guinness mac

May 22, 2013 Comments Off on guinness mac


“You know what I don’t understand?” O said over dinner tonight.  “I don’t understand how the Bearenstain Bears could have named their son ‘Brother.'”

“I know,” said C, “what a stupid name.”

“No,” O shot back, “I mean, they didn’t know they were going to have Sister yet.  So why didn’t they just name him ‘Son?'”

I had a confession to make.  “I hated those books.  It’s the same freaking story in all of them–something new happens, the father bear screws it up, and everything gets solved by the mother bear and the kids.  I found them personally offensive.”

“That’s funny,” said C.  “The reason we loved them was that it was the same story every time–something new happens, the father bear screws it up, and everything gets solved by the mother bear and the kids.  We found them pretty accurate.”

“No dessert for you.”

Actually, he’ll get dessert.  His ITBS test scores came back today, and as usual, I want to make sure he uses his enormous mind powers for the forces of good, not evil.

That up there is definitely a force of good.  Guinness Mac, from (believe it or not), this month’s Cooking Light.  Not their lightest recipe, but one of their best in recent memory.  I had my first Guinness in college, and it was a revelation.  After years (sorry, Mom) of drinking cheap swill, my photography class went out and our instructor ordered us a round.  I had never tasted anything like it, and I was hooked.  My beer-drinking days have largely been replaced by a lower-carb glass of red wine per night (OK, usually two), but Guinness has 125 calories per can and only 10g of carbs–less on both counts than an equal amount of Budweiser.  So if beer is on the menu, this is a win/win situation.

The children have, to the best of my knowledge, still not had their first Guinness.  So this seemed like a bit of culinary education for them.  The recipe calls for turkey sausage, fried up with some onion, and then floured and doused with a cup of the black, foamy awesomesauce.  4 ounces of cheese, throw in the pasta, and bake at 450° for ten minutes.  Did I use Graziano Brothers instead of turkey sausage?  I did.

And, not surprisingly with all that good stuff in it, the result was pretty tasty.  “Kind of beery,” said C, “but good.”  He says we can add it to the pantheon.

So, let’s see…a 16 oz. bottle of Guinness, minus an 8 oz. cup for the mac, leaves 8 more ounces for Dad.  Oh, and what do you know…I accidentally bought two bottles, just in case one dropped out of the shopping bag….




jokes, veggie burgers

May 21, 2013 Comments Off on jokes, veggie burgers

IMG_6134“What did one wall say to the other wall?”  C is assigned to keep me up to date on the latest middle school jokes.  I have a feeling that the ones about anatomically unusual gentlemen from Nantucket are self-censored.

“No idea.  Go on.”

“Meet you at the corner!”

Ugh.  “OK, ok, what did the piece of paper say to the pen?”

Cringe.  “You’re write!

“C, these are even more terrible than usual.”

“Wait, wait, wait…one more…what did the refrigerator say to the mustard and ketchup?”

“No idea.  I don’t even want to guess.”

NOTHING–kitchen appliances can’t talk!”

OK, ok, you got me.  Just like the one about ducks on two legs.  The kiddos are back, the weather has been that nice combination of sunny and stormy, and they’re starting to relax as the school year winds down.  It’s the best time of the year, if you discount the occasionally damp basement.

And I have what passes for an academic summer underway.  Teaching one class, which feels enough like a vacation.  So there are grilling plans afoot.  Ribs.  Chicken.  Brats.

Burgers should be on that list, but there’s a problem here.  C loves hamburgers, but what he really loves about them isn’t the burger, of course.  It’s the ketchup.  And O doesn’t like beef.  So there’s a split-the-difference approach here that involves veggie burgers.  Like everyone else on the planet, we think the store bought veggie burgers taste like, well, store bought veggie burgers.  We’ve done a couple of different black bean-based versions, and they’re fine.  But when Bon Appetit runs one?  We’ll try it.  For sure.

This month’s version mixes black beans with cooked rice instead of bread crumbs, and it uses a ton of spices, some pickled jalapeños, and an egg white to give it flavor and to approximate a burger-like consistency.  Throw those onto some freshly made and toasted brioche and you get not quite a hamburger, but (with enough tomato and onion on top) a reasonably good sandwich.  And if you throw the Alice Waters potatoes on the plate next to them (best recipe in the world–boil some new potatoes, then dry them, throw them into half a cup of hot olive oil and fry them for fifteen minutes.  Add salt) and you have two virtually guaranteed clean plates.

O had a chorus concert last night, so we did the dishes and scrambled.  And they got fro-yo for dessert, partly because after seeing the news from Oklahoma yesterday every parent in the world felt like indulging their kids a bit, and partly because I never got around to turning those fresh strawberries into ice cream.  That will happen today, though.


The best part of burger night?  If you happen to over bake?  And there are leftover brioche buns?  Breakfast.

something old, something new…

April 28, 2013 Comments Off on something old, something new…

IMG_6067The oven’s been out of commission for three weeks–but, as you can see from that nicely spotted specimen there, not anymore.  A new set of control relays and the thing fired up nicely.  The dishwasher, on the other hand?  After unloading dishes that needed another round in the sink for the 100th time, L looked at me and said, for the 99th time, “this dishwasher is bullish*t.”  Twelve years ago, I’d gone for the mid-range Maytag instead of the high-end Bosch, and I’ve regretted that off and on ever since.  Every appliance has had something go wrong, but the dishwasher?  The repair guy was about to buy a boat and name it after me.

So, while picking up some planting stuff at the local Home Appliance Store, I meandered over to the dishwasher section.  Bosch still makes beautiful stuff.  L pointed out that their office has a Bosch.  And that she’s seen people throw plates in that have been sitting under a quarter inch of slowly crusting food for a week or more.  And the plates come out…clean.  Amazing.  Did Lowe’s have a special sale event for Lowe’s card holders?  Lowe’s did.  Did I happen to have my card with me?  Well, whaddya know.


It’s clearly what I should have done the first time.  Sleeker, quieter, less obtrusive.  The Maytag announced its presence at every turn, gurgling to point out that it was rinsing, vibrating wildly to let me know that it was agitating.  It was literally impossible to hear the radio in the kitchen when it was running (and by literally, I mean…literally).

This one is, frankly, so quiet that it’s a bit surreal.  I’m kind of worried that I’m going to absent-mindedly open it up in the middle of a rinse cycle, but I’m not complaining.  Because stuff comes out of it looking like this:


bang a gong

April 28, 2013 Comments Off on bang a gong


OK, the phone doesn’t do such a great job in a middle school chorus concert, but behind that gong, there, is C, whose mad percussion skills earned him the right to wail on that sucker–a whole four times!–at this week’s recital.  And he got credit in the program:  Master of the Gong.  Total surprise…he managed to not tell me at all.

“You did awesome!”  I told him afterwards. 

“What are you talking about?” he said, “playing the gong is super easy.  You just can’t hit it right in the middle.”

“Playing the gong is harder than it looks, I’m sure,” I told him.  “You really, really, really have to not hit it when you’re not supposed to.”

“That’s true,” he said.  “And you do have to make sure you hit it hard enough.”

“You did that,” O told him.  She had a guest spot with the high school freshman chorus.  “I heard a baby crying after you hit it.”

“I made a baby cry?” C said.

“You made a baby cry,” she told him.  I suppose that’s an occupational hazard if you’re a gongist.

rhetorical question

April 9, 2013 Comments Off on rhetorical question

C:  “You know what I hate?”

O:  “People who answer rhetorical questions?”

C:  [head explodes, hijinks ensue]

fast break birthday party

April 7, 2013 Comments Off on fast break birthday party


Jeepers.  That’s a 13-year old spud.  I am the father of two teenagers.

C mentioned several times that he didn’t want/need a birthday party this year.  Thirteen years old, yadda yadda, birthday parties are for little kids, blah blah blah.  I had asked him a good eight times already, but earlier this week I mentioned it again, just to make sure, and in addition to his denials he said something about me and K being really busy, and how he understood.

Wait a minute.  Back that up, I told him.  “It’s no big deal,” he said.

C is one of those people who absorbs a lot of chaos around him.  He wants things to go smoothly–doesn’t want to rock the boat, willing to be flexible if it means other people get their way and are happy (like, oh, I don’t know, maybe his sister?).  So I know he’s taken a lot on board these last couple of years.  I know where he gets this from. Usually I’ve been the first to give him a quiet high five when he compromises, and I’ve tried to see to it that he gets something out of it.  But this one kind of broke my heart.

“Dude,” I said.  “I should never be too busy to get a birthday party organized.  If you want to have one, let’s have one.”

“Hm.”  He thought for what I’m sure he figured was a reasonable amount of time.  OK, he said, it would be kind of fun.  But no big deal–just a few friends over to play the latest zombie role playing card game.  Presents?  Yeah, sure, he said.  But nothing out of control.  Cake?  Ice cream?  Well, if it isn’t too much trouble….

“IT IS NOT TOO MUCH TROUBLE,” I told him.  Make some invitations!  Ask some people!  We’ll do it Sunday.

IMG_5976And so we did.  Having never made a cake before, I tried out a sponge cake yesterday.  My oven has been on the fritz, though, so I had to use the warming oven, which doesn’t fit a full cake pan.  So I tried a loaf pan.  Know what?  A sponge cake cooks through very slowly.  To the point where the liquid middle can’t support the weight of the heavy crust on top of it if it’s 3″ thick.  Ka-boom.  No pictures of this one.  (O tried to console me as we munched our way through the wreckage.  “It’s another tastes great, looks awful Dad baking experiment,” she said.  “Of course it tastes great,” I told her.  “It’s eggs, sugar, flour, and butter.”)  So I did some more research, and finally figured that a pound cake was the closest thing we were going to get to birthday cake.  Foolproof, not un-yummy, especially with a toupee of chocolate frosting.  Homemade frosting, you have to ask?  Yep.  And this was a revelation.  Why anyone buys frosting is beyond me–heat up some cream, pour it on bittersweet chips, add some vanilla and a little corn syrup, and stuff it in the fridge.  Appallingly delicious.

The ice cream was the by-now-standard 2:1 cream to whole milk ratio, with half a cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of corn syrup, vanilla, and bittersweet chocolate added right at the end of the mixing cycle.  Simple but I haven’t yet made a batch of this magic formula that didn’t come out with a perfect texture.  And to drink?  Um, guess who forgot to buy soda.  But guess who had three lemons?  Simple syrup, lemon juice, done.

Five guests, five clean plates.  And so many Yu-Gi-Oh cards that the house may not support their weight.  “Let me know what I need to do,” I told C as guests pulled up.  “Um, Dad?  You should just hang out in the kitchen.”  Point taken.  And there was a happy, constant stream of dishes to do anyway.  The grandparents came up to take him and his sister out for dinner, leaving me time to finish cleaning and go for a glorious spring run, which (I hope) burned off the significant taste testing that’s gone on the last two days.

Happy birthday, kid.

skittles challenge

April 4, 2013 Comments Off on skittles challenge

News from Middle School.

C reports that the latest thing among the newly teened is to take a one-pound bag of Skittles and eat them, one by one, with no breaks, until they’re gone.  This is called the “Skittles Challenge,” though I sort of doubt it’s officially sanctioned.

C’s friend N tried it at lunch.  And?  “He did it,” C said.  And?

“Oh, he totally puked.”