When I studied abroad in Austria, I was assigned to live with a Christian host family because I was vegetarian.
These two things have nothing, really, to do with one another, but the housing coordinator was trained to look for commonalities among people based on a brief paper survey. So she decided that the only other vegetarian student should be my roommate and—what do you know!—my roommate also happened to be a born-again Christian, so wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to live with the Kocher family, who happens to also be Christian* (as opposed to Catholic, which the majority of Austrians were).
*I can’t remember what type of church they went to—Protestant? Pentecostal?—so I am using ‘Christian’ in a sort of vague sense meaning ‘non-Catholic Christian,’ so I guess what I am really trying to say is, they were the kind of Christians who were really into Jesus.
This worked out well for my roommate, who almost immediately found an English-speaking church and began attending their Sunday services and their weekly Bible studies. She also strongly, relentlessly encouraged me to attend with her, which I did sometimes, though apparently not often enough to prevent her from viewing me as a sinner in need of saving, and from writing Bible verses on scraps of paper and hiding them throughout all of my personal belongings. (I found Bible verses in all of the following places: my purse, my books, my backpack, my underwear drawer, my toiletries bag, my placemat at the dinner table, my desk, my pillow, my shoes, the pockets of my overcoat. Really. All of my personal belongings. A year after I returned from Austria I took a CD out of its travel case and found a Bible verse tucked behind it).
She was also prone to telling me things like, “I’ve been praying for you,” usually after I had been out for a night of heavy drinking. Suffice it to say, if I hadn’t had to meet her watchful, judgy eye every morning at the breakfast table there’s no telling how many more guys I might have slept with over there.
When our host mother found out that she would be hosting two vegetarians, her immediate response to the housing coordinator, she later told us, was, “Can you send them back?” This was followed by a flurry of phone calls to all of her friends, asking them in panicked tones, “What do vegetarians eat?”
She was mildly relieved to learn that we ate seafood; this, at least, was something in her cooking repertoire. This, at least, meant she could (sometimes) serve us something other than salads.
And so for the first week or two, as she dusted off old recipes she hadn’t made in decades (in particular I remember a walnut quiche that was—surprisingly—good) mealtime was met with her anxious face across the table, wondering, “Is it good?”
It was, almost always. Though I did get tired of those salads pretty quick.
The only other meal I remember—besides the walnut quiche—was a pasta with smoked salmon, peas, and cream.
I was not much of a home cook at the time, but I was so taken with this dish that I had to know what was in it, so I could recreate it later.
“Oh, it’s so easy,” Frau Kocher said with a nonchalant flip of her hand. “It’s just pasta, and I cook an onion and some peas, and then I add the salmon and crème fraiche.”*
*If you were wondering, most of our conversations with the Kochers took place in English; Frau Kocher’s English was substantially better than Herr Kocher’s due to the years she spent as a teenager in Canada, where her father was a chicken farmer.**
**I am unclear on the exact logistics, but her family moved from the Netherlands to Canada for some reason related to her dad being a chicken farmer. (Did Canada need more chicken farmers? Was he not fulfilling his chicken-farmer potential in the Netherlands? Was he working for an international chicken-farmer-company and they offered him a transfer with higher pay? I have no idea, but I kinda feel like it was the last one, as improbable as it sounds, or maybe a combination of the first one and the last one.***
***Did I mention the nights of heavy drinking I was doing at the time? I learned, for example, that I could drink 2 liters of beer in one sitting, but not 3.****
****Actually I could, technically, drink 3 liters of beer in one sitting, but then the night would not end well for anybody, most especially me.
Anyway. The pasta.
Frau Kocher became slightly flustered when I asked her to explain what crème fraiche was. Crème fraiche was not yet in vogue in the U.S.; even if it had been, they certainly were not stocking it at the Cub Foods in Iowa City anytime soon (or, probably, ever).
I understand now that me asking her what crème fraiche was would be the same thing as someone asking me what, say, cottage cheese is. “Oh, you know, it’s, umm…it’s made of milk?”
Frau Kocher quickly gave up on the explanation part of things, and showed me the empty container from the trash. “It’s this,” she said.
“Oh!” I said, “Like sour cream!”
“Yes, but it’s not sour…it’s fresh.”
“Oh.” I said. “Like yogurt?”
“No,” she said. “Like sour cream. But fresh!”
I was certainly no closer to understanding what crème fraiche was. Except that it was like sour cream. But fresh.
It’s been about ten years since I first had Frau Kocher’s pasta with salmon and peas. I have tried to recreate it a few times since, but never with great success.
Until a few nights ago, that is, when I had a package of smoked salmon I needed to use up, and peas in the freezer.
This time I think I nailed it. I mean, as close as anyone can nail it without actually using crème fraiche.
(What I didn’t nail, though, was a way to work into this story that I was living with the only European who liked George W. Bush because—as Frau Kocher explained to me—“He’s such a good Christian.”)
Smoked Salmon Pasta with Peas and Cream
1 onion, diced
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 block), cut into cubes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb. pasta (I used thin spaghetti; linguine or fettucine would also be good)
1 lb. frozen peas
2 roasted red peppers, diced (optional)
8 oz. sour cream
14 oz. smoked salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces
In a pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the diced onion and sauté 5-10 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add flour and stir until evenly distributed. Add milk, stir, and raise the heat to medium-high. Stir occasionally until mixture begins to bubble. Lower heat and add cream cheese. Stir until dissolved. Add crushed garlic and stir. Turn heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
3-4 minutes before pasta is done cooking, add the frozen peas to the pasta. They will cook in the same water as the pasta and be done at the same time.
Drain the pasta & peas.
Remove the milk/onion mixture from heat. Add roasted red peppers, if using, and sour cream. Pour over pasta/peas, and add smoked salmon. Stir until well combined.
Serve garnished with grated parmesan and ground pepper.
*Note: As much as possible, try not to ‘cook’ the smoked salmon but fold it in just before serving, enough to be just heated through. Otherwise it becomes slightly dry and not as tender.
Andy and I made the mistake of going to Whole Foods a few weeks ago.
I say ‘mistake’ because, as someone who has a thing called a ‘budget’ for the weekly groceries, Whole Foods is not exactly an uplifting place to be. “Hey!” it says, “Look at all this beautiful, artisan-crafted food that you cannot afford to eat!”
So we stayed near the bulk foods section which is more in our price range, and that is where we made our second mistake: reading the nutrient density rankings of various foods. We now know that, in the grain family, oats score highest, followed by barley; sunflower seeds are the powerhouses of seeds; and lentils are the best of the beans. We have to take this into consideration now whenever we cook or bake; we cannot choose our ingredients anymore based solely on flavor or texture, we have to wonder, ‘If I don’t substitute sunflower seeds for walnuts in this recipe, am I failing at nutrition, and thus at life?’
Because of this, we’ve been eating a lot of lentils lately, and food has become slightly less fun. Not because of lentils, but because of science. Thanks, science!
[Curiously, Whole Foods only carries pearled barley (#6 of the grains), but not whole barley (#2 of the grains), which was the entire reason we went to Whole Foods in the first place.]
The third mistake we made was impulse-buying some frozen onion rings. All I’m going to say about that is they made me feel sad for onion rings, and I wish I had my $3 back.
But anyway, the barley.
We were in search of whole barley (as opposed to pearled barley) to use in a soup recipe that we’ve been making a lot of lately. Whole barley, as you might suspect, retains more of its nutrients and fiber than pearled barley, and we figured if we were going to cook healthy food, we might as well cook with the healthiest of foods. But it turns out that nobody sells it—not the grocery stores, not the food co-ops, not Whole Foods. The Asian market carries something that is actually labeled ‘whole barley,’ but I’m suspicious that something may have been lost in translation since it looks and cooks exactly like pearled barley and the back of the package carries the following description: “Barley grains contain 16 times of fiber which rice grains have, as well as Barley grains are one of the best foods for growing children or pregnant women, people want to consume fewer calories.”
Yes, people do want to consume fewer calories!
The soup in question that has brought on our barley obsession comes from Andy’s mom, who got it from Woman’s World magazine. I don’t have much to say about Woman’s World magazine except that it actually does contain some pretty useful information, though this information comes with the risk of explanation! point! overload! (seriously, I think there is a 2:1 ratio of explanation points to periods in there).
This soup is originally called ‘Holiday Diet Soup,’ the reason being that if you eat this soup everyday for lunch during December, it will help you lose weight.
Well, I’m here to say that Andy has lost ten pounds; the guy at work I gave the recipe to has lost ten pounds; and I have lost zero pounds (thanks, metabolism! Um, and also potato chips).
I make a big batch of this soup every Sunday and divvy it up into quart jars in the refrigerator; these will be our lunches for the entire week. It helps me feel prepared.
We added beans to it in an effort to sneak some protein in, and upped the amount of mushrooms slightly. We usually end up needing to add a lot (or what seems like a lot) of salt, but we use homemade stock which isn’t very salty, so adjust yours to taste.
I don’t like to use the word ‘diet’ because it makes me feel sad, so I’m renaming it ‘Superfood Soup,’ though we’ve made it so often that Andy and I now simply refer to it as ‘The Recipe.’
Superfood Soup Recipe
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
24 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups barley
6 carrots, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
8 cups stock (recipe calls for beef or veggie, we use chicken)
2 cups dried beans (optional) (we use 1 c. lentils and 1 c. black-eyed peas); you may want to pre-soak these if using any bean larger than lentil
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 lb. chopped kale or spinach
In a very large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, barley, carrots, thyme, and stock. Increase the heat to high. If using dried beans, add them now, as well as 6 cups of water. When soup starts to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until beans and barley are cooked through, adding more water if needed (about 30-40 minutes). Add garlic and kale and cook 10-15 minutes more until kale is tender. If using spinach instead of kale, add spinach at the very end just before serving.
The article says to eat 3 cups of this soup for lunch every day to help you lose weight.
This soup freezes well, and makes a huge amount. Just sayin’.
If I were a journalist in Sochi right now, you can be sure I’d be asking the hard-hitting questions like,
“Why do you think you just fucked up so badly?”
“Bob Costas, is it true you got pink eye from snuggling with a stray dog in your hotel room?”
“You know that journalists only want to interview you when you’ve done really well or really badly, Which one do you think you just did?”
“Since you thank Jesus when you win, does that mean it is His fault when you lose and, if so, why does He obviously hate you today?”
“I hear you’ve really been enjoying yourself in the Olympic Village. How many STDs are you going to get tested for when you go home?”
“Which Youtube video do you think got more hits: The one of you falling, or a terrified kitten on a piano?”
“Not counting Vladimir Putin, how many Russians have you met whose names you have actually been able to pronounce correctly?”
“Did you know that STDs do not carry with them a national flag but rather, often a burning sensation?”
“Of all the Olympic athletes, which one do you think the Russian police most enjoy spying on?”
“Congratulations on winning a gold medal! How many years from now, after your body has failed you, will you be selling it on ebay for rent money?”
“Will you be keeping your ugly Olympic sweater as a memento, or will you ‘accidentally’ forget to pack it and then blame the airline for losing your luggage? And if you do keep it, how many Ugly Sweater Parties do you anticipate wearing it to and winning the prize for Ugliest Sweater?”
I think I nailed it.
You don’t really need a recipe for the ‘classic’ pimento cheese, do you? All it is, really, is grated cheddar, a jar of drained (diced) pimentos, maybe a scant Tablespoon of finely minced onion and a dash of worcestershire, and enough mayo to bind everything together. Some people, at this point, also blend it together a little in the food processor, which I find slightly disconcerting and wholely unnecessary. You could even, I suppose, stir in some softened cream cheese to make it even more decadent, but we are already talking about something made entirely of CHEESE and MAYONNAISE so I say, why go overboard, especially with the cost of cream cheese being what it is?
But! What you DO need a recipe for is this pimento cheese, because it’s got a kick. And tomatoes in it, so…it’s slightly healthier?
This is pimento cheese, folks, so that's about as appetizing a photo as you're going to get.
A while back I was on the phone with one of my friends who lives in California (and often gloats about the weather), and she ended the conversation with, “Well, I’ve got to go. I have to make this pimento cheese for a potluck, but I can’t grate the cheese and talk on the phone at the same time. I mean, I could, but it would be really difficult and I might pull a muscle.”
At which point I was like, Wait. You are making pimento cheese for Californians?!?
Oh, yes, she said. In fact, it was specifically requested by a Californian, because he liked it so much the first time she made it that he ate half the bowl and requisitioned the leftovers.
Was this just your regular, run-of-the-mill pimento cheese?
It was not.
It was pimento cheese with a bite to it, made partly with pepper jack and with a can of Ro-tel tomatoes stirred in to boot.
Ten minutes later I finally let her off the phone, but only after she promised to send me the recipe.
Depending on the level of spiciness you like, you can use either all pepper jack cheese, or half cheddar; and mild Ro-tel or regular. Either way, it really is very good–good enough for Californians, even.
Southwest-Style Pimento Cheese
8 oz pepper-jack cheese, grated
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated (or use additional pepper-jack)
1 10-oz can Ro-tel tomatoes, drained
~3/4 – 1 cup mayonnaise (just enough to bind everything together; add more or less depending on your personal preference [you can substitute lite mayo here])
1 tsp worcestershire
2 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained (optional–I feel like the tomatoes give this recipe enough extra color that you don’t miss the pimentos, plus those darn little jars are kind of expensive when you consider the amount of food that is actually in them)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together, adding more mayo if needed to get a more ’spreadable’ consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve with crackers and veggies, or spread it on a sandwich or biscuit and top with sliced fresh tomatoes.
[While watching the intro to Jimmy Fallon when they list the night's guests]
Andy: Who’s Miles Teller?
Me: I dunno…Maybe he’s one of those magicians from Penn & Teller?
Andy: [Blank stare]. Do you know who Penn & Teller are?
Me: Sure I do, they’re magicians. They do weird stuff. There’s the one really big guy, and the small guy.
Andy: Teller is his first name. And he’s the one that doesn’t talk. Why would they invite someone who doesn’t talk onto a talk show?
Me: Oh. Well I don’t know who Miles Teller is, then.
Andy: You’re the young one in this relationship, you’re supposed to be explaining pop culture references to me, not the other way around. That’s why I married you, so you would keep me young and in the loop.
Me: In that case I’ve got some really bad news for you.
Well, the Superbowl is coming. I know this because the grocery store circulars are exhorting me to buy a platter of something called ‘Wyngz,’ and also potato chips.
While I’m not very likely to watch ‘the game,’ I just may buy some of these ‘wyngz’ and potato chips because, well, why not, we like to snack.
Whether you are a game-watcher or not, I have a recipe for guacamole that, thanks to one secret ingredient, will make you feel sad for all the other guacamoles you have ever eaten.
I wish I could take credit for thinking of adding the secret ingredient, but I can’t. I would have never in a million years thought of combining these things, and this is Reason #1 why I never turn down an invitation to go to dinner at a friend’s house: you never know what kind of cooking secrets you may learn. (OK, actually Reason #1 may really be: Free Food & Wine, but still.)
I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to guacamole: avocado, lime (or lemon juice, since I’m usually out of lime juice), salt and pepper.
I know that traditionally, guacamole also calls for minced onion and tomato (sometimes we get lazy and just add a glug of jarred salsa if we have it). These are the things you can do if you want to be an over-achiever.
We had this secret-ingredient guacamole at a friend’s house, and it was so good we could not stop eating it. You know how some guacamole is just…guacamole? Something sort-of healthy to dip a tortilla chip into while you wait for the main course? This is not that guacamole.
This guacamole is made with sour cream.
The sour cream, I’m supposing, does three different jobs here: 1) Adds an acidic, ‘tangy’ note similar to what the lime juice does; 2) Gives it a creamier, lighter texture; and 3) Stretches your budget, since avocados are decidedly more expensive than sour cream.
The following are things I am unsure about, however: 1) Does the sour cream keep the guacamole from oxidizing when you store it? We have never had leftovers to find out. 2) Can you substitute Greek or plain yogurt? Probably, but there is a reason they still sell sour cream at the stores, and that reason is because it is more delicious than Greek yogurt.
This is not so much a recipe as a general guideline. Add more (or less) sour cream if it suits you; likewise with the lime juice, salt & pepper.
2 avocados, cut in half, pitted, and flesh scooped out
4 Tablespoons lime juice, or to taste
1 Tablespoon very finely minced white onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
~1/2 to 2/3 cup sour cream, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, mash together the avocado, lime juice, onion, and garlic together with a fork until combined. Stir in sour cream, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add more lime juice and/or sour cream if desired. Serve with tortilla chips and a platter of Wyngz and yell, “Go Team!” to noone in particular.
Last night I draped two layers of row covers over my arugula to (hopefully) keep them from biting the dust. They all looked terrible after the first ‘Arctic Blast’; most of them were starting to perk up again & grow tender new leaves, but some of them had withered and died completely.
When I got back inside I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes; the tip of my nose hurt.
I dragged my space heater out of the closet and into the bathroom, plugged it in and cranked it up to 80. I took a long, hot shower and when I got out the bathroom had heated up so much it felt like my own personal mini-sauna. I stayed in there for a good bit of time, until I started to feel uncomfortably warm. It was the most luxurious thing I’ve done in a while, and when I stepped out of the bathroom the comparative chill of the rest of the house was an invigorating relief. I highly recommend it if you happen to have a space heater lying around.
A few days ago I was talking to one of my friends who lives in San Francisco. She told me, “I’m wearing a t-shirt today. When I was walking home I actually started to get a little sweaty.”
LOL indeed, California.
It’s not that I’m a complete wimp about cold weather. I’ve spent winters in Iowa and Chicago and Austria, winters where a daily high of 30 degrees felt nearly balmy. The difference is that there, you stop noticing the cold and start expecting it. It becomes a minor background note and you learn to layer: first a long-sleeve thermal; then t-shirt, then sweater. A scarf and, if it was in the single-digits, a sweatshirt or fleece over the sweater (preferably a sweatshirt, since a fleece + wool sweater interact unfortunately to create massive static). Most importantly a hat, good gloves, and a heavy coat.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember ever wearing anything but jeans in the winter, and usually sneakers, which gave me better traction on the ice than boots. I don’t remember my legs being cold, though I’m most certain that my feet were.
One time in Austria I was chatting with my photography professor, an American ex-pat who married an Austrian, as he was suiting up on a January evening to drive home on his moped. On went his sweater and his hat and his scarf; before pulling on his jacket he took out a wide belt/fanny-pack-looking thing with a large plastic buckle. He put it on, covering the area just above the top of his pants, clasped it in front, and pulled the straps tight.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said, “My wife’s family makes me wear it. It’s supposed to keep my kidneys warm.”
He shrugged. ”They have a thing about it. It’s supposed to keep me from getting sick.”
“Does it work?” I asked.
He shrugged. ”I don’t know, but at least it keeps the wind from blowing up the back of my shirt.”
Sending y’all thoughts of hot soup and thick wool socks and personal mini-saunas today.
Keep your kidneys warm, everybody.
One of the guys at work needed a character reference letter for Little League, so this is the letter I wrote:
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing to recommend EmployeeName as an umpire for your baseball league. I think he would do a fine job because as far as I am aware of, he has never molested any small children. He did, however, make a joke about my vagina at the office Christmas party which I’d be willing to overlook had it been a funnier joke. To be fair, we had all been drinking that day since 9am, so who can really say how funny it may or may not have been?
EmployeeName would be a perfect fit for your youth baseball program because he is so into baseball that he even uses dip, just like all the professional baseball players who later got mouth cancer. I think it is important that our youth be exposed to such authentic role models because it is vital that they learn at an early age that, when using dip (aka ‘dipping’), one must always remember to spit and never swallow.
I really do hope you will give him strong consideration for this position, because I’m sure he could use the extra money and right now we can’t afford to give him a raise. I’m sure that he would put his earnings toward a worthy cause, like beer money or mouth cancer treatments.
I should not be in HR
In the spirit of, ‘We’ve been making a lot of soups!,’ let me share one with you.
This recipe comes from Parade magazine, via my great-aunt Suzy & Uncle Bert. Now, say what you will about Parade magazine (that it is stupid and boring and full of fluff and does anyone ever actually read it?) but I have to admit that the recipes I’ve tried from it (lemon muffins, a flourless (or nearly flourless?) chocolate cake) have in fact turned out quite good. And so now I have a third recipe from Parade magazine that has turned out quite good, proving that perhaps Parade magazine is not a complete waste of ink & paper after all.
Because Aunt Suzy & Uncle Bert spend part of the year in Maine, and the rest of the year in Maryland, it is a pretty fair bet that any recipe they make in Maine is going to be a winner. While their kitchen shelves in Maryland fairly groan under the weight of decades of cookbooks, the ones in Maine are few: The Victory Garden Cookbook; Mystic Seaport’s Seafood Secrets; perhaps a Mark Bittman or New York Times tome; and a small collection of handwritten index cards, punched-through at the top and bound together with two metal rings.
These index cards are the real keepers; the tried-(and tried) and true. Amongst them was a recipe for spaghetti pie from the Greensboro YWCA cafeteria from fifty (sixty?) years ago that is better than it sounds (unless you already think it sounds delicious, in which case you’re right), and for this veggie chili from Parade magazine. From 1997.
For 17 years this recipe has been in rotation, and if that does not say “the test of time” to you, then I don’t know what does. Since Uncle Bert e-mailed me the recipe a couple of months ago, we’ve made it 3 times, including once for company and once with ground turkey. Each time I intend to freeze some for leftovers, yet each time we end up eating all of it before I have a chance to (though, yes, sometimes we do end up mixing it with rice & cheese & making burritos with it).
What first intrigued Andy & I about this chili was, when Uncle Bert served it to us, there were garbanzo beans in it. We were a little skeptical at first because a) it looked like mostly vegetables, and b) most veggie chilis are pretty boring and taste the same as all other veggie chilis. But this one wasn’t. This one was really, really good. Plus garbanzo beans!
I’m not sure, exactly, what makes it ‘Cajun’ (the bell peppers? the black-eyed peas?), but what matters is this: It’s good. It’s easy. It’s healthy (it even has spinach in it!). And you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry already. (And it’s from Parade magazine).
Cajun Veggie Chili Recipe
adapted from Parade magazine, via Uncle Bert
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder (I know this sounds like a lot, but it’s not)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (can substituted diced tomatoes if that’s all you have on hand)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 14-oz. cans beans (we like to use 1 garbanzo; 1 black; and one kidney or pinto–the original recipe says to use 2 cans black-eyed peas; Uncle Bert says to use whatever’s in the pantry)
1 cup corn kernels (we use frozen)
1 large bunch spinach, chopped (we use a 12 to 16-oz. bag of frozen chopped spinach)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
rice, yogurt/sour cream, scallions/chives and shredded cheddar (if desired), for serving
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onion & bell peppers and saute until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, chili powder & cumin, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes & thyme. Cook over medium heat ~10 minutes. Add beans & corn and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using fresh spinach: Remove pot from heat & stir in spinach. If using frozen spinach: Add spinach to pot & stir; cook until heated through.
Add lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste.
Serve over rice & garnish with yogurt (or sour cream), scallions (or chives), and shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.