Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bulgur Isn't Vulgar: Try Tabbouleh

I developed an infatuation with whole grains a few months ago when I was chasing down a brotchen recipe. Lately I've been flirting with bulgur, which is kind of like saying I've had my hand on Phylis Diller's thigh.

Today I'll share the recipe that has spawned my love for bulgur.


(My "unphotogenic" tabbouleh)

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tabbouleh Ingredients:

  • 2 cups presoaked bulgur
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped roma tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


  1. Whisk lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and peper together ina bowl. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until blended.

  2. Add bulgur, parsley, mint, and wlanuts. Toss to coat with vinaigrette. Garnish with feta cheese.

  3. Enjoy.

This isn't exactly something this child of The Great Plains grew up eating, so I was a bit nervous. I wasn't sure about using the mint in the recipe, but I took the plunge with the knowledge that at least I would have some mint leftover for mojitos. I enjoyed this recipe, and it will be a staple at The Greasy Skillet when the flip-flop season arrives.

Do you have any recipes that utilize bulgur?

take care,


Monday, February 23, 2009

O Flip-Flops Where Art Thou?

Today I'm taking a brief hiatus from blogging about food, so I can focus my attention on tonight's Kansas-Oklahoma basketball game. Tonight will be a rare 2-3 hour span when we aren't thinking about food at The Greasy Skillet.

Lately I've been gazing longingly at my flip-flops and counting down the days until I can slip them on my feet. It's a cruel month for such thoughts. February fuels a pessimistic funk, and I doubt if I'll ever wear my beloved flip-flops again.

As a teacher, I've always found February the most difficult month to endure. Last week I almost filled out a work order to pad the walls of my windowless classroom. Plan B involved filling out a purchase requisition for a straight jacket.

With such thoughts rattling around in my head,I decided to take proactive approach and seek out a ray of sunshine to buoy my sinking spirits, so last week I left my classroom and headed toward the school shop, where one of my students was building a mandolin.

This fall I learned of his plans to build a mandolin for a woodworking project, and since I'm a casual bluegrass fan and I like being around creative folk, I've tracked his progress the last few months.

He's artfully shaped the frame of his mandolin.

He's shaped the body out of nice piece of cherry.

And as you can see, his vision is starting to take form.
I find this whole process inspiring. He'll be making music with this mandolin by the time spring rolls around, and I'll be able to dance around in my flip-flops.

I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with students who have the power to pull me out of my funk.

I'll keep you posted on the mandolin's process.

Keep on the sunny side,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pink Magnolia

I know it's been a long week, and even though you want to snuggle into a cocoon this Friday evening, I'd like you to do the following:
  1. Buy some good cheeses. I suggest three, a soft, semisoft, and hard cheese. Then pair up the cheese with some good crackers and salami.

  2. Call some friends - you know, the ones who always boost your spirits. Invite them over after work tonight.

  3. Prepare a nice cocktail. I suggest The Greasy Skillet's current favorite cocktail, a Pink Magnolia. This cocktail is a fresh, crisp drink that's perfect for renewing spirits

Tonight's about you reconnecting with what's important and reestablishing your own rhythm going into the weekend. I know you can muster enough energy to do this. If you can't do it for yourself, do it for others.

Pink Magnolia
(Adapted from the book Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food)


  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part apple juice
  • 1 part cranberry juice
  • wedges of lime and frozen raspberries for garnish.


  1. Mix all liquid ingredients.
  2. Pour and garnish with lime wedge and raspberries
  3. Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nietzche's Milkshake

Over the past few weeks, I've been spotlighting songs that mention Kansas. Thus far we've looked at:

Today we'll continue this series by looking at "Kansas" by Fred Eaglesmith.
It's always Kansas
It's where I always break down
That's where my work tumbles to the ground

It's always Kansas
That's where I fall apart
That's where my broken heart catches up with the news.

It's always Kansas
It's always Kansas
It's always Kansas that makes me think of you.
Since the song is a bit of a downer, it doesn't get a lot of play on my Ipod. In the song, the reality of a failed relationships creeps up on the narrator as he drives across Kansas. Some would argue that Western Kansas is no place for the broken hearted. The sparseness and expansiveness of the Great Plains can make it a lonely place.

I find the Great Plains the perfect place to sift through the ashes of a failed relationship. It's great place to ponder the reality of shortcomings, regrets, and good intentions gone bad. Despite the flatness of the landscape, it's good country for staring into what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche referred to as the abyss. He once said, "And if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." However, what a lot of people don't realize is that the true meaning of the quotation was lost when it was translated into English. In German, the quotations is "And if you gaze into the abyss, you should have a milkshake in hand."

Of course, this isn't entirely true, but the image of Friedrich Nietzsche slurping the dregs of a milkshake through a straw tickles me so much that I wanted to play with that image a little bit. Milkshakes might not numb the pain of a broken heart, but they're a tasty reminder that even during the turmoil of a failed relationship there's always something left to enjoy in this life.

This milkshake recipe was inspired by a trip to Miyauchi's Snack Bar located in Grand Lake, Colorado.

While this recipe isn't technically a milkshake, it's a suitable proxy. The recipe works best with a tart lemonade. Each time I taste it I'm inspired to make a Key Lime Pie Milkshake, but I'll leave that endeavor for another day.

Lemonade Cooler
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup of tart lemonade
  1. Simply place ingredients in a blender and blend until the mixture the consistency of a milkshake.
  2. Serve in a glass with a straw.
NOTE: The Lemonade Cooler is best enjoyed while lounging on a porch or dock.

May all your shakes be thick,

P.S. . . . Next week, we'll take a look at "True Dreams of Wichita" by Soul Coughing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Saga of Little Miss Picky Eater, the Chocolate Stash, and a Parallel Universe

My daughter has a stash of chocolate that's accessible to her 24/7, but she rations it with the sensibility of someone who lived through the Great Depression. Surprisingly this stash isn't touched unless she asks us first. I marvel at her will power. If I had a chocolate stash, it would be reduced to wrappers strewn about the house. In every nook and cranny there would be spangles of foil, serving as miniature monuments to my gluttony.
However, my daughter rations her candy, and each night after dinner she carefully selects just one of her Hershey miniature candy bars, delicately unwraps it, and savors each nibble of what she refers to as dessert. She milks 16 ounces of enjoyment out of these little 3/8 ounce bars.

(This page from Mo Willem's book Knuffle Bunny Too mirrors dinner at our household.)

Last week we banned our daughter from desserts. We resorted to this drastic measure after Little Miss Pickyeater refused to eat her omelet for supper. After polishing off her fried potatoes, she informed us that she was too full to eat the omelet, but that she probably had room in her dessert pocket for a little chocolate. Since my wife and I like our logic to be grounded in science, we scoffed at her claim and delivered an ultimatum, which eventually led to a ban of desserts and dips into the chocolate stash for an entire week.

During her week of probation, I'm sure my daughter wished she had different parents who indulged her every whim. I'm sure she wished she had a father who would always choose to don a black robe and play Harry Potter with her rather than one who tells her, "Not now. I need to blog." It's only natural. I thought of this frequently while reading Neil Gaimen's book Coraline.

In the book Coraline encounters a passageway that leads to a parallel universe where she encounters other parents who appear perfect and who focus their collective attention solely on Coraline. These ideal or other parents even bring their "A-game" to the dinner table:

They sat at the kitchen table, and Coraline's other mother brought them lunch. A huge, golden-brown roasted chicken, fried potatoes, tiny green peas. Coraline shoveled the food into her mouth. It tasted wonderful.

It was the best chicken that Coraline had ever eaten. Her mother sometimes made chicken, but it was always out of packets or frozen, and was very dry, and it never tasted of anything. When Coraline's father cooked chicken he bought real chicken, but he did strange things to it, like stewing it in wine, or stuffing it with prunes, or baking it in pastry, and Coraline would always refuse to touch it on principle.

I'm sure my daughter will relate to Coraline. I'm sure my daughter would love a other father who served conventional childhood meals consisting of Kraft Mac & Cheese and hot dogs, but better or for worse, she's stuck with me, a father who blogs, prepares strange dishes like jalapeno-lime sorbet, and occasionally transforms into Mr. Crankypants.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Choctaw Bingo

Choctaw Bingo by James McMurtry

Strap them kids in
Give 'em a little bit of vodka in a cherry coke We're going to Oklahoma to the family reunion for the first time in years It's up at uncle Slayton's cause he's getting on in years You know he no longer travels but he's still pretty spry He's not much on talking and he's just too mean to die And they'll be comin' down from Kansas and from west Arkansas It'll be one great big old party like you never saw

With the opening line of James McMurtry's "Choctaw Bingo" the listener knows he/she isn't dealing with the Cleaver family. Giving kids a vodka and Coke to calm them down for a road trip isn't a tip you'll find in any parenting book.
"Choctaw Bingo" is a 8-plus-minute rambling romp that tells the story of a dysfunctional family gathering for a reunion. This is clan that likes its sex, guns, fireworks, violence, alcohol, and illicit drugs, so it's no wonder the chorus of the song is "We're gonna have us a time." When they gather something's bound to happen that will upset the natural balance of things.

All family trees contain mutant strains where normalcy morphs into deviance. I have days where I feel like I might be that gnarled branch of the family tree. I've embraced the dysfunctional, and in many ways it's much more interesting than hanging with the Cleavers. Isn't life all about making the dysfunctional functional?

Anyway, the song tickles me, and in the middle of song, they introduce a couple of characters from the Great State of Kansas:

Ruth Ann and Lynn come down from Baxter Springs
That's one hell raisin' town way up in Southeastern Kansas
Got a biker bar next to the lingerie store
That's got them Rolling Stones lips up there where everyone can see 'em
And they burn all night you know they burn all night you know they burn all night

I've never been to Baxter Springs, KS, but I'm sure there's no lingerie store downtown. Kansans, after all, are more flannel and cotton than lace and silk. As far as Baxter Springs being a hell raisin' town, McMurtry might be right. Baxter Springs was one of our first cattle towns, and I've heard nefarious stories about that part of the state. Here's one story that has been substantiated:

Anyway, let's get to the recipe. Let's mix a drink.

For the record, Mr. Crankypants felt this drink was too tame for such a raucous song, so if you agree just leave out the juice and drink your whiskey straight.

Mountain Sipper

  • 1 Part Whiskey (or 2 parts if you're going to the family reunion)
  • 1 Part Triple Sec
  • 1 Part Cranberry Juice
  • 2 Parts Grapefruit Juice

  1. Mix all the ingredients.
  2. Enjoy
have yourself a time,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

We Have a Winner!!!

The last few weeks I've been struggling to reclaim my mojo. I'm in a funk. Part of my funk can be attributed to the fact that I've given up my planning period to teach an additional class, so I have no time to recharge. My motor is constantly running. I'm running on empty, and this coupled with the fact that I'm an introvert who needs time by myself has resulted to more appearances by Mr. Crankypants. It takes all my energy to keep him at bay, so my writing and creativity has suffered.

I'm not one to sit back and accept my fate. I've decided to be proactive. I've decided to follow Jack London's advice and to not wait for inspiration. I'm going after it with a club. To inject some enthusiasm into my blog, I decided to host my first giveaway contest at The Greasy Skillet. Tonight I'm announcing the winner.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should note that I personally know three of the individuals who are eligible for this drawing. They are:

Jane: She cared for our daughter for a year. Since I could never repay her for the quality time she spent with my daughter, I should probably rig the drawing for her to win.

Steve: He's married to one of my wife's college friends. I've only met him twice - once at a Nebraska football game, and he, his wife, and their two flatulent Great Danes visited our home once. Steve posted an outstanding post to the question, "What do you love most about your hometown?" You can read it here.

Rechelle: She writes a quirky blog called The Country Doctor's Wife, and she's a rock star - a regular Leather Tuscadero - in the blogging world.

I met her once at a bon fire, and despite her rock star status, she didn't wear leather. However, she had some great words of advice for this beginning blogger. For the record, she didn't play by the rules for the giveaway because she never responded to my prompt in her comment. Despite a profanity-laced protest by Mr. Crankypants, I've deemed her eligible for this drawing.

Here's the moment you've been waiting for: I placed the names in The Greasy Skillet prize hopper.

I gave it a good spin.

I turned it upside down and pulled out the following name:



Rebel's a regular reader of The Greasy Skillet, and she writes a great blog called Hillbilly Woman. I regularly read her blog for inspiration because she does a great job of capturing the lore and history of the Ozarks. I hope to use this inspiration to document the history of Lawrence, KS.

Anyway, Rebel wins a Josh Ritter album or she can choose a cookbook from my basement stash. She has the following choices:

How to Bake by Nick Malgieri
Jack's Skillet: Plain Talk and Some Recipes from a Guy in the Kitchen by Jack Butler
Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers by Peter Reinhart

Rebel, email me your address and prize choice, and I'll ship it out. My email is mtrendel@excite.com.

thanks for playing,

Monday, February 2, 2009

Portobello Parmesan Sandwich

Yesterday I promised you a recipe to accompany the Josh Ritter song "Lawrence, KS." Today I deliver on that promise with a recipe from one of my favorite restaurant's in Lawrence. Because I love to cook and I'm a frugal fella, I don't like to eat out a lot. However, when I do eat out, I'm picky about where I dine. One of my favorite places to eat is Free State Brewery located in Lawrence's historic downtown. There's a lot to love about Free State Brewery. I first fell head over heels for their impressive roster of beers, but I soon realized the restaurant menu consisted of items that perfectly complemented those beers. One of my favorite menu items is the portobello Parmesan sandwich. Normally, I prefer a big hunk of meat with my meals, but this hearty sandwich will satisfy even the most die hard carnivores.

(My portobello Parmesan sandwich with a glass of oatmeal stout lurking in the background)

If you feel compelled to make this lovely sandwich, you can find the recipe here at Lawrence.com. I purchased all of the ingredients to make the sandwich and had every intention of preparing it, but I haven't been very motivated to try anything new in the kitchen.

There's still time to enter your name for my first giveaway. Just visit this post, leave a comment, and you'll be eligible to win your choice of a Josh Ritter CD or a cookbook from my basement bookshelf. As I write this, I've only had three people register, so you're odds are good.

take care,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunflower Songs + Bonus Giveaway: Lawrence, Kansas by Josh Ritter

Today's post is part 2 of a series I'm doing on songs about Kansas and an accompanying recipe. Today's post is special because I post my first link to YouTube, and I'm having my first official giveaway.
Lawrence, KS (Can't Leave This World Behind)

Dirt roads and dryland farming might be the death of me
But I can't leave this world behind
Debts are not like prison where there's hope of getting free
And I can't leave this world behind

I've been from here to Lawrence, Kansas
Trying to leave my state of mind
Trying to leave this awful sadness
But I can't leave this world behind

***Josh Ritter

My favorite singer-songwriter at this moment is Josh Ritter, a literate down-to-earth soul who is passionate about his craft. His passion is contagious. I challenge you to go to one of his shows and not go away inspired. I own all of his albums, and while I love all of his songs, I have to say his song "Lawrence, Kansas" is my favorite because today I call Lawrence home and I relate to the song's narrator. In the song, the narrator sings about escaping, leaving his life behind, and finding greener pastures. For him, Lawrence, KS. represents greener pastures; however, he just can't shake his former life. There are some things you just can't leave behind; some things are always in the rearview mirror.

I relate to the song because Lawrence represented greener pastures for me.

I grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 folks. While it's fashionable to make disparaging comments about growing up in a small town, you won't catch me doing it here at The Greasy Skillet. Growing up in a small town, I was blessed to have family, friends, teachers, and an entire community that wanted the best for me, and on most days they gave me the best they had to offer. I'll always be grateful for my hometown, but I'm also grateful for Lawrence -home to the University of Kansas and only a 30 minute drive from my childhood home.

(Downtown Lawrence)

Like a lot of people who grow up in small town, there were times when I felt out of place. I was a hyper-sensitive soul who craved literature, poetry, and the bohemian spirit. I occasionally needed a break from my hometown. Surrounded by people who listened AC/DC and talked incessantly about sports, hunting, and muscle cars made a guy like myself feel awfully alone at times. I needed Lawrence. In high school I'd visit Lawrence about once a month, and I'd spend the day hanging out in book stores, record stores, and coffee shops.

(Love Garden Records)

I would catch some live music at one of Lawrence's numerous music venues.

I know there are other great towns and cities out there, and many might be a better place to live than Lawrence, but this town will always be special to me and a place I'll always call home.

In the future I plan on talking about more than food here at The Greasy Skillet, and one of my goals is to document what I love about Lawrence, KS.

What do you love about your town? Share your answer to this question in a comment, and your name will be placed in a drawing to win one of Josh Ritter's albums or you can choose a cookbook from my basement bookshelf (I'll give you your choices later). The deadline for submissions will be Tuesday at midnight. Early Wednesday evening I will announce a winner.

Now you're probably wondering: Where is the recipe to go with the song? I'll share that tomorrow.

take care,


P.S. For more Josh Ritter music, visit the following sites:


Ritter on Mountain Stage
: Full, live-in-concert set from Josh and the band's performance in August 2008, streaming on NPR's website.

Hilary Hahn and Josh Ritter - An Uncommon Duo: Full concert stream + bonus features from NPR's Morning Edition.

Josh Ritter in Concert (9:30 Club): The full concert from The 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. - with interview - streaming at NPR's All Songs Considered. Josh sings "Lawrence, KS." about 1 hour and 18 minutes into this show. Check it out.

Josh Ritter in Concert (XPN Fridays): Full concert performance from Josh and the band's performance for NPR's "XPN Live Fridays" at The World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.