Stop Buying Store-Bought Hummus, You Animal

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I’ve always loved the flavors of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s probably because I love 99 percent of the ingredients of every recipe or dish I see. The fragrant spices, the meats, and fish, the vegetables – most of it grilled. Right up my alley.

Except for raw lamb. Gotta work up to that one, but I hear Suraya in Fishtown (the best restaurant in Philly right now) serves a mean Kibbeh.

Raw lamb aside, when most people think Middle Eastern food, they think of gooey, garlicky hummus. Served with the right bread (a lovely fresh grilled pita – do it, you’ll skip the carbs tomorrow) is heaven in a bowl.

Listen, I get it – it’s easy just to grab a container of that store-bought stuff. And there are so many flavors to choose from. But I’m here to give you a simple recipe that very well may change the course of your life. You’ll most likely get that promotion, and that guy is totally going to call you.

Trust me.

Ok, those things won’t happen (sorry) but you’ll at least have a tasty food recipe that will wow and amaze friends and family. And guess what – if you’ve got the hummus habit, this recipe might save you a few bucks.

You can thank me later after I change your life.

 

Ingredients

1 12 oz. can of chickpeas. Any brand – its just chickpeas.
2- 50 cloves of garlic (at least 2. Adjust to taste)
1 – Lemon, zested and juiced. (Google that, I have no time to explain!)
1 Tbsp Tahini (I like the Trader Joes Organic Tahini, there’s also the ubiquitous Joyva Tahini which is available pretty much anywhere)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3-4 tablespoons of water (or reserved chickpea water, if you fancy and weird)
Kosher salt to taste (if you’re a garlic lover, or need to watch salt, you don’t really need much)

Garnish
Finely chopped Cilantro
Hungarian paprika (any paprika will do, but if you want quality, get Hungarian smoked paprika)
Olive oil

Step One

Drain and rinse chickpeas.
Add chickpeas, garlic, some of the lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, garlic cloves (at least one whole, work up from there), cumin, salt (if desired) and water to food processor or blender (I did mine in a Nutri-Bullet Mixer because I don’t own a proper mixer and it came out great)

Step Two

Scrape that gooey goodness into a bowl.
Using the back of the spoon, spread the hummus evenly (like you’re frosting a cake! Presentation counts).
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the paprika.
Add chopped cilantro, roasted red peppers, or whatever floats your boat.
Dip that toasted pita right in there. Get a big gob.
Sit back and sigh.

Your life has been forever changed.

 

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Happy New Year, Let’s Eat Steak

The new year is a time for reflection. A time to take stock of your life and wonder what went wrong and what can be changed. I’ll agree: January 1 is just another day. It’s an arbitrary thing.

I also believe in measuring progress and failures.

I don’t do “resolutions”. Instead, I buy a spankin’ new sketchbook (a wire-bound, hardback book so it’ll lay flat). I write the year in the front with a paint marker. On the first page, I determine what my “theme” of the year might be. (This year’s theme is FOCUS). From there I do a free form sketch note of all things related to my “theme”.

I’ll also add some goals.

The important thing is to revisit this page and keep it close by. That’s’ why I keep it in my sketchbook since its always to my left on my desk.

The sketchnote serves as a reminder as to what I want to accomplish or do (or not do) during the year. If there are specific items on there (ex: “Buy that condo in Florida”), that goal goes on a separate page and is broken down into actionable chunks.

New Year Sketchnote

Yep, some things are redacted. I can’t give away all my superpowers.

At the end of the year, you can look back and see how well you did. Or, you can just copy the same pages onto your new journal next year because you’re a stupid failure.

As for the new year celebration – I’ve done it all: I went to a house party in Manhattan then walked down to Times Square (pre-9/11, you could just come and go, no diapers required). I’ve done the “let’s all get rooms in a hotel and have a party” (Fun, and no mess to clean up). I’ve gone to countless house parties (“Why is your girlfriend making out with that guy?”). I was in Florida waiting for the world to end at the turn of the century (spoiler: it didn’t).

Our new year’s celebrations are decidedly more low-key these days. I make a nice dinner, we ring in the new year then its bedtime. We get up early in the morning and go to the Mummer’s Parade in the city.

One thing I like to make for new year’s dinner is a nice New York Strip steak. I love steak but I generally don’t eat it much during the year, so it’s a real treat.
Here’s how I prepare my New Year New York Strip Steak:

Pan Seared New York Strip Steak

Rest, my pretties…

Cast Iron Seared Strip Steak with Herbs and Butter

  • Remove steak from the refrigerator. Rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Season steak generously with good salt (Kosher salt is best) and ground pepper.
  • In a cast iron skillet, add oil. (Your choice, just use a low-smoke oil)
  • Heat skillet.
  • Add steaks to hot skillet and sear for 4 minutes.
  • As the steaks sear, add a knob or two of butter, a few cloves of garlic and a sprig of thyme and a spring of rosemary.
  • As the steaks sear, spoon the buttery garlicy herb mixture over the steaks (Tilt the pan if needed).
  • Flip, sear the other side for 4 minutes.
  • Immediately remove the skillet and place it in a 400-degree oven for about 8 minutes.
  • Remove from skillet, rest on cutting board for 5 minutes.
  • Serve with veggies of choice.

If your partner goes for the steak sauce, slap it out of their hands and throw them out of your house.

Whats Old Is New (Again)

As a person of certain age, I’ve had the privilege and misfortune to watch several ‘booms’ and ‘busts’. One significant one was, of course, was the dot-com boom, which I watched unfold much like watching a car fire on the highway – you could not look away. I was fortunate that at that time I had a full-time job, and the crash that followed did not affect me as much as others in my field.

Shortly after the dust settled, I went freelance full-time. The story of how I got there would make a great post on its own, but let’s just say one day I was employed, the next day I was working the phones and email in my basement office drumming up freelance clients. I suffered a few blows those early years. 9/11, for example, really took the wind out of my sails. I went from making a decent monthly salary with a stable of awesome clients…to making only $50 in the entire month of January. I survived, and like everyone else rebounded. But after that, there was always this underlying feeling of “What will I do if this happens again?” I learned the hard way that in times of crisis, the marketing gets cut first. The so-called experts tell you that’s not the smartest move, but try explaining that to a guy whose business is on fire. Is he going to keep the guy that makes the widgets or keep the guy that makes the ads? It’s an easy decision, especially when you’re trying to make payroll. It was those feelings that got me started on the exploration of multiple streams of income. How can I insulate myself and my family if the shit hits the fan once more?

Hey, Lets Start a Blog!
In the early 2000’s you could actually make money from banner ads. All you had to do was ‘monetize the eyeballs’, and you’d be carrying wheelbarrows full of cash to the bank! This was the era of the ‘celebrity blogger’: Jason Kottke, Heather Armstrong, Andrew Sullivan, Derek Powazek, among many others.

The money was there: Jason Calacanis started Weblogs, Inc. and sold to AOL for $25 million. Tech Crunch reportedly was at one point raking in 3.5 mil a year.
I thought, why can’t I be a part of this? I’m smart, I can handle this, I know things! I knew enough about WordPress to hurt myself and I most certainly knew how to string a few sentences together. How hard could it be? I even approached a few friends about starting a blog network: “We’ll have dozens of sites! We’ll make a fortune!” I started a web development blog, a food blog, a humor blog – even a blog with daily inspirational quotes. And there are others that I’m sure I’ve blocked from my memory. The point is, it’s much harder and takes way more time than you can even imagine just to make one successful blog, let alone a dozen. You need to dedicate time to research, write, design, craft SEO, and code the post. And even after that, it’s not very likely anyone would even want to read the drivel you posted. You could theoretically spend half a week of billable hours ‘working on your blog’ and not see any return on your time investment. That’s where I got it wrong. I thought you could just post and post and post and the audience would come. The problem was, back in the early days, everyone else was doing this too. The gold rush was on and to compete you had to have good, consistent content to attract any kind of meaningful audience. And even then, you might not see a return.

At that time, I had a young son and a mortgage and a car payment, so I had little breathing room to work on my ‘blog empire’. I decided that my best ROI for my time was to sell my design and consulting services. It was more consistent, and I knew that whatever I was working on, I’d get paid. The blogging empire died on the vine, and so did the blogs.

The gold rush came and went. Socal media took over, microblogging via Twitter and Facebook became the norm. Blogs still exist for news and business, but now we consume information with a firehose, that’s why Facebook and Twitter succeed. Video is easier to consume, that’s why YouTube wins. Why read a blog when I can scan through hundreds of cat photos on Tumblr? The days of reading some blowhards 800-word thesis on why he hates Kale is over. There are some exceptions, of course. John Gruber is still churning out his very thoughtful Apple rants on Daring Fireball. I enjoy Austin Kleons blog. These are guys that put out consistent, focused content.

But those examples are now few and far between. The era of the personal blog has faded away.

Which brings us here. I committed in Q4 207 to write more. I’d gone through periods where I’d write every day, only then to see weeks of blank journal pages after. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy it, it’s because I didn’t make it a habit. So, since November I’ve committed to writing at least 750 words every morning. And there’s a side benefit. Journaling each day is good for you! There’s something therapeutic about dumping your brain onto a page each morning. “Write for the trash can” is the famous quote, Just get the words out and worry about editing later. The only way to get better at something is to do it every day. I can already see an improvement in my writing, so there’s that.

The final part was to put some of my writing back out there. Writing for yourself is one thing, writing for public consumption is a whole other thing. I’m doing this as a creative exercise. It’s refreshing to write simply for pleasure and not for a Google Page Rank or an ad click.

What’s old is new again. Let’s bring back the personal blog in 2018!

PS – This blog hadn’t been updated since October 25, 2005. That’s 4447 days between posts. I need to get cracking.