Monday, March 1, 2010

Sisterhood, Olympics and Pie

Last month Southwest Virginia was blanketed by snow. That's the last time I want to see "snow" and "blanketed" in the same sentence. First of all, it's a cliche and second of all, blankets are warm and soft and cozy. Snow is cold, hard and keeps you trapped in the house with your husband and kids. All of whom expect you to cook 24/7. Oh yeah - it's fun for you, but for women it's like this:

My Facebook community was divided into two camps: Those who just love the snow and think it's so pretty, and normal people who felt trapped like rats. I de-friended the first group and planned a party with the second. One of us (the one with the most brain cells left-her kids are away at college) suggested that we get together for a potluck dinner and watch the Olympics - specifically the women's figure skating final. None of us is from South Korea and therefore had no dog in this race, but it seemed like a good excuse to celebrate the escape from our families who by this time were making us nuts.

After making us all promise that we would not under any circumstances open any closed doors in her house, Dana volunteered to serve as hostess. Actually, that should be a standard rule among women who hate to clean. If you walk into our houses and there is one sparkling room, you can guarandamntee that behind a closed door somewhere is all the crap that used to be in said room.

So what should we all bring? Something Canadian, of course. I immediately volunteer for dessert because, well because that's what I do. Also, I do not want to get stuck with a Canadian main dish that may very well begin with these instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Bone a moose

Dana attempts to organize the menu and is thwarted by my attempts to butt in. In my defense, I am a professional and if there isn't a protein, starch, veg, salad, bread and dessert my head will explode. Karen, a nurse, has to work late and so I suggest she bring a cordial. I'm not even really sure what a "cordial" is, but it sounds welcoming and drinky. I snarkily tell Dana she can get out her "cordial glasses". It turns out she actually has some and has moved up a notch on my "impressive friends" list. If we had met at my house, the cordial would have been served in Dixie bathroom cups. Karen brings limoncello and is my new best friend.

Here's what we finally wound up with:

A Canadian meat pie (my best instincts had me avoid asking what kind of meat)
Scalloped potatoes
Penne rigate with spicy sausage
Broccoli in a lemon butter sauce
Some kind of cheese dip that no cardiac patient should have been eating - but I did.
Salad with a yummy homemade dill ranch dressing
A large round of freshly-baked garlicky bread from our favorite local bakery
Lindt candies and Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies
Large iced cookies in the shape of shamrocks
Maple oatmeal pie
Lemon chess pie
Three kinds of wine and the limoncello*

*This last is why we never did get around to watching figure skating.

We laughed. We cried. (Okay - I cried, but I'm very emotional). We sistered. It was wonderful.

The Maple Oatmeal Pie is something I developed for my son - an oatmeal fanatic. I thought I was being extremely clever and wonderfully motherly, but it turns out there are lots of recipes for this same kind of pie. It could also be called a Breakfast Pie because that's what it tastes like. I baked it for this party because of the maple part. Canada? Maple leaves? I started out with a basic pecan pie-type filling and went from there. It is an amazing pie. Served warm with vanilla ice cream makes this a weird breakfast - but a good one.


Make a pie crust. You can use the recipe from this site, or buy those Pillsbury pie crusts which are actually quite good.

Put crust in a standard pie pan and flute the edges.

For the filling:

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff preferably)
1/4 c (1/2 stick) melted butter
3 tsp. vanilla
1 cup coconut
1 cup very finely ground walnuts or pecans*

In a large mixing bowl, mix well the first 4 ingredients. Add everything else and stir until combined thoroughly. Pour into the pie crust and bake for about 50 minutes at 350 or until it sets up. (Should not jiggle in the middle. I shouldn't either, but I do).

*Be careful when grinding nuts. A minute too much and you have butter.

This pie will feed your tummy. If you want to feed your soul, get together with your women friends and eat 'til you groan. One thing you will discover: You're not in this alone.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The DAR eats Spicy Gingerbread

This week at the club there was a meeting of the DAR. For those of you lucky enough not to know who these people are, they are the Daughters of the American Revolution. I believe these are women who can trace their ancestry to the brave men who fought the War for Independence. (Support Our Troops!) One thing I know for sure - they are old.

An Actual Picture from our DAR Luncheon - the joy is palpable.

They decided to go with an authentic 1700's menu: Chicken pot pie with wild rice. Wild rice??? I don't know about you, but when I think of RICE I think of CHINA, not Bunker Hill. But, as you can tell from the photo, these are not ladies to be argued with. The dessert they selected? Warm gingerbread with whipped cream.

Hot damn. Love me some gingerbread. And not this kind:

But this kind:

This gingerbread cannot run as fast as he can AND you can catch him.

My gingerbread is spicy - a concept my DAR ladies are undoubtedly not familiar with. But they devoured it, asked for more, brought me out to thunderous applause and tipped me $1000. Part of this is not exactly true and I'll leave you to figure out which part.

I add cayenne pepper to my gingerbread for an extra dose of zippedy-doo-dah. It is like an ideal man - tender, sensitive and simple. I always serve it with sweetened whipped cream but if you want to get all snotty on me, creme anglais is a lovely foil as well. The smell wafting from your kitchen is worth every second spent on baking this.


1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk
2/3 c molasses
1/2 c dark brown sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour one 9-inch round or square cake pan.

Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, cloves, cayenne, salt and baking soda.

Either in a medium saucepan or the microwave heat the milk and molasses together until the molasses melts. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add brown sugar and beat until smooth and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

With the machine on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk/molasses mixture. Put batter into prepared cake pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Let the gingerbread cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and turn out onto a rack.

This is easier to cut if you let it cool completely and warm up each slice as you serve. If you can't wait that long, just hack into the thing, add whipped cream, eat and die of happiness.

And don't forget to thank our valiant boys in (whatever color they wore - just not red) for YOUR freedom. And since there aren't many (any) of them left, find a member of the DAR and thank her. I warn you - she won't speak back to you.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Aunt Mae's Hot Milk Cake

Here in normally temperate Virginia we have been "enjoying" an especially snowy winter which culminated (please, God) this weekend in another 10" on top of the 10" we already had from last weekend. Almost immediately, everybody on Facebook began to talk about what they were cooking or baking. Does Snowmageddon cause the survival instinct to kick in? Do we not feel safe unless we are surrounded by the smells of stews, cinnamon rolls, cakes, and sausage?

I know I don't.

With the cabin making me hot, I decided to go through my mom's old recipe boxes to see if I could find any gems. There are two boxes - the one I treasure most is in my mom's handwriting with funny little notes on each recipe. The second box looks as though it were the work product of an archeological dig. The recipes in this box are typed.

When I was a kid, mom managed to score an ancient typewriter and having nothing else to type, decided to type up recipes. These recipes are suspect because mom was a truly lousy typist. And guess what kids? On a typewriter, if you make a mistake - you're STUCK with it. No backspace or delete. So one must assume that "subac" probably means "sugar" in a cake recipe typed by my mom.

My most intriguing finding was "Aunt Mae's Milk Cake". First of all, being demented, I immediately had a mental picture of actually milking Aunt Mae. Second of all, I have no independent recollection of Aunt Mae. My sister assures me we did indeed have an Aunt Mae and in fact, Aunt Mae had a son who was a sadistic dentist. What a proud family tree. Then, amazingly, I scouted around and found a picture of Aunt Mae:

(Insert Your Own Milk Joke Here)

"Aunt Mae's Hot Milk Cake" contained an interesting technique I'm going to tell you about in a minute. **SPOILER ALERT** It has something to do with the hot milk!



2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 stick (4 oz.) butter

Put the butter and the milk in the microwave to melt the butter. Or you could do this in a saucepan. While that's heating up:

Cream the sugar and eggs until creamy. Add the vanilla, baking powder and flour. Beat at low speed until incorporated. Slowly add the hot milk and butter mixture and mix thoroughly.

The instructions here say, "Pour into a mold" which I assume means a bundt pan. I used two 9-inch cake pans. Here it says to bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr. And this next part is either really important or mom got stuck on caps lock: DO NOT OPEN OVEN UNTIL BAKING FINISHED.

In the 9-inch pans, this cake was done to perfection at 30 minutes. If you make it in a bundt (I cannot say that word without thinking of Lainie Kazan in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") it will take from 45 min. to an hour and you're welcome to check at 45 minutes. I mean, if you open the oven door, God won't kill a kitten or anything.

Folks, this is an amazing cake. Old-fashioned, simple, gorgeous soft crumb, beautiful color. I sprinkled powdered sugar on the top and called it a day. It is a perfect cake. No - wait. I'm going to make it perfecter.

I torted the second cake (cut it in half) and slathered some raspberry jam between the layers. More powdered sugar and now - (angelic choir sings here) - Heavenly!!!!!

It's the kind of cake you'd expect Ma Ingalls to come up with for Half-pint's country birthday party.

The technique? You've probably already guessed that it's the addition of the hot milk. Normally, you would cream the butter and s
ugar, add the eggs, combine the flour and leaveners in a separate bowl (and we know how I hate the phrase "in a separate bowl") and do what I call WDWDWDW which is sloppy type for alternate the wet and dry ingredients.

The hot milk creates a much lighter crumb and a lovely dome. In fact, it's a fabulous method to use for cupcakes if you want your cuppies to dome.

Try this cake! Right now! I know you have the ingredients!

And now - I'm getting hungry since it's been...let's see...28 WHOLE MINUTES since I last ate.

Hmmm...I wonder if Uncle Earl has anything to offer?


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't Be Afraid of Pie Crust

Are you afraid of making pie crust? Most people are but you don't want to be one of those people who picks up a pie at Walmart and takes it to Thanksgiving dinner do you? If you do, please don't bring it to my house. I promise you it will be left to grow mold on the counter.

I don't know why most people cringe at the thought of making their own crusts. Perhaps you've had a bad experience. That's perfectly normal, you know. Pie dough is like a horse - it senses your fear and throws you off just to prove it's bigger than you are. Just as the knight takes control of his horse, you have to take control of your dough.

Artist's Rendering of You and Your Pie Dough

There are two images I want you to remember when making pie dough:


For the flakiest, most delicious pie crust, begin with very cold ingredients. In fact, if you've got the time, freeze your flour and butter. Make some lovely ice water. Keep your hands cold.

And why do you need to work fast? Because you are going to perform the marriage of butter and flour and as in most marriages, friction causes heat.


My favorite pie dough is made with butter because I love the flavor. But you can use Crisco or half butter, half Crisco if you prefer flakiness to taste. Don't use butter-flavored Crisco because it's just evil. You can also use cream cheese for a dough that's really, really easy to handle. Just make sure that, whatever you use, it's very COLD.

The ingredients:

2 C. all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp. salt
3-4 TBSP (more or less) icy cold water

Now, you can use a food processor which is preferable because even though it causes a lot of friction, it accomplishes it's task very quickly.

OR, you can use a stand mixer.

OR, you can use your extremely cold fingers.

Your choice. But here's the basic idea.

Cut the butter into small cubes - about 1/2". You will notice that as you cube the butter, the heat from your hands will soften it. BAD! Take your cubes and put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Measure the flour and put it in the freezer to keep the butter company. You now have 15 minutes to kill. Clean the top of your refrigerator. It needs it.

Now, put your cold flour into the food processor, stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl if you are going the finger route. Add the sugar and the salt. We are now going to perform the butter/flour marriage. Whether you do it in the processor, mixer, or bowl, the goal is the same: to get the butter cubes to the size of small peas. Pulse in the processor, turn the mixer on low or use your fingertips to work the butter into the dough. Don't go nuts. You want small slivers of butter to be visible in the final dough. This is what makes it flaky.

When you have gotten to the pea stage, add a little bit of ice water and continue to mix. Add a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together and looks like...well, pie dough. If you are using machines, they will let you know when the dough is ready by making a slapping noise.

Squeeze a little bit of the dough between your fingers. If it sticks together, it's ready.

Remove the dough from the machine and knead it ever so briefly to make sure it's fully mixed. Divide dough in half, form into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. It should feel soft and squishy and wonderful. You will see flakes of butter. Yum!

Your dough is now exhausted and needs to rest. So do you. Put the wrapped dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes. During this time, make some tea. You've earned it! Sit in the big comfy chair, sip your tea, pet the cat and....WAKE UP!

t's time to roll out the crust!

Lightly flour the rolling-out surface. Put your dough disc on the flour. Don't get nervous now. Flour your rolling pin and roll forward and backward lightly one time. Turn the dough about 1 inch to the right (or left, I don't care). Roll forward and backward again. Turn. Roll. Turn. Roll. As the dough gets thinner you want to periodically pick it up with a bench scraper or cake lifter so the dough will not stick. If you feel it getting sticky, pick up the edges of the dough and toss some flour underneath.

Because you have turned your dough ever so slightly with every roll, you should now have a wonderful circle.

There are several ways to get the crust into the pie pan, but this is what I do: Fold the dough in half. If you have a cake lifter, slide it under the dough and place the fold in the center of the pie pan. Unfold and it should be perfect. If you don't have a cake lifter just do it with your hands.

If you are making a one crust pie, go ahead and crimp the edges. A two-crust pie can be filled at this time. Repeat the rolling out, folding method and place on top. Trim the crust with scissors and crimp the edges together.

There are all kinds of pie edges but this is what I do because it's fast and always looks great: First turn the edge of the crust under just a little so you have a smooth edge. Once it has been turned all the way around, begin crimping. Stick your finger under the edge and, with your other hand, pinch over your finger. Refer to the picture at the beginning of this post.

Is this as easy as I've made it sound? Not really. Sometimes you just have to pick up that dough and roll it out again. Sometimes the crimping looks raggedy but guess what? You can do it again. And the more you practice with pie dough, the better you'll get at it and your self-esteem will increase proportionately. You will become famous for your pies! I promise!

Now go get cracking on those Thanksgiving pies! And let me know how you do!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My review of "The Blind Side" and how it showed a great way to do Thanksgiving dinner.

"The Blind Side" is about football. It is based on a terrific book by Michael Lewis which is also about football.

I don't know anything about football. I do know that if you want to play football, it helps to be enormous. And Michael Oher, the hero of the piece (not really but we'll get to that in a minute) is nothing if not gargantuan. He practically has "Football Player" tattooed on his forehead.

But he's poor. And homeless. A well-meaning uncle gets Michael enrolled in a private Christian school in Memphis after which we never hear from the uncle again. Michael has a tested IQ of 80 and a GPA of .04 which apparently means he wrote his name but not much else on every paper. He is not allowed to play sports at the school until his academics are up to snuff. But he hangs out in the gym because a) it's warm and b) he picks up the leftover food after each basketball game presumably because he has nothing else to eat. It is while walking home from the gym one frosty evening when he is noticed by the Tuohy family. Noticed because he's HUGE and also because he's wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt in freezing weather.

The Tuohy family takes him home and life will never be the same for any of us. Especially me, because the home they take him to is really a mansion and is so gorgeous that it made me want to kill myself. (The father owns like a million Taco Bells). It becomes immediately obvious that the real hero (heroine) of the piece is the mother, Leigh Ann (Sandra Bullock).

I would like to state for the record that I am exactly like Leigh Ann Tuohy (minus the money, great body, fabulous clothes and impeccable make-up). She is portrayed as determined, hard-headed and ruthless in getting what she wants. I do the same thing and I am portrayed as a nagging bitch. What's up with that?

Leigh Ann gives Michael a room with the first bed he's ever had. She buys him clothes and hires a tutor (the always wonderful Kathy Bates) who confesses that they may not want to hire her when they discover her deep, dark secret - she's a Democrat. Rather predictably, they determine that Michael is actually quite smart and the grades come up to snuff. And so he heads for the football field.

Where he sort of sucks until he is given a pep talk by Leigh Ann who tells him to pretend that he's protecting the Tuohy family when he is blocking the whatever-you-call-those-guys-who-are-trying-to-kill-the-quarterback. And then it's Katie Bar the Door!

We have the obligatory high school football game where the obligatory rednecks on the other team make disparaging racial remarks (Really? They've never heard of Black guys playing football?) and Michael handles it by throwing the smartasses into the next county.

There is a minor sub-plot concerning Michael's attempt to visit his mother who has apparently disappeared. When the Tuohy's decide to become Michael's legal guardians, Leigh Ann tracks her down and we learn that being a crack ho is bad. Very, very bad.

Then it's time for college. Every recruiter in the south is after Michael, promising him the moon. But - the Tuohy's went to Ole Miss, Kathy Bates went to Ole Miss and that's where they want him to go, although they're not allowed to say so for some reason that's not really clear.

You'll never guess where he ends up! Ole Miss! We then gloss over his college career and he's being picked to play for the Baltimore Ravens! Over the credits we see photos of the actual Tuohy family and the actual Michael Oher just in case we thought someone was making all this up.

Sandra Bullock has always been one of those "take her or leave her" type actresses for me. She is very, very good in "The Blind Side". I totally believed her and that is my highest praise for an actor. And I would kill to know the name of the lipstick she wore. Tim McGraw who apparently is some sort of country singer(?) was credible and Quinton Aaron was absolutely heart-breaking as Michael. But the real scene-stealer was Jae Head who played the little brother. Not just another Hollywood adorable child, this kid is a great natural actor with amazing comic timing and priceless facial expressions. If he were an adult, he'd be nominated for an Oscar for sure. Maybe he will be anyway. Hope so. Anyway, it's a good movie and I give it three and a half forks.

And just what does this have to do with food? Just wait - I'll tie it all together.

In the first place, one of the ads shown before the movie was for Hellman's mayonnaise. Did you know that mayonnaise will ensure that your Thanksgiving dinner is both perfect and memorable? It's true! A happy mom is spooning mayo into or onto every single dish - including pumpkin pie! The family is rapturous!

Who knew?

Secondly, the first full day Michael spends with the Tuohy's just happens to be Thanksgiving. As the family is filling their plates, the dad tells the kids to "thank Mom for picking this up from the store". Apparently Leigh Ann just went to the grocery store and bought the already cooked Thanksgiving dinner that I always see promoted at the local Kroger, but never knew anyone actually bought. It looked delicious and the family loved it!

Who knew?

Ah! It's so tempting! But my family would never let me get away with it. They'd just call me that lazy nagging bitch.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Muffins - My Answer to Everything

If you are a member of my select circle of friends, there is a good chance you will eventually receive muffins from me. If you have recently given birth, been hospitalized, been yelled at by your boss or if your husband ran off with a cocktail waitress, I will attempt to cheer your soul with a basket of muffins. Needless to say, I am very popular.

There is not a (normal) creature alive who does not love a good muffin. Even the word muffin is fun to say, delightful to contemplate and ambrosial to ingest. A major reason for this is that a muffin is the perfect butter vehicle. (In my family, we quarter a muffin, put it in a bowl with a great gob of butter, microwave it and eat with a spoon. We call this a "bowlie" for I don't know what reason).

Even though a loving muffin will say to a stick of butter, "You complete me", an exceptional muffin is moist enough to stand alone. And therein lies a possible problem: in the wrong hands, muffins can be dry.

There are a number of contributing factors to a dry muffin. Not enough oil, too many eggs, wrong liquid, and over-mixing. I always make sure that my muffins have the right balance of ingredients and then use a secret weapon: The Streusel Topping.

My streusel topping is made with butter and brown sugar - two ingredients that are already moist and lend their moistness to the muffin resting below. A streusel topping is very easy to make and adds that special finish to your muffins. I use it on practically every type of muffin I make - even if the original recipe does not call for it.

It has been my experience that everybody's favorite muffin is blueberry. Here's why:

Yep. Blueberries. There's just something about that blueberry popping in your mouth while butter drips down your chin that creates an almost sensual morning experience. How many things can you say that about?

I have tested a multitude of ingredient combinations to come up with what I think is the perfect blueberry muffin. My troubled and forlorn friends will testify that I haven't wasted my time.


You will need three bowls for this recipe. Sorry.

In the first bowl, whisk together:

1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 1/3 C. light brown sugar
The zest of one lemon
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. Buttermilk

Second bowl:

2 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix lightly.

Fold in 2 C. blueberries. Gently. You don't want to pop the blueberries - save that for your teeth. Also, popped blueberries create blue batter which is not all that attractive really.

Third bowl:

The streusel topping

3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferably)

Scoop the batter into greased muffin tins. Sprinkle a generous amount of the topping onto each muffin. Push gently into the batter if necessary. Make sure you have a goodly amount of butter on each muffin.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

The smart budding pastry chef will make twice as much topping as called for and freeze it for easy use later. Remember - you can put this topping on almost any muffin and improve the flavor and texture.

These muffins also freeze beautifully. Now - the next time you're at the dollar store, stock up on some small baskets, preferably with a "Little Red Riding Hood" vibe. Also some colorful cloth napkins.

With gorgeous, delicious muffins in the freezer and basket at the ready, you are now prepared to bring joy into the lives of your troubled friends. As a matter of fact, you will begin to actively seek out troubled friends just so you can bring some joy into their humdrum lives with your glorious muffins.

Don't be surprised if you get a completely new reputation in the neighborhood.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's not enough that I'm miserable; I must make everyone else miserable too.

One of the servers at the Club is from Egypt. To avoid legal hassles, let's call her...Cleopatra. She is also a Facebook friend and I was informed on Facebook that last week was Cleo's birthday. She's a wonderful person, full of fun, great to work with, so I decided to bake her a birthday cake.

I thought it would be cool to write, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY CLEOPATRA!" in Arabic and so I did. (At least I think that's what it said - it could very well have said, "EAT THE POISON CAKE INFIDELS!" for all I know.

We have another server at the club who could only be described as that word that rhymes with "witchy" To avoid legal hassles, let's just call her...Endora.

Endora has been in the same job in the same place for 36 years. If my math is right, she started working there in 1973. Let us all now stop and reflect on what we've done and accomplished since 1973. So I guess I can't blame her for being a tad crotchety. But I do anyway.

When Endora saw that I had made this special cake for Cleopatra, she went batpoop. She exclaimed that if one person got a birthday cake, then everyone should get a birthday cake and I couldn't agree more. The trouble is, I don't know everyone's birthday, but I vowed that I would collect them all and produce cakes for the entire staff or die trying. I began to collect birthdays and put them in my calendar. You'd be surprised how generously people will volunteer their birth date to a pastry chef. These are not stupid people.

That wasn't enough for Endora.

She went to Top Management and demanded that no one should receive a birthday cake. Not nobody, not no-how. Never.

I learned this through the usual employee gossip track and waited for the word to come down that I was not to bake any more birthday cakes. (People are afraid of Endora, even management). And you know what? I was prepared to go to the mat on this one.

There are few places in the world where the differences between the "haves" and the "have-nots" are more clearly illustrated than at a country club. Good people who are struggling to pay their rent, put their kids through school and buy their medicines, routinely, and with good cheer, put on $40,000 weddings. That's not to say that the "haves" are not good people too - they are. To avoid legal hassles, let's just say that all our members are saints.

As a child of the 60's, I have CRUSADE! in my blood and vowed that if anyone told me I couldn't make any birthday cakes in the future, I would quit and take everyone with me! Write letters to the editor! Make a YouTube video! Get Glenn Beck involved! And that terrorist guy Obama used to pal around with - William Ayers! Yeah, him!

You know what happened? Nothing. Turns out they're more afraid of me than Endora. Little do they know that even though I, too, am a witch - I'm a good witch.

The next birthday in the queue was one of the facility guys. I happen to know that he loves German chocolate cake and so I whipped one up for him. I decided to present it to him at lunch, timing it so that Endora would be a witness. I made signs, lighted a zillion candles, blew up balloons, called everyone together to sing - I did everything but ring a cowbell. As everyone gathered to sing and celebrate the birth of our dear co-worker, I could see Endora hanging back in the doorway. Not participating, not singing, not smiling.

And I wondered how one person's happiness can make another person so miserable.

So I'm going to find out Endora's birthday from human resources. And I'm gonna make her the best cake ever - chocolate! I'm going to do buttercream roses and write her name beautifully on the cake. I'm going to call everyone together and make them sing to her.

Sometimes the best revenge is simply doing the right thing.