Thursday, October 13, 2016

Slow Cooker Garlic Ale Roast Beef Sandwiches

Apple shown for artistic reasons. What is artistic about an apple? Hell if I know, but damnit I did not take a picture without the apple so I need to make up some bs excuse... Er, I mean just leave me alone. You just do not understand my art!

One cool think about being on social media with your hobbies is people share. Before I had an social media cooking presence, I would get the occasional recipe from my mother. Once in a blue moon, I would get a cookbook as a gift. These days on the other hand, I get recipes, tips, hat tips, etc. on a regular basis.

So a week or two back my mother-in-law send me a recipe. At the time it sounded good, but I did not expect to make it. The wifey is not a huge beef person (as you may have previously noticed we eat a lot of chicken). Well I realized I had a roast in the freezer that was getting a little old.

So I decided to make this anyway and split it into a week's worth of lunches. This is a great "Sunday meal prep" kind of recipe. It is fairly low effort. It makes enough for several meals. It was pretty cheap for me too as I usually buy roasts when they are on sale and it does not need to be a great cut.

Waiting is the hardest part!

1 two-pound beef roast (a larger roast is fine if your slow cooker is bigger than mine)
season salt
black pepper
5 garlic cloves
1 red onion, sliced
1 cup Italian dressing (I used Olive Garden)
1 cup lite/light beer (Kentucky Kölsch, IC Lite, Hudy Delight, or in my case Miller Lite <shudder>)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Sprinkle both sides of the roast with season salt and pepper. Place the roast into a slow cooker. Place the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and the red onion on top of the roast. Then pour the Italian dressing and beer over the roast.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours (or 6 on high). Stir once half way through.

Discard bay leaves. Trim the fat and then shred the meat with 2 forks, smash the garlic with the back of a fork and stir the garlic into the shredded meat. Separate the onions and add to the meat as desired.

Strain about a three cups (I winged this part) of the juices to a pot and heat over high heat. Stirring frequently. Once a rolling boil is achieved, mix two teaspoons cornstarch with two teaspoons of water. Mix until a paste forms. Add to the boiling mixture. Continue to stir until the sauce becomes thick (five or ten minutes based on taste). Pour the sauce over the meat and onions.

Serve on bread with toasted cheese. This made me four hearty sandwiches.

I modified this recipe from the original a bit. The broad strokes are the same, but the some of the details are not. The link is above if you feel like noting the details. The big change is I added the sauce back in.

Creative license.

Do not be afraid to be generous with the season salt and pepper. I know nobody wants to over salt their food, but this is a big slab o' meat!

Look at that meat!

I will mention I specified the beer and Italian dressing. Why? Those can make a HUGE difference. Not all Italian dressings are even remotely the same. Plus I could I have used the bottle of Yards Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce I had lying around, but I did not want my roast to taste like a pine cone. 

I really hate when recipes do not specify beer. At least give me a general style. Nope, not here. Original recipe: "use your favorite". What kind of lazy writing is that? Seriously what kind of stupid advice is that anyway?!? No other ingredient would people say that. This recipe needs some vegetables. "Use your favorite"! Because there is no difference between broccoli or celery or a potato. Meat? Sure, "use your favorite" because a salmon fillet is interchangeable with brisket or a pork sausage. Can you tell this really annoys me?

While we are on the topic of the original recipe: when did a slider become a generic term for a small sandwich. Some of you may be thinking where did this come from? Well I edited out the word slider from the original recipe. A slider is a WHITE CASTLE HAMBURGER or equivalent. The original is a small sandwich. Goddamn heathens.

And another thing: what is wrong the <generation>? Why do they not understand that <problem> can be fixed simply by <over simplification of problem>?!?

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest!

Honestly there's not much to this recipe. Do no over think this one. Meat, seasoning, and sauce go in a slow cooker. Cook. Shred. Eat.

Good stuff. Do not skip the sauce/onions step though. The onions took on a very different flavor and the three together really made this a winner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Buffalo Chicken (Optional) Soup

2017-03-08 Edit: derpy, derpy, derp. This is a repeat of this blog entry with the discussion of optional chicken added. 

To meat or not to meat: that is the question!

There is something unnatural about making anything "Buffalo" vegetarian in my humble opinion. Buffalo chicken wings, Buffalo CHICKEN dip, Buffalo CHICKEN soup, etc. The words Buffalo and chicken just belong together. Anything else is an unholy abomination!

While I am at it, you know what else is unnatural: Velveeta "cheese product". Velveeta happens to be a key ingredient to this recipe so let us get unnatural together!

Anyway today's story goes like this: the wifey was having a bunch of new hires over. She does not know of any food restrictions but thought there might be a vegetarian in the mix. (Aside: LIES! There was not.) She asked that I be accommodating to vegetarian. Now as opinionated as I am about food, Doctor Who, or the terrible state of modern driving, I always try to accommodate reasonable food restrictions. So I decided to give my beloved Buffalo CHICKEN soup recipe the vegetarian once over. The original recipe (ok the original, original recipe is linked here) is list below, with the minor vegetarian changes noted in parentheses.

2 bunches green onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1⁄4 cup butter
1⁄4 cup flour
3⁄4 cup milk
3⁄4 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth)
2 cups diced cooked chicken (neglected for vegetarian)
1⁄2 cup Frank's RedHot
4 ounces Velveeta cheese
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne
1⁄2 teaspoon celery salt
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic salt

Sauté (medium to medium-low heat) the green onions and celery in the butter until the celery is tender.

Stir in flour until smooth and slightly golden.

Slowly add milk and broth. Stopping to mix thoroughly as you go.

Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cheese has melted and well mixed.

"Come on baby, just the tip?" Er I meant to say just not the tip. I used the whole green onions except the rooty tip.

This quantity of Frank's and cayenne makes for a pretty spicy soup. I recommend reducing the Frank's down to 1/3 cup to reduce the heat if desired. That said, it a critical flavor component. Without Frank's this is not the same soup. So if you want something with no heat, move along.

The celery adds some crunch to this recipe. Based on your tastes that could be a good or a bad thing. Respond according. By which I mean add/reduce, chop bigger/smaller pieces of celery, etc to your taste, not send me your pro-celery socialist propaganda.

Just for my own curosity I just Googled "pro-celery socialist propaganda". Sadly it was entirely less interesting than I had hoped. Anyone out there a graphic artist who wants to work me up a new logo? I cannot pay you, but it would be great exposure. <wink, wink>

I have tweeked this one way or the other plenty of times: add some garlic instead of the garlic salt, more or less celery, more or less chicken, etc. It is a pretty forgiving recipe and can easily be modified to personal taste.

I always buy the big block of Velveeta. DO NOT DO THAT. I think it is two pounds or something. 

By the way, this freezes well. Make a double batch. No: octuple since you bought the big block after I told you not to!

The original recipe is amazing and I love it. ♥♥ <obligatory Doctor Who nod>

The vegetarian modification... did not taste any different. Let's face it when you have that much Velveeta and Frank's a bit of chicken is not going to sway the taste one way or the other.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Creamy Corn Pasta With Basil

CORN! But more about that later.

So with the new house, I planted some cilantro and some basil. No real plan honestly. It just sounded like a good idea at the time. We had grown cilantro at the last place and I figured I should expand. The problem is I did not have any recipes in mind for the copious amounts of basil. 

So the obvious answer is pesto. Great fine. I should make pesto. But I am a non-conformist at heart, so fuck your pesto. Instead I made this!

Mind you, I am a practical non-conformist. This used a tiny amount of basil compared to what I have. So I should probably still make pesto...

Sea salt
12 ounces dry pasta (the original recipe called for orecchiette or farfalle, I used rotini)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens separate)
2 cups CORN kernals (about 3 large ears shucked)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus lots more for garnish
1/3 cup finely torn basil
1 chicken breast fully cooked and diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain, reserving about a 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup CORN; simmer until CORN is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender, and purée mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.

Heat the pan over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup CORN and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. (It’s O.K. if the butter browns, that deepens the flavor.) Add the CORN purée and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine the flavors.

Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and 1/4 cup the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the herbs, 1/4 teaspoon pepper (less to taste), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and chicken. Sprinkle with lemon juice and remaining olive oil (less to taste). Garnish with more scallions and basil.

I eliminated red pepper flakes. I added chicken. Why because these things please the wifey. Happy wife = happy life. Anyway the original recipe can be found here.

I bought two ears for fresh sweet corn. I wanted fresh because this was using fresh basil from my garden picked about an hour and half before dinner. This is going to be all fresh damnit!

Good Intentions


I cook a fair bit and I like to cook weird things. That said, pasta sauce is diary based, oil based, tomato based, stock based, etc. A corn based sauce weirds me out. 

If you are still reading at this point, I just really like CORN. Growing up there was a local farm that had excellent sweet. Or more likely it was pretty average sweet corn, but childhood memories make me have an irrational like for CORN, so CORN!

Simply delicious. Easily the best thing I have made recently. Make sure not to skimp on the cheese though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crispy Tofu and Ginger Dressing with Bagged Asian Salad

You might think this is healthy, but you do not see the pool of dressing from this angle.
The wifey, the kiddo, and I have moved. Woo. Home ownership. American dream. Ra, ra, and other stuff. 

Pro: I have a kitchen that is much larger and my own. Con: this thing.

Small AND uneven heat, what is not to love?
So cooking anything beyond frozen food or three/four item recipes has been limited. But we are all moved in now (read about fifty percent of boxes are unpacked). 

Walking through the grocery the other day I decided I needed to get my mojo back with an IMPULSE PURCHASE!!! ..of tofu. Um? Behold me being risqué

14 oz block of extra firm tofu
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
peanut oil

Ginger dressing (source):
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons prepared ginger root (not pickled)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey

Store bought bag of Asian salad mix (get one with crunchies, because yum)

Remove tofu from packaging. Place between two thick layers of paper towels. Place something heavy on top. (See picture in commentary). Allow to sit for a few.

Mix salt and cornstarch.

Cube tofu to desired size. Toss in the cornstarch/salt mix (do this in two batches).

Heat peanut oil to medium-high. Add coated tofu. Rotate as sides get golden brown. Remove when browned on all sides.

Ginger dressing:
Mix all ingredients.

Microwave until warm, ie the honey is less viscous, and mix again.

Serve warm.


POUR DRESSING ON SALAD. Toss that salad.



I did the tofu in two batches of coatings and two batches of frying. The coating started to lump hence the second batch. The frying because of the size of the pan I was using.

I did some reading about cooking tofu online before hand (largely because I bought it and sat on it for a few weeks out of laziness). That is the source of the pressing of the tofu.  Apparently tofu is pretty wet. I really have no idea. I just ran with it. Although if I had literally sat on it for a few weeks, I suppose it would not have been an issue.

Because... the internet TOLD ME TO!!!
I have to admit one of the things that excited me about working with tofu was the idea I could make perfect cubes in great uniformity (I make no apology, I am an engineer damn it). Well I was let down. 

Look at this lumpy non-uniform piece of edible protein!
Make sure the dressing is stored in a container with a solid seal. I had to shake the ever lovin' bejesus out of it. Stirring/whisking just was not cutting it. 

The tofu was incredibly easy to make and is suitable for all sorts of applications. The salad dressing was a little fussy with the honey melt / general separation. Still it was very good. Plus the whole thing was pretty damn easy. I would give another go. I would consider adding some more crunchy things next time to give it a little more texture. 

I'm not the only one who wanted cubed food.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Pressure Cooker Sauerbraten

Protein! Carbs! Gravy! MAN FOOD! Plus: cookies. Everyone likes cookies.

A little before Christmas I bought myself a fancy dancy electric pressure cooker. It was one of those crazy deep sales they always have that time of year. I really didn't have a rhythm or reason to this. That said, it should not come as a surprise to say I like kitchen toys.

Meat is a good excuse though.

I made a recipe (lemon barbecued chicken) I have made a fair number of times and just seemed like a good match. Really it was fine. But it did not seem like I was getting anything out of the pressure cooker as the chicken was just about the same as when I make it in the oven. I guess it cooked a little faster, but not enough to justify a new toy.

So I bought Pressure Cookers For Dummies. I found a used copy for a couple of bucks shipped. It talks a little about pressure cookers in general, which is nice. It touted its sauerbraten as one of the most impressive things to make in a pressure cooker as it reduced time from one thousand eight hundred minutes to eighty (this is way more impressive in minutes). Well that sounded damn impressive and I just so happened to have a shoulder pot roast sitting in the freezer I had no plans for.

Included because I thought this picture was pretty. 


Wine. Wine is priority #1. Cookie crumbs are a close second.
1 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 dry red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon that I had on hand)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
salt and pepper
4 lb beef roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cups crushed gingersnaps
2 bay leaves
cornstarch (optional)
egg noodles (cooked at some point)

Combine the water, vinegar, wine, brown sugar, clovers, and 2 teaspoons salt. Set aside.

Generously salt and pepper the meat.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Brown the meat evenly on all sides.

Add the meat, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, crushed gingersnaps, and bay leaves to the slow cooker. Pour the mixture from step 1 over the meat. Stir to combine. Cover and bring to high pressure. Cook for 60 minutes.

Release the pressure, quick-release method (mind your fingers as to avoid scalding). Open and remove the cover.

Remove the meat to a serving platter and cover with foil. Discard the bay leaves.

Pour the cooking liquid into a food processor and process until smooth. Season to taste. Whisk in cornstarch and reduce to thicken as desired in a pan over medium-high heat.

Slice the meat thinly. Serve over the meat and gravy over egg noodles.

I halved the above recipe because my roast was closer to two pounds than four.

Baby food and croutons are optional.
As noted, I thickened the gravy by adding cornstarch and reducing it on the stove top just a little. This is a deviation from the original recipe. Honestly, one of the big take aways for me with the pressure cooker in general is thickening sauces. Since you need large amounts of liquid for the pressure cooker to work, the final results are, well, liquidy. I have added cornstarch and reduced almost every sauce that has come out the thing since. If you have a stove top one you can do that directly. I have the electric / stand alone kind, so I have to transfer the sauce to a pan and then reduce. Not a big deal... the wifey (who I am giving one more pot to wash) may disagree.

Aside: it is kind of neat to have a sauce where you have "liquefied" onions and carrots. Is it not?
Pro tip: crush way more cookies than you need. Then you can get the leftovers by the spoonful. Mmm cookie crumbs.

The grocer has roasts on sale pretty frequently (in fact I made one last night and I have one more in my freezer). This will undoubtedly be made again.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta

I ate my plate too quickly for pictures. So you get the left overs.

The other day I had one of those awesome "the wifey has a new recipe she wants to try" moments. These are exciting moments in my life.

Sad I know. What can I say, in my mid-thirties I am easily excited.

Well I got my "bitch ass back in the kitchen"! Heck these moments are an excuse for me to blog, drink beer, and play with knives. What is not to love?

Please validate my mid-life-i-ness!

Drinking "Dad" sounds like some crazy viking funeral ritual.

So one of the recipes she sends me is One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta. Now this seemed like a trap. The recipe looked potentially spicy and it had red and yellow peppers in it. These are not things she loves. She did try to talk me into switching over to green pepper. I stood strong though. I have made it twice now and both times I have stuck to the the yellow and red peppers.

2 tsp olive oil, divied
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, divided
1 tsp paprika, divided
1/2 tsp chili powder, divided
1/2 tsp garlic powder, divided
1 large white onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 (10-oz) can Mild Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles
7 oz pasta
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 scallion, diced (or not if you are forgetful)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 diced small avocado

One might call this resource intensive. But what do I care, I do not do the grocery shopping!

Season chicken with 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp garlic powder. In a large deep nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the chicken and cook until browned, stirring about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onions, bell peppers, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp garlic powder,. Cook, stirring occasionally, until desired softness, about 10-15 minutes. Add minced garlic, and stir until fragrant and well combined, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl with the chicken.

In the same skillet, add the broth, diced tomatoes and uncooked pasta. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes until pasta is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the chicken and veggies back into the skillet and stir to combine until heated through, about 2 minutes. Mix in the sour cream and top with scallions, cilantro, and avocado.

The chicken as is it quite enjoyable. That recipe is worth keeping itself.

"Transfer to a large bowl" is a change from the original. They had suggested a plate. I had chicken and peppers ready to fall off my plate in a tasty avalanche of wasted food. Use something better than a plate.

This picture does not capture the mountainous nature.
Round one, I screwed up and added the garlic at the reheat phase. The other time I added it appropriately. I noticed no difference.

Speaking of screw ups, diced scallions are noticeably absent from my pictures. Those missed round one as well. I guess they were a nice addition when fresh for round two. The left overs however you could not even tell they were there. The avocado and scallions really just seem like garnish.

Now the Ro-Tel does add a bit of heat. So that did not go over well. Round two I replaced with a can of diced tomatoes.

CURSE YOU RO-TEL! CURSE YOU AND YOUR BLACK HEART! This was a total winner until I added that. That made the recipe too spicy for the wifey. The iteration without was good too I suppose.