My name is Thomas Lott. I am a proud husband and father of two. Two of my favorite things are football and cooking. I'm no expert in either, but I certainly like to fool around with both. I’ve been a home cook for about 10 years, and been around football since I was 4 years old. This fall, perhaps I’ll find out which one I know better! So I'll be checking in periodically to make a pick - or picks (even I'm allowed a bye week here and there!). Again, I'm no expert, so please don’t go betting the mortgage on my humble picks! From that, I’ll make a dish that has something to do with the game - who I think will win, a star/key player, or other story line. Don’t worry - I’m a home cook so it won’t be anything you can’t do - I promise. I’m still learning so most of these will come from my stash of cookbooks or another recipe floating around the internet. I won’t pawn anything off as my own or pretend there’s some super-secret family recipe that I can't share. Most of these I will probably have made before, others might be an experiment. I hope all will go well, but some may go from stovetop right to the dumpster! I'll be sharing my successes, mishaps, and maybe even a few gratuitous shots of my crew of sous chefs and tasters :-)

I'm always a work in progress, so my food won't *always* be pretty (or healthy!), but it's going to taste good--and if it doesn't I'll tell you that, too. And just so you know, it's also a mathematical certainty that I'll whiff on some of my football picks, too. The whole point is to get better at both! So I hope you keep up with me this fall as I have some fun with the kitchen and the pigskin! I welcome all comments, suggestions, requests and discussions on all things pigskin and kitchen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Heisman Week

Well everything turned out like I expected. ALMOST. I thought Ohio State would win, but I can’t say I’m surprised that they didn’t. MSU was a physical team with nothing to lose and frankly, they saved us from another Big 10 rout in the national championship.

There are a few good looking bowls, but overall I’m kind of feeling ho hum about them. I was really really hoping for an Oregon/Bama showdown, but instead Oklahoma snuck in there and I think we all know what they're going to do in a big game. That’s all I’ll say about the bowls for now – we’ve got plenty of time to get into those!
This week the big contest is the Heisman. Or as I like to call it, “Hottest Offensive Player Weeks 5-11.” I used to love watching the Heisman presentation and all of the hoopla surrounding it, but I haven’t actually watched the presentation live in a number of years. It’s basically a regional popularity contest with no real criteria. Best player on the best team? Player whose team would stink the most if he were gone? Lifetime achievement award for a senior? I can never tell. But I think it’s safe to say that now that Jameis Winston has been cleared, he’s got that puppy sewed up. What I think is interesting is that there are SIX finalists. I remember back in the day there would only be 3 or max of 4, but 6 seems like a lot. Really this year, 4 would be a lot. Tre Mason came on a little too late, Jordan Lynch is from NIU, and I hadn’t even heard of Andre Williams until this week. So I hope Jameis has his speech ready.

Well, I’m not sure if you all know, but we got snowed in last week so I didn’t have a chance to go to the store and do any SERIOUS cooking. BUT, I did have enough ingredients on hand to make a pot of apple cider, which has become a winter tradition at my house. This is a great recipe I came across that'll turn an ordinary jug of cider into something really special. It's super easy, and is sure to be a hit!

Spiced Apple Cider from Bon Appetit

Just a few ingredients to start with. Try to get dark colored cider for the best end product.


Pour the cider into a stockpot. It needs to be able to hold a gallon of liquid.



Add nutmeg, and allspice. Stir just a little bit.

Add whole cloves and cinnamon.

Split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds into the cider, then add the two halves. Stir again.
Gently bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about an hour.
After about an hour, strain the cider through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or another thick pot. Discard the cinnamon sticks, bean, and cloves.

Ladle yourself a mug and you are ready to go! Add brandy or bourbon if you like :-)
I think you'll be really pleased with this cider. With the addition of a few easy ingredients (well, vanilla beans are sort of expensive), you can transform regular old store bought cider into an awesome winter drink. Simmering and reducing strengthens the flavor tremendously. By the way, it fills your house with the wonderful smell of apples, cloves, and cinnamon, so it doubles as potpourri. As a matter of fact, we lit a Yankee Candle the next day and as soon as my 3 year old daughter got a whiff, she asked if I was making "that drink" again! I haven't had the spiked version, but I can only imagine! Also makes plenty so it's the perfect drink for Christmas gatherings!
Spiced Apple Cider
from Bon Appetit
1 Gallon high quality apple cider, preferably dark
1 Tbsp whole allspice (I used 1/4 tsp ground)
1 Tsp ground nutmeg
4 Whole cloves
3 Cinnamon sticks
1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Brandy, Calvados (Apple Brandy), or bourbon - optional

1)Combine cider, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Scrape in seeds from bean; add bean.

2)Bring cider just to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook just below a simmer until flavors meld, about an hour.

3)Strain cider through a sieve into another pot or heatproof punch bowl; discard solids in sieve. Add brandy to taste, if using. Ladle hot cider into mugs.

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