Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fritter the Time Away

I was working furiously at the stove Saturday morning when Lois came home from the gym.  The first thing she said was, "Why does the house smell like a carnival?"  Then she saw me with a pot of hot oil on the burner and piles of fried dough all around me. 

"What are you making?" she wanted to know. 
"Apple fritters!" I replied brightly, knowing that my vegan, works out every morning, healthy wife would not approve.  I thought I'd have been finished and already devouring them with our two sons by the time Lois got home.  I still had half a bowl of uncooked batter. 

She looks at the recipe on the counter.  "This says it serves eight people!" 
"Yeah, about that.  See, I thought it meant that it made eight little fritters.  So I doubled it."
"You're frying up apple fritters meant to serve sixteen people?"
"Well... yes."
"There are three of you." 
"I know."

About 20 minutes later Lois comes back to the kitchen to find me still frying and the piles around me had grown to mountains.  I put Rocky to work drizzling a sugary glaze over about a fourth of the fritters.  "Are you planning to feed the boys anything else for breakfast?"
"Um.  Yes?"  I briefly consider pointing out that there are apples in the fritters, but I know how that conversation would go. 

Around this time Buzz stumbles sleepily into the kitchen.  "What's for breakfast?" 
Rocky answers, "Look how many fritters Dad is making!"
"Oh man, that is awesome!"
I'm sure Lois is giving me a particular look at this point, but I'm focused on flipping the last batch of fritters and trying not to smile as the boys laugh at the absurdity of so much fried food that they ordinarily would only be permitted to eat as a dessert, certainly not for a meal. 

While I put fritters on three plates, Lois cooks a bowl of oatmeal for herself.  I quickly peel three bananas and put one on each plate next to the fried dough to make it a well balanced breakfast. 

By the time we've eaten all we want, the leftovers are still considerable.  I carefully stack over half of the surplus on a sturdy paper plate and quickly head out the door to a neighbor's house.  When I get back, Lois has kindly done most of the cleanup and put the remaining fritters into tupperware.  She gives me a look I can't quite comprehend and then says, "Okay, I tried one while you were gone and it was so good, and I am so mad at you!"  This was by far the best compliment I could have received. 

Cooking delicious, unhealthy foods has become something of a hobby for me.  I guess it doesn't have to be unhealthy, but vegetables just seem so much more interesting when they're saut├ęd in butter, deep fried, or smothered in a cheese sauce.   

Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman whose recipe I used for this morning's hijinks, has become one of my culinary heroes.  Everything of hers I've cooked such as biscuits and gravy and chicken pot pie have become instant favorites of the three non-vegans in the family. 

Fortunately I only cook these kinds of things every once in a while, and Lois is diligent in making sure we all get plenty of foods that will be less likely to cause a heart attack.  That's just one of the many reasons we are meant to be together.  And it just happens to be one of the many reasons I will not feel the least bit guilty when I try out a recipe I found for fried chicken that has you marinate the meat in buttermilk overnight.  This is gonna be good. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Like Sushi, Sosumi

Going out for sushi has become a popular dining experience.  It's fun, it's trendy, and it's photogenic.  There are now more pictures of sushi on social media than minions, and almost as many as cats.

Not for eating, just for Instagram
So what is the big deal exactly?  You take some pieces of fish (often raw), some vegetables, maybe some cream cheese, and wrap them up in seaweed and rice.  That's right.  Sea. Weed.  At most restaurants, a sushi roll will cost at least eight or nine dollars, and each one is cut up into six or eight pieces.  So every time you take a bite, there goes a dollar.

I have a theory.  People like to eat sushi because it makes them feel daring.  "Hey dude, do you dare me to eat this piece of raw tuna?  I'll even eat it with this seaweed.  And this green spicy play-doh."  It's almost like a game.  And it's not enough to just eat it.  You have to get it from the plate to your mouth using two sticks.  It's like using the tweezers in the Operation game to get the wishbone.  If only there was a buzzer for every time you drop unagi into your lap.

Then you have the people who refuse to even try sushi because the thought of eating raw fish grosses them out (imagine that).  It doesn't matter how often you explain that not all sushi has raw fish.  They want nothing to do with it.  But if you ever start telling them what the ingredients were in the hot dog they ate the other day, they'll cover their ears and yell, "La-la-la-la, I caaaan't heeeear yoooou!"

I have yet to meet anyone who just kind of likes sushi.  People tend to either love it or are afraid of it.  I can't get enough of it.  Sometimes I'll go to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.  They always make a big deal that you have to eat all of the rice, and they'll charge you extra for any sushi that you leave uneaten.  It always seems like such a great idea for the first two or three rolls.  But by the time I'm trying to choke down the fifth roll, I can't help thinking, "I've made a huuuuge mistake."  They'll usually bring me the check before I'm done, so once I've paid I know I can leave those last few pieces on my plate and they'll have no way to charge me for it.  Even so, I always make sure to cover it up with my napkin and make a hasty exit before they can catch me.  I'm not sure what I'd do if they did stop me.  "Excuse me sir, you left three pieces of hosomaki. I am afraid you have to pay now." My reply might be something like, "Oh, I'm still going to eat that.  I just need to get something from my car."  Then as I drive away with my tires squeeling, "Suckerrrrrrrs!"

The Sushi Burrito is a Thing That Exists
The sushi burrito is a relatively new take on sushi consumption.  This is basically a huge sushi roll with the seaweed on the outside.  It's wrapped in paper and cut in half so you can eat it with your hands just like you would with something you order from Taco Bell.  Being the investigative journalist I am, I just had to try one.  I went to Sushi Burrito Utah in Provo and ordered their Vegas roll.  It tasted pretty much exactly like a regular Vegas roll, only bigger.  Being the pro I am with chopsticks, I found it a little cumbersome to eat the huge thing with my hands, and it got a little messy at the end.  But for the price, I'd say it was worth it.

So if you're one of those sushi haters, come on, just give it a try.  It won't kill you.  Unless you're allergic to fish.  In that case, maybe you better stick with your hot dogs and chalupas.  Just be sure to post a photo of it on Facebook before you eat it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Basic Rules of Life Ignored by Supposedly Smart People

I'm not perfect.  Far from it.  If anyone wanted to follow me around for a couple hours, they could compile their own list of stupid things that I do.  I look forward to reading that on their blog someday.  Until then, here are some of my observations that drive me crazy.

If you're in a public place and spill something, clean it up!  Or at least tell someone about it.  Yes, it is probably someone's job to take care of those spills, but don't just walk away from it.  Someone spilled Cheerios on some stairs that don't get used very often in my office building.  They stayed there for days!  I know, I know, I could have said something.  But I still blame whoever spilled them.

Pick up after your dog!  Even though I'd really prefer that you not let your dog do any business on my grass, I recognize that they have to go somewhere.  So if they do end up leaving anything behind on my lawn, you need to pick it up.  And if it's your kids who take your dog for a walk, you don't get to blame it on them.  You're responsible for your kids too.  Scalawag.

If you see someone with their zipper down, food in their teeth, something hanging from their nose, etc., you have a moral obligation to tell them.  You really, really need to do this.  I am tired of always having to be the one to tell people.  It doesn't matter if it's your boss, an annoying co-worker, or the Pope.  If you've ever had someone discreetly let you know that you have a button undone, you're forever grateful to them.  If you come home at the end of a long day to find spinach in your teeth that's been there since lunch, you hate everyone you talked to that day.  Don't be that hated person.

Don't strike up a conversation in a public restroom.  Okay, so I might have issues, but I really don't want to talk to you or even make eye contact with you in the restroom.  It is not a pleasant place to be in, and nothing you have to say will be interesting to me in that environment.  I once worked in an office building where the restrooms were open to the public.  A man came in while I was at the urinal and asked me where he could turn in his resume.  "Well, I'm pretty sure it's not in here."

If you need something, ask politely.  Don't just declare your need.  It makes you sound needy.  As you may know, I work in Human Resources.  I regularly receive requests from employees to fill out forms or prepare letters for various things.  It amazes me how often I get emails that say something like, "Rob, I need a letter verifying my employment so I can establish residency."  I'm always tempted to just write back and say, "Okay, thanks for letting me know."  It's like when my kids say, "I'm hungry."  My response is usually a variation of, "Oh, that's interesting.  Thanks for telling me."

When using instant messengers at work, don't just say, "Hi," and wait for the other person to respond.  Tell them what you want.  The great thing about instant messaging is not having to engage in small talk.  Stop doing it wrong!

When leaving a voicemail message, give some useful information.  If all you say is, "Call me back as soon as you get this message," I will most likely ignore you.  Also, don't tell me what to do.  Also, don't call me when an email or text message will suffice.

Don't tell someone else to remind you of your commitments.  This one really baffles me.  If you say you're going to do something but are worried about forgetting, put it on your own calendar or set up your own reminder.  Don't try to defer accountability to someone else just because they are more reliable.  Organize your life!

These things literally drive me up the wall.  I could go on, but that's probably enough for now.  Feel free to add your own observations in the comments.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Midlife Crisis? No, I Am Actually This Cool.

Being the youngest in my family, it was with more than a little amusement that I watched each of my older siblings turn 40 while I remained comfortably in my youth.

I knew that I would get there someday, but it always seemed a long way off.  Even when my sister turned 40 and I was 37, that was no big deal because I was still in my mid-thirties, right?

Well, I hit 40 a few months ago.  It was with little fanfare, although I think Lois would have thrown a big party if not for my utter indifference.  

I was 18 when I noticed my first grey hairs.  The greys have slowly multiplied since then, but that doesn't really bother me.  But one thing that has become increasingly distressing to me as I've approached 40 is the way my eyebrows are growing.  Like most people, I've had eyebrows pretty much since birth and they've always sort of maintained themselves.  But now they require trimming.  I do not understand this.  I ignored it for a while, but one day it just became painfully clear that something had to be done.  It occurred to me that an eyebrow is pretty much just a mustache for your forehead.  So I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, set my beard trimmer to one, said a quick prayer and trimmed those suckers.  That worked like a charm.  Well, a charm that you might find in a cheap souvenir shop, but a charm nonetheless.

It wasn't until after I turned 40 that I started thinking about what would be a good midlife crisis.  When it comes to cars, I really just want something efficient and comfortable to get me from point A to point B, although a Harley would do that nicely.  But no, I'm happy with my current transportation.  I did indulge myself in what many people might rightly call the lamest midlife crisis ever.  I don't know exactly how it happened.  I don't even drink.  But I inexplicably developed a taste for karaoke.  So after some minimal research, I bought a mixer, some mics, and some other miscellaneous hardware to turn my computer into a pretty decent karaoke system.  On Thanksgiving we were all rock stars and got jiggy with it.  Are you allowed to have more than one midlife crisis?  Because I figure I might live to be 90, so that gives me another good five years to settle on a really good one that involves a little less Neil Diamond.

I don't really feel old, although I do have less energy than I used to.  My waist is still pretty much the same size as it has been since high school (never mind that it might be a bit lower now).  But there's one thing that helps me know that I'm really not old yet.  When I get dressed every morning, instead of sitting down to put on my socks, I balance on my left foot to put my right sock on, then I balance on my right foot to put my left sock on.  Can you imagine an old man putting his socks on while standing? No, it just isn't done.  There may come a day when I fall over during the attempt and break my hip, but until then I'm still young.  Meanwhile, I just need to figure out what to do about this ear and nose hair.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

WiFi, Skipper!

I love books, and I love food.  It's a good day if I can get away from work for lunch and spend about an hour in a nearby restaurant eating and reading.  I used to choose my restaurants based on the quality of their fries and the soda selection, but a new trend with some restaurants has me changing my standards.  

It all started one day when I was at my favorite burger place and as usual had ordered the #5 combo (pastrami cheeseburger with fries and a soda).  I filled my cup with Cherry Coke and sat down at my favorite booth (the one next to the soda fountain).  I started reading an eBook on my tablet when I noticed the new signs indicating free WiFi.  "Hmmm," I thought.  "I wonder if anything interesting has happened on Facebook since I left the office 15 minutes ago."  After spending 10 minutes on Facebook making sure that nothing interesting was happening, I figured I might as well fire up Netflix and catch some Arrested Development.  That's when the frustration started.  Netflix would not work.  Grrr!  Okay, you stupid burger place, I guess I'll get back to reading stupid Treasure Island.  I bet stupid Jim Hawkins wishes he had WiFi.

After that I started going to Zupas more often.  They have an excellent WiFi connection and I could get Netflix without any trouble at all.  Until the day when I couldn't get Netflix.  Grrr again! I suspect Zupas blocked it on purpose to prevent guys like me from taking up table space for too long. But wait, Hulu still works!  Ha ha, Zupas, now I'm going to sit here for another - (looking to see how long this episode of Bones is) - 44 minutes and 26 seconds drinking creative soda concoctions and eating oyster crackers.

A few months ago when Subway put up a sign advertising free WiFi, I realized that I could really use more meatball subs in my life.  And there's nothing quite like that feeling when you've racked up 75 Subway points so you can go in for a free twelve-inch sub.  It is a little deflating when you realize that also means that you've already spent over $75.

Ever since I was a kid, there has been a Skippers restaurant in my hometown of Orem, Utah.  I think I went there once with my mom when I was about seven years old.  I don't remember exactly why I didn't like it, but I think it had something to do with the fact that I was expected to eat fried clams.  Over the years there has been some remodeling of the building, and half of it has been re-purposed as a Jamba Juice.  I assumed the Skippers half eventually went out of business because, who would eat there?  I must not have been the only one making this assumption.  I was genuinely surprised when they put up a sign to make sure passers-by knew that they were still making a go of it.  Not only that, but I also learned that they now have WiFi.

After doing a little reconnaissance, I chose a Tuesday to venture back to Skippers because that is the day you can get the all-you-can-eat fish n' chips and clam chowder special (which means it's something like a dollar less than usual).  The first thing I noticed was that the restaurant seemed cleaner than I remembered.  Even though I knew what I was going to order, I spent a little time looking at the menu.  It struck me that with very few exceptions, everything is deep fried.  They do have salads on the menu, and I wondered what kind of person would order a salad from Skippers when there's a Zupas just down the street.  I bet the kitchen staff freaks out every time someone does order a salad.  I imagine a heated argument in the back between the server and the cooks, ending with the server returning to the customer and saying, "I'm sorry, but we're all out of lettuce.  Would you like some popcorn shrimp instead?"

When they brought my food out, there was a little cup of coleslaw on the side.  I quickly checked to make sure none of the food had touched it and I immediately moved it to the far edge of my table where it couldn't cause any mischief.  The clam chowder was better than I expected, the fish was pretty good when the right ratio of tartar sauce was applied, and the fries - I mean "chips" - were about average.  But the WiFi connection was superb and since it was all-you-can eat, I always had food in front of me while I was watching what Agent Coulson was getting up to.  But that coleslaw cup kept staring at me, and I kept wondering if it had any purpose other than to unnerve me.  I did learn that all-I-*should*-eat was two small fish fillets, one serving of "chips," and one bowl of chowder.  All-I-*can*-eat is a little less than twice that much.

But why do they put the coleslaw on there?  Is it some sort of weird FDA requirement?  I've been back to Skippers several times, and yesterday I overheard the server at the next booth apologize for forgetting one of the coleslaw cups.  To my amazement, I heard one of the group say that he wanted it.  What?!  I couldn't ignore this.  I just had to know what he was going to do with it.  After an appropriate interval I got up with the pretense of refilling my soda, making sure to casually glance over to get a look at this strange person and see if I could discover his diabolical plan.  To my utter horror, he had a fork and was actually putting the stuff in his mouth!  Then, and I am not making this up, his mouth started making chewing motions and I swear I saw his Adam's apple move as if he had swallowed it. And he just sat there, cool as a cucumber, as if he were not doing something unimaginably repulsive.  I don't know how the rest of his group could sit in such close proximity to him.  They must be his minions.  This won't stop me from going back to Skippers because there are still limited restaurants that have good WiFi.  But I'm definitely keeping a wary eye out for that coleslaw guy.  Someone like that could be capable of just about anything.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dad Can Cook - You can really taste the scratch

Being a dad of young kids is a pretty sweet gig.  They are almost always delighted to see me when I get home, and all I have to do to be a hero is make pancakes.

I grew up in a home with eight kids.  Mom did most of the cooking, which couldn't have been easy with that many mouths, many of which belonged to boys who were always hungry.  She also worked full-time as a teacher starting when I was five and the oldest was seventeen.

Mom made the very best comfort foods, the most notable being fried chicken almost every Sunday.  Occasionally she would experiment with new things, like the time she made cow tongue.  We were all weirded out by it, but we knew better than to say anything other than "thank you" and "please pass the tongue."  The oldest sibling, Biff (names have been changed), missed dinner because he was at work, or had some school thing.  When he got home, a few of us watched to see what he would do about the tongue.  He started right away on making a sandwich, sliced a few generous pieces of tongue and fell to eating his tongue sandwich.  After a few bites Fritz said, "You know that's cow tongue, right?"  Biff said, "Huh, I thought it was ham." And then he just kept right on eating.

Dad would occasionally make breakfast where we could choose 1, 2, or 3 strips of bacon, a "Daddy's Best Egg" which was fried with either a "runny" or "broken" yolk, and toast or sometimes pancakes.  Dad was also always in charge of making breakfast on Mother's Day.  We kids were always in awe because this was the only time during the year that we could have his delicious apple pancakes.  Thinking back, I wonder if Mom ever felt slighted how we would rave about these pancakes, but rarely acknowledged her efforts every other day.  Sorry, Mom.

My kids love oatmeal, which is what they have for breakfast most mornings.  I like oatmeal as much as the next guy, but it's not particularly exciting.  So one Saturday morning about 4 or 5 years ago I made pancakes, sausage, and "Daddy's Best Eggs" for breakfast.  My kids thought I was the coolest dad ever.  The following Saturday they asked if I was going to make a "Big Daddy Breakfast" again.  I said, "No, if I make it every week then it won't be special." So we all had oatmeal, and I felt a little bit sad that I had disappointed them.  Soon it did become a weekly thing, and I'm okay with being in charge of breakfast on Saturdays.  Now that the boys are vegetarians I no longer make sausage for them, but sometimes I'll fry some up for myself and try to tempt them with it.  It never works.

I used to make pancakes with Krusteaz mix, which for a pancake mix is probably the best one.  But when I discovered how ridiculously easy it is to make pancakes from scratch with ingredients that are always in the house, I never bought a mix again.  And, I'm going to share with you the best recipe right here.

Daddy's Best Classic Fluffy Pancakes

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup powdered milk*
*If you don't have powdered milk, you can use milk instead of water in the wet ingredients. Almond or soy milk also works well.

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups water (use milk if you didn't add powdered milk to the dry ingredients)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil*
*I haven't tested this with waffles, but I'd probably use 4 tablespoons oil if you do use it for waffles.

Heat a griddle or skillet to about 325 degrees.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, whisking the eggs to combine thoroughly.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing thoroughly, but don't overmix.  Pour the batter in 4-5 inch rounds (or funny shapes, or whatever size you want).  Flip the pancakes when bubbles start to form holes.  Let's face it, if you don't know when to flip your pancakes, there's little I can do to help you there.  Makes around 20-24 four-five inch pancakes.

The powdered milk is really the secret to this whole thing.  Sometimes I'll pre-make several bags of the dry ingredients to save time when I want to make pancakes.  I have also used powdered eggs, and it worked pretty well, but I don't like the flavor as much.  The kids didn't seem to notice, though.

Occasionally I'll make a "Big Daddy Omelette" or "Big Daddy Hash" which are always big hits too.  The secret is cheese.  Lots and lots of cheese.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Still Crazy After All These Years

I’m really glad we have dentists.  The fact that we all hate going to the dentist brings us onto common ground.  When we want to express exactly how much we despise the idea of doing something, all we have to do is say, “I’d rather go to the dentist,” and then everyone knows to stop trying to get me to go play basketball. 

This is essentially what I said when I was asked about attending my 20-year high school reunion (although I may have added something about certain places freezing over, and how many horses it would take to drag me).  High school was a time of awkwardness, low self-esteem, and Arsenio Hall.  I’m not seeing a lot of incentive to go down that particular lane of memories.

Then I found the Facebook page that the student council (or whoever it is that arranges such things) had created for the 1994 graduates.  It was actually fun to see some of the old dance photos and read about what people are up to now.  Even though it almost made the need for an actual in-person reunion completely unnecessary, this sparked in me a small interest in attending.    

The next thing I know, Lois and I are at the reunion making conversation with my fellow 1994 Bruins and their spouses.  There were quite a few graduates I was unacquainted with, which is not completely surprising considering that my graduating class was upwards of 700 people.  Then there were also a good number who I had known since elementary school.  Luckily for me, I didn't date much in high school and the girls I did date were either a year younger or older, or they went to a different high school altogether.  So there was no awkwardness of having to run into any old flames.  But I like to think that if there had been, they'd notice how hot my wife is and be adequately jealous.  

Even though this was a Utah County reunion, arrangements had been made to work through some complicated Utah red tape so that those who wanted something a little stronger than Dr. Pepper could bring in their own booze.  I took advantage of the available sodas, juice, and flavor syrups and sated my addiction with Dirty Dr. Peppers and Mango Mountain Dews.

If Lois was bored, she didn't show it and seemed to have a good time.  But she did make it quite clear that this really didn't count as a date.  I was glad to have her there with me, and since she is a vegan I felt justified in taking an extra portion of meat and dessert.  Having a vegan wife does have a few advantages.  

The program was simple and consisted mainly of mingling which was kind of the whole point, after all.  We did have the obligatory slide show with era appropriate music in the background, and the former a capella choir sang.  No one asked the band geeks to play anything, which was probably a good call, even though I wouldn't have minded an excuse to dust off my old saxophone.  Oh well, maybe at the 30.  

The old stereotypes had pretty well dissolved.  Instead of cheerleaders, jocks, nerds and stoners, we just had one big group of happy Bruins.  And nerds.  It was pretty easy to talk to anyone there, whether we had known each other or not.  And my Facebook friend count went from like 84 to 100, so that's pretty awesome too.   

I asked Lois if she was going to want to attend her 20-year reunion.  She didn't even have to think about it before saying no.  But she did say that she hoped there would be a Facebook page so that she could find out what everyone is up to without having to actually interact with them.  She still has a few years to change her mind, so we'll see.  If nothing else, at least she'd be able to post pictures of the two of us together so that her old boyfriends can see what a hot husband she ended up with.