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Tag Archives: cooking

Pizza Soup

Sweet

Family Tradition  

I have a propensity to blog about food a bit more often than other topics.  I guess that you are supposed to write what you know so it is likely that my mediocre ramblings about Christmas candy and  bread bowls is as good as it will get.  Sorry guys.  I think, though, that another reason I use food as a topic is because, like smells, food has a way of being nostalgic.  If you have read even just a few of my posts you probably know I am a perpetual kid so this kind of makes sense.

The best food related memories I have are not in the eating but in the preparing of food as a kid with my family.  The worst memories are things like always forgetting to shake my Yoo-Hoo and feeling sad when I had gotten every last bit of cheese off the red handi-snack stick.  I guess the emotional tie is as evident as ever in the term comfort food.

Preparing food always brought us together as a family.  We didn’t eat out very often and even when we did, I didn’t consider a restaurant fancy unless I got to choose biscuits or cornbread.  Most of the time mom would cook but when everyone pitched in, we made more than dinner.  We made memories.

I like that I get to experience that with my family now and if I had to name our tradition it would be called pizza soup.  You see, my wife’s family used to make pizza together,  before we had kids we would make it together, and now it is a full blown 2 on 2 pizza competition.  At the risk of some horrible pun, it is rather cheesy and like something you would expect to see on a poorly written sit-com.  That doesn’t matter though, at the end of each competition when the pizzas go into the oven we split up the remaining sauce, cheese, and toppings into tiny ramikens and enjoy our amuse bouche of pizza soup.  It isn’t really about the pizza or the dinner at all but about the laughter and the giggles and the occasional sauce smeared on daddy’s nose that make pizza soup totally sweet.

 

Weak

I Can Do That 

image via Ronco

I am a man.  As a man, I am impressed by very little.  Or at the very least, I can’t let on that I am impressed.  This personality trait often bubbles to the surface in the kitchen.  I like to think that I can handle my own in the kitchen and  at times I cook pretty well.   The problem is that sometimes I may talk a bit too big of a game.  I am not one to brag but every time I start to make hamburger helper I expect Bobby Flay to walk in and ask if I am ready for a throw down.  I like to cook and you can bank on the fact that anytime macaroni and cheese is made in our house, I will be eating the last 3 bites from the pot standing by the stove relishing in each lukewarm mouthful of salty regret.

Sometimes we watch cooking shows and I never shy away from saying that something doesn’t look that hard or that I could do it.  I remember saying something similar once about a show on food trucks.  The great part about making ridiculous assumptions about that kind of thing is that I will never actually try to start a food truck and as long as it looms in uncertainty I can claim victory.  In actuality, if I started a food truck it would probably be known as that weird guy trying to sell peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the trunk of his 97 Corolla.

I like to dream of being on a show like Top Chef and while I do have some background in restaurants and a few signature dishes, I think the reality might be something like this:

I proudly walk in with my Ron Popeil 6 star cutlery and wastes the first 3 minutes of the challenge arranging all of the knives in the butcher block that was a free gift because I ordered within the 20 minute window on the commercial.  Not phased by the equipment the other chefs are using, I set out to the pantry wondering where they have hidden all of the box dinners.  With time quickly ticking bye I overcome the panic, find my center, and go about my culinary business.  At the judges table, I step up and trying not to stare at Padma Lackshmi I announce, “today I have prepared for you cheese 3 ways.  grilled, toast, and mac’n.  Bon appetit.”

So maybe I over sell myself a bit and hide in the safety that some of my claims will never be tested but  you can’t blame a guy for dreaming.   Who knows, maybe making that cinnamon toast with chili powder that one time really was a fluke and I am better at this than I think.    I may make a serious pot of white chili but the hollow braggadocios claims of my kitchen prowess are totally weak.

 

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He Who Holds the Hose is King

Sweet

Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy 

I would say this is a sign of a job well done.

Well maybe not easy with all of the SPF 401K and Citronella smoke flumes, not to mention the hideous sight of dudes in those big leather Velcro sandals; but even though the season presents a few obstacles to avoid, it is totally worth it.

Who doesn’t love cooking meat over an open flame and being barefoot 93% of the time?  We had some people over to the house last weekend and I had a hard time being a grown up.  That slip and slide was like some kind of tractor beam sucking me in.  We ate and drank and talked and drank and had a great time with friends.  I like to think that I am just the biggest of the kids but after seeing how fast my 30 minute investment in filling water balloons was squandered by greedy children with poor aim, I had to fight the urge to use the situation as their first lesson in supply and demand economics.

When a kid is waiting for you to fill a water balloon the anticipation is almost palpable.  It is like little snippets of Christmas eve standing right in front of you in dripping shorts and covered with grass clippings.  I don’t think it is a secret, but the two most important ingredients in water balloon fun are mischief and someone dry and unsuspecting.  That person is usually a grown up and you will often find them on a power trip as they escalate the water fight to the next level by manning the water hose.

The night was basically all of the good things about summer wrapped up in bacon and tossed in a deep fryer and then dipped in ketchup. (I was going to wax poetic there and say something like “dipped in giggles” or “dipped in the setting sun” but let’s be honest, ketchup stands alone.)  In short, it was awesome.

Summer also brings with it one of my favorite words: vacation.  I am looking forward to heading down to the beach next week so I can update my summer wardrobe.  Embarrassingly, I have been stuck in “past season” Corona wear for way to long and it is time to style up and get my boogie board on.  Summer is totally sweet.

 

Weak

All Good Things Must Come to an End 

“The Sad Clown” is a painting of Emmett Kelly by artist Barry Leighton-Jones
(because I guess you aren’t supposed to just say “image via the internets.”)

I am a pretty mild-mannered guy but there is a good 45 seconds every Sunday night that I seriously contemplate burning my office to the ground.  What is that?  I thought that I would have outgrown that by now.  I may not spend half of the night moping around like I did when I was a kid in school, but there is no escaping that separation anxiety and postpartum weekend depression can be just as real in your 30’s as it was when you were twelve.

I don’t think that grown-ups are supposed to admit that kind of stuff out loud since life is so much bigger than just waiting for the weekend to get here.  I enjoy my career, work hard at it and sometimes it doesn’t stop to observe the Sabbath.  In a lot of ways I am lucky to enjoy what I do and for it to be bigger than just punching a time clock everyday.  I am grateful for that but at the end of the day, the reality is no one has to pay you for what you do on the weekend because it is the stuff that we would do for free that yields the largest return on intangible investment.

One day my daughter might read this when she is twelve and push it right back into my face saying  “AH HA! I knew it.”  Sorry about that fellow grown-ups, I know that this was supposed to be our little secret.

Weekends are great and time with friends and family invaluable, but that little moment on the occasional Sunday night when you have to swallow the dread and carry on like a grown-up is totally weak.


What is “Cook Until Done” Divided by 30 Seconds?

Sweet

Shortcuts 

Lots of people love quotes.  I see them in your status updates and on the signature lines of your emails.  I guess I am impressed that you are a big fan of Hemingway and Voltaire, or that you got one of those quote a day calendars for Christmas.  I like quotes too, it’s just that putting a quote at the bottom of my email and crediting it to “Billy Madison” is not quite as professional.  I am not saying that I am not well read, but my favorite thing about Dr. Seuss movies is that I can finally be one of those people who say “It wasn’t as good as the book.”  One of my favorite quotes is from a movie called Road Trip.  There are several great lines but the gem is this: “It’s supposed to be a challenge, it’s a shortcut! If it were easy it would just be the way.”

Man, I love shortcuts.  Getting off the beaten path and having a bit of an adventure, all in the name of saving 5 minutes.  I like making my gps have a seizure, and sometimes it has been a while since I have seen my wife’s eyes roll.  Taking an unannounced shortcut is sure to do both.  In a world that is so digitized and matter of fact, short cuts are one of the few treasure hunt type adventures that we can still relish in.  Is there really any greater brag as a man than to make great time because you took a shortcut?

It is true that they don’t always pan out.  I questioned my own sense of adventure (and direction) earlier this month as I lead my in-laws following in the car behind me on a short cut that ended up adding 20 minutes of drive time and included driving through a deluge of blinding rain on empty praying to find a gas station in a sea of farmland.

You have to be willing to work through the occasional setback, but finding a great shortcut and going on an adventure is totally sweet.

Weak

Thought this was Supposed to Save Time 

I have cleaned instant oatmeal out of a microwave at least a half-dozen times.  For some reason when you create an oatmeal volcano in the microwave at work, you can’t just leave it like you would do at home.  It isn’t because I can’t read or follow simple instructions but I like my instant oatmeal a little less al dente than the instructions call for.  Working with unfamiliar equipment that potentially includes industrial strength wattage (or whatever cooks stuff in a microwave), can lead to inconsistent results.

I get that the microwave is a huge time saver and everything but is anyone else out there a little intimidated?  I mean that thing has like 25 buttons on it.  There are a lot of numbers and levels but if I have anything that needs to cook longer than popcorn, I just hit the popcorn button and then the plus 30 seconds button over and over until I get to the desired time.

Speaking of, I made a frozen dinner not too long ago that told me I had to cook it for 6 minutes on medium, remove film, stir, and then put back in for another 4 minutes.  Listen, if I knew you were going to expect me to be Wolfgang Puck, I would have just made Swedish meatballs from scratch. Also, I looked and have no idea how to cook on “medium”  maybe that is just popcorn minus 30 seconds or something.

In case you were ever wondering, if someone in your office cooks fish in the microwave, you have to pop 3 bags of popcorn and throw it away just to get rid of the funk. I am grateful for technology and that I don’t have to stab a stick through it to cook my hot pocket over an open flame but microwave fails are  totally weak.

*If you read my last post you might be thinking ‘this guy writes about popcorn a lot”

(There isn’t really any joke there, I am just saying you might be thinking that.)


So This is How Thomas Edison Must Have Felt.

Sweet

Kitchen Serendipity 

Some days just seem to drain you.  After a long day at work the gauntlet of preparing dinner, giving baths, helping with home work, and trying to spend quality time together as a family can sometimes be intimidating.  From time to time on days like that we have a “whatever” dinner.  This is where someone eats leftovers, someone eats cereal, someone has a sandwich, and someone wanders through the cabinets and refrigerator on a culinary scavenger hunt.  That last person is usually me.

Most of the time I put together something quick and easy and on rare occasion, even fairly tasty.  Sometimes I will get in a little over my head and can tell that the vision I had for the meal is falling apart.  That is when I rely on my basic guy instinct and apply a little culinary duct tape.  Bacon.  If something is going south in the kitchen, bacon can usually fix it.  Wrap it in bacon, sprinkle bacon bits on it, or in extreme cases just toss whatever you were making and enjoy a plate of bacon.

Every now and then I have a moment where it all comes together and I don’t even have to rely on the duct tape of food.  A few weeks ago I went to make a sandwich and realized we were out of a very key ingredient.  If I had poured a bowl of cereal and we were out of milk it would have been time to back up and punt because there are no real options there.  On this occasion, however, the peanut butter had already been applied and when  there was no jelly I decided to go for it on 4th and long.  I usually would have just had a peanut butter sandwich and forgone any other ingredients but on this night I was driven by creative inspiration.  What I did next is fairly amazing.  In fact you may want to sit down and buckle up for this because it has the potential to blow your mind and rock the culinary world.   Once I tasted my creation I realized how Edison must have felt or at the very least the guy who invented the Sham-Wow.

PEANUT BUTTER AND RAINBOW SPRINKLES SANDWICH

You are welcome.

Totally Sweet.

Weak

Would you care for a some anxiety with that? 

Is there a more nerve-racking experience in life than being with your significant other in the checkout line at the grocery store and realizing that you forgot something but deciding that there is time for one of you to run and get it before the last item in your cart crosses the scanner?  It is one of the quickest decisions ever made.  The time remaining for the rest of the items to be scanned is quickly estimated and then divided by the estimated time it will take me to find the tin foil and get it back to the register and then in a flash I am off.

When I am at the grocery store with my wife, I am like a passenger in a car.  Although we both arrive at the destination I have no clue how we got there.  I was too busy goofing around and looking out the window.  I know the foil is on an aisle with paper towels and garbage bags and other non-food items but where was it?  I remember seeing it but have no idea where.  The hour-long zig-zag march has disoriented me a bit, I am tired and hungry and know if I waste the time walking by every aisle I will never make it.  I am on the other side of the checkout lines now, back in the sea of cans and boxes and I look back to my wife for some kind of helpful signal.  I need her to hold up a sign that says aisle 12 but instead, the look I get is more of an emotional cocktail, 2 parts frustration, 1 part disdain, and 1 part anxiety.  I try to clear my head and scan the signs hanging from the ceiling.  Somehow an aisle with 1,400 different items is classified by a sign that lists six.

Suddenly as if a ray of light parted the heavens I see the words tin foil on the sign hanging for aisle 10.  I dart in that direction and find the foil.  Luckily it is at the end closest to the checkout lanes.  Unfortunately there are 72 different kinds of foil.  I want to text my wife for her guidance knowing that somehow even for a product as simple as foil I would pick the wrong kind.  I start to scan the different varieties but there is no time.  THERE IS NO TIME!

I grab the roll closest to me and it is as long as my leg.  I am sure I don’t remember having something like this in our house, probably wouldn’t even fit in our cabinet.  I grab the next closest roll and I go!  Feeling like Indiana Jones running from a giant boulder,  I weave my way through the crowded masses holding the foil high in the air.  I make eye contact with my wife for a split second before they roll away and see her folding the receipt and putting it in her purse.

Failure.

I knew that the seconds had been ticking down and I was out of time outs but I considered a Hail Mary and throwing the foil to her across 3 or 4 other checkout lanes.  While that would have been awesome and other husbands would have told of my heroics until it became legend, I restrained.  Instead I walked up to customer service where there was no line, put the foil and a five dollar bill on the counter and was next to my wife bag in hand before she made it to the automatic door.  Work smarter not harder.

Realizing you forgot something while in the checkout line is totally weak.


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