Tag Archives: cooking

Thankful

30 Nov

By now, Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, most people will have spent the long holiday period (not exactly a weekend) getting hammered (Wednesday night – AKA “Black Wednesday” – the drunkest night of the year – even worse than New Year’s eve)j, overeating (Thursday, natch), overspending (Friday), overwatching football (all weekend long), drinking even more, etc. etc.  Many people approach Thanksgiving weekend with both excitement and dread and the dread comes from a variety of sources – time spent with family you don’t care to see, travel worries and hassles, dividing time among various family members (Thanksgiving is considered to be the most complicated holiday for that), etc.

Notice the key missing element of the above is what the core of the holiday is supposed to be about? Giving thanks?

It seems like in our efforts as a country to over-program everything (admit it, we do) is extracting the basics of this holiday. The “first official shoppng day” of the Christmas season is now the day where everything USED to be closed, and people were home with family. Black Friday was officially usurped this year by Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s tracking.

I have to admit to participating a lot in the overindulgence – but at least I think it is focused on family and friends. Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Professor Troutstream and I, plus our families and some select close friends gather at a pub for our annual “Burgers, Beer and Bourbon (and Tots)” fest. We do get a wee bit, umm, happy there, but the biggest feature is just great stories and tons of laughs.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Robin and I hosted 22 for dinner at our house Thursday evening. We choose to do our big TG dinner in the evening – and that conveniently allows those who are having to split time, to hit multiple Thanksgiving celebrations. Most of our crowd was family – my mom, Robin’s parents, her aunt and uncle from Ohio, their kids and spouses – but we also had two couples that are among our best friends there – both couples are empty-nesters with no local family to go to. Happy to be their “local family”.

Friday was a chill day – I used it to get some house projects done, the most notable was getting my music studio organized in the way I have been planning to organize it since we redid our basement 2 years ago. Have a small PA system set up, a dedicated computer for playing and recording music, mutliple amps for visiting players, etc.  Pretty sweet. Still need to get all the guitars on the wall, but step by step. Friday evening, my inlaws hosted a wonderful dinner for the whole family plus a few more at a local Greek restaurant – and it was a huge treat and much fun.

Yesterday, on the idea of son #1, I got The Fanbulance out of storage, piled the three sons into it, and headed to Evanston IL to pick up Professor Troutstream and watch the Illini of U of Illinois play the Wildcats of Northwestern. The Prof and I enjoyed a bit more Kentucky “brown water” at the tailgate (goes great with Egg McMuffins!), and then left the game about halftime and headed to a pub where his wife joined us and we waited out the rest of the game and the arrival of the sons.  Last evening, was just a chill night – my mom made a delicious gravy to accompany the leftover turkey and we made “stuffing waffles” (heat up stuffing in a waffle iron – best idea ever!) to put all the good stuff over. Our local high school, Stevenson, was in the state championship football game and I watched them win that – enjoying the 4th quarter from bed.

Today, it’s just another chill day although we need to put the house back in order from the bash Thursday night as well as I need to put away our patio, run the gas out of the power lawn tools, etc.

So, now that I have bored you with a rundown of my weekend, I’ll return to the point of this post. I spent the entire weekend in the company of all of those I love the most – family, closed and dear friends, and more. Did we overeat and overdrink? Bet your ass we did. To me, that’s what Thanksgiving weekend is all about though – spending the time in the company of your friends and family.

And I have so much to be thankful for – my wonderful wife of 28.5 years, the three amazing young men that are my sons, my mom, and the fact that at 78, she is as sharp as ever and in generally good health and able to travel to us, live on her own, etc., Robin’s family and how they all travel in to make this such a fun weekend, my great pal Professor Troutstream, all of our other close friends, the fact that I have a challenging and rewarding career with a continued upwards trajectory, a nice home, a loyal dog, etc. etc.

Overindulge I did. Did I gain a few pounds this weekend?  I’m sure of it – back onto track with my Weight Watchers program this week. Do I creak and ache like a typical 50-something person? Sure do. But that’s how I know I am alive.

If you follow my blog, you most certainly know that my focus is on living life. It is entirely too short. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have to be able to live life so well with people I love.  There’s the sentence I was looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

As you were,

Stew

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You say you want a resolution …

1 Jan

So, New Year’s resolutions are something that we all know are just promises that we attempt to make to ourselves but ultimately wind up being lies. I’m sure there’s a real stat out there, but I’d put it at 90% or more that those that make resolutions don’t follow through on them more than a few weeks.

I was no different – every year I’d say “this is the year I lose 30 lbs.”, “this is the year I get more fit”, “this is the year I’ll start running again”, etc. We all know how all that went. Then in 2012, well, life intervened. My heart made the choice for me – I HAVE to make the physical changes and reduce my cardiac risks or .. well, let’s not talk alternatives as they are not pleasant. My career is in good order and progressing, financially, I could always be doing better, but we’re doing OK and that’s plenty good. So, what’s to “resolve”? (And don’t get me started on the word “resolve” … as it has so many possible meanings.

Clearly, I’m committed to exercise and eating better. The results are starting to become present, and well, that’s motivation enough to stay on the effort. That and the whole “dirt nap” thing. So that’s no “New Years resolution”. I am always, ALWAYS focused on trying to have fun, trying to do more with my family, keeping my priorities straight, etc. That motivation comes from far more than just one thing – although I will quote a plaque that my Grandma Mildred had hanging in her kitchen: “Don’t hurry, don’t worry, and don’t forget to smell the flowers.” Good words on those little plaques in Grandma’s kitchen.

And clearly, I don’t take myself too seriously. Anyone who buys a decommissioned ambulance and drives it around just for laughs, well, enough said.

So, what to do? Instead of resolutions about behavior, let’s make a list of accomplishments:

Here’s a simple list of things I want to accomplish in 2013. All of these are designed to make me happier. Not that I’m unhappy – quite the contrary – but we could all use a bit more happiness, right?

  • Learn to play “finger style” on my guitar. I was taught this in 8th grade, but that one-hour lesson didn’t seem to catch. I’ll spend more time and learn this.
  • Learn to play blues lead guitar solos on my guitar. I’ve just never spent enough time learning scale patterns and notes on the acoustic guitar fretboard. Time to get on that and learn it once and for all.
  • Finish replacing the woodwork in my house – right now half my house has 3″ stained baseboards and the rest has 5″white ones. Just gotta make the time. But once it’s done I’ll be very pleased with myself.
  • Brew more beer. Simple. And this one starts this weekend, I think. Let’s set the goal at 4 batches in 2013. I only brewed two in 2012 and those were two weeks apart. Weak.
  • Spend more time with people that make me happy. Trust me, this one is critical. Hard to put an accomplishment metric on it, but I’ll know when I’ve done it by the lower readings on “BS Meter” and the higher readings on my “Happy Meter”.
  • Go back to reading my paper magazines. I’m subscribed to about six magazines and I spend too much time with my iPad and don’t read them. Time to get back to something I enjoy.
  • Learn to cook at least six good Vegan/Vegetarian dishes. I cannot see myself ever becoming a vegan or vegetarian, but certainly eating more plant-based meals will add some range to my eating and I’ll enjoy the cooking challenge.
  • Ironically, in the opposite vein, read more books, a habit enabled by my iPad and the Kindle app. Easy enough to read on the train and eBooks don’t weigh anything.
  • Plant some trees in my yard. This is going to get very important later this spring – we have an Ash tree that’s owned by the city in our front yard. Buffalo Grove is killing every ash tree in town to combat Emerald Ash Borer. So … plant a few of my own. And not ashes.

I think that’s enough to lay out there. I’m sure other goals will come up. And of course, I have my professional goals that my company tracks.

So that’s the game. Keep exercising and eating better, take my meds, reduce my cardiac risk. Then focus on the things above that will help me be a happier guy.

Have a great 2013, y’all.

As you were,

Stew

Vegeterian “Rib Fries”

15 Jul

Hi All – first cooking post on Stew’s Brew.

The other night, I decided to grill – it was one of those PERFECT nights for grilling – 73 degrees, low humidity, etc.  Robin had to take the boys for their annual physicals, so they wouldn’t be home until 7:30, so I was responsible for making a late dinner.  She had pulled out some Iowa Chops to toss on the grill – those were thawing on the counter when I rolled in the door at 6:30, and below them on the floor was a 10 lb bag of potatoes.  Meat and potatoes – my fave and oh the possibilities!

The Iowa Chops I just did in simple Argentinian “Gaucho” barbecue style – LOTS of coarse salt, and lots of black pepper.  Rub with olive oil first, then hit them hard with kosher salt and FGP and let sit for 15 mins or so before grilling.  Grilled them to an internal temp of 135, let rest for 10 mins, carved like a roast.  Heaven.

But this post is about my potatoes.  I wanted to do something roasted on the grill.  I had happened across some recipes for mustard-glazed grilled potatoes a couple of months ago in Cooking Light, and those are fantastic – I’ll share another time.  But, decided that I wanted a barbecue potato – as in smoky, tangy, tasting like barbecue food.  My process is always, “Imagine the flavor, think about the ingredients, Go!”  Most of the time, it works.  This time it ROCKED.

The recipe is simple – a quick whisk up of barbecue sauce, some dijon mustard, veggie oil and salt and pepper.  Quarter up the potatoes, toss them in a large bowl and tumble with the sauce to coat.  Then just scatter them out on a medium-hot grill, let grill for about 15 mins and it’s heaven.  Because this IS a recipe, here’s the official version with measures and everything, below:

  • 2 1/2  lbs of potatoes (about 7 medium russets) – quartered into big wedges – any kind works – russet, Yukon, C-size Redskins, etc.  Make sure you cut them large enough where they won’t fall through your grill grate.
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce of your choice.  I used good ‘ol Iowa-made Cookies.  Sweet. Smokey. Yum.
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard – give your mustard a taste first and use more or less based on how strong it is – you want the acidity of the mustard, plus the emulsifying quality of it (makes things blend together nicely) more than the mustard flavor.  I had both generic and Grey Poupon.  I used a 1/4 cup of the generic.  Had I used the Grey Poup, I’d have used quite a bit less – perhaps 2T.
  • 1/4 cup veggie oil – doesn’t really matter what, although I don’t think Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the right play – too much flavor.  Goal is to provide some fat to keep the spuds from sticking to the grill and make the sauce coat nicely.  I used Canola on this batch.
  • 1/2 t salt (I only use kosher salt for cooking)
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper

Honestly, these quantities are guesses – I know I did 2x the amount of BBQ sauce to mustard.  Oil was equal to the mustard, or so I thought, and the salt and pepper were to taste, although this is probably a good guess.  A wonderful cook and blogger, The Pioneer Woman – and her food forum, The Pioneer Woman cooks, says “potatoes and salt are best friends.”  Have to agree.

Technique:

Pre-heat grill to medium if it is a gas grill – if charcoal, well, wing it – perhaps put the lid on your grill and damper it down a bit to lower the heat before cooking.  You don’t want it too hot or you’ll burn the sugars in the sauce before the spuds cook on the inside.

Mix up all the sauce ingredients first, and put them in a large bowl.  Wash and cut up your potatoes – you want the wedges the long way on the spud so they are nice and long.  As you cut them, just drop them into the sauce bowl.  Once all the spuds are in, toss them with the sauce to coat them well.

Out to the grill!  Set up your grill for INDIRECT cooking – that means on a gas grill that you shut off one or two burners – my big Weber Genesis, I shut off the middle burner, leaving the two outers running.  On charcoal, push all of the charcoal to one half of the grill.

Using tongs, place the spuds evenly over the “INDIRECT” portion of the grill – where there’s no burner running or charcoal under the  grill.  If you’re a savant for grill marks like I am, put them on a 30-degree angle to the grill bars – looks NICE!  But you want them cr0ss-way across the grates so they don’t fall in.  Grill for 5 mins, turn, grill 5 mins more, turn, then stick a fork in one and check for doneness – they should be close, but not quite – about 5 more mins and they will be PERFECT.  Test one before you bring them in.  Test as in EAT one.  “Car Fries!”

And that’s it!

So, about this name:  As we sat down to dinner the other night, Brian (son #3) grabs one, takes a bite and says “Oh my God!  They are like Rib Fries.”  My pal “GASHM” said “Oh, you should add ‘Vegeterian’ to the name.”  Therefore, Vegeterian Rib Fries.  Taste like Ribs.  But they are fries!

Yes, I know all good food blogs have pictures, and on this my friends, I have failed.  But I’ll make them again very soon, and I’ll repost this, with the pictures next time.

Enjoy!

Stew

Hello world! Welcome to Stew’s Brew

15 Jul

Well, today is the day I start a new chapter in my life – blogging.  After fiddling around for ages on a huge variety of online forums, from special interest forums like cooking, cars, vacation destinations, etc., to being a true Facebook-junkie (hey, I get paid for it.  Really!), I’ve decided to give this outlet for my creativity a try.

I’ve always been drawn to the written word – as a little kid, I was a tremendous reader, and for the most part, still am (although my wife, Robin would say otherwise of late – too much computer, not enough book).  In high school, I started to really tap my writing skills, and found Journalism to be my calling.  In college, with two majors, one in Journalism, one in Political Science, it seems all I did was write papers.  I wrote for the Daily Iowan at school for a semester, and in one of my first jobs out of school – selling ad space for the Des Moines Skywalker (a lifestyle paper like the Chicago Reader or Village Voice, albiet on a Des Moines-like scale), I even wrote columns for that.  I love to write.

So, why did it take me until 25 years after I wrote my last Skywalker column to do this?  Great question.  Part of it is time.   Part of it is deciding what I want to write about.  I still don’t know that.  I just know I want to write.  I hope you want to read and to listen.

So, what will Stew’s Brew be about?  Life.  That’s it.  Sometimes, it will be big, pithy tomes about anything from a political topic to the new fallen snow on a Shabbat morning (I’ll probably republish that here, come winter – that was a Facebook note from a while back.)  Definitely there will be cooking to be found on here – recipes, pictures of meals, observations of fun times had with friends, etc.   There might be observations about business and the business that I am in, though I am considering a professional blog instead for that.  And most certainly, there will be just commentary about life as I see it pass before my baby blues (albeit a bit more nearsighted than in years past).

I have a few insiprations for this that I’d like to thank.  First, I’d like to thank my cousin, Tom Cox.  Tom is a blogger extraordinare, and if you haven’t read his writing, you are missing out – his blog, Carpetbaggery (carpetbaggery.com) is a fantastic observational and humorous blog – much in the same vein that I’ll be doing.  And, I’d like to thank my pal Chris Wright – while not an avid blogger, he’s also done it awhile, but as of last night he couldn’t remember his URL.  Ooops.  And finally, a work colleague, David Deal.  I like to call David the “Real Deal” as he is entirely the real deal – a social networking wizard, fantastic writer, and the crafter and keeper of iCrossing’s social networking brand, just by reading his blogs (and he has more than a few), and talking to him, I feel like I’ve found my voice at this point.

So, as they say, “watch this space for things to come”, “stay tuned for …” and, quoting Rocket J. Squirrel (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame), “Now here’s something we hope you really like.”

As you were.

Stew

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