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Did You Know You Can Make Wine at Home?

September 25, 2017
You Can Make Wine at Home

Did you know you make wine at home? And for a fraction of the cost of the box wine you’ve been choking down? I’ve been sitting on this information for several months now. I’ve meant to share it with you, but damn it’s been a busy summer. 

I started making wine this summer and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I caught on bit on Kare11 back in the spring. The hook was “if you can open a bag, you can make wine”. 

I can open a bag!

Winemaking has changed a lot since my parents attempted in back in the late 70s. I really don’t know what they did, where they got the grapes or if they had to stomp them. All I know is that in the early 80s my brother and a couple of his friends found that jug of wine that had been sitting in the basement, forgotten, and proceeded to drink it. 

It was nasty, that’s all I remember. Though that didn’t stop anyone from drinking it.

You Can Make Wine at Home

Now, it’s so much easier to make decent wine and you don’t have to stomp the grapes yourself. It’s not quite as easy as opening a bag (and the bag can be a little challenging to open, I have to use a huge ass wrench to get the cap off), but it’s a pretty uncomplicated process.

I wasn’t sure how the whole process would work so I started small. My first batch of wine was only one gallon. I did this because I figured if I screwed it up I wouldn’t be out that much. It’s hard to screw it up and it’s just as easy to make 6 gallons of wine (that’s 30 bottles!) as it is to make 1 gallon (about 5 bottles). If you like wine, just take the plunge and start with 6 gallon wine kits. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

I started with Master Vintner’s Small Batch Chardonnay. I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay, but I can’t stand Moscato and they didn’t have a small batch of Sauvignon Blanc. So Chardonnay it was. The nice thing about these wine recipe kits is that they can be completed and ready to drink in about 5 weeks.

The directions were a little complicated, but only because I hadn’t made wine before, and they included really crappy directions. I later learned this was a mistake they were aware of and had corrected, I must have gotten an older kit. No big deal, there are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch to learn how to make wine.

Before you can crack open that bag of juice and start fermenting it, you’re going to need some equipment. Master Vintner sells complete wine making kits, these are a great way to start because you have all that you need (hopefully, I had a kit that was missing a few key items but the store was happy to provide them to me free of charge). The kits contain the carboy in your choice of plastic or glass, cleaning solution, sanitizing solution, the grape juice, yeast, wine thief, hydrometer and everything else I’m forgetting. 

Glass or Plastic?

6 gallons of liquid is heavy, the glass carboy weighs about 15 pounds when it is empty. Filled, you’re looking at about 60 pounds that you’re going to have to haul around. That’s like lifting a 10 year old. If you’ve got the upper body strength, then go for it. If not, stick with the plastic. The downside of the plastic is that it can get scratched and bacteria get settle into the scratches. You’ll be replacing your plastic sooner and more frequently than glass, something to keep in mind. You won’t mind because that means you get to go to the brewery supply store.

I live in the land of craft brew and micro brews. Every male in this state over the age of 21 is making their own beer. Some with more success than others. If you’re a single woman you’ll love the brewing supply stores. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t see a lot of straight single women in these places or if they just think we’re awesome because we like to make alcohol too, but I get asked out every time I go to one of these stores. It’s better than online dating.

My first gallon of Chardonnay didn’t turn out that well. I racked it wrong and got all kinds of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It tasted fine, and I drank it, but it looked like crap. I didn’t have an auto siphon so I got all the gunk in it. The Fermtech Auto-Siphon is a lifesaver. For $11 it’s well worth it. 

1 Gallon of 6 Gallons?

It’s just as easy to make 6 gallons of wine as it is to make one gallon of wine, so you may as well make 6, you’re going to drink it anyway. You’ll also save a lot of money. If you make one gallon your wine ends up costing about $5 per bottle (including the bottles and corks). If you make 6 gallons it’s about $2.25 per bottle (Including bottles and corks). When you’re talking about 30 bottles of wine, that’s a significant savings. How do they compare to the wine you’d buy in the liquor store? So much better. The $2.25 bottle of wine you just made will taste as good or better than a $10 – $15 bottle of wine. Let it age a few months and you’ll have an even better bottle.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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