Mar 29, 2012

Burger Time

Lost my Man Card on that sissy tea post.  Time to earn it back, let's grill some burgers.  

If you're vegetarian and don't eat food with faces, go ahead and exit this post now.

It took me a few years to do burgers right.  They were missing that charbroiled crust and tender center I desired.  After inhaling how-to grilling clips on YouTube and a little trial-and-error, they finally turn out right. 

Hot Grill
I cook with gas, but natural lump charcoal with hickory chunks mixed in tastes best.   Drop a match on the burners or coal and preheat the grates.  You want to sear the meat and cook quickly, 400 or 500 degrees will do.  

While the grill is heating, prepare the pink slime.

Loose Dimpled Patties
I use 85% lean ground chuck.  This isn't the time to fret about fat pants, you want a lil' beef blubber in there for taste and texture.  I heed the Grilling Companion's advice in keeping the patties loose.  Rather than spanking the meat, gently piece together into crumbled rounds 3/4" thick.  Don't worry about them looking nice, they'll hide beneath buns.  

Dimple the center with a thumb to help it cook evenly and prevent burger bloat. I dust with salt, pepper, garlic and a shot of TJ's Soyaki in the divot.

Might as well do fries, Lawry's works well.

Go Time

The fire should be at temp by now, add the foil of fries.  Wait a couple minutes until they begin to steam, then slap on the cow rounds.

Grilling time depends on temp and thickness of the burgers.  I usually grill 2 minutes, then rotate the patties 1/4 turn to brand with cross marks.  After 4 minutes total on side 1, they'll begin to brown and sweat on top.  Flip 'em. 

 Stir the fries so they don't scorch.  The greasy burger smoke waters my eyes and mouth. 

Leave the patties be, don't mash them down or the juice will drain.  Cook 2 minutes, rotate 1/4 turn for the fancy marks.  

After 4 minutes on side 2, check the center for pink.  They should be getting close at the 8 minute mark (4 minutes per side).  Dibs on that back burger, Pigtails gets the sketchy broken one up front: 

Just before pulling the meat, add cheese and toast your buns on the top rack. 

Fries with burnt ends, dunked into Cookies BBQ.

Let the meat sit for a bit, the juice will settle in nicely.  While resting, I mix up a batch of coleslaw using bagged shredded cabbage and dressing.  Takes only a minute, and the cool crunch offsets the burgers just right.

Pray and dig in!


I'm hungry again, let's do chicken next time.


Mar 25, 2012

Stinging Rhododendrons and Sweaty Cheeks

Perfect weather for a lazy Sunday:  75 degrees, a cool sun and magnolia petals sweetening the south breeze.

My rhododendrons woke a month early, luring worker bees with pink fireballs.  

The bumbles made Pigtails a tad nervous, you can see it in her eyes.  Hurry up and take the bloody picture dad, the bees are coming.

After church, we grabbed her good friend T., a bubble wand from the dollar store and 26 plates of CiCi's Pizza.  Then we parked it for 2 hours of tire swings, bubbles and ducks.  

We like to play the name game.  The girls decided to call me Tina today.  They kept giggling and yelling, "Hey Tina, come over here and push us.  I'm thirsty Tina, did you bring any water Tina?"  

I called them both Bucky, they squealed every time.

She laughs now, but will Pigtails be repulsed when I still play "Skeletor, the upside down monkey-like superhero" when she's 14?

A bubble-pop directly to the eyeball smarts.  Those dollar store bubbles must be a mix of Palmolive, sulphuric acid, and, by the smell of things, pickle juice.  We came up with our own version of Fruit Ninja, bubbles in place of bananas and plastic wands for swords. 

A couple of random boys from the playground joined us for Frisbee.  Quickly turned into boys against girls keep-away.  I was on the boys' side, we won.

Unloaded a filthy sack of moldy bread on a pile of geese and ducks.  They were reluctant to nibble on it.  I don't blame them, would you eat crusty provisions sprouting blue hair?


When the birds ignore you and all else fails, hold up the bread and scream HERE DUCKY, NOW!

The phrase of the day was uttered by her friend.  As we were piling into the hot car after a couple hours of playing, she said:  "Can we get some water now?  I'm hot and have sweaty cheeks.  We all have sweaty cheeks."


Mar 23, 2012

B&P on YHL

Beard and Pigtails typically gets 150 hits a day.  Yesterday was 45,000 clicks.  Same today.

I thought a swarm of hungry spam-bots were attacking, didn't know what was going on.  Poked around a little and found a couple hundred new comments, herd of new followers and notes from readers saying they jumped over from Young House Love.  Scooped the loop, and there it was, the kitchen reboot thread on the cover of YHL!   

John and Sherry are DIY divas and blog mostly on home renovation projects.  Talented enough with photos, prose and hammer that they quit their old gigs and blog for a living.  Also working on a book and some other fun stuff, they got it going on.  And their tiny tot, Clara, is adorable and sings with a metal helmet.

Thank you, YHL, for sharing my blog with your readers.  And to the newbies stopping in, welcome!


P.S.  A fair amount of adult YHL readers still sleep with their blankies, check the comments.

Spring Break 2012 - Wilderness Resort @ Wisconsin Dells

Pigtails and Curls tagged along on spring break this week.  A lot to regurgitate, let's go.

Our destination at the Dells was straddled between Fuchs Trucking at Sauk City to the south and Ho-Chunk Casino to the north.  I'm no marketing expert, but those names could use a little work.   

Pit stop at Galena, Illinois to drain pee-holes and fold platter-sized tenderloins into our faces.  Ulysses S. Grant set up camp here in 1860.  French trappers mined lead from the bluffs in the 1600s.  Hope the miners didn't wash their filthy lead-encrusted pickaxes in the local water supply, I guzzled 3 glasses of water over lunch.

Today, the 150-year-old brick shops lining Main St. entice visitors with handmade wares and treats.

My favorite small business on the strip was Galena Canning Co.  I sampled a dozen fresh salsas, hot sauces, BBQ rubs and jellies before settling on a mason jar of black bean & corn salsa and apple/jalapeno jam.  Spread a layer of the sweet-hot jam over cream cheese and dredge pretzels through it, yum.   

The place had like 50 samples on tap.  Pre-lunch, Pigtails was starving and went on a samples spree, shooting chips and bread chunks into tubs of goop.  I shut her down and made purchases to atone for the $5 in freebies my kid chomped down.

On the drive home, we stopped at Dubuque (or Deb-a-Que as Pigtails says) on the Mississippi for a grass picnic beside the river.  75 degrees and breezy, and my kid wasn't crabby.

Crashed at the Wilderness Resort, our first time there.  The wave pool was fat and bright, glass plates streamed in enough sunshine to tan our hides. 

The rays cooked my skin from "grossly white, you look like an albino skeleton" to "slightly less white but still ghastly, put some pants on."

We met up with my running bud' Jenny and her family, they lodged at the same joint.  Her and her husband have a twin son and daughter, the same age as my kid.  The girls insta-bond BFF'd, the boy shrugged indifferently and tossed me a water ball. 

I might have peed a little in the pool.  Hey, I drank too much chocolate milk, the waves were pounding my bladder and the bathroom was too far away.  A quick tinkle was convenient and made sense at the time.

Fashioned a GoPro out of a Ziploc and camera.  Strap that puppy on with some rubber bands and bam, you got a helmet cam.

Made sure the blue and yellow zips on the lunch baggy were pressed firmly together to make green, waded into the pool and filmed (link):

The indoor water slides slither outside the building and coil around like green snakes.  I found that if you arch your back on the way down so only your shoulder blades and butt make contact with the slide, you build up sufficient speed for a solid water wedgie at the finish.

The Hurricane ride was a beast, a 4-person raft drops down a wet chute into a multi-story funnel.  You ride up the sides of the jumbo cone, sloshing back and forth before draining out the bottom like a toilet flush.

The indoor/outdoor hot tub was nice, we parked it outside in the steam as cold rain fell.

Let's go ahead and declare High Rock Cafe the tastiest, most cozy restaurant in all of Wisconsin Dells.  We ate there last year, again this year, and will do the same next year.

A simple menu with clever remixes on traditional fare.  Like a fresh-ground burger smeared with coffee mayonnaise and caramelized onions between butter buns.  Or a whole-grain wrap housing shredded chicken, corn salsa, guac' and bacon.

I try and scribble down mental notes of funny things my daughter says or does each day.  These made me laugh during the trip:

- On the drive, I asked her what river we were crossing.  She spelled it out: M-ISS-ISS-IPPI.
- She kept saying WINSconsin. 
- She brought blanky.  That filthy rag is a disaster, the kid still rubs her face in it every night at bedtime.
- She wheeled dolly around in a miniature stroller all over the hotel.  Including outside through the parking lot at night and over a sketchy section of landscaping rocks.  And she let baby rip down a hill in the stroller unattended.  

-  She sulked when the ball attendant told her she needed socks and couldn't play in the pit.  The ball-pit boy took his job seriously and didn't play around.  NO BALL PIT FOR YOU!

- She picked up on Sudoku and gave me the evil eye when I tried to "help" and made a mistake on the puzzle.
- Her and I both love prunes.  She popped them like candy.
- My cold drink was sweating, so I used that as a teaching opportunity to explain how condensation works.  After I finished a quick 2-minute science lesson, she leaned back with an inquisitive look and said, "Daddy, your breath smells."