Tag Archives: food

Saturday Snack: Schaumburgers

This is not a health food.  This is not the part of any balanced diet.  This is quick, simple, and cheap.  It could be good for a party around a certain American sporting event.  The author of this tasty little open-faced sandwich is my Mom’s best friend, Barb (you can read about her here).  Lacking a name for her concoction, our families looked to the name of our beloved hometown, Schaumburg, Illinois.  The Schaumburger was born, but if you happen to know someone from Schaumburg who isn’t a part of our family, don’t bother asking them what a “Schaumburger” is.  They’ll have no idea.


 Three pounds of ground meat.  Ground turkey would probably work, but we almost always used ground beef.  Tonight I mixed two pounds of ground beef and one pound of a friend’s ground deer.

One pound of Velveeta cheese.  This has to be the hardest stuff in the grocery store to find.  There are usually three places the store keeps cheese.  It’s in none of them.  That should be a clue.  I always take forever looking for this stuff, I should probably learn to find something else.

One can mushrooms.  I usually hate it when recipes use “can” as a unit.  The amount here is purely your taste.  Tonight I used a 13.25 oz. can

One 6 oz. can  of tomato paste.

English Muffins

Instructions: Brown the meat.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Drain.  Turn down heat.  Cube the cheese, melt into the meat.  Add the tomato paste and mushrooms.   Once it’s all melted together, spread it on an english muffin and cook in a broiler.  Let the meat darken and the muffin will get crispy.

Just so you know, there will probably be leftovers.  It makes about 12-15 open-faced sandwiches.  When its cold, it kind of looks like dog food, but it heats up really easily.

Results: One daughter loved it.  The other, not so much.






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Mystery Menu Dinner Party

The kids had to fill out the full menu before being served.  The plate of Jello-O, spaghetti, pudding, and animal crackers with no utensils provided a lot of laughs.

The kids had to fill out the full menu before being served. The plate of Jello-O, spaghetti, pudding, and animal crackers with no utensils provided a lot of laughs.

Last week we celebrated my daughter’s seventh birthday with a Mystery Menu Dinner Party.  It was a huge hit, and parents have been asking me about details of the party, so I thought I’d share.

The concept of a mystery dinner party is simple, and can be adapted in a lot of different ways.  Each guest is seated and given a menu.  Before anything is served, they have to order every item in a three-course meal.  In the kitchen, I had prepared 9 foods that most kids enjoy.

  1. Macaroni and cheese
  2. Spaghetti
  3. Pizza
  4. Garlic bread
  5. Gold fish crackers
  6. Corn
  7. Jell-O
  8. Pudding with cake
  9. Animal crackers

As you can see, all of this food is easy to make and pretty popular with kids.  The trick of the meal though, is in the ordering.  Guests have to order everything – including utensils.  We provided drinks, napkins, and a plate for each course.  The knife, fork, and spoon were added to the menu.  Then, all 12 items were given code names.  Macaroni and cheese became “Yellow elbows.”  A fork was “Farmer’s tool.”  Spaghetti, corn, and Jell-O were “Wigglies, nibblies, and jigglies,” respectively.

Each guest had to fill out the entire three-course menu at the start, so the kids were surprised by what they would get for each course.  Since even the utensils were a mystery, this caused some pretty good hi-jinks.

Since most of my daughters’ friends are pretty well-behaved, well-mannered kids, I had to tell them this right before we served the first course, “Today you are allowed to eat with your hands.  You might make a mess.  That’s okay.  You can have as many napkins as you want.  It is likely that sometime tonight you will get a plate of food with no fork.  The point of the dinner is to have fun, so if you are really unhappy with what you have, we can give you a fork.  We just want everyone to have fun, and be silly.”

These were the first two plates served of the first course.

These were the first two plates served of the first course.

During our party, one little girl’s third course was a plate of goldfish crackers, a knife, a fork, and a spoon.  That gives you an idea of what her other courses were.  She had a blast.  Another boy struggled to scoop up his Jell-O with a butter knife.  His giggling didn’t make it any easier.  One little girl told her Mom afterwards, “We got to eat with our fingers!” Her Mom told me she couldn’t stop talking about the party for the rest of the night.

Really, there are no limits to what is possible.  The hardest part of the night was the actual plating.  With just my wife and me, it took a little while to plate all 10 kids.  Another helper or two would have been good.  There are great opportunities to adapt the menu for themes like Halloween, Superheroes, or Christmas.  I’m considering coming up with an adult version – with the right friends.

Star Wars Mystery Menu

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Filed under Food, Personal Reflection

Good choices breed good choices


I love soup, and usually it is a pretty healthy and satisfying lunch. This is a picture of Hot and Sour Soup, found at one of my favorite blogs, “The Rantings of an Amateur Chef.” Click on the picture to go to the recipe for it. I haven’t made it yet, but hope to soon.

I know that I have made significant changes in my life when I can have a granola bar and banana for breakfast, a bowl of soup for lunch, and feel satisfied until a light snack, and dinner.

Today is Friday, so I will treat myself to a trip to the Hy-Vee salad bar.  I’ll likely take two trips, have a cup of soup, and a little something sweet.

I’m actually craving a big plate of spinach, beets, grilled chicken, black beans, and other good stuff.  When I’m done with lunch, it will be about 1 o’clock.  I will be stuffed, and it will be very likely that my net caloric intake for the day will be less than zero because this morning I ran three miles, did 150 crunches, and had a hard upper-body workout.

This is from the guy that used to order a Big Mac, large fries, a six-piece McNuggets, and a large Coke, and still feel hungry, and couldn’t jog a quarter mile without pausing. Eating habits are just that – habits. They can be changed with small choices over time.  When I think about my past McDonald’s meals, it makes my stomach hurt.  I still venture to McDonald’s every once in awhile, but now it is for a grilled chicken sandwich and a Medium fries, or it is for a couple of Egg McMuffins (which are 300 calories apiece), and no hashbrowns.

“How did you do it?” people ask me.  I eat less. I excercise more regularly and I run.  I don’t juice.  I don’t count carbs.  I haven’t eliminated any one food, or sweets, or anything in particular.  I don’t cleanse.  I track everything I eat with Lose It.  I eat between 1800-2500 calories a day.  When I work out, I burn 500-1000.  I’ve never felt like I’m dieting.  I just feel like I’m paying attention.

I choose broccoli instead of fries at TGI Fridays.  I choose grilled chicken over a burger.  I have two slices of cheese pizza and a salad instead of four slices of sausage with a side of chicken wings.  I choose to eat until I’m satisfied, not until I’m stuffed.  I drink a fruit smoothie when I’m hungry at night instead of having two bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  I drink more water.

I’ve discovered that after making one good choice, the next one is easier.  And when I make good choices about my diet, I make good choices about other things too.  Good choices in my diet set my mind right to go to the gym, or pick up my Bible, or pause for prayer.  Good choices in my personal life help me read more, write more, love more.  I don’t know which one comes first, but I know that good choices breed other good choices.

People have told me that I’m an inspiration, and there’s a part of me that feels like that is absurd.  I’m just a guy that is trying to make some good choices.  I’m just trying to love God, live well, and do good.  But if you have somehow been inspired by me, I humbly say, “thank you.”  You have been an inspiration to me.  The words of encouragement have meant so much to me.  Accountability, support, and vulnerability have been big reasons why I’ve been able to make some changes in my life.

So if you feel inspired by me, I hope you are inspired to do this: make a good choice.  Start with one good choice. Today.  Choose to eat something healthier.  Choose the stairs over the elevator.  Choose to go for a walk.  Choose to forgive someone.  Choose to call a friend.  Choose to stand up for justice.  Choose to forgive yourself.  Choose to be kind to someone.  Choose to pray.

Choose to love God.  Choose to live well.  Choose to do good. Make one good choice today, and the next one will be a little bit easier.  Maybe together we can make some good choices, and change the world.

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I just tried to make hummus for the first time.  I love to snack, and I love to dip.  Unfortunately, my favorite salty dipping snack is a bag of Ruffles and some Dean’s French Onion Dip.  This is a small part of why this blog is called what it is.  So I tried some hummus recently with pita chips, and I liked it.  So, instead of laying down $4 for a small thing of hummus, I spent a fraction of that and made a big bowl of the stuff.  It is really good.  It took about 10 minutes.

1 16 oz. can of chick peas.

1/2 red pepper

1/2 yellow pepper

2 cloves of garlic

2 Tb. olive oil

1 tsp. Cumin

red pepper flakes (optional)

Chop the peppers up in pieces and cook in olive oil over medium-low heat.  You do not want to brown them, just soften them.  The smaller you chop, the quicker this will take.  Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

Add sauted peppers and drained chick peas to food processor and start blending.  Allow it to run for a good two or three minutes.  While it is blending add the cummin and red pepper flakes.  Adding some lemon juice would probably be good, but I didn’t have any, and it turned out fine.  Add some more olive oil as it is blending until you have the texture you want.

Dip with pita chips or bagel chips or soft pita.  It is good warm or cold.

Save the other halves of the peppers for some salsa.  Add them to some chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime juice, jalepeno and cilantro.


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Saturday Snack: Bruschetta

Everytime I make this little concoction I am surprised how good it is.  It is not something I made up, but I haven’t had it better any where else.

2 tomatoes or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
pinch of kosher salt
cracked pepper
5 leaves of fresh basil
1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 or 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar

In a bowl, put a table spoon of olive oil.  Mince up two cloves of garlic and stir them into the oil.  Add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and whisk.  Then chop up two cups of tomatoes and mix into the oil and vinegar.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and some cracked pepper.  Then comes the key: fresh basil.

We have a basil plant that we keep in the kitchen.  It gets a lot of sun and we water it almost every day.  It is thriving.  The key is to not use too much of it at a time.  Pluck only a few of the biggest leaves at a time. Mix it all up and put it in the fridge.  Resist eating too much at a time.  It is better the next day.  Eat with crackers, bagel chips, toast, or some crusted italian bread.


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First fruits

The other day I ate a squash.  It was a yellow squash.  I sliced it, put it in a cake pan with some olive oil, onions, and tomatoes.  I baked it for a half hour or so.  It was pretty good.  At the same time, it was amazing.

It was the first thing I have eaten that I actually produced.  A few months ago I cleared a small patch of ground behind my garage.  I pulled out the weeds, broke up the ground, and mixed in some good soil.  It was a patch of ground about seven feet long and three feet wide.  In that small patch of ground we planted some carrots, cucumbers and squash. 

It didn’t go exactly as we hoped.  For one, I had no idea how many seeds to plant in each hole.  Secondly, a few weeks later when things started to grow I couldn’t tell which little green things were the plants I wanted, and which ones were weeds.  So I let them all grow.  A month later we had one squash plant and a seven by three foot patch of six foot weeds.

Yet we had some squash.  Two yellow, beautiful squash.  We picked them.  I cooked them.  We ate them.  It was the first time I ever ate something that I grew from the ground.  It felt good.  It felt useful, like for the first time in my life I was a producer and not just a consumer.

Maybe next year I’ll figure out which ones were the weeds, and we’ll have some carrotts and cucumbers too.


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