)
1 head fennel, prepped as above, then sliced very thin
1 small red onion, sliced thin
2 small serrano, or thai chiles, sliced thin
1 tblsp fresh mint, chopped rough
1 tblsp italian parlsey, chopped rough
1 tsp clover honey
Juice and zest from 2 oranges, 1 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste
1)Combine all ingredients and toss to completely mix. Refrigerate at least 1 and preferably 3-4 hours to marinate. Serve and enjoy. This is a great salad for a piece of grilled swordfish, or a roasted chicken or rack of pork. A little fresh, acidic crunch really adds a lot to the meal, and the delicious flavor of anise really complements the delicate taste of the fish or white meat. You can even use some of the juice from the bottom of this salad to make a marinade or glaze for the proteins.
RECIPE 2 - Sweet Caramelized Fennel
This is a really easy side dish, with just four ingredients, that goes perfect with a roasted chicken, prime rib, veal chop, really just about any meat or game, or sturdier fish....Easy and delicious.
1 lg fennel bulb
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 1/2 tblsp olive oil
1)Prepare the fenneal as above, and then cut in each half in half lengthwise two times. Sorry if that's confusing are looking for 8 total, not too thick wedges. about a 1/2 inch in width on the outside is perfect
2)Heat the oil over low-medium heat. It is important to not get the oil or pan too hot. If you do, the oil may scorch, and you wont cook the fennel slowly enough to tenderize it and bring out its' sweetness.
3)Season fennel with the salt and pepper, and place in pan. Cook 25-30 minutes turning occasionally, until the fennel is a deep golden brown in color, and very tender.
Serve and enjoy. If you like, a nice squeeze of lemon can be added to the fennel just as you pull it from the pan. I wouldn't do this if serving it with beef, but for the other options above, it's a nice touch.
"A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do." P. J. O'Rourke
"We kids feared many things in those days - werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School - but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts." Dave Barry

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sisterspeak: How 'Bout that Housewarming Dinner-for-Two?

So, I'm sitting in bed on a Saturday morning, laptop on...lap, soaking in the wonder that is our new (functioning) wireless Internet connection -- and thought I'd finally update my experience cooking the housewarming dinner-for-two.

Let's begin with my shopping trip for the ingredients. Things that are apparently impossible to find in an Irish supermarket on a Sunday afternoon: shallots, hot sauce and avocados. Yes, shallots. The other two, I can sort of understand -- maybe there was a run on the raw ingredients for guacamole earlier in the day...but I expect to be able to buy a shallot when I want it. Deep breaths.

Thankfully, I returned home (with a few onions, just in case) and found a shallot in the deep recesses of my veg bowl. So, All Was Not Lost. In lieu of the hot sauce, I purchased a sort of chili paste. And well, there's really no substitute for avocado. I did consider buying ready-made guacamole. but had only to think of Nick's face...

In the end, I decided to make only the main meal and leave dessert and appetizers for another day, when I and my beloved, for whom I was preparing the apology, were less hungry. Miguel, in fact, was so hungry -- and so excited by the recipe -- he insisted on making the twice-baked potatoes himself. (If you want to get an Irishman excited in the kitchen, show him a new way to prepare the humble a treat. Just don't give advice, ever, about anything related to the recipe -- chopping, dicing, grating. It goes over about as well as trying to show a two-year-old how to color inside the lines, ie: "let ME do it...!" [Stamp foot] "I can do it mySELF!")

I cooled the chicken in the fridge with the buttermilk and chili paste for about three hours and watched the chicken breasts swell to about twice the original size. Mmmmm. Not having read through the recipe, I didn't realize the chicken, once-breaded, needed to sit back in the fridge for half an hour before it went in the pan. I did consider skipping this point, but pushed aside my hunger -- in the end, I'm glad I did, as the breadcrumbs would have fallen entirely apart otherwise.

Once the chicken was in the oven (with Miguel's twice-baked potatoes), I turned my attention to the spinach. I'd diced the shallots etc beforehand, so adding the remaining ingredients and wilting the spinach only took about 2 minutes to cook all together. So easy and SO delicious.

With everything ready, I plated it and served Miguel, put on my Serious Face and started in on my speech: "look, I'm really sorry if I've been difficult to the past few weeks. [Heavy sigh.] It's just been stressful with the move, all the IKEA furniture, work..." But I might as well have been saying sorry to the wall, so focused was his attention on how to get as much chicken and potato on his fork, dipped in the spinach cream sauce, at one time.

I'm choosing to interpret his squeaky clean plate as "apology accepted."