Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hey Mommy! Leave My Toys Alone

The store was impossibly far. Too far for a young boy to get on his bike and ride to the store with his hard earned money to get the superhero action figure they sold there. I had labored under the hot sun, pushing a lawnmower in diagonals across the older resident's lawns for months trying to scrape enough together to make the purchase happen.  I had hoped that Wolverine was still waiting for me.

Three months earlier, I had spotted Wolverine with the black claws, a rare variant in the Marvel Secret Wars line while in a Ben Franklin store with my mom. This was before the general stores and Five & Dime everything stores were replaced by The Dollar Generals and a CVS on every corner.

It wasn't our usual store, my mom had stopped by on a whim to get something random and to me it seemed like an impossible place to ever get back to on my own. I begged my mom to buy it for me before we left to no avail so I rushed back and hid it behind other figures on a way back shelf behind some tube socks.  Hopefully Wolverine would wait for me.

I decided one summer after my mom had left for work, my younger brother and I left to our own devices, to bike all the way back to that store if it killed me. Wolverine, I hoped, was still waiting there for me. I counted the money and some extra for rations and secured it in my velcro wallet and jumped on my dirtbike to traverse those 3.3 miles to superhero action figure glory.

It was slow going. Ten minutes in a car seemed doable but on a bike I underestimated the lack of sidewalks and traversing streets full of traffic. The road was full of commuters plowing through their second cup of coffee not interested in why some kid with a Huffy was walking it through a culvert red faced and sweaty.

I eventually made it there ready to collapse only buoyed by the nervous energy of my brain that had been imagining Wolverine tucked back on that shelf, nice and cozy away from all the store riff-raff. I burst into the door, setting the door chime off in an awkwardly loud way and made a beeline for the toy. At first, I didn't see him and thought that a villain who have been tailing me had certainly exacted his revenge by snatching him up as soon as I left the store the last time I was here. But there he was nestled among some Five and Dime underwear crying out to be taken home. Here is where my love for toys and collecting really began. It was always Wolverine.

I attended Comic Cons, I collected comic books, I played everything Star Wars. I was the nerdiest of nerds. In 1992, I went to the Wizard World in Rosemont, Illinois and I met my favorite artist of all time Todd MacFarlane who signed an original page I purchased from a Wolverine issue I owned. Creator of Spawn and eventually his own toy line McFarlane Toys. Todd created action figures that transcended what characters in movies and comic books would be as if they were real. These figures were immortalized three dimensionally from his own characters to horror movies, sports figures, and rock stars. Todd's toy line captured characters from pop culture in a new and interesting way and adult collectors like myself, took notice and started collecting action figures again only for adults.

Recently, following a mom's discovery of a Mezco Toyz Breaking Bad action figures being sold in a toy store, a Florida mom wants Toys R Us to pull Breaking Bad action figures from its shelf because she was offended that they were sold in stores. I'd like to say to that mom, Settle down. Move away from the adult collector's toy section and go about your shopping for everything cute and cuddly.

You are worried about your kids knowing what exactly is going on with those figures but you don't have to tell them.  Do the same thing I tell my kids when they ask me about a show I am watching after they have gotten up for the fourteenth time since being put to bed "It's for Daddy and not appropriate for you." That's all they need to know.

How would they even know what Breaking Bad is about? These figures are clearly marked on the packaging, Ages 15 and Up, so why punish those collectors who may be at a Toys R Us with their family, and deny an adult of such an item? Why should I have to go to a "specialty shop" just because you are uncomfortable? In a statement, Toys 'R Us told NBC News that "the product packaging clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up" and "are located in the adult action figure area of our stores." I am glad that they are sticking to their guns for all of our sakes.

Is your worry that seeing an action figure will make them drug addicts because they see the figures? She mentions in a CNN interview that "Kids mimic their action figures, if you will," she told the station. "Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?" Clearly she doesn't know what she is talking about because the hazmat suit is yellow and the orange jumpsuit is from Orange is the New Black. It seems that this mom loves these kinds of shows but doesn't want anyone else to enjoy what might be their passion and for the people this toy is targeting, that is adult collecting.

Unless you are letting your child watch the show and buying it for them, how are they going to emulate those figures? By her reasoning, all action figures should be wiped from shelves including The Hulk who has a propensity for violence, all Power Rangers because they are trained assassins, and every GI Joe, Skylander, or Jack Sparrow figure because of war, fighting, and pillaging. The Breaking Bad toys are not marketed towards children but should be available for collectors in toy stores because they are toys but for adults. If you really want to target something that is marketed towards kids which is inappropriate, try Spongebob Squarepants.

If you like toys and want to let me know or if  you agree or disagree, head to my Facebook page to keep the discussion going!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

If You Have Legos, You Need LayNGo

The great thing about Legos is that the possibilities with them are endless. The sets are great but never stay that way unless you have stocked up on the Kragle and aren't really playing with them. To think that a woodworker designed them on a whim around the time that plastics were being used in manufacturing, proves that it was a toy that was just meant to be. 

Approximately 19 billion Lego elements are produced per year. 2.16 million are molded every hour, 36,000 every minute and I feel like I have that many in my house by the look of my son's room.
The downside to Legos are the multitude of pieces which invariably end on the floor and end up resting on the bottom of a parent's foot. If only there was something invented which could prevent this from happening. There is, it's called the LayNGo.  

My family and I put the LayNGo Lifestyle to the test this summer, taking it to our family cabin in the Adirondacks. The cabin was purchased in the 1950s and has been in my wife's family since then. Over the years it has gotten bigger to accommodate our visits with the kids but even with the expansions, there is always the question as to where the kids should be playing that would keep them out of the way? 

Lots of times we would head up there with Ziploc bags full of Legos and the kids would play, usually in an inconvenient spot where the pieces had to be pick up, respread, and picked up again depending on the foot traffic. The LayNGo solved all of our problems. No longer was a scrambling to make sure every kid had their own bag, but we kept them all in the Lifestyle.

Put all the Legos or whatever items you want in the middle and pull the drawstring. The bag folds into itself with a slide enclosure that keeps your things contained. Tuck the string into the outside pocket, and the Lifestyle comes as a backpack to carry with you!

Inside the product is just as great. The Lifestyle gives you 44 inches of play space with plenty of room for all three of my kids to have a spot without Lego Friends being too bothered by Lego Harry Potter.   It even has velcro pockets to hold those items that you don't want to throw into the mix.

It's honestly a must have for travel with kids and if you aren't into Legos, which is just crazy to me, you could put any items in it to carry with you. Think about all the things you need to go to the beach with the kids or maybe your daughter has to travel with endless beauty products. With the LayNGo, Boom. You're done. One bag for all your stuff.

Now, LayNGo is offering a chance for you to win your own LayNGo LITE. Enter below for your chance to win. You MUST be at least 18 years of age to enter. US residents only. Winner will be confirmed via a valid email address. If winner does not respond within 24 hours of notification, a new winner will be chosen. Product will be shipped by LayNGo not by DadNCharge.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FTC Disclaimer - I received a LayNGo Lifestyle in exchange for a review of this product which has changed my life forever. All opinions expressed are those of DadNCharge and are right. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Pop Ups Make Me Want To Be A Kid Forever

I can see the wheels turning in her mind. I watch the way her little legs kick wildly to the beat as they dangle from the car seat. Her unprompted clapping has my own foot tapping opposite the gas pedal though my inclination is to roll the windows down, crank it up, and let my right foot do the talking so we can celebrate this song properly.

Every song that follows is full of surprises, rolled up in a funky  modern dance party of melodies and flashbacks to a 1970s style of happy where simplicity hides in the most unlikely of objects. This duo's love for art and music is a clear marriage of two things that go hand in hand and their voices will echo in your head long after the children have gone to sleep.

 My three year old daughter was instantly hooked and wouldn't let me turn the song off in the driveway until "her" song, Robot Dance was over. Then she insisted on having a dance party in the playroom when we got inside. "Put on the Ro-butt song!" she screamed.

My daughter getting down to The Robot Dance by the @thepopups. Check out Appetite For Construction today!

I found myself listening to the album Appetite for Construction on my own when the kids weren't in the car and was emboldened to crank Block House when the car next to me rolled up with it's bass rattling noise, determined that my Swagger Wagon and The Pop Ups would drown it out with rainbows of music.

What I love about music in general but especially with kindie rock, is the ability to turn what seem to be ordinary, everyday activities, things, animals into brilliant songs. The Pop Ups Appetite for Construction is a must own album if you have children who love to create. Their music is what kindie music is all about, having fun.

Maybe it is the art teacher in me that can appreciate two guys singing about creating a collage in Pictures Making Pictures or of all the possibilities that exist with three fridge magnet shapes on our fridge in All These Shapes. By the time you get to Costume Party, an inspiring song about wearing whatever we want no matter who we are, you'll be air saxophoning in the Target parking lot.

Jacob Stein and Jason Rabinowitz's music will inspire you to do projects with your kids and find the beauty in everyday life and inspire you to turn the seemingly ordinary into the extraordinary. If you aren't hooked by Go To Sleep, check your pulse because that track itself is like a musical finale on The Love Boat.

Check out The Pop Ups video below and like them on Facebook and Twitter today. Appetite for Construction is available on iTunes and Amazon now.  If you love them like I know you will, let them hear it on social media!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

DIY Minion Costume

Do you have little minions running around your house too?  After watching Despicable Me with the kids years ago and loving those little yellow guys wreak havoc, it seemed only fitting that I refer to my own children as "my minions" We all know that getting everyone out to the car can be a pain so I took a lesson from Gru and now say "Minions! ASSEMBLE!" before we head out.  The kids love it with the only drawback being the occasional "Bee-do-bee-do-bee-do" siren the whole way out. 

As a bald guy, Halloween costumes can be a challenge so I try to pick characters that are already bald like Dr. Evil, Voldemort, and last year, Gru. It also meant that with the right sweater and a well placed scarf, that my costume was good to go without going overboard, as I am known to do sometimes. No self respecting Gru would be caught without his minions so I needed to invent a costume for the kids. Here is how I made it:

Materials :

Hot glue gun
Cheap play glasses with the lenses pulled out (search for round wizard glasses)
2 inch black elastic
Velcro tape
Silver spray paint
Foam craft paper
yellow hoodie or long sleeve shirt
yellow beanie
black pipe cleaners
duct tape
black gloves

The Goggles:

  1. Take the Glad Mini Cups and cut out the bottoms
  2. Hot glue them to the glasses. To make the cups fit side by side, cut a notch in one of the cups at the top lip so they sit side by side. 
  3. If they don't fit exactly to the glasses, hot glue the cups to a foam paper shaped like the front of the glasses with spaces cut out to see through the foam
  4. Hot glue the cups together and let it dry. Once dry, you should be able to shake them without movement. 
  5. Spray paint the whole thing silver outside using newspaper underneath. I used two coats
  6. Using the Velcro tape, place the felt (soft side up) to either side of the cups, securing with hot glue underneath
  7. Measure the band length using your child. Have them put on the glasses to measure. This doesn't need to be tight but as it is only covering up the glasses' frame. Mark and cut the band.
  8. Attach one side of the Velcro tape (grabby side) to the inside of the elastic band with hot glue. Once you have ensured that the band is the right size, do the same on the other side.

The Hat :

  1. Take the yellow beanie and poke two small holes through the top on opposite sides
  2. Push the black pipecleaner through both holes to create the hair
  3. Secure the pipe cleaners to the top of the beanie by placing a small piece of cardboard with duct tape. This will also protect your child from being poked 

Complete The Look:

Copy and print out this Gru Logo and tape it to the front of the overalls. Instant Minion! 

Anyone can be a minion, including my own dad, who is the ultimate Dave minion

Make it a family costume with Gru and Lucy from Despicable Me 2 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stop Taking The Play Out of Playgrounds

Remember that feeling of weightlessness? Remember feeling the warm sun on your face while a sky of azure looked back down on you, tempting you to touch it? I remember feeling that if I kicked enough and extended my arm beyond my physical limitations that I would feel that blue sky sifting through my hands like early morning sand.

Playgrounds have drastically changed since I was a kid and I wish that they hadn't. The playground is no Thunderdome. Kids are still getting out relatively unscathed but in some places they believe exploration especially of the experimental kind is necessary. Playgrounds didn't have all the restrictions and warnings that they have now. You played at your own risk, which was part of the fun. Yet, some of us still hover like helicopters and prevent exploration and accidents from happening.

Yet here we are in a modern day and age where we are putting restrictions on everything that could potentially be harmful to us with the latest target being swings. Yes. Swings. In a school district in Richland, Washington, school administrators fear that this sort of injury is easily handled by eliminating the swings. “As schools get modernized or renovated or as we’re doing work on the playground equipment, we’ll take out the swings,” said Richland School District’s Steve Aagard. “It’s just really a safety issue, swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground.”

Yet the Richland School District clearly needs to check their research as the CDC's report cites that on public playgrounds, climbing structures are number one with swings being more of an issue at home playgrounds. While we are at it, let's just stop girls from playing on the playground because they get hurt more often than boys. See where this is going? Yes. It's crazy.

Imagine getting rid of swings because of a potential to get hurt. Are we raising children or bubble kids?  Swings are liberating. Swings can give you that feeling that you are unstoppable. They support the idea that if you could only pump your legs in such a rhythm, that you could touch the sky. Without swings this idea will be stolen from the kids of Richland. All because kids have gotten injured by walking in front of a swing.

If you've spent any time on the playground like I have, you have seen this happen. Toddlers will never take a wide berth when it comes to the swings, they have no concept of what is about to happen. They only see the delight in other's faces and the shrieks emanating from their source. Something this good is something is something I want to do so I am headed there posthaste.

Meanwhile, while you glanced away for that one second your child is headed into the Danger Zone and not in a cool Kenny Loggins sort of way. Despite this occasional accident you'll notice a change in a child who has faced the swings and lost, they never get that close again without looking.  Ever.

We are over protecting our kids. Yes there is of course research that says otherwise. According to the National Safety Council, playground injuries send more than 200,000 American children to the emergency room each year. And every year, about 15 playground accidents turn fatal.

Researchers have concluded that the extra safe material is actually causing more injuries because kids rely on it for cushioning their falls more. The study in Accident Analysis and Prevention found that more than 80 percent of kids severely injured in falls landed on a so-called "safe" surface. The problem: the surfaces were often only one inch deep, far less than an effective level.

Playgrounds now often have rubberized flooring or shredded rubber instead of dirt or in the case of my elementary school back in the day, pea gravel. You learned fast how to land for fear of embedding your knees with BB sized rocks and a wipeout most certainly ended with the school nurse's generous application of what we called "liquid sting" otherwise known as Bactine.

My generation has become much more careful than generations previous when it comes to all things safety. In our first two homes, I babyproofed every cabinet, put a lock on the oven door, and even bought a toilet lock which I promptly broke after I myself, was denied The John and couldn't figure out the combination.  With our last child we did none of that and she is by far the most adventurous of the three of them. She walked at nine months which resulted in her first stitches to her head but that didn't stop her from exploring. 

I don't remember my parents babyproofing every cabinet but I do remember the Mr. Yucky sticker under the sink. His face was everywhere.  I also learned the hard way that the dog biscuits under the sink weren't for my consumption and that you shouldn't under any circumstances flush your mom's perfume bottles down the toilet.

My dad used to yell from the stands in baseball "Rub some dirt on it!" like the Windex all cure. Once when I slid into second and the base was dislodged, the post underneath took a chunk out of my knee but I still played on. My kids would never forge ahead. If it were them I'm sure the game would be called and everyone given a medal for participation and we'd all go home for ice cream because we tried.

I asked my nine year old son what he thought of a school district taking away swings. He said he didn't know what he would do without swings; that talking with friends while the time slipped past or having a swing off to see who could go highest wouldn't be an option. "Why do they want to get rid of swings dad?" he said. " Because kids get hurt when they walk in front or behind them" I said. "Sounds like it's an improper education on the dangers of swings and not the actual swings that are the problem" he said.

If getting rid of swings because kids get hit while other kids are using them is the problem, let's go ahead and eliminate baseball right now or any instance where children may accidentally be hurt by another child because of some activity. Swings? Check. Slides? Gone. Monkey bars? Deathtraps. Water parks? Drain them of all the water because kids might drown you savages!

How about we just keep a better eye on our children and educate them to stay clear of kids on swings until it's their turn to use one? Let's give kids a chance to shoot for the sky and try to grab the clouds. To spend time with their friends just sitting and talking when play is not part of how they are feeling that day.  Me? I'm headed to the playground to enjoy a swing with my children before someone else thinks this might be a good idea. You may want to keep your feet on the the ground, but I just want to swing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

7 Ways A Puppy Prepares You For Babies

Photo courtesy of The Wife of JustADad247.com

It's funny to me that when people think about parenting but aren't ready for a human life to take care of, they often say "How can I take care of a baby when I can barely care for myself ?" Somehow they believe that they need a test run, usually on a pet that requires more maintenance than a cat whom you may bring home and never see again. That is usually when couples buy a dog; to truly test their mettle in caring for another life.

That dog becomes your child and you care for it accordingly often referring to it as your "fur baby". You start to refer to them as your children and you think of them as such. Carrie Underwood is one such example, where the pets in her life became part of her announcement to the world that she was expecting.

Talk of your care for them enters conversations when people are talking about their human children because it is your only frame of reference. People get pissed off that you can even dare to compare. But, I am here to tell you that puppies are just like babies even though your mother may be getting tired of only referring to her granddogs and dropping hints everywhere that she's ready for the real thing.

7 Ways That A Puppy Prepares You For Babies

1. A puppy is going to wake you at all hours of the night because it is scared, hungry, or crapped itself in that cage you put him in all night long.

Forget that time you got to sleep in late. It's gone forever. It's going to cry, cry, and cry some more. Those nights you just would like to sleep for a straight hour are in your rearview mirror. People at work are going to tell you that you look tired which basically means you look like crap. 

2. Your stuff is all going bye-bye

Remember all that cool stuff you had in college or those collectibles you had on a low shelf that you want everyone to admire? It's gone. If you value them at all put them in a box and think of them fondly or you may be rocking yourself in a corner sucking your thumb if you don't. Puppies are curious and they put everything in their mouths just to see how something tastes.

3. You are going to spend most of your time dealing with their shit

Puppies go a lot. They often have accidents, especially on that shirt you accidentally left on the ground or that new white carpet you just installed in the living room. Make sure you invest in Stainmaster and buy stock in The Rug Doctor because it is going to hit the fan.

4. Forget your social calendar

Your puppy is going to take up all your time. Playing with it, cleaning up after it, and feeding it is going to be your life. Forget meeting your friends out for drinks. The puppy OWNS you.

5. Be prepared, you are going to spend lots of money

Puppies are expensive. Food and health care alone are going to bleed you dry not to mention all the toys you have to constantly buy for them because they get easily bored. Oh, and watch out for all the outfits and anything puppy related things you will HAVE to buy. Especially Halloween costumes. Because well, they are just so damn cute. 

6. You are going to have to take an active role in their education

Puppies need lots of training. There is no rhyme or reason why they do the things they do. They don't listen, put their mouths on everything and then give you a cute look that you can't resist. You're going to need patience and lots of it if you are going to get through this. Beer also helps.

7. Don't be dumb when it comes to vaccinations

Puppies can get diseases. There are vaccines that prevent these diseases. Would you take the chance and not give your puppy a shot for rabies? Of course you wouldn't, that would just be dumb.

Photo courtesy of The Understudy at JustADad247

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Care Always Wins : An Interview with Kevin Butler

If you grew up in Chicago in the 80s like I did, the 1985 Chicago Bears are a part of your DNA. I come from a lineage of Bears fans who yell at the TV when something goes wrong, my second vinyl album ever was The Superbowl Shuffle,  and V-neck sweaters in blue and orange were expected attire. The first three words I tried to teach my son when he started talking were Sweetness, Bears, and Ditka.  I, like many of my fellow Chicagoans are living, breathing Superfans when it comes to our football team. 

So, it comes as no surprise that when Dada Mike asked me if I would be interested in interviewing Kevin Butler, the kicker of the 85 team, I got pumped like Mike Singletary on game day.  Kevin is part of Dove Men + Care’s program called Care Always Wins which stresses the importance of caring relationships between players and coaches and sportsmanship above winning. Since the 1985 team was so dominant and had superior coaching, I was curious to see how his experience in the NFL transferred to his son and other kids he is teaching in this program. 

According to Kidshealth.com, 90 percent of children in the U.S. say that a coach should care about more about players than simply winning a game. In your experience with a coach like Mike Ditka, how did being on a team with his personality motivate the players on that team?  

Kevin Butler: I believe most teams are a direct reflection of their head coach. Head coaches are there to create a drive in respect of the game and the success of the team. Coach Ditka was a great motivator on and off the field. He made sure the players knew that playing in the NFL was a privilege and should be treated that way. Coach Ditka only asked the players to do the things he did when he was a player. The respect he showed the game and his players was the same respect he demanded from his players towards the game and themselves on and off the field.

As your son became involved in football how important did it become to you, that your child had a positive role model who exemplified sportsmanship over winning?  Who was that coach to you?

Kevin Butler: As my son got involved in football the first thing that I wanted him to understand was that sportsmanship, above all, was the most important character. I wanted him to know that football is full of ups and downs and he need to be confident in his ability and the outcome, no matter what that outcome was. Understanding that things cannot always go the way you want is very important as football throws you curves all the time.

My father was my first coach and he taught me life lessons and that I wanted to teach Drew when he first began his football career.

How important is a program like Care Always Wins to the game of football now? With so many negative stories surrounding athletes these days, do you think that this initiative will have an impact on future players? Do you think that the stereotypical hard nosed coach like Bear Bryant is a thing of the past?

Kevin Butler: I think programs like the Dove Men+Care Deodorant ‘Care Always Win’ campaign truly capture the importance of coaching in the sports world today. The program honors coaches who foster a caring environment and is putting them at the forefront – showcasing that a coach’s care has the power to ease irritations and frustrations that arise in sports. In fact, their antiperspirant products provide care to help end everyday underarm irritation, so coaches and players can stay focused on bringing their best to the game. I think a program like this could most definitely have an impact on future players. It is critical for every coach to understand their players and recognize what it takes to help them grow both on and off the field – while eliminating irritations!

Bear Bryant, Coach Ditka and other coaches from their era are coaches from the past. I believe with our youth today coaches are always challenged with adapting to the personality and lifestyles that have changed greatly. Our youth are motivated in different ways and the best coaches adapt to those changes. Bear Bryant certainly would be a coach who could and did adapt to those changes, even in his era.

The 85 team in Chicago is revered as the greatest team to ever play football. What were the main reasons why the 85 Bears were able to be so dominant?

Kevin Butler: The domination of the 85 Chicago Bears was due to the tremendous drive from each individual on the team, combined with our team goal of settling for nothing less than a championship. The different individuals on the team, along with the coaches, shared that common goal and did not let anything deter them from reaching that. That is the strongest character that any football team can have and every championship team holds.

I asked my dad, who is also a die hard Bears fan what he would ask you if given a chance. He wants to know how much credit should go to Coach Ditka for making that team so successful?

Kevin Butler: I believe Coach Ditka, along with coach buddy Ryan, deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the success of the Chicago Bears during the 80s. The focus that Coach Ditka brought to the team and keeping us all on the same course was the underlying factor to our success.

You are the Bears all time leading scorer with 1, 116 points. Do you think anyone will ever catch you? If you could pick a Bear who has a chance to surpass you who would it be and why?

Kevin Butler: I know that Robbie Gould will break my record this year as the placekicker for the Chicago Bears. Robbie has been consistent and one of the best placekickers in NFL history and with his longevity, he will surpass my record this year.

In all your time as a kicker, you never had anyone return one of your kickoffs for a touchdown. How did you manage to do that and was that a product of the era that you played in or your mad kicking skills?

Kevin Butler:  One of my records that will never be broke as a Chicago Bear is not allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown. The only way I manage that was being a little bit crazy and have always played football so I understood tackling and not letting my teammates down. Plus, the players were a little slower back then.

You've won a Super Bowl and had an exceptional career in Chicago. What has been your greatest accomplishment in life as a dad?

Kevin Butler: I have had many successes in football, but my greatest success in life is being a husband and a father to three beautiful successful children and supporting them and giving them the opportunity to succeed in reaching their personal goals. 

When are you coming to Pennsylvania so I can get a chance to wear that '85 ring?  

Kevin Butler: My corporate headquarters are in Pennsylvania, so I'll let you know. You can always put                the 85 ring on.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shroom With A View Burger

If there is one thing my kids will actually eat, it is vegetables. Yeah, I know. My kids are weird. My wife and I attribute their propensity to scarf down anything they can grow in our backyard to her strange cravings of broccoli and milkshakes during her pregnancy. Somehow, that combination translated as "delicious" to my kids while in utero.

As a kid I never really cared for meat. When the sides would come, I would load up on vegetables. Steak at my parent's house was always accompanied by mushrooms. And while I would force the steak in, I would heartily attack the mushrooms with reckless abandon. Sauteed mushrooms with a little butter and onions...and well, my keyboard is wet from the drool.

The Mushroom Council is celebrating #ShroomTember this month. There were so many things that I learned about mushrooms that I never knew before especially when it came to their nutritional value and their blendability.

Nutrition - Mushrooms bring important nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins and antioxidants to the plate without adding significant calories, fat and cholesterol.

Sodium – Mushrooms are low in sodium, plus their umami counterbalances saltiness and allows for less salt to be used in a dish, without compromising flavor.
  • Umami is a fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Derived from the Japanese word umami, meaning “delicious,” umami is described as a savory, brothy, rich or meaty taste sensation. 
  • “Tasting Success with Cutting Salt,” a collaborative report from the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, recognizes cooking with umami-rich ingredients, like mushrooms, as a way to boost flavor without adding salt.
Gluten Free – Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains.
  • Like all fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are naturally gluten free, and make a delicious and nutritious addition to a gluten-free diet. 
The only exception when it came to meat for me, was hamburger. It was my grandma's go-to meal when we were coming to visit. With four boys coming with bottomless stomachs, hamburger was always on the menu. Walk through my grandma's kitchen on our first night there and burgers would be sizzling in the skillet while she tried to plant you with kisses.

Come to my house for a barbeque and you are going to get burgers. Want to know how I rate a restaurant? How good is their burger? So when Life of Dad and The Mushroom Council were seeking recipes for #ShroomTember's contest for greatest burger, I felt compelled, nay obligated to demonstrate my knowledge of burgerhood. I give you:

Olive oil
Large Portabello Mushroom caps
1 lb Lean Ground Beef or other meat (see vegetarian option below)
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 TBSP chopped garlic
Goat cheese spread
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper
Kaiser rolls

Gently brush off any dirt with a brush or dry towel. Washing can add excess water.
Sprinkle olive oil on the mushroom caps lightly
Marinate balsamic vinegar with meat choice (vegetarian option, use just the mushroom cap)
Using a tbsp of olive oil, saute the onions until caramelized set 1/2 of it aside
Add the garlic towards the end and cook together 2 minutes, set aside
Mix meat and onion/garlic mixture to make a hamburger patty
Warm grill and grill burger and caps. Grill caps with fin side up. Mushroom will tell you when it is ready to be flipped when moisture pools on its surface and bubbles. Flip over to grill other side
Once done, add lettuce/tomato and place burger on bun
Spread goat cheese on top of burger
Sprinkle remaining onion/garlic mixture on top of goat cheese

Vegetarian Option: Grill only the caps, marinated in balsamic vinegar, replacing all meat with portabello mushroom. Toppings are still the same.

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