Thursday, May 4, 2017

Vinegar is One of the Secrets of Good Cooking

This is my vinegar of choice. There are many, many kinds of vinegar, but apple cider vinegar, unfiltered and unadulterated is a very nice vinegar with great flavor. If you read about what the makers and aficionados think of it you will think it is a super food. I do not hold with that, but using it to cook with is great. One example are my bbq beans. Here is a recipe what uses this vinegar.

A glug of oil or three pieces bacon diced 1/4 inch
One large (28 ounce) can pork and beans (any brand) drained and rinsed
One medium onion diced
One jalapeno pepper diced (seeds and stems removed)
Two garlic cloves minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Bbq Sauce
2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP dijon mustard (any kind you like)
2-4 TBSP apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil  or cook the bacon until it renders the fat in a pot and add the onion, garlic and pepper and saute until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Taste. Add honey, mustard or vinegar to adjust flavor. It does not take much salt, if any but fresh ground black pepper helps. Let simmer to meld the flavors. If want really deep flavors put in a slow cooker for 4 hours.

If you want to you can cook the beans in a pressure cooker first and then use with this recipe, but that is a lot of work. It is up to you. Cook about 1 pound of dry beans to have the amount you need for this. What kind? Pinto or kidney would both work for this dish. Doctor it as you wish, of course.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dragoon’s Beef Chili with Beans

Dragoon’s Beef Chili with Beans

1 can (28 oz) tomatoes, diced
1 lb thin sliced beef (stir-fry beef works great)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cans (15 oz) pinto beans
1 each onion (diced)
1 each red bell pepper cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 bottle beer (I used coors)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Ancho chile powder
1 Teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
½ tbsp cumin seed, ground
½ tbsp oregano
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
⅛ bunch cilantro (chopped)

  • Diced onion and red bell pepper and chop the garlic.
  • Heat oil in a large pot and add onion and red bell pepper. Sauté until onion starts to get soft.
  • Add garlic and all of the spices and tomato paste to the onion mixture and stir to combine and coat the vegetables. Cook until the spices have bloomed and it smells wonderful.
  • Add the meat into the mixture, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned on all sides.
  • Add the beer, the tomatoes and beans and stir it all together. Bring to a brisk boil and turn down to medium low and simmer until the beer has cooked out, 30-45 minutes, depending on how strong the beer is.
  • If you like it soupier add beef or chicken stock or even another beer, but I like it thick.
  • Add the cilantro.
  • Check flavor and add salt and pepper. I needed about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of ground black pepper to bring the flavors out.
  • Garnish with sour cream, cheese and/or jalapeno peppers, but I needed no additions.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Recipes Lie


Now, I love reading recipes. I collect recipes. I have two entire three ring binders of recipes in document protectors. Someday I will get around to organizing the things in a meaningful way but I am not retired yet. That said, as Anthony Bourdain said, “Recipes lie.” They lie in many ways.

First, is the number of servings you get out of the recipe. If you are serving children then maybe you can feed eight with a chicken, but more like four to be safe and even that may not be OK if one of those persons is me. I love chicken, especially a brined, well baked whole chicken.

Second, you cannot “caramelize onions” in under 45 minutes, and I like an hour. OK? So forget about that right now. You can get them a softened up and limp in about 10-15 minutes, but they will be pale and lack the flavor of truly caramelized onions until they are mahogany in color and have no crunch left. Got that? This is an article about the various levels of caramelization.

Not only do they lie about how long it takes to do many things, they may use ingredients like “Reduced sodium chicken stock” and (horrors) low fat butter substitutes. Just ignore that. Use unsalted butter, full fat chicken stock and full fat milk and cream (half and half works well for this as well). These have more flavor and are more healthy for you.

Everything in moderation. We all love sweets and many people love alcohol. You can’t eat sweets or drink if you are healthy, right? Wrong. A piece of pie or other dessert when you are out for your birthday or anniversary are fine. A large bowl of ice cream every night is not. Yes, that is a sacrifice, but there you have it. Enough of this preaching.

Do I follow recipes? Yes, no and maybe. If I am baking, then I follow the recipe to the ounce, gram or teaspoon. Baking is that way for me. If I am cooking most recipes are inspiration for me, not the gospel. A great example is the Pizza Sauce you will find in this book. Wine and red pepper flakes were not in the recipe. It used only chicken stock for deglazing the pan. Italian type food without some wine in the red sauce is just wrong as well as the pepper flakes. I did not think twice about using them, but in moderation. The sauce is awesome. It probably would have been fine without my additions, but I know it was better with them, and yours will be too.

There are some authors who simply really write good recipes. Bobby Flay, Ree Drummond and Jamie Oliver are some. Fuchsia Dunlop for Chinese food. There are others, many, but there are also a lot of hacks. Anyone can write a recipe, but it takes practice, testing and tasting to make really good, replicable recipes. The first web site I ever used for food was Chef John (not sure of his full name) is a great guy for home cooking recipes. Nothing I have made from his recipes has failed to impress me. The chili in this book is a riff on his Spicy Turkey Chili, but with beef and other stuff, but I learned to mix chili powder and other spices from this recipe, as well as they way to put the chili together in a way that tastes great.

You probably have recipes, cookbooks or memories from grandparents, parents or friends that are your favorites (as you see in this book) and that is great and I encourage it. These all invoke memories and connect us to our heritage. Keep them and used them, making them your own by making small changes or simply mastering them completely. It is really fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

It has been nearly 10 years since I blogged here about food. Hahahaha.. I thought I knew food then. I didn't. Since then I have fucked my life up and recovered. I have a degree in culinary arts now, but that was just the beginning of my rediscovering and maturing as a cook. Also, I found some old recipes I had forgotten about, which is cool, especially the Chicken Adobo. I need to review the rest of the posts and work on this blog.

Let's talk food for a moment. When I was writing this I was willing to buy frozen food in the supermarket and heat it up for dinner. I literally do not by anything frozen except fo vegetables or fruit now and then they have to be just that, no additives. All my food is made from scratch and I eat at most one fast food meal a week, and then from a known, trusted source. I am leaned to cook using very few recipes and rarely look at a cookbook any longer and if I do they are for inspiration.

Here is an example: Meatloaf

One to 2 pounds ground beef
2 TBSP oil
One medium to small onion (minced)
3-4 gloves garlic (minced)
2 TBSP worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup divided
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
1/2 or so cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

7Mince the onion and garlic (a small food processor is great for this) and heat the oil in a frying pan. Saute the onions and garlic until they are soft and fragrant. While this is going on mix the panko and milk in a small bowl and let it soak. Mix everything together in a bowl (reserving half the ketchup). Grease a medium loaf pan and slide the mixture into it. Smooth out and slather the rest of the ketchup on top. Put into the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes or until the center is about 155 degrees or more. Take out and let sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with boiled yellow potatoes and more ketchup and some roasted green beans.

Roasted green beans? Trim a pound of green beans. Toss with oil, salt and pepper and spread on a sheet pan. Put in the oven when the meatloaf is done and roast, stirring after 10 minutes, then taking out when they begin to caramelize (show brown spots). Delicious.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Quicky Burritos My Way

Today, with all of the things we have to do and lack of time for cooking easy recipes that come out good every time are necessary. That is the case with Quicky Burritos.

Ok, I said to use fresh ingredients, but this is a quick meal, so go to the grocery store and get a package of 10 frozen burritos or chimichangas, I really don't care what kind. Pick out something you like. Next, get a 12 to 15 oz can or jar of enchilada sauce, some shredded cheese (8 oz of four cheese Mexican works) and a can of crushed or other tomatoes.

You will need a glass or other baking pan, about 9 by 12 or so. Grease the pan. Open the burritos and put them in the pan. Arrange them as well as you can. Now, pour the tomatoes over the burritos and then the enchilada sauce. Cover with the cheese.

Put in oven on about 375 until the top is crusting over and the burritos are done. Put a fork in one toward the middle and hold it there for a while. If it comes out hot they are done. I know, the science of that is astounding.

Put a can of diced green chilies over the burritos as well.
Use salsa instead of enchilada sauce.
Use spicy Mexican stewed tomatoes.
Make your own burritos or enchiladas:

OK, this is not tough. Buy some chicken and cook it up, mostly white meat, but dark will work as well. Once done, bone it and shred it. You should have a couple of pounds of chicken to make this work. Add half a pound shredded cheese (see above), half a can or jar of enchilada sauce and a can of diced green chilies to the chicken and mix well. If you want, let this mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight. Get a package of flour or corn tortillas and put some of the mixture in each. Wrap them up and place them in a greased baking dish. Fill the dish and
cover with the rest of the enchilada sauce, some canned tomatoes and more cheese. Bake until done. You can replace the chicken with beef, pork or ostrich. OK, maybe not the ostrich.

This takes a lot more time and planning, but the results are superior to the manufactured ones!

Serve with salsa and sour cream and a good beer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Aging Meatloaf?

OK, tried a meatloaf recipe this week. I pulled it off the back of the Progresso Bread Crumbs. I will post it later. I used a bit too much pepper, but it turned out OK after sitting a while in the refrigerator. A lot of foods tend to taste better after you let them sit a day in the refrigerator. That happened with my previous meatloaf as well. This one has an Italian taste to it and the pepper overwhelmed the other flavors right after taking it out of the oven. After letting it sit in the fridge for two days I had it last night and it had mellowed a lot and was quite tasty.

This happens with a lot of food that involves the mixing and matching of ingredients like meat, veggies and spices, I think. Some flavors, of course, are great right out of the pot, but most of these and many of the slow cooker foods I make taste better the second time around.

I am making myself hungry.

Makers of Sodas Try a New Pitch: They're Healthy

This is an article on the New York Times about soda pop.


Published: March 7, 2007

Healthy soda?

That may strike some as an oxymoron. But for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, it's a marketing opportunity.

In coming months, both companies will introduce new carbonated drinks that are fortified with vitamins and minerals: Diet Coke Plus and Tava, which is PepsiCo's new offering.

They will be promoted as ''sparkling beverages.'' The companies are not calling them soft drinks because people are turning away from traditional soda, which has been hurt in part by publicity about its link to obesity.

While the soda business remains a $68 billion industry in the United States, consumers are increasingly reaching for bottled water, sparkling juices and green tea drinks. In 2005, the amount of soda sold in this country dropped for the first time in recent history. Even the diet soda business has slowed.

Coca-Cola's chief executive, E. Neville Isdell, clearly frustrated that his industry has been singled out in the obesity debate, insisted at a recent conference that his diet products should be included in the health and wellness category because, with few or no calories, they are a logical answer to expanding waistlines.

''Diet and light brands are actually health and wellness brands,'' Mr. Isdell said. He asserted that Diet Coke Plus was a way to broaden the category to attract new consumers.

Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark, a food and beverage consulting firm, said it was ''a joke'' to market artificially sweetened soft drinks as healthy, even if they were fortified with vitamins and minerals. Research by his firm and others shows that consumers think of diet soft drinks as ''the antithesis of healthy,'' he said.

These consumers ''comment on putting something synthetic and not natural into their bodies when they consume diet colas,'' Mr. Pirko said. ''And in the midst of a health and welfare boom, that ain't good.''

The idea of healthy soda is not entirely new. In 2004, Cadbury Schweppes caused a stir when it unveiled 7Up Plus, a low-calorie soda fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Last year, Cadbury tried to extend the healthy halo over its regular 7Up brand by labeling it ''100 percent natural.'' But the company changed the label to ''100 percent natural flavor'' after complaints from a nutrition group that a product containing high-fructose corn syrup should not be considered natural, and 7Up Plus has floundered.

The new fortified soft drinks earned grudging approval from Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group and frequent critic of regular soft drinks, which it has labeled ''liquid candy.''

''These beverages are certainly a lot better than a regular soft drink,'' he said. But he was quick to add that consumers were better off getting their nutrients from natural foods, rather than fortified soft drinks.

A survey by Morgan Stanley found that only 10 percent of consumers interviewed in 2006 considered diet colas a healthy choice, compared with 14 percent in 2003. Furthermore, 30 percent of the consumers who were interviewed last year said that they were reluctant to drink beverages with artificial sweeteners, up from 21 percent in 2004.

Even so, several industry analysts said soft drink makers were smart to experiment with new types of carbonated diet soft drinks to stimulate sales. Besides the vitamin-fortified diet sodas, PepsiCo is introducing Diet Pepsi Max, with increased caffeine and ginseng, and Coca-Cola has started a new marketing campaign for Coke Zero, emphasizing how closely it tastes to Coke Classic.

''Just to ignore it is not the answer,'' said Lauren Torres, an analyst at HSBC. ''You want to grow what you have going for you. That's an effort that they have to make.''

John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter, said it made sense for soft drink companies to ''tiptoe'' toward health and wellness, given consumer interest in low-calorie drinks and so-called functional beverages, which are supposed to deliver some health benefit beyond any basic nutritional value, like orange juice with added calcium.

Fortified sodas like the new Coke and Pepsi drinks will most likely remain a niche, Mr. Sicher said. But he predicted sales of diet soft drinks over all will increase in coming years with improved marketing, better taste and new products.

He noted that Diet Dr Pepper, made by Cadbury Schweppes, has grown quickly with a simple but effective marketing campaign that says it tastes like regular Dr Pepper, but without the calories.

''Consumers like a product with good taste and no calories,'' he said. Diet sodas ''will begin rebounding with all the diet innovation we are seeing and more marketing focus on diets.''

The number of cases of soft drinks sold continued to slide last year after its 2005 drop, said Mr. Sicher, who monitors industry sales data.

Over all, diet soda accounted for 29.6 percent of carbonated soft drink sales in 2005, up from 24.7 percent in 2000, Mr. Sicher said.

The efforts to turn around diet soda -- and soft drinks in general -- are particularly important for Coca-Cola, since, along with energy drinks, they account for 81 percent of the company's revenue worldwide. By contrast, Pepsi has diversified more into other food and beverage lines, including Frito-Lay, Quaker Oats and Gatorade. Soft drinks account for 31 percent of revenue for PepsiCo beverages in North America; Pepsi-Cola, however, remains by far the company's largest brand worldwide.

Diet Coke Plus will be introduced this spring, and will cost the same as regular Diet Coke. Tava will be available to consumers this fall; PepsiCo officials say they have not determined the price.

In discussing the sluggishness in diet soda sales, Dawn Hudson, president and chief executive of Pepsi-Cola North America, noted that over the last decade, consumers grew tired of drinking nothing but colas like Coke and Pepsi and sought other beverages. She said the diet category was more ''cola-centric'' and provided fewer alternatives than regular soda.

But recently, she said, noncola diet drinks like Diet Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist Free have done well.

Tava, the new drink, will be lightly carbonated and offer exotic flavors, she said. It will contain vitamins B3, B6 and E, and chromium.

''Lower-calorie beverages are clearly the growth area,'' she said.

Katie Bayne, senior vice president for Coca-Cola Brands at Coca-Cola North America, said lackluster marketing and lack of innovation hurt the diet category. But she too predicted that new products and clever marketing would reinvigorate diet sales.

''In today's world, it's not about what we choose to sell, but what consumers want,'' Ms. Bayne said. Diet Coke Plus -- which will contain niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc -- ''is right for a certain group of consumers,'' she said.

While it is too soon to know whether consumers will buy the idea of a vitamin-fortified diet soda, soft drink companies are trying to find other ways to reposition their products as healthy. For instance, all of the major soft drink companies are furiously trying to develop a no-calorie natural sweetener to allay concerns about artificial sweeteners.

''I think it is the holy grail,'' said Ms. Hudson of Pepsi-Cola. ''But it has to taste great.''