Author Archive

Chicago Cubs Cookbook

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The complete title of this book is “Chicago Cubs Cookbook – All-Star Recipes From Your Favorite Players”. It is edited by Carrie Muskat, and was published in 2010.

First let me say that proceeds from the sales of this book benefit the Dempster Family Foundation. That’s a good thing!

Secondly, I cannot tell a lie: I have not, as yet, tried to make any of these recipes. But I intend to!

Thirdly, I enjoyed reading this book. It’s easy to get too caught up in the wins vs. losses, analyses of the various statistics, etc. We sometimes forget that these are real people, with real lives. “Chicago Cubs Cookbook” reminds us that the Cubs are real people, who eat real food, and who sometimes cook, too. It was a nice change of pace.

Here are some specific observations:

– The first direction listed under “How to Build the PERFECT Chicago Dog” reads as follows: “Boil the hot dogs in 145 degree water per package instructions.” I thought water boiled at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

– The discussion about Randy Wells’ Hot Wing Dip includes the following statement: “The way Randy sees it, most people eat chicken wings and have dip at their football parties. ‘This way,’ he says, ‘it combines both’.” I cannot argue with that logic.

– The “Cubs Clubhouse recipe for Yogurt Mashed Potatoes” comes from Tom “Otis” Heilman, his brother Tim, and Gary Stark, who run the Cubs home clubhouse. The ingredients include: 4 potatoes, 4 Tbsp. plain low-fat Greek yogurt, and 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth. Those are my kinda ingredients!

– The discussion leading up to “John Grabow’s Loaded Mashed Potatoes” contains the following quote: “It’s pretty easy to make,” Grabow said, then cautions, “It’s not very good for you.” I’m all in favor of comfort food which is easy to make.

– Two recipes which especially grabbed my attention were provided by Jim Hendry’s friend Vickie Courville. They are “Crawfish Etouffee” (etouffee literally means “smothered” or “suffocated”), and “Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. I like crawdads and I make gumbo (or is it Jambalaya?) with chicken and sausage and shrimp, so these two are right up my alley.

– The “Build-Your-Own Steak Tacos” from Hub 51 with marinade, Tomato Salsa and Guacamole directions are very good looking.

– Brett Jackson contributed a gluten-free buffalo meat and spaghetti squash which looks interesting. I have dabbled in gluten-free eating. This recipe has potential, and Brett says: “…you can be creative with your protein base.”

– Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III contributed a simple recipe for a great breakfast dish which he calls “Egg In The Hole”. Gotta love it!

– Fergie Jenkins’ wife, Lydia, finally decided to try cooking wild game, (some of Fergie’s pheasants), in a manner that she thought would make them taste tolerable. Fergie gave her the recipe (“Fergie’s Bagged Pheasant”) and it turned out great! I’m a big believer in cooking bags.

– Ted Lilly also presents a chili recipe from Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap. The recipe for “Stanley’s King of Chilis” looks delicious, but I’m afraid I don’t have all of the many ingredients in my kitchen. I’ll have to visit Stanley’s on Lincoln Avenue, and let them do the preparation for me.

– Lou Piniella (you remember him) presents “Anita Piniella’s Layered Chicken Salad” and says: “If we’re winning, I go out a little more. If not, I tend to stay in.” The ingredients for Anita’s salad look tasty. I think this one is Dave-proof and doable.

– Mike Quade says “…once I get home for the winter, my time is consumed by two of my other passions – fishing and cooking. My home along the Florida Gulf Coast affords me with some of the best shallow saltwater fishing in the country, and the only thing better than the challenge of catching these fish is the fun of preparing them.”

“Q” likes to serve his “Pecan-Crusted Snook with Cajun Cream Sauce” with “roasted potatoes, sweet corn relish, and blue cheese and pear salad”. I gotta try this one.

– Ryne Sandberg’s wife, Margaret, contributed a recipe for Chicken Tacos, which looks delicious.

– Ryne also presents a recipe for “Harry Caray’s Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce”. There’s a winning trifecta right there.

– Ryan Theriot presents a Jambalaya recipe (“Chef John Folse’s Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya”), which, as I mentioned before, is right up my alley.

– Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol present a Dominican dish called “Mangu”, from Sobeida Minaya’s “Tropical Taste” restaurant near Humboldt Park (my old stomping grounds). It says here that “Mangu is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the only change is what you have on the side”. I can live with that.

– Micah Hoffpauir presented “Grandma Ernestine Adams’ Blonde Brownies”. I don’t usually get worked up about brownies because I don’t really care for most chocolate that much. But these “blonde” brownies don’t contain chocolate. Sign me up!!

– Len Kasper presents his mom’s Michigan “Apple Crisp” recipe, and Jeff Stevens presents a “Banana Nut Bread” recipe courtesy of his girlfriend, Christina. Both of these desserts look extremely tasty.

There are a lot of opportunities for “good eatin’” contained in the Chicago Cubs Cookbook.

I have to say I’m not a fan of the plastic binding system used on this book.

Nevertheless, I did especially enjoy the background stories behind the recipes. They put some very human faces on the members of the Chicago Cubs (past and present).

I recommend the “Chicago Cubs Cookbook – All-Star Recipes From Your Favorite Players” to anyone with an interest in cooking and/or eating, as well as to anyone who follows the Chicago Cubs.

It’s for a good cause.

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Book Review – Men At Work by George Will

Friday, May 6th, 2011

The full title of this book is “Men At Work – The Craft Of Baseball”. It was written by George F. Will and was originally published in 1990. I read the 20th anniversary edition of this #1 New York Times bestseller, which the front cover identifies as “A Notable Book of The Year, as per The New York Times Book Review”

As you are probably already aware, author George F. Will writes a news column which appears in over four hundred newspapers nationwide. He also writes for Newsweek magazine. He appears on ABC News and has written twelve books in addition to “Men At Work”. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977.

George F. Will earned my everlasting respect when he made a guest appearance on Stephen Colbert’s TV show. He handled himself and Mr. Colbert admirably. I’ve never seen anything like it.

And, George F. Will is a Cubs fan.

Mr. Will has constructed “Men At Work” with four major areas of attention: managing, pitching, hitting, and defense. Each of those topics are illuminated by the author’s presentation of one major individual practitioner: Tony La Russa, Orel Hershiser, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr., respectively.

This 20th anniversary edition was released in April of 2010, and contains a new introduction by the author. In it, Mr. Will allows that, were he going to write “Men At Work” today, he might choose as his four subjects: Mike Scioscia, Manager; Tim Lincecum, Pitcher; Albert Pujols, Batter; and Chase Utley, Fielder.

Among other things, the author points out that the baseball draft is a highly unscientific, uncertain plunge, because of which there is no shame in being selected deep in the draft. Two players picked in late rounds who turned out to be good investments include Andre Dawson (11th round), and Ryne Sandberg (20).

Mr. Will includes Ryne Sandberg’s terse summation of the prerequisites for a good infielder: “Quick feet and soft hands.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “To me, the secret of scoring a lot of runs is, as many times as you can get a guy into scoring position, do it.”

– “It’s not correct to sit and wait for extra-base hits.”

– “Speed comes to the park every day. The three-run home run doesn’t. Speed is the most consistent thing you have.”

– “If you execute the fundamentals, you can win.”

– “…the four important things in baseball, in order of importance, are: play hard, win, make money and have fun. The problems start when the third and fourth take precedence over the first and second.”

– “Spring Training is delightful everywhere but it is best in Arizona.”

– “’Don’t give this guy anything good to hit – but don’t walk him.’ That is what is meant by pitching around a batter.”

– “Control without stuff is far better than stuff without control.”

– “You don’t listen to parents when you are growing up, so my dad found other people for us to listen to.”

– “Throw strikes, change speeds, work fast.”

– “The beauty of the game is that there are no absolutes. It’s all nuances and anticipation, not like football, which is all about vectors and forces.”

– “Of course, sport includes some young men and some not-so-young men who have never grown up, who are self-absorbed, willful, vain and arrogant….but precisely because competition at the pinnacle of American sport offers many temptations, and because physical abilities can carry an athlete far without a commensurate portion of good character, the achievements of the genuine grown-ups…are all the more to be admired.”

– “Baseball is not an ‘enemy’ sport. You do have certain rivals and certain people you do not like. But for the most part it’s not a contact sport, it’s a pitcher-hitter confrontation more than anything else. The people who come into second base, you have so many things in common with them. It’s a friendly sport, I guess.”

– “As Casey Stengel would have put it, a lot of times people don’t always tell the truth.”

– “La Russa says, ‘Be aggressive offensively – when in doubt, push. But defensively, it’s the opposite. Be very basic, take the outs that are there, don’t gamble in a way that will open up a big inning for the other team.”

– “Then you hear somebody screaming in the dugout ‘How can you play me there?’ – to me, that’s more gratifying than getting a bases-loaded hit. That’s the game within the game.”

– “But as the Yankees (and Atlanta Braves) have recently shown, the absence of baseball acumen in the front office can be a great leveler, regardless of financial assets.”

My dad (“The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan”) read this book a few years ago. He said it was possibly the best book about baseball that he had ever read, but that there was so much in it, he couldn’t begin to tell me about it. Similarly, I have barely scratched the surface in telling you about all this book contains. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

I thank HarperCollins Publishers and Joe Aiello for making a copy of “Men At Work” available to me for reading and for review.

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By The Time I Got To Phoenix…

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

A family emergency caused me to take a 5 week road trip recently. The destination was Southern California.

My dad (“The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan”) and I have talked about going to Mesa, Arizona for Cubs Spring Training. Since I was going to be passing right through Arizona on this trip, the only question was whether I would visit the Cubs Spring Training Camp on the way out, or on the way back, or both.

I left Chicago (following Route 66) in late February during a snow and ice and wind storm. In Springfield, Illinois, I noticed no more snow on the ground. In St. Louis I noticed the snow on the truck (on the mirrors, etc.) had all melted. Missouri was sunny with blue skies.

In Oklahoma City people were wearing shorts, and people were riding motorcycles. The turnpikes in Oklahoma are great, but there are no rest areas. I found one 7 miles before Texas, but it was a dump and the dog couldn’t walk with all the stickers on the ground.

I did stop at a beautiful, scenic rest area in Northern Arizona between Winslow & Winona.

I decided to head straight to Orange County, California to see how my uncle was doing, thus passing up Phoenix and the Cubs Spring Training Camp on the way out.

Southern California was as I had remembered it, only more so.

The County Social Services people are ready and waiting to charge you with neglect if you don’t get your eyebrows waxed regularly.

For the most part, the people in Southern California were beautiful… looking, and the vast majority of them were very nice to me also.

A gallon of diesel fuel cost me $4.29 in Needles, but I thought the price would go down when I reached civilization. In Orange County diesel was going for as much as $4.49 a gallon.

The family crisis (my mom’s hanai older sister had passed away, leaving my uncle all alone) required me to remain on station for 4 weeks, much longer than I had anticipated.

Here’s a good news/bad news situation:
– Good news: I stumbled upon a 24 hour jazz radio station out of CSU Long Beach to keep me company;
– Bad news: they started their 2 week pledge drive the day after I arrived.

As I headed back East, it was chilly and wet with snow on the ground at Barstow, CA. The temperature dropped to 24 degrees Fahrenheit at Flagstaff that night. It was warm and sunny in Texas and Oklahoma, but there were stickers on the ground in Arizona and New Mexico and Texas and early Oklahoma.

We found green green grass (which Bowser loved) in Eastern Oklahoma.

Actually, I never quite got to Phoenix. Maybe next year.

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Video Book Review: Electric Barracuda

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

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Video Review: The Tenth Inning – “Top of the Tenth”

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Cubbiedude chimes in with a video review of…a video.

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