Bonus Food Pics: Homemade Cheeseburgers

Since I’ve already written about how I make burgers, I figured I’d skip the process shots this time around and just show off the results of my most recent burger-making experience. To the ground beef I added a handful of herbs from our herb garden, some chopped up onion, spices I can’t quite remember, a torn up piece of bread and an egg. Everything else was pretty standard. We wound up with a great summer dinner that everyone, including Lu, enjoyed.


Cooking Broiled Tilapia Parmesan

Hello faithful readers and sorry again about the lack of posts here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. Between an avalanche of work and a trip back home for a family reunion this weekend, blogging just wasn’t in the picture. However, I did cook and have plenty of pictures to post and recipes to write about. Take this one for Broiled Tilapia Parmesan from All Recipes. I whipped this one up a week or two back and was surprised with how easy and tasty it was.

Fish is one of those ingredient types that I don’t necessarily have a ton of experience with and said experience is hit and miss. But, I’ve had pretty good luck with fish recently. This was one of those cases. All you really need to do for this recipe is buy fish, toss a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, pour the sauce on the fish and broil. Said sauce includes mayo, lemon juice, butter, Parmesan cheese, basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt.

As you can see in the picture, I busted out the Magic Bullet to grind up the Parm. I haven’t tried this before, but it wound up working pretty well. I really like using fresh grated cheese, but when you’re dealing with a huge amount of it, the ol’ arm can feel like it’s gonna fall off which is no good.

Anyway, cheesy fish is apparently good, though I wasn’t so sure it would be. I could have even gotten a few more filets than I did because my wife and I dug it and so did the baby. I’ll definitely give this one another try.

Pop Poppa Of the Week: Alan Matthews From Boy Meets World

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will probably know that I’ve renewed my love affair with the 90s ABC family sitcom Boy Meets World (it’s one of the few watchable things on at 7AM, which is when the little darling gets up these days). If you’re unfamiliar, the series followed the adventures of Cory Matthews starting in grade school and, since the show lasted seven season, into college. While he spent earlier seasons as a slacker trying to game the system when it came to school, he eventually turned into, well, an old Jewish guy (watch the show and you’ll know what I mean). A huge part of the show revolved around his longtime relationship with Topanga which lead to them getting married in college.

But this post isn’t about Cory, it’s about his dad Alan, played by William Russ for the series’ run. You might think that, because the show was on Disney-owned ABC and part of the TGIF line-up that it would be completely bland and dull with nothing real happening. However, between goofy moments (most of which involved Cory’s dumb brother Eric) there are some legitimately honest moments between all the characters.

What I like about Alan and the way he was portrayed on the series is that he wasn’t perfect. He realized in one episode that he treated all of his kids differently, splitting interests among them, something the kids eventually realized and had a problem with. He didn’t have a good explanation for this, it was just something that happened and he tried to fix it moving forward. You get to see Alan go through a lot in the series, from dealing with the shockingly stupid Eric to Cory’s very early nuptials (even I didn’t get married that young) and he handles them like any person would, unevenly. He gets mad, he yells and he eventually feels bad about it.

He’s not a total dunce like many husbands/fathers are portrayed to be on TV and on the other end of the spectrum he didn’t set up elaborate scenarios to teach his kids a lesson like Mr. Huxtable. He’s a real guy dealing with things the best he can and as they come up. Sometimes he’s ready and sometimes he’s blindsided, but he does his best and that’s all we can really do as dads.

Pop Poppa Product Review: The Snack Trap

When Lucy started eating solid food and wasn’t quite so mobile, I used to put her snacks in a bowl on the floor. She’d tip it over ever now and then and wind up eating off the carpet quite a bit as most kids do. One day I remembered that we had this thing called a Snack Trap in our increasingly disorganized baby cupboard and decided to give it a shot. Now I can barely pry it out of Lu’s hands for naps and potty time.

It’s an incredibly simple design with just two parts. You’ve got your plastic two-handled cup adorned with some kind of cute animal (ours has a monkey on it as you can see) and then a more rubbery top piece that allows the kid to put their hand in without pulling out all the contents at once. The great thing about the Snack Trap is that she can hold onto it like a sippy cup and run all over the house without making as much of a mess. I say “as much as” because every room in our house as at least a few pieces of cereal that we wind up stepping on, but that’s mostly because she drops them or pulls out a few more than she can handle when dipping in for more snacks. It’s not a perfect system (though when it comes to babies and toddlers, I don’t think such a thing exists) but it had become one of her favorite things, has given her some independence to eat and run as she pleases and definitely keeps the number of cereal bits on the ground lower than we had become used to. For all that, the Snack Trap gets the Pop Poppa seal of approval.

Speaking of which, does anyone want to design a Pop Poppa seal of approval?

Bonus Food Pic: Mini Corn Dogs At The Renegades Game!

A few weeks back we went to a Hudson Valley Renegades baseball game with some friends. The game actually wound up being a pretty good one, but I was more impressed with the food. Actually, I’m not sure if “impressed” is the right word. It’s not like I was moved by the experience, I’m just a really big fan of corn dogs. How can you go wrong with tiny corn dogs that are even easier to eat? Back in high school, one of the few days I would actually buy lunch was corn dog day and then in high school, I loved when the cook in our fraternity house made them for lunch. I also am drawn to them every time we go to a fair and whatnot. Corn dogs forever!

Bonus Food Pics: F’Real Gas Station Milkshake


This is something you might never see again, but you’re looking at the second post in a row about dessert type foods. Again, I’m not a giant fan of sweets, but I do like when food uses technology. Have you ever seen those ice cream vending machines that open up a cooler and then a vacuum tube drops down to get your selection? I love those things. So, when we stopped at a Sheetz on our way to Ohio and I saw this thing called F’Real, I got excited and curious.

Here’s the deal. You see the same blue machine that caught my attention. Underneath that is a small freezer filled with potential shakes of all different flavors (basically ice cream in a small container). You pick your poison, tear off the top, then put it in the silver holder and choose your preferred thickness from those flashy green buttons. Your treat rises up into the machine and a few minutes later you have your very own milkshake. I thought this was ridiculously cool and it was a nice cool treat on a hot drive, but I think it might have been a little too much sweetness, especially when combined with the other road food we had.

Cooking Red Pepper Mostaccioli

I’ve talked a lot lately about trying to find easy, cool meals to make when the weather gets super hot, like it seems to have been forever. I do my best, but I really like pasta and make it when I can. It was a little cooler when I made this one than the 90s it had been, but it was still hot. Anyway, this recipe from the sometimes dubious Betty Crocker’s Healthy New Choices cookbook (page 103) looked good and simple and turned out to be both, so it was a good choice.

All you’ve got to do is get the pasta water heating up and then throw a can of stewed tomatoes and a jar of roasted red peppers in the food processor. Once that was done, I put some oregano and a few teaspoons of capers right in the sauce. After that, I started cooking the garlic in some olive oil and then dumped in the contents of the food processor bowl. You let that simmer for 15 minutes, drain the penne and you are done.

The problem with this cookbook is that the flavors tend to be a little light which is funny considering herbs don’t cost any calories and should be used a lot more to add flavor. Still, it’s a good base for an easy recipe that doesn’t require you to necesarrily stand over a hot stove. You get things going and can walk away to watch some TV, drink a beer or make sure your one-year-old isn’t stuck under the bed.

Bonus Food Pic: Zora Dora Popsicles

Sorry about the crappy picture, but I really wanted to talk about Zora Dora’s Paletaria in Beacon, NY. As anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any amount of time knows, I’m not a big fan of desserts or sweets. Instead of eating a dessert at the end of a meal, I’d much rather just eat more mashed potatoes or a piece of meat. I’ve just never had much of a sweet tooth and I rarely search out such things.

My wife digs sweets though and the last time we were in Beacon — a town across the river that we’re just now discovering — she wanted to hit up a place she’d heard of that does microbatch, homemade popsicles. We walked into the tiny shop on the main street and there was a huge list of flavors on a chalkboard. From left to right in the grainy picture above you can see the mojito one which my wife had, the baby’s strawberry/banana one and my chocolate dulce de leche pretzel delight. My wife’s really nailed the lime and mint found in one of my favorite cocktails. Lucy’s was actually a smaller banana pop surrounded by a strawberry one and she devoured it. Mine was pretty intense. The chocolate bit was very sweet and rich, but also had salt sprinkled on top. At first I was a little worried because the first lick was very salty, but that was pretty much it. Until I took a bite towards the center and there was an actual pretzel rod inside! Then, at the bottom you’ve got the creamy dulce de leche. It was a rad combination even for someone who doesn’t really dig sweets.

If you’re in the area and don’t mind dropping $3 on a frozen treat — something that didn’t seem so bad considering how hot it was and how good they turned out to be — do yourself a favor and hit up Zora Dora.

Cooking Baked Haddock & Vegetables

Hey gang, sorry about the incredibly long delay in posts. Two weeks back we headed back home for a wedding and vacation with my folks. I set up a few posts to go live then, but not a ton. We got back last week, but I was swamped with work, meaning the blogs fell to the wayside a bit. But I missed it and you dear readers, so here I am, back in action. I’m hoping to make up for lost time this week with a few extra pieces.

Anyway, I was looking for a fish recipe and came across one for Baked Fish & Vegetables in Best of the Best Recipe Hall of Fame Fresh From The Market Cookbook on page 150 in the book. It was hot and I didn’t want to do a lot of work, so this recipe was pretty perfect. For the fish, I went with haddock and got to work.

The majority of the work on this one is spent cutting up carrots, green onions and celery, cleaning mushrooms and then mixing up a combination of pepper, paprika, oregano and thyme. After getting everything ready, you clean off the fish, put it in a baking dish, mix in the herbs and vegetables and pop in a 450 degree oven. What 45 minutes and you’re ready to eat.

I’m a big fan of mushrooms and soups, so I loved how this fish smelled when it came out of the oven. I was a really delightful smell. I think when I mixed the herbs in, I had put the veggies in first and it didn’t quite get to the fish which was a little bit of a bummer. However, the vegetables were flavorful and partially made up for it. I think if I make this again, I’ll use some more fresh herbs and maybe a few other spices, but it’s a great base for a simple fish dinner.

A Cool Lake Tradition

We spent last week hanging out with my parents at their cottage on Devil’s Lake in Michigan. We’ve been going up to the lake as long as I can remember and my folks have had a place for over 20 years now, I think. The current one they’re in they actually designed and built themselves after years of living in a place with uneven floors and the tiniest appliances I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, part of the design is this column in the middle of the open floor plan near the kitchen. When we took Lucy there for the first time last summer, they thought it would be fun to mark her height on the column. Back then, we had to hold her up to get the right marking, but this year she was able to do it all herself. If I remember correctly she’s like twice as tall as she was last  year, which is pretty awesome. The great thing about the column is that, the way my folks designed it, they can actually take the panel with her markings with them if they ever decide to sell. That’s pretty darn smart if you ask me.

Happy Fourth of July, Have A Beer

I’m currently on vacation, chillin’ out, maxin’ and relaxin’ all cool with my wife, daughter and parents, hopefully relaxing on or near the lake and enjoying a few beers or cocktails. If you’re in New York’s Orange County, I highly recommend stopping by Beer World in New Windsor. They have more beer in one place than I’ve ever seen, it’s like heaven for folks like me. They’ve got cold beer and warm beer, make-your-own-six packs and even growlers. It’s awesome. Go there. Happy Fourth.

Making Rachel Ray’s Tuna Puttanesca

Puttanesca is a sauce that I am really growing to like. Between having it on vacation last year and then making my own last month, I’ve come to really enjoy that salty, briny flavor you get by combining tomatoes, capers and olives. So, when I was looking around Food Network’s website for easy to make, cool-ish dinners and came across Rachel Ray’s recipe for Tuna Puttanesca, I figured I’d give it a shot.

On the heat side of things, it’s not exactly the coolest because you’re making pasta and making a pretty simple sauce, but if you get them going at the same time you’re only dealing with a 15 minutes of heat and then you’re good to go. So, I wouldn’t save this for the hottest day of the year, but it definitely does the trick when things are starting to heat up outside.

It’s also very simple to make because you’re dealing with mostly canned or jarred ingredients. I took it easy on myself and got both black and kalamata olives pre-sliced to save myself some time. On that same note, I went with crushed jarred tomatoes instead of whole. When it’s hot out, you don’t want to be messing around trying to hold down slippery tomatoes or olives to cut.

So, some olive oil goes into the pan with garlic and then the tuna. You throw in the capers and olives, then some wine to cook down before adding the tomatoes and you’re pretty much there. Drain the pasta and put that in the pan to finish (I wished I had used the Dutch oven at this point because, as you can see, my pan got awfully full) and you’ve got yourself a nice easy dinner. I should say that the flavors in this dish got nowhere near close to the more intense ones I mentioned above. Instead of smelling a flower in all its glory, you’re smelling it while you’ve got a cold. All the elements are there, just not as full-forced. Still, quick, easy and pretty good are what I’m looking for with meals like this.