Saturday, January 3, 2009

Meat Pie Madness

Most people list common foods amongst their favorites.  My son Josh will take Pizza as his dish of choice and my brother would gladly eat Mayonnaise before anything else.  While I like both of those options, I hold one dish above all others:  Rose Family Meat Pie.  A simple combination of ground beef, ground pork, onion, spices and flaky pie crust.  Garnished with just the right amount of ketchup (a sacrilege in my dad's family), it's a delicious treat.  Meat pies have been getting a bad rap lately, but if you haven't tried one, you really should (stick to priest though).

Unfortunately I have to wait until the holidays every year to enjoy it.  My dad (who is carrying the recipe down from his Mom) recently made the switch from large community pies to individual meat pies.  Last year he showed me how to make the pies at his house, so this year I decided to try and step up and make some myself.   My dad usually makes at least 16 individual pies a year but I wanted to start slow so I cut the recipe in quarters to make 4-5 pies.  After buying the ingredients yesterday, I started work this afternoon and simmered the meat and spices for over 3 hours.  While the simmering was underway, I set out to make the crust.  The recipe calls for the use of a food processor.  We do not have a food processor at our house so I tried to improvise by using a blender to combine flour, cold butter, Crisco, eggs and other ingredients.  Bad idea.  The blades just spun and mixed up the flour only.  Lori suggested I go to Giant and buy a pastry tool to mix it by hand.   Before resorting to that step, I tried mixing the ingredients in a mixing bowl using a fork.  After about a few minutes of old fashioned elbow grease, I actually had a lump of dough.  I was surprised that worked so well.

Rolling out the dough and making the pie crust and top was nearly a disaster.  The dough kept sticking to the rolling pin and the table despite the use of large amounts of flour.  Eventually I managed to roll out enough and make two pies.  At that point, the dough was so tough to work with and I was getting pretty frustrated.  Lori suggested I go outside with the kids and let the dough cool in the fridge.  As per usual, she was right.  When we came back inside, she was rolling out the dough after it cooled and she was able to put the crust and tops together for the remaining two pies.  The picture above is the pie she made with an L on it for Lori.  I have my own J pie too.  Four pies altogether is not too bad.  

We immediately froze the pies for consumption at a later date (I just had my meat pie fix on New Year's Day at my Dad's).  Since we had a little dough and meat left over (not enough for a full pie), Lori made an impromptu Meat Empanada in the toaster oven.  It was pretty damn good and I have high hope for the real pies once we do heat them up.  I'm sure I'll never be able to top my Dad's pie baking skills (after all, my best kitchen tool in the microwave), but at least this is a good start.  Thankfully my resourceful wife was around to finish the deal.  Next year I think we'll invest in a food processor to make the crust preparation run a little smoother.

If anyone wants the recipe to try to make this themselves, let me know and I'll ask my Dad if I'm allowed to disclose a piece of Rose family tradition.  

Friday, January 2, 2009

NFL Playoffs: High Drama in January

For my money there are only two post-season tournaments in sports that sit high atop the list of must-see TV for a sports fan. The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in March is #1 followed by the NFL Playoffs which begin tomorrow with two wild card games. Both playoff formats feature a one-and-down scenario that sets the two apart from the other three major team sports playoffs. In baseball, basketball and hockey the playoffs consist of multi-game series that run in best-of-five or best-of-seven formats. While this series-based system of post season scheduling does help decide a true champion based on multiple matchups with the same team (home and away), the pure drama of the games pale in comparison with what you see in the NFL and NCAA basketball.

The fact that a wild card team can play four straight road games and win the Superbowl as the Giants did last year makes the NFL playoffs that much more exciting. Each and every game in the NFL playoffs is a do-or-die situation. One loss and your season is over, there's no game two to bail you out. This why I look forward to the NFL playoffs every year even when my (8-8) team is out of it.  

It all starts tomorrow at 4:30 PM so even if you don't call yourself a sports fan, tune in for the last two minutes of one of these wild card games this weekend, especially if it's a close game.  With all four games featuring point spreads of 3 points or less, we should be in for some tight games.

For the record, I like (well I actually hate the team) the Giants to win the Superbowl over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 8 News Items of 2008

As we only have 12.5 hours and 1 extra second left in 2008, I thought now would be a good time to list the top 8 news stories of the past year. This list is subjective (as all lists on my blog will be) and reflects which stories interested me most over the last 12 months. In looking back at these events, 2008 has to rank as the most newsworthy year of the decade thus far.

  • 1: Barack Obama becomes the 44th President
I admit that I am buying into the hope hype that Barack brings to the table. I'm glad that 2009 will bring an end to the Bush/Clinton reign and give an injection of youth and fresh ideas into the country's government. I think the most significant immediate change from the Bush administration to the Obama administration will be seen overseas. Other countries will view the USA in a much more positive light with a competent and engaging Commander in Chief at the helm.
  • 2: The Economic Woes
I'll lump all of the bailout, banking and Wall Street stories into the most depressing topic of the year. The real economic trend for 2008 was volatility. During the past year gas jumped up all the way to over $4 a gallon and now sits well below $2. While down significantly from the close of 2007, the Dow Jones industrial average experienced record single-day gains AND drops.
  • 3: Michael Phelps wins 8 gold medals
We watched most of Phelps' wins down at the Jersey Shore on vacation. It was great to be able to see so much of the Olympics (especially the swimming) at night when the kids went down. I saw most of Phelps' races live and between the close finishes and the overall endurance of the effort, this was without a doubt the greatest Olympic feat I've ever witnessed.

  • 4: Tiger Woods wins 2008 US Open on one leg
This is a story that makes this list only based on events that occurred a few days AFTER Tiger received the US Open trophy. It wasn't just amazing that he roared back with two super clutch putts to beat Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in June. It was utterly incredible that he made that comeback on a leg with a torn ACL and a stress fracture. Shut down until the Masters next May, Tiger proved once again that he's the greatest athlete of my generation.

Side note: Did you realize that December 30th (yesterday) is both the birthday of Tiger Woods (now 33 like me) and Lebron James? Talk about a day you want your son to be born on if you're a sports-enthused dad.
  • 5: Sarah Palin's run for the Vice Presidency
I was never a fan of Sarah Palin and did not think she was at all qualified to assume the post of Vice President of the United States of America. She did seem to garner a lot of (undeserved) attention though and become a cultural icon of 2008. Tina Fey's spot-on impersonation probably helped fuel the fire. I'm betting we say a where-are-they-now piece on Palin sometime next decade.
  • 6: Heath Ledger overdoses in NYC
There are a few news events in a lifetime where you can remember exactly where you were when you heard the news. While this is not one of the significant ones in the grand scheme of things, I vividly remembered riding an elevator at Safeco Insurance in Seattle (my client at the time) on a cold January day and looking at the news LCD screen they have embedded in each elevator. The breaking news crawl on the top read that Heath Ledger had died in NYC. This was very unexpected and unfortunate as he was just about to become a major movie star. His last performance in The Dark Knight should earn him a well deserved posthumous Oscar in February.
  • 7: Terror Attacks in Mumbai
A painful reminder of how sick some people are and their need to resort to senseless violence and terrorism to prove a stupid point.
  • 8: Usain Bolt destroys his competition
Another Olympic achievement rounds out my personal list. Bolt completely toyed with the rest of the field in Beijing, redefining the sport of track and field. What is mind-blowing is that he would have absolutely shattered the world record in the 100m dash if he raced hard through the whole race.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sigur Ros

Some of you may have heard of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Those who have not and enjoy the ethereal sounds of Enya and other instrumental/new age/ambient music should give them a try. They recently released their 5th studio album titled Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. I have no clue what that means or how to pronounce it, in fact nearly all of Sigur Ros' music contains Icelandic lyrics that make no sense to me. My personal taste in music does not depend on lyrics however, and the falsetto voice of the lead singer is a perfect complement to the other-worldly strings, guitars and percussion that sets the mood for each track. I actually stumbled upon this band thanks to Harry Potter of all people. I was reading a magazine interview of Daniel Radcliffe a few summers ago and he mentioned listening to Sigur Ros during the production of the 5th Harry Potter film and that the tone of the music fit the mood of the movie. I'm always looking for new bands/groups to listen to in the realm of new age music and decided to give it a try.

The video below is from an appearance on the Craig Kilborn show from a few years ago. The band is playing "Njosnavelin (The Nothing Song)" which I heard for the first time a few years ago. This is without a doubt my favorite Sigur Ros song and I just found out it was used at the end of Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky. When I first heard it I immediately thought that it would serve as a great background soundtrack for a film. I didn't realize that Crowe had already picked it for his 2001 film. I had seen the movie on DVD years ago but did not remember the song being in the film.

If you want to give Sigur Ros a try, download a few of the singles from ITunes to see if their post-rock Icelandic sound suits your musical taste. As a disclaimer, this recommendation comes from someone who loves Coldplay (insert your 40-year-old virgin jokes here) and thought Viva La Vida was the album of the year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Quite as Advertised

So I'm about to eat a microwave side dish of "Pasta & Vegetables" from the good folks at Birds Eye last night. After removing the plastic film from the tray once it stopped nuking, I noticed a lot of pasta paired with a sole carrot and singular broccoli stem (pictured). I'm not really complaining because I selected the dish more for the pasta than the vegetables. I know my resourcefull wife will be sending a complaint to Birds Eye though to get us something free.  

Note:  After stiring the food post-picture, I did find 3 more small carrots and some corn burried beneath.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sack Da-Da

While Lori and Josh were at church today, Alex and I were at home watching my Redskins finish 8-8 and completely derail themselves from a 6-2 start.  I ended up playing around with Alex (who is 23 months old for those who don't know) on the floor in front of the TV and Alex started playing one of his favorite games:  Sack Da-Da.  This basically consists of Alex standing a few feet away from me, saying "Sack Da-Da" and running at me while jumping in an attempt to sack me like a quarterback.  After I "play along" and fall down backwards, he then proceeds to say "Da-Da CRY!"  He wants me to fake-cry to pretend that the sack hurt.  This is the same kid who turns Yo Gabba Gabba's "Don't bite your friends" into "BITE FRIENDS!"

It's all in good fun and I am the one to blame (or thank) if he turns to a career as an NFL linebacker.  The game started as Sack Alex, as I would knock him down (carefully) as he ran at me.  I think he enjoys the new version much more though. 

Strange Magazine Rack at Ballys

The gym I belong to (Bally Total Fitness in Alexandria) usually has a pretty bare magazine rack with a few old Sports Illustrateds and some Muscle & Fitness / Men's Health. Today I noticed that the rack is not only full, but for some reason full with numerous scuba diving magazines. I'm not sure if Ballys has some diving promotion going on or not but this striked me as being a bit odd.

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