Amazing! Kale! Recipes! Wow!

I got my hands on some kale. So I did what any self-respecting blogger would do: I fancied myself a food expert and created THE MOST AMAZING KALE RECIPES THAT WILL NOM YOUR MOTHERNOMMING MIND! I better see these on Pinterest sometime. That's all I'm saying. Enjoy:

THE KAELSTROM

What do you get when you combine Kale with the two most popular food ingredients of our time? The unholy trinity of the culinary world. The perfect storm. The opposite of stock art. 

Start with some beautiful kale. I actually have no idea what constitutes beautiful kale, since it all just looks like a used cold cut platter to me.

Add your pop culture cred multiplier.

Some "foodie juice"...

Blend artisanally.

Ponder the life choices you made up until this moment.

If you think that's crazy, let's talk about something really crazy: texting and driving. Did you know it causes 200,000 vehicle crashes a year? Suddenly, that "LOL" doesn't seem that important to transmit right this second now, does it? Don't you wish there were an easy way to help you resist the urge to search for a 3mm x 2mm key while barreling down the road strapped to a 3,000 lb metal object, aside from the fact that you are barreling down the road strapped to a 3,000 lb metal object? Before we answer that, I have more culinary inspiration to drop. 

SHISH KALEBOBS

I will pretty much eat anything on a stick. Even kale, theoretically. So LET'S IMPALE SOME KALE!

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To ensure even cooking, liberally brush some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs onto the leaves. Actually, any household accelerant will do. 

Place on the grill and make sure to get a good sear. 

When the Shish Kalebob reaches a nice ash consistency, throw some burgers on the grill and pat yourself on the back. You rid the world of that much more kale. 

While you're ridding the world of kale, why not rid yourself of texting and driving? Remember that I said there was an easy way to resist the urge to text and drive? I wasn't kidding. It's called DriveMode by AT&T, and now it's available on both Droid and iOS for free. What does it do? First, it takes the temptation to respond out of the equation, by silencing text message alerts and even auto-replying for you. The app even turns on and off depending on if your vehicle is moving. The best part is that DriveMode can track your kids' usage of it (assuming they drive. If they don't, then I guess you can use it to prevent running really fast and texting). In other words, you'll be alerted if they turn it off. If only they had a similar app for bike helmets. If you do happen to catch your kids turning DriveMode off, I'm all about the consequences. And that comes in the form of my next recipe.

CHOCKALE CHIP COOKIES

The "Choc" merely stands for chock full o' fibery goodness. There's no chocolate in this. In fact, there is no joy in this cookie at all. Because it starts and ends with kale.

Make or buy some cookie dough. It really doesn't matter because here comes the kale. POW!

Form into little balls and place them about two inches apart on a baking sheet.

Bake per whatever feels right. The important part is that you garnish this culinary delight with kale, because it actually is a great garnish. Step back and savor the meta of it all. 

Wait for the children to do something wrong, and punish accordingly.

Just like the mad rush to shove kale into every conceivable dish possible, that text you have to send while in the car -- IT CAN WAIT. I wish there were a website that allowed you to take a pledge to not use kale ridiculously, but we're simply not that lucky. There is, however, a site where you can pledge not to text and drive. I encourage you all to take the pledge

And just for the record, I was not paid for this post. I was, however, given an iPhone to not text and drive with (complete with the DriveMode app). I've used it a few months, and I admit, it has been difficult. I am a red light texter. But I also believe that there are other things one can occupy himself with while driving. 

Fried Chicken Fried Rice. Y'all.

This is going to be one of those dishes that everyone takes for granted at every county fair in the year 2029, and someone will decide to wikipedia its origins and they will find this blog post. It's so humbling to be a part of culinary history that hasn't yet happened. Reckless fusion leads to wonderful things, sometimes.

There's no story behind this - only circumstances.

  • Circumstance #1: four pieces of leftover fried chicken, and no creative way left to coax anyone into eating them.
  • Circumstance #2: cheap dad who refuses to throw food away simply for the sake of maintaining variety on the menu.
  • Circumstance #3: a mess of rice that was a tad undercooked but not ruined enough to throw away. 
  • Circumstance #4: fried rice master in tha house.

Step 1: Tear the meat off the fried chicken and don't leave any of the crispy chunks of breading behind. Who cares if they are not attached to any meat. You want this. Then chop it all up.

Step 2: Chop up some pre-cooked bacon (10-150 slices, depending). Because.

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Step 3: In a wok or deep pan, scramble up some eggs (4-5) in more oil than you are comfortable with. Also, add salt to the egg. Again, more than you are comfortable with. The egg is what pops you with that surprise flavor in fried rice, so you want it turnt up with salt. You're cooking up a recipe with the word "fried" in it twice. Do yourself a favor and stop worrying. Then remove from wok.

Step 4: Add a generous glug more oil. I told you shut your mouth about it. Dump the chopped up fried chicken and bacon into that wok. Heat it all up and get some sear going. Fat on fat violence makes for wonderful aromas wafting through your kitchen. 

Step 5: Make a hole in the middle of all that and pour in a splash of oil. Add in about one bunch-worth of chopped scallion. Let that scallion swim in the oil pool, touching the metal so it too sears. There's your green. Balance has been achieved. 

Step 6: Dump the rice in and move it in a chopping/scooping motion with a solid spatula. Relentlessly. Most plastic spatulas won't cut it. You need backbone, so use wood or metal. You want as much air getting into this mess as possible. Clumps of rice = failure. 

Step 7: Add the cooked egg and keep chopping/scooping until the eggs are in little tiny pieces.

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Step 8: Step back, wipe the sweat from your brow (if your heartbeat isn't going at 80% by the time you're done, you're not doing it right), admire your creation, and serve.

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Step 9: Satiate the peoples' appetite.

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Let the record show that 3 out of 5 kids asked for seconds. This also garnered one enthusiastic high five. 

Shannon and I are not pictured in the above because we are trying not to eat starches. We had not yet decided what to cook for our dinner. To make sure this dish was as epic as I had imagined it would be, I tried one bite out of stash in the wok as the kids dined. Then Shannon tried a bite. Then in the spirit of the scientific method, I took another sample bite. 

"I figured out what we're going to do for dinner," she said. 

"What..."

"We're going to stand here in front of the stove and not eat this fried rice."

And that we did.

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The Fried Rice Manifesto

Comrades, the time has come. We must rid this world of weak fried rice. I've waited patiently my entire life for this wok hero, acknowledging that there are other rice frying superstars more capable of leading the masses to the promised land. Yet no one has raised their fist. So consider this post me... fisting.

Harnessing the collective wisdom of my ancestors, I have drafted the first-ever manifesto on the science and art of the ubiquitous dish that no one seems to know how to make properly. Actually, it's just the wisdom of my dad, but he made the best fried rice that ever graced this earth. Maybe it's because it's one of only two things he knew how to make (the other was steamed buns, and sadly, I never learned the recipe). If the elders summon me to a death match because I taught the Gwai Lo our secrets, well, then you can call me Bruce Lee. Actually, you can call me that whenever. I dig it.

Preamble

This is the best pic I could find of my fried rice. It's a still frame from a video. I'm a revolutionary, not a food photographer!The ideology of fried rice is simple. It's rice mixed with a bunch of stuff. Really, that's it. A kid could make conceptual fried rice at the dinner table with a bowl of rice and dinner. There's no real measurement needed, no set cook times, no thickeners, no binders, no anything you have to learn in your elite culinary school. But revolutionary fried rice? Now there's an elusive beast. Revolutionary fried rice cascades out of your bowl, every grain of rice perfectly seared on all sides, as separate and individual as snowflakes, yet united in the spirit of cooperation and partnership for the greater benefit of the masses as a complex, yet consistent interplay of infused flavors imparted by a perfect ratio of meat, eggs, fats and vegetables. Revolutionary fried rice doesn't rest in a recipe. It is the manifestation of technique, timing and proportion. It is the peoples' will. It's kung-fu with food. And grasshopper, you're about to get schooled proper.

Preparation

HEAT

Revolutionary fried rice's best friend is heat. Lots of heat. When I make it, I use a 65,000 BTU outdoor burner (the best indoor ranges max out at about 18,000 BTUs). Neighborhood kids who use too much Axe body spray burst into flames when I am making fried rice.

The Devil went down to Georgia because he couldn't take this heat.

[Wokferno pics stolen from this photo set from '09. I did not re-shave my head. No children were singed that night.]

Without the proper searing of several of the main elements of fried rice, you end up with a bowl of mushy glutinous gruel, unworthy of even labor camp. The heat ensures that all the ingredients pop with flavor. It also keeps things from sticking together because you are building a great caremelized crust around each individual element. Like the Great Wall, this crust keeps the riff raff out. So crank up your flame as high as it will go. No monster burner required. I used to cook fried rice on my dinky apartment range. You just use a smaller wok/pan and work in small batches.

WOK/PAN

If at all possible, you want to use a wok. The shape of the wok is not only conducive to harnessing the available heat into a concentrated spot (while providing a "rest and drip zone" for cooked items on the outer perimeter), it also makes it a lot easier to keep the ingredients in constant motion. More on that later. You can use a regular pan if you don't have a wok, but it'll be harder to move all the stuff around, and you'll lose a lot of rice over the sides because constant motion requires speed, and speed makes rice fly around. Like a good cast iron skillet, a wok gets better with age, as it becomes seasoned with each use. The easiest wok to season is the cheap carbon steel variety. A Teflon wok is the most pointless thing ever invented. If you have one, throw it away. Just do it now. Teflon cookware is not designed for high heat. A wok's mission in life is to partner with high heat. If you want to spend your money on pointless, oxymoronic products, go buy yourself a Lincoln Mark LT luxury pickup truck. But go get yourself a decent wok. The cheaper the better.

ESTABLISH A MISE EN PLACE LINE UP ALL YOUR S#%*

The thing with fried rice is once you start, you're committed to the end. There is no such thing as stopping in the middle. There are no time outs in fried rice. You can't answer the phone, go to the bathroom, sneeze, chit chat, and you especially cannot stop and prep ingredients. Why? Because once you stop moving, you either get clumpy, or burned elements. A good sear is a thing of honor. A burn means I want to send you off to Siberia to dig for iron ore. Lining all your ingredients up also means you don't ever have to stop and think "what's next?" To make revolutionary fried rice, you must be a cold, unthinking, tireless machine, from the moment the flame ignites to the moment you transfer the colorful cascading masterpiece onto the serving platter. When I make fried rice, the only thought going through my head is "kill Sarah Connor."

Ingredients

Fried rice is like jazz. There are so many angles of attack, and the improvizational opportunities are virtually endless. But as free-form as it seems, there are still established rules to follow. Come to think if it, it's actually like English. Most of it makes sense, but there's no rhyme or reason to the exceptions. You just have to know them by instinct. I would like to save you from the misery of failure. Here are some of my cardinal rules of fried rice ingredients.

The following three ingredients are essential. They are not to be altered or substituted in any way. Doing so will bring shame to your clan for several generations.

Egg: Essential. Don't argue this. Your average batch of fried rice requires between 2-5 eggs. My personal rule: use two more than you think you need.

Scallion: Otherwise known as green onion, this is another essential defining ingredient. If you don't have scallion on hand, just walk away. No fried rice for you today. Your average batch of fried rice requires one bunch, chopped, but just the green parts. Discard the white base stems. They are too pungent for fried rice.

Rice: Whenever possible, do not use fresh rice. Use rice that has been sitting in the fridge for 1-3 days. You want it to be somewhat dried out. If you cannot wait, and have to use fresh rice, just go to Panda Express and buy steamed rice. They seem to have perfected the art of moist, yet fairly unclumpy rice. If I can shamelessly walk into a Panda Express and order steamed rice with my head held high, you can too. Your average batch of fried rice will be about 3 bowls of rice, or one big Chinese take-out container (those boxy paper ones).

The following ingredients are the variables you can throw into your fried rice.

Ham: diced into small squares.

Pork: ideally, you want to use Chinese BBQ pork, but if you don't live somewhere it is readily available (many Chinese markets and restaurants sell this by the pound), then leftover pork chops, tenderloin etc. work fine. You want to dice this as well.

Beef: I am of the opinion that beef just doesn't go well with fried rice (unless it is in sausage form). Beef is my favorite meat, but it simply does not work here. If you must use beef, diced up steak is the way to go. It won't be that good, however.

Fish: You don't ever want to use fish in fried rice in any premeditated manner. I only use it when I have leftovers I want to re-purpose. If you use fish, make sure it is flaked into tiny pieces and properly fried so that all the moisture is gone and each piece has a nice sear to it. Salmon works best.

Sausage: Chinese sausage is the gold standard for fried rice. Kind of like a sweet pepperoni, Chinese sausage lacks moisture, and has a sweet sherry flavor to it. Hands down the best ingredient for fried rice. Dice it up. I used to think you could only get this at Chinese markets, but I recently saw Chinese sausage at Costco, which gives me hope for the people. Although you will never see this at restaurants, Kielbasa or even hot dogs chopped into tiny pieces makes for excellent fried rice. I bet you Spam would pretty much rule, too. Don't hate. I never said fried rice was elite cuisine.

Bacon: the only person who ever did this was my dad. And it is still the best fried rice I ever had. He would chop the bacon into small pieces and fry it so that it was cooked but not crispy. Then he'd use it for a batch of fried rice. Man, I could eat that all day. And oftentimes, I did.

Chicken/Turkey: one of my favorite meals is the post-Thanksgiving fried rice that I make. Take any cooked poultry and chop it up, skin included. It fries up so good with rice. Screw your Turkey a la King.

Shrimp: flash fry peeled shrimp separately before adding to fried rice, and you have a great complement. Shrimp tends to cook soggy if you don't defrost, dry thoroughly and use high heat and lots of oil. Do all three, and your ancestors will be proud. 

Peas: I'm not big on vegetables in my fried rice, but peas are a good compromise. They add color, and they don't leach into the rest of the ingredients. Use cooked, drained peas.

Carrots: I don't dig on carrots at all, in any form. But in small cubes, they add color and texture. And I will begrudgingly allow you do add them. Just use the frozen ones that come with peas. Sigh.

Iceburg Lettuce: this is the thing that makes everyone do a double-take. Iceburg lettuce is actually quite popular in China as a cooked vegetable. I know. Gross. But when you shred it and throw some some into your fried rice right before you add the rice, it just works. You just have to take this on faith.

Don't ever let me catch you adding any of the following to your fried rice. Ever.

Onions: I love onions, and I add them to everything. But they ruin fried rice. Too much flavor intensity, and just a horrible texture pairing with properly seared rice. There is one exception to this: Japanese fried rice. Japanese fried rice has finely chopped onions, ultra finely chopped carrots, sesame butter and egg. And in that configuration only, it is quite irresistable.

Bean Sprouts: It's so easy to throw beansprouts in any stir fry and call it Chinese. I can live with that. But when I see a bean sprout in my fried rice, I drag it into the street and curb stomp it. They taste horrible and they ruin the aesthetic of everything being roughly the same size.

Garlic: Like onions, I love garlic and will gladly put it in anything. But like onions, they overpower fried rice and should not be allowed anywhere near it. The exception here is Filipino Garlic Fried Rice. For that, you just brown chopped garlic in a wok, add rice, and fry it. So good. It works because garlic is the only ingredient.

Soy Sauce, in excess: Some people like to finish their fried rice with soy sauce and a bit of butter. I will let it go for now, but this manifesto takes the official position that it detracts from the fried rice because you are adding moisture, as well as darkening the entire dish. Moisture is the enemy. And dark fried rice just takes me back to horrible Chinese restuarants from the 70's and 80's that existed to dupe Americans into thinking that Chinese people add flourescent red sauce and pineapples to everything, and eat salty, dark, tasteless fried rice. With bean sprouts. That's all soy sauce's fault. But if you must, I will grandfather that in. And I do it sometimes, as well, but only to add a teensy bit of flavor. Soy sauce is not a coloring agent! Your salt balance should come from the eggs, the meat and salt to taste at the end.

Ginger: Ordinarily, I would not even list this ingredient. It would be like stating that you should never add maple syrup to fried rice. However, this past weekend, I happened to dine at a very popular Bay Area Chinese restaurant owned by a famous chef from China. He put ginger in his fried rice and I took my disdain public via Twitter. I don't care if this ignites an internet war with established chefs. He is dead wrong. Ginger in fried rice is an abomination. I don't care how many heads of state you have cooked for. Maybe you'd still cook for them if you didn't serve them fried rice with ginger in it.

Any vegetable not listed above: You want vegetables? Make a salad.

Tofu: Ninja, please.

Technique

Remember, this all happens in one fluid motion. No pauses, no hesitation. An important key to epic fried rice is the order in which these steps occur, so stay with the program.

1) Heat your wok until it smokes.

2) Add enough oil (canola or vegetable oil) so that when you add beaten egg to it, the egg will kind of float in the oil.

3) Add the beaten egg. Let it sit in the oil for a few seconds and get puffy. Add a generous amount of salt, more so than you would if you were going to eat it as an omlette. At that point it will be brown in spots. That's perfect. Flip it, break it up and stir it around. When it's about 80% cooked, remove the egg and place it back in the bowl it came from (you actually want it to swim in the remnants of raw egg from the bowl).

4) Now add your chopped meat. Do not add more oil. You want the fat from the meat to render out. That is where the flavor that melds onto the rice resides. 

5) When the pieces of meat all have a nice sear, add your vegetables, if any (except for scallions). Let them get all coated with the oil/fat. You don't have to sear them, but make sure they get a good coating of oil.

6) All the while, make sure everything is in constant, even violent, motion. I have learned to love that metal-on-metal scraping sound that tells you "you're doing it right." Bonus points for sparks.

7) Add the scallions and get even more violent with the agitating of ingredients. You want it mixed real well. Once they are seared and shiny, but not limp, add the rice. This is a critical step. Too undercooked, and the scallion will be too pungent. Too overcooked, and the scallion will shrivel and pretty much disappear.

8) Now add your rice. Once it's in the wok, break it up as quickly as possible. Your goal is threefold: separate all the grains, get every piece seared, and pump as much air into the collective rice as possible. To do this, you've got to press the clump of rice into the pan with the back of your spatula. If your rice is dry enough, this will separate all the grains. If your rice is too wet, it will begin to get sticky and glutinous. That is the death of any fried rice. If you reach that stage, then it's game over, no coin return. Go back to Panda Express and get a double order of Orange Chicken with their lame ass fried rice that's at least better than the travesty of Chinese cuisine wallowing in your wok.

9) If your rice is dry enough and it separates, then scoop it constantly to get as much air into the mixture as possible. Air replaces moisture. Air is your friend. Moisture is the enemy. Keep it moving. Always keep it moving. Fast and furious. Like this picture. No camera lens should be able to capture your spatula. Be the blur.

10) Once you've gotten the rice properly separated and seared, you are now ready to add the egg back in. Dump the egg back in the wok and immediately lower the heat. You are done cooking. Your goal now is to break up the egg and integrate the pieces into the fried rice. The residual heat will cook the rest of the egg to perfect.

11) Salt to taste. If you insist, you can finish it with a little bit of soy sauce and butter. While it tastes ok, it just kills any semblance of authenticy, and I will cry a little for you. You may have noticed soy sauce in my ingredient picture above. That was for the Japanese fried rice I made that day, along with the Chinese fried rice. Soy sauce and butter finishes Japanese fried rice quite nicely.

12) Enjoy the adoration of the people.

I know there's more to my lifetime of fried rice experience that I have left out, and I could probably write a book on this subject alone. So, feel free to ask me anything fried rice related in the comments below and I will answer them within the comments.

Now go forth and sear for the people!

 

I'm so unorthodox with Thanksgiving (some crazy recipes)

... that I don't even do my post about it anywhere near November.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is a state of mind. It's an anytime, all the time kind of thing. Or at least it should be. Read this and you'll agree.

So, Thanksgiving... it's never really been a turkey kind of day for my family. First, my parents were from Asia. Nobody eats turkey in Asia. Nobody uses ovens there, either. Both facts aren't very conducive to late November turkey consumption. In our household, improvisation sometimes led to wonderful things, like my mom's sticky-rice stuffing. Other times, it led to microwaving the holiday bird to a nice grey hue (but to be fair, this was the early eighties when carousel microwaves were the new shiny thing, and the cookbook that came with ours told us it would be the juiciest thing we ever ate, and they were kind of right... it was the juiciest grey thing any of us ever ate).

Over the decades, we've since had our fair share of properly-prepared turkey. Some, like the deep fried variety, were better than others, but I still can't say I'm a fan. I'll eat it once or twice a year, but mostly to get into the spirit of the holidays. It's strictly ceremonial fare for me. Or in my case last year, a psychopathic ritual.

And like last year, Kikkoman sent me a box full of stuff and challenged me to make something with it. So I did. And these dishes were part of this year's Thanksgiving dinner. All of the following recipes are my own. However, they were all field tested on humans, and all of them ended the evening smiling, despite the lack of turkey on the table.

The two mainstays of the night were tried and true favorites that I've posted about in the past. Click on them to get the respective recipes:

Rib Roast (upon re-examination, there's no recipe. Only tantalizing pictures.)
BusyDad's Killa Clam Chowda

I also made sauteed green beans with almonds and a baked brie with fig jam, but I improvised those and did not write the recipes down.

Here are the dishes that I conjured up using Kikkoman ingredients:

Far Eastside Chicken Fried Steak

First time I ever had Chicken Fried Steak was in Texas, visiting my uncle about 30 years ago. I haven't been the same since. You just cannot go wrong taking a hunk of beef, deep frying it and drowning it in gravy. In fact, it may qualify you for sainthood. This is my version of the classic American dish, with a little Asian gangsta lean. It uses Kikkoman Kara Age coating (it's ginger-soy flavored breading, usually for chicken and fish) and a Terriyaki cream sauce... with bacon in it. You feeling me?

Ingredients:

For the steak

  • 1 pouch Kikkoman Kara-Age mix
  • 1.5 lb cube steak
  • Oil, for deep frying (the more the merrier)

for the sauce

  • 1 C Heavy Cream
  • 1/8 C Kikkoman Terriyaki Sauce
  • 1/2 bunch scallion (green onions)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cornstarch dissolved in a bit of water
  • Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Preparation:

  1. Pour the Kara-Age into a plastic bag (I used a gallon sized zip loc type bag).
  2. Add the cube steak into the bag and shake it like you used to help your mom make Shake n Bake.
  3. Deep fry the coated steaks for approximately 5-6 min. Set aside.
  4. To make the sauce, melt the butter and throw in the scallion and sautee for about 30 seconds.
  5. Add heavy cream and Terriyaki sauce, bring to a boil.
  6. Add cornstarch mixture. Simmer and stir.
  7. Add bacon bits.
  8. To plate this, cut up steaks on a diagonal, place on a mound of rice, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle sesame seeds over the whole thing.

Note: d Wife added this sauce to egg noodles a few days later. It was quite amazing. Pre-emptively apologize to your arteries, however.

Not-a-Vegetable Mac 'n Cheese

Now that congress has deemed pizza a vegetable, I have to try extra hard to make decadent foods for the holidays. Because who wants health food when you're celebrating? Where there's a will, there's a way. This version of macaroni and cheese is proof of that. d Wife really loves Brie. I love heavy cream and prosciutto. The crunchy, buttery topping is made from Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs (hands down the best on the market). Still with me? Read on.

Ingredients:

Macaroni:

  • 16 oz (6C), Macaroni cooked and drained
  • 4 Tb cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 oz Prosciutto randomly torn into little pieces
  • 3 C heavy cream
  • 2 C water
  • 4 Tb butter
  • 3 1/2 C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese,
  • 1 1/2 C shredded Brie (it's easier to shred if you freeze it first)
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 C peas, cooked

Panko Crumb Topping:

  • 2 C Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tb dried chives
  • 1 C shredded cheddar
  • 4 Tb butter, in slices/chunks

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 3-quart casserole dish.
  2. Cook heavy cream, water, butter, cornstarch, salt, mustard and pepper in medium saucepan over medium-heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Boil a minute longer. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted. Add macaroni; mix well. Add prosciutto, apple and peas. Reeeemix!
  3. Set aside. Make topping.
  4. Combine crumbs, chives and butter. Use two forks and roughly cream it so it's chunky, not smooth.
  5. Pour macaroni into prepared casserole dish. Top with the 1 C cheddar, and then crumb topping.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Audacious Key Lime Crunch Pie

There are few foods that I believe should never be sullied with extraneous things: cheesecake, hummus, ribeye steak, oysters, cannoli, whiskey, coffee... and key lime pie. I had the audacity to mess with a classic. Thus, the name. This delicious aberration improves upon the standard graham cracker crust by using Anna's Ginger Thins. I have never been a fan of ginger snaps, but have you ever had Anna's Ginger Thins? They are unreal. I figured if I was going to mess with the tried and true, I had to go all out. I also added some texture to the key lime part by going with a Kikkoman Panko topping, into which I added lime zest. I still have a tupperware of extra topping in my fridge, into which I stick my tongue occasionally. Speaking of things to stick your tongue into, this is topped with homemade whipped cream.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 C Anna's Ginger Thins crumbs (1 pack)
  • 1 1/2 Tb sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6 Tb unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 14-oz can condensed milk
  • 1/3 C bottled key lime juice
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 Tb sugar
  • 3 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt

Panko Crumb Topping:

  • 1/2 C panko crumbs
  • 1/8 C sugar
  • 2 Tb butter
  • Zest of 1/2 lime

Whipped Cream:

  • 1.5 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 3 Tb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

For Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix crumbs, sugar, salt.
  3. Add butter, stir. Press into 9 in. glass pie dish.
  4. Bake 5 min. Cool.

For Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 275.
  2. Whisk all filling ingredients in large bowl until smooth. Pour into cooled crust.
  3. Bake 10 min until center is partly set.
  4. Remove pie, turn temp up to 350.
  5. Sprinkle crumb topping over pie.
  6. Put back in oven and bake 25 more min.
  7. Let it cool, then stick in the refrigerator overnight, or a few hours if you can't wait.

For Whipped Cream:

With a mixer, beat all ingredients until it resembles whipped cream. Steal a few spoonfuls of it, then serve on pie.

Ninja training involves acts of self-deprivation

Gettin' Funky with Pork

Earlier in the week, I promised you a really good pork recipe. Without further ado, and with sincere apologies to Kid n' Play, I present you with my video on how to put the partay into rack of pork.

Actually, I take it back. A little bit of ado is in order.

October is National Pork Month, and TheMotherhood, the National Pork Board and Costco entrusted me to enlighten you with an original recipe that turns a plain old rack of pork into something that will get the party started. Quickly.

While I'm confident that my recipe (Asian Pork Sliders) brings the noise, there are a ton more recipes over on the Pork: Be Inspired page, if you're so inclined. However, if you trust in my ability to take fire to meats for the betterment of humankind, then just watch this:

And for your reference, here are the recipes that go along with the above:

Asian Pork Sliders

My philosophy with parties is that you can only have fun when you use your fingers. So I took my rack of pork and combined it with some really tasty components to make the ultimate party finger food: sliders.

Here are the recipes for each part:

Asian Spiced Pork


  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange

Rub all over meat. Stick in oven at 350 degrees for 20 min per pound.

Asian Slaw

  • 1 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 bunch scallion
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 
  • 1 cup rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Toasted Sesame (as much or as little as you like)

Combine all the vegetable ingredients into a mixing bowl. Pour everything else (except for the sesame seeds) into a tupperware and shake. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to combine. Add sesame seeds.

Steamed Buns

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp yeast (and a little more)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp bacon fat
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Set aside for 5-10 min.
  2. Add flour into a standing mixer or food processor with a dough blade.
  3. Turn the processor on and drizzle the yeast mixture into the flour slowly. It's not going to look like enough water, but trust me, it will become a ball of dough before too long.
  4. Once it becomes a ball, remove it.
  5. Rub the bacon fat on the bottom of a mixing bowl, and then put the dough into the bowl.
  6. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and place somewhere warm-ish for about 90 min.
  7. After 90 min, take the dough out of the bowl pound it out into a circle. Add the baking powder and knead for about 3 min.
  8. Split the dough into two halves and roll each into a rectangle. Roll the rectangle like a cigar.
  9. Cut the cigar into about 6-8 pieces.
  10. Place each piece onto a square of parchement paper, then into a steamer (preferably an old school bamboo steamer).
  11. Cook 6-8 min.

Once all three components have been made, just cut the bun in half, add pork, add slaw and serve. Celebratory dancing optional.

OH, I almost forgot! I'm giving away a pork gift pack that includes good pork-related goodies and a $25 Costco gift card. Just tell me how you like to cook your pork and you'll be automatically entered into my drawing. I'm all about low hurdles.

Hanker for a hunk of cheese

I have several cardinal rules that I stick to: never pass up a good parking space, always go for the lemon flavored choice, always watch Best in Show if you catch it on TV, and do whatever food related project Rachel ropes you into. Rachel told the Cabot Cheese people to send me two bricks of cheese and expect a write up.

I made up 2 recipes. I was always the teacher's pet.

But before I get to that, I wanted to say that I tried the cheese straight up. And it was good. I love cheese, but I'm not a connoisseur by any means, so all I can say is I ate it 'till my stomach hurt. That's got to count for something in the taster's notebook. But despite my best efforts, I still had two big hunks of cheese left that could easily be wielded to thwart a home invasion. Luckily, d wife was having some friends over that night. It would be like my own recipe focus group.

So I got to work and here's what I came up with.

On the menu tonight, we have Fancy-Ass Mac & Cheese with Cheddafied Brazilian Cheese Bread. Want to make it yourself? Just follow my recipes:

Fancy-Ass Mac & Cheese
Serves: a messload of people
Nutrition Information: There's fatty pork, butter and heavy cream in this. Live a little.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz (6 cups), Conchiglie, cooked and drained
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 6 tablespoons chopped chives, divided into 4 oz and 2 oz   
  • 1/4 lb Crimini Mushrooms (and some butter to sautee in)
  • 1/2 lb Pancetta
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup Panko Style bread crumbs
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided into 4 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon
  • 5 cups shredded Cabot 3-Year Cheddar cheese, divided into 4 cups and 1 cup

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 3-quart casserole dish.

2. Cook the pasta according to instructions. I chose Conchiglie because it looked like it would really hold the sauce well. Notice how one end is pinched? That acts like a lobster trap. The sauce goes in, and is too dumb to turn around and escape.

3. Slice up the mushrooms and sautee them with the shallots and butter. I don't remember the timing. Just do it until it looks good. I'll trust that you know how to do that.

4. Cook the pancetta. Do it just like you would fry up bacon.

Pancetta is essentially bacon, but it isn't smoked after curing, like bacon is. If that's too hard to remember, just look at it as "bacon when I want to impress people with my gourmet-ness." Because that's pretty much what it is. After cooking, chop it. At this point, it looks and tastes like bacon, but less smoky, which is good if you want the flavor of the cheese to be your focal point. See? There is a method to my madness.

5. Take that one tablespoon of butter you set aside and melt it. Pour the panko breadcrumbs and the 2 oz chives you set aside into the butter and use your hands to mix it all up. Lick fingers. Mmm... buttered crunchies.

6. Combine cornstarch, salt, dry mustard and pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in heavy cream, water, and butter. Cook over medium-heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 4 cups cheese until melted. Add the Pancetta and the 4 oz chives you set aside. Add cooked pasta; mix well.

7. Pour into your casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Then top with the breadcrumb mixture.

8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is in melted and light brown.

9. Test on a child.

Have you ever gone to a Brazilian Barbecue joint? If you have, then you're familiar with Brazilian Cheese Bread, those chewy cheesy morsels that go so fast that you have to fill out an application and put down a deposit to reserve one. Fret no more. Plus, they're gluten-free, if you're into that sort of thing.

Cheddafied Brazilian Cheese Bread
Makes 40 puffs, which is one serving, if you are my wife or son.


Ingredients:

  • 4 cups tapioca flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cabot cheddar
  • 4 eggs
  • A mini-muffin tin

Before you begin, I just wanted to say that it might be really hard for you to find tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch). Aside from this Brazilian dish and some Asian desserts, I don't know of anything that calls for tapioca flour. And no, you can't really substitute anything for it because the chewy, springy nature of tapioca flour is what makes this bread so irresistible. I went to Whole Foods and couldn't even find it. And they had whack ass flours of every variety there. I almost wasn't going to post this one because if the only place you can buy the ingredient is at an Asian market, then 99% of you won't be able to make it.

Harder to find than Kanye's humility

However, my friend Schadenfreudette (whom I gave this recipe to months ago), told me she was able to find it. And she lives in Texas. So I was all yeehah, let's do this!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2. Bring the milk, salt, and butter to a boil in a sauce pan while constantly stirring mixture

3. Once boiling remove the mixture of milk, salt and butter from heat


4. Slowly add tapioca flour, stirring constantly until thoroughly mixed

5. Add the cheese and eggs to mixture

6. Mix until smooth

7. Fill each mini muffin cup all the way up


8. Bake until golden brown, usually about 20 minutes

9. Dump muffins, fill the tins up again and do the last step. Or, stop being a cheap bastard like me and get 2 mini muffin tins. It's worth it.

I hate you for doing this, dad! I'm going to run off with a Brazilian Cheesebread baker who drives a lowered Civic and we'll see who has the last laugh!

Dexter cooks. With Kikkoman.

The other day, I recieved a huge box from Kikkoman. You may know them as the soy sauce people. You're right. They do indeed make the best soy sauce this side of the Great Wall. What I didn't realize was that Kikkoman soy sauce makes an excellent brining solution for your holiday turkey too. What a killer concept!

Which naturally led me to think, "how would Dexter cook Thanksgiving dinner?" Ok, I'll be honest, pretty much anything prompts me to think "what would Dexter do?" because I'm a little bit obsessed over that show. Case in point? I made a video that answers my first question:

Speaking of meals to kill for, I did a little experimenting with some of the other items that came in my Kikkoman goodie box. Did you know that Kikkoman makes the best tempura batter mix and Panko bread crumbs, hands down? Totally makes you realize that buying that deep fryer was less an impulse buy, than a manifestation of destiny. Both of these recipes I made up put a new twist on some Thanksgiving staples:

Loaded Mashed Potato Patties

Every Thanksgiving spread needs mashed potatoes. This version makes them portable. And incorporates all the good stuff from another potato favorite: the loaded mashed potato.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately (you know, because each one deserves your full wrath)
  • 8 slices of cooked bacon, give or take 50 (hey, I get it. It's bacon.). Chopped.
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • Some flour in a bowl - I didn't measure. That's why I write here and not on Food Network.
  • Some Kikkoman Panko breadcrumbs in a bowl - again, if you have a whole box, just add more as you need it. I'm not going to micromanage your cooking.
  • A deep fryer, or a pan with oil in it.

Throw the potatoes, ONE egg, bacon and chives in a mixing bowl. Take your hand and mash it all up good. Don't wimp out on me. Get visceral with your cooking. It's very satisfying, trust me. The following should be in bowls, lined up in a path toward your fryer or pan in the following order:

Cheese, flour, one beaten egg, Panko bread crumbs.

Take a small handful of the potato mixture and form a small pattie. Grab some cheese and place it in the middle. Grab more mixture and mash it on top, so now you have a pattie with cheese in the middle.

Dip the pattie in flour. Then egg. Then the Panko breadcrumbs. Then fry until golden brown.

Tempura Apples

Remember the old school McDonald's apple pies? How they were cinnamony and fried? I sure miss those. These are my attempt at finding a substitute. And they're pretty damn good. Desperation is the mother of invention.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Fuji apples
  • Cinnamon sugar (just mix a bunch of sugar with a bunch of cinnamon)
  • Kikkoman Tempura batter (mix up one serving; instructions on box)
  • A deep fryer, or equivalent
  • Caramel sauce

Slice up the apples and put them in a mixing bowl. Pour some cinnamon sugar on top and toss it. Let it sit for a few minutes while you mix up the batter.

Dip the apple slices in the batter and then drop them in the oil. Then after they are done, let them cool off for a bit. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on those bad boys and drizzle melted caramel on top. You can also top that with a scoop of vanilla ice cream instead. Or in addition. Awesome plus awesome is always more awesome. 

Want your own goodie box full of Kikkoman products and nifty swag? I'm giving one away. Just leave me a comment and I'll pick sometime this weekend. Maybe Sunday? Whatever. This isn't Food Network.

Neither I, Nor Beef, Will Ever Be The Same

I love beef. Always have. So when I was invited by TheMotherhood.com to come up with some beef recipes as part of their "I Heart Beef" campaign, I was all too happy to oblige. After I said yes, however, I realized something. My best beef recipe consists of the following ingredients: salt, ribeye, heat.

Considering I was given a heap of beef as compensation for my participation, I felt kind of guilty tapping out a one liner, waving good-bye and taking my beef home. I am a man of integrity. I earn my meat the old fashioned way: by making absurd videos. 

So I made one. This one's called "Beef. It's What's For Dinner... and a LOT of Other Things."

And if you came here thinking you'd get a recipe or two, you know me well. I'm all about spreading the food knowledge and love. I've got two finger-food recipes that will make you a hit at parties. Unless you're the one who was supposed to bring the alcohol. In which case you'll get yelled at for bringing this "fancy beef crap" instead of booze. Tread carefully.

But first, the giveaway. Because I know you only love me for my meat.

I will be giving away a $100 Omaha Steak gift card to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment telling me about your favorite memory making everyday occasions special with beef. Really, who hasn't had those?

For extra entries, you can do the following, worth one entry each:

  1. Follow the Beef people on Twitter.
  2. Become a fan of the Beef people on Facebook.
  3. Ask Chef Dave Zino, executive chef of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association a beef cooking question.

Just let me know which of the above you did and I will grant you that many more entries.

Contest deadline is Wednesday, March 3, 11:59pm.

Recipe 1: Beef Curry Puffs

When I graduated from college and became part of the adult world, it meant bringing Doritos and Rolling Rock to parties would no longer suffice. So I threw a bunch of my favorite things together and created these. I've since discovered that these actually exist, but screw it. I'll just consider myself awesome for inventing them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped onion (I never get scientific with ingredients - just feel it)
  • 2 Tbs curry powder
  • 1 Tsp cumin (yes, I know curry powder has cumin in it. I just like extra cumin. Cumin rocks)
  • Approx. 4 oz. Mango Chutney (or half a 9 oz. bottle)
  • 1 package puff pastry sheets
  • 1 egg

- Unwrap the puff pastry and set on the counter to defrost (40 min before you need to use it).
- Sauté the onions in butter or canola oil until translucent. About 2 min.
- Add the beef.
- Once the beef begins to brown, add the curry powder and cumin.

Look at that cascade of awesome goodness.- Once the spices have been integrated into the meat, add the Mango Chutney. I like my curries sweet (I LOVE Thai Curry dishes that use coconut milk), so I tend to add more Chutney than the average person would. So use the 4 oz. as a guide. Add some, taste, add some more, taste, etc. That's what makes cooking fun.
- Remove from heat. Let the mixture cool.
- Cut the puff pastry dough into approx. 2" x 2" squares.
- Scoop a small spoonful of meat into the center of a square and pinch the sides together in a triangle. Place onto a greased baking sheet (Pam spray is best).

- Beat the egg in a bowl and add a teensy bit of water. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the egg wash on top of the pastries.


- Place sheet into a preheated 400 degree oven.
- Find a corner to sit in for 15 minutes and spend some quality time with the dog.

- When the pastries are golden brown, they are ready. And crazy delicious.

 

Recipe 2: Surf 'n Turf Handrolls

I love sushi. But I realize that not everyone likes raw fish. This is my version of a more "made for TV" handroll featuring all cooked ingredients. And of course, beef, which is unusual for sushi. But then again, I'm unusual for a mom blogger, so there.


Ingredients:

  • 10 Handroll-sized nori (seaweed) sheets (Most Asian markets have these. If you can't find any cut to handroll size, you can just do it yourself. They are roughly a 4" x 8" rectangle.)
  • An 8 oz. ribeye, or similar steak, grilled and sliced into strips
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cut into strips
  • Fresh chives (not chopped)
  • Sushi rice:
    • 2 cups short grain rice
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 2 Tbs sugar
    • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • Spicy shrimp mixture:
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (if you have an Asian market near you, get Kewpie Japanese mayo. If not, regular mayo works).
    • 1 Tsp chili paste (Sriracha sauce preferred. most markets, even regular American supermarkets, sell it nowadays. Or use Tabasco.)
    • 2 Tsp tobiko (flying fish roe -- those little red granules that coat the outside of your California Roll)
    • 1/2 Tsp Mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine -- I have also found this in American supermarkets. If not, then use honey)
    • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, chopped
    • 2 Tsp chopped fresh chives
  • Sweet "Pickles"
    • 1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 4" strips
    • 4 Tbl rice vinegar
    • 2 Tbl sugar
    • 1/4 Tsp salt

To make the sushi rice:

- Cook the rice, set aside.
- Add the water, sugar, vinegar and salt to a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.
- Let it cool.
- Slowly add the liquid to the rice. And fold it in. Don't add all of it. Add it until it rice is damp but not wet. You don't want soupy rice. You're actually going to discard most of that liquid. It's just hard to measure those ingredients in small quantities to cook.

To make the Spicy Shrimp:

First, here's a pic of the harder-to-find ingredients (Kewpie, Tobiko, Sriracha). Since I live in CA, where there is significant demand for Asian foods in the mainstream, your average supermarket might carry this stuff. And if not, there are Asian markets everywhere. I realize the rest of the country isn't so lucky with the ethnic foods being a stone's throw away from any point in the city.


- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. That's it!

To make the Sweet "Pickles":

- Sprinkle the cucumbers generously with salt (around 2 tsp will do) and set aside for 15 min. The salt will draw the moisture out.
- Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly to get the salt off.
- Add all the ingredients in a bowl and add the cucumbers. Let it sit for a few hours ideally, but these taste good even after 15 min.

Assembly:

- Lay down one nori sheet lengthwise in front of you. Lay some rice down on the left side. Kind of spread/smoosh it. The left side of the rectangle should have rice and the right side should be empty.
- Diagonally lay a strip of steak, an avocado, a pickle and a chive onto the rice, oriented in an 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock position.
- Spoon some shrimp mixture on top.
- Grab a grain of rice and smoosh it into the opposite corners. See circled areas in diagram below. These will serve to glue the ends together after you roll it.
- Bring the lower left corner up to the middle-top (see arrow below). It will form a cone. Then just keep rolling that cone and secure the edges (the smooshed rice).

- That's it! After writing all this, I realized that this is highly complicated. I guess that's why sushi is so expensive. Oh well.  If you're ever in town, I'll make it for you for a bag of Doritos and a 6-pack of Rolling Rock.

"Dad, you're doing reckless magic!" - Tastemaker Video 3

That's that first thing Fury said when he watched my third and final video for the US Potato Board's Tastemaker Challenge. Nice to know my 7-year old has stricter boundaries for absurdity than I do. And I carry that absurdity into the kitchen for my recipe as well. Because I am consistent. This latest challenge's theme was "nutrition in a time crunch." We had to create a dish that would take less than 30 minutes to cook. I could have gone baked potato or shepherd's pie but they wouldn't be different. I wanted to go out with a bang (or a WTF, I'm not picky). I figured if you only had 30 minutes to cook something, you'd want to be able to eat it quickly as well. Like with your hands. So I present you with this:

The above is what I like to call the Frankenstein of meals. Essentially a nice meal of pesto mashed potatoes, herbed chicken tenders and bruschetta... that got into a car wreck. Think Reese's, but with more garlic. At least you can eat it with your hands.

And this is how we got there:

I hope you had fun watching my Tastemaker Challenge videos. Please be sure to rate them if you have a YouTube account. This is a contest and I get a vote for each person who rates my videos. I don't actually win anything, unless you count recognition in potato innovation. But hell yeah, that's better than money and fame!

For the brave souls who would like to try making this, here's the recipe (really, I ate the above, and they are good, just like a cheeseburger, fries and shake is still a cheeseburger, fries and shake if you put it in a blender).

Pesto/Chicken/Bruschetta Open Faced Thing

Chicken:

  • 1/2 lb. chicken tenders
  • Flour to coat
  • Italian herbs (anything you like - I used basil, oregano, thyme, parsley) - enough to mix with the flour to make it herby in appearance
  • Salt and Pepper

Bruschetta

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, insides scooped out, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves (fresh)
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Shredded parmesan, for sprinkling
  • 4 slices of good crusty bread

Pesto Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 3.5 oz half and half

The trick to getting this done in under 30 minutes is integrating the steps amongst the 3 items rather than making these things sequentially. I found this to be quickest:

  • Pour flour into a bowl. You don't need that much, maybe a cup or so. Then add the herbs, salt and pepper into it. I never measure, but it's hard to mess this up.
  • Coat the chicken lightly with this flour mixture, set aside.
  • Wash hands.
  • Scoop the insides of the tomatoes out, and chop.
  • Chop garlic, shallots and basil.
  • Throw it all into a mixing bowl and add olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Stir it up, add salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate.
  • Peel potatoes and put into a covered dish. Microwave high for 8 minutes.
  • During this 8 minutes, heat up oil in a skillet and place chicken in it.
  • After 3 minutes or so, flip the chicken tenders over.
  • They should be done around the same time as the potatoes.
  • Toast the bread.
  • Remove dish from microwave. Mash potatoes. Add butter, half and half, pesto as you mash. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toast should be done by the time you finish mashing.

To assemble, take the toast, plop some mashed potatoes on top, add a chicken tender, pile on some bruschetta topping and sprinkle parmesan on top.

The Reason I Don't Write a Dancing Blog - Tastemaker Video #2

I'm not going to write much in this post. I danced in the video below. That should be enough -- as in the maximum recommended dosage before the onset of adverse side effects.

This is my second entry in the US Potato Board's Tastemaker video contest. This month's theme was Nutrition on a Budget. And as if limiting us to only $10 to feed a family of four weren't bad enough, they challenged us to dance in our videos.

Although we'll be doing this cooking thing live at the United States Potato Board Tastemaker Party at Blissdom 2010 in Nashville, this is the ONLY time I'm dancing for anybody. So you could say this is an exclusive, except that exclusive kind of implies that people actually want to watch this travesty of rhythm I've captured on video.

(If you have a YouTube account, please rate it. We're judged by the number of ratings we garner. Thanks!)

For those of you who still thought my dish looked good even after I ruined your appetite with my nerdtastic gyrations, here's the recipe:

Korean Style Short Rib Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Soy Potato Stix and Scallion Slaw

Ingredients:

Ribs

  • 2 lbs crosscut beef shortribs (most Asian/ethnic markets have these for cheap - like $2.99 a pound or something crazy like that).
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbls honey
  • 2 tbls sesame oil
  • 3 tbl brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallion, chopped

Combine ingredients and marinate ribs for at least 4 hours. Grill ribs until done, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Scallion Slaw

  • 1 bunch scallion
  • 1 tbls soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Slice the green part of the scallion into thin slivers. Place in a bowl and add the other ingredients.

Potato Stix

  • 2 small-med potatoes
  • Sesame oil (to brush)
  • Soy sauce (to brush)
  • Dash of white pepper
  • Salt to taste

Cut the potatoes into thin sticks and line them up on a baking pan. In a bowl, combine 3 parts sesame oil to 2 parts soy sauce. Mix vigorously to combine. Brush mixture onto potato sticks. Bake in 450 degree oven until browned. About 20 min.

Serve with lettuce leaves. Any kind will do. Simply take a leaf, add some potato stix, a few pieces of short rib, some scallion slaw, wrap it all up and shove in your mouth. Deeeelicious.

Time to Bring the Heat: Tastemaker Challenge 2K10

BEFORE YOU READ THIS: If you only have a second and don't want to read this long post, just skip down to the video and rate it. I promise, you will NOT be disappointed (if you like cooking, Rocky, Karate Kid and/or lightsabers).

When I was in 4th grade, I spent my summer vacation fighting boredom by playing a game called "Joe's Diner" with my sister. I was Joe, the proprietor of a diner that cooked anything to order. She was Joe, a regular customer (we weren't too original with names) who came in and ordered random stuff. She would ask me about my kids, order an omlette and I'd cook it. Then I'd eat it, and we'd start over. I invented a lot of dishes that summer and learned a ton about how ingredients played off one another. I also learned that even a 9 -year-old's metabolism isn't invincible.

Luckily, I eventually stopped growing outwards and started growing upwards, which allowed me to work various skills in the kitchen without getting into too much trouble from there on out.

Last week, the US Potato Board approached me and said "hey, BusyDad, you want to join 8 other bloggers in a video cook-off contest? You're the only guy."

"What'll you have, Joe?"

I Need Your Vote

So here's how this contest works. For the next three months, I will be producing one video a month highlighting creative ways to cook with potatoes. Each month will feature a special ingredient or theme (Sound familiar? I know!! Awesome!). Each month I will post that video and people will rate it. By the end of the three months, the contestant with the most ratings wins. There's no prize or anything, but to me, being recognized for something that has been my passion since childhood would be kind of awesome. Plus, it would be nice for a dad to be recognized for his prowess in the kitchen for once, wouldn't it? And in February, all of the contestants will be flown to Blissdom for one final showdown, head-to-head, in front of a live audience. Who are my fellow Tastemakers?

Amy at ResourcefulMommy

Jen at Savor the Thyme

Jo Lynne at Musings of a Housewife

Jodi at Mom's Favorite Stuff

Lindsay @ Rock and Roll Mama

Melanie @ MelaDramatic Mommy (I recently met her and we did the staredown already)

Melanie @ Modern Mami

Rachel @ A Southern Fairy Tale (She's a buddy. I would be happy, and not surprised, if she won).

This month's theme was seafood. I chose shrimp. And I think I rocked it. This is what I made:

And here's my video, where the above went down. Please click through to YouTube and rate it. I would appreciate it very much! And if you're interested in testing out my creations, the recipes are below:

Shrimp Chumbo

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup clarified butter (unsalted)
  2. minced garlic (approx 4 cloves' worth)
  3. 1 medium onion, chopped
  4. 1 rib celery, chopped
  5. 1/2 tsp white pepper
  6. 1 tsp cajun spice
  7. 1/2 tsp gumbo file powder (ground sassafras)
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1/4 tsp thyme
  10. 1/2 cup flour
  11. 4 cups shrimp stock (you can use store bought, but to do it right, get a pound of whole shrimp, shell them, take the heads off, and throw the shells and heads into 5 cups water, along with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tbls cajun spice, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/8 cup lemon juice and a stalk of celery. Then boil for about 15 min, uncovered).
  12. 3 cups half and half, divided into two batches of 1 1/2 cups each
  13. 1 med potato, diced into 1/2" cubes
  14. 1 1/4 tsp salt
  15. 1 lb chopped fresh tomatoes
  16. 1/2 small can tomato paste
  17. 1 lb andouille sausage, cooked

Instructions:

Sautee minced garlic in the clarified butter on low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.

Next throw in your onions and celery, along with the bay leaves and spices (except for salt). Turn the heat up to medium and cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. It is important to keep it moving! 

Once the onions are translucent, slowly add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly. Cook this for about 5-7 minutes.

Slowly add your stock a little at a time, to minimize lumping. Add the 1 1/2 cups half and half that you set aside. Slowly bring to a boil. Keep stirring.

After it has simmered for a while, add the diced potatoes and the salt. Stir occassionally for about 10 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to incorporate.

Add the sausage and shrimp. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the rest of the half and half (1 1/2 cups). Stir it around for a minute or so and remove from heat.

Serves 6-ish

Shrimp Korroke with Asian Plum Sauce

Ingredients for Korroke:

  1. 1 lb potato, peeled and diced
  2. 1/2 lb shrimp, chopped
  3. Cornstarch, for dusting
  4. Oil, for stir frying
  5. 1/4  cup scallion, chopped
  6. 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  7. 1/4 cup shallots, chopped
  8. 2 eggs, beaten
  9. salt
  10. pepper
  11. 1/2 cup flour
  12. 2 cups panko or unseasoned breadcrumbs
  13. oil (for deep-frying)

Ingredients for Plum Sauce:

  1. 1 1/2 lbs plums or similar fruit, chopped
  2. 4 whole dried apricots, diced
  3. 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  4. 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  5. 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  6. 1 tbls garlic, minced
  7. 1 tbls fresh ginger, minced

To make the Korroke:

Peel and boil the potatoes until tender. Then mash them in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Toss shrimp in cornstarch to lightly coat (you want the pieces to be fairly dry).

Heat up a pan or wok, add oil to cover the entire surface. Add shrimp and red bell pepper. Sautee about 3 minutes, constantly moving the ingredients. Add the scallion (but set a bit aside to garnish), garlic and shallots and sautee for another minute or so.

Remove from heat and dump into the mixing bowl with the potatoes. Mush it around so everything is evenly distributed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add a quarter of the egg mixture into the bowl and mush some more.

Form patties with the mixture. Dip patties into flour to dust lightly. Then into the egg. Then into the panko breadcrumbs.

Refrigerate patties for about 2 hours.

Deep fry the suckers in 350 degree oil for 3-5 minutes until a desired brownness. Serve with sauce (instructions below) and a sprinkle of the scallions.

Serves approx. 4

To make the sauce:

Combine the all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stir to keep sugar from scalding. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened and reduced, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Transfer to a food processor or use a stick blender and puree until smooth.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Funkdafied Potato Chips

Ingredients:

1 lb russet potatoes
1/4 cup chopped leeks (1/2 green part, 1/2 white part)
1/8 cup chopped chives
1 tbls minced garlic
1/4 cup Fresno red pepper (or similar med heat pepper), seeded and chopped
2 Serrano chilis, seeded and chopped
1 tsp sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oil in a pot or fryer to about 350 degrees.

With a mandoline or by hand, cut chip-width slices (leave skin on) widthwise.

Add the slices 1 at a time to the hot oil. Use your judgment and make in batches. You don't want to crowd them too much. Constantly move the slices so they don't stick. Do this for about 4 or 5 minutes until crisp. Remove the chips and place them on a plate with a paper towel. Repeat for all the chips.

Once chips are done, combine the leeks, pepper, chilis and garlic into a dip strainer and dip into the hot oil for a few seconds (like 10 to 15). Dump into a bowl. Add the salt to the bowl and mix.

Take a gallon Ziploc or similar bag and place a spoonful of the mixture into it, along with a handful of chips. Close the bag and leave lots of air in it, so there's room to shake. Shake it. Shake it. Shake it, baby. Dump onto a platter. Repeat with more mixture and chips until all the chips are seasoned.

Sprinkle fresh chopped chives on top and serve.

Let me know what you think! And please go rate my video. Thanks!

"I'll Have a Busy Dad."

See that phrase above? I've got a vision. And after much contemplation, I've come to believe it's what I was put on this earth to accomplish.

I must have a drink named after me.

And now I fully understand why a usually well-prepared guy like me would drop the ball and not get around to printing business cards for BlogHer: my time in Chicago on July 23-26 was destined to be more than simply networking for my measly blog.

It was meant for launching the next Manhattan, the next Mai Tai, the next Tom Collins, the next Adios Mofo. The next great cocktail.

It all came to me quite by accident (like all the good things and 7 year olds in my life) a few days ago. I was pouring my usual Jack Daniels to end the evening when the unthinkable happened: I ran out. If you knew me at all, you'd know I would never let that happen. Frustrated that my glass was only half full, I scrounged around my bar to find anything else alcoholic I could throw in there. The only thing I could find that made any sense was a bottle of Frangelico. What the hey, I topped off the glass, threw some ice in it and tipped it back.

I was very pleasantly surprised. I toyed around with this combination a little bit more, Googled it to make sure it wasn't already an existing concoction and just like that, I invented a cocktail. Now, you all know the real story behind it, but here's the recipe with a PR/Marketing spin -- just in case the Food Network ever does a special on "Cocktails That Rule the World" and decides to interview me:

The Busy Dad

  • 2 parts Jack Daniels (because I'm a card-carrying Tennessee Squire)
  • 1 part Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur (because you gotta be one part nuts to be a successful parent)
  • A splash of Diet Coke (because it's what gets me through each day when I am not allowed to drink beer).

Pour into a lowball glass with ice and stir with one of those long Lego pieces (because chances are you'll find one of those before any real stirring implement).

So, instead of business cards, I'm bringing a mess of those longish Legos. And if any of you attending BlogHer orders a Busy Dad, I'm giving you one. My hope is to return home Lego-less. But I guess if the drink doesn't catch on, at least Fury can make a really cool wall.

Also, since you're here reading this post, I guess this is a good time to tell you that I'm actually on a panel at this year's BlogHer. This panel was dreamt up by fellow Hot Blogger Calendar alum Avitable (and the brilliance of the subject matter and its title leaves no doubt that it was his idea). I'm just going to send you to his post about it and encourage you to submit questions to ask Avitable, ChildsPlayx2 and me.

I don't know how this is going to play out, but I do know that I'll do a lot better with a few Busy Dads within arm's reach.

When a Blogger Meets a Blogger Grillin' Up the Rye

This is a no-brainer post. First of all, who doesn't like grilled cheese? Second, who doesn't love Rachel from A Southern Fairy Tale? Well this post features both, so I'm guaranteed a win. As some of you who read Rachel's blog know, she was here in L.A. back in April as a representative of Kraft Foods (she's like foodie mafia, that Rachel) to attend and cover the 7th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. As I am a devotee and occasional participant of Rachel's Mouthwatering Mondays recipe series, I could not pass up the opportunity to hang with the Queen of all that is "tonguegasmic" and grab some grub and beers while we were at it.

Since this is a recipe post, I won't bog you down with details of the evening. Suffice it to say that it was a blast, and I should have known better than to pour my first beer into a glass at dinner in an attempt to be all proper and stuff, because she just chuckled, took her bottle, swigged it and said something along the lines of "you're dealin' with a Texas gal, here." Cowboy up.

Only reason she has a glass here is this bar gave it to us that way. Otherwise, we'd be cuttin' fools in a bar fight.

The next morning Fury, d Wife, her friend "Panda" and I headed to LA State Historic Park to check out the Grilled Cheese Invitational. I had heard reports that it was crowded, but really, how crowded could an event that started out as some guy inviting his friends over to his loft apartment in Downtown L.A. seven years ago really be? Um, Batman-movie-opening-night-two-mile-line crowded, that's how. Luckily, Rachel met us out front, gestured a few hand signals, muttered something in hushed tones about "friends of ours" and just like that, we were chomping on grilled cheese sandwiches, guzzling Izze sodas and listening to free-form poetry about the wonders of cheese. It was Woodstock, with less mud and more dairy.

If you want to get on Fury's good side, offer him cheese.

Watching the teams grill up new interpretations of an old favorite was inspiring for an improv cooking enthusiast like me. And the general excitement and buzz were contagious. But as I made my way from booth to booth, I picked up on something else. It started out faint, but as the day wore on, it eventually even overpowered the aroma of sizzling butter and gooey cheese. It was the unmistakable and familiar smell of competition. And it was summoning me.

"I'm SO doing this next year."

So there you have it. I've put it in writing. Whether I follow through or not is yet to be seen, but at least it gives me an excuse to experiment with butter, cheese and fire all year round. And I don't think it is scientifically possible to be against that. Especially when your first experiment involves lobster.

* * * *

Clambake Grilled Cheese

Like so many things that I cook, this came about because I was looking for a way to recycle leftovers. We had a craving for lobster the night before so I went and bought two. Problem was, the market only had behemoth 4 pounders, which meant we had a ton of lobster meat left over. Like I always say, when life gives you lobster, make grilled cheese. I call this Clambake Grilled Cheese because it uses lobster and smoked sausages, two key ingredients in a New England Clambake. And it sounds better than Lobster and Sausage Grilled Cheese. Makes 3 sandwiches.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces lobster meat, chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 cup shredded Mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 9 thin slices smoked sausage
  • 6 slices French bread
  • Mayo
  • Old Bay Seasoning (or if you're awesome and she sends you some, Rachel's Simple Seasoning)
  • Dried basil, parsley, thyme
  • Butter

Preparation:

In a bowl, combine lobster, Mozzarella and Parmesan. Mix it all up. Throw in a small dollop mayo, to your liking. This is really just to help hold everything together as you grill it. Sprinkle seasoning into the bowl, again, to your liking.

Lay out the six slices of bread, side by side and place the sliced sausage on every other piece. Then put the lobster mixture on the other three slices. Make them into sandwiches.

Melt butter in a skillet and before it gets too hot, sprinkle a little basil, parsley and thyme into the pan and let it sizzle a bit. You want to semi-rehydrate the herbs. With butter! MMM. Throw your sandwich on the butter and herb mixture and lower the heat. I usually do grilled cheese on medium to high heat, but since there's cheese throughout the sandwich and not just on the bread, you need to give this sandwich more time on the grill so that the heat really melts everything, which means you need lower heat so your bread and herbs don't become a blackened smoky mess. Plus, the French bread is a little thick, so you need extra time for the heat to penetrate. As it grills, press down on the sandwich with a spatula to squish it all down (I prefer using my hands, but I know you're not into that). Like a manual panini.

Keep checking the bread (a little peek underneath) to make sure nothing is burning. You want a nice golden brown. I didn't time this, but my guess is with lower heat, you'll be wanting to flip these over in about 3 or 4 minutes.

When you are ready to flip, set the sandwiches aside on a plate. Do the butter melting and herb sizzling once again, then throw your sandwiches back down on the other side this time. Squish and wait accordingly.

When everything is crispy, melty and golden brown, lock your family in the closet and eat all three sandwiches by yourself.

If you enjoyed this recipe, make sure to check out Rachel's Mouthwatering Mondays series. I really hate this series because I check it out every monday morning, when I have nothing but a cup of coffee and a pile of work in front of me. I may have short circuited my laptop drooling on it a couple times. Also, there's this link thing at the bottom where people link their weekly recipe posts as well. Check them out or link your own. It's pretty cool.

One more favor before you go. Rachel's blog has been nominated in the "Tastiest Blog" category in the BlogLuxe Awards. Please go there, select Tastiest Blog and vote for the first one: Monkeys and Princesses: A Southern Fairytale. She's winning right now. Let's keep it that way. You make the Foodie Mafia happy, they make you happy.

Sending You Out Confused

This is the most random post ever. It includes a meme (I'm always too lazy to do these, but I got tagged by two people for the same one, and both guys are cool dads and I can probably get a round or two out of it), a link where I send you elsewhere to see random pictures I took, and a recipe to get you nice and festive on New Year's Eve.

The Meme

So I'm sitting at my desk last week minding my own business when I get two emails almost back-to-back from two dad blogger buddies of mine: Eric from Oh My God I'm a Daddy and Daddy Joe from Daddyus Dorkus. That can only mean two things: the underground dad collective has hacked a password to a *ahem* really interesting website or they tagged me for a meme. I have too many bookmarked sites anyway. Sour grapes...

  1. Take a picture of yourself right NOW!
  2. DON'T change your clothes, DON'T fix your hair... Just take a picture.
  3. Post that picture with NO editing.
  4. Post these instructions with your picture.
  5. Tag 10 peop*tchhc* *beeeeep* *chhhh* (Lost that last instruction due to, um, driving through a tunnel).

So here it is. Just me at work. Probably writing some exciting web copy or customer newsletter (or lamenting over being tagged):

But in all fairness, I look pretty good when you give me a good half hour to do my hair and makeup. Here's this year's Xmas card pic of me and Fury:


The Recipe: Godfather Sangria

My friend Rachel (who doesn't send me passwords, but makes up for it by posting food porn like you wouldn't believe) has this weekly thing called Mouthwatering Mondays. If you have recipes, jump on in and add your link to her page. It's a great way get your recipes out there and discover new ones. Last week I posted a recipe for Cashew Brittle. It's been getting rave reviews. If you consider "you'd make an excellent grandma" (spoken by my friend Joey the Fireman) a rave review. This week, I hope to earn "you'd make an excellent Spanish Innkeeper" with this one. This is a recipe I like to call my "Godfather Sangria," coincidentally named in honor of Joey the Fireman (who is Fury's Godfather).

1 bottle red wine
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1/2 cup superfine sugar (regular sugar works too if that’s all you have)
1 bottle (6 oz.) club soda
1 orange (sliced and triangled)
1 lemon (sliced, full circle)
1 lime (sliced, full circle)
1 red apple (bite sized wedges)
1 peach (bite-sized wedges) - I often substitute a pear or handful of sliced strawberries for this last one, especially during the summer.

Combine wine, brandy, triple sec and sugar into pitcher and stir well. Cut all fruits as specified and add to pitcher. Let sit for 2 hours or more. Add Club Soda into pitcher before serving. Serve over ice. I promise you, this is a total party pleaser. Easy to drink, with plenty of kick.

Sending You Away

Notice how I have this tendency to waste perfectly good blog posts by posting my everyday happenings on my Twitpic sidebar? Well, the people at Nokia must have picked up on it, because they sent me a Nokia 6650 phone and asked me to document one week of my life with it for their website. I'm going to review the phone later next month (because I always wanted to be a CNET reviewer for the alpha nerd status, and this is as close as I will ever get). But for now, check out my pictures at NokiaChronicles.com (click on Chapter 4, as that was my week along with 2 other bloggers).

That concludes my blogging responsibilities for the rest of the year (actually, I'm doing a guest post over at Mr Lady's place for New Year's Eve, be sure to check it out). Have a Happy and Healthy 2009!

Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like a Sugar OD

As a society, we clash over religion. We butt heads over politics. And iPhone vs. Blackberry vs. Google Phone? Forget it. So for this holiday season, I'd like to bring it back to something that unites us all. A common denominator if you will. Sugar. Lots and lots of tooth rotting, buzz-inducing, wall-bouncing, good old-fashioned white stuff.

My favorite holiday use of sugar? Cashew brittle. Sweet, buttery, crunchy, delicious...

Usually I'd just show you this nice picture, get you all worked up and be done with it. However, my good friend and goddess of southern style food porn Rachel threatened to cut off my supply of  homemade spice rub if I did not participate in her weekly Moutherwatering Mondays recipe series (just kidding, she is waaaay too nice for that). So I upped the ante (I'm such as kiss-ass). I am giving you the recipe below, and I'll even walk you through it on video. First, the recipe.

Cashew Brittle

1 Cup Unsalted Butter (2 regular sized sticks)
2 Tsp Light Corn Syrup (I go a little more, since it tends to stick on the spoon)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Cashews (Trader Joe's sells chopped, lightly salted ones that are perfect)
Parchment Paper
Baking Sheet
Candy Thermometer

  1. Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup in a pot over med-high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
  2. After about 5 minutes, the mixture will become frothy, almost doughy. Once this happens, watch the mixture carefully.
  3. The mixture will begin to take on a light beige hue. Once this happens, the mixture will start becoming un-frothy and get darker, at this point stick the thermometer and monitor it closely.
  4. Once the temperature hits 300, turn the heat off immediately and dump the cashews in.
  5. Stir rapidly, making sure all the cashews are covered.
  6. Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper that you have laid out on top of your baking sheet.
  7. Spread/flatten the mixture out so that it is as close to a single layer of cashews as you can get (you want cashew brittle, not cashew clumps).
  8. Let it cool, break into pieces and enjoy!

Helpful hint: the mixture will begin to smoke at 300 degrees, so your window of opportunity on this is short. If you let it go even 3 seconds over, your mixture will smoke and burn, and continue smoking until you have to take the pot outside. You really want to avoid running around your front yard with an oven mitt and smoldering pot in your hands. "Don't worry, I'm a shaman cleansing this house of evil spirits" works only once.

Now the instructional video.

I'd like to thank the folks at RCA for sending me an RCA Small Wonder video camera. I'm going to do a review in the near future, but for now I just wanted to let you all know that I used it to shoot the following video. Well, actually Fury used it. I found this camera to be so simple to use, that I've given it to Fury. And although he's got the functions down already, he has yet to learn the fine art of standing still.

Just so you all don't sue my 6-year old, I have to post this warning: Those who are pregnant or suffer from heart problems or motion sickness should not watch this video. However, if you were able to sit through the Blair Witch Project without reaching for the Dramamine, you might enjoy this.

 

I Must Really Like You Guys

...because I was planning on taking this recipe to the grave. Or put up a website and start a business around it. Turns out I'm over the 50 lb. weight limit for netherworld luggage and I'm simply too busy to even register a domain name. "Blog about it" was choice #3 (come to think of it, that's choice #3 for pretty much everything that goes on in my life). So, my friends, I present to you the New England Clam Chowder recipe that won me a new family.
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