Food & Recipes

Country Club Chef Serves Slice of Childhood with a Side of Awesomesauce


It can be easy to think of country clubs as the sort of places where Adultitis might like to hang out. Granted, it’s not a windowless cube farm, but it can invite a particular strain of Adultitis that implores us to take ourselves a little too seriously and make sure we don’t get our princess dress wet.

But Chef Brian at the Rockford Country Club is a Champion of Childhood who’s keeping Adultitis on its toes. In celebration of back to school season, Brian created a menu that put some epicurean twists on old childhood favorites, a “culinary homage to cafeteria classics.” Here are some of the things he came up with:

  • A beautiful, creamy, scratch-made grilled cheese & tomato soup with a grilled cheese crouton.
  • A salad with bacon, pistachios and cranberry Jell-O croutons. (Yup, you read that right: Jell-O croutons!)
  • Thai PB and J pork chop with jasmine rice and vegetable spring roll.
  • Lobster mac & cheese. (Eat it, Kraft.)
  • “Fish sticks” featuring Chilean sea bass, coated in a crunchy Goldfish cacker crust and cooked to perfection.
  • A gourmet take on the classic TV dinner featuring homemade meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes, with peas and carrots, and a scratch-made brownie.

It sounds delicious to us! We need to convince Chef Brian to create the menu for our next Escape Adulthood Summit!

There are many places that might be more prone to Adultitis than others. But whether you work in a cafeteria, a country club, or the Chrysler Building, there is always room for delighting people with a little childhood fun. Kudos to this creative chef for serving up a delicious example!

What is your favorite example of a business that did a great job of incorporating the sprit of childhood into the mix?

A Champion of Childhood is someone instilled with the soaring spirit of childhood who rallies against rules that don’t exist while engaging in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine the slavery of Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. We like shining a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against Adultitis. See more here.

Dinnertime Shenanigans: Ye Olde Timey Dinner


When you’re a kid, dressing up all fancy for dinner is exciting. Although it can be fun for grown-ups too, it doesn’t take long for Adultitis to creep in when one begins to worry about which fork to use or whether or not you have spinach in your teeth. The premise of an Olde Timey Dinner — one of the highlights from the 2014 Escape Adulthood Summit — is to keep the fun and ditch the pretense.

You don’t need to attend an Escape Adulthood Summit to experience the fun of Ye Olde Timey Dinner. Here are some tips for hosting your own:


You can serve whatever you want, but the most important thing is to use the good china. If you need some convincing, read this. Even Kraft Macaroni & Cheese takes on gourmet status when served on fancy plates. (If you don’t have any fancy plates, just put the lights down low and light a few candles — instant fancy!)

If you need some inspiration, we had fun putting a childlike spin on the traditional seven-course format with the following menu:

Appetizer: PB&J Sushi Rolls
Soup: ABC Vegetable Soup
Salad: Fruit Shish-kabob with Drizzled Yogurt Sauce
Sorbet: Dreamsicle
Fish Entree: Fruity Pebbles Encrusted Tilapia with Strawberry-Mango-Jalapeño Salsa and green beans
Meat Entree: Bacon Cheeseburger Slider with house made Potato Chips
Dessert: Key Lime Tart



Get gussied up! We provided pearl necklaces, top hats, DIY bow ties, feather-adorned flapper girl headbands and fake mustaches for attendees to complement their jeans and t-shirts. Feather boas and long gloves are naturals as well. Nothing wrong with requiring guests to wear real dress-up clothes, if that floats your boat. Of you could challenge people to come outfitted with the fanciest clothes they can find at a second hand store, with the requirement of bringing the receipt as proof.


Music is an important element of Ye Olde Timey Dinner. We found a collection of hits from the 1920s, which was a perfect soundtrack. You could also dig out some jazz or classical music, depending on what kind of mood you’re looking for.


We put tent cards at each table that encouraged diners to pepper their conversations with old fashioned words and phrases. (See top photo.) Frankly, it was one of the best parts of the whole affair. Keep in mind that a thorough understanding of each word is not required. Bonus laughter came when someone blurted out the word nonsensically. You can download the tent cards we used right here. (Just print them on card stock, cut them down the middle, fold ’em in half and you’re good to go.)

So that’s the gist of an Olde Timey Dinner. The goal of this article is to get you started, but we also hope that you put your own spin on the concept and share your ideas in the comments below!

Don’t dilly dally on this opportunity to starve Adultitis. May your shenanigans raise a ruckus to remember!

Who’s Up for an Ugly Dinner?


If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you certainly know of our proclivity for Ugly Treats. We wholeheartedly encourage people to make disgusting-looking cookies, cakes, and other desserts…just for fun.

Well, an astute reader recently reminded me that dessert doesn’t have to be the only food group up for an ugly makeover. She pointed me to an article highlighting 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes. Below are a few of my favorites:

Liver Sausage Pineapple
Imagine mixing together liver sausage, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mayonnaise and gelatin into the shape of a pineapple. Then imagine the people you made it for hating you forever.

Monterey Soufflé Salad
This one looks totally great; I’m just not a fan of pimentos. Or mixing seafood and lemon Jell-O. But that’s just me.

Super Salad Loaf
If you want to be happy when company comes…then don’t make this.

Granted, each of these dishes look like they’ve been beaten repeatedly with the ugly stick. The truly upsetting aspect is that none of theme are intended to be so. These are real, legitimate recipes developed by sincere, well-intentioned (and possibly blind) people.

However, there’s nothing saying you can’t change that intention.

What if you had a dinner party featuring ugly cookies that was proceeded by an ugly main course? You could take and use these exact recipes as your guide!

Just remember, treat gelatin as the workhorse it is!

While there is a chance no one will have an appetite by the time you unveil what’s for dinner, one thing is certain: Adultitis will find another home to occupy on that day!

Adultitis Antidote #2: Spatula City


About once a month, the parents would pull out a bunch of unusual kitchen utensils and pile them on the table. Things like spatulas, spaghetti forks, soup ladles, whisks, potato mashers and giant serving spoons were on display. Each child was instructed to select one item from the pile.

And then they would have to eat their entire dinner using just that utensil.

To make things even more interesting, the mother kept the dinner menu a secret.

This is an idea that I got from an elderly couple in Virginia several years back. Their kids loved it so much, that now that they’re older, they do it with the grandkids. We’ve fondly nicknamed it “Spatula City.”

It’s a simple concept, really. But as usual, the best ones usually are.

If you’ve ever been to one of my speaking programs, you’ve probably heard this idea. The big question is, have you tried it?

10 Pro Tips for Your Next Jell-O Cook-off


What do you get when you mix geology students and Jell-O? Amazing Adultitis-fighting fun to inspire us all!

stained-glass-jelloWhen Meredith Rhodes Carson was studying geology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, one of the highlights was the annual Jell-O Cook-Off in which contestants created geologically-inspired, gelatin-infused masterpieces. The photo at right is a copy of a stained glass window in Weeks Hall on campus. Some of the categories included: Tallest Jell-O, Best Representation of a Faculty Member, Most Wisconsin (one winning entry was actually made with beer), and Most Aerodynamic. (One infamous entry, a drumlin-shaped Jell-O with Rice Krispies in it, was launched off of the balcony of Weeks Hall FOUR times before complete destruction.) The only real rules was that entries had to be primarily Jell-O, not necessarily edible.

We strongly advocate the making of ugly cakes and cookies; why not bring Jell-O into the mix?

In talking to Meredith after one of my presentations, I was fascinated by her scientific knowledge of Jell-O. Or at least what you need to know to compete in a cook-off at a high level! Since I figured you might find yourself inspired to instigate a Jell-O Cook-Off of your own, I’ve asked Meredith to share some of her best tips for creating works of art in the medium of Jell-O: [Read more…]

School Celebrates Family with Ugly Cookies & Barbarian Spaghetti


A few years ago, I spoke at a school in Wisconsin, giving presentations for the staff and the parents. I shared the Ugly Cookie story, just like I (almost) always do. Lots of people have heard that story over the years.

But Pete Hirt, the principal of the school, took it and ran with it.

Not long after my talk, a parent of one of the students was diagnosed with cancer. Pete and the community sprang into action to help raise money for the family. Pete suggested they do an “Ugly Cake Auction,” in which people would be invited to decorate cakes in the ugliest manner possible. About 1,000 people descended upon the gym to bid on dozens of deliciously ugly cakes.

They raised $15,000.

Last night, I was invited back to be a part of an evening designed to Celebrate Family. I would again be speaking to the staff and parents, but also added to the agenda was a Barbarian Spaghetti dinner and an Ugly Cookie decorating contest. The goal was to give parents tips and ideas for stressing less and having more fun, while providing an opportunity for families to make memories together.

As you’ll see in the photos below…mission accomplished. [Read more…]

5 Fun-Having Ideas from Awesome Folks Like You


With summer saying sayonara, my speaking schedule is back into full swing. One of my favorite parts is talking to people afterwards, and hearing the neat things they do for fun with friends and family. In fact, many of the ideas I share in my presentations, including Sticky Cup, Pajama Run, and Spatula City are from audience members.

One of my fatal flaws is forgetting to write them down. I always think I’ll remember them, but do I? Nope. Well I’m happy to report that I’ve been a bit more consistent of late, and wanted to share some recent gems: [Read more…]

What’s The Best, Worst, and Weirdest Deep-Fried Foods You’ve Ever Tried?


Earlier this month, Kim and I took the kids to the Wisconsin State Fair. As embarrassing as it is to admit, it was our first time in attendance, even though we’ve lived in Cheeseland for over 13 years. I am glad it only comes once a year, as I’m pretty sure we consumed a week’s worth of calories in the one day we were there. Cream puffs, cheese curds, corn dogs, elephant ears…we didn’t even scratch the surface of all the deep fried things we WANTED to try, but our shame quota could only be pushed so far.

You know it’s been a nutritionally-challenged day when your clan devours a dinner at McDonald’s because it’s the closest thing you’ve had to real food all day.

Anyway, I’m not sure where the state-fair-fried-food-on-a-stick phenomenon got its start, but Wisconsin sure holds its own on variety. However, I did not see a deep fried cereal option. If I had, I’m not sure I could have resisted. Apparently deep fried breakfast cereal was debuted at the San Diego County Fair in 2012 by Chicken” Charlie Boghosian. He also launched deep fried Kool-Aid balls and many other wonderful concoctions. This year he offered a Krispy Kreme sloppy joe, which is where I have to draw the line.

Tell us: what was the best/worst/and weirdest deep fried food you’ve ever tried?

What’s Better Than a Banana Split?


A giant one that’s ten feet long, of course!

Banana splits are pretty good at thwarting Adultitis. But 10-foot banana splits have been known to give Adultitis the hives.

If you wanna make one for your next party, they seem pretty easy to put together. This tutorial uses a carpet tube and this one uses a simple rain gutter (both were covered in heavy duty aluminum foil.)

If you wanna go crazy, eat it for dinner.

If you wanna go easy on the waistline, try these Banana Split Bites instead.

Photo from OhHappyDay

How to Make Crunch Berry Ice Cream


About a year ago, I made a Summer Bucket List. One of the items I was most excited about was inventing a new ice cream flavor. In this particular case, excitement didn’t translate into action; summer came and went and the world went without a new ice cream flavor. (Sorry, World.)

To be fair, I did come up with an idea for a flavor last summer, I just never got around to trying it. Until now. So, without further ado, I give you Crunch Berry Ice Cream!

You may be thinking, “Big deal. You threw some cereal into some vanilla ice cream — how groundbreaking.” But alas, I took this task seriously and endeavored to push things to another level. And while I concede that someone, somewhere, may have already invented this particular flavor, it was new to me, and I’m happy to share my way of doing it. [Read more…]

When Plates Tell Stories


Yep, plates tell stories. Especially fancy plates.

A few months ago, a woman came up to me after one of my speaking programs to talk about her experience cleaning out her mother’s home after her passing. The woman and her siblings found a box of fine china, each piece carefully wrapped just as it was when it was gifted to their parents on their wedding day. The mother was married for over fifty years. She had four kids. Thirteen grandkids. And the china was still in the box, unused.

Although muffled by cardboard and packing paper, these plates told a clear story: There is no occasion special enough to risk chipping or breaking a plate. [Read more…]

Serving Fun as the Main Course with a Side of Crazy


Spatula City is a meal in which everyone eats dinner with unconventional utensils. Think spatulas, spaghetti forks and soup ladels.

Barbarian Spaghetti is when you eat spaghetti without plates.

Crazy might be when you combine them both. [Read more…]

Ugly Cake Initiative: The Results

The purpose of this post is to feature some of the repulsive results from the recent Ugly Cake Initiative (We shared our family’s experience here).

We heartily congratulate all the people who took up the challenge to fight Adultitis by whipping up something ugly in the kitchen. And we offer our sincere condolences to any brave souls who ingested any of the creations. (Although to be fair, most were reported to be very delicious.) Take that, Martha Stewart!

Without further ado, check out the gruesome goodness! [Read more…]

A Simple, Quick and Ugly Guide to Fun


It is official: making ugly treats is a foolproof way to annihilate Adultitis. Indeed, forgoing the stress that can come from trying to create a confection that might make Martha Stewart weep tears of joy is not nearly as fun as concocting something that would have her wailing and gnashing her teeth.

Although we have extolled the virtues of cooking up ugly cakes and cookies for some time, we had not actually undertaken the task — until now. We used the latest Small Rebellion, aka The Ugly Treat Initiative, as a fitting excuse to jump right in.

It’s easy to be intimidated by some of the giants who have come before us, with cakes so ugly they’d make Sloth from The Goonies recoil in horror. But engaging in some ugly treat frivolity needn’t be a burden. We went a simple route, which proved to be quick and easy without shortchanging any of the fun. [Read more…]

Small Rebellion #6: The Ugly Treat Initiative


According to the Interwebs, the first week of April is Laugh at Work Week. If there’s one thing work could use more of, it’s laughter.

Inspired by our most recent Champion of Childhood award winners who made an epic ugly cake for a co-worker, we are introducing a new Small Rebellion and we’d love to have you join us! It’s called The Ugly Treat Initiative, and the instructions are very simple:

Step 1) Make a delicious dessert that also happens to be really, really UGLY.
Step 2) Bring it to work to share.
Step 3) Enjoy laughter and improved morale with your colleagues. (And possibly be awarded a primo parking spot for a month.)
Step 4) Share your stories and pictures online with the hashtag #smallrebellion6

You can tackle the mission when it’s most convenient, any time during the week. You can make cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, strudels…anything, really. Just make sure it’s sweet and tasty. And butt ugly.

The only other requirement is the sharing part, even if it’s not an official place of employment. Eating an ugly cake alone does not generate much laughter. And please, share this Small Rebellion with friends, families, and mortal enemies. The more the merrier!

Need some inspiration? Try here, here and here.

What’s The Best Part of an Oreo Cookie?

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According to physicist David Neevel, it’s the cookie, hands down. And this quirky machine will separate your Oreo and remove the offending substance for you.

Plus it uses a hatchet. Nice touch.

How to Guarantee an Adultitis-Free Dinner Party

Adultitis would have us believe that it’s unbecoming for an adult to play with his or her food. Apparently, Polish designer Boguslaw Sliwinski (say that three times fast) didn’t get the memo.

He has designed a series of plates that invite you turn your meal into an action scene.

Now you tell me: what are the odds that Adultitis makes an appearance at a dinner party featuring plates of this nature?

Mango with Mullet


food-sketch1My art almost always contains an element of whimsy. It also often involves inspiration, encouragement, or entertainment. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to make something that combines all three.

Other times, I end up with something that’s just plain silly.

It all started with a mango with a mullet.

And I just could not stop. I felt compelled to paint pictures of food sporting hairstyles of varying levels of ridiculousness. When the dust settled, the series totaled nine in all, including cauliflower with a combover, cabbage with cornrows, and a pear with a perm.

cauliflower-with-comb-over [Read more…]

The Great Cereal Debate: Soggy or Crunchy?


It is a battle that has been waging since the early days of our marriage. I am a cereal junkie, and naturally, require a perfect cereal-to-milk ratio. If I wanted to eat my cereal dry, I’d leave the milk for some stray neighborhood cats. But I don’t. Milk is a crucial part of the enjoyment.

However. [Read more…]

Why Capn’ Crunch, the Trix Rabbit and Toucan Sam All Have Adultitis

I have never once considered the sugar-laden cereals that warm my heart and gladden my belly to be laced with Adultitis. Not once.

That is, until I came across a cereal that was born in 1988 called Cröonchy Stars. Although 80s were my halcyon years of cereal eating, I’d never heard of them until my friend Lisa brought them to my attention a few weeks ago. The brainchild of Jim Henson and featuring his Muppet character The Swedish Chef, Cröonchy Stars was a cinnamon toast flavored cereal packaged in a box peppered with ridiculous, and sometimes unsolvable, games and puzzles. One time it included a contest to see how many times you could find the word “rutabaga” hidden on the box and how many times it was spelled correctly. [Read more…]

Family Turns Christmas Eve Dinner Into a Barbarian Affair

twisty-strawOne of the attendees of last summer’s Escape Adulthood Summit was inspired by the Barbarian birthday party we held to celebrate our son Ben turning one. She wanted to have one with her family on Christmas Eve, but she was worried about how it would be received. Unsurprisingly, it would be quite a departure from their normal holiday traditions.

Judging by the pictures she sent, it seems like it went over pretty well. (Bonus points for the twisty straw!)

Sometimes the biggest hurdle to initiating a Small Rebellion is our own fear. That feeling of dread or uncertainty is Adultitis’ last stand against against you. 90% of the time, our attempts at a Small Rebellion will be well received and much appreciated. So maybe it falls flat the other 10% of the time.

The cool thing? In either scenario, Adultitis loses.

Christmas Cookies Get Ugly


What sorts of things do you do every Christmas, the exact same way, because you’ve ALWAYS done them that way?

What if you changed things up this year?

I’m not talking about the sacred, untouchable family traditions (although maybe I am). But what about the things you do automatically, without much thought and without any real meaning? What if, instead of trying to make your Christmas cookies look like Martha Stewart’s, you went 180º in the other direction and made them ugly instead. You know, on purpose.

The photos of the treats above are from my friend Soyphet, whose office held an Ugly Cookie decorating event this year. Ugly indeed. Funny thing is, I still want to eat them. And they make me smile.

Sure feels like a more fun and meaningful tradition than the boring old Christmas cookie swap.

Ben’s Barbarian Birthday Bash

Our nephew Caden was a big fan of going “Barbarian.”

A few months ago, as our son Ben’s first birthday was approaching, Kim and I wondered how we could make his party special. We were well aware of the fact that he would remember precisely none of it, so our focus was actually about making it memorable for the guests. [Read more…]

How to Make Rainbow Colored Spaghetti Noodles

Found this on the lovely Pinterest. Plain-colored noodles be gone! Here’s how you do it:

  1. Cook spaghetti noodles, drain and cool.
  2. Fill a gallon Ziplock bag one quarter of the way with water. Add food coloring to the water.
  3. Add part of cooked spaghetti and mix around in the ziplock bag until noodles change color.
  4. Drain, repeat with other colors. Place the noodles in separate bowls.

To keep abreast of all of the other stuff we find on Pinterest, you should follow me.

Photo by Henry Hargreaves

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