Waiting at the VA Clinic

Old men.
Waiting for the doctor.
Telling stories.
Remembering Iraq.
Comparing experiences.
Comparing diagnoses.
Swapping acronyms.
Waiting.

High tech checkin.
Scan your ID card.
Verify your birthday.
All medical files have been digitized.
Waiting for benefits.
Smiling at the receptionist.
Appreciating kindness.
Thinking about military service.

Feeling less out of place today.
When you’re 23 at the VA and you’re surrounded by WWII and Vietnam veterans, you kind of stick out.
I’m older now.
I’m not skinny any more.
I need to reduce my cholesterol.
My vision isn’t what it used to be.

Listening to the stories.
The stories in the waiting room.
The tales of the dead.
Bodies in Iraq.
Severed limbs
Burned in a pile
Chemical defoliants
Dropped by aircraft flying high above
Designed to peel back the jungle canopy
Peeling back years of vitality and health now
The unintended consequences
The science of warfare
Manifested now in the clinic
Waiting.
Listening.
Remembering.
Thinking.

Waiting at the VA clinic.

Best Christmas Dinner Ever: Prime Rib

If I’m counting correctly, Christmas 2016 marks the sixth time in my life I’ve been able to cook prime rib for our family for Christmas dinner. I love a good holiday turkey as much as anyone, but NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, can beat a perfectly cooked prime rib supper. I am extremely thankful our family is able to enjoy food like this together. This year perhaps more than ever before, I am extremely cognizant and appreciative of so many blessings in our lives. We are not millionaires, but sharing a prime rib dinner like this together makes us feel like we are. If you have a chance to eat a meal like this, and to share it with others, count your blessings. In this post I’ll share the few modifications I made to the preparation and cooking steps documented in my 2015 post. I’m sharing this both for my own future reference and to help out others. If this post inspires or helps you in your own prime rib cooking vision quests, please let me know via a comment or Twitter reply to @wfryer.

1- Prime Rib on Sale at Whole Foods

We’re not only fortunate to now live in a city with a Whole Foods grocery store, but also to have them significantly discount the per pound price of prime rib steak on Christmas Eve. We shop at Whole Foods only about four times all year, and always for special occasions and for limited items. (WalMart Neighborhood Market is my normal grocery store.) Whole Foods had prime rib discounted this year on Christmas Eve from about $17 per pound to $12 per pound. For 3 ribs, about 7.8 pounds, we paid $94. This is a $40 savings off the “normal” price. This is a huge amount of money to pay for a piece of meat, but this was for a very special occasion, and the taste in the end was worth every penny. I’m thankful for the sale price. Eating a great prime rib at home starts with buying top quality meat.

2- Digital Probe Thermometer

As I noted in my 2015 post about cooking prime rib, a digital probe thermometer is absolutely essential. This is the number one thing I’ve learned to use in the past three years which has helped me cook great tasting prime rib that is perfectly cooked, and not too rare. The $20 “Oneida Digital Probe Cooking Thermometer with Timer” from Bed, Bath and Beyond is my tool of choice in this category. I was lucky to have an extra AAA battery in my work backpack, since last year’s battery had gone dead. Like last year, my cooking procedure was:

  1. Cook uncovered 15 minutes at 450 degrees
  2. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees and keep cooking
  3. Remove prime rib when the interior temperature reaches 130 degrees (This year it took 1 hour and 40 minutes, about 15 minutes less than in 2015. I think that is because I got the prime rib out of the fridge about 4 hours before I cooked it, which let it more fully get to room temperature before starting cooking… which is also an essential.)
  4. Completely cover the prime rib with foil and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. This year we let ours rest about 30 minutes, until (as we did last year) the interior temperature reached 143 degrees.

We like our prime rib medium and medium rare, but not rare – and these cooking temperatures were absolutely PERFECT for those requirements.

3- Seasoning Salt Rub

2 years ago I used “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” as a prime rib rub from our Oklahoma City “Savory Spice” store. This year I used three tablespoons of “Mt. Evans Butcher’s Rub” from Savory Spice and three tablespoons of kosher salt as my rub. As recommended by my guiding Prime Steak House recipe, I made several cuts (about 1/4 of an inch deep) around the roast before applying the rub. I also rubbed about a 1/4 stick of soft butter on both ends. I did NOT open the oven to brush the drippings back onto the roast during cooking, as some recommend. It turned out great (again) not doing this. My custom spice rub worked well and tasted great this year, but I’ll probably go back to the “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” next time I cook a prime rib.

4- Carving Smaller Pieces

This year I served the plates in the kitchen and then brought them to the dining room, and carved smaller pieces for everyone than I have in the past. This worked well, and several folks opted for seconds. In the past it’s been a bit overwhelming to have such a huge piece of prime rib on the plates… and I definitely liked serving smaller pieces this year.

5- Creamy Horseradish

The creamy horseradish sauce this year also turned out really good. I mixed half sour cream and half “Bubbies Prepared Horseradish,” which we also bought at Whole Foods. It tasted amazing and I’d definitely get this brand again and make it the same way.

Bon Appétit!

German Oven Pancake Recipe: Breakfast Culinary Perfection

This morning I made German Oven Pancakes for our Saturday morning family breakfast. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, which I have in the cookbook my mom gave me after college when I started living and cooking on my own. (We didn’t have to cook our own food at the Air Force Academy as cadets!) This is the finished oven pancake, before cutting it in half and serving it with sausage patties and bacon. We have two of these oval glass pie plate dishes so I was able to cook two at once in the oven.

Here is the recipe. The only modification I made was also adding a dash of cinnamon in the blender in addition to the nutmeg. Yum!

My mom is an amazing cook and now shares a lot of the recipes she finds and uses on Yummly. Sharing this on our family learning blog makes me think I need to start on a cookbook to give Alex and our other kids once they’re cooking on their own, either in college or afterward. For now, the meal plan as a freshman at Colorado School Mines is pretty amazing, so I don’t think Alex is in need of any recipes from me. I’m betting in a few years he will be, however!

I like using the Paprika Recipe Manager currently, which my mom told me about a few years ago. It lets me copy the link to an online recipe and readily enter it into its database. It also syncs if you want to use it on a laptop or a mobile device. Paprika lets you easily double a recipe too, and you can create a shopping list. My favorite shopping app on my iPhone now is “Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists.” I don’t use it for work or other to-do lists, just for shopping.

If you use this blog post to make Sharol Metzler’s oven pancake recipe, please let me know by leaving a comment or reaching out on Twitter!

Addition: My friend Jason in Montana read this post this morning, thanks to Twitter, and gave the recipe a try successfully! Social media is amazing.

Homemade Potato Skins Recipe – Thanks Supercook.com

As our primary family chef, responsibility fell to me today to cook something yummy at home after church. We’d run through the meal plans I had for last week, but I knew we had a bunch of ingredients that could be used to make something yummy. I turned again to the free website Supercook.com to enter the ingredients we had available in our pantry, and then explore recipes which we could make based on those items. Out of over 2000 available recipe options, I opted for Grilled Potato Skins.

The only modifications I made to the original Food.com recipe were to use five slices of bacon instead of three, and to forgo the chopped green onions since ours turned out to be mushy and a little too old to use. This turned out great and is definitely something we’ll have again!

(Not shown: Sour cream which we used as another topping!)

If you haven’t already, give Supercook.com a try! I’ve used it several times now with great results. This is a FANTASTIC way to use an Internet website in a transformative way, providing a yummy meal for your family which you otherwise wouldn’t have thought to cook! Thanks to my mom who told me about Supercook awhile back.

Homemade Jalapeño Roasted Poppers (recipe)

Tonight I made a tray of homemade jalapeño roasted poppers, and they were yummy! I made my first batch over the Christmas holidays, and I modified the recipe a bit further and liked it even better. It was also popular with the rest of my family. Here’s what I did. I’m sharing this for my own future reference, as well as to possibly inspire you to try these. If you use this, please let me know by sharing a comment on this post or a tweet to @wfryer. I waited about a week after purchasing the jalapeños this time, and that made them ripen and taste a bit spicier. They were still pretty tame though, since I removed all the seeds. I used the “regular” jalapeños from our WalMart Neighborhood Market.

Ingredients:

  1. Two bars of cream cheese
  2. Four pieces of bacon
  3. 15 medium sized jalapeños
  4. 1 tablespoon minced onion flakes
  5. Half tablespoon dried cilantro
  6. One cup Mexican style shredded Kraft “Four Cheese”
  7. 2 tablespoons minced garlic (from a jar)

Directions:

  1. Fry bacon, set aside
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, if necessary microwave at 50% power one minute to soften cheese. (I did this twice, stirring in between)
  3. Cut up bacon and add to the mix
  4. Halve and seed jalapeños
  5. Use a knife to put the mix in the jalapeños
  6. Bake 15 minutes at 350°

Modified from this Rachel Ray recipe!

Perfect Holiday Prime Rib 4.0

This is the fourth time I’ve cooked prime rib for our family for Christmas dinner. My wife thinks tonight was the best meal we’ve ever had at home in almost 20 years of marriage, so whatever we did this time I want to remember and be able to repeat again! In this post I’ll recap what we did, the changes I made from previous times I’ve cooked prime rib, and what I want to do again if and when we have an opportunity to prepare another amazing meal like tonight.

I wrote two previous family learning blog posts about cooking prime rib, back in 2013 and in 2011. Like I did in 2013, I used this recipe from Prime Steak Houses as my primary guide. Here are the three things I did differently this year which helped make this a remarkable prime rib dinner.

1 – Digital Probe Thermometer

One of the Christmas gifts this year I am most excited about is a probe thermometer that shows the temperature inside meat when it is cooking in the oven. My wife and son bought me a Oneida Digital Probe Thermometer with Timer. Bed, Bath and Beyond sells it for $20. The oven thermometer I used previously had a minimum temperature of 140 degrees, but that’s a problem since the Prime Steak House recipe recommends removing the prime rib from your oven when the interior temperature reaches 120 degrees. So in past years, when I removed our prime rib from our oven, I was just guessing that the meat was ready based on recommended cooking times. Unfortunately, ovens can vary considerably in the cooking time they require, and the result in the past has been prime ribs which weren’t cooked long enough. This afternoon after putting a rub on the meat, I put the thermometer probe into the center of the prime rib. Instead of 120 degrees, which is the low end of rare meat, I set the target temperature for 130 degrees. Our prime rib tonight was 6 pounds, so I initially set the timer for an hour and a half of cooking time to follow the initial 15 minutes of cooking at 450 degrees.

This is the cooking procedure and times I ended up using tonight for our 6 pound prime rib:

  1. 15 minutes at 450 degrees (uncovered)
  2. 1 hour, 55 minutes at 325 degrees (uncovered, with no basting, till the internal temperature reached 130 degrees)
  3. Removed from the oven, about 15 minutes covered with foil, until the interior temperature reached 140 degrees. The top temperature it reached after removing the foil covering was 143 degrees, before we served dinner.

2 – Meat at Room temperature

The second thing I did differently this year when cooking prime rib was to get the meat out of our refrigerator about three hours before I started to cook it. This allowed the meat to warm up, closer to room temperature. This is something included in the Prime Steak House recipe, but a step I hadn’t taken the time or care to follow in the past. According to my thermometer, our prime rib started cooking this year at a temperature of 50 degrees.

This is the clear instruction given by the Prime Steak House chefs:

It is crucial that you allow the roast to come to room temperature to ensure even-cooking. This means leaving it out for up to two full hours right before roasting.

3 – Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt

The third main thing I did differently this year was use a new seasoning for the rub. We have a fantastic store in Oklahoma City called “Savory Spice.” One of the employees there recommended “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” to use as a rub with prime rib. This turned out to be a FANTASTIC idea.

Following the Prime Steak House recipe, I made a series of half-inch cuts in the meat, and rubbed the seasoning salt all over it. before putting it in the oven.

This resulted in some absolutely AMAZING prime rib!

 

That’s it! Those were the three critical things I did tonight which helped me our prime rib dinner a smashing success. If these tips prove useful to you, please leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @wfryer.

Photos and Stories from Washington DC

The past two weeks Shelly, Rachel and I have traveled together in Philadelphia and Washington DC. I created two different, short digital stories using the free iPad app “Adobe Voice” to reflect on some of our experiences around the DC area.

I also posted a lot of our photos from the trip to several different Flickr albums:

  1. ISTE 2015
  2. Tall Ships in Philadelphia
  3. Washington DC July 2015
  4. Harpers Ferry

Over the fourth of July when we hung out with our friends, the Casebeers, I had an opportunity to interview Jonah about his amazing experiences last year at MIT for the Battlecode competition. I published that interview as a podcast on my main blog.

Today is our final day of sightseeting before we fly home to Oklahoma, and I’ll add our photos from today (which we expect to include the National Archives and the Library of Congress, among other destinations) to our Washington DC July 2015 photo set. We’ve had a great trip!

Bowling is Fun Enhanced eBook

A few weeks ago when Rachel and I were in Manhattan, Kansas, we went bowling with my dad. I took photos while we were bowling with the idea that we would later create an eBook together. We did (using Book Creator for iPad) and took turns narrating it. It is available as a downloadable EPUB, a PDF without audio, and as a video on YouTube. I plan to submit this to Apple’s iBookstore but have not done it yet.

 

Snowflake Book Series Website Moved

Rachel: The old domain we’d bought for your first Snowflake eBook (MeetSnowFlake.com) expires tomorrow. Since we decided not to keep that domain, I moved the entire website and made a few small updates/changes to it. The new address is a “sub-domain” of your main website. You can find it on snowflake.rachelfryer.com. If you publish another Snowflake book, like you were talking about over Christmas break, you can publish/link it there also if you want.

I also remembered I setup a Twitter account for your Snowflake book series, it’s @MeetSnowflake. I posted about the new site address and made some changes in the Twitter profile. If you want logins to both the site and this Twitter account I can make/give you those. 🙂

I think you should write and illustrate a new Snowflake book by yourself, and we should publish it to iTunes together. 🙂

Student Blogs to Check Out

Here are two student blogs to check out. First, “Escondido Adopt a Doggy Bloggy” by Page. Jo-Ann Fox’s daughter is working to “help dogs find forever homes.”

Second, “Reflections of a First Grader” by Yael Varga. In her latest post she’s asking for help learning more about Minecraft!

Great work by young bloggers!

Hash tagging a Family Vacation

Educator Carl Hooker (@mrhooker) is a very clever guy. On his family’s vacation this summer, he used a unique hashtag every time he posted a photo to Instagram. By doing this, he is enabling others to aggregate all his photos of the trip, and it’s possible for him to do the same thing. This creates a dynamic, separate set of images like a photo album. Great idea!

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Holiday Prime Rib

This Christmas we ate prime rib for dinner rather than our more traditional turkey or ham main course, and it was delicious. For my own documentation for future years, and in case this is of interest to others who may find their way to this post, here are some details about what I did, my lessons learned, and what I’ll do differently next time.

Christmas Prime Rib

This recipe from Prime Steak Houses was my main guide. It’s been around 5 years since I’ve cooked  a prime rib, and I couldn’t find the friend’s recipe this time that I’d used previously. I did remember it involved initially cooking the prime rib at a high temperature in the oven for a short time, and then lowering the temp for a longer time… and that is what this recipe also directs. We bought and cooked a five pound prime rib, planning for about 3/4 of a pound per person. That worked out great portion-wise. The main change I’d make is to cook it about 15 minutes longer than I did. My meat thermometer starts at 140 degrees, but according to the recipe you need to remove the roast when the interior temp reaches 120. Since my meat thermometer didn’t show the exact temperature that low, I had to guestimate and I guestimated a bit low. After the initial 15 minutes cooking at 450 degrees F, I cooked our prime rib an hour at 325. Next time I’ll use a meat thermometer that shows increments at least down to 120 degrees (hopefully lower) and cook just a bit longer, probably an hour and a half for the same quantity. Rather than remove the prime rib at 120 degrees (as I tried to do this year, and the recipe directed) I’ll remove it at 130 degrees. For the eaters in our family, medium to medium-well prime rib is best.

I will say the aroma of the cooking prime rib in the house was absolutely fantastic. The anticipation of eating excellent meat like this can be almost as good as the actual eating itself.

We have a relatively new spice shop in Oklahoma City on Western, right by the Will Rogers Theater, called the Savory Spice Shop. It’s a chain based in Colorado, and they have some amazing seasonings. I used their “Mount Evans Butcher’s Rub” as my spice rub on our prime rib and it turned out delicious. I highly recommend it, and look forward to also using it on pot roasts in coming months. Per the above recipe link, I rubbed the ends with soft butter and made small, 1/2 inch cuts around the roast before rubbing in the spices.

We love creamy horseradish sauce with prime rib, and I used this recipe to make mine although I used raw horseradish from a bottle rather than fresh. It turned out runnier than I would have liked, probably because of the amount of lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Next time I think I’ll just make my own to taste with sour cream and raw horseradish. It was good, but next time I’d like it to be less runny.

To accompany the meat I cooked our family’s traditional mixed vege casserole, cranberry sauce (basic and plain from scratch, the best kind) and mashed potatoes roughly following following this recipe. It was a great meal on an already wonderful and blessed Christmas day with family.

I hope you had a great Christmas are are continuing to enjoy a restful holiday time with family and friends!

Table set for Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner 2013

 

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