Saturday, May 30, 2009

What's the matter pancake batter?

So there goes my one post a week goal. Right out the driver's side window on our way back to Tucson. Was it Socrates, Dante, or Nietzsche who asked his students, "How can one truly live if they spend all of their time blogging, and how can one truly blog if they spend all of their time living?"

Maybe I heard it on NPR?


I guess it's kinda like when William was born. He spent just under 6 weeks in the NICU before he was allowed to come home. Sara and I made a pledge to be there every day for touch times, but a month in or so, I had to fly back to Tucson for a funeral, and we came to the conclusion, that we couldn't always be the best Dad or Mom, but that if we worked together, we could be the best parents. I wasn't able to be there every day for my boy, but we always made sure that one of us was there to let him know he was loved and wanted.

So I can't always post every week. So May only has like, what, 3 posts? So I should just shut her down, because some of the blogs out there, there's like a post a day? Those people obviously have not found World of Warcraft, and I need to just let it go, and look at this as a way to get some "me" time in my life.

Alright, I'm all pepped up and ready to cheer for a Junior Varsity Volleyball squad. Just let me stretch for a year or two first.

Tucson was amazing, the boys love their grandparents and the grandparents love them. I ended up making tacos for the open house, by the way, no wings. Makes me a little sad, but maybe I'll do it for the NBA Finals Game 2. Maybe I should have a wing party? Invite guests to bring their favorite wings and beers to match?

This might just happen! Although housework will need to be done... which is okay, William loves to clean.

Ah, William...

So we (my family and my mother-in-law) were making pancakes for breakfast, and William asks his grandma what's in the pitcher.


"Batter?" William tilts his head.

"Yes, sweetie pie, pancake batter." She rubs the top of his head.

His eyes get big, eyebrows are raised in an inverted "V," and that bottom lip starts to protrude in heart broken protest.

"But Grandma, I don't like pancake batter!"

This is entirely my fault.

There are many dangers lurking in the nooks and crannies of my kitchen. Japanese knives, German knives, Mandoline Slicers, Cuisinart attachments... One must be careful when cooking with young ones in the kitchen, and then again, there are different types of scars.

We decided to make pancakes several months earlier for Sara one morning to celebrate the end of her morning sickness. William was so excited. I prepped everything for the dry ingredients, grabbed his stepping stool so that he could have his own station, and set upon the task of teaching my son how to cook.

We mixed the dry ingredients delighting in the plumes of flour "smoke" that wafted from the mixing bowl, managed to get all of the egg and none of the shell into the other bowl, and all of this with much laughter. I am such a good dad! I remember this thought so clearly as I was reaching up into the pantry for a little more sugar.

"I need a spoon daddy!" comes from over my left shoulder. I tell him to grab one from the drawer as I start searching for the vanilla bean paste. I hear the opening of the drawer, my hand closes around the bottle of paste, and as I'm pulling them down, I hear what can only be described as the sound one would make at the dentist's office if their mouth was propped open against their will with that nasty fluoride treatment.

I turn and there, in the middle of the kitchen, is my boy William with the dry ingredients bowl in one hand, a serving spoon the size of Texas in his other, his jaw nearly touching the floor, and his tongue following suit coated in raw flour. He's completely motionless. I guess it's kinda like stubbing your toe. You try not to move, because if you do that stabbing pain will leave your toe, shoot right up leg, and make you double over in a violent yet silent cussing fit. He would have been a statue but for his eyes. His eyes staring right at me welling with tears and wtf?

It was the best Tom Hanks eating caviar impression in "Big" I have ever seen.

"Oh mi hijo..." I say as I am biting my lips shut trying to stem the convulsions of silent laughter. Man, am I the worst friggin' dad, or what!?!

I wipe him clean, give him a hug, and then by the grace of God, a glass of water-- which, no doubt, made a very nice slurry in his stomach.

"I don't like it, Dad."

It was plain, simple, and cut like a knife. The truth shall set you free, and so it did for William, as he split and began playing with his trains...

"They taste better once their cooked!!!" My useless rebuttal fell on deaf ears, and I have since learned my lesson.

Banana Blender Pancake Batter, so as to avoid your toddler eating raw flour and ruining things. Forever.

Adapted from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home:

1 cup flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
tiny pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 brown and very ugly banana
1/3 cup of water divided.

Start off with the flour, add the eggs, milk, oil, vanilla bean paste, sugar and salt, and blend that for 10-15 seconds. It'll look wrong, but that's okay. Scrape down the sides if needed, and then add the banana and one part of the water and blend until smooth, adding the additional water if needed in small batches.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Heat up that skillet or non-stick frying pan. Pick your poison butter or oil, and be prepared to burn your first two before the others come out just right.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Winging it.

This, will not last forever.

I know for sure that at some point, not only will William not want to kiss his 'little' brother, "Squeaky," he won't want to kiss me either. I'm fully prepared to drop him off a block away from school, but I don't think I'm ready to no longer hear "Daddy!" screamed at the top of his lungs when he hears me walk through our front gate.


I can't believe that I'm about to quote an Oprah Show, this will no doubt please my wife and give my 'CFO' at work more fodder, but here it goes... I remember seeing one about your body language when you come home. What's the first thing your kids see when you walk through that door?

It just stuck with me.

I try to remember that when I'm pulling up to our home. It's even harder when it's that 30 minutes before the guests arrive and you're trying to check things off of your list and make sure that you still have 5 minutes, no 2 minutes to shower, and is your face too scratchy cause you might need to shave too, so make that 1 minute.

I'm getting all flustered just typing that! I always say that the secret to a great dinner party is to have the drinks ready to go before the guests arrive, and if they happen to enjoy one and a half or three before the first course rolls out, they're gonna L O V E everything you're servin' up!

We're heading back to Tucson in a week and a half and I'm cooking for an open house at my mother in law's and I was thinking Chicken Wings might be fun! I think that nothing beats the original Buffalo Wing, but you know me... you gotta try something different right?

Coat 3 lbs of chicken wings with a jar of Harissa. Bag 'em and throw it in your fridge overnight. The next day take 4 Shallots, a tsp of chinese 5 spice, a tbsp paprika, 2 tbsps olive oil, 1tsp fresh rosemary, 1 tsp sugar and 1tsp salt and blend it until smooth. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the wings from your fridge, and add the paste to your bag. Smush it all up until the wings are well coated. I line a half sheet with tin foil and place an oiled rack on top of the foil and the wings on top of that, but you could just bake e in a brownie dish if you wanted to keep the fuss to a minium.

Bake those wings until they're done and you could make a peanut dipping sauce for 'em if you wanted to...

If anyone has a recipe for making those kisses last a little longer, I'm open to suggestions.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Do it for the Halibut.

Cinco De Mayo, sometimes mistakenly translated as "a fifth of Mayonnaise," is often more about the beer or margaritas than it is about the food. Which makes me sad.

On the inside.

On the outside I'm probably the one yelling, "We should totally go camping, like, right now, but only after we collect some firewood and kindling... To the trees!" Tequila does this to me. Tequila has also provided me with many many many stories, which I usually end up telling in lengthy detail when I'm drinking tequila. My Spanish also improves tenfold, but still, I try to avoid tequila when at all possible.

I managed to avoid it altogether this Cinco De Mayo, so you can close up this window if you're waiting to hear all about the room made up entirely of empty mountain dew cans, losing my keys camping, or how Sharpies and passing out don't mix--I guess now you'd call it posting videos up on Facebook? You could chronicle the night's events on your best friend's arms as you dragged him from bar to bar. My friends and I set our alarm for the next morning just so we could see his face when he saw his face after he woke-up.

Priceless and only semi-permanent. What's not to like?

SO this year, after securing the Patron and Sharpies and moving them to an undisclosed location, I set about the task of making some great food to celebrate the return of a good friend. The menu was pretty simple grilled fish tacos with mango salsa, and shredded cabbage:


And beer too. It is extremely difficult to grill without a beer unless you have a thermometer. Not only does the beer help cleanse your palate of all the smoke, it also records the passage of time, all while tasting far better than any egg timer could possibly dream of. True, it significantly lacks the ability to "ding!", but that's what "Cheers!" is for.

Armed with my handy dandy grill timer in one hand and spatula in the other, I grilled this huge piece of Alaskan Halibut, and finished it with a cilantro-lime butter.
Flavored butters can be as easy as you want them to be, and also add a great amount flavor if you don't have the time or desire to do a rub, marinade, or sauce. Here, you simply add one cube frozen garlic, two cubes frozen cilantro, the juice of half a lime, some salt, pepper, and but of course, a half a stick of softened butter. I like to use unsalted.

Who knew I could be a control freak, right?

Right. Which is why I went ahead and busted out the higher end butter for our friend as pictured here to the right. "Same, Same, but Different" Cilantro Herb Butter:
Soften half a stick of unsalted butter, zest one lime, mince a handful of fresh cilantro, on that same zester goes a half a clove of garlic, a small pinch of cumin, a small squeeze of lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. You could double this recipe and have enough butter to finish steamed rice with the following night.

Once the Halibut was just about done, I removed it from the grill, topped it with a hefty amount of butter and tented it with foil,to allow the fish to finish cooking and absorb some of the yummy goodness.

Next came the Mango Salsa. It didn't taste nearly as washed out as it appears. You'll just have to trust me on that one.
The ingredients are all pretty much in the first picture of the post. I really can't think of anything I love making more than salsa. For me, they each have their own personality, and you never know when that jalapeno is going to be super angry, or just mildly put off. Which is why you have to take a bite of the jalapeno my friends. Sometimes you get burned, but it's a sure fire way to tell if the heat is right or not. Dice one Mango, a quarter red onion, one jalapeno, slice 4 scallions, mince a handful of cilantro, squeeze one lime, and add salt and pepper the salsa. That's if the Jalapeno was hot, if it's mild, taste the other one, and use two if need be.

William loved this salsa because he abscounded with the mango pit. The meal was great, the conversation was better, and the amount of wipes it took to clean the mango juice up and get it off of his trains was flat out criminal.