December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

2010 was a busy and stressful year for me. I got married in the spring & adopted a beagle puppy, dealt with too much drama from friends & family this summer, and spend a lot of time focusing on work this fall (though, it was the best semester I've had at school). I also taught many cooking classes at Kitchen Conservatory.

Cooking remains our favorite thing to do together...when we have time to do so, that is. Jerad started a new job at the beginning of the summer and another new one in the fall. We each have two jobs, so we don't see each other very much. It's created a rocky start to our marriage, but we've manage to prevail. Hopefully, 2011 will be a little easier--and happier--for us.

In terms of blogging, I posted less than in the past few years. In fact, this is only my 45th post this year. For the most part, though, I still tried at least one new recipe a week. It seemed like when I did cook something new, I didn't really want to take pictures (I'm just not very good at it) and I certainly didn't have time to devote to blogging like I wanted to. Nevertheless, we enjoyed many delicious meals at home & tried several new dishes...including roasted rabbit, salt-baked snapper, & grilled beef heart.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from the past year 
(in no particular order):

Homemade Biscuits - I finally made biscuits that weren't flat & crunchy!

Tomato Tarte Tatin - This was a staple of our summer diet, especially since we'd planted tomatoes in the backyard this year.

Porchetta di Testa - The infamous pig face! I still can't believe we pulled this off successfully.

French Onion Dip - Revolutionized my chip & dip fetish.

Berry Popsicles - To satisfy another fetish...

Pig Roast Wedding Reception - It was the year of the pig for us.

Peanut Butter & Bacon Truffles - Wedding cake be damned! This was our most popular reception dessert.

Braised Lamb - We started buying more meat from locals at the farmers markets.

Paella - I have so much fun cooking with my friend Steph! We also made soft pretzels.

Wild Duck Ragu - The best duck recipe I've tried yet. Unfortunately, it was bad hunting this fall, so I didn't get to make this again.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Pretzel Crust - Chocolate & pretzels, what's not to like?

Tacos & More Tacos - Tacos!

Venison Burgers & Wellington - The perks of marrying a food!

Pho - I ate my first pho, then I made my first pho. I'm now addicted.

Pork Rillettes - The best camping food ever!

Pressed Cuban Burgers - Inspired by the awesome lunch we had at Mesa Grill in Vegas.

What were the best dishes you made in 2010?

December 27, 2010

Homemade Biscuits

I first attempted homemade biscuits in junior high school.  We must have been given an assignment to make biscuits at home, because I remember pulling the hard, dense discs from the oven & my dad teasing me about how horrible they were.

That episode was so scarring that I didn't try to make biscuits again until last January. While those biscuits were crispy & buttery, they were still pretty dense. I wanted something flakier and fluffier.

Last week, I decided to finally try homemade biscuits again. I figured that since I've mastered pie crust and am more confident with doughs in general, biscuits would be no big deal. I was wrong. I rolled out the dough too thin (though, the recipe I was following said to roll it out to 1/4 inch thick), and the biscuits didn't really rise. They were flat and crispy, like biscuit cookies.

December 18, 2010

Lemon Ginger Drops & Other Christmas Cookies

This week was holiday spirit week at school. I got called a scrooge twice in the past week couple of weeks...despite my having worn reindeer antlers all day on Wednesday. 

So, in an effort to reduce my apparent grinchiness, I actually bought an ugly Christmas sweater to wear to school yesterday. I hit the jackpot of tacky Xmas attire at Macy's...70% off! But, I couldn't decide which hideousness to buy...the black cardigan with a beaded tree & Santa, the black tee with sequined snowflakes & fuzzy reindeer, or the red shirt with a black & gold ornament pattern and black beading? I decided to go with the cardigan, as it was the best bargain...normally $56, on sale for $13. Who in their RIGHT MIND is paying $56 for this thing? 

Instead of recognizing the gaudiness of my outfit, which was a far cry from my usual black or tan pants and various neutral-colored turtlenecks, some students actually complimented me on my new sweater. No one seemed to realize the irony of my bedazzledom. They must have seriously thought that I was finally in the Christmas spirit. Not likely, kids.

November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I had a brilliant idea this sneak off & spend the next 5 days alone in a swanky hotel, drinking champagne, ordering room service, and catching up on sleep. That way, I could avoid this entire holiday weekend...and get some much needed rest, relaxation, and quiet time.

While I love Thanksgiving dinner, I'm just not looking forward to cleaning the house for our overnight guests, doing all the grocery shopping tonight & cooking the entire meal by myself on Thursday (as my husband will be busy working and/or duck hunting the next few days). I'm sure it will all work out in the long run, but I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed by how much I have to do in the next couple of days.

Still, I'm not one to selfishly abandon my family on a holiday. So, I'll suck it up and make the best of it. This Thanksgiving, I'll remember to appreciate the family & friends who are joining us for dinner (and not focus on the heart-breaking dysfunction of those who are not), to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our engagement (and 8 wonderful months of marriage), & to recognize all that I have to be truly thankful for.

November 21, 2010

Chili Cookoff: Carolina Pulled Pork Chili

In my former life, some friends of mine had a big chili cookoff at their house every year in which they pitted their friends' culinary skills against one another. So, this year I decided to steal their idea...and see just how talented my foodie friends are.

I invited people to bring their best chili recipe in a crock pot. I set all the pots on the dining room table (connected with extension cords & power strips). Each pot was numbered & given a stack of corresponding numbered tasting cups. After everyone tasted the chilies, they were given 3 beans with which to vote for their favorite dish(es) by putting beans in numbered cups set up along the fireplace mantle.

There was one rule for the night: No white chili. This wasn't a best chicken-and-bean soup cookoff.
The Set-Up
My friends came through and produced some really good food. All 13 of the chilies earned votes. There was many different variations, of course. Some used beef; others used pork. I think Ashby tried to sway my vote by adding bacon to his. One featured corn; another featured hominy. A few were very spicy (Simon!). Overall, they were all good!

November 3, 2010

Winter 2010-2011 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's winter schedule is now posted online. Here are my upcoming classes:

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE HARD EDGE TO THE BIG EASY - Sunday, Nov. 7 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • This hands-on class for couples is all about the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans and hard ciders! Jerad has selected two incredible ciders to pair with fried pickles and bacon-wrapped grilled jalapeños stuffed with chorizo. Learn to create andouille-pork burgers, sweet potato fries, red beans and rice, plus white chocolate bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: WINE BAR TAPAS - Saturday, Nov. 13 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • Raise a toast as I bring the wine bar to a different level with delicious tapas. Start with roasted olives spiced with orange and chile, a glass of white wine paired with walnut-stilton shortbread topped with pears and mascarpone, grilled bruschetta with tuna and capers, a glass of red wine paired with fried goat cheese with tomato chutney, and polenta bites with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions. Finish with rosemary-chocolate truffles.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GROWN-UPS' MAC-AND-CHEESE - Sunday, Nov. 21 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Mac-and-cheese has never tasted so sophisticated! Couples will love the adult version of three luscious interpretations of this classic dish, as this hands-on class creates orzo with mascarpone and butter-poached lobster, souffléed mac-and-cheese with gouda and smoked paprika, and the ultimate baked mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon. Sip on a rum-ginger beer cocktail, and make fennel-apple salad with apple cider vinaigrette, plus key lime sorbet.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: FROM BEER TO SUSHI ETERNITY - Friday, Nov. 26 @ 6:00-8:30 OR Friday, March 11 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)
  • Be prepared for a fun evening of sushi designed just for couples. Enjoy salt-and-pepper edamame, then learn to prepare sticky sushi rice and make a variety of hand-formed nigiri, and rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls -- all served with cold beer that Jerad has chosen to pair perfectly with sushi. Finally, we'll make lemongrass sorbet for a refreshing dessert. 

October 31, 2010

Chorizo, Potato & Mushroom Tacos

Cooler temperatures have finally arrived in St. Louis. Up until this week, it's been so warm I am still picking sungolds from our garden and a tiny pink rose is blooming in our backyard. Nevertheless, a chill is in the air and we've had to turn on the heat. And, around here that means 'tis the season for comfort foods...hearty breakfasts, soups, roasts, casseroles, pastas...

And, man, do I need some comfort! We've had some very sad & upsetting things happening in our extended family. I won't go into details here, but it boils down to some all out fucking batshit craziness. Nothing is as it was seven months ago. Our hearts are broken.

But, all the drama just makes me appreciative of the good things in my life. Jerad and I are sticking together through this, stronger than ever. We are making big plans for our new little family. We have fantastic friends who are supporting and encouraging us. Our jobs are both going well. We finally got our 100-year-old wooden house painted and are in the middle of building a new front porch (it was literally falling down). 

Of course, through it all, we continue to eat well. I still believe that you cannot live well if you have not dined well. To promote such wellness, Jerad recently made these tacos for dinner.

Chorizo, Potato, and Mushroom Tacos
from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday

serves 4
12 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed
1 medium white onion, halved and sliced into rings
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
12 ounces potato, grated on the large holes of a grater
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
12 warm corn tortillas
  • Crumble the chorizo into a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring often to break up large clumps, until some of the fat starts to render and the sausage looks half-cooked, about 4 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the onions and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the grated potato over the mixture, and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 3 minutes, stirring often.  Reduce the temperature if the potatoes start to brown before they soften.  Taste and season if necessary - some chorizo is seasoned highly.
  • Scrape the mixture into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.   Serve with warm tortillas, salsa, & queso fresco.

October 24, 2010

Venison Wellington

October 1, sunrise: Sixty seconds into deer season this year, our friend Carl shot a doe with a bow & arrow.

 This is NOT the deer Carl shot this year. I snagged this from his Facebook page. Being a deer hunter, duck hunter, & fisherman, he has A LOT of dead animal pics on there.

Before I was with Jerad, I thought hunting was pretty brutal. Plus, I didn't like eating venison at all. But, I've accepted hunting...I've even watched a deer being dressed & numerous birds (ducks, geese, doves) being cleaned. It wasn't nearly as gross as I'd expected. I've also discovered that venison, particularly the backstrap, is tender & tasty. It is so similar to beef that it's hard to tell the difference when you're eating a good cut, especially meat from a two- to three-year-old doe.

A "backstrap" is essentially the same cut as filet mignon; it's a muscle from the lower back that runs along the spine. It looks like beef--bright red & lean--smells like beef, and tastes like beef. You cook it exactly as you would a whole filet.


October 9, 2010

Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Dog Treats

THANK YOU to everyone who's been voting for me in Project Food Blog. I didn't make it to round 4, but that's okay. I wasn't happy with my last post, so I wasn't surprised by the results. You see, I had people over on Saturday for my "luxury dinner party," drank too much champagne since I was celebrating my birthday, & woke up too late on Sunday (the day the post was due). I spend the entire day nursing a headache, editing pictures, and writing the post. I knew something was missing; it just didn't feel complete. But, since the deadline was looming, I submitted what I had. Of course, the next day I thought of a few other things I could have added to the post to make it better.

Nevertheless, I'd planned ahead just in case I did make it to the next round...which was a photo challenge. I actually made couscous-stuffed whole branzino last Monday, but I wasn't impressed with my photos or the recipe itself. So, I had an idea to make homemade dog treats and let my pups "help." My friend Corey was kind enough to take some photos while we were cooking.

Don’t let his big brown eyes & floppy ears fool you; Arlo’s kind of a pain in the ass. In fact, right at this moment his barking his head off in my ear at nothing in particular. At least he’s not chewing something up. Like my shoes, FIVE pairs of which he’s already destroyed.

October 3, 2010

Project Food Blog: Luxury Dinner Party (Challenge #3)


Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance & a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 & a special feature on for one year.

Challenge Prompt: Celebrate! Whether you're an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative & host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes & exotic flavors. Share your hosting secrets with readers, like how to cook for a crowd, plan a menu, or involve guests in the prep.


This challenge couldn't have come at a better time, because yesterday was my 37th birthday. Age has never bothered me before, but for some reason 37 bothers me. I woke up yesterday with terrible back pain; I just felt old. However, as far as birthday celebrations go, it was a pretty good one...I had a multi-course dinner at Araka with my girlfriends on Wednesday, met a couple other friends at Monarch for dinner & drinks on Thursday, saw Anthony Bourdain speak on Friday, & threw a Spanish tapas tasting party last night.

September 26, 2010

Project Food Blog: The Classics (Challenge #2)


Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance & a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 & a special feature on for one year.

Challenge Prompt: Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or one you are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal & document your experience through a compelling post.


As soon as I read this prompt, I knew what recipe I wanted to try: PHO TAI, Vietnamese beef & noodle soup. According to Chef Mai Pham, pho is the national soup of Vietnam, can be found on practically every street corner, & is served around the clock.

Asian food is definitely outside my cultural comfort zone. I don't cook Asian food at home (outside of an occasional make-shift stir-fry to use up expiring vegetables & leftover meats). I don't go out to eat Asian food (aside from getting cheap Chinese take-out a couple times a year). I'm not sure why exactly. I think it's because I don't like cilantro & lots of Asian dishes contain cilantro. And, I don't want to be that person who asks for spring rolls or pho sans cilantro. Other Asian foods tend to be too spicy for me. I'm a mid-western white girl through & through (i.e. a delicate wussy).

But, pho? Pho seemed like something I could like. It's in my "comfort foods" comfort zone...hearty broth & noodles...what's not to love? It's the perfect dish to make on a chilly, gray, & rainy St. Louis Sunday.

September 21, 2010

Pork Rillettes

I went camping last weekend. For two nights. Outside. In the rain. With bugs and critters. And rain. With lightning. And thunder. Lots of lightning. And lots of thunder.

I only agreed to go because Jerad makes camping easy. In my previous life, I attempted camping only once: After several hours of fighting over how to put up the tent & how to get a fire started with wet wood, we called it quits, packed our shit up, & headed home. Jerad, on the other hand, will have the tent set up, a fire burning, and a glass of wine in my hand within the first 30 minutes. On Friday, he went out to the camp site and set everything up before I even got there. I'm a lucky, lucky gal.

We took Arlo (our 8-month old beagle) with us & he seemed to be having a great time playing with Ashby's dog Daisy. He absolutely tuckered himself out, though, and slept all day on Sunday. I don't think he liked all the lightning & thunder Saturday night either.

Arlo Shmarlo (aka Shmarshmo or Shmarshmallow or--sometimes--Damn-dog-who-needs-to-quit-chewing-up-my-stuff!)

September 15, 2010

Project Food Blog: Ready, Set, Blog!

Voting is now open through Thursday, September 23 
(at 6:00 pm Pacific time). 
You can vote for me by clicking the widget to the left of this post.
You will have to login to Foodbuzz before your vote is counted.


Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance & a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 & a special feature on for one year.

For the first challenge, we're asking you to create a blog post that defines you as a food blogger and makes it clear why you think you have what it takes to be the next food blog star. Consider what makes your blog unique & sets you apart from other food blog brands: is it your foolproof recipes, your mouthwatering photos, your perspective on family meals? Write a post that comes from the heart and is true to you & your blog.


I actually started this blog 5 years ago, while I was teaching a summer creative writing camp for teenagers, to demonstrate how to set up an account & how to post.  At first, I posted random nothingness here. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, I used my blog to raise money for my uncle--who’d lost his home, his job, his livelihood--to start a new life. Afterwards, I continued to write posts about my thoughts & daily life. That is, until my marriage started to fall apart. Not wanting to share the details of my divorce with the world & feeling too depressed to write about anything else, I didn’t blog for months.

In the spring of 2007, I found myself living alone again for the first time in 7 years. I couldn’t afford cable or internet on my measly adjunct instructor’s pay. Inspired by Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia (which I was reading at the time, long before the movie), I challenged myself to make one new recipe a week as a cheap form of entertainment & to blog about my experiments as a cheap form of therapy.  Three years later, I’m still at it.

September 11, 2010

Fall 2010 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's fall schedule is now posted online. Here are my upcoming classes:

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: BURGER U FOR TWO - Sunday, Oct. 3 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Class is in session, and Jerad & I share classy burgers for a remarkable evening designed for couples. This hands-on class will heat up the kitchen with pressed Cuban burgers, Carolina barbecue pork burgers, and tuna burgers with roasted garlic-tomato aïoli. Create the perfect French fries, beer-battered onion rings with blue cheese dipping sauce, and sip on roasted pineapple-rum milkshakes.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: LIFE IS A CABERET - Sunday, Oct. 10 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Learn to cook with the wonderful flavors of wine in this delightful hands-on class. I'll help you prepare mushroom-red pepper salad with red wine-herb vinaigrette, oven-roasted beef tenderloin with roasted red grape wine sauce, homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and nuts with a creamy asparagus chardonnay sauce, plus fabulous flourless chocolate-red wine cake with rosemary ganache -- all enjoyed with cabernet wine.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: FRANK 'N STEIN - Sunday, Oct. 24 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • This class will make sesame-honey cocktail sausages, grilled local salsiccia with grilled fennel relish, sweet corn pudding, seared romaine with balsamic vinaigrette, plus chocolate whoopie pies with salted caramel filling. Jerad shares his love of beer with two perfect pairings.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: VEG OUT! - Saturday, Oct. 20 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Spend a relaxing evening sipping on lime-cherry vodka cocktails, as I prepare incredible vegetarian dishes. Enjoy beluga lentil crostini with goat cheese, creamy wild rice soup with sweet potato croutons, shredded green beans with citrus and chives, mushroom-spinach-tofu black tea spring rolls with mango chutney dipping sauce, plus crisp brown rice "power bars" with dried fruit and nuts.

August 31, 2010

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos

My birthday is coming up...October 2. I'm not afraid to say that I LOVE my birthday, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I usually--happily--make my own birthday plans...way in advance, mind you...where we're going out for dinner, what I'll do with my friends, etc. Hell, I even make my own birthday cake!

This year, I asked Jerad & his mom to buy me the new Vitamix, which should be delivered any day now (more about that later). I'm planning dinner with the Food Blog Mafia at Araka sometime that week. But, since my birthday is on a Saturday this year, I really want to do something fun that day. As of now, the plan is to do a taco crawl on Cherokee Street, go to the City Museum (I've never been), have cocktails at Taste, then dinner somewhere still to be decided.

All that talk about tacos & my friend's constant praise of tacos as "happy-making" made us browse Rick Bayless's book for an easy, authentic taco recipe for yesterday's dinner. This one was indeed easy, despite the long cooking time, and it tasted pretty damned amazing...smoky, spicy, rich, deep. We're having leftovers for dinner again tonight.

August 22, 2010

Tyler Florence likes grapes.

Sometimes, blogging has its perks. I mean, I don't blog specifically for the perks. But, sometimes, it does pay off to be a food blogger.

Recently, I was invited to attend a Cardinals game (with other bloggers and local media folks) on Tuesday, to sit in the Red Bird Club All-Star (aka VIP) room, and to schmooze with Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence. I am a fan fangirl of "Hot Tyler" so I immediately accepted the invitation...even if he was promoting "healthy" ballpark food. I mean, when I go to a Cardinals game, I usually go just to eat hot dogs (with mustard & sauerkraut) and nachos loaded with that bright orange cheese-stuff & pickled jalapenos. But, I figured I could play along with healthy food....for Tyler's sake.

Actually, Tyler (I've met him twice now, so we're on a first name basis) is appearing at stadiums across the country representing the California Table Grape Commission during Grapes from California days. After throwing out the first pitch, Tyler made his way to the All-Star room where he introduced himself to everyone and talked to each of us. And take pictures, of course.

Don't we make a cute couple???

August 18, 2010

Zucchini Vichyssoise

School starts again this week, and I was kind of looking forward to starting a new year. Then, I was dreading it....not because of the early mornings or the new curriculum or some can-be-obnoxious students (and teachers)....but because of the 100+ degree temps around here last week and my school's lack of air-conditioning.  Luckily, the weather is supposed to be a bit more mild for the start of school this year.

When I tell people that my school is not air-conditioned, they find it hard to believe that a school in the United States in 2010 doesn't have that technology. But, for whatever reason (I'm guessing finances), only the offices & the library are cooled. 

And, my building is a greenhouse. Not figuratively speaking, but LITERALLY a greenhouse. It is a big square building with an open courtyard in the middle that has a glass roof & trees growing in it. MOTHERFUCKING TREES, PEOPLE. The hallways circle the courtyard, and all the classrooms open to it. My room is upstairs. It's hot up there, I mean downright sweltering. No wonder the students are so crabby at the beginning of the school year. 

August 13, 2010

Mayfair Dressing

St. Louis is famous for inventing several foods. Ice cream cones & hot dogs in buns were first served at the 1904 World's Fair, which also introduced people to hamburgers, cotton candy, iced tea, & Dr. Pepper. Other St. Louis originals include toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, concretes, peanut butter, Provel cheese, slingers, & 7-Up. 

One of my favorite local recipes is Mayfair salad dressing. It was created at the Mayfair-Lennox Hotel in downtown St. Louis. This dressing is similar to Caesar dressing but has more of a "bite" to it. 

August 1, 2010

Tomato Tarte Tatin

We tried our hand at a little home garden this summer. We planted a small herb garden with basil, thyme, oregano, & chives and a few tomato plants. Our sungold plant is thriving; we pick a handful of little orange beauties each day. We've gotten a few roma tomatoes, but they are a little mealy tasting. We have ONE Beefsteak on the wine vine (Freudian slip!) and have FINALLY gotten a bloom or two on the Brandywine plant.

So, to satiate our craving for fresh tomatoes, we've been buying them at our local farmers market each Saturday. Is there nothing better than a freshly-picked tomato at the peak of the summer season? I don't think there is.

We had quite a few cherry tomatoes of different sizes & varieties...round red ones, oval red ones, orange ones, yellow ones, & "chocolate" ones which have a brownish skin. To use them up we made a tart in the Le Creuset tarte tatin pan we got as a wedding gift.

I can't believe I didn't make this sooner. All I can say is MAKE THIS NOW. Seriously. Now. Go! It's amazingly good.

July 22, 2010

Bellini Popsicles

We had some people over on July 3rd, a BYOB-and-a-snack-to-share kind of backyard thing. Jerad & I made porchetta di testa (aka pig face), caramelized onion dip, roasted tomatoes with white anchovies, and bellini popsicles. Our fabulous friends brought good cheeses, onion & blue cheese tartlettes, Free Range cookies & cupcakes, oatmeal bars, salami from Salume Beddu, Greek dip, meat corn, broccoli dip, pasta salad, panzanella, and bacon s'mores.

July 14, 2010

Grilled Beef Heart

Jerad has been wanting to cook a beef heart ever since his parents grilled a deer heart last fall & raved about how good it was. After weeks of asking for one at the farmers’ markets, Jerad finally brought one home a couple weeks ago.

Once again, he researched online & found another video of Chef Chris Cosentino cleaning a heart. Unfortunately, as with the pig’s head, I didn’t get to witness this part of the process…and Jerad didn’t take any pictures. But, the untrimmed heart looked pretty much like this:

After all the fat, silver skin, & arteries were trimmed off, I marinated the meat in 3 cloves of garlic (crushed), a handful of fresh oregano, 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice, 1/2 cup white wine, & 1 cup beer for 2 hours. We grilled the meat for 2 -3 minutes per side, sliced it thin, & ate in on heated tortillas with grilled peppers & onions.

I have to admit that I was initially fairly grossed out about eating heart, but I rationalized it by reminding myself that it’s just a muscle, just like (well, not exactly like, but close enough) any ol’ steak. The meat turned out to be tender & not “weird” or gamey tasting at all. It tasted like…well…steak. The only difference is that it’s very lean, with no fat marbling at all. Therefore, it was pretty dense meat. The thin slicing worked well in that aspect.

After pig's face & beef heart, I'm a little excited to see what animal part Jerad will want to cook next.

July 12, 2010

Porchetta di Testa

Warning: This post involves some gratuitous cursing.

Intro: WE MADE MOTHERFUCKING CHARCUTERIE! You have no idea how happy this makes me. I am so smitten with salume & people who have the know-how to make it (see Cute Meat Guys). So, when Jerad decided to make porchetta from a pig’s head, I knew I married the right guy.

Background: A couple Sundays ago, Jerad & I taught a sushi class for couples at Kitchen Conservatory. There was a whole hog class going on in the other kitchen, and since they didn’t use the head Anne asked if we wanted to take it home. Jerad said yes without hesitation. I figured we’d just use the cheeks (the best part on nearly any animal) & ears (blanched, cut, & fried = yum).

Preparation: We hadn’t done anything with that head for a few days, and I told Jerad on Wednesday that he had to make something with it THAT DAY or it was going out with the trash the next morning. I was, quite frankly, a little tired of seeing that thing staring at me every time I opened the refrigerator.

I worked that day and received a text message from Jerad that afternoon with only a photo….this photo:

June 29, 2010

Peanut Butter & Bacon Truffles

My friend Susie recently twittered, "Bittersweet and bacon truffle--not good. Sorry @barbaricgulp but apparently bacon & chocolate do not go together." Now, I feel it's my duty to show Susie the error of her ways...and prove her wrong, of course.

My love of all things porcine is no secret to my closest friends and casual acquaintances. Kelli bought me a bacon scarf for my birthday last fall. Stephanie (the "other" Steph) will often forward me links to things like bacon air-freshener, bacon bandaids, & bacon jelly beans. She even sent me a Patron Saint of Bacon figurine.

June 25, 2010

Pressed Cuban Burgers

One of our favorite meals in Las Vegas, where we were married in March, was at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. We stopped in spontaneously for an early lunch on the day of our ceremony. Everything we tried was delicious...the tuna "nachos," spicy beef tenderloin tartare, smoked shrimp tacos, & particularly the pressed Cuban burger.

Jerad didn't say much when he took the first bite of the burger. "How is it?" I asked, worried that he wasn't cooing over his food like I was over the shrimp tacos I'd ordered. He smiled slightly, paused, and admitted, "It's probably the best burger I've ever eaten!" He didn't gush over it because he didn't want to share!

June 23, 2010

Tuna Ceviche

The past few weeks have been pretty good; I have, in fact, been VERY "satisfied with home." Things are starting to get back to normal around here, partly because we finally decided that we simply aren't going to allow other people's drama to negatively affect us anymore. I've realized that crazy people need each other in order to feel normal, and I can't let anyone's craziness continue to bother me. I'm awesome and above all that (at least, according to my friend Stephanie I am!). 

Jerad and I have been doing a lot of cooking together so far this summer, which is always a kind of therapy for us. I've been stopping for groceries each day after work, and we start dinner as soon as I get home...after a cocktail first, of course. Tonight, for example, Jerad took the supper reins and grilled shrimp & zucchini. For dessert, he grilled peach halves & topped them with cinnamon butter. This man sure knows the way to my heart. DAMN, HOW I LOVE HIM!

I was in charge of dinner last night. Because I'm too delicate to grill in the 100+ degrees St. Louis humidity, I made a lighter meal indoors...

June 21, 2010

French Onion Dip from Scratch

I love chips & dips. In my world, "chips & dips" is its own category of food. I use any "vacation"--summer break, holidays, birthdays, Sundays--as an excuse to eat chips & dips. And, I'm not ashamed to admit that I will buy and ENJOY pre-made French onion dip...and bean dip & queso & get my point, right? I am also a bit partial to the kind of French onion dip that you make by mixing sour cream with a packet of dry onion soup mix. It's what my momma used to make.

But, yesterday when Jerad and I were enjoying a day off together (which is rare these days), I decided to make French onion dip FROM in caramelizing onions myself. Crazy, I know. ;-)

We both thought this dip was delicious (tastes like a more sophisticated version of the soup mix dip) and worth the 45+ minutes of slow caramelization time. 

June 17, 2010

Asparagus with Poached Egg & Miso Butter

I love summer...not just because I get a break from teaching, but also because I have more time to cook and experiment in the kitchen. This summer, I plan to try as many recipes as I can from the piles of cookbooks I have all around the house.  In particular, I'm excited to try more recipes from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook. Stephanie and I already made the infamous pork belly buns & it wasn't so difficult.

So, I recently made the asparagus with poached egg & miso butter...a light summer supper using some gorgeous local asparagus we got at the farmers' market.  The miso butter is tasty but very salty, so apply sparingly. I put way too much on my plate (see pic below), and it really overpowered the delicate egg. The picture in the cookbook shows the butter on the plate under the asparagus, so that might be the way to go to avoid over-doing it.

June 12, 2010

Berry Popsicles

Jerad loves eating anything with berries in it, especially popsicles.  It's his oral fixation thing. Anyone who's met him knows this...he chews tobacco, eats & spits sunflower seeds, etc. He always has something in his mouth. I know, I sounds dirty. [insert oral fixation joke here]

We bought some frozen fruit pops a few weeks ago, and he quickly devoured them. However, one of Jerad's quirks is that he doesn't like certain textures in his mouth. [insert another dirty joke here] He can't stand how the wooden popsicle sticks feel. It was painful to watch him try to finish each fruit pop without actually touching the wood with his lips or tongue. [the dirty jokes just write themselves]

So, I bought some plastic Tovolo popsicle molds at Kitchen Conservatory and made a batch of mixed berry popsicles for him.

For the first batch, I pureed strawberries & blackberries with some simple syrup & lemon juice. They were so good, sweet & refreshing...and so much better than the store-bought versions. In fact, in a side-by-side taste test, the homemade popsicles actually made the store-bought ones taste really gross...too sweet, too "fake" fruit tasting (and we got the "real fruit juice" kind).

June 5, 2010

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Another school year is finished, my second year teaching at this high school. It was a pretty good year overall, much better than last year.  The English department piloted a new skills-based, high-interest literature curriculum.  My College English class really liked my food unit (we watched Food Inc. & learned about local, organic eating). The school's top seniors nominated me for Silver Medallion Teacher of the Year.  The valedictorian asked me to be in her "Teacher's Pet" picture for the yearbook, and she mentioned me in her graduation speech.  I bonded with my co-workers.  I stayed organized enough not to have to bring work home regularly.

When I woke up graduation morning, I discovered that my car had been covered in Post-It Notes.

May 31, 2010

Summer Recipes

It's summer! I have two days of school left this week, and then I'm off until the end of August.  My fun summer plans include working at Kitchen Conservatory a few days a week, teaching some classes there, lots of reading (suggestions welcome), and just trying to RELAX for a change.  Things have been stressful--to say the least--around here the past two months, especially the past couple weeks. 

And, since I won't have to worry about the usual never-ending stack of papers to grade, I hope to do more cooking than I have so far this year.

May 28, 2010

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

For a couple years now, pork has been in its heyday. Pork belly is the in vogue menu item, and bacon nearly has a cult following. However, on its November list of the Top 10 Food Trends for 2010, predicted that lamb would trump pork as everyone’s favorite meat.

A month earlier, the food blog Eat Me Daily declared lamb “the new hotness," and Saveur magazine’s October cover announced that “lamb rules.”

Saveur asserted that while home cooks have shied away from preparing and serving lamb in the past, “that is starting to change […] as tastes become worldlier and good-quality lamb is increasingly available at butcher shops and supermarkets.” 

May 14, 2010


Between end-of-the-school-year grading and dealing with other people's bullshit (I've finally decided that I'm too old for all this drama & am now ignoring those people), I haven't had time to cook. But, I'm trying to remedy that. So, a couple Sundays ago I invited my friend Stephanie (aka Iron Stef) & fellow food blog mafiosa over to get busy in the kitchen.

We decided to try paella, which neither one of us had made before. Initially, I thought this would be a difficult--but welcomed--chore, but it turns out that paella is fairly just involves several steps. I also thought that it would be expensive to make, with all that seafood (mussels and clams and shrimp). However, it was a lot less spendy than I thought...the shrimp were $9.95 a pound, while the mussels and clams were each only about $5 a dozen. (St. Louis folks: I bought all the seafood at Bob's Seafood at 170 & Olive).

May 1, 2010

Summer 2010 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's summer schedule is now posted online. Here are my classes:

SUSHI ROCK AND ROLL - Sunday, June 6 @ 12:30-3:00 (hands-on)
In this class we'll enjoy salt-and-pepper edamame & spicy cucumber salad, then learn to prepare sticky sushi rice and make a variety of hand-formed nigiri & rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls, and Philadelphia rolls.
This class is scheduled again for Sunday, September 5 @ 1:00-3:30.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE HARD EDGE TO THE BIG EASY - Friday, June 11 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)
This class for couples is all about the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans and hard ciders! Jerad has selected two ciders to go with our menu of fried pickles, bacon-wrapped grilled jalapenos stuffed with chorizo, andouille-pork burgers, sweet potato fries, red beans and rice, plus white chocolate bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: FROM BEER TO SUSHI ETERNITY - Sunday, June 27 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
Menu includes salt-and-pepper edamame & spicy cucumber salad, sticky sushi rice, and a variety of hand-formed nigiri & rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls -- all served with 2 Japanese beers chosen by Jerad.

ADULT WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN - Monday, July 5 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)
My Harry Potter class for kids was so popular that we've had some adults wanting to register for it without their kids! You'll prepare dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including an adult version of butterbeer (that means with booze!), ham & cheese pasties, potatoes with bechamel sauce, shredded sprouts slaw, and individual berry trifles. We'll also make "edible wands" to take home.
The "Heir & a Parent" version of this class for parents & kids is scheduled for Sunday, August 1 @ 1:00-3:30.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: SIP AND SUP - Friday, July 16 @ 6:30-9:00
On a hot summer evening, sit back and enjoy a refreshing menu of white sangria with peaches & grapes, shaved asparagus salad with parmesan dressing, cool watermelon gazpacho, grilled tilapia with cherry salsa, plus mini pavlovas with fresh berries & lemon curd.

THE TEA INGREDIENT - Wednesday, July 28 @ 10:00 am-12:30 pm (demonstration)
Celebrate the flavors of tea as the key ingredient in a lovely luncheon, starting with Earl Grey croutes with creamed brie. Enjoy truffled mushroom-smoked tea tartlettes, lemon & sage tea-poached chicken salad sandwiches, plus chocolate-spiced orange tea mousse.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: FRESH ALFRESCO - Saturday, July 31 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
Sit back and enjoy the evening with girlfriends, as I make a meal that is perfect to pack for an outdoor soiree. Sip on a sweet tea-lemon martini, then delight in the flavors of eggplant caponata, noodle salad with sesame peanut dressing, beef flatbread with avocado-radish salsa, & blackberry crumb bars.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: EDUCATING 'RITA - Saturday, August 7 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
Menu includes champagne margaritas, tuna ceviche, grilled shrimp soft tacos with mango guacamole, Mexican grilled corn salad, and & strawberry-lime sorbet. 

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: SKEWERS AND SHOOTERS - Friday, August 13 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
This is one of my favorite classes to teach! The evening gets started with a bang with vanilla-pineapple-vodka hand grenades, then I'll prepare chicken skewers with dukka crust & balsamic reduction, pea soup shots with spicy crab, chai-brined shrimp & mango skewers, plus white chocolate-mint mousse shooters.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, August 15 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
Join me and Jerad for a fun beer-pairing class that includes beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake & vanilla ice cream.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: AN A-FARE TO REMEMBER - Sunday, September 19 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
Spend a memorable evening with your partner creating some of our favorite dishes. Jerad and I share our love for cooking together, as we teach you to make grilled panzanella salad, rosemary fried chicken, mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon, ratatouille, & caramel apple galette. Jerad will also present two perfect beer pairings with dinner and dessert.
Call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

April 30, 2010

Roasted Mustard Rabbit

We'd been wanting to cook rabbit at home ever since we attended the last Iron Chef class at Kitchen Conservatory. That night pitted chefs Josh Galliano of Monarch & Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe against food blogger Bill Burge and chef Chuck Friedhoff of Persimmon Woods Golf Course.

The secret ingredient, which neither team knew of ahead of time, was rabbit. I'd never eaten rabbit before and was surprised by how much I liked it. Our only hesitation in cooking it at home was finding the rabbit to cook.  Luckily, we bribed our friend Justin (who operates Yellow Tree Farm) with a free oven. In return, he gave us one of his rabbits.

April 15, 2010

Our Porkapalooza Wedding Reception

Whew! The wedding is over, and the reception was a huge hit. Our plan was to have a backyard pig roast at Jerad's parents' house the day before Easter. We set up a big tent on Friday, but the weather wasn't looking good for our party.  It rained the day before and was very windy the morning of the reception, but it all turned out in the end.  The clouds cleared and the wind finally died down.  We ended up with a beautifully sunny day that helped to make the party just what I'd dreamed about.

You see, I had actually dreamed about our wedding reception a few years ago...before we dated even. Jerad and I were just friends at the time; in fact, I was married to someone else.  But, we worked together every weekend, so we spend a lot of time together. One night, I dreamed that we got married and had a reception under a white tent in his parents' backyard. The decorations were green & yellow.

I had forgotten about that dream until after we'd planned our pig roast.  Jerad then reminded me of the dream, which I told him about right after I'd had it. I'm sure he thought I was crazy at the time. Nevertheless, I find it a bit strange that I ended up planning that very reception. It must be fate. 

March 23, 2010

Thinking about Marriage, Babies, & Mac-n-Cheese

I'm getting married in 6 days.  Someone asked me recently if I thought I've rushed into it, having only been engaged for 4 months.  The answer is NO. Jerad and I talked about waiting until summer to get married but then decided there was no reason to wait, especially since Vegas would be pretty darn hot in June, and his cousin is already planning a wedding in the fall. There is really no point in waiting until next spring.

We've been living together for a few years now.  We never really "officially" started living together; he basically just started squatting at my house, staying more and more nights in a row until eventually he was there all the time.  In fact, just this week he finally changed his address. So, we figured that nothing is really going to change after we're married...except now he'll have health insurance and we can start thinking about a family. That right, folks, hell might just freeze over yet...we're talkin' babies! Not soon, but someday. I used to swear that I didn't want any kids, but I think I just hadn't yet found the right person to have them with. I do want to have babies with Jerad; he makes me feel capable and confident. Plus, I know he'll be a great pregnancy coach, father, & parenting partner.

March 4, 2010

Wedding Reception Menu

I'm getting married in 25 days.  25 days!  I'm a little nervous about getting married again but excited to start a new phase of my life.

We decided to get married in Las Vegas to avoid the hassles of having a wedding at home.  I'm not religious, so I don't want to be married in a church.  Besides just going to the courthouse for a civil ceremony, there aren't many options for a small wedding.  We looked into a few places, but they were simply too expensive for the short ceremony we wanted.  So, Vegas it is! This way, we can have our wedding and honeymoon all in one.  And, it looks like about 17 people will be joining us at the top of the Stratosphere for the ceremony!

When we get home, we're having a backyard pig roast at Jerad's parents' house with 70 of our family and friends.  Kirk Warner of Kirk's Traveling Kitchen is catering the reception. Once the idea of a pig roast came up, I knew right away that Kirk was the person for the job. He teaches classes at Kitchen Conservatory, especially many of our BBQ and whole hog classes, and he's a staff favorite.

February 15, 2010

Cheesecake Bars

People have been asking me how the wedding plans are coming.  For the most part, the plans are done.  All it took was a couple emails, really.

We are getting married at the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas at the end of March.  Then, we are having  a pig roast “reception” a few days after we get home (more on that later).

I bought a wedding dress off the rack at David’s Bridal.  It’s a knee-length, strapless, ivory dress (Jerad hasn’t seen the dress, yet, so I don’t want to describe it too much right now).  It fits perfectly and needs no alterations.  I’m wearing a little blusher veil and green heels with it.  I also ordered a custom pair of green Chuck Taylor sneakers to wear with my dress at the pig roast.

February 9, 2010

CLEAVING by Julie Powell

I’ve made no secret of my love and admiration for Julie Powell.  I think she’s one bad-ass bitch, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. 

In fact, ever since I met her in Los Angeles last summer, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make her my best friend…without creepily stalking her online, of course.

Anyway, I really liked her first book, Julie & Julia, when I read it in 2007, way before all the recent film hype.  I was very excited to read her second book, Cleaving, which was released in December.  Though, I confess that I wasn’t interested in the art of butchery so much as I was in the details of her extra-marital affair. 

February 1, 2010

Upcoming Cooking Classes: Spring 2010

Kitchen Conservatory's spring schedule went live online today. Here are my upcoming classes:

THE APPRENTICE CHEF: MAD HATTER TEA PARTY - Sunday, March 21 @ 12:30-2:30
For aspiring chefs, children ages 7-12.  Don't be late for this very important date! Jump down the rabbit hole and join me in the kitchen for a Wonderland tea party.  This magical hands-on class will create "Drink Me" pine-apple milkshakes, Humpty Dumpty's shattered & stained deviled eggs, The King's ham & hay sandwiches, plus cherry pebble cakes and jam tarts from the Queen of Hearts.

Forget the porridge, chair, and sleeping - the three tastings of beer will be just right and plenty cold!  Join me (aka "goldie" locks) and beermeister Jerad Gardner in a fun evening designed for couples.  In this hands-on class, you'll prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops & corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake & vanilla ice cream.

HEIR AND A PARENT: WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN - Sunday, May 16 OR July 11 @ 12:30-3:00 (a class parents & kids take together!) 
Attention all Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen as you make delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including The Three Broomsticks's butterbeer, ham & cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with bechamel sauce, and Aunt Petunia's individual berry & pudding trifles.  Before you apparate home, you'll make edible wants to help ward off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: WHEN IN ROME, EAT-ALY -Saturday, May 22 @ 6:00-8:30
Experience the fabulous flavors of Italy as I prepare a delicious dinner in this demonstration class.  You'll sip on a bellini, then enjoy baked goat cheese with spicy tomato sauce, ricotta gnudi in a Parmesan broth, sauteed shrimp with saffron orzo, and rosemary lemon gelato.

SUSHI ROCK AND ROLL - Sunday, June 6 @ 12:30-3:00
In this hands-on class, you'll learn to make salt & pepper edamame, spicy cucumber salad, sticky sushi rice, spicy tuna rolls, California rolls, Philadelphia rolls, and a variety of hand-formed nigiri. 

This hands-on class for couples is all about the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans and hard ciders! Beer guru Jerad Garnder has selected two incredible ciders to pair with fried pickles, bacon-wrapped grilled jalapenos stuffed with chorizo, andouille-pork burgers, sweet potato fries, red beans & rice, plus white chocolate bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
Call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

January 18, 2010

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Pretzel Crust

I do not celebrate Valentine's Day.  I don't see the point, really.  Even when you're in a relationship, the pressure to be romantic is often times overwhelming.  Going out to eat on Valentine's Day is usually a bummer, too.

If you're not in a relationship, it's even worse.  When I was in college, my boyfriend lived four hours away.  So, my roommates & I would make Valentine's Day a girls' night out.  Being surrounded by couples oogling each other did not help our dinners go down easily.

So, when I was planning my winter cooking classes for Kitchen Conservatory, I had an idea to do an anti-Valentine's Day Girls' Night Out class.  My menu was inspired by my frustration at my boyfriend, now fiance, for not giving me a birthday gift in October.  (It's all good now; he was saving up for the engagement ring he'd already designed.)  I tried to incorporate flavors that mimic feelings--sour, bitter, salty--and that you normally wouldn't eat on a date--garlicy & spicy. 

January 11, 2010

Baking Sheet Macaroni & Cheese

Last month, Amanda Hesser posted a recipe for Baking Sheet Mac & Cheese on her blog food52. In an "effort to realign" the creamy to crunchy ration of casserole-dish mac & cheese, Hesser bakes the cheesy pasta in a shallow, rimmed baking sheet; we're talking about the kind you'd bake cookies or roast veggies on, a 12 x 17-inch rectangle with 1-inch sides. The result is a lot more surface crunch than you'd typically get.

January 7, 2010

The Ultimate Venison Burgers & Fries

I have been craving a big, juicy cheeseburger something fierce for a while now. So much, in fact, that I bought Hubert Keller's Burger Bar cookbook for Jerad for Christmas. And since we also got a meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid mixer, it was inevitable that he'd make burgers for dinner soon.

January 2, 2010

Duck Ragu

Yes! I've finally found it! THE BEST WAY TO COOK WILD DUCK! Braise the hell out of it in a robust tomato sauce!


After one of his big hunts this season, Jerad decided to clean & keep all the duck legs. Our first idea was to make confit. Then, I saw a recipe for duck ragu, which called for using legs, in Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Pasta. This recipe was perfect for the skinless, bone-in legs I had. And, 3 hours of braising could only help the flavor & texture of the gamey wild birds.

January 1, 2010

Best of 2009

All in all, 2009 was a pretty good year for me. I traveled more than usual (three trips, including flying by myself!), I ate some spectacular meals out (Monarch, Niche, Taste, Acero, & Blackbird to name a few), I started writing for Sauce Magazine, & I got engaged. Plus, work has been less stressful this past semester, and I've made some great new friends...long live the Food Blog Mafia.