#863 Cracking an egg perfectly with no mess

the-perfect-egg-crackPut your hand up if you’ve ever tried to fish out some slippery, slathery egg shell pieces from a bowl full of raw egg.

Brother, I’ve been there, too and we both know it ain’t pretty. Yes, Shell Diving is high on the Kitchen Humiliation List, together with dropping a piece of toast jam-side-down on the floor, opening the oven door and having massive clouds of smoke blow out, or cracking an ice cube tray too strongly and sending rogue cubes scattering all over the floor.

Yes, the Awful Egg Crack is guaranteed to redden some cheeks and knock amateur chefs down a few pegs. Nobody wants to be That Guy, who cracks that egg, that badly, and that’s why it’s so sweet when you finally do master The Perfect Egg Crack. You can do it at home, by yourself, with a bit of practice. Just follow these three easy steps:

Step 1

Step 1. The Tap N’ Crack . There is some debate on where exactly the egg should be tapped. Most folks like to tap the egg against an edge, like the side of a mixing bowl, but some argue that you should only tap the egg against a flat surface, like a kitchen counter or cutting board. Whatever you choose, just be sure to only dent the shell lightly instead of giving it a career-ending stab wound. Pushing too hard will result in a Slime Explosion, and unless you want to be called Salmonella Hands for the rest of your life, you don’t want that.

Step 2 Big Thumbs

Step 2. Big Thumbs. This is the moment of truth. Stick your two thumbs in the dent you made and in one swift move just dig them in there deep and pull them apart. If you did it right, the shell should snap easily into two beautiful pieces, dropping its slippery plunder into the bowl below. Now, some people opt for the One-Handed move instead of ol’ faithful Big Thumbs, but I say that’s too risky. Besides, what are you really going to do with your free hand anyway?

Step 3 Inspection

Step 3. The Inspection. Go ahead, give it a once over. Grab a magnifying glass or hold it up to the light if you need to. But I’m going to guess it’s looking pretty pretty, my friend. Because you just performed a Perfect Egg Crack.

So beat that egg, fry that egg, whip that egg into some cake batter. It’s time to say goodbye to Kitchen Humiliation and hello to some well-deserved Kitchen Pride.


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#864 Completely mastering the art of the all-you-can-eat buffet

Keeps your pancakes foamyMunch lunch at a Chinese restaurant, brunch at a Holiday Inn, or dinner at a wedding reception, and chances are good you will come face to face with the The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

If you’re a Buffet Amateur like me, your pupils dilate and your mouth starts watering as soon as you spot the long table full of steam trays and criss-crossed table cloths. Soon it’s game on, and you grab a plate and pile it high with some bread, a few salads, and a couple rolled-up salamis or a bowl of Won Ton soup. For plate number two you tackle the entrees, scooping up sticky heaps of Kung Pao chicken, soggy French Toast, or paper-thin slices of roast beef soaking in dark mushroom gravy. Then you go back for a third plate, this one featuring a tipsy mountain of desserts — maybe some assorted squares, a thick, gummy slice of cheesecake, or some fluorescent pink, freezer-burned ice cream sliding around your plate.

It begins

Then as you lay bloated on your chair, your buttons bursting, your eyelids drooping, you face a final decision: Do you go back for The Fourth Plate?

The Fourth Plate is almost always a good idea before you do it and a bad idea afterwards. It’s the helping after the helping after. It’s the Greatest Hits Plate, a star-studded collection featuring the most popular items from Plate 1, 2, and 3, coming together for the reunion tour, the last hurrah, the final dance at the dinner table.

The Fourth Plate is also a famous mark of a Buffet Amateur, because it can be the sign of someone who realizes that Plate 2 was the best plate and they really just want more of Plate 2. For years, I scarfed down The Fourth Plate at the Indian buffet near my college. Buttery, pillowy-soft naans piled high, thick and creamy Butter Chicken, and spicy, simmering lamb in a hearty broth. It was just too much. I caved in every time and walked away with a curry-busting gut and a samosa hangover.

Since then I’ve been tutored on the art of mastering the all-you-can-eat buffet. Everybody’s got their own techniques, but here’s what I’ve learned over the years:

Be a Sherlock and do a walk through

1. The Walk-Through. Don’t do what I used to do and blindly take a spoonful of everything. No, you’ve got to do your Walk-Through First. You’re a detective, popping open steam tray after steam tray, looking for recent fill-ups, traffic around popular items, and sure winners like omelet stations or a guy in a chef’s hat slicing big slabs of meat. Now’s also time for some Belly Space Analysis, where every item’s Tasty Deliciousness is weighed against it’s Projected Stomach Volume. Bread, soup, and salad rarely pass the Belly Space Analysis test. Skipping those means you just gained an extra plate and are on your way.

2. Drink Later. Sugary drinks just fill you up with carbs and cost extra. If you can postpone your Pepsi, then you’ll save belly space for the hot goods.

The Sampler takes willpower and strength

3. The Sampler. My dad is famous for the sampler plate. Within minutes of arriving he’ll dot a big white plate with small portions of every entree and proceed to say “Hmmm,” a lot while scooping up tiny forkfuls of each to see what will make the cut. You have to have willpower to pull off The Sampler, but it can be very rewarding. You know you aced it when your next plate is just piles of your two favorites. Good on ya.

4. Staggered Trips. If you’re with friends, don’t wait until everybody is done their first plate before uniformly filing up for a second trip together. No, go separately and act as each others eyes and ears out there — whats new, what’s hot, what’s fresh, what’s not. Your friends are doing their job when you see them running back to table to scream “They just brought out more coconut shrimp!” Also, be sure to designate someone at your table to be The Lookout. They should be seated with a clear view of the buffet and raise alarm whenever they see someone coming from the back with a new steam tray.

the-lookout-doing-his-job5. Big Plates Always. Be watchful of the small salad and dessert plates lurking about. Find your secret stash of full-size dinner plates and use them, know them, love them lots. The big plates will let you spread your meal around, and avoid piling things high, which generally results in meat gravy getting all over your salad.

One more egg roll

6. One More Egg Roll. When the check arrives, take your time. Slow it right down now and see who still has room. Since you’ve been so busy scarfing your food and staggering trips, now really is the best chance to catch up with your friends. Then after ten or fifteen minutes, someone will likely cave in and say “Okay, one more egg roll.” This is buffet victory.

With these tips plus your personal experiences, you too can master the art of the all-you-can-eat buffet. After that, there’s really no stopping you. So eat all you can, my friend.

Eat all you can.



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#865 Driving late at night on a nearly empty gas tank and then suddenly a gas station appears on the horizon

heavenWhen it’s late at night on a lonely road and your fuel gauge starts flirting with the Big E, it’s gut check time.

First you enter Fuel Preservation Mode and start accelerating really slowly and coasting nonchalantly through Stop signs to save your precious, remaining fumes. Next maybe you fall into a bit of a Blame Game, wondering why you let yourself get to this terrible place and pledging to never to do it again. After that it’s time for Survival Mode, where you make a mental checklist of all the emergency food and supplies you have in the car, imagining yourself building a Kleenex blanket to keep warm and eating restaurant mints and ketchup packets to survive.

And then finally, when hope is almost lost, with that fuel light burning brightly, that steering wheel gripped tightly, and those hands shaking slightly, you drive up another dark, lonely hill and finally notice some blissful, heaven-sent gas station lights appearing just over the horizon.



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#866 When you open the present and the gift receipt is already in the box

Box hopefully returnable

ALF was a great TV show.

But let’s be honest, you may not want to own the wise-cracking, cat-eating alien’s first three seasons on DVD.

So if you land ALF, or a fondue kit, or a shot glass chess set, or a gelato maker, or a sweater that doesn’t fit you, or the Wheel of Fortune board game, then you may find yourself saying “Oh thank you, it’s just what I always wanted,” when you’re actually thinking “Oh thank you, it’s just what I never wanted.”

That’s why it’s great when you see the gift receipt just laying in the box after you pull out the gift. You avoid the awkward “It’s okay if you don’t like it” (No, no, I do), “I wasn’t sure if it was something you wanted” (No, no, it is), “They have it in black too if you don’t like green” (No, no, I like green), or “I can give you the receipt if you don’t like it” (No, no, I like it) conversations.

Yes, when the gift receipt is already in the box, there are no questions asked, no questions answered. It’s just sitting there, a secret wink, a private head-nod, a quiet understanding between you and the very kind, very generous, very thoughtful person who gave you the present.



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#867 When someone organizes it perfectly so snow falls on Christmas eve

snowy-christmas-eveJumbo snowflakes falling thick and heavy on Christmas Eve is a special sight. They blur the world for a moment and lay a fresh blank canvas over everything. So if you’re sitting inside listening to carols on the radio, munching Christmas cookies, or chatting with family and friends, take a moment to look out the window and just enjoy the scene.




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#869 Slurping steaming hot soup on a freezing cold night

Ready to be slurped

Say it’s a cold, bone-shivering night.

Say there’s snow shooting sharp, shooting sideways, shooting into your eyes, and the wind is just howling and twirling into mini-tornadoes, slicing and dicing deep through your coat and into your chest. Your fingers are icicles, your nose a dented, frozen strawberry, and your cheeks look like someone ran them over with a cheese grater a few times.

On nights like this, just face it: you’re an ice-cold mess.

You just need to get home fast and eat some soup.

saltinesYes, you need to stomp your boots, shake the snow off your jacket, let your glasses steam up, and touch-feel your way to the kitchen to heat up a nice hot bowl of steaming, delicious soup. So do it up, heat it up, pour it up, snag those saltines up, and sit right down in front of the TV — flicking it’s flashing lights on in the dark as you curl right up under the blanket with your big bowl of warm love.

And then just slurp away. Yeah, slurp like you mean it. Slurp like there’s no tomorrow. Slurp till you can’t slurp no more. Because we all know that slurping hot soup is one of life’s great pleasures. For a few big reasons:

Temperature check. That soup’s steaming hot and you’re ice cold. You want the soup to warm you up but now is not the time for First-Degree Tongue Burn, so let those slurps force some cooler air into your mouth to chill the soup out a bit. It’s like cooling beer bottles in the freezer for a few minutes or nuking the cold half of your dinner for ten seconds to heat it back up — just a bit of temperature knob-twiddling to get it jusssssst right.

saber-tooth-tiger-skullOur ancestors did it. What, do you think cavemen sipped their soup politely? No, I bet they slurped it straight from the saber-tooth skull and loved doing it. So I say next time your date pops up from inhaling her steak dinner with sauce on her cheek, meat in her teeth, and some mashed potato in her hair, just flash a big thumbs up sign and start slurping your soup. It’s all about embracing our common roots.

Get closer. To slurp properly, you may need to hunch right on over the soup bowl. Yes, lean those shoulders forward and let that steam fog up your glasses and thaw your face. You are a few inches closer to being at one with the soup. It’s a Zen moment.

So next time you get home from a long and cold winter walk home, just heat up some soup and start laying down some wet and juicy slurps.

Also works with cocoa.


Gifted from birth


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#870 Nailing the milk to cereal ratio

Aim for perfection

Things could go a few different ways near the bottom of that cereal bowl:

1. Drowning in white. You poured 2 fast and 2 furious and overfilled the bowl. Now after you spoon up those last few soggy Honey Nut Cheerios you’re left with a good inch of sloshy, super-saturated, sandy-colored syrup at the bottom. Well, the damage is done, so I say bottoms up to that. Just tilt your head, tilt your bowl, and say hello to a peppy morning full of jitters and fast-talking.

Drowning in white

2. Corn Flake beach. Here’s where you end up with too much cereal and not enough milk. You first notice it when you’re halfway through your bowl and those Corn Flakes seem a bit too crunchy for their own good. So you look down and notice you’re swimming in the wading pool, my friend. Assuming you’re out of milk or are very lazy you have to frantically start rationing, aiming for just enough milk on each spoonful to get by. Let’s hope you make it and don’t end up with a fat lump of slightly damp Corn Flakes sitting pathetically in the corner of your bowl.

This beach needs a surf

3. Cereal Bowl Bliss. Oh mama, this here’s the perfect milk to cereal jackpot. Maybe you’re like my friend Mu, who has lifted the art of obtaining Cereal Bowl Bliss into a noble, decades-long search for perfection. Yes, he has studied milk absorption for years, and knows that a bowl of Froot Loops and a bowl of Frosted Flakes have nothing in common other than a mascot who lives in the jungle. See, Mu points out those Froot Loops float high and dry while the Frosted Flakes are like crispy sponges that require a lot more milk to make it through. And then there’s the bowl itself. Sure, a big, deep bowl may look great when you pull it out of the cupboard, but watch out for the illusion of size. You may end up drowning in white if you’re not careful. Lastly, if you’re ready for Advanced Milking, you may be interested in the patient art of The Sit, which involves letting your beautiful bowl of cereal just lay on the counter for a good minute or two before eating. This will allow your cereal to soak up a consistent amount of milk, and prevents those dreaded bone dry first bites of crunchiness which offset your whole ratio. Remember: this is Advanced Milking, folks. Not for the faint of heart or extremely hungry.

Anyway, when you get the milk and cereal ratio just right at breakfast, you’re all aces, my friend. And when you hit it, you hit it, and you know you hit it, because that last spoonful goes down smooth and sweet without a hint of drowning in white or surfing up onto Corn Flake Beach. So nailing the perfect amount of milk in that big breakfast bowl of cereal?



Don't get furious -- slow and steady will win this race


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#871 Finding out your birthday is on a Friday or Saturday next year

Save the date

Planning those Wednesday birthdays is tough.

Do you party-back on the weekend before or party-forward to the weekend after? Either way, you’ll get a lot of “So wait, when’s your actual birthday?” questions, and you’ll be forced to take a sip of your drink, smile pleasantly, and casually say “Oh, just a couple days from now,” or worse “Oh, you know … two Wednesday’s ago.”

That’s just no fun.

So if you’re as self-centered as I am and the first thing you do when you get your greasy paws on a crisp, new calendar is flip right to your birthday, then you sure are loving it when that big day hits the Friday or Saturday Jackpot. Now it’s on for so many reasons:

  • Save the date. No need to puzzle over when to throw the big bash. Just start planning it for that Friday or Saturday. You have no choice and no need to waffle.
  • Party Priority. It’s true. When it’s your actual birthday, your event moves way up the party priority list. Sure, you’re still slightly below Friend’s Wedding or Out Of Town Guest, but you zoom up way higher than Poker Night or Grandma Visit.
  • More free drinks. Especially if you have a birthday party that starts the night before and kicks into high gear at midnight when you ‘officially’ start celebrating. Hopefully you don’t have to wear a tiara and a sash to keep those free shots coming.

Yes, you know as well as I do that when that big day lands right on a Friday or Saturday, it opens up a world of celebration possibilities. Because now your birthday’s going on, your birthday’s going long, and your birthday’s going strong, fool.

Awwwwwww, yeah.




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#872 The feeling of squishing sand in your feet

A million little massages

Free your feet.

When you kick off your tight, suffocating shoes, peel off your nasty, sweaty socks, and just start walking on the beach in bare feet, how good does that feel?

Man, it’s a million molecules of Earthbeads massaging your foot all at once. It’s a tickly, gripply sand sensation. It’s big piles of small cubes hugging and comforting your tired and sore and broken sole.

And yeah sure, the sand wedges itself up into your toenails, dusts up in your toe-knuckle hair, and coats the bottom of your feet like butter on toast. So your feet may look a little worse for wear.

But whatever, because the feeling of scrunching sand in your feet when you walk on the beach is 100% guaranteed




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