My Top Ten Favorite Posts

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Strike while the iron is hot!  I’ve had a lot of people looking at my farewell letter to St. Louis, so I thought I’d parlay that attention into MORE attention.  Perhaps I should of done this sooner…I am not as strategic as my lovely wife.  So, if you liked the Open Letter to St. Louis, here are my favorite ten posts that I’ve done over the last two years.  By the way, you may wonder, “Why did this talented young (Am I young anymore??) man take such a large break between his his second to last post and last post?”

Because this last school year kicked my butt.  Feel free to judge (especially if you are a soldier, firefighter, police officer, miner, fisherman, or any job requiring hard manual labor), but I did not have the drive or mental stamina to post ANY witty thoughts with any regularity over the last ten months.  

So, without further ado, here are the diamonds in the rough of St. Loueats.  

10.  I Like Big Butts.  An ode to the pork shoulder, AKA pork butt, picnic shoulder, Boston butt.

9. Llewellyn’s Winghaven.  A snarky review of a good restaurant…with some reminiscences of Las Vegas.  Reading it may make you wonder why we’re moving back. 

8. Food with Friends, An Ode to Oysters.  This post is worth it for the pics of live lobsters holding Natty Lite alone.  It also delves into a bit of family history regarding this humble bivalve.  Also, that was a great weekend with friends.

7. How Do You Say Fiasco in Chinese?  Quite possibly the worst (or best if you are a third grade student) cooking club ever.  I solemnly swear to never attempt pot stickers again.

6.  Of Elves and Type One Diabetes.  A Christmas tearjerker.  By the way, UP YOURS DIABETES!  YOU SUCK!

5.  German Oven Pancake.  This is a family tradition in our house, passed down from my grandparents, that we have passed on to other families.  You should try it.  Like all German things, it is more threatening than a normal pancake, but it blows regular pancakes out of the water.  

4.  Let the Grilling Season Begin.  This is THE RECIPE for successfully charcoal grilling a THICK ribeye to medium rare.  I self reference this post myself to remind myself how to grill a THICK slab of beef.  However, now that beef is approaching the price of platinum, I may not be using this much in the near future. 

3. REVOLUTIONARY SANDWICHES FOR THE PROLETARIAT! Have you tried Cuban sandwiches?  You should.  I just had one today!  This also contains my thoughts on Communist Dictators.  Don’t you just love that Kim Jong Un gets crazier by the day?  I mean I hope he’s overthrown soon, to end the suffering of the North Korean people, but he IS highly entertaining in a crazy uncle sort of way.

2.  Dumped.  I don’t think this is my best post, but it has an adorable picture of my pleasant children.  Therefore, it caught fire on Pinterest because women love adorable children and dessert, and is somehow my most seen post.  By the way, dump cake is good…

1.  A Trip to the Dentist.  This isn’t about food, but it is the most hilarious experience I’ve went through in the last couple of years.  I went back to this dentist just last week and they apologized AGAIN for this…even though it had been a year.  My sincere apologies to Doris.  

Well, there you have it.  The Best of St. Loueats before I leave STL.  Enjoy!

 

An Open Letter to St. Louis

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Dear St. Louis,

I’m leaving you.  Again.  We’ve been through this before, but this time it’s different.  Last time, I couldn’t wait to leave you, and swore I’d never return.  This time, you made it so hard to leave that the mere thought of leaving you was one of our top reasons we thought we’d stay.  Last time I left you, I was young and alone.  This time, I’m twice as old, and have been blessed with a wife and wonderful children.  Last time I thought I’d never be back.  This time, we swear we will return*.

*My son said in the car the other day out of the blue, “I think I’ll live in Missouri again someday.”

Regardless, we are leaving for Las Vegas again.  They made an offer we couldn’t refuse.  It is with a heavy heart we pack, we visit places we love for the last time, and say goodbye to many friends and family here.  But I suppose the fact that it’s hard this time means that it has been good.  And so with that, I’d like to say thank you and tell you why you’ve come to mean so much to our family.

Thank you, the Arch.  I think I’m starting here not because you’re my favorite thing about St. Louis (you’re not), but because of the history you represent and the opportunities you’ve given my family over the last few years.  You’re still visibly stunning, and I think you’ll only get better with your renovation connecting you with the rest of the city.  My seven year old son REALLY LOVES YOU and wants to visit you all the time, and I’m sorry I didn’t visit you as often as he would have liked.  Finally, I am looking forward to telling people it’s the ARCH not the St. Louis Arc…no joke, I’ve heard this more than once, and I will be more forceful in correcting these ignoramuses in the future.

Thank you, Missouri Botanical Gardens.  You are my favorite.  We have visited you so often through the years, and even joined you as a member for the last several years.  Heck, we visited you today for the last time.  We’ve LOVED the Chihuly glass exhibit, the Lantern Festival, the Christmas lights, and just regular afternoons strolling your beautiful grounds.  We’ve fed the koi, watched the bullfrogs in the Chinese Garden, and the geckos in the Climatron.  We’ve sampled the Best of Missouri Market, handled the hordes at the Japanese Festival, gotten lost in the maze, toured the Tower Grove house, and taken the Tram tour enough that I’m fairly positive I could give the tour.  But mostly, we loved the regular days where we stroll through the English Country Garden, and watch our kids race leaves that they place in the stream that runs through it.  My wife loves the irises that bloom in May, and I love the day lilies that are blooming as I write this.  I truly think it’s the best attraction in St. Louis and has something different every time you visit.

Thank you, Forest Park.  You are amazing.  The view from the top of Art Hill when the fountains are going below are spectacular.  But really it’s what’s inside you that counts.  The Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum, and Science Center.  With that said, here’s a mini message for each of you.  Thanks St. Louis Zoo, for the numerous days we’ve spent gawking at your spectacular creatures.  From the terrible tarantulas in the insectarium to the hilarious hippo habitat, you’ve entertained my family many times through the years.  I LOVE that you’re free.  However, sometimes your crowds make me hate you just a bit.  Also, until this weekend we’d never seen that sneaky cheetah…until this Sunday he appeared.  That was awesome.  Thanks, the Art Museum for letting people see some of the world’s greatest paintings for  once again, FREE.  I love your collection of George Caleb Bingham works showcasing Missouri in the 1800s.  More people should visit you.  Thanks, Missouri History Museum.  I feel like I should have used you more.  Thanks, the Science Center for both terrifying and thrilling my children.  Both my children had trouble with the T-Rex when they were younger (that poor triceratops has been waiting to be put out of his misery for years now), but have enjoyed your various exhibits as they have grown.  Hey, did I thank you for being free?  Overall, I’d like to thank the people of St. Louis City and County for subsidizing our visits through the years.  They voted in 1969 to have a portion of their property tax support these great institutions.  There is NO WAY such a thing would pass today, but man, it sure makes St. Louis a GREAT place to have kids.

Thank you, unique food.  St. Louis, you don’t get the credit you deserve.  You’ve got some great signature foods going for you.  Thanks Pork steaks, for being a super cheap, super delicious slab of meat to feed a crowd with.  Give me some Maull’s Sweet n Mild, a cold beer, and you’ve made my weekend.  Thanks, Gooey Butter Cake.  It’s pretty obvious why you’re good, and Tina from church makes it best.  Thanks, Provel cheese.  Don’t let the haters hate.  “It’s a processed cheese.  It’s too rubbery.  It tastes weird.”  They’re all just jealous.  Your rope goodness is perfect on salads, no one can touch you.  A St. Louis style Italian salad with Provel CANNOT be beat.  Our friend Tracy makes the ultimate salad with Zia’s dressing.  I could eat it all day long.  We are going to miss St. Louis style pizza.  My wonderful wife recently had an opportunity to photograph THE Imo family, and they were so kind and friendly.  It makes me feel even better about supporting a local product.  Here are my top five reasons St. Louis style pizza is fantastic.

1.  The small square pieces mean you can eat innumerable pieces before being full.  If I counted them, there are many times I’d be ashamed (maybe a little proud?) of what I’ve done.

2.  You can fold said squares into mini pizza sandwiches.  Delightful!

3.  You really taste the toppings, and not a mouthful of dough.

4.  The small pieces are easy to handle.

5.  It is NOT Chicago style pizza.  I do not want a giant dough blob with the cheese under a pile of greasy toppings that takes a thousand years to bake.  Boo.

Thank you, beer.  First off, although none of us were fans of the Belgians taking over AB, the side result of that has been some wonderful microbreweries starting up in the St. Louis area.  I’d especially like to thank Schlafly Kolsh and Urban Chestnut Zwickel for quenching my spring and summertime thirst.  Schlafly Pumpkin Ale for easing me through fall, and a wide variety of beers from O’Fallon, Schlafly, and Urban Chestnut for seeing me through the winters.  O’Fallon, bring back your Wee Heavy!  It was AMAZING.  Finally, Thank you, AB.  Your brewery tour is great.  It makes the Miller tour look like some guys threw a brewery together over a weekend.  Beautiful flowers, Clydesdales, stained glass, a spotless factory, and free beer make for a happy local and tourist alike.  Also, Grant’s Farm is quite possibly the best idea ever.  A ZOO WITH FREE BEER.  “Hey kids, here’s a dollar.  Go defend yourself against hungry baby goats.  Daddy’s going to have a beer then watch a ginormous African Elephant blow up a ballon, play a harmonica, and spray children with water.”  Presidents.  Mini-safari.  Ravenous goats.  Entertaining elephants.  Free beer.  Oh, AND GIANT HORSES.  It is the American dream in miniature.

Thank you, the arts.  First off, I’d like to thank the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for offering dozens of memorable date nights for the lovely wife and I.  We have subscribed the last few years, and your programming has taken us through time and around the world through music.  I love the symphony because it gives me about 90 minutes of time to stop, listen, and think without distraction.  We will truly miss you.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre is stunning, and we’ve seen some great shows through the years.  I got a wow out of my daughter the first time I took her this year to see Alton Brown.  Finally, we JUST saw Circus Flora for the first time.  I’m sorry I’m such a fool for not visiting you sooner.

I’d like to thank the many restaurants that have enriched our daily experiences and broadened our children’s horizons.  There are a few of you I’d like to mention.  Thank you, The Bridge, for being so unique and fun.  Some of our favorite evenings out have either began or ended in your balcony seating.  I could eat your foccacia bread with assorted cheeses forever.  Thank you, Pastaria for being so good that my 10 year old daughter would choose to have her birthday dinner in your restaurant…who am I to argue with her on that?  Finally, I’d like to thank India Palace.  I still think you are one of the gems of the area.  If I said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Let’s start a restaurant with a mildly intimidating ethnic cuisine.  Then let’s put it at the top floor of a slightly run down hotel that you need to take a vaguely marked elevator to get to.  Oh yeah, let’s make it hard to get to, with no obvious road access, even though you can see it from a major highway.  Oh, the restaurant used to have some Polynesian Tiki Bar theme?  KEEP IT!”  If I came up with that plan, I would fail.  Yet, you somehow manage to not just survive, but thrive.  It is the best buffet I’ve ever had.  I would eat it every day.  You have been wonderful to my kids.  They absolutely love it.  I have yet to go when you have charged me full price for both of them.  Thank you.

There are many more restaurants out there that we love, and I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’d just like to say, GREAT JOB.  The food in St. Louis has gotten so much better the last nine years, and I think it’s only going to improve in the years to come.

Thank you, the Cardinals.  I will always be a baseball fan first, but you have worked your way into my whole family’s hearts.  Cards games are clean and I’ve never had to explain something bad to my kids later on.  The games are still (relatively) affordable, and the product is fantastic.  I try to explain that the Cardinals are to St. Louis what the Packers are to Green Bay.  It’s the closest thing I can compare it to.  We recently went to the new museum in Ballpark Village.  It brought me to tears.  The kids loved it.  Heck, I got to HOLD Stan Musial and Willie McGee’s bat.  You are a class act and we will continue to love you from afar.  We’ll always have 2006 and 2011!

And then there are the Rams and Blues.  Blues, keep trying hard, you can do it!  I wish I could take my kids to your games, but the things I’ve heard there may melt their delicate ears.  Rams, I like football, I’m just not sure if you guys like football.  It seems like you struggle with it.

Finally, I’d like to thank our family, friends, students, parents, and church members for enriching our lives so much since 2005.  You are truly what will keep us coming back.

Sincerely,

Jason, Sarah, Katie, and Brendan Crowder

Lazy Man Crock Pot Roast

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The school year has commenced.

The beginning of the school year means different things to different people, but it certainly means that life is now just a bit busier for everyone.  With that in mind, I present to you a dinner that makes your hectic life a bit easier, and one that is bound to be popular throughout the year.

It involves a crock pot, frozen meat, and wine.  If you are turned off by any of those things, stop reading now.  If not, press onward.

Earlier in the summer I came up with this recipe when we had a busy day ahead, but still wanted dinner at home.  So, I came up with this and it turned out great.

THE RECIPE:

frozen chuck roast *really the only type of roast I like.

one onion

dry red wine

a handful of grape tomatoes

seasoning mix to taste.  I have an adobo spice mix I make myself and use for pretty much everything, but I’ve also used Weber’s Chicago Steak Seasoning with great success.

THE STEPS:

Cut up onion into large slices and place in the crock pot.

Put the frozen roast in the crock pot on top of the onions.

Season liberally with the spices.  I know that it seems kind of crazy, but the flavors will eventually come through with the beef and especially the broth later on.

Add a few grape tomatoes around the bottom of the roast.

Pour wine CAREFULLY around the bottom of the crock pot, until it comes up to the bottom of the roast.  You don’t want to pour it on the roast, since that will cause the spices to run off.

Turn on low for about 10 hours.

AND DONE.

No browning the roast, no defrosting, virtually no mess.

I know this isn’t the Alton Brown preferred method, but I’ve tried this three times now, and I love it.

EXTRA WORK (If you want to)

Two times I’ve done this, I’ve made a bit of a gravy to go over the roast.

When the roast is done, take it out and set it on a plate, then cover it with foil to let it rest.

Ladle out three scoops of the wine-infused broth with a couple of onions and tomatoes for good measure.  Place in a saucepan and get out your immersion blender.

Blend that stuff up.  It should puree the tomatoes and most of the onions.

Then bring it to a boil and let it boil down for about five to ten minutes while your roast is resting.

It should thicken, and you will have a fancy, wine based gravy to go on your roast.

All that being said, you don’t have to do that, you can just ladle some of the juices on your roast as well.

Overall, this is a very easy weeknight meal.

The picture at the top makes it seem fancier than it was, but the Caprese salad was leftover, and I use the roasted asparagus recipe from The Pioneer Woman, and that takes just 15 minutes to prepare.

So, there you go, an easy recipe for your busy back to school world.

Do you have any easy recipes for busy people?  Share below!

A Good Reason to go to Chipotle

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Besides the delicious food of course!

This last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Food Media Forum in St. Louis.  It was a conference featuring food bloggers, future food bloggers, and Internet media superstars who all gathered in St. Louis to learn how to communicate their passion about food more effectively.

I attended the 2012 Food Media Forum and was inspired to start this rather humble blog.  However, the conference was held later this year, right before the school year was about to begin.

I wasn’t planning on going, thinking I would be too busy with preparations for the upcoming school year.  That all changed on July 31 when I received an email asking if I would like to be sponsored by Chipotle and attend the conference.

Yes.  Yes I would.

So the good people at Chipotle hooked me up with the ticket, and I reciprocated last week by grabbing dinner with the fantastic family at their U. City Loop location.

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I had the barbacoa burrito with all the fixings.  It was fresh and savory with just enough warming heat to keep you going back for seconds on water.

The wonderful daughter had the chicken bowl, a low-carb treat for the diabetic.

The delightful son had the vegetarian burrito.  There is little he won’t do for black beans.

Finally, the lovely wife had a chicken burrito, and went light on the chicken…she’s doing a bit better with the weight loss right now than I am…

All in all, we were in and out in a flash and had a fresh tasting dinner that kept everyone fueled for an evening at school getting ready for back to school night.

So, without further ado, here’s my unabashed plug for Chipotle.

THREE GOOD REASONS TO GO TO CHIPOTLE THIS WEEK:

1. They use naturally raised pork, beef, and chicken.  That means their animals are familiar with the outside world, rather than a cage.  They also try to buy local produce whenever possible.  Way to go!

2.  It’s made your way.  According to a recent article there are 635,000 possible combinations available at each location.  In other words, you could eat there for over 1739 years and not have the same thing twice.

3.  They supported a rather insignificant blogger like me.  I am certainly no web powerhouse…I reach dozens…DOZENS! of readers each day.  So, dear reader, if they could support a little guy like me, it would be nice if a couple of my readers supported them.

So, thanks again Chipotle, for making a little guy feel pretty big.

Food Media Forum Day Two

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Today was the first big day of sessions at this year’s food media forum. We started off the day with a satisfying hearty breakfast from the Culinary Institute of St. Louis.

The sweetest words in the English language may be “breakfast buffet.” I took full advantage of waffles with chocolate chips and pecans. Also, I must say the house made sausages with diced green chiles were a treat.

In the morning session I went to a forum hosted by Kelly from BarbaricGulp.com. It made me ponder three things:

My use of the word perfectly, How someone can love an orange so much (North Dakota is a bleak place), and to take steps to improve my writing in the year ahead.

Afterward, I went to a forum on food presentation and plating. I got to meet Natalie from TheSweetsLife for the first time in person since 1998. It’s a truly small world.

From there we had a morning snack where we experienced the safety and flavor of pasteurized eggs (purchasing this product may result in cookie dough never being baked).

One of the real treats of the day was meeting the rep from Copper River Salmon in Cordova, Alaska. She was super nice, and the Coho salmon for lunch was excellent.

Steph from the Cupcake Project hosted a forum regarding what makes a good blog and it got me thinking about how my blog is formatted and if I need to have more of a theme in my blog.

We’ll see.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to photography and video…not my main area of interest, but very helpful.

I was feeling a bit down around 3pm, (possible food coma), but rallied in time for the marvelous happy hour hosted by Chipotle. There, we received swag bags and got to have some wonderful food from Chipotle and more great Schlafly beer.

All in all a great day, and I’m looking forward to another tomorrow.

Thanks to Food Media Forum and Chipotle for making this weekend possible for me!

Food Media Forum Night One

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A year ago at this time, I was new to blogging.  The lovely wife suggested I go as something to do aside from teaching.  A year later, I find myself back at the Food Media Forum, sponsored by the FANTASTIC PEOPLE AT CHIPOTLE, being served delightful treats from various restaurants from around St. Louis including Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar (A favorite), LoRusso’s, Sqwires in Lafayette Square, Ricardos in Lafayette Square, and Sunset 44.

The lovely wife was not able to attend tonight, and let’s just say I’m not the best at mingling solo*…however beer was involved because we were hosted by the good people at Schlafly Tap House.

*At one beer, I may strike up a conversation along the lines of, “Hey, what are YOU drinking?”  At two beers, it becomes “Hi, I’m Jason, pleased to meet you.”  At three beers, I may start expressing mildly interesting opinions or philosophies.  At four beers, I may be inclined to hug.

I had four beers this evening…but I repressed my hugging instincts.

A few food notes from this evening:

The chocolate chocolate chip cookies from Sunset 44 were heavenly.

The tapenade from LoRusso’s was amazing.

The meatballs from Ricardos were outstanding.

Bridge had all poultry dishes, so I couldn’t partake, but it looked amazing, and I heard good things (as usual).

So, the keynote speakers this evening were from Ideas in Food, and they passed along info and hints into what makes a blog successful and helpful.  They were great, but I think the real treat of the evening was interacting with people who love St. Louis and love food.  I got to meat the charming couple who run Poptions Popcorn in Frontenac, Fr.  Dominic Garramone, who used to have a cooking show on PBS, and now has a blog called The Bread Monk, and a wonderful representative from Operation Food Search who helps feed the hungry in St. Louis, a nobler cause than all the four and five star restaurants combined.

All in all, it was a fun evening, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the Forum bright and early tomorrow morning!

Thai Kitchen St. Charles

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The family and I were craving something new, light and fresh this evening.  In my mind, this called for Thai food.  So, we scurried over to the nearest place to our home, Thai Kitchen in Cave Springs.  Although I’d passed it many times, this was the first time we’d been in.  We were promptly seated, and our drink orders were taken.  Although I am trying to stay light*, I cannot resist Thai iced tea.

*We have a family wedding coming in a couple of weeks, and I need to fit into some pants.  Summer has not been kind to the waistline.  Also, I have learned this summer that the waist measurements for shorts and dress slacks are far different.  I think whoever sizes shorts is just trying to make people feel good about themselves over the summer.  Dress pants and their waist measurements are a harsh reminder of the real world.

We also ordered a small appetizer to share, the Crying Tiger.  Soon my Thai iced tea arrived and I took an eager sip.

Heaven.  A couple of things to note here.  First, this was the smallest Thai iced tea I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant, being served in a tall, thin glass.  However, I do believe it was also the sweetest Thai iced tea I’ve ever had.  I loved the creamy, coconut flavor.  It did not make it to the main course.

After a bit of a wait, our appetizer arrived.  The Crying Tiger had several pieces of savory beef, served with a lemongrass dipping sauce.  The beef was tender and moist with a bit of spice, but the lemongrass sauce was the star here.  Light, with a slightly grainy texture, it cooled the spicy heat of the beef and had a mild citrus tang from the lemongrass.

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After another wait, our main courses arrived.  I had the Spicy Beef Salad, served at the “Very Hot” level of spiciness.  It was true to its word.  The strips of grilled beef were very spicy, but were cooled by the fresh cucumber, tomatoes, carrots and onions on the plate.

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The lovely wife had the yellow curry with tofu, served at the “mild” level.  I also had several bites of this dish, and the grilled tofu paired nicely with the mildly spiced, coconut based sauce.  It was a pleasant blend of sweet, savory, and spicy.  One of the things I love about tofu at Thai restaurants is how the spices get absorbed, imparting a burst of flavor to an otherwise bland blob of protein.

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Finally, the wonderful son had chicken and fried rice.  Interestingly, his meal was ENORMOUS, while the wife and I had reasonable sized meals.  As a matter of fact, my beef salad was rather small, in comparison to some I’ve had at other restaurants.  As I’m trying to keep it light, that wasn’t a bad thing this evening.

Overall, we had a nice time.  However, two things did dampen my enthusiasm a bit. First, the portion sizes were a bit hit or miss. I’m not sure why my son’s entree was so large, and mine so small. Also, I will say that the service was a bit slow, and we waited a fair amount of time for our appetizer and main courses, even though they did not seem terribly busy.  But, as my six year old son said while waiting for our entrees,  “When you’re making it fresh it can take a while.”

Really, those are words to remember.  You’re not at McDonalds or a dubious looking Chinese buffet.  I think the reason I love Thai restaurants so much is that it all seems so fresh.  I definitely got that feeling from Thai Kitchen.  The veggies were all colorful and crisp, sauces and curries delightfully spiced.

So if you’re looking for something different in the St. Charles area, give Thai Kitchen a try. (Easy pun resisted for the conclusion!  Score one for self-restraint!)

Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Homemade Pickles

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I have a very small garden this year. I’ve got my three rhubarb plants, which have done nicely, four pepper plants, which haven’t after a bounteous year last year, and two cucumber plants. On Sunday, I finally had four cucumbers ripe all at once. With that bounty, I decided to try my hand at pickling.

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Notice I didn’t say canning. Now I know canning is a valuable skill, and I’m sure I’ll regret it when global catastrophe hits, we no longer have refrigeration, and have to submit to our new cruel Amish overlords, with their ample supplies of canned goods to hold them over while the rest of us starve.

I remember my mom and grandma canning things as a child, and I don’t want any of it. I don’t want to buy jars, make sure they are disinfected, boil things, make sure lids are sealed, and place them into a dusty basement. I want to eat my things now. Also, notice I have only two cucumber plants. That’s one jar.

Fresh pickles are something I’ve seen in Poland, and I thought I’d try my hand at here. So, I went to the great Internet cookbook and found a nice recipe for pickles. After buying the necessary spices (ALL ON SALE FOR $1 EACH!!!) I set to work.

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I sliced the pickles into chips and put some salt on them to draw out the water. I also added my lonely jalapeno(see below), which is the only one I’ve harvested this year. Finally I cut up about half a red pepper into small bits for a bit of color in my pickles. We then proceeded to try the old Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers tongue twister out, being so inspired by our efforts.

MY LONELY JALEPENO!

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The wonderful daughter mixed the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, into a saucepan. Once it started to boil, I added the spices and set it off the heat to let it cool for five minutes.

Next I poured it over the cukes, and added a packet of dill.

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Finally, I put it in the fridge and waited until tonight to dig in. The picture below shows how the bowl looked after 24 hours in the fridge.

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How were they?

Well, they were crunchy and a bit sour with a hint of heat at the end. I also thought they were a bit too garlicky. I definitely would cut back on the garlic next time. Also, next time I think I’d double the sugar. I really have grown to like sweet pickles. The next time, I might try to make a batch of sweet pickles instead.

The kids, on the other hand, loved the pickles. The delightful son exclaimed, “These are the best pickles ever!”

So there you go. It may not last forever, sure they aren’t canned, and yes the Amish may shun me for my laziness, but they’re fresh and homemade. If you have about an hour to kill, you can make them too!

The Wonderful Daughter’s Caprese Salad

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One of the joys of having children who are not itty bitty anymore is that they can do things on their own.*  The wonderful daughter is nine years old now, and is probably the most responsible member of our household.  She has been like this since she was a baby.  When she was that small, we used to say that you could put her in a room full of guns, knives, and poison and she would be just fine.

*I just ran into a teacher friend of mine this morning at the bookstore, who also has two kids, three years apart, just like mine.  However, his are four and fourteen months.  I was blissfully enjoying an iced coffee perusing the travel book section while my kiddos were at art camp at The Foundry in St. Charles.  We tried carrying on a conversation, but he was um…distracted. His little ones were running in opposite directions, with injury or breaking of merchandise a constant threat.  The point is, small children require CONSTANT VIGILANCE, which is a phase of life I am glad to be past.  By the way, he was doing a fantastic job…better than I would have done if I had to watch my kiddos solo at that age.

Anyway, my wonderful daughter is now nine.  She enjoys cooking, and one of the things she loves is caprese salad.  Earlier this summer, we planned to make this for some friends of ours, and she volunteered to make it.  Well, she did an outstanding job, and has made it a couple of times on her own since.  The first time, I watched her pretty close as she chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil from our garden.  I have to say, her knife skills are really good.  I’d like to say that her time in Mr. Crowder’s cooking club paid off, as she holds the knife correctly, and keeps her small digits clear of the blade.  So, this last time, I pretty much left her alone in the kitchen as she chopped and assembled her bowl of summertime goodness.  Sure, I checked in a couple of times, but overall, she was cooking solo.

I’d like to think that I’m not a neglectful parent, just trusting.  The point is, I’m glad she’s learned how to prepare a dish on her own, and has the confidence to manage her way around the kitchen.

I am very proud of her, and glad she’s becoming independent, but I’m sure that as time goes on, I’ll wish that she was my little girl who needed me for everything.  However, for now, I think I’ll just enjoy a delicious dish prepared by my wonderful daughter.

So, good reader I leave you with two things, a recipe for caprese salad below, and a question: What was the first thing you cooked or prepared on your own?  Let me know.

CAPRESE SALAD

Two pints of grape tomatoes, cut in half

A good amount (we usually use a whole pound) of fresh mozzarella, cubed

chopped fresh basil to taste

three good lugs of extra virgin olive oil

salt (to taste)

pepper (optional)

Anthonio’s Taverna

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The wonderful children and I have adventure day once a week this summer.  On that day we go and do something fun or different around town.  Last Tuesday, we went to the zoo on a very rainy, cool morning.  There is nothing better than an empty St. Louis zoo.  After a pleasant morning petting stingrays, admiring penguins, and gazing at gazelles, we were hungry for a new place for lunch.  So we headed off to the Hill for something different.

I’d heard of Anthonio’s Taverna before, but every time we’d tried to visit, it had been insanely busy.  On this Tuesday, that was not a problem.  The children and I were promptly seated, and we quickly decided on our meal.

First off, go for the fried pickles.  I’m a total sucker for fried pickles, but only if they are fried pickle CHIPS, and not fried pickle SPEARS.  Anthonio’s serves them with a tzatziki sauce, and they were fantastic…we ate them so quickly that I neglected to get a picture.  Regardless, they are lightly battered, perfectly crisp, and a perfect match with tzatziki (which also has cucumber in it).

The wonderful daughter had a Caprese salad, while the delightful son had macaroni and cheese.

The Caprese salad was excellent with wedges of roma tomatoes served with big chunks of fresh mozzarella.  It was served with a helping portion of herbed olive oil, placed on a bed of large fresh basil leaves.  It was excellent.  She ate it right up.

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As for the macaroni, the delightful son kept saying how buttery it was.  Usually he demands bright yellow macaroni, but even in this cheesy white sauce, he was satisfied.  And I must say, I snuck a few bites, and it was extraordinarily creamy.  The waitress (who was wonderful) told my son that she regularly orders the mac and cheese herself.

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As for me, I had a Big Anthony burger.  This cheeseburger comes with a healthy dose of gyro meat on top.  Overall, the burger was juicy and moist, and the gyro meat was perfectly spiced.  I had it with a side zucchini salad, rather than fries, seeing that I’d already gorged myself on fried pickles.

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The salad was a real treat.  Diced zucchini was contrasted by tart, crisp apple chunks.  It was a very refreshing summer salad, and was a great way to end my meal.

Our service was excellent, and we were in and out, and on our way to an afternoon fishing expedition to complete our adventure day.  We didn’t catch anything, but that was okay.  Anthonio’s had already been the real catch of the day.

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