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Thanksgiving, 2019!

It was another wonderful Thanksgiving! We had 21 at the house. We remembered Jill’s Aunty Betty, and all of the love she had brought us for her 103 years. The rain kept us all indoors, but it was still a beautiful day together! Here are are few pictures from the day!

Almost Done!


Not everyone was happy!


The rain made for great sunsets!


The main course!


Day after Thanksgiving golf! Look at the snow!


Sous Vide! Trying something new.


6 Jalapeños in the spicy one! Thanks for Patty for the sweet one!
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OMIT Post #3: The Role of the Kitchen Towel

Best title ever! If that doesn’t generate excitement, what does? In my Operation Make It Tidy (OMIT) quest, I will share ideas and articles that have given me insight into how to keep the kitchen neat and tidy as I go.

This was a good one from Epicurious: How to Turn the Lowly Kitchen Towel Into a Power Tool.

Some takeaways:

  • Get the right kitchen towels. They should be durable and have texture. Dish towels, used for drying dishes, can be cute and lovely. Kitchen towels are towels of substance. The article recommends these from Amazon.
  • Have three kitchen towels out during meal prep: one dry one, one wet one, and one for drying your own hands.
    • A dry towel  to swipe or swoosh dry goods off your cutting board or knife. It can also be used as a makeshift potholder.
    • A damp towel to wipe stickier items off of your cutting board or knife
    • One one more dry one for washing your hands – I’m kind of a hand washing freak so I added that one.

There are more details in the article, and it’s worth reading, but these are the takeaways for me in my OMIT quest.



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OMIT Post #2: In Praise of Marie Kondo

In my Operation Make It Tidy (OMIT) quest, I will share articles and ideas that have given me insight into how to keep the kitchen neat and tidy as I go. To do that, I have to discuss how I came to this point. To those who knew me up to 10 years ago, this would have been a laughable quest. But I have come so far, and the person I can think most for that is Marie Kondo. Here’s how I became a believer and a doer.

One of my great resources that inspires me as a school superintendent is my membership in Consortium 2031, a group of seven school districts all aspiring to be the best they can be. In our spring 2018 meeting in Edina, MN, I was learning at a session on 21st century classrooms. The presenter mentioned a book, The Third Teacher, which focuses on how classroom design can play a major part in helping students learn. The main premise: classrooms should not contain just a lot of really cool stuff and they should not be a ‘shrine’ to the teacher’s interest or passions. Everything in the classroom should be well placed to assist/motivate/inspire/instruct students. There should be nothing extraneous. The presenter mentioned that a major inspiration behind that was Marie Kondo’s famous book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Famous? I had never heard of it! I bought it and read it that night. (Thank you Amazon Kindle! I have paid you dearly, but I do love reading books when I want to read them).

Some of my takeaways and quotes:

  • “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house is put in order.”
  • Discard things when they cease being functional. (Sounds so obvious – but we keep things because we used to love them)
  • “We should be choosing what we want to keep.” The rest is what you need to get rid of.
  • “Take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.
  • Learning how to fold clothes. Check out Marie’s video on folding clothes. You’ll see – she LOVES this stuff. She talks to her clothes, and to all the things she loves. I use this same technique for dish towels.
  • “Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong. Yeah . . . I’ll add a third . . . too lazy or uninterested to keep things decluttered, and, in too much of a hurry to get to the next task.

Our bedrooms, our kitchen, our outdoor kitchen, and our living room are now decluttered and Kondo-fied. Our converted garage/playroom is next. I can see every t-shirt in my t-shirt drawer, and I love all of them. My suits and shirts hanging in my closet now have room to breathe, and there’s nothing I don’t wear often. All of my items with holes in them are gone. (That was hard)

And in our kitchen, everything now has a place. There are no clutter drawers. I can see every spatula/peeler/spoon/pan without having to move something that is on top of it. I found complete sets of measuring spoons and cups, and I gave away many measuring spoon and cup orphans. I bought just a few organizers – like these drawer separators from Amazon, which I love. It’s beautiful!

Jill is completely on board. It started off as her watching me de-clutter my closet, wondering who had taken over her husband’s body. And now, she’s completely on board. We are on a first name basis with the good people at the Goodwill stores. I have given the book to members of my family – I don’t know if I have any converts yet. Bur it remains the key to my OMIT quest, and I am grateful to Marie Kondo for setting me on this path.

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A Quest: Operation Make it Tidy (OMIT)

I think you all know I love to cook. I have many strengths that help me manage cooking and preparing, whether it be for one or one hundred of our closest friends. I can get everything out on time, at close to the same time, and be proud of everything that I’m serving.

In terms of presentation, I’m a B or B- at best. And I don’t think I have that much more in me than that grade. As an educator, my “growth mindset” part of me scolds this settling, and reminds me that that the only thing stopping me is my lack of desire to get better. Maybe.

But in terms of what needs to be done for clean up, in terms of being a “clean as you go” cook well . . . I ama C-/D+. And I’m not satisfied. Now let’s be clear – that’s a big improvement from where I used to be! I was an impossible F before. Grown men and babies would cry at the mess I left behind. And now, it’s more of a, “Whoa.”

But I can do this. Really. I can do this. I am calling this question . . . “Operation Make It Tidy” or OMIT. Why Tidy? Marie Kondo of course. She’s one of my new heroes and mentors with her life changing, The Magical Art of Tidying Up book. Her basic premise: We have WAY too much stuff. Throw out all the stuff that you do not love. And then, with the much reduced supply of stuff, take care of it, and have a special place for it. No stacking! You should be able to see everything you have. Jill and I have given away so many articles of clothing, books, items, kitchen utensils, trays, and gadgets, and more. We feel so much more in control.

So now, I have to figure out practices and processes to keep our kitchen tidy while I’m cooking. Notice I’m using the word “tidy” and not clean. Cleaning I can do at the end.

David Tarmarkin wrote a very funny and all too honest article that eschews the clean as you go process. Reading that gives me a soft landing place if I’m not successful. But . . . I think I’ll have a happier household if I can make this part of who I am. I’m going for it.

So I’m going to start a series of posts to share articles and ideas that are going to help me in my OMIT quest.

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Best Skillet Cornbread Ever!

If you want to make the best cornbread ever, take this Texas recipe and make it happen.

img_7030My mom made this for me a few years ago.  It is a non-sweet cornbread (I suppose you could add sugar), but the best part is that it bakes in a cast iron skillet.  It looks spectacular!

She got it from a 1957 cookbook written by Helen Corbitt.  We have adapted it a little, but I love the quote from Mrs. Corbitt:

“A better than best cornbread comes from a Texas ranch, straight from the pretty wife of a West Texas lawyer who ranches on the side.  She makes it for the ranch hands.  I have adopted it for my own use, and yellow cornmeal sales have increased.”

Check out the recipe here.

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Taking Mac and Cheese to a New Level!

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, my good friend Carolyn sent me one of those recipe videos – the ones that show you how to make something in less than a minute – featuring a bacon and macaroni and cheese pie.  Well, I had to bring something to a friend’s house for dinner that night, so I picked up some bacon at the market and started making it.

Here is the video that Carolyn sent.

I changed the recipe up a little bit.  As I was in a hurry, I just used the Pillsbury boxed pie crust.  It’s a good alternative to Martha Stewart’s recipe.  I also used my own Mac and Cheese recipe, but I added bacon.  I used one pound of bacon:  8 strips for the lattice top and the rest chopped up, cooked, and mixed in with the mac and cheese.

So basically, the recipe is,

  • Make 1/2 batch of Mac and Cheese. (Don’t bake it)
  • Chop up and cook all but 8 strips of 1 pound bacon.  Drain and set aside.
  • Mix bacon and mac and cheese together
  • Take a pie crust, lay in pie plate, and bake crust for 10 minutes at 425
  • Take the crust out of the oven, and spoon in mac and cheese mixture.
  • Lattice weave the bacon on top.
  • Bake at 425 (non convection) for 20 minutes, until bacon is done.
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Turkey Legs on the Big Green Egg Tonight

Caveman Heaven

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m getting pretty excited! It is by far my favorite holiday. It’s Sunday night, and I’ve done all of my shopping. I’m sure I will need to go back to the store one more time, but I’m ready. I’ll be dry brining two turkeys tomorrow night – that takes three days.  I’m working Monday and Tuesday, then I pick my mom up at the airport on Tuesday night, and Thanksgiving officially begins.

But why not start a little early?  I saw Turkey Legs on sale at the store, so I bought a package of three, and started dreaming about Turkey Legs, Renaissance Fairs, Disneyland, and the Arkansas State Fair.  Caveman Pops!  So good!  I seasoned them with some of my Arkibu Rub last night.  I fired up the the Big Green Egg around 4:00 in the afternoon.

Dawson and I played a few games of ping pong in the light mist.  He’s getting better, but I can still take him.  That was how it was with Ryan for a long time, now I can beat Ryan 2 out of 10 times if I’m lucky.

The legs went on the Egg at 5:00.  I smoked them at 300 degrees (just the charcoal – no wood chips) until they hit an internal temp around 175 to 180.  A little over an hour later, they were ready to go!

I took them inside, and glazed them with what I thought was a decent amount of honey, then put them on my hot gas grill, directly over flame.  I turned them a few times, and took them off when they were good and charred!  They looked Disneyland/Renaissance worthy!

I wrapped them up in foil, unwrapped them at dinner time, and Dawson and I dined like fortunate Cavemen tonight.  Uggh!  Next time, I’ll honey them up even more!  I’ll upload the recipe soon.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  It’s already started in our house!





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We brought this beautiful Lentil and Spinach dish to Karen’s pot luck dinner last night!

What to bring to a pot luck when good cooks are involved is always a tough question.  After fretting, we decided to go vegetarian and tried a new dish – Green Lentils with Wine-Glazed Vegetables, adapted from Deborah Madison’s, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

It was a big hit, though (as usual) I made wayyyyy too much!  

Check out the recipe here!

Happy Cooking!

– Mike

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Great Dinner Last Night! – Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce and Caesar Salad

I was Jill’s sous-chef last night, and I was happy to do it!  And it was one of the best dinner’s I’ve had in a while.

We featured a new dish – a baked tomato sauce that our friend Laurie has been cooking for a while.  It’s baked and it has lots of butter and garlic.  What can go wrong with that?



See the recipe here!