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Friday
Sep192014

Can I Make it 72 Hours Without Dropping My New iPhone6?

Yes, I got a new iPhone 6.

It's a very nice phone I don't really need to review in full. It has a bigger screen with much easier to read graphics that I seem to appreciate most as my eyes get older. The camera is better and it's slightly lighter. But it is big.

The real issue I have is that I ordered a case for it but it shipped yesterday so I probably won't get it until Monday.

Can I make it that long without dropping the phone? I drop my iPhone 5 at least once a day but have a nice sturdy case for it. It almost bounces off the floor when it drops.

The iPhone 6 is more awkward to hold in one hand too.

I definitely feel for that guy in Australia making the rounds of the interwebs dropping his phone on live TV. That could've been me.

So, I'll be crossing my fingers all weekend until the new case comes.

Wait. I'll probably need every bit of grip from all ten fingers so I’ll cross some toes instead.

Wednesday
Sep172014

I Need a New Grill: Kenmore Elite 700 Series Review 

There is perhaps no household appliance that speaks more to the man of the house/lord of the manor/schmo-who-mows-the-lawn than the grill.

Charcoal or gas it doesn't matter. The grill and the ability to grill food well enough that your wife accepts it as a suitable replacement for cooking in the kitchen is perhaps the most vital of all skills a father must master… at least if he wants to regularly eat barbecue ribs and steak.

That's why when my faithful grill of ten years died a month or so ago I was sent into a panic. I went into research mode and narrowed in on two brands I knew from my many trips to Home Depot -- Weber and Char Broil. I was expecting to buy a size bigger than the tiny two burner I was replacing. I purchased it to fit on a tiny deck in our city condo long before kids and the suburbs were in the cards.

My wife sent me a link to a Kenmore grill on sale at Sears and I dismissed it because I hadn't really heard of Kenmore as being a "grill" brand. A quick check of Consumer Reports and I discovered Kenmore was actually highly rated. The wife was right again it seems.

I sometimes get products to test from companies that make shavers or undershirts. But could I get a grill to test? I contacted Weber, Char Broil and Kenmore and got a response from Sears that they'd be happy for me to test out one of their new units. I said I was looking for a three-burner and was told to expect a test unit soon.

Sears service called me to set up a delivery time just like the last time I bought a refrigerator myself there a few years back. I've always thought their customer support was pretty good and they were friendly this time too.

Then the grill arrived.

It was not a three-burner, no, it was a grand five-burner with a side searing burner and another side burner for sauce pots. I was worried it would be "too" big but it has sturdy wheels which is good because I look to move the grill close to the kitchen door or away from my kids when they're playing outside near the garage. 

This thing retails at a whopping $1499 but the invoice on the grill said $863.00 because it was a floor model. Despite a small scratch on the side I didn't think anyone buying a grill would mind that type of discount for a floor model. There are five-burners from Kenmore that start around $500 which would still be on the high side of my budget. $800 is definitely more than I would have spent because I knew that I didn't need all those burners.

How wrong I was.

First Test: BBQ Chicken

I was raring to test this monster out of course but my wife had bought skinless chicken breasts to grill and some zucchini. The thought of bare chicken meat hitting a pristine grill grate worried me, so I put foil down to cook them and the zucchini. The result was as you would expect, well cooked, moist chicken but nothing special.

But even at this stage I learned it seemed like I had used almost every inch of the grill surface.

Second Test: Burgers

I was ready to get those grills some grease with a family favorite, cheeseburgers. It's one of the few meals where everyone at the table eats exactly the same thing. And that is a joy that is really underrated until you have kids who prefer mac and cheese to just about anything.

I could not get the grill hot enough to get a good sear on the outside of the burgers but the inside was perfectly cooked and the kids gave thumbs up. I definitely need more work though on getting the meat’s look right.

Third Test: Sirloin Steaks and Brussels Sprouts

With the idea that there is a side burner and a sear burner I couldn't wait for one of our favorite meals, steak with brussels sprouts. Generally we roast the sprouts in the oven with olive oil, herbs, onions and garlic. Instead I put them in a pan on the side burner. I turned the heat up pretty high and as they cooked I put some corn on the main grill and waited to do the sirloins on the sear burner because I had read they only take a few minutes with that much heat.

And here is one major issue I have with the grill. While it came with instructions on assembly and care it sure didn't tell me how to cook anything on it!

How long does it take for the sear burner to get hot? Why does it cut off at a certain point?

I did go to Google to get some tips however. But I still had issues. I didn't have it hot enough when first putting on the steaks and the sear marks weren’t perfect. However, once again, temperature management was great, and we had two perfectly cooked sirloins.

It was great cooking a whole meal outside without our kitchen getting hot on a blistering, sunny, summer evening.

Fourth Test: Ribs

If you're a dad of two kids and have a smoker to do your barbecue more power to you. I understand what smoke imparts into slow-cooked meat. I do. But I think you can get great tasting ribs on a gas grill too without smelling like a smokehouse afterward. And the Kenmore proved me more than right, right out of the gate.

I put a lot into my ribs. I make a dry rub in the morning, apply it, bag the ribs and put them in the fridge until about lunch time. Then I get them on the grill, directly on the flame, bone side down for a half hour at 250, flip them over and cook meat side down for about the same amount of time. If they look good I wrap them in foil with some brown sugar, butter and honey and put them on indirect heat for 3-4 more hours at the same temperature.

I was able to control the temperature pretty well but definitely had to take into account the blazing sun beating down on the steel grill.

When I unwrapped the ribs and they were moist and tender, just short of fall-off-the-bone like my wife prefers. I matched them to my habanero barbecue sauce, which I had to make inside on the oven because of all the ingredients I dump in and didn’t want to be running in and out.

Throughout each test my wife gave a thumbs up to everything I put on the table which means I get to grill even more stuff.

I'm going to keep updating my experiences with the Kenmore 700 through football season. I have many more steaks, burgers, chicken and ribs to grill and I will get those grill marks using the searing burner if it's the last thing I do.

As mentioned above, Kenmore provided the grill for review in this story.

Friday
Sep052014

Dave's Habanero BBQ Sauce Recipe

I've tried before to blog about cooking and recipes and I know a lot of dads out there don’t really care to cook which I totally understand. However, I'm often asked at work or online about what I cook and how so I figured it is easier to share here than Facebook. Plus, this will serve as a good place to keep my recipes as I'm horrible at organizing them in any way.

When I barbecue I like to use a very traditional rub that isn't very spicy and then compliment it with a sauce that has some heat. A lot of people may be afraid of the habanero pepper because it is so spicy but I swear to you, this sauce brings out the actual flavor of the habanero without burning your taste buds. If you are a fan of very spicy food just up the habanero pepper count by one.

Here goes…

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes

 

Ingredients

Step 1


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 3 Habanero Peppers, minced

  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 tablespoons shallots/3 tablespoons onion, minced

 

Step 2


  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

  • 1 Cup brown sugar

  • 1 Cups ketchup

 Step 3 – optional


  • ¼ cup white whine

 

Step 1

Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

Once hot, throw in the habaneros, garlic and shallots and sauté them for a good 5 minutes but don't let the garlic get brown.

Step 2

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

Bring the mix to a boil for 15 minutes. I like to really burn off the vinegar.

Reduce heat and simmer low-medium for 30 more minutes. I like to add a bit of white whine when I lower the temp. It gives a nice aroma and compliments the habanero and shallot flavors.

That's it. Let cool and enjoy.

Above: 2x the recipe yields this much sooo the recipe is one jar. 

Friday
Sep052014

How Is This Dog Bed Not Big Enough?

Easter weekend we brought a new family member home, Rolo.

Our new little guy joined our old girl Roxy and he has been a pure boxer puppy ever since. While house training was pretty easy, Rolo definitely is a handful in many other ways.

But even from his first few days he's been happy to sleep through the night in a dog bed. That dog bed however had to be one that Roxy was already sleeping in. He wants to be next to her all the time. Roxy of course does not.

We had a dog bed theoretically big enough for both of them but one would get up and move to the other bed we had out and if that was Roxy, Rolo would follow and try to cuddle up. Then Roxy would move back to the other bed. And so on until I feel the need to throttle both with my alarm clock as they sleep on my side of the bed.

My wife ordered a new dog bed that is orthopedic — to help poor Roxy out in her old age — and hopefully big enough that both dogs would be able to sleep in it without all the night time movements.

It came the other day and as you can see they both fit but it hasn't stopped the desire to relocate in the middle of the night.

Is there an even bigger bed out there? Courtney researched it and at 52 inches across this is one of the biggest on the market. I think we could go bigger though, especially as Rolo grows.

Please leave a comment if you know of any beds that might fit the bill!

Monday
Aug252014

How Much Fresh Wave Do You Need For Two Dogs, Two Kids, Two Cars and Two Home Cooks?

We started using Fresh Wave air freshener years ago. You know, the pricey stuff you only buy when you have a 20% coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond. Luckily if you're like us you have a stack of these coupons stuffed in your car's door pocket at all times. I seriously think the only reason we go to that store is to stock up on Fresh Wave.

Over the years, my wife has even won a gift pack from the company and we were introduced to Fresh Wave's dog shampoo. I used it on Roxy for the first time earlier this year and am converted. Dog shampoo is expensive to begin with so there's no negative there and Roxy has never smelled so good or her fur so soft. Roxy got a bath with it recently too when the puppy started to stink.

We've also purchased their carpet freshener and the vacuum beads. So we're familiar with the fact that there are lots of Fresh Wave products out there, not just the standard gel.

But the folks at Fresh Wave have more! Yes, they sent me a bunch of stuff to test including their latest "Fresh Pod" product. It's a simple stick-on plastic case that can go on any door or surface and uses their Pearl Packs as refills.

I put the test pod in the only place I could think of, underneath the kitchen sink where we keep the trash. At first I didn't think it was really working that great but after a few days I went to throw something into what was a pretty full can and got a nice burst of that Fresh Wave fragrance. There was still some lingering onion odor in there, but it was barely noticeable. And I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all if I hadn’t stuck my head almost all the way under for a nose check.

I take these tests seriously.

A few car products came too, including a spray and a car air freshener version of the original Fresh Wave. That one was sized to fit in a cup holder but if most people are like me, a cup holder is too valuable a chunk of real estate to set aside for an air freshener.

I used the spray in my wife's 2010 Subaru Outback on all the seats, floors and car seats and I didn't notice much "freshener" smell afterward, and neither did my kids. Then my wife actually pointed out it is an odor "neutralizer." Ah. So I had to go back and try again with this thought in my head. I sprayed considerably more this go round and did notice a little Fresh Wave scent but maybe I just don't like something that doesn't smell one way or the other. I want that "clean" scent even if it is artificially produced.

A few days later, sitting on the couch in the family room with the kids asleep upstairs my wife commented on how she always thinks the house smells because we've moved to having two dogs. But she also pointed out the Fresh Waves in the room were empty.

Fresh Wave provided some of the products mentioned in the post above.