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.

Anthonino's Taverna on Urbanspoon

A Trip to the Dentist

Have you ever heard Bill Cosby’s routine about the dentist?  I’ve always found it funny, but until recently, I imagined dental hi-jinks were just comedic exaggerations.

Last week I went to visit my dentist.  Before I go any further, let me say I like my dentist.  I picked him because he is the closest dentist to my home, and overall I’ve been pleased with the level of dental care they’ve given.  It’s a nice modern office, and I think my dentist seems like a pretty nice guy.  I’ve even had the same hygienist every time I’ve visited.  She seems like a nice lady, does a good job, and does her very best every time to tell me how much richer and fuller my life would be if I would just floss.*

*Do you floss?  It seems like such a disgusting, mildly painful way to spend two extra minutes a day.  How did flossing become a thing?  I suspect that it was originally seen as a way to get corn on the cob out of your teeth, but then the dental community latched on to it as a way of making dental care unpleasant at home as well.

As I said, I’ve always had good service with my usual dental hygienist, but this time I had an older woman clean my teeth.

Imagine your grandma using unfamiliar advanced computer technology and power tools simultaneously.  Got it?  Now imagine her doing it while putting her hands in your mouth.

When this unfamiliar lady (who I am sure is actually a nice lady) called me in, I was immediately apprehensive.  I know and am comfortable with my usual hygienist, she has my trust.  What is this new lady going to be like?  Should I be scared?  Am I being an ageist?

Yes and yes.

Anyway, she sat me in the chair and told me it was time for x-rays.  She proceeded to jam the mouth guard between my teeth, and stepped back to take the picture.  It made the sound which sends radiation hurtling through my face, and then goes to the computer screen.  Lo and behold, she can’t get the image on the screen.  She called my usual hygienist in for assistance.  At this point, I should have cried out for help.  But, my usual hygienist showed her the problem (the screen wasn’t turned on, once again, imagine your grandma), and my new hygienist went on to snap my tooth pics.  Two, count em, two pics didn’t take, and she had to re-do them.  Maybe my head moved, who knows.  All I know is that I got two extra helpings of radiation at no extra charge!

Finally, we get to the cleaning.  Before we started, she asked me, “I see you like the Cavitron, is that what you want me to use today?”  Obviously, I would prefer anything to the small dental pick-ax, and yes, what I usually have is a small whirring machine that shoots out little jets of water that power-wash the tartar away.  I repiled, “Yes, I’ll take the Cavitron.”

Now here is where things got dicey on many levels.  First off, I should have been concerned that once she got me back on the chair, she had tremendous difficulty getting the light that shines into your mouth adjusted.  Next she put the little vacuum hose into my mouth and let it hang there dangling from my gaping maw.  And then I sat and waited.

KKKKKKKKWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWKKKKKKKKKKWWWWWW went the vacuum hose.

And I waited.  Finally, she went and asked for assistance a second time from my usual hygienist, who is next door, having a pleasant conversation with her patient.  How desperately I wished to be on the other side of the divider.  She showed my hygienist how to get the machine started, and went back to her (probably annoyed) patient.

And ready!

So Doris (I think I’ll call her Doris) proceeded to get up close and personal with me.  Let the tartar destruction begin!

Nothing.  No water would come out of the Cavitron.  Doris was confused.  I was still sitting there with a hose in my mouth feeling more concerned and annoyed.  Now one other thing I noticed at this point is that Doris didn’t have what one would call a fresh scent.

So, she toddled off to my saintly usual hygienist AGAIN and asked for assistance.  She came by a THIRD time and showed her that to get the water to flow, you need to use the foot pedal.

I am too polite to scream, “Are you familiar with the Cavitron Doris?”

Probably because I have a bib on and a suction hose hanging from my lower lip.

AND FINALLY WE BEGIN.  But immediately before we begin, Doris turns away from me and sneezes!

OH!  MY!  GOODNESS!  DID YOU USE THE CROOK OF YOUR ARM?  I COULDN’T SEE!  I’M SCARED!  WHY ARE YOUR GLOVES WET?  IS IT THE WATER FROM THE CAVITRON?  MY MOUTH?  YOUR MOUTH????

And with that, Doris finally got her theoretically clean hands in my mouth.

I do like my usual hygienist, but man, she has done some painful things to me through the years.  She goes after my tartar with passion, getting right down to the gums and in between my teeth, occasionally making me wince.  And I’m OK with that, because that’s HER JOB.

Doris, perhaps already a bit nervous about how things were going, was less thorough.  On the bright side, not a drop of blood was shed during this dental appointment.  However, I’m pretty sure Doris was clueless as to what she was doing with the mini tooth power washer.  Now, if you gave her the dental pick ax, I suspect she would have been OK.

Instead, she cleaned my teeth at a leisurely pace, with water sometimes gushing, and sometimes dribbling out of the machine.  Interestingly, she seemed impervious to the fact that I was drowning a couple of times and had to close my mouth round the Cavitron to suck up the water.  Also, there was a lack of control.  I had water all over my glasses, running down my neck, and even had some reach my back.

“You won’t need a shower today, he he!”

Shut it, Doris.

After she finished, she gave me a little square of gauze to wipe off my glasses.

The final part of the procedure is the polishing procedure.  Hopefully, most of you know the drill (no pun intended).  They load up a mini buffer with gritty paste, and polish you up as good as can be expected after 35 years of dental wear and tear.

Doris proceeded to polish my lower chompers.  Everyone knows this stuff is disgusting, and I was waiting for a refreshing rinse to cleanse the nastiness off my teeth once she finished the lower set.

Instead I was greeted by a blast of air on my teeth and gums.

What the hell Doris!

I don’t know if she thought my teeth needed to set in the polish for a bit, but after air blasting the lower row, she set off again on polishing the upper row.  I thought surely we would get a rinse now, but instead she gave my upper row of teeth a blast of air as well.  FInally, FINALLY, after that blast of air, she sprayed my mouth with a trickle of water to remove the polish.

Now, all I had to do was wait for the dentist.

At this point I was not feeling conversational.  I considered ranting about Doris then and there but the problem with dentist offices is that they aren’t private.  Doris was right there, and incompetent as she seemed, would you want to complain about an older lady right in front of her? Or others?  I kept things brief with the dentist, no cavities (as usual), and made a beeline out of there when I was free to go.

After leaving, I called and politely told the receptionist that I would prefer not to have that hygienist in the future, at which point she told me that Doris is just filling in for a few days.

Lucky me.

In all, this did make me appreciate talented dental hygienists, but I’m still not going to floss.

Finally, dear readers, do you have any dental horror stories?  Feel free to share in the comment section below.

Henceforth, I shall just buy pie.

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Strawberry Rhubarb pie...they look better than they were.

Strawberry Rhubarb pie…they look better than they were.

Pie or cake?

Pie.  Hands down.

I have never understood the fascination with cake.  In my opinion, every cake is pretty much the same, with varying degrees of moistness and darkness.

You have small circle cakes (cupcakes)

Big circle cakes.

Rectangle cakes.

For most people (including my son), cake merely serves as an icing carrying device.

Pie, on the other hand, has nearly endless possibilities.  It can be a dinner or dessert.  Fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, no problem.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

With all that said, strawberry rhubarb pie is my favorite.  Whenever I see it listed on a menu, I can’t resist it.  Grand Traverse Pie Company in Michigan makes an especially good one.  In pursuit of my pie dreams, I planted rhubarb last year in hopes that I would be able to make my own pie in the future.

I had figured I wouldn’t be able to harvest my stalks of veggie dessert goodness until next year, but I was surprised to find that my stalks came in thick and heavy this spring, and was able to start harvesting with my students before the end of the year.

So, last weekend, I harvested some from the school and home garden, wrapped it up, and took it to Michigan in a chilled container.

On Saturday, I tried my hand at pie for the first time.  I found a recipe for strawberrry rhubarb with a crumble topping from the great Internet cookbook.  I followed the directions, which included instant tapioca (as a thickener), and placed the two pies in the oven to cook for an hour.

No where in the directions did it say you should put a pan under the pie to catch the juices.  I suppose the recipe writer assumed I’d be smart enough to figure this out on my own, but you know what they say about assuming anything…

After an hour of cooking, the pies were perfectly done, with a perfectly awful mess at the bottom of the blazing hot oven.

The next day, I was making roasted asparagus, and I preheated the oven, then went outside to tend to the grill…

A minute later, I came in to the kitchen, filled with smoke.  My mother-in-law opened the oven, and there we saw a pile of bubbling, burning rhubarb strawberry goodness caked permanently to the bottom of the oven.

We spent a while trying to clean the oven on Sunday (and Monday) with Easy Off*, and never quite got it.

*After using their product, there is NOTHING “easy” about Easy Off.  Dangerous to inhale, harmful to the touch (It strongly recommended rubber gloves), it barely dented the caked on pie juices.  Shame on you Easy Off!  Shame. On. You.

So, how was the pie you ask?

Well, let’s just say that it didn’t quite thicken the way I had intended.  I’m not sure if I should have used much more tapioca, or if I should have used some other sort of thickener, but it sort of came out as a strawberry rhubarb stew.  The crumb topping was good, the strawberry and rhubarb were plenty sweet, but it never really resembled a pie.

However, that didn’t stop me from having about four “pieces” over the weekend, all with vanilla ice cream.

In the future, I may try my hand at pie again, but for now, I’ll leave Strawberry Rhubarb to the experts at Grand Traverse Pie Company.

With that said, I’ll ask you good readers, any advice on thickening a pie?  Also, should I have just known to put a pan under the pies?  Let me know.

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