Yesterdays dinner brought up the topic of napkins (barbecue sauce is messy). I have exiled paper napkins from the household; not everyone was pleased initially. Some family members were reluctant to use them, afraid to get them dirty, worried that food stains would not come out in the wash. Most everyone has come around now, out of necessity mostly, there are no paper napkins available, so the choice is to use cloth or wipe your fingers on your jeans. I have no trouble getting them clean most of the time. I use mostly 100% cotton napkins (I like the way they feel better than polyester or blends - and they clean up better in the wash). I do all the kitchen linens (tablecloth, place mats, dish towels, skoy cloths ( a great replacement for paper towels and/or sponges - see below and http://www.skoycloth.com/) and napkins once or twice a week. I use Oxyclean (or an equivalent peroxide based stain remover) and 99% of the food stains come out easily.
I made the switch because I became convinced that it was more ecologically sound to use cloth, but now I wonder how I ever went along with the premise that paper napkins are better. A good quality cotton napkin feels better in your hands, it feels better on your face, it makes every day meals feel special. I don't think I will be using paper again any time soon.
As for tonight's dinner, it began with a search for something to do with the bottom end of a butternut squash leftover form the Chick Pea Stew we made the other night. I found a recipe for Black Bean and Butternut Squash Tacos http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/black-bean-and-butternut-squash-tacos-recipe/index.html. I used 2 cans of black beans to make re-fried black beans with 6 cloves of garlic and a little oil. I only had 5 shallots, so I quartered the recipe for the pickled shallots - and I didn't have any wine so I used a little grape juice and some water instead. The pickled shallots were very tasty and an integral part of the dish - I would make more next time. I didn't have as much butternut squash as the recipe called for - but I went ahead anyway. I left the chilis on the side - one of us does not like spicy things. I made 3 "tacos" each - the corn tortillas are small. I layered the beans, squash cubes, pickled shallots, and sour cream and rolled them up. They were very tasty, the squash and black beans make an unusual combination, there was a nice hint of cinnamon, and the pickled shallots add a little "wow". We had the tacos with a Nile Spice rice pilaf mix and a salad of avocado, tomato and red onion.