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An Invitation to Dinner for Jimmy Fallon

February 1, 2018
Tater Tot Hot Dish

So apparently Jimmy Fallon is inviting himself to dine with some Minnesotans while he’s here for his live Tonight Show following the Super Bowl. He’s not from here so he wouldn’t know that we don’t just invite ourselves over to someone’s house for dinner. In fact, we have to be invited a minimum of three times before we can accept anything. 

However, this is a special occasion and all so it’s probably okay to overlook this faux pas. 

The daughter and I were watching the news last night when we heard about this. Her immediate response was “why would he want to come here for dinner?”.

Which is a typical Minnesotan thing to say.

With that in mind, I decided to send Jimmy Fallon an invitation to dinner at our house. Of course in Minnesota dinner takes place at noon and lasts until late evening – with half of that taking place at the door trying to say goodbye. 

I did not link to my recipe for tater tot hot dish in the email but am here for those of you who want to know what hot dish is all about. 

I’m a little worried the folks in California won’t understand Minnesota Nice. 

I do have a signature in my email, linking to this blog, and I’m hoping I don’t end up in junk mail. So if you wouldn’t mind tweeting this post to Jimmy, that would be greatly appreciated, unless you have something better to do of course.

Here’s his Twitter @jimmyfallon

An Invitation to Dinner for Jimmy Fallon

Hi Jimmy,

 

I heard you were looking to invite yourself to a Minnesotan’s house for dinner while you were here for the Super Bowl. I guess you do that sort of thing in California. My daughter doesn’t think you’d want to come to our house because we live way over in St. Paul and nobody in Minneapolis ever comes over here but I told her you put your pants on just like everyone else and why wouldn’t you want to come for dinner?

 

So yeah, we’d love to have you come for dinner. It’s a little short notice and all, but it’s no trouble.

 

You said you wanted to try out the local cuisine – whatever that is – but I can pull a Tater Tot Hot Dish out of the basement freezer for you. You said you don’t want a salad, and that’s fine. I’ll still have one for you if you want to try it. I made a lovely Lime Jello Salad, you’ll love it. I can make some bars too, I know I have a box of Betty Crocker somewhere.

 

I’ve been told I make a fair Tater Tot Hot Dish. It’s not as fancy as Margie’s down the street, but that’s because she uses both peas and beans in hers. That’s too much green for me. I prefer peas and corn. Margie also puts that paprika on top of hers, but she’s originally from Wisconsin so what do you expect?

 

Don’t tell Margie I said that about her hot dish, we still have to work together at the Booya this summer and it would be awkward if she knew how I really felt.

 

When would you like to come over? Anytime is good for us, but we got bingo down at the casino on Friday night so we’d have to wrap up supper at about 5:30. Will that work for you? Otherwise we could do dinner on Saturday or Sunday. That’s noon in case you don’t do dinners out in California.

 

Sunday would be nice, we could watch the game. I mean it’s not like the Vikes were gonna win if they got in anyway.

 

Will you be bringing your friend Justin? It’s no trouble if you do, I’ll just have to get my son Alex to come over and get a folding chair out from the garage. It’s really no trouble at all, just let me know.

 

Are you allergic to cats? If you are we’ll put the cats in a room. They don’t get along very well so if you know that cat whisperer maybe you could bring him along instead of your friend Justin? We could really use his help with these dang cats. You must know him right? He’s got all those things in his ears, so he must be from California.

 

Oh, my that was rude of me. You can bring both of them but let me know so I can have Alex get another chair from the garage. It’s really no bother.

 

Well I look forward to meeting you, even if it is on such short notice.

 

Jennifer Brown

Blogging Dumb Shit I Do Food Minnesota Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Big Mac Hot Dish with Noodles

January 27, 2018

Earlier I posted a recipe for Big Mac Hot Dish, but because I was concerned about my use of Tater Tots in the recipe I also a Big Mac Hot Dish with Noodles using elbow noodles instead of the tots. Initially I did not want to use noodles, it just seemed like a weird combination of flavors – pickles, cheese, tomatoes – to have with pasta. Still, I was concerned the tots might get soggy and I knew the pasta would come together better and probably look better on a plate. 

Turns out, both are super tasty and super easy. Here is the recipe for Big Mac Hot Dish with Noodles.

Big Mac Hot Dish with Noodles

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

1 medium yellow onion – chopped

Half a box elbow noodles cooked al dente and drained

1/2 cup diced tomatoes – drained

1/2 cup diced pickles – drained

10 oz Velveeta – cubed for easy melting

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing

Putting it all together:

Cook the elbow noodles according to the package so they are al dente. 

After dicing the pickles press them between several layers of paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

While the pasta is cooking brown the ground beef with the chopped onion, cook thoroughly and drain. Turn the burner down to medium and add the tomatoes and pickles, mix well.

Slowly add the Velveeta and milk and stir while it melts. Add the Thousand Island dressing and mix well. If your mixture is too thick you can add more milk.

The pasta will absorb the liquid so you’ll want this to be a little less thick.

Fold in the pasta and place mixture in casserole dish and bake covered for 20 minutes at 350°F.

 

Serve and enjoy!

Dumb Shit I Do Food Minnesota Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Big Mac Hot Dish

January 27, 2018
Big Mac Hot Dish, Big Mac Casserole

If you’re looking for comfort food, this Big Mac Hot Dish is just the thing on a cold winter day. Seriously, it’s really tasty and super easy to make. 

I grew up on Tang and Pop Tarts, going to McDonald’s was a rare thing in my family and quite a treat when it did happen. The only reason to go to McDonald’s back then was the Big Mac. This was before McRib, Chicken Tenders, McNuggets, etc.

Back then – mid 70s – you had the choice of a hamburger, cheese burger and the brand new two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun – Big Mac. It was divine. 

Now that I’m older, more responsible and more health conscious, when I do go to McDonald’s I order a chicken sandwich and don’t eat the bun. It’s not nearly as much fun so I don’t go often.

Today, I was craving a Big Mac. Mostly I wanted the pickle bite with the special sauce, and cheese. I didn’t want to go to the Golden Arches because I’m really trying to use what I have in my fridge – creatively – so I figured I’d try a Big Mac Hot Dish.

It turned out wonderfully if I do say so myself. Actually I was surprised at how good it is. I didn’t want to make a casserole with pasta. I really wanted to keep it as close to a Big Mac as I could. The problem with that is it would basically be a Big Mac in the blender, and I didn’t want that. So, instead of the pasta I used Tater Tots and OMG it’s awesome.

After I made this I Googled to see if this was a thing. Apparently it is but it uses lettuce and crescent roll dough, and sesame seeds. So, technically this is not really a Big Mac because I left those things out and added the potato, however, I think this is a superior hot dish because it’s like having fries with it – which is the only way to have a Big Mac. 

This is the most retro casserole or hot dish you could imagine. It oozes the 70s and it is super!

Big Mac Hot Dish

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

1 medium yellow onion – chopped

1 cup Tater Tots (I used the smaller crispy ones)

1/2 cup diced tomatoes – drained

1/2 cup diced pickles – drained

8 oz Velveeta – cubed for easy melting

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing

Putting it all together:

Cook the Tater Tots according the package. I wanted them crisp because I was fearful they might make the dish soggy. 

While the tots are cooking brown the ground beef with the chopped onion until cooked thoroughly and drain. Turn the burner down to medium and add the tomatoes and pickles, mix well.

Big Mac Casserole

A note about the pickles, I drained them and then pressed them between paper towels to take out as much of the liquid as possible. 

diced pickles

Slowly add the Velveeta and milk and stir while it melts. Add the Thousand Island dressing and mix well. If your mixture is too thick you can add more milk, but you don’t want it runny, it’s okay if it’s a little on the thick side.

Big Mac Casserole Recipe

Fold in the tots and place mixture in casserole dish and bake covered for 20 minutes at 350°F. Remove the cover for the last 10 minutes or so if you want it to brown up any exposed tots. 

Big Mac Hot Dish Recipe

 

Serve and enjoy.

I didn’t think to put a garnish on the dish, but some shredded lettuce sprinkled on top would probably work really nicely and make it more Big Mac ish. You could even put a few sesame seeds on top of the lettuce. I thought about putting some hash browns on top in a very thin layer – mostly for the crunch and color, but that seemed like overkill with the tots so I skipped it. Cheese didn’t seem right either. A little bacon might be good too, it’s just not my thing. 

Because I was concerned the tots might get soggy I also made a variation with elbow noodles instead of the tots. I added more cheese to this variation so it was more of a Big Mac & Cheese Hot Dish instead. I’ll post that recipe next. 

If you have any ideas for garnish or sides please let me know in the comments. 

 

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Food Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Baked Reuben Dip

January 21, 2018
Baked Reuben Dip

I’ve been making this Baked Reuben Dip for ever. I got the original recipe from my ex brother in law some 25 years ago. Originally the recipe called for sliced Buddig roast beef, and it was fine. However, I have found that using roast beef from the deli makes for a much better dip.

The original recipe, at least as I learned it, was for the Crock Pot, one of those mini ones. And again, it’s great, but it takes forever and keeping it warm for hours at a time makes a nasty mess. Baking it in the oven creates a better dip that is more appealing.

This is one of those recipes that has an awful lot of wiggle room. It has three main ingredients – cheese, meat and sauerkraut – in equal parts that can be adjusted based on how much you need. In my house my son wolfs it down before anyone else can get to it so I usually make a lot.

I’m using weight as a measurement but you can use volume too. This would translate to about a cup of each ingredient.

Baked Reuben Dip

Baked Reuben Dip

8 oz roast beef – sliced and chopped

8 oz Swiss cheese – grated

8 oz sauerkraut – drained and chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing

In a mixing bowl mix together all ingredients. Use more or less of the Thousand Island dressing depending on how “dippy” you want it to be. Place in oven safe casserole dish and bake in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes or until bubbly and beautiful.

Serve with Gardetto’s rye chips or those little pumpernickel breads you see in the bakery section of your grocery store. I prefer the rye chips because they’re the perfect size, but Ritz crackers or melba toast works well too. 

If you have any leftovers it can be used for making Reuben Balls or simple spread on a toasted baguette for a quick and simple Reuben sandwich. 

Enjoy

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The Best Reuben Balls Recipe

January 21, 2018
the best reuben balls recipe

This is the best Rueben Balls recipe you will find, and these are the best balls you will ever put in your mouth. 

Not hyperbole.

Recently I made Baked Reuben Dip as part of a Vikings Game Day Appetizer series (Go Vikes and Skol!!) and had half a jar of sauerkraut leftover. Because no one eats just sauerkraut I wanted to do something to use it up instead of letting it die a slow death at the back of the fridge. 

After doing a very quick Google search looking for appetizer recipes with sauerkraut, it dawned on me that there isn’t a lot you can do with sauerkraut, especially in an appetizer. 

However, it would seem that shaping sauerkraut into a ball and deep frying it is a thing. All of the recipes I saw used ham or sausage for their sauerkraut balls, that sounded kinda disgusting to me so I decided to try my hand at a Reuben Ball. Because really, that’s the only way I like to eat sauerkraut.

I don’t deep fry. Not because of the calories or that it’s bad for you, but because I don’t want to burn the house down. 

I do however, bake shit that tastes better fried.

I have a feeling that these Reuben Balls, the best balls you’ll ever put in your mouth, might be even better if they were deep fried. But, I’ll never know because of my fear of frying.

The best Reuben balls recipe

The Best Reuben Balls Recipe

(the best balls you’ll put in your mouth)

1 package (7 oz) sliced roast beef – chopped

1 1/2 cups sauerkraut – drained and chopped

1 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese (Swiss would work well too, this is just what I had on hand)

2 green onions – chopped (include the greens)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup crushed Gardetto’s Special Request Roasted Garlic Rye Chips

1/2 cup Gardetto’s Special Request Roasted Garlic Rye Chips

 

It’s important to drain your sauerkraut as much as possible. You can put them in a strainer and push with a spoon to get the water out. After that I pressed them into paper towel to get the rest of the water out. Crush the rye chips by placing them in a zip loc bag and rolling with a rolling pin or place them in a bowl and use a cup or drinking glass to crush them. Use a food processor or Magic Bullet to process the other 1/2 cup of rye chips to roll your balls in.

Mix roast beef, cheese, sauerkraut, onion, crushed rye chips and egg together in a bowl until well incorporated. Shape mixture into golf ball size balls and roll in the processed rye chips until covered. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. No need to grease.

Bake in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes.

Serve with Thousand Island dressing, it makes a perfect dip for these tasty balls.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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I Made This – Pizza and Wine!

January 16, 2018

I can’t believe I made this – pizza and wine! And by ‘made this’, I mean I made everything in this image by myself and from scratch.

I made the wine and I made the pizza.

I made the dough – I let it rise, punched it down and shaped it into pizza crust.  I made the sauce, from tomatoes I canned last summer and I chopped the veggies and cooked the sausage. I put it all together and cooked it in my oven. 

I made the wine. I fermented the grape juice (I did not grow, crush or stomp on the grapes, but I did research their origin for the style and taste I was looking for). I cleared and stabilized the wine and I bottled it all by myself. 

FYI, my wine has a fraction of the sulfites and no added sugars or preservatives than store-bought wine – so it’s much healthier.

It took about 4 months for the wine (most of that is aging), and 2 hours for the pizza (most of that is waiting for the dough to rise). 

So why did I do this?

Good question. I did this because I — wondered what would happen if — I made a meal completely from scratch (ok, maybe not 100% completely, but close), and I was tired of frozen pizza, take out and eating stuff filled with preservatives and all the other stuff.

Plus, since I have been making wine – which is all about the yeast – I thought why not make some pizza. I used to have a fear of making anything with yeast, but since I’ve been making my own wine, beer, cider, root beer and even kombucha, I figured it was a silly fear.

In fact, it turns out I have many fears about cooking. 

Each fall I can many of the veggies from my garden. Usually tomatoes, beans, carrots etc. I follow the directions for canning and I store everything in a cool, dark basement, and yet when I open a jar of pickles, tomato sauce or dilly beans I wonder if I’ll get botulism. 

I suspect I am not the only one with this fear.

I Made This – Pizza and Wine!

Pizza crust:

4 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.5 cups water at 110°

Mix dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer is easiest but a hand mixer will work. You can also use a food processor, but I don’t have one and don’t really know what settings to use. I suspect there are some directions that come with it.

Slowly add the water and oil to the dry mixture and mix until it is all incorporated. Remove from the mixing bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface. Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover. Place in a warm area and rise until doubled, about an hour. 

After dough has risen cut into quarters and let rest for at least 10 minutes. 

Shape on cookie sheet or pizza stone and add your toppings.

I Made This Pizza and Wine

Pizza Sauce:

I used my own canned tomato sauce with garlic, basil, oregano and onions, but you can use tomato paste, water and add herbs to taste. Canned tomato sauce will also work. I threw in an extra can of diced tomatoes because I didn’t have any crushed tomatoes. I added about 2 tablespoons of sugar to the tomato sauce to cut the acid taste and then I boiled it down to thicken it up.

Toppings:

Thinly sliced green pepper, sliced black olives, sliced mushrooms, sliced red onions, mozzarella cheese. 

Cook in a 425° oven for 10-12 minutes. 

Enjoy!

So I made this pizza and wine, because it turns out the stuff I make is much better than the same stuff from a box or the freezer.

What have you made?

 

 

Blogging Food Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Instant Pot Pea Soup with Lentils in 9 minutes

January 11, 2018
Instant Pot Pea Soup with Lentils in 9 minutes

Here’s another quick and easy recipe for your new pressure cooker – Instant Pot Pea Soup with Lentils in 9 minutes. Yep, 9 minutes to make a hearty, protein rich soup that would normally take an hour or so on the stove top.

Nothing brings back warm memories than pea soup. Growing up we had this for dinner at least once a month during the winter months. In Minnesota that’s half the year. My brother and I hated pea soup – probably because of the name and the way it looked. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I actually started liking it. It was probably no surprise that I liked it at that point because I am a better cook than my mother.

I make pea soup every year after Christmas. I usually have so much ham leftover I can also make my Instant Pot Ham and Wild Rice Soup (I really need to get an additional Instant Pot for that much leftovers. 

If you didn’t get an Instant Pot for Christmas you can get one here, this is the one I have – Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker – but they’re all great. It’s so much more than a pressure cooker. It is also a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer. I’m pretty sure it can walk the dog.

This Instant Pot Pea Soup with Lentils in 9 minutes recipe is super simple, super easy, and super forgiving. If you don’t like some of the ingredients, just eliminate them or put something else in. 

Instant Pot Pea Soup with Lentils in 9 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag split peas rinsed – any color
  • 1 bag lentils rinsed
  • 1 onion
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 cups diced ham
  • 8 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tobasco or Melinda’s Hot Pepper Sauce to taste (Optional)
  • Sour Cream for garnish

Putting it all together:

I start with a mirepoix (diced veggies – usually carrots, onions and celery) and toss it in the Instant Pot and hit the sauté setting for about 3-4 minutes. I just want to sweat the veggies a little. 

mirepoix

Rinse peas and lentils until the water runs clear. I never used to do this, I figured it had been rinsed at the plant, but I’ve found it makes a superior soup if you rinse the dried peas.  From there I throw in both bags of peas and lentils and pour in the water and secure the cover.

Use the manual setting and set for 9 minutes on high pressure. Make sure the pressure valve is in the closed position. It takes my instant pot 15 mintues or so to pressurize and seal and then start cooking. 

(Apparently, I forgot to take anymore pictures of the process…duh)

Do a slow release of pressure – basically don’t open the valve. When it’s depressurized open the lid and stir your soup. 

This is when I add the diced ham. I used to just throw it all in the pot and cook the hell out of the ham and that was a mistake. The ham has been cooked so all you need to do is warm it up. And it will warm up enough in the hot soup. 

Serve in bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream. Don’t skip the sour cream, it adds an amazing flavor to the soup and makes it even creamier. 

Instant Pot Pea Soup with Lentils in 9 minutes

Tips:

After the soup has cooled enough I usually freeze 2/3rds of it in individual servings. I freeze them in Ziploc bags because they’re easy to store in the Freezer but you can use plastic containers too. Whatever works. 

My daughter does not like pea soup so it usually takes me a year to finish this huge batch. Be sure to mark your container with the name and date. I play hard and fast with sell by dates and use by dates, but you’ll still want to know what it is and when you froze it. 

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Dumb Shit I Do Food Minnesota Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Instant Pot Ham and Wild Rice Soup

January 3, 2018
Instant Pot Ham and Wild Rice Soup

Happy New Year! This year I’m starting off with an Instant Pot ham a wild rice soup recipe. I make all kinds of soups during the holidays. Usually because there are so many leftovers from the holiday meals, but also because it’s so damn cold. Currently it’s about -14°. That’s Minnesota, and that’s why we make things like Tater Tot Hot Dish. It’s also probably why we drink.

Anyway, Ham and Wild Rice Soup is a staple around the holidays. As any good Minnesotan knows, the best ham and wild rice soup comes from Byerly’s and this recipe relies heavily on their recipe which you can find here. I love this soup so hard, but it’s got a lot more salt than I can tolerate so I have made some adjustments to the original. I use a ton more onion, no chicken brother (because I didn’t look at the recipe when I made it, and didn’t have any), and possibly more sherry than it calls for. It’s a forgiving recipe that can easily be tailored to your tastes. 

Here is my altered version of this recipe with instructions for the Instant Pot:

Instant Pot Ham and Wild Rice Soup

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 chopped carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

3 cups wild rice prepared (I used leftover wild rice from Christmas dinner, it had water chestnuts and mushrooms in it which I think added some lovely flavor and texture)

2 cups chopped ham

A couple of handfuls of slivered almonds

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup (ish) dry sherry

Water

Putting it all together:

Make a mirepoix with the onions, celery and carrots using the sauté setting on the Instant Pot. Don’t let them brown, you just want to bring out the flavor of each ingredient. 

mirepoix

Add the ham, wild rice and enough water to cover the ingredients. 

instantpot ham wild rice soup recipe

Set the Instant Pot on manual high pressure for 5 minutes and let cook.

Do a quick pressure release and when safe to open add your almonds, flour, half and half and sherry. I simply mixed the flour with the half and half but you could mix it with the sherry too or mix all of them together. You may need to add additional water or if you prefer chicken broth.

Cook using the sauté setting until the soup has thickened to your liking. 

Ham and wild rice soup

That’s it! Serve with the leftover rolls and you’ve got a scrumptious meal for these fridgid days.

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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.