My proudest moment so far…

31 05 2007

I finally did it.  It took twelve years but I finally made a dinner and Karen didn’t need to add any pepper sauce.  My secret ingredient:

Pepper Sauce Dia-foom-foom

Now you know why.  This is the pepper sauce that Karen puts on everything.  No, not everything.  Not stuff like Italian food or the boring white people food that I prepare.  This stuff is dynamite, trust me.  She puts 5-6 drops of it in her food and she’s good to go.  They don’t mess around with pepper sauce in Trinidad, and until now I’ve never opened up a jar or a bottle of it.  I’m afraid to. 

Actually she prefers the homemade pepper sauce from a friend of her mother, but when that’s not available there’s Chatak.  One word: ZOWEEEE.

So I found this recipe for shrimp cakes and I thought it looked good.  Then I got down to the part where it says it needs hot sauce.  We don’t have what typically passes for “hot sauce” in our house.  Tabasco is like ketchup to this girl, we only carry the good stuff.  So I used a teaspoon of Chatak for what turned out to be 10 cakes.  I didn’t have time to make the corn &  avocado salsa so I used some vegetable – penne medley Karen had made the night before.  I’d had these grandiose plans for making corn chowder to go with it but by the time this was done the kids were already in bed.  So here it is, my moment of triuph where Karen says “Wow, this doesn’t even need pepper!”

Shrimp cakes not for the faint of stomach

I’d like to thank Cooking Light magazine for the idea, and Chatak pepper sauce for being in my fridge but most of all I’d like to thank Karen for advising me to not use as much as the recipe called for.  If you want to know how I made it, click <more>.

Read the rest of this entry »

Two kid pics

29 05 2007

It’s a crazy holiday week so I’ll just post some pics of the kids.  Jonathan’s preschool class did these crafts at some point.  I can only assume it was for Halloween.  It kind of fits his personality; he’s even got red eyes.

…and his eyes are red, too!

I took this picture of Benjamin.  He loves looking in his little mirror. 

Who’s that baby, any way?

More arguments for $1 ticket prices

27 05 2007

We saw Shrek 3 on Friday night.  Two adults and two kids walk in and between admission and concessions we’re out 50 bucks. Shrek 3 was not worth the $4 you pay at Blockbuster.  I suppose Shrek 2 set our expectations too high but seriously, this was as bad as Ice Age 2Shrek 3 was so bad that when Jonathan and Ben got bored and irritable Karen and I did rock-paper-scissors to see who’d get to leave the theater with them and walk around the mall.  The loser (me) had to stay and watch the rest of the movie with Isaac.

In other news I learned another one of those life lessons this weekend. You see, I’ve been driving around since December without the insurance cards in the car. They arrived, honest your honor, but they just never made their way into the glove box. I didn’t even notice until the time came to renew registration. So when our new cards came last week I made it a point to get them in the cars fast. Friday morning Karen was taking Jonathan out so I gave Jonathan the card and said “Give this to Mommy when you get to the car.” That’s right ladies and gentlemen I trusted my three-year-old more than my wife. Guess what happened. Thirty seconds later I turn around to see Jonny holding a Spider-man action figure – and the card is gone. Disappeared! Vanished! It’s nowhere! After much searching we find that Jonny put it in Ben’s car seat next to Ben. At least he was responsible enough to pass the buck to someone else going in the car.

The state police can just come and arrest me now.

You already know where this is heading, don’t you?

24 05 2007

Uranus jokes never get old, do they?

I have boys.  Three boys.  My oldest boy, Isaac, is in Kindergarten.  A couple weeks ago they had “space week” so now Isaac is very interested in space.  It’s all he talks about aside from video games.  He loves talking about Venus, the hottest planet, where the surface temperature is around 800 degrees.  And since Isaac is interested in space, it follows that Jonathan has also become recently fascinated with the subject, and often we’ll find them looking at a space book, with Isaac reading out loud lots of facts and bits of knowledge about certain planets, stars, and galaxies.  These kids are brilliant I tell you.

The only problem when you have two young boys that are interested in space and planets is that sometimes they say things that are funny to their dork daddies.  Oh, the facts and information about Mars and Mercury aren’t too terribly entertaining, but when Isaac starts talking about Uranus I can’t help but smile.  I’ll readily admit that I’m an immature dork.  I can live with that.  But hearing your six year old tell you that Uranus is covered in a thick cloud of noxious gas is pretty darn funny.  The best part is he doesn’t get it.

Last week Isaac brought home a library book from school all about Uranus.  I just knew I’d get at least two blog posts from it.  The first came from our visit to the doctor on Friday afternoon, and out of nowhere Jonathan asked Isaac a question that he just had to  have answered right now.

“Isaac, does Uranus have gas?”

 The author of the book is also an immature dork.

Page titles include:
“Exploring Uranus”
“Large Moons”
“The Rings of Uranus”

My favorite quote from the book:
“Scientists discovered a layer of smog near the south pole of Uranus.”

I love being a dork.

My oven is evil

20 05 2007

I had this great idea for Mother’s day. I was watching Essence of Emeril a while ago and he made creme brulee. “Wow” I thought to myself. “That’s supposed to be one of the best desserts ever! I should surprise Karen!” and there was one picture in my head:

It’s French!

There aren’t a whole lot of movies that we can watch an infinite number of times and still be entertained, but Amelie is one of them. I like films with subtitles. You can have loud kids and still understand the dialogue. But wait. I was talking about food, wasn’t I?

The first mistake I made was trusting Emeril.  As with watching all cooking shows I thought “I can do that. That’s easy.” But I did’t have those straight sided souflee dishes that I needed. So I went and got some, but they were a bit bigger than he said to use. That was my second mistake, and I’ll explain why later. Oh well, I’ll just have to bake it a little longer, right? My third mistake was purchasing a vanilla bean from the grocery store. Where do you buy your ingredients? I got serious sticker shock paying $13 for two vanilla beans. I would later find out that the local Asian food store sells them for $3 each.

The day before Mother’s day comes I set to work while Karen was out, and everything was going just as planned (you don’t believe me do you?) until I put them in the oven. The recipe said to turn the pan after 15 minutes so everything cooks evenly. Fine, except they’re not done after 30 minutes, 35, 40, 45, 50 minutes. After an hour has elapsed they’re still not set. Not only that but the oven isn’t really hot any more. The oven was still saying “350” but it was nowhere near that. Apparently once it got up to temperature it never bothered switching on again. I’d hear it click on, then off again immediately. And every time I’d open it to check it or turn it the oven would lose more heat. My fourth mistake was trusting my oven. Here’s a picture of my desserts not baking:

Stupid oven

So there are my half-baked desserts sitting in the oven and I’ve got to open the door and let it cool all the way down so I can restart it. I’m now very worried about ruining my desserts (wouldn’t you be?) so I do the one thing I know will save them. I call Karen down from upstairs. I like surprising her, but I’m not willing to risk ruining a dessert made with a $6.50 vanilla bean.   In Trinidad they would adress the vanilla bean with respect due such an expensive ingredient as “Mr. Vanilla Bean.”

With Karen’s help I finish two off in the toaster oven and two in the newly reheated stupid oven.  I’m still skeptical when they come out, and for good reason.   Emeril is no longer my friend.  He showed me everything in great detail until he put them in the oven, then later in the show he showed me the finished product.  But he never showed what it’s supposed to look like when it comes out of the oven.  I’ve heard “Jiggle the pan to see if they’re set” but I’ve never seen it done.  Alton Brown made creme brulee on Good Eats and I’m sure he would never leave out such crucial information. I wish I’d recorded that show.

I had also bought this uselessly tiny blowtorch at Lowe’s the day before. Mistake #5:

Hi!! I’m useless!!!

I’m not really sure what it’s purpose is, but it’s certainly not to make things hot. It took about 5 minutes to caramelize the sugar on two desserts. Fun, huh?

does it always take this long?

Well, after all this drama the finished product turned out great. And it even cracked just like on Amelie.

wow, that was actually pretty cool

Remember when I said about the size of the souflees being a mistake?  Well, the recipe was supposed to make six servings but my dishes were so big it only made four.  The recipe called for two cups of heavy cream and a cup of milk, and also six egg yolks.  That’s right, with each serving you’re consuming half a cup of heavy cream and one and a half egg yolks.   That’s why it’s so good, people.

My final gift to Karen on Mother’s Day was the assurance that I’m hopeless in the kitchen without her. Thanks to Karen and no thanks to Emeril. The most important words on a cooking show are “You’ll know when it’s done when…...”

Stupid oven.

Arguments for $1 ticket prices

17 05 2007

Shrek the Third opens this weekend and that means lots of money for Katzenberg. It also means that we will be taking a Saturday afternoon sometime soon and seeing it. But it also brings to my mind a question. Has anyone else noticed the disturbing trend of Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks making identical movies? Here’s what I mean:

Insect Movies:

Dreamworks: Antz 1998
Pixar: A Bug’s Life 1998

Ants by PixarAntz by Dreamworks

This one started it for me. This was back when we were all enamored with the idea of computer animation, and it didn’t really matter whether the movies were any good or not. I remember thinking “Do we really need two ant movies in the same summer?”  Were we really supposed to tell these two apart?  A co-worker actually told me “No, I saw Antz, because in real life ants have six legs.” Engineers are so stupid. What kind of freakish logic is that? You’re not smarter than me just because you can count to six.

Fish Movies:

Pixar: Finding Nemo 2003
Dreamworks: Shark Tale 2004

fish by Pixarfish by Dreamworks

When Jonathan was born and Karen was still in the hospital I took Isaac to see Finding Nemo. Isaac was three. Can you say five bathroom breaks? Who makes a kid’s movie set in the water, anyway? This movie has the highest gross ticket sales of any Pixar movie, and it’s no wonder. You got kids, you’re only seeing half this movie at a time thanks to potty breaks. There were some scary moments in that movie, too.  There were scary sharks, scary jellyfish, a scary angler fish, but the part that scared Isaac the most was when Nemo’s daddy was yelling at him.  Reminded him too much of his own abusive father I suppose. Shark Tale sucked, although the scene of that shark coming out of the closet dressed like the Village People was pretty darn funny.

Movies about zoo animals who are accidentally sent back to the wild:

Dreamworks: Madagascar 2005
Disney: The Wild 2006

who really needs two movies like this, anyway?Hello?  Anybody seen this?  No? me neither

In this case Dreamworks and Disney released, in consecutive years, two bad movies with exactly the same plot, setting, and most of the same characters.   I’ll be honest, I never saw The Wild, and I only saw a tiny bit of Madagascar because it was boring. How can a movie with Chris Rock in it not be funny? Ask Dreamworks, they did it. Bad timing for Disney, though, because when The Wild was released everybody had already seen it the year before, when it was called Madagascar.

Rat Movies:

Dreamworks: Flushed Away 2006
Pixar: Ratatouille 2007

singing slugs are funny.  New law of comedy.A rat chef in a 4 star french restaurant.  Not much of a stretch, actually.

Two movies about a rat who likes living the high life. In Flushed Away, he was the high society pet rat in a wealthy house, and in Ratatouille he’s a master chef in Paris. Maybe he should’ve been voiced by Gordon Ramsay. I’m siding with Dreamworks on this one even though Ratatouille isn’t out yet and it looks very funny. Hey! A food movie! Maybe I can write a review! I wonder if I can claim the ticket price as a tax deduction. But Flushed Away wasn’t really done by Dreamworks, it was done by Aardman. I’ve been a Wallace & Gromit fan for a long time now and anything with Nick Park’s name on it wins in our house. And who doesn’t like singing slugs?

That isn’t rice, it’s maggots you’re eating!

Bird Movies:

Dreamworks: Chicken Run 2000
Disney: Valiant 2005

yes, these chickens are made out of claySquab!  Quick, suck their brains out!!

As stated before, anything from Nick Park wins in our house, and Chicken Run was his first full length movie. Since these movies take 2-3 years to write, direct, and produce this is perhaps the only set capable of being a true copycat in the list.  I never saw Valiant, but seriously, did anyone see Valiant? Anyone? Valiant it proof positive that Disney has lost their magic completely. My only consolation is that Disney lost $20 million on it.  Almost immediately following this flop Disney bought Pixar.

Monster Movies:

Pixar: Monsters, Inc. 2001
Dreamworks: Shrek 2001

monsters who aren’t scary trying to scare kidsan ogre trying to prove he’s really a nice guy

This one’s a bit of a stretch, I know, especially since I loved both movies. I can’t say anything really bad about these two except that the make-believe creatures weren’t made as scary or ugly as they could’ve been because they’re marketed towards kids. Is it me or are those monsters cute?  For those of you who’ve never read Shrek!, the book by William Steig, you must. It is hilarious and I guarantee you’ll love it. Shrek is far more repulsive in this book than he is in the movie. That being said, both these movies are winners in my opinion, and are actually fairly original stories, which is hard to find in one movie a year, let alone two. Shrek was pretty good but it was nothing compared to Shrek II. Dare we dream that Shrek the Third is better still?

Superhero Movies

Pixar: The Incredibles 2004
Disney: Sky High 2005 (Live Action)

these heroes kick ass…these don’t

This is perhaps the real surprise of the bunch because they’re both from Disney. Disney has long been known for beating lots of dead horses, and I won’t even get into movies like Cinderella II, Cinderella III, Pocahontas II, The Lion King II, The Fox & the Hound II, Little Mermaid II, Bambi II, Lady & the Tramp II, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Brother Bear II, The Return of Jafar, and all the other cheap-ass sequels that went straight to video. Did anyone actually pay money to see Sky High, when you knew it would be on the Disney Channel in a month or two?

Now that I think about it, maybe Sky High is more of a copy of the X-Men franchise. Either way, boo to Disney for producing some cheesy knockoff of a real movie. I must say I really liked The Incredibles, and for months Isaac ran around the house at top speed like Dash.

Is it me or has Fiona lost weight?

I’m not sure if I’m imagining things but it seems as though Fiona the ogre has hit the gym since we saw her three years ago.  You decide:

Fiona in Shrek 2Fiona in Shrek 3

I understand that ogre obesity is on the rise, but so are ogre eating disorders so I’m a bit surprised at the decision.  At this rate Fiona will be a size 2 ogre in a little ogre miniskirt and haltertop in Shrek 4.

Beans are neither musical nor fruit

14 05 2007

It started out as a simple search for a can of chicken noodle soup. I opened up our pantry and started moving around cans of beans, tomatoes, and broth looking for this elixir of life for Jonathan, who isn’t feeling well. He’s been puking every night after dinner. It started this weekend, and oddly enough, I cooked all weekend. So I’m looking for chicken soup but we don’t have any. What we do have, however, is beans.

beanspantry1.jpg beanspantry2.jpg

Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, baked beans, refried beans, black eyed peas, if you want beans we have beans. In all we had twenty-five cans of beans in our pantry and I thought to myself “Well, the boys can’t have soup tonight, but I can.” So I took two cans of black beans and made some black bean soup. My next problem came when I made the soup. Now I’ve made this soup before. You take two cans of black beans, a tomato, some cilantro, cumin, oregano, some hot peppers and some water, blend it all together and then heat it to a simmer.  Simple, and it always tastes great. But this time I had this really big deep green poblano pepper that I used, and holy cow if that soup didn’t look green when it was all said and done.


It didn’t come out in the picture, but trust me it was green.  With Karen’s help I tweaked it enough to save the flavor but the presentation would make Shrek proud. New rule: For the black bean soup use red peppers.

So the title is a little boring; Karen told me I couldn’t use the word “fart.”

Attack of the zombie Iron Chef judges

10 05 2007

I would like to dedicate this post to my good friend Daddyforever, who has nominated me for the inaugural Thinking Booger Award, which is celebrating blogs that make you think of boogers. The other distinguished recipient even designed a graphic:


On with the nasty:

There are certain shows I watch to get ideas for ruining dinner my menu for next week. Iron Chef is not one of them. Iron Chef is the show that I sit back and watch, in reverence and awe, chefs who know what they’re doing. It was my friend Mario Batali against challenger Chris Cosentino in Battle Garlic. Chef Cosentino started things off by butchering a sqab. What is a squab? I’m glad you asked, and I am here to enlighten you with my superior knowledge. I’ll put it in SAT terms. Veal is to lamb as squab is to…pigeon.

He took the head and the legs (feet still attached) and fried them in olive oil before then roasting them in the oven. For plating he put a roasted clove of garlic in the talon of the squab (I thought that was cool) and split the heads in half. When presenting to the judges he instructed them to grasp the squab by the back of the head and suck the brains out.

Pause. Let that sink in. NO! Wait! I said pause. Let that sink in.

He actually said the words “suck the brains out.” Twice. Ted Allen did a double take and asked for clarification but no, he heard it right the first time. All three judges did as instructed and Ted Allen even mentioned how the brains had a “wonderful flavor.”

Now I am a small town boy. I didn’t grow up in the big city or in the country, so I’ve never even thought about eating brains. I was never privy to fine dining, nor did I ever eat roadkill. Call me a Philistine if you want to, I will accept the label. I suppose I’m not a true “foodie,” although I like to pretend to be one. But there are certain things I just won’t eat. One is rabbit kidneys & livers, and another is pigeon brains.

Chef Cosentino is very proud of his performance in Iron Chef (even though Mario won) and is even offering his entire Iron Chef menu at his restaurant. Personally I think he was robbed. The judges gave him almost no points for plating and that squab dish alone would’ve given him a perfect score in my book. Even if I think that eating brains is gross, the presentation was genius. And you could tell he really enjoyed the shock value of his dish on the judges, and apparently, America. Bravo, Chef!

Venom likes BBQ chicken and baked beans.

8 05 2007

Isaac likes Spider-man. The only thing cooler than Spider-man is Venom. I agree. Perhaps Isaac has watched that cartoon (NO, he didn’t see the movie) too much because this past weekend he decided to bench press like Eddie Brock:

My son wants to be Venom

Yes that’s a gardening shovel. He got his rep count up pretty high, but the scouts didn’t see it so I don’t think he’ll be drafted on the first day. Check his time in the 40, though.

Summer is coming and that means I’ll be posting about BBQ a lot. During the winter Karen cooks on the weekends, making lots of leftovers for us to eat during the week. I usually cook one or two nights a week, but when it’s warm outside I get to play with fire. Reminds me of something Tim Allen once said:

“Me man, cook outside, use fire. You woman, cook inside, use magic.”

Karen was in the mood for Jerk chicken so she suggested BBQ this past weekend.

Jerk Chicken

I thought it was a great idea, but I really wanted steak. Man food. She picked up a 20oz sirloin at the butcher shop and I was very happy. I’d found this recipe from Bobby Flay and I was itching to try it out. The title of the episode was “Brazilian grilling” but I’m not sure what’s so Brazilian about garlic, olive oil, and parsley. You cook a steak on the grill and while it’s resting you drizzle this mixture of those three ingredients over it. Sounded good and I wanted to try it.

Steak yummy

Remember that thing Tim Allen said about magic? That’s how I feel about gas grilling. Ugh. I’ve used charcoal for years and then last year someone gave us a gas grill. I’m very thankful and happy for the convenience, but I just don’t get it. Charcoal is easy. It’s fire. You know exactly what you’re getting.  Cooking outside on a grill with dials and controls just seems wrong. Why not just haul the stove outside and cook on that instead? Although I did see a gas grill at Lowe’s last week that I wouldn’t mind having. It had a griddle built into the cooking surface. How cool is that? You can cook the bacon while your cheeseburger is cooking, side by side. Maybe I’m the only one who gets excited about a bacon cheeseburger.

Anyway, like I said, I just don’t get gas grills. Yet. I suppose I’ll get used to them after a while. Steaks are easy to get right. You put them on the grill, leave the cover open, and cook it as little as possible. Chicken, however, is more complicated. I’ve heard all this about how you could die from eating raw chicken, and I gotta tell you I believe every word. But as I’m getting to know my new friend the gas grill I’ve been doing some secondary work with my old friend the microwave afterwards. I did, however, manage to char the outside beyond recognition:


Actually Karen had disposed of the worst one before I could take a picture. Dad would be so proud.  Isaac and Jonathan cleaned their plates without much prodding though.

Of padlocks and soundproof rooms

6 05 2007

Ben sleeping in his crib

Take a look at our only good sleeper.

It just isn’t fair, is it? In Ben’s short one year life so far, he has already spent more complete nights in his bed than Isaac or Jonathan. Combined.

I will give these two credit. They’ve been doing a stellar job lately of staying in their own beds, or if they wake up, going to sleep together instead of to Mommy and Daddy’s bed. But these things go in cycles, and the past couple of nights Jonathan has been coming to our bed in the middle of the night. So what, not a big deal, right?

Let me clue you in to what goes on when Jonathan comes to my bed. I say my bed because they never come to Mommy’s side of the bed. They learned a long time ago that Mommy doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night, so they come to Daddy’s side of the bed. The thing is, these kids “sleep like a clock” as my grandmother-in-law would say, which is to say they flail their arms and legs and end up with their heads at the foot of the bed and their feet on the pillow. Oh, and Jonathan just might decide to play with your hair or your ear with, say, 15 minutes left before the alarm clock. And don’t think “Why don’t you get a king size bed?” Because these two stick so close to us (and by “us” I mean Karen) that we (and by “we” I mean Karen) have to go to the other side of the bed just to keep from falling off.

Jonathan is also a screamer, so I decided long ago that when he comes to our bed, he gets it, and I go to his. I’m not in the mood for battles like this at 2:30 in the morning.

So sometimes Jonathan comes to bed and that’s the end of it, but sometimes Isaac follows shortly after. I usually don’t care about this development because I’m already sleeping in the bed vacated by Jonathan. Actually several times Isaac has come to sleep with me after I switch to Jonathan’s bed, thinking that Jonathan is still there. Good boy.

Are you following all this? Better go get some coffee before we proceed.

That’s a lot of backstory, isn’t it? Well I said all of that to say this. Last night something new happened. Jonathan came to our bed at around 3:00 or whatever, and so I made my home in the top bunk in the boys’ room. I woke up this morning (Sunday) to find Karen in the bed formerly occupied by Isaac. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, family, friends-and-relations, these two miscreants chased both my wife and I from the sanctuary of our nice big comfortable bed. I gotta tell you, it takes a lot to get Karen out of that bed in the middle of the night. Stuff like heart attacks and strokes do it, but not much else. These two have done something powerful, and I’m not about to tell them just how much power they now wield.

In the past we’ve given rewards for a week of staying in their beds all night or something, perhaps we’ll return to that before they start thinking about this too deeply.

How ever did Benjamin happen, anyway?