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Spooky Halloween Shrunken Head Sliders

By Kent Whitaker Have you ever eaten a shrunken head with melted Colby and Pepper Jack cheese? Who says that Halloween is just for handing out candy and popcorn balls to neighborhood kids? It’s time to toss in some fun foodie ideas that are well suited for the kitchen or grill. And, why not make it fun, kind of gross… and yet packed with flavor? For any other article this recipe would simply be for a burger with some spicy seasoning, steamed onions, a tangy jalapeno mustard BBQ sauce and gherkin pickle wedges. For Halloween, this recipe transforms into something a bit more fun. Tell your family, or guests, you’re serving up Shrunken Head Sliders with tape worms, zombie sauce and alien fingers… with cheese! Remember, you’re having fun and getting into the Halloween spirit, pun intended, but that’s no reason to forget about making a great tasting dish. I suggest that you make a blended burger for extra flavor. I suggest combining ground beef with ground Italian sausage. Or, ground turkey and black bean burgers. If you break up the beans your ground turkey will have a creepy purple tint to them – perfect for Halloween! The “zombie sauce” mentioned above is one of my standard quick and easy “cheater junk sauces.” That’s where you have some sauce in the fridge and you add some extra “junk” to it for bonus flavor. For this I combined a mustard based barbecue sauce with a splash of honey and store bought chopped jalapenos. Use these recipe as a starting point for your creative ideas and have fun! Easy Beef & Italian Sausage Burgers 1 pound lean ground beef, 80/20 1/2 pound Italian sausage, ground Salt and pepper to taste Steak sauce Cajun seasoning Cheese Combine the beef and ground Italian sausage in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Form into equally sized meatballs about the size of a golf ball. Next, flatten each ball while pinching one side into a thinner piece forming a skeleton head type of shape. Next, season each side with a light brushing of steak sauce and a few dashes of Cajun seasoning. Grill, bake or broil as you normally would. Use tiny slices of cheese for x’s representing stitched eyes and for the mouth. I used pepper jack. Serve hot on toasted slider buns covered in cheese with zombie sauce, steamed onion slices and gherkin pickle wedges. Serve open faced. Kent “The Deck Chef” Whitaker is the former winner of the [...]

By |2019-03-14T23:29:54+00:00October 4th, 2017|BBQ, BBQ Recipes, Halloween|1 Comment

Cinco de Mayo, means freedom

Cinco de Mayo,  Grito de Dolores honors Mexican independence. Cinco de Mayo proves she deserves it. Yet Mexico’s future was uncertain concurrent the American Civil War. In 1861, France peered across the Atlantic and saw a distraction. Hitherto, Mexico owed several backers large interest sums. France would make her pay by force! But there was an ulterior motive. A Tale of Two Presidents President Lincoln understood that a Mexican alliance was pivotal to Union victory. Mexico’s President Benito Juarez was happy to oblige – European puppet governments were legitimate concerns. United States policy discouraged European nations from intervening. Conversely, France’s Emperor Napoleon III would profit from Confederate victory. Union occupation halted French trade. Without Union policy holding them back, France was free to engage Mexico. A True Underdog Story And it did, despite standing policy. Lincoln’s Union was pre-occupied and could not intervene. French military covered Mexico like a plague. There were two French soldiers for every one Mexican! Mexico City was destined to fall, but not before one of the biggest upsets in military history. On May 5th, under General Zaragoza’s command, Mexico’s army repelled France at ‘Puebla’. Word travelled internationally. The improbable victory emboldened Mexican’s home and abroad. The Fight for Freedom Continued resistance made France’s endeavour fruitless. America, eventually reunited, pressured France into relinquishing control. Napoleon III’s puppet emperor was executed and President Juarez returned to power. Cinco de Mayo (“Five of May”) remembers Mexico’s struggle and acknowledges her spirit. Celebrating at the Turn of the Century Cinco de Mayo enjoyed renewed American interest following the 1960’s. Today, Cinco de Mayo ceremonies are held in every state. In fact, General Zaragoza’s birthplace, Goliad, Texas, is the official celebration location. Puebla, however, still boasts being Cinco de Mayo’s largest celebratory location. Participants re-enact the conflict between Mexican and French soldiers. (We hate to ruin a surprise, but Mexico always wins.) Food, song, and dance proceed. Color floats and piñatas adorn Puebla’s streets. Adult and child alike scarf down plate after plate of Mole Poblano. Ingredients like chili pepper and chocolate make a unique juxtaposition for your palate. Tequila is, naturally, imbibed liberally. In recent years, focus has been placed on international music plus traditional Mexican artists. United we Stand Benito Juarez remarked that Mexico would be wise to imitate her neighbour’s democratic principles. Lincoln and Juarez had mutual affection, despite never meeting. Cinco de Mayo reminds all nations that freedom is worth striving for.

By |2019-03-15T02:28:57+00:00April 29th, 2016|Cinco de Mayo, Festivals, Holidays|0 Comments

Bits and Tidbits about Sparklers

A sparkler is a form of firework that you can normally hold safely in your hands. Unlike firecrackers, it is not meant to explode. Unlike roman candles, it does not discharge stars or comet shells. Instead, it burns slowly and steadily while emitting a brilliant, sometimes colored, shower of sparks. In the United States, it is customary to celebrate the Fourth of July with sparklers along with other fireworks display. Sparklers fall under the “1.4G” in the federal U.S. Fireworks Classification, meaning they are consumer fireworks that you can ordinarily buy from any retail outlet without any special permit. However, some states may impose additional restrictions. In fact, in Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, all kinds of consumer fireworks are not allowed. In Colorado, consumer fireworks that are not explicitly permitted by the state’s law are deemed prohibited. Fortunately, sparklers are among those explicitly permitted by the state, along with fountains, ground spinners, glow worms, trick noisemakers and other novelty items. How are sparklers made? Typically, a sparkler consists of a wire or stick that has been dipped into a slurry or batter of pyrotechnic chemicals, including aluminum, magnesium, iron or zinc dust, potassium chloride, charcoal, and a solution of dextrin and boric acid with water. Other ingredients may be added to produce special effects. For instance, if barium nitrate is added, you will have green sparks. If strontium nitrate is used instead, you will have red sparks. If ferrotitanium is mixed, you will have golden sparks. The chemicals however have to be exactly proportioned according to formula. Otherwise, there is risk that they may explode. Once dried, when one end of the chemically-coated wire or stick is ignited, it will slowly burn until it reaches the un-coated part. If made according to exact specifications, the un-coated end of the wire or stick should be safe to hold while the sparkler is in the process of burning. History of sparklers Most historians generally credit the Chinese for having invented gunpowder and fireworks around 2,000 years ago. However, it was the Germans who were actually responsible for making the first sparklers in recorded history according to Dennis Manochio Sr., the curator of the Fourth of July Americana & Fireworks Museum in Saratoga, California, and the historian of the American Pyrotechnic Association. According to Manochio’s account, around the 1850s, the Germans learned to dip wire into a paste of gunpowder and iron dust to make wunderkerzen, literally meaning “sparklers.” In 1894, they introduced aluminum into the formula [...]

By |2019-03-15T02:10:33+00:00June 30th, 2014|4th July, Holidays, Sparklers|1 Comment

Competitive Eater Crazy Legs Conti

Major League Eating sponsors competitive eating contests around the world. In the following interview we talk about them. They run about 80 contests a year. This is primarily an interview with Crazy Legs Conti a competitive eater and several time champion.   Crazy Legs Conti uses Zen to prepare for contests. Zen is "a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition."    

Fireworks and Safety for the 4th of July

Fireworks are part of the July 4th celebrations. They are synonymous to the nation’s birthday as backyard barbecues, parades down the main street, and apple pie. They are relatively safe if only people use their common sense. There are also some easy to follow rules that make handling fireworks in County fairgrounds safer. But even with the rules, it seems like people ignore the rules. Each year people are brought to the emergency room due to fireworks-related injuries around the July 4th celebrations. People should remember that fireworks are dangerous and can cause serious burns. If you are tasked to set up fireworks at the county fairgrounds, there are some things that you must do first. One of the first things you need to do is to make sure you have already appointed a firing team. It should be composed of no more than three people with one person serving as the leader of the group. Members of the firing team must have experience of lighting fireworks and have knowledge of safety regulations.   Organizing the Fireworks Display You must ensure that the firing site can accommodate all the fireworks you intend to fire. There must be ample spacing in order to avoid accidental firing of fireworks. Don’t forget to read the instructions on all the fireworks. Each item behaves differently and might be required to be set up and installed in several ways. Make sure that the right side is facing the audience, especially the fan style cakes. There are some types that are required to be buried in soft earth or attached to wooden stakes buried in the ground. These are candles, fountains, and cakes. If they are attached to wooden stakes, they should be attached with strong cloth tape to ensure that the firework stays behind the stake and doesn’t fall over or face the crowd. The fireworks must be angled away from the crowd. If the weather is not too nice, you can use plastic bags to keep fireworks dry. Some fountains have a cone shape and make them hard to be attached to anything. You can place the fountain on a flat surface and avoid placing it on the grass that could make the firework unstable and tip over. Rockets should be launched from tubes. You can make a DIY project using plumbing pipe. Just make sure that the stick of the rocket can freely liftoff form the pipe. It must not get stuck in the pipe. If the rocket has a [...]

Saint Patrick’s Day History

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated every March 17th to commemorate the death anniversary of Saint Patrick, and more recently, to celebrate all things Irish. On that day, parades and festivals are held, people pack the pubs, and green is everywhere. As with the shamrock - the tree-leaf clover symbol of Ireland which, it is said, Saint Patrick used in his teachings about the Holy Trinity. But who is Saint Patrick? He is the patron saint of Ireland. However, he is not Irish. He was born in Rome-occupied Britain around A.D. 390 to a wealthy, landed family of prominent Christians. His father was a deacon. When he was sixteen, Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders. He was brought to Ireland where he was made to work as a slave. For more than six years, he was tasked with the duty of tending sheep in the mountainous parts of the countryside where there were no other people. While there, it is said that he heard a disembodied voice directing him to escape and telling him how. Following instructions from the voice, he walked about 200 miles to the coast where he somehow managed to get passage on a pirate ship back to Britain. Though already back in the safety of his native land, Saint Patrick did not return to the comfortable lifestyle that was his during his early years. Instead, he opted to become a priest. He trained for more than 15 years to become a missionary. Compelled by an angel that appeared to him in a vision, he decided to return to Ireland to spread Christianity. As Saint Patrick was already familiar with the language, culture and ancient customs of the Irish, he was able to use the existing beliefs and terminology of the ethnic population to illustrate and better explain the teachings of the Christian church. For instance, to make the veneration of the cross easier for them, he incorporated a sun, a powerful Druid symbol, into the traditional Christian cross to create what is now known as the Celtic cross. Saint Patrick’s second time around in Ireland was almost just as harsh as when he was first brought there as a slave by the raiders. He was incessantly harassed by the Irish royalty as well as robbed and beaten by the local thugs. Nonetheless, he persevered. For thirty years, he continued to evangelize. He baptized thousands and built churches, monasteries and schools. He died on March 17, 461 A.D., and was immediately canonized as a [...]

By |2017-07-02T22:20:55+00:00March 4th, 2014|2014, Holidays, St. Patrick's Day|0 Comments

Mardi Gras History and Traditions

The history of Mardi Gras dates back to thousands of years (as early as 1699 in the US) when the Roman Catholic religion was on the peak of its power in Europe. Mardi Gras translates to “Fat Tuesday” which simply means the last days of eating richer foods as the lent season comes in and the fasting starts. This is a celebratory event that allows people to let go of inhibitions and conventions as the Shrive or confession time is drawing near. Carnival Venetian mask isolated on white background with clipping path. There are Mardi Gras celebrations all over the world. The key cities of this celebration are Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, Sinaloa in Mexico, Quebec, Barranquilla in Colombia, and Venice. There are also “Fat Tuesday” celebrations in Germany particularly in the German cities of Cologne and Mainz. Sweden, Belgium, and Netherlands also have their “versions” of the celebration and like in other places, rooted to the same traditions and religious beliefs. What are the celebrations like? What are the included traditions? The Carnival (another name for Mardi Gras in some cultures) in Rio de Janeiro is one of the biggest and well known events in the country that even foreigners flock to the city to witness this annual celebration. It is wild with lots of dancing, costumes and masks. Masks are a major attribute of Mardi Gras and so are street dancing, loud music, and consuming lots of food. In the United Kingdom the food of choice during Mardi Gras are pancakes and other fried pastries that are known to be decadent and reflect dietary excesses as the 40-day fast draws near. Other food that is associated with Mardi Gras is Semlor (Sweden). A popular food custom of the Mardi Gras is the preparation of King Cakes typically seen in many establishments in the French-influenced areas in the US like in the state of Louisiana specifically in New Orleans. The timing of Mardi Gras varies a lot but the most accepted date of the beginning of the celebrations is January 6 as reflected in the start of Carnival Season. The Carnival season ends on an Easter Sunday. Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday and is an event where moral codes are observed loosely. This is the reason why nudity and provocative costumes are all part of the celebration. Mardi Gras in the US is not a nationally observed event but in New Orleans, the celebration [...]

By |2017-07-03T00:19:31+00:00February 15th, 2014|2014, Carnivals, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, New Orleans|0 Comments

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