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I love Food. Cooking it. Eating it. Experiencing it. As a result, that's what this blog has evolved into: A journal of my gastronomical journeys abroad, as well as my culinary creativity at home. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and I'd love to hear your comments... Cheers!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Triple Crown

Appropriate blog entry heading for this time of year, even though a horse will not have a chance to lay claim to the Crown, I certainly feel like I have. Bryan Wade Hollenberg decided on his own volition to show up 5 days early, on May 18th, saving his mom the worry of being induced, and giving us all the chance to make it to our eldest son, Jason's, pre-K graduation. That makes the third jewel in my fatherhood crown, and it's just as sweet, albeit a bit more routine, than the previous two.
My wife was, as usual, a trooper and held up her title as Poster Child for Pregnancy (& Delivery) with great aplomb.
What a week to look back on: milestones everywhere you turn. Certainly will not be forgetting this time of my life. In retrospect, it really all turned out the way we hoped...and, I'm convinced, my wife willed it to be this way. The kids made us so proud of how they welcomed their baby brother into the world, and we all seem to be making the transition from Family of Four to Party of Five rather well.
All in all, things are good for this HOD: Top Gun training has officially started, and is going well. Busy month of June lined up business-wise, with a fair amount of travel in my near future. And now I get to gaze upon not one or two, but three little people I helped create, who bring such unadulterated joy to my life. They are all gems.
And I wear the crown proudly...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Working Dad Productions

Enjoying my final precious moments of 2-child solitude (everything is relative, and I try to be a 'glass is half full' guy, despite my predisposition to the opposite) on the porch with my coffee, on a sunny, Saturday morning. Baby (boy) #3 is due any day now (Monday, by appointment, if not earlier). Finished my morning run (which is now part of my training regimen for the upcoming triathlon I committed myself to); Jason's inside watching TV; the girls are sleeping. Ahhhh... & so it's in this moment of peace, when everything seems just about right with the world, that I come across a book review in the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal. The book is called "Home Game," by Michael Lewis. And my idea for this blog in general is given a validation that I've sensed has existed for quite a while, which is what ultimately motivated me to start it in the first place.
This book speaks to precisely what this blog aims to shine a light on: the evolution of the very definition of what it means (and is required, in many cases) to be a Dad. I am flabbergasted, although I shouldn't be. I knew I wasn't alone in my place in life. It's just a bit odd to see your thoughts echoed by one of America's finest writers. In the WSJ. Just weeks after I launched this space. I feel: proud (I'm on track!), envious (an honest-to-goodness BOOK!), wistful (I wish I could write like that!).
And the timing seems even more appropriate for me personally, seeing as how I, like Mr. Lewis, will in short order be the father of 3, which will no doubt require a reshuffling of the balance between Home Office & Dad.
I can only assume (and hope?) Mr. Lewis' tome falls short to this journal (and journey) in one way: recipes!
With that said, here's a dish I made for Jill's baby shower last week, which was met with rave reviews, and provided the added benefit of leftovers for a couple of days thereafter...

Strata is Italian for layers. I enjoy making them because of it's methodical process of building each layer, and also because it's easy to customize it to your own tastes, so long as you incorporate the essential building blocks: bread, eggs, and cheese (I know, how can you mess up that triumvirate?!). I enjoy eating strata because when you combine the main ingredients with your chosen ones, it is a true representation of the sum being greater than its parts, and also represents a riff on many standard breakfast staples, taken to a more refined level (think french toast meets quiche).
  • In a large skillet, saute 2 finely chopped onions, 4 finely chopped shallots, 1 pint sliced mushrooms (I like baby bellas) in 2 tbsp. olive oil, over medium-low heat.
  • When softened and golden, add 4 thinly sliced peppers (I chose 2 red, 2 yellow), and salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until mixture is softened, and water is mostly evaporated. Add crumbled bacon to taste.
  • Meanwhile, grease a large baking dish and layer 3/4 loaf roughly cubed Italian bread on the bottom.
  • Whisk together a dozen eggs, 3 1/2c milk, 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard. Set aside.
  • Spread 1/2 of the veggie mixture over the bread layer.
  • Add 1/2c grated/shredded Parmesan cheese & 1 1/4c grated extra-sharp Cheddar on top of veggies.
  • Layer another 3/4 loaf of bread, remaining veggies, & same amount of cheese as before.
  • Pour egg mixture evenly over strata.
  • Chill, covered, overnight. Let stand 15 minutes before baking for an hour in 350 degree oven, until puffed and golden brown.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Week(end) that Was...

Survived the onslaught of obligations of the week before. Everything turned out great: Bunco Night, family in town, baby shower, etc. etc... the kids were simple awesome. Art shows, interacting with their relatives. I am truly blessed.
I'll be posting 2 scrumptious (one of my favorite food words) recipes from the Baby Shower Brunch menu in due time, one from yours truly, the other from a friend, but it's too late, & I'm too tired (took the mom & bro-in-laws to the airport at 4:30am) to delve into that at present. Plus, I have to wake up for me swim in the early AM. Which leads me to...

My One Big Thing: I officially registered for the Top Gun Sprint Triathlon, slated for August 1st, and picked up my new bike today (a hybrid, not a legit race bike, but enough to get me through the 10 miles necessary for the race, and still have a sweet ride for tooling around the 'hood with the kids), so there's no turning back now. (Editor's Note: I am doing this against my closest family members' better judgments). Here's the thing: I need this challenge. It will keep me focused, driven (and sane) during what promises to be a wonderfully challenging next few months, what with Baby Boy Hollenberg due in T-10 days and my work month of June shaping up to be rife with travel.
I know when it's all said and done, this accomplishment will be among my proudest, and that's motivation enough for me (that and seeing my family's faces when I finish)...
Good night...

OH! How could I forget?!?! My wife, all 38 1/2 pregnant weeks of her (bless her heart) got BANGS. I capitalize for emphasis because apparently this is as earth-shaking an event as Jason the Bachelor dumping his girl in live TV (Ladies, are you with me?)... She looks really dynamite with her new 'do, and she handled Hair-gate '09 with a calm and grace that I admire... even if she had to go back twice to get them adjusted...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Crazy Busy Week...Crazy Easy Recipes

This week is one of those that happens to young families quite often. We find ourselves facing a proverbial Perfect Storm of activities, happenings, and responsibilities that all seem to descend simultaneously upon us like those first few, ginormous-sized drops of rain that fall, that (combined with that unmistakable smell in the air) is the precursor to a major, imminent downfall. It feels like it's happening in slow motion; like you have time to prepare, but the suddenness of it all is still shocking, leaving you running for cover.
The eye of the aforementioned storm is the pending arrival of many family members, who will be in town for Jill's baby shower this Saturday (EDITOR'S NOTE: stay tuned for the strata recipe I pulled out of the archives as my contribution to the festivities!). Preceding that event is my beloved's annual obligation to host Bunco (it rotates b/w about 12 girls once a month), called for Wednesday night. Throw in a pre-school Thursday night art show, and deadlines to meet for some video productions I'm finalizing (Aloe Glow is done! We'll be testing it on the air within 2 weeks!... new videos for Family & Friends available at www.familyandfriends.com/Rich !) & you can begin to understand how life in the HOD household is a bit, shall we say, tense (oh, & did I mention I have a wife who's due in 2 weeks, and looks like she could be delivering the next great sumo wrestler?!)...
It is therefore completely understandable why Jill's only orders -- errrr, requests -- to me as it relates to our weeknight menus were: keep it simple; keep it clean. One outta two ain't bad....

We're not big steak eaters, but I want my baby boy in my baby mama's tummy to have some manly protein, so I reached for this tasty recipe we've made before. Comes from Southern Living, and it's about as easy as it comes. As for not making a mess, well...
  • Rub 1 flatiron steak with salt and pepper (1 steak was enough for both of us to share)
  • Sear it off on both sides in hot olive oil in a saute pan (about 5-7 minutes each side)
  • Remove from pan and set aside; keep warm
  • In same pan, saute 2 chopped cloves (1 tbsp) garlic, stirring for 30 seconds.
  • Add 1 container sliced mushrooms (I love baby bellas); saute for a few minutes.
  • Add 1/4c balsamic vinegar to pan and continue sauteing 5 minutes, until tender.
  • Pour over steak and serve.

I tend to like to use a bit more oil in my dishes, so there was a fairly significant 'splatter' factor to this dish.... but it's worth it!


This ingenious twist on making pasta comes from Real Simple mag, so you know it was simple. And it scored points not only for taste, but for easy cleanup, too...

  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pasta pot
  • Saute 2 tbsp chopped garlic until golden
  • Add 7c (yes, 7c!) chicken broth to pot, along with 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, 3/4 tsp salt; bring to a boil
  • Add 1 box spaghetti or angel hair, cooking until liquid is almost totally absorbed (about 8 minutes).
  • Stir in 15 oz. rinsed chickpeas and 1c (less if you're not that crazy about) parsley.
  • Sprinkle with 1/2c (more if you love it like me!) Parmesan cheese & 1/4 chopped almonds

If this is an old-world way to do pasta, I never knew about it, but DAMN it was so hearty and flavorful. This was the most 'comfort food' pasta gets without being mac & cheese!