Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Night Classic Music Video

James Taylor's first, with Paul McCartney helping out...

On the Road Again....

Daughter Rachael is visiting Daughter Tiffany today and the drive from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis and back is slightly complicated by an inch of two of snow, the first of the season.

So, from the AOM Blog, come these tips for both guys and gals:

13 Things a Man Should Keep in His Car

Posted: 17 Dec 2009 06:48 PM PST

Broken down car

When I was growing up, I noticed that my dad kept the trunk of his car well-stocked with supplies. A lot of the equipment in his car was for his job busting poachers as a game warden, but most of the things he packed in his trunk were for emergency situations.

And there were plenty of times when my dad was able to put his trunk equipment to work.

For example, about 20 years ago my dad was driving home to Oklahoma from New Mexico in his old burgundy Caprice. Just outside of Groom, TX, near the famous leaning water tower along I-40, a hellacious snow storm hit. It was a complete white out, so my dad had to pull over until things settled down.

But things didn’t settle down until a day later.

My dad had to spend the night in his car in the middle of nowhere while a blizzard roared outside. But because he had the forethought to prepare for situations like this, he was able to keep warm with some blankets and avoid ravaging hunger with some MREs

Many of you will be hitting the road this holiday season to visit family, so I consulted my dad, Tom McKay, and asked him what supplies he thinks every man should keep in his car. Here’s his suggested list.

1. Fully charged cell phone. Cell phones have significantly cut down on your chances of being stranded on the side of the road, but don’t count on it as your only line of defense. I’ve been in plenty of rural areas where my cell phone was only worthwhile for playing pong. In addition to you main phone, have a backup one that you can use to call 911. Any old cell phone will do, even if it’s not activated. Cellular carriers are required by law to complete 911 calls from any cell phone. Just throw that old Nokia cell phone from 1999 into your glove compartment and keep it there.

2. Jumper cables. You walk out to your car after a long day of work, stick the key into the ignition, give it a turn, and…. click, click. Crap! You’re going to be late to your kid’s football game! You then look up and notice you left the dome light on all day. It happens to the best of us. Car batteries die, so be ready with a set of jumper cables. And even if you never suffer a dead battery, it’s always good to have a set of jumper cables so you can help a damsel (or dude) in distress who needs their car jumped.

3. Flashlight. Good for providing light at nighttime when 1) putting on a spare tire, 2) jump starting another car, or 3) exchanging insurance information with the clueless driver that rear ended you at a stop light. Get a Maglite and you can also thump would-be car jackers in the head with it.

4. Roadside flares/reflective triangle. When pulled over on the side of the road, you’re basically a sitting duck, hoping that other drivers don’t turn the situation into a clip for one of those extreme video shows. It’s especially dangerous to be hanging out on the side of the road at night. Ensure that you and those around you are visible when you pull over to the side of the road by using road flares or at least a reflective triangle. The old school flaming flares seem to be harder to find these days as people switch to LED “flares.”

5. MREs. You never know when you’ll be stranded for long periods of times in your car. If you’ve ever driven out West, you’ll know that it can be hundreds of miles until the closest source of help. Unless you’ve built up a tolerance for extended periods of fasting, keep some MREs or granola/power bars in the back of your car to munch on while you wait for the tow truck to come.

6. Warm blankets. Tom can tell you firsthand why warm blankets are a must. It got pretty dang cold in his Caprice that night. But blankets have uses that go beyond emergency situations. It’s always good to have a blanket in the car for snuggling with your gal while you cheer for your team on a cold fall night or for laying it on the ground for a picnic.

7. Ice scraper. Don’t be the chump that’s out there scrapping their windshield with a credit card at 5AM in the morning. A good ice scraper will set you back just a few bucks, and it will make clearing your windshield much easier and much faster.

8. First aid kit. Whether you’re cleaning up a head wound filled with glass shards or fixing a boo boo on your two year old, it’s good to have a first aid kit. You can always buy one, but putting together your own in an Altoids tin is more fun.

9. Water bottles. For when you’re stranded in Death Valley in the middle of the hottest heat wave on record… or for any other time your car decides to break down on you. Or, for after you’ve left a concert and you’re so dang parched!

10. Tow strap. I don’t know how many times my dad saved my butt with this thing back in high school. Towards the end of my blue ‘92 Chevy Cavalier’s (aka, “The Smurf”) life, it would just stop running and no amount of cable jumping would help get it started. For moments like these, my dad busted out the tow strap. You just attach one end of the tow strap to the front of the car that you want to pull and the other to the hitch on the back of your car. The stranded driver stays in the dead car, puts it in neutral, and steers and brakes while it gets towed to its destination.

11. Folding shovel. There are a couple of instances where a folding shovel might come in handy. The first is when you get stuck in the snow or ice. You can use the shovel to dig some snow out and place some dirt under the tire to get more traction. The second situation is when a car tire gets stuck in a hole or something. You can use the shovel to dig about and create some ramps to help get your car unstuck. Also, it can be used as an improvised weapon, Green Beret-style.

12. LifeHammer. When you’re trying to escape from a sinking car, this little piece of plastic and metal can be the difference between life and death. Use it to break your window, cut your seatbelt and make your escape.

13. Portable air compressor. My dad feels like this was the best purchase he made for the car. When your tire is leaking but hasn’t totally blown out, instead of putting on a spare, you can use a portable air compressor to get back on the road. The compressor fills your tire up enough to allow you to drive to a repair shop to get it fixed. It plugs right into your cigarette lighter. Bonus use: no more paying 75 cents to fill up your tires at stingy gas stations.

There are kits you can buy that have a lot of this stuff in them, but I personally think it’s satisfying to assemble your own cache of supplies. And you can put together a better choice of things.

What do you think a man should carry in his car? Give us your tips in the comments!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Perspective

Last week, I found that an acquaintance of mine ended his own life. He was only in his mid 30's.

I do not know the circumstances that lead him to commit suicide, but I know what it's like to want to give up.

I never have considered doing what he did, and never would, because when ever things get really rough, God would show me, or bring to mind others who were worse off, which would help me to gain perspective.

Here's more on the subject from the DLM Blog:

10 Critical Things You Have to Consider in Life

Posted: 10 Dec 2009 10:30 AM PST


I have read hundreds of books and articles on personal development. Through it all I've digested and considered thousands of ideas, so-called best practices, and the always popular lifehacks. While there is no way to distill all of these books, your life, your job, or happiness into a simple list of tips, I am going to pick a handful that I personally view as the most important.

While everyone is clearly different and dealing with their own set of unique circumstances, I really believe that at some level each of these ideas can be applied to just about anyone. Take a look, consider them, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
  1. Life isn't smooth sailing.
    You will need to accept that there are bound to be some hiccups in your life. We can't control everything in the world and there will be times when things are not going in the direction that we want. This should not be a reason to make you feel depressed about life. Instead, accept that not everything will turn out in your favor and learn from it.

  2. Live a life without excuses
    If you live a life full of excuses, you will find yourself stuck in misery. Excuses tend to deny you of success and results because whenever you think of doing something that is in alignment to your goals (quit your job to run a business, start your new exercise routine, etc.) an excuse prevents it. How many times have you 'had no time', 'been too busy', 'been too tired'. Decide to stop excuses from ruling your life and take control of the steering wheel of your life.

  3. Stop thinking about life's purpose.
    I used to spend so much time pondering about my life's purpose. Now that I think of it, I find that I had wasted too much time thinking about this question. I thought so much and did little to act on anything. Know that there are no destined paths that we should take, instead we should create our own path, do things that we enjoy doing, and charge ahead aggressively.

  4. Failure is your best mentor
    I once heard a saying that if you want success in life, you will need to fail more and fail fast. Failure is a better mentor compared to success. Failures allow you to learn from your mistakes and move on to find ways that work. Instead of fearing of failure, embrace it. As Thomas Edison said, "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."

  5. Those who persevere will reach the finishing line.
    Life is not a sprint, it is a marathon; only those who persevere will reach their goal. Sure, we've all heard these things before but giving up seems all too common. The most common mistake that people made is that they quit too fast. If you want to reach the finishing line in the race, all you need is to keep on going. It doesn't matter if you finish first or last, you are going to reach your goal if you just keep on going. Consider that before throwing in the towel.

  6. Those who fail to change are bound to fail.
    It is insane when people try to do things the same way over and over again and expect to get different results. Life is going to throw you the same challenges over and over again until you are able to change and over come it. For example, if you find yourself constantly broke, you will remain broke until you change your bad spending habits. Even if you go earn a ton more money, you problems aren't solved because you'll simply spend on a grander scale. Study the core of the problem and solve that!

  7. Positive people are hot favorites.
    It pays to be positive. Positive people see a bottle half full instead of half empty, which means they have a higher tendency to pick up opportunities or lucky breaks. They are the ones who are able to see opportunities in a crisis. Those who are negative are only able to focus on the crisis and thus failed to see any opportunities lying in it.

  8. There are enough for everyone
    If you want to be prosperous, you will need to have an abundance mindset. If you work in a scarcity mindset and think that there are not enough for everyone, you tend to suffer from scarcity. You see rich people donating money away and they remain prosperous or bloggers giving away free content yet they are still able to keep on writing great content. So if you want more of something in your life, give some of it away first and you will receive more of it. Life works this way.

  9. Live life without regrets
    I was admitted into the hospital last year and during that time I was reminded that we only live once. To some people this means 'do it all' or 'take more risk'. To me, it's larger. It means what we do today cannot be undone. This minute right now is your last chance to impact the next minute. Remember this, you only have a single lifetime and how you are going to live is totally up to you.

  10. Live your life outside your comfort zone
    Most of us are stuck in our comfort zones. This means that our growth is limited because we are always running in the same circles: fearing change, fearing pressure, fearing success, fearing work. Personal growth means that one must learn, excel and expand. If you truly want growth, you will need to move out of your comfort zone every now and then. We're not talking daily, but periodically take a plunge into something that you typically wouldn't.
Written on 12/10/2009 by Vincent Tan. Vincent writes about personal development at HealthMoneySuccess.com. His site's main aim is to help others to break out of mediocrity and unleash their maximum potential. You can follow him on Twitter over here.Photo Credit: ˙·▪•● Peyman ●•▪·˙

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kiss the Cook

I made Thanksgiving dinner last month using my wife's recipes since she was ill. Traditionally I will prepare Sunday dinner for the two of us. And this past week, my wife took me up on my offer to fix Christmas dinner.

Here's some ideas for you from the AOM blog:

Take Back the Kitchen: 3 Great Meals to Impress a Date

Posted: 09 Dec 2009 08:17 PM PST

man_cooking

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Matt Moore, author of the cookbook: Have Her Over for Dinner.

Ever since man created fire, we have been searching for new and better ways to prepare food. With regards to culinary evolution, our society has come quite a long way since the early days of roasting raw meat over open flames. Yet somewhere along the way, men lost their place and confidence in the kitchen.

Blame it on progress, or blame it on convenience, the fact remains; most men cannot cook. Sure, we might stand guard over the grill on Labor Day weekend or have a few ‘signature dishes’ up our sleeves, but collectively, our overall culinary knowledge and skills are limited. Even with the advent of ‘food television’ and popular shows like Top Chef, our interest in food is more focused around entertainment rather than on expertise. To be brutally honest, most of us were raised by a generation where cooking was not a central activity in our household, and if it was, it wasn’t done by the man of the house. Beginning in the late 1950’s through today, modern conveniences drastically reduced the need to possess culinary skills. The long lost sound of the dinner bell has been replaced by the sound of kids slamming car doors to meet Daddy at the neighborhood chain restaurant.

In my experience, there is still one element that can get men back into the kitchen: women. Put simply, women love a man who can cook. There might be a few women that don’t like the idea of a man cooking for them, but I’ve yet to meet them. If you are looking to impress a date, avoid over-priced restaurants and stand out amongst the crowd . . . have her over for dinner.

Before you start taking reservations at your dining room table, I must confess: I am not, nor do I pretend to be a chef. Over the years I’ve listened to the needs and wants of regular guys when it comes to food. The underlying sentiment is always the same. “Give me clear, easy recipes that feature ingredients that I can buy anywhere.” My culinary approach is based on using simple preparation to turn quality ingredients into outstanding meals.

One of the greatest traits of the male persona is our affinity for taking things to the extreme. Whether it’s our career goals, a workout plan, or that fully restored ‘69’ Chevelle that’s sitting in the garage, we always shoot for the max. This trait however can cause trouble in the kitchen. We tend to live by the “more is better” approach to cooking. If we’ve ever heard or seen an ingredient used in a particular dish, you can bet the house we will find a way to incorporate it in some form or another. I’m not here to criticize, but a salmon fillet doused in soy, mustard, lime, chipotle, garlic, and oil just seems like overkill, if not a bad combination. Instead of investing countless dollars into marinades and seasonings, stick to fresh, quality ingredients. After all, great ingredients speak for themselves.

With that concept in mind, I’m here to encourage you to embrace your roots and get back into the fire (kitchen). You don’t need expensive equipment or a grocery list of ingredients to create exceptional meals. The kitchen should be a place where you can demonstrate your sense of confidence, precision, and preparation to that lovely lady.

I’ve laid out three meals that put the control in your hands. You decide what works best based on your schedule. In the past, I’ve found that most guys struggle when trying to put together an entire meal. In light of that struggle, I’ve offered up an array of ideas for appetizers, salads, and desserts to go along nicely with each entrée. I’ve also given you a few thoughts on pairing a particular wine or beer with the meal. Just remember; keep things simple, relax, and let the compliments (and her admiration) start rolling in.

Weeknight Date: Quick and Easy

  • Appetizer: White Bean Crostini
  • Main Course: Pan Seared Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

White Bean Crostini – Quick and easy, these work great served either hot or at room temperature. If you need a shortcut, check out the bakery section in your grocery store for toasted French bread slices.

½ Loaf French Bread, cut into ½ inch slices
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Cup Canned Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
¼ Teaspoon Rosemary, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
¼ Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay out bread slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil and season with fresh cracked pepper. Place pan in the oven and bake, 7-8 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Meanwhile, combine remaining olive oil with the next four ingredients into a food processor and process until mixture is smooth. (If not using a food processor, use a mortar/pestle, or simply combine items by placing in a bowl and mashing with the backside of a large spoon or masher for a more rustic consistency). Remove toasts from oven and spread with a thin layer of the bean mixture, followed by a light sprinkle of cheese. Serve.

Pan Seared Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus – Fresh, simple, and clean. Pair with a California Chardonnay, an Oregon Pinot Noir, or a light Lager of your choice.

Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
¾ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lbs Petite Red New Potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 Lemon
2 Teaspoons Fresh Rosemary
½ lb Fresh Asparagus, ends trimmed and rinsed
2 6-8 oz Salmon Filets, skin removed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large baking dish, season potatoes with salt, pepper, ½ cup of olive oil, rosemary, and the juice from ½ lemon. Place potatoes in the oven and roast until fork tender, about 40-45 minutes. Next, lay out asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet; drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat each spear. In the last 15 minutes of cooking the potatoes, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and season salmon filets with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Add asparagus to oven and roast for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet followed by the salmon filets; cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes. Squeeze the juice of remaining ½ lemon over the top the filets; flip. Cook filets for 2-3 more minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees F; remove from heat. Plate potatoes in the center of the plate, and rest the salmon filets and asparagus at each opposing side. Serve.

Weekend Date: More Time and Effort

  • Appetizer: Tomato, Red Onion, Cucumber and Feta Salad
  • Main Course: Pork Chops with Black-Eyed Pea Risotto and Sautéed Spinach
  • Dessert: Baked Apple Crisp a la Mode

Tomato, Red Onion, Cucumber, and Feta Salad – This “salad” works great because it can be prepared in advance and left in the refrigerator while you complete the rest of the meal. Allowing this dish to ‘sit’ will also allow the flavors to meld together; however, don’t let it go for more than two hours, as the vegetables will lose some of their crispness and become soggy.

2 Vine Ripe Tomatoes, quartered
¼ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
½ Cucumber, thinly sliced
¼ Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 ½ Teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
¼ Teaspoon Dried Oregano

In a serving bowl, combine tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and feta cheese. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and whisk thoroughly until well combined, or emulsified. Pour dressing into the serving bowl with the other ingredients and toss well to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve, keeping up to two hours.

Pork Chops with Black-Eyed Pea Risotto and Sautéed Spinach – There’s a lot going on in this Southern meets Italian eclectic dish. Make sure you read through the entire recipe and sequence before you get started. Caramelize the onions, then concentrate on the risotto (it takes constant attention), and finally finish things off with the pork chop and spinach. This is comfort food at its finest. Pair with Pinot Noir, Amber or Pale Ales.

½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 8-10 oz Bone-In Pork Chops
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Yellow Onion, sliced into thin rings
1 Cup Arborio or Short Grained Risotto Rice
6 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Can Black Eyed Peas, drained
4 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves, loosely packed

At least one hour before cooking, add ¼ cup of oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic into a large Ziploc® bag. Season chops with salt and pepper and add to bag. Marinate up to one day in advance, keeping in refrigerator. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a preheated skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion slices into the skillet and cook slowly, stirring on occasion, for 20-25 minutes until tender and caramelized; remove onions from skillet and set aside on a plate. Meanwhile, in a separate pot over medium low heat, add chicken broth to heat through. Next, add the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a new skillet over medium high heat. Add rice into the skillet and stir to coat the grains in oil. Toast rice, stirring on occasion, for 2-3 minutes until the grains begin to become opaque. Add 1 cup of broth to the toasted rice and bring to a simmer for 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and stir constantly, adding 1 cup of broth at a time as the rice begins to absorb all of the liquid (Note: All of the broth may not be used). Continue in this manner until mixture becomes slightly firm, yet still creamy (30-35 minutes); add the black eyed peas into the mixture to heat through. In the last 10 minutes of cooking the risotto, reheat the skillet used for the onions over medium high. Remove the chops from the bag and shake off the excess marinade. Add chops to the skillet and cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F; set aside to rest. Next, add ¼ cup of remaining broth (or water) into the same skillet to deglaze the pan, scraping up any of the browned bits from the chops and onions. Immediately add spinach into the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted; add onions back into the skillet to heat through. Begin plating by placing a generous serving of risotto in the center of the plate. Next, top the risotto with a bed of the onion/spinach mixture and finally rest the pork chop on top. Serve immediately.

Baked Apple Crisp a la mode – This dish is quick and super simple. If preparing in advance, keep the apples from browning by adding a spray of lemon juice over the cut flesh. Pop this in the oven as you serve dinner and it will be ready just in time.

2 Large Apples, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, in 1 tablespoon increments
2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
¼ Cup Bear Naked® Apple Cinnamon Granola
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash and dry apples, slice in half, and remove core and seeds using a spoon or knife. In a baking dish, carefully arrange apples flesh side up. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and cinnamon and top each half with 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake until apples are tender and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes. Remove apples from baking dish and plate 2 halves in each serving bowl. Drizzle any remaining butter or juices over the top followed by a sprinkle of granola. Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side.

Special Occasion: When It’s Time to Impress

  • Appetizer: Sautéed Shrimp Cocktail
  • Salad: Spinach Salad with Blue Cheese and Pancetta
  • Main Course: Grilled New York Strip Steaks with Garlic Butter and Yukon Smashed Potatoes
  • Dessert: Grilled Peaches with Ricotta and Honey

Sautéed Shrimp Cocktail – A play on the traditional shrimp cocktail by sautéing the shrimp and serving while still warm. The warm shrimp with the cool cocktail sauce makes for a nice contrast.

4 Tablespoons Ketchup
½ Teaspoon Horseradish
1 Lemon
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 lb Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail on
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
Fresh Parsley, for garnish

In a small mixing bowl, combine ketchup, horseradish, and the juice from ½ lemon, mix until well combined, cover and place in the fridge. Next, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil and red pepper flakes; sauté for 30 seconds. Add shrimp, garlic, and salt; sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of remaining ½ lemon and continue to sauté until shrimp are firm and bright pink, 1-2 minutes. On serving plate, add a generous portion of the cocktail sauce in the center of the plate. Arrange shrimp around the perimeter of the plate and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Spinach Salad with Blue Cheese and Pancetta – Pancetta can be found in the deli section of most grocery stores. It has a flavor profile similar to that of bacon. I like using pancetta because you can buy just what you need, and nothing goes to waste.

4 Slices Pancetta, thinly sliced
1 ½ Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
¼ Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
4 Cups Spinach, loosely packed
¼ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
¼ Cup Blue Cheese, crumbled

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until crispy and fat has rendered, turning once, 5-6 minutes. Remove pancetta from heat and place on paper towels to drain excess fat and cool. In a separate mixing bowl, add vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and whisk until incorporated. In a serving bowl, toss dressing with spinach leaves and red onion. Garnish with pancetta, gently broken by hand, and top with crumbled blue cheese. Serve.

Grilled New York Strip Steaks with Garlic Butter and Yukon Smashed Potatoes – Be sure to splurge on some quality steaks on this one. A local butcher or an organic grocer will probably have the best selection. Serve with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Amber Ale, or Porter.

1 Stick (8 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 Clove Garlic, finely minced
1 Teaspoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
Kosher Salt *
Fresh Cracked Pepper*
¼ Cup Heavy Cream
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 8-10 oz New York Strip Steaks, at room temperature

Preheat grill over medium high heat. In a small mixing bowl, combine two tablespoons of butter with the minced garlic and chopped parsley; mix until incorporated and place in the refrigerator to set. Next, heat a large pot of water over medium high heat. When water comes to a boil, add potatoes and boil 11-13 minutes, or until fork tender; remove from heat and set aside. Liberally season both steaks with salt and pepper on both sides and add to the grill over direct heat. Cover and cook, undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, then turn the steaks at a 45 degree angle and cook for another 2 minutes. Flip steaks and move to indirect heat until internal temperature is 135 degrees F for medium rare/medium, about 3-4 more minutes depending on the cut; remove from grill and set aside to rest. Meanwhile drain potatoes, allowing the steam to evaporate. Add potatoes back into the same pot with the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and cream. Using a potato masher, mix and mash until all of the ingredients are incorporated and mixture is smooth without large lumps. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Plate a generous portion of potatoes in the center of the plate and rest the steak at one side. Add about a tablespoon of the garlic butter on top of each steak and garnish dish with any remaining chopped parsley. Serve.

Grilled Peaches with Ricotta and Honey – Another simple dessert with great flavors. Keep the grill on low after cooking the steak to cook off and clean the grate. The peaches can be prepped in advance to have this dessert turned around quickly after dinner.

1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Large Ripe Peach, halved with pit removed
2 Tablespoons Ricotta Cheese
Honey
Mint Leaves, for garnish

In a small microwave safe mixing bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Place the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds on high, mix well. Carefully cut all the way around the side of the peach and twist to remove the pit, using a spoon to dig out the pit if needed. On a lightly greased grill over medium high heat, place the peach halves cut side down and cook for 3-4 minutes over direct heat. Turn over peaches, generously spread with the sugar and cinnamon mixture, and move to indirect heat; cover and cook, 10-12 minutes. Remove peaches from grill and serve on individual small plates. Top each with a tablespoon of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of honey. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

For more recipes that will win over your date, check out Matt’s book: Have Her Over for Dinner.

What are your go-to meal ideas for impressing a date? Share your recipes and ideas with us in the comments!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Video Time: Backwards Thinking?

The next time someone accuses you of being backwards, share this video with them:

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Ho Ho Hum?

From the AOM Blog:

11 Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Posted: 10 Dec 2009 07:32 PM PST

town_setting

“Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.” ~Francis C. Farley

There are just two more weeks until Christmas. But you know, it still doesn’t really feel like Christmas to me.

I’m currently in the holiday spirit wasteland-that time after you leave adolescence but before the fun of Christmas is reignited by the arrival of Santa Claus-believing children. Some time during this period, typically in college, the holiday season starts to feel like any other time of year. You barely notice it and then suddenly Christmas comes and goes.

It’s all part of growing up, of course. But while we advocate striving for mature manhood here on AoM, we also believe that paradoxically enough, the mature man is someone who retains a good deal of his boyish spirit. He simply knows how to harness it-when to reign it in and when to let it out. The holiday season is an appropriate time for the latter.

I don’t know if there’s anything distinctly manly about the holiday season, but I do know that I’ve always really admired men who truly get into it. The men who don red vests and cheesy sweaters, who put up elaborate light displays and put on Santa suits, the ones who delight in finding just the right gift for people, and who just seem….jolly. Their eyes have that unmistakable twinkle of a man who hasn’t given up on the idea of magic.

These men understand that while you have to grow up, it’s important to maintain a sense of wonder about the world and its possibilities. That in a cynical age, it’s okay to let go sometimes and tap into our less jaded selves.

So if your holiday spirit-o-meter has been running low, here are 11 steps to letting in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Christmas and getting into the holiday spirit.

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“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth!” -Charles Dickens

1. Turn on the holiday tunes. Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit faster than music. Once you hear those familiar notes, those same strains you’ve been singing along with since you were 5, the warm and fuzzy Christmas feelings come rushing back. But to have maximum effect, you’ve got to listen to the good stuff, the classics. And sing along. Because as Buddy the Elf has wisely instructed us, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Here’s a few of my favorites:

1. White Christmas-Bing Crosby
2. The Christmas Song-Nat King Cole
3. Holly Jolly Christmas-Burl Ives
4. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas-Bing Crosby
5. Sleigh Ride-Johnny Mathis
6. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year-Andy Williams

And when it comes to albums, you can’t go wrong with

1. Merry Christmas by Johnny Mathis
2. White Christmas by Bing Crosby
3. The Spirit of Christmas by Ray Charles
4. The Best of Christmas Cocktails by UltraLounge (has the best rendition of “Sleigh Ride” I’ve ever heard)
5. Christmas Portraits by The Carpenters

2. Watch some old school Christmas cartoons. When I was a kid, a holiday tradition my family had was watching old Christmas cartoons. We had a VHS with a bunch of cartoons from the 1930s and 40s that are in the public domain. We watched it so much, the tape wore out and we had to chuck the video. It’s been years since I’ve seen these charming Christmas cartoons, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I’m able to recapture a piece of my childhood. Here are 2 of my favorites:

Christmas Comes But Once a Year

Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer

3. Make some hot chocolate or eggnog. The edibles of Christmas are an integral part of what makes the season special. So take time to whip up and savor a seasonal beverage like hot chocolate or eggnog. Make a roaring fire in the fireplace, settle into your man chair, pick up a good book and sip on a tasty drink. For a recipe for making “Polar Express” hot chocolate and George Washington’s recipe for eggnog, check out our Man’s Guide to the Holidays ebook.

party

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” ~Washington Irving

4. Throw a holiday party. If you’re a single guy and/or far from home, it can be hard to get in the holiday swing of things. One way to force yourself to go whole hog into the season is to throw a party. Planning the food, decorations, and tunes will thrust you head first into the holidays. And the party will warm your spirit with the company of friends and family.

5. Watch a Christmas movie. You’ve seen them a million times, but they never fail to pull at the heart strings. Here are my go-to films for getting a dose of the Christmas spirit:

1. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. A Christmas Story
3. A White Christmas
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
5. A Miracle on 34th Street
6. Elf
7. Peanuts’ Christmas Special

6. Read some Christmas classics. Every Christmas Eve my family would gather round and read some classic Christmas books together. Even now I like to crack one open when I’m in need of a holiday spirit infusion. The Polar Express and A Night Before Christmas are my old-time favorites.

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” ~Roy L. Smith

7. Look at Christmas lights. Nothing quite puts the Christmas magic back in your heart like Christmas lights. Ordinary houses and trees are transformed into something extraordinary. It’s seeing the Christmas lights that lets you know it’s a special time of year. Drive around town and check out the neighborhood displays. Also be sure to check out the massive displays that are sometimes put on in parks by community organizations, where you can walk around in a winter wonderland of millions of lights.

8. Put up a tree. If you’re single or childless, it’s hard to get motivated to really deck the halls. But a spartan apartment or dorm room is perhaps the single greatest sapper of holiday spirit. Throw up a few strings of lights and boughs of holly. At the very least, put up a tree; it will bring the sights, lights, and smell of Christmas to your abode. Get a real tree that will give off that all important scent of pine. If don’t have the room or money for a real tree, get one of those mini trees. Decorate it with some tiny ornaments. Sounds a little silly, but it’s important to go through the ritual even in miniature. I’ve got a little tree lit up on my desk, and I tell ya, it really helps.

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9. Plan a romantic holiday-themed date. To me, the closest thing to the magic you felt as a kid around Christmas, is the romantic feeling you get from sharing the holiday with someone you love. The magic comes back when you’re experiencing old traditions with a lady by your side. So plan a festive date: take a sleigh or horse drawn carriage ride, go to an outdoor skating rink, look at the lights, and then make some cocoa and snuggle by the fire.

carol

10. Go see A Christmas Carol as a play. Some have argued that our modern idea of Christmas really began with Dickens’ Christmas Carol. It’s a story that never gets old and never fails to lift and inspire one’s spirit. The theater in every town of appreciable size will put on A Christmas Carol during the holidays. Go and see the show. It’s the kind of human story that’s made for live action theater.

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” ~Charles Dickens

11. Do Service. Of course all of the above are simply a means to an end, that end being a warmed heart, a spirit that melts away the cynicism and primes the heart for a renewed sense of generosity. If you’re not feeling jolly this holiday season, the easiest way to change that is to do some service for someone else. Shovel the driveway for the old lady next door, volunteer at the soup kitchen, or anonymously leave a donation for someone in need.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” ~Charles Dickens

What do you do to get into the holiday spirit? What are your favorite Christmas songs and movies? Share your ideas and favorites in the comments!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Honor

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. If you expect anyone to be perfect, you will be disapointed. However, we need to make an attempt to be a person of honor. The DLM Blog wrote about this recently:

These Personal Traits That Are More Valuable Than A Nike Endorsement Deal

Posted: 10 Dec 2009 02:27 PM PST


I am not mentioning any names but in light of the current events surrounding us, we should all take time to examine ourselves to see if we are being all that we should be. Don't get me wrong, I am not telling you how to lead your life, I am not telling you what to eat, or when to workout. I'm telling you to be sure that your eyes are open and not to forget the things your Kindergarten teacher and hopefully your parents taught you.

As we go through our days, hundreds of motivations jump in and then jump off our radars. How we react to these motivations defines us. In fact, it determines how you feel inside every morning as you take your first glance in the mirror.

There is no eraser or delete key in life. If you haven't already begun, consider incorporating the following into your life. Not whimsically, but make a real effort. In fact, do it for all of 2010 and see if you notice a difference in your life and happiness levels.
  • Being Truthful
    Never lie. Your words should reflect all that you say and do. If you think and do one thing, but say the opposite of those thoughts and actions, that's a lie. We've all heard the saying, "A man's word is his bond." If only that was so. Sometimes we lie to cover up an indiscretion. Sometimes we lie to make ourselves appear to be better than we are. Sometimes we lie to keep from hurting someone's feelings. I firmly believe, because it has been my experience, that eventually all lies will be exposed. Ultimately, there is no benefit to telling a lie.

  • Being Faithful
    Since when has it become okay to cheat on our wives? Unfaithfulness is becoming so commonplace that many people accept it and thus do nothing about it. We turn our heads. We hide behind statements like "It's none of my business," and we do nothing.

    Have you ever attended a wedding? Even if you aren't married, there is a pretty good chance that you've actually witnessed one. Maybe it was held at a church; maybe it wasn't. Doesn't matter. A man and a woman stand up in front of a crowd of people (as few as a crowd of 2; as many as hundreds -- maybe thousands), and proclaim their undying love and faithfulness to each other. Why do you think there are witnesses? It is for accountability.

    When we cheat, those who witnessed our proclamation of eternal faith to our spouse should say, "Hey, what's the deal? We saw you with our own eyes -- we heard you with our own ears -- you promised to love, honor, and cherish your spouse as long as you both shall live!" If you cheat, you should have to stand up in front all those people who witnessed your wedding and explain your actions. You should have to explain why you couldn't communicate with your spouse and resolve things in a reasonable fashion.

  • Being Honorable
    In both your professional and personal lives, be honorable. What does that mean, exactly? To be honorable means to be highly respected or esteemed. In order for you to be highly respected or esteemed, you must be unselfish; integrity must be your middle name (if not your first). Be an honorable husband/wife. Following these guidelines, we must always put our wife's/husband's needs ahead of our own, and we must have strong moral principles. I don't feel that "strong moral principles" is a topic that is open to interpretation. To many, their God sets those standards. To others, it's common sense, or learned from books or parents. Honor is not up for discussion; it's meaning is set in stone. You have it or you don't.

  • Being Trustworthy
    Can you be relied upon to say and do what is right all the time? If so, then you are worthy of the trust of your peers. Others believe that you won't do wrong; nor will you tell a lie. Being trustworthy is a very big deal. You don't get to decide whether you are trustworthy, though. Others will decide that for themselves. You can have some input into their decision, though -- by actually being trustworthy.

  • Being Respectful
    In all that you do, be respectful of others. This could be read as another form of the "Do unto others..." saying. For the sake of this discussion, though, let's disregard any physical connotation that this may bring to mind, such as punching or slapping. Often when we are disrespectful, we hurt others far worse than if we actually had punched them. Cheating on your spouse is the ultimate form of disrespect. Our spouses always deserve our respect. No matter what! Remember the end of "Do unto others..."? It isn't "as you have had done to you" -- no, it's "as you would have them do unto you." You can't make the world a better place by reciprocating bad with bad.
Today we so often hear a phrase like "raising the bar," to indicate that a new minimum standard has been established. When it comes to these 5 traits listed above, the minimum standard should be a wall over which we must climb or leap. People can, and so often do, walk right under the bar.

What other character traits would you deem as defining? Do you feel that you have all of those traits? Does that question make you cringe?

Written on 12/10/2009 by David Jones. David blogs at Control Yourself! A blog focusing on becoming better men, and various men's issues.Photo Credit: p@r@noid

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