Category Archives: men cooking

How We Stopped Using the S Word at Dinner

Kid's diet needs to be filled with healthy food.

Spinach.  It’s just rude.

There’s lots of worry today about kids getting fat, eating unhealthy,  filling up on high calorie  snacks.  Sure.  But do you know what the real problem is?  Every year, the bad foods get sexier, more fun, and cuter.  Meanwhile,  all the healthy foods are hanging around just as ugly as they were at creation.

Think about it.  On the left, we have cheese stuffed rising crust artisan supreme five topping gooey extreme deep dish tastes like take-out pizza with free cinnamon sugary twist bread and butter soft sticks.  On the right, we have broccoli.  Seriously: broc co li.  First off, what’s with that name? It sounds like something’s stuck in the garbage disposal. And, just what the heck is it?  And, how’d we ever get the idea kids would sit up and salivate when they hear it’s for dinner?

Food companies know better.  They don’t call those yellowish poo shaped things in the foil bag by what they really are.   Cattle feed, ground and mashed in monster vats with truckloads of syrup and salt.  Laced with won’t-ever-go-bad chemical secret powder.  Then squeezed out wet, blown with factory air, hit with dayglow dust, and shoveled into bags by the tons.

If they called them what they are, they’d never leave the shelf.  Instead, whole teamloads of high paid experts are hired to pimp them up. They get completely phony names, like ‘itos’ or ‘ingles’.  They get put on TV with big production numbers,  cool cartoon avatars, and insanely happy snackers.  Really, look at the people in those commercials:  are they wolfing chips, or antidepressants?

Next to these, vegetables just look like shiploads of immigrants at the Oscars.

Isn’t it time somebody decided to re-brand and market the food we really want kids to eat? Why do we have to keep trying to push something past tightly pinched lips that sounds like number one?  Are we permanently stuck calling it peas?  I say, time for a makeover. To get the ball rolling, here are five Good Food 2.0 ideas.

1. Mean Green Bully Blast  –  Today’s kids want edgy, power loaded foods that will make a difference on the school bus or swing set.  Have you ever known any cool kid with a bag of broccoli? ‘Broccoli’ is something musty from the old country you find in grandma’s trunk in the back of the closet that’ll get you flattened and banned.

2. Shred Head with Shag –  Yeah, it’s still just salad – and isn’t that a really appealing food name to kids.  Does any other word in the English language  start with ‘sal’ except saliva?  Why would anyone want to put that in their mouth? And, even worse, stop calling them lettuce and carrots – seriously, they sound exactly like something you’d accidentally gag up.  Le-eh-eht-tuce.  Carrrr-rot. Yuck.

3.  Dragon Scales with Wizard Stone Clusters –  I don’t know who thought up the name ‘granola’.  I do know, not one of the top 500 popular kid’s cereals is called ‘granola’.  And, anybody who believes I’m going to sit over breakfast and convince my tykes they’ll poop better when they’re fifty if they eat lots and lots of fiber instead of magically delicious marshmallow shapes, has never been to my house.

4.  Sunsweeties –  Nature has done a bang up good job of taking pure sunshine, turning it into delicious flavored sugar, storing it in fragrant, bright colored, fun shaped packages.  Then, we started messing with things, calling them ‘fruits’ and whatnot, and put the kids right off.  So now, companies buy them up, boil them down, dilute the goodness and mix it with gluey, inky stuff and sell the same thing as treats.  There’s something funny about that.  I’m just not sure what.

5.  White Leopard NinjaMight –  You can tell just how long ago cottage cheese got its name from the fact that (a) nobody has lived in a cottage since Hansel and Gretel and (b) they stopped making cheese inside them long before that.  And what kind of cheese comes out of a dank  little hut in the forest in the first place?  I can tell you my kids won’t touch it, no matter how good for their bones, with protein and all.

Try it yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.  Put your own marketing whiz to use, and stop calling healthy foods by names that doom them to the garbage bin.  And, do us all a favor, share some of your ideas here, for other dads.  Or, just keep shoveling the s and peas.

This Holiday, Please Don’t Drink and Dad

40 year old father arrested for driving little Barbie car at 4 MPH drunk.

Don't let this be you.

They’ll drive you to it.

Many men start adulthood – and dating, and married life, and pregnancy, and fatherhood – with a drink, or two.  There’s a connection in there, somewhere.  Anyway, as time goes on, the responsible male head of the family recognizes, there is a time for having a beer, or bottle of vodka, and a time for staying relatively sober.

Especially now, when children’s thoughts turn to sugar plums and expensive electronics,  it’s important to spare them the lifelong embarrassment, shame and terror that can come from being a careless,  tipsy pop.  This Holiday Season, as you’re getting your drink on, I hope you’ll join me and take a moment to see things from your kids’ perspective, with this Top Ten signs they wish we wouldn’t Drink and Dad. 

1.  Holiday music is a special treat for youngsters.  Everyone likes to sing along.  But if you’re doing the third replay of ‘Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer’ and still laughing, why don’t we check the breathalyzer.

2.  ‘Invisible elves’ is probably not going to convince anybody why Daddy is stumbling a lot over things nobody else can see.

3.  Yeah, they’re cute as can be.  But really:  trying for that once-in-a-lifetime shot of the kids hanging like ornaments on the Christmas tree is just not going to fly.  No matter how much the guys at work will really love it.

4.  If you can’t dance, there was absolutely nothing in that last drink that fixed ‘can’t’.

5.  No matter how many pretty colors and shapes it has in it, that giant mixed bowl of cereal is just not going to pass for Christmas dinner.

6.  The following are signs you’re doing online gift shopping after a bit too much Holiday Cheer.  You  (a) buy something your son will grow into and be able to use five or six years from now;  (b) order that drum kit you always wished you’d got for Christmas when you were a kid;  (c) decide it won’t really matter the gift for your wife isn’t going to arrive til January 4.

7.  Hearing the kids and their sleepover friends play ‘guess why Daddy won’t stop laughing / crying by himself in the kitchen’ is probably not the kind of Holiday game you want to encourage.

8. Yes, it really does save time and trouble to just let the little ones run around free for the Holidays without their drawers or diapers on.  For about, oh, two hours.

9.  Yes, it’s four am, and you really did leave that three page note finally getting everything off your chest on the desk in the bedroom your mother in law is using.

10.  It may be a good idea to check first, and see from the kids faces whether they are really as excited as you think to see you in the living room wearing all the Christmas lights.

This Holiday, raise a glass, make a toast, but give the family a time they’ll treasure forever.  Not a viral YouTube video.

(By the way, if you’re an alcoholic, pick up the phone.  Now.  And get help.  Seriously. )

You’re Possessed by Holiday Diet Demons and They Want You To Skip This Post

High calorie pecan and pumpkin dessert, diet busting Holiday Pie Fat image from maubrowncow

Can you decode the secret message hidden in this dessert?

Holiday diet? Are you nuts? Mmm…nuts.

Quick:  have you recently  accidentally misplaced the bathroom scales, in the driveway, behind the car’s rear tire?  Have you been decorating all your large mirrors with thick flock?  Are your ‘lite cooking’ tips buried under stacks of colorful Christmas recipe calorie bombs?

If so, don’t be alarmed.  It’s not your fault.  The reason for this behavior is your home, like millions of others, has been secretly possessed by holiday diet demons. It’s a fact. Holiday diet demons (or HDD’s) are invisible, attracted to the colors red and green,  gravy, and appetites. They have nothing to do all day and night but try to convince men, women, children and dogs this is eating season, anything is game, and resistance is futile.

I have personally encountered these demons, and they’re not pretty. In fact, they’re quite crafty.  Inside your head, they sound completely reasonable and convincing. They are able to whisper seductive cooking and eating instructions directly into the part of the brain that’s responsible for stuffing the mouth full with both hands.

That is why, as a public service, I’m presently sitting outside, away from any possible snacking opportunity, to share some of my important findings and notes.  Use this list to check yourself for whether diet demons are secretly responsible for some added jolly at your house.

1.  One sure sign of holiday diet demon infestation, is having a cheery belief that foods with names ending in ‘itos’ are part of a trendy new hispanic healthfood craze.  This is actually false.

2.  If you’ve been celebrating because chocolate is busy curing cancer, you may have demons.  No, not even the really dark, rich, smooth expensive kind.  So, keeping a high level in the bloodstream at all times, actually is not necessary.

3.  Pie a la mode doesn’t really appear on the breakfast menu of any culture, ever.

4.  Deep fat fried food is actually not a method recommended by medical research to prevent pregnancy.  When you get right down to statistics and actual couples, it’s just not been found to be all that effective.

5.  A few extra pounds underneath the chin doesn’t really make you look more distinguished.  And neither does the scarf.

6.  Parents:  punishing your children, or teaching them a lesson, by finishing their desert for them, will send the message that all you really care about is getting their sweets.  Highly likely, some demons involved there.

7.  In spite of how good it sounds, that new strategy of reducing or completely eliminating the hours between meals will not simplify your life.  Not in a good way, anyhow.

8.  Joining Holiday Diet Clubs, whose members go into each others homes to eat their fattening foods for them, has not yet been proved to result in any significant weight loss.

9.  Most studies do show that people better survive cold weather, and colder months, when they add an extra inch or two of insulation to their door jambs.  Not their waists, as previously reported.

If you have any such signs of holiday diet demons at your place, be sure and pass them along to me in the comment box below, or twitter me @kitchenup    #dietdemon.

As for me, I am not curious about what the buzzards are circling over there.  I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to eat it.  But, maybe it’s worth just a quick check.

The Death of Mister Mom

Dad in the kitchen in the 1960's wearing a pink apron doing dishes, children smiling.Mister Mom?  In your dreams.

I was walking past the girls room the other day, and heard them playing dolls.  One said, ‘This one will be the mister mom’.   I almost dropped my rubber gloves and feather duster.

I know.  It’s real cute.  Guy opens a diaper,  calms a sick tummy, or gets mushy peas into, instead of onto, a toddler,  and the six o’clock news anchors fall over themselves cooing about ‘Mister Mom’.  Cue the laugh track.

Mister Mom.  Women hear it and smile knowingly.  Real men take one step away from each other and chuckle, manly.  He’s a joke.  Mister Mom.

Mister Mom is the slack jaw guy who can’t figure out pasta sauce for dinner.  Who uses the smoke alarm for a kitchen timer. The doofus helplessly holding his infant boy turned pee fountain.  The ‘here, you take the crying baby, you’re a woman’ guy, who then wipes his hands on his faded football jersey like he’s afraid he’ll catch something.  The man whipped by life or love of a woman into domestic submission.  He’s the rough male forced to fill in for a real mom, out of his nature and out of his depth, trying to ape what real moms do, in his silly, clumsy way.

He’s not someone you’ll ever meet, however.  You won’t find that guy in your neighborhood, or any neighborhood, unless you’re watching the flat screen.  Because Mister Mom is pure fiction, a Hollywood cartoon,  a figment toasted by ad men everywhere.

Ever wonder where he came from?

If you look back at macho 50’s and 60’s TV – black and white glory – you won’t find him.  Just the opposite.  There’s ‘Sky King’,  a spy chasing pilot raising a couple of kids himself.  And ‘My Three Sons’, being raised by a pipe smoking engineer and tough old male housekeeper.  And, ‘The Rifleman’, an iron-spined solo frontiersman running a homestead in the West, standing up to bullies, bringing up  a son.  Up on the Ponderosa,  Ben Cartwright mans the house in ‘Bonanza’.  Danny Thomas, in  ‘Make Room for Daddy’, takes charge of the home and kids for a stretch after his TV wife dies.  Chief Warden Rick chases criminals in Coral Key Florida while raising two sons with some help from Flipper, a dolphin. By the 1970’s we find Fred Sanford, who raised son Lamont by himself, and Manhattan widower Phillip Drummond bringing up three youngsters in ‘Diff’rent Strokes’.

Throw in a dozen or so movies with single fathers – think Atticus Finch of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – and there’s plenty of testosterone-at-home culture.  And every single one of them was just called, ‘dad’.  With respect.

It wasn’t until the 70’s that dads at home caught some disrespect.  First they were laughed about as ‘househusbands’, and with 1983’s movie release of “Mr. Mom”, that term took over.  Suddenly, the notion was,  men who fell out of their ‘traditional’ male roles as breadwinners, were morphing into female roles, and being feminized in the process.

And in my opinion, that’s where the Mister Mom stereotype comes from.  From the disrespect many have for feminists, and feminism, and men who didn’t fear it.  As women moved out, and men moved in, suddenly the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s man at home, a strong highly capable male raising kids, turned in the public imagination into a wimpy incompetent pretending to be a mother.

The sad fact is,  that’s the image that’s stuck today, and frequently repeated in major newspapers, magazines and television coverage.

What difference does all this make?  I’m not just being cranky.  It doesn’t dent my ego to help raise my children or man the kitchen. And there’s a legion of dad bloggers out there now proving the same point.

But, how many other men in this country, and around the world, avoid taking more time with their children during daylight hours, or contributing to their home life, because of that stigma?  How many children grow up thinking that men can’t be men and raise them at the same time?  How many women work double shifts, out and then home, to make up for it?

It’s time to bury Mister Mom.

It’s time to recognize that a man at home isn’t less a man.  He’s not a surrogate mother.  He’s a father.  Dad, trying to be the best dad he can be.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Weather Tree and Pot Roast

A slender tree with maple like leaves, in colors of red, orange, yellow, brown.We all watch time go by.  We just see it differently, with age.

(Recipe below.)

One morning on the drive from home to schools, halfway down the hill on the two lane, the kids all crowded toward the passenger side window, hushed, peering out the glass, then cheered and chattered as we zipped past.

‘What is it’, I asked, scanning them in the rearview.

‘The weather tree!’, the twins announced, gleeful.

‘It’s red and orange, so rain’s are coming,’ they advised me.

That was the first time I’d heard of  it.  I’d never even noticed the tree before, and it took them another ride to point it out clearly to me.

On one stretch where the road straightened, off to the right near the edge of the shoulder, it stood, a thin but tall, scraggly liquid amber, with just a few branches, cropped close to the trunk.  It looked like it had taken a lightning strike at some time, and partly recovered.  A bit sad and forlorn, but obviously a survivor.

Over the years since, the weather tree has held a strange attraction for the kids, who for reasons unknown to me to this day, feel a kinship, and security, when they see it change.

‘How’s the weather tree’, I’ll say.  And season after season we’ve watched for it as we roll by, and the children call out it’s turning.  Bare to budding green, full leaf to fall leaf color, then, as it lost them again, back to winter bare.  The weather tree has marked our time in a way television or hallmark never could.

Last week an old family friend called my wife to come by.  She took her to the front room, where she’d lined up brown boxes.  They were filled with her kitchen –  her best special pots, platters, and utensils, from an earlier America, her life.  The time had come, she would no longer be using them, she said.  Collected, well employed,  she wanted them to have a home.  A good home.

We unpacked solid cast iron dutch ovens, heavyweight black covered pots and skillets of simple sturdy design.  I’m not superstitious, but they had a dull metallic glow, that hinted at a life, and asked for respect.

Coming home alone up the hill last night, I saw the weather tree, glaring its defiant red and burnt orange signal, shaken in the wind but not bending, and I decided to put the iron to use, as it was intended.

Now, pot roast actually describes how it was once cooked centuries ago – in a heavy pot over a hearth fire, where it simmered for hours.  An iron pot distributes heat from every side, top and bottom, and with a close-fitting heavy lid, holds moisture well, so the contents – usually a tough cut of meat – cooks slowly over time, and becomes fully tender.  Today’s crock pot is just a wannabe to this original.

The version here is just a straight, simple, savory old fashioned one I knew from my mother.

You’ll need:

Large cast iron or other heavy dutch oven (big enough to hold about 4 pounds of chuck roast)

Ingredients

  • a 3 to 5 pound, well marbled beef chuck cut, blade, or similar.  You want it nice and thick, not steaks.  Fat is your friend, with this dish. The method of cooking works to turn a tough cut tender.
  • salt and pepper;  your favorite spice rub for beef, if you like
  • 3 Tbs cooking oil
  • 3 – 5  garlic cloves, rough chopped – as much as you like
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 – 3 cups red wine, preferably a fruity red like merlot or cab
  • a sprig or 1/2 teaspoon of thyme;  one bay leaf if you like
  • 1 and1/2 packets of dry onion soup mix
  • 4 good sized carrots
  • 2 celery stalks, with some of the inner green leaves from the core
  • OPTIONAL – four large yukon or red potatoes cut in large chunks  (I always prefer to make mashed, because it catches the pan sauce so well, but you can add the potatoes to the pot 30 minutes before serving if you like)

How To Make:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 F / 205 C
  2. Lightly salt and pepper both sides of the beef, rub with optional spices if you like.
  3. Add the cooking oil to the iron pot, heat it on the stove top til a drop of water sizzles, but before oil smokes.
  4. Put the meat in and cook it each side about 3 -4 minutes, til each side is browned nicely. This adds color and flavor, but also sears the meat and seals in some moisture.
  5. Add the chopped garlic, thyme and bay leaf.
  6. Turn down the heat, and add the onion soup mix,  wine, onion, carrot, celery and celery leaf.  Add water, if needed, enough to just cover the meat.
  7. Cover and place the iron pot into the oven. Reduce oven temp to 350 F / 175 C, and cook for about three hours.  Ideally, the liquid around the meat will simmer, and not boil.
  8. About an hour in, you’ll smell it.  Be patient. Time is what tenderizes the meat.  It is done when a fork pierces it easily.  Slice it fairly thin across the grain.

I like to serve the roast with spoonfuls of the gravy, over mashed potatoes with a hearty bread, a nice salad, green beans. The red wine gives it a wonderful fruity, rich touch that complements the savory beef and onion.

Comfort food. The kind that’s fortified generations and generations.  And, maybe, also connects us to our past and future.

Where’d the Halloween Candy Go, Dad?

Colorful Halloween pumkin holding candiesIt’s that freaky time of year.  Halloween candy is strangely disappearing in homes across the country.

The pumpkins have arrived.  Costumes that have been discussed for weeks are getting picked out for fixing and fitting.  And final plans are being laid, as serious as Marines storming a beach.  In spite of its careful camouflage, the neighborhood is about to be invaded, flanked, porches will be swarmed, pesky pooches evaded, targets acquired and taken.

Everywhere youngsters are rip-roaring ready to fill overflowing sacks with sugar, heavier than they can manage to lug themselves.  Halloween.  The candy makers holiday.

This year my twins, who’ve outgrown princesses and witches and Disney characters, are even too old for trick or treating for candy, and for the first time, they’re made up helpers, to walk the younger two.

‘You can’t eat candy til you get home’, I hear them scolding my youngest daughter, who looks as fully surprised and let down by the news as a fisherman who finds his lake’s been drained bone dry.

‘Maybe one piece’, I say.  Maybe there’s still fish in there yet.

‘We check all the candy when we get home, and then decide what candy to keep, and what to give away’, they continue.

‘What?!’ my youngest says, now truly alarmed.

‘Don’t worry,’ I say, trying to signal the twins to cut it off.  It’s not something we make a big deal about. The girls catch me drawing a hand across my neck and take the hint.

It is the rule, however. We decided on it to keep the kids from gorging themselves for days on sweets.  Or hoarding and sneaking, then showing up for dinner with no appetite at all.  Like someone else I vaguely recall.

And, because, truthfully, my own kids don’t spend time after school running and playing til it’s so dark you can’t see a ball, the way we did.

‘You’ll have plenty of candy, believe me,’ I say to reassure her.  More than plenty.  How much more sugar does a child actually need a day, anyway?  I just don’t remember being tempted by anywhere near the sugary foods kids are being sold these days.  Candy was some real kind of treat.  And, we still had to portion it out.

Just when I think things are under control, the twins repeat the rule, for good measure.  A real issue is brewing now, and off my youngest goes, near tears, to ask Mom why she’s not getting any candy this year.

‘It’s better this way, Dad’, the twins tell me when it’s quieted down.  ‘A whole lot better than the other way.’

‘What other way’? I say.  I just assumed they didn’t pay all that much attention, and we got away with slipping it out, to drop at the shelter, or into the trash.

‘When our candy disappeared, it used to scare us. Then Mom told us you were eating it.’

I heard oak leaves rustle on the big tree outside, like water falling over stones in a brook.  And saw the dawn a second time that day.

‘That’s why nobody ever wanted to come to a Halloween sleepover at our house’, they said, and looked at me with years of secret candy missing suspicion in their eyes.

‘That’s what your Mother told you?’, I started, and could feel the heat rise.

‘Til last night. Then she told us, you didn’t really eat all of it.’

‘Girls, I did NOT take your candy to eat!’ I said.  And, I certainly ate no more than your mother.

‘Well, Mom said….’

‘….we could take care of checking and separating all the candy this year. Ok’?

And they smiled, at each other, and at me.  Plans had been laid, and just deserts secured.

Oh, times, they surely do change. I could see, a new order had come.

And so I set off to clear up a few Halloween ghosts of my own.

5 Things Dad Should Never Do in the Kitchen

Man cooking kitchen finger food drippingMost of the time, a guy in the kitchen won’t think twice.  Which is why women keep a careful watch.

Let me say, I don’t know of a single case where a family has ever keeled over and expired because of a man doing any of these things.  In fact, most of the time, the family probably gets along just fine for years without ever noticing.

Then, occasionally, someone does notice and an alarm will go up, so even distant neighbors pause behind their windows and wonder what  sick biohazard stuff dad’s been up to in the garage.

In the interest of domestic tranquility and general hygiene, consider these five tips on kitchen and cooking mistakes you might want to consider breaking.

1. Do Not Taste Food with Your Fingers   Now, at first it seems reasonable that those pointed things on the ends of your hands were custom built for the job of dipping into food, to check flavor or doneness.  However, its come to my attention that some people think men do not wash their hands nearly enough.  Or, they do not know where those hands have been. Therefore, it’s unwise to slip them into the pot or serving dish for sampling.  Especially more than once.

2.  Do Not Mix Food With Your Hands  This makes little sense.  A spoon or fork is slow and clumsy when it comes to,  say, tossing a salad, unless you want it on the floor.  And for blending sugar or spices into food that’s thick as paste?  And, are we  sure a spoon is really cleaner? I’m willing to bet, you have no idea where it originally came from. Or what somebody did with it before you got it.  Even so, some people consider it completely gross when you use the good hands you’ve had your entire life.

3.  Do Not Get Food On Your Clothes   Somehow, food which is good enough to put into your mouth, is no longer safe if it lands on the outside of your jeans or t-shirt.  Once there, it apparently turns instantly foul and repulsive.  You can no longer eat it. You need to immediately change, because wearing food below your neck puts some people completely off their appetite.  Apparently the only way to avert this disaster is to wear an apron.  A food-smacked apron makes folks feel homey.  On your t-shirt, the same thing is just stains and grime.

4. Do Not Mix The Wrong Foods Together   Many dads don’t realize,  certain spices, ingredients and seasonings need to be kept as far from each other as possible. If they ever are put together, the food turns instantly disgusting.  I’m told, someone doesn’t even have to taste it, to know its bad.  Apparently, everybody (who is not a man) knows this. You just don’t mix certain things together, even if you think it might work.  Or because they were the only food items you could find in the refrigerator. That’s a concoction.  Decent people don’t eat concoctions.  That’s why we have recipes.

5. Do Not Use the Kitchen Sink for Cleaning  Dirty things have no place being washed in the kitchen sink.  It’s used for washing.  That’s  just the way it is.  If you want to wash hands in the kitchen, go wash them first in the bathroom.  Don’t bring that filthy dog in here.  Don’t even dare think about doing anything greasy, gummy or grimy in there at all: the sink might get dirty. And then where would we wash up?

Good luck with all this, and take my word, there’s no point going to the mat on a single one.  By the way, when I talk about aprons, I’m talking about the kind a man should be comfortable in.

And since I get asked what that means, I decided to come up with a few one of a kind, Dad’s own, like the one’s below, that a guy can be PROUD standing in at the sink or stove.  Not your mother’s apron, by a long shot.  And, enough with the BBQ already – these are for men who cook in the kitchen, with some attitude.  Tshirts, for those who prefer to just wipe the hands.  Printed and delivered through Zazzle, a pro place that does high quality work, and ships worldwide.   Dad’s In the Kitchen! Gift Shop

Go over and take a look if you’re in the market.  I’m told some women find a man in an apron sexy. There are some fun ones, I come up with new ones every week, customizable, plus mugs and other gear.   Let me know what you think, or what you’d like to see .Gift cooking aprons for men and dads Chicken Dinner and I Love Dad's Cooking