Happy Labor Day… Now get to Work

Sep 5, 2014 by

We were lamenting whether it was worth going out or not.  My wife hemmed and hawed and suggested we just stay home.

I insisted we go and packed up the car with wife, dog, kid and chairs for 6 as we were bringing extras for friends and family we were meeting there.   We pulled out of the drive way as the sun was setting and headed toward the beach.  There was a free movie night at the pier and they were showing the Lego movie, which I had not seen yet and I love Lego’s.

More importantly, I love those fun community events like outdoor movies and how awesome is it that we get to watch movies at the ocean?  So we were packed up and we trudged on.  I was contemplating my wife’s offers of just calling it off and staying home as it was late and by the time we got there our child would be asleep and couldn’t care less about any movie at all, and we also hadn’t had any dinner yet.  I was determined to make it happen.  We threw out suggestions of fast food that didn’t sound appealing, but was close by that we could grab for dinner.  We picked something close by and paid way too much for some crappy food and found our way to park.

At this point we now had to figure out how we were going to get ourselves, a small dog, a small child, 6 chairs, a diaper bag, and our fast food dinner from the parking lot down to the pier.  With 6 chairs strapped to my shoulders, a fast food bag in one hand and the dogs leash in the other I was wishing I had listened to my wife as we began our trek.   Then midway through our journey my oh so cute dog decided to stop mid way and take a giant crap on the sidewalk full of people.  It was at this point that I was cursing me and my good ideas.  I handed my wife the fast food, and dogs leash, put down all 6 chairs and scooped up the poop with haste as to not block all of the foot traffic around us.  We repacked all the equipment onto us and made our way to our destination.

Grumbling and complaining I setup the chairs for the movie which had just started and we sat down.  We met up with our other family and friends who took their seats next to us and all of a sudden all was well.  We settled into our spots and I held my son on my lap as my wife held our dog and had a fantastic evening.

It was all worth it.  It was a pain in the ass in the making, but it made a fantastic moment.

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The epiphany then struck me that we must work to create fun.  You have to put in the effort to plan and coordinate with friends and family to make meaningful events and moments happen.  It’s because of the work that you can truly enjoy the moments you create.   I could have stayed at home and taken it easy, but I would have missed out on the great memories waiting for me.  I could have not done the work and I would have not gotten the rewards.

It’s just that simple.

So Labor Day has come and gone.  It’s now time to get to work.  Go out and create some fun memories for you and your friends and family.  Plan a camping trip.  Invite some friends over for dinner.  Go for a hike.  Plan and do something.  It is so worth it and so much better than just staying home.

Ben…

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I’m the cool dad

Aug 18, 2014 by

I got called the cool dad today and it felt great.

I drive an older Jeep Wrangler. It’s just a fun car to drive. Its not terribly practical when it comes to hauling anything or anyone for that matter and it gets horrible gas mileage and also has no guts at all. Not sure how they got both of those things wrong in the same car, but they did. But for southern California weather its just so much fun to drive. Plus its red and my wife likes red.

We got the jeep as just an in between fun car. My old Ford Ranger finally died with 503k miles on it and we couldn’t decide on what car to get next. I would have loved another truck, but we didn’t necessarily need one. My wife wanted a BMW SUV and I knew we for sure didn’t need one of those. We didn’t have kids yet, so I suggested we get my wife a fun little convertible car to drive around for a year or two until we decide on what car to get next. We looked at a few, but didn’t really like anything we saw. I think my wife suggested a Jeep, I don’t really recall, but we started looking at those and they fit into the fun category. We could take the top off and cruise around and that sounded cool. So I found a used one that was red and that made my wife happy.

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Fast forward to us having our first kid and now we’re not sure what to do with the Jeep. My wife wants to sell it to get something practical, but I balked and said its fine. He’s small, so he can fit in the cramped back seat for a while. Heck with the top down it may be easier to put the car seat in than the Prius! She’s not a fan of having him in the jeep with the top off as the protective mama bear side of her comes out, but I’m big on not over protecting our son, so it all balances out.

With that, and all the warm weather we’ve been having this summer I’ve been driving around with the sides and back off the jeep, but still keep the top up. This is great because you get all the nice air blowing around you and my son loves it as he sits backwards and in the Jeep he is up high and can see out the back and sides now vs staring at the back of the seat in the Prius. So we put on some good music and cruise around in the Jeep together and we love it.

I was picking him up from Grammy’s house (my mom) tonight as I often do and heading home. When I get to stop lights I reach back and put my hand in his car seat. I do this for two reasons. First is to see if he is still awake. As he sits backwards I can’t see him, so I put my hand back there to see if he’ll grab it and then I know if he is still awake or fast asleep. The other reason I do this, is to hold his hand as I really dig my little one. So as we come to a stop light, I reach back and he grabs my hand as he is still awake and happy. He’s playing with my fingers and I look past through the side of the Jeep to see a man with a big grin on his face. I can’t know for sure that Jackson wasn’t smiling also at him, but he does smile at most people so I assume he was. I smile back as he rolls down his window and says, “That is outstanding! You are the cool dad. I bet he loves that”.

My smile got even bigger and his comments made my night.

The light turned green, I cranked up the volume on a great song and we continued our cruise home.

Ben…

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Balancing Technology

Aug 5, 2014 by

I received a great email from a beautiful and intelligent (assuming) reader named Valerie.  She was referencing a post about camping and asking about the the balance of technology with her teenage and younger kids and wanted my input.  Here is some of what I responded with:

I love camping with my friends, family and all the kids in that group.  That said, those kids pictured in the Orange Roll Recipe are not mine.  They belong to a close friend of mine, but I have known them their entire life and we’ve been camping many times together.  That said, my first kid is only 10 months old, so we have not yet had to struggle with the proper use and limits of technology in his life yet, but we are already starting to.

I don’t want us to use the TV as a baby sitter or have him be one of those children that can’t go out to eat, or be anywhere without an iPad and be constantly entertained.  That said, he loves his Baby Einstein videos and I don’t want to judge those parents as not having been in their shoes yet.

I love technology.  It’s been my work and hobbies for many years now and I am loving the amazing things it allows us to do.  That said, like any tool it can be abused and misappropriated for unhealthy purposes.  Just this month I’ve given up playing a video game I’ve been realizing I spend a little too much time playing.  It’s about finding a balance.

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I recently found this image on my Facebook feed and it resonated with me.  While I love technology, I am SO grateful to grow up without a lot of it.  I’m so happy I got to run and play in the woods and didn’t spend time staring at a tablet.  Now I did have a Nintendo growing up, and learned how to use a computer from a very young age, which I also love, but I really do cherish the “play time” I had with friends riding bikes and running around the neighborhood until the sun went down.

I hope we set appropriate boundaries with our son with technology.  I hope he has a wonderful curiosity about technology and wants to know how it works and how to make it work instead of just consuming or playing games.  That is the struggle I see ahead of us and the balance I hope to strike.  I’m already suggesting to my wife and mother not to let him play with their iPhones as he will be clamoring for such devices soon enough.

I don’t enjoy seeing families with all their kids head’s buried in their devices all the time.  I hope we don’t become one of those families, yet I must acknowledge we are living in a different time.  I can’t even imagine how pervasive and cheap such devices will be when my son enters school.  I’m all for using technology to empower our lives.  I hope they find a way to use it in the classroom to help the children learn more and more efficiently, but I hope it doesn’t come at the cost of robbing their childhood of real playtime outdoors with friends and just their imaginations.  I foresee us setting strict limits on screen time vs outdoor play time.  I hope to take my son camping often and all over so he can learn to appreciate the great outdoors and all it offers.  I hope we can find the right balance of using technology to empower our lives and not wasting it away consuming nonsense.

So what is your balance with technology?  Do you take a technology Sabbath and put the phones away for a while?  Do you limit your own or your kids screen time?  I would love to hear what ideas and solutions you’ve implemented in your house.

Ben…

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Chicken Avocado Soup that is oh so simple

May 13, 2014 by

If you are looking for an awesome light soup that you can eat every day for the rest of your life, this is it.

I’ve made this so many times in the past few months that I can make it in less than 20 minutes.  It’s so simple and so good.  Also if you looking for good flavorful food while on a diet, this is a winner.  My wife won her biggest loser challenge at her work eating this soup.

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You will love it and want to make it over and over, so lets get making it.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups green onions
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 3 – 14.5oz cans chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

lets get cooking

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Get a pan on the stove and get it hot.  First secret ingredient to making this awesome is bacon grease.  You can substitute with olive oil if you don’t have any, but you should have some.  Save that gold anytime you make bacon and use it.  I’ve been cooking everything in it lately and it is amazing.  Add some to the pan and heavily salt and pepper your chicken breasts and throw them in.

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In a separate pot add more bacon grease.  Yes its really that good.  Throw your garlic in there and stir.

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Second secret ingredient I’ve discovered lately is green onion.  Partly because I’m a lazy gardener, I let my green onions go to seed and that caused my garden to explode with a ton of green onions.  Happy mistake.  I LOVE GREEN ONIONS NOW!  Wow these are awesome and have so much flavor.

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Get your green onions and dice them up.  Throw them in a food processor for easy dicing.

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Throw the onion in the pot with the garlic and bacon grease and stir.  Cook until soft and a little translucent. (few minutes on medium heat)

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Chop up your tomato.  You can use canned tomatoes for this with no problems.  That is what I usually do for this soup, but just didn’t have any this time.

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Throw that in and cook for a minute or so.

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Add in your chicken stock.

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Cumin is what makes this soup smell and taste amazing.  Bring the soup to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes.

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When your chicken breasts are cooked, take them out and shred them with a couple forks.

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Add in the shredded chicken and stir.

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I also cut up the stems of the green onion for flavor and texture.  Also cut up your cilantro as well.

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Stir in green onion tops

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and cilantro

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voila

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When you are ready to eat, dice up your avocado and add to your bowl of soup.  I usually eat a half an avocado with a bowl.

It is simply amazing and my wife keeps asking me to make it, so it must be good.

Enjoy

Ben…

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Why it is awesome to cook

Apr 21, 2014 by

I haven’t been posting a lot lately, but I have still been cooking quite a bit.  More than every actually because of the new keto diet I’ve been on lately.

A couple things I’ve noticed in cooking a lot more.

  1. I’m really good at cooking eggs now.  It’s funny how you don’t think of cooking as practice, but it is.  The more you do it, the better you become at it.
  2. It is still a lot of fun to sit back and eat something wonderful you have made yourself

All that said, I came across this video and it’s worth a watch.

As I have been cooking a lot, I have many recipes ready to post, now I just need to find the time to post them.

Stay tuned

Ben…

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A Simple Crunchy Salad

Apr 21, 2014 by

I love this salad.  I love this salad for several reasons.  First, its delicious.  Second, its super easy to make.  Third, its very easy to make ahead of time and then mix all the parts together when you are ready to eat it… aka its great to take camping.  And fourth, it uses the cabbage I grow in my garden and sometimes I struggle to find recipes to eat all the cabbage. But this salad is very easy to make, is very tasty and is a nice change from the normal boring salad. IMG_3245 Here’s how you make it. First you will need a head of cabbage.  here is an awesome one that I grabbed from the garden. IMG_3087 Second, you’ll need some chicken.  I used the leftover chicken I had from the Greek Pita recipe.  It was super tasty, but you can just use any chicken however you’d like to prepare it.  Cut it up into chunks and cook it up. IMG_3104 Next you’ll need some Oriental flavor top ramen.  You know its awesome when there is ramen in it! IMG_3114 Before you open the ramen package, smash it against the counter a few times to break it up. IMG_3120   IMG_3124 You want to chop up the cabbage.  If you have a mandoline slicer, now is the time to bust it out and use it. IMG_3131 Chicken is cooked and looking and smelling awesome.  Set it aside. IMG_3140 Throw the ramen noodles in a sauce pan. IMG_3143 Add a couple tablespoons of butter and the oriental seasoning packet and cook it up for a few minutes.   You want it to remain crunchy and mix in the flavor, so only cook it for a c0uple of minutes. IMG_3148 that is a lot of cabbage, but thats why I love this recipe.  If you keep the parts separated you can mix it together any time you are ready to enjoy this. IMG_3155 Ok, now to make the dressing for this salad.   Super easy.  In a small tupperware container mix 1/4 cup sugar. IMG_3186 Then add 1/4 cup white wine vinegar IMG_3195 Then a tablespoon of oil. IMG_3207 and finally a teaspoon of pepper. IMG_3221 Now put the lid on and shake it up.  You are done with the dressing. IMG_3205 If you are making this all at once, put the cabbage in a big bowl and add 1 cup of peanuts.   Then add the chicken and salad dressing and shake it all up.  Top it off with the crunchy raman noodles and you are set.  I prefer to leave the components separated so I can make the salads individually.  Again this is super easy to make ahead of time and put into separate zip lock backs for camping.  Its a great lite salad to break out at lunch. IMG_3242 Here is the final product.  The savory chicken with the tangy and sweet dressing mixes with the crunchy noodles for the perfect salad that has an amazing texture.  Try this salad out next time you want something new and tasty.  It is awesome.

Ben…

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Zucchini Pizza and Cheese Fried in Cheese (KETO)

Feb 11, 2014 by

Wow has it been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe.   I’ve been very busy with a lot of new projects and a new kid and thus I have not taken the time to get some new posts up.  I’ve been cooking a lot as usual, but in a new way.  I recently started on the KETO diet as a way to lose some weight, but really more to experiment with an entirely different way to eat and see how my body liked it.  I’ve been having some bad allergies and sinus issues where I couldn’t taste anything, hence the no new recipes for a while.  Allergy shots have been helping and the new diet is in full effect.  I’m still learning as I go as its a whole different paradigm, but the essentials are, low carbs, high fat.

With that, I’ve been cooking some fun low carb recipes lately and this was one of them.  You know I love zucchini and put it in everything from muffins, to waffles so I was happy to incorporate it into my low carb pizza.  This meal turned out amazing and I LOVE the marinara sauce.  It’s so simple and so tasty.

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Here’s the final product and it is good.  Now lets get making with the food.

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Here’s what you’ll need for the marinara sauce.  I modified the recipe from this one.

Ingredients:

  • 28 oz can Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

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Here’s the easiest part of this recipe.  Put all of that into a blender or Nutribullet and blend it up.  It’s just that simple.

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Now onto the pizza making parts.  You’ll need some zucchini, mozzarella cheese and pepperonis

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Slice the zucchini at 1/4 inch strips.  A mandolin slicer is the way to go for this.

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Grill them up on high heat for 30-45 seconds per side.  You just want them to have the nice little lines but still be firm.

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Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lay down your zucchini strips.  Add a little salt and pepper and spoon on your marinara sauce

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add your pepperonis

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and then the cheese and throw it in the oven at 350 until the cheese is melted (about 5 minutes).

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Viola, super yummy and low carb pizza.  Now onto the cheese fried in cheese

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To make these cheese sticks you will need…

Ingredients:

  • String cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • almond flour
  • oregano
  • basil
  • garlic powder
  • an egg or two
  • pork rinds

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basically you are going to dip the string cheese into the egg and then into your coating and deep fry them.  I experimented and tried out two different coatings.  The first was just Parmesan cheese and the spices.  Pour out your cheese onto a plate.

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add in your spices.  This was all by eye.  I used a good sprinkle of garlic powder and a nice dash of oregano and basil.

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for the other mixture experiment I crushed up some pork rinds

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and then added almond flour and the spices

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I got this nice consistency

again, just cut the string cheese in half to get more manageable pieces.  Dip them in the egg, then roll them in the mixes and set on a tray.

Before frying in oil, put the coated cheese pieces in the freezer for 20-30 minutes so they can chill out and be easier to work with when you are frying them up.

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Fry them in oil as you would deep fry anything else.  They only need to cook for a very short time until they are nice and golden brown.  Both mixtures turned out good, but I think the cheese only mixture was the slight favorite.  My friend who ate with us that night was blown away that you could fry cheese coated in cheese.  He was very happy.

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speaking of happy, here was my little helper for the evening and one of the reasons I’m not posting as much lately.  He’s worth it.

As always, let me know how it turns out when you make this

Ben…

 

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