Scott’s Accidental Artisanal Ketchup

I cannot imagine many things more hipster than artisanal ketchup. Then again, I do love ketchup. Then again again, can I really endorse a product whose website uses a handlebar mustache as its favicon?

I’ve never actually tried artisanal ketchup, but I think I may have just accidentally made some myself. You see, SLP and I stopped by Everett’s today, and ended up walking out with a take-and-bake “mom’s meatloaf.” I figured a meatloaf like that needed a proper tomato sauce to go with it, not just a few squirts of Heinz, but I couldn’t find a recipe to my liking. So, I just decided to wing it with ingredients I had on hand. I realized as I was cooking my sauce that it was drifting dangerously close to artisanal ketchup territory, but nonetheless I went for it. The end result was good. A great complement to the meatloaf, if perhaps not quite sweet enough or thick enough to stand in for real ketchup on something like a (grass-fed) hamburger.

Yes, this recipe is principally comprised of beef broth, so it’s anything but vegetarian. Then again, I made it to put on meatloaf.

Here’s the recipe, as I made it (to the best of my recollection). If you experiment and find a better variant, please let me know in the comments!

Accidental Artisanal Ketchup

1 tsp olive oil
¼ c red onion, chopped
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
2 c beef broth (for thicker sauce use 1 ½ c)
1 tsp brown sugar (or more, to taste)
½ tsp salt (or more, to taste)
dash cinnamon

Whisk together the tomato paste and beef broth until well blended. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Avoid browning the onions.

Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Stir in the tomato paste-broth mixture. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.

Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Don’t put the same spoon back in the pot or you’ll be Chopped.

Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable broth or water in place of beef broth. If using water, add extra salt.

For a smooth sauce, i.e. to get rid of the chunks of onion, puree after cooking. (And if you don’t know what happens when you put a hot liquid in a blender, you’re on your own.)

Serve hot or cold on whatever you like: meatloaf, burgers, poutine, scrambled eggs, ice cream. It’s all good.

Update: When I made the ketchup a second time, I considerably increased the amount of both red wine vinegar and brown sugar, from 1 tsp each to 1 tbsp each. It was awesome. I’d also suggest adding a dash of either Spanish paprika or cayenne pepper for some extra kick.

Room 34 presents On This Day: a WordPress plugin

For a while now, I’ve had a sidebar widget on my site that displayed posts published on the same date in previous years. It’s a fun way to look back on your own blogging history and to revisit topics from the past.

I didn’t really have it set up as a proper widget though; it was just code stuck directly into my sidebar template. Today I decided to rebuild it as a proper plugin, which you can now download and use yourself!

It’s really simple to use. Just extract the zip file and place the contents in your wp-content/plugins directory. Then go to the WordPress dashboard. Activate the plugin (under Plugins), then edit your widgets (under Appearance) and drag the “On This Day” widget where you want it to appear.

You can customize the title and the “no posts” message (which gets displayed on days when there are no historical posts).

Room 34 presents On This Day is now available for download in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Testing new CSS

Aside

I’m working on a modified version of the default WordPress “Twenty Eleven” theme. I’m keeping the templates more-or-less untouched, but I stripped the CSS down to nothing and am rebuilding it. It’s not done yet, but it’s far enough along for now… and I needed to get it rolled out before my MacBook Air ran out of battery charge. Enjoy!

The Birds re-enacted in a Rochester, MN park

Last night while walking to 300 First in Rochester for dinner, SLP and I were greeted by a disturbing, nay, terrifying sight and sound. Hundreds, nay, thousands of crows, all converging to roost in the tops of the trees of Central Park, home of the mysterious Heritage House.

We asked our server about the crows and she informed us that they arrive every night around 5 or 6 PM. We’re not sure if it’s more scary to think they do this every night, or if we were witnessing (and perhaps somehow implicated in) a one-time occurrence. Or maybe it’s just lame that we were going out to dinner at 5 PM. But we have kids so, enough said.

I managed to snap the following photo of the birds in action, though it fails to convey their staggering numbers or the freight train volume of the cacophony they were producing. But what’s even creepier is that when we left the restaurant around 7 PM, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of these birds perched on the upper branches of every tree in the park… and they were totally silent. Paging Tippi Hedren…

Crows in Central Park, Rochester, MN

Marble Madness… uh… madness

This one’s making the rounds… Daring Fireball and Cabel Sasser at the very least, but it bears sharing.

I’ve had this game on both the PC and the NES, and I’ve tried it in MAME. It’s way cool… way ahead of its time… and way crazy-hard. But I loved it, even though I was never any good at it.

I’ve never actually had the opportunity to play it the way it was meant to be played — with a trackball in an arcade cabinet. But I have a feeling that even if I did it would require years of practice for me to play it this well: