Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vegan Moroccan Lentil Stew

Several days ago, I was sitting in my cubicle minding my own business when my co-worker Abby barged into my personal space, thrusting a Styrofoam cup just south of my nose.

“Try this.”
I was about to slap her about, this way and that, for intruding unannounced in such an unwelcome manner.  However, as I raised my hand above my head to strike, the scent of cumin and coriander tickled my nostrils.  After a few tense moments, I quickly shelved my offensive game plan in favor of a ‘waiting and holding’ pattern.
“This is really good.   You’ll love it.”
As the warm aroma of spices continued to permeate my outer defenses, threatening to deactivate my deflector shield, I relaxed my clenched fist, reached timidly for the cup, and queried my colleague.
“What’s this?”
“Moroccan lentil soup.”
She offered me a plastic spoon, which I plunged curiously into the concoction of veggies and lentils, giving a few cautious stirs.  Finally, I relented and took a hearty spoonful.   Within moments, the savory combination of veggies, lentils and spices, warmed my palate… eventually hypnotizing my belly.
“Oh, that’s good!”
I shoveled the remainder of my generous sample around the bottom of the cup, inspecting the variety of veggies present in the mix.
“Is that cauliflower?  It is… And kale!”
“The original recipe called for spinach.  But I thought that kale would hold up better since it’s a bit more toothsome.”
“Good call.”
I loaded up the spoon and wolfed down another satisfying bolus, finishing off with an obnoxious slurp.
“That’s repulsive…  And so are you.”
“Yes.  Yes, I am.”
A lump of half-chewed cauliflower and lentil plummeted from the side of my mouth onto my desk, as I continued masticating the remainder of the delicious soup.  After bathing off my the soiled corners of my mouth with a wet corner of paper towel, which I’d dipped into my mug of water, Abby revealed that she'd discovered the recipe in the January 2013 issue of ‘Eating Well’, one of the magazines to which we subscribe in our department.  She was even kind enough to make me a copy, in spite of my abhorrent, gluttonous display.

I perused the recipe as I gulped down more water.  Carrots, onions, garlic, cauliflower…   lentils, of course.  And a great mix of spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon.  The presence of turmeric was especially satisfying to me, as Dr. Michael Greger had recently run a three-part series of videos about the cancer-fighting properties of this wondrous spice over at

In the first video, ‘Back to Our Roots: Curry and Cancer’, Dr. Greger introduces population-based data showing that some of the most common cancers in the Western world are much less prevalent in regions where turmeric is a dietary staple…   in this case, India.  While he stresses that many factors may be at play, cautioning that “population studies can’t prove a correlation between dietary turmeric and decreased cancer risk,” he gives credit to these types of studies for the role they’ve played in leading to further research.

In the second video, ‘Carcinogen Blocking Effects of Turmeric’, he describes how curcumin, the yellow pigment found in turmeric, is currently a subject of great interest to the National Cancer Institute for its potential role in blocking every stage of cancer transformation, proliferation, and invasion.  He highlights a study in which a group of smokers pee on bacteria in a petri dish over the course of a month, while consuming less than a teaspoon of turmeric per day.  The results were significant, revealing that the number of DNA mutations in the bacteria decreased steadily and significantly over the 30-day period. 

In the third video, ‘Turmeric Curcumin Reprogramming Cancer Cell Death’, he investigates the role that curcumin plays in activating the death receptors within cancer cells, keeping them under control, and ultimately leading to their destruction.  The specific review he focuses on shows that, “…curcumin can kill a wide variety of tumor cell types through diverse mechanisms.  And it's because curcumin can affect numerous mechanisms of cell death at the same time, it's possible that cancer cells may not easily develop resistance to curcumin-induced cell death, like they do to most chemotherapy.”

I had been made aware of the cancer-killing power of turmeric from some of Dr. Greger’s previous vidoes, and this three-part series was enough to make me want to include some of this mellow yellow spice within my diet several times a week.  Throw in the cauliflower and kale, whose anti-cancerous benefits have been demonstrated repeatedly in research, and you have a concoction that the Big Pharma would just love to patent, bottle up, and sell during pink ribbon month.

Luckily for us, drug companies can’t make any money selling turmeric for $3,000/month as an anti-cancer drug when we can buy it in the spice aisle any time we want for just a few dollars.  Of course, a soup can have all the cancer-fighting power in the world.   But that rings hollow if it just tastes like chunky mush.  Fortunately, that’s not the case with this soup, which happens to be absolutely delicious.

It was so good that I decided to forward the recipe to my wife the very next day, as she still hadn’t decided what to make for dinner that evening.  Within a few minutes, she texted me her approval, indicating that she’d make a big batch to last us for the next few nights.

When we sat down to enjoy several bowls on the first night, I was amazed at how flavorful the soup was after just a few hours on the stove.  Most soups taste best after all of the ingredients and spices can fester, meld, and make sweet love in a big vat for at least twenty-four hours.  However, this was delicious right away, and it was just as good for the next evening’s dinner, as well as several days’ worth of lunches at the office.

While the original recipe is available online at Eating Well’s website, you can find our version down below, with the few modifications that we've made.

Vegan Moroccan Lentil Stew


  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups chopped cauliflower (about 1/2 medium)
  • 1 3/4 cups lentils
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups chopped kale with the stems removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; add onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add broth, water, cauliflower, lentils, tomatoes and tomato paste; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, 45 to 55 minutes.  Stir in kale and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, stir in cilantro and lemon juice.

Just as good for lunch the next day...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thoughtful, Unexpected Gestures: Part II...

Portobello Frites in a Red Wine Reduction served with Spiced Little Carrots over a Sauerkraut Chickpea Puree

Click Here for Part I.
"Of course, you know what would be really nice as a way to repay my generosity?" I asked, thinking back to the March 2013 issue of Cooking Light, which we'd both perused just over a week ago. 
“You mean…, ” her enthusiasm tailed off mid-sentence, “you can’t do something nice without expecting a favor in return?” 
“Sure I can.  But this is something we’d both enjoy,” I offered reassuringly. 
“What…,” she paused as I flashed my charming grin, “…do you want me to make?” 
“Well remember those recipes from Vedge in Cooking Light?”
There was an extensive write-up in the March issue about Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, chef-owners of Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia, along with several of their signature recipes that looked delicious.  Back in November, we had tried to make dinner reservations on the Saturday evening before the Philadelphia Marathon, which I would run the next morning.  Unfortunately, every available table had been booked for weeks.
“Which one do you want me to make?” 
“I was thinking of the portobello frites for the main course, and--,”
“…and the carrots of the chickpea puree thingie-mixture as a side.” 
“You want me to make two dishes from Vedge?” 
“Well, we need a side dish…,” I protested.  "Don’t we?” 
“Yes, I can make both dishes as long as you’re okay drinking Malbec instead of the Ommegang.  I think I need a half cup of red wine for the portobello reduction.” 
I had a 24-oz bottle of Ommegang Three Philosophers in the refrigerator that I’d been waiting to open for weeks; until that moment, I’d been hoping that Friday night was the big night. But the third rule of marriage… “When in doubt, compromise,” took precedence, in this instance.
“Yes, we can have Malbec with dinner,” I relented. 
“Thank you,” she said. “And thank you so much for painting. Of course we can have a Vedge dinner on Friday.”
She leaned in and gave me a quick peck on the cheek before scratching Indy behind the ears and heading upstairs to change into her pajamas.

The workday on Friday seemed to drag on forever. Eventually, five-thirty rolled around, and I was free for the weekend. While I was looking forward to dinner, what I was really craving after the long work week was a pint from the bottle of Ommegang that was taking up space on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. It’s not that I don’t like wine, but I usually drink it too quickly. And while a cold, frosty pint of beer tastes so much better after a long day, I planned to honor the promise I’d made to have wine with dinner.

As I opened up our back door and stepped inside, I was greeted by an array of mouth-watering aromas, the most discernible being the sauerkraut and red wine reduction. My wife was standing in front of the stove with her back to me.
“Mmmmm… That smells really good.” I stuck my nose into the open food processor, where the sauerkraut chickpea mixture was resting. “And what’s in here… Oooh, the carrots!” I dabbed an index finger into the marinade on the bottom of the baking dish, where the carrots had been festering in a garlic marinade for several hours. 
“Out… Out!” my wife barked, after kissing me on the cheek. “Out if the kitchen! Go change! I’m making your dinner!" 
“And those must be the portobello frites,” I said, leaning around her to peer at the mushroom caps that were about to go in the oven. “They look just like the pict--," 
“Out!” She slapped the top of my hand. “Go change. Your wine will be waiting for you when you come down."
I took my cue to scram and headed upstairs, with our gray and white cat Mookie hot on my heels, chattering, whining, and mewing, in hopes of some attention. The adoption certificate from our local humane society had indicated that Mookie was a cat, but for the almost ten years we’ve had him, he’s behaved more like a dog, loyally following us all around the house from room-to-room, playing fetch with foam golf balls, and flopping over on his back to invite us to rub his furry belly.

Actually, all of the cats that I’ve been fortunate enough to share space with over the years have been loyal and friendly, with wonderful personalities. The key to raising a pleasant kitty is to treat him like a member of the family, giving him plenty of love and attention. Kitty treats don’t hurt, either. In my experience, where there’s a miserable kitty, there’s always a miserable human being just a few feet away.

Rough life

Back downstairs in the kitchen, there was a surprise waiting on the counter. My wife must have been paying attention to my frequent comments about food photographs not looking very good on our multicolored Fiestaware plates. Next to my glass of wine were a pair of square white platters that I’d never seen before, much like the style in higher-end restaurants.
“What do you think?” she asked. “I got them on sale… dirt cheap."
“Nice,” I said, offering my approval. “Now your cooking will look like fine art.”
“Go pick some new music. I just need to assemble our plates. Then we can eat.”
With Mookie’s help, I selected an album from our jazz collection and loaded it into the CD player. No sooner had the plucking and twanging of Ray Brown’s upright bass begun permeating the room, my wife had dinner and wine waiting at the table at our respective seats.
“Dinner is served,” she announced formally. “Tonight’s specialty is portobello frites and spiced little carrots served over a sauerkraut-chickpea puree.”
I sat down at my place at the table and began observing the spread before me. A few moments elapsed into thirty seconds, which eventually turned into a full minute.

“Aren’t you going to try it?"“I’d like to,” I said. “But it looks so nice I don’t want to ruin it.”
“You don’t want the mushrooms to get cold,” she said, as she sipped her wine and cut a slice of mushroom, dipping it in a pool of red wine reduction. 
After another few moments, I picked my fork and began to eat, taking small bites so as not to overwhelm my palate with competing flavors. Everything was absolutely delicious. The mushroom was tender, flavorful, and perfectly cooked. The potatoes were golden and crispy, their unique texture most likely attributed to the steaming and pan-frying preparation method. And the carrots were a perfect complement to the sauerkraut chickpea puree. My wife commented that she never would have thought to mix sauerkraut into a hummus or bean blend, but it worked wonderfully. For the next several days, we used the leftover puree as a spread for our toasted bagels.

We said very little for the next twenty minutes as we gradually chipped away at our meals, occasionally emitting an “Ooooh,” an “Ahhhh”, or a “Wow this is good.”

We’re usually chatty eaters, but in this particular instance, we both wanted to focus on the smells, textures, and tastes of the wonderful meals before us. Once we were each down to just wine, I picked up my phone and texted pictures of our meal to our foodie friends Heidi and Jeff, who live up in Maine. Within minutes, the following exchange unfolded between Heidi and I:

One of the most satisfying aspects of adopting a mostly vegan, plant-based diet is the influence we’ve had on a small handful of friends and family in our lives. Aside from the positive physical and emotional effects that are experienced by those who eat this way, the benefits to our planet are nothing short of astounding. While it would be wonderful to think we can reach a large number of people at one time, the reality is that the way we’ve chosen to eat goes against conventional wisdom, against society, and against what most of us have been taught come to know as normal and healthy for our entire lives.

What each of us chooses to eat is a very personal decision, and it’s not right to preach and proselytize about something so sacred. All we can do is set a positive example and hope that others who are close to us see the benefits, become curious, and realize that they want to know more.

This is how Heidi and Jeff transitioned from steak and eggs to tofu and quinoa. They were searching for more from their diets, and they wanted their children to eat as healthfully as possible. After hearing my wife and I, along with my sister who initially inspired our own transition, rave about our new way of eating, they became curious, they began reading and doing their own research, and they experimented. 

Several years later, they’ve completely overhauled the way they eat, and the benefits that they’ve experienced, along with both of their children, are phenomenal. Like my wife and I, they’re not strict vegans. However, they’ve gradually transitioned to a plant-based diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes around ninety-five percent of the time. Perhaps five percent of their calories comes from animal protein, but this is negligible in the context of their overall diet. A few days later, I received the following text from Heidi:

As you can imagine, it’s extremely satisfying that the example we’ve set has helped to inspire just one other family to make a change for the better. This is enough to give us both hope that large-scale changes can eventually be made, even when the seeds are planted at the individual level.

After we’d had our seconds and cleaned up the dishes, we adjourned to the family room to enjoy homemade chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies with a final glass of Malbec. There was much to be thankful for that evening. We were thankful that Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby had a vision to create delicious food together and share it with the rest of the world. We were thankful that both of us were open-minded enough to realize several years ago that there is just possibly a better way to wellness. We were thankful for great friends who were inspired and excited by the path that we’ve chosen. Finally, we were thankful for thoughtful, unexpected gestures, which have the power to make our days just a bit brighter and more enjoyable.

And to think, our wonderful meal was possible, all because I decided to paint the stairs.

Pretty cool.

Links 'n Stuff

Portobello Frites - Courtesy of Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby
Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree - Courtesy of Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby
One Bowl Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies - Courtesy of Angela Liddon at

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Thoughtful, Unexpected Gestures: Part I...

The Stairs

Hmmmm...  There's got to be a good reason why this picture is here.

          Every man knows the most important rule of a successful marriage…
“Thou shalt never leave the toilet seat up
after conducting one’s business.”

However, coming in at a close second…

“Thou shalt make thoughtful gestures and give gifts,
both big and small, at expected as well as unexpected times,
during the course of the days, months, and years...
for as long as you are together.”

          For some women, finding a helicopter made of 87-karat gold hidden in a new walk-in closet constructed from endangered mink pelt would constitute a thoughtful, meaningful gesture.
          Fortunately for me, my wife’s expectations and tastes in gifts and gestures are a bit more modest and realistic.  When we were married back in 2007, she knew that I didn’t have any plans to deal heroin, so she doesn’t expect that she’ll ever step out the front door and trip over a new Maserati that I bought for her just because I was feeling generous.
          What that does mean is that I can score points in the marriage department with gifts and gestures that are sweet, thoughtful, and even practical.
          A few weeks ago, for instance, I took several hours out of my Saturday to replace our leaky garbage disposal.  While this gesture would fall in the department of expected and necessary, it’s nonetheless satisfying and even refreshing for a lady when she can rely on her man to replace a semi-major household appliance without flooding the kitchen, electrocuting himself, or burning the house down.  In all honesty, I also experienced quite a bit of self-satisfaction from this gesture, as I’m typically unable to operate most of the doorknobs in our home without referring to Home Depot’s Do-It-Yourself manual.
          And what about gifts and gestures of the unexpected nature?  If a man surprises his lady with a small token of affection… a rose, a café mocha, or some homemade muffins that don’t suck… she’ll most likely be very appreciative of his efforts, and she’ll beam like the sunshine for seven and a half minutes.
          But if a man surprises his lady with an unexpected gift of monumental proportions, then look the hell out.  This is how oceans are parted and mountains are moved.  Well, maybe not oceans and mountains, but if the unexpected gesture is significant, the goodwill can last up to a week.
          Consider, for example...  The Stairs.  Since moving into our house several years ago, we’ve been gradually repainting all of the rooms and hallways in an attempt to make the place our own.  In some cases, this has involved covering up color schemes and stenciling that would seem at home in the dining room at Cracker Barrel.  It’s not that we’re against old-school country décor, and it’s clear that the previous owners put a lot of care, effort, and love into the stenciling and painting.  But now that we own the place, we want it to make it a bit more modern.
          Most of the rooms have been finished, but the front hallway with it’s drab, tan tone and meconium-colored stenciling has not been touched, the primary reason being that the color theme of the trim and walls in the front entryway continues up the stairwell and onto the second floor hallway.  Any effort to paint the downstairs hallway would need to include the stairwell, as well as the upstairs hallway, for the project to truly be complete.
          “No way I’m painting the trim on those stairs,” my wife remarked a few years ago.  “We’re going to hire somebody for that.”

Wash, tape, paint...  and repeat 29 more times.

          I certainly didn’t blame her for saying so.  The drab tan tone of the trim continued onto the exposed, vertical surface of each of the stairs, which is partially-covered by a carpeted runner.  Trying to cover up every nook and cranny of exposed wood without getting paint on the runner would be a slow, tedious ordeal.
          But I ultimately disagreed with her, saying that I couldn’t see the point of hiring somebody just to paint a relatively minor section of trim and stairway, when they could just as easily slip up and get paint on the carpet.
          At that point, we did what any normal married couple would do in this type of situation.  We stopped talking about it for awhile, in hopes that the trim and stairs would paint themselves while we were sleeping or away on vacation.
          Four years later, we were both pretty disappointed that the trim in the stairwell was still off-drab tan.
          As March rolled around each winter, my wife would drop the comment that it would be nice to finally paint the front hallway so we could hang up some of the pictures that we’ve been accumulating; she’d suggest that her upcoming week off in April would be the perfect time.  But alas, April would come and go without so much as a single color swatch making an appearance near the front entryway.
          Three weeks ago, after six years in the house, I decided to blow her mind.
          She had already been coming off a particularly stressful few weeks at work, and because of a scheduling anomaly, she was facing three consecutive overnight twelve-hour shifts (seven at night to seven in the morning) on a Monday through Wednesday.  I knew that she’d be exhausted and by the end of the second shift, so I decided that Monday evening was the perfect time to spring into action.
          Once she was safely out the door and down the driveway, I retrieved our vacuum from the closet and gave the runner and stairs a thorough cleaning with the brush attachment.  As I worked the tool into the crevices, cracks, and corners of the stairwell, I noticed that there was quite a bit of lint and grime that had built up along the trim.
          “Nasty!” I heard myself blurt out, as I skillfully guided the tool all along the trim, trying to suck up as much of the festering detritus as I could manage.
          The next order of business was to clean and scrub the trim and stairs with vinegar to remove any excess dirt and scuff marks, and then wipe it dry with paper towels.  That was all I could accomplish that evening without arousing any suspicion from my wife that something was up.  I spent the rest of the night with my feet up in front of the fireplace, playing Words with Friends and plucking the excess tufts from Indy, who’d been shedding profusely for over a month.
          The real work began the following evening.  Once my wife was out the door, I began the arduous task of applying painting tape to the surface of every single stair. It didn’t take as long as I’d anticipated.  Once I got started, I settled into a comfortable rhythm of measuring, tearing, and applying the bright blue tape, with the entire task taking around forty minutes.
          With the preparation out of the way, it was finally time to paint.  And the most important decision of the evening had yet to be made.  It had nothing to do with what color to use or what size brush to rely on to skillfully navigate the cramped area around the carpet runner, as those decisions had been made days ago.  The one remaining decision that would dictate the success of the rest of the evening was the music selection.
          Painting is silence was certainly not an option.  The rumble and din of random thoughts coursing chaotically through my mind, combined with my three minute attention span, would not lead a particularly productive evening.  Classical music would have been appropriate for low-key housework, but I was afraid it would lull me to sleep during a lengthier task that required a more acute level of focus.  Jazz didn’t seem like the proper choice, as the temptation to tap my feet or pluck on my imaginary upright bass could lead to a disastrous mishap with paint spatter.
          As I continued to scan my collection of CDs, the answer became obvious.
          “Of course!”
          I reached for Savatage’s magnum opus Hall of the Mountain King, one of the most awesome heavy metal albums to emerge from the 80s, or ever, for that matter.

Hey kids...  This is what real metal sounds like.

          For the next two hours, I carefully coated the trim along the stairwell, as well as the exposed vertical areas on either side of the carpeted runner, all while Savatage lead singer John Oliva shrieked, screamed, and cackled from the stereo in the other room… howling about creepy dungeons, enslaved kings, forsaken witches, and forbidden treasure… simultaneously dueling with the wailing lead guitar lines of his late brother Criss, a sorely under-appreciated metal guitarist in his own right.
          I found myself deeply absorbed in the task at hand and eventually realized that the work I was doing was quite satisfying.  Carefully, I painted small sections of the trim and baseboard, pulling back the carpeted runner, when necessary, to cover any visible sections of the stairs.  I worked my way down the left side of the stairs and back up the right, only taking one extended break to start the CD over and get a glass of water.  Unlike my wife who was not fond of painting trim, I found that I was actually enjoying the task at hand, stepping back frequently to admire my handiwork.  At that moment, I decided that we would split any future painting projects, with my wife taking care of the walls while I painted the trim and baseboards.

I wasn't too happy about leaving two
Triple Word Scores open.  But oh well...

          Just as nine-thirty rolled around, I applied a final brush stroke to the section of trim adjacent to the top step.  In just under three hours, I had finished taping and painting every section of trim and exposed wood within our stairwell.  After cleaning up and putting away the paint and supplies, I adjourned back to the couch in front of the fireplace, where I spent the rest of the evening catching up on the handful of Words With Friends games in progress.
          The next morning, I was sitting on the living room couch with my feet up on the coffee table, sipping coffee, and grooming Indy.  Just before eight o’clock, I heard the back door jiggle and open, as my wife walked in.
          “What a night,” she groaned, dropping her bag on the table and closing the door.  “I can’t take three in a row very often.”
          “Well, you have several nights off now,” I said.  “I’m sure your day will get better from here.”
          “What? What do you mean?”
          “Nothing.  Just go put your pajamas on.  You’ll feel better.”
          She continued mumbling to herself as she shuffled her tired, over-worked feet through the kitchen and into the front room.
          “Here it comes,” I whispered to Indy, who was still sprawled out on my legs.  He clearly wasn’t interested, but I craned my neck in curiosity, listening for her footsteps.  I heard them continue halfway up the stairs; then they stopped. She spoke up after a few moments of silence.
          “What… is this?”
          “What’s what,” I asked, as I grabbed hold of a snarl behind Indy’s chin and yanked it out.
          “Um. What did you do?”
          “What does it look like I did?”
          “I painted the trim while you were at work last night.”
          “You painted the trim while I was at work last night.”
          “Yes, that’s what I just said.”  She was speechless for about ten seconds before speaking up again.  “And what would inspire you to do such a thing?”
          “You’ve wanted to paint the hallway for several years now,” I said, “but I know you’ve been dreading the trim and the stairs.”
          “And we don’t need to hire somebody else to do what I’m perfectly capable of doing on my own,” I continued.  “Now that the stairs are taken care of, I’ll do the rest of the trim.  And you can paint the walls once your April vacation rolls around.”
          “This is so unexpected,” she said.  “But… did we even discuss the color?”
          “I’m pretty sure we decided on the Dover White,” I said, as I braced myself for the flurry of questions to follow once the initial shock had worn off.
          “But… shouldn’t you have checked with me before buying more paint?”
          “I didn’t buy any new paint.  We have that entire can from Sherwin Williams, which we hardly used for the living room trim.”
          “Oh… You’re sure that’s the color we agreed on?”
          “If the rest of the trim in every room of the house is white, why wouldn’t we use the same color for hallways and stairs?”
          “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  Now, you do know that before you paint, you have to cle—,"
          “Yes, I remembered to prep the surfaces.”
          “You actually scrubbed them with—,"
          “I vacuumed the stairs and trim, removed all of the dust and grime, scrubbed everything with vinegar, and dried it off thoroughly.  I actually did that on Monday night, so it had twenty four hours to air dry.”
          “You cleaned everything?”
          “Honey, I’ve spent the last four summers painting the back of our house.  I know how to prepare a surface to be painting.”
          “Wow. I don’t know what to say,” she said, finally appearing from around the corner of the banister and making her way back into the family room.  “That was so sweet of you. What a nice surprise!”
          “My pleasure,” I said.
          “That helps me out so much.”
          “Of course, you know what would be really nice as a way to repay my generosity?” I asked, thinking back to the March 2013 issue of Cooking Light, which we’d both perused just over a week ago.
          “You mean…, ” her enthusiasm tailed off mid-sentence, “you can’t do something nice without expecting a favor in return?”
          “Sure I can.  But this is something we’d both enjoy,” I offered reassuringly.
          “What…,” she paused as I flashed my charming grin, “…do you want me to make?”
          “Well remember those recipes from Vedge in Cooking Light?”

Click HERE for Part II.

Cats can be kind of vain sometimes.