The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 9

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In the latest episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast, the nice weather gets me all twitterpated, Lu gets her first haircut and we talk about bathies.

If you’re interested, here’s my review of Red Dawn from UnitedMonkee.com.

I can’t seem to find the full speech that Brett Cullen’s Tom Eckert gives to his boys in the movie, but part of it’s in this clip:

If the Fisher-Price Little People Splash ‘n Scoop Bath Bar sounds like your cup of tea, check it out through this link.

Forgotten Food: Bobby Flay’s Curry Marinated Fajitas With Avocado Crema & Pickled Roasted Peppers

It’s really a shame that I remember next to nothing about making this trio of Bobby Flay recipes I came across in Good Housekeeping: Red Curry-Marinated Skirt Steak Fajitas, Pickled Roasted Peppers and Acocado Crema. For one thing, they look pretty good — and I’m sure they were, I just can’t remember — but I do remember this meal taking a good deal of work to get made. From looking at the recipes again, I remember roasting the peppers and getting them in the pickling liquid and also getting the steak into the marinade so it could sit for a while. I want to say I did most of this the night before, but it’s more likely that I had a bit of a slow day at work and did all this around noon.

I didn’t want to let these photos go to waste because I like how colorful they are. It looks like I had a bit of trouble getting the steak to the right done-ness so I cut it into smaller pieces and cooked it in a pan separately. Not the most elegant fix, but it worked. I do remember the tangy pickled peppers being a lot of fun. While I’m bummed I don’t remember much of how this meal turned out, I’m glad I wrote this post because it reminded me of it so I can give it another try. Maybe this summer!

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 8

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As the weather goes from great to grey, I talk about everything from nice weather memories and Mariah Carey to Mickey Mouse coloring books and how the movie Spring Break holds up as a good lesson on how to be a worthwhile person.

If you missed it, here are a pair of Photo Diary posts about us going to the park from Friday and Tuesday.

Here’s my wildly uninformed Sesame Street post from last year.

If you’re interested in checking out Sesame Street: Old School – Volume One (1969-1974) pick it up from Amazon.

And here’s a few images if you’re curious to see what Big Bird and Oscar looked like originally.

When I said that they hung out in a junkyard on The Cosby Show, I meant Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids – The Original Animated Series, Vol. 1 (with Bonus CD). I’m fairly certain Rudy and Theo never found themselves digging through trash.

The inimitable Mariah Carey singing “Always Be My Baby.”

If you’re curious to read my review of Summer School , head on over to UnitedMonkee. If you want to buy the film, follow that first link to Amazon.

Making Ham Salad

ham salad When I was a kid there was a grocery store near our house called Bischoffs (I might be off on the spelling, I’m pretty sure it was a local operation). I don’t remember too much about the place, but I do remember that they had ham salad for sale there and I loved it every time we’d get a container of it. You could either lather it on bread for a sandwich or just eat it straight. But, Bischoffs closed and we wound up going to Kroger and Food Town and a few other places and I kind of forgot about ham salad. Then, in the last few years, I was walking through the deli section of my local Hannaford and saw that they had pre-made ham salad sandwiches which I have partaken in here and there. Aside from that, though, I haven’t really thought about it that much.

That is until a few weeks ago when we came home with a pound or two of the ham my mother in law served for Easter. I’m a fan of heating it up in a pan and eating ham with some eggs, but my wife had mentioned being curious about ham salad, so I looked around for a recipe and decided to try the one called Ham Salad II over on All Recipes. I actually cut the recipe in half and then cut the amount of mayo in half again because a cup of mayonaise sounded a bit much and we’re still watching our calories with the Lost It app. I also skipped the green pepper because I didn’t have one on hand, but that wound up being okay because this version — which I was surprised to find actually went through the meat grinder — tasted exactly how I remember ham salad tasting. Most times when you try to recreate a childhood taste, the new version doesn’t hold up, but that wasn’t the case here. The pickled relish really adds some nice brininess to the ham and then you’ve got the mayo and crispness of the celery which helps bring it all together.

I actually kind of want to get a whole ham just to make more ham salad, which is a little bit crazy. When I first moved to New York and was living with my buddy Rickey, my aunt sent me a really nice Honeybaked Hams spread. We did our best to eat all the ham we could and wound up freezing a bunch of it, but I look back now and my mind races with all the uses I would have had for that protein. I was so young and culinarily ignorant back then!

Belated Bonus Food Pic: Fiddlestix’s Irish Lunch

fiddlestix st patricks day

I can’t believe this picture is almost a month old at this point. Sorry about the lack of posts the past few weeks, hoping to get back on the horse. Anyway, even though I had this fantastic plate of Fiddlestix food on St. Patrick’s Day, I can still remember how fantastic it was. If memory serves you’ve got corned beef, braised cabbage, mashed potatoes (possibly with horseradish?) and Irish soda bread that was quickly cooked or warmed on the stove. I can’t remember exactly how it was prepared, but there was something special about the corn beef. Maybe it had Guinness involved? I think that might have been it. Anyway, this is what I think of when I think of amazing corned beef. I’d love to see this meal on the regular menu which is made all the better by that delightfully crisp soda bread!

Forgotten Food: Michael Ruhlman’s Sage-Garlic-Brined & Roasted Kale Pest Pork Chops

ruhlman's sage-garlic brined pork chops

As regular readers of the blog might have realized by this point, I cook a lot more than I actually write about food. As it happens, Monkeying Around The Kitchen gets pushed to the wayside when I get swamped with work or just don’t feel like sitting under the computer any more, but I still make time to cook about five times a week. I keep a folder on my desktop of images organized as best I can, but even with so many images and saved recipes, I can’t always remember how the things I cooked turned out, especially if I few a few somewhat similar things within a short period of time. That’s the case with these two recipes I’m talking about now, Sage-Garlic-Brined Pork Chops from Rhulman’s Twenty (page 29) and Food Network’s Pork Chops With Roasted Kale and Walnut Pesto.

Above you can see the brined chops. I remember putting that brine together, frying them and that picture sure looks pretty, but I just can’t remember what they tasted like. I want to say I liked them because, well, I love lemon and capers but I can’t say for sure. Around this time I also made some parmesan pork chops that were incredibly tasty. I think that memory might have knocked this one out of my brain.

pork chops with roasted kale & walnut pest0

Meanwhile, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the Food Network recipe, but the chops themselves weren’t particularly interesting. You’re just cooking them in oil with some salt, pepper and rosemary sprinkled around. They weren’t bad by any means, just not overly memorable. However, I was a fan of the kale and walnut pesto recipe included therein. I love how versatile pesto turns out to be and enjoy trying new takes on the classic. I don’t remember eating these as leftovers, but I do remember combining the rest of the pesto with some leftover pasta that I whipped up one day and wound up having a nice little lunch for myself.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Tomato Vegetable Casserole

In addition to mixing up our protein intake when coming up with a weekly menu, I like to usually throw in a vegetarian meal. I came across Giada De Laurentiis’s Tomato Vegetable Casserole and liked it because it’s pretty simple but also involves one of my favorite aspects of cooking: prep. Since this recipe includes potato, yam, tomato, bell pepper, carrots, onion and zucchini, I got to spend a good deal of time with my knife and cutting board chopping veggies up into slices and tiny cubes.

Once you’ve got that done, you’re basically done making dinner. All you need to do then is arrange the veggies in the order suggested — like a lasagna — cover with bread crumbs (I had panko on hand) and pop into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. When your cook time is done you’re left with a sweet and somewhat tangy vegetable dish that balances the candylike yams with the  tomatoes. You could probably really mix things up when it comes to the actual vegetables included in this dish and I can only imagine how much better it would taste with super fresh ingredients all around. I’m looking forward to the farmer’s market kicking back up so I can try this with yams, carrots and potatoes fresh from the ground and maybe some heirloom tomatoes. Just thinking about that is making my mouth water.

Wok This Way: MacGyvering Veggie Fried Rice With Egg

One of the greatest things about getting into wok-based cooking is that, once you buy many of the key ingredients, you’ve already got a lot of the basics to make future dishes. That’s a nice bonus because sometimes things happen and you either have to completely scrap a meal or can’t get to the grocery store and just have to work with what you’ve got. A few times now I’ve turned to my copy of Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge and the recipe for Peppery Vegetarian Rice (page 256) and used that as a basis for dinners that have turned out pretty good. The basic idea of this recipe is that you cook a few eggs in your wok, put them aside and then cook up some carrots and other vegetables before mixing in the rice, a few other key ingredients and then have yourself a nice dinner. Luckily, I’ve always got carrots on hand, so this is usually a pretty easy one to put together. The real beauty of this recipe is that you could pretty much use whatever veggies you happen to have on hand and, as long as you’ve got some rice, wind up with a pretty tasty dish.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 7

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The latest installment of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast focuses on a recent trip to New Hampshire for Easter, the many cartoons I want to share with my daughter and a big thumbs up for a new sitcom and my favorite diaper bag.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 7

The episode of The Big Bang Theory I mentioned that inspired Lu to sing “Soft Kitty” is called “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency.” I live blogged it back in 2009.

You can check out the piece my friend Sean Collins wrote about He-Man over on Vorpalizer.

While I’m linking to my pals, here’s the piece my buddy Rob Bricken wrote about the wacky He-Man/She-Ra holiday special that he wrote for io9.

As I mentioned in the episode, I’m trying something new with a little bit of advertising. If you’re interested in any of the products or DVDs I mentioned in the show follow these links to Amazon. It’ll help the show for sure, so thanks in advance. Here’s what I talked about this episode The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Third Season, Big Bang Theory – Soft Kitty Head Plush, DuckTales – Volume 1, Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge: “Only a Poor Old Man” (Vol. 12) (The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library), Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Collector’s Box Set (Vol. 1-2) (Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse), Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers – Volume 1 and Plastic Man: The Complete Collection.

And of course, I’ve got to separate out the recipient of this week’s Pop Poppa Seal of Approval winner, the Diaper Dude Diaper Bag, Black, the best diaper bag for guys around.

If you’re curious, here’s the review I wrote of one of my new favorite podcasts Hear Me Out. Give it a listen, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Italian Stuffed Cabbage

I don’t know about you guys, but I can get kind of lazy when it comes to the meals I chose to make. I don’t mind being it he kitchen for longer periods of time, but I’m not a huge fan of recipes that involve lots of steps, especially ones that involve wrapping one element in another. If I’ve got all the time in the world and the kid’s not running all around me while I’m cooking, I’ve got no problem, but when does that ever happen. So, when I first thought about making Smitten Kitchen’s Italian Stuffed Cabbage, I wasn’t sure about tackling it. But I decided to give it a shot and it actually wasn’t much more work than making meatballs.

The first thing I did for this recipe was getting the bread soaking in milk. My bread was pretty hard, so I figured it would make sense to get those pieces nice and soft. Meanwhile, I got my cabbage ready, cutting off the bottom and doing my best to keep the large pieces intact without ripping. With that ready, I got some water on the stove and made the meatballs. As usual, I went with the loose sweet Italian sausage from my grocery store, though I think I’m going to try and make my own next time. Anyway, with the meatballs prepared and the water boiling, I followed the recipe and got the cabbage ready.

From there, it was simply a matter of wrapping the meatball in cabbage and pinning everything together with a toothpick. Once that was done, I got the tomatoes cooking in the same pot I used to wilt the cabbage (after draining, of course) and dropped my meat filled packages in there. After cooking for a while, you take the picks out, flip them over and let cook a little longer.

In addition to being a really tasty recipe — my wife and I both really liked the flavor of these particular meatballs and how they interacted with the cabbage — this is a nice recipe because you can do the steps at various points throughout the day. Deb at Smitten breaks everything down that way and it really lends itself to someone like me who can be busy on and off throughout the day. I happened to be able to do everything in one session, but if I didn’t have that kind of time, I could have easily popped into the kitchen and made the meatballs, then put them in the fridge, done more work and come back later on. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try because I really haven’t tasted such an interesting meatball. This one will definitely be making its way into my regular rotation…if such a thing every takes shape.

Cooking Lentil Sloppy Joes

For me, the fun of cooking is trying out brand new recipes. It’s great returning to old favorites, but I get a much bigger kick out of trying out a new take on those old faves. That’s what I was thinking when I decided to try Food Network’s recipe for Lentil Sloppy Joes. I don’t make Sloppy Joes often, though I did write about them once last year, but I do remember my mom making them when I was a kid, so there’s a soft spot in my heart for the loose meat classic.

This new version isn’t a wild departure from the classic, it just includes some lentils and less ground beef to kind of round things out. Compared to that other recipe I made, though, this one definitely has a lot more veggies incorporated but other than that and the lentils, it’s the same basic process: cook the veggies, add in the liquid and the meat, let cook for a bit and dinner’s served.

While there’s definitely something to be said about going old school with this meal, I like this version as a healthier alternative that gets all kinds of vegetables into the mix. Since my wife and I have been watching our calorie intakes, these sandwiches are a good alternative that packs a good deal of flavor, doesn’t waste too many calories and also helps use up some of the lentils I’ve had in the pantry for quite a while, so that’s a win-win-win!

Bonus Food Pic: Piece Of Fish

piece of fish

There’s a place around the corner from our house. It’s a tiny one room operation that’s served as several different kind of carry out food places since we moved to the area back in 2006. Its specific location is in kind of a dead zone as far as our travels go. It’s on a stretch of road that we often use, but take various other routes to get to meaning the place isn’t always on our radar. When we first got here it was a hot dog place, but we didn’t make it over there before they shut down. I think it was empty for a while and then a nice little wrap place opened up called Wrap and Roll. My wife and I loved that place because, not only were they not your average deli — and I’d say most of the delis around us are pretty average — but they also had this killer southwest pasta salad that I should have asked for the recipe for. After that it was a Philly cheesesteak place called Billy’s Phillies (or something). They were okay, but inconsistent.

Now there’s a new place in there called Piece of Fish which, as you might be able to guess, serves fish. I stopped in a few weeks back for lunch. The menu is pretty limited at this point, but I think that’s a smart movie. Start off with some items you can really knock out of the park and if they do well, start bringing in specials and other new menu items as you grow. And that’s what POF seems to be doing. I went with an order each of Whiting and Tilapia with regular fries and sweet potato ones and my wife and I were pretty happy with both results.

My main worry with fried sea food is that it will be super heavy and greasy, but that wasn’t the case here at all. Both fish has a really nice, light breading and fry to them that didn’t take away from the taste of the fish. I had never had Whiting before, but it was my favorite out of the bunch. We haven’t had the opportunity to get back there, but I’m definitely adding Piece of Fish to my mental liste of worthwhile, quick, in and out restaurants in the area to hit up.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta & White Beans

I’m a big fan of the Smitten Kitchen website. Proprietor Deb Perelman and I seem to share a lot of the same food sensibilities which is great because I’m always looking for new recipes to try out every single week. Lately she’s been doing a lot of dessert stuff which I’m not really into, but any time an entree pops up, I’m usually trying it within a week or two. That was the case with her recipe for Pasta & White Beans (I skipped the garlic-rosemary oil because my wife’s not a fan of that particular herb), even though that was a while back. By the way, sorry about the lack of posting lately, I got sick last week and have been pretty busy doing the whole freelance writer/stay at home dad/new podcaster thing (check out my Pop Poppa Nap Cast over on PopPoppa.com or through iTunes).

Anyway, back to food. I mentioned in a previous post how when I made Nigella Lawson’s Turkey Meatballs In Tomato Sauce it made me think of using a similar “throw the aromatics into a food processor and cook that” approach for my beloved Pasta With Onion Butter Red Sauce from Smitten (which I did here). Oddly enough, this particular recipe for Pasta & White Beans actually does the exact same thing with carrots, onions, garlic and celery. It’s a great way to get all those ingredients together from the jump and really get their flavors to develop while cooking. It also helps make for a bit of a thicker pasta experience which I’m almost always in favor of.

I went with canned beans because I haven’t quite made the transition to getting my own and soaking them over night (maybe when I have more kitchen space, but as of now it doesn’t make a lot of sense in our tiny galley kitchen. The rest of the recipe is really simple. You get the pasta going and cook the food processed vegetables with some water and beans for a while. When everything’s ready, combine, heat through and you’ve got dinner. It’s a really solid, hearty meal that probably can’t be any easier to make. As is, it’s vegetarian, but you could also easily throw in some cooked chicken or turkey and give it some animal protein, although you’re already getting a good deal of that from the beans.