Friday, February 26, 2010

Spinach Salad with Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Nuts

Hearty, carb-laden meals have dominated our dinner table the past few weeks. Turkey and noodles ladled over a mountain of mashed potatoes. Carb on carb action. Culinary redundancy at its grandest. I blame such irrational menu planning on the Arctic temperatures we've been experiencing.

The middle of this week I decided I needed to eat something green, so I prepared a salad.

Ten years ago I would have never prepared a salad with fruit. I'd grimace at the thought of pears nestling next to red onions. Kansans for the most part don't like to mix fruits mixed with vegetables or savory mixed with sweet.

Anyway, I made this salad, I loved it, and it loved me back by adding a little color to my pale complexion.

Spinach Salad with Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Nuts
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup thinly slice red onion
  • 1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 8 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed
  • 2 firm, but ripe pears, quartered lengthwise, cored and cut into long, thin slices
  • 2/3 cups hazelnuts, toast and chopped (I used pecans, so feel free to substitute)

  1. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Place lid tightly on jar and shake dressing to blend. Taste and season accordingly. Set aside.

  2. Toss all the onion, spinach, and pears in a large bowls. Coat with dressing and toss again. Arrange the salad in a large serving bowl, and scatter the cranberries and hazlenuts over the top.

  3. Serve.

eat your veggies,


Friday, February 19, 2010

Creating Something That Counts

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

***Albert Einstein

Is this worth doing? Are there better ways I could be spending my time? I frequently contemplate these questions when I begin a post. I think I know the answers to these questions, but when I yammer about fried pies or cooking under the hood of my car or hairy chests or beards or tequila or jalapeno sorbet or Elvis or Sriracha popcorn, I question my sanity and the value of blogging.

Here's the deal: As I get older, the tick tock of time passing grows louder, so how I spend my time matters even more. Over the next few weeks in a series of posts I'm going to explore my reasons for blogging. I'm sure this will result in a yammering of words that will disintegrate into the vapors of space, but I'm doing it nonetheless.

I mainly blog because I feel the urge to create. I don't know the origins of this urge, but I've always felt it. From reading blogs, I know that others have this feeling. What's the value in creating? I guess that question merits its own series of posts, but today I'll offer you one reason provided by Kurt Vonneut in his book A Man Without a Country:

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

I'm not the most talented or intelligent or interesting person in world. A lot of what I create is shit. Despite this I'll continue to create because If I don't I'll be an unhappy, angry, bitter person, and I think the world needs fewer of these folk.

What do you like to create?

striving to create something that counts,


PS. . . This weekend I'm going to hear This American Life host Ira Glass speak, and I'm sure he'll provide me with a few more reasons to justify the act of blogging.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Dear John Letter to Fried Pie

Dear Fried Pie,
I'll never forget how you seduced me from an interstate billboard with three simple words: FRIED PIES AHEAD!!! Seduction at 75 miles. Knees quavering. Stomach growling. Mini-van veering. When I walked into the shop, your half-moon smile cast a spell on me. I pulled you from the shop. You slipped out of your wrapper, looking more comfortable and alluring. Sitting on the hood of my van, you basked in the unseasonable warm February weather. With the first bite, my heart fluttered, and I knew I'd never be the same.
While I savored every sweet moment of our time together, I've decided to end our relationship. It just won't work. Long distance relationships rarely work, and I have no intention of making a plot of Oklahoma red dirt my home because I'm a Kansan at the core. Also it's not fair to have you move up to Kansas. The North would just try to change you, and before long they would try to make you sugar free, and before you knew it, they would be baking you, rather than frying you in a bath of peanut oil. They would probably even try to change your name. That's what they did to your cousin Kentucky Fried Chicken. Being called KFC is no way to go through life. Where's the soul in that name?
Our time together will always have a special place in my heart. I hope we can still be friends.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

El Reno

I'll give you the lowdown on onion burgers and fried pies when I return to Kansas.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

OKC: The Stockyards

We spent part of this morning at the Oklahoma City Stockyards, where we dined on traditional breakfast fare at Cattlemen's Steakhouse.
We dined at a booth with Gene Autry and Ronald Reagan.I can't fully recommend Cattlemen's Steakhouse, but they did have fantastic biscuits and my wife raved about the breakfast steak.

Later we shopped for western clothing at various shops in the Stockyard District.

I shopped for pastries at Panaderia La Herradura, a Mexican bakery in the Stockyard District. For just under $2.00, I bought three pastries.

Then we left the stockyards and headed to the National Cowboy and Heritage Museum.

More on that later.

keep a sharp edge on your knives,

Road Food

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Kumback Lunch: Perry, Oklahoma

We're in Oklahoma City. I caved and paid the hotel $9.95 for internet service. It pains my cheap ass to do this.

Today we took our time getting down here. The highlight of the day was the Kumback Lunch in Perry, Oklahoma. I came for their famed cinnamon rolls, but when we settled into our booth at 2:30, our waitress informed us that they sold out of rolls by 8:00.

I was crushed, but my disappointed was temporary because within ten minutes a bowl of chicken and noodles arrived.
These were the greatest chicken and noodles I've ever had at a restaurant.

My wife had the hot beef sandwich.

The Kumback Lunch is worth seeking.

After lunch I pondered getting a haircut at the barbershop next door because they still kick it old school:

Tomorrow morning we'll head down to the stockyards for breakfast at Cattlemen's Steakhouse, and then we'll visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. We'll keep you posted.

keepin' it real,

En Route to El Reno

I'm at the Matfield Green rest area, located on the Kansas Turnpike between Emporia and Wichita. In his book Roads: Driving America's Great Highways, Larry McMurty cites the stretch of I-35 as one of his favorite drives. It is a scenic drive.

The Matfield Green rest area is also home to a memorial to Knute Rockne, whose plane crashed in the Flint Hills near this site.

My favorite stretch of highway to drive in Kansas is the stretch of Highway 56 between the Alma turnpike exit and Council Grove. My favorite stretch of road to drive outside of Kansas would be the Beartooth Scenic Byway or the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What are your favorite stretches of road to drive?

keep on the sunny side,

p.s. Sorry for the choppy brevity, but I'm making a real effort to document my journey without taking too much time from actually enjoying the journey.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Cure for the BLAH's

I feel like I've been dragging a huge anchor around the past two days. Anything I've written in the past 48 hours has taken on a dull, droning, and blah patina. I need to shake things up.

I've decided to shuck routine this weekend and hit the road to seek a panacea for what ails me. Tomorrow we'll head south to the vicinity of El Reno, Oklahoma, which is the epicenter of the famed onion burger.

We'll take our time getting there, so if any readers have suggestions for any sidetrips along the way, please feel free to leave suggestions.

I'll report my trip in a series of very short posts.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Baby's Got Bundt!

New Year's Day my wife declared 2010 the Year of the Bundt, and she vowed to bake a bundt a month. Illogical exuberance for the trivial is my domain, so this declaration confused me.

I'm still confused.

For the record, I don't understand the appeal of the bundt cake. At potluck dinners I gravitate towards pie, and I leave the bundt cake to the bridge-playing, Lawrence-Welk-watching crowd.

I thought my wife's passion for the bundt would die, but my daughter has now joined in the chorus singing the praises of this cake. The gospel is spreading, and the bundt spirit has overwhelmed my wife's coworkers. Yesterday I even found a bundt recipe in my daughter's cubbie. There's no escaping the presence of the bundt in my life.

I'm very worried about how big this will grow.

The following is this month's bundt:

Milky Way Bundt Cake

  • 6 regular-size Milky Way bars
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks butter (or margarine)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the glaze-

  • 1 bar German sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  1. Over low heat, melt Milky Way bars and 1 stick butter. Set aside.
  2. Cream other stick of butter with sugar and eggs; mix well.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, buttermilk and vanilla; stir well.
  4. Add Milky Way mixture and beat with mixer until batter is all one color.
  5. Pour into greased and floured Bundt-style pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the glaze:

  1. In small saucepan, melt chocolate and butter with water. Combine sugar and salt and gradually stir in chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and spread on cake.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Mess with Kansas Pt. 3: Celebrate Good Times!

Once upon a time before the goddamn bastards whittled me down to a cranky nub, I was a wide-eyed, eager boy who possessed a jaunty demeanor. During this fabled age, I was overcome with giddiness the last week of January because we would break from the rigors of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and celebrate the birth of Kansas.

I'd immerse myself in coloring the state seal (To this day, I still consider the best in the Union) and my imagination would sweep me away. I'd soon find myself manning the plow underneath that glorious sunset.

Later in the week we would color meadowlarks, sunflowers, cottonwood trees, and jayhawks.

I miss those days. We stopped celebrating Kansas Day around 5th grade. I don't know why we stopped.

Last week I was talking to a fella who grew up in Texas, and he recalled his elementary days celebrating the Lone Star State's birthday. He remembered: learning about the Alamo, coloring a picture of a Bowie knife, a longhorn shitting on the playground during a school assembly, and being indoctrinated with he belief that Texas was on the right side of the cause during the Civil War. His face lit up as he recalled these stories.

I thought: This is the stuff that matters, but I don't get to enjoy the stuff that matters because I'm engaged in the general bullshit of living.

I'm too busy doing shit like supporting capitalism, rubbing elbows with people who don't read poetry, and fertilizing my lawn with chemicals that will eventually drain to the Gulf of Mexico and contribute to the dead zone. Combine all of this with watching others making a general clusterfuck of things, it's no wonder I walk around with a scowl.

Before I started these posts on Kansas, I didn't like this blog and found it a general waste of time. Now I'm ready to admit that muddywaters has the right idea. Maybe this blog will help me remember what really matters in this life, and maybe I can get to the joy of actually living a life that matters.

Tonight I'm breaking out the Crayola box.

As a child, how did you celebrate your state's birthday?

Celebrate good times. Come on!!!
Mr. Crankypants

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fajita Marinade Revised

I used to possess a steal-trap mind that could store recipes, football statistics, the occasional poem, and restaurant menus across the United States. Lately, these bits of information have been performing a Houdini-like escape. I guess, age would be the most likely explanation for this, but I won't go gently into that good night. Today I'm using my blog to record a recipe as preventive measure. I tried this recipe last summer, and I loved it. Somewhere in the shuffle I lost the recipe. Now I've found it, and here it is. It's a recipe for a fajita marinade, which quickly replaced one I posted in the early stages of this blog. I like this recipe because the liquid smoke in my earlier recipe has been replaced with chipotle peppers, jalapeno peppers that have been smoked, so you get a subtle smokey taste to your meat.

I usually marinate skirt or flank steak for my fajitas. I haven't tried this marinade with chicken, but I'm sure it will work fine.

Fajita Marinade

(Adapted from Mark Miller's Tacos)

  • 8 to 10 cloves roasted garlic (If you don't have any on hand, just use some a few cloves of chopped garlic or a bit of garlic powder)

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon red chile powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

  • 1 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha (The original recipe called for a red chile sauce, but for me this is a suitable substitue)

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle puree (You can find canned chipotles with adobo sauce in most grocery stores. Just simple puree in a blender. This is an amazing ingredient that can be used in a lot of recipes. I've used it in meat loaf, salsas, and sometimes in vegetable dishes. When I open a can for this recipe, I just freeze the remaining puree.)

rage, rage against the dying light,