Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dip it Good: Austin Cooking Challenge Party Recap

A cleverly presented cream cheese dessert dip won the prestigious Golden Apron at the 7th Austin Cooking challenge this last Saturday. Shannon's "Big Apple" cream cheese dip defeated upstart challenge rookie Matt's "Buffalo Hotness".

The champ served her dip in hollowed granny smith apples. Judges used fresh apple wedges, pretzel sticks, and graham crackers to tast the dip. Matt served up a spicy, tangy buffalo sauce and blue cheese concoction. The taste was there, but a pedestrian presentation (common oversight for rookies) was the deciding factor in the championship match.
Turnout was great for the cooking challenge party on Saturday night. 12 dishes were entered in the contest, and the quality of the submissions was unprecedented. Entries included:
Pool A
Big Red -
Kristin's Diced Fruit
Don't Judge a Dip By Its Cover
Big Apple
Roasted Eggplant with Garlic
Spicy Citrus White Bean Dip
Pool B
Lyons Salsa
First Round Draft Dip
Buffalo Hot-ness
Pepperoni Dream Cheese
One-eyed Pete's Southwestern Corn Dip
Mrs. M's Mystery Dip
Overall, dip worked great for a cooking challenge. There was some serious culinary creativity on display. From the humble beginnings of the Guacamodown, the bar has risen higher and higher with each competition. We enjoyed creative recipes like Chris's very unusual and delicious hot pecan pie-esque First Round Draft Dip. We have well-presented dips like the Big Apple and Kristin's colorful fruit melange. Most of all, these dips brought big flavor. Buffalo Hotness, Roasted Eggplant, the Spicy White Bean dip, and several others were bold and delicious. It was impressive to behold and even better to eat.

Once again, I was knocked out in the first round. I'm still proud of my fan-favorite warm pepperoni and cream cheese dip. Look for it soon at a party near you. I'm also very proud of Shannon for winning the golden apron for a second time. Stay tuned for details about the next cooking party that should happen some time this summer.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hi, How Are You?

Keeping a blog updated is like shoveling coal into a ravenous furnace in the boiler room of a 19th century ocean liner. Sometimes your arms just get tired and you want to go and drink whisky while dancing an Irish jig in the lower decks. That's why this blog hasn't been updated in a couple of weeks. To those stalwart few who have remained loyal and checked in for new content, I salute you.

Recreational Activities:
We recently travelled up to Dallas for the weekend to visit with Shannon's lovely grandmother, Dino. We toured her new estate in Weatherford, joined her for some tex-mex, and enjoyed her meeting little Michael. According to Dino, Mikey could charm the horns off a billy goat. Let that be a warning to any goats who might try to wander into my yard and eat my tomato plant.

I won't lie. The last 16 months of Mikey gestation and infanthood have not been kind to my physique. It has been a stressful time full of sleep deprivation and new and exciting infant sicknesses. I've found it all too easy to unwind with a glass of wine and half of a HomeSlice Pizza. All that fine pizza and vino has packed on a little bit of extra padding. Now it's time to attack the problem and get fit.

I'm now involved in a Biggest Loser competition with my coworkers. Whoever loses the most % body weight over the next 3 months will win a $100 dollar bottle of celebratory wine from the other contenders. 10% body weight loss might be enough to win.

My weight loss strategy is simple. I will scale back on the epicurean gluttony and ratchet up the exercise. Wine, restaurant food, snacking, snack mix, tortilla chips, cafe latte with white sugar, and that darn candy bowl at work that is always stocked with sweet, sweet peanut M&M's will be scaled back.

Shannon and I are mixing in some stroller walks with Mad Dog, some mountain bike rides, basketball, weight workouts, and even some horrible, horrible jogging. Runners are not right in the head, but it is a challenging workout.

Weighins for the contest are every two weeks on Mondays. I'll try to post the results here.

Baby Updates:
Our baby Mad Dog is a monster. I'm proud to report that he is measuring in the 90th percentile for height. He's wearing 12 month clothes and outgrowing clothes before he ever has a chance to wear them. Fitting his head through the neck hole of onesies and shirts gives me eerie flashbacks to his birth.

Mikey wreaks havoc wherever he goes now. Any object within 2 feet of him is grabbed, shaken, and shoved right into his slobbery little mouth. Inside the mouth, three brand new razor-sharp teeth are waiting to grind, slash, and gnaw the object into dust. Heaven help you if he gets your finger in his mouth (or if you are nursing).

The little guy can now sit up unsupported and play with his toys. We still use a redundant safety system of pillows surrounding him, because a great distraction (like Bella trotting by) can cause a sudden loss of cabin pressure and equilibrium. He topples over, and theoretically his giant melon lands on a pillow and not our bamboo floor.

Mikey now dines on delicious stage one baby foods in addition to his milk. It's great to experience yet another iconic, archetypal parenting experience. My heart fills up when I see the little guy in his bib with sweet potatoes all over his smiling face, in his hair, and on his hands.

He's still not sleeping through the night, so every adds a few more hours to our sleep debt. 1 am and 3:30 am are typical wakeup and cry times. The baby somehow understands REM cycles, he knows how interrupt them with ruthless efficiency. We're still looking for answers in this area. Some say let him cry it out, but I'm afraid that will crush his sweet spirit and teach him about the cruelty of the world at a young age. We're still working on this. If I hear about another friend of ours with a "oh, he goes to bed at 8 and sleeps until 7 a.m." story, I'm going to cudgel myself with a frozen lobster.

We have another cooking challenge coming up this weekend. The theme for this one is "Dip". We'll award the Golden Apron to the best dip entry, and the Commissioner's Cup will honor someone special. It should be a great time~!