February 27, 2011
Show Me How Books

Recently we picked up the pair of Show Me How books on a whim at Urban Outfitters. Both my daughters and I have been impressed with them. To be honest, a lot of how to books are pretty crappy. They either make the topics so complex that it's becomes daunting to start, or the explanation is unclear and unhelpful. The Show Me How books get it just right.

The books are filled with graphically explanations of how to do various things in life. The books are organized into broad chapters with titles like style, love, nest, grow, thrive, grow, survive, wow, etc.

Some entries are practical, explaining how to do simple tasks and a straightforward and visual way. The graphic design is fantastic and appeals to both kids and adults.

Even more complicated topics are handled well. The range of topics covered is impressive and is a lot of fun to browse and consider the possibilities. The chapters on love and fun are great, with explanations of things like How to tend to a drunk wedding guest and How to shop for love at the market. The chapter on survival is helpful with How to free myself from an anaconda and How to eat a scorpion.

The books happily push into mischief with all kinds of ideas ranging from street art to mixing drinks to making edible undies. After looking at the one above, I've been thinking how I could build it to work without having to reach into the bag to spray...

You can visit the Show Me How site to see lots more examples of what the books are all about.

There are two books out now, Show Me How: 500 Things You Should Know... and More Show Me How: Everything We Couldn't Fit in the First Book...

Posted by michael at 08:26 AM
February 24, 2011
Lasagna Cupcakes

When Intelligentsia Coffee opened in Pasadena recently, I was intrigued the lasagna cupcakes they served. The cupcakes are made by Heirloom LA, a catering business. About the size of a muffin, a single lasagna cupcake was a delicious meal.

After seeing how much my daughter enjoyed them (she ate my entire cupcake and I had to order a second one), I decided I had to try making them at home.

After a bit of research, here is my method. The girls love them and take them to school as lunch.

The ingredients are fairly simple. Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Parmesan cheese, marinara sauce, meat (if you so desire), and wonton/gyoza wrappers. The key item here is the wrappers. The Asian wrappers are used for making wontons and potstickers most of the time, but here they replace the lasagna noodle. The difference between the wonton and gyzoa wrappers is that the wonton ones are square and the gyoza ones are round. I highly suggest the gyoza wrappers.

Spray or wipe the cupcake tin with olive oil for prevent sticking and add a little flavor. Put the wrapper in the tin and form it into a cup shape. Then a small dollop of pasta sauce. Ricotta cheese is next to add the traditional lasagna taste and texture. I then add a little Parmesan to bring out the flavor. One daughter doesn't like meat, so her's are cheese only. The other daughter gets a sprinkling of browned Italian sausage.

Once you filled in the first layer, gently press another wrapper in, forming another cup.

Once you've placed the second wrapper, repeat the filling as you see fit. Mine are split between cheese and sausage versions.

A bit of Mozzarella cheese on top of it all. I put a sprinkle of Parmesan on as well, as the saltiness brings out the flavor in the Mozzarella and I love Parmesan cheese.

I baked them for 20 minutes at 375° F and then come out perfectly browned.

If you remembered to use olive oil, they should slide out easily with top crispy and the wrapper moist and tender.

You can do pretty much anything you want as filling from more meats to a vegan version. The key is using the wonton/gyoza wrappers as they make it simple and quick to do the prep.

The small cupcake size works well for us. A larger muffin size would make them almost too big for the kids and not as easy to reheat.

I hope you enjoy them if you give this a try.

Posted by michael at 07:41 PM
February 06, 2011
On Hating The Superbowl

Today is the day that many people choose to complain or be dismissive of the Superbowl.

I get it. The rise of microblogging, texting, and social media have given everyone the ability to publish their thoughts for others to read and that is a good thing. The Superbowl is a huge athletic, commercial and social event in America and will be the target of much commentary today.

There are people that go out of their way to make sure we all know how much they dislike the Superbowl and try to be as dismissive of it as possible. Usually their critique breaks down into one of the three main lines:

1) There's more important things to worry about...
2) People shouldn't like watching sports...
3) It's too commercial and corporate...

And they are probably right, but it doesn't make complaining about the Superbowl a good thing to do.

This post is for those of you that can't wait for your harsh Superbowl commentary to begin.

When you are dismissive and mocking of something you disapprove of on a cultural basis, such as the Superbowl, you aren't changing anyone's mind, you are just being a jerk and raining on someone else's fun. Don't be a jerk.

That band you like? Yeah, a lot of people hate it, but they don't mock you. The pictures of your kids/pets? Most pictures only appeal to a small number of people, but others don't say they look average or make fun on them do they? What you like for dinner? What TV show or movie you liked? What you think is a good deal to buy? Most people disagree with you, but are kind enough not to mock you publicly.

We get it. You don't like the Superbowl, for your perfectly justifiable position. Great. Don't watch it. But don't be a jerk to those that want to enjoy it.

Go do what you enjoy. Tweet about what you are doing for fun, not about what you are NOT doing.

Personally, I like the Superbowl as a celebration of what people can do in sport and their commitment to working hard as opposed to traditional holidays that celebrate a myth or the achievements of a dead person. Other holidays have their place, but the Superbowl is a celebration of active human endeavor.

Please consider what you say/post not just on Superbowl Sunday, but everyday. Are you being harsh in your comments because it will have some positive effect, or simply to make yourself look better and seem cool? You have every right to be a jerk, but that doesn't mean you have to be a jerk to many people that are doing nothing wrong but enjoying their life in a way you don't.

"If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them." - Dalai Lama

Posted by michael at 08:12 AM