Photo Diary: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

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Cooking My First Thanksgiving Turkey

Sorry about the lack of posts here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen lately, I tried getting a few posts in the works before taking off for Ohio for Thanksgiving, but the end of the week was pretty empty. But, never fear, I’ve got plenty of posts in the works including this one which I didn’t even have planned!

I went into this Thanksgiving thinking I wasn’t going to be cooking anything, which was kind of a bummer because I like cooking and I like contributing. Traveling 10 hours, though, doesn’t leave you a ton of time to make something. But then, on Thanksgiving morning, while we watched the Macy’s parade, my mom asked if I’d be interested in handling the turkey. I read through the Martha Stewart recipe and it seemed simple enough, so I gladly volunteered. I don’t have a lot of the specifics about the ingredients and what not because I didn’t mark the page in the cookbook and I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but the process was pretty simple.

First and most importantly, I made a timeline at mom’s suggestion. I counted out how many hours the whole thing was supposed to take and then counted back from a possible eating time of 5:30PM and plotted it out. I kept my watch on my arm most of the day and the timeline near the oven, so I wound up not having any trouble. I even got to run out and play football with my dad, uncles and cousins which was a lot of fun.

So, here’s the basics. First I washed the bird with cold water and let him sit for about an hour and forty five minutes. In that time, I mixed together a big chunk of butter and a bottle of wine. This was for basting throughout the day. It also served as a soaking dish for a four layer, 17-inch square of cheese cloth that would eventually go on the bird. At the designated time, I got the oven temperature up to 450, rubbed the bird down with butter, added salt and pepper and draped the cheese cloth over the body before popping him into the oven for 30 minutes.

A half hour later I dropped the temperature down to 350, basted and was on a baste-every-30-minutes routine for the next two and a half hours. At that point, I removed the cheese cloth, turned the turkey around in the oven for another hour and it was good to be taken out by the designated time. I’m actually not that big of a turkey fan, but everyone said it was a great turkey which either meant I did a good job or my relatives are really nice.

I’ve got to say, I’ve heard some horror stories about cooking turkeys, but this method turned out to be fairly simple and produced great results. However, I completely understand how hectic it would have been had I been in charge of everything. The only other thing I was in charge of was making the gravy which I will write more about tomorrow (it involves giblets!). If I ever do a whole Thanksgiving on my own, I think I’ll have to bust out the big three-foot wipe board to keep track of everything. Thanks again to Mom for giving me the opportunity to try something new and my family for not being too scared to eat the bird!

Cooking Beef Stroganoff

Oh man, you guys, I LOVE Beef Stroganoff. My mom used to make it–this exact recipe if I’m not mistaken–and I always looked forward to it. Anything that combines beef, sour cream, mushrooms and gravy is aces in my book. For the most part, I followed Betty Crocker’s recipe, though I went with Round Eye steak for the beef and a medley of baby bella, shitake and oyster mushrooms to kick things up a bit. I also had to use some of the broth from the Tomato & Beef Soup I made yesterday because I originally intended to cook something else on Tuesday night, but I hadn’t realized that took several hours to marinate. I had planned on making beef broth, but that would have taken several hours and I had just gotten back from the grocery store and it was five. So, I scooped out and strained the broth from that soup and put it to good use in my Beef Stroganoff.

Aside from that, this recipe is cake, though it does take a bit of time between cutting up all those mushrooms (I will not dice them up so much next time, I like bigger pieces), onions and beef. Anyway, I got a pot of water boiling for the egg noodles (that’s how Mom made them and my wife and I both prefer) while I got to chopping. After starting with the beef, I got two tablespoons of butter into a pan and got cooking. I then put the ketchup, salt and garlic together in a dish and dumped that in when appropriate along with most of the beef broth.

That simmered for ten minutes before adding the mushrooms and onions. While those cooked, I did as the recipe said and combined a small amount of the broth with four in a container with a lid and shook. I was surprised to see how quickly it turned into a paste (only took a shake or two, really). That got stirred in followed by the sour cream and then everything was served over the noodles.

I loved how this dish turned out and it proved something my mom always said, that the basic Betty Crocker Cookbook is a must have. I like it because it gives you so many recipe building blocks that you can experiment with as you grow as a cook. I honestly don’t know if Eye Round steak was a good choice for my beef selection or not (still need to do more meat research), but trying it out was fun and tasted great. Again, you can not go wrong with beef, gravy, sour cream and mushrooms. I could eat this every week, but I think I’d gain 300 pounds.

Van Man

A lot of people dread the idea of getting a mini van. To many, it’s a the biggest and most outward sign that you’re no longer young and cool and that you’ve very clearly fallen into the adult world filled with kids and car seats and soccer practice. Me? I like vans. All throughout high school, I drove a tan 1994 Ford Aerostar minivan that I dubbed The Tank. No, it wasn’t particularly cool, but it had plenty of space (not that I needed it, really, I only occasionally helped haul band equipment). It also offered me a pretty big cage to drive in to keep me safe. I’m a solid-to-great driver so that wasn’t really a problem, though it could have been, you never know.

Anyway, a few weeks back, my wife got rear ended on her way to work. She was fine, but the back of her car was a little scuffed up. Again, nothing serious, but the insurance companies were called and balls got rolling to get things taken care of. Towards the end of last week, she got word that what was going to be a one-day fix would take a little longer and wound up with a van rental. I think it’s a Town and Country (I’ve never been much of a car guy) and man is this thing cool.

Not only do both sliding doors and the trunk open with a few clips of a button on the key chain, but it also comes equipped with all kinds of screens and nooks and crannies, which is exactly what this long-time Transformers fan appreciates. I currently drive a 2002 Saturn with few bells and whistles so everything from the stereo controls on the steering wheel to the back-up camera are like living in the future for me. I could easily see myself cruising around town in one of these bad boys. The only problem–and it’s the same one I had back in my high school days–is that these big mugs such up gas like I used to drink Slurpees while playing Halo with my friends (super inside reference that only three people will get!). Still, considering I don’t do a lot of driving and we’ve talked about having more kids in the future, don’t be surprised if I do a post about eventually purchasing our very own van. Maybe by then they’ll be able to drive themselves so I can hop in the back and watch movies with the kids!

Food TV: The Layover Series Premiere

I don’t believe my appreciation of Anthony Bourdain is any surprise to regular readers of his blog. I love his show No Reservations, I love his autobiography Kitchen Confidential, I liked the Fox comedy based on said memoirs and I’ve enjoyed reading through his Les Halles Cookbook. So, of course, I was excited to realize today that his new Travel Channel show The Layover premiered tonight at 9:00PM. Unlike No Reservations, which is more like a travel show with food as the basis, The Layover is a food show based in places to travel to. But, to differentiate things even more, Bourdain only has a short amount of time to get around, which actually counts down as the episode carries on.

The first episode was based in Singapore, an interesting choice that showed off the new format well. Not only are there a variety of different kinds of cuisine in the country, it’s also relatively small, which lent itself well to the concept. The purpose of The Layover is to really show you where to go when you’re in a place and don’t have a ton of time. It has a much more travel guide feel to it than No Reservations as Bourdain not only lists additional places and dishes to check out, but also shares screen time with locals and ex-pats discussing their favorite places to eat and visit.

There are plenty of other little differences between The Layover and No Reservations–including showing multiple scenes at once on screen in various panels to show even more of the place, making it feel like you’re trying to cram in as much as possible–but at the end of the day, if you like Bourdain’s main show, you’ll like this one. I did. And, if you’re left not wanting to book tickets for Singapore immediately, you probably shouldn’t bother watching future episodes.

Cooking Tomato & Beef Soup

With the weather turning colder, I find it comforting to have at least one soup recipe on the menu per week. Last week I decided on Tomato & Beef Soup from The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 343) because it was simple and didn’t require a lot of extra ingredients. Plus, it included at least one cooking method I had never used before. After cutting up the beef in strips, I put them in a pan and added a cup or two of boiled water straight out of the hot pot. As the recipe called for, I let the water cook the meat for two minutes, then drained and set aside. Pretty cool.

From there, everything else was pretty simple. I put two boxes of beef stock (it wouldn’t be until later that I actually made my own, but that post is coming, I promise) in a pot and started warming. I went with more of just about everything than the recipe called for because I didn’t want to have a lot of leftover ingredients. As such, I also used a full tiny can of tomato paste and seven tomatoes. The rest I eyed, but usually went with more than written.

You add the chopped tomatoes and some sugar, boil, then simmer for two minutes. After that mix cornstarch and cold water, add that and stir. Then you beat an egg white (or two in my case) and pour that in while stirring (not easy to do while trying to photograph the steps). I’ve done this with a few other recipes, but I always like how quickly the eggs cook when added to the hot soup. Reminds me of a much more appetizing version of the Cement Mixer shot I was given on my 21st birthday (for the uninitiated, you take a shot of Khalua or Bailey’s, don’t swallow and then add a shot of lime juice, it curdles in your mouth, a trick played on young whippersnappers who will take any shot without a thought).

I made a few other alterations to the recipe, but nothing huge. It called for sesame oil to be poured over each bowl, but it turned out that we didn’t have any, so I added some low sodium soy sauce along with some rice vinegar. I know they’re not the same, but they added some interesting flavors. The recipe also called for scallions to be added on top, but I chopped a bunch up and just put them right in the soup. If it tastes good on top, it must taste good in, right?

The overall flavor of this dish was interesting and a little difficult to get used to. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad by any means, but my wife and I both agreed that an Asian soup with tomatoes was not something we were used to. Of course, neither of us are experts in that field, but I also think that my additions to the recipe might have made the overall flavor fit more firmly into that section of our mental flavor libraries. Like I said, I liked it and enjoyed having it for lunch the next few days, especially with that loaf of garlic bread I picked up at the grocery store.

Hopping On The Chuck Wagon, Baby-Style

Over the past few weeks, we’ve started Lucy on solid foods. At her last pediatrician’s appointment the doctor said it was a good time to start, but my wife had been preparing before that. We’ve decided to make our own baby food because we’ll know exactly what in it, it’s cheaper and it’s pretty darn simple (just cook a fruit or vegetable, mash it up and freeze for later use). As such, our freezer is packed with ice cube-sized bits of frozen pumpkin, summer squash, apples and more! Above you can see Lucy’s actual eating set up. We use the Chicco 360 Hook On seat which is great because it can clamp on to any table and the seat spins all the way around which means she can watch me in the kitchen when I cook. We went with this kind of a chair because our place is kind of small and a full-on high chair would have added way too much clutter. Plus, this is easily portable when we go visit friends and family.For a serving dish, we use what’s called  a 893 Hankscraft USA (the pink thing above). My mother-in-law gave it to us and it’s actually a really cool idea. See, the bowl is ceramic and the bottom half is hollow, so what you do is add hot water to one of the holes on the side to keep food warm or in our case help with the defrost and then pop the cork back in. I don’t think Hankscraft is still around, but you can find the dishes with a Google search. They’re definitely worth checking out if you’re going the frozen baby food route. As far as actual eating goes, we get a lot of looks like the one seen above the first time she tries something. In addition to the summer squash, apples and pumpkin I mentioned, she’s also had a mixture of pear and apple as well as some mashed bananas, sweet potatoes (from inside a fry) and avocado off my wife’s salad (that was just last night). At first we get a “why am I doing this?” kind of look but after a few tries she tends to warm up to the idea. I think she’s getting the hang of the different tastes and the whole concept of gumming and swallowing food. The only problem? Solid food leads to solid poop!

Turning Anne Burrell’s Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapenos Into Soup

As I said the other day, I made Anne Burrell’s Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapeno, but my wife wasn’t super into it and I wasn’t hungry, so I decided to just turn it into soup. It was actually super easy. I pulled the braised chicken out of the broth, added the rest of the chicken stock I had and added some celery (just because I had it). As the broth cooked, I pulled the meat off of the chicken, ripping it up into smaller pieces. Once that I was done, I popped the chicken in, tasted for salt and pepper and cooked down. It wound up being super, super tasty. I even added in some of the lime sour cream that’s also part of the original recipe to give it even more of a citrusy kick. I highly recommend this change to the recipe.

Cooking Anne Burrell’s Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapenos

I don’t watch a lot of actual cooking shows on Food Network, but I do like checking out Anne Burrell’s show when I stumble upon it. I like her because I know she’s legit, not only being a bad ass chef in her own right, but also because she was Mario Batali’s sous chef on Iron Chef America. I’ve cooked a few things I’ve either seen on FoodNetwork.com or on her show Secrets Of A Restaurant Chef. I stumbled upon her recipe for Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapenos the other day before heading to the grocery store for the first time after being sick. I liked the recipe because it was kind of involved and really wanted to jump in. I’m also a fan of the lime and tomatillo flavors involved.

I still haven’t made my own stock yet (this week hopefully!), so I went with store bought. That was really the only change I made to the recipe. Actually, now that I think about it, I couldn’t find a Spanish onion either, so I went with a yellow one. There might have been a lot of chopping and several different steps, but overall the recipe was really easy to follow. I also liked that you could do one part of the recipe and then move over and do something else, like putting the super simple and really tasty lime sour cream together.

This is usually the part of the post when I would talk about how the food tasted, but I didn’t actually eat any of it. I hadn’t eaten lunch that day, was feeling light headed and picked up a Whopper from Burger King on my way home. Those guys are bigger than I expected, so I was full by the time I finished cooking. My wife tried it and wasn’t a huge fan because of the chicken being on the bone and the fact that the sauce was really watery (probably should have boiled it down more). With so much extra liquid and chicken, I figured I’d turn the whole thing into a soup, but that’s a post for another day!

She Fights Naps Like The Devil

I can’t remember if I came up with that line or if someone else did, but it perfectly describes my daughter. She’s six months old now and as alert as ever which means she absolutely, positively does not want to go down for a nap, even if she’s rubbing her bleary eyes and rolling over like the winner of a chugging contest. I’ve tried as many ways of putting her to sleep as I can think of, but only a few work. When she was a little younger, she’d usually pass out on the bottle, so I could easily slip a pacifier in her mouth and then drop her off in her crib, but that doesn’t work anymore. After eating she seems more awake than ever, so I’ve had to change tactics.

When we lost power a couple weeks back, my wife and I put a blanket up over the big window in our room to keep the remaining heat we had in and the cold out. We’ve kept it up because our windows such and we need to replace them (which translates into me needing to call a few local contractors my dad tracked down). Since Lu sleeps with us at night now (it’s easier for my wife to feed her that way) I figured I’d try laying her down in the bed with all the sheets and pillows moved far away from her. It worked like a dream. I even got a 3 hour nap out of her one day. But that method is not without it’s difficulties. For one thing, we’re supposed to be getting her used to sleeping in her crib. For another, it cuts the bedroom off for use during naptime which did not jive so well with my habit of showering while she slept. Seeing as how the quiet was more important, I was stinkier than usual for a week or so there. Over the weekend, my wife and I purchased some much darker curtains to help darken the room. They do a pretty good job, but it can still be pretty bright in there thanks to the light blue walls. But, it’s been working alright so far this week. I will say, though, that it seems to take Lucy longer to fall asleep in that room, which means she cries longer, wanting to stay awake. It really is the hardest part of the day because, as a parent I do not want to hear my kid cry like that. I want to scoop her up and take care of her, but I also know that she needs to learn to take naps. It’s a tough lesson for both of us to learn, but I guess that’s a theme I need to get used to as a parent.

Trying The McRib

I know I spend a lot of time posting on this blog about trying out new recipes and eating at local restaurants, but don’t be mistaken, I love me some fast food. I try not to eat too much of it because it’d make me even fatter, but I don’t consider myself above fast food by any means.

Last week, I was knocked out of the kitchen thanks to a wicked head cold, so I didn’t do much cooking. One night my wife called and asked if I wanted her to just pick food up, through sniffles and sneezes I said sure. She suggested McDonalds and I agreed, adding that she should pick up a McRib so we could try it.

Turns out, neither of us had ever had one. I don’t really know why I never made my way to a McDonalds during the McRib’s reign, but I just didn’t. Maybe it’s because it always sounded a little funky: a ribless rib sandwich. There was also a time when I wasn’t very high on ribs after a few bad run ins.

Anyway, last week I finally tried one and you know what? I don’t see what all the fuss is about. My wife took the first bite and then handed it back to me immediately. She didn’t like the texture of the meat. It didn’t bother me so much, but I wasn’t a huge fan. It’s got a kind of meatloaf texture, but unlike good meatloaf, it’s all uniform. What got to me, though, was the general lack of flavor. I didn’t taste much in the way of that shaped, uniform meat. I also didn’t get much flavor from the barbecue sauce they used. The stand-out flavors were really the pickle and the onion.

What do you guys think? Any McRib fans out there? Am I missing something? Did I get a bad one? It’s not like I’d never try a McRib again, but if I’m going to eat fast food, I want to eat something I really like, like a Big Mac or pretty much anything at Arby’s, I don’t want “enh.”

Bonus Food Pics: Stacon Stein Burrito

20111112-133939.jpgMy wife and I had the pleasure of hitting up Fiddlestix in Cornwall yesterday. As usual, we went with specials. She got fish tacos which I tasted and were awesome. I got the Stacon Stein, a burrito (really more of a wrap) packed with steak, bacon, carmelized onions, mushrooms and bleu cheese. Unfortunately, they were out of bacon, which I think threw the flavors off balance. The bleu cheese was really strong and kind of took over. Mind you, this wasn’t bad by any means, just a little overpowering. I think the saltiness of the bacon might have helped balance things out. Still, even a slightly off dish at Fiddlestix is better than a good one at most places.

Me & My Bagel Guy

Things have gotten a little awkward at my local–and preferred–bagel shop. It all goes back to almost a year ago (maybe longer at this point, actually, now that I think about it). Anyway, it was around the time I had been laid off from my magazine editor job. I wasn’t sure what the heck I was going to do. I had worked out a few freelance gigs, but didn’t feel secure. Heck, I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel secure as a freelancer, but that’s another story.

One day, I went in to the bagel shop to get lunch. I ordered hard salami, cream cheese and mustard on a bagel. The guy working on my sandwich said something about it being an unusual choice. I smiled and said that I had worked in a bagel place back home for years, trying all kinds of different combinations. The truth is that I liked salami and mustard sandwiches and like cream cheese, so they made a great combination.

Anyway, the guy asks me about where I used to work and I tell him I used to work behind the counter, slicing and making sandwiches, that kind of thing. He mentioned that he was looking for someone to come in and help out when things got hectic or someone called off. I said it was something I’d be interested in and left without leaving any contact information. The truth is that I think there’s a weird kind of zen-ness working behind the counter of a bagel shop/deli and would have probably enjoyed trying my hand at it again, but I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to take that step in my career. The next time I went in, he was there, we talked again and I left my number.

I never heard from the guy. It really didn’t bother me. By then I’d probably gotten and lost a number of writing gigs and my wife and I were talking about having a baby. I’ve had legit job interviews that raised my hopes before being crushed. This was nothing. A simple conversation spawned by a sandwich. No big deal.

Or at least it wasn’t until I went back into the bagel shop one day and the guy was there. I didn’t mention anything, perfectly fine leaving it in the past. Then he brought it up, saying something about calling or whatever. I said it was okay, but just wanted my food and to head home. It became awkward after that. Like what I imagine it’s like seeing a person you broke up with in college or being stuck in a class with them. You just want to put it behind you and move on but every now and then you catch a stray glance (or think you do) and wonder what the other person’s thinking.

Of course, it seems like he’s there every single time I go in. In fact, just this weekend, I went to grab some breakfast for the wife and me and out of a line of people and a half dozen employees, I wound up with this guy. We exchanged looks, trying to measure one another up. Was he going to mention the job? Was he wondering if I was pissed? Was I going to ask about the job? It can be emotionally taxing and who needs that? I just want some damn bagels with green olive cream cheese.

I wrote the above back in August and haven’t really been back in a while, but I did go in today. Thankfully I got a different guy, but the one I had talked to was there. I think we might be past our awkward phase, or at the very least things have gotten less so. I wonder how much of this weirdness just lives in my head and if that guy even remembers talking. Does my face just seem oddly familiar or does my number hang in his office haunting him with what could have been? Oddly this is not the most wrapped up I’ve been in a bagel place or it’s employees, but more on that to come.

Baby’s First Halloween Party

Thanks to the snow storm and subsequent power outage the weekend before Halloween, the costume party we were going to go to on Saturday got cancelled. Thankfully, the hosts decided to reschedule for last Friday. We were glad to hear this news not only because we wanted to hang out with friends, but also because we had a really good idea for costumes to fit the “wildly inappropriate” theme but also my wife spent a long time on Lucy’s piggy costume.

I didn’t want to go with anything too gross or out there to fit the theme. We were talking about it and then one day it popped into my head: Lucy can be a pig, I can be a butcher and Em can be a chef. She got a pattern for the pig costume and we got to thinking about ours. We ordered a few aprons as well as a chef coat for Em. We also came across an apple teether at Baby’s R Us that we just could not pass up. As an added bonus and probably the impetus for my costume eureka moment, our hostess for the party absolutely loves pigs. She doesn’t eat bacon and has pigs of all kinds all over her house. For knives, we each cut some shapes out of cardboard and used electrical and duct tape for color. I designed a couple logos on the computer and my wife put them on her coat and my apron. The apron also got a smattering of red and brown water color paint to give it that old blood look. The party itself was a lot of fun and, even though most people didn’t wind up dressing up, I think we would have had the best costumes anyway. Plus, just look how cute the kid looks!

Cooking Lima Bean, Sun-Dried Tomato & Pesto Soup

Do you ever make a recipe that’s so simple and yet so good you wonder why everyone doesn’t make it all the time? That’s how I felt after making the Lima Bean, Sun-Dried Tomato & Pesto Soup recipe from The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 210). By the way, if you follow that link you’ll see that the book is selling for $250, which is bonkers because we got ours at Barnes & Noble for a couple bucks. Not sure why it’s so pricey.

Anyway, the recipe is crazy simple. You basically boil 56 ounces of strained lima beans, which are apparently also known as butter beans (had to look that one up on my phone because I was having zero luck finding lima beans at the grocery store). Once those are boiled you add in sun-dried tomato paste and pesto, boil, blend some up and then combine. There you go.

I also couldn’t find 28oz cans, so I went with four 15.5 ouncers. I also couldn’t find actual sun-dried tomato paste, so I got a small jar of them in oil and blended them up in the Magic Bullet. I guess that’s the same as tomato paste, right? We also didn’t have any pesto lying around from back when we had basil, so I bought a jar.

Man, oh man, this was great stuff. All those flavors combined so well and tasted so good together. It wasn’t like tasting something brand new, but more like tasting a brand new combo that makes all kinds of sense and is therefore awesome. My wife was actually pretty bummed out when I told her we were having a lima bean-based soup because she hates them. But, I convinced her to give it a shot and she really, really liked the soup. I will definitely be adding this one to regular rotation and perusing this book for more recipes to see if it’s worth that crazy-high price tag some people are selling it for!

Cooking Pumpkin Lasagna

I’ve mentioned here and there that our oven hasn’t been working. My father-in-law got a good deal on the stove and we moved it into our house months ago only to discover that while the stove top worked, the oven itself did not. Well, after longer than it should have taken, I finally called an appliance company that sent a guy out last week. He spent about 20 minutes with it and explained that it was just a safety switch of some kind that was flipped. Ah well, at least it’s working. To celebrate, I decided to make something that would utilize our newly working appliance. Enter: Robert Irvine’s recipe for Pumpkin Lasagna thanks to Food Network’s website.

I’d never had or made pumpkin lasagna before, but have always been a fan of pumpkin pie and have had a few savory dishes that use the big orange veggies like ravioli. I figured this would be a fun fall dish to try out, so Lucy and I headed to the store, I got all the ingredients and got cooking. The only alterations I made to the recipe were using sweet sausage instead of spicy and not getting Romano cheese. I had a feeling that that one would just sit around for a while after I finished this dish and didn’t want to waste the food or the money.Oh, I also went with dried parsley and basil for the same reasons. I miss my mini herb garden now that it’s fall!

As always, I started with prep: straining the pumpkin puree, combining herbs and chopping up onion and garlic. From there I just followed the recipe. I just realized I made one other small change to the recommended ingredients, I went with oven0-ready lasagna noodles instead of ones you have to cook. I also accidentally purchased whole tomatoes instead of a tomato sauce, so I just tossed the can’s contents into the blender with some salt, pepper and the herbs and that was my sauce.

The recipe was really easy to follow and produced a great lasagna. The zucchini seemed a little out of place, like it should have been cooked or breaded or something instead of just placed in there. I also think I should have cooked the whole thing a little longer than the 40 minutes I went with because I like the cheese to be a little more brown. I also think I might use more pumpkin next time I make this because it was too subtle. You’d get a hint of it here and there, but I want it to be all up in my palette. Even with those changes I would make, I still really enjoyed the dish. It was fun to try something new and it served us well as leftovers for the rest of the week, keeping its flavor with every later serving.

Bonus Food Pic: Cowboy Cakes

Can’t believe I didn’t post this one sooner. Two or three weekends back, the wife, kid and I went to what I would call our favorite joint around, Fiddlestix in Cornwall, NY. As always, they had a whole board filled with excellent sounding specials for both breakfast and lunch, but I was drawn to something called Cowboy Cakes. I don’t remember the exact description, but they are basically pancakes with meat cooked into them (can’t remember if it was bacon or sausage). The cakes are then covered in cheese and a pair of sunny side up eggs. Do you ever have a meal that changes how you think about food? This was one of those for me because I had never even thought about making pancakes more savory. It’s a great idea and one I hope to experiment with in my own cooking.

By the way, I didn’t snap a picture of it because I was famished, but we went to Fiddlestix again just yesterday and I ordered another specialty item, this time a sandwich called The Super Sub that boasted steak and portabella mushrooms. I love, love, love portabellas, so I was all over this. It was even better than I imagined it would be because it was covered in this awesome, salty mushroom gravy. I probably shouldn’t have eaten it with my hands because the bread was pretty soggy, but it was worth needing to wash my hands like crazy afterwards. So good. Honestly, if you live within any reasonable distance, do yourself a favor and get some food at Fiddlestix. Leave yourself some time, though because there’s often a wait.

Videos Of Kids Freaking Out About Pokemon Cards Are Not Okay

If you’re like me and you keep even remotely good tabs on the geeky side of the internet you’ve probably seen or at least heard about this video of a kid freaking out at a toy store because his parent won’t let him get Pokemon cards. I’m not going to link to it. If you’re curious, I’m sure it’s not difficult to find. As I watched, I got a bit of a chuckle because this kid is way, WAY into Pokemon, but then an idea started creeping its way into my head: this is wrong.

Children are pretty much balls of emotion constantly trying to figure out how they should react in any given situation, so sometimes they have these extreme reactions to minor events. Capturing those events and spreading them all over the internet is not a good thing. Sure, it might get a chuckle out of people for the minute or two it takes to watch that video, but you know for a fact that someone is going to recognize that kid from their class or family and they will be ridiculed incessantly for who knows how long. Did you ever freak out in a store over something stupid? I’m guess the answer is yes, but you were just lucky enough to live in a time when people weren’t walking around with cameras in their pockets at all times.

This kid might have had bad behavior, but does he deserve the kind of ridicule that will surely flow from this getting around? No way. This is one of the problems with the ease of technology and spreading information, people do it without even thinking. I bet the two 20-something dudes in the video (one filming, one standing just to the side so his friend can have something to point his phone/camera at) didn’t even consider how or if this simple act would damage the kid. But, it’s out there now and all over the place. Even if the kid’s family took legal action, the damage is already done.

I’m not saying he’ll be scarred for life, but I am saying that we all need to take a few extra minutes to think about how technology has both changed our lives and our moral compass. I’m sure if I had seen this kid freaking out at a store, I would have told my friends about it, but the subject’s anonymity would have remained intact. Even blogging about it would just tell the story. This video might not showcase the child’s name but his face is pretty clear and easily identified if you know him.

At the end of the day, I think that children should be protected and that includes from online nonsense. The only surefire way to do this would be to never leave the house, but that’s ridiculous. I think it’s more important for people to just try and think a little harder about how their actions might effect other people.

Baby’s First Halloween

Even given the freak snow storm and power outage we went through over the weekend, Halloween could not be contained! Trick or treaters started at around sundown on Monday. We had gotten all our candy prepared and started passing out without any problems. I do believe that the cold weather (we still had snow on the grass, but our walkways were clear) might have kept some people inside it’s just as possible that people came to our condo complex because their towns were out of power. There’s something like 20 buildings each with 10-20 units, so it’s a great place to go if you want to maximize your candy collection.

Anyway, Lucy seemed to get into the spirit. We put her in her top secret Halloween party costume and took a few pictures, but her main suit of clothes for the evening was the above glow-in-the-dark skeleton onesie that was super cute if not very glow-y. My wife sat with her on the steps as I stood at the door and passed out candy. Since we’re on the second floor, it’s actually easier to just hang out on the landing instead of running up and down, though I could probably use the exercise.

She was a big hit with the parents and kids and I thinks he liked watching all the colorful costumes go by. The parade of kids stopped just before 8PM which was great because we wanted to see what the deal was with the Slutty Pumpkin on How I Met Your Mother. All in all, it was a great evening, Lucy seemed to have a good time and then conked out. How was your Halloween?

Cooking Herb Chicken With Bow Tie Pasta With Salad & Homemade Vinaigrette Dressing

I made this one last week, so forgive me if I forget a few of the details, my memory’s not what it used to be. Anyway, last week I was perusing our collection of cookbooks and landed on Michele Urvater’s Monday To Friday Pasta, which I don’t believe I’ve ever even flipped through before. The great thing about the recipes is that they’re not just Italian, but pretty much anything with noodles.

I came across the Tarragon Chicken with Bow-Ties on page 98, but didn’t have tarragon. Honestly, I can’t remember what herb I went with. I should have written it down in the book, but didn’t. I’m guessing you could go with pretty much any herb. I also substituted white wine vinegar and water for white wine because I didn’t have any in the house. Aside from that, it was pretty easy.

I started out chopping up the chicken breasts and cooking them in olive oil until white. Then I added garlic, the white wine vinegar and water and herbs (which I had combined earlier to save counter space). That cooked with a lid for a little while until I mixed it with the cooked bow tie pasta and the red pepper.

I had a little time left and wanted to have a veggie with dinner, so I cut up lettuce, carrots, red pepper and a few other things for a salad. I then had the bright idea to make my own vinaigrette. I wound up on AllRecipes and went with a basic recipe that I tweaked a bit. I swapped out the vegetable oil for olive, but everything else went into the jar, got a good shake and turned out great. It was pretty vinegar-y, but I like that flavor.

Overall, this was a really simple and tasty recipe. It seems like there are a ton of options in there. You could mix up the herbs or the liquid you use to simmer the chicken in and come up with a new dish each time. I like that kind of versatility. If you’re interested in the full recipe, leave me a comment and I’ll figure out how to get it to you.