You ever start a project, then have problems pop up? Of course you have. Isn't it satisfying when you can figure out the problem and move on to finishing the project? Yes, yes it is. Don't you just want to reign down fire and lightning from your fingertips, envoking death and destruction at your whim when you're several hours into solving a problem, and the progress bar on the computer says 93% complete, when a freak storm conjurs up right over your place of employment and in a blink of an eye the power in your office flickers and everything shuts down because we decided not to invest in battery back-ups for the computers yet we'll get to that in next years budget it's hours past the time I should have gone home our PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!
So what's for dinner.
For those of you who followed along my Twitter last night (@tedrok), I'll be detailing my recipe and thoughts of the meal.
I found a recipe online for some sort of homemade General Tso-style chicken dish. I had a chicken and my mom was at the store, so I had her pick up a few extras for dinner (fyi, my wife, 2 kids and I live with my mom and sister).
Here's the recipe as I jotted it on my phone:
Coat chick in 1c cornstarch, oil/pan few min, casserole dish, cover w 1/3 hot sauce, 1c brwn sub, 1 tb h2o, 2tsp app cid vin, .5 tsp salt, hour @ 325
So, Food Network, let me know when my new show starts.
I started with a whole Greenwise chicken from Publix (grocer in the south; excellent establishment; @publix). Greenwise is Publix's all natural and organic products. The chicken is labeled "Fresh from Florida" but I honestly have not done any research on these chickens, what farm they come from, or how they're treated. I should as Publix today.
Chickens were on sale last week at $1.99/lb. But the day I bought them the sale had just ended. Luckily I'm comfortable wading through a dozen chickens to search for the best one - which I found in the back of the shelf at the sale price (last 2).
Buying chickens whole and carving them up is the cheapest way to cook chicken for my family. The breast are usually one meal and the boned-parts are another, often with leftovers. As mentioned on Twitter, learning to carve a chicken was probably the best piece of education I received during my short time in culinary school. In about 5 minutes, I can have a whole chicken down to 9 parts (x2 breast, thighs, legs, wings, and the carcass (sometimes saved for stock or soup)). Ziploc the stuff your not using and you've got dinner half-way done for another day.
Cubed the chicken into little chunks. Threw a bit of cornstarch into a bowl and coated the chunks (probably would have been easier just to do shake it up in a gallon Ziploc).
At this point I should note that my family had just got home and I realized I got a late start to dinner. They get cranky when they're hungry. I shoved whatever light-snack food I could in front of them to keep keep everyone at bay. It's the same method you would use if being chased by zombies and you throw an over-weight friend at them so you can get away.
My pan is on the burner, oiled, and warming up. I always forget to preheat the oven soon enough. It really should be the very first thing you do. 325 degrees for us today.
I had a decision to make here on how I would finish this meal. The recipe calls for a light cooking of the chicken in the pan, then an hour bake in the oven. That'd put us almost at bedtime for the kids so I cooked the chicken, almost through, in the pan, and decided to bake for a short time (more on this poor decision later).
As the chicken cooked, I mixed about a 1/3 cup of Sriracha sauce, cup of light brown sugar, bit of water, a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, and a dash of salt in a bowl.
This was my first meal with Sriracha. I see it all over the place, especially amongst the young, hip cooking gangs. Never had a reason to buy it until today.
The first dark brown sugar box I pulled out ended up being old and is now a pathway brick in my moms front yard.
So at this point, the oven is preheated and I've already cooked the chicken almost to completion. But I really wanted this sauce to meld and coat the chicken well, so I put it all in the casserole dish and let it bake. For too long. The sugar forms a nice shell on the chicken, but the chicken itself was so overcooked that it was like eating General Tso hard-candy bites. Uhg.
Oh well. My wife suggested next time I just cook the chicken, and do the sauce in a pot and mix at the end (like a Chinese food restaurant would do in a wok).
In the meantime I threw together some 5-minute rice. I also wanted broccoli, but it was going moldy. Instead I found a handful of mini sweet peppers we had as snacks (good with ranch or hummus. Yum). I just threw those in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to heat them up. Cut them into little chunks and threw them on top. This may have been the best part of the meal - it complimented the sweet and spicy sauce just right!
Garnished with a few clippings of chives and the meal was done. 25 minutes before kids bedtime. No worries though, 1 forced it down, and the other just wanted ice-pops for dinner. I enjoyed dinner, but it's because I got the largest chicken chunks which were the least overcooked.
So. My family was partially fed. No one got dessert. My mom ended up not wanting any part of the meal. And everyone went to sleep slightly bitter about Wednesday. Overall, that gives this dinner a 7.7/10.
I even Tweeted about it the entire time, which is surprisingly more difficult than I thought. Lots of handwashing between cutting chicken and sugary sauce. On a separate note, I made my first home-made Gin and tonic. Success.
We just got our new pastor at church this month. I work at a Methodist church in Florida as a Kids Ministry Director. I like my job, I love these kids, and I'm very happy to be working with the people I work with - especially our new Pastor, Reverend Emily Oliver!
We now have two women at the helm of Skycrest UMC. That's pretty exciting to me. I'm lucky enough to have been raised by a family who accepts people - of any color, sexual orientation, or gender - as they are. I knew/know women can be great leaders, hold positions in careers men do, and vise versa. I spent a few years as a stay-at-home dad. I spent time with my kids; raised them, changed them, taught them, and all the while I felt bad for my wife - a bit of a work-a-holic, and, so far, a career student (currently finishing her Masters of Divinity) that she wasn't spending this time with them. I also know how hard it is to raise kids with a working spouse. Most days are tiring, stressful, and busy. I write all that just to say that I feel very lucky to be the person I am - I've never had to deal with gender issues holding me back from anything. For a time, I worked as a Finance Director of a large Ford dealer. I took the place of a woman who was demoted. I'm treated as the most privileged type of person in the world today - a white male from the United States. I have very little going against me.
So, I'm excited for our new pastor and the leadership of this church. My wife is the Assistant Minister and Emily is our new pastor (we also have a female preschool director and female modern worship leader). None of this really surprises me - if you look at the church congregation, most of our attendees are female, so this leadership is actually reflecting our gender breakdown. But beyond having a correct gender ratio, we've got good leaders. These two women leading the church aren't just there because they're women. In fact, I'd lean more towards them being here in spite of being women. I see our church and the Church heading in a better direction - slow, for sure, but it's moving. There are plenty of issues to deal with besides gender equality, but I'm really happy to be working for two very smart, passionate, and spiritual leaders.
I want to brag about it so much to other people (especially other churches). I hope I can be one of those guys that supports women. I find it difficult, sometimes, to determine whether what I'm saying sounds supportive or not. I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I say as "Oh, look at these little girls. They've made it - good for you, honey."
I think that happens way too much - especially in church. So, I won't say much more - instead I'll show my love, respect, and support by being a good employee, husband, co-worker, father, and man.
I'll finish with a conversation between our previous pastor and my friend, Michael, and an older female member of our church (we'll call her Edna), just before he left and it was announced Emily was coming.
Edna: What do you think about our church having two female leaders?!
Michael: Men have been doing that for two thousand years, I think we'll be fine.
One of my biggest pet-peaves of driving is when a lane is about to end- for construction or whatever - and I make my way over immediately into the proper lane only to see folks racing up to the merge-point ahead of me. I curse them!
However, I've been doing it all wrong. Apparently, the right way, and the safer way, is not to merge immediately, but to continue using the lane until it ends. It's called the Zipper Merge and if you can stand these Minnesotian's accents, they'll make it plain for you:
I'm not a follower of new video games, or even music for that matter, but every so often I take some time to see trailers of the upcoming games. I'm blown away at 1)how amazing games are becoming - I mean from everything - lighting, rendering, choreography of characters, to directing; and 2)how well these trailers are produced and directed. They're so much more than just commercials - they're short films.
Anywho, I've been taking a liking to Imagine Dragons, and this Assassin's Creed 3 trailer is sweet! I really like history and especially American history. Animal renders in video-games always seem to disappoint me, but seeing that eagle was spectacular! This is an over-all great art piece, even if you don't care for the game itself.
I have three lovely little girls who range in age from 3 to 8. All three go to school, participate in organized, after-school activities, enjoy birthday parties and play dates, and have a cadre of friends. And everywhere they go, they're being smothered with junk.
Last week my 3-year-old's pre-school had a "color war." An email sent to parents explained that there would be a fruit snack and "a treat of course." It's not so much the treat that's the problem, it's the "of course."
As many defenders of pushing junk food on kids will tell you, "one treat isn't going to kill them," but it's the societal "of course" attitude that might—as if 3-year-olds wouldn't be thrilled to pieces to just play all day and enjoy some fruit on its own.
Last week also saw Valentine's Day. Raise your hand if your child's backpack haul of candy and chocolate was more reminiscent of Halloween than the Hallmark holiday of love. When I was a kid we gave out cheesy little cards with Disney characters—when did candy take over?
And birthdays? I can't imagine a birthday party without cake, but when did it become the practice to have in-school junk food to celebrate? And it's not just the kids' birthdays either. When my 5-year-old's undeniably lovely teacher had her own birthday roll around, she brought junk for the kids too.
To be fair, I can at least see where junk food and holidays and birthdays come together, but I truly scratched my head when my 8-year-old joined a reading club, went to the opening meeting excited to talk about books, and came home to tell us about the candy they were given to commemorate the event.
For us anyhow, it never seems to end. Saturday skating lessons often include lollipops, kids' grab bags from community races regularly contain chocolates, loot bags from friends parties might as well be renamed candy bags, libraries host events with names like "Donuts and Dads," bending a blade of grass with soccer shoes leads to sugar-sweetened sport drinks on the field and often ice cream or popsicles when the final whistle blows, and so on and so forth. And don't even get me started on juice. No doubt too, each and every time I speak up, there's someone out there telling me I shouldn't be so frustrated, as it's just "one" lollipop, it's just "one" ice cream sandwich, it's just "one" chocolate bar. If only it were just "one."
My conservative estimate is that my children, no doubt with the best of intentions, are being offered an average of at least 600 sugar-spiked calories of junk each and every week–junk that we had never intended on giving them in the first place, and in many cases, couldn't decline if we wanted to, since we wouldn't have been present at its offering. Assuming a conservative 70 percent of that junk's calories are coming from sugar, that's 26.25 teaspoons of added sugar a week or more than 14 pounds of the white stuff a year.
It's never just "one."
Somewhere along the line, we've normalized the constant provision of junk food to children. It seems no matter how small the ship or short the journey, sugar pretty much christens each and every voyage on which our children set sail.
There's simply no occasion too small to not warrant a junk food accompaniment. But for me, the strangest part of all is the outcry that occurs if and when I point it out. My experiences have taught me that junk food as part of children's' activities has become so normalized that my questioning this sugary status quo genuinely offends people's sensitivities and sometimes even generates frank anger.
Despite incredible medical advances over the course of the past 60 years, I would argue that the world is a less healthy place than it once was. Cooking has become a lost art, unstructured active play is on the endangered species list, and candy, which certainly has always understandably enjoyed a coveted place in children's hearts, has somehow become the normalized cornerstone of their culture.
People other than their parents giving children junk food shouldn't be considered "normal," and until that attitude changes, I guess I'll just have to keep pointing out how crazy our new normal has become.
What's the craziest candy or junk food tie-in you've seen with your children?