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The key to making any delicious bean soup hideously ugly: black beans.

I just lost my head for a minute. I was going to use pinto beans. I swear I was.

I only wanted to look at the black bean bag to check the pounds to cups conversion, and then I was going to put it back in the cupboard. But then my brain thought “Hey, look! I’ll be able to use up this measly portion of a bag of beans. Won’t THAT be nice!” So I poured the black beans into the measuring cup. And then I got more black beans from the decorative storage jar, and they all ended up in a pot. And then I put the prescribed amount of water in the pot. (I was on a roll.) And then I put the pot on the stove and fired up the burner. And then I said, “Aw, crap!”

It’ll be OK, I decided. How bad could black bean and ham soup be?

I can tell you that it tastes delicious … however, it is butt-ugly.

All the veggies have a purple-gray tint to them — and I don’t know what that goes with worse, the supposed-to-be-pearly-white potatoes or the supposed-to-be-bright-orange carrots. And the ham is as dark purple-black as the beans. Maybe darker. It looks sinister.

We ate while watching a movie — that gave us something to look at besides the soup.

As a homemaking encore, I’m going to buy some new black jeans and launder them on hot with a load of brights.

Homemaking, one disaster at a time at pam[at]




If you ever find yourself making chiles rellenos in the comfort of your own home kitchen and you decide to roast your poblano chiles over the open flame of your gas stove burner (because searing the skins in a pan like the recipe says didn’t work last time), remember that stems do not contain as much moisture as the pepper itself.

The stems will catch fire. But that’s not the problem.

One can assume, the top of a gas stove is made to withstand open flames, whether from a gas-powered burner or a burning chile stem. However (and this is the heart of the matter) remember that as you turn to place the pepper on a plate, the still-burning ember of a stem can fall to the floor. It is glowing red, therefore it is hot.

If you ever foresee yourself preparing a poblano chile in some fashion, such as described above, that will produce a red hot ember, that you will drop on the floor, remember that it is a good safety practice to be wearing shoes when doing so. Bare feet are sensitive to heat, notably, heat in the form of an ember.

I’m not admitting to anything.

I’m just passing along a little friendly advice at pam[at]

I’ve been paddling around here in the deep end, pondering this question: Is there any food that isn’t enhanced by the addition of good ol’ Philadelphia cream cheese?

Fruits, desserts, any bread-related product, vegetables, you name it, scrumpdillyiciouser. Meat, you say? Steak — mix a dollop of cream cheese with horseradish as a condiment. Mmmm. Chicken — add onion and celery, instant sandwich spread.

I admit that I’m limiting my “any food” to mean, generally American food. I’m quite certain that if someone plunked down a bowl of steaming sheep’s eyes in front of me or handed me a Melba toast spread with monkey brain pate’, there wouldn’t be enough cream cheese in all of Philadelphia to make that right. But I think we’d only find a handful of people in the continental United States that would dig right into the middle of that meal. So foods like that don’t count. Ever.

There is, however, one American “food” sold in a store near you that stretched the limits of the phrase “enhanced by the addition of cream cheese”: canned asparagus. (I can’t hardly even type the two-word name without my gag reflex twitching.)

I’m just as certain about this as I am about the monkey brain pate’ thing: Canned asparagus is so horrible that it’s against Geneva Convention Code to feed it to prisoners of war. I bet Gitmo is still in operation only because officials are torturing prisoners with daily servings of canned asparagus and they fear the news will leak to the general populace if the prisoners were held on American soil — where we would witness the atrocity of truckloads of canned asparagus being unloaded at the jail facility every day. I weep from the horror.

In the end, I decided that if I apply the “enhanced” phrase to my personal recipe for the most palatable canned asparagus I’ve ever made then, yes, the cream cheese does enhance the canned asparagus. To prepare this dish, you simply open the can of asparagus, drain it carefully and thoroughly, rinse the salt from the asparagus and redrain, then chuck it into the garbage — can, green mush and all. Eat a spoonful of cream cheese to cleanse your palate and your brain things of the sight and smell of that ghastly food-like monstrosity.

I just had to consume ten Nilla wafers spread with cream cheese to find my happy place.

My cream cheese heaven is at:

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