Dinnertime Stories With Hope

Hope has graduated from asking for stories to telling them.

Her stories entertain everyone, including Luke. Tonight, we were having ribs for dinner and Hope started telling a story about mastodons (her favorite thing at the Ohio Historical Society Museum). I wasn’t able to record the first part (which started with “once upon a time”), but here’s the rest of it, until Hope gets distracted by some ribs. But then Luke chimes in with a song, which inspires Hope to sing too.

Oh, and usually dinnertime at our house doesn’t look like Medieval Times, but hey, we were having ribs.

The Awesometown Strawberry Farm

Two summers ago, when we first moved into our new house, I planted three strawberry plants. They didn’t grow much, so by the end of the summer, I moved one. The one I moved grew, taking over our herb garden. So last year, I clipped a bunch of the runners and moved them to our side yard, where they established themselves quickly.

This spring, our strawberry plants have been growing like crazy. How crazy? Well, here’s today’s haul:

That’s been an average haul over the past week (plus a few days). One thing we’ve learned is that we have to eat them pretty quickly- these don’t last as long as the store-bought ones. But that’s not a problem for The Civee, Hope and myself (especially Hope). The most surprising thing is that Hope can be patient with the strawberries- she won’t pick them unless The Civee or I says she can and (even though she constantly asks) she waits until they’ve been washed off before eating them.

This year, I also started a box garden and planted peppers, green beans, broccoli, spinach and beets. But those won’t be ready for harvest for another few months. I’m glad our strawberries are working out. It’s rewarding to eat something you’ve grown yourself.

The other day, I was reading all about how to grow strawberries. The experts recommended doing a bunch of things that I haven’t done, like thinning the plants out, mowing the plants in the fall and putting mulch over them in the winter. I’m inspired to try some of that out later this year. Who knows? All that extra work could make what we picked today look like nothing.

Because Kids Like to Say Salsa

I found out that today for snacktime at Hope’s school they had salsa.

While I’m happy her food choices keep expanding, I’m happier for the excuse to bust out one of my favorite routines.

(Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video), so I’ll include the text:


GEORGE: Why don’t they have salsa on the table?

JERRY: What do you need salsa for?

GEORGE: Salsa is now the number one condiment in America.

JERRY: You know why? Because people like to say “salsa.” “Excuse me, do you have salsa?” “We need more salsa.” “Where is the salsa? No salsa?”

GEORGE: You know it must be impossible for a Spanish person to order seltzer and not get salsa. (Angry) “I wanted seltzer, not salsa.”

JERRY: “Don’t you know the difference between seltzer and salsa?? You have the seltezer after the salsa!”

The Making of the Green Potatoes

So we actually did some St. Patrick’s Day related things today. The Civee, Hope and I all wore green. And we went to the Columbus St. Patrick’s Day parade. We went to COSI (one of Hope’s favorite places) a few hours before the parade and let Hope play. Then we snagged a spot on the lawn, waited about 20 minutes, and watched as the first half of the parade went by us.

Hope enjoyed the festivities, but was getting low on energy, so we left for lunch. Later on in the day, we decided to add a festive twist to dinner by making green mashed potatoes (one of The Civee’s family traditions). Each night as we make dinner we’ve been allowing Hope to do one or two small things to make her feel involved. We let her add the green to the potatoes. She immediately wanted to sample her work.

She had to wait a little while, but I think the wait was worth it.

Cooking Like the Master

My favorite restaurant of all time may not be around anymore, but I do have one of the chef’s recipes.

The second incarnation of Tomo’s Cuisine closed a few years ago and Chef Tomo Tanaka has disappeared. A few months ago, while reading reviews of his restaurant, I found Tomo’s recipe for Tuna in Daikon Sauce. Since October, tuna has been off-limits for The Civee, so I bookmarked the page with the thought I could return to it later this summer.

We had planned to have salmon for dinner tonight. We’ve had a lot of salmon recently and I was looking for something different to do. I was pondering the preparation when it hit me- what if I modified Tomo’s recipe to use salmon, rather than tuna? It would still be a gamble, because I’ve never cooked with daikon before and could see that getting out of hand.

I went to an Asian supermarket and picked up a daikon for 65 cents. It was a lot like a radish, but the bite wasn’t as strong. The key to the recipe, though, was (as the article mentions) the combination of soy sauce and butter. Surprisingly, the results were good. The Civee and Hope seemed to enjoy the salmon. The fish came apart more than I think it was supposed to, but the flavor made up for it. I’ll try this again, both with salmon, and with tuna later in the summer.

It wasn’t quite Tomo’s, but it was a nice reminder of how good his restaurant was. I may have one of his recipes. but I still have a long way to go before I can do wonderful things with food like he did.

(The original end to that last sentence read “before I can cook like him,” but The Civee nicely raised the point: “do sushi chefs cook?” To which I replied a) if all they do is make sushi, no and b) Tomo cooked a lot. But either way, to call what Tomo did as simply “cooking” would be a disservice)

Grilling Season Starts When I Say It Starts

Late yesterday afternoon, the temperature in Columbus hit the fifties. That combined with the fact that it was a Friday and I had some pork chops in the fridge made me feel like if I didn’t grill dinner, than I would be wasting a perfect opportunity.

I started things up right around dusk, about the same time the outside temperature seemingly dropped 20 degrees. Even with less light than I’m used to (thanks to the shorter daylight hours) I was able to get the grill started. I had to scramble to find all of the grilling equipment that we had put away for the winter.

Even though I had a good flame, things felt different. Not just the cold or the dark, but even the flame, which stayed blue the whole time I was warming up the coals in the chimney starter. I’ve never seen a blue flame last that long, because usually it dies out once the top coals start burning.

Along with the pork chops, which I had brining since that afternoon, I made some potatoes on the grill and some peas on the oven.

As expected, dinner was great. And it was nice to have some food fresh off the grill in early January.

Twitter: a Place for Celebrities to Answer Your Questions

Over the past month or so, The Civee, Hope and I have developed a breakfast routine on weekends: waffles and/or pancakes. Hope loves preparing just as much as she loves eating- she and The Civee mix the ingredients and I cook.

This morning, while getting some pancakes ready, The Civee informed me we had twins- the egg she just cracked had a double yolk (stupidly, I forgot to grab a camera and document this, so you’ll have to take my word for it). We went back and forth over whether the recipe should be modified- would the added protein in the second yolk throw a monkey wrench into the balance of the recipe? Ultimately, we decided to go with the recipe as is and the pancakes turned out fine.

But throughout the day, that question was on my mind. Did we make the right call? What if we had been cooking something where the egg played a key role? I’m sure I could have Googled an answer, but I’d rather hear from an expert.

I’ve followed Alton Brown on Twitter since he started his account. I’ve watched his shows for years. He’s one of two people on the Food Network these days that actually knows anything about food. If anyone could answer my question, it would be him. Still, he’s a busy guy and even though he answers a lot of questions on Twitter, odds are that mine would fall through the cracks. Still, I decided to send my question out into the ether:

And before you could say egg-salad sandwich:

I was quite surprised. The Civee and I made the right call. Alton Brown answered my question and he did it rather expeditiously. I did sent Alton (I figure we’re on a first-name basis now) a follow up thank you, because he didn’t have to answer my question.

This goes to show that you never know until you ask. And thanks to Twitter, at least one celebrity has acknowledged my existence.

Thanksgiving Without a Turkey

I hope everyone out there in Internet-land had a great Thanksgiving, because I know Hope, The Civee and I sure did. It was just the three of us and The Civee’s parents. And because we were hosting and I was cooking, I decided to fulfill one of my life-long dreams (that ended up not happening a few years ago): steak for Thanksgiving. Or more accurately, Prime Rib for Thanksgiving.

It’s not that I don’t like turkey. I enjoy turkey tacos or the occasional turkey burger. But I happen to like the idea of steak for Thanksgiving (or any other day). The plans were hatched early on after we invited The Civee’s parents. They were both on board with the change from tradition.

I’ve never cooked prime rib before, and was a little bit nervous. I got a 6.5 pound section and had the whole afternoon planned. Out of the fridge at 1:15, in the oven at 3:05, lower the heat at 3:25, baste/check every half-hour, out of the oven by 5:15 (as long as it reached 120 degrees) and let it rest 20 minutes. All I did to it before putting it in the oven was put some butter on the sides and a pepper-garlic powder mixture over the whole thing. But when the estimated removal time came, the temperature was still lower than 100 degrees, so I had to let it cook longer (another 40 minutes all together).

I also made a salad and asparagus. The Civee’s mom made some broccoli and The Civee made mashed potatoes. Despite the wait for the prime rib (which ended up being worth it), dinner was incredible. The Civee’s father made some pies, which provided a great end to an amazing meal.

It was nice to make a dinner (especially one which we all thought was really good) to people who have provided many meals for The Civee and I (and many others). And I think Hope really liked the idea of a day where you eat all day. I could definitely do a non-turkey Thanksgiving again.

Although, I do have to say, even not having had any turkey, right now I’m feeling pretty tired. Who knew there was tryptophan in beef?