Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chef Big Monkey Shares His Green Bean Casserole Recipe

I'm going to divulge my recipe for green bean casserole which I prepare every year for Thanksgiving (and Christmas too). Here's the ingredient list:

2 T flour
2 T sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 T butter

Other Ingredients:
2 cans french style green beans, drained
1 pt. sour cream
2 c. shredded swiss cheese
2 c. corn flakes

Here I am shredding the swiss cheese into a bowl.

Then I combine the drained green beans and sour cream with the shredded cheese.

Next I cook the paste ingredients in a small sauce pan until they thicken. Then the paste gets mixed into my bowl. I spread the bowl contents into a 13" x 9" casserole dish.

Now it's time to make the topping. I slightly brown approximately 2 c. of corn flakes with a dab of butter in a frying pan. Once the flakes are finished, I sprinkle them over the casserole dish contents. Then it's into the preheated oven at 350 F for approximately 20-25 minutes. I hope you enjoy this tasty side dish as much as my family does. Bon appetit!

The Thanksgiving Day Swiss Cheese Tradition

Every year for Thanksgiving, we make a green bean casserole which contains a block of shredded swiss cheese. This is a very tasty side dish, and I'll be sharing the recipe with you today. However, the most anticipated event prior to preparing the casserole is the placement of the swiss cheese tradition. During the course of the day while watching football and gobbling down appetizers, someone is bound to take a snooze on the couch. Normally, it's one of the non-busy humans, but this year it happened to be a sock monkey. The person (or monkey) who falls asleep gets the distinguished honor of having the block of swiss cheese placed as close as possible to their face without waking them up. Then photographic evidence is obtained and shared amongst all of the Thanksgiving guests. This year's winner was Billy Ground Hog. Gunther did the honors by carefully placing the cheese under his nose. He twitched a bit, and then resettled back into napping bliss. Gunther motioned me over quickly to capture these shots, just in case the ground hog would arise from his slumber.

Here's a closeup of the shenanigans. You might have noticed that the swiss cheese is resting on my fabulous sock monkey dish from Cracker Barrel.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Michael's, the Knitted Sock Monkey, and a Big Surprise - Part 1

Laura went to Michael's last week just to browse around, and she heard some monkey noises coming from the yarn section. She followed the sounds and encountered a wonderful pal! He was a store sample - a knitted sock monkey head with two arms crossed under his chin. He was carefully wire tied to the store display. After inquiring about him, she was told that store samples were not for sale. End of story. There was a knitting pattern book for monkeys, but they were sold out. A bit dejected but not undaunted, she was determined to bring me back to the store to see if my sock monkey charm could convince them otherwise. At the very least, we would get some pictures together.

A few days later, I returned with her to Michael's. It was hard to contain my excitement as I approached the store. We made a beeline for the yarn section, but more heartache awaited us. The knitted buddy was gone. How could this be? He had been liberated from the chains that held him down. We sought out the employee that Laura had spoken to the other day. Apparently, it was time for the display to come down, and our friend had mysteriously "disappeared." Hmm... I detected some monkey business going on here, but I kept my red heeled mouth shut.

Laura and I were not ready to give up. There's another Michael's about 20 minutes away. We sped off in the Beetle, keeping paws and fingers crossed during our ride hoping that it would provide more fruitful results.

We searched fervently for the yarn section. As we got closer and closer, my eyes spied him! The buddy that Laura had told me about was here. Hooray! As soon as he saw me, he called out and begged me to free him. Laura and I went through the chain of employees to see what we could do. They tried to help us, truly, but in the end, the result was the same. No samples for sale when they're done with the display. Back to square one...sigh!

I tried to make the best of the hand we were dealt. Laura took some pictures of my buddy and me. We promised to come back and visit him whenever we could.

He pointed out the highly sought Patons book with detailed instructions about how to make full bodied monkeys. This is the book that was sold out at the first Michael's store we visited. Even though Laura doesn't know how to knit, we purchased the book anyway.

Michaels, the Knitted Sock Monkey, and a Big Surprise - Part 2

I tried to be upbeat and not show my disappointment to the rest of my sock monkey family. I tried not to sulk. I implored my Facebook friends to visit their local Michael's store, but I knew the odds weren't on my side. Then, something totally unexpected happened! Laura brought home a package that had arrived for me at the post office. What could it be? Let me take a peek inside.

A few seconds after I opened the box, a gray and cream colored head popped up and said, "Hi, my name is Roger." I stared at him in disbelief. Were my eyes deceiving me? Roger said, "Big Monkey, I heard that you met my brother at Michael's the other day. He was so sorry he couldn't come home with you, but he made some calls and, long story short, here I am."

I must be the luckiest sock monk in the world, or at least I feel like it today. Roger said he was originally planning to arrive on Christmas Day to surprise me, but he heard how sad I was after the rejection at Michael's so he arranged immediate transportation to Crystal Beach.

Roger told me that he has some really cool cousins in that book I purchased at Michael's. I decided to peruse the pages and earmarked the ones I want Laura to learn how to make. I think she needs another hobby, besides following me around and taking pictures.

Here's a closeup of this "Monkey Business" book. It includes both knitted and crocheted monks. I highly recommend it for all of my crafty friends.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm on You Tube!

Click HERE to check out my first video on You Tube! I'm demonstrating my new Christmas sock monkey snow globes that change colors. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chef Big Monkey Prepares Lasagna - Part 1

I decided to prepare a tasty meal for my family last Sunday - homemade lasagna! I'm going to show you step-by-step how to make this masterpiece for yourself at home. My recipe came from "The Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking," 1984 edition. However, I got a little creative myself because I supersized the recipe!

I left the meat portion alone, but I basically doubled everything else. If you like a lot of meat, you can increase the portion, or you can make it meatless as well. I began by browning 1 1b. of ground beef and 2 Italian sausage links (casings removed). Once fully cooked, I drained the fat and juices and moved the meat to my sauce pot. I've been told it's best not to pour the drippings into your sink. Laura's grandpa used to pour them into a steel coffee can and put it in the fridge labeled "FATSO." When the can was full, he would toss it out.

I finely chopped a gigantic onion. Then I cooked it in the same pan as above with a bit of olive oil until the onions turned translucent.

At the end of the onions cooking, I added some minced garlic. The garlic doesn't need very long to cook because it turns brown right away. The recipe called for one clove of garlic. ONE clove? Fugetaboutit! I supersized that because we love lots of garlic.

Once the garlic and onions were cooked, I added them to the sauce pot with the meat. Now it's time to add the tomato products. The recipe called for a 28 oz. can of peeled Italian tomatoes and a 6 oz. can of tomato paste. I added more tomato products to double this and then some. I got creative and added some tomato puree too. You can't really mess this up. Just make sure you get a nice consistency.

With the major sauce ingredients mixed together, I added approximately two teaspoons of sugar and crushed oregano to taste. The sauce should simmer for about 40 minutes.

Chef Big Monkey Prepares Lasagna - Part 2

I boiled a 16 oz. box of lasagna noodles for about 15 minutes in a giant cauldron of water with a pinch of salt and a dash of oil. After draining the cooked noodles, I ran cold water over them (very important so that you don't burn your paws). Then I arranged them on paper towels to dry.

Now it's time for the fun part - making the layers. Begin by lightly greasing your pan. I used cooking spray. Then cover the bottom with some sauce. The layers go noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce, repeat. I have exactly enough noodles and fixin's to make 6 layers.

After finishing my layers, I top everything off with parmesan cheese. I recommend freshly grated, but if you want to save time you can use the bottled stuff.

I estimated the cook time to be approximately 45 minutes due to the amount of layers in my pan. At the very end, I turned on the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese on top.
Here's the finished product out of the oven and ready to serve.

Chef Big Monkey Prepares Lasagna - Part 3

After slaving over a hot stove for several hours, it's now time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. My tasty dinner consists of humongous slab of lasagna, tossed salad and garlic bread.

Just to make your mouth water, I thought I'd show you a closeup. I think I'll be in a lasagna coma after this meal, but it will be so sweet!

This has nothing to do with lasagna, but I decided to include a couple of random shots taken the following day of Karl and Gunther. This is Karl's favorite couch. Sometimes he likes to sit with a human. Sometimes he likes to sit there alone and take up as much space as possible. Sometimes a human might be sitting there and leaves to go to the bathroom, and Karl wastes no time in jumping up and claiming the couch for himself. I tried an experiment to see if it would work. Would Karl still want to sit on the couch, even if Gunther is there? You betcha!

Aren't they cute together? The red object by Karl is his stuffed lobster toy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

1st Annual Run for Primates - 11/14/09 - Part 1

The event of the weekend in Palm Harbor was the 1st Annual Run for Primates, which benefited my friends at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary. The run was held in Wall Springs Park, which some of you might remember from my previous posts this summer. On Thursday, Laura and I went to the sanctuary to complete our registration. You can see some pictures of my chimp, monkey and orangutan buddies on the cork board in the background.

I did a little investigating while we were signing up.

Here's a picture of Bob the Chimp. Apparently he'll be participating in Saturday's race. Check out those running shoes.

For all of you aspiring runners out there, bananas are the premier pre-race fuel. Laura and I downed a few for energy prior to our run.

1st Annual Run for Primates - 11/14/09 - Part 2

I decided to peruse the food table prior to the race. I'll take two of each, please.

Look at all these goodies! I have to wait until after the race to chow down.

Here's the t-shirt they gave Laura. I can't believe they didn't have one in my size. Well, it's time to get on my mark, get set... GO! Our race course passed right by the sanctuary. Laura and I heard some chimps cheering for us as we ran past.

Drum roll please... Big Monkey wins! I came in first in the pantyhose filled leg division. For my fine effort, I was presented with a gold medal and a bouquet of roses. Laura is honored to pose with the sock champion.

After my victory, I meandered through the park a bit. Some of you might remember the spring which my friends and I have visited before. All in all, it was a fine day! Laura finished 4th among the humans. Don't get too excited, there were only about 20 of them.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nuts Crush Lions 24-7

Saturday, 11/7/09 - As the Penn State Nittany Lions prepared to face the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA, a face off of a different kind was happening in Crystal Beach, FL. My nemesis, Bunckeye, challenged me to a game of pigskin.

Take that, buddy!

Despite my best tackling efforts, Bunckeye maintained possession of the ball. His agile spider monkey legs took him into the end zone for a score. Not only was Bunckeye the winner of our skirmish, his beloved Buckeyes trounced my Nittany Lions 24-7. Bye bye BCS bowl and Big Ten Championship... sniff sniff!

Good sportsmanship is of utmost importance among primates. After all was said and done, Bunckeye and I are still good pals.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sockoween 2009 - Part 1

Ahh yes... it's that magical time of year when sock monkeys in costume get to invade the bank for candy! Here's our group this year. From left to right: One Eyed Jack as the devil, King Big Monkey, Monkey Brother as the jester, Billy Ground Hog, our lion Chiquita, Henly as the angel, and Marcus the aviator.

My friends Frank Sockenstein, Little Pumpkin Monkey and Count Sockula are frolicking with Sock Monkey Pumpkin, who vants to suck your blood. He's a vampire this year.

Our festive display table at the bank with candy!

Here's the gang at home before they head out for trick or treating.

King Big Monkey knights Sir Sock Monkey Pumpkin with his bejeweled sceptre as his court jester observes.

Sockoween 2009 - Part 2

My little munchkin pals, Frank Sockenstein, Little Pumpkin Monkey and Count Sockula, are all geared up for some intense trick or treating.

Grrrr... Chiquita looks so ferocious as a lion.

Billy Ground Hog is extra festive in his jack-o-lantern sweater, colorful mittens and Halloween socks.

Marcus the aviator aspires to be the Red Baron, or perhaps Snoopy.

I'd fly with you any day, Captain.