Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blacktop Pie with Tail Lights

On a recent visit to my hometown of Yakima in eastern Washington State, I happened upon my grandmother’s (Helen Rand) recipe for an old family favorite: Black Bottom Pie.

While I love this pie, the two problems are that (1) I never really cared for its name, and (2) eating raw egg whites is now frowned upon for health reasons. Besides justifying the name change, another purpose in reversing the top and bottom layers is due to the custard layer not working quite as well as the traditional recipe (since it’s been cooked this time).

PS. Yes, I know my photograph may not show the most attractive culinary creation. Give it a chance, though. It may surprise you!

You may wish to complete the pie crust first. This is my preferred crust recipe: 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup (minus 2 tablespoons) of Crisco, 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook for half an hour, or so, between 350 and 375.

Now, we begin the pie fillings. Soften about 3/4 tablespoon of gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water. Set aside.

In a saucepan, gradually combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 4 tablespoons of corn starch with 2 cups of milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in 4 beaten eggs yolks. Return to heat, stirring constantly, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend 1 3/4 cups of the above custard with 3/4 of a package of high quality chocolate chips (or, alternatively, use baking chocolate). Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Set the chocolate filling aside to cool.

Add the gelatin to remaining custard mixture and heat gently. (This is where my new version of the recipe begins to diverge from the original.) On the side, add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the 3 or 4 egg whites. Begin beating with mixer. Once starting to be firm, add 4 or 5 tablespoons of sugar. Continue to beat the egg whites and stir the custard on the gentle heat.

Slowly spoon out the whipped egg white and gently mix into the hot custard--a little bit at a time. Once all of the egg whites have been transferred, continue to heat for another couple minutes. Once the consistency begins to remind you of a soufflĂ©, you’ll want to quickly remove the custard from the heat. Add 1 1/2-2 teaspoons of rum flavoring (or the real thing). To further thicken, you may wish to beat the custard a second time for a minute, or so, off the heat.

Pour the hot custard into the cooked pie shell. Sprinkle some maraschino cherries on the top of the first layer, then cover with the chocolate filling. Garnish with shaved chocolate and more cherries, if desired. Top with whipping cream, if you wish. Chill before serving.

At a Glance Ingredient List

Pie Crust:





Pie Filling:



Unflavored Gelatin



4 eggs (separated)

1 bag of high quality of chocolate chips


Rum flavoring

Maraschino cherries

This most likely concludes my blog for the 2010 year. I hope all (or “both”) of my readers will have a sparkling Christmas and a wonderful new year. For those in the Portland area, be sure to check out the Christmas lights at the Grotto!

(Isaiah 9:6)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Loco Omelet?

After mentioning the idea of adding a little popcorn to an omelet, my wife gave me a look that said I had indeed crossed that culinary line. Still, I moved ahead with my crazy idea and the end result was good. While I still prefer the Monster Omelet recipe, this is worth a try.

The first suggestion, though, is to add about a teaspoon of chili pepper to the eggs before whisking eighty-times with the cut pieces of butter. After following the previous omelet recipe tips from my blog, get ready to "mix-it-up" when it comes to the fillings. Here's what I recommend.

blend of grated cheeses
sour cream
tablespoon or two of hot roasted peppers
diced green onions

Don't add the popcorn until just before the omelet is folded over in the pan. I actually chopped the popcorn slightly, and I didn't use more than half a cup. It adds an interesting flavor and texture dimension to the ordinary omelet. One could say that it infuses a nutty flavor into the omelet--nice once in a while, but probably not every week! Enjoy with a good cup of coffee, or, if you're brave, sprinkle it with some popcorn (the omelet--not the coffee).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Texas Style Barbecue Ribs

Back on September 25th, I told the frightening tale of a visit to awful rib joint. Today, I make good on my promise to share how it's really done! The one regret for today's culinary excursion is that I selected boneless "country" ribs that were on special at Fred Meyer. While they were very good, they weren't quite as flavorful as traditional spareribs.

It's not complicated to make great ribs, but it does take some time. The first step to this recipe is to boil the ribs in a pot of water for about half an hour. Then, take the steaming ribs out and lay inside a sheet or two of aluminum foil. Smother the ribs with good barbecue sauce--like KC Masterpiece. Wrap the ribs within aluminum foil, sealing in the moisture. Next, place this aluminum envelope of wonderful rib goodness on top of (previously lit) charcoal grill. If you have wood chips soaking in water, don't forget to add them for more aromatic smoke flavor.

It's not usually necessary to turn the aluminum foil package over, but you may need to adjust its location on the grill to ensure even heat distribution. After about forty-five minutes, take the meat out and place directly on the grill. Keep on the direct heat until its nicely browned.

That is pretty much the long and short of great rib preparation. It takes a while, but the end result is tender, moist, and flavorful ribs. Serve with salad and rolls--and plenty of napkins!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Best Coffee Cake Recipe Ever!

I prepared this for a family breakfast this morning, and we were all quite impressed. While not the simplest recipe, the family consensus is that this is probably the best coffee cake we've ever tasted. It's not only moist and delicious, but the aroma filling the house while it was baking was like Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. If you take a look first at the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for her Sour Cream Coffee Cake, then I'll explain the adjustments I used successfully today.

First, we didn't have any sour cream handy, so instead I replaced about half its volume with Greek yogurt. I also added about two tablespoons of "sourdough sponge," which works well in place of sour cream in many baking recipes. The instructions call for blending the sugar and butter for quite a while, but I only did it for two or three minutes--mostly by hand.

The only regrets... We were completely out of vanilla this morning, and I forgot to use the pecans we had in the freezer for the streusel. This might be a recipe to prepare the night before, if you want to actually eat it before you have to leave the house. In our case, it didn't work for breakfast, but it made for a lovely brunch.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Quick Review of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Israeli Style Couscous

We recently had a chance to visit Trader Joe's in Corvalis, which is about half an hour south of us. (We're looking forward to getting our own Trader Joe's in south Salem early next year.) One of the items we decided to give a try was the Harvest Grains Israeli Couscous. The packaging describes it as a "savory blend of Israeli style couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa." Unfortunately, my cooking technique was a little more along the lines of tabouli. Depending on the family member you might choose to question, my cooking was splendid success or, according to my son, it was time to go to Olive Garden again.

First, I prepared the whole package of couscous in two cans of chicken broth, and added shrimp, red pepper, and (some of the last) colorful tomatoes from our garden. We also added a about 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, as well as fresh and chopped basil and mint. If I were making it again, I'd probably not add the tomatoes. I think I'd also use this as a side and not as a main course.

While it was an interesting creation, it definitely was not a family favorite. Using it as a side and leaving out the tomatoes, though, would probably give this wider family appeal. In short, give it a try next time you're looking for something new!

I also wanted to make a mention of a second Trader Joe's product we had a chance to try. This was a clear balsamic vinegar. What an interesting product--and all around cool idea! I had never even heard of clear balsamic vinegar before, but we all found this product to taste just like regular balsamic vinegar. There seemed to me to be a slightly different "texture" than traditional balsamic vinegar, and it may have been less smooth on the tongue. That said, this might also have been an entirely subjective impression.

Using this vinegar, I noticed that it was a little difficult to tell how much was on one's food. When one is dipping bread in traditional dark balsamic vinegar and olive oil, for instance, one can easily see how much is on the bread. It's harder to tell with the clear balsamic vinegar. It's kind of a guessing game to ensure that you're using the right amount. For this reason, I think I prefer the traditional dark balsamic vinegar. However, I can definitely see some situations--e.g. salads--where the clear could be a perfect fit.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do Oregonians Understand Barbecue?

So, the question raised by tonight's little visit to Adam's Ribs Smokehouse in downtown Salem (across from Willamette University), Oregonians understand ribs at all? Pork ribs should be moist and melt in your mouth delicious. Except for a visit to a Tony Romas which has since unfortunately closed in Salem, I can't recall ever eating really great barbecue in Oregon--unless we make it.

Okay...maybe Buster's Texas Style Barbecue in Portland gets the concept--but apparently no one else! (When Buster's tried to open a restaurant in Salem, they could never seem to duplicate the Portland quality, and they finally closed. I think they must have kept the meat sitting around too long...waiting.)

Tonight's meal, for instance, was so bad that you couldn't even separate the ribs without a knife and a lot of effort. They were hard and dry, resembling door stops more than a barbecue dinner. The barbecued chicken, likewise, was hard and relatively dry and tasteless. Even our table was filthy.

Two thumbs down for Adam's Ribs of Salem, Oregon. Sometime before too long, we'll share how real Texan ribs are prepared. My wife happens to make the best around!

Do you want to try REAL barbecue? Stop by Spring Creek Barbecue in Texas. Now, that's barbecue...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jambalaya and the Fixin's--& Chocolate?

Here's something new for my fellow northern readers to try: jambalaya. This southern recipe was found on, and it's simply named Joe's Jambalaya . This is basically a hearty stew made of sausage and seafood. It can contain multiple kinds of seafood, but we just used shrimp. (When I had this in a Cajun restaurant, I think it contained some critters I could probably have done without eating.) It really hits the spot on cool northwestern days. Have ample supplies of hot sauce handy!

The main change we made was to add okra and use jasmine rice. While the jasmine rice is great, it does require more liquid. We served this jambalaya with a side of fresh corn bread.

By the way, here's a great dessert treat: Sipping Dreams Drinking Chocolate . We tried this product from Whole Foods for the first time this evening. It is perhaps the best hot chocolate I've had in years, very rich with strong cocoa flavor and hints of vanilla. Keep in mind that one bar of the chocolate only makes a cup of the drink when added to milk--so buy enough for everyone!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oregon Coast Clam Chowder

If there's one dish I enjoy, it's a good bowl of clam chowder. We've sampled clam chowder in fine restaurants from Victoria to Monteray, and I really can honestly say that our recipe is hard to beat. That said, my recipe owes a debt of gratitude to my own family. In fact, perhaps I should call it Eastern Washington Clam Chowder? No, I guess not.

Besides never scalding the milk, the central thing to keep in mind for this recipe is to keep experimenting and perfecting it. That's one aspect I enjoy--that each batch is slightly different than before. I usually add a one or two of a rotating list of seafood together with the clams: shrimp, crab, scallops, smoked salmon, etc. (Freshly caught seafood is particularly good, but make sure you have selected the right kind of clams if you've dug them yourself. Sadly...the Ericksons are not the best clam diggers.)

I also recommend making it correctly the first couple times before trying to concoct a healthy version. After all, this isn't a side dish, it's the meal. We almost never use real cream, for instance, but it does greatly improve the texture and flavor.


almost five pounds of cut and peeled potatoes
4-6 small cans of clams or 1 of the large can
half a stick of butter
2 diced onions
about a quart of whipping creme
1-2 cups of 1% or 2%
*have available instant mashed potatoes

Seasoning (to taste)

cracked pepper
dried parsley
basil (fresh preferred)
Be creative!

At the same time your boiling the potatoes, begin to saute the cut onions in a skillet with some butter. Once the potatoes are sufficiently tender, remove from the heat. Cook the onions until they begin to become translucent. If the potatoes are too big, cut to smaller pieces. (You can cut them within the pot and save time.) Carefully, pour out a little more than half of the potato water. Add sautéed onions to potatoes, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Don't add the milk or whipping creme yet!

Once everything has come to a gentle boil, add the milk and whipping creme last. Keep stirring and lower the heat. This prevents the milk from scalding. If the consistency is not right, slowly stir in instant mashed potatoes. Keep in mind, however, that using too much can really ruin the chowder--especially for the next night.

Everyone (except me) in my household likes ice cold peas dropped on top of the chowder to help cool it down at serving time. I still believe that this is a great affront to the chowder gods. Consequently, you will not see peas in my chowder--unless, of course, my wife Kimberly has prepared it. :)

Suggested toppings: crumbled pepper bacon or oyster crackers.

Variations: try cooking the potatoes in half water / half homemade chicken broth.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two Great Places to Eat in the Salem/Portland areas

We've had some good news this past week or so, and we've ended-up eating out a little bit more frequently than usual for us. What began last week with a horrible dining experience at a local Mexican restaurant has ended on a much more welcome note.

First, Spoons Gourmet Deli in south Salem is a remarkable little place. We drop by every few months, and it seems each time we come away really pleasantly surprised. Well, they've done it again this time. On our last visit, I had what I was expecting to be a simple hamburger, and my wife had a turkey/cranberry sandwich. Both were prepared to perfection. The hamburger was, I think, the best I've had in Salem for a few years. The first bite yielded a surprisingly intense flavor. The buns, first of all, appeared to be freshly-prepared. The hamburger was cooked to perfection (medium well) and each mouthful of hamburger yielded a symphony of flavors. (We're going to try to simulate it today by mixing spices and seasonings in the hamburger before cooking, but I'm sure it will not compare.) Topping off the burger, were two delicious fried slices of tomato and assorted greans. Hats off to Spoons Deli! I'm only sorry I don't have an extra hand so that I might offer three thumb's up!

Next, we also greatly enjoyed our visit yesterday evening to Sweet Tomatoes in Tigard (just south of Portland). The dining experience was excellent as usual--except for a little wait due them being full. For those who haven't tried this chain before, it's basically a salad buffet restaurant, but they also serve fresh bread and soups. This month, they're featuring creations with a Greek flair, which included delicious Greek salad and humus with pine nuts. The corn cheese chowder was particularly good. In short, it was all excellent as usual.

I thought I'd make a final note on costs. Surprisingly the worst food we've eaten in the past week at a restaurant was also the most expensive. In the case of Sweet Tomatoes, signing-up for the "Veggie Club" will get you rather good coupons in your inbox every month, or so.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No Thanks on Muchas Gracias

This will be a quick post tonight... I've always been pretty easy-going when it comes to Mexican food, but we had maybe the worst Mexican food we've ever had this evening at a Washington/Oregon chain called Muchas Gracias. Looking for something fast and cheap we stopped by this restaurant's location in south Salem. Besides tasting awful, the food was not particularly cheap--in cost.

First, the nachos one of our group ordered included small pieces of beef, about one third of which tasted like gristle, the rest like...well, let's not go there. My son's burrito was sitting in a pile of drippings. He described the flavor and texture as being something like eating bad taco soup. He was particularly excited with the prize accompanying his meal: a long hair inside one of the buritos. That really made his day.

As for me, I can't seem to get rid of a metallic flavor in my mouth since dinner. I am not pleased a pleased reviewer. As John Hodgman might say, "that is all."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crepes with Blackberry Compote

Today, I'm sharing warm crepes with fresh blackberry compote. (My photo also includes toasted challah bread with Dunkin Donuts' coffee.) For a basic crepe recipe, please see the I suggest enhancing this with a tablespoon or two of sour creme as well as a tablespoon of sugar. If you're making crepes for a family of four, you should probably double the recipe.

For the compote, we had a fresh blackberries the family had recently picked. I cleaned the berries and placed them on the stove at a low heat. (It was probably about four to six cups of berries.) I added a little bit of butter followed by about a tablespoon of sugar to sweeten the berries. After it had been simmering for about fifteen minutes, I added a small amount of tapioca to thicken the mixture.

When done, it was the perfect topping for rich, homemade crepes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Famous Texas Rolls

These are absolute favorite mouth-watering biscuits--straight from family in Forney, Texas. For some mysterious reason, they're called biscuits down south and rolls up north. Either way, though, they taste incredible. Thanks to Mildred for the recipe. It's one of our favorites.

Grandma’s Angel Biscuits

5 c. flour 1 pkg. Dry yeast

3 T. sugar 5 T. warm water

5 tsp. baking powder 2 cups buttermilk-ROOM TEMP.

1/2 tsp. Soda

1 1/2 tsp. Salt 1 cup melted butter

3/4 cup shortening

Sift dry ingred. together. Cut in shortening with pastry blender.

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add yeasty water mixture and

buttermilk to dry. Mix Well. Roll out to ¼ -inch thick. Cut

with round cutter. Dip in melted butter and fold in half. Bake

on cookie sheet at 400 F for 15 min. May be frozen before

Baking. (I never dipped, or folded my biscuits- turned out just

as good.)

These rolls may be kept in refrigerator 1-2 days before baking.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Karl's Famous Pretzels

I’ve been perfecting this recipe for several years now, and I think you will enjoy it. One word of advice is not to skip the quick immersion in the boiling water! This step makes all the difference in their final texture, creating pretzels that are moist yet crisp. I don't go into a lot of detail here about forming the pretzels, but just do your best. It takes a little practice. Even if they look odd, they should still taste great!

Ingredients and Preparation

1 1/2 cup water (1/4 cup of it warm for the yeast)
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
about 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast
2 tbsp softened butter
1-4 tbsp of sourdough sponge

1 or two beaten eggs
course salt
sesame seeds
1/2 stick of butter

Activate the yeast separately by adding it to the water and sugar. If you have a bread machine, try using this to prepare and knead the dough. (It helps if you add the water first.) If it’s too large a batch for the machine, try cutting the recipe in half. Otherwise, prepare the dough as you would for an ordinary loaf of homemade bread.

Neither the butter nor the sourdough is a required ingredient, but I think both help make a better finished product. The sourdough enhances the depth and richness of flavor. The butter not only improves both the texture and flavor, but it also seems to help when it comes time to form the pretzels.

Watch the dough’s progress in the bread machine carefully. It often requires a little fine-tuning with additional water and/or flour in order to achieve a proper ball of dough. You will want the dough to rise for several hours, and, depending on the size and habits of your bread machine, you may decide to transfer before long to a bread pan inside a barely heated oven and cover with a moist towel. (I pre-heat to a couple hundred degrees, put the bread in, then turn off the oven.) As an alternative, you may also want to form the pretzels now, then place in the oven under the towel to rise.

When it looks like it’s done rising, it’s time to get everything else ready. Beat your eggs for the wash and set aside. Get a deep pan and fill it halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Begin forming the pretzels by making eight-inch ropes. Once they're formed into their classic shape, carefully pick each up and dip in the boiling water for ten seconds before returning to the greased baking sheet.

When this step is complete and they’ve all had their hot bath, then brush the egg wash over each and season with the course salt and sesame seeds. Bake until lightly browned for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Enjoy with melted butter.

Some Quick Pretzel History

Pretzels are said to have had their origin in Europe in the 600s, and were used by monks to reward children for memorizing their prayers and studies. The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, describe their invention by a monk " a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' ("little rewards")". Pretzels were also used as a teaching tool for the mysterious three-in-one nature of the Holy Trinity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

To Brioche or not to Brioche...

What, you ask, is brioche? I'm not a particular fan of Wikipedia, but check them out for the basics on this very rich bread. This recipe comes to us from family in Yakima, Washington. I'm taking tonight's recipe straight from the guest cook. No's Friday, after all.


1 pkg. active dry yeast (1 tablespoon)
1/2 c. warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 t. salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk

In a large bowl, dissolve yest in water. Stir in sugar, salt, and eggs. Cut butter or margarine into small pieces and add to liquid. Gradually beat in 3 1/3 cups flour, mixing until flour is evenly moistened and dough holds together. Shape into a ball and place on a floured board. (I use a pastry cloth on the dining table--the table is lower than the counter and that gives better leverage.) Knead until smooth and satiny (5 - 20 minutes), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. (Start w/ 3 1/2 cups, use the last half cup in the kneading process....)

Punch dough down and knead briefly on a lightly floured board to release air. Divide in half and shape each half into a round loaf. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets; press down each loaf until it is doubled (about 45 minutes).

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 24 - 30 minutes or until crust is light brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool and racks. Makes 2 loaves.

Stir, or knead on floured board to release air. Shape dough and back according to directions for brioche a tete or petite brioches, following.

For brioche a tete, pinch off a sixth of the brioche dough and set it aside. Shape large portion into a smooth ball by pulling surface of dough to underside of ball.

Set ball, smooth side up, in a well-buttered 9-inch diameter fluted brioche pan or a 2/quart round baking pan. Press dough down to fill pan bottom evenly. Shape small piece of dough into a teardrop shape that is smooth on top. With your finger, poke a hole in center of large dough portion through to pan. Nest pointed end of small piece into hole--settle it securely, or topknot will pop off at an angle during baking.

Cover w/plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled (1 - 2 hours).

With a very soft brush, paint surface of brioche with egg yolk mixture; do not let mixture accumulate in joint of topknot. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven (325 for glass pan) for about 1 hour or until well browned and bread begins to pull away from sides of pan. Let stand for 5 minutes; then carefully invert to remove from pan. Turn upright and serve warm, or let cool on rack and serve at room temp.

Parting comments from today's guest cook:

I think challah is much nicer: lots of egg, but lighter. Brioche has a certain glamour: fiction scenes set in France describe characters dipping their brioche in coffee...At least, I've read that this summer. Who wants a bread that needs dipping like a biscotti?

Stay Tuned....for Karl's famous pretzels tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Strawberry Spinach Salad Extreme

Ever had one of those weeks? After we all picked blackberries along the Willamette River on Sunday afternoon, my wife prepared the most lovely blackberry pie yesterday, but the recipe was so complicated and convoluted that it created the most incredible amount of dirty dishes. In the process of getting everything cleaned up (yes, I am the husband who cleans), the dripping water off of the many dishes remaining after two dishwasher cycles created a little stream along the granite counter overnight, gathering on the lip of the refinished kitchen cupboard. When I opened the cupboard doors under the sink this morning, almost a cup of water splashed out on the floor.

So, after gluing and clamping the damaged cabinet facing back in position tonight, I'm back in the blog saddle here. Let this be a lesson on the importance of clear and sensible recipes!

This week, I thought I'd feature some recipes from friends and family. Unfortunately (hint...hint, reader), no Costco-sized boxes filled to the brim with recipes have yet arrived. We'll begin with this little number sent in to us from family in Kent, Washington. It looks delicious, and, for some reason, I have this craving for Sweet Tomatoes restaurant in Portland. Late night Sweet Tomatoes run, anyone?


1 quart thinly-sliced strawberries
1 can of drained mandarin oranges
12 to 16 ounces of fresh baby spinach leaves
1 tbs of poppy seeds
2 tbs sesame seeds


1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/ tsp paprika

Blend dressing with mixer. Top salad with feta cheese.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pacific Northwest Salmon Dip

This has become one of our favorite dips.

Salmon Dip

2 – 8 oz. pkgs. of softened cream cheese

beat w 1/4-cup lemon juice

2-3 chopped green onions

Pepper and tobasco to taste

Fold into the above

1 good-sized piece of smoked salmon broken into pieces. Make one day ahead!

The "Make one day ahead" rule really is important, but it's hard to follow--especially if you're hungry. Smoked salmon is definitely the best choice. I would also recommend Josephson's salmon from Astoria, Oregon--if you're picky about your salmon. I try to pick-up some of their precious smoked salmon whenever I happen to be passing through beautiful Astoria.

Special thanks to T & K for sharing this one years ago. This coming week, I will be highlighting recepie suggestions for this blog from friends and family.