Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mr. Crankypants and A Night Fraught with Eminent Peril

I've lived with Mr. Crankypants for 39 years, and for the most part I like him. We share many of the same beliefs. For example, we both possess an intense hunger for life and an acute awareness that the clock is ticking. Therefore we're always in the midst of a craving. However, we have our differences. While I try to skip jauntily down the bright side of the street, he plods down dark alleys. He's a misanthrope who prefers to live inside his head, and his failure to communicate frustrates those around him, and ultimately, him. I think, the thing that's really frustrating is that he expects others to read his mind. We all know the folly of this expectation.

Consequently, he often feels he's surrounded by people who don't understand him, and this frustration bubbles into conflict. He always acts like he's backed into a corner. In the end, I'm left cleaning up the wreckage in his wake. To illustrate the type of damage control I have to do, I'm allowing Mr. Crankypants to share his account of an incident on a recent family vacation to Denver:

Mr. C's story:

We're in Denver with muddy's wife and daughter, and I have Jack Keroauc rattling around in my bones, so I want to see the real Denver, the backstreets and dive bars that Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity would have roamed. I craved a "night fraught with eminent peril" and Mexican food, real Mexican food, not some chips and salsa followed with a plate covered with yellow melted cheese over lardless refried beans. I wanted the real deal, so I head to a part of town where pawn shops. bail bondsmen, liquor stores, and homes with barred windows dot every street.

We're driving and spirit of Woody Guthrie is alive, and I feel like singing "This Land is Your Land" because I finally feel like I'm experiencing Denver, not some gentrified hipster version of the town that resembles a gentrified version of every other city in America. I feel like the night is ripe with opportunity.

I'm soaking up this experience when I notice Muddy's wife scrunching her nose like she just smelled something unpleasant. I know what's coming. There's a pause, and she opens her mouth, "Do you think this is the safest place to be? Maybe we should eat somewhere else?"

I head into a tailspin at this point. I want to spew profanity, but I know better than to do this around children. Instead I resort to raising my voice, maybe even shouting, "Maybe we should just head to the suburbs, and eat at Chili's, or better yet Applebee's. Their pick-three menu ought to put a cheery smile on everyone's face."

I don't know what happened after that point.

muddy's Interpretation of Events

We end up going to the restaurant Mr C. selected and the food was great. However, Mr. C failed to mention that he followed his little tirade up with 30 minutes of scowling, silence, and pouting, so I don't know if it was a great meal. After all good food doesn't solely make a great meal. You need great company, and he failed to bring this element to the meal. Later I apologized to my family for Mr. C's actions, and much later I was finally able to talk some sense into Mr. Crankypants. I just hope he learned something from this little episode, so we don't have a repeat performance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kettle Corn

At the end of July, I informally appointed myself the Ambassador of Stovetop Popcorn. Now that my business cards are printed and my office is decorated, I'm ready to begin my job.

Sunday my daughter and I gathered around the stove to pop kettle corn, a treat that became a staple at Kansas festivals in the mid 1990's. I've never understood the appeal of kettle corn. Instead of flirting with slight sweetness of kettle corn, I prefer to commit to the delight of a slice of pie or a funnel cake. My daughter, on the other hand, displays a Christmas-morning enthusiasm for kettle corn. Her love of kettle corn and my love for her motivated me to make kettle corn.

I wasn't expecting much from the recipe, but 30 minutes after I pulled the popcorn off the stove, I stared at an empty bowl and realized that the yin and yang of the sweet and salty kernels had cast a spell on my taste buds. I'll never be the same.

Kettle Corn

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup popcorn
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat.

  2. Once 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.

In a previous post, I explained that I used an old aluminum dutch oven to popcorn. Here's a photo of this versatile culinary tool.

There's no need to purchase a special popper. Popping corn on the stove should be an inexpensive endeavor.

keep on the sunny side,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The World's Full of Picky Eaters

I've been busy easing into the school year, so I haven't fit blogging back into my schedule. However, I plan on returning with a new post on Saturday. For now I thought I'd share a photo with you from my daughter's scrapbook highlighting key moments from her school year.

Click on the photo to enlarge it. If I had a dollar for every time one of my meals received this look from my daughter, I'd be able to retire and blog full time. I don't know what was served for a snack that day, but whatever it is, no one seems thrilled about the prospect of eating it.

I'm just glad to know that I'm not the only one who has a Little Miss Picky Eater.

clean your plate or you'll get no dessert,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Highway's Jammed with Heroes on a Last Chance Power Drive

Here at The Greasy Skillet we love books about as much as we love food. Periodically, I'll share books that I’ve been reading in a feature I call The Greasy Bookshelf (I know it’s not a very original title). I do try to put an original spin on this feature by sharing excerpts that have a connection with food.

I don't like to run. I might run if I'm being chased by someone who wants to kick my ass. I might run if I'm chasing down an ice cream truck. I might run if I'm playing a game that requires running. Otherwise I don't care to run. However, my ever-expanding waistline is demanding me to adopt running as a form of exercise. In the past, I tried to develop a relationship with running in the past, but it quickly withered. You see, when I run there's no "runners' high" and I spend the whole time thinking about how miserable I am. That's no way to spend 30 minutes.

Depsite the fact that I loathe running, I'm reading a book about runners titled Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. In this nonfiction book, the author tells his story of traveling to Mexico, so he can learn about the Turahumara Indians, who are known for their superhuman ability to run long distances without resting. These individual can run for two days without stopping to rest. The book is an incredible look at the culture of the Turahumara, and of course, you can't talk about culture without talking about food and drink. Some of the Turahumara's endurance can be credited to a beverage called iskiate. The following is a description of that drink:

  • "It's brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a quirt of lime. In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they're superpacked with omega-32, omegas-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. If you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn't do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease; after a few months on the chia diet, you could probably swim home. Chia was once so treasured, the Aztecs used to deliver it to their king in homage. Aztec runners used to chomp chia sees as they went into battle, and the Hopis fueled themselves on chia during their epic runs from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. The Mexican state of Chiapas is actually named after the seed; it used to rank right up there with corn and beans as a cash crop. Despite its lquid-gold status, chia is ridiculously easy to grow; if you own a Chia Pet, in fact, you're only a few steps away from your own batch of devil drink."

Interesting stuff. It's just a matter of time until this gets incorporated into one of those newfangled energy drinks. It's probably already out there.

I know there will be more food moments in this book, and I'll share them with you as I continue to read the book. Later I'll get to learn about the corn beer that the Turahumara like to consume with great gusto.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wheat Berry Salad

Since I think about food 24/7, I'm prone to eccentric thoughts like building an oven from mud or sabotaging a factory that churns out chemically processed chunks of chicken. Most thoughts I just keep to myself because I'm a thin-skinned soul who would crumple under the bewildered stares of strangers and loved ones.

Here's a secret I wouldn't share with most people: I think about plowing my front yard and planting a patch of wheat. Instead of mowing once a week, I'd thresh once a year. Instead of working the weather into small talk, I'd discuss it with urgency. I'd be a street side farmer and with the fruits of my labor I'd make this:

Wheat Berry Salad

  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

***Feel free to vary the ingredients. Keep the wheat berries as your base recipe. I saw recipes with dried cherries, feta cheese, nuts, lemon juice and oil. Relax and use whatever you have on hand.


  1. In a large saucepan combine wheat berries, water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature, so it simmers. Place lid on pan and allow to simmer for 45-60 minutes. The berries should be tender and slightly chewy.

  2. Drain and rinse berries under cold water. Then place berries in a large bowl.

  3. Mix tomatoes, onions, and bacon into the wheat berries.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk oil and balsamic vinegar together. Drizzle and mix into salad.

  5. Enjoy warm or cold.

I enjoyed leftover wheat berry salad for breakfast this morning, and it possessed the power to resist the temptation of donuts at this morning's teacher in-service. This is the power of whole grains. You need to harness and unleash this power.

pass the scythe,


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Greasy Five: Colorado Food Moments

When I was a tow-headed lad, I learned to write on a Big Chief Tablet. I remember hunching over my tablet with a pencil in hand as I carefully formed my first written words. This process amazed me. In fact, it still amazes me. I don't take the ability to write for granted. I still view it as a miraculous act.

Yesterday as I wrote post for my family blog about purchasing school supplies and my daughter starting kindergarten I learned that Big Chief Tablets are no longer produced.

I'm saddened by this. The demise of Big Chief Tablets makes me feel old, so today I'm out to reclaim my youth by imagining that I'm scrawling the following list in a brand new Big Chief Tablet:

Five 2009 Favorite Colorado Food Moments

  • Breakfast at Snooze in Denver. My wife ordered the pancake flight, a plate with a sample of each of the following pancakes: carrot cake, Reese's, and peach & crystallized ginger. I enjoyed a spruced-up French toast called Strawberry Shortcake Goes to Paris.
  • Eating a Rocky Ford Cantaloupe. My grandfather swore that these melons grown in Arkansas River Valley of Colorado were superior to all other melons, so I try to purchase these melons whenever I spot them. After sampling this melon, I realize grandfather was correct in his assessment. For those in Lawrence, Checker's has the Rocky Ford Melons in stock.
youth is served,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cilantro and Green Chile Dressing

I'm still on vacation with the family in Estes Park, Colorado, so The Greasy Skillet has been placed on the backburner. However, I thought I'd take a little time this morning to share a few of my favorite moments from my stay in Estes.

My stay here has reminded me that the drinks on the front porch of The Stanley Hotel might be one of my favorite vacation traditions.
I like the view and the vibe at the Stanley. I'm thankful that the bar was stocked with limes this year. I learned that if you place 8 or 9 maraschino cherries in a five-year-old's Shirley Temple, she'll eat every last one and leave a pile of stems.

Yesterday I hiked with my family to Mills Lake for a picnic. I was reminded that food on a hike always tastes better. Even the lowly Brazil nut -- something I normally push to the side in a bowl of mixed nuts -- was quite tasty on my hike.

(The picnic view at Mills Lake)

I should probably post a recipe to remind everyone that this is a food blog. Today's recipe is from the book Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and found from he Times-Picayune of New Orleans edited by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker. The plight to rebuild New Orleans has been well documented. This books tells the story of the recipes that displaced New Orleanians craved recipes from home.

The local paper the Times-Picayune set up a webpage where displaced New Orleanians home could catalog, swap, and share recipes that were lost in the storm. Cooking Up a Storm is a collection of those recipes.

I've selected the cilantro and green chile dressing to share. It a high-calorie recipe, but its unique flavor exceeds anything you'll find on the supermarket shelves. I like to make a grilled chicken salad, and top it with this dressing.

Cilantro and Green Chile Dressing

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (Make sure they're hulled. You'll find them in most markets labeled as pepitas)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, well drained
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned.
  2. Take 1/4 cups of the pumpkin seeds and combine in a blender with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
  3. Chill for one hour and then serve with salad. Sprinkle remaining pumpkin seeds over the salad.
  4. Enjoy.
missin' my kitchen,

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rules of the Road

(The view of Longs Peak from our lodging.)

The Greasy Skillet has arrived in Estes Park, Colorado, and the focus shifts from food to communing with nature and family. I'm about 45 minutes away from my first picnic of vacation, so I'm a bit giddy and unable to focus on this post. We'll keep it short.

On the drive West, I listed some essential rules for the road:
  • No whining.
  • Be prepared to compromise.
  • Make yourself indispensable. Be the person who can read a map. Be the person who knows where to eat. Be the person who can entertain with the fussy kid in the backseat. Just bring some skill or trait to the trip that is essential. Don't be the person who the group considers leaving at the rest stop.
  • Always use the bathroom when you have an opportunity.
  • Don't eat anything bigger than your head.
  • You can't use "bored" or any variation of this word on a trip. There are no boring situations, only boring people. An interesting person is capable of adding spice to the blandest of moments. We're working with my daughter on this concept.
  • Focus on the journey, not the destination.
What are some of your essential rules for the road?

the road goes on forever,