RoDizio–The Return!

Can I pile this higher?

Can I pile this higher?

A number of years ago, I found a good way to make the budget all get spent before the end of the year. Let me clarify: I wasn’t committing white collar crime. I was in the leadership of the youth ministry of my church. We had a budget each year for activities. Whatever was left over by years end was deducted from next years budget. You really didn’t need it if there was some left over right? As practical as that may be, who wants to live with less?

That thinking led me taking the youth, right around December 28th, two years in a row to RoDizio. Fun get together, enjoy each other’s company and talk about the good times right? Well yeah but we are forgetting the most important part–food! It was all you can eat and these kids were ravenous. I told them to be careful at the salad bar as more meat will be coming to the table than they can handle.

Well that was years ago, I am no longer in that position, life gets busy and I had honestly forgotten a little about RoDizio. I was invited there to try their 2nd annual RoDizo BBQ Fest–their wonderful Brazilian grilled meat items along with some American BBQ classics. I went last year and I couldn’t resist again.

I mentioned in last year’s post about being part of the Kansas City Barbeque Society: judging events and talking classes from grand champions. I felt weird as most people at last year’s dinner loved the ribs; I didn’t. I also didn’t want to prejudge them this time. I was grateful to try a couple and RoDizio really made them well. That and some BBQ chicken, along with the traditional Brazilian favorites and you have yourselves a meal and a wonderful evening.

I told him to pace himself

I told him to pace himself

Restaurants come and go. I am a little embarrassed to admit that many of the places I wrote about for City Weekly are now closed. You want them to succeed and many don’t.

Even places that stay around for many years often lose their popularity. Getting good isn’t hard; it’s staying there. Places have to change things up, appeal to new tastes and keep the regulars coming back and new customers coming to. RoDizio has done just that. I was worried that when they introduced American BBQ that it was all dying; that this was a desperate attempt to stay in the game.

Oh no, the classics are still there. Honestly, the new BBQ options aren’t many and you won’t even recognize anything has been replaced. RoDizio has been wonderful, is wonderful and will continue to be for the coming years. It’s with the trip and is much more than just a meal.

Back to my story earlier of taking the Youth here: it was not only a contest (between themselves) of how much food they could eat, but how much Guarana they could drink. They asked the server not to take away the empty cans. There were over 20 on or table when they were finished.

Somehow I found room for this

Somehow I found room for this

If you think that turning in a receipt for over $300 for a youth activity isn’t awkward, it is. Yet the food, drink and time together we’re all worth it–just like my visit there last week.


Thank you RoDizio and Happy Eating.

Let Us Try Something New

“Someday” I will write that book or go on that vacation or try my hand at that new occupation. Someday is a thief that will swallow us whole. We have all been there and we are all there. It’s just a matter of what it is and when we are going to admit to ourselves that we aren’t getting after it.

I do this myself. “Someday” makes you feel like “someday” you will actually do something about it without having to commit. The opportunity to procrastinate is never ending and so there is no ending. I have done this with writing, cooking, traveling, work goals and the list runs on.

With my fun addiction of smoking meat, there are three that I have cooked so regularly that it is more of a routine than a challenge–ribs, chicken and pulled pork. It is fun to change up a few recipes but I am familiar with the routine. There was this little bug in the back of my head that kept telling me there was one more meat that I was avoiding. I knew it but avoiding it was a better answer. I could tell myself “someday.” Well the nagging in my head got louder and so I realized that it was time to smoke a brisket.

A couple years back, I did smoke a brisket–one time. I put it on the smoker and when the thermometer read 170, I took it off. Everyone liked it and complimented me well. After taking Rub Bagby’s Q’ School class and studying, I knew that it was much more complex than that. Nothing to do but avoid it for a time.

In March we were to get together with a couple whom we see a few times a year. She lived in Italy for a time and learned to cook fresh, authentic Italian food. It’s hard to measure up to her. I decided that that night was going to be brisket provided by us so I put it on the calendar. The Wednesday before, I purchased a prime-grade brisket. I had been studying Aaron Franklin’s method of cooking brisket for a month.

On Thursday we got a text that she was under the weather and wouldn’t be able to meet up that Saturday. It was the perfect excuse (and it was thought about) for me to put that brisket in the freezer and live to smoke it another day–someday.

I knew that this couldn’t be. If I was to learn brisket I was going to have to get in the game. I wanted it to be perfect before I started. Yet, not starting was keeping the perfection at bay. We did delay but only by one day. On Saturday I studied, trimmed, seasoned and got that brisket on the smoker. It was the epitome of an “I sure hope this works” moment.

There wasn’t much sleep that night as when it got through the stall, and hit 170 degrees, it was time to wrap it. After it hit 205, it was time for rest–both the brisket and me.

Did it turn out? Will they like it? Will they ever be back? Oh the emotional ego battle I was having. time came to carve and serve. As my swim coach would say, “it’s time to see what you’ve got.”

May I Know Your Weaknesses Please?

What a crazy article title right? Who wants to focus on their weaknesses? What a drag this would be. But the truth is, don’t we do it all the time? I’m not saying that we actually do anything about it, but we focus on it with a magnifying glass.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law went to see a neighbor who needs help with his business. He runs a hospice office and is great at getting new business and consulting. But do you know what he hates–the details like keeping the books. My sister-in-law is great at numbers; she loves the details.

For a long time in my real estate career, I have always worried about what I am not good at (and there are many things). What I do love is prospecting, meeting with people, signing up new clients and negotiating. What I am not good at are (just like my neighbor) the details. If that part is left up to me, it won’t happen. When I sign up a deal, I am excited for a minute and then back in the car I think, “now I need to order photographs, and a sign, and fill out the MLS input form, and get the home on the MLS, and open title.” It’s enough to make me want to scream. It reminds me of the time right out of college where I got a job staring at an excel spreadsheet all day. To say that I was unexcited, uninspired and unmotivated would be an understatement; more like borderline suicidal.

So what have I learned over the years (although maybe not quick enough) is to delegate. The secretary at my office can do some of these tasks. Others items have been handled by setting up a system. It helps to do something about the work to be done, rather than procrastinating–my old demon.

Now what about things where we are weak but we WANT to get better? As mentioned, some things are just not a fit and never will be. However, we all have those visions or dreams of things we keep telling ourselves that we should do. Months, years and even decades go by. All the while we seek for a calmer time–when the kids are a little older (my current excuse), or when we are financially secure, or when we just simply have more time. I started really investing time in learning to cook when I was 32 . At age 35, I took swimming lessons (INSERT LINK). A couple years into my cooking journey, I had the guts to do something I feared–I started writing about that journey; hence this blog today. Getting in the game has led to some great adventures.

As I look back on some of those early articles and cooking creations, I realize that they weren’t pretty. Some of you may still feel that way as you read this. There is something powerful however, about writing and hitting publish even when you feel like it’s not perfect.

Maybe by taking that one step towards what you fear, it gives it permission to move just a little further away from you.

Happy Learning.

A Taste of Old Florida

Bean Depot Cafe Menu

A visit to the Sunshine State in the early months of each year, does a few beneficial things for my soul: the warm weather and sun rays brighten you both physically and emotionally. You get a change from the normal rat-race routine, and you get to go out to eat often–okay, very often. Thanks to a wonderful friend (who is also my cousin), I get to do these things each winter.

In the 5 years that I have been visiting, the Southwest Florida region gets more crowded each year. More snowbirds, more tourists and many more people who came down as snowbirds or tourists, are now there permanently. My cousin’s neighbor joked that Florida was going to start sinking into the Ocean.

Deep Fried Jalapeno Poppers

Deep Fried Jalapeno Poppers

Along with that development from all the money moving in to the state, comes high-rise condos, elegant homes, expensive restaurants, shiny yachts and well-manicured golf courses. So my ears perked up when my cousin’s friend suggested a restaurant just over the bridge. “It’s an old Florida place,” he said. I replied, “what is Old Florida?” He indicated that I will know as soon as we get there. Was he ever right.

We drove down the two-lane highway, past the yacht clubs and nice condos–what we know as the vacation vision of Florida. We turned left off of the highway onto a small road where my cousin said, “here it is.” The sun was going down but what you could see was an old wood porch connected to a dilapidated building. Plastic tables and mismatched chairs were outside on the ground in front of a small stage. There were  dogs, beer signs, and a backyard-grill /deep-fried aroma. Some dim out-of-season Christmas lights helped you see your way around. Once inside, dollar bills autographed by proud patrons were stapled to the walls.

Low key but fun interior designing

Low key but fun interior designing

We sat down at a table with chairs that would make an estate sale proud. The menus were already on the table–stuffed between the paper towel roll and the ketchup. This was the Bean Depot Café. One thing was apparent here–they like their meat dead and they like it deep fried; they liked everything deep fried. We got jalapeno poppers as an appetizer. They were crisp, they were filled with cream cheese, they were deep fried and they were delicious.

You had your choice of an assortment of burgers or fish with fries, onion rings, macaroni & potato salad as sides. I had a grilled filet of some fish whose name I had never heard and may never hear again. My sides were homemade macaroni and potato salad. I actually liked the fish and the sides were doable.

Deep Fried Filet of Fish of Some Name. It was awesome

Deep Fried Filet of Fish of Some Name. It was awesome

What I did like was the atmosphere. It was apparent that this was the place where the tourist do not come. There was nothing to draw them in and I’m sure the cooks and wait staff could care less whether they ate here or not. Our waitress knew a few people by name and went on conversing with them about their lives.

A lone singer belted out some music on the outdoor stage. A few people were gathering out there, drinking beers, holding their dog’s leash and waiting for more music.

A couple of rough looking locals who invited me to sit with them

A couple of rough looking locals who invited me to sit with them

Bean Depot Café is tucked right against the water and not many yards from a newer condo complex. The atmosphere is down home and relaxing. Even though I was a tourist, it’s easy to feel like a local. These are places like these that hang on and stay around. They hang on to what they love, the hang on for the regulars. And most importantly, they hang on for the sheer desire of just hanging on. Just like the greatest time of your life–you know it will end eventually but that makes the moment that much better.

what you see when you drive up. It not bad picture taking at night, it really is that dim.

what you see when you drive up. It not bad picture taking at night, it really is that dim.

Happy Eating!

Up Next: Dancing with Hippies, Searching for Alligators.

Double Your Income In 6 Months

Double your income in 6 months–well, doesn’t that sound like something you would see on a late night infomercial. You feel burned out and the temptation gets you so you look up the address, and for only $199.95 you can have a package that shows you how to double your income. You feel cheated, close the screen and live to dream another day.

Having listened to podcasts and keeping my nose in self-improvement books for a few years now, it becomes obvious who is genuine and who is not. The ones who peddle themselves all over social media trying to make you feel bad for your life, are the ones who die out.

So it caused me to stop and think when on the podcast that it my personal favorite, 48 Days to the work you love, Host Dan Miller said that you can double your income in 6 months. I have met this guy, followed him, believe in his material so this time I thought that it would be worth listening to.

I honestly expected a long, complicated process with multiple meetings and interventions. What I heard was anything but. Dan very simply shared that the quickest way to double your income was to fill your mind with uplifting and inspirational material. He long has been a fan of the timeless classic, “Think and Grow Rich” by Earl Nightingale. In this book, Mr Nightingale talks about how we become What we think about, and we think about what we put into our minds.

If we fill our minds with news, gossip and rumors, that is what we believe is going on in the world and that is what we expect. Years ago, I would listen to talk radio for a few hours each day. I would watch both the national and local evening news. You don’t realize how hooked you are on something until you get away from it. I started eliminating those things one by one. Initially I felt withdrawal as there was a void. How was I going to fill that time? What will I do if I don’t know what is going on all the time?

Slowly a void began to be filled. I started reading more biographies and self-improvement material. I turned off the radio and checked out books on CD from the library. I joined automobile university as Dan Miller would say. After a while, I noticed the cravings for news & gossip diminish. I deleted the news apps from my phone.

So I was improving but how was this going to increase my income? The authors of the books I was reading were not going to send me a check; they didn’t even know I had their book. I expected the increase in revenue to come from my writing. I had been food writing for 4 years and just assumed that it would happen here; maybe I just wanted it to happen there without knowing how. I know how un-lucrative that can be as blogging is not necessarily a business.

Well it did happen, in real estate. How did it happen–from all the self-improvement and success tips from the books, podcasts, magazines and CD’s. I couldn’t believe how much more efficient I was. There was less time being spent on things that were not productive. I began to understand being busyness vs productivity. I began to understand myself better and where my gifts lie.

It was amazing and still is. Yes it can be done. Decide what you are going to invest your time in and get a foot in the door. Regardless of your industry and if you want to make a transition or not, fill your mind with positive uplifting things and you may just look back after a while and say, “WOW.”

Mama’s Sweet Stuffed Peppers with Ground Meat

The infatuation of my soul with Cajun food continues. I love getting books that include not only recipes, but stories of people’s lives and their connection to food. “In a Cajun Kitchen” does just that: a multi-generational history of a family living off the land in Louisiana. The crawfish in the bayou, the corn in the field, the chickens plucking at the ground–it’s like a very elongated version of my own short visit to Cajun Country; a place in which I have longed to return.

Stuffed Peppers 1

In reading through the book, there were certain recipes that just had to be made. Whether it was something that I had tried a different version of before, or a page that made your mouth water just by reading it, it had to be done. That was the case with Mama’s Sweet Stuffed Peppers on Page 101.

As I mentioned, much of what the family in the book ate, came from what they grew and raised. I love a roasted bell pepper and the chance to have that be a big part of a Cajun meal was tantalizing. You slice the peppers in two, cut out the seeds and ribs, and boil for a few minutes to soften them up. While the peppers are cooking, you make the rice, ground beef, tomato and onion mixture.

The book is mouth-watering just to read, but after a couple of recipes, you realize that some of the food is dry. That is what they did back then. There were no sauces that they added to the dishes. It was whatever fresh ingredients were included that provided the flavor.

As I made the rice, onion and ground beef mixture, I could tell that it was a little dry. Rachel is rolling her eyes here as I often try to add something to the food; I can’t just leave it alone. For better or for worse, this is a lot of fun. In this case, I felt that some seasoned tomato sauce to the rice mixture. This worked out beautifully. We also melted some cheese on top when we stuffed the peppers with the mixture.

The word “stuffed” in the recipes, just doesn’t refer to the peppers, it refers to how you will feel when you have finished one. It is a blissful full however as you have found a new kind of peace in your life.

Stuffed Peppers 2

Wow, the freshness and the simplicity here are wonderful. Much of Cajun cooking is a one-pot stew–a loose term. They added the ingredients and let them flavor each other. Nothing really fancy here–no hard to pronounce sauces or special cooking methods; just tried and true country food.

In our current busy lives, many dishes are meant to be eaten quick and soon forgotten about; it’s a utility to get you on with your day. Some however, like this dish, are a near romantic transformation to another time and another place–one which I could happily return to, early and often–sitting on the back porch of Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It’s on the banks of Bayou Teche. Somehow sitting there, time stands still and all your worries melt away. Cajun food isn’t just a utility, it’s a social way of life.

Happy Eating

A Side Dish for The Healthy Folk!

Goat Cheese & Avocado LogOften, when I’m smoking ribs & pork shoulder, I do some not-so-healthy side dishes. Baked beans cooked in bacon fat anyone? Smoked mac & cheese with three types of cheese and a couple cups of heavy cream? It’s so heart-hardening delicious that you can’t pull yourself away.

It’s easy to lie to yourself; we do it all the time: “I’ll lose that extra ten pounds starting tomorrow, or after the new year”; “I’ll save for retirement when the kids are gone and I have extra money.” Well, just like eating unhealthy food, the effect doesn’t catch us for years, so why worry about it now?

I would love to say that the guilt got to me and I made a healthy side-dish for that reason, but really, I just wanted to make my wife happy. She loves goat cheese. Buy a double pack of  goat cheese logs at Costco, put on a fancy place, place some sliced avocado on top along with macadamia nuts and bacon bits. Then add balsamic drizzle and a few splashes of olive oil. Serve with some crackers and place in center of heart attack alley (ribs, pork, beans, mac & cheese, soda).

It’s actually fabulous. My wife had it for a meal.

Happy Eating.

Cajun Smothered Pork Roast with Onions

They say that if you try to do 6 things at once, you will do them all poorly. It’s interesting when we set New Year’s goals, that we do it in so many areas that by January 17th, we are overwhelmed, exhausted and go back to where we were the year before.

I sure have loved learning  to cook these past 6 years; especially the fundamentals. What I realized lately is that in the past couple of years, I did exactly what I mentioned above–trying to do everything. You can’t get good at one thing if you focus on them all. I have to look for the recurring themes in my cooking–what I loved the most. That came down to BBQ and Cajun. I write about my reason for BBQ here. Why Cajun in addition to BBQ? Because I’m weird I guess. And because I love the history and culture of Louisiana.

So delicious

So delicious

I picked up two books on Cajun Cooking: Donald’s Link’s “Real Cajun,” and Terri Pischoff’s “In a Cajun Kitchen.” Each night after our two kids have gone to bed, I eagerly cook books with the excitement of a grade schooler and his comic books.

My New Year’s resolution is to cook a new recipe each week; rotating between BBQ and Cajun food. This week it was one of Donald’s Link’s dishes, Smothered Pork Roast over Rice (Page 35).

It was weird to purchase a pork shoulder and not put it on the smoker. With the winter weather staying cold, I enjoyed not having to go outside. The pork roast was underway. Basically you sear the roast on all sides, make a roux with butter and flour, mix in onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary, put the roast back in with some stock and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours.

Many confuse Cajun with spiciness. That is not the case and came about in the 1970’s with “blackening.” Cajun cuisine actually gets it’s flavor from what each ingredient brings, not a lot of extra spices.

The smell of onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme is the aroma of Love!

The smell of onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme is the aroma of Love!

The aroma of this dish permeated the house. It was beautiful. When I first pulled the pork out at around 3 hours, it was tender but not fall off the bone tender. Another hour and it fell apart when pressed.

Shred the pork, spoon the onion mixture on top, drizzle sauce, serve with some of Chef Link’s “Perfect Steamed Rice” and it was delicious. Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse ate more than their fair share; they always do and I conditionally love them anyways.

I love Cajun because it is a little different than BBQ–you pretty much throw it all in and let it cook together. You don’t need to tend it as much. It’s hearty, it’s comforting and it’s delicious (not sure if I can say it’s healthy).

She is just so beautiful

She is just so beautiful

Here’s to many more dishes.

Happy Eating.

Rush and Rush until life’s no fun

Rush and rush until life is no fun.I’ll just stop by my real estate listing before I run downtown to a meeting. From there I will get in a quick swim prior to heading to Bountiful for a listing appointment. I can make some calls on the way, and return some e-mails and texts at traffic lights. Hopefully there is a fast food joint with a drive thru that I can hit on the way for a late lunch.

My coaching call is each Thursday from 6:30-7:00pm. This starts a half an hour after Rachel gets home from her guitar lesson, and ends five minutes before I need to leave for my church assignment. I will get home late Thursday evening and then get up early Friday, do some work, get the kids to my Parent’s, do some work, go for a quick swim and head back to my Parent’s house to pick up the kids.

The rest of Friday was spent in busyness. Then I would set my alarm on Saturday morning for 6:00am so I could go grocery shopping. If I can white-knuckle it until Saturday afternoon, then I will get some relaxation in while I watch a baseball game.

Something about the “I will relax then,” “I will enjoy then,” seemed so elusive. It seemed that was because it really was. We hear the old cliche, “the grass I always greener.” We say that because we believe it or we want to believe it.

Dan Miller, New York Times bestselling author & career coach, said that the grass is greener where you water. My watering had been done on all the busyness, all the errands. I didn’t want to be doing this but I didn’t do anything to change it.

Dan also talks about what your 15% is? Meaning, what are the things you are currently doing, that you need to let go of in order to accomplish what you want?

Many of us live lives of quiet desperation; never get to what we really want; because we never have time.

I never have time because I keep doing so many things just to fill my schedule. We all have a finite amount of willpower. When I tell myself that I’ll get to that later, then I’m tired from the day. There is dinner to cook and kids to put to bed. “Maybe I will get to it tomorrow” is the all-too-common story we tell ourselves.

I had to take a painful look at myself. Painful because it hurts to put yourself on a positive path. We need to admit that what we were doing wasn’t working. Who wants to stand up and shout that to the world? What brings you joy is another thing to ask yourself.

For me, I had to realize that all my energy was being spent on work, church assignments, and watching kids. Not that I don’t obtain joy from those activities, I had to recognize that I couldn’t fit one more thing in to my schedule. Food writer event? Sounds exhausting! Watch the kids just one more afternoon? Okay, I’ll start writing again next week. Be part of the coaching call? Nope! Maybe I’ll spent another $297 next quarter and be more involved then.

It was time to draw boundaries. Next time never comes. I was sinking one drip at a time. The ship takes water on slowly–so much so that we don’t notice, or we don’t want to notice so we turn our head the other way.

Living in the deficit was so exhausting. Always focusing on what we cannot do and what we are not getting to. Maybe I’ll get to it when I retire. Ouch!

I started unwinding; some by choice and some created by the universe. I hurt my back this past month–that limited me in some things I like to do. I also received a new church assignment. When they asked, I said yes but that in order to serve, I needed to let go of my previous assignment. My old self would have said to do them both (and then resent it later). I was also working on two stressful real estate deals at the time.

It was a good time to recognize what I can do–which thankfully wasn’t everything I had been doing. Previously I would have added to the plate and bought self help books to fit it all in–straight on the road to burnout.

Enjoy your time more, or it’s all misery. Nothing I did had joy; even though I was doing all these things so I could have joy; or so I thought.


Where did that time go?

In listening to a friend give a talk in church years ago, he shared how it seems that the days are slow but the years are fast. He elaborated on that: we have so many commitments that one 24 hour routine can take a while. But then it’s time for another birthday, another Christmas, another celebration. And often, another reminder that we quite haven’t done what we set out our hearts to do. There is always next year right?

Last evening we were at back to school night for my daughter. She is 5 years old and will be starting kindergarten today. In one hour, I will be helping her get ready. This is an emotional time for me as I have spent so much time with her over the years. I often took her to preschool and picked her up; went shopping with her; wandered the neighborhood; went to visit grandparents and went to the treat store (almost daily on that last one). Often days felt long as I was in my routine with her–get up, do some work, get her up, get her ready, get her to school, do a lot of work, pick her up, feed her lunch, get her some quiet time, do some more work and then get ready for the next day.

Now in a few months she will be 6 and I am saying, “where did those years go.” The last year in particular. As I wrote in the post last fall, “And So I Write,” I loved the opportunity to write my food blog for a number of years. It was especially fun to write for City Weekly where I got paid to write and eat. What a joy. That ended when the publication, like many, decided to cut back. This was last October and actually came at a good time.

My wife was getting ready to make a transition from her firm to opening her own consulting business. It took much time and energy, both physical and mental. I needed to be there for that. My real estate work has been busy. With all the commitments, I really felt pulled in too many different directions. When that happens, you are not doing your best work–on anything.

I kept telling myself that I will write again once I get pass this particular deal, project, fatigue, etc. The days have certainly been long, one phone call can make it longer it seems. And now almost a year has gone by; a year since I was writing regularly. They say that when you let go of something, either it will drop out of your life completely (which for some things is good), or the pull to do it will get stronger. I have ignored the pull to do it.

Can’t do the ignoring any longer. Yesterday, I pulled off the side of road and wrote down what my rocking chair regrets would be. The main one–“not writing.” Maybe it’s not exactly practical, but it’s therapeutic and fun for me. It lifts me up. It gives me energy.

What is the one thing you have been ignoring? The one thing you keep saying you will get to tomorrow? Tomorrow never comes.

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