I’m Pretty Excited For The Boy Meets World Spinoff

Anyone who’s followed me on Twitter for a while will remember that, for a while there, I was watching Boy Meets World reruns on ABC Family in the mornings. I made my way through most of the series and eventually stopped because that tends to be how I absorb older TV shows: watch it all and then leave it alone for awhile so it doesn’t get repetitive and annoying. I even wrote a post here on Pop Poppa about how great of a dad I though Alan Matthews was on the show, but I figured I’d go into a little detail about what I liked about the original series and also why I’m cautiously optimistic for the somewhat recently announced spinoff Girl Meets World.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with the show, it follows the adventures and exploits of young Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), his best friend Shawn (Ryder Strong), his brother Eric (Will Friedel) and Topanga the girl he eventually started liking, dating and marrying. Mr. Feeny, Corey’s neighbor, teacher, principal and professor acts as the wise old soul who imparts wisdom as do Cory’s parents Amy and Alan. Since it ran from 1993 to 2000, the series covered a lot of ground as Cory went from grade school through high school and into college.

I watched the series when it was originally on and remember liking it, but I was really taken with it upon this second viewing. As I said, the series spanned plenty of years and handled many of the trials and tribulations of maneuvering the landscape of adolescence and on-coming adulthood. I don’t remember how I related to the show when I was a kid, but past that time in my life, I could definitely relate to it. I hope that the new series, Girl Meets World which will theoretically follow Cory and Topanga’s daughter as she goes through similar things offers my daughter a similar viewing experience.

I do have a few concerns though. The original series did some weird things with the character of Cory. He started out as a good intentioned class clown type who found himself getting into situations and working them out, usually after trying to lie his way out. As the series progressed Cory turned into, essentially, a 90-year-old Jewish Borscht Belt stand-up comic with the voice and everything. Eric also got ridiculously stupid, which got on my nerves and some of the episodes went into completely cartoony adventures. But, when it stuck with the real heart and soul of the show, I thought it was fantastic.

The other thing I worry about is exactly how Disney will roll the show out. The beauty of the original series is that it honestly dealt with everything from class differences and racism to pregnancy and drinking and not in an After School Special kind of way. I’m guessing the House of Mouse will either groom this show for the Disney Channel or ABC Family, neither of which gives me much to look forward to. Disney Channel’s live action shows are all very surfacey and, in my experience, lack a realness that I can’t quite put my finger on. Meanwhile, my idea of ABC Family is that they almost go too deep with shows like The Secret Life Of An American Teen. Now, I’ve never seen that show, so that’s based solely on hearsay and commercials and is not a fair judgement whatsoever.

What I’d like to see from Girl Meets World is not only a show that kids can learn a little bit about life from, but also one that they might be able to grow along with like my generation could have with Boy Meets World. Obviously that will only work for kids in a specific age group and is probably not what Disney’s aiming for, but that’s what this Pop Poppa would like to see. Either way, I’ll probably still watch because I’ve had a crush on Topanga (Danielle Fishel) for as long as I can remember.

I’m Thankful For Fiddlestix

 

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this Turkey Day. My folks have come in from Toledo to share a meal with Em, Lu and I so that’s great. But, since this is a food blog and there’s no way I’ll be able to turn around photos of our Thanksgiving prep until next week, I figured I would keep things on topic.

Regular readers will know that I love Fiddlestix. I’ve never had a bad meal there and love the variety of specials they present every week. Here you can see a collection of photos I’ve taken in the past few months. I can’t quite remember all the details. Up top is some kind of breakfast quesadilla. Then you’ve got a roast beef wrap above this paragraph followed by a double whammy of a sausage omelet and what I believe are raspberry and something pancakes.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about this, but even the sides at ‘Stix are something to talk about. At a lot of other places, breakfast potatoes feel like an add on, but theirs are always crisp and paprika-y. Better than that are the lunch sides which consist of homemade potato chips and what seems like a different pasta salad every time.

I hope you’ve found a great place like Fiddlestix and go there on a regular basis. It’s important to support local restaurants, especially when they’re awesome.

Cooking Herbed Turkey And Wild Rice Casserole

Turkey and bacon make a great combination. Really, anything and bacon is super tasty, but these two proteins work especially well together. This idea was tested and proved once again when I made Herbed Turkey And Wild Rice Casserole from Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook  (p 120). This recipe isn’t as easy as some of the “throw everything in the slow cooker, flip the switched and wait, but it was definitely worth the effort.

First up, you cook the bacon. Instead of cooking the whole strips, I like to dice it up. Saves on time and effort down the line. While that cooked, I chopped up the turkey breasts, carrots and onions and also mixed together chicken broth and a can of condensed cream of chicken soup. I don’t usually use cream of anything soup, but I had already written down most of the ingredients on my list and was in it enough.

Once the bacon is removed, you through the turkey and veggies into the pan. When that’s done, the rice goes in the slow cooker bowl as do the cooked meat and vegetables. At this point you get to put the lid on and cook on low for six or seven hours.

This turned out to be a pretty enjoyable recipe thought brought a few things into our meals that we don’t usually eat: wild rice and turkey. Oh, also that soup. There’s got to be a good substitute for that, though right? Anyone have any suggestions?

Story Time At The Cornwall Library

A few months back, my wife told me about a series of storytimes at the nearby Cornwall Library. Since we’re not residents we had to wait a few days to sign up, but lucked out and got one of the last spots in the Tuesday morning 9:30 AM class which included kids from 18 to 36 months. When I went to sign up the lady tried to get me to do the 18 month and under, but I stuck to my guns for two reasons: 1) a woman and her daughter from our birth class was going to take that class and 2) I thought it would be better for her to be around older kids instead of being the oldest baby.

My wife’s been taking Lu to a weekend music class to give them some mommy and me time and also get her out there with other kids, something she doesn’t always get staying home with me all day. She’s told me how social Lu is at those classes, running around with the others, playing with kids, sharing and even cleaning up, so I thought that would be the case with this story group.

That wasn’t really the case, though for some reason. We’d get to every class and sit around in a circle with books set out beforehand. The kids would walk around, look at the books or stick with their parents. Lu almost always stuck with me. Then there were a few songs that were a bit over her head, but did involve clapping which she’s awesome at. Eventually we’d get to the story and then a few more songs, a game of sorts and then it ended.

I was kind of surprised at how shy and standoffish she was during the class. She gets like that even with her grandparents when they first get her for visits, but usually warms up pretty quickly. She didn’t really get there with this class, though. She’s also gotten really good at a lot of different sign language signs, but wouldn’t do a single one while we were out. I wonder if she’s shy or just wary of people. Either one she probably gets from me. I wonder if that’s in the genes or something she’s picked up on from being around me so much.

A new group of classes starts back up in January. I’m definitely going to sign us back up for that. Hopefully in another couple months she’ll be more social and communicative. I’m still proud of her for being curious about other people, approaching some of them and getting wicked good and putting on and taking off her “Lucy” name tag.

Bonus Food Pic: Great Wall Chinese Food

Even though I make a lot of recipes in my wok, there’s just something awesome about getting Chinese food carry out. Maybe it’s because I mostly try recipes of dishes I’m not familiar with or maybe it’s because I lived behind a Chinese food restaurant growing up, but I feel a connection to this food, even if I only ate white rice with soy sauce for YEARS.

We ordered House Lo Mein, Sesame Chicken, Crab Rangoon and Pork Egg Foo Young with some pretty spectacular gravy. The food came from a place literally two minutes down the street called Great Wall, but I’ll be honest, all the Chinese food I’ve had around here has been pretty darn solid with the exception of a now-closed buffet place that was truly awful.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Spaghetti With Broccoli Cream Pesto

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of my process for making Smitten Kitchen’s Spaghetti With Broccoli Cream Pesto because it’s not a particularly photo-worthy post (plus, there’s no way I can take better one that SK’s Deb Perelman). You’re boiling water, steaming broccoli, cooking pasta, cutting up broccoli, shredding cheese, chopping garlic, throwing stuff in the food processor, cooking onions and eating.

I’ve made plenty of pesto recipes before and love the variety you can come across even without the traditional ingredients of pesto and pine nuts. In this case the cooked broccoli and onions take the place of those fancier greens. The real genius of this recipe is how you basically use one pot and the food processor to make the whole thing. I got a pot of water boiling and put the steam basket in the top of it. Once it was ready, I added the cleaned and trimmed broccoli. Once that was done and set aside, I threw the pasta in.

While that cooked I took care of some of the other prep stuff. I cut up the onion and shredded the parm. When it was done and drained, I then cooked first the onion and then the broccoli in the pot. When that was done, everything but the pasta went into the food processor and we had diner after a few whirs.

I can’t really say that I’d kick my other pesto recipes to the curb for this one, but I do appreciate that it’s so simple to put together. If you’ve got an extra box of pasta and some broccoli you’re good to go. In a pinch you could use milk instead of cream, You could also cook up some chicken and add that in for added protein if you wanted. Super easy.

Cooking Pat Neely’s Famous Beef and Pork Chili

I’ve made plenty of chili in my days. Most of them kind of blend together, but then I made Pat Neely’s Famous Beef and Pork Chili which I saw over on Food Network’s website and things changed for me all because of one spectacular ingredient: bacon. You can hit the link to head over and see the the recipe which is super easy to follow, but I want to talk about the addition of that delicious, salty substance known as bacon. The flavor might have faded a bit in the leftover phase, but that first bite of bacon-infused chili was just slap-you-in-the-face amazing. Why had I never thought of this before? Why hadn’t I come across a recipe like this before? You can darn well bet that every chili I make from here on out will feature bacon.

I Finally Had My Own Under The Big Top At Fiddlestix!

Guys! Guys! I finally had the breakfast I couldn’t stop thinking about it for myself! We went to Fiddlestix in Cornwall this weekend and I immediately stopped reading the menu as soon as I saw something called Under The Big Top on the weekly breakfast special menu. As soon as I saw “pretzel” I was super in. This version was actually written a little differently than the one my wife had as it was supposed to have sausage, but they were out of sausage, so they put bacon on. That made things a bit salty in some bites (pretzel plus bacon, you know how it is), but overall this was delightful. The pretzels and bacon were joined by a wonderful cheese sauce and a pair of poached eggs. Man oh, man. This was amazing. I need to figure out how to make pretzels and try this out at home!

Wok This Way: Five-Spice Chicken With Sugar Snaps

This was another pretty simple wok recipe to throw together and the results were something I’d never had before. Most of the work involved in making Five-Spice Chicken With Sugar Snaps as seen on page 120 of Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge revolved around getting the chicken ready. Instead of the thighs suggested in the recipe, I went with breasts as I always do. I chopped those up and then mixed it together with ginger, soy sauce, honey, cornstarch, sherry and five spice powder. I also mixed together chicken broth, ketchup and soy sauce. Aside from that, all you have to do is clean the peas. I’m not sure if I got sugar snaps or some other kind of peas to be honest. I have much to learn about peas.

From there, it’s a matter of tossing things in the wok in the right order. The chicken goes in first, cooks a bit and then gets put on a plate. Then the peas go in, the chicken rejoins the party along with a few other things and you’ve got dinner. Instead of rice, which my wife says is poisonous now (not really, but kinda), I got lucky and had a few nests of egg noodles in the pantry that I prepared as well.

I’ve used Chinese five spice before, but never as such a central part of the dish. There was a nice sweetness coming through from the honey and then that distinct mixture of peppercorns, star anise, fennel, cinnamon and cloves (the quintet of spices that make it up).

Cooking Food Network’s Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash is a dish that I don’t have a lot of history with, but one I still enjoy. I don’t think my mom made it when I was growing up, but when I was in college I joined a fraternity with an awesome cook named Sharon who would make it every couple weeks. When I was looking around on FootNetwork.com for recipes to try and saw this one for the Food Network Magazine’s Chicken Paprikash I figured I’d give it a whirl. I mean, it’s basically Beef Stroganoff with chicken, bacon and some different spices, so I’m all over that.

I didn’t get a picture of the final dish, but I prepared egg noodles to serve this over. While the water heated I got bacon cooking in my Dutch oven and then added in the onion and red pepper. After that the chicken got added to the mix along with the spice mixture (paprika, marjoram) and flour. The broth then gets added to the Dutch oven and you simmer for 10 minutes.

There’s some more covering and uncovering and temperature changing, but the next major step is adding sour cream and parsley (I didn’t have fresh, so I went with dried). Swirl that all together, drain the pasta and mix it all together. I really enjoyed this recipe and would be interested in checking out some variations. Like I said above, it’s hard to go wrong with me when you’re serving up bacon, sour cream and a gravy-like substance over noodles.

Cooking Pasta With Chicken & Brussels Sprouts

Every month when I got my mysterious issue of Good Housekeeping (I still have no idea where the subscription came from, but I’m not paying for it) I flip to the recipe section, rip out whatever sounds interesting, place those pages in my cooking binder and recycle the mag (I don’t know anyone who’d want it, otherwise, I’d pass it along). A few months back they did a feature of different pasta recipes, so you know I was all over them. The first one I made was called Pasta With Chicken & Brussels Sprouts and it turned out pretty well with a few tweaks.

Speaking of the changes, I went with chicken breasts instead of thighs because we prefer white meat. I also skipped the red pepper flakes, used a quarter cup of chicken stock instead of water and therefor didn’t need to bother with the bread crumbs, but I used them anyway. As always I got my prep work done first and kicked that off by getting my pot of salted water ready and on the stove. Next I chopped up the Brussels sprouts which I had cooked before, but never cut up. While doing this I realized they’re basically just little cabbages which is kind of cool and interesting. I put those in the strainer and sprayed them down to clean.

Aside from that the only prep work involved dicing three cloves of garlic, measuring out the breadcrumbs, grating the Parm and preparing the chicken. Instead of cooking the chicken pieces whole, I cut them into bite-sized chunks, salted and peppered and then got them cooking in some olive oil. Once that was done, I added the butter, the sprouts, salt and chicken stock. I went with chicken stock because I had some extra in the fridge and figured that would add a lot more flavor than boring old water. From there I followed the recipe as written.

I’m sure this recipe would have been just as good as written, but I’m glad I made the changes I did. I’ve only ever cooked Brussels sprouts in the oven as a side dish, but actually taking them, doing something interesting with them and making them the spotlight of the dish was a great idea, one that easily gets some veggies in the dishes. I was surprised that our then-17 month old actually gobbled them up but even more surprised that my wife did who doesn’t like Brussels sprouts.

Snack Attack: Original Beer Nuts Peanuts

 

While driving to New Hampshire a few weeks back, we stopped at a rest stop to get gas and I went in to get a drink and a snack. I wound up discovering Beer Nuts, which I know have been around forever, but I don’t remember ever having them. They reminded me of honey roasted peanuts with their sweet and salty combination, but that’s pretty much the idea, right? Get people drinking and eating these cheap snacks that make them want to drink more. Brilliant! It also happens that they’re quite tasty and while not the healthiest snack in the world, seemed like a better choice than a candy bar or something.

Wok This Way: Hong Kong-Style Mango Ginger Turkey

I’ve made peace with the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of challenge in wok cooking (at least that I’ve come across in my limited experience) and have embraced the simplicity and general high quality of the finished meal. Because the recipes tend to be very similar, they also offer plenty of room to change things up when it comes to cooking. Take this recipe for Hong Kong-Style Mango Ginger Turkey from Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge (page 124). I actually didn’t have chicken thawed out, but did have some turkey breasts, so I cut those bad boys up and used them instead. I thought it wound up a pretty good combination. I also had a half box of orzo in the pantry from when I made Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Orzo with Eggplant & Mozzarella, so instead of rice, I cooked that up and threw it in at the end to finish cooking.

I’m not great and knowing when some fruits are ripe or not. When it came to the mango in this one, I decided to buy two just in case which turned out to be a good call. The first one I tried to cut up came out super smooshy, but the second offered up better slices. I still used the mush, but wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much yield had I only bought the squishier one.

I don’t make a lot of dinners that incorporate fruit like this, but I thought the subtle flavor of the mango worked well with the crunch of the green peppers and the velvet chicken, which you soak in a mixture and then throw in a boiling pot to cook for a few minutes. I wound up using that same pot to cook the orzo, so it worked out pretty well and I only dirtied a few dishes.

Bonus Food Pic: Shawarma, Pesto Hummus & Sides From Chickpea

 

Last week my wife and I were in the city and found ourselves eating at a place called Chickpea. If you’ve never been, it’s kind of a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern version of Chipotle. You walk in, decide what kind of delivery system you want for your food (platter, salad, pita, etc), what kind of meat or main dish you want, a special kind of hummus and three side salads. As you can see above, I went with the platter, got the chicken shawarma, some basil and pine nut hummus and a trio of sides I can’t quite remember. Since I’m not super familiar with this kind of food, the place was loud and I couldn’t fully understand the guy scooping the sides, I didn’t really know what I ordered, but it was good.

Actually, it was all good. I chose shawarma right away for one simple reason: they talked about it in The Avengers and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I have no idea how authentic this was, but it was actually super good. I can’t quite place or remember the flavors at this point, but I ate this all up with a quickness and it’s not just because we had to get to an appointment. Also, pesto hummus was kind of an awesome revelation, I’m going to make some of my own once basil is back in season (or I have some leftover from another recipe).