Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sparkling strawberry lemonade

Sparkling strawberry lemonade by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Here's a cooling taste of summer for a Fourth of July holiday weekend: Fill a tall glass pitcher with Fizzy Strawberry Lemonade, easily assembled from ingredients from your freezer and pantry.

Fizzy Strawberry Lemonade

• 1 pound bag frozen strawberries, slightly thawed

• 1 (12 ounce) container frozen lemonade concentrate

• 2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste

• 3 cups club soda, chilled

• Fresh strawberries for garnish, optional


1. Place frozen berries in glass container and defrost on 50 percent power for two minutes.

2. Place berries and lemonade concentrate in glass container and blend thoroughly together, about 30 seconds. Add sugar, taste and add more, keeping in mind it will be diluted with club soda. At this point, the mixture can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated until ready to serve.

3. When ready to serve, pour strawberry lemonade mixture into glass pitcher and add club soda, in equal parts. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh strawberries.

Lemons by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Strawberries by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Keen on quinoa

Suddenly, I'm crazy for quinoa...
Quinoa salad with chickpeas, lemon and mint by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

This week, I made a light-tasting, but filling quinoa salad with a refreshing hit of mint, dressed with lemon. No oil, and I didn't miss it. This salad is adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s “Splendid Table” newsletter. Do you listen to Lynne? I try and catch her program when the show airs on Saturdays. I also download the podcasts to listen to when I’m working in the kitchen. Aside from the delight of listening to her velvety voice talk about food, Lynne has an infectious laugh. She also talks about food in a way that makes me want to take notes and get into my kitchen and cook. Her book “The Splendid Table: How to Eat Supper” written with her producer Sally Swift is just like the radio show, but with pictures – you will absolutely find a new family favorite in there. My favorite find so far is a new technique for garlic bread that turns out great every time.

The quinoa salad recipe came across my radar on a day when I knew I needed to clean out my refrigerator and pantry. Scanning the recipe, which began as a couscous salad with beans, I knew I had all the veggies called for, plus a can of chickpeas. But I didn’t have the couscous. Instead, I had quinoa. Have you tried quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)? It’s one of those good-and-good-for-you grains (okay, technically a seed) that we hear about, but don’t necessarily go the extra step and toss a box into the grocery basket. Here’s a reason to toss it into your basket on your next grocery visit  - the grains cook in 15 minutes and taste great. You may think they taste nutty, but if you ask me, quinoa is all about the texture – plus that cute little white curl of germ that pops out of the hull. Nutritionally speaking, quinoa is a complete protein, so even though we’re pairing it with beans, it would fill you up anyway, the beans are just a bonus. Quinoa is also gluten-free (two words that do not pop up on my blog very often, but probably should). It’s a good source of fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. In summary: you can feel good about your dose of quinoa.

Summer Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Mint

Juice of one-half lemon

½ large shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

3 cups cooked quinoa (from one cup, uncooked)

1 stalk celery, cut into ¼ inch dice

¼ cup raisins

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

¼ cup mint leaves, rolled tightly and sliced in a chiffonade

¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped, (optional)

1. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, shallot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and let stand while you pull together the rest of the dish.

2. Add the quinoa, chickpeas, celery, raisins, mint and olives, if using. Toss together. Taste for seasoning and add remaining salt and pepper, or maybe lemon juice, if needed. Serve at room temperature or place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve. If seving from the refrigerator, let it sit for a few minutes to shake off the chill - this salad is best at room temp.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lemon love affair continues: Lemon Ice cream

Lemon Ginger Ice Cream by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
If you're a regular reader of A Cook and Her Books, then you've already seen this ice cream - it's the melting blob in the puddle of Blackberry Doobie, a delicious old-fashioned and very Southern dessert. (Preserve a bit of Southern history and make it with the fresh blackberries in the markets now.)

Blackberry Doobie with Lemon Ginger Ice Cream by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
This ice cream makes me so happy that I just feel the need to give it its own post, its own little corner of the blogosphere. Because, you know, when life gives you lemons...

You haul out the Krups, the eggs and the half-n-half and make Lemon Ice Cream!

Lemon-Ginger Ice Cream
The ginger is optional, but quite delicious. Look for candied ginger near the Asian ingredients.(You can also make your own candied by ginger by cooking sliced ginger in a sugar syrup.)

3 lemons, zested and juiced

2/3 cup sugar

4 cups half-and-half, divided

5 egg yolks, whites saved for another purpose (angel food cake!)

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 2-inch slices crystallized ginger, finely diced, divided

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 cup of half-and-half, the sugar, the lemon zest and ½ of the chopped, crystallized ginger. Stir with a whisk until sugar is dissolved and let it come to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick and lemony in color. Slowly add the half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats a spoon. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl.

3. Add ½ cup of lemon juice, the vanilla, and the remaining chopped, crystallized ginger to the strained custard, whisking until combined. Add 3 cups half-and-half, whisking again. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Store in airtight container in freezer.

Lemons by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Glazed Lemon Cookies by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 It's easier to bake in the summer than the colder months. I know that sounds strange, but with the busy-ness of the school year, baking projects tend to be rushed and compartmentalized, without the spontaneous "gee, I think I'll bake cookies today" moments that I love. So, even though it heats up the house, we're baking cookies today - the homemade slice and bake kind. And they're lemon - which is turning out to be my theme ingredient this year - lemon glazed tea loaves, lemon ice cream, lemon pound cake, lemon pudding...

Glazed Lemon Cookies

adapted from Susan Purdy's The Family Baker

Yield: about 40 cookies

Cookie dough

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon baking soda


3/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. For the cookies: In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and well blended. Beat in the egg, lemon extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Scrape down the bowl and beater and add flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch and baking soda, beating everything together until fully incorporated.

2. Dust a countertop with a small amount of flour and turn dough out. Knead lightly and shape into a log. I like a square cookie, so I square the edges. You can divide the dough into two logs, if that works better for your refrigerator. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. You can also double wrap the dough logs, place in a freezer container, label and freeze for up to 2 months. If using frozen dough, set out on counter while the oven preheats, to make the dough easier to slice.

3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. Place cookie dough log on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice 1/4-inch slices. Place on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 or until the cookies are a light golden brown on the edges. While cookies are baking, make glaze by combining lemon juice, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest. Use a spatula to gently remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place them on a wire rack set over wax paper or foil (to catch drips) to cool slightly. Use a brush to spread glaze on cookies while they're still warm. Let cookies dry and place them in airtight containers for storage.  It's a good idea to put parchment paper or waxed paper between the layers of cookies.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mulligatawny: Indian-spiced chicken soup

Mulligatawny by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Mulligatawny, the richly flavored Indian-Anglo soup is so much fun to say, it's almost disappointing to find out the mellifluous name just means "pepper water" in Tamil. It still means delicious.

This curry-spiced soup is loaded with vegetables like carrots, celery, red pepper and onion and makes a convenient weeknight meal. The apple may seem an unusual ingredient, but it blends into the flavorful broth and lends body and sweetness to the dish. Look for curry powder in the spice aisle of the supermarket - I like to order curry powder from Penzey's Spices, also.

Mulligatawny (Indian-Spiced Chicken Soup)

recipe adapted from Family Fun magazine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced 1/4 inch

2 carrots, diced 1/4 inch

1 stalk celery, diced 1/4 inch

1 red pepper, diced 1/4 inch

1 apple, cored, peeled and diced 1/4 inch

1/2 cup flour

3 teaspoons sweet curry powder

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, homemade if you have it

1 (14 1/2 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes

2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced 1/2 inch

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups hot cooked rice to accompany

1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, pour in olive oil. Add onion, carrots, celery, red pepper and apple and saute for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.

2. Turn the heat to low and add the flour and curry powder. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and diced tomatoes and simmer for a half hour. Stir in cooked chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let soup simmer for up to an hour - the flavors will continue to develop as it cooks at a low temperataure. Serve with hot cooked rice.

Text and images copyright 2011 by Lucy Mercer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blueberry and Lemon Buttermilk Scones

Blueberry and lemon buttermilk scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
I was asked last week how I relieved stress and I replied "bubble baths." I really should have said "fantasizing about blueberries," because that's what I do. Not in the "Why Violet, you're turning violet!" way from "Willy Wonka," but in the "when I retire from this rat race, I'm going all Lisa Douglas and I'm going to buy a blueberry farm." An organic blueberry farm, with U-pick days in summer and a little shed where I can sell blueberry fried pies, blueberry ice cream parfaits and my fresh-baked blueberry scones.

I'll wear a blue-checked apron and a bandana in my hair, and let people call me "Miss Lucy, the blueberry  lady," and I'll be famous for my Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones. Just thinking about my blueberry days calms me, but I do find myself with the craving for blueberry scones.

My blueberry scones are pretty much the bee's knees, tender and flaky, buttery and just sweet enough. I use my standard buttermilk scone dough, folding in frozen berries from last summer (I use fresh when I have them) and the zest of a lemon, laminating the berries in the dough. I brush them with a buttermilk wash and sprinkle demerara sugar over the tops, for a little bit of sweet crunch as you bite into the tender scone.

Here is my scone shaping method:

1.  I begin by pressing the dough into a rectangle roughly 12 X 6 inches. (I used to have ruler in my kitchen drawer that was quite useful in these situations, but it was used for a homework project and never returned. I'm sure this never happens to you. A chopstick, conveniently, makes an adequate stand-in.)
Buttermilk scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

2. I scatter a cup of frozen blueberries over the dough, followed by the zest of a lemon.
Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 3. I use my hands to firmly press the berries into the dough.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 4.  Fold the dough into thirds, letter-style, over the middle third.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer//A Cook and Her Books

5. Fold the remaining third over the middle.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 6. Turn the dough and press into a rough rectangle approximately 12 X 6 inches.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 7. Repeat the letter-folding. One-third over middle third.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
8. Final third over middle third. Just push any errant berries firmly back into the dough.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 9. And press back into the familiar 12 X 6 inch rectangle.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 10. Preheat oven to 400 and have a lined baking sheet nearby. I use Silpat liners, but parchment paper will work, too. Using a sharp knife, cut dough in half cross-wise.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 11. Then half each half. In other words, you want four equal sections of dough.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
12. Cut each fourth lengthwise, for a total of eight sections.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 13. Cut each eighth diagonally in half, for a total of 16 scones.

Blueberry scone dough by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

14. Enter the helper, looking for a job. In addition to cracking eggs, she is quite skilled at "painting dough."

Kitchen helper by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

15. Brush the scones with buttermilk. You may also use cream or half-n-half or make even make an egg wash.

Painting the scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 16. Sprinkle demerara sugar over the tops of scones. Granulated sugar will work, too.

Sprinkling the sugar by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
17. Bake scones at 400 for 15 minutes.

Blueberry lemon scones fresh from the oven by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
   Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones
A key to tender scones is to shred frozen butter into the dry ingredients. I store butter in the freezer, so this is usually convenient. In the wintertime, when my house is at 68 degrees, I can by using butter straight from the refrigerator, but in the summer, when the house is at 78 degrees, frozen butter makes a big difference.

3 cups  unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon. salt

2 1/2 teaspoons. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon. baking soda

3/4 cup unsalted butter, frozen

1 1/4 cups buttermilk, plus extra

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Zest of 1 lemon

Half and half or milk or cream for glazing, optional

Demerara or sparkle sugar for glazing

1. In a batter bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Using a regular grater, shred the frozen butter and lightly mix the shavings into the dry ingredients. Using your hands and a gentle, quick touch, make sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture.

2. Pour in the buttermilk and stir gently with either a wooden spoon or my instrument of choice, a silicone spatula. If mixture seems dry, add additional buttermilk until a cohesive dough forms. The dough should be slightly wet and sticky, but not overly so.

3. On a floured countertop, press dough into a rough 12 X 6 inch rectangle and follow shaping instructions above. Fold in 1 cup blueberries and lemon zest, then fold into thirds, letter-style. Press into 12 X 6 rectange again and fold letter-style again. Press again into a 12 X 6 rectangle and cut into 16 triangles. Place scones on a lined baking sheet. The scones can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 24 hours.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully brush each wedge with buttermilk or cream and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake at 400 for at least 15 minutes. They may need a bit more time, depending on your oven, convection, etc. Scones are ready when they are golden brown on top and bounce back when touched lightly in the center.

Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My favorite banana bread

Banana Bread by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Banana bread is a humble but reliable creation, and because it uses dead-ripe bananas, it's the frugal baker's best friend. There are hundreds of variations of this basic quick bread, probably the first baking project most young cooks will try at home. I'm not the most accomplished baker, but after 30 years in the kitchen, I still make banana bread. Primarily due to the fact that we always buy bananas at the store, and frequently they get too ripe for our tender palates. I have a drawer in the bottom of my freezer where I stash the overripe fruit. Every now and then, especially when I have buttermilk on hand, I will make this easy banana bread and enjoy it warm from the oven, crumbly and tender, with a cup of tea. And maybe a shmear of softened cream cheese.

This recipe is from a cookbook from Pleasant Hill, the Shaker community in Kentucky. Appropriately, it's a simple bread, not gussied up with spices or nuts or chocolate, although it could be a blank canvas for experimentation. I usually double it, to use up more bananas and buttermilk. The instruction for adding the leavening is unusual - first add one cup of flour, then stir baking soda and salt into the remaining flour before adding to the batter.

Best Ever Banana Bread

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 bananas, mashed, to equal 1 cup

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Cream butter and sugar in bowl with electric mixer. Beat in eggs and bananas. Add one cup of the flour and half of the buttermilk alternately. Add salt and soda to remaining flour. Stir in second flour mixture and end with remaining buttermilk. Turn into well-greased 9 X 5 loaf pan. Bake at 325 for one hour (per cookbook, mine take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes to bake).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cumin-kissed sweet potato soup

Sweet Potato Bisque with Cumin by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

It’s hotter than H-E-double hockey sticks outside, and I’m in the mood for soup. Since the highs are in the upper 90s with Code Orange smog alerts, we venture out in the early mornings and evenings and soak up chilled, conditioned indoor air through the heat of the day. It may not be cool enough indoors for a sweater, but a bowl of creamy, light soup seems just right for lunch.

In honor of the Code Orange smog alert, (and I may be making that up, because it reminds me of the terror alerts, so I’ll just say that the outside air is bad), I made a creamy vegetable soup with roasted sweet potatoes, scented with cumin and finished with plain, non-fat yogurt. I really want to call this soup a bisque, even though a proper bisque uses a seafood broth. The milky, peachy hue is reminiscent of a shrimp bisque.

This soup comes together easily, especially if you use leftover roasted sweet potatoes. When dinner’s in the oven, I’ll pull out a few potatoes, prick them with a fork, place them on a baking tray (or in a foil packet) and let them cook alongside the meal, 30 minutes in a moderate oven usually does the trick. The cooked potatoes can be wrapped up and refrigerated for a few days before creating this soup.

Sweet potato bisque with cumin

The cumin gives it a little zip, but if you’re not a fan, just leave it out and perhaps experiment with something else from the herb garden or spice rack. Thyme? Cilantro? Lemon verbena?

1 lb. sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large shallot, minced

3 cups water

1/2 vegetable bouillon cube

1 teaspoon cumin

1 cup non-fat plain yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Pierce sweet potatoes with fork or knife and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender. Test for doneness by inserting a knife or fork into the tuber – it’s done when completely tender. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat olive oil and sautee shallot until tender. Add water, bouillon cube and cumin and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

3. Squeeze sweet potato flesh into bowl of a food processor fitted with blade. Process for 30 seconds, to create a smooth puree. Gradually add seasoned broth to puree, processing until smooth. Add yogurt and process for about 10 seconds. Adjust seasoning and serve. Garnish with fresh herbs – I used parsley from my porch garden.

I used vegetable bouillon, one of my favorite shortcut tricks to add flavor to soups. If you have homemade vegetable or chicken broth, go right ahead and use that. Water will work fine, too.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Squash Soup

Summer Squash Soup with Thyme by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
They're here! I waited patiently through January's snowstorms and April's terrifying thunderstorms and now the lazy, hazy days of summer are finally here. Well, with two active kids, we're not really lazy, but we're certainly more relaxed. No setting of alarms to get us out of bed before the sun rises, no afternoon carpool lines at the school. It's time to enjoy the summer and all the good stuff that comes with June: flip-flops, Mary Kay Andrews' beach books, and farmers' market tables full of produce. At my local farmers' market, I pick up a big ol' bag of yellow crookneck squash and make this only-in-summer soup. Some folks may think soup is just for wintertime, but I eat it all year long. This pureed soup reminds me of squash casserole, but without the cream-of-whatever soup and stale cornbread dressing crumbs. It's summer in a bowl.

Summer Squash Soup

1 1/2 pounds summer squash

1 medium yellow onion, preferably Vidalia, peeled and roughly chopped

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 sprigs fresh thyme or lemon thyme

4 to 6 cups water

1/2 cube vegetable bouillon, such as Knorr, see note below

1 cup cream or half-n-half

1. Wash and peel summer squash, roughly chop and set aside.

2. In a soup pot, melt butter. When foaming, add onion and cook until melted and soft, but not brown. Add squash and continue cooking until soft.

3. Add enough water to cover vegetables. Season with vegetable boullion, two thyme sprigs, salt and pepper, going easy on the salt. I like a lot of pepper in this soup.

4. Let cook for about 20 minutes until vegetables are very tender and broth is flavorful. Using a slotted spoon, remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Scoop up vegetables and puree them in a food processor or blender. Stir puree back into the seasoned broth in the pot and heat over a gentle flame. Thin soup with cream or half n half. Season to taste and serve with a thyme garnish.

Note: I keep vegetable bouillon cubes on hand to add depth of flavor to soups and sauces. You could substitute chicken or vegetable broth for the water and bouillon, or simply use water. As the kids say, it's all good.
Summer Squash Soup with Thyme by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blonde Faith, Garden & Gun

I spent the day getting beautiful, not in Miss Truvy's House of Hair, but Miss Tracy's big chair for hair. I'm now blonder than I've ever been in my life, with a shorter, bouncier layered bob. Whenever I'm in Miss Tracy's shop, either for my self or my girls' haircuts, I pick up a magazine and I love that there's usually a copy of Garden & Gun around. I've read this magazine since the premiere issue in 2007, and it keeps getting better and better.

I must declaim right now that I'm not crazy about the title for several reasons - it's not really about gardens or guns, and the jobbers who place magazines on racks never know where to shelve it - with the gardening magazines, gun magazines, or outdoors stuff. It's never where it should be - with the literary mags like my other favorite mag, Oxford American. I guess if I had to describe G&G, it would be as the lovechild of Southern Living and Oxford American. Gorgeous photography, brimming over with sense of place, and absolute Southern-fried literary merit.

Back in Miss Tracy's, I tucked my foiled-up head under the dryer and prepared for some enjoyable reading. I have a quirk, reading magazines from back to front, and there on the last page I was treated to a delightful essay by Roy Blount Jr. that involved cameras stealing his soul, his enlarged pores, and two escapees from "Deliverance" named Caleb and Rupe.

After Roy, I skimmed the "Best of the South in the summer" feature and landed on Lee Smith's story about her mother wanting to make her into a lady. I've had a writer crush on Lee Smith ever since reading "Fair and Tender Ladies" a decade ago. About that time, I went to a bookseller's conference and got to hear her albino squirrel story from her days as a local newspaper reporter. My local newspaper reporter stories are not nearly as funny as the albino squirrel in a bag story. I got just two pages into Smith's saga of her parents' passionate relationship when my blonding time was up and I was on to rinsing, cutting, drying, curling, spraying and paying. Miss Tracy was a sweetheart and let me bring the magazine home but only if I promised to return it.

If you like a magazine you can get lost in, pick up Garden & Gun. And if you're looking for a great novel, pick up Lee Smith's "On Agate Hill," oh my goodness I could go on and on about that one.