Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wildfire Chopped Salad Dressing recipe, finally

So, many years ago I recreated my take on Wildfire Restaurant's Chopped Salad dressing. As was my genre at the time, I just posted it in video format. That was my thing. So now I'm finding it necessary to go back and add written versions of the recipes in the video info, as that's what's the peeps want.
So here it is. I think it's really close to the one they use in the restaurant. We had it just tonight.

Wildfire Salad dressing

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
spoonful salt
spoonful onion powder
1 clove garlic finely chopped
small handful chopped onion
a couple shakes of red pepper flakes
a couple shakes of paprika
juice of one lime

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine making sure
the sugar is dissolved. 

© 2008 Cooking for Dads

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why I downgraded to a flip phone - Top Ten Reasons for digital unplugging

If you could have a device that could save you time, save you money, make you more productive, more creative, help you sleep better, improve your happiness and only costs $19.99, wouldn’t you buy it?
There is such a device and it delivers on all those promises and more.
Get control of your life back.
It’s called a flip phone and it helps you get control of your life again.
Are you, like everyone else, glued to your smart phone? How many times do you check your smart phone a day, 20, 30, 50 times, more? Is your digital life in charge of you or are you in charge of it?
Do you ever have down time or are you always on your phone, even in the bathroom, any pause in the conversation, during tv commercials, every chance you get, 24/7?
I wasn’t a huge phone guy but I found myself checking my smart phone more and more. I wondered how much time I was wasting each day, just checking, posting, updating, and checking again. I would have a down moment, out would come the phone. I would watch TV and watch my phone screen at the same time. Standing in line, I would be looking at my screen. Was all this screen time beneficial to me or was it mostly a waste of time and in fact a bad influence on my mind and psyche? I was already practicing Phone-Free-Sunday’s but decided to take it to the next level. 
No more smart phone. 
No more constant connection to the internet. 
So I bought a flip phone, deactivated my smart phone, placed in the corner of the kitchen and started to live the way people have for thousands of years - sans smart phone and constant internet connection. 
The first day was a little weird, but by the second day I could already feel the difference in my mind and thinking.
Taking control of your life means having moments when you’re not scouring the internet or in a pavlovian tic reacting to the latest buzz, chirp, social media updates or text. It really works and I believe there is a revolution brewing to get back to a simpler more meaningful life. In fact, dumb phone sales are up.

Here’s how it works.
1. Buy a simple flip phone at Best Buy like the Motorola Z223 - $19.99
2. Deactivate your smart phone and activate your flip phone. Disable the data package for your phone. (Savings, $35 a month in my case)
3. Keep your smart phone in a set place in your house, connected through wifi. If you need to engage in social media, use an app, or post something, use your smart phone as a connectivity station. I keep mine on the kitchen desk and do my best to keep it there, only using it a few times a day to post or stay connected. I still use it for online banking and deposits.

Here are the benefits I’ve noticed.
1. Your mind will be clearer. I find it refreshing to not constantly be connected to the web while pumping gas, waiting in line, at stoplights, etc. I don’t worry about the endless arguments during the election on Facebook or Twitter because I don’t read them. This frees up a huge (I’m sorry, UUUUGE) amount of mental capacity.
2. Your brain will finally get some rest. It’s Ok and even beneficial to not be constantly bombarded by other people’s tweets, status updates and other news from the Internet that really don’t really affect us. It actually helps your mind be clearer to have some down time, a siesta or a rest where it doesn’t have to think about anything in particular. This is good for your brain and will help you be more productive and creative when you are working.
3. You can stay connected. You always have your computer for internet and social media if you need it. You can use your old smart phone as an internet station in your house.
4. Freedom. Are any of us actually that important that we have to be immediately available to answer emails and other questions that couldn’t wait until we get back to our computers? I’m pretty convinced the world goes on without my input through digital media. Now you get to decide when and where you are accessible to other people. You get to be in charge of your digital life, not the other way around.
5. You’ll save money. Don’t insure your phone or worry about dropping it. If your phone breaks, just buy another one for $19.99. Drop it in the toilet, just flush (no more bags of rice). You also save on the data usage. That’s up to $522 a year in savings.
6. You’ll be more artsy. The cameras are old school so you get those blurry, cool, artsy photos that everyone loves and can sell for hundred of dollars. A cool side benefit.
7.  Your eyes will improve. I never needed readers until I got a smart phone. Not staring at a small screen at a set refresh rate so much has helped my eye sight improve significantly. I’ve been using my readers a lot less and look forward to my eye sight returning even more in the coming months.
8. You’ll sleep better. Studies have shown that the blue light that comes from screens (computers and smart phones) can cause confusion in our brains when it’s time to sleep. Not staring at your smart phone screen will cut that down a lot. Also the rested and clearer mind will help you fall asleep faster. Not having your phone next to your bed will keep from your sleep being disrupted.
9. You’ll gain time. All the time that you used to spend looking at your smart phone can now be used for more productive endeavors. How many of us have wasted an entire Saturday morning flipping through our phones? Instead you can read a book, write a letter, plant a garden, work on your favorite hobby, exercise or just chill. I estimate I gained about 2 hours a day ditching my smart phone. What would you do with 2 more hours each day? Also you only need to charge it about once every 4 days, so no more worrying about its battery dying each afternoon.
10. You’ll be happier. Untethering yourself from your smart phone will help you engage better with other people. Go out to dinner and talk. Have a family meal together without phones. Look people in the eye. Have an actual conversation. Improving your relationships will improve your happiness. Live in the present. You’ll find you like it here.

So try it. If you don’t like it, just reactivate your smart phone and go back to the way you lived before. If you don’t even make it 14 days, you can return your flip phone for a full refund. Otherwise, this experiment only cost you $19.99. But if, like me, after a day or two you realize that life is much better without being plugged in to everything digital all the time, you’ll never go back. 

Welcome back to real life. Join the revolution.

Live well,

Rob Barrett, Jr.

smart phone health problems

Monday, March 21, 2016

Easy and Fast Thai food.

One of my favorite dishes, made fast and easy.

Rob Barrett, Jr.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Is Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp Worth It? Review

Let’s all agree, no one makes food commercials like Red Lobster - crab legs flying, butter splashing, texture and flavor leaking through the screen and into our consciousness. No other commercial could tempt me to give in to the Madison Ave. siren song of their Endless Shrimp. Tonight I crashed my ship into those culinary rocks at the Red Lobster in Roseville, MN.

In the interest of full disclosure, I waitered at Red Lobster in Camphill, PA after my junior year in college, but hadn’t graced their fine establishments since. I knew I was in trouble when my waitress (spoiler alert! - who was wonderful) asked what side I wanted and I asked for Hush Puppies. She had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually we figured out they were the precursor to the the current cheddar biscuits (which were also amazing). So I started off the meal revealing my age and ancientness. This is old news to my teenage daughters.

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp is $17.99 or $19.23 in Minnesota with tax. You get a side, a salad and all you can eat of 4 different shrimp preparations - Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp, Hand-breaded Shrimp, Habanero Shrimp Bites and Garlic Shrimp Scampi. If there were any more it would dissolve into a scene from Forrest Bump. You start off by ordering two shrimp varieties to start with and then order one at a time until you are ready to burst.

So the biscuits and caesar salad came and it was wonderful, especially the cheddar biscuits. These light and fluffy little balls of goodness are as good as any bread served in any restaurant I have been to. If one’s not careful you could just pound those and go home full, skipping the shrimp altogether. The salad was also pleasant.

I have to admit at this point to ordering the fries as my side. Yes, the broccoli would have been wiser and would have added some color to an otherwise beige plate, but I have a weakness and I’m not afraid to admit it. I like the idea of fries but disdain the shame and guilt that follow. We’re all a work in progress. I’ll just say, Red Lobster knows how to make fries.

Red Lobster is in a tough position as are all national restaurant chains. They need to make food that basically appeals to the lowest common denominator. Their food needs to be accessible to the majority of Americans in order to sell in the numbers their stock holders desire. Applebee’s, Friday’s, Chili’s and their ilk are all in the same boat, they must provide food that hits only the center of the American food target. Thusly, their food has to be void of too distinctive a taste and instead aim for the sweet top of the bell curve of the American palette along with lots of sodium clouride. In the case of Red Lobster, this is only accomplished by sucking all the shrimp flavor out of the shrimp. 

Red Lobster’s shrimp has the texture of shrimp without any of the residue of the seas from which it was taken. The texture is good, they are nicely deveined and are pleasing to the eye, but don’t necessarily taste like shrimp - more like crunchy chicken. So the hand bread shrimp was fine but not special. The Habanero and Garlic Shrimp Scampi were fine but not definable as sea food.

Unfortunately the Teriyaki Shrimp was inedible. The shrimp was cooked on a skewer and then brushed on one side with a thick asian-like sauce. As the sauce was applied after the cooking was finished it lacked any of the necessary caramelization and searing that gives teriyaki its flavor. I couldn’t finish it.

So for $17.99 it’s a lot of food, and you get great service and those amazing biscuits, but the shrimp itself, while endless, is not something i would go back for again. But to be clear it’s not bad, just not good.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Growing Tomatoes and whether the size of the container matters

Here's the results of our year long study on the size of container and the yield of the tomato plant. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Make Ciabatta Rolls, Just like Costco's

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Easy curry anyone can make.