Category Archives: parents

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. )

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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.

Fish Cakes Mad

Great gratin to the rescue.

(The recipe’s below.)

As a general rule, I hate fish cakes.  It’s just one of those things.  Few foods will drop my appetite faster than the hint of one cooking.  If fish cakes suddenly became the only meal available, I’d scrape moss and eat bugs.

This came to mind the other night when I walked in late to find my wife making fish cakes.  Actually, my first reflex was to think hard whether today was our anniversary.

Let me explain how I got into this situation.  It’s actually my father’s fault.  Dad was cut from a sheet of stainless steel.  When I was growing up, he was never confused by subtleties.  Things were either black, or white.  Which is why the idea that romance might require a bit more than a hallmark card with flowers on it, did not automatically occur to him.

Matters came to a head one birthday when he actually gifted my mother a large, brightly wrapped box brimming with vacuum cleaner.  In his mind, he was saving his wife unnecessary labor.  All those new, nifty attachments.  A modern shiny replacement for the old upright.

In front of the family, my mother bit her lip.  I don’t know what was said privately.  But my mother made fish cakes for dinner that night.  Oily, pungent canned tuna and bread crumbs, fried crispy brown in oil.  The house reeked for days.

Now dad, raised on a North Dakota farm with plain boiled potatoes, as far from an ocean as it was possible to be, was not a fan of fish in any form.  I don’t know if he’d ever actually run across anything with fins before he left home.  I think he privately doubted humans were intended to eat any creature that swam in its own pee and smelled like it.

But he’d raised his children to clean their plates of whatever dinner was put in front of them.  So he sat with his back straight and silently ate his fish cakes.

After that, fish cake nights would appear every so often.  And I never developed a taste.

‘What’s for dinner?’ I say.

‘New recipe’, my wife says, over a bowl of potent canned salmon and spices, already being formed into patties.  The dog is on station, alerted by the smell, hoping for an accident.

‘And rice’, she says.  And its clear, if I’m going to get something to eat, I’m going to have to make it myself.  What have I forgotten?

‘You said you’d make dinner tonight’, she says, solving the riddle, and then I remember, she’d asked me to cover.

‘Coming up’, I reply, and wonder whether somewhere, silently, dad’s smiling.  It’s a brave new world, pop.

Now, the only way to make up for a lousy main dish is to load on the sides.  And if possible, make something that will stand on its own.  I happen to have just the recipe.  And, while it’s pretty simple to make, it’s actual cooking, not just opening a box.  Julia Childs made it.  It even has a French name: Gratin Dauphinois.  So, it qualifies as fixing dinner.  And, Dad would approve.

You’ll Need: a 9 x 13 baking dish, cheese grater, knife or mandoline (the slicing tool, not the musical instrument), medium sauce pan

Ingredients:

  • six large russet or other starchy potato
  • 1 unpeeled garlic, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Gruyere or good Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups boiling milk or (it’s better with) cream

How To Make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.  Peel and slice the potatoes into rounds 1/8 inch thick.
  2. Bring the milk or cream to steaming hot in the saucepan, but don’t let it boil over.  When it tries, turn off the heat.
  3. Rub the cut side of the garlic clove all around the baking dish.  Then smear, to cover, the baking dish bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
  4. Spread half the potato slices in the baking dish, top with half the remaining butter, and half the salt and pepper.
  5. Put the rest of the potatoes in a layer on top.  Add the remaining butter, salt pepper, and then sprinkle evenly with the cheese.
  6. Carefully pour the milk or cream into the baking dish.
  7. Put a baking sheet (with a lip) in the oven on a shelf about one third of the way from the top.  Put the baking dish with potatoes on the baking sheet.  (Pull the shelf partly out to help keep from spilling.)
  8. Bake about 30 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when the potatoes are tender to a fork, the top is golden brown and bubbly.
  9. Let it set out of the oven about ten minutes before serving.

Sweet Little Lies Too

General Mills just said they’ll be adding less sugar to it’s kids cereals, and I’m trying to feel excited.  Isn’t that like, I dunno, UPS saying they won’t be driving as fast when they take shortcuts through the schoolyard?  Should  they really be doing it in the first place?

I figured I’d better break it to the kids gently. The Trix rabbit,  “C00-C00” Cocoa Puffs and Lucky the Charms leprechaun are plotting to secretly wean them from some of their breakfast sugar.

Not all at once.  Not too much, or too fast, I explained.

The plan is to lower the sugar in small steps, and hope kids won’t notice and switch cereals.  It’s a fear that grips the industry: if kids don’t get their fix from one dealer, they’ll find another.  Jeff Harmening, president of General Mills’ Big G cereal division, summed in up: “…if you change the taste dramatically or suddenly, they’ll walk away from the brand,” he said.

After working for decades to supply America’s kids with all the sugar they want, it’s a hard change for the industry.  But apparently, loading children with the sweets they crave may in fact be bad for them.  Recent studies from the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and the entire latest decade suggest the explosion in childhood obesity, diabetes and other health issues may have something to do with all that sweetener in the diet.

Given sugar is now the single largest additive to processed foods, and breakfast cereals are the number four most often purchased food in America, some have begun to think there might be some connection.

Clearly, not all parents are going to be concerned.  Those who may be upset with the cereal sugar cutbacks can add back about a quarter teaspoon of sugar per serving, the amount the company is taking out.  That will keep the sugar level up at it’s current total of two and a half teaspoons a bowl.

To its credit, General Mills’ goal is to reduce the single serving of sugar to less than 10 grams in cereals targeted to children.  But studies and new national dietary guidelines for children say they shouldn’t be eating more than 48 grams of sugar per day.  Which means just one bowl of cereal and one can of soda (39 grams of sugar) would more than do it for the whole day.

Adult cereals won’t be affected. Unlike those made for kids, ours typically only have 1 to 3 grams of added sugar in the first place.

But, my kids weren’t listening.  They were polishing off the slices of fresh dense bread I’d turned out of the breadmaker that morning.  With one-third the sugar, and twice the protein, as the cereals.

Trix Rabbit my eye.

For my take on why Dads should own bread machines,  see my post, Winner By a Nose.