Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ex-Girlfriend Salsa

A box in my basement holds artifacts from failed relationships. You won't find love notes, pictures, or gifts from former girlfriends, but you will find books and cassettes, all possessions I borrowed from old flames. Someday I expect to find a former girlfriend at my doorstep demanding her Less Than Zero movie soundtrack and copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Such worries parade through my mind on a regular basis. It's tough being muddywaters.

Anyway, today I want to talk about ex-girlfriends and recipes. Until I met my wife, I never had a girlfriend who was skilled in the kitchen, so sadly I don't possess any recipes from ex-girlfriends. However, I know that there are individuals out there who've acquired recipes from exes.

Exhibit A:

Today's salsa recipe is from a coworker who got it from his ex-girlfriend.

At The Greasy Skillet, we like to make fresh salsa in the summer. We eat a lot of pico de gallo, mango salsa, and black bean and corn salad. If we buy a canned salsa from the grocery store, we prefer Senor Stan's, a product of Lawrence, KS.
Since I hate spending $3.00 for a jar of salsa when I can produce a similar product for half the price, I use my coworker's ex-girlfriend's sala recipe.

Ex-Girlfriend Salsa


  • 1 can of regular Ro-Tel
  • 1 can of Mexican Ro-Tel(It contains lime juice and cilantro)
  1. Simply place the ingredients in a blender, pulse 10-12 times, and you're ready to serve.
  2. If you want to doctor the recipe to your taste, feel free to add the following: salt, sugar, cilantro, onions, or peppers.
Do you have any recipes from a former boyfriend or girlfriend in your cooking repertoire?

Clean out those closets,

PS. . . In the exhaustive research I did for this post, I found a book titled The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook: They Came, They Cooked, They Left (But We ended Up with Some Great Recipes).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Songs from the Sunflower State: "True Dreams of Wichita" by Soul Coughing

Over the past few weeks, I've been spotlighting songs that mention Kansas and a recipe to complement each song. Thus far we've looked at:

"40-Hour Week" by Alabama
"Lawrence, KS." by Josh Ritter
"Choctaw Bingo" by Jame McMurtry
"Kansas" by Fred Eaglesmith.

Today we conclude this feature by examine Soul Coughing's "True Dreams of Wichita".
I'm not good at parties. Being around a crowd always makes me a bit uneasy. I'd much rather stay at home with family and friends. The social pressure of a party makes me feel awkward, and to cope with this I usually drink too much, which compounds the problem. I've learned that party hosts don't like it when a drunken guest rifles through the refrigerator, nor do people appreciate guests speculating that Laverne and Shirley may have been lesbians. I met no harm.

For various reasons, I'm not also not very adept at small talk. For one, I struggle to focus when engaged at a conversation at a party. I always get the feeling that there's a more interesting conversation within earshot of the one I'm currently involved in, so I strain to catch snippets of the talk occurring around me, which make me lose my train of thought. Of course, the dullness of my conversation probably can be attributed to me.

Also, music at a party always compounds the problem. For most people, music is mere background noise, but for me it's always in the foreground. I gravitate towards music and lose interest in conversation.

Several years ago at a party , the song "True Dreams of Wichita" by Soul Coughing demanded my attention at a party: Here's a taste:

I've seen the rains of the real world come forward on the plain
I've seen the Kansas of your sweet little myth
You've never seen it, no.
I'm half sick on the drinks you mixed

Through your
True dreams
Of Wichita

Brooklyn like a sea in the asphalt stalks
Push out dead air from a parking garage
Where you stand with the keys and your cool hat of silence

Where you grip her love like a driver's license
I've seen you fire up the gas in the engine valves
I've seen your hand turn saintly on the radio dial

I've seen the airwaves pull your eyes towards heaven
Outside Topeka in the phone lines her good teeth smile was winding down
Engine sputters ghosts out of gasoline fumes

They say You had it, but you sold it
You didn't want it, no.
I'm half drunk on babble you transmit

Through your
True dreams
Of Wichita

I don't know what the heck the song means, but the Ginsbergian lyrics and deep-booming bass line always make me feel much hipper than I really am. Plus the fact that it mentions Kansas has earned it a place on my Ipod.

When I think of Wichita, I think of pizza. I know this doesn't make any sense to most people, but for this Kansas boy who received a healthy of dose of Kansas history during his formative school years, Wichita is the birthplace of Pizza Hut, a fact I was very proud of one I was younger.

However, today I have no use for Pizza Hut or any other pizza chain. In fact, it's been three years since I've last had a pizza delivered to The Greasy Skillet headquarters. When we crave pizza we make it ourselves using the following pizza dough:

Pizza Dough

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm (100-110) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Proof the yeast by adding the yeast, water, and sugar to a mixing bowl. Whisk together and allow it to rest for 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes foamy.
  2. Add flour, salt, and olive oil.
  3. With your mixer, use the dough hook to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. You might need to add a little flour, so that the dough comes together into a ball.
  4. In a warm place, proof the dough for 45-60 minutes, until it doubles in size.
  5. Use the dough for your pizza or freeze it for a later use.
I'm not going to share a recipe on how to make a pizza; after all, you know how to do that, but here are my five tips to help you surpass Pizza Hut.
  1. Use a baking stone, so you can get a crisp crust.
  2. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and bake your pizza at a this high temperature.
  3. Build your pizza on a piece of parchment paper, so that you can easily slide it on and off baking peel or inverted cookie sheet.
  4. Experiment with toppings and use quality ingredients.
  5. I like to prep all the toppings and set them out on the counter, so guests can make their own pizzas.
  6. Always have some dough in the freezer.
  7. Have fun!
Five Favorite Toppings at The Greasy Skillet
  1. My wife enjoys a sausage and sauerkraut pizza.
  2. I like to poach a chicken breast and thinly slice it. Then I place it on a pizza with some fresh spinach, red onions, feta cheese, and mozzarella.
  3. I also like spreading some pesto in place of a red sauce, and then I sprinkle it with a little mozzarella cheese.
  4. Chopping and placing fresh garlic on a pizza really kicks it up a notch. We also occasionally place just a little cream cheese on a pizza.
  5. Little Miss Picky Eater likes the following small pizza with no sauce and lots of cheese:

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

take care,

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Greasy Five: My Cradle of Inspiration

Near my side of the bed there's a basket that my wife and daughter call my rat's nest. They frequently tell me to organize it. They think it's merely full of junk, but they don't realize that to me it's a cradle of inspiration. Without my rat's nest, I'd wander aimlessly in a black and white world and blog about Wonder Bread, Velveeta, and condensed soup.

In this edition of The Greasy Five, I thought I'd reveal the contents of my bedside rat's nest.

Now allow me to highlight five of those items:

1. A Map:

There is always a map near my bedside, so I can chart new culinary journeys.

2. Copies of the Oxford American, a magazine that bills itself as "writing and art from or about the South."
This helps fuel my dreams of being a Southerner. Where else can I read an ode to chicken-fried steak, and view a picture of the Texas landscape?

3. A book of poetry and a dictionary: Here at The Greasy Skillet we value words, and we don't discriminate. We like big words, small words, words that make up the the various vernaculars of America, and even make-believe words (Who doesn't love the word muggle?)

Currently B. H. Fairchild's book of poems titled The Art of the Lathe is in the rat's nest. Fairchild graduated from the University of Kansas in 1968, and I like his poetry because he often writes about the hard working folks of the Great Plains and "small things done well". Fairchild's father worked as a lathe machinist in various oil towns in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and much of the poetry captures those experience in those towns. Here's a taste from the poem "Body and Soul":

Half-numb, guzzling bourbon and Coke from coffee mugs,
our fathers fall in love with their own stories, nuzzling
the facts but mauling the truth, and my friend's father begins
to lay out with the slow ease of a blues ballad a story
about sandlot baseball in Commerce, Oklahoma decades ago.
These were men's teams, grown men, some in their thirties
and forties who worked together in zinc mines or on oil rigs,
sweat and khaki and long beers after work, steel guitar music
whanging in their ears, little white rent houses to return to
where their wives complained about money and broken Kenmores
and then said the hell with it and sang Body and Soul
in the bathtub and later that evening with the kids asleep
lay in bed stroking their husband's wrist tattoo and smoking
Chesterfields from a fresh pack until everything was O.K.
Well, you get the idea. Life goes on, the next day is Sunday,
another ball game, and the other team shows up one man short.

The poem goes on to tell the story of a young Mickey Mantle emerging to compete in this sandlot baseball game. It's worth reading.

4. A notebook:
Sixty percent of my blogging starts in these little notebooks I have spread about the house. I know it makes more sense to compose at the keyboard, but I usually write better when I'm able to scribble things by hand. My ideas and writing starts roughly, but through hard work I'm able to overcome my shortcomings and occasionally produce something I'm proud to post. The above notebook page contains scribblings about Margarita Boy, and the beginning of a story about a time he upset his wife. I chose not to post this story because his wife might feel like I'm rubbing her nose in his past transgressions.

5. A handheld game of Tetris:

Since thinking about food 24/7 might be a sign of mental illness, I try to engage in activities that free me from my culinary shackles. I sometimes play 5-10 minutes of Tetris before bed to clear my head. I achieve a Zen-like trance and purge myself of greasy thoughts. However, food reemerges in my dreams. Last night I dreamed I had a conversation with someone about the virtues of roasting pears. I've never roasted a pear. I'm not well.

In my rat's nest, I have another mini rat's next tucked away in this folder. Another day I'll reveal its contents.

What's in your rat's nest?

Tie down the lawn furniture. It's windy out there.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Corn Puddin'

Last week I visited the school shop to document the progress of the mandolin (More on that later), and a student asked me to take a picture of his project. At first glance, I thought it was a weapon of mass destruction, and I felt compelled to give Dick Cheney a call.

I then realized this monstrosity was a BBQ smoker, and I began to visualize plumes of smoke working magic on slabs of ribs, briskets, and pork shoulders. I wanted this smoker for my backyard, but I knew this idea would be vetoed by my wife. I'm stuck with the following smoker:

It's a small electric thing that's labeled as a "Gourmet Smoker". I say this with a hush because the terms gourmet and electric should never be mentioned in the same sentence when discussing barbecue. The Bubba's of the barbecue world would scoff at my little 'lectric smoker, but it's given me the opportunity to learn the basics of barbecue.

Yesterday I smoked a brisket. During the past year I've been focusing attention on trying different side dishes to go with barbecue. Here in the Kansas City area we tend to serve baked beans or cole slaw with our Q. I want to get away from that, so today's recipe is one I've started to serve when I fire up the smoker. It's a simple dish to prepare, and its creamy texture is the perfect companion to a bbq brisket.

Corn Puddin'

  • 1 can of creamed corn
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten

  1. Grease a casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all of the above ingredients until it's a thick batter.
  3. Bake until the puddin' is golden and no longer jiggles, 45-60 minutes.
  4. Serve and enjoy

keep the sauce on the side,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Beer and Ice Cream

Call me crazy, but I like to keep my beer drinkin' and ice cream eatin' separate. However, everywhere I turn there seems to be a recipe for a stout float, so yesterday I dusted off some music by The Pogues, purchased some Guinness, and pulled the ice cream from the freezer. With a couple of dollops of ice cream and a pour of Guinness, I had myself a float.

It was OK. It was far from being a root beer float, something I enjoy very much. Guinness makes a better companion for a little corned beef and cabbage. I'm glad I tried it though. Now I have a frame of reference I hear someone talking about a stout float.

A couple of good things came out of this experiment: I realized I need to listen to The Pogues more often, and five-year-old little girls like to dance to their music.

Here's a taste: The Pogues performing "If I Should Fall from the Grace of God".

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Culinary Redundancy

Please allow me to ramble a bit.

I plan a lot of meals around the weather, so when I heard that Tuesday's high temperature would be in the mid-50's, I planned on grilling chicken for dinner. As I headed to work, it was already in the 50's, so I felt good abut my culinary intentions. However, as you know, mother nature has a tendency to pistol whip us into submission and show us who's the boss. Throughout the day the temperature plunged into the low 30's, so my best laid plans went awry. It was poor planning on my part. I know better. In Kansas it's common for the temperature to peak in the wee hours of the morning and plummet throughout the day. My grandfather who diligently monitored the weather in his lifetime and listened to Paul Harvey would have been disappointed in my failure to get the rest of the story when it came to the weather forecast.

Of course, I decided to take shelter from the north wind and semifrigid temperatures, so I had to use my chicken to prepare chicken & noodles, a dish more suitable for the weather. I don't know how this dish is done in other regions of the U.S., but here in Kansas, chicken & noodles are cooked in a hybrid liquid that is part gravy and part broth. A hearty portion of noodles is always ladled over a mountain of mashed potatoes. That's how we roll.

I know this combo of serving starch on top of starch defies conventional nutritional logic, but when something tastes so good, rationale thought is thrown out the window. I know it's overkill, but just as I always have to turn up the volume when I heart that over-the-top, twin-guitar solo during "Free Bird", I always eat a second helping of chicken & noodles - with mashed potatoes, of course.

Help yourself to seconds,

PS. . . Do you have a favorite dish that's an example of culinary redundancy? This bacon implosion might make my list.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's a Girls' World

I don't have any sisters, just two brothers, so being a father to a five-year-old girls brings new experiences on a daily basis.

Exhibit A:

We hosted a tea party for my daughter's 5th birthday. With a lot of help from my wife I was able to feel at ease with the dainty tea cups, flowing feather boas, party hats, and the giggles and chatter of a house full of girls.

take care,


P.S. The cake and cookies were made by Helen's Cake and Cookies in Lawrence.

Monday, March 9, 2009


About once a month I make a mistake in the kitchen. Tonight while making spaghetti sauce I added two can of diced tomatoes that were clearly labeled Chili Ready, so our spaghetti sauce possessed a hint of cumin and chili powder. Ten years ago I would have allowed such a blunder to piss me off for the entire evening; now I've learned to just eat my mistakes and move on with life. I'm much happier with this approach.

Here at The Greasy Skillet we enjoy watching CBS Sunday Morning. This past Sunday Steve Hartman shared a piece about an eleven-year-old boy in the Washington D.C. area who used baking as a way to cope with the death of his twin brother. Once again, we're shown that food is more than food. I thought you might enjoy watching this three-minute story:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, E!

During the past year my daughter has been growing like kudzu. I tell her that I'm going to make her wear my cast iron skillet as a hat to halt her growth. She laughs, but she doesn't realize I'm not joking. One morning she'll wake up with my greasy skillet strapped to her head.

Today's her 5th birthday, so I'm trying to keep busy because idleness will give me time to reflect, which will lead to an emotional stew, which will lead to tears.

Anyway, life seems to be at a rolling boil when I desire a nice, slow simmer. I guess, blogging is my way of slowing down the hands of time. It's my way of savoring and preserving those precious little moments that seem to get lost in the hustle and bustle of living.

Even though I know better, I had to browse through some old pictures of me with my little girl:

(Our first trip to the library, one of our favorite places in the world)

(Our 1st KU basketball game together)

(This picture was taken during our 3rd Annual Fathers' Day Ice Cream Tour)

She'll always be my little girl.

Happy Birthday, E!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Skeletons in My Pantry or Confessions of a Squirrel Hunter

"Wild Peaches"

When the world turns completely upside down
You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore
We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town,
You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown
Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold colour.
Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor,
We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

The winter will be short, the summer long,
The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot,
Tasting of cider and of scuppernong,
All seasons sweet, but autumn best of all.
The squirrels in their silver fur will fall
Like falling leaves, like fruit, before your shot.

***Elinor Wylie

Once upon a time, in the 1980's, I fancied myself a hunter. Let me be more specific, and I say this with a hush: Once upon a time, I hunted squirrels. Squirrels! Squirrels. Squirrels. Those furry little creatures that frolic in parks and backyards. Today I cringe when I think about firing my .22 and plucking a squirrel from a tree branch, and when I remind myself that squirrels are member of the rodent family and that I often enjoyed eating fried squirrel with mashed tators & a good cream gravy, I shudder.

I vaguely remember my life as a squirrel hunter. At Pomona Elementary School, all the boys took a hunters' education course during their 5th grade year. We spent an entire week of school studying gun safety, hunting etiquette, and hunting techniques. The fact that we took time out of our studies to study hunting and that females were excluded from this good ol' boy activity, boggles my mind. In this pre-Columbine age, we actually handled guns in the classroom. The times have changed.

If you're going to trust me as a food blogger, I think it best that I continue to disclose such scandalous facts about my past.

Today I don't hunt or handle guns or eat squirrel. I don't have anything against those activities. As my five-year-old daughter would say, "It's just not my taste." I still enjoy romping around in the woods; I just like to leave the squirrels as I found them.

Don't take your guns to town,


NOTE: I found the poem for this post in a tattered copy of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. I found the following information about the poet interesting:

"Elinor Wylie characterized herself as poet who strove to make 'enamelled snuff-boxes' in words, the product of a 'small clean technique.' In so doing, she was intentionally rejecting the grand ambitions of many male poets of the time, preferring to celebrate the traditional woman's art of beautifying small spaces."

While I don't quite understand what this means, I do think it's healthy to reject the grand ambitions of most males.