Haven’t we been here before?

30 01 2012

Yes, we have.  The last time the Giants and Patriots played in the Super Bowl the Patriots were HUGE favorites, and the Giants won in the final minute, just like I said they would.  Don’t believe me?  Click here. (Shameless plug)

Blogging is fun; I should do it more often.  Picking a team this year was as easy as ever; go Giants.  (To New England fans: This is all meant in good fun; please disregard any statements I may make saying that the Patriots are evil and are coached by Satan.)  Since New York is my team I’m picking a New York dish, and if it turns out well then the Giants win.  Got it?

There are many dishes that are claimed to have been invented in New York.  But for my Super Bowl prediction I need a dish I’ve never made before.  I did a great deal of research in this area (I looked on Wikipedia), and there it was.  Steak Diane.  I’d heard of Steak Diane from (of all people) Gordon Ramsay on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Usually made table side, this dish has a sauce that includes brandy cooked flambé-style.  Beef filet plus the chance to burn the house down equals blog gold, people. I may be out of practice but you don’t forget the basics.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

GAME PREPARATION: The Giants bring in a suprise guest for the pep talk.

Now, I know Emeril isn’t from New York.  He’s from New Orleans, but so is Eli Manning, so give me a break.  Emeril’s recipe from Delmonico looked very good, and it’s on the Food Network’s website, so you can go look at it by clicking here.

SUPER BOWL WEEK: Media day stinks, but in a good way.

I took the time to read the whole recipe before I began (I know!), so I noticed it called for some veal stock.  Karen was making beef vegetable soup this weekend anyway, so she also used Emeril’s recipe from the same page to make the stock.  The first step is always my favorite: roasting the beef bones.

If nothing else, this step makes your house smell AWESOME.

GAME TIME!  Nothing interesting happens in the first half.

This could also mean “The Patriots go up by three.”  Since we all want them to lose, this is drudgery.  The next steps are pretty boring, right?  Yada yada yada, trim the meat, slice into steaks, yada yada.

I know what you’re thinking, “Skip to the fire!”  I’m going as fast as I can, but I must include pictures for every step, it’s the law.

HALF TIME! A surprise guest makes an appearance at the half time show.  It’s actually great, but it runs longer than planned.

Who’s the half time performer this year?  Madonna?  I’m predicting that someone good shows up and upstages her.  Why, you ask?  Because while we were prepping everything for dinner a very dear friend of ours showed up for the Super Bowl party.  A week early.  I have the best friends ever.  The house was a nightmare, truly horrific, but they came in and we had a ball while we finished the prep work.  I also had time to dice up some red potatoes, toss them with some herbs and olive oil, and throw them in the oven.

THIRD QUARTER: Finally, the Giants offense starts scoring points.

Sear the meat on both sides in butter.  Chill out, this was dinner for four and I used a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of cream.  This is health food.  Anyway, the steaks are doing nicely.

THIRD QUARTER: New York scores points in bunches.

Maybe a touchdown followed by a kickoff-fumble?  Sounds good to me.  I added the mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  I’m starting to get very happy right now, but still apprehensive about what is to come.

FOURTH QUARTER: With a lead, the Giants’ defense puts the pressure on Tom Brady, but it doesn’t work.

I knew the pan wasn’t hot enough.  I tried increasing the heat a little early, but the steaks were just right, the mushrooms were just right, and it was time to burn the house down.  I took all the necessary precautions.  I moved the pan to the kitchen table, away from the microwave above the range and the flammable wallpaper behind the stove (remember the burgers?).  I then added the brandy…

And lit the fire.

Not exactly the WHOOOM I was looking for.  I had Karen taking pictures for me, in case I needed to get the fire extinguisher (and for evidence to send to Allstate).  I try mixing things together and I’m able to manage this:

FOURTH QUARTER: The Giants pressure Brady again and it works.

Interception for a touchdown?  In the Super Bowl?  Tom Brady?  I can only dream.

Here’s what happened: The alcohol all burned off (or so I thought) so I put the pan back on the heat.

THAT, people, is flambé.  Apparently there’s a good deal of alcohol in brandy.  I’m screaming “TAKE A PICTURE!” and Karen is screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”  So we have a bit of an action photo sequence.



You’re welcome.

FINAL TWO MINUTES: The Giants’ defense puts the game away.

After all that, I added the steaks back in to baste and finish cooking just a bit.

Served with herb roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli (I know, it’s boring, shut up), dinner was a smash hit.  Jonathan asked for seconds and then thirds, ensuring a big win for the G-Men.

FINAL MINUTE: The refs blow a big call, for the Giants.  But the game’s outcome isn’t affected.

Here’s the problem.  The final step just before serving is to add some chopped parsley to the sauce.  I bought the parsley, I washed the parsley, I chopped the parsley.  I even put it in a nice blue bowl for ease of use when adding it to the pan.  I just forgot.

Would it have been nice? Yes.  Oh well.  Dinner was great.  I predict that the largest margin of victory inflicted by the Patriots this year will be visited on them.  Final score Giants 55 Patriots 20.

Perhaps a little humility…

8 03 2009

It’s a very bad thing to upset karma.  Sometimes karma waits and pays you back after you think you’ve gotten away with something.  And sometimes you run out of the church after stealing from the collection plate and get hit by a bus.  I’m not sure how I got on the wrong side of karma. Maybe it was me claiming the ability to affect the outcome of Super Bowls (even if I was right).  I’m not sure.  But to whomever I offended, I’m sorry.  

“What is he going on and on about?”  Let me tell you.  Pull up a chair and enjoy the show.

The Death of the Cockroach

Karen’s car, the cockroach, the 14 year old Olds Cutlass, had been overheating.  I made an appointment with the mechanic and we took it in to be checked out last Wednesday.  I got a call midday telling me the repairs would cost $650.  This exceeds the value of the car, so we made a tough decision to say goodbye to the old girl.  I started shopping online for a car for Karen.  In the meantime Karen drove the van to work.

The next day – Thursday – I got a call from Karen after work.  “The van won’t go.  It goes – kind of – forward, but it won’t reverse at all.”  Yes, that’s right, after 150,000 miles of abuse the transmission in the van failed the day after we decide to replace the Olds.  So Karen bums a ride from somebody at work to the mechanic’s to drive the overheating Olds home.  I told her to get a ride to work the next day.  She drives the Olds to work anyway.

The next day  – Friday – I get a call from Karen on her way home.  “I’m on the interstate and the car is really overheating.  I can’t make it home.”  She drives back to work (stopping often to let it cool down) and leaves the car there while I find an angel of a friend to go pick her up and bring her home because – remember – I DON’T HAVE A CAR EITHER!!!!!!  No, I’m stranded at home with four kids while my wife maneuvers the interstate in a car that is minutes away from exploding into flames.

Saturday I get out of bed and I’m ready to go car shopping.  Except one thing.  You kind of need a car to go car shopping.  I call around and get my next door neighbor to drive me to pick up a rental car for a week.  I go car shopping.  I find a van.  I buy the van.  Everyone at the dealer enjoys my story.  But it’s an hour away from home and I’m in a mid-sized rental car that seats four.  Luckily the dealer offers free delivery so they promise to bring it to my house Monday morning.

Cars are evil.

For Christmas buy me Nintendo stock.

31 08 2008

I’ve wanted to do a video game review for ages.  We like video games in our house.  Even Karen likes some games that aren’t marketed towards women.  She likes the Legend of Zelda games and she’s pretty excited about starting Oblivion.  Way cool, I say.  

There are very few games I purchase without reading a review first.  Trust me, it’s worth waiting a week after the game comes out to read a hands-on review of the game.  But sometimes it’s okay to break this rule.  For instance, you’re usually safe buying any of the Nintendo franchises because they’re all great games.  That’s why they’ve become so popular.  The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy are two examples for the Wii alone.  But we recently realized that Nintendo is no longer trustworthy.  

I’ve been wary of Pokemon since the boys got interested in it this spring.  The whole thing sounded like a big money pit to me.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  There are Pokemon cards, action figures, video games, books, tv shows, movies, and now we own them all.  Released in 2007 are the video games Pokemon: Diamond, and Pokemon: Pearl for the DS and Pokemon Battle Revolution for the Wii.   We should have known better.

The Nintendo Wii communicates to the handheld DS via WiFi.  In Pokemon Battle Revolution you can battle your friends or family on the Wii with the little Pokemon dudes you’ve been collecting in your Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl games for the DS.  But here’s the catch.  That’s all this game does.  Battle with little fighters you’ve already got.  There’s no adventure, no story, nothing to unlock or collect.  You just battle.  But you can already do that with the DS games, so why do you need to spend another 50 bucks just so you can see the battle on your TV?  

We actually bought the Wii game before we had any of the DS games, so we were more than a little disappointed we couldn’t play it out of the box.  So, take 50 bucks for a Wii game and add 35 bucks each for two DS games and you’ve got a $120 investment in Pokemon.  You wanna know why I let them play so many video games this summer?  When you spend that much on video games you feel an obligation to use it or you’ve wasted all that money.

END NOTE:  I complain mercilessly about how dull and uninteresting Pokemon is.  But it has (for the moment) replaced Zelda as the video game that the kids play with Karen.  As parents we often look for things to do with our kids that everyone will enjoy, and right now Karen has found that thing.  It’s that thing they wake up talking about and go to bed dreaming about.  They will always remember this as the summer they played Pokemon with Mom.  And if that makes her the coolest mom in the whole second grade, good for her.

Why it took me over a year to paint the stairs

7 08 2008

I’m big on excuses.  I’ve got lots of excuses for why nothing gets done around the house.  But Karen has employed a brilliant strategy.  She’s been playing along with this whole “house hunting” idea, and because of this many of these projects have been completed.  

So, what’s my excuse been this time?  I hate heights.  Let me clarify.  I hate ladders.  My first summer job was with a roofing contractor, so as long as there is something solid under my feet I am fine.  But ladders bounce.  They move when you climb them.  I hate them.  And I could paint that whole stairwell with my paint roller on a stick, but there was only one way to paint that window.  And that was to put up a ladder over the stairs.  Note that I had to lean out over the stairs to get to part of the window.

Just so you know, that blue painters’ tape is very difficult to remove after a year.  But the window did get painted, and I put up the new blinds as well.

This is exactly how those blinds are going to look forever.  I’m too short to reach those strings, so they’ll never get opened or closed.

Boycott the doughboy

4 11 2007

biscuit, butter & honey goodness

The biggest shock I received while working in the dairy section at Wal-Mart was just how little cooking we do as Americans. From TV dinners to frozen pizza, so much of what we eat is prepared for us. And no item brought that home to me as much as those Pillsbury biscuits.

I can understand why the crescent rolls are big sellers. I’ve looked up how to make them. They’re time consuming and difficult to prepare. But biscuits are supposed to be a staple of southern cooking, aren’t they? Don’t they come together so fast that your oven may not even have time to preheat? Well those things flew off the shelf. There’s even a local restaurant owner that stops by Wal-Mart and buys them out twice a week. Appalled, I decided to make some myself thinking that if I, a northeastern boy, can make biscuits, then anyone can.

And wouldn’t you know it, Alton made biscuits on Friday’s Good Eats rerun. So I got to see a master biscuit maker in action: Alton’s grandmother. And on Alton’s online recipe for biscuits she even comments that the recipe on the back of the bag of White Lily flour is hard to beat. I live in rural Pennsylvania so I can’t get White Lily flour. So I got this:

Biscuit flour in PA

Gold Medal has their own recipe for biscuits on the back of their bag. Nicole from Pinch my Salt actually posted the recipe on the back of White Lily’s bag. She also did her homework and listed the protein content for all types of flours. That way I knew I wasn’t too far off with this flour. Way cool. (Go vote for her as the best food blog.) So should I use Alton’s recipe, White Lily’s or Gold Medal’s? Well since I’ve got Gold Medal flour I used their recipe.

See, it says “better for biscuits.”  That’s why it costs so much.

Except I didn’t. I watched Good Eats and Alton said to replace some of the shortening with butter and it will taste better. I am fearless in the face of substitutions!

Looking around at the different recipes out there I must say that the one on the back of Gold Medal self-rising flour has twice the fat as all the others. I mean, EIGHT tablespoons of shortening? Really? I tried to use less, but it wouldn’t crumble the way the bag said it would. Oh, and another thing. Grocery stores here in Podunk don’t have all this low fat or fat free buttermilk. No, these biscuits were made with WHOLE buttermilk. Schedule my bypass for next Tuesday please.  (UPDATE: Karen tells me that the local Wal-Mart sells low fat buttermilk, but I really haven’t been in there since I picked up my last paycheck.)

I apparently used a very large biscuit cutter because I only got eight biscuits out. That’s what, one tablespoon of fat per hockey puck, right? They may not have been much to look at,

ugly and ready for the oven

but they browned up kind of nice. And with all that shortening in there my biscuits definitely had flaky layers. They didn’t all rise the same, though, because I made them in my 12 year old toaster oven.

golden brown delicious and full of fat

Okay, so here’s the point. These weren’t a home run, but they were a hit. Even the kids ate them. If a self-proclaimed wannabe in the kitchen can do this well on his first try then anyone can do this. These turned out good and I’ll definitely do it again. Next time I’ll try a recipe with less fat.

See you at the gym.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Halloween tax

1 11 2007

Who loves Halloween the most?  Is it the kids, the parents, the candy makers?  Personally I think it’s the dentists.  Just look at last night’s takings for my two trick or treaters:

baaaad for them gooood for me

Do you really think they should be eating all that candy?  Not me.  It’s bad for their teeth, it’s bad for their health, it’s bad for anything breakable in the house.  That’s why we have the Halloween tax at our house.  The Halloween tax is taken from the loot while the kids are at school or sleeping (or otherwise engaged during the day).  The first things to go are peanut butter cups, and Mom and Dad race to see who can claim them first.  Then we calmly pick through the remains to see what else catches our fancy.  I say “we.”  It’s mostly me.

So yes, I graze on my kids’ Halloween takings.  I suppose that makes me evil.  Dr. Evil to you.

Making myself useful

23 09 2007

We bought our washing machine six years ago. You’d think they would last longer than that. But apparently not. Our motor died a spectacular death last week, making the downstairs lights flicker rapidly every time it tried to start spinning. I was given two options on the phone by the repair guy. Spend $250 to fix the motor or probably $350 to replace the whole thing. Fixing the machine wasn’t really worth it. But then I started looking online, and I found a motor on ebay for $160. I started thinking. I could save us two hundred bucks, or I could end up costing us an extra hundred sixty. Karen resignedly gave her support, so I ordered the part. It happened to be in state, so UPS ground got it here the next day.

First thing, I had to go get a new tool just so I could take out the old motor:

Oh no! I’ve got to buy something!

While I’m at Lowe’s, I really should get a new tool box.

I need somewhere to put it…

Even with this new tool, it was a real pain getting the old one out and the new one in. About a half hour each way.

Please, never break again.

I also had to drill a hole so I could mount the new startup capacitor:

I made all those electrical connections, too!

Karen was shocked and relieved to see that it worked. I was pleasantly surprised as well. They changed the design of the motor, so hopefully this one will last until the kids graduate college. Now, if I could only fix that toilet paper holder…

I lost the other piece…

Mark ruins August

6 09 2007

Benchmarks are always good. It’s good to know “Ick, I ruined dinner, but it wasn’t as bad as last week’s Jerk chicken.” or “This pizza isn’t very good but it’s not the shape of Wisconsin.” Our family (and by that I mean Mark) has a new benchmark for success, or more specifically, failure.

In life we all make mistakes. We all make bad decisions, errors in judgment. And in these mistakes there are varying degrees of disaster associated with them. And in our house we now know that there are bad ideas, horrible ideas, and then there’s Wal-Mart.

Do I ever have any good ideas?

It seemed like a good idea at the time. If I’m still home to watch the boys during the day I can work two or three nights a week third shift, right? Right? Perhaps not. Had I been working just weekends I still would have failed, but it certainly didn’t help that I was on four nights a week – in a row. By the morning following night #4, the boys were on their own, playing video games all day in their pajamas and eating candy for lunch. And it would take three days off for me to start feeling normal again. Well, as normal as I can be.

I’d been working nights for two weeks when I gave my notice. I told them I’d work the existing schedule and then be done. Problem was, there was three weeks of schedule already done, and two of them were jammed together – four days on, one day off, four days on. Ugh.

It’s amazing just how neurotic you become with sleep deprivation. Do you know how confusing it is to start your shift on Monday and finish it Tuesday? Halfway through the night today turns into yesterday and tomorrow turns into today. And somewhere along the line (I’m not sure the exact time) tonight turns into this morning. People start talking about “tonight” and they really mean “tomorrow.” Then I get to go home and sleep all day watch the kids. Is it any wonder that my love affair with coffee became an addiction? After working those eight nights during a nine day period I actually said to the boys “If you don’t eat your dinner tonight I’m selling the Wii on ebay!”

I once had a college professor who told me “You can’t fail if you never try.” This is something you never want to hear from a college professor. He was trying to make me feel better, knowing that at least I’d had the courage to pluck up and do something stupid. And I suppose it’s true. Adding something to the list of my stupid ideas is better than sitting around wondering what would’ve happened if I’d tried this or that. And boy, I set my sights really high on this one, didn’t I?

Oh, and a guy made a pass at me while working the cheese wall at 2:00am on a Saturday night. Or was it a Sunday morning?

I never miss an opportunity to do something wrong

26 07 2007

Timing is everything. Take the previous owners of our house, for instance. They split (and left town) shortly before just about everything in this house self-destructed. Here’s the range that came with the house:

stupid oven

We’ve been having intermittent problems with this range since we moved in three years ago, but with the cost involved we’ve been putting it off. Recently it we’ve had to re-categorize our oven from “temperamental” to “broken” since it will preheat then shut off.

Now I’m not sure when this range was built, but the manual was printed in 1991. It started giving us problems in 2004. That’s thirteen years, folks. We’ve had ranges in our first two apartments that were older than me and they still worked fine. I’m not sure what you’re paying for when you buy Jenn-Air, but it’s certainly not durability.

Pop quiz:  Given the picture above, which of these two replacements would you purchase?

drop-in range slide in range

Me too. Guess what. I was wrong.  What I ordered was a drop-in range that is apparently built into the cabinets, and you have to build a box to put it on.  What I needed was a slide-in range that stands up on its own.  That’s pretty evident from the pictures, right?  Yeah well Jenn-Air has to go make things difficult for me.  Apparently I had a slide-in range with no drawer because of the downdraft fan.  So after 3 weeks of backorder the delivery guys rip open the box and I say “That doesn’t have legs.”  Oops.  Here’s my new range:

i wonder what I can ruin with this…

Oh yeah, and apparently my kitchen floor is not level.  It was very interesting to level my oven on that floor.

Goodbye, cruel world!

19 07 2007

I’m disappearing for a few days, going offline.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s spoilers. Spoilers are evil.  A radio station morning show spoiled The Sixth Sense for me years ago and I’ve never forgiven them.

So I will talk to you all after I have finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Did I say I’m going offline? No computer, no television, no radio, no newspaper, no NOTHING until I’m done reading that book. I won’t even be answering my phone. Don’t call and leave a message, the machine is turned off.  In fact I’m not even going to the store to get it. Amazon is delivering it tomorrow. Crazy, you say? You bet. The only place I’m guaranteed to be safe is at church on Sunday.

But I won’t be able to just sit and read after it arrives. You see, today is Isaac’s birthday. He turns lucky 7 and tomorrow is his pirate birthday party, AAAARRRRRGGG! We’ll be having a whopping 5 friends over so there should be at least 1 pound of candy for each of them in the pinata. Do they sell pirate toothbrushes?

In honor of this auspicious occasion I’m posting a slide show of some of the sillier pictures we’ve taken of Isaac. He can’t have thought I’d keep them to myself. Happy birthday dude, you totally rock!

And yes, I tagged this post “Harry Potter” as a cheap way to increase my hit count. I’m a shameless sellout.  Syndication here I come!