Monday, January 02, 2012

Cheddar Ale Soup

This is not a cooking blog, and I haven't updated here in years, but The Wife insisted on putting this recipe online, just in case something happened to her paper copy because she couldn't find it online anywhere. This soup is delicious. However, with heavy whipping cream, it is not for every day. It also makes a lot.

A note on the photo: This is just a placeholder. We had just eaten the last of the soup when The Wife wanted to post the soup recipe online. I'll try to replace it with an actual photo of the soup the next time we make it. This is just a bowl of shredded cheddar cheese we were using for something else (mac and cheese in the crock pot).


7 Tbs butter

1 Tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped yellow onion

1/4 cup chopped bacon

1 Tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbs hot pepper sauce

1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 Tsp paprika

1 Tsp Thyme

6 1/2 ounces ale

2 cans chicken broth

1 1/4 quarts (5 cups) heavy whipping cream (whipping cream usually comes in 4-cup containers, so I just add a cup of milk rather than buy a bigger size of whipping cream)

10 Tbs corn starch

2 1/4 cups cold water

1 pound smoked sharp cheddar, grated (I always use extra sharp cheddar -- smoked sharp cheddar is nearly impossible to find)

chopped green onion (optional - garnish)


Melt butter in stockpot over medium heat.

Add garlic, bell pepper, onion and bacon and sauté until vegetables are tender. (Note: I cooked my bacon first and crumbled into the mix, so it was crispy.)

Add cayenne, hot pepper sauce. Worcestershire, paprika and thyme. Cook, stirring 10 seconds.

Pour in beer, stir, and heat to boiling and boil three minutes.

Add chicken broth to stock pot, heat to boiling.

Stir in cream and heat to boiling.

In another bowl, combine cornstarch and 2 1/4 cups cold water, stirring until corn starch is completely dissolved. Blend cornstarch mixture into stockpot, cooking and stirring until mixture is thickened and smooth.

Reduce heat to low. Whisk in cheese, stirring until cheese is melted and incorporated into the soup.

Soup is ready to eat, but for better flavor, cover and refrigerate overnight, then reheat until steaming hot. Garnish each serving with chopped green onions. This soup goes great with bread.

Makes about a gallon.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ode to Toby

Our old friend Toby Young was back in the news last week.

She is even dumber than I thought.

The Wife and I first met Toby as a seemingly devoted leader of a prison dog program. She took unwanted dogs that were going to be euthanized at shelters and matched them with inmates. It was a win-win situation. Prisoners were given something positive to do, and unwanted dogs became well-trained potential pets. Hundreds of dogs found new homes after being trained to sit, come, heel, etc., by inmates.

It was a great success story, and Toby became well known in the local press for her hard work for a good cause.

Of course, we now know that Toby also was hard at work trying to find a new home for one of the prisoners, convicted killer John Maynard. Last week, we learned that Toby, who is old enough to be Maynard’s mother – eww – passed Maynard a cell phone before she helped him bust out of the joint.

If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the short version: Toby and some inmates jammed Maynard in a dog crate and slipped him out of the Lansing prison in the rescue program’s van. The guard at the prison gate didn’t check Toby’s van because she was a regular and trusted visitor to the prison. (She has a somewhat different relationship with the guards at the prison she is now "visiting.")

That Lansing guard was fired.

Young and Maynard took off, armed with guns she had taken from her home and money from her retirement fund. She left behind her husband and children and left the rescue program in peril.

Unfortunately for Young and Maynard, they weren’t smart enough to leave the country. They merely left civilization, traveling to Tennessee. She bought a new vehicle for this excursion. Though she gave the seller a fake name, she was nice enough to give him the real address of her planned hideout so he could send her the title. When you’re hiding from a national manhunt, apparently it’s vital that you have legal tags.

John and Toby could have stayed hidden in their Tennessee cabin, but instead they went out shopping for guitars, a bird, sex toys and took in a movie. They got caught, duh, and are now back in Kansas.

Here is my Ode to Toby, sung to the tune of Cyndi Lauper’s 1979 smash hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

I ran off, in the morning light.
My mother says, ‘When you gonna live your life right?”
Oh, Mother Dear, I like life on the run.
That’s why I carry a gun.
Old women, they wanna have fun.

My father’s on the 10 o’clock news
wondering why I sprang a boy who’s bad news.
Oh, Daddy Dear you know you’re still No. 1,
but I like life on the run.
Old women just wanna have …

That’s all I really want,
some fun.
Forget my husband and sons.
Old women wanna have fun.

A convict took an old housewife,
and whisked her away to a criminal life.
First I grabbed some cash and guns.
Old women, they wanna have fun.
Oh, I just wanna have fun.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Shut up, Roy

North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams said Sunday’s 65-60 loss to George Mason in the second round of the NCAA tournament was one of the most disappointing games of his career.

Apparently, ol’ Roy’s memory is slipping as he gets older. His University of Kansas teams disappointed Jayhawk fans in the NCAA tournament plenty of times.

Roy lost seven players from UNC’s 2005 national championship team and not a lot was expected of this year’s young team, so how is it possible that this ranked as one of the most disappointing losses of the coach who cries at the end of every single season?

Maybe Roy already has forgotten his ups and downs at KU. To refresh your memory, he posted a 418-101 record in 15 years, won nine conference championships and made it to four Final Fours (losing twice in the title game). He also had plenty of disappointments.

KU started Roy’s second season at KU with 19 straight victories, including wins over Shaq’s LSU squad, national power UNLV and St. John’s on its home floor in the NIT. The Jayhawks’ backcourt included two starting guards from coach Larry Brown’s 1988 national championship team, Kevin Pritchard and Jeff Gueldner, and transfer Ricky Calloway had been a starting forward on Indiana’s 1987 national title team. You would think an experienced team like that would handle the stress of March Madness. You would be wrong.
Kansas, which was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 for 13 weeks, lost three of its last six games and finished 30-5. After a 100-78 loss to Oklahoma in the next-to-last game of the regular season, the Sooners trounced KU again, 95-77, in the Big Eight tournament.
The worst was yet to come. Seventh-seeded UCLA ousted second-seeded KU in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
It was a disappointing end to a great season.

After winning his first Big Eight crown and making it to the national title game in 1991, Roy had starters Adonis Jordan and Alonzo Jamison returning in 1992 and also added Northwestern transfer Rex Walters. The Jayhawks (27-5) were ranked second in the final regular-season AP poll, repeated as Big Eight champs and won the Big Eight tournament.
Then they flopped. Again. Ninth-seeded UTEP beat top-seeded KU, 66-60, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Pretty disappointing.

The Big Eight champs (25-6) had three future NBA players (Raef LaFrentz, Jacque Vaughn and Greg Ostertag) in the starting lineup and a fourth (Scot Pollard) on the bench. The Jayhawks, ranked fifth in the final AP poll, made it past the second round this time and advanced to their home-away-from home, Kansas City’s Kemper Arena … where fourth-seeded Virginia handed top-seeded KU a 67-58 loss in the Sweet 16.

I’ll overlook the 1996 season – when second-seeded KU lost to fourth-seeded Syracuse in the regional final, costing me a free trip to the Final Four in New York – because 1997 was so much worse by comparison. Roy might say it was his most disappointing loss, if he weren’t such a freaking liar.
The 1997 Hawks had four future NBA players (LaFrentz, Vaughn, Pollard and Paul Pierce) in their starting lineup. They won their first 22 games before suffering a double-overtime loss at Missouri on a last-second, fluke play.
The top-ranked, top-seeded Jayhawks suffered an 85-82 loss to eventual national champion Arizona in the Sweet 16. KU might have been able to force overtime if Vaughn, a senior point guard, had the guts to take an open 3-pointer in the final seconds. He passed instead.
Kansas finished 34-2.
Stunningly disappointing.

Pollard, Vaughn and Jerod Haase, who were seniors in 1997, never made it to the Final Four. Neither did LaFrentz and Pierce, whose top-seeded and second-ranked Jayhawks were bounced 80-75 by eighth-seeded Rhode Island in the second round.
KU, which won its seventh conference title in eight years and the league’s postseason tourney, finished 35-4.
Even more stunning and disappointing.

Three years after he said no to North Carolina and added that he wouldn’t leave Kansas unless he was dead, fired or retired, Roy led KU back to the national championship game and a second straight Final Four. The Jayhawks missed 18 free throws in an 81-78 loss to Syracuse.
After the game, squeaky-clean Roy said on live TV that he didn’t “give a shit” about the vacant job at North Carolina. A few days later, he was on a plane to Chapel Hill.
And that was the biggest disappointment of all.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Random facts

There recently has been a slew of complaints (three) from my loyal readers (one of whom is not even related to me in any way) who demanded a new blog entry.
It has, in fact, been quite a while. My apologies.
The Wife’s friend recently wrote 50 things about herself on her blog. I am too lazy to count to 50, so I wrote a really long entry to compensate.
Here are about 50 things (give or take 20) about me. If you know me, I would be interested to know if there is anything here you didn’t already know. If you’re a random Internet reader I’ve never met and you already know this stuff, well that’s just creepy and wrong and you should keep it to yourself.

My favorite dogs are mini schnauzers. Neither of my dogs are mini schnauzers, proving that more often than not your pets pick you.

Here are my most traumatic childhood moments, ranked in order of emotional and physical damage.
Honorable mentions: In the days before people childproofed their homes, I stuck a key in an electrical outlet. It turned my hand black, and my dad carried me into the bathroom and cleaned me up.
Other near-death experiences included riding on the back of a three-wheeler that flipped and landed on top of me; and riding in the back of a car that hydroplaned on a wet highway, crossed the median, turned 360 degrees, skidded across the other side of the highway and stopped in the ditch. Somehow, no one was hurt.
Second-runner up: It took me a while to learn how to ride a bike, but I was a demon on my tricycle, including the time I rode right off our porch and landed on a large concrete block. Who keeps large concrete blocks? My dad wasn’t in construction. What were we saving the giant blocks for?
First runner-up: I ran into my mother in the kitchen while she was carrying a large pan of steaming-hot caramel she was going to make caramel corn with. Most of it landed in my hair instead. My dad raced me into the bathroom and ran cold water over my head. To this day, I prefer cheese popcorn to caramel.
The winner: I fell into our swimming pool and almost drowned. My sister, who was only about 10, pulled me out. Soon after, all the neighborhood kids were signed up for swimming lessons. Glad I could help them learn something.
One of the great things about being six and eight years younger than my siblings is that when I was a kid I got taken to lots of movies, games and other things by my brother and sister, who were both old enough to have their own jobs and cars while I was still in grade school. Thanks, guys.
Of course, that whole life-saving thing was good, too.

When I was 7 or 8, I had a Fonzie poster in my room, and I had a blue Fonzie T-shirt. Now I realize Henry Winkler is kind of a dork.

I knew I wanted to be a journalist when I was a junior in high school.
Why didn’t anybody talk me out of it?

The reason Jiffy Lube only charges $19 for an oil change is because they try to make their real money by selling you a lot of other overpriced services and parts. I know that, so I only fall for it about half the time.

I used to work in my dad’s warehouse in the summers, loading and unloading trucks, filling orders and helping him make deliveries around the school district. If someone drops a pallet of pickles on your foot, it will hurt and you will say bad words whether you want to or not.
You also will get the afternoon off.

Here are some cool things I have seen in person:
Shed Aquarium, Sea World, swimming with sting rays in the Cayman Islands
Batman Ride at Six Flags, Mr. Freeze Ride at Six Flags, the Mamba at Worlds of Fun
Abe Lincoln’s house in Illinois
Cooperstown, N.Y., and the Baseball Hall of Fame
Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado and the Green Mountains in Vermont
The Pretty Prairie Rodeo (the largest night rodeo in Kansas!)
Two Final Fours, two bowl games, one World Series and one golf major
“Avenue Q” and other Broadway shows
Niagra Falls
The Gateway Arch
Statue of Liberty
Freedom Trail in Boston, Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and the monuments in Washington, D.C.
Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium
Spring training in Tempe and Tucson, Arizona
Mayan ruins in Mexico
Sears Tower and New York skyscrapers
My uncle Jim Murphy’s back yard.

Kids get excited about stupid stuff. In elementary school I found 50 cents on the playground. Rather than pocket it, I told the principal. What a dumb kid. The principal said if nobody claimed it by the end of the week, I could have it. What a deal. All week I was excited about what I would do with the money (50 cents was a lot of loot for a kid in 1978). Nobody claimed the money, and I did get to keep it. I don’t remember what I did with those quarters, but I would guess I turned them in for a couple of packs of baseball cards.
More recently I found a $100 bill on the sidewalk near our house. I didn’t ask anyone if I could keep it.

Dumb things I have done with cars ...
In high school I once was backing my car out of the garage to wash it. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I didn’t shut the door all the way. The door swung open and clipped the side of the garage and damaged the garage door. Dad fixed it and didn’t even yell at me. What a guy.
The Wife ( who was then The Girlfriend) once was sold a real lemon of a car and went through hell before the dealer finally gave her a new replacement car, which I promptly scratched.
I once turned the wrong way down a one-way street in a rental car insured by my employer. I didn’t realize it was one way until I saw the cars coming from the other direction. I quickly turned into a parking lot, which I had to pay 50 cents to get out of.

Bonus embarrassing moment:
I once was at the airport checking out my reflection in the tinted glass of a pay phone booth (remember those?). After checking myself out for a good, long minute, I realized there was a couple sitting inside the booth laughing at me. Nice.

Never underestimate the possibility of getting free stuff out of companies that treat you badly. If a business is not giving you what you paid for, you owe it to yourself and other consumers to call them on their shoddy performance. Here are a few freebies I have received in the past two years, trying to extract a pound of flesh from people who done me wrong:
Kansas City Star – free umbrella
NetZero – one free month of tech support. Four free months of service (two months two different times).
American Airlines – two $100 vouchers.
You also should return any unsatisfactory product, no matter how insignificant, just as a matter of principle. I once returned a pack of baseball cards to Target because it contained one less card than it was supposed to have.
I also have discovered that many stores, including Target, will let you return merchandise without a receipt if you act like you know what you’re talking about. It also helps if you do it when a teenager making minimum wage is working the counter because they just don’t care.

Worst college or pro sports venues I have ever seen …
Football -- KSU Stadium before it was renovated
Basketball -- Leavitt Arena in Wichita before it was renovated and renamed
Baseball -- Olympic Stadium in Montreal
Multipurpose -- SuperDome in New Orleans BEFORE the hurricane hit it

My mom used to get me out of school every year and take me to Opening Day at Royals Stadium. My senior year I abandoned that great tradition and skipped school with a bunch of my friends. What an ungrateful punk I was. Sorry, Mom.
We used to go to Royals Stadium hours before games to get autographs. I got several Hall of Famers’ signatures this way, including Reggie Jackson, Jim Palmer, Yogi Berra and Brooks Robinson.
Here are my two favorite stories from those days ...
During Cal Ripken Jr.’s second season in the big leagues, he already was a huge star and there was a big contingent of autograph seekers at the stadium trying to get him the day I was there. I had two different copies of The Sporting News with Ripken on the cover and couldn’t decide which one I liked best, so I took both.
When Ripken arrived, he was swarmed by fans young and old. I got to him pretty quickly with one of my magazines, and he signed it. I went back to where my mom was sitting and showed it to her. She then pointed out that Cal was still signing and said I should go back and ask him to sign my other Sporting News. I thought that seemed a little greedy, but what the heck. I got back in line.
Sure enough, Cal remembered me the second time through, but he just laughed and signed again. He was one of my favorite players for the rest of his long career.
My next anecdote does not end as happily, at least not for my friend Tim. We were at the stadium on a day that was very windy, and the flags near the players’ entrance were whipping so hard you could hardly hear the person next to you.
When George Brett arrived, Tim and I were thrilled. He was Tim’s favorite player. He wasn’t mine, but he was clearly the Royals’ best player, an All-Star and one of the best hitters in the American League. Amazingly, there were no other autograph collectors around. It was just Tim and me, and you had to like our chances.
I got there first, and George signed my ball and handed it back. Tim handed his ball to George just as a blonde showed up and started talking to George. Unfortunately, she seemed oblivious to the fact that you had to shout to be heard over the wind and the flags, and George was looking at Tim and the ball and not her. He had no idea she was talking to him.
Insulted by his apparent lack of attention, the bimbo slapped George in the face. Stunned and more than a little upset, George handed the unsigned ball back to Tim, grabbed the woman by the arm and escorted her to a nearby security guard and disappeared into the stadium. He did not return.

Things I wish I still had ...
My Star Wars action figures. Those things are worth money now, and so are a lot of the old 1970s toys. They are all long gone except for the baseball cards.
The first time my hair fell out I was 2 or 3 years old. I had a blue Smoky the Bear hat I wore everywhere. I have no idea what happened to it.
My dog Fritz.
My parents’ other dog Fritz II.

My grandpa always used to give me Juicy Fruit. It isn’t my favorite gum, but sometimes I buy it just because I miss him.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Free Crap: The Final Chapter

If I run over this flashlight, it won’t break.

Hopefully, that theory will never be tested.

Magazine Man (See Oct. 20 entry, “Free Crap Part II”) finally delivered a few weeks ago with my consolation prize from his free crap giveaway. I did not win the TV/radio/lantern/flashlight that I had coveted to replace my beloved lantern/flashlight, which I inadvertently ran over one dark, snowy night after putting my car in a ditch. No, the TV/radio/lantern/flashlight went to actress, newly published author and wanna-be ninja Jessica Stover because hot actress/writer/ninjas get all the best stuff.

However, MM did hook me up with an Energizer Hardcase Lantern (retail value $19.97, batteries not included). Though I will not be able to receive radio signals or watch TV via this flashlight, it is waterproof and floats. More important, it has rubber and stainless steel side panels for durability, was constructed to survive a 15-foot drop onto concrete and has a shatterproof lens.

These are all important assets to consider when giving me tools.

It also has an “advanced Super-Krypton bulb,” which must have come from outer space in baby Superman’s little rocket before that doomed planet exploded. Either that, or Energizer totally made up that stupid name.

The bulb, however, really is super. This thing could be used to light airport runways or Broadway stages. It is bright. Really, really bright.

The day MM’s package arrived, I ran out and bought the required four DD batteries so I could test it out. A swarm of fireflies smashed into our house. Did I mention that it’s bright?

The flashlight weighs about two pounds. The Wife pointed out that the Energizer Hardcase Lantern could be used not only to find intruders but also to subdue them.

Unfortunately, there has not been one power outage, blown fuse or unwelcome guest since the flashlight arrived. It sits eagerly waiting to be used.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Santa Part II

The pet charity asked me again to fill in as Santa for its weekend photo shoot, so I donned the fat suit once more. This time, we were smart enough to get our own dog to PetSmart for a photo with the fat man.

The problem we didn’t see coming was that Gracie, the golden retriever who loves everyone, was terrified of St. Nick. You would have thought I was dressed as a dog catcher or the vet.

Scratch that, Gracie loves the vet. She loves everyone.

Except Santa.

I posed with 30 other dogs today and a few seemed a bit uneasy around the bright red suit, fake beard and the guy that smelled like 30 other dogs. Gracie was panicked.

Perhaps she was confused because Santa smelled like me but looked like someone else, but I posed with other dogs that I have known out of uniform, and we had no problems.

Not Gracie Pooch. She was terrified, so much so that she slipped her collar – which she had never done – and ran away from Santa and Mrs. Claus and into the arms of the nice lady who was handing out promotional materials for Nutro dog food.

There are few feelings more pitiful and lonely than seeing your own dog fear you.

And yet I couldn’t stop laughing.

Gracie – a former valedictorian of PetSmart puppy school – would go to anyone else who called her, including the PetSmart dog trainer, as a large mob gathered to mock Santa and his scaredy-cat dog. She relaxed when I took the gloves off and let her smell my hands, and she gave them a few good licks. But she wasn’t about to get on Santa’s lap. Finally, when no small children were looking, I took off the fake beard so she could see my face. This calmed her somewhat, but she still wouldn’t sit for a photo.

Finally, I remembered that this was the dog who would do anything for a treat – even sit next to scary Santa long enough to snap off a few photos. Once she got a few treats in her, she even let The Wife put a pair of reindeer antlers on her for some more photos.

In the spring, maybe we’ll see how she feels about the Easter Bunny.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Here comes Santa Fraud ...

The pet charity The Wife and I volunteer with has an annual fund-raiser in which they dress some poor slob like Santa Claus and let customers at the local pet store have their pets’ photo taken with a counterfeit Kringle for $9.95, with $5 going to the charity and the rest covering the store’s expenses.

Last Sunday, the charity was short a Santa, so it ended with a short Santa. That’s right, I was the poor slob in the hot, itchy costume. I didn’t mind. In fact, it was kind of fun. I just don’t think I was the right man for the job. I’m not as svelte as I used to be, but at 150 pounds, my belly doesn’t shake like a bowl full of jelly – yet.

I put on the costume, and it reminded me of walking around in my dad’s shoes when I was a kid. It wasn’t quite tailored for my form, so I walked out to the dog aisle, snagged a pet bed and stuck it in my pants. The extra padding helped the illusion a bit, but I still looked like Santa on meth.

I still managed to fool a lot of little kids, who smiled, laughed, waved and begged me to say “Ho, ho, ho.”

Kids are stupid.

The photo op lasted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., which meant five hours in the fat suit. The coat was so scratchy that I left my sweatshirt on underneath. After putting on a wig, fake beard, hat and gloves while listening to the painfully bad music the store plays incessantly, I was sweating to the oldies.

The good news is we sold more than 30 photo packages. The even better news is that none of our subjects peed on me or tried to take a bite out of Saint Nick. I also was happy that when I walked outside to cool off in the crisp December breeze that my borrowed dog bed, which I had forgotten about, did not set off the anti-theft device.