In Praise of Lester Holt

For a stint in my teens, I baby sat three young boys with my sister. My sister had far more experience than I when it came to babysitting. The boys were all under the age of 8 and recently got a puppy. One weekend, my sister wasn’t able to watch the boys so the parents opted to give me a shot at solo duty. The boys were very well behaved…when my sister and I were there. But when it was just me the dynamic changed. The numbers were against me. Mutiny was inevitable. In addition to the puppy, the boys added a hamster to their burgeoning petting zoo.

Wrangling three young boys isn’t easy, especially when fights erupt over allegations of cheating at Super Smash Brothers. One of the boys “hit” the other. Tears began to form. Whether or not they were mine or the boys you’ll never know.

I managed to keep them entertained and out of the ER for the evening. When it was bed time, the two older boys put on their pajamas without incident, but the little guy proved to be more of a challenge. His jammies were of the Superman variety and included a cape. Beyond my pajama envy, there was a problem. He didn’t want to brush his teeth. Rather than be the cool babysitter who didn’t care whether or not he brushed, I feared my future as a babysitter rode on his dental hygiene. His parents would ask him during breakfast if he brushed his teeth and if he answered negatively, my future at getting tenure as a babysitter was gone like Superman out of a phone booth. Continue reading In Praise of Lester Holt

Sopa de Elote Dip Recipe | Bacon Takedown Showdown

It isn’t every day your food is featured in Thrillist for Best Bacon dishes.

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking competitions. I swear them off, but not long after I get the invite, I am signed up and scouring recipes for inspiration.

The latest was the fifth annual bacon takedown. I eat bacon once or twice a year, so I’m by no means a connoisseur. Cycling through dishes I’ve perfected that include bacon, I considered stuffin muffins and carbonara. The first is ingredient and labor intensive. The latter has poor reheat value. After vetoing these dishes I started questioning why I signed up.

Then I got my idea: Mexican corn.

I started it as a chowder soup. Serving soup samples is tedious. Know what isn’t? Making it a dip.

Of course you made something with tortilla chips.

The addictive element of competitions is you get instant feedback from people who aren’t your family or friends. They have no obligation to say your food is good. And they definitely don’t have to come back four times for another taste.

The good news: everyone seemed to love the dip.

The bad news: I didn’t win. Always a bridesmaid…

Continue reading Sopa de Elote Dip Recipe | Bacon Takedown Showdown

Linguine al Limone | easy recipe

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Jamie Oliver and numerous other chefs have posted recipes for this dish. The appeal is it’s incredibly fast and easy.

Make pasta & drain.
Heat olive oil in separate pan.
Smash garlic and add to hot oil.
Zest/juice a lemon.
Cut heat.
Toss pasta with garlic oil, lemon zest/juice, red pepper flakes, pepper, shredded cheese (I used pecorino).
Serve.

Turkey Burgers for Ollie & Moses

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Starting dinner after getting home from the gym usually doesn’t bode well, especially when you’re racing a storm that has been described as Biblical.

After a trip to Target (yogurt, protein bars and ground turkey) and a forgettable workout, I sped home switching between looking at the road and doomsday sky. The rain started to pick up after I saw the sign for my exit ramp on the expressway. A 7-yard sprint was the last event in my Monday pentathlon. I narrowly dodged the sideways rain and hustled inside to start dinner.

I fired up the cast iron skillet. Then added diced onion, a beaten egg, breadcrumbs and some grilling seasoning to the turkey meat before mixing with my hands. The skillet was hell hot and the burgers were ready to go.

In my haste and hunger I made a few massive burgers, which ended up being halved to ensure they cooked fully and didn’t send me to meet Moses or St. Peter.

Turkey burgers present some challenges that beef doesn’t:

There is no medium rare for turkey.

Turkey is leaner, and that means less moist. That’s why I add the egg and onions.

There isn’t a ton of flavor in the bird, so it’s a chance to get creative. I went tame tonight: Grilled onions & mushrooms with some basil and pecorino.

Other options abound. Pick a cuisine: Asian, Mexican, Italian, Indian. Blank canvas with turkey burgers.

Since this could’ve been my last meal, naturally, I opted to serve mine on a warmed tortilla, but you do you.

28 tortillas left. #Tortillachallenge

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Cherché Paris en la Nuit

“Now what do you want to do?”

The first night in every city is daunting. Do you want to see the highlights your first day or save some for your first full day?

My travel pattern so far has been to explore that first day/night to get an idea of the transit system and where things are located. It has proved successful do far.
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Staying in Montmartre is a bit far from the main attractions of Paris which are mostly in the 7th arrondissement. Alors, we hopped the metro and ventured off to see PARIS!
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After walking around a bit we realized we were near the louvre. Then a few more turns and, in the distance, we saw the glass pyramid designed by I.m. Pei. I squealed. I’m not ashamed. Maybe I pranced with a bit of frolicking. It wasn’t my most masculine moment but I don’t care. We snapped some pics then soldiered on pointing at buildings we’d long read about but had never seen in person.
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A few more turns and I saw it. Bright in the night. Just the narrow, skeleton top. Le Tour Eiffel! This is one of those moments in your life when it’s ok to pee your pants. Just a little bit. It’s amazingly impressive to see an international landmark. Le tour Eiffel quintessentially IS Paris.
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Nous faisons une promenade à le Tour Eiffel. There is a mini arc de triumph which we initially mistook for the real thing. Le grande arc is a ways up Le champs des Élysées. It took a while to get there on foot. But when you do…
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It is breathtaking. Unquestionably impressive and beautiful.20140528-072013-26413755.jpg

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Every hour at night, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes. Make sure you stay to see this. Overall, there’s no better way to see a city then to visit some of it’s quintessential attractions at night. So what if it’s touristy. You ARE a tourist.

Vivre le grande vie!

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Do you hear the bells?

“Leann. Your phone is going off.”

“Huh?” She said groggily. “That’s not my phone.”

This morning, our last in Venice before flying to the city of lights, started with the familiar sound of bells faintly chiming. I mistook them for the alarm set on the phone and woke up my regazza. It wasn’t her alarm, but the real bells. It was 7am. Our water taxi out of Venice departed at 6:50.

After a Home Alone moment, we jumped into the clothes we had set out for today, hurriedly ransacked the room (like Venetians and their gold booty), and charged down the stairs and out into the misty morning. I managed to twist my ankle on the last stair.

Taking a boat to a plane seems like the Kanye thing to do. The boat/cabbie was bumping hits like “baby come back.” He was one Adele song away from making me ask if he wanted to talk about the breakup.

The previous day in Venice was lackluster. We wandered around the city, shuffling behind tourist groups and couples. The canal is pretty and the abundance of bridges is a neat feature. The absence of crazed drivers on Vespas was a welcomed respite. If Venice were in Redfin it would easily receive a walker score of 100. There are water taxis and your feet. Those are your transport choices.

The ongoing struggle with Venice, and the other Italian cities, was where to eat. I don’t often eat out so having to choose where to eat twice a day is taxing, especially when Chipotle isn’t an option. Most of our time was spent wandering the streets looking at menus.

Venice has its perks and can serve as a delineator for what type of traveler you are.

Do you like to make lists?
Are you a fast walker?
Do you like going with the flow? (Or “flowing with the go” as my friend Marissa learned from an author of a book by that name)
Do you walk around a new city seeing it through your iPad?

Venice is well suited for those looking to unwind or those ok with not having plans. One of the challenges is finding a particular address or place. The streets wind like a massive rat maze, replete with cheese shops. During our first dinner in Venice, I spotted a mouse scurrying out of the darkness around the corner. In that moment I commiserated with that mouse. For the majority of my time on the island, I was darting around looking for sustenance.

After the Murano incident and our general meandering, we decided to try one last time to find a particular restaurant. It had been rated highly on yelp and was in Cannaregio, an area my boss recommended as being a hot spot for the remaining locals. I asked our concierge, who had a penchant for whispering, if he could call the restaurant to make sure it was open. He gladly assisted us and informed us we had until 9. That gave us 60 minutes to find our way. Pressure cooker.

Uncharacteristically, I successfully navigated our way to the area (the top part of the fish). We eventually spotted the restaurant and sat down outside for our last supper. Leann chose tortellini in a cream sauce with prosciutto. I went Jesus style. Linguine alla pescatoro.

The dinner was good and our most substantial amount of food. Leading up to that dinner we had eaten: yogurt, croissant, mini sandwiches, two nectarines and a creme-filled donut. The food came out Taco Bell drive-thru fast. Maybe I’m just going though taco withdrawal. It’s been 10 days since I’ve had Mexican food.

The evening was the perfect temperature for pants and a tshirt. The food was fresh, good and fairly priced. We lingered finishing our half liter of vino rosso. Then we wandered into the maze one last time. Eventually we found our way to piazza San Marco to shake off the rose and laser pen salesmen, and to take in the orchestral sounds one last night.

Venice was a reminder to relax. You’re on vacation and there’s nowhere you have to be. Enjoy wandering. Enjoy stumbling on a scenic view. Enjoy the charm or reconstructed Byzantine architecture. Just enjoy being alive.

All too soon I’ll have to return to the real world of scheduled conference calls, navigating the streets I know and the suburban sprawl I call home. But for now, I’ll bid Venezia arrivederci and grazie mille for the reminder to enjoy being a tourist. 20140526-172052-62452856.jpg20140526-172053-62453289.jpg20140526-172052-62452533.jpg

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