Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hardcore Bloggers: Lewis and Clark

We visited the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center this morning.

We saw a replica of the keel boat used to travel up the Missouri River.

We toured an earthen hut. I fantasized about spending hibernating the winter in this abode.

The kitchen was sparse.

We hiked down to the river bluff, where we admired

the Mighty Mo.
take care,

The Lodge

We're still settling in here, but so far we're enjoying our stay at the lodge. I won't share a lot of writing this weekend, but we'll share the following pictures of the lodge:

Now we're off to learn more about Lewis and Clark.

take care,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Road Trip: Nebraska City

This afternoon The Greasy Skillet hits the road for a journey to Nebraska City. We'll be staying at the Lied Lodge and we're looking forward to the following:

  1. Visiting the Arbor Day Farm and climbing their 50 foot treehouse.
  2. Sampling a variety of heirloom apples at the farm. I'm especially eager to try the Wolf River Apple. These apples are so big that one can make an entire pie.
  3. Visiting the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center. We're big fans of these pre-internet bloggers.
  4. Sample a shredded beef sandwich at Dinty Moore's Lunch Room in Nebraska City.
  5. Keeping everyone posted of our adventures. I'll take plenty of pictures, and I hope to share multiple posts on Saturday.
when you come to a fork in the road, take it

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sriracha Kettle Corn

Last week after watching the CBS Sunday Morning profile on Wayne Thiebaud, I felt much better about the insane amount of time I've been spending with popcorn. Early in Mr. Thiebaud's career, he tried to get away from painting cakes, pies, and other sugary confections. He tried to paint different subjects, but he "couldn't leave it alone." I'm the same way with popcorn, so I'm going to continue with this, even if people start whispering behind my back.

Last week I threw my staff of taste testers a curve ball by making Sriracha Kettle Corn. A few days before the taste testing, I prepared them for the experience by bringing in some Sriracha sauce for them sample. For many it was their first time trying Sriracha, and that night few of my taste testers tracked down the sauce to buy. We might have a cult of Sriracha sprouting in Kansas.

Overall the taste testers liked this popcorn, and I think it surprised them. I'm not sold on this recipe. I think there might be others ways to meld savory and sweet or the sweet and heat. I'll keep plugging away.

Sriracha Kettle Corn
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Sriracha (Depending on your taste or mood, you can more or less Sriracha.)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat.

  2. Stir the Sriracha into the sugar. Once the oil is hot, stir in the sugar and popcorn.

  3. Cover, and shake the pot constantly to keep the sugar from burning.

  4. Once the popping has slowed to once every 2 to 3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and continue to shake for a few minutes until the popping has stopped.

  5. Pour into a large bowl, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps.

My taste testers have been brainstorming potential popcorn flavors. Many of them want to see a Dr. Pepper-flavored popcorn. For the heck of it, we might just head in this direction.

at least I'm not Peanut Butter Boy (not that there's anything wrong with that),

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Butter Cream on Canvas

My daughter has been discussing art with us lately. She's been rambling on about some guy named Leonardo da Vinci and his painting Mona Lisa. Yesterday when I picked her up, we took time to browse some of the art reproductions hanging in the classroom.

When I pointed out Van Gogh's Starry Night and told her that it was one of my favorites, she placed her hands on her hips and said, "Well, let me show you my favorite!" Then we walked over to view the following print on the wall:

With a sweet-tooth smile, she told me the painting was titled Cakes. I immediately understood why my dessert-loving and chocolate-stashing daughter liked the painting, and I was thrilled that she had a favorite painting. At five I didn't have a favorite painting, and I certainly didn't know diddle about any artists.

At home that evening, I researched the painter, a man by the name of Wayne Thiebaud (pronounced T-Bow). Critics say his paintings look like "butter cream on canvas" and that "You don't just want to look at his paintings; you want to lick them." I would love to take my daughter to see one of his paintings.

In the research I found, Mr. Thiebaud seemed like one of the most humble and well-adjusted artists ever. The man doesn't take him too seriously, and I like his following observation: "If we don't have a sense of humor, we lack a sense of perspective."

I hope my daughter always keeps this in mind.

The following is a feature from CBS's Sunday Morning. I think you'll find it inspiring:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guns, Ammo, and Popcorn

My pantry looks like I'm a popcorn-loving survivalist who's preparing for the apocalypse. Right now I have seven types of popcorn on the shelf, and I'm considering adding more to my stash. Why stop with yellow popcorn? This isn't the only sign of my obsession. Recently someone asked my wife if I intended to continue blogging solely about popcorn. I guess, this popcorn business has gone too far.

I could deviate from this current obsession, but I won't. Instead I'm going to keep plugging away at my obsessions. I'm quite aware it's a bit odd, but I'm all obsessions, whether it's 25 pound bags of flour, popcorn, reading, and college football. Obsess is what I do best.

It's even flowed over into my professional life. I've enlisted one of classes to serve as my official taste testers. They relish the job and devour anything I bring in, and I've benefited from their feedback. We've even worked this gig into the curriculum by trying to use words to capture the tastes, smells, and textures that go along with the world of popcorn.

Monday I brought in three varieties of popcorn for the students to evaluate. While the taste of all three were similar, here are some differences we discovered:

Schlaegel's Homegrown Popcorn - $1.50 for 32 ounces

I really pulled for this local popcorn grown in Whiting, Kansas, a community slightly north east of Topeka. However, this popcorn didn't stack up well to our other two competitors. Schlaegel's produced a crispier corn with smaller kernels, but it crumbled easily, leaving a large number of bits and pieces at the bottom of the bowl. We decided that we liked snacking on this corn, but it shouldn't be used for any caramel popcorn recipes because we wanted a kernel that held together.

Jiffy Pop - $1.50 for 32 ounces
Orville Redenbacher- 4.50 for 30 ounces

Both of these brands use popcorn grown Iowa, and since I feel a deep kinship with Iowans, I don't have a problem purchasing these products. Both produced a fluffy, quality popcorn, but with Mr. Redenbacher corn costing 3 dollars more, we'll be reaching for the Jiffy Pop.

Aside from the taste test results, I learned that I'm officially old. When tasting the popcorn, I used a term to refer to the unpopped kernels, and my students looked at me puzzled. The term was foreign to them. Guess what it was?

keep on poppin'

PS. . . Friday we sample a Sriracha-flavored popcorn.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What Would Thoreau Do?

I talk a good game, but I don't always walk the talk. For example, in the kitchen I express a disdain for gadgets and gizmos. Why clutter up the kitchen with new gadgets when I probably already have a tool in the kitchen that will do the job? I mean, why buy a garlic mincer when a sharp chef's knife will get the job done?

Blah. . . Blah. . . Blah. . .

This is the talk, but to be honest I'm drawn to kitchen gadgets.

Exhibit A:

This weekend my daughter and I saw the following product advertised:

By the end of the commercial, we were both wide-eyed and eager to order this amazing product that would make our lives better. However, Mr. Crankypants talked me out of such rashness. It's a piece of junk, eventual clutter, and garage sale fodder. What's wrong with you? You and five-year-old picky eater got snared by the gimmickery of this product. That should tell you something right there!

Exhibit B:

Two weeks ago I was at the home of the man who is known by some as The Oracle. I mentioned my plan to experiment with different popcorn flavors. The Oracle's wife told me that I needed a Whirley Pop. Then she pulled out the Whirley Pop, and insisted that I take it home and give it a whirl.

I've been using the Whirley Pop, and now I'm convinced that I need one in my kitchen.

Are you a sucker for gadgets? What's your favorite? What's your most useless gizmo?

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fear and Loafing

I apologize for the hiatus. I've been engaged in general idleness, which goes against my usual approach to life. To break this habit, I decided to just post something, even if it's incomplete and insignificant. I have to start somewhere.

Here are a few excerpts from a cookbook I found on my bookshelf. I wanted to create a post around these images and titles, but my creativity is in a rut.

What would you post?
Dressin' sharp, but feelin' dull,