Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Do the Math. Hit it! Houston May 27, 2010

butter up!

It’s simple arithmetic.  Not Going To The Y plus Not Writing equals More Time For Cleaning.  When a second batch of yogurt turned out curdly and separated, I knew the yogurt maker needed a scrub, so I gave in and hit the housework.  I just can’t do it all, unfortunately, and with our recent road trip to H-town rounding out a whirlwind spring season, the house (and my figure) reveal embarrassing signs of neglect.

The next time you find yourself in Baghdad of the Bayou (I just had to throw that one in ), check out chef Monica Pope’s T’afia restaurant for Czech-inflected Clutch City cuisine, locally flavored with the bounty of the Third Coast.  Joined by another mom and gradeschooler, we enjoyed kind service, tasty food (loved the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates!) and a noisy atmosphere impervious to energetic kids.  On a rare night of imbibing, Austin Frugal Foodie gratefully knocked back a flight of five Texas wines to accompany the five-course local tasting menu.  Our party partook of silky Swiss chard, heavenly cream-drizzled grits, fat shrimp, great bowtie mac-n-cheese, balsamic caramel beef(!) and more.  On Saturday mornings, T’afia hosts a farmers market that sounds incredible.  We might pencil that in for our next trip to Space City.  By the way, Motel 6 on the Katy Freeway furnishes THE most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on!  (I like ’em firm.)

If you’re hauling your kids to the Energy Capital of the World, be sure to visit the amazing Children’s Museum of Houston.  Our frugal friend, Austinfrugalmom, recently purchased a Premier Membership from the Austin Children’s Museum, and the reciprocity program allowed free entry into the Houston location for all of us.  Great savings for itinerant summer-breakers!  Check it out before you hit the road with young ‘uns.

Back to that “yogurt”.  I can’t bear to throw away honest local goat milk (from Wateroak Farms), even if I did screw up the preparation.  Well-whisked, the fine-lumped fluid still works as a buttermilk substitute for most recipes.  Like this here easy, easy quick bread fortified with Richardson Farms freshly ground whole wheat flour.  Crunchety-crusted and sweetened just enough to highlight the fresh wheat, this craggy loaf craves the caress of rich and lightly salted Organic Valley Pasture butter.  Accompany this bread with Dai Due‘s meaty hot boudin and you’ve got lunch—don’t forget the Texas peaches for dessert!

IRISH-STYLE BROWN BREAD makes one 8″ or 9″ round loaf

  • 182 grams (1½ cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5-pound bag is usually the best value.
  • 3 3/8 ounces (1 cup) organic whole wheat pastry flour.  Look for this in bulk departments or try Arrowhead Mills or Bob’s Red Mill.
  • 6 ounces (1½ cups) Richardson Farms whole wheat flour (available at their Barton Creek farmers market location) or organic whole wheat flour.
  • 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar, sieved
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda, sieved
  • 1½ teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 3 Tablespoons organic sugar.  Buy this in bulk or look for Central Market’s brand in the 2-pound bag.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic butter, softened, plus 1 Tablespoon melted.  Organic Valley is my favorite all-purpose butter.  If you didn’t stock up when Natural Grocers offered their near-clearance-priced sale, click for a coupon.
  • 1½ cups organic or local buttermilk or yogurt.  I make my own yogurt from local goat milk and I usually do a better a job than the last two batches.  Click to see howSwede Farm Dairy is back from babymaking (SFC market at Sunset Valley).  Wateroak is taking a market break but will still be available at Wheatsville Co-op and Whole Foods.

Preheat the oven to 400°.  If you bake your loaf in a handleless pan, you can use the toaster oven.  A heavy 8″ or 9″ round pan works best and cast iron is ideal.  Lube the pan how you please and sprinkle the bottom with wheat bran or cornmeal.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flours through the sugar) or just dump them into the food processor and let ‘er rip.  Add the butter and process to blend or rub the fat in with your fingertips.  I recommend the machine if small children are about.  They have a way of knowing just when to soil the carpet or bust their lip and you might not want to get caught butterfingered at that moment.

Pour the flour mixture back into your bowl and add the buttermilk or yogurt.  Stir quickly with a fork to evenly moisten the dough, then use a flexible dough scraper to fold the dough over itself just a few times to bring it all together and develop a bit of structure.  Using the scraper, place the dough mound in the pan.  Slash a large “X” in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife before placing the pan in the oven.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until browned and the center of the loaf tests done when probed with a long bamboo skewer.

Carefully remove the loaf from the pan, brush it with the melted butter and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.  Serve warm or let cool completely.  This loaf tastes best the day of baking.  Chunk, crumble or slice leftovers to freeze for stuffing, bread crumbs or toast.

Welcome home!

 

kebabin’ July 24, 2009

Filed under: Indian,meat — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:18 pm
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I love the convenience of ground meat and find a number of local options at our farmers markets.  From Loncito’s Lamb and Thunderheart Bison at both Sunset Valley Farmers Market and Austin Farmers Market, goat and lamb from Premium Lamb at Austin FM, to pork, beef and longhorn beef vendors at both markets, you’ll enjoy plenty of choices.

Here’s an Indian-inspired kebab recipe. You can use lamb (my first choice), goat (very mild), or beef.   The ingredient list is long, but these juicy, aromatic  morsels will transport you, if not to India itself, then to your favorite Indian grocery store.  Mine’s MGM in Rich Creek Plaza at 7429 Burnet Road.  I don’t get north much so I buy what I can at Fiesta, but I relish the occasional foray into this friendly resource.  Sometimes they’re selling curry bush transplants.  I bought one at least 8 years ago and it grows great here.  It’ll die down in our “winter,” even with a sheet over it. Each spring I worriedly inspect the branches, searching for green signs of survival, and to my relief the plant always comes through.  Sometimes it blooms sweet smelling blossoms and one year it even fruited.  I had no idea what to do with those firm, dark, round berries.  Let me know if you do!

Although these kebabs are moist enough not to require condimenting, they taste extra yummy with some blueberry chutney.

KAKORI-STYLE KEBABS yields 10 finger length chubbies

  • 2 Tablespoons white poppy seeds–If you don’t have these, sesame seeds would probably taste good.  Black poppy seeds probably wouldn’t.
  • 3 Tablespoons besan (garbanzo bean flour)
  • 2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil, ghee, or neutral oil
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons organic oatmeal (Whole Foods bulk sells for $1.79 a pound) soaked in 2 Tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala–I always make my own and I’m always experimenting, but you can purchase some from WF or Central Market Bulk departments.
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, precious and optional, crushed with a little salt
  • 3/4 of a hard Texas pear, peeled, cored and finely shredded.  Go ahead and munch the other quarter or put it in your stock scrap bag in the freezer.
  • 1 pound ground meat, preferably local grassfed good stuff

In a small skillet, dry-toast the poppy seeds over medium or so heat until fragrant and darkening.  Add the besan and continue to toast until besan is roasty-fragrant and darkens a bit.  Dump out onto a plate or cake pan (cools faster), let cool and grind up in your spice grinder or mortar.  In your still hot pan, add the oil and onions and cook, adjusting heat as necessary, til they’re goodly browned.  You know what I’m talkin’ about.

Mix all your dry seasonings, including besan mixture, together in a small bowl.  Put the meat, browned onion, oatmeal and shredded pear into a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer.  I prefer to use a mixer because not only do my delicate hands get chilly but I can always count on a baby pooping on the carpet or some such disaster befalling my offspring when I’m up to my elbows in raw meat (or bread dough or whatever).  Praise be to KitchenAid®!  Dump in the spices and thoroughly combine all the ingredients however you dare.

Let the kebab mixture rest in the fridge for a while, all day or overnight.  Form the meat with your hands into 10 plump sausages.  An ice cream-style scoop works well to portion it out.  Grill over hot coals til cooked through and crusty brown.  Watch ’em disappear cuz even the youngest guy around here loves these.

 

Eggplant Chickpea Pilaf July 21, 2009

Filed under: Indian,rice,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:11 pm
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Down at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, my usual foraging turf, I find a number of local gems.  Ringger Family Farm, located in Bastrop County, makes soap with milk from their own herd of sustainably raised goats and grows beautiful jewel-like little eggplants.  I can’t get enough of their lavender and white striated, friendly-flavored finger-length delights.  And the cute, round, green and white-striped Thai orbs are a crunchy sweet treat when quickly stir-fried.  These folks also grow “tame” jalapenos for those of us whose capsaicin tolerance has been weakened by the proscriptions of our brood.

I could probably eat diced eggplant fried in olive oil almost every day in season.  Thankfully they are not available locally year round—although I anxiously await the first harvest at the beginning of every summer.  Before frying, I toss eggplant cubes with a little salt and some turmeric and let them sit for a few minutes.  After cooking, I refrigerate the used oil for sauteing veggies or brushing onto tortillas for quesadillas.

Here’s a vegetarian meal in a skillet that takes advantage of our local bounty of eggplants:

EGGPLANT CHICKPEA PILAF

  • 1 cup basmati rice–I like the Indian and Pakistani brands in the large fabric bags.

Rinse the rice well in three changes of water, then drain and soak in about 1 1/2 cups fresh water for 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve, reserving soaking water and adding enough to measure 1 3/4 cups water.

  • 8 small, slim, gorgeously young and fresh eggplants, beheaded and and quartered lengthwise.

Toss the eggplant pieces with about 1 teaspoon turmeric and a generous pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, preferably organic (Whole Foods and Central Market offer their own brands at good prices), drained.  Don’t bother to rinse the beans.  Jacques Pépin doesn’t.
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons oil or ghee.  I like organic coconut oil, of course.
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 4 green), slightly crushed with the handle of your kitchen knife
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 0r 2 whole dried red chiles
  • 1/4 teaspoon kalonji (nigella), optional
  • 1/2 teasoon asafetida, optional
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 whole green jalapeno, optional
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled or ground in a mortar with a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (seeds)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt

Heat oil and whole spices (through kalonji) in a 12″ skillet on medium-high heat.  Fry spices until browning and fragrant, then add asafetida and quickly dump in the onions.  Cook the onions, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary, until browning agreeably.  Add the eggplant pieces and the whole jalapeno and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is browned.  Add the drained rice and garlic.  Continue cooking and stirring until the rice grains separate and lose their translucency.  Add the drained beans and the remaining ingredients plus the reserved water and turn the heat to high to quickly bring the mixture to a boil.  Give it a final stir, turn the heat to low, and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.  Don’t eat the whole spices.  Remove them from the pan if you have the opportunity–otherwise just warn your diners.

 

blueberry chutney

Filed under: blueberries,Indian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:15 pm
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I can’t think of a snappy title this time.  But here’s a great chutney that shows off Texas ingredients in season right now.  Our local  farmers markets are offering plenty of organic options for onions, garlic and blueberries.  And those Texas pears!  If you steer clear of these rather rustic fruits on account of their tough hides or occasionally granular insides, I urge you to give ’em a try.  Let them ripen up to a yielding texture–they may still feel surprisingly firm–and peel that thick skin off.  These pears can be really luscious, and may even surprise your palate with a hint of walnut!  This recipe is very customizable.  It’s like a choose your own texture adventure.

BLUEBERRY CHUTNEY

  • 2 1/2 to 3 Tablespoons oil–organic virgin coconut is good.  Whole Foods brand is usually the best buy.  Most nut oils and any neutral oil would be fine.
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds.  If you have only yellow, that will do.
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 whole dried red chiles–crush them if you want the heat.
  • 2 small or 1 medium-ish onion,  sliced thin or chopped medium fine, you decide.  Choose your color, too.  Mix it up if you want.  Pairing a red and a sweet yellow worked great for me.
  • 1 large clove of garlic, prepped as you please.  From whole or whole smashed to pressed or any form in between.
  • a pecan shell-size finger of ginger, preferably organic and domestic.  You can fine shred, microplane or mince this.  By the way, I almost never peel ginger.  Don’t tell anyone.  On second thought, tell everybody!
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium-sized Texas pear (about 5 ounces), hard or ripe, peeled, cored and diced medium or fine or shredded thick or thin.
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins–I love the Central Market Bulk raisins.
  • 1/4-1/3 cup organic apple cider vinegar
  • 80 grams (about 3/8 cup plus a scant teaspoon) turbinado sugar
  • 1 pint organic Texas blueberries–about $4 still at our farmers markets and Central Market–rinsed and drained.  Don’t bother to dry them.

Heat your oil and whole spices in 10″ to 12″ skillet on medium high heat.  Let the spices toast and the mustard seeds pop. Add the onions.  Stir and cook the onions to brown them nicely.  Adjust the heat as necessaryStir in your garlic and lightly brown it if you like.  Stir in the ginger.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium-low to medium heat about 20 minutes,  until the chutney has thickened well and the blueberries are as popped as you please.  Add a dash of water if it’s thickening up too soon.  Don’t eat the whole spices if you can help it!

You’ll love the royal hue of this sweet condiment.  Eat it with the usual kebabs and pilafs or try some on a tangy cheese.  Enjoy the Texas bounty!

 

that’s a crock…of potatoes July 13, 2009

Filed under: potatoes,slow cooker,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:35 pm
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Fresh and flavorful local potatoes are all over our markets lately.  If you’ve yet to taste a spud not long out of the ground, you’re in for a savory treat.  Our area farmers are offering mostly reds and yellows.  Get yourself some smallish taters, two inches or so across, and roast ’em outside in your slow cooker.

SLOW COOKER-ROASTED POTATOES around our house this barely serves 3

  • 1 1/2 pounds small (about 2 inches across) red or yellow potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil,  preferably organic, plus just a little more
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt–I like Diamond brand
  • up to a whole head of garlic cloves, peeled (use at least 1/2 dozen)
  • 3 good-sized (about 6″–that’s a good size) sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 good-sized sprig of fresh thyme

Wash and dry your potatoes.  Put them in the crock, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt.  Mix them up.  Rub your garlic cloves with olive oil and nestle them amongst the potatoes.  Some of the garlic might sneak down to the bottom but try not to let the cloves touch the crock.  Rub your herb sprigs with olive oil and lay them on top of the potatoes and garlic.  Roast on high for about 3 hours.  The potatoes are done when you can poke right through them with a pointy implement.  If they roast a little longer you’ll get crispier skins.

 

from “can’t”aloupe to “can”aloupe July 12, 2009

Filed under: cantaloupe,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:35 am
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molding my 'sicles

pop-a-sicle!

I recently bought a small, quite fragrant cantaloupe at Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  Entranced by the heady aroma, I ignored the unfortunate fact that I actually don’t like melons (watermelons being the irresistibly refreshing exception).  This unabashedly ripe orb seemed to promise new possibilities of edibility.  At the very least the baby could try it.

Baby liked the new fruit just fine but my older son quickly decided he didn’t enjoy melon after all.  And despite that honeyed scent I couldn’t put a piece into my mouth and my husband wouldn’t even feign temptation.

What to do?  Popsicles, of course!  Now the whole family can dig these melons!

CANTALOUPE POPSICLES yield depends on mold size

  • a generous pound of ripe cantaloupe, cut into small chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto–I spose this is optional.  You could add a small splash of almond extract instead.
  • fresh lemon and/or lime juice to taste–I used 1 small lemon and half of 1 small lime for my batch.
  • local honey, to taste–I put in about 2 Tablespoons.

Dump everything into your blender.  Pulse to get it going then blend til smooth (or a little chunky, your choice).  Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze for 1 hour before inserting sticks.  Freeze until hard and unmold at eatin’ time.

Astoundingly (to me) I do not own popsicle molds.  I see such cute ones in stores and magazines.  I probably own most every other kitchen doodad so I used some heart-shaped JELL-O® brand Jigglers® molds that I bought years ago at the (surprise, surprise) thrift store.  You can use waxed paper cups but that’s not so green.  If you don’t mind small ‘sicles ice cube trays will work and faster, too.

Take advantage of a luscious local fruit, in abundant supply right now at good prices.

 

cornmeal cakes tripled and berried July 7, 2009

Filed under: blueberries,cake — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:00 pm
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“BLUEBERRY CORNMEAL CAKE TRIPTYCH”

I’ve been goin’ at it with my Logan’s Turnpike Mill stoneground Georgia cornmeal and our organic Texas blueberries (still showing up in the local markets for around $4 per pint).   We enjoyed these three cakes recently (yes, we go through cake pretty fast around here).  If you gotta mind to you can enhance the cake of your choice with a little lemon zest or lemon oil added with the butter.  And if you really want to trip out try blue or even red cornmeal (make sure the grind’s not too coarse).

Here’s a terrific pound cake, with or without blueberries.


Cake and fireworks---can't be beat!

BLUEBERRY CORNMEAL POUND CAKE

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, preferably organic, softened
  • 38 grams cornmeal
  • 181.5 grams (1 1/2 cups) organic all-purpose flour
  • 125 grams (5/8 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • up to 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 151 grams (7/8 cup) sour cream, homemade yogurt 1/2-n-1/2 is fine
  • 42 grams (2 Tablespoons) honey, preferably local
  • scant Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, preferably local
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries, preferably local and organic, rinsed and dried well

Preheat oven to 350º and grease and flour (I like Spectrum baking spray) a 6-cup Bundt® style tube pan.  I use a Turk’s head pan.

Combine dry ingredients (cornmeal through salt) in a bowl with a whisk.  Lightly beat eggs with vanilla and about a third of the sour cream.  Mix the remaining sour cream with the honey.

Combine butter and dry ingredients in a mixer bowl (a stand mixer works best for this).  Add sour cream with honey and mix on medium speed with the paddle for 90 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl and add the egg mixture in three parts, beating for 20 seconds  after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl each time.

Fill the pan halfway with batter.  Gently stir blueberries into the remaining batter and finish filling the pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until cake tests done.  If the top seems to be overbrowning you can lightly lay a piece of foil on the top or  turn the oven down to 325º.

Cool cake in pan on a rack for 5 minutes.  Loosen sides by gently jostling pan and turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

A light lemon glaze is nice but not essential.  Combine 1 Tablespoon lemon juice with 6 or more Tablespoons powdered sugar to make a drizzly drizzle.  Pour over cooled cake.


This next cake is good as a 1 or 2 layer cake with super buttery frosting or as a single layer served with tartened whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream and 1/3 cup sour cream whooped together til softly peaking), fresh blueberries and local honey.


BROWN SUGAR CORNMEAL CAKE makes 1  9″ round layer

  • 3 ounces (6 Tablespoons) organic butter, softened
  • 155 grams (3/4 cup) organic light brown sugar–Central Market Organics is usually the best buy
  • 1 1/2 eggs–75 grams or 4 1/2 Tablespoons–preferably local
  • 121 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour, preferably organic
  • 2 ounces (about a rounded 1/2 cup) cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º and grease and flour a 9″ X 2″ round cake pan.  For a surefire smooth move at unmolding time lay a circle of waxed paper on the bottom of the pan before greasing and flouring or spraying with baking spray.

Cream butter and sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in eggs.  Whisk together dry ingredients.  Stir vanilla into yogurt.  Add dry ingredients to butter in three parts alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Beat well and brieflybetween additions and don’t forget to scrape the mixing bowl.

Fill your pan, jiggling it to level batter, and bake about 20-25 minutes, until cake tests done.  Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes before loosening the sides with a metal spatula and inverting onto a cooling rack.  Reinvert if that’s your style. Let cake cool completely if you’re gonna frost it.  Otherwise eat it warm.  Go ahead.


Almost a cross between the first two cakes, this tall, rich layer is downright decadent without being fancy.  Dense with butter (nearly unctuous with Organic Valley Pasture butter), it’s irresistible when warm.  The blueberries actually help cut the richness.  So eat another piece before I eat it all!

that's rich!

RICH BLUEBERRY CORNMEAL CAKE makes one 9″ round cake

  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) organic butter, softened
  • 83 grams (about 7/8 cup) organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 35 grams (about 1/4 cup ) cornmeal
  • 83 grams (about 1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons) organic all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams (1 cup) organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt–slightly less if using Pasture butter
  • 160 grams (2/3 cup) homemade 1/2-n-1/2 yogurt or sour cream (light is fine.  This cake is rich enough.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs, preferably local
  • up to 1/2 pint fresh blueberries, preferably local and organic, rinsed and dried well

Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease and flour a 9″ X 3″ round pan.  Lining  the bottom with a round of waxed paper is a good idea here.

Combine dry ingredients, through salt, in a bowl with a whisk.  Stir about 3 Tablespoons (don’t bother to measure) yogurt or sour cream and extracts into the eggs.  Combine flour mixture, butter, and remaining yogurt in a mixer bowl and beat on medium speed for 90 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add egg mixture to batter in three parts, beating for 20 seconds after each addition and scraping the bowl in between.

Pour two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle  the blueberries evenly over the batter.  Top with the remaining batter and the sprinkle with the blueberries.  Bake for 35 minutes or so until cake tests done.  Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes before loosening the sides and unmolding. Let cool as long as you can stand it.