Sunday, October 25, 2009


While there are many things I would like to forget, there are some days it's good to remember.

14 years ago today our second daughter, Ashley, died from multiple birth defects. She fought valiantly but in the end their combined affects were too much and she passed on, only spending a brief 12 hours on this earth. While her time was small her impact wasn't.  Her short visit has afforded us the opportunity to share, encourage, bond, grieve, teach, question, doubt, hope, grow, and somehow find ways to love each other and enjoy life more (although much of that took quite some time to develop).

One of the ways we mark these days is through some family rituals.  While they didn't start out that way, the things we did early on were serendipitously repeated and now have become mandatory customs of the Barrett family.

One of the most meaningful to me is lighting the Memorial Candle.

It's a custom with Hebraic roots where you light a candle and let it burn for 24 hours.  For me it symbolizes the presence of our daughter for that short time.  We even put it on a table in the hallway so it flickers throughout the night. I dread letting it go out when the wax is gone. That's the saddest part for me.

One of the other things we really enjoy is eating lunch at the grave site.

Every year we go to a certain Uptown Lund's Grocery Store and everyone gets to pick out what they want to eat.  We bring a blanket to sit on and enjoy a lunch with our third daughter.  October weather can be uncooperative but we always soldier through.  Lund's used to carry puppy chow and that became an important part of the meal.  In recent years they've stopped making it so we have to make it at home and bring it. (recipe below) The meal wouldn't be the same without it.

Years ago we planted an apple tree in the backyard as a memorial.  Every year around this time we enjoy apples from our Ashley tree.  We also have a wall where we've posted some pictures and memories.

As I sit here and watch our Memorial Candle start to fade and sputter, I'm glad the kids are so attached to these events.  They take great comfort in them. We may have let them slide if they didn't insist that we go to the same grocery store every year, do our meal regardless of the weather and always get puppy chow.

Not for 12 hours but for eternity.

Rob Barrett

Cooking for Dads

Memorial Puppy Chow Mix.

1 C chocolate chips

1/2 C peanut butter

1/4 C butter

Melt that together over medium heat, then turn off burner and add one spoonful of vanilla. Stir.

Stir in 6 cups of Rice Chex until coated.  

Add 1 1/2 C powdered sugar and toss to coat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Brussels Sprouts For All or How To Get Your Kids To Eat Broccoli.

I always hated Brussels Sprouts.  Who doesn't or didn't.?  They are often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of yucky things to eat. 

Recently, I've found a way of cooking them so that not only will my kids eat them, but Brussels Sprouts have become one of their favorite vegetables.  This cooking method also works great for broccoli, which is now their second favorite. Don't believe me, try it.

Start by washing the sprouts and them cutting them in half long ways. 

Then take about an inch of butter and melt it in a frying pan over medium heat.  

After it melts, spread it around the pan until it starts to bubble slightly.  Let it bubble for around 2 minutes until it just turns slightly brown. (Browned Butter)

Then add your Brussels Sprouts (or Broccoli) sliced side down. Work in just one layer at at time, each sliced flat side needs to be in contact with the pan. 

 Let them cook that way for around 3 minutes or until the bottoms begin to get a slightly charred brown edge. 

Flip them over or just toss for another 4 minutes until thoroughly cooked.  

Add salt and pepper and serve hot.

Really, my kids love these and especially when I do it with broccoli.  It takes on a corn flavor that's slightly sweet. Try it and let me know what you think.

Rob Barrett, Jr.

Cooking for Dads

Friday, October 9, 2009

Apple Cider Flat Bread.

Every once in a while I try something new for the sake of trying something new.  Here's a fun, fall bread that everyone will like - very moist and yet crunchy like a cracker on the bottom.  Let me know what you think.

Apple Cider Flat Bread

Take 1 1/2 cup Apple Cider or Apple Juice, just slightly warmed.

add 1 spoonful yeast,  stir


In large bowl combine:

3 c flour

1 spoonful sugar

1/2 sp salt

add 1" melted butter to cider and yeast mixture, stir

add juice mixture to flour mixture and stir for 1 minute until completely combined.

Cover and let rise for 3 hours

Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Grab a handful of dough and form into a crude round flat loaf about 1/2" high.

drizzle loaves with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic salt, sesame seeds,  parmesan cheese and let rise for 30 more minutes. 

bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until just brown, cut in 3rds and serve.

©2009 Cooking for Dads

Cook well, it's worth it.

Rob Barrett

Monday, October 5, 2009

How To Please Fans of Rival Teams, or Chicken Roll Ups As Peacemakers.

Are you a house divided? Did you marry a fan of the rival team from yours?  My friends the Petersons tell me they had huge fights early in their marriage every time the Packers played the Vikings.  (I think they worked it out, they're still married with 4 kids)
But tonight should be a doozy. The Packers come to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings with Bret Farve now as a Viking.  I will keep them in my prayers.

If you are having  a party with rival fans here's a fun way to make everyone happy.

First follow the recipe for Chicken Roll Ups on my website but use the Pillsbury Baking Sheet. (just like the Crescent Roll Dough but with out the perforations)  

Once the filling is made, cut the dough in to large squares and then cut off the 4 corners.  Place a big pile of the filling mixture in the middle and form up into a football form.  Place seam down on a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it. Take some of the excess dough and twist in to thin strips to make the laces. Press down on to the top of the football.

Beat one egg and brush over top of roll up.  Put in preheated oven at 375 for 12 minutes or until just browned.

Make the sauce with 1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup (I recommend Campbell's low fat, I've tried some grocery store brands and they come out lumpy.) and a half of a can of milk.

Then the fun part.  Separate the sauce in to two parts.  In my case one for the Vikings and one for the Packers.  Add 3 drops of red food coloring and 2 of blue to the Vikings sauce

 and 3 drops of green to the Packers sauce.  (adjust as needed)

Add some to bottom of plate and place baked roll up in the middle.

Super fun, and if the Packer Fan won't eat the green sauce give them grief and shame for not being a real fan.

Go Vikes!

Rob Barrett

Cooking for Dads

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Par-baking Focaccia Bread

Big group came over tonight. We had our quarterly planning meeting at my house and I wanted to serve fresh hot Focaccia bread with my Red Pepper and Sausage Pasta. But I couldn't get 2 fresh loaves out at the same time.  So I attempted some par baking.  That's where you partially bake the bread, freeze it, and then finish the baking at the appropriate time.  There wasn't a lot of info on the web for doing it so I had to experiment, something we do a lot of around here.

So I made the normal focaccia in the bread maker but you can make it by hand.  Here's the recipe.

1 cup + 2 T water

3 cups bread flour

3 T butter (unsalted if possible)

1 t salt

2 T sugar

1 1/4 t yeast. (sorry no way around that measuring)

Put it in your bread maker on the dough cycle and hit start, or mix the water, butter (melted) and the yeast together, the flour, salt, and sugar together, then combine and knead for 10 minutes. Set aside in a covered bowl and let it rise for 30 minutes.

Either way you do it, take out the dough and place on parchment paper and make into a round about 1 inch high.  Coat the dough with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic salt, parmesan cheese, and some rosemary. (If you want at this point you can put some thinly sliced tomatoes, garlic or chopped onions on the bread) Set aside and let it rise for 20 more minutes.

For a finished loaf  cook it for 20 minutes at 350.  

To par bake it I cooked the first one for 15 minutes and then took it out.  It looked basically done so I made another loaf and cooked it for only 12 minutes.  I thought that looked about right.

I let them cool, then wrapped them in plastic wrap (I didn't have any plastic bags) and put them in the freezer.

(second loaf)

When it came time for the dinner, I let the loaves warm up to room temp by placing them on the granite countertops for about and hour, preheated the oven to 350 again and put the loaves back in the oven.  I thought they would only need to bake for the time that was left from the original 20 minutes.  How wrong I was.  The loaf that I had cooked for 15 minutes took another 15 minutes and the loaf that I took out after 12 minutes took almost the full 20 minutes.  

The loaf that I pulled out after 15 minutes was perfect. The loaf that I pulled out after 12 minutes sank as the middle wasn't cooked enough to set.  It still tasted OK but wasn't as light as the other loaf.

(par-baked loaves thawing, 12 minute one is closest, notice the sunken middle)

In conclusion, I recommend par baking the loaves for 75% of the recommended time and then baking them again for that same 75%, or until done.

Cook well, it's worth it.

Rob Barrett, Jr.

Cooking for Dads