Happy Saint Patricks Day

I went out tonight with a group of friends in Dothan, Alabama. We turned off the highway and then off the road to a blacktop drive that passed by multiple double wide trailers. The black top came to a sudden end that blended into gravel and mud. Sting lights continued the path to Folklore Brewing Company. Chairs outside with tables could be seen before open roll up doors and friendly smiling faces. Some nights, such as tonight, they have catered food. A table displayed pulled pork BBQ, baked beans, and slaw. The bar featured several local brews of ales, wheats, stouts and others. One of which had a symbol of the iconic Huey Helicopter, giving honor and homage to those in the military, those in aviation and to flight medics. Jeremy is the Head Brew Master. He told us of how his father (now retired) was a medic that taught high altitude training and dive chamber. Later his father stopped by and chatted. Several family members made rounds checking on the patrons.

The Folklore Brewing Company was clean. Unlike many drinking establishments, this place was proudly clean, comfortable, well lit, great food, great beverages, and complimentary friendly family down home good folks. Many board games were available and I enjoyed playing Hungry Hungry Hippos. This is a place to relax, have a good time and feel safe.

On the way out, I walked out with one of Jeremy’s uncles, learned that the property all around is owned by several family members, Mary Lou road was named for Mary Lou Crabtree, that the grandfather served as a mail courier in WW1, the father a radio operator in Battle of the Bulge, the uncle just missed Vietnam due to the war ending before he could join, and stories of family members who piloted Hueys or flew in them.

As I left for the evening, I felt this family has a real sense of true patriotism, caring for one’s fellow mankind, and a genuine desire to look after others.

If ever in the Dothan, Enterprise, Ozark, Fort Rucker area, check out Folklore Brewing Company, be responsible and have a great time. I chose not to drink; rather I chose to assist is being designated driver.

Happy Saint Patricks Day!

Make It Fun!
God Bless!

http://www.folklorebrewingandmeadery.com

The Best Drop Sugar Cookies

There are so many good cookies out there and so many flavors.  This is one of the simplest yet best tasting I’ve encountered.  Give it a try.  I will repost it from my online friend at Yerttle Sblog.

http://yerttle.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/worlds-greatest-sugar-cookies-coconut-edition/

Try both the vanilla and the coconut versions.  They will be gone before you know it.

Jim Lane Mashed Potatoes

These are some of the creamiest, fluffiest, best tasting (probably least healthy) mashed potatoes ever.  I credit Jim Lane with these and you can follow his blogs and adventures through Lane Rock Farm. http://m.youtube.com/#/user/laneakjt?desktop_uri=%2Fuser%2Flaneakjt.   https://myspace.com/rockfarmknives

 

Ingredients: 

Potatoes, lots of them

Butter 1-2 sticks

Ranch Dressing, 2-4 cups

Lipton Onion soup mix

Milk 1-2 cups

Chicken Broth 1 cup and add to taste

 

Boil your potatoes (it will be up to you if you drain off the water).  I believe he does.  Mash in a big cauldron of awesomeness.  Add lots of butter, lots of ranch and lipton onion soup mix. Add the broth and milk 

Dig in.  This is tasty, savory, and down home comfort food.

 

http://cooksonvideo.com/watch-video/Hl9ShA6uN9s/Dualspirits/survival-knife-fire-starter-by-lane-rock-farm-knives.html

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox51G5KVY-0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DOx51G5KVY-0

Super Moist Pork Chops and Mushroom Sauce

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I found myself in the kitchen on New Years Eve.  I spent the afternoon and into the night baking and cooking.  Here is a recipe I found online.  Honestly, I tried to find it again and could not.  I cannot take credit for it as someone else already posted it, however it goes as follows…

Ingredients 4-8 pork chops

26 ounce can of Cream of Mushroom soup (or two 10 ounce cans)

2 cups milk

1 cup water

butter

olive oil

bay leaf (optional)

In a large skillet, brown for five minutes per side.  In a large mixing bowl, pour in 2 cups of milk, one cup of water and a large can of Cream of Mushroom soup (26 ounces). Preheat oven to 350. Once each pork chop has browned for 5 minutes per side in a pat of butter and olive oil, add them all to a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Add a bay leaf or two and pour the milk,water, soup mixture onto of the pork chops.  Place them uncovered in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  The last 10 minutes add some slices of mushrooms and continue baking until complete.

WHen you take them out of the oven, allow them to set and cool slightly.  I placed these on a bed of rice and had a side of Jim Lane mashed potatoes and black eyed peas.

Today, I used the left over sauce for dipping my stuffed rolls (see previous post). https://makeitfunblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/super-fantastic-stuffed-rolls/

Enjoy!

Make It Fun!

God Bless.

Super Fantastic Stuffed Rolls

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I have been inside.  For a while inside my own head, but lately in the kitchen.   It has been a mild winter.  I remember growing up, there was a white Christmas every year.  Now before you chime in that it is due to global warming and all that other jazz, it was because we visited my grandparents in a different state; One that is quite accustomed to receiving snow every year.

I surfed the web looking for fun things to make.  I visited the local grocer and picked up a few veggies that I typically do not cook.  I picked up green cabbage, red cabbage, and leeks among others.

For this blog, I will share some super fantastic stuffed rolls.  I find it interesting that we label food as “German, Chinese, Mexican, etc”.  For the most part, food is food, though it may be prepared or cooked differently in different regions of the world, or even avoided due to beliefs or preferrences.  In Afghanistan, I had some of the tastiest kabobs and falafels. In the US we also have kabobs as do other countries, though food tends to be affiliated with particular regions of the world.

This particular recipe may be more German in origin though when I looked up steamed rolls, there was some slight variation.  I modified these even more.

I shall give credit to Food.com for the original recipe though as stated, I did modify it.  Here is the link to the original recipe.   http://www.food.com/recipe/bierocks-german-hamburger-and-cabbage-filled-rolls-88304

 

I spent New Years eve in the kitchen working on this and then again today, I added a few more things to stuff the rolls.  Ready?  Here we go.

First, prepare your dough.  This takes the longest to make, so while the dough is rising, you can prep the other ingredients.  Second, thaw the meat. The original recipe called for ground beef however I preferred to add ground chicken.  If you have a food processor or grinder it may speed up the prep time.  I chose to purchase already ground chicken though you could grind your own.  In the food processor, I shredded half a green and half a red cabbage and carrots. I minced some garlic and a very small amount of red onion (VERY SMALL AMOUNT).

Total Time: 2 hrs 30 minutes
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients needed:

DOUGH INGREDIENTS
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast (or if you have it in a jar, follow the label.  Mine was 2 1/4 teaspoons to equal one packet)
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

FILLING INGREDIENTS
4 cups cabbage, cut fine
1/2 cup onion, cut fine (I used possibly 1 teaspoon of onion, just enough for flavor)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb hamburger (I used chicken instead)
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper (optional) (not added)

Directions:

1     DOUGH: In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour and the yeast.
2     In a saucepan heat milk, sugar, butter and salt just till warm (115-120 degrees F) and butter is almost melted; stir constantly.
3     Add to flour mixture; add eggs.
4     Beat at low speed for 1/2 minute, then three minutes at high speed.

5     Stir in as much remaining flour as you can mix in with a spoon.

6     Turn out onto a floured surface.
7     Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total).
8     Shape into a ball, and place in a greased bowl; turn once.
9     Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).
10   Punch down and cover; let rest 10 minutes.

11   FILLING: In a large frying pan, cook the cabbage and carrots together until the cabbage is completely softened and golden.
12   This process can be hastened by adding a half-cup of water (or so) and covering the pan, but eventually cook all the liquid off before proceeding.
13     Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if desired.  I used adobo seasoning, a crack of black pepper and tiny amount of sea salt
14     In a separate pan, brown the hamburger and add the garlic and onions.
15     Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if desired.
16     Mix the cabbage/carrots with the hamburger thoroughly. ( I just spooned in each ingredient separately into the roll)
17     You may complete this part of the recipe in advance,refrigerating until needed, or just before you are ready to assemble the rolls.

ASSEMBLY: Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, and a thickness of about 1/4 inch. ( I found this to take too much time.  I pinched off a portion of dough, flattened it in my hand, worked it out thinning and pulling in all directions like in a pizza shop then stuffed the rolls)  Sure, mine don’t look cook book picture perfect, though the taste was fantastic.
18   Cut into squares of 3 inches by 3 or 4 inches by 4.
19   By the spoonful, place some filling mixture into the center of each square, apportioning all of the mixture among the squares.
20   For each, bring the two opposite corner ends of the dough square up to meet one another, then do the same with remaining ends and pinch them (all 4) together with your fingers.
21   You will see that you now have open slits along the diagnals; pinch these together as well, making a seam of each.
22   Water on your fingertips will facilitate them staying”glued” together.
23   The end product should be a square with a seam running from each corner to the center where all four are joined.
24   Set the squares on a baking sheet (if you had trouble keeping the seams closed, you can flip them over so that the seams are against the baking sheet, thereby keeping all the filling in place and making a nicer presentation).
25   Let raise 30 minutes.  ( I totally missed this step.  I filled them and put them in the oven)
26   Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 °F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
27 Brush on a small amount of melted butter and sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt on the top of each roll.

Enjoy!!!    For other fillings, I used the following in different rolls:  macaroni and cheese, chicken and rice, chicken/rice/cheese/veggies

On New Years Eve, my wife and I sat up all night and dipped these rolls (the original recipe) into a mushroom gravy (see next post).  WOW, the combo was overwhelmingly amazing.  Even the kids loved it.

Again, I give credit to Food.com for this though with most things, tinker with the recipe and make it your own.  It was really tasty.

Make It Fun!

God Bless.

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Bristol Is…

Bristol Is…

Now one of my most favorite cities! We landed two nights ago, stayed at Brooks Guesthouse which is an inexpensive, upscale, classy hostel. I highly recommend it. One of the best stays I’ve had anywhere in the world. The service from the night bellman to the chef, breakfast servers, and staff on checkout were absolutely polite, accommodating, friendly and without a doubt, professional.

I wish we could have stayed longer however the Balloonfest was upon us and the place was full-up.

After a full English breakfast with extra breakfast, we stepped out into a welcoming cool breeze that felt like fall time in the Midwest US. We followed the trail to find Gromit. Gromit is a lovable cartoon character from the series Wallace and Gromit by Nick Park. The kids were excited as we dashed from Gromit to Gromit, exploring the town, the cafes, the harbour, the university, the rail lines, business districts and neighborhoods. Many of them were in the city center and I think my wife and I were equally, if not more, excited as the kids.

Down by the harbour are new, trendy apartments and an installment of eateries that double as night clubs and pubs as the sun sets and atmosphere changes.

Older parts of town that survived the shelling and bombing by the Axis during World War II, revealed some of the history. The town was effected by German shelling and bombing due to aircraft and ship manufactoring here so there is a mix of old and new architecture. The old buildings demonstrate intense character, architecture that has eye catching shapes, and the cold gray stone contrasts while complimenting the bright vibrant new structures.

We stopped during lunch right in the heart of the city, plopped down centered before the large screen television in the plaza where episodes of Wallace and Gromit entertained hundreds in the plaza, and enjoyed oversized ice cream cones. The smiles all around the plaza suggested that the crowd enjoyed the innocence and gentle humor that is portrayed in Wallace and Gromit.

We continued on using the Detect-O-Gromit app. Purchasing the app to find Gromit around town goes to a children’s hospital. At the end of the month, they will auction off the 80 different statues to raise money for the hospital. Plus, it is awesome geocashing, a great way to see the city, tremendous exercise and good for business to get publicity. Everyone was super friendly and I even felt safe walking around at night with the kids.

Bristol enjoys a healthy nightlife

Yesterday was also the Balloonfest in which the sky was covered with hot air balloons.

Today, we slept in, had a huge breakfast at Beefeaters and I set out to do laundry. I stumbled upon a cute, quaint, nostalgic cafe/launderette/internet business named @TheWell in the Stokes Croft area. I met one of the owners and read how the three sisters set up the business. It was a great experience. A broad selection of breakfast and lunch as well as coffees and teas bring together those needing or wanting to use laundromats with those who enjoy cafes. One would typically spend time doing something while waiting for the clothes to finish so this brings people together in a social environment and provides internet and an array of foods prepared in house.

One of my kids sat on a couch @TheWell, played Minecraft and with some blocks in the store as the clothes tumbled. Books can be found neatly arranged everywhere. Once used sewing machines and typewriters had me perusing around the shop. The owner mentioned that another American had carefully planned this location as a stop in his journey prior to leaving home earlier this week. I can see why. What a great concept.

Bristol is absolutely a wonderful city. One of my favorites. If ever in UK, you must add it to you list.

Tomorrow is a new day.
Make It Fun!
God Bless.

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Five Days in Italy

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Italy. In the north, I had a positive experience with our friend hosting us and neighbor teaching my wife to cook authentic Italian cuisine. Venice was neat to see however like Rome, I was happy to leave. Too many people crowded around overpriced traps.

In Rome, I saw many ancient remnants that affirmed that Romans once dominated the world with many feats and talents. What I was met with at this period were many immigrants working in the service industry, trying to scratch out a living, many chauvinistic men and tremendous vanity. Chivalry is nearly dead in Rome. It truly saddened me. Men would look up at elderly women as the women stood on the train or young men would ignore their surroundings by tuning out with ear buds jammed in ears and staring at phones or other electronic devices. A young man stood before me, looking me up and down then turned his back to me to primp his hair in the train window for nearly five minutes. I was warned about pick pocketers by the police so I was continually on guard. I watched as people stared at others’ belongings and areas where wallets would be kept. Often times, I made it clear with eye contact I had noticed what they were doing. Rome was trashy. Graffiti and litter were rampant. There appeared to be a lack of pride in the city. Possibly the residents were clinging to the past that Rome once was a great city while hoping the immigrants would do all the work? I don’t know. I was disappointed with Rome.

Oh, restrooms. Never mind toilet paper. Apparently it is not required here and toilets cost € 0.50 – €1 just for a hole to pee into. Soap and toilet paper were not to be found outside of restaurants or the hostel. I began to carry a roll of TP with us everywhere we went along with hand sanitizer.

I do however, recommend getting the Roma Pass as it did help with the transportation and allowed us into two free museums. Plus, Rome allows children free entry to many events and on many of the buses and trains.

Speaking of transport, the buses and trains were easy to use; often tardy.

Our hostel provided a great place to meet people, cook our own food which saved tremendous money and the owner did deliver with the air conditioning as he promised each of the guests. This cooled the rooms and helped cut down on mosquitos in the room. He was hard working and his staff helped with any questions we had.

Overall, it was a good learning opportunity though I doubt I will ever intentionally return to Rome.

Fired Up

I have never been treated so rudely in my life in an eatery as I was today. The non-hostess tossed the menus on the table, quickly turned her back, went to a far table and tinkered with the phone in her hand Everywhere I go, I try to speak the local language as much as possible. I was in Italy so I did my best at speaking Italian. This was a Chinese restaurant in Mestre, Italy. I stood and approached her to place an order. She looked as though I somehow inconvenienced her. I placed our order and asked for tap water. She went to the see-through kitchen window pointing back at us over her shoulder with her left thumb to tell the cooks something,sounding sarcastic-they all laughed. She resumed her spot at the table with her phone. It should have tipped me off when I saw that we were the only people in the place. There was food on the walls at every table. Not once after the elder woman of the place brought out the food did the younger woman make eye contact, even look in our direction. Not once did she ask if we wanted anything or any deserts or anything else. I once again stood to ask for the check. I paid the bill in full then I inquired to the extra €6 on the bill. She said it was for the tap water. I explained this was a bit high and she turned her head as she shrugged her shoulders indicating she didn’t care. As we began to leave, I turned to head to the restroom. She stood guard in front of the bathroom as if to block me from using it. I smiled and politely asked for the toilet. It was a small victory that I secured for our family.

I can understand expecting immigrants to a new country to learn another language to be proficient where they would work and live. However, I would never expect someone visiting the US to be an English professor upon arrival for a week long visit. Part of the joy of traveling is to learn the language as you go, make mistakes and learn from the locals. Maybe she was having the worst day of her life and decided to take it out on us (and coincidentally rip us off at the same time). Maybe she was going to be deported out of Italy or could not make ends meet. I know not the reason. It’s no excuse for the crappy service or blatant rudeness. I shall pray for her. I shall also warn you incase you should step out into Mestre, Italy.

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Venice and Rome

We left Vicenza and took a train to Venice. One might ask why go to Venice when you are headed to Rome? Well , good question and it is two part. First, there are no direct trains to Rome from Vicenza. Second, my wife and I were to have a date in Venice. So, we said goodbye to our host and took a train to Venice. This time, I was quick to spot those preying on tourists. Everywhere I looked, people were handing over money left and right. Men had laid out sunglasses on blankets or rugs along the pathways and bridges tourists had to cross. Each merchant placed their items in succession closer and closer to the middle of the walkway. We stopped at a cafe for street food off the beaten path. The price was reasonable, not cheap but reasonable. Many people pulled wheeled luggage with scowls and many looked miserable. Some ladies were wearing what I assume they thought were cute heels as they tried balancing on cobblestone paths. They too looked uncomfortable. Earlier today, I lightened our load by mailing home two boxes of clothes and small items we were not using. We started out light anyhow only carrying one small backpack each. We are tourists though we were light and mobile. These other tourists looked hot and miserable. We have been saving our water bottles over the past week and filled them up nightly. Well, today was no different. Rather than giving up more euros, we were able to save that by carrying lot of water in one bag. I did not see a single drinking water fountain in Venice.

I inquired as to the price of a gondola ride and was quoted €80. Wow. My wife passed and we continued on foot getting great photos of the town. I noticed the people in the gondolas were exposed to the noon sun in an already hot and humid Venice. I was thankful not to be baking out on the water. I saw an elderly woman moaning and begging on the street. She had a small cup, bandage on a limb and a cane at her side. She tapped a cup to the ground with the faint sound of coins rattling inside. This pulled at my heart. I reached into my pocket to pull out the only money I had in it. Quite literally, the only money in my pocket was €0.20. Similar to twenty cents. I dropped it in her cup. She stopped moaning, said “Gratzi” looked in the cup then gave me one of the dirtiest looks a human being could give another. Then she began moaning again. Later on the high speed train from Venice to Rome a young woman passed around a crisp, newly printed square piece of paper in Italian and English describing that she was traveling with two small kids and few monies. She asked that people provide her money and wished God to bestow blessings. I declined as I thought about the old woman. Then just as I thought about the fact that we were in the very last seats of the very last train car, I realized she was dressed well, no kids in tow, on a pricey high speed train. One of my kids made note of this very same thing. So, I wasn’t the only one. I pray her well but scammed I was not. This young lady also gave me a dirty look.

This train to Rome must have been magical. They kids were ” too excited to sleep”. They were wound up and anxious to get to Rome. The train sped from northern Italy through Tuscany and into Rome. The pressure on the eardrums through the tunnels was annoying. Beautiful views were disrupted by having to equalize ear pressure. In Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Back Door 2013, he mentions not to skip the middle off Italy by simply going from Venice to Rome. Well, I anticipate coming back and will stop along some of the less traveled sites in the future.

After securing our Roma passes which are to include metro rail and bus as well as two free museums, we caught a rail to one of our points then walked about 1-2 miles to our hostel.

I have been watching Rick Steve’s European travel since the early 1990s. I met him and asked a few questions at a presentation in the late 1990s. I have read many of his guide books and have long wanted to stay in a hostel. Well, tonight I checked in with my family. Right away I met a gentleman from Brasil and some other kind people. This was also the first experience for my kids in a hostel. There is NO air conditioning though I am told the manager will have it tomorrow. We shall see. There is no lighting in the ladies shower/bathroom. The kids did enjoy the communal common/eating area getting to socialize. The rooms are quaint, basic and most importantly…clean. The showers were also clean just as the whole place is. There is nothing posh about it. There are bars on the windows for protection and our room has a lock and key.
I shall post more of our travels soon.

Make It Fun!
God Bless.

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