Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Tuesday Nosh as a Meal

Another Tuesday night and we have had our share of salmon lately. I still have a few bags of shrimp in the freezer as well as bread dough rising in the fridge that has to be baked tonight. Not wanting a lot of pasta or rice carbs I opted for a snack approach to dinner. Light yet satisfying. A French loaf, spicy Bloody Mary shrimps and a cheese assortment. A nice dipping oil for the warm, fresh bread and we are in business. Brenda worked late Tuesday and the bread was just crusting up when she walked in the door. The recipe for the shrimp  here:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Irish Stew at the Rainbow House

We have cooked for this charity before but this is our first time flying as a solo family. Mackenzie signed us up for the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it came upon us in a flash. The last thing on my mind was cooking again after all that fuss a few days ago. I had started buying groceries a few weeks ago as the chuck was on sale and I had to save some money. Cooking for 45 can be pricey.
I started thinking about my Instant Pot and how this could help shave some kitchen time off the day and if I borrowed Mackenzie's, all the better.  I had 12 pounds of chuck roast that has to be fork tender.  Potatoes and carrots in mass that needs to be dealt with and a very large 10 gallon pot to cook in ( that won't fit in the fridge). Brenda was helping me contain the considerable mess I was making. Browning that much beef is a greasy mess but worth the tasty results.
I decided to stage the cooking, deconstructing the recipe and then assembling the finished parts. I can control all the variables this way and make sure each part adds up to a delicious whole. Seasoning along the way.

Job one...prepping everything. I started with onions on the stove top. Cooking them along with garlic and celery, adding flour and broth to make the base of the stew. Seasonings and umami flair to deepen the flavors and concentrate the base for later diluting. Then on to the meat prep. Cubing the 12 pounds of chuck then browning in a cast iron skillet and setting 6 pounds into each Instant Pot on a bed of mushrooms and 2 cups of water. 45 minutes with Natural Pressure Release.  Lastly was peeling 3 pounds of carrots and 7 pounds of russets. Brenda made a great Sous chef for me as my hands got weary of all the peeling. I used the Instant pot to cook those also but 4 minutes was too long and 3 minutes was too long. Not sure where to go with those in the future but they were softer than I cared for. They still were great in the final product though.

Guinness Irish Stew for 45

12 pounds of chuck roast, cubed into 2 inch pieces, trimmed of excess fat and gristle
3 tbl oil
1 cup red wine for deglazing pan
1 pound mushrooms, sliced, divided
4 cups of water, divided
5 large onions, chopped
1 garlic bulb minced
1 pound celery, chopped with leaves
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup flour
2 - 32 oz cartons of Chicken broth (I used low sodium)  I used 4 total
2 tbls dried thyme
1 tbls dried Rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 tbls salt
1 tbls pepper
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
2 tbls Better Than Bullion, Roast Beef flavor.
1 small can tomato paste
Kitchen Bouquet
3 cans of Guinness beer
3 pounds of carrots, peeled and 1 inch chunks.
7 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and uniformly cut.

I browned the beef in batches and added them to a 8 ounce bed of mushrooms in each pot.
I added about 2 cups of water to each pot and processed them for 45 minutes with a natural pressure release.
I used an 8 quart stock pot to sauté the onions in oil, adding the garlic and celery as they cooked. The dried herbs went in then the flour. After cooking for a few minutes, I added 2 cartons of the broth and a bit of Kitchen Bouquet to color the sauce a bit. I added the Soy sauce and fish sauce.
After setting aside the beef, I skimmed the broth, reserved the fat, and added the broth and cooked mushrooms to the stock pot. Add the beer, tomato paste and stir, allowing it to cook a bit. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The pot should be full now.
I checked the overall texture for a nice body but I can adjust the thickness of the gravy latter in the second part assembly.  Everything in the fridge until the main event.

The day of the event, I broke out the 10 gallon pot. I had the reserve fat I skimmed the beef broth from the IP and added the fat from the cooled base stock. I had about 1 cup of fat that went into the large pot. After heating up the fat,  I added an additional cup of flour, cooked for several minutes then added 2 more cartons of chicken stock. This thickened up after coming to a boil then I added the contents of the stock pot and adjusted the seasoning. The texture was perfect, like a thin gravy.  To this I added the picked over beef, removing any excess fat and objectionable content. Then the cooked carrots and potatoes. A good stir and we packed up for the Rainbow House.

We served the fine folks at the Rainbow House from crock pots, to keep everything warm with a nice side salad and French baguettes. It was warm and inviting and the staff remembered the stew fondly  from March when we had made it for St. Patrick's day. Mackenzie made some great brownies (especially the salted caramel ones).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pear Spice Cake with Pecan Praline topping

I was looking for this recipe to share with my sister and I am not sure I ever posted it. The perfect fall/ Thanksgiving dessert.


    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 1 box spice cake mix (1 pound 2.25 ounces)
    • 3/4 cup canned pear nectar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
    • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger
    • 2 pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
    • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup whipping cream
    • 1 1/3 cups pecan halves, toasted


    1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Stir 1/2 cup butter in small saucepan over medium heat until melted and brown, about 3 minutes. Pour into large bowl. Add spice cake mix, canned pear nectar, eggs, molasses and crystallized ginger. Using electric mixer, beat batter 2 minutes. Fold in pears. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake is dark brown and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
    2. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Run knife between pan sides and cake to loosen. Release pan sides. Place cake on platter.
    3. Stir golden brown sugar, whipping cream and remaining 1/2 cup butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth. Boil 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in pecan halves. Spoon warm topping over warm cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My Favorite Cookies

Its that time of year where everything is pumpkin and Brenda makes a cookie that is no exception. Soft with a cake-like texture loaded with chips and nuts, Ben gets these made for him every year. I force the nut thing as I love them in everything but especially, cookies!

My personal favorite is Chicago Crunch from an old friend of ours. These special chocolate chip cookies have oats and cornflakes that give them their special texture and crunch. I of  course insist on a handfull of walnuts to round out their superior milk dipping

Pumpkin Cookies   

3 sticks of margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 can pumpkin puree 15 oz
1 pkg chocolate chips
Optional a handfull of walnuts

Cream margarine and sugar, add eggs, vanilla and pumpkin puree. Mix dry ingredients then add to wet. Add chips and nuts. Stir then drop by 1 ounce scoop.
Bake 350 for 12-14 minutesor until lightly browned.

Chicago Crunch
1/2 cup butter and margarine
1 cup sugar and 1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 T milk
2 t vanilla
3 t baking soda
1t salt
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 c veg oil
1 c corn flakes
1 c quick oats
1 pkg chocolate chips
Handful walnuts

Cream sugars and butter and margarine. Add egg, milk, vanilla. Combine flour and soda and salt. add to creamed mixture alternating with oil. add corn flakes, oats, chips and nuts. stir to combine. Drop by 1 ounce scoop on greased cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 8-12 minutes  depending on how brown you like them. i like them a bit darker. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Chicken Dinners

This week, a cold snap hit the Midlands and we were ready to hunker down. After work on Wednesday, I stopped for provisions and picked a up a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breast. About 7 in all.
I had researched a few recipes during the day and asked Brenda if Tiki Masala was good for her after her late shift. I purchased accordingly but I had also found a Tuscan Chicken recipe I could not let pass. My indecision forced me to pick up groceries for both recipes.
Once home, I prepped the small pack of wings I purchased and put them in the toaster over then set out to make Tuscan chicken.
I, of course, got out the Instant Pot since I am still fascinated with its use and adapting regular recipes to its use. The recipe I found was for a skillet version and while the Pot made this quickly without a lot of baby sitting, the time spent was about the same. The chicken however was much more tender from the Pot. 

One of the caveats was no pasta or rice. I found the great recipe that used cannellini beans instead. Perfect!

Tuscan Chicken and Mushrooms (adapted to Instant Pot)

 2 tbls olive oil
3 chicken breasts, pounded flat with an iron skillet
1 tbls flour, salt and pepper to sprinkle.
8 ounce cremini mushrooms sliced thick
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced in strips
1 tbls Italian seasoning mix
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 c cream
Shaved Romano cheese

Set the pot to saute on high and dredge the chicken breasts in flour, salt and pepper then brown in olive oil till golden, remove and set aside.
In the Pot still on saute, add the mushrooms and garlic for just a few minutes and scrape the fond from the Pot. Add the broth, tomatoes, seasoning. Place the trivet in the Pot and put the reserved chicken on top. 

Cover the Pot for pressure cooking and set to the Meat setting for only 5 minutes. Let it finish and then release the pressure naturally.
Open the pot once pressure has subsided remove the chicken to serving platter and remove the trivet.  Add the beans and cream, heat in the saute mode till bubbly.  Pour over the plated chicken. Top with shaved Romano. 

After all this excitement and the little time it took, I also prepped the rest of the chicken for Tiki Masala which we ate Saturday night. Not going to lie, it was nice to have a second meal cooked and ready for dinner.  I used the Pot again and my usual Masala recipe elsewhere on the blog here. Just saute the spices in the Pot, add the tomatoes and marinated chicken. This time I set the Pot to 10 minutes high pressure with a quick release. Same great tender chicken.
I used this recipe with  modifications:

 Instant Pot Chicken Tiki Masala

The only thing I would change was to cook those spices in oil before assembling the rest of the ingredients. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cooking Under Pressure

I succumbed to the new trend and picked up a Instant Pot pressure cooker at Walmart after doing a fair amount of research.

This all started a few weeks ago during a cold snap and Baker's grocery had some nice looking arm roasts at the meat counter and Brenda, who hardly ever asks for anything for dinner, wanted a pot roast.

Now 2 o'clock in the afternoon is hardly the time to start thinking pot roast in a slow cooker but we picked up a roast and set a path for home. It took hours, and then more hours. I believe we ate that night around 730-8 o'clock.  I was lamenting the fact that if these darn pressure cookers actually  work the way they are promoted, this would not have been an issue. Turns out they do work this way and I prepared a roast this past Sunday in 1 hour ( 2 hours to complete the meal) that was better than the slow cooked one by far.

Since I am new to the Instant Pot game, I have a lot to learn but the roast came together relatively quickly and my skepticism aside, came out fantastic.
Super tender and very flavorful, that being to the recipe I used which include a umami palate of ingredients that normally don't add to my roast. I will now of course.
Here is the link to the recipe I used. Notice this recipe has fish sauce and soy sauce in it. These are essential umami ingredients that add that flavor in the background. Follow these instructions and you will hit pot roast nirvana. 

Eaing Omaha....1000 degrees and Spin Pizza

Brenda and I are reminiscing about our trip to Vegas a year or so ago when we ate at a pizza place called 800 degrees. This place was a cafeteria style ordering and choosing pizza toppings and by the time you went to pay, the pizza was ready. It took about 1 minute or less to cook.

I believe this 1000 degree chain is of the same type as 800 degrees except it took a little longer and was a little bit disorganized. Considering the average age behind the counter, that's not surprising. What was surprising was how good the end product was. A delicious chewy crust with those charred leopard spots and the toppings were great. The place was pretty busy the Friday night we visited and there were few places to sit. Not a huge dining room.

In addition to pizza they also serve wings which we did not try (but want to). I know we bought 2 pieces of pie home and I had some the next day which was not nearly as good as when fresh but tasty none the less. Average prices for a 17 inch pie, we tried the 'Meatza" which had several cuts of meat and sausage. We would go there again I believe for a quick, no nonsense experience. A far cry though from Spin Pizza which we also hit a few weeks ago but they had some brief table service as well as a pretty formal dining room and spirits.  Same type of pizza, same type of quality but the ambiance was much nicer.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sauerkraut Salad...who knew?

We have a party for a friend on Friday and the theme is German food.  Brenda is making her German Chocolate cake and we are bringing a blast from our Amana past...Sauerkraut salad.

Now if you have ever eaten family style in the Amana Colonies, they bring out a ton of food. The first course is usually this Kraut Salad, cottage cheese and pickled ham. It brings back so many fond memories of eating there while we worked the shop when the kids were little.

Sauerkraut Salad

1 Quart of Sauerkraut, drained
1 cup sugar (I used less)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 Red bell pepper diced
1/2 c Salad oil (I used less)

Mix all together and let sit overnight in the fridge. I promise you will love this even if you don't care for kraut.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grilled Swordfish and Comfort Foods

Still cooking. Some classic lasagna in a non traditional way. I have posted this recipe for Skillet Lasagna before but have since beefed up the flavor profile adding a few key ingredients but still a one pan, easy meal. Cheesy and hearty and makes great leftovers.

I added fennel to the ground beef with some red pepper flakes then bought diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano to round out the sauce a bit. Crushed tomatoes would be better if your not into large chunks of tomato.

Tonight I bought more salmon and swordfish at the market. Brenda chose swordfish so I grilled it again with some hickory chips in a fish basket. It came our great sided with roasted Brussels sprouts. Just a kiss of smoke but still moist and flaky.

Skillet Lasagna from Cook's Country Magazine


1(28-ounce) can diced tomatoes  (Use the Basil, Garlic,  Oregano stuff )               
1tablespoon olive oil
1medium onion, minced
Table salt
3medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 tsp crushed Fennel, 1 tbl Italian seasoning          
1pound meatloaf mix (or just ground beef or Italian sausage)  
10curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
1(8-ounce) can tomato sauce
½cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 2 additional tablespoons                
Ground black pepper
1carton  ricotta cheese (see below for prep)  
3tablespoons chopped fresh basil
 I added a package of mozzarella to top also.

Brown the beef and onions, adding the garlic towards the end with the red pepper and fennel and about 1 Tbl Italian seasoning.

Drain then add the broken Lasagna noodles on top. Pour the tomato products in to a measure and make sure to add enough water to make 1 quart. Pour this over the noodles. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes till the noodles are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Prepare the ricotta by adding 1 tbl olive oil, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Once the noodles are soft, drop the ricotta on top by the spoonful and then cover with the Mozzarella. At this point you can cover and simmer till the cheese melts or place the pan in a hot over (350) till the cheese starts to brown. Top with fresh basil and remaining Parmesan and serve.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hello, Old Friend...

We made this salad so much we retired it for a bit but I ressurected it tonight for a nice fasting meal.

So fresh and tasty using a few avocados, some boiled shrimp, limes and cilantro with crisoy croutons. The xressing is just a bit of sugar, some good olive oiland salt and pepper.  Yum!


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