Watermelon Molasses

It has taken twenty-four hours to realize the fruit from my latest culinary adventure. I don’t even have a very clear idea as to what prompted this mission. I just knew I needed cookies. Watermelon cookies.

Anyone can make cookies out of fake syrupy stuff you make cocktails with, but to use real watermelon as a critical ingredient? I drew my inspiration from a couple of sites: cupcake project and Mother Earth News. The former actually drew inspiration from the latter. Watermelon molasses isn’t as popular as you might think.

There is no need to tell you how to make your own. Everything I know came from the aforementioned sites. I do feel compelled to tell you about the smell. That sweet and foul scent that makes you want to scrap the whole project.

I hate trying new things that have an unpleasant process. My stomach churns and and I’m gripped with fear. Fear that I created an abominable nightmare that could escape the confines of my kitchen, and if loosed, will envelop the countryside with a ghastly funk that could menace everyone it encounters.

I was lucky this time. The funk has abated and the cooked watermelon molasses has a very nice flavor. It’s not something you would want to spread on toast, but as a general sweetener, it is delightful.

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One melon yielded 1 pint that I canned. Not much at all. I used watermelon pulp that I strained and 1/4 cup of molasses for cookies. The batter is chilling in the fridge until this evening. It tastes great as-is, so I expect these cookies to be exceptional.

Monstrous Meatloaf on Ciabatta

I’m known for making sandwich monstrosities at home.  I’m not saying that my sandwiches are abominations that should never see the light of day, I’m simply addressing the size of the sandwich.  There was my quintuple-decker SPAM sandwich, the big four-patty cheeseburger, I even made a burrito that could only be eaten on a cookie sheet.  It was probably eighteen inches with a 3 1/2 inch diameter.

There is an easy way to make a meatloaf sandwich better.  You have to make it bigger!  I didn’t measure this ciabatta roll, but I was able to fit half a meatloaf on it.  Sadly, this was an incarnation I could not complete on my own.  I was only able to consume 1/4 of it at the time.  I had plenty to share and I still had a midnight snack with it.  This monstrosity could feed a small army.

Ingredients:

4 thick slices meatloaf

1 large ciabatta roll

4 slices pepper jack cheese

Mezzetta brand cherry peppers

Mezzetta brand sliced peperoncini peppers

Remoulade sauce

Method:

Top Your Meatloaf With This!

 

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My mom always topped meatloaf with ketchup. When I grew up I moved on to chili sauce, but recently I have experimented with my own sauce.

I know this sauce looks involved, but you really just need to dump and simmer. Simple.

I have a feeling that this will make an excellent BBQ sauce. I’m going to test it out.

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup Chardonnay
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch ground thyme

Combine all ingredients and simmer until reduced.

This may look like a lot of work, but the sweet tanginess with a touch of spice makes a great sauce for meatloaf.

All photos courtesy of Stacy Crumpley.
All photos courtesy of Stacy Crumpley.

Or you can be lazy and reach for the ketchup. At least use balsamic ketchup.

(If you really feel adventurous, enjoy your meatloaf with remoulade sauce).

Bacon Apple Fritter Strata With Oatmeal Crumble

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For those that know me, it is commonplace for me to share potential recipe ideas. My wife tells me that all I think about is food. She’s right.

I’m always concerned about the next meal. I anguish over what I want to cook. It’s not that I’m some kind of culinary genius. I’m not. I just like variety and our meal plan is nothing like what my mom instituted when I was young.

She was driven by what was cheapest, as am I, but you had a pretty good idea that Sunday was fried chicken, roast beef on Saturday, and the other days of the week were filled with spaghetti, salmon patties, meatloaf, and boiled Eckrich sausage and white rice.

She instituted variety, but the rotation of dishes was very tight. My meal rotation is quite loose where it might be weeks before you repeat a meal, or I may become obsessed with a certain ingredient (like pasta or pinto beans), and we eat practically the same meal for eleven days straight.

In the meantime, I’m always seeking out new recipes or creating my own. My dad would call it concocting while I prefer the term, developing. His bologna pasta is a concoction (and a disgusting one at that). A one-off. Something you pray you never encounter again.

When I consider recipe development, I revisit a recipe to improve upon it.  One recipe that needs some tweaking is my maple cake with mocha frosting.  It tastes good as it is, but there are some characteristics I would like to improve upon.

I’m also reminded of my pinto bean recipe.  I know you may think that beans are beans, but they aren’t.  This is about the best pinto beans I’ve ever had, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to make these legumes better.

Well, I had similar sentiments from my family when I made that strawberry-jalapeño pie. I think I know where I went wrong, so I’m considering a attempt which will bring this creation from a concoction to a development. I just hope it isn’t an abomination.

I was feeling sweet strata, so after three days of scheming, I finally brought my idea into the kitchen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did thinking about it.

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Ingredients:

6 Krispy Kreme apple fritters, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 dozen extra large Eggland’s Best Eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup Hormel Real Bacon Bits

For crumble topping:

2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
3/4 cup Country Crock spreadable butter with canola oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chopped fritters onto a nonstick cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes so they are toasted.

Combine eggs, milk, sea salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a bowl with a fork or whisk.

Spray 9×11 pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with fritter cubes.

Pour egg mixture over fritter cubes and sprinkle bacon evenly over the top.

Combine ingredients for the crumble topping with your hand and spread mixture evenly over strata.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until done.

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All photos courtesy of Stacy Crumpley.

Homemade Raw Vegan Chocolate

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I have to admit that this is the first vegan recipe I have ever tried.  I had a recipe to test for a freelance piece and I decided to toy with it.  Normally, I’ll bite a hunk of dark chocolate and it has the ceraceous consistency of those wax lips you get around Halloween.  It takes forever for it to begin to melt which is when you can finally say Unleash the Kraken!!!  Um…I…I mean…flavor.  If you start screaming about krakens you might find yourself in a padded cell.  Without chocolate.

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The chocolate here is about half cacao butter.  You can take a piece from the freezer and it immediately begins melting.  This is desirable as you are struck with the chocolate jolt and you don’t even have time to think about krakens.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup cacao butter
  • Celtic sea salt for sprinkling(you can use pink Himalayan salt or some large grained salt.  Just don’t use iodized salt.  It will make you cry.)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (I couldn’t find this so I used turbinado sugar.  I couldn’t get the chocolate warm enough to melt the sugar, though.  Well, I could have heated it enough, I was just concerned that I was going to irreparably damage my raw chocolate.  Why buy raw chocolate if you are just going to cook it?  This batch was grainy but delicious.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (I have some really nice extract from Honduras, but McCormick will do nicely)

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Method

The best way to render the cacao butter is to grate it so that it melts easily.  As you grate the cacao butter, heat a pot of water until it is steaming.  You don’t quite want it at the boiling point.  The cacao is cold pressed and the object is to keep the temperature as low as you can so you don’t destroy the nutrients with heat.

To be honest, my first notion was to microwave the cacao butter until I researched it.  Heat it slowly.  The heat destroys flavinoids or something.  Hey, I just scanned for the best way to heat cacao butter.  I never planned on learning.  If you are interested in the nuances of raw cacao, I’m sure Google will accommodate you.

Using a heat resistant bowl, like Pyrex or stainless steel, melt the butter by placing the container in or on top of the pot of hot water.  Or if you want to be fancy, a double boiler will do nicely.

Once melted, add all ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk.  When everything is fully incorporated, pour into molds like ice cube trays.  I poured my chocolate off into an aluminum pan.  Then you want to sprinkle some salt over the top.  Chocolate that is highlighted with sea salt is something you want to enjoy.

Place your container into the freezer for around 20 minutes or you can let it cool in the refrigerator for about two hours.  You do the math.  20 minutes or two hours.  I put mine in the freezer too.

All photos courtesy of Stacy Crumpley.
All photos courtesy of Stacy Crumpley.

Next time I’m not going to fool with vegan pretexts.  I’ll use honey to avoid the grainy texture and I’ll punch it up with a dose of sriracha.

Best. Meatloaf. Ever.

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One of the preeminent comfort foods is meatloaf. It appears to be one of those dishes that is publicly jeered at, but secretly is coveted.

I have eaten meatloaf from many places. There certainly is awesome meatloaf and there is meatloaf that is only suitable for Gallagher’s Sledge-O-Matic. It’s still meatloaf and I hungrily shovel it in.

This particular meatloaf is an amalgamation of my experiences in trying different recipes, but it leans heavily on the freeform method that is typically in a mobile kitchen with Mercy Chefs. I just happened to write down the process today.

I look forward to your critique as I’d like to know where on the spectrum it belongs. Maybe Gallagher and I need to eat smashed meatloaf.

If you really want to enhance your experience, try serving with fresh remoulade sauce.

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Ingredients:

3 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 ounces Hormel crumbled bacon with black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix ingredients thoroughly, but do not over mix as it will make the meatloaf really dense.

Form into loaf on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Coat meatloaf with homemade sauce (or ketchup).

Cook for 75 minutes or until internal temperature is 150 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest. Internal temperature should rise to 160 at rest.

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Images courtesy of Stacy Crumpley.

 

 

 

Is Anything More Evil Than Comcast?

CC image courtesy of Masayoshi Sekimura on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of Masayoshi Sekimura on Flickr.

I’ve had Comcast against my will for nine years. I have no other comparable option for high speed internet. I don’t have access to DSL and I’m not paying exorbitant fees for satellite internet. I’m over a barrel and I’ve been seething for a long time. They bent me out of shape so badly a couple of years ago, I wrote letters to the Mayor, the Governor, and the senators and congresspersons for Louisiana. It was a pointless endeavor but it was cathartic.

As far as the product goes, it’s good as long as it is working. I’ll even say that surfing the internet is generally fast and frustration free. Except when I have to call customer service.

A typical call has someone reading a script that is riddled with empty apologies. At least that is what I hear. Today’s debacle stems from a billing snafu.

There was a nice addition of modem rental fees when I have owned my own modem for years. My broadband plan was suddenly changed and I’m magically being billed for installation and franchise fees. My bill had increased 50%.

I have had nothing installed and I’ve had nothing but an antenna and Netflix to feed my television consumption for two years. Before we pared down our expenses, we had DirecTV, not Comcast.

I called customer service today just like I had done on numerous occasions for nearly a decade. Today was different because I was informed that I was not authorized to discuss my account. It’s in my wife’s name, but I was listed years ago as one who was privileged to discuss the account with the intrepid souls at Comcast. Until today. All because my account has been updated or modified on June 1 without our knowledge or permission.

I spent thirty minutes that I’ll never see again attempting to get some answers. The only response was that my wife will have to call to put me on the permission list.

The reason given is because Comcast has received a rash of calls of unauthorized people to discuss accounts. My reply was that I was unconcerned as long as these rogues weren’t calling to discuss my account. I asked how they would know if they were speaking to my wife or not if I had an imposter call with the account information to place me on the permission list.

There were no satisfactory answers. There never are from Comcast. Heather had to call to straighten this mess out.

Now that I’m able to discuss the account, I should call to report that an imposter called to place my name on the account. I better keep my mouth shut because I’m sure there will be another nightmare scenario in three months. If there is anything consistent with Comcast, it’s that their customer service is incompetent and sometimes adversarial.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

I spent the evening sitting next to a hipster with a patchy beard who appeared to have skipped a shower or two. That’s the look people try to capture these days and I knew I was at some pretentious art scene event when I spied Mr. Shiny Hair sipping a Heineken.

This competition was in the spirit of “Chopped,” with Ted Allen. We selected our “mystery ingredient” Saturday morning at the farmers’ market.

Now that I pause to think about it, this was a hackneyed attempt at trying to marry the vegetable culture with the art world. I’m not complaining as I’m a self-admitted hack. As a matter of fact, Ben Franklin would call me a hack of all trades.

The “mystery ingredient” I selected was tomatoes. Simple enough. I thought about spaghetti, but there were only two mystery ingredients to choose from. I needed something different to stand out from the other tomato infused dishes.

I suddenly realized what I was going to create yesterday after church. I decided upon carnitas (über braised pork that I nestled In soft corn tortillas). I tossed in some tomatoes, but the star was going to be the salsa. Salsa is pretty typical for tomatoes, so I added cantaloupe and mint. It was more cantaloupe than tomato, but it went great with the pork tacos.

I really didn’t think the competition was going to be a big deal but I was competing with sixty-five other contestants. As I waited on the judges to do their work, I was hit with a wave of flop sweat. I tried to focus on a gaunt senior citizen wearing a CamelBak. I couldn’t help but notice his steampunk glasses that appeared to be a horse blinder but I decided it was either a monocle to give him X-Ray vision or it was a tiny rearview mirror. I only wish he had a steampunk time machine so I could skip the waiting.

I often question my abilities as I’m self taught. Granted, I have learned a lot from my chef buddies on Mercy Chef deployments, but I was curious to see how I fared among a sea of strangers.

The panel of judges consisted of chefs at great restaurants and I was competing with chefs. I could tell I was over my head when I saw the presentation of the dishes. I left out the hoity and the toity. Most everything else looked like it belonged on magazine covers.

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I was shocked when I received an honorable mention. Even my great friend, Chef John, congratulated me and called me Chef. That means a lot coming from a chef of his caliber.

I don’t know if I’ll do another competition as the flop sweat is a killer, but I’m quite satisfied with an honorable mention. Oh, and one of the judges from the west coast said that this was something he would serve at his restaurant.

Tolerating Everyone That Agrees

CC image courtesy of relevantinfo.org.
CC image courtesy of relevantinfo.org.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only sane person in the world. It is a time where there is no absolute truth. At least that’s what people say. These same people will call you a hater or a bigot if you dare to disagree with them. This is an extension of the Tolerance/Intolerance Paradox.

As a Bible believing Christian, I’m a part of the minority. I’m a simpleton for believing that abortion is murder. I know, I want to trample a woman’s God given right to kill her own child. Matt Walsh made a great point with his analogy of piledriving your pet.

Gay marriage is another hot button issue. I guess I’m a Neanderthal bigot for standing with the Bible. Look, I’m not concerned with people’s proclivities, but it is my duty to warn my neighbor that living an unrepentant lifestyle (and this encompasses much more than homosexuality) will result in divine judgment.

Let me make this known: I am heterosexual and I am faithful to my wife. There. I just came out of the faithful heterosexual closet. Next time I meet a stranger I’ll tell him, “Hello, my name is Ted and I’m a faithful hetero.”

This trait is what defines my entire being. Hellooooo I’m hetero! I don’t dwell on the fact that I’m straight.

God doesn’t judge people based on their sexuality. He judges based on sin. He is going to judge adulterers and fornicators as well. Don’t take my word for it. God’s word is chronicled in the Bible. If you disagree, you can take the matter up with Him.

The good news is that Jesus Christ died for all sinners. The only requirements are that we repent and believe in Him. The Son of Man became sin so that we might not perish. See that “might?” That’s like the asterisk in the record books next to Mark McGuire’s name. We must repent and believe to be saved.

The new polarizing issue is gun control. The gun control argument isn’t new, but it has landed in the morality arena. If you support the 2nd Amendment, you are slow-witted and are responsible for nut jobs that shoot people for sport. Even Jessa Dugger, one of the children on the TLC program, “I’ve Had More Children Than A Small Country and Counting,” is vilified simply for posing with a gun.

I understand that we may never be in agreement on many views, but should we clash in gladiatorial combat because you got chocolate in my peanut butter? Are you worse than Hitler’s and Stalin’s love child that was genetically manufactured in the Lubyanka simply because you hold a different point of view than mine? Of course not. That just makes you wrong. Just kidding.

In all seriousness, why such a visceral response to someone that holds a different point of view? I don’t remember stabbing anyone in the neck on the playground when I said He-Man could beat up G.I. Joe. Maybe I said they were a stupid head for even suggesting that Skeletor could beat She-Ra at arm wrestling.

I guess things really haven’t changed all that much.