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Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

March 13, 2017
corned beef and cabbage instantpot vs crockpot

This week’s smackdown is Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot. I love my InstantPot, I also love my Crockpot. Both are essential kitchen tools for any level of cook. My father gave me a Crockpot when I moved into my first apartment. It was a tiny little thing, big enough to make some dip in I suppose, but I made tiny little chilis and soups in it. It had no settings, you just plugged it in and it was going. The lid was plastic and has long been chewed up by one of the many pups over the years. My father got me lots of Crockpots, I’m not really sure why, but I have several, and I love each and every one of them. The one I use most however, is the one that belonged to my father. 

My dad died before InstantPot was a thing, however I am sure he would have taken to it like a fish to water. He loved using the pressure cooker, loved to explain how the stovetop version worked and was practically giddy whenever sharing the story of his mother blowing one up in the kitchen when he was a child. 

I also love Corned Beef and Cabbage. I love the saltiness of the beef, the sort of soggy yet firm texture of the cabbage. Growing up we always had it on St. Patrick’s Day and it was one of my favorite meals, even if it stank up the house.

Mostly, I love how easy the meal is to prepare. The problem with Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crockpot (and I really don’t know any other method to prepare it) is that it takes a fair amount of forethought. You can’t just throw together a corned beef and cabbage on the fly, you need 5 or 6 hours. 

I figured there must be a faster way, and the InstantPot seemed like a surefire way to achieve a quick corned beef and cabbage. I Googled around for recipes, actually just cooking settings, and only found ones that were actually rather complicated. In all of the InstantPot recipes for corned beef and cabbage that I found it was always a two step process — cook the corned beef first, remove it from the pot, cook the cabbage.

Sure, we’re down from 6 hours to about an hour, I just really wanted something as easy as my Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo recipe or my Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish recipe. Both of those recipes take less than twenty minutes to prepare and cook, I was hoping for something similar.

And I never found it so I thought I’d just wing it. And then I though why not do a smackdown between the two? So I did. I prepared two meals using the same recipe.

Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

1 Corned beef – rinsed and fat side down (I don’t know if this makes a difference)

1 Cabbage – cut into wedges and placed in vessel

1 Spice packet – many people throw these away and make their own, but that seems silly to me. Throw that packet it!

4 Carrots – sliced

I skipped the potatoes, actually, I never put potatoes in my corned beef and cabbage, is that really something people do?

I added all ingredients to each cooker and set their respective settings. For the InstantPot I set it for 55 minutes on high pressure and I used the slow release method. For the Crockpot I set it on high for 6 hours and forgot about it.

*I stopped taking photos of food inside the InstantPot, it doesn’t look appealing and serves no purpose. 

The Results

Corned Beef

Both tasted great, and they tasted the same. Both were tender and juicy. I couldn’t tell any difference between the two except for color. The InstantPot corned beef was darker. That could have just been a variation of the beef, and no reflection on the cooking. I used two different brands of beef and one had noticeably more fat. It did not change the way it tasted.

Cabbage

The cabbage also came out about the same in each vessel. This actually surprised me. I figured with 55 minutes of cooking at high pressure I might just end up with mush. That didn’t happen. The cabbage pretty much kept it’s shape. The cabbage was also a little darker in the InstantPot. 

Carrots

Here’s where there was a noticeable difference. The carrots in the InstantPot were pretty mushy. They didn’t disintegrate but they were working hard to hold their shape. The carrots from the Crockpot were actually still firm, yet tender. They also retained their individual flavor, whereas the carrots in the InstantPot just tasted like the cabbage. 

While I love the ease of making corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, it isn’t something I’ll probably do in the future unless I’m pressed for time. There’s something about a crockpot full of corned beef and cabbage, stinking up the house, that really makes it special.

Speaking of stinking up the house – the InstantPot was no less stinky, it just didn’t go on for so long. However, the silicon ring inside the lid of the InstantPot soaked up all those flavors. This is quite common for anything you make in the InstantPot, so it might be handy to have several on hand. 

All in all, either way works great, the InstantPot version is perfect if you have a hankering for corned beef and cabbage while driving home after a long day at work. While the Crockpot is probably better if this is a Saturday or Sunday meal extravaganza.

If you’ve had success with corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, I’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dumb Shit I Do Food Recipes Things I Really Like

The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

January 29, 2017
The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

If you’re looking for the best Instant Pot Chili recipe, then you’ve come to the right place. Disclaimer – this is not an authentic chili, this a chili recipe that your kids, and picky mother, will eat. If you throw it on top of some spaghetti noodles you’d have a pretty decent Cincinnati chili, but that’s weird so…  

I make a killer authentic chili too, but that takes a bit more planning and specific ingredients like a nice cut of beef instead of ground beef. This chili, the best Instant Pot Chili, is something you can make with whatever is in your pantry. It is an incredibly forgiving recipe. I used ground beef but you could use ground turkey, ground chicken, diced chicken or skip the meat completely and make it vegetarian. Whatever floats your boat!

I’m listing amounts of ingredients for posterity, use however much you prefer. I love celery and I throw a ton of it in this recipe (it gives the daughter something to do since she has to pick it all out), I also like a lot of garlic and cumin. I eyeball things, rarely measure, and I suspect most of you do the same. 

If you don’t have an Instant Pot yet you can get one here. Seriously, what are you waiting for, get your shit together and get one of these incredible time saving devices! I have the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W which is about $105, but they make a less expensive version too. The standard Instant Pot IP-LUX60 V3 Programmable Electric Pressure Cooker, 6Qt, 1000W (updated model) is only $79. The only difference between the two is the one I have makes yogurt. The other difference is that the $79 version is back ordered for 2-3 months while the 7 in 1 version is in stock. Wow.

The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

What you will need:

1 lb ground beef

3 cups chopped celery

2/3rd cups diced onion (I prefer white onion, but I only had yellow on hand)

4 cans beans (or more or less. I used mild chili beans, kidney beans and pinto beans because that’s what was in the pantry)

2 cans tomato sauce

1 can diced tomato

1 can sweet corn (drained)

Cumin, salt and pepper, chili powder to taste 

5 Hershey’s Kisses (or a small handful of chocolate chips or whatever you have on hand)

Brown the onions and ground beef in the Instant Pot on sauté. Drain fat and return to Instant Pot. Or just use the glass lid for the Instant Pot
to cover and drain. 

Dump all your ingredients into the Instant Pot, give it a stir and set the pressure cooker to Chili, or set it manually for 30 minutes at high pressure. 

Make sure the pressure valve is closed. I really can’t stress how important it is that this is closed. If you leave it open the Instant Pot will not pressurize and you will have just wasted a good 30 minutes, and will need to start over. Don’t ask how I know this.

 

Food Minnesota Minnesota Nice Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

January 10, 2017
Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

This recipe, Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto, is a variation of the Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish. Like all great flukes it happened because I didn’t read the recipe carefully and ended up with way too much liquid so I had to find a way to make it less soggy. I had a bag of Alessi Risotto with Mushrooms so I quickly cooked it up and added it to the mixture. 

You’ll notice I said mixture. Oops. Another mistake. I mixed all of the ingredients instead of layering them. 

Even though I am an authentic Minnesotan, I did not grow up on Tater Tot Hot Dish. I did date a guy whose mom made it (and he raved about) but that was as close to it as I got until I made it last year.

OMG it is delicious! And it’s perfect for cold weather. I have not tried it in the InstantPot because I just don’t think the Tater Tots would do well in it. They really need to get crisped up in the oven.

You can see the original recipe here.

Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 lb ground beef, browned

2 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 can vegetables (I used corn and peas because I didn’t have two cans of either one of them)

1 packaged prepared Alessi risotto with mushrooms, or any packaged rice with mushrooms

While the oven is preheating, brown the ground beef (seasoning to taste as you cook) and drain off the grease.

In a mixing bowl combine soup, ground beef, drained vegetables and risotto. Mix well. Place mixture in baking dish or casserole.

Arrange tater tots on top of mixture.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Top with your favorite variety of shredded cheese as you serve.

That’s it! This is a great hot dish for a winter day when you have to go out and shovel snow. Goes well with any boxed white wine.

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Redhead Ranting 2016 Roundup

December 31, 2016
Redhead Ranting 2016 Roundup

For your reading pleasure I’ve put together my sometimes annual Redhead Ranting 2016 Roundup. Every other media outlet does a roundup so I thought, what the heck, I’ll do one too!

I’m actually surprised I wrote enough this year for a roundup. In fact, I actually wrote and published 60 posts this year, which is my third time high since I started blogging in 2007. It’s twice as much as I wrote last year.

There were basically 4 categories this year, the election, my mother, recipes, and Prince, and an outlier about Dini the cat. It’s a long post, and most didn’t bother to read it, but it’s one that harkens back to my early days of blogging, when I just told a story and enjoyed the journey.

No One Ever Said There Would Be This Much Cat Vomit

Blog Posts about the Election

I really didn’t think he’d win, and I might watch too much Walking Dead.

How to Survive the Trumpacolypse

How to Prepare for the Post Election Apocalypse

OMG Stop Unfriending Each Other!

Blog Posts about my Relationship with My Mother

My relationship with my mother is difficult at best, but it isn’t unique. I also posted a story from my book, Minnesota Nice. 

Life Isn’t Fair

I Made my Mother Cry… Again

Do You Know your ACE Score?

Recipes

I cook a lot this year, mostly because I got an Instant Pot – the most awesome thing ever!

Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes

Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hot Dish Instant Pot Recipe

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish Recipe – Seriously, if you try a new dish in 2017, make it the MN Tater Tot Hotdish, you won’t be sorry. 

Best and Worst in Books and Movies and Blogs

I saw and reviewed several movies this year, they aren’t worth sharing here except for one exceptionally horrible movie I really hoped would be awesome. It wasn’t.

Independence Day Resurgence Review

Life Changing Books

Bloggers who Blog

Prince and Jacob

2016 was a year of loss, but these two are still difficult for me to reckon with. 

Summer in Minnesota 2016: We Lost Prince and Found Jacob

On the Passing of Prince, from a Minnesotan

Food Recipes Things I Really Like

Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes

September 14, 2016
Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes

Have I mentioned how much I love my Instant Pot? This Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes recipe is so simple even the kids could fix dinner. Of course, my kids won’t, but they will eat it up. So far the Instant Pot has not let me down. Without fail I forget to take something out of the freezer to cook for dinner. With the Instant Pot, thawing isn’t necessary.

Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes

ingredients for shrimp alfredo

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/4 cup diced onions (red or white, I use whatever I have in the fridge)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 bag frozen, cooked shrimp

2 cups chicken broth

1 box pasta

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tsp flour

1 cup half & half, milk or cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Putting it all together:

Plug in Instant Pot and set to sauté.

img_3853

Sauté onions in the olive oil until lightly browned, about 5 minutes leave in Instant Pot. I had a few leftover chopped white onions from my Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hot Dish Instant Pot Recipe so I used them here and then added some diced red onion too.

shrimp-pasta

After you’ve sautéd the onions add the frozen shrimp, broth and uncooked pasta.

Lock the cover and set Instant Pot to high pressure for 7 minutes. Be sure the steam release handle is closed. It will take a few minutes for it to pressurize and will make some wheezing noises while it does. Once it is pressurized the timer will appear on the display.

When the timer goes off use the quick release method by turning the steam release handle to open. This will release all the steam in a couple of minutes making it safe to open the Instant Pot. You want to use the quick release method so the pasta doesn’t overcook (ever time you overcook pasta and angel dies, so don’t let it happen).

shrimp

Hit the sauté button again and add your half & half, parmesan cheese and flour, stirring occasionally as it thickens.

That’s it! Dish it up and call the kids down.

Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes

 

Dumb Shit I Do Food Pets

I’m Just Making a Sandwich

September 8, 2016
I'm just making a sandwich

I’m just a girl, I’m just making a sandwich. Isn’t that how it goes? Ugh. Lunchtime around these parts is pretty exciting if you’re of the 4 legged variety. Whatever it is that I am having is 1000% better than what is in their bowl. I know this because when I am late for lunch they will come and remind me that – Hey! It’s time to eat!!!!

For most of the summer I’ve been eating healthy. And by eating healthy I mean I’ve stopped eating carbs, at least the bad carbs and that included bread. Eating healthy, or at least healthier, is easy in the summer. Fruits and veggies are abundant and because it’s hot a chilled salad is always rather refreshing.

Unless you’re a dog or a cat in which case – blech!

But it was cold earlier this week. Colder, and not humid, so it felt downright cold even though it was probably about 70°.  Anyway, because it felt cold I wanted something a little more comforty feeling. I didn’t want to go all out and do something like soup, because that’s messy and I’ll spill on myself, but I did want something that made me feel warm inside. Even if only emotionally.

School started for the daughter several weeks ago but for most everyone else it started this week so I actually did the back to school thing and picked up some bread, even though my daughter gets the hot lunch at school. I like to be prepared. Really, I like the idea of being prepared if I took the time to actually do it. I also like the idea of being the kind of mom that packs the school lunch each day even though she won’t eat it if I do.

I’m Just Making a Sandwich

I picked up square cheese (what we call Kraft Singles) and some Oscar Mayer bologna (I’m totally singing the song… My bologna has a first name, it’s O S C A R….) and even some bread filled with all kinds of nuts and seeds and shit (this is why the daughter will not eat the sandwiches I make for her). It’s high in protein, low in carbs and sorta tastes like spongy cardboard. Because I was at Sam’s Club when I bought it I have two loaves of it.

As I am unpacking I am wondering why I got all this bread.

This is the actual conversation in my head:

Me: Why did I get so much bread?

Me: I don’t know, it was stupid thing to do, no one eats it.

Me: I wonder if Alex needs any bread?

Me: You should probably, at least freeze one of the loaves.

Me: Good plan, that way I can wait until it’s all freezer burnt and even I won’t eat it and I can throw it away when I need to make space in the freezer.

So, because I have so much bread, and no one will eat bread with seeds and nuts and shit all over it I decided to make a sandwich out of it.

Did I mention the daughter doesn’t like bologna either? She loves square cheese, however.

Professional Beggars (except they don’t get paid for it)

So I go about making my sandwich and before I get the mayonnaise out of the fridge I can feel the steely, half shut eyed gaze of Dini on me. Dini vomits everything she eats except for Fancy Feast classic. It sucks because Dini is a bitch and this time in the kitchen was the only time when she was nice. I’d give her a small piece of the meat and she wouldn’t glare at me for a little while. It worked out nicely.

dog and cat begging for food

Within seconds I hear the click, click, click of Stanley and then the rush of air as Ruby bursts through the door and pushes Stanley over. All are now in my tiny little kitchen waiting for me to give them a taste of whatever it is I’m making. Even if it does have seeds and nuts and shit all over it.

dogs and cat begging for food

Better Things To Do

Except Zelda. Zelda doesn’t beg. I don’t know if it’s just because she hasn’t figured out begging or if she doesn’t like what I’m having. Zelda isn’t all that picky, she just likes different things. She’s all over cabbage and potato chips. She loves Ritz Crackers and those little Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers, but for some reason, bologna and cheese doesn’t do it for her so she’s over by the back door staring at my shoes.

White fluffy cat staring at sandals

I make my sandwich, and I even give everyone – including Dini, but not Zelda – a small piece of bologna and hope Dini doesn’t vomit. The previous week had been a particularly bad week of vomiting so I don’t want to rock that boat, but so far this week she’s managed to keep everything but hairballs down.

animals begging for my lunch cute

Like most Americans I eat at my desk, so I carried my plate into the office, carefully stepping over Stanley who lies down in the doorways so I don’t forget about him. They were there before I was.

Except for Zelda, she was in the other room watching her stories.

white fluffy cat watching TV holding remote

The bread wasn’t bad, it was a little chewy and I had to pick a lot of the seeds and nuts and shit out of my teeth, but considering I have two loaves to eat it’s tolerable.

Yes, I gave them all some of the sandwich and Dini didn’t puke any of it up!

 

Food Minnesota Recipes

Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish Instant Pot Recipe

August 17, 2016
Cheesy smoked sausage hotdish Instant pot recipe

I’ve been cooking with my Instant Pot just about every day since I got it a few weeks ago. I used the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W, but you can use any pressure cooker. I put together this cheesy smoked sausage hotdish Instant Pot recipe so I could use up some kielbasa I had in the freezer. Not only was it super easy to make, and super tasty, it was a super fast meal to make, too. It took all of 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish Instant Pot Recipe

ingredients for cheesy smoked sausage hot dish recipe for Instant Pot

What you’ll need:

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 cup Chopped Onion

2 tbsp Minced Garlic

1 1/2 – 2 cups Chicken Broth

1 – 2 lbs Smoked Sausage – Sliced

1 can Diced Tomatoes

1 box Uncooked Pasta (I used penne but you can use any kind)

1/2 cup Half & Half, Milk or Cream

1/4 cup Monterey Jack Cheese

1/4 cup Cheddar Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

Putting it together:

Plug in Instant Pot and set to sauté.

onions

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, takes about 5 minutes. Leave in Instant Pot. I used both yellow and red onions, use whichever you prefer.

Sausage

After you’ve sautéd the garlic and onion add the sausage and continue sautéing for 1-2 more minutes. Turn off Instant Pot, but keep stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom.

SausageTomato

Add diced tomatoes and give it a stir.

sausage pasta

Add pasta and add chicken broth. Most recipes I’ve seen for the Instant Pot suggest adding enough liquid to cover the pasta. What I’ve discovered is that the pasta gets soggy that way. I wanted an al dente pasta so I used less liquid. I rarely measure the liquid with the Instant Pot, just eyeball it. If the pasta isn’t soaking in liquid you’re good to go, unless you like your pasta soggy and then by all means drown it.

Securely lock the lid in place and make sure the steam release handle is closed. I used the manual setting on high pressure for 7 minutes. You can also use the Bean/Chili setting and adjust the time if you prefer.

Turn off Instant Pot and do a quick pressure release by moving the steam release handle to the venting position. It’s important when cooking pasta to do a quick release, otherwise the pasta will continue to cook while the loses pressure, which takes about 20 minutes. Nasty pasta that way. Ick.

Cheese

Remove lid and add half & half and cheese. Stir until creamy.

Cheesy smoked sausage hotdish Instant pot recipe

Serve!

This was such a super easy recipe and the kids loved it. I added a salad and some garlic bread to make it a meal.

I have no idea how many calories or any of that good stuff are in this hotdish.

cheesy smoked sausage hot dish with salad and bread

 

Food How Did We Survive? Reviews Things I Really Like

Instant Pot – Does it All and More!

August 15, 2016
Instant Pot Does it all

Have you gotten an Instant Pot yet? Seriously, what are you waiting for? The Instant Pot – does it all and more! I love this thing almost as much as I love my children. It makes life so much easier and Amazon has it on sale again!!

Let’s back up a bit in case you’re like me, and had no idea what an Instant Pot was.

The Instant Pot is a really safe and polite pressure cooker from Canada. It’s got not just one, not just two, but 10 proven safety mechanisms. If you’ve cooked with a pressure cooker you know that they aren’t always safe. I’ve exploded a couple in my time. In fact, it was a rite of passage growing up. My dad gave me a pressure cooker when I moved out. The kind that goes on top of the stove. I’d seen him explode one once or twice so I was prepared. It didn’t help. Good thing I wanted to paint my ceiling again anyway.

So safety is important. Just look at how wonderfully safe it is!

Did I mention polite? It’s Canadian so it has to be. Still, the box cracked me up. American products are all like plug me in and hopefully I’ll work right. Not this lovely Canadian Instant Pot, it’s saying please and thank you all over the place. Also the instruction manual, it’s got a cheat sheet since it understands no one ever reads those things. It’s also got a website which is really helpful with tips, tricks and recipes.

Getting back to safety…. The Instant Pot pressure cooker is safe, it as a release valve on it so you can let out all of the steam and not burn off your face or blast beef stew all over your kitchen ceiling, two really important features.

You may have seen those infomercials on late night TV where the guy cooks a metric ton of chicken wings in about 5 minutes. That’s the Power Pressure Cooker, the American version of the Instant Pot, though truth be told the Power Pressure Cooker could have come first, I don’t really know. It is the pressure cooker I had before I got my Instant Pot. I loved it, it is a great product (you can see a great compare and contrast of the two pressure cookers here), but my son borrowed it from me when he hosted a group of friends and I haven’t seen it since. So instead of buying another of the same I wanted to try the Instant Pot, and I am so glad I did!

So, what all does the Instant Pot do?

Instant Pot – Does it All and More!

  • Slow cook
  • Rice
  • Soups
  • Chili
  • Oatmeal
  • Stews
  • Hot dish (casseroles for you non Minnesotans)
  • Yogurt (seriously, you can make yogurt in this thing!!!)
  • And basically anything you might cook on the stove or in the oven you can cook in the Instant Pot for a fraction of the time.

Cooking with pressure allows you to cook foods faster and to retain their moisture, unlike conventional oven cooking. Because you can do it all in one pot, you save yourself all kinds of cleanup. Because you can do it in a fraction of the regular cooking time there’s no excuse to feed your family healthy meals because you didn’t think ahead and pull something out of the freezer so now you’re grabbing your keys and heading to the nearest drive thru.

Life Changing Cooking Appliance

Instant Pot (and pressure cooking) has been a thing for a couple of years now, but recently Amazon put it on sale for its Prime Day at something like $69. Normally it sells for from $100 to $159 (with the Power Pressure Cooker running about the same), so at $69 it’s a bargain, hell buy two, you’ll use them.

I got the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W a couple of weeks ago (it’s the larger version, the one that makes yogurt) and have cooked in it almost every night. I’ve made pulled pork (20 minutes), Shrimp Alfredo (7 minutes), baby potatoes (7 minutes), and my favorite, a cheesy smoked sausage hot dish. All were delicious and so easy to prepare.

Instant Pot meals

The only drawback that I can see to the Instant Pot is that you cannot can with it. It’s too small at only 6 quarts (you need a 10 quart vessel to can properly). The Power Pressure Cooker does have a canning feature, so if that’s what you’re looking for be sure to check it out. I don’t can that often (though I would like to), so I’d use my huge ass canning pot if I needed to.

Have you gotten your Instant Pot yet? What did you think about it?

Dumb Shit I Do Food Minnesota

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish

March 3, 2016
Tater Tot Hot Dish

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish

A few weeks ago a Buzzfeed quiz was making the rounds. It was clickbait titled: This Food Test Will Determine If You’re Actually From Minnesota. Being a Minnesotan, I clicked on it to see if I was actually from Minnesota.

I scored a 12 out of 12, but being Minnesotan I’m not going to toot my horn about it.

Minnesotans eat weird food

There was a lot of discussion amongst my Minnesotan friends on Facebook about the foods in the quiz. The one getting most of the attention was the Taco Salad. Apparently we’re freaks in Minnesota because we put Western dressing and Doritos on our taco salads. I vividly remember the Taco Salad with Western dressing and Doritos. My mother rarely cooked due to her stroke. Her repertoire of recipes she had the dexterity to prepare included putting the cloves in the ham and ripping up iceberg lettuce for a salad. Mostly these were physical therapy exercises she hated, so the job of making the nightly salad fell to me.

I don’t know who found the recipe, but I was instructed to put all the ingredients together for said taco salad. I didn’t normally like salad as a youngster, but this one was pretty darn good. However, it was only good with Western dressing – which we always had on hand because my brother liked to smother my container of cottage cheese in it (it’s gross that way, don’t try it), taco salad with plain old French dressing is disgusting.

I’m so off course…

Anyway, the discussion on Facebook was about the taco salad even though the question underneath the taco salad question was about Tater Tot Hot Dish. I knew what Tater Tot Hot Dish was, but had never tried one – let alone prepared one. I went out with a boy in high school who once mentioned he was looking forward to dinner because his mom made Tater Tot Hot Dish. I asked what it was and was immediately disgusted. At my house we didn’t eat such things. My dad, in all of his efforts to prevent my mother from becoming completely agoraphobic, signed them up for a cooking class at Th’rice, now commonly known as Cooks of Crocus Hill or just Cooks. They were given red three-ring binders with all kinds of recipes they attempted.

Cooking Class

I’m not really sure how much my mother tried, she complained about going every week, but my dad seemed to enjoy it. He was a pretty good cook before they took the class and even better afterwards. In fact, he cooked so much after the fact much of what he prepared had to go in the freezer. The problem with that was that my father never labeled a damn thing and was pretty careless about dating things. They took the cooking class in the late 70s. When my brother got married in the late 80 there was an impromptu gathering of friends at my parent’s cabin, in a pinch dad pulled out a huge tray of Beef bourguignon that had been prepared back in the days of the cooking class. Most of the guests were polite enough, and I don’t recall anyone actually getting sick, but I do recall the toilet getting stopped up with many napkins full of the stuff.

So Tater Tot Hot Dish was something I’d never experienced.

Always on the lookout for something easy, tasty and that the kids would eat I vowed to give it a try.

And you know what? It’s not that bad with a few tweaks.

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish

Here’s the original recipe I used from Food.com:

1 lb ground beef

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (staple of Minnesota pantries)

1 can vegetables (corn, peas, beans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, brown the ground beef (seasoning to taste as you cook) and drain off the grease.

Spread the beef in the bottom of a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish.

Drain the liquid off the vegetables and spread them over the meat.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the cans of soup over the top of the vegetables and meat. Use the soup as is, straight from the can. Do NOT mix it with anything.

Arrange a layer of tater tots over the top of that.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Top with your favorite variety of shredded cheese as you serve.

Easy enough, but I really hate canned vegetables. The veggies are too soggy and there is too much salt in them. I prefer frozen veggies so that’s what I used. Using beans or corn seemed odd to me knowing they were going to be smothered in Cream of Mushroom soup, so I opted for peas.

Hamburger for Tater Tot Hot Dish

 

I browned the ground beef, drained it and added the peas and garlic to it in the casserole dish. If I learned anything from my parents cooking class it’s that garlic makes everything better.

Tater Tot Hot Dish mushroom soup

 

As a Minnesotan I’m used to putting Cream of Mushroom soup in just about everything I make, but honestly it didn’t seem that appealing in this recipe. I was also trying to clean out the fridge and had some leftover sour cream from taco night a month or so ago, so I mixed it in with 2 cans of soup (because one didn’t seem like enough) then spread it on top like the recipe instructed. Pretty gross, right? ** I know it says not to mix the soup with anything up in the recipe, but it’s okay if you do, it won’t ruin it and makes it much better**

Tater Tot Hot Dish

From there it was all about arranging the Tater Tots on the top. Turns out I don’t have OCD at all as half way through all I wanted to do was throw them on and spread them around, but I didn’t, I persevered.

After that I tossed it in the oven and waited 50 minutes. Except at 350° Tater Tots will never get crisp on the outside so after the 50 minutes I cooked it for another 15 at 425°. I sprinkled a little cheese on top, although I was a little hesitant about it, but then figured what the hell, it’s already an unhealthy mess.

Here’s the finished Tater Tot Hot Dish.

 

Tater Tot Hot Dish

As I stated before, I don’t like tooting my horn, but this Tater Tot hot dish was the bomb! Seriously, if you’re in need of comfort food, this is the definition of comfort food. It’s got everything going for it (and the sour cream and garlic really helped make it something worthwhile) from the creamy soup to the crunchy potato, it has it all and then some.

Full discloser, the daughter said it was “meh”, she ate it all, and got herself seconds so I’m assuming the “meh” is just the 13 year old talking. The dogs absolutely loved it, but I realize that doesn’t mean much.

Have you made Tater Tot hot dish before and if you have your own tweaks, what are they?

 

Tater Tot Hot Dish

Food Things that piss me off

Diet Coke Withdrawal

January 12, 2016
Diet Coke, Diet Coke Withdrawal

Diet Coke withdrawal is real. If someone tries to tell you that kicking the Diet Coke habit is all about caffeine withdrawal please kick them in the balls.

I’m on day 8,394 without a Diet Coke, at least it feels that way. In reality I haven’t had a Diet Coke in about a week and it sucks.

It really sucks.

I replaced the caffeine when I quit Diet Coke, I am experiencing Aspartame withdrawal, which is almost as bad as nicotine withdrawal.

The first few days of giving up Diet Coke I was simply missing the habit of having a pop at my side all the time. By the 3rd or 4th day I felt as if I had been hit by a bus, or possibly a train. I had a migraine, I was experiencing vertigo, and basically I felt like I had the flu while being hungover.

It’s not dehydration. I’ve been pounding water and green tea to not only hydrate myself, but to also try to flush this shit out of my system.

Speaking of shit… mine is now lighter in color because I have stopped drinking Diet Coke. This seems reasonable with all those cola colors added to the fizzy concoction. Reasonable, and yet rather disturbing.

When I quit smoking I vowed to never be one of those annoying ex smokers. This was easy since most people had quit smoking before I had and there were very few people left to lecture and be morally superior to. Not so with drinking Diet Coke. If I actually kick this horrible vice, I’m going to be the most annoying ex Diet Coke user there is.

Diet Coke is poison and if you still drink it, give it up now before it becomes more addictive as market share is lost.

 

Dumb Shit I Do Food Things I Really Like Things that piss me off

Giving Up Diet Coke …. Again

January 9, 2016

I’m on day three of giving up Diet Coke, again. I’ve given up Diet Coke at least 4 times for longer than a month and each time I go back to it. Giving up smoking was easier than kicking the Diet Coke addiction.

After three days without Diet Crack I am pretty sure I am dying.

I have joint pain, my eyes feel like they are fuzzy, I’m cold, have no appetite (that’s a good symptom of Diet Coke withdrawal), and I have such a massive headache I considered for a moment that maybe I was having an aneurysm.

Prior to giving up Diet Coke I was experiencing joint pain, cravings for sweets all the time, no energy, muscle weakness and weight gain which I attributed to giving up smoking, perimenopause, and just feeling much older that I am.

I know Diet Coke is bad for me but I go back to each time, and when I do I always marvel at how bad it tastes and yet my body wants it.

Three days off and I want to crawl under a rock or smack someone for breathing too loud. I work at home so don’t have exposure to people unless I venture out and thankfully I don’t have to do that right now because I’m pretty sure I’d do something stupid.

There was the famous Twinkie defense of 1979 used at the trial of Dan White who assassinated Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Mascone. White’s attorneys argued that he suffered diminished capacity due to depression from switching from a poor diet of sugary sweet foods including Twinkies to a more healthy diet. White was convicted of manslaughter.

That famous trial took place in 1979, three years before Diet Coke hit the market. Coincidence? I think not.

Yeah, that jump to conclusion makes no sense because I can’t think straight through the steady drumbeat of my brain begging me for Diet Coke.

I started drinking diet pop in the mid 70s. I had my first Tab when my brother and I went to my grandparents house during spring break. I was a bit “chunky” as my brother liked to remind me. My grandmother gave my brother Cokes while she gave me Tab. I was hooked then.

I knew the saccharin in Tab was bad for me but didn’t care. I was only able to kick Tab by replacing it with Diet Coke in 1982. I’ve been drinking it ever since.

Diet Coke is poison. I joke calling it Diet Crack, but it really is that addictive. Ok, I don’t know that because I’ve never done crack and don’t know what it’s like to be addicted to it. I haven’t even seen Breaking Bad, but I know people who do these highly addictive drugs have a hard time kicking the habit.

Symptoms of Diet Coke Withdrawal include:

  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood Swings
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Panic Attacks
  • Food Cravings
  • Aches and Pains
  • Lightheadedness
  • Short Tempered
  • Basically Feeling Like Shit