Birthday Cake

ImageSo I had the privilege last week of making my youngest daughters birthday cake. My wife came up with the idea for it and I got to make it. It brought back memories of the cakes my mom used to make for me for my birthdays. She would always make them from scratch when I was younger, and I remember two designs in particular, a football player and a ninja turtle. Looking back at them now, I don’t know if I appreciated them then as much as I should have, I know I enjoyed eating them, that’s for sure, but hopefully I told her how nice they were, because I still remember them to this day, and I hope that says a lot.

Now that I got to make my daughter’s 5th birthday cake for her, I really tried hard to make it look nice, and I know she liked because she told me she did. Even if she hadn’t told me anything though, I am still happy that I made it for her. For me, it’s sort of like a extra present, but with more heart put in than anything I could buy at the store for her. I made it all from scratch, and though it was a bit drier than what I had hoped for ( baked it about 3 minutes to long ) it still tasted and looked great.

Now I realize not everyone is a top notch cook, and that big fancy cakes and cupcakes are very popular right now, but I will say this, everyone can follow a recipe, and even if it is a box mix, you can still say to your child, I made this for you. And who knows, maybe years from now, she will remember it and say, thanks dad.

Family Picnics

When I was younger (boy I keep saying that a lot lately it seems) I was not always the biggest fan of going to family picnics and reunions. Lately though, I have grown to appreciate them more and more, in part because of the variety of food I get to eat.

I just attended one this past weekend for one side of my wife’s family and I must say, I married into a family of good cooks. It was way better than a Chinese buffet. The usual hotdogs were available, but so was pulled pork ( cooked very well ), bbq chicken, a couple different kinds of tasty salads, and my wife’s grandmothers AWESOME blueberry pie ( I must say I behaved myself and only had one piece ). Now I realize that not all families get along as well as mine, I am very lucky for that, but from time to time put differences aside, even if it is just to sit down and have a nice meal together, you would be amazed at what it can do.


Strange Voodoo

So as I have said before, I am not the worlds most adventurous eaters, but lately, there have been some unique combinations going on in my house.

Growing up I used to put Ketchup on everything, steak, chicken, pork, potatoes and probably a few other things, although never eggs, that’s just wrong in my book. When I married my wife, I learned that she likes to put peanut butter on her rice, I thought she might have been pregnant, but no, just a normal thing for her. My kids have taken to liking it as well, but I am holding out on trying it, I am afraid if I give in I can’t go back.

Now, there is something that might be just as strange. My youngest recently won a giant bag of Swedish Fish at day care for winning their go fish tournament ( Way To Go Mia! ) So that night she decided to put them on her ice cream, Moose Tracks to be specific. She swore she loved it. The next night, my oldest decides she wants Swedish Fish with caramel syrup on it, nothing else, just a bowl of Swedish Fish with caramel syrup. Of course she ended up liking it, so what did my youngest have the next night, yep, you guessed it. I am flat out refusing to even think of trying it ( well, it is a tempting thought to be honest ) but I won’t let them see me doing it.

What is this world coming to? What’s next, pizza with fish on it? Oh, wait, they have that already and it’s awful.

I Ate What?

So my wife loves to tell this story time and again (mostly to embarrass me when possible) and recently I was reminded of it when we found a old recipe. Back in my younger days I did not like zucchini, well, I still really don’t like it unless it is baked in something I don’t know about.

A few years ago when my wife and I were first married, when we had more time in our lives to do things, she used to make what I would call sweet breads. So one day I came home from work, and saw she had made a loaf of bread, so naturally I ate it. After she watched me eat it, she asked my opinion of it, to which I naturally said it was delicious (she does make really good sweet breads) and she said good, I’m glad you like zucchini bread.

It took me a minute or two to get over the initial shock of her statement, and what I had just done, I mean I had years and years under my belt of telling my parents I wouldn’t touch the stuff, and here I was not only eating it, but enjoying it. Of course she had to tell my parents, who obviously laughed at me. It’s all in good fun though, and of course I get the last laugh because I am the one who gets to enjoy it now on a semi regular basis and my parents don’t.

So a couple words of wisdom for everyone out there, just because you don’t like a food cooked one way, doesn’t mean you won’t another way, just add enough sugar and other ingredients to it, and who knows what could happen.


So my brother in law, like any good uncle will do, bought my kids a Slurpee machine for Christmas. Not that they really needed it, but it’s fun to have, and hey, with this weather we have been having lately, why not.

So I opened up for the first time last night and knew instantly that I was in trouble. It had a lot of pieces to put together (well, maybe not a lot, but at least a dozen) and that’s never a good sign of something simple. So it did go together fairly well to be honest, but when it came to making the actual Slurpee, that was a whole different story. Granted, I should have read the directions the whole way through before starting to make it, but who really does that ? So after the first one leaked out all over the table, I read what I did wrong, or at least what I thought I did wrong, and tried again. This one at least had some slushy like texture to it, but still was mostly liquid, but after a second attempt, I was not about to do a third.

We gave the kids what we did get out of it, and they enjoyed it a lot, slush or no slush. Lets face it, it was hot out, and the drink was cold, what’s not to like. So I then looked at the directions again, and it told me again what I did wrong. Well at least I have the rest of the summer to get it right, or I can just wait for my engineer brother in law to come for a visit and show me how it’s done.

My Bad, well, sort of

I brought my lunch to work today, just like most days, as I am trying to save my pennies. Only problem was that today was the company picnic for the 4th of July, and I obviously forgot, which meant I didn’t bring anything, let alone cook anything. I did however run over to the store to pick up some sweet tea for people to drink, which is at any good picnic, well, at least in the south it is. The problem is though that I write the food blog, and I didn’t bring anything, I mean, that’s like me going out on assignment and not bringing my camera. I honestly felt kinda bad, not bad enough to not eat any of the tasty food, but still, a bit of guild as it was going down.

With that said, the food was delicious, thanks everyone for bringing it in, especially Laura’s baked beans with a ridiculous amount of brown sugar put in, but boy they were tasty. Normally I like to bring dishes I make to events like that, it gives you a chance to talk with people about the food, and show off a little bit to, but mostly, a sense of community.

Picnics around the holidays are great for that. Sitting down with family, sharing a meal in a relaxed environment has been going on since the beginning of man, and ultimately has become a dying event in our fast paced society. As I get older, and yes, I am getting older, I realize the importance of events like this, so parents, make sure you take your kids to family picnics. It gives them a chance, and the rest of their family a chance to get to know them, share stories, even if they are embarrassing, and generally just have fun as a family.

So Happy Fourth of July, whip up your best dish to share, light some sparklers with your kids, be safe, and enjoy.

Exercise and Diet….?

I have taken back up running over the past couple of months, and I am up to about 4 miles a crack depending on my schedule and routine. The main reason for this is that to be honest, my pants were getting tight on me and I didn’t like that feeling. Thankfully my pants are now fitting comfortably around my waist now.

So what does this have to do with a food column? Well, without a bit of exercise in your life, you can’t expect to eat what you want and not put on weight. I’m not saying you have to hit the gym everyday or take up running or max out on the bench press every other day. Just simple things like they say, like my wife for example, she likes to exercise while watching Jeopardy a couple nights a week, not only does she get some exercise for her body, but also her brain.

As for dieting, well, I’m not so good at that, hence the exercise. Like last night for example, I went for a 4 mile run, and then rewarded myself with a tasty bowl of ice cream, and it was well deserved I tell you. Dieting is a tricky thing to do, and not easy, but I have been making a conscious effort to only eat one desert a day, maybe two on a bad day.

So start with little things, that’s the best advice I can give you, and celebrate small victories, just not in excess otherwise you’ll have to start all over again.

Treacle what??? Treacle Tart

So I have a confession to make, and honestly, it’s one I don’t mind making, I love the Harry Potter series, the books, the movies, even some of other stuff surrounding it. I can’t wait to go to Disney someday to see the Harry Potter world theme park there. I’ve read the books countless times and watched all the movies several times. Now what does this have to do with a food blog you might be wondering right now. The answer is simply:

Treacle Tart.

If I had never read the books, I would have most likely never learned about this tasty desert that I have been deprived of the majority of my life. Even if I didn’t enjoy the books as much as I do, I still would have been curious about the food in them. You see, my grandmother is from England, so being part English myself, I am naturally curious about their culture. So after reading about this desert, I eventually did some Googling to try and find out what it is, then find a recipe for it, and then attempted to make it. Now, the key ingredient in the dish is Lyle’s Golden Syrup, and I will say this, there is no substitute for it, none, and it is not something you can find locally, at least not in my neck of the woods. I have to order it from The English Tea Store on line which stocks it for a reasonable price (shipping is what kills me, costs just as much if not more than the ingredient). There are a couple of other places that have it as well online. Now, for those of you who have never heard of Lyle’s Golden Syrup (don’t feel bad because I hadn’t either) be sure to go order some right away. It is fantastic. The flavor is something like maple syrup combined with honey and still something else that is hard to place. It goes great on pancakes and other dishes as well.
Here is my dilemma though, and it’s not a huge one, in getting the recipe off the internet for the treacle tart, and in making it myself but never having been to England to eat it or known anyone else who makes it, I am not sure how close mine is to what it is supposed to be like. My grandmother who is English says she likes it, my wife and I love it, but I don’t know if it’s right. So, if any of you out there know exactly what it is supposed to taste like, look like, and want to share a piece (I know that can be hard to do) let me know and I would be glad to sample some and compare it to mine.
Now that I have come out and admitted to the world my deepest darkest secret (well, not really, but I can pretend for writings sake) I feel much better. Be sure to be curious with what you read, don’t feel bad to look things up you don’t know, and by all means, don’t be afraid to try something new, especially anything with Lyle’s Gold Syrup on it or in it.

Fish Tales


The first rule of being a good fisherman, and my god father will attest to this, is that you have to be a good story teller. I took my daughters to the Fishing Derby in Danville the other weekend and I was lucky enough to see my youngest catch her first fish ever. After getting over the initial shock of it and a bit of fright over seeing it flop around, she decided it was really really neat. To see her smile and how proud she was of herself made it a awesome day.

Now it wasn’t the biggest fish in the world, but it was a good 9 and 1/2 inches, and was a very pretty brook trout. So after we landed it and put it in the bucket, she decided to name it Caroline, and I was worried I was in trouble right then and there. The last time we brought home a fish it was from the pet store, cost 25 cents, was named Dorothy and lived for two years. This time I knew for sure the fish wasn’t going to live out the evening, it was destined for, well, dinner.

On the way back to the car she asked me what we were going to do to the fish. I hesitated for a second before answering her honestly saying we were going to take it home, kill it, clean it, and cook it. I waited for it, worried about the tears to come, a balling 4 year saying please don’t kill my fish, and then it came ” can I watch. ” I exhaled thanking God quickly and heard my oldest daughter say ” that will be disgusting.” 

At home, with the fish swimming around in the bucket, my youngest comes out to check on it just as I am getting ready to snap its neck with my hands. Perfect timing, of course. The long and short of it is she watched me dispatch of the fish without any problems, and before I know it, they were both in the kitchen watching me get ready to take a knife to the fish.

And then, as quick as a French Revolution, it was off with the head. Again, I waited for screams of horror, only to hear from my youngest daughter, ” that’s cool.” It was the complete opposite of what I was expecting to hear, and I couldn’t have been happier to hear it because I can still take them fishing knowing they aren’t traumatized by the whole incident. When the fish was all cleaned up and ready to be cooked I got lunch ready for them. A simple peanut butter and jelly, nothing fancy, and as I watched them eat away happily, it was all I could do to finish my sandwich without throwing up just thinking about what I had to do to that poor fish. I was never much for dissecting things in science class and I guess I still am not, but it at least provided a meal for my family that night, although I couldn’t bring myself to eat any of it.

Testing 1…2…3…


I have a confession to make. I am cheap. I don’t like to spend more than I have to, I always look for the best deals, love coupons and the words On Sale. Being cheap is not always easy mind you. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices on things you like for things you like not quite as much. Lately I have been trying out some new ingredients in my cooking, and they aren’t of the cheaper variety I am sad to say. With that said however, I have been very pleased with the results.

I recently read a couple different articles in a cooking magazine about cocoa powder and their recommendations. They felt that Scharffen Berger cocoa was the best rated and had it listed at a hefty $7.5 – $8.5 a canister. Now, when you are used to Hershey’s cocoa for baking at $3 a canister it can be a bit of a shock to your system. At a recent shop though to Wegmans I came across some of the Scharffen Berger cocoa and also a canister of Ghiradelli cocoa powder and picked both up, despite the fact they cost more than I would have liked to pay for them.

So I proceeded to try them both out the next day in a cake and did a bit of taste testing by bringing them into the office and seeing which one was liked best. To my somewhat pleasant surprise the Ghiradelli won, hands down, and I happened to agree with the findings of my colleagues. Not only did I like it better, it was cheaper as well. That is not to say I didn’t like both of them because they were both very good. The Scharffen Berger was a bit heavier of a chocolate flavor, still sweet enough though, while the Ghiradelli has a nice rich chocolate flavor and was sweet, but not overly. They both beat Hersheys in my opinion easily though, so you can’t really go wrong either way, just a matter of taste.

The other ingredient I have been trying out is King Arthur’s unbleached regular flour. Ok, so it costs almost double the generic brand and other cheaper flowers, but I will say it right now, it is way worth the cost. My cookies have never been as good, my cakes and pancakes have more volume, are fluffier and just seem to hold up better. The fact that it is a unbleached flour is a added bonus to me. I am not the biggest person in the world when it comes to being all natural ect… but having bleached flour when there is a alternative just sounds, well, not so good anymore considering I know what bleach does in our house for cleaning.

I will try and keep you all updated as hopefully I get to test out more ingredients  as my budget allows and let you know the results, but on a whole, it’s good to try new things sometimes, just don’t go to crazy when you do.