Monday, August 31, 2009

The Young French Chef part two

I asked my friends on Facebook and Livejournal to send me their favorite quick and easy recipes. This is what I got. By the way, the REALLY good stuff is at the end.

From Meredith:
Initially she sent this: "Granola and yogurt, topped with fresh blueberries or raspberries." But later sent a more detailed meal.
"Salmon salad: Sprinkle a half pound of salmon with Creole spices and olive oil and grill on the trusty George Foreman grill - 7 minutes. While fish is cooking, put salad fixings on individual plates - romaine, baby lettuces, fresh herbs, onions, olives, tomatoes, etc. When salmon is done, divide salmon among plates, add croutons and drizzle with dressing of choice - we like a balsamic vinagrette. Since I make it spicy, we have a modest Pinoir Noir, like Berringer or Mirrasou, with this.
When my mother in law gave us a George Foreman grill, I was a snob and didn't even open it for a couple months, but it is the best thing - fast, dependable, easy to clean. You can do the same thing with - crab cakes, a nice little beef rib steak on sale, chicken breasts, a tuna steak, pork loin, big shrimps or scallops - variety dinner in 10 minutes, with very little clean up. In the summer we eat this all the time - change a few veggies and the dressing and it is a completely different thing."

From Sharon:
"Big sandwich. French or Italian bread, any lunch meat, any cheese, we like lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Have Anna help, she will love it."

From Iris:
"grilled fish tacos with cabbage and cliantro slaw." Note to Iris, we need the recipe for the slaw!

From Bryn:
"Nachos. Brown sirloin burger, turkey, etc and add a can of drained chili beans or black beans and mexicorn. warm it up, put ontop of nacho chips on foil covered cookie sheet, top with shredded cheese, bake at 325 for 10 min or so until cheese melts. serve with salsa and sour cream. Kids love it :)"

From Erick:
Not sure if healthy but taco ring is fun.
Crescent rolls dough layed out in a circle on baking stone. Add taco meat and chopped onions ontop and fold dough over. Bake till golden brown add tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded cheese to center of ring. Top with sour cream.

From Amy and John:
We got this from a Weight Watchers Cookbook (Cooking for Two) years ago. We love it. We make it often and have made it for others that love it too.

Easy Asian Beef and Noodles
Yield2 servings Serving size: 2 cups (although if you use the remaining coleslaw mix, as listed below, it could easily make two to four depending on the serving size.)

• 1 (8-ounce) rib-eye steak
• 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, divided
• 1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
• 2 cups prepackaged coleslaw - (we usually just use the whole package of coleslaw mix it makes it bigger and enough for huge portions of guilt-free goodness or leftovers.)
• 2 (2.8-ounce) packages beef-flavor ramen noodle soup
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

Trim fat from steak; cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove steak mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan; keep warm.

Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use (we typically use both). Add the water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook until thoroughly heated.

From Scottie:
I stole the bulk of this one form Giada De Laurentiis. It's meant to be a healthy creamy style sauce for linguini to be served with salmon. I didn't have salmon, or linguini... so I made a few modifications, de-healthied it and tossed it with penne :)Stuff you'll need:

1 box penne pasta (1 lb.)
3-4 oz. of goat cheese
2-3 oz. of cream cheese
1 bag baby spinach
2 cloves fresh garlic
3-4 strips of bacon (pancetta would be better)
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Some fresh basil

Chop up your bacon (or pancetta) and put into a small pan on the stove on medium head to render out the fat. Go ahead and start the pasta now too, this isn't going to take long.

While that's doing it's thing, toss the garlic into your food processor and give it a whirl until it's chopped up fairly fine. Next, open it back up and put in the goat cheese and cream cheese, along with about 3/4 of the bag of baby spinach, and the lemon juice. Now would also be a great time to add in things like salt and pepper. Give the whole mess a whirl for about 10-20 seconds or until it looks like a chunky dip. It might even stick to the blade in a big ball, it's ok. Don't over mix, since it's gonna go for another whirl here in a moment.
Back at the stove scoop out your meat and take about 2 tablespoons of the fat over to the mixer. Turn it on and drizzle in the fat. Take your remaining baby spinach and give it a rough chop, do the same with the basil.

Now all you need to do it bring it all together! Into your biggest bowl put the green sauce base from the mixer. On top of that put your penne pasta. Grab a spatula and start incorporating them. Next grab your chopped baby spinach and basil, throw it on and do the same. Sprinkle on some fresh grated parmesan, and you're done!
For the healthy version remove the bacon and use light cream cheese instead of the normal stuff.

A few notes:
When I did this I used 4 cloves of garlic, and it kind of overpowered the entire dish. Also, reserve about a 1/3 c. of the cooked pasta water. If the sauce is way too thick after mixing it all together use the pasta water to loosen it up. It should be creamy, but not a paste.

You can put the bacon, or pancetta, you used into the dish at the end. However, I found that it didn't really add much. All its flavor had rendered out, and it wound up being squishy bits of nothing after they absorbed liquid from the sauce.

And lastly, my two favorites, because sometimes you just have to punt.
From Glen: popcorn - 2 minutes on high. From Rob: Gin, tonic, lemon

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My life with the A to Z list

Some of you may know that I am a giant celebrity whore. If there is anyone from the Z to the D list milling about, I will find them and stalk them with my Sharpie and stack of note cards. So what have I learned from my 20 years of stalking?

• Julie Andrews signs with a silver paint marker.
• Vincent Price would sign your stuff and inscribe it for you.
• Tim Curry is really short and is apparently hounded by proprietary autograph hounds where ever he goes. I felt bad asking him for an autograph.
• David Hyde Pierce DOES NOT sign autographs.
• The Blue Men will sign your Playbill with a blue thumb print.
• Quentin Crisp was in the New York City phone book, and was thrilled to get my request.
• However, John Waters was NOT thrilled that I found his address on line, but signed anyways. He expressed his opinion on a post it note on the back of the picture I sent him.
• Mark Wahlberg is really short, but he told me where to pee in NYC.
• Eartha Kitt is really short too.
• Art Linkletter is a giant.
• Jeff Daniels is a dick.
• Henry Rollins is smokin’ hot, but not really tall.
• Moby will draw you a picture if you ask him, even in a parking garage in NYC.
• George Carlin would talk with you when he was peeing next to you at Sardi’s.
• Andres Serrano, when pushed to talk about censorship will send you a three page handwritten letter.
• Matthew Broderick sends his letters from an address in CA somewhere, for tax purposes.
• Lynn Johnston, of the cartoon, For Better or Worse, sent me a page from her sketch book.
• Nathan Lane signed a Timon doll right on the crotch for me.
• Sean Astin is short but loves kids.
• Karen Finley is not above signing an index card.
• Martha Stewart’s ink fades quickly.
• Margaret Cho will sign for cash.
• I apparently killed Walter (Woody Woodpecker) Lantz, as he died shortly after I sent my request, but I still got an autograph!
• Bruce Vilanch looks like Rolf the Dog from the Muppets mated with Sally Jesse Raphael.
• Annie Liebovitz will send you proof pages she didn’t use.
• William Wegman will draw his dogs.
• If you write to Jimmy Carter, Plains, GA or Stephen King, Bangor, Maine, you’ll get an autograph.
• Amy Sedaris got the entire cast of “Strangers with Candy” to sign the picture I sent her, and she drew nose hair coming out of her nose with the Sharpie.
• My most cherished autograph was one of my first. Although I did not meet her in person, Julia Child signed my copy of “The Way to Cook” and the cover hangs in my kitchen. And yes, she signed it with a “bon appetit!”

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Young French Chef

I am thankful for the fact that my Mom cooked with my brother and I in the kitchen when I was growing up. She allowed us to help out when we could without causing too much of a mess. I will also freely admit that I am closet chef. My high school career test had Chef as number one followed by Artist and then Teacher. I discussed this with my counselor Mrs. Boros (God bless you Dorothy, you were such a grand influence on my life!) and she discussed the pluses and minuses of Chefdom and we decided that it probably wasn’t in my best interest. I knew at an early age that I didn’t want to work weekends, and I loved holidays, so being in the restaurant biz would put a serious damper on those proclivities.

So I gravitated towards education, specifically art education and I have never been happier. However, I still get culinary boners (thanks for that Top Chef Chicago’s Andrew) when I am around cookbooks and I love to whip up grand meals for my friends and family when time permits. It still amazes me that my parents were surprised that I was Gay, as I loved cooking from an early age and remember being entranced by a certain Julia Child when I was just a child and would voluntarily sit and watch her on PBS. When I was 11, my folks gave me “The Young French Chef” for Christmas, as well as a kid’s cookbook from Betty Crocker. I have been working with Anna in the kitchen for some time and she loves to don her Dora apron and get into it. She is proficient in pudding making and knows how much milk goes into the mix and how long we have to use the beaters.
I had a craving for peanut butter cookies after having some stale and rather dry ones from our Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I have a variety of recipes committed to memory and this super-easy but delicious peanut butter cookie mix is one of them.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
Mix and roll into small balls and use a fork to put on the crisscross pattern on the top of the cookies and flatten onto the un-greased cookie sheet.
Sprinkle with sugar and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Watch em, they burn quick with all the oil in the peanut butter. Move to a cooling rack and wait for them to firm up. Yum.
I was inspired by Adam at Bloghungry and will be posting some of my favorite quick and dirty meals for busy households.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: A great book for book lovers of all ages

I stumbled across Carla Morris’ book, The Boy who was raised by Librarians during one of our weekly trips to the library here in Jackson. Anna usually picks up the annoying Dora or Disney “story” books, and I try to tempt her with more intelligent fare from the stacks of non-Viacom or Disney books. I saw Morris’ book (deftly illustrated by Brad Sneed) and my heart leapt.
One of my first jobs was as a page at the library across the street from my high school back in Ohio. It was a small branch in the Toledo Public Library system, but it was home for me for a few years. I started out making $2.50 an hour, but I also remember that I would have done it for free if they would have let me. My parents have always encouraged reading, and it’s something that I have done with Anna (and now with Eli) as well. When I crossed over to being a “big kid” and was no longer beholden to a bed time, my folks would let me stay up in my room as long as I was reading.
Nothing more, no T.V. EVER!
I loved that feeling of independence, and would gleefully read until the wee hours of 10 or 11 before calling it a night. Having a book next to my bed is something that I have always had, and as long as I can check out books, will I continue to have until they pry my library card from my cold dead hand. As a young adult, I loved the Hardy boys and the bizarre Phyllis Whitney mysteries. When I moved to high school, Stephen King blew my mind, and I actually feigned sickness to stay home and finish reading “The Stand” when I was a sophomore. Sorry Mom and Dad.
Flash forward a few years and you can understand why I had to hold back a tear as I signed Anna up for her first library card when she was two and my hand quivered with excitement as I passed down the fresh card to her little hands. At that age, she didn’t pick the books, and could frankly care less, but it was fun to have her play in the kid’s area and to be around so much information. Her passing the card to the librarian to check out her books may have been a forgettable moment for her, but it’s one that I will cherish forever.
If you love books, or know someone who is a librarian, do yourself and them a favor and pick up this book. It is a joy. It’s the story of young Melvin and his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. His daily forays into the library allows him to interact with the three (all female, natch) librarians who dote on him and cater to his every question. The book is one big stereotype, but for those of us who love to read and are library whores, it’s pure gold. The plot is paper thin, but there were moments when I was choked up reading the book to Anna the first time.
I remember being very wasted one night in Toledo after class, as the bartender at the Westgate Lounge said he would give anyone a free drink if they would show a library card. I was in college at the time and flopped six cards on the bar for him to check out. I had the Toledo, Perrysburg, and Rossford cards, as well as cards from the University, the Art Museum, and one from Maumee as good measure. For once, being a book nerd paid off.
You can find more about the book here:
Or you can make me very happy and take a moment, and a child, and go to your nearest library and ask a librarian to help you find the book. You won’t be sorry.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bloghungry: Food for Parents

The incredibly handsome and talented foodie at Bloghungry recently became a Dad with his partner Popmuse and they are going through exactly what Tod and I went through when Anna was born…

We’re hungry, and we want good food!

Oh sure, fast food is good for quick meals on the go, but in the long run, it left us cold. We did Dream Dinners for a bit, but found it to be too expensive to keep up with a new baby in the house. After a few months of trying to get into a routine, our minds, and our bodies were suffering. Both of us had put on weight and we were eating horrible meals. It took us awhile to find that routine and get back into shape with our eating habits, but it did happen eventually.

I wish I would have known about Bloghungry back then, as all this month he is posting recipes under the heading of “Food for Parents” and I am here to tell you, they are great. We made the crock pot chicken BBQ last week and it rocked. No snickering you pompous, childless, I-have-all-day-and-unlimited-monies-to-cook folks, this is the real deal. So dust off your crock pot, stop asking yourself “what would Ina do?” and enjoy this very flavorful dish. By the way, I added three canned chipotle chilies to the sauce and it brought some nice smoky heat to the dish.

Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
4-6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Jar BBQ Sauce
Tbsp salt and pepper
Rolls or buns
Put chicken, onion, 1/4 of bottle of BBQ sauce, salt, and pepper in crock pot on low. Let cook for at least 6 hours. Using 2 forks, pull apart and shred meat into chunks and pieces. Drain most of the liquid from the pot. Mix in remaining BBQ sauce and serve on rolls or buns.

Stop by and visit him on the web at: and tell him I sent you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stay fierce baby girl!

So many quotes come to mind:
Don’t bore Nina!
Make it work!
Hot Tranny mess.

I won’t lie; I am a big fan of Project Runway, in my opinion, one of the best reality shows out there. I had a discussion with someone about this and their comment was that on the cooking shows you can only imagine what the food will taste like, and rely on the presentation for the WOW factor. On PR, you can see the work develop from inspiration to concept, to final piece. I had a student tell me once that I was her Tim Gunn and I took it as the highest compliment. The Godfathers bought Anna an amazing magnetic paper doll collection from Melissa and Doug and Anna loves to stage her own little shows with her four very one dimensional models (aren’t they all?)
Some pics from her 09 Late Summer collection.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: Getting to know you

Full disclosure: I won’t lie on this blog, nor will I gloss over the truth. With that said, the past few weeks have been less than stellar here on Greenwood Avenue. Since Elijah moved in, things have been crazy and pretty stressful. He’s been fine; it’s Anna who is giving us the grief. I am certain that she will dig this stuff up some day and bring it out over dinner or before a big date when she is in high school: “PAPA! Why did you blog about me when I was three???”

I did it because it needs to be said.

A lot of our friends have said that we have the perfect lives here… two relatively cute kids, a strong relationship, and we are both pretty happy with our professions. Well, this post is to pull that cloak of deception aside and to show you what’s really going on here in Mayberry. With the coming of Eli came my return to work after my sabbatical this winter, the day after to be exact. I went back to the first day of classes back in May with a foggy kind of hangover clouding my every thought and action in the studio.

I was going to be a dad again.

Thankfully, it wasn’t going be an infant. I was pretty much done with midnight feedings and the continual diaper changing. Having a 13 month old kid move in was like buying a used car. All the new stuff, although fun the first time, was gone and the breaking in period could begin in earnest. Eli has been amazing through all this and has adapted to life with two dads and a somewhat crazed big sister quite well. He is the chillest kid I have ever met. It’s like he came to us via Jamaica and he should be wearing a Marley shirt and dreads. Nothing really seems to faze him at all. He gets whiney at times, but it usually a tangible thing:
I am hungry
I need a new diaper
I am tired
Not this nebulous bullshit Anna is bringing to the table lately. Oh sure, she’s three going on four, but she KNOWS what she is doing with us. She is cunning and very aware of all her actions including the door slamming and heightened drama. She’d be a perfect serial killer. I had a taste of my future one day when this took place (thanks to Tod for his journaling of this episode):
Anna: I’ve got to go potty.
Tom: Okay, go and come right back.
[Bells hanging on door handle ring as front door is opened]
Tom: Where did Anna just go?
Tod: Apparently out on the front porch.
[Tom running to front door]
Tom: Anna, why did you just pee on the front porch? That was very naughty, you are in time out.
[Five minutes later while feeding Anna dinner]
Tom: Why did you go out on the front porch to pee?
Anna: [Arms crossed in front of her chest] because I’m mad at you.
Tom: Why are you mad at me?
Anna: Because you ruined my life!
Tom and Tod: [Hysterical laughing, unable to talk]
And… scene.
Oh sure, laugh now bitches, but apparently Cheri is letting the kids watch Maury and Jerry at day care. I RUINED HER LIFE?
Not two days before I took her and her BFF Chloe to Cedar Point for a day of rides and sugar. The next day we hung out and enjoyed life as we do here on Greenwood. I got my comeuppance a few days later when she had a giant sucker that she won at the Toy House at their 50th birthday party out on the front porch. I suggested that she eat the massive sweet from a bowl but she unwrapped the confection and headed out to the front porch not heeding my suggestion and a few moments later promptly dropped the saucer sized sucker on the porch shattering it into a dozen or so pieces. She bent down and began to pick up the pieces as I handed her the bowl that I sneaked out behind my back and she began to put them in the bowl. She looked up and asked, “Papa, can I eat these?” I looked her right in the eyes and asked, “I don’t know, has anyone peed on the porch lately?” She gave me her best three-going-on-four “bitch, please” look and stuck a chunk of the sucker in her mouth.
We are in so much trouble.
But with this insane behavior comes our reactions as parents. We’ve been on edge for sure this summer. The not knowing and waiting for Eli to be placed with us has taken its toll on our collective nerves. Adjusting to a new kid and adjusting to our kid adjusting to this kid has been rough. Tempers have flared, words have been shared and voices have been raised. There is much screaming coming from our house, and since it is summer, I am sad that our windows are open to our neighbors. I fear that we have become “that family” on our block that everyone hears and talks about. I am certain that Eli’s first words will be “NO ANNA, NO!” and that he’ll grow up thinking that in order to communicate with your family you have to scream at each other.
It’s been a chore adjusting, especially before he moved in officially a few weeks ago. We valiantly attended the Saline Celtic Festival back in mid July. The day was hot, muggy, and doomed from the get go. My initial thoughts of “turn this Kia around!” went unsaid but we soldiered on and made it to the park. Did I mention it was hot? It was like the Nazi at the end of the first Indian Jones movie. Remember, the face just melting off of the skull? That was me. We tried to do a few of the events, especially the Highland Games which always is good for some beefy, kilted, man candy. The kids would have nothing of it. Even the kid’s area held no appeal; it was just too damn hot. Anna wanted to play in the play area in the park, an area in the full sun. I lasted about 10 minutes and we went back to Tod and Eli screaming in the shade. A woman next to us offered up the chestnut of “you should have got a babysitter!” and I wanted to beat her to death with our stroller. Sure, we could have, but then we wouldn’t have had this chance to share this time with our kids. We got to the beer/music tent and things seemed to calm down.
Did I mention that there was beer and food?
Always a good thing for crabby kids and parents. Things weren’t going well, and as the afternoon wore on, I doubted my fitness as a parent of two kids. There was a very sublime moment of bliss as I was holding both kids, both crying in my kilted lap and from a distance I heard the bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” as an unexpected cool breeze flew into the tent and began to cool my body, mind, and soul. I closed my eyes for a moment and let it flow over me and for a bit I was okay with it all… but as the evening played on and keys were misplaced and tempers flared, that grace disappeared.
Tod and I have had some pretty big conversations about all this, but in the end, it comes back to the fact that this is what we need to do. Things are coming around, slowly. We get little tidbits of hope from Anna and her behavior as the new big sister. She’s coming around, and realizing that she has not been put out to pasture and that her kingdom is indeed still intact. I am certain that once we start up our “normal” life of school and daycare in the fall, the routine will offer some solace on all sides. This summer has been anything but normal, but that’s life and we need to learn how to dodge the bad parts and embrace the good parts. I had Eli in my arms this morning, and as I was yelling at Anna to brush her teeth (it seems that screaming is the only thing that works lately with her) Eli was patting my shoulder as one would do to comfort a friend and say, “hey, it’s okay, it will get better!” I looked at my new son and he smiled his amazing smile at me and did his grunt of happiness and content and continued to pat my shoulder as I dealt with Anna and her tooth brushing. This won’t be easy, but together we’ll make it happen.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A year ago today: but still legal

It was a year ago today that Tod and I were legally married in California, San Francisco to be exact (see the main pic on the blog). Many questioned why we did that, and why we went to such as expense to do so, but to us, the answer was simple: we wanted to be legally married somewhere. Oh sure, we had our lovely commitment ceremony a few years ago in our back yard, but that was only a gesture towards what we wanted as a couple, not the real deal.
“But isn’t that enough?” some would ask. And our response was NO! It wasn’t.
When I first came out, the comment that was thrown back at me by various folks was “don’t you want to be married and have children?” Well, now I am married and I have kids, so those homophobic stereotypes need to be put to rest. Some have said that we didn’t need to do this since it wouldn’t be recognized in Michigan, and those critics have also said that we wasted time and money on something that wasn’t going to fly.

But you know what? It did fly, and we’re still married.

So to all those that said we shouldn’t get married by supporting Prop 8 in California, I say a big FUCK YOU!

To itemize my FUCK YOU! list here are my shout outs:

• Mormons (a double FUCK YOU! after you are dead and buried, sent to all you and your wives!) More on them here, I hope they do track back.
• Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Church in general. May your pancake breakfasts be epic fails.
• Sarah Palin. Oh, I am soooo sorry you left office. You were such a poster child for all this marriage controversy.
• Carrie Prejean, the FORMER Miss California, it’s an opposite !UOY KCUF
• To that poor restaurant owner somewhere in Hollywood who was caught supporting Prop 8 but had a mostly LGBT clientele. You can cry foul, but we know what you did, and we’ll take our money elsewhere. FUCK YOU. No tip either.
• To all the Black people that voted for this.
• To all the White people that voted for this.
• To all the other colors of folks out there that found it too hard to accept a world that was changing and that love conquers all.
• And lastly, to the California Supreme Court. It’s not quite a FUCK YOU; it’s more of a WHAT THE FUCK??? You had the chance to stand up to there bullies, but you didn’t You tossed a bone to the LGBT community in honoring those of us who were married, and denied the rest of the world a chance to do so by upholding Prop 8. I am happy that I am still married somewhere, but continue to wonder what it means to this day.

I was brought up in a home that respected marriage and showed me as a child what true love was. I hope to bring that to my two kids and to my husband each day. And if you don’t like it… I have two words for you.