Thursday, January 7, 2016

My shift to video

Since first launching this blog almost two years ago my wife and I have been having the discussion about eventually switching to video format.  Over the past few months I have appeared on Good Day Columbus a few times and it is because of this experience that I felt comfortable in finally launching my own youtube channel today, RPG Cooking. I will be delivering a new video every two weeks to start with the goal of releasing weekly in the near future.  My focus from now on will be on my appearances on GDC and this new channel.  I've embedded my first video as well as today's appearance on GDC (when it becomes available to stream) Please watch my videos.  Like, subscribe, share and comment.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Holiday Hot Drink Bar

Here is my spot on Good Day Columbus where I show you how to set up a hot drink bar perfect for warming up during the winter.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Leftover Pinwheels

These are from My spot on Good Day Columbus

There is no real recipe for these, but here is what I did on the show. You can see that the most important part is to practice to learn the best ratio of ingredients--too many wet ingredients makes for a sloppy pinwheel.


  • Wrap(s) (any flavor or size is fine, but if you want to make large pinwheels the only place I know to get the large wraps is from the catering department at The Hills Market)
  • sliced turkey tossed in gravy
  • cornbread stuffing
  • green bean casserole
  • cranberry sauce (if you don't use cranberry sauce you will need to something sticky to "glue" the wrap together like softened cream cheese or mayonnaise)
  • spinach


  1. Wrap your wrap in a damp towel and microwave for 20 seconds to warm and soften. Spread cranberry sauce over the entire surface of the wrap.
  2. Layer ingredients about one third of the way up the wrap all the way to the edges, being careful not to overfill the wrap (this takes practice, just take some out if you have trouble rolling it up later
  3. Roll the bottom third of the wrap over the filling and continue to roll up. .
  4. Slice off the two ends and have a little snack, then gently slice with a bread knife into 1 inch pinwheels. Re-shape and/or reseal them as needed. Plate and serve.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Few Thoughts About Losing Weight

As I mentioned in my spot on Good Day Columbus, which I linked to in my previous post, I recently lost a little over 50 pounds.  Here is how I did it and what I learned: 

  • I set a goal for myself to drop from 257 to 200 pounds.
    • I think it is hugely important to have a goal from day one to work towards, whether it's 10 pounds or 50.  
    • I also knew if  I hit my goal I was going to appear on TV.  Figure out what your reward will be for success.  Have it be something concrete and tangible.
    • I attempted to lose two pounds a week. 
    • 200 pounds is still above my ideal BMI and I should probably eventually lose another 20 pounds.
    • I spent seven months and lost 50 pounds or about 1.67 pounds per week.
  • Find a strategy that works for you.  
    • My strategy was simple, eat fewer calories.
    • While technically I could eat whatever I want, when a candy bar is the same amount of calories as an entire salad, and you're hungry, you start shifting your priorities
    • By virtue of needing to fill your stomach with something, but having to limit calories, you naturally start gravitating towards more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats and away from carbs, dairy, and fats.
  • I used an app called myfitnesspal.
    • Based on my goal weight, current weight, height, gender, fitness level, and how many pounds I wanted to lose in a week it told me how many calories to eat in a day and how long the process would take.
    • By inputting what I ate throughout the day and how much I exercised it was calculated how many calories I took in and worked off.
    • It also has the ability to save custom meals for quick access if you often eat the same thing at a particular meal.
    • Overall it was the most important tool at my disposal as I went through the long process of learning how many calories were in different foods.  Near the end, I had a pretty good idea of what I could/should eat and found the app to no longer be necessary.
  • Mental toughness is the key to success
    • You will be hungry, a lot, especially at the beginning.  Hunger is pain, but you can learn to deal with it.  But with my weight loss goal and reward firmly in my mind I pressed on through the pain.  Just remember what Shia LaBoeuf says
    • Don't be discouraged by setbacks, because they will come.  Figure out where the problem is and work to fix it.
    • Spend time learning why you overeat.  Is it when you're stressed? Do you always find an excuse to celebrate with food? Do you eat when you're bored? Does having a variety of foods available (i.e. a buffet) lead you to overindulge? 
  • I allowed myself to have a cheat day once a week.
    • This meant that mentally I just had to keep it together for six days, knowing that I could satisfy a less-healthy craving on that seventh day.
    • I kept a craving log so I would remember what foods I was really in the mood for.
    • Cheat days are not about eating as much as you want for the entire day, but rather about eating some higher calorie foods you avoid the rest of the week.  To start I read this great article on the pros and cons of cheat days.
  • Have a support group you can talk to
    • Find others who are on the same journey.  
    • For me, I spent a few hours a day in Mobiletrak with Mike Kilburn, who introduced me to these weight loss strategies.  
    • We were able to give each other advice and support every day and it was very valuable.
I'm no nutritionist or dietitian, but this is what worked for me.  Hopefully, it will work for some of you too. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

My spot on Good Day Columbus

Here is the recipe for these breakfast cookies:

  • 2 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1.25 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. Grape-Nuts cereal
  • 1/2 c. wheat germ (Bob's red mill, usually in flour aisle)
  • 1/2 c. oat bran (usually in hot cereal aisle)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. unsalted butter (or substitute half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed avocado, or margerine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • optional, include additional flavors in the form of citrus zest, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc. to taste
  • 1 c. chopped nuts, toasted (almonds, walnuts, pecans, or any other favorite nut)
  • 1 c. raisins (or other small dried fruits like craisins, cherries, or strawberries)
  • 1 c. chopped pitted dates (or other larger moist chopped dried fruit like apricots or prunes)

  1. Mix oats, both flours, Grape-Nuts, wheat germ, oat bran, and bakign soda in a large bowl
  2. Cream butter in a stand mixer then mix in eggs, sugars, vanilla, and any additional flavors you are using
  3. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients then add the nuts and fruits and mix until even
  4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into two dozen large cookies.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees until browned on top, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, and serve.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ingredient Tasting: Raisins

For my recent spot on Good Day Columbus to celebrate losing more than 50 pounds in seven months I made some delicious breakfast cookies, which are a much more substantial and delicious version of an oatmeal raisin cookie.  It got me thinking, how many different types of raisins are out there to choose from and does it really make any difference what kind you use? So I rounded up 10 different brands representing five different variations of raisins and put them to the test. I ate a handful of each raisin and also baked each into one of my breakfast cookies.

Since it is the industry standard in raisins I started with Sun-Maid.  I'm glad I did because I discovered this amazing 100th anniversary e-book that will teach you absolutely everything you wanted to know, not just about Sun-Maid, but raisins in general. Of particular interest to me was page 102-103 that talks all about which types of grape are chosen for how they are dried. Sun-maid raisins appear to use a blend of a few different grape types in their raisins, but mostly Thompson.  Of all the raisins.  This resulted in a more complex flavor profile than any of the other raisins I tried.  They were also a little less tart, slightly drier, and a little bit grittier with noticeable stem fragments.

Lucky's Market bulk section included Thompson, organic Thompson, and a variety I couldn't find elsewhere called Fire.  The regular and organic Thompsons were virtually indistinguishable from each other, though the organic raisins were slightly juicier.  They were more tart, but less complex in flavor than the Sun-Maid raisins.

The Fire raisins were noticeably larger than any of the other varieties.  They had tougher skins, and were chewier.  My wife described them as almost a cross between a raisin and a prune.

Earthbound Farm Organic jumbo Thompson raisins had a flavor that reminded me of molasses and were noticeably bitter, though very plump and juicy.  They were my third least favorite raisin to eat.

Sage Valley organix Thompson raisins were very similar to Sun-Maid, but more tart, less complex, and overall not as good.

Aldi raisins were the worst of the bunch.  They were noticeably smaller than Sun-Maid raisins, dry, gummy, and did not have a very strong flavor.

At this point I moved away from more traditional raisins to see if there would be any surprises out there.  I did stick with just raisins as bringing in other dried fruits like cranberries would be like comparing, well, you get it.

Sun-Maid's baking raisins are wet and sticky to the touch and not what you would expect a raisin to feel like when you bite into it.  It was my second least favorite raisin to eat.

Zante Currants are not, in fact, currants at all, but are dried from Black Corinth grapes.  They are much smaller and drier, but have a similar taste to regular raisins.  If you like the taste of raisins, but find they are too large, especially when baking, then these are great substitute.

Finally, the Golden raisins.  These are not, in fact, made from a different kind of grape, but are instead dried differently, using dehydrators and sulfur dioxide instead of drying them in the sun.  They are bit juicier than regular Sun-Maid raisins with a pleasant, almost citrus flavor that made them one of my favorites to eat.

Now what was really interesting was what happened when I baked them all into the breakfast cookies.  Taste became completely irrelevant and it became entirely a matter of texture.  The raisins that I liked the eating the least, the Fire, baking raisins, and jumbo organic Thompsons, were all the best in the breakfast cookies, while the rest all just  sort of faded together.


The Winners:
For eating, Sun Maid Raisins are the most popular for a reason.  There flavor profile was the most enjoyable, though I do wish they were a little less gritty and a little more juicy. The fire raisins were probably my favorite for baking, but the Sun-Maid baking raisins were nearly as good.

The Losers:
Aldi and Earthbound Farms Organic jumbo Thompson raisins were the worst for eating, but both are fine when baked into a cookie.

Special Awards:
The golden raisins were a really enjoyable change of pace from a classic raisin are definitely worth trying.  However, their flavor did sort of get lost when baked into the cookies. The Zante currants might the perfect choice of raisins for people who don't really like raisins.

The Rest:
All the other varieties really are fine whether for eating or baking and in the end you'd have to be a real raisin aficionado to get too bent out of shape over varieties.

New Series: Ingredient Tastings

This post marks the end of a year-long hiatus from my blog while my family adjusted to having another baby in the house.  It also marks the beginning a new series which will focus on taste-testing common ingredients that we often take for granted.  I am fortunate to have such a great selection of grocery stores in my area and so for each of these tests I will be collecting as many samples as I can from Lucky's Market, Weilands Market, Giant Eagle, and Aldi.  Obviously, there are likely other great grocery stores where you live, like Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, and many others.  These comparisons are far from exhaustive, but I think will offer some useful comparisons nonetheless. Try them out for yourself, see what you like, and leave me a comment if I missed your favorite.