Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mike Meets WordGirl and The Gruffalo

Halloween in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Despite the inclement weather, we had a pretty good turnout of ghouls, goblins, fireman, ball players, witches, princesses and PBS Kids characters that I've never heard of.

One such costumed character was WordGirl -- a superhero that vanquishes foes with her superhuman strength and colossal vocabulary. Her trick-or-treat partner was the not-so-feared mythical beast, The Gruffalo.

These two were about 3-years old, cute as buttons and were bred from the heartiest of stock -- they were trick-or-treating in the rain when kids twice their age fled the streets for the comfortable dry climes of their living rooms.

While The Gruffalo remained on the sidewalk, WordGirl approached our front door. Shyly she said, "Trick or Treat."

Loudly I said, "Welcome WordGirl and Happy Halloween!" I lowered the bowl filled with fun-size Snickers and little packages of Skittles and told her, "You're out here when all the other kids have gone home. I'm very impressed. Take two."
The Gruffalo

As she perused her selections, quietly I whispered, "Just kidding. Take 3."

WordGirl whispered back, "Thank you!" and looked at me with a sly smile.

As she made her way off our front stoop, the quiet and shy WordGirl hollered to The Gruffalo, "Hey, Gruffalo. You have to come to this house -- they let me take 3!!"

So funny. I'm just glad she didn't yell this out loud when the streets were full -- I would have had to run to the store to replenish our rapidly dwindling supply!

Happy Halloween, 2013!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Keeping the Festival Season Alive with Spicy Thai Noodles

Capellini instead of Linguine - My Recommendation
If we ever invite you over for Spicy Thai Noodles, be prepared to excuse yourself from the table at least 3 times. Why? Because you're certain to need to visit our guest bathroom at least that many times to clear your suddenly unclogged sinuses. See, we likes 'em spicy, and spicy is the way my wife and I prepared tonight's version of this delectable dish.

We've always been fans of Singapore Noodles. Usually it's served to us in a paper container four or five beers in at the Wisconsin State Fair. Actually, four or five beers in at just about any Milwaukee festival. 

But what's not to love? You've got noodles, fresh herbs, soy sauce, and for your health, a few vegetables. In fact, it's vegetarian!

I don't think our home-cooked version will ever compete fairly with the State Fair variety, but we're getting closer, and finding it a dish that's fun and interesting to make. By only varying a few ingredients, the noodles can taste very different. 

After picking up a number of fresh peppers--both Thai chili and reds--at the Dane County Farmers' Market last Saturday, we set our sights on trying to create a reasonable facsimile of our Summertime favorite festival food. I found this relatively hacked up recipe on the website Yummly


1 carrot thinly sliced
3 mushrooms thinly sliced
2 tablespoon(s) vegetable broth divided
2 teaspoon(s) fresh garlic minced
1 tablespoon(s) bell pepper chopped
1 chili pepper chopped
1 tablespoon(s) fresh basil chopped
1 teaspoon(s) fresh oregano
8 ounce(s) Linguine cooked al dente (we used Capellini; I suggest you do, too)
2 tablespoon(s) soy sauce
1 teaspoon(s) black or white pepper ground
1 teaspoon(s) sugar
1/2 teaspoon(s) chopped red pepper
1 tablespoon(s) fresh parsley snipped


Sauté garlic in oil over medium high heat in a large pan for about 1 minute, add carrot, sautee two more minutes then add mushrooms, bell pepper, chili pepper, basil, and oregano. Sauté two more minutes. Add cooked linguine and stir. Add remaining ingredients through chopped red pepper, stir until thoroughly mixed. Additional soy sauce may be added to taste. Garnish with parsley and serve with garlic bread. Serves four. 

Don't examine it too closely because the recipe is rather hacked up. Take for instance that vegetable broth. Two tablespoons ... divided? Why are they divided? Where are they used? And why doesn't this recipe ever bring these two lonely tablespoons of vegetable broth back together again?

Freeze 'em!
No matter. This is a good starting point for the dish and whatever you do will probably wind up tasting pretty good. In fact, I forgot the vegetable broth the first time I made it and it was still delicious. (I forgot the parsley also. Things in the kitchen were happening too fast for me!)

Just make sure to use good oil (we used sesame oil the second time ... JACKPOT!) and fresh vegetables for the sauté. You probably can't screw it up, but here's a tip that I got from a little Vietnamese woman at the Dane County Farmers' Market that's really worth knowing:  Freeze Thai chili peppers. Whenever you want to add some spice to your dishes, just take a pepper or two out of the freezer and chop it up finely and throw it in. They'll stay good and fresh in the freezer for a long time.

This tip ... life changing. Something so simple that I've never considered. I'm going to be chopping up little chilis into just about everything now. 

Eggs? Check.

Pizza? Check.

Ice cream? Check. (Hey. Why not? They're already frozen!)

And the best thing: a little Thai chili pepper goes a long way. We chopped two of them into tonight's Spicy Thai Noodles and I only had to excuse myself from the table three times.

They're THAT hot!

So, even though we are entering the cold and non-festival season in Wisconsin, in Wauwotosa we're going to keep the Summer season alive with some spicy noodles and a freezer full of Thai chili peppers. 

Whew. Now please excuse me. I've got a nose to blow.


Appropriately, a song from Xavier Rudd's "Food in the Belly"