Cooking With Brad: 'Who Needs Pancake Mix?' Pancake Recipe

It’s Saturday morning, 8:30. You’ve gone out to get the car washed and your hair cut. But it’s still too early to mow the lawn. And the family is waking up hungry. What do you do? Pancakes, that’s what!

Believe me, this takes about as much time as making toast, and is a lot more fun. Plus, you get the satisfaction of thinking to yourself, “Who needs pancake mix?” and you can tell everyone at work on Monday that you made pancakes from scratch.

“Who Needs Pancake Mix?” Pancakes

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 C Flour
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 1 T Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ t Salt
  • 2 C Milk + a little
  • 4 T Butter, melted in the microwave
All set up!
All set up!

Heat a nonstick griddle over medium-high heat.

Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) until they’re a uniform powder. Then pour in the melted butter, milk and crack the eggs into the mixture. Stir it all together so the yolks make the batter a bit yellowish. Stir until it’s just mixed but still a little lumpy. It should seem a bit thin – if it’s too thick add a few more splashes of milk.

Test to see if the griddle is hot enough by flicking some water onto it – the drops should sizzle and dance if it’s ready. It CAN get too hot, though, so check it after not too long.

Ready to flip
Ready to flip

Use a quarter-cup measuring cup or a ladle to pour the pancakes out onto the griddle. When bubbles begin to form around their edges, they are ready to flip.

After you flip them, they will puff up a little. Wait a moment, then press them down with the spatula (they’re tastier if they are thinner). If you want, cut a piece of butter to put on top of each one while the second side is cooking, so it melts down into it.

If you are cooking for a large group, you can have the oven on “warm” with a plate in it – keep the finished pancakes there while you make griddleful after griddleful. Serve in stacks with syrup and watch your family enjoy their morning.

Ready to eat!
Ready to eat!

You can double the recipe and save it in the fridge overnight for Sunday morning pancakes too. It tastes even better after sitting a while.

Running In Five Fingers Shoes – Some Tips

A few months ago, I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes and blogged about my thoughts. At that time, I was just using them for general wear, and for the gym.

But I am an avid runner, and had not yet tried them out on the road. Well, I did try them once and got blisters. So. I thought I would do some research and a little training and see if I could run in them for real. Answer: yes. Here is my assessment:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8787670&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1
Running In Five Fingers from Brad Rourke on Vimeo.

As you can see, they are working out very well for me. The key is to train yourself to have the proper gait — looking up “barefoot running” can help get some pointers. I describe the key ones in the video.

Here are the shoes I use: Vibram Fivefingers KSO

My goal now is to wear my Vibram Five Fingers in my next marathon! Wish me luck!

20 Jobs Of The Future

My latest article in my blog at the Washington Times Communities, Public Square Today:

20 Jobs Of The Future

Here comes the future by Flickr user Max Kiesler
"Here comes the future" by Flickr user Max Kiesler

As part of the UK’s effort to promote science and science literacy among its populace, the Fast Future consulting firm has developed a list of twenty “jobs of the future,” and released a report detailing their implications.

These are the jobs, according the the report, that “we could be doing” sometime between 2010 and 2030.

Like many futurist efforts, the list is part reasonable, part fanciful, and creates in the reader the sense of amused vertigo one gets from reading decades-old accounts of what 1994 will look like. We are still not driving in floating cars, and no one even in 2000 imagined what Facebook would do to us.

So the list ought to be taken with a grain of salt, though the authors of the study go to great lengths to argue for its validity. However, the list provides an interesting study of what people are thinking will matter and it is a useful exercise to think about what we might add to the list.

Here, from the report, are the twenty jobs of the future:

  1. Body part maker. Advances in science will make the creation of body parts possible, requiring body part makers, body part stores and body part repair shops.
  2. Nano-medic. Advances in nanotechnology offer the potential for a range of sub-atomic ‘nanoscale’ devices, inserts and procedures that could transform personal healthcare. A new range of nano-medicine specialists will be required to administer these treatments.
  3. ‘Pharmer’ of genetically engineered crops and livestock. New-age farmers could be raising crops and livestock that have been genetically engineered to improve yields and produce therapeutic proteins. Possibilities include a vaccine-carrying tomato and therapeutic milk from cows, sheep and goats.
  4. Old age wellness manager/consultant. Specialists will draw on a range of medical, pharmaceutical, prosthetic, psychiatric, natural and fitness solutions to help manage the various health and personal needs of the ageing population.
  5. Memory augmentation surgeon. Surgeons will add extra memory capacity to people who want to increase their memory capacity. They will also help those who have been over-exposed to information in the course of their life and simply can no longer take on any more information thus leading to sensory shutdown.
  6. ‘New science’ ethicist. As scientific advances accelerate in new and emerging fields such as cloning, proteomics and nanotechnology, a new breed of ethicist may be required, who understands a range of underlying scientific fields and helps society make consistent choices about what developments to allow. Much of science will not be a question of can we, but should we.
  7. Space pilots, tour guides and architects. With Virgin Galactic and others pioneering space tourism, space trained pilots and tour guides will be needed, as well as designers to enable the habitation of space and other planets. Current projects at SICSA (University of Houston) include a greenhouse on Mars, lunar outposts and space exploration vehicles.
  8. Vertical farmers. There is growing interest in the concept of city-based vertical farms, with hydroponically-fed food being grown in multi-storey buildings. These offer the potential to dramatically increase farm yield and reduce environmental degradation. The managers of such entities will require expertise in a range of scientific disciplines, as well as engineering and commerce.
  9. Climate change reversal specialist. As the threats and impacts of climate change increase, a new breed of engineer-scientists will be required to help reduce or reverse the effects of climate change on particular locations. They will need to apply multi-disciplinary solutions ranging from filling the oceans with iron filings, to erecting giant umbrellas that deflect the sun’s rays.
  10. Quarantine enforcer. If a deadly virus starts spreading rapidly, few countries, and few people, will be prepared. Nurses will be in short supply. Moreover, as mortality rates rise, and neighbourhoods are shut down, someone will have to guard the gates.
  11. Weather modification police. The act of seeding clouds to create rain is already happening in some parts of the world, and is altering weather patterns thousands of miles away. Weather modification police will need to control and monitor who is allowed to shoot rockets containing silver iodine into the air – a way to provoke rainfall from passing clouds.
  12. Virtual lawyer. As more and more of our daily life goes online, specialists will be required to resolve legal disputes which could involve citizens resident in different legal jurisdictions.
  13. Avatar manager / Devotees. Virtual teacher Avatars could be used to support or even replace teachers in the elementary classroom, for instance, as computer personas that serve as personal interactive guides. The Devotee is the human that makes sure that the Avatar and the student are properly matched and engaged, etc.
  14. Alternative vehicle developers. Designers and builders will create the next generation of vehicle transport using alternative materials and fuels. Could the dream of underwater and flying cars become a reality within the next two decades?
  15. Narrowcasters. As broadcasting media becomes increasingly personalised, roles will emerge for specialists working with content providers and advertisers to create content tailored to individual needs. While mass market customization solutions may be automated, premium rate narrowcasting could be performed by humans.
  16. Waste data handler. Specialists will provide a secure data disposal service for those who do not want to be tracked, electronically or otherwise.
  17. Virtual clutter organizer. Specialists will help us organise our electronic lives. Clutter management would include effective handling of email, ensuring orderly storage of data, management of electronic IDs and rationalizing the applications we use.
  18. Time broker / Time bank trader. Alternative currencies will evolve their own markets – for example time banking already exists.
  19. Social ‘networking’ worker. Social workers will help those in some way traumatised or marginalised by social networking.
  20. Personal branders. An extension of the role played by executive coaches giving advice on how to create a personal ‘brand’ using social and other media. What personality are you projecting via your blog, Twitter, etc? What personal values do you want to build into your image – and is your image consistent with your real life persona and your goals?

What about you? What job do you think should be on the list?

Cooking With Brad: Nourishing My Family As An Act Of Devotion

I’ve always worked hard and poured a lot of myself into my career. Some years ago, I moved with my family to a new city for a new job. I immediately set about trying to prove myself by working long hours. It did not help that the culture at that office was to work long hours anyway.

I was out of the house for about twelve hours every day, on my way to, at, or from work. It made me tired and sometimes it was all I could do to come home, plunk myself down with some Wendy’s, and read the paper before going to bed.

A Personal Crisis

And then it got worse. Work got busier, and I was gone longer hours. There was more stress at the office, too, so I had a lot on my mind all too frequently. I was preoccupied and absent.

I was disgusted with the father I had become. I began to feel a sense of desperation, as I grew further and further from my family.

The feelings that were plaguing me probably aren’t gender-specific. I know women in the workplace feel the same way I do, only with even more layers of guilt and shame as tapes roll in their heads about the supermoms they are supposed to be. But, I don’t know as much about how they feel as I do about how I feel, so that’s where I am writing from. I am writing from the desolation of the busy parent who has to work.

If you don’t know what I mean, then I applaud you because you have found your own solution. But, if I am speaking to you – or a part of you – or to a fear you have about what you’re becoming as you rise to vice president of your firm – if you understand – read on.

My Solution: Become The Nourisher

I want to share with you a piece of a solution that I found to that growing chasm of distance.

I threw myself into a new role at home: nourisher. I don’t mean “provider.” We’re not talking economics here. And I don’t mean “nourisher” in a  New-Agey kind of we-are-all-one way.

What I mean is that I threw myself with gusto into preparing, cooking, and presenting our meals. And it has persisted to this day. I cook things from scratch. I go to the market. I bake. I fill the house with kitchen smells whenever I can. I’m not militant about it – I’ll pop open a can or nuke a frozen chicken nugget when the occasion demands. But when I can, at least a few times a week, I make real food.

The result? Nothing short of a subtle miracle.

First, my kids have come to see me as integrally a part of their lives instead of the guy who comes home just before they go to bed. I feed them. They see it. They even help, sometimes. This is not to say I was totally absent beforehand. By no means. But, I often felt absent. If you are a busy parent, you know what I mean about the sense of failure you can have as another workday passes and you still haven’t watched your son’s new skateboard trick or helped with your daughter’s algebra. Well, maybe I don’t do all that all the time. But at least I feed them.

Second, I find myself approaching the family with much more devotion – in a tangible, needed way. I am giving rather than taking. It’s right there in front of me, proof positive. As I stand at the kitchen counter, literally kneading our daily bread, I think about how the kids will like their sandwiches, what they’ll say later when they taste the extra butter I baked in. I look forward to the questions when it comes out of the oven: “Can I have a piece before dinner?”

Third, and this is not trivial, I am proud. My wife is proud of her husband who knows how to cook. My kids are proud of their daddy and think he should open a restaurant. To colleagues, I casually mention that I bake bread from scratch – without a bread machine!

Fourth, I know more about what my family is eating. I’m not a health food junkie, but I like the family to eat food that at least feeds them. I worry that we’ll get obese like 30% of our fellow countrypeople.

Fifth, I have a hobby that doesn’t take me out of the house. I am home, where I belong.

Sharing What I’ve Learned

I know there are a number of people who feel as I do, so I thought I would try to share what I’ve learned about how to cook. I’ll be sharing recipes regularly from here on out. So it’s easy to find, I am giving the series a title: “Cooking With Brad.” You’ve already seen one of my recipes, the one for “Super White Bread.”

I come at it from the standpoint of someone who didn’t start with any prior knowledge. I did not grow up in a household where we cooked very much, so I picked it all up as I went, as an adult.

And, while I like to keep the time required manageable, I don’t approach meals by trying to cram it all into 30 minutes or make it so easy that all I do is open a can. That’s not the point. The point is to put some of myself into the cooking, so I feel that connection. So my recipes come from that standpoint.

If you don’t want to spend the time, then these recipes might not be for you. But, even in the midst of a very busy work life, I found that I could set aside a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday for sure, and could often build a super dinner a couple of times a week. The trick is to make it a priority.

Our family recipe book
Our family recipe book

These recipes are ones I have collected from many places and made my own. (You can see the binder I made to the right. Sometimes that’s just an addition of more salt or sugar. Other times, it’s mixing two recipes for the same thing together. The key is to make food that fits into a busy house, is fun to make, and pretty fool proof.

So, please do follow along. Enjoy the recipes. I have tried to give as much information about that how as I have about the what. For instance, how to tell whether the griddle is hot enough for pancakes, not just what goes into the batter, Because cooking is all about the hows – how do you stir? Where do you put the spoon?

My hope is to collect all of these recipes and tips into one publication, so watch for that.

I am especially interested in learning new recipes and hearing about how others have embedded nourishing their families into their lives. So speak up in the comments!

I hope you enjoy and find your own way to connect with your family.

Today's Required Online Functional Literacy

I’ve been thinking about workplace literacy lately. I’m thinking especially about professional offices (not so much the shop floor — my experience there is a lot older than my experience in front of a computer).

It seems to me that we are in the midst of a major change in how work gets done. Again. But people in management and leadership positions are increasingly unable to operate effectively within this environment. They are reliant on others to do simple tasks, or they work very inefficiently.

Keyboard and Encyclopedia by Flickr user brad.rourke
"Keyboard and Encyclopedia" by Flickr user brad.rourke

This is nothing new. Professionals have always had to learn new things and update their skills — using voicemail, getting by without a receptionist, learning how to use Word, Powerpoint, and Outlook.

Now, with so much work taking place almost completely within the digital, online realm, there is a new set of basic skills that every professional ought to have. People need to have a basic facility with online tools.

This is my list. I’ve probably missed a few items. What would you add?

  • How to make hyperlinks. In the professional world, people are sharing links more and more. It is important to understand what a link needs to have, what it does not need to contain, and how different programs parse them. This may sound like rocket science, but it’s not.
    • Always start a link you are emailing with “http://”. Why? Because most email readers look for that to tell them to make something into a clickable link.
    • Include only what you need to. Lots of links are longer than necessary. For instance, look at your Facebook address. Everything after the “?” in your Facebook address is extraneous. How can you tell? Try deleting parts of the link and see if it still works! “http://www.facebook.com/bradrourke?ref=name” is functionally the same as “http://www.facebook.com/bradrourke
    • If it’s really, really long, consider using a url shortener like bit.ly. Why? Long links can get brokenb when they word-wrap. Short links don’t!
  • Read and edit simple html code. This sounds scary but it is not at all. There are many occasions when you are adding something into a text box that will accept rudimentary html — for instance, most blog comment boxes (like the one at the bottom of this post). Facebook notes also use it. Knowing how to use basic html puts you in much more control of what you are doing. Some tips:
    • To make something bold or italic, surround it with the right tags. Use <b>WORD</b> to make bold and <i>WORD</i> to make italic. See how it works? There’s a tag that says ‘turn on bold,” then there’s the word you want bold, then there’s the tag that says “turn off bold.” Simple!
    • To make a real-live html link, you use the same kind of system, with an “opening” and a “closing” tag. Let’s say I want to make the word “Brad” into a link to my blog. Do this: <a href=”http://blog.bradrourle.com”>BRAD</a&gt; See? the “<a href=”blah”> part says “here is a link and here is the address. The “</a>” says “OK, now the link is over.”
  • Control metadata in documents. Someone shared a Word document with me that was supposed to be anonymous. I easily found out who wrote it with just about three clicks. That’s because of what’s known as the “metadata” embedded in all Microsoft Office documents. Professionals need to know about and be able to control that to avoid embarrassment.
    • To look at and delete metadata in Office 2007 (the newest version), click on the big round button in the upper left of your document and choose “Prepare” then “Properties.” That’s where you will see who wrote the document, and various other useful bits of information.
  • Use search tools. This sounds crazy, right? How hard is it to type something into the Google box? But you’d be surprised.
    • People should know how to control their search results through the use of quotation marks. For instance, if you search for me by typing in my name, you will get lots of sites about Brad Pitt and Mickey Rourke. You need to enclose my name in quotes to get me!
    • People also need to know how to use the + and – signs. Add “+” before a word, and you are telling the search engine, “this word must appear in the results.” Use the “-” sign and you are saying “only give me results that do not include this word.” Let’s say there are two Brad Rourkes (there are). You might make sure you find me as opposed to the other guy by searching for “Brad Rourke” +Maryland.

These, to me, are just basic skills but I encounter a number of people who seem to be flummoxed by them. I do know there are others. What’s on your list? Let me know in the comments!

New eBook: How To Promote Your Blog On Twitter And Facebook

(Click here to purchase this eBook for just $9.95)
Add to Cart

Click the image to order
Click the image to order

If you are an author, or any kind of content creator, you need to look at social media as a series of channels through which you can do promotion. Social media will not do your work for you. It’s really just acommunications mechanism.

You can’t just “Tweet” your blog post and have it “go viral” and then sit back and watch your traffic counters start spinning.

You need to have a plan.

But there is good news:

If you are willing to do a small amount of work in building good habits, social media will help you amplify the reach of your work and position you for the most exposure.

Over the years I have written many how-tos and tutorials on how to do various things in social media. Now I have revealed my day-to-day social media practices and created a new eBook for just $9.95 that describes it all step-by-step.

Here’s a description:

The tips in this eBook are based on long, hard experience. I am using the well-respected e-Junkie system to handle fulfillment, and payment is through PayPal. All very smooth. I am a real person, I am not selling a get-rich-quick scheme, and I am not overpromising.

A lot of people ask me for advice in promoting their work in social media. Sometimes, it’s is pretty clear that people really are just looking for a magic bullet – they want something or someone else besides them to do their promotion for them. This eBook is not that. It is a daily plan of action with the exact steps you need to take.

Follow these steps and you will have good basic social media work habits . . . where you go from there is up to you!

Just click here to order:

Add to Cart

Thanks so much.

Cooking With Brad: Super White Bread Recipe

If you want to feel like Super Dad, just bake a loaf of bread for the family. Your home will fill with the sweet smell of a bakery, and will feel especially inviting.

This bread recipe is a slight modification of “Neil’s Harbor White Bread” by Christa Bauman. Neil’s Harbor is in Nova Scotia, and once I discovered this recipe I developed a fascination with the place. I have yet to visit, but I have traveled there many times in my mind. I imagine it to be a small, harbor village with fishermen and children and dogs all running about. (The only link I can find to the original recipe appears dead, so maybe you will have better luck.)

This recipe increases the sugar and butter slightly, and adds gluten. It’s really the most basic white sandwich bread you can imagine, everything that Wonder bread should be and isn’t. I used to make 3 loaves every Sunday using a mixer, but you can make it a loaf at a time just using a bowl and a spoon (the directions below are for one loaf). Can you believe it, my kids actually like this better than store-bought. And, my dad often comes over Sunday just for his loaf.

One Loaf

  • 1C Lukewarm Water (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 4T Butter, Melted in the microwave
  • 3T Sugar and 1T Sugar
  • 1T Yeast – Active Dry or “Bread Machine”
  • 1t Salt – Kosher
  • 3C Flour
  • 1T Wheat Gluten (optional, but it improves the texture)

Three Loaves

  • 3C Lukewarm Water
  • ½C Butter, Melted
  • ½C Sugar and 1T Sugar
  • 2T Yeast
  • 1 1/2T Salt – Kosher
  • 9C Flour
  • 3T Wheat Gluten

In a large, warm bowl, stir 1T of the sugar into the water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it sit for five to seven minutes. Once the yeast has dissolved and is beginning to bubble, mix in the sugar, salt and butter until you have a sort of soup.

Knead it!
Knead it!

Stir in one cup of the flour. Once it’s mixed together, stir in another. Continue adding a cup of flour at a time – don’t add too much at once. Once there are about twice the number of cups of flour as there are liquid, it will be hard to stir. (If you are making three loaves, you should be using a big mixer, and switch to the dough hook after about five or six cups). Keep adding flour until there are three cups flour to every one cup water. Then, you may need to add more flour at the end– it should be a little sticky but not too wet.

Knead it for ten to fifteen minutes. Once it’s elastic and feels like a damp, deflated football half filled with water, roll it into a ball. One loaf will be about the size of a softball; three will be the size of a cantaloupe.

With olive oil (use vegetable or canola oil if you don’t have olive oil), coat the sides of a large bowl and put the ball in. Flip it once or twice so it’s covered with oil. Cover it with a dishtowel and set it aside in a warm spot away from drafts.

Its OK if it rises this much!
It's OK if it rises this much!

In anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, the dough will have risen to about double its original size. It will feel moister, and won’t be as dense. Flip it out onto a hard surface (coat the surface with a bit of flour so the dough won’t stick to it) and punch the dough down until it’s flat. Then, roll it into a loaf, about the diameter of a soda can or slightly smaller.

Now, turn on the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Oil the inside of a large loaf pan (Pam will work fine) and put the shaped loaf into it. If the dough has a “seam,” put it on the bottom. Cover the loaf with a dishtowel and let it rise again. It should grow to about double size again, so the dough is just about an inch below the top of the loaf pan. This second rise will take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours as well. It all depends on your climate, the ingredients, and luck.

Ready to bake
Ready to bake

Once the loaf is up to about an inch or so below the top of the loaf pan, bake it for 18 minutes at 400 degrees. It will puff up nicely, and turn golden brown. When it’s ready, take it out of the oven and turn it out of the pan. It will sound hollow when you thump it. Let it cool on a rack if you have one or on a wooden cutting board.

Now, go get your family and give them some fresh, warm bread with butter spread all over it!

This bread freezes well; just wait until it’s cooled to room temperature before you put it in a plastic bag and toss it in the freezer. Since it has some fat content, this bread will keep up to about four days once it’s sliced. Don’t throw away the heels and old pieces; it makes great French Toast.

Ready to enjoy!
Ready to enjoy!

Do you have a favorite bread recipe? Let us know in the comments!