Monday, April 28, 2008

Cakes and Ale

In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch says, "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" Gosh, I hope not! The Bard was referring to the good life when he wrote of "cakes and ale". The phrase, however, made me think of how much I like Gingersnaps with beer. I've eaten Gingersnaps, and their thinner spicier Swedish cousin, "Pepparkakor" for most of my life. I always liked them, but most of the time I'd have preferred something chocolate. Then one day, a young man with whom I worked suggested the idea of Gingersnaps with beer. Dennis is half German, half Greek and has a most discriminating palate. I tried it and discovered a match made in heaven.

I like a spicy Belgian or Belgian-style ale with Gingersnaps. A good choice might be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Another option might be Blue Moon Belgian White Ale, which is flavored with coriander and orange peel. I'm not a beer expert, so I'll leave the choice up to you. Among the hundreds of beer and ale offerings, there's a brew for everyone.

These Gingersnaps have a bite, providing your spices are fresh. Open the bottles - if you don't smell anything, discard them! While you're at it, check the expiration dates on all of your herbs and spices - if they've been in the pantry since the Gulf War, it's time to replace them. Crystallized ginger can be found in the spice or bulk foods section of most full-service grocers. It's also available at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and The Ginger People (see link).


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 cup crystallized ginger, very finely chopped*
1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I use Crisco® sticks)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup light molasses (I use "Grandma's Original")
Grated rind of one medium orange and one lemon, colored part only
1 cup granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and salt into a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

Combine the butter, shortening and brown sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the egg, molasses and citrus rinds and beat until combined. Add the crystallized ginger. Reduce the speed to low to incorporate the chopped ginger and then add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, nonstick foil, or nonstick baking liners.

Roll the dough into 1" balls and then roll each in the granulated sugar to coat evenly (an easy way to do this is to put the sugar in a shallow disposable food container with a lid, put 5 or 6 balls in at a time, snap on the lid, and shake back and forth).

Arrange the cookies 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for about 11-12 minutes, until the cookies are puffed, light brown around the edges and cracked on top.

Cool for 5 minutes and carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies may be stored in an airtight container for 1 week. Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

*Note: lightly coating or spraying your knife with cooking oil will make chopping the ginger easier.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Date-Oatmeal Bars

In the 1965 film, "The Flight of the Phoenix", a single-engine aircraft (piloted by Jimmy Stewart) crashes in the Sahara desert. One of the surviving passengers asks what they're going to do for food (a man after my own heart). The character played by Peter Finch replies, "As far as food is concerned, we seem to be singularly fortunate. There appears to be an almost unlimited supply of pressed dates on board." I love dates, so I figure I would have managed just fine with those guys - providing I had an ample supply of SPF 50 sunscreen, plenty of moisturizer, and a several cases of Fiji water. I love that film (I own it) so when I know I'm going to watch it, I get a small bag of Medjools to much on - or bake some date bars - just to get into the spirit of things.

Nutritionally speaking, dates are high in iron and potassium and contain modest amounts of folate and a small amount of vitamin A, and the B vitamins. Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East for millennia. In fact, some evidence points to their having been cultivated for more than 6,000 years! There are at least 40 varities of dates, generally divided into soft, semisoft, and dry. Medjools are in the semisoft category. Dates grow in the Middle East, North Africa, Southern California, and Arizona. Suffice to say, along with olives, grapes, honey, and wheat, dates are one of our oldest foods.

Date bars are remarkably easy to make and are a real comfort food. Please use Medjool dates for this recipe. They are plump, sweet, and soft - and far more delicious than the familiar dates in a box (which can be hard and sugary). I find Medjools in the bulk foods section at Whole Foods. Ask to sample one before you buy to make sure they are soft. Medjools are quite wrinkled and sometimes have a thin white film of sugar on the surface, which is fine. The dates are sold with the pits, so you'll have to remove them. It's a sticky chore but it doesn't take long to do. Medjools can also be ordered from Oasis Date Gardens (see link). This recipe makes a big batch - plenty to share.



3 cups Medjool dates, pitted (buy about 1-1/4 pounds)
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure orange extract (optional)


2-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, divided into 4 pieces and softened

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 13"x 9" pan and set aside.

In a heavy, medium-sized saucepan, combine the dates, water and sugar. Bring to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened and jamlike, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the optional orange extract and cool for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt together. Add the butter and crumble with your fingers until blended. Press half of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan. Spread with the filling. Top with the remaining crumb mixture and press lightly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until light brown. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes and cut into bars or squares while still warm. The bars may be stored in an airtight container for 2 days, in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for 1 month. Makes 24 or 36 bars, depending on size.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Break Out the Good Dishes

We human beings are a strange lot. We spend a lifetime acquiring things that we're afraid to use. The precious jewels and luxury timepieces reside in a safe deposit box or home safe in favor of wearing faux gems. The Mercedes convertable comes out of the garage only on days when the weather is perfect. The $800 suit stays in the garment bag waiting for a state occasion and (this is my favorite) we rent designer handbags while we keep the well-crafted ones we purchased in chamois sacks in the closet. Does this make sense? I think not. I'm reminded of a woman I met who had a gorgeous state-of-the art kitchen. When I asked her how she was putting her new custom copper mixer to work she replied, "Oh, I don't know how to bake but the copper finish matches the hood on my range!"

My mother used to say that one should never drink 12-year-old single malt scotch out of a Flintstones jelly glass. Use the Waterford, for heaven's sake! People make shrines out of their china cabinets - not to mention their dining rooms (come on, admit it, you know who you are). You've seen them - beautiful cabinets with subdued track lighting, some as wide as eight feet built right into the wall - with enough shelf and cabinet space to house the reference section of the New York Public Library. All manner of china, crystal, silver service and flatware are on display, along with the requisite porcelain tchotchkes and candle holders (if you're housing one of Fabergé's lost Imperial eggs, you get a pass). There they stay, except perhaps for Christmas dinner or a papal visit. Goodness, what if Great-Great-Aunt Violet's turkey platter bites the dust? What then? How can we move on?

There was a relative on my former husband's side who had some lovely china and crystal residing in an attractive curio. During the 18 years of that marriage and multiple visits to said relation, we never ate on anything but paper plates and certainly not in the dining room. If the weather was nice, we ate in the back yard (certainly plasticware is appropriate around the pool and with
small children in tow). During the winter months, we gathered in the basement. Why? To protect the good china! God forbid anyone should shatter a wine glass. We gather and hoard and protect. Then we get on in years and pass the stuff along to our children and grandchildren who repeat the process. Generations of families relocating from one place to another, wrapping and packing all the delicate stuff with extraordinary care so the movers don't break it. Then, back into the cabinet for another ten or twenty years, and so it goes. Nonsense!

There are exceptions of course, and many of the young couples getting married today opt for a more practical approach. My daughter and son-in-law registered for porcelain place settings - but they chose classic white in an affordable range. Their flatware is 18/10 stainless, so if a fork gets caught in the disposal, life can go on without a fuss. Their stemless lead crystal makes great sense as it's less apt to get broken - but if it does, replacements don't cost a week's salary.

Look, if you're going to enjoy preparing and eating good food, serve it on the good stuff - even if it's just for youself - and sit at the dining room table instead of standing at the kitchen counter. Go ahead, live on the edge, open that bottle of Shiraz and pour it into your best crystal. Throw caution to the wind and get out the Royal Doulton or Lenox or Coalport and treat yourself. Great-Great Aunt Violet can't object and you'll still have a few things to pass on to your children. The better thing to pass along to them is the idea that some things in life are meant to be enjoyed and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich served on a pretty plate accompanied by a double-damask dinner napkin is one of life's small and civilized pleasures.

Caveat: Do not, however, store fruit juice or wine in a lead-crystal pitcher. The acids can cause the lead to leach out and that, my friends, is a toxic situation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Serendipitous Jasmine Rice with Coconut Milk and Fleur de Sel

Last evening I dropped an entire half-gallon of milk on the kitchen floor. Of course it was a glass bottle that shattered in 846,836 pieces. The shards of glass flew under the refrigerator and sprayed in a circular pattern all over the kitchen. The milk turned into a river of Amazonian proportions, with tributaries branching out in all directions. Oh yes, that was fun. I grumpily went off to bed without my warm milk and honey after gingerly carrying the triple-bagged glass out to the trash (while wearing draw-string jammie pants and a funny shirt).

This morning, I put some Jasmine rice on to simmer (I really have to buy a steamer). Once in awhile I eat a small bowl of rice for breakfast with a little sugar and cinnamon. Lately, I've been wanting to try Baby Basmati and Kalijira rice because their tiny grains cook in less than ten minutes - ideal for morning. The sugar and cinnamon having already been sprinkled, I reached for the milk. Oh yes, the clumsy demon took care of that. There was a can of evaporated milk in the pantry. No, that wouldn't work. I spied several cans of coconut milk and one that was labeled "light". Now I was in business. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Although even the "light" coconut milk has mucho fat compared to fat-free dairy, it's delicious and I didn't need much. Suddenly, the good angel tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, doofus, how about a finishing salt? I retrieved the French Fleur de Sel and set about to create my early morning repast.

The Fleur de Sel brought out the exotic flavor of the rice and the delicacy of the coconut milk and married perfectly with the cinnamon. The slight crunch of the salt also provided textural interest. The only missing element was perhaps a bit of fruit. Thanks to the recent trade agreement between the U.S. and India, Alfonso, Kesar and Banganpally mangoes will soon be in season.


1 cup cooked Jasmine or Basmati rice
1/3 cup light coconut milk, well-shaken
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/3 cup chopped mango (optional)

Put the rice in a bowl. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar. Add the optional mango. Pour the coconut milk over the rice. Sprinkle with the salt.

Note: Regular and light coconut milk can be found in the Asian section of your market. Do not use "cream of coconut" which has sugar added. It's fine for pina coladas and some desserts and is usually found in the liquor section.

Fleur de sel or "flower of salt" is so named because it smells like violets when harvested. It's a coarse, unprocessed, hand-gathered salt (which involves raking the top layer of crystals from salt beds), so it tends to be expensive, but a little goes a long way. Its delicate flavor adds brightness and brings out the flavors of whatever you're serving. Its crunch adds textural contrast. Maldon sea salt is a good substitute. Finishing salts are just that -they're meant to be added to a dish just before serving. Some finishing salts have a smokey taste (such as Hawaiian black salt) and others are an eye-catching red, pink (such as Himalayan), or orange. Each has a distinctive flavor (coarse grey sea salt has a briny taste) and use. They can be found at Whole Foods, Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma, Dean & DeLuca, and at several online outlets.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Emergency Blender Chocolate Cupcakes: Zap-Zap! You're Ready to Bake!

Last month I was looking for a dessert recipe as a take-along for an impromtu celebration. It was already the middle of the afternoon and I was up against the clock. Fortunately, I had clipped a recipe for "Emergency Blender Cupcakes" from the Chicago Tribune and tucked it in my "Chocolate Desserts" file. I'm so glad I did because not only were these the easiest cupcakes I'd ever made, they were the best - chocolately and moist through and through. I've made them three times since and they've been perfect each time. They can be made in a blender or a bowl - either way, it's a snap. The best part? The ingredients were already in my pantry - no special trips to the market! There's no doubt that these delectable treats are now my "go to" recipe for chocolate cupcakes.

The recipe was created by pastry chef and cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Abby Dodge is also a contributing editor at Fine Cooking magazine and founded the magazine's test kitchen. After college, Abby studied pastry-making in Paris at LaVarenne and later worked under Michelin 3-star chefs Michel Guérard and Guy Savoy. Despite her rigorous formal training and high-end experience, Abby likes to bake approachable comfort desserts on a regular basis (perhaps because she's also a mom). This streamlined chocolate cupcake recipe appears in her book "The Weekend Baker", a warm and friendly volume written for home bakers. Abby was kind enough to grant me permission to publish the recipe, which includes the equally quick and delicious "Fudgy Frosting". Thanks Abby!

The recipe here is exactly as written by Abby Dodge. If I'm in a hurry, I make the frosting first, to give it a chance to set up. Please see my notes at the end of the recipe.


1 cup (4-1/2 ounces/128 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1-1/2 ounces/43 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder* (not Dutch process), sifted if lumpy
1 cup (8 ounces/227 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/175 ml) hot water
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/117 ml) canola or corn oil
1 large egg
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 375 degrees (190°C). Line 12 regular-sized muffin cups with paper or foil liners.

Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt in a blender (I combine the dry ingredients in a 4-cup Pyrex® glass measuring cup and whisk them together and then pour the mixture into the blender). Cover with the lid and blend on medium speed until blended. Pour in the water, oil, egg, and vanilla. Cover with the lid and blend on medium-high until smooth and well blended, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Alternatively, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl (one with a pouring spout and handle would be ideal). Whisk until blended. Pour in the water, oil, and vanilla. Add the egg and whisk until blended, about one minute.

Pour into the lined muffin cups, dividing evenly. Bake until a tooth-pick or cake tester inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes, and then carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and set them on the rack to cool completely. (At this point, the unfrosted cupcakes can be covered in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)


8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet chocolate*, finely chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup (8 fluid ounces/233 ml) sweetened condensed (not evaporated) milk; measure carefully - do not use the entire can of milk
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/58ml) light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt

While the cupcakes are baking, melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave. Add the condensed milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until blended. Set aside at room temperature, whisking frequently. It will continue to thicken as it cools. When the frosting is completely cool, cover the bowl with plastic wrap until the cupcakes are completely cool and ready to frost. No need to refrigerate. (At this point, the cooled frosting can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring the frosting to room temperature before using it.)

Using a small spatula or table knife (I use a small offset cake spatula), spread 2-3 tablespoons frosting on top of each cupcake. (You can also pipe the frosting through a pastry bag with a star tip for a fancier look.) Dust with colored sprinkles, if desired.

*Notes: I use Hershey's natural cocoa for this recipe and it works perfectly. Semisweet chocolate works as well as bittersweet. I've found that there's no need to finely chop the chocolate. I just use an 8-ounce scored bar and break it into 4 pieces. Use the bowl method if your blender container is on the small side or if your blender motor labors a bit. I actually make 11 cupcakes from this recipe which produces a slightly taller end-product. If you make 11 cupcakes, be sure to fill the remaining empty cup with water so it doesn't burn in the oven. Feel free to frost with a recipe of your own choosing. For some reason, guys like chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream - but for me, it's got to be chocolate!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Strozzapreti with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

You might want to strangle your parish priest for putting you through those long homilies every Sunday, but why not invite him to dinner instead? You may be able to persuade him to cut his sermon time in half (and spend more time on the golf course) by plying him with a little pasta and wine. May I suggest Strozzapreti with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon? Never heard of this strange sounding pasta?

Strozzapreti means "strangle the priest" or "priest choker" in Italian. There are several legends to explain its origin. One is that in the Italian countryside, it's the custom to invite the parish priest for Sunday dinner. As the priest is often poor, he rarely buys meat. The host, in an effort to conserve the roast, fills the priest with pasta to the choking point during the first course so he won't overindulge on the meat during the second course.

Strozzapreti is a handmade rustic pasta that hails from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy near the top of the boot - the same region that produces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, Prosciutto di Parma, and Tagliatelle alla Bolognese - so it's in good company. It's hand-rolled into irregular cylinders about three inches long, but is rarely uniform in size. The food purveyors at Dean & DeLuca call it "penne with an attitude". It's a bit capricious as it doesn't always cook evenly so you have to watch it carefully while cooking - better a little underdone than mushy. Test a couple of the cylinders to make sure they are "al dente".

Although it may be hard to find at big chain grocers, Strozzapreti is available at Williams-Sonoma, Dean & DeLuca, and many other speciality food markets. I have found it without difficulty at the gourmet market at Sam's Wines & Spirits in the Chicago area.

I like the combination of asparagus and smoked salmon at this time of year when fresh asparagus is readily available. You may substitute a pound of shrimp (toss the raw shrimp in at the same time as the asparagus) for the salmon or whatever will encourage your parish priest (or any clergyperson) to get off the pulpit sooner. It can be served as a first course or for lunch, as well as a main dish. Pair with a Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay.


1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely snipped chives
1 lb. strozzapreti or penne pasta
2 lbs fresh asparagus, trimmed and diagonally cut into 2-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup low salt chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
juice and rind (colored part only) of 1 large lemon
4-6 oz. smoked salmon, cut into julienne strips
freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and chives and stir until the crumbs brown, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender and the pasta is al dente, about 5-8 minutes (watch carefully). Drain the pasta and the asparagus and return to the pot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add the warm cream and the remaining ingredients to the pot and toss well with the burner on low until heated through. Add the bread crumb-chive mixture and a few grinds of the pepper and toss again. Serve immediately.

Today's post is dedicated to the memory of Reverend Victor J. Sivore. Father Sivore was half Irish, half Italian and one hundred percent lovable. He was a dear friend and a wonderful priest and shepherd. Wherever you are Vic, mangia, mangia!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spanish Rice and Turkey Brazil

My college experience was a remarkably happy one. I attended a small Catholic institution 30 miles from Chicago. The school was a little gem residing in an idyllic setting. Our enrollment was under 800 and we had a faculty-student ratio of 11 to 1. Everybody knew your name - from the college president to the guy who trimmed the bushes. We were a family in a nurturing - albeit academically rigorous - environment. It was nearly perfect. There was only one drawback: the cafeteria food. Suffice to say that there were many plaintive calls to home asking for pizza money.

In the best of circumstances, institutional food is rarely desirable. In the worst, it isn't even identifiable. I have a vivid recollection of my first day on campus eyeing a large container of carrot-raisin salad when one of the "raisins" flew right out of the bowl. I'll pass, thank you. Then there was the taupe gelatin mold. I like taupe in a suit or a sofa, but not as jello. How did the food service come to such a hue? By melting red, green, and yellow leftover gelatin and recasting it - an effort toward recycling food to save money. The addition of canned fruit cocktail with its day-glo red cherries didn't help and made the whole thing look like it came out of a bad horror movie such as "The Revenge of the Cafeteria Workers". It was a shimmering, wiggling, rubbery mass that might be mistaken as the result of nuclear fallout. A biological hazard with a seemingly long half-life. With the exception of the cottage cheese, the "salad" table, as far as I was concerned, was officially off-limits.

There were a few highlights and we always had the makings of a PB&J sandwich. Saturday was "steak and shrimp" night and although the steaks were something like "grade x", the french fried shrimp were acceptable and with a little cocktail sauce and a squirt of lemon, were pretty tasty. The sour cream and butter laden baked potatoes passed muster and there was chocolate cake and ice cream, with seconds if you were so inclined (I was) - but only on Saturdays. I was young and lean and had the metobolism of a roadrunner so I could put down a fair amount of groceries. My third floor dorm mates and I would often eat dinner at 5 and then order a couple of large pizzas or a sack of Italian beef sandwiches to be consumed during the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" in the early evening. "Creature Features" came on at 10:30 and we'd contentedly munch on candy bars while we watched monster movies and wondered if the gelatin mold would show up as one of the characters.

One of the things that human beings seem to need is certitude. It's the reason we're hooked on routines. Certitude gives us security and makes us feel safe - most of the time. Among the cafeteria constants were Spanish Rice and Turkey Brazil. You could count on their presence as surely as night follows day. In fact, Spanish Rice was served every day at lunch and dinner during my entire four years as a student. I have nothing against Spanish Rice - but every day for heaven's sake? The "Turkey Brazil" was another matter. It was served no less than three times per week, the only constant being the water chestnuts - the rest was unknown - worthy of a spot on "Unsolved Mysteries".

How the food service came up with the name "Turkey Brazil" is also a mystery. I suppose it just sounded more exotic than "This Week's Leftovers Casserole". I doubt the Brazilians have such a dish, although they have a heady sugarcane spirit called cachaça which makes a potent drink called caipirinha. It's a wonderful drink going down but if you're not careful, you'll wind up with a rubber mallet headache for days. I never actually ate the Turkey Brazil as I didn't think food should be frightening. A classmate once tried to salvage it with a healthy dose of Tabasco, but it was a lost cause.

Sadly, the college has closed and the cheerful cafeteria with its beautiful view is a distant memory. There were some good times in that dining hall, like the turkey-with-all-the-trimmings banquet the week before Thanksgiving break and the pie eating contest, which I won my junior year (OK, I got sick but it was worth the pain). I remember the "all-you-can-eat-sundae" Sundays and sitting around the cafeteria after breakfast with my classmates trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe. A few years ago, I returned to the college for a big reunion. It was a three-day affair with the Saturday luncheon being served in the cafeteria. On that day, I half expected to see Spanish Rice and Turkey Brazil. Instead, I found a lovely catered event with white tablecloths and flowers, proving that you can indeed go home again, but it just won't be the same.

Like most people, I have a few regrets - things I might have done. I often wonder if I'd started a pizza business in a college town, if I would have been able to retire years ago.