Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How to Seed a Pomegranate in Under Two Minutes

One of the most prolific fruit trees in my yard is our pomegranate tree. We've had our tree for a few years, and this year, finally, we got a bumper crop. Once I got the first ripe fruit, though, I realized how much I hate pomegranates. Not because I dislike the fruit, but because I dislike getting the edible part out.

If you've never seeded a pomegranate, let me explain what it's like. Imagine 1,000 tiny grapes all superglued to tissue paper, tightly packed in a leather ball.

I spent years trying to find the best way to seed them, reading all the infinite wisdom that the internet has to offer on the subject.

"Break them up submersed in water and all of the inedible parts float, while the seeds sink." Nope. The inedible parts sink as well, and—45 minutes of seed-removal later—half of the seeds go down the drain with the water.

"Roll the pomegranate with the ends cut off, pulling out the seeds as they loosen." Insane. This creates a mess and most of the seeds end up bursting on your fingers. And 45 minutes later you're trying to scrub the red stains off your counter.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Sour Cream Lemon Pound Cake

One of the first things I learned to bake was pound cake. Then, when we moved into a house with a massive lemon tree, I started looking for ways to use up our lemons. It was natural that I would combine my love of pound cake with a plethora of lemons. This is another recipe that has become a favorite because we're constantly looking for ways to use our lemons, and this also makes a great treat to share with coworkers.


Prep time - 30 minutes

Bake time - 1 hour

Yield - 1 loaf (one serving. Just kidding. Not really)

Ingredients:

- 1 stick of butter, room temperature* (set out the night before)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature*
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (3 large lemons)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
A grater for zesting lemons
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 Tablespoons sour cream, room temperature*
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*note - it is best for the butter to be room temperature. However, I regularly forget to set the other two ingredients out, so I usually use them slightly chilled. It is still great!

For the syrup:

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice

For the glaze:

- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2) Cream the butter (don't throw the wrapper away; you'll need it in the next step) and 1 cup of sugar using an electric mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
It's easy to see how this can be confused with cheese (see below)

3) Grease and flour a loaf pan. HERE IS WHERE I CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I used to hate greasing pans, until I realized that after using a stick of butter, you can use the wrapper to grease a pan. Rub the loaf pan with the butter side of the wrapper, and then lightly flour. Magical? I think so. You're welcome.

4) With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest (when zesting lemons, wash the lemon and grate just the yellow part of the skin).

5) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine lemon juice, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the flour and sour cream mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Alternate between adding wet and dry mixture
6) Pour the batter into the loaf pan and slightly smooth out the top. If you are stealthy enough, you will get to lick the beater and the bowl without your children hearing you and claiming them. This is very important.

7) Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If the top starts to brown towards the end but the cake is not done, I cover it with a piece of foil.

8) For the syrup, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Ready for the oven
9) When the cake is done, allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set it on a baking rack over a cookie sheet. Spoon the lemon syrup over the cake and allow to cool completely.

10) For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and the lemon juice. Pour over the top and allow to drip down the sides.

11) Enjoy!

Some notes:

Adding the syrup after the cake cools slightly
- If you have left over lemon zest, you can save it for another recipe. However, please be sure to label it. Last week I was making some pasta, and I added some shredded cheese. We had some in the refrigerator, and I shredded some more to add to it. When I added it to the pasta, I realized that the shredded cheese from the refrigerator was not cheese, but lemon zest. I regrouped, added some grilled chicken and a lot of salt, and called it Cheesy Lemon Zest Chicken. One of three kids ate it, which is not a bad percentage if I were a major league baseball player.

- I don't like overly sweet things. The first time I made this, I threw away half of the glaze because I thought it would make it too sweet. It doesn't. The syrup combined with the glaze is delicious. I'm planning on making one of these some day like a Twinkie, with the inside filled with glaze.
Correct glaze looks a little like glue

- My kids like helping with recipes. This is a great one because there is a lot of combining and adding. However, if they help, I know that I have to let them lick the beater and bowl. It's a small price to pay for together time.

One final word of caution: please remember that this is cake. With syrup. And frosting. When I make it I really want to eat the majority of it, trying to convince myself that the vitamin C from the lemons makes this a healthy cake. It's not.

Happy baking!






Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Homemade Nachos: A Healthier, Tastier Alternative

Our family life is filled with traditions. One of my favorites is Friday Family Movie Night. It starts when I get home from work and yell at the top of my lungs, "IT'S FRIDAY!" That is the signal for family time.

We usually begin with either a family swim (still loving the remodeled pool - thank you Above & Beyond) or a rousing round of Just Dance on the Wii. After we have spent what little energy we have left from the week, the kids get into their pjs, dinner and popcorn are made, and the movie of the week begins.

For Family Movie Nights, there are only two options in our house for dinner - pizza and nachos. Of course, being the pseudo-health nuts that we are, both of these are homemade. While the pizza came fairly quickly and somewhat easily to perfect, the nachos took some finessing to get the perfect recipe. But as we perfected the recipe, we quickly discovered that all other nachos left something to be desired.

Warning!!! If you try these nachos, you will most likely lose all respect for any other nachos,

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Building with Scrap Wood and Helping Your Kids Decide What To Do

One of the difficult things about living in Arizona is that it is like living on the face of the sun. A short trip to the store means getting third degree burns from the seat belt in the car while the air conditioning functions as a blast furnace. You have to park half a mile away from your destination for a sliver of shade from a scraggly desert tree, and your shoes melt to the asphalt as you walk across the parking lot. The idea of a trip to the store is so disheartening that you decide to skip the whole ordeal. By the end of the summer, when everybody is ready for a reprieve from the heat, we typically have a rise in temperature and it gets even hotter.

A few weeks ago when my kids were going nuts and I was trying to find some way to get them to burn up energy, my wife had a great idea. She recommended that I take them into the garage and let them hammer and nail some scrap wood. My three kids were all excited about going out and pounding nails into boards, my wife was excited about a quiet house, and I was excited about spending time with my kids in a place that somehow manages to be hotter than it is outside.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Seven Things Every Teacher Wants Every Parent To Know

I started my full time educational career in 2003. I have been a teacher, a curriculum writer, a coach, an Athletic Director, an Assistant Principal, a Principal, a Director, a Head of School. Basically, if it needed to be done in a school, I have done it. Yes, I have even filled in as a crossing guard and a janitor from time to time. Every year, as the school year starts off, I feel like one of my biggest jobs is to bridge the gap between school and home. When two groups of people as passionate about their jobs as teachers and parents are come together, it can feel like Clash of the Titans. That's why I decided to share my list of Seven Things that Every Teacher Wants Every Parent to Know.

1. We are on the same team. There will be times this year when you will disagree with something that happens in my classroom, but you and I have the same goal and the same desired outcome for the school year: the education of your child. Please remember that I do what I professionally know how to do to educate your child, and I want your child to be successful. I will do what I can to support you, and I ask that you do what you can to support me.

2. If there is a problem, let's talk it through like adults. There will be times when your child is disciplined, is unhappy about a situation, or is struggling academically. You may get upset. I am happy that you want to advocate for your child. But please remember that we are on the same team. If you are upset about something, let's talk it through. Set aside some time so we can make sure that we are all - student, parent, and teacher - moving in the same direction.

3. Please take a day before sending an email when you are upset. I try to practice this as well. Email makes it too easy to say something out of frustration or disappointment that you would never say in person to another human being. Sometimes I write an email and then delete it without sending it. Please remember that we are both adults, and I really do want to hear from you. But let's both agree to take some time before sending those emails that we may end up regretting.

4. Your child can learn from everything that happens. Some in the education world call this "hidden curriculum." These are the things that your child learns that are outside of the particular curriculum that I teach. In math, I'm not just teaching your child math, but I'm teaching organization, logical progression, step-by-step instructions, and neatness. I'm teaching your child how to follow rules, even when he doesn't like the rules. Try to help your child find the learning experiences from everything that happens throughout the day.

5. I am not perfect. I am more than willing to admit this. I may mess up, I may incorrectly grade something, I may say something that is intentionally or unintentionally taken the wrong way. If this happens, please see #2 above.

6. You have one child in my class, but I have many others that I also care for. I am glad that your child is your biggest priority, but your child is not the only one in my class. Please know that I am in charge of the success of all of my students. I need your support in this. You can help by making sure that your child completes the homework for my class, that she comes to school with breakfast, and that she knows how much I care about her success.

7. I am okay not being your child's most favorite teacher ever. We all had our favorite teachers growing up, and we all had teachers that were not our favorites. We may have even had a teacher that we despised. I am not asking to be your child's favorite teacher. I am asking that any negative feelings you have towards me are not shared with your child. As long as I'm your child's teacher, please support me in any way that you can so that I can have the best possible chance of helping him succeed.

Being a teacher is hard, and being a parent is hard. There is nothing easy about educating children, either at home or at school. But if we can come together on these seven things, we are in for the best school year ever.

Let's all do everything we can to make this the most successful school year ever for your student!

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