Bacon Lardon Land and Water Campout Re-creation (or MuccaBelly Cornbread Sliders)

There is a really fabulous dish done up at Land & Water Co. in Carlsbad. It’s spectacular and if you get a chance to try it, do so! Here it is:

Anyway, I wanted to try and re-create it as best I could but also be able to do it at scale for campouts with a large group. I had the cornbread down and had done pork belly on the smoker, but never really figured out how to do it well on the stove top or oven. Then, I found this recipe on Pinch & Swirl which is both easy and great although it does take a lot of time just in waiting. I changed it up slightly on the rub, but stuck to the technique.

Also, had to figure out how to get all this done out in the sticks with maybe a gas grill, a flat top, and a fire pit. Biggest challenge was getting the cornbread cooked through without scorching the bottom.

So, here goes my recreation for 100 hungry dads in the boonies:

Ingredients:

  • 1lb pork belly, cut into a strip about 2 in. wide max
  • Rub:
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Brown sugar
    • Cayenne pepper
  • Jalapeno
  • Orange Marmalade (I think apricot or peach preserves work nice too!)
  • Crab Salad
  • Ingredients for my Slap Yo Mama Cornbread

Directions:

I did the pork belly in the oven ahead of time as with this recipe it was even better after doing so and letting it sit a couple of days…perfect for cooking up and packing down in a cooler. Rub down your pork belly w/ rub and put it in the frig overnight if possible. I roasted it in a cast iron pan at 450F for 30 min and then cut it back to 275 for 1hr, removed it, let it cool, and then wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it back in the frig overnight as the directions in Pinch and Swirl directed and packed it down in the cooler.

When ready to get to it, I fired up the gas grill we had to 400F (or thereabouts…think we need a new thermometer!) and took out a square cast iron skillet (you really need to go w/ a square or rectangular pan to cut into squares) for my Slap Yo Mama Cornbread. This was the most challenging part of the whole thing was getting the cornbread cooked through without scorching the bottom which I must have done 3 or 4 times before getting down the right technique. Basically, I put it directly on the gas grill at 400F for 10 minutes (put the opposite burner on full heat and the one directly under the cornbread at the lowest I could get away with while keeping it at 400F). and then put it on the top rack for 10 minutes more to cook through and rotated another pan of cornbread back on the grill top until I had knocked out about 4 trays of cornbread. Perfection…even thumbs up from all the 5 year old girls out with their dads for the weekend (that’s an endorsement!). Any other tips on what works best for keeping it from burning and still cooking through, would love to hear ’em.

While that was going, we cut the pork belly into slices maybe 1/2 inch thick, put them on a scorching flat top and seared it on both sides.

When the cornbread was done, I let it cool a bit, cut myself a square, put a little seafood salad on top, added a piece of seared pork belly, added a slice of jalapeno, drizzled some peach preserves over the top (original was orange marmalade, but I really like peach or apricot).

Ta Daaaaah! Not as good as the real thing (you really need to go try it!), but DAAAAMN!

Gracias TooManyHobbiesGuy for the nice feature snap…I was up to my elbows in pork belly and forgot to get a decent camera shot!

Sassy Spicy Pickled Red Onion

Let’s start by saying that I’ve never pickled anything in my life, while at the same time I love me some pickled onions, jalapenos, sweet peppers, cucumbers, etc. One thing that I love and haven’t ever found on the shelf is pickled red onions, so I thought I’d give a go at making them myself. I’ve been looking for a good recipe and have tried a bunch of different ones that have been mediocre and some that have really stunk up the house (boiled vinegar and onions wreaks!). This recipe however changed all that. Ingredients are here:

• Red onion
• 1 Cup of apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 Cup of water
• 1 Tbspn of sugar
• 2 tsps of salt
• 1 tspn of whole peppercorns
• 1-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
• 1 bay leaf

For the how to, check this out on Imperfectly Happy… pickled red onions with a little spicy sass to them…nice one Tiffany!

These go amazing on everything…tacos, burgers, eggs, etc. etc. I find myself just eating them all by themselves…damn good! Enjoy!

Put in the Work

“We don’t rise to the level of our hopes, we fall to the level of our training” – Archilogus

It is true that everybody wants a gold medal, but few want to wake up at 5:00am, run stairs, and sacrifice other pleasures to get there. Sun Tzu says “victory is reserved for those willing to pay its price”…basically, if you want to achieve something in this world, what in return are you willing to give up? It’s not just about focusing on the one thing that you want to be great at, but about not doing the other 10 things you want to do that are a distraction.

Maybe think about it in these terms as well… “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek. Too many people sit around waiting for their big break to come without putting in the work ahead of time…they have things in the wrong order…instead put in the work day in and day out, and when that big break comes you will be ready…be prepared for your moment! Success is where preparation and opportunity meet, but you have to see the opportunity when it presents itself and seize on it.

Understand too that “work hard, play hard” is important too…you can’t just pound away every day without some glimmer of joy along the way too…make sure you take the time to smell the roses and recharge wherever it is you find that joy.

Also, make sure you have a plan and a proper feedback loop (mentor or coach) as you put in your 10,000 hours of practice…you need to be practicing the right things and in the right way, or you are just wasting your time. I wrote a previous post…”The learning process: from novice to master” that covers how to go about it. Also, as you practice, take a hint from master Bruce Lee…

“I am more afraid of the person that has practiced the one kick a 1,000 times than the person who has practiced 1,000 kicks once”…depth is critical.

For some additional reading and for when competition finally arises to meet you on your journey, check out a previous post I did on dealing with competition.

6 Insane Big Bold Red Wines that are Sofa King Bueno for $25 or Less

I had to “taste test” a lot of wines to get to these top 6, but somebody had to do it. I don’t have a palate that can tell you if there is Oak, Smoke, or Elderberries in them, but I do know they are yummy, they are big, bold, & red, and they are cheap, for now…enough said. I have put the links below pointing to Vivino as I use the app all the time and it’s spectacular. Give ’em a whirl:

  • Sofa King Bueno: $22 – Paso Robles, CA Red Blend…#1 and my absolute favorite on this list not just because the name is awesome, but because it is insanely delicious
  • Barrel 27 Bull by the Horns: $20 – Paso Robles, CA Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Treana: $25 – this one is from Paso Robles, CA. It’s a Cab and yes at $25 it’s a little more expensive…sorry, I couldn’t help it…sometimes I find it cheaper but it’s great and worth it even at $25
  • 19 Crimes: $10 – This one is from Australia. A Shiraz-Grenache-Mataro (no idea what the hell the last grape is but it’s a great combo and only 10 bones!
  • Klinker Brick: $14 – from Lodi, CA this is a big red zin
  • Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Private Selection (Aged in Bourbon Barrels): $15 – from Oakville, CA. It’s wine aged in Bourbon…need I say more!

If you have any favorites you’d like to share, holla back.

On Trying to Become a Better Listener

I am a terrible listener… there, I said it. Problem identified and maybe should be highlighted, starred, and underlined. So let’s start here, “Why?”…

  • I don’t really think my ideas/thoughts are more important than others…BUT then again maybe I really do (Ha…What’s wrong with me!)
  • I can definitely be easily distracted when someone is talking by one thing they said that I can’t wait to reply to, light them up on, prove myself right about, whatever, therefore missing everything said after that (Boooo, Me!)
  • I listen from my own frame of reference, not the other person’s (It’s all about me!)
  • I fixate on words used, not looking deeper for intent (Shallow Hal!)
  • I get really bothered when someone uses 1,000 words to state something easily said in 10 words (Is that really my problem? Guess so!) to the point of trying to finish statements for them
  • Maybe my worst offense of all… maybe I don’t look like I’m listening, so the other person (in many cases, my lovely wife) says,” you aren’t listening to me” and I repeat back exactly what she said (Freakin’ Mimicer!!! Talk about pissed…”You missed the meaning A–hole!!”)

WOW… that is a long list… I truly suck as a listener!

OK now, I’ve been reading, asking others, and taking notes and it is time to do better. Where to begin:

  1. Make sure I am calm and rational… usually not a problem (until pushed to the point of explosion of course as I don’t have that much self-mastery yet… off the rails! Working on it)
  2. Make sure I am showing I care with my body language: eye contact, lean forward, posture (arms, shoulders, etc)… walk and talk if it helps (removes distractions)
  3. Listen with the intent to understand (don’t get distracted thinking about your own reply, in fact, forget it).
  4. Listen beyond just what you hear with your ears (use your eyes, heart, and mind…am I capable? That’s a strong “Maybe”).
  5. Listen with purpose:
    • Listen from the other person’s frame of reference
    • Repeat back (in an unmimicing way) that which you don’t understand
    • Pay attention to the other person’s body language, tone, etc…. what are they feeling/thinking?
    • Be present and engaged
    • DO NOT finish their thoughts for them (Yikes! Bite that tongue!)
    • Make sure you accurately understand their point of view before rebuttal… ask questions

 

In short, I think this means genuinely care about the other person and what they are trying to communicate to me, right?

 

Examples:

  • I speak really poor conversational Spanish and no Japanese, but I tend to understand the conversations in Japan better as I tend to get fixated on Spanish words during conversations losing the overall meaning, whereas in Japan I just pay attention to tone, watch body language, etc..this is actually a rather amazing thing…the non verbal things you pick up are truly amazing…try it sometime with 2 people engaged in a language you don’t speak
  • I had a good customer who was very upset with me because we didn’t ask enough questions the first time we met and had to ask them in multiple follow-ups later. We did our homework the second time and finished the entire (very technical) conversation in 45 minutes and even got a tour out of it at the end because we had extra time and because we had shown enough respect as to make them think we cared.

Well, I’m not there yet, but trying to improve every day. If you know me and are reading this saying, “Dude, you are still a terrible listener”, I know, I’m trying, point it out…I really want to do better…efforting!

Jalapeno Cilantro Cream Sauce

There is a groovy little Mexican restaurant in Austin that I used to get to quite regularly if for nothing else to indulge in their Creamy Jalapeno Cilantro Dip. I’ve wanted to try and replicate it for 20 years and never really got close, but found a few possible variations on it online and then tried to make it lower calorie. The result is pretty fantastic and it can be just a dip for chips or as I like to do slather it on tacos, bowls, etc. Here we go:

Ingredients:

  • Fat Free Greek Plain Yogurt
  • Lime/Lemon Juice
  • Cilantro
  • Pickled Jalapeno
  • Dry Ranch Dressing Mix

Recipe:

Mix in 1 Cup of yogurt, juice of one lemon, ½ Cup of cilantro, 8-10 pickled jalapenos (adjust for heat you want), ¼ bag of dry ranch dressing mix. Throw it all in the blender and adjust to taste.

Thinking About Visiting San Diego…Here’s a Tip From a Local…September in Del Mar

Firstly, don’t visit in May or June…sounds great, but believe it or not, our cloudiest time of year and not cheap. So, suggestion…September and October are amazing (basically , start booking now!)…school is back in, so tourists are gone, beaches are open, weather is stellar, and everything is cheaper.

Also, I don’t care who you are, if you’ve never tried to surf, give it a go. There are a ton of people who will give you a quick lesson…you will be standing in 1 hour tops and have the time of your life. Just make sure waves aren’t much bigger than 2-3ft the day you choose to go out.

Where to stay. Well, here’s a vote for the Del Mar area and a few things to do really close:

Del Mar Motel: Yes, it is a MMMMMotel, but there aren’t many places in San Diego where you can stay right on the beach…LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! You also have some amazing restaurants right around it. If you want to drop $500-800 on Hotel Del or $400 on L’Auberge down the street that isn’t even on the beach, go for it, but for the money this place is legit. As I said above, if you can manage to come after Labor Day weekend, rates are fantastic and so is the weather.

Jake’s Del Mar: Right next door to the Del Mar Motel, this place can’t be beat and anybody that says it is a tourist trap is out of their mind. Forget getting a table and just sit up at the bar for appetizers, an orange blossom margarita, and an unbelievable sunset (as it’s right on the beach).

Zumbar: Want an insane cup of espresso…try this place. My review is for the one in Sorrento Valley, but there is a new one in Del Mar as well if you are staying at the above.

Pacifica Breeze: Love the outdoor setup, love the food, and love the location. There are probably 10 other great breakfast/brunch/lunch places in the area, so do as you please, but the location for this one sells it for me.

Belly Up: There are hardly any live music venues in San Diego, but if you are up for one and there is something going on, give this place a go.

If you are a real foody on a budget, consider coming the last week in September for Restaurant Week. Most restaurants participate and you can usually get a stellar 3 course meal at a deep discount. They usually also extend it a week so probably good to go the first week of October as well.

That’s it…come see us!

“Stay classy, San Diego” -Ron Burgundy.