Peter Pan didn't want to grow up... and neither do I. Unfortunately, I can't make a living doing things I love most (namely, playing football and softball, then enjoying a beer while watching the waves roll in on a tropical island), so I have to eke out a living in a cubicle. These stories are all true, and they reflect my best efforts to enjoy the day-to-day.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Guacamole recipe

After 6 years of marriage, I ended up getting divorced. There were plusses and minuses that I won't get into.

Anywho, I found myself in an apartment with a new bed, a TV, my clothes, a toothbrush, and not much else. After spending an hour or two putting my clothes into my new closet, I realized two things:

1) I was hungry
2) I had no idea how to cook

See, the ex-wife had done most of the cooking. I could make a grilled ham and cheese and warm up some canned soup, but that was it.

There was a McDonald's about a mile away from the apartment. The way I saw it, I had two choices... buy stock in Mickey D's and hope I don't gain 200 lbs, or learn to cook. I decided to learn to cook.

I tried watching the Food Network and checking out some cookbooks from the library. The terminology and the sheer volume of "necessary" equipment was overwhelming. Not having a ton of money, knowledge or skills, I picked up a little bit here and there. While I was doing this, I wondered why the heck there wasn't a single man's guide to making good food that didn't require a degree from the Cordon Bleu.

A short time later, after hours of poring over recipes, experimenting (and more often that not, failing) with new recipes, I feel comfortable in the kitchen, and I've even grown to enjoy cooking for myself and others.

But I keep going back to how I felt when I started off. Helpless, overwhelmed... and hungry. I figure I'd share some recipes, and maybe some tips, and I'd do it in as plain a language as I could. Here's my first crack:

You will need:

  • 1 sharp knife
  • 1 bowl (like a cereal bowl)
  • cutting board (HIGHLY recommended, but not required - just know you can knick up your counter and cause permanent damage)
  • fork, spoon
  • salt (I prefer "kosher salt", but regular salt will do"
  • tortilla chips (or whatever you want to use to dip in the guac)
  • the groceries listed below

Shopping! You're probably going to spend 3-5 bucks on this stuff.

I've given you some guidelines below on how to pick out good ingredients, but there is a general rule of thumb when you're in the grocery store and you're picking out stuff that you're not used to picking out: look for someone who looks like they know what they're doing... usually they'll narrow their choices down to two or three finalists before making their selection. Grab the last one they set down. You got the silver, and it's fine.

Oh, and grab one of those little baskets on the way in - it'll make your life easier.

2 avocadoes (in the store, they may be called "Hass avocadoes") - They'll be in the middle area of the fruits and veggie section of the grocery store. If you can find them for under a buck a piece, you've done just fine. When you are looking at these suckers, they'll range in color and hardness from bright green and super hard to black and mushy. You want dark green avocadoes - try to find ones that are the same color all around. They should feel a little mushy... when you squeeze it, it should feel like a nerf ball covered by a shell - there should be a little "spring back", but it shouldn't be hard or just give completely.

1 Red OR 1 White onion - These will be in the middle of the fruit and veggie section too. Grab one that's about 3 inches across at its widest. Make sure it doesn't have any dark brown, green, or black mushy spots - that's probably mold, and it can make you sick. Red onions are actually more purple than red - the flavor is a bit sharper... more "oniony" if you will. The white onions are white. Just stay away from the yellow onions - they're too sweet for guac. Onions vary in price. You'll pay anywhere from 50 cents to a buck 50.

1 green lime- still in the middle of the fruits and veggies section. These suckers are will vary in color from light green to dark green. You want something that's green and firm, but not HARD. These will be anywhere from ten cents to 40 cents.

1 bunch of cilantro - These will be in a refrigerated section of the fruit and veggie area. Look around the outside perimeter of the fruit and veggie section. This stuff is green and leafy, with thin green stalks. Look for stuff that's green (no brown or black), not limp (there is no cilantro viagra) and has a smell to it. Feel free to pick it up and smell it - it should have a pleasant, light smell. I always think it smells a bit like lime. A bunch should cost you anywhere from a quarter to 50 cents.

1 Serrano pepper - these will be in the regrigerated section of the fruit and veggie area as well. Look for one that's uniformly colored (no spots), smooth, and green (more on the dark side of green), but still firm - it should be about 3-3.5 inches long and about a 1/3 to 1/2 inch across. These things are like $2.99 a lb... but you'll end up spending about 4 cents on your one pepper.

That's it! You're good to go. Pay for your stuff and head home. Oh, and don't stop somewhere for three hours and leave all this stuff in the car - it'll go bad. If you get home and aren't going to make it right away, toss everything into the fridge except the avocadoes and onion.

When you're ready to make it, here's what you do...

Get out your bowl, sharp knife, and spoon.

  1. Grab one avocado. You can't eat the skin or the big-ass pit (seed) inside. Do this: Don't use a towel like they show unless you're comfortable with a knife. Use a cutting board or a plate. The knife is sharp. It will cut you. Be careful with it. Once you get the good stuff out, put that good stuff into the bowl.
  2. Now, grab the onion. The onion has non-edible things on either ends. I'll call those ends the top and bottom. Lay the onion down so that the top and bottom are on the left and right. Cut right through the middle. Grab one of the two pieces. About 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch from where you made your cut, make the exact same cut, so you're cutting off a slice.
  3. Put the big pieces of onion in a baggie and throw them in the fridge. Keep your slice on the cutting board (or wherever you're cutting). Cut that slice into a bunch of cubes... the cubes should be the same length and width as the height. Throw the onion in the bowl on top of the good stuff from the avocado.
  4. It's the serranos turn. Rinse off the serrano. Cut off the stem along with about 1/4 inch of the pepper. If you want your guac spicy, leave the seeds inside. If you don't, rinse out the inside of the pepper.Now, cut your pepper into cubes about the same size as the onion cubes. You can even make them a little smaller, as long as all the pieces are the same.Throw those into the bowl as well.
  5. Cilantro time! Grab just the leaves (if you get a little stem in there, it's ok - no worries) from about 1/4 of the bunch. Rinse them off with cold water. Cut this stuff as small as you can until you get bored of cutting. This stuff is so thin that it's hard to cut - be prepared for a battle. Don't let the herb beat you! Into the bowl the cilantro goes!
  6. Now, de-pit and scoop out the good stuff in the second avocado. Toss that into bowl.
  7. Grab your spoon. Fill it with salt. Sprinkle it over the stuff in the bowl.
  8. Grab your lime. Cut it in half long-ways. Then, take one of the halves and cut THAT in half long- ways as well.
  9. Squeeze the lime over all the stuff in the bowl but don't drop the piece in... just the juice goes in the bowl. Throw away the squeezed-out piece of lime.
  10. Now, grab your spoon and fork. Use the spoon to chunk up the avocado, then use the fork to mush it up. Go after this like a maniac for a bit, but don't make it all mushy... leave it a little chunky. Use the fork to give it a couple final stirs- make sure all the ingredients are mixed equally.

You're good to go! Give it a little taste- you may need to add some more salt or cilantro. Up to you- you're the one eating this. Let me know what you think!

One final note... guac does not keep long. Don't make this hours before you plan on eating it because it will turn brown and nasty. Make it right before you eat it... or if you want to make it for friends or a date or whatever, cut up the onion, cilantro, and serrano and throw them in a ziploc baggy. Then you just have to cut up the avocados and dump in the stuff you've already cut up, add the lime juice and salt and mash and stir. Boom bam. Superguac.

If you want to get a little fancy, cook up some bacon, cut it into little pieces, and stir those into the mix at the end.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Things you never want to hear...

I have not been able to access my VPN (virtual private network), which allows me remote access to all the systems and programs from the comfort of home. That's right, I can chill in my Snuggy while doing serious work.

I contacted the Desktop Support help line. For all inquiries, there are three tiers:

Tier 1 - Basic computer functionality check: "Is your computer plugged in? Turned on? Did you spill Coke on the keyboard?" This the gatekeeping tier. It shields the real computer gurus from the folks that need basic operational help. Without this shield, there would probably be at least one homicide a year... and it would probably be completely justified.

Tier 2 - These are the real computer guys. If you reach this level, it validates that there is a legit issue with your machine. Typical operation here? They going to send out someone with a thumb drive full of fixes for routine issues. He stops by the desk, pops in the thumb drive, and then, 30 seconds of idle chit chat later... *POOF* the problem is fixed.

About 99% of issues are resolved by the first two tiers. But when Tier 2 isn't enough...

Tier 3 - This bunch can dig into your computer like E.T. performing a prostate exam. Owwwwwch..

They code, they create... they do it all!

You can imagine my shock when my last contact from the Desktop Support department, Tier 3, read:

"I have tried just about every known fix I have (as well as tapping my fellow techs for their input). I will do a little more reasearch to see if there are other fixes I could try..."

While obviously frustrated, I can't help but feel a sense of pride. I managed to break something in a way that has left the SuperTier scratching their heads and reaching for more Jolt Cola.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Staying in Shape is (Bio)-Hazardous

If I don't work out at least five times a week, I get fat. I tend to fluctate between 180 - 200 lbs. At 180, I'm cut. At 200, I'm doughy.

I used to workout at Lifetime Fitness. Think GloboGym from Dodgeball. I can't afford that place any more, so I thought I'd join the company gym, which is actually really nice. There are approximately 30 cardio machines, machine weights, free weights, adjustable benches, a Smith machine, group fitness classes, you name it.

They also have a laundry service, which basically consists of a mesh bag that you stuff your dirty clothes into before closing off the end and tossing it into their laundry room. The staffers wash the towels and bags o' clothes all together. Usually there is about a 24 hour turnaround, so you will always have a set of clothes at the gym.

Squeezing in a workout at lunch has worked out pretty well so far. I leave the desk at 11:30 and I'm back at 12:40 at the latest, freshly showered and smelling like Axe. That's right, I use a loofah, which the good folks at Axe have kindly re-named a "detailer". If I were any less comfortable in my sexuality, I'd have an issue with that....

Sorry, getting off track. This little incident happened at the end of one of my lunchtime workout sessions...

[Cue flashback music, make everything go wavy/blurry, and then coming back into focus on your mental image of me, sweaty and smiling from my workout...]

After a nice workout at lunch, which included a brutal ab class from one of the personal trainers, whom I shall call Shawn “The Slayer” (simply because I like alliteration), I'm getting ready to take a shower... with my detailer. It exfoliates.

I grab a towel from the desk up front and walk back to the men's locker room. I go to my locker, drop that warm, fluffy, clean towel on the bench in the aisle, and begun to prep for my shower.

Stripping down quickly, I stuff my dirty, sweaty, nasty clothes into my laundry bag. The whole moist mess is tossed into the locker. I pull out my shampoo, shower gel, and detailer.

Not wanting to remain naked for long in a room full of co-workers in various states of undress, I slam the locker shut and turn back around to grab the towel and hit the showers… only to discover that someone has dropped their skid-marked tighty-whities (which are older, actually tinged more yellow than white) onto my nice, clean, fresh-from-the-gym dryer-towel.

The owner of the biohazard contaminating my towel isn't hard to find. He's wearing a business shirt, fully buttoned, and no pants, Donald Duck-style. I supply the offender an exasperated, disgusted look, which apparently does not faze this fancy dude at all. He casually gets dressed, removing his drawers from my towel and putting them on as if nothing is amiss, and walks out the door. No apology, no acknowledgment, nothing.

In my mind, this fella has committed two offenses. The first is that he wears underwear that needs to be thrown away. The second is that he feels ok dropping that underwear onto someone else's towel.

Not wanting to get pink eye, I have to get re-dressed into my nasty, sweaty workout clothes so I can go out and grab another towel.

After showering and dressing, I use my NEW towel to pick up the old one and deposit it in the laundry. The poor gym staffer there is completely overwhelmed by the mountain of towels, despite both of their industrial-sized washers and dryers running full speed. I'm sure the first couple weeks after New Years is always tough on gym personnel.

Seeing the staffer look around with a hopeless desperation at the mounds of towels piling up around her, I get an idea. I walk back to my desk and quickly type up a Cliffs Notes version of what you've just read and send it to Shawn. I end the email with:

"So if you and your staff were starting to wonder why so many towels were coming through the laundry… it’s not from the addition of new members looking to make good on New Year’s Resolutions – it’s actually because everyone has to get two towels, in case the first one gets sullied by someone who does not aim carefully when dropping their tighty-whities on the locker room benches."