Remembering Carl Ulbrich

office dad

In the mid-1970s, my dad coached my sister’s fifth grade Y basketball team. I suspect he did this because my mother told him that Carla wanted to play basketball and they needed a coach. I don’t know what their record was. In fact, I’d be surprised if they won at all. That didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was there for a ragtag team of 10 year olds, who have told me 40 years later, that my dad was really important to them.

He probably didn’t really do anything that he thought was special or different. He just went in, coached, listened and had fun and that was all those kids needed. He even took the time to take their pictures as if they played for the pros. I remember these pictures because my sister chose to wear her green nylon Snoopy socks on that day and while I think Dad was a little irked, he let her do it anyway. Those kids, some whose families were going through rough times, must have felt like rock stars.

And yet when you would try to explain to Dad the impact he had on his daughters and their friends, he would just shrug as though he didn’t really think he had done something different.

I never met anyone that didn’t just adore Carl Ulbrich. He was gentle and kind, giving and patient. My sisters and I wanted him to love each one of us best. I tried to get him to sign a card once to me, with “to my favorite daughter” to which he wrote “to my favorite 9-year old daughter in 1973.” Dad was just fun. He was so horrified by the quality of the cartoon shows on Saturday morning that he made a point of having the channel on CBS, so that we would watch Looney Tunes together instead of Land of the Lost. He loved Wile E. Coyote the best, dreaming of the day that he could put together a highlight reel to show his students, so they could identify all the laws of physics that were broken.

And he stayed young by remaining curious, about everything, with a certain amount of glee about him. He would call me, excited to tell me something new: “Hey Chris!” he would say and then pause. “Uh, this is your father speaking.,” as though I wouldn’t know who he was. Inevitably, he had found something new or interesting or funny and he wanted to share it. In his 70s, I remember him telling me he had been watching the Real World, just because he was curious. (I think he watched it once.) We would visit art museums, only for me to wait on him to finish looking at some truly strange modern art. He approached everything as though it might have value.

And he treated people the same. This is why everyone adored him. He could be loose and funny. His former graduate students talk about his wise and patient mentorship, shaping when he needed, backing off when he didn’t, and the excitement he had for his research. When I brought home my future husband, my father took him under his wing, becoming not just a father-in-law to him, but a father figure. Together, they built computers, went to NASCAR, worked on cars and enjoyed a few beers.

His curiosity sometimes led us to wonder about his common sense. Once, a tornado warning became so real that my manager made everyone hide in the basement of our office. Later that night, Dad sent us pictures he took while chasing down that same storm. Another time, he was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Georges hit. I remember the first sentence of the email: “I am in the eye of the hurricane right now.” He tracked hurricanes on the Winn Dixie bags printed with regional maps, plotting the points he got on the Weather Radio. While he was sad for the destruction from these storms, he was fascinated by their power.

We were convinced he could fix anything. I found a letter once my mother had written my grandmother, saying that my sister asked him to fix her orange crayon. We didn’t get a toy kitchen from the store; instead my dad built one, with actual tiny oven racks and burners that turned on a Christmas light underneath the wood burners. A plastic tub was the sink. He made us toy furniture, using parabolas and ovals as the inspiration for the shapes. We were the luckiest kids in Clemson.

And so Dad, I wish you goodbye. You may have been a small man in stature, but you stood tall in our eyes. Your energy, your patience, your kindness and your love of life kept you young for 83 years. Your impact as a good man, husband, dad, granddad, teacher and mentor will not be forgotten. I can only hope to carry on those values and pass them to my daughter. You were the best dad I could have ever asked for. We will miss you every day. May we carry on your legacy. We love you.

Arugula Spread

A pound of arugula isn’t the same as a pound of sweet potatoes. A pound of arugula can last a long, long time.

Now when I comment about the amount of arugula I might have, my husband’s suggestion is always to make po boys. This is a lovely thought, but it won’t make a dent in a large bag of arugula. So I did what I always do in a situation like this: I turn to the internets. And the internets gave me this.

PizzaI made Gina’s pizza almost exactly as prescribed, except I had a crust already in the fridge, and so I used that. We were surprised to find the sauce before cooking to be quite sharp, but that it completely mellowed out when you baked with it. Plus, we still had a ton of it left over.

My husband’s brilliant idea this time was to make ravioli and while I thought that was a great idea, turns out that Wednesdays can be a little crazy and I didn’t have time to be stuffing raviolis. So, I just put it on pasta with some tomatoes, black olives and red pepper. And that was even better than the pizza. The spread is versatile: you could put it on bread, you could put it on any number of grains or rice, you could add it to pasta or you can use it just about any way you might use pesto.

In the food processorBlendedSo, with that in mind, here’s how I made it.

  • 1 cup of packed arugula, stems removed (and since I had a large bag, I really packed it)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (depends on how bite-y you want this)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 7 ounces smoked mozzarella
  • 2 T olive oil (more if you are using on pasta, less if you are using as a spread)
  • About a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Or you can use pepper if you like. I skipped the salt because I figure the cheese is salty enough.

Throw all that in the food processor and puree. Done.

Arugula pastaWhen I made the pasta, I used about half the recipe here and stirred it into a box of cooked shells. I then added a small can of sliced black olives, a finely chopped red pepper and two chopped and seeded Roma tomatoes.

Lebanese Fried Potatoes

Turkish coffee, brewed in a funky container.

Turkish coffee, brewed in a funky container.

Last weekend, I was in Long Beach, California to attend and present at the UCDA Conference. (An aside: if you are a college designer, this is a fantastic organization for you and I’m grateful to be involved. Now back to my usual food-based posts.)

My friend Pam asked if we wanted to go for drinks and the next thing you know, there are nine of us heading on the 121 bus to Belmont Shore for dinner. She highly recommended eating at Open Sesame, and said the fried potatoes were amazing.

I don’t eat a ton of potatoes because I typically find them pretty bland. Plus, I almost never eat French fries, as I find them too greasy. But, while in Rome (or with UCDA colleagues), eat like they do, so I tried them.

Holy cow delicious. I then dragged my colleagues down there at the end of the conference and all declared them to be amazing. Seriously. Amazing came up every time.


The delicious and stylish hummus at Open Sesame

Now I’m back from my trip and missing a Mediterranean restaurant. Plus, my farm share had three of the necessary ingredients for the potatoes, which was too good to be true. So, based on this recipe, I whipped up my own batch, with the approval of my family.

Here’s my version:

  1. Peel and chop about 4 small to medium potatoes to about 1/2″ cube. While you are doing this, heat a skillet on medium, preferably a cast iron skillet. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil and cook the potatoes in that, turning periodically. You probably need to let them cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Mine were a little bit firm when I was done, so do leave yourself the time to get them cooked.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, mince 5-6 normal sized garlic cloves. Chop up about a 1/4 cup of cilantro (stems removed).
  3. When your potatoes are finished, remove from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of coconut oil (you can use olive too, but coconut withstands higher temps better) and then add the garlic. Only cook this for about 30 seconds to a minute. Add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the chopped cilantro. Stir for a minute, then add the potatoes.
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes. Adjust flavors. My suggestion? Add a teaspoon of smoked paprika, some more lemon juice and a bit of red chili powder. Serve warm.

Sorry to not have a picture! Instead, I’m showing off the Open Sesame hummus.

Mustard Green Triangles


Confession: I’m not really terribly Southern when it comes to food. I enjoy peaches and grits (not together), sure, but I don’t eat barbeque, or fried chicken or drink sweet tea. And, I’d never had mustard greens. So, I was a bit perplexed as to what I should do with them. One person told me “Oh I love mustard greens after they’ve been simmering all day on the stove with some fatback.” Hmm, OK, not going to do that.

I had considered throwing it in with the Spanikopita, but when I took a bite, it was sharp. And it was definitely mustard-y.

My cookbooks weren’t much help here, so I went to the googles to see what they suggested. Much of it seemed to recommend making them like any other green (saute with sesame oil, ginger, etc etc.) I know how to do that, but I also had leftover phyllo dough. So, time to invent. I made Mustard Green Triangles.


You will need:

  • Mustard Greens. I had 8 big leaves.
  • Olive oil. Maybe a tablespoon?
  • Red onion. I had half a small one leftover from making coleslaw.
  • Garlic. I used a garlic scape, because I have a zillion of them.
  • Dill. Because it seemed to go with mustard?
  • Rice vinegar. A tablespoon at most. I didn’t even use that, because I ran out.
  • Agave. Because I love honey mustard and I was making it up. I used a teaspoon.

Saute the onions for 4-5 minutes, add the scapes for a minute, then the mustard greens. Push those around for a minute and then add the dill, vinegar and agave. Take that off the heat and mix in:

  • Walnuts, chopped up. I went with a fistful, so half a cup?
  • Parmesan cheese, a quarter cup. Or maybe whatever cheese you want to add. I would have used feta but I had Parmesan.


Now for the phyllo dough part. You will need:

  • Phyllo dough
  • A tablespoon of butter (melted) and a tablespoon of olive oil, mixed together
  • A pastry brush

Follow the directions on the box for thawing and all. Take a sheet of waxed paper and butter it. Then take a sheet of phyllo and butter that. Then fold that in half, and put a couple of tablespoons of mixture on one corner. Then fold up like a paper football. Repeat until you run out of mixture.

Put on a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes at 375.


Sweet Potato Black Bean Wraps

Me: we have beet greens, collards, cilantro and lettuce left. Ideas? Husband: fish tacos? Me: Hmm, OK, not sure fish tacos will use up a lot of those CSA ingredients, but I’ll figure something out.

I decided to use the collards as wraps and then make a mix of sweet potatoes and black beans. That mixture is based on a recipe for Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas from Whole Foods. Then I wrapped them in steamed collards, which there’s a fabulous demonstration of how to do that here. (I will add that I’d steam them the entire minute next time. 30 seconds was just not quite enough time.)

Collard Wrap

Here’s the recipe:

  1. Black beans: you can either cook these the slow, traditional way or you can pressure cook them (my preferred method) or you can use canned. Rinse well if using canned. Add to the beans:
    • a clove or two of crushed garlic
    • a tablespoon of lime juice
    • salt
    • cilantro to your taste
  2. Sweet potatoes: get a pot of water boiling and add a medium sweet potato that has been peeled and diced into 1/2 pieces. Boil for about 10 minutes. Drain, put back in empty pot and add:
    • Half a can of diced green peppers
    • Cumin (about a tablespoon)
    • Red chile powder, to taste. I probably used a teaspoon. The kid complains if I use too much.
  3. Mix the two together and put in the collards. I added a dollop of salsa after these were served, and served with rice and chips. You could also spread avocado on the leaves first, but not if you plan to reheat them. (Which they reheated quite nicely in the microwave.)

The husband wouldn’t touch these (he doesn’t care for sweet potatoes anyway) but the kid sure loved them.