Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mapo Tofu

     It's always nice to find simple recipes in cooking magazines. Half the time they require ridiculous ingredients with insane direction. "Lightly lambaste a pre-pubescent hedgehog for 16 hours before braising another 12 hours in a reduction of leprechaun tears and the sweat of an owlbear." I hate that sort of shit. Give me a nice simple recipe involving simple ingredients. If I can bang it out in under 30 minutes, that's even better. This is one of those recipes. This came together in about 20 minutes and was plenty tasty. I like that options for the harder to find ingredients were provided. Naturally, I took liberties with the recipe. The end result was plenty tasty and very filling. We'll call it a winner and add it to the rotation. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Mapo Tofu
via Food and Wine Magazine

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil (omitted)
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef chuck (85% lean) (That didn't happen. I went with about a pound and a quarter of 73/27 ground beef)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (omitted. I figure I'd go straight beef for this)
  • Kosher salt (I try to limit salt intake, so I omitted it)
  • 2 Tbsp. chile bean sauce, preferably tobojan dijan (Nope. I did have black bean garlic sauce, which I used instead)
  • 2 Tbsp. homemade sriracha. Use store bought if you prefer.
  • 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce or tenmenjan (soybean paste) (We had the hoisin on hand so that's what we used.)
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • One 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained and finely diced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • white rice for serving
  1. Heat a large pan until hot (if you can heat it until it's cold, you've done something wrong). Add the oil, followed by the beef and pork (since the beef was a touch fatty, I just omitted the oil). Season with salt and cook over high heat, stirring and breaking up the meat until crumbly and lightly browned, about 3 minutes (if you used higher fat meat like we did, remember to drain the grease)
  2. Stir in the chile-bean sauce, hoisin and soy sauce (and the sriracha, if you're using it) and cook, stirring for 3 minutes; gently fold in the tofu.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch into the water. Add to the pan and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the scallions and serve.
Good times!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yogurt Corn Bread with Peanut Butter Filling

     There is absolutely no reason to buy corn bread mix in a box. It's really not hard to make. It's even easier when you have a good recipe to work with. This is one of those recipes. I can say that because I stole it from someone who knew what they were doing. I especially like the idea of filling the corn bread with peanut butter. With a smear of jelly, you've got an instant breakfast. I may try filling these with savory stuff like ham, eggs and cheese for self contained breakfasts! As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Yogurt Corn Bread
with Peanut Butter Filling

adapted from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-1/4 cups milk (Amazingly, we were totally out of milk. We went with 1-1/2 cups plain yogurt instead)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Peanut butter, crunchy or smooth depending on what you like. (if you just want plain cornbread, just leave this out)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F (200C, Gasmark 6)
  2. Place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer. Add the liquids and mix until smooth.
  3. At this point, if you want plain old corn bread/muffins, just pour what you have into a greased 8x12" pan or put about 3 tablespoons of batter in individual muffin tins and cook for 30 minutes. 
  4. If you wanted the peanut butter filling, grease a muffin pan and put 1 tablespoon of batter in the bottom of each tin (this may not fill every pan. We only were able to fill 10 of the 12 slots on our muffin pan). Place 1 tablespoon of peanut butter in the tin on the batter. Cover with another 2 tablespoons of batter. 
  5. Cook for 30 minutes (baking times may vary)
Good times!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Middle Class Daube De Boeuf

     When I received a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I will admit I rolled my eyes a bit. While I have dabbled in French cooking, it never struck me as particularly middle class. Most of what I saw from watching The French Chef on PBS was always insanely complicated and used ingredients I couldn't even pronounce, much less afford. After a bit of reading, I found that there are some rustic recipes hiding in there. I did a baked daube provencal some time ago that was absolutely fabulous. I figured I couldn't go wrong doing a daube from this book. That is, unless I didn't have the ingredients it called for. I had no stewing beef and no suitable wine. I wasn't going to waste my therapeutic bottles of Moscato for cooking. Given the amount of work required to make beef stew here, I'm classifying this recipe as a P.I.T.A.. Changes were made. I imagine if Julia Child were alive and saw me abusing her recipe, she'd likely die on the spot.  I'd like to think she'd salute my ingenuity and creativity, but more than likely I'm looking to get my ass beat in the afterlife if she ever finds me. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Middle Class Daube De Boeuf
via Mastering the Art of French Cooking
  • 3 lbs lean stewing beef cut into 2-1/2 inch squares, 1 inch thick (we used 3 lbs of ground beef. 73/27, no less. I'm not made of money)
  • A large, glazed earthenware bowl (no)
  • 1-1/2 cup dry white wine, dry white vermouth, or red wine (we opted for a bottle of O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate Beer, because I'll tell you, that shit ain't fit for drinking. We figured it might work for cooking)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup brandy, eau de vie, or gin (while I don't normally skip the opportunity for extra booze, we figured to err on the side of caution and just stick with the beer)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme or sage (we opted for the sage)
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf (no matter how much you crunch it, it will never be enough. Heed the warnings of my mother: unattended bay leaves mean certain death)
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/2 lb lean bacon cut into 1-inch slices 1/4-inch thick and 2 inches long, approximately (Definitely use lean bacon or you're going to be fishing out nasty bacon fat from the final product. As for slice size, we just cut a pack of bacon in half and used them as is)
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 lbs ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped (we just peeled them, smashed the shit out of them, and willfully ignored the other steps)
  • A 5-6 quart fireproof casserole 3-1/2 inches deep  (we went with the trusty cast iron enameled Dutch oven)
  • 1 cup sifted flour on a plate (we used the flour, but about 3 tablespoons, and not on a plate. I'll explain later)
  • 1-2 cups beef stock or canned beef bouillon (we used 2 cups of water and a beef bouillon cube)
  1. Place the beef in the bowl and mix with the wine, optional spirits, olive oil, seasonings, herbs and vegetables. Cover and marinate at least 3 hours (6 if refrigerated), stirring up frequently (we took only the vegetables and herbs and threw them in a bowl with the marinade. Since we were not adding meat at this point, we totally ignored the 3 hour requirement and soldiered on)
  2. Simmer the bacon for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water (If you've ever seen the movie "Better Off Dead," you'll understand my reluctance to boil bacon. We just gave it a 3 minute zap in the microwave)
  3. Prepare the mushrooms and tomatoes (already did. They're floating in the marinade)
  4. Remove the meat from the marinade and drain in a sieve (we browned the ground beef and drained the excess oil. We then mixed about 3 tablespoons of flour in with the meat)
  5. Preheat oven to 325F (170C Gasmark 3)
  6. Line the bottom of the casserole (or Dutch oven) with 3-4 strips of bacon. Strew a handful of the marinade vegetables, mushrooms and tomatoes over them. Piece by piece, roll the beef in the flour and shake off excess. Place closely together in a layer over the vegetables (we took the ground beef and flour mixture and spread a layer over the veggies). Cover with a few strips of bacon, and continue with layers of vegetables, beef and bacon. End with a layer of vegetables and 2-3 strips of bacon.
  7. Pour the wine from the marinade and enough stock or bouillon almost to cover the contents of the casserole (it took us all the marinade liquid and 2 cups of stock to get the required level of liquid)
  8. Bring to simmer on top of the stove, cover closely, and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours (we used the full 3). The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily (obviously don't use this method if you went with the ground beef)
Good times!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

Once again we turn to the trusty slow cooker to burn through surplus ingredients. We had plenty of potatoes and green onions on hand. We also had some sour cream getting ready to go off. We didn't have any bacon, but we did have bacon bits. They worked, but game the dish a queasy pink hue. In the end, it worked. It had all the flavors you'd expect from a loaded baked potato. Would it have been easier to just pop a couple spuds in the oven and then put on the toppings? Yes. Yes it would. There's a lesson to be learned here, but I'll be damned if I know what it is. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Casserole
  • 2 pounds potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons bacon bits (if you're not down with bacon bits, feel free to use real bacon. You'll likely need about 1/2 pound, cooked until crisp and then crumbled into the mixture.)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and dump unceremoniously into a slow cooker that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cook on LOW for about 5 hours (cooking time may vary. At five hours, give it a taste. You'll know right away if the potatoes aren't done)
Good times!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Atomic Cabbage Joe

     Ah, the venerable Sloppy Joe. What kid hasn't had his parents crack open a can of Sloppy Joe mix and stir it in with some greasy ground beef? My parents, now that I think of it. Sloppy Joe was always something served in junior high cafeterias or grimly eaten in my first apartment. The time has come to update that meal. Enter the Atomic Cabbage Joe. This is a recipe I slightly modified from one of my many slow-cooker cook books. It called for barbecue sauce. I happened to have a particularly volatile batch of home made sauce with jalapeno peppers. The result was a taste sensation. It also caused some phenomenal gastrointestinal distress due to the powerhouse combo of cabbage and hot peppers. Give it a try and see what you think. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Atomic Cabbage Joe
modified via Fix It and Forget It Lightly

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce (if you're not a huge pansy, use the recipe for BBQ Jalapeno and Onions)
  1. Brown turkey in a pan; drain.
  2. Load cabbage, turkey and sauce in a slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours
Good Times!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Slow Cooker Apples in Bourbon Custard

    Holy Shit. I'm not one to normally go nuts about something that came out of a slow cooker, but I can say without fear of contradiction that this is the best thing outside of my chili to ever come out of a slow cooker. I just threw this together completely on a goof and magic happened. Seriously, once you have this, you'll forsake all other slow cooker desserts. We're talking eyes in the back of the head, open mouth groaning kind of good. Unless you don't like apples. Then you're shit out of luck. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Apples in Bourbon Custard

  • 6 small-medium apples, spiral cut and cored (you'll need one of those apple corer/peeler/slicer things or you're in for more work than you want)
    This thing. You can find them on Amazon for under $20, or at Pampered Chef for $1,200.
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used pecans, but I imagine walnuts or cashews would be delightful)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas (that's fancy-talk for gold raisins)
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup Benchmark Brown Sugar Liquor (if you don't want the booze, just use an equal amount of brown sugar. If you can't find Benchmark, you can mix about 2 tablespoons brown sugar with 1/4 cup bourbon for roughly the same effect)
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. If you haven't already done so, run your apples through that apple corer/peeler/slicer thing. Do your best to get the apple off the spindle whole. You will be scored on artistic merit.
  2. Spray a slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Place the apples in a single layer on the bottom (we were able to barely fit 6 apples in a 2.5 quart cooker)
  3. Mix the chopped nuts and raisins. Fill the middle of each apple where you removed the core. 
  4. In a medium bowl (you can use a large bowl if you'd like. I wouldn't recommend using a small bowl unless you like making a mess), mix sweetened condensed milk, honey, bourbon and cinnamon. Pour mixture evenly over the apples. 
  5. Cook on LOW for 3 hours or until apples start to get tender and liquid takes on a custard-like consistency. 
Good times!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kosher Dill Pickles

     First off, let me make it clear that these pickles are not truly Kosher. Our house would never pass a Kosher certification. The six pound pork shoulder in the freezer pretty much locks that one up. We don't even grow the veggies right. According to Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:19, we screwed up since we grew our cucumbers in a field with a bunch of other seeds. So, semantics (or Semetics "I'll be here all week! Try the veal and tip your servers! Don't forget the 9:30 show is nothing like the 6:30 show; you can't bring your kids to the 9:30 show!") aside, these are just some tasty pickles to nosh on as you see fit. Eat them from the jar, use them in a potato salad, or slap them on a hot dog (WITHOUT KETCHUP. Please, I'm begging you, don't put ketchup on a hot dog). As always, notes and changes are in blue. 

Kosher Dill Pickles
via Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book

  • 2-1/4 pounds 4-inch cucumbers (we just used whatever cucumbers we had on hand. No clue as to type. If they weren't 4 inches, we just cut them down to make sure they'd fit in a pint jar)
  • Fresh dill heads (LOL WUT? No clue as to what they're asking for. I, for one, refuse to decapitate an innocent dill. We used a teaspoon of dill weed in each pint jar)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Hot red peppers (we used whole dehydrated cayenne)
  • Pickling salt
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  1. Wash cucumbers. Pack them in hot quart jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace (we derail almost immediately. One, we used pint jars. Two, we used full sized cucumbers, so we cut ours into spears, then shortened them as needed to get them in pint jars. We did, however, wash them. I think.)
  2. To each quart, add 2 heads fresh dill, 1 clove garlic, 1 hot pepper and 1 tablespoon pickling salt
    (if you're doing it our way, you'll be adding to each pint, 1 teaspoon dill weed, 1 clove garlic, 1 dried cayenne and 1-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt)
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar and 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Pour boiling liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids.
  5. Process in boiling water bath (20 minutes for quarts, 15 for pints)
  6. Yields will depend on how committed you are to violently jamming cucumbers into the jars.
  7. As always, if you're not familiar with canning, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation to avoid poisoning anyone.
Good times!