Friday, May 29, 2009

Talkin' to Loretta and Drinkin' a Sloe Gin Fizz

When my daughter is old enough to begin learning the cold, hard, greasy facts about the nature of men, I'm going to have her listen to a steady mix of Loretta Lynn, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. I might also throw in a little Edith Piaf because it doesn't hurt to hear cautionary messages in another language. These women sing about the trouble men often bring, and sometimes they sing about how to deal with those troubles.My goal with my daughter is to keep the penis out of the picture for the next 20 years or so. We all know the penis is a damn nuisance, an albatross around the neck, figuratively speaking, of course.

However, I know I'm fighting a formidable foe, so I also need to arm my daughter with some advice. There is much she needs to know, but today I'll share the following with her:

Don't mix drinking and men, and stay clear of men bearing frou-frou drinks, appealing beverages that appear innocuous but pack a venomous punch. In 2004, Loretta Lynn recorded the Van Lear Rose with Jack White of The White Stripes producing the album. It's a fine album with several standout tracks, but one of my favorites is "Portland, Oregon", a song about the perils of consuming too many frou-frou drinks with a man.

Portland, Oregon

Well Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz
If that ain't love then tell me what is
Well I lost my heart it didn't take no time
But that ain't all. I lost my mind in Oregon

In a booth in the corner with the lights down low
I was movin' in fast she was takin' it slow
Well I looked at him and caught him lookin' at me
I knew right then we were playin' free in Oregon

Next day we knew last night got drunk
But we loved enough for the both of us
In the morning when the night had sobered up
It was much too late for the both of us in Oregon

Well sloe gin fizz works might fast
When you drink it by the pitcher and not by the glass
Hey bartender before you close
Pour us one more drink and a pitcher to go

And a pitcher to go [repeat]
Sloe Gin Fizz

  • 1 ounce sloe gin
  • 1 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • a splash of lemon-lime soda
  1. Mix Sloe gin, gin, lemon juice in a glass. Top with a splash of soda. Enjoy.
What other frou-frou drinks should be avoided? Any advice about men for my daughter?

Don't come home a-drinkin' with lovin' on your mind,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Backyardigans Swing-of-Death

Tomorrow I promise to begin posting again. Until then, here's a revised post culled from my family blog from March of last year. This post helps explain why I don't care for Disney World:

Ella and I in front of the Swing-of-Death before a deathly pallor enveloped me.

Much of Monday was spent at the Mall of America Amusement Park. For the record I hate shopping malls and amusement parks. I know what you’re thinking – This guy IS Mr. Crankypants. He’s such a killjoy. This guy doesn’t like malls or amusement parks, but he enjoys visiting a Spam Museum and grocery stores. Boy, he must be a miserable travel companion. Well, hold on to your proverbial horses. There are several rules of the road that I follow, and one of them is the following: When I travel with others, it’s best to comprise and do things that I wouldn’t normally do.

My daughter is quite the thrill seeker, and like most kids she loves amusement parks. Up to this point in her life, the biggest amusement park she’s seen has been the Dundy County Fair, so you can imagine her awe when she looked across the wide expanse of rides at the Mall of America. The first ride she attacked was The Backyardigans Swing-Along, which I dubbed The Backyardigans Swing-Of-Death. It’s a simple ride based on the age-old, merry-go-round concept – the rider sits in a swing that viciously swings in circles. Some find this fun. Fear first crept into my bones when I saw a sign that announced there was a 230 pound weight limit. I haven’t weighed myself lately, but I began to ponder the impact polishing off a box of Milk Duds yesterday may have had on my weight. At this point my daughter turned to me and said, “I’m so excited.” There was no turning back.

When the ride attendant buckled us into our swings, my palms began to sweat and I feebly smiled at my wife who watched “safely” from afar. She laughed and sinisterly smiled. She seemed to be enjoying this too much. When the ride began, I deathly pallor washed across my face. We started to circle. I tried to feign enthusiasm for the ride, and I talked to my daughter to make her feel at ease. She screamed, “This is so much fun.”

The ride began to circle more quickly. my daughter giggled with delight, which fortunately muffled my sobs. As we circled she started talking about the other rides she wanted to experience. A queasiness began to bubble in my tummy. I closed my eyes trying to soothe myself. I think, I even mumbled the Lord’s Prayer and promised to be a better human being if I survived. I then envisioned vacationers from all over America who would go home and tell the story of the guy who vomited on The Backyardigan’s Swing-Along at the Mall of America. Ten years from now, I would be at a party and someone would tell this story, bringing this urban legend full circle. Eventually, the madness ended and both my feet were on the ground. I wobbled with the first few steps I took as my daughter seemed to skip and bounce over to my wife.

This story has a happy ending because I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my daughter enjoy herself on all of the rides.

I’m grateful that most rides had a height limit. If my daughter would have been over 42 inches tall, I may have faced an untimely death. Thank goodness for rules and regulations.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Key Lime Sorbet

Take the joy you felt as a child on the last day of school and multiply it by 1,000. That's the joy a teacher feels when that final bell of the school year rings. In fact, children are incapable of experiencing such elation. If they do, their heads will pop right off.

To celebrate the end of the school year and to kickoff summer, I prepared a Key Lime Sorbet.

Key Lime Sorbet

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice


  1. Bring 3/4 cup water and sugar to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Mix in sweetened condensed milk, then lime juice. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; place over large bowl filled with ice and water and cool, stirring often, about 30 minutes.
  3. Process lime mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Transfer sorbet to medium container, cover, and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
  5. Serve with crushed graham crackers and a little whipped cream.
Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Greasy Five: Towns I Would Eat

I apologize for the anemic writing and sporadic posts of late. I'm just focusing on the end of the school year and finishing it without strangling anyone.

When I was a youngster attending Pomona Elementary School, I always volunteered to help my teachers clean, organize, and store things away for the summer. I'd like to say that I volunteered out of the goodness of my heart and to lend a helping hand, but I had an ulterior motive. I volunteered and stood elbow to elbow with my teachers, so I could stake my claim to any discarded books. During the last week of school I'd lug a treasure trove of spelling workbooks, literature anthologies, and math books home. You'd think with all of this supplemental learning, I'd be extremely intelligent, but the books usually just cluttered up my room. To this day I like the idea of having a lot books within reach.

Being a teacher, allows me to still experience some joys of childhood: Snow Days. School Assemblies. Chili & Cinnamon Rolls Lunches. Pigs in a Blanket. Last week the librarian discarded some books, and once again I was a seven-year-old boy lugging a few treasures back home. One of the treasures was a book titled: Scratch Ankle, USA. American Place Names and their Derivation by Myron J. Quimby. The author's name and his photograph on the back of the book made me chuckle.

Then I read his biographical blurb:

"Myron Quimby was born in San Antonio, Texas, but grew to manhood in Atlanta, Georgia. Then he was aged, like a fine wine, in the United States Army. Entering the Army, with the Georgia National Guard, in February 1941, he served with the 4th Armored Division - Patton's Third Army. With the 179th Field Artillery, he landed on the Utah beachhead and took part in five European campaigns."

Mr. Quimby was quite the man.

For this edition of The Greasy Five, I used Mr. Quimby's book to compile a list of My Five Favorite Town Names:

  1. Licking, Missouri: "Settled around 1878, Licking took its name from a natural deer lick, which was located within one-quarter mile east of the town, and was alive with deer. Her hunters waited for the prey. Therefore, the place became know as The Lick, and later was changed to Licking. Licking is located in Texas County, named for the state of Texas, while the county seat, Houston, was named to commemorate Sam Houston's victory at San Jacinto."

  2. Pie Town, New Mexico: "This little village in New Mexico started out as a gasoline station where Cowboys (the modern ones) bought their gas. Later the proprietor, Clyde Norman, started frying small fruit pies to supplement his meager income. When Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Craig, who owned a mining claim nearby, bought him out Mrs. Craig kept on cooking and selling the popular pies. Prosperity brought a garage, a grocery store, a settlement, and finally the need for a post office. While they were scratching for a name, a cowboy suggested Pie Town, because, as he reasoned, 'We get our pies here.' And Pie Town, New Mexico, it is."

  3. Noodle, Texas: "Noodle, in western Jones County, ten mile north of Merkel, was named for Noodle Creek. Anderson Criswell of Fayette County brought 1,500 head of sheep to the area in 1882. Noodle Creek is an intermittent stream, which twists and turns its way across Nolan, Taylor, and Jones Counties, like a noodle"
  4. Hungry Horse, Montana: "The legend of Hungry Horse: 'Two husky freight horses, Tex and Jerry, working in the rugged wilderness of Flathead River's South Fork area, wandered away from their sleigh during the severe winter of 1900-01. After struggling for a month in belly-deep snow, they were found almost starved and so weak considerable care and feeding were required before they were strong enough to be led back to civilization. The name Hungry Horse was given to a mountain, a lake, and a creek in the vicinity of where the incident occurred, and later to the dam and town."

  5. Paw Paw, Illinois: "Three miles east of the present site of Paw Paw as a grove of Pawpaw trees. A settlement there was called Pawpaw Grove, then later East Pawpaw. When the Burlington put a branch track through this area, it missed East Pawpaw, so the residents simple moved the town to the railroad and called it Paw Paw, Illinois."

What's your favorite name for a town?

take care,


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduation Day

Back in February, I wrote about a student who was building his own mandolin. Nic finished his mandolin about 3 weeks ago, and since today is his high school graduation, I thought I'd take time to share the final product with you.
It's beautifully crafted out of cherry, which will develop a deeper red with age. Nic told me that he plans on crafting more instruments. I look forward to admiring his future craftsmanship.

For the record, the following are my five favorite songs featuring the mandolin:
  1. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" by Bill Monroe
  2. "Orange Blossom" from Marty Stuart's album Live at the Ryman.
  3. Any song on Radney Foster's live album Are You Ready for the Big Show featuring Chris Thile on the mandolin.
  4. "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
  5. "Tom Ames' Prayer" from Steve Earle's album Train A Comin.

While listening to these songs I might eat a bit of this Green Chile Hominy, which is a great accompaniment to some good bbq.

Green Chile Hominy

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 15-ounce cans of white hominy (drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid)
  • 1 tablespoon juice from pickled jalapenos
  • 1/2 pound grated cheddar cheese
  • 10 slices bacon, fried crisp and chopped (reserve drippings)
  • 1 cup chopped green chiles.
  • 1-2 pickled jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  1. Saute the onions in a little of the bacon drippings and put aside.
  2. Heat the hominy in a separate saute pan, stirring often. When heated thoroughly, add the hominy liquid and jalapeno juice, bring back to peppers and bacon and all the onion.
  3. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pans and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, bacon and peppers.
  4. At this point it can be refrigerated or even frozen, if you want to make it in advance.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees until cheese on top melts and the casserole bubbles. This will take 15-20 minutes or longer if the casserole was refrigerated.

May every song you sing be your favorite tune,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Icing Capades: Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake

Sunday I baked the Brown Derby's grapefruit cake for my wife on Mother's Day, and for the 2nd time in my life, I iced a cake. I lack the skill to perform this seemingly simple task, so my cake looked like I used some primitive tool carved of stone to ice it. I guess, I should have expected this. After all, my only formal art training consisted of attending weeklong sessions of Vacation Bible School every summer as a child. There I constructed Biblical dioramas that utilized too much glue and way too much glitter, so my scenes looked like a parade of drag queens.

Despite my shoddily iced cake, it's still a better Mother's Day gift than a vacuum cleaner, unless it's one of those Dyson vacs, and then it would all be good.

Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 can (16 ounces) grapefruit sections, drained well
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice, and lemon zest until smooth. Whisk in the flour mixture.
  4. Beat the egg white and the cream of tartar with a mixer in a medium bowl until stiff peaks start to form. With a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, until blended. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. While it's still in its pan, invert the cake, and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Carefully remove the cake from the pan.
  7. With a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally. Spread the cream cheese frosting on the bottom half of the cake. Top with several grapefruit sections. Cover the second layer of the cake and frost the top and sides.
  8. Serve the cake garnished with remaining grapefruit sections.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese at high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the lemon juice and zest. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat until well blended.
Never eat anything bigger than your head,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Greasy Five: Dining Like a King in the Magic Kingdom

Disney World isn't my ideal vacation destination. I gravitate to National Parks and off-the-beaten-path locales. I like to gradually immerse myself into the culture of the locals. My wife understands this, and usually caters to my vagabond nature, but sometimes we take trips that appeal to other family members. This trip wasn't about me. It was about my daughter and wife, so I tried to be a good team player.

On this trip, my wife delivered the following edict: We would only eat on Disney property. I struggled with this. About twice a day, I thought about commandeering our rental car and racing off to find a fried grouper sandwich, stone crabs, boiled peanuts, or some other local delicacy that wouldn't be found on Disney property. After some slight crankiness, I played by the rules, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised by some of the food. The following were five favorite things I ate at Disney World:

  • The grapefruit cake at the Brown Derby.

  • The blackened grouper sandwich with avocado ranch dressing at Olivia's.

  • The Pineapple Dole Whip at the Magic Kingdom. I know I shouldn't like this lab-created foodstuff, but it was tasty and unique. This summer you'll see me attempt to make a more natural Pineapple Dole Whip.

  • The Tomato Stack with carmelized onions, cucumbers, crumbled blue cheese, and yuzu vinaigrette at Le Cellier. The picture doesn't do this appetizer justice. When tomatoes are in season, I'll attempt to replicate this recipe.

  • The spaetzel at the Biergarten
  • The Barvarian cheesecake at the Biergarten and the upside-down pineapple cheesecake at Boma.

play by the rules,


Monday, May 11, 2009

When the Road Gets Rocky

Tomorrow I'll begin posting about my recent trip to Florida. Until then I thought I'd share a post that I wrote last year prior to our Minnesota road trip. This is a slightly revised post I wrote for my family blog.

I have found out there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.

****Mark Twain

Mark Twain really hit the mark with the above quotation. Hitting the road with someone is the ultimate litmus test for a relationship. I knew early in my relationship with my wife that we were destined to be together because we traveled so well together. I love my wife’s childlike exuberance when it comes to the little joys of the road. She’s one of the few people I know who doesn’t think the I-70 drive across western Kansas is boring. She appreciates the gradual shifts in the landscape, and possesses eagle eyes that can spot deer, wild turkeys, and the many other gifts nature has to offer. It’s a treat to travel with her.

However, there are moments when we’re driving down the highway and I look into her eyes ,and I sense that she would like to wrap both hands around my neck and vigorously shake me. I know this desire crosses her mind. Even when you travel with those you love, there are moments when tensions run high and the van just isn’t big enough to provide the space that is sometimes needed between individuals. I know that there are times that I annoy my wife. My wife probably finds the following things annoying:
  • As you know, I can be a bit of a grouch. When I'm crotchety, my wife and daughter call me Mr. Crankypants. This is their way of telling me that I need to change my mood. As you know, things don't always go as planned on vacation, and I get grumpy when schedules go askew. I don't always cope well with eating at a later time or dealing with the frustration of navigating unfamiliar territory. I'm sure my crankiness on the road annoys my wife.

  • When I travel there are times when I don’t feel like talking. I simply want to drive down the road, enjoy the scenery, and listen to some music. However, my wife who is a chatty soul sometimes likes to visit as we travel. When I’m in one of these introspective moods and she’s in a chatty frame of mind, I thwart off her attempts to stimulate a conversation by responding with single-syllable responses or grunts. I’m sure this annoys her. However, things are looking up for her because my daughter is also a chatty soul, so my wife has an ally in the battle for conversation.

  • I love visiting local grocery stores when I travel. I can spend at least an hour at a local store browsing the aisles looking for products that are unique to the region I’m visiting. Then it's common for me to purchase several items from these grocery stores. Of course, my wife has to pack these culinary treasures, and I think this annoys my wife. In Florida last week, I abstained from purchasing a can of boiled peanuts because I didn't want to face her wrath.

  • When I travel and grow tired of hearing music, I like to listen to podcasts. I especially like the podcasts from NPR. One of the programs I listen to is The Kitchen Sisters, who do features on food in America. I can listen to 90 straight minutes of this program, which is about 45 minutes more than my wife can tolerate. We also have an unwritten agreement that I play no Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson while traveling.

  • On trips I’ve been known to embark on little side trips that I view as adventures. However, these adventures consist of us driving around lost, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, and wasting 4-5 precious vacation hours, like the time I forced her to visit Turkey, Texas, home of the Bob Wills Museum. I’m sure she often thinks, “Why did I marry this guy?”

Fortunately, the road goes on forever,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Land of the Mouse

The Greasy Skillet is on the road this week, and I promised my daughter I wouldn't blog. She told me that she didn't want my blogging to get in the way of her fun It's day four of the trip, and I've complied to her reasonable request up to this point. I just wanted to let readers know that I'll be back this weekend with some culinary dispatches from the road.

keep on the sunny side,