Friday, January 1, 2010

Chilly Chiles

As another year rolls over and we focus on what is to come in 2010, I think it's equally important to remember our successes of the past year.

It was a big year for us in the kitchen. We began the year with an ethnic focus, playing with flavors from Asia and the Middle East, relatively new cooking styles for both of us, and although we're far from mastering either, our initial forays gave us hope. Spring and summer saw us cooking outdoors, spending long, happy hours smoking and grilling poultry, pork and beef in the kettle. Our kitchen got bigger when we moved in August, and we're still trying to figure out how to use all that extra space (luckily, we enjoyed a very generous Christmas, complete with all kinds of new pots and pans and tools and gadgets). Our trip to Spain this fall introduced us to a whole new style of cooking, and though we've barely even scratched the surface of Spanish food, our souvenir leg of Jamon Iberico de Bellota (just carved last night for the first time -- AMAZING) ensures that we'll be reliving our Spanish memories for a very long time. And I would be remiss to ignore the continued contributions of two of the giants of French cooking, Jacques Pepin and Julia Child; together, they provide lifetimes of inspiration in our kitchen.

Today is January 1st, 2010, and there's a slight chill in our apartment. To cut through the cold, nothing works better than a bubbling soup pot on the stove, especially a pot full of the warm flavors of cumin and spicy chiles. These two recipes are our favorites for a cold day, and they're great to make together for a party since they share garnish. The first is from Epicurious, and is one of the greatest soups you'll ever make in less than 30 minutes. It has become a staple at our place for its ease, affordability and ultimate satisfaction. The second recipe is my very own green chili, and today this recipe is dedicated to Adam, because he's completely obsessed with it. Not that I blame him, it's my favorite chili ever, too.


Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño or serrano chile with seeds
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped green onions
  • Crumbled Mexican cheese (queso fresco is our favorite)
  • Sour cream or Mexican crema
  • Fresh limes for squeezing

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon chile. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth then return to pot, or buzz soup with immersion blender for a few seconds. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon jalapeño, if desired.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro, green onions, crema and cheese & a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Dave's Envy Chili (because it's green, and everyone wants the recipe as soon as they try it)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lbs. turkey breast roast (I like Butterball, it's consistent and easy to prepare)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 large poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 large jalapenos or serranos with seeds, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs. green tomatillos
  • 2 small cans green chiles
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. jalapeno powder (can substitute green tabasco sauce)
  • 2 Tbs. Mexican Oregano
  • 1 tsp. celery salt
  • 2 15- or 16- oz. cans white beans (cannellinis or Northern beans), undrained
  • 32 oz. low-salt chicken broth
  • 12 oz. beer of your choice (Modelo Especial recommended)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Large handful of coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped green onions
  • Crumbled Mexican cheese (queso fresco is our favorite)
  • Sour cream or Mexican crema
  • Fresh limes for squeezing
In a very large, heavy pot (enameled cast iron works best), add oil and then roast the turkey breast in the oven according to package directions. Remove roast and shred turkey into bite-sized chunks using two forks, & set aside. Pass tomatillos and canned green chiles through the food processor until they become basically liquefied.

On the stovetop over medium-high heat (and to the same pot with the turkey glaze still in the bottom -- that's good flavor!), add onions, poblanos and jalapeno or serrano chiles. Saute just until they soften and onions begin to brown very slightly. Add garlic, cumin, jalapeno powder, oregano and celery salt and saute for about 30 seconds just to slightly toast the dry spices and cook the garlic through. Add tomatillo/chile sauce, undrained beans, chicken broth, beer, shredded turkey, salt and pepper and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer as long as you like but at least one hour (two is recommended), stirring often to avoid sticking. Immediately before serving, toss in freshly chopped cilantro and lime juice.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro, green onions, crema and cheese & a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Some people also like a crunchy topper like Fritos or corn chips.

Friday, September 18, 2009

El queso es viejo y mohoso

2 more days.


We've been so excited about it that pretty much every single person we know is aware that we leave for Spain in a couple of days. We've been planning this trip for almost a year now, and between talking about it constantly, counting down the days in our Facebook statuses, and organizing an army of cat/house sitters (thank you, guys and gals!) we're guessing our departure is catching no one by surprise.

The surprise might come while we're actually away on our trip, because if all goes to plan, we will be providing regular trip/Spanish food updates via our lovely but too-neglected blog. We won't have constant internet access while we're there, but don't be confounded to see an upload of photos either to this blog directly or to our Facebook pages. And don't let your hair go white if those photos are accompanied by informative and hilarious captions. And if, along with those photos, you notice something that LOOKS like a blog post, don't let your heart stop just from the shock of it.

We may be the worst bloggers ever, but we're still capable of a surprise every now and then.


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Friday, August 21, 2009

Heeeeere’s Erin…..

Yes, we’re terrible bloggers. Considering the extraordinary amount of money we’ve spent in the last two months on a new apartment and a new car and saving for a vacation, we’ll be home more, hopefully blogging more. Until we go to Spain next month. Then I make no promises. We’ll be eating and drinking our way around the country and we may not come back.

It’s been an action-packed summer. Hell, it’s been an action-packed YEAR. But things are calming down. We’re settling into our new home. Our new car. Our new KITCHEN.

Yes folks, we moved. We moved to an apartment 2 blocks from our old one and it is a HUGE improvement. I won’t bore you with the delightful amenities such as ample street parking, free and private laundry, free internet and cable, storage galore, back yard with a hot tub, or the glorious sun room and new bathroom. These are all lovely things. However, they pale in comparison to the kitchen.

Oh, the kitchen. The retro, 50’s inspired, eat-in kitchen with the black and white tiles, dishwasher, built in shelving, the coffee bar, the actual bar, the huge floor plan (we plan on making an island) the STORAGE, the windows, and the coup de grace…the vintage, enameled cast iron, gas powered, six burner Roper range, circa 1948. WHA!? Yes, you should be jealous.

Every time I walk into the kitchen, I get the urge to put on my cute apron and bake a pie or cook something delicious in my cast iron pans. Which is pretty much all I want to use right now. There’s a symbiotic thing going on between the stove and our cast iron pans. Food is cooking at a better speed and more evenly. It tastes better. It’s more FUN. You know, I haven't named her yet. I need to do that. Suggestions are welcome.

We spend entire evenings in the kitchen, cooking, organizing, singing along to whatever is on the iPod, or just sitting at the kitchen table, drinking wine, making plans for the’s been really, really nice.

We ran into a slight hiccup last week, when I discovered the oven wasn’t pre-heating. The pilot light was lit, but the heating element didn’t seem to be getting any gas. Doesn’t seem like that big of an issue, right? Call the landlord, and wait it out. But here’s the issue. I am a STRESS baker. When I get overwhelmed or start to feel disconnected or just need to hit the reset button, I bake. It soothes me. It gets me focused and ready to deal with whatever is coming next. So the thought of having NO OVEN about put me into a full on panic attack. So for the last week, we’ve been researching, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. We told our landlord, she promised to call someone, but then she hurt her ankle and has been out of commission and we didn’t want to bug her too much about it…but more and more time passed, and I was getting edgier and crankier. I needed to bake something. Quickly, before I made myself and Dave totally insane. Dave, being as awesome as he is (or acting upon self-preservation because I was LOSING IT) managed to communicate to our landlord that the oven needed repair and PRONTO before I went all “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny” on him. It was repaired within 24 hours. When I got the message, I went straight home and got out Glory, my KitchenAid stand mixer, before I had my backpack off my back. I crossed my fingers and turned the oven on.

It worked. QUICKLY. I am not ashamed to admit that a few tears came to my eyes. I suddenly knew everything was going to be fine.

And then I spent the next 90 minutes quietly humming to the iPod, wearing my favorite apron and making the most amazing, delicate, delicious blueberry lemon buckle. The fruity, tart and tender cake with the crunchy, buttery, streusel topping was such an appropriate dish with which to christen my new oven that it seemed to cook itself. I filled the buckle with the sweetest blueberries ever from Klug Farms via Green City Market and used this recipe that one of my favorite food bloggers posted on her site last week. Check her out: I love her. She writes about food in a way that really speaks to me.

The buckle turned out beautifully. I pulled it out of the oven and everything went quiet. I’ve been like a completely different person since that moment. We’ve eaten the entire thing. I am going to try and make one with sour cherries, also from Klug, this weekend.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Worst Bloggers Ever

Yeah, I know, I know, we suck. We've had so many great food experiences since our last post and have DISCUSSED so many postings that should have happened in the meantime that our lack of action can only be described as criminally negligent.

Ok, maybe not criminal. But disappointing, at least. I'm picturing each and every one of your faces frowning at us right now. It hurts, people. But we deserve it.

While we sheepishly accept your judgement and commence our self-flagellation, please enjoy this snippet from Michael Ruhlman's excellent blog (as recommended by Rick Bayless via Twitter) that perfectly addresses the term "foodie" in a manner that had me nodding like a bobblehead:

I must here make a distinction that surely will be debated. Since we are unlikely ever to get rid of the unfortunate term “foodie,” I would be grateful if we could separate people who like to cook from foodies. I have nothing against foodies, I hope it's clear. But we should recognize that they are a distinct species, and some people are both foodie and cook. Foodies are the first to hit the newest restaurant, or to plan a trip based on restaurant destinations; they’re are the first to order the coolest new ingredient and make sure you know it. Foodies love to talk about food and cooking. Foodies watch food television with their pants around their ankles and buy The French Laundry Cookbook for the pictures. Foodie is a social distinction, not a judgement. Cooks, on the other hand, cook; they like to cook, they enjoy the work and like feeding others and take pride in various successes in the kitchen, whether it’s their first mayonnaise or a Rachael Ray recipe, and they are not daunted by failure. (There is a third species, someone who does not like to cook, but loves to eat. This is called being human.)

To read the rest of the post, go to I recommend doing it on a regular basis. It's good stuff.

Now, off to my penance.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ode to a morel...

We are OBSESSED with these little morsels of fungi perfection. They have an extremely short season and are very expensive. I spent all my money on ‘em this week. It’s easy to do at $3 an ounce. It’s also totally worth it. We got three awesome meals out of them.

Meal 1…invited Chef Jeff and Danielle over for dinner. Dave and I got up super early and went to the Green City Market, Chicago’s PREMIERE farmer’s market, We bought most of our ingredients there, including the morels and the tenderloin, which was incredibly fresh. We actually tried to figure out how much this meal cost per plate, and after we hit the $10 mark, we stopped. I mean, we didn’t really care. It was too delicious.

Here’s the menu:

Pork tenderloin medallions in a Belgian beer and pancetta sauce…this was inspired by a dish from one of our favorite restaurants, Hopleaf. The Hopleaf dish used quail, fava beans and a different beer, De Proef. We used pork, fiddlehead ferns, morels and Goose Island’s Matilda brew. I liked ours much better. Dave has a way with pork that is downright poetic. If he ever offers to cook pork, always say yes.

Morel mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns…fiddlehead ferns were new to me, I had never heard of them. Dave read about them doing research on morels, and like morels, they are foraged, not cultivated and very expensive, about $20 per pound here in Chicago. They're very green and in the shape of a spiral and their taste is a delicious combination of asparagus and artichokes. The earthy flavor of the morel and the sweet and tart flavor of the ferns match perfectly. Chef Jeff and Dave simply sautéed these in some butter with salt and pepper, which just enhanced the flavor of an already perfect dish.

Jeweled green salad with asparagus and radish sprouts…straight from the garden in the yard! Chef Jeff whipped up vinaigrette with oil, dijon, and sherry vinegar.

Whipped potatoes…I don’t have a potato ricer, and I wanted really smooth potatoes, so I boiled the russets, and the pushed the cooked potatoes through a sieve using a potato masher. Pain in the butt, but worked perfectly. I whipped them in the kitchen aid with butter, chicken stock, and a touch of cream. These were a great vehicle for the delicious pancetta/beer sauce that Dave made.

Passionfruit meringue pie…I was very proud of this pie. See picture below. It turned out so much better than I expected. I used a passionfruit puree that Chef Jeff ordered for me from one of his suppliers of his restaurant. The recipe is based on my lemon meringue pie recipe and I simply substituted the lemon juice with the puree. The tart passionfruit flavor, in custard form, considerably mellowed out. It was DELIGHTFUL! Silky and light and the meringue was whipped to the perfect consistency (what did I ever do without my Kitchen Aid? Her name is Glory, by the way) and Dave ate the leftover pie for breakfast for the next couple of days.

Meal 2…I made this dinner the night before Dave had to take the GMAT, so I wanted it to be quickly prepared and tasty as it could possibly be. I went to the Green City market early in the morning, looking for inspiration. Ended up with the pasta, leeks, morels, and the kale. Figured I could throw together a delicious pasta dish in a matter of minutes, and send Dave back to studying with a full belly.

Here’s the menu.

Caprese salad…it’s too early for the market to have tomatoes, but I found some lovely ones at the new Whole Foods, which is amazing, by the way. GO. Anyway, I kept it simple. Tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella served on a bed of baby spinach and drizzled with olive oil and 18-year aged balsamic vinegar, then sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Fresh egg parpadelle noodles from a local company, Pasta Puttana, tossed with morels sautéed in butter, melted leeks, Italian kale, parmesan and fresh ground pepper. The pasta was made fresh by a woman that uses only the ingredients she can buy at the market that week. She was really fun to talk to, and helped me decide which pasta to buy after I told her what I wanted to put in the dish.

Meal 3…another meal with Chef Jeff and Danielle. Danielle, Dave and I had spent the day in the garden, and wanted a fast dinner. I had gone to the market in the morning and picked up the morels, leeks and ramps. The onions were from the garden and Chef Jeff grilled the bratwurst.

Here’s the menu:

Morels sautéed in butter….truly the best way to eat them. The earthiness of the mushroom is so much better all alone. There’s no real way to describe the flavor.

Sautéed kale, leeks, ramps and Egyptian onions…just softened in butter over a low heat in a cast iron pan. The garlicky ramps paired really well with the morels.

Grilled bratwurst... 'nuf said.

Now they are pretty much gone for the season and we are left with only the memory of how freaking delicious they are. Until next spring, you delicious, delicious fungus.

FUN FACT: Morel mushrooms are the official state mushroom of Minnesota!

TRIVIA: Only one other state has an officially recognized mushroom... Can you name the state and the mushroom? And a good recipe for cooking it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Indians Do It Best

... But we gave it one helluva go! AWESOME dinner tonight.

Clockwise from top:

Tandoori Chicken "Wrap"

Wednesday Chana Punjabi

Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer... does anyone know the difference?)


Mint Chutney

Mango Chutney


Two hours and practically every dish in the house later, and we were done. It was a fair amount of work, but totally worth it. The chicken wraps are spicy and satisfying, nicely balanced with crisp vegetables and the cooling yogurt sauce. The Chana Punjabi is DELICIOUS, a hearty stew of chickpeas and tomatoes that actually makes you crave a cold winter day. A quick Google search of saag paneer illustrates how much this dish is open to interpretation, but the creamy spinach filled with chunks of light cheese is a good compliment to the other dishes on tonight's menu. AND DON'T FORGET THE CHUTNEY! One of the hallmarks of Indian food is all of the condiments that are served with each dish, so don't leave them out.

And, for the first time ever on this lousy blog, RECIPES! There are probably some things we'll tweak next time we try making this all again, but we're really happy with the recipes as they are so we're happy to share them. Enjoy!

Tandoori Chicken "Wraps" from Everyday Food (total cheater, but try it; really good)

1 1/2 pounds (4 to 5) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into rough chunks
4 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (from a peeled 2-inch piece)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Vegetable oil, for grates (respect your grill! keep it clean, keep it hot & keep it lubricated)
4 Indian Naan flatbreads, toasted on the grill
1 cucumber thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs

Yogurt sauce

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chopped scallion
squeeze of lemon juice; combine and season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

  1. Heat grill to medium-high. In a medium bowl, place chicken, scallions, ginger, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine. Set aside to marinate, at least 10 and up to 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer chicken mixture to a food processor; pulse until roughly chopped, but not pasty, 10 to 12 times. Gently form mixture into sixteen 3/4-inch-thick patties (about 3 tablespoons each).
  3. Grill patties until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  4. "Wrap" a couple of patties in naan, top with cucumber slices, tomato and cilantro sprigs. Serve with Yogurt Sauce.

Chana Punjabi, from The Wednesday Chef (we love her blog, and even more after making her recipes)

1 tablespoon canola oil or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small Thai bird chili, chopped or 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Cooked rice for serving (optional)

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil and add onion. Sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and chili, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until tomatoes are very soft, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Purée mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan and place over medium heat. Add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, coriander, the garam masala, turmeric and lemon juice. Add chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  3. Cover and simmer until sauce is thick and chickpeas are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir pan about every 10 minutes, adding water as needed (up to 1 1/2 cups) to prevent burning. When ready to serve, sauce should be thick. If necessary, uncover pan and allow sauce to reduce for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until desired consistency. Stir in cilantro, adjust salt as needed and serve with cooked rice, if desired.

Saag Paneer (from the paneer box! If you're having trouble finding paneer, you can make your own, but check Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, you should be able to find it)

4 oz. paneer cheese cut into small cubes
1/2 lb. fresh spinach
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 small Thai chili
1 teaspoon ground cumin
season with coarse salt and pepper

  1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 1 minute and set aside.
  2. Lightly fry paneer cubes in oil until golden brown and set aside
  3. Fry garlic, ginger and dry spices in oil for one minute. Add onions and sautee until translucent. Toss in blanched spinach and chili, and buzz into a smooth paste with immersion blender (add water to loosen if necessary).
  4. Add paneer to blended spinach mixture and cook through. Season with coarse salt and pepper and serve immediately. Seriously. Don't wait.

Mango Chutney (in true chutney fashion, I kind of made both of these up as I went. Mango was delicious, the mint was good too.)

1 large mango
1/2 cup vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 Thai chili pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 cup golden raisins and blanched almond mixture (optional)

  1. Peel and cut mango, removing the stone.
  2. Cook the mango, garlic, ginger, chili pepper and water on a low fire.
  3. When tender, add sugar, vinegar, cardamom and salt. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and turn golden brown.
  4. Stir in raisins and blanched almonds. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.
Mint Chutney

1 small handful fresh mint leaves
1 smaller handful fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Thai chili
Squeeze of lemon juice
  1. Chop it all together and season with salt. Serve with yogurt. Plain and simple.

One Little Two Little Three Little Indians

Just putting together my shopping list for tonight's dinner. We've just started to test the waters on cooking Indian food, thanks to a little prodding from one of our favorite food blogs, The Wednesday Chef. We both love Indian, but the crazy number of ingredients necessary makes it a little daunting. Now that we've appropriately stocked our pantry, however, it should be a snap!

Tonight's menu:

Tandoori Chicken
Palak Paneer
Chana Punjabi
and of course, yogurt, various chutney (mango and mint, at least) and naan.

I'm excited. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This blog is now set up to receive mobile updates, so expect lots more annoying updates from us soon, this time via a Twitter-like format!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Live from Colorado

We're in Vail working on the Vail Film Festival this week. The food in this town SUCKS (and our diets primarily consist of junk food and takeout while we're here, anyway) so don't expect too many rave restaurant reviews. But the inn that we're staying in used to be a gourmet cooking school, so I think there may be a very large group dinner in our near future...

In the meantime, check out these two new SuperCool links we found!

The first, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is called SeafoodWatch and is a GREAT guide for how an environmentally-conscious carnivore should approach buying seafood. It includes information on sustainability and fishing practices, health concerns and even recipe substitutions. If you haven't seen this before, we HIGHLY recommend checking it out -- it's cool stuff.

The second is StillTasty and it's a fun reference for shelf life and food safety information. If you're wondering what is the best way to store that loaf of fresh-baked bread, or how closely you need to observe the expiration dates on that jar of capers, this site is an easy-to-use guide for all questions of food storage.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big Winners

I had a cookie contest at my work today in celebration of St. Paddy's Day (yeah, I know, I don't see the connection either). There was a small entry fee and half of the pot went to the BubbleGum Club children's charity in Ireland, and the other half went to... US! Because we won!

We made Whoopie Pies (which were delicious but not victorious) and Lemon Biscuits with Sea Salt (the big winner!)

Besides the pride of winning, we also pulled in $46 which went straight into our Spain travel fund. To those who didn't win I'd like to say 3 things:

1. Every entry I tasted (which was all of them) was delicious.
2. It was for the kids, and when the kids win, we all win, and
3. Suck it, losers.