Angry Eggplant Lasagna

Lasagna is one of the quickest easiest dishes that always warrants compliments.

Last night I didn’t want to eat leftovers. I saw an eggplant on the counter and decided to make lasagna

1 small eggplant
Pasta sauce
Packaged lasagna
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
Ricotta cheese
Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
Fresh basil, chopped
Garlic powder
Crushed red pepper
Salt & cracked pepper to taste

Season both sides of eggplant slices with salt and pepper (removes bitterness)

Combine cheeses, egg, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix.

Pour a small layer of pasta sauce and spread to cover the bottom of baking dish. Add single layer of lasagna. Add a single layer of egg plant. Evenly spread a cheese mixture layer. Repeat layering as many times as desired.

Bake covered in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Allow 15 minutes to cool before serving.

Angry Eggplant Lasagna

Three Cheese Tortellini & Vegetable Soup

1 lb three cheese tortellini
4 ribs celery rough chopped
3 leeks thin sliced
12-15 medium shiitake mushrooms rough sliced
2 large onions chopped
1 bulb garlic, separated, peeled & diced
1 large red bell pepper
2 carrots julienned
2 quarts vegetable stock (non vegetarian use chicken or veal)
bay leaves
black & green peppercorns to desired taste and heat
crushed red pepper to desired heat
crushed tomoto/store bought pasta sauce
1.5 C white wine

Cook tortellini al dente, rinse in cold water and set aside.

In a large pot, saute onions and garlic until tender. Add celery, leeks and mushrooms and saute until almost tender.

Add stock, wine, tomato, herbs and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add carrots and bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes.

Add cooked tortellini and cook until heated through.

Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup

Pursue a dream or embrace a talent

I was up late one night last week and got one of those wild hairs. I started poking around the Texas Culinary Academy’s website and decided to write in.

I don’t remember exactly what I wrote but I said that I am almost 30, I have a full-time job, wife, mortgage and don’t want to find myself on my death bed thinking: “I wish I’d pursued my dream of being a chef.”

I received this response via e-mail a few days later:

Josh Janicek,

We do not have enough information to determine your acceptance to this school. One of our admissions representatives will contact you soon to discuss your application to our school.

Thank You,
Texas Culinary Academy
(888) 553-2433

Four years ago closed its doors for good. I was unemployed. I drove my motorcycle to the Texas Culinary Academy and spoke with a student advisor as I thought it might be a good time to pursue a new life in the F&B industry. He was a great guy and we had a nice talk. He showed me around the school and briefly explained the programs that are offered at the school. He also showed me the bottom line. Culinary schooling is expensive. I may be off a little, but I think the chef program cost was to the tune of $30,000 for an 18-month associates program.

At the time, the TCA offered full-time schooling only. That meant I’d have to get a loan for $30k, attend class for six to nine hours a day and somehow find a job that paid somewhere around $500 a week so we could barely survive on our two incomes.

I put pen to paper and couldn’t justify going back to school. I had just graduated from college, married and consolidated both of our student loans. Combined we already owed $30k to the U.S. Department of Education.

Being a chef could be painstaking and financially unrewarding. I could just continue to cook for friends and family. I could try my hand at being a personal chef

I love to cook for Elise and myself. I love to cook for friends. If I was paid for my knifetime, that would be top drawer peachy.

CM\’s Caesar dressing solved

I took leftover ciabatta, cut on a bias and made sandwiches with pastrami, Swiss & provolone cheese, thinly sliced pepperoncinis and a garlic and olive tapenade for dinner tonight.

Guess what garlic and Kalamata olive tapenade smells like? Central Market’s Caesar salad dressing. Blend in egg and little more olive oil and I’ll bet I finally have my recipe.

More death on 71

While driving home from work yesterday I was among traffic that was slowed down and funneled to one lane as we all slowly drove by a fatal accident.

I could see inside the driver’s side of the car. The airbag was clearly visable as was a body. The paramedics were working on the driver. I could feel death in the air and I shivered.

Just this past December two off duty police officers, husband and wife were killed in a motorcycle accident on Hwy 71.

The accident I drove by yesterday was 50 yards away from the site where the husband and wife died four months ago. I drive by the two wreaths every day. Now there will be two more wreaths.

Hwy 71 is a bitch. Those two wrecks happened on a 50 mph curve that I hate. I think most people who know that road hate it as well. I think a seasoned NASCAR driver would hate it too. Those who don’t know it are the ones who barrel through it and cause tension and accidents. Hwy 71 is four lanes with no median and for the most part posted 70 mph. Most drive 75-80 mph. Imagine 80 mph next to a 18-wheeler against oncoming traffic with a 20 inch comfort zone between you and another vehicle traveling 80 mph to your left.

It’s such a nice, quiet, peaceful commute to and from work.

My kindergarten class

Josh's kindergarten class

After that weird dream that I had last week, I decided to see if my elementary school had a website. I clicked around through the site and came across a name. Mrs. Chamness. That name rang a bell. I e-mailed Mrs. Chamness, she wrote back a few days later and sure enough, she was my kindergarten teacher 24 years ago and is still teaching kindergarten at Bear Creek Elementary.

I wrote her back, sent a few photos, briefly explained how my life has unfolded thus far and said thanks. It was a cool feeling to find and hear back from one of my first public educators.

Flashback Prom

On Friday night we went all out. We had the party of all parties. We lived it up like there was going to be no Saturday morning.

We sat at the kitchen table, blanched and shelled fava beans.

We woke up Saturday morning and I tested for my third star for my black belt. I think I did really well. Usually I’m nervous as hell. When I get nervous, I forget to breath. This time I concentrated on my breathing and not the people watching me. I nailed all of my patterns and sparred okay. The only part I botched was my board breaking. I tried a down kick, back kick, reverse hook kick combo. The first two kicks were dead on. I had to try the reverse hook kick a few times before the boards brokes.

After the test ten of us went to Chili’s for lunch. After lunch Elise and I spent four hours at Lucy in Disguise so Elise could get a costume for the Dudley & Bob Pimpalicious Ho-Tastic Flashback Prom.

Elise Ho

After finally settling on an outfit, we went home, took a nap and then got dressed for the prom.

We arrived at the Hyatt on Town Lake at 9:30 and stayed at the prom long enough to see other peoples’ costumes and listen to a few songs by the Scabs. We left after an hour or so. This prom, like most proms, was pretty boring.

We then headed south and met up with Adrian at his friend’s house for a couple beers. Elise and I then went home and called it a night.

We woke up early on Sunday and had an early lunch at Central Market. I’d been craving CM’s Caesar salad for a few weeks and had to get my fix. While there, we did a little shopping so I could get duck breasts for my pizza recipe, to get Elise an heirloom tomato (she’s vowed to not eat any other variety) and to price some fresh rattlesnake meat.

Rattlesnake meat

We ran some errands, grocery shopped and returned our costumes to Lucy in Disguise. I cooked dinner, we watched a little TV and went to bed.

Here are a few photos from the prom.

Smoked duck pizza

After a little inspiration from last week’s cooking class, I decided to cook duck. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so came up with a new pizza recipe.

I made a smoked duck breast, mango and jalapeno pizza on ciabatta with a homemade garden fresh pizza sauce, Kalamata tapenade, smoked provolone and topped with feta.

I have to admit… that was the best pizza I’ve ever had. For dessert I made a silky coffee creme brulée.

Cleatus has a dream

I had another weird dream this morning. Jessica Sanchez, a 4.5′, 90lb. girl I attended high school with stole my cell phone. I grabbed her by the hair, lifted her off her feet, swung her around and dragged her across the ground.

All of this is happening outside. The scene reminds me of a more airy version of my elementary school in Houston.

“What the hell did you do with my cell phone you &$%#$%? What’s wrong with you?!?!”

Then we cut to the next scene were Mrs. Housely, my 7th grade history teacher is trying to reprimand me for my actions. We’re sitting outside on some sort of deck in plastic grade school chairs. I couldn’t hear what Mrs. Housely was saying because we both had garbage disposals mounted under our chairs that were running on full blast.

I’m quickly distracted by a Camaro in the distance. Michelle is driving and Elise is in the passenger seat. They’re both wearing yellow bikinis and cruising around the trailer park across the street.

How ’bout that for white trash dream? Git-r-done.

Five years later

This is too funny. I wrote this five years ago for my multimedia class project, complete with a bad website.

It makes me wonder what I’ll be up to five years from now…

    “Welcome to my online recipe archive (A.K.A. Famine Protection Program). I’d like to begin by telling you that I am by no means a “professional” chef. Most of my techniques are, unless otherwise noted, a product of my own experimenting. Most recipes within these pages will call for ingredients and temperatures that were not documented in their infantile phases. Therefore, I am leaving it up to you to use this archive as somewhat of a template … to expand upon, and create your own “signature” dishes.

    Allow myself to talk about …. myself. I was born at a very early age and raised by a family who enjoyed hearty steaks cooked on the cast iron barbeque pit in the backyard. I consider both of my parents excellent cooks. My father introduced me to hunting when I was but a

    wee lad, and with that he taught me the basics on how to prepare meat. My mother was more of the kitchen expert. Both of them educated me on how to essentially make a meal for myself. With these combined influences, I later in life rather enjoyed cooking for myself.

    During my 6 year tenure at the university, I landed a job at a country club. Here I was exposed to finer foods. This is when my interest in the culinary arts began to peak. Though I was but a mere staff manager for the banquet department, I took advantage of all the knowledge I could get my hands on. So please, browse around, try these recipes for yourself, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

    In closing, I would like to give thanks to El and Ronnie for their input and inspiration. Without them, I would have probably devoted this page to methods in which to fully cook a DiGiorno pizza (which is next to impossible). “

I think this is the best part: “…will call for ingredients and temperatures that were not documented…” That’s the way I like to cook.

My herbs section is not me nowadays, although I do use cilantro as much as possible.

It’s really cool to look back and think about how hard I was trying back then – how many meals I botched, how much blood poured into the sink from a slipped knife, stovetop fires, singed arm hair, grease burns and broken plates.

Cooking is so much fun. If it didn’t cost so much to go to culinary arts school, I’d do it in a heartbeat just for the fun of it.

Stolen truck dream

I had a weird dream this morning. With pit crew speed someone pulled a trailer up to the driveway and stole our truck. I ran inside, grabbed my keys and hauled ass after my stolen truck. I was driving the truck that had just been stolen after the truck that had just been stolen.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Does that mean I’m schizophrenic?