Posts Tagged ‘home cooking’
It’s been two weeks since I completed the first step of making beer at home with the Mr. Beer kit. The mixture has been ‘brewing’ in the brew keg, and today I washed the (furnished) bottles and caps with the special “no dry” was solution that comes with the kit.
The kit includes tablets (made of sugar and wheat) to stimulate carbonation, and for these size bottles, you use two tabs per bottle. Drop those in.
Open the spigot on the keg, tilt each bottle to the tap and fill to within two inches from the top, screw on the caps.
Now more waiting – another 14 – 21 days is required for the beer to be completely ready and carbonated, and you can check if they are ready by squeezing the bottles – a completely hard bottle means it’s ready!
Chill and consume. Repeat.
mr beer reviews
When the good folks at MrBeer approached me and asked if I would like to try out their home brew kit, I said “heck yes!” America has gone “beer crazy” the past few years, with all the micro-brews, gastropubs, and specialty drinks.
You can’t get much more ‘micro’ and artisan than brewing your own at home!
Mr Beer started over 20 years ago in Dallas – a budding entrepreneur wanted to figure out a way for the public to make quality beer, easily, at home. After developing the concept and taking it successfully to market, he sold the company to a Phoenix businessman, who continued to build the business and taking it to the next level, ultimately creating a global brand when he sold it to Australia’s Cooper Brewery in 2011.
Coopers is Australia’s largest family owned brewery, and was established in 1862. Their brewing expertise has helped expand Mr. Beer to be able to offer over a hundred popular brews, from basic American style lagers, to seasonal beers, fruity quaffs, hard ciders, and even root beer!
If you’re new to home brewing, like I was (but I won’t be anymore, it’s soooooooo easy!), start with one of Mr. Beer’s complete kits that include everything you need to get started: ingredients, brewing vessel, bottles, caps, printed instructions and a “how to video” that comes in English, French, and Spanish. Kits come with the capacity to make between two and six gallons.
There are just a few steps to your first batch. MrBeer makes it so easy, that if you can boil water, you can make beer (or apparently, sometimes help deliver a baby, I am told).
Everything you need for your first batch is included in the kits. The first step is to insert the ‘tap’ into the brewing vessel, and then proceed to clean the vessel with the included cleanser, which doesn’t require any rinsing. Put some cold water in the keg, dissolve the cleanser, swirl, drain.
In the meantime, you’re boiling a couple cups of water while running the included can of hops/malt mixture under hot water to make the thick contents a little more viscous.
Fill the vessel with cold water in the amount instructed (it depends on which size of kit you purchased), open the can of mixture and stir into the boiling water, which you have removed from the heat.
When it’s thoroughly mixed, at it to the brewing vessel and add the remaining water as instructed. Dump in the included envelope of yeast, cover, and let sit two weeks.
So check back here in a couple weeks and we’ll show you how to handle the bottling part, and later, the drinking part! This is SOOOOO easy, even for me, a “kitchen idiot!”
Home Brewed Beer with Mr. Beer Review
(Mr. Beer furnished the kit and supplies for me to try their product).
Kim Harvey may well be the woman of my dreams – inventor, entrepreneur, kitchen magician, bakery brainiac, yard yoda – she has all the bases covered.
Ms Harvey reached out and asked me if I’d like to try out her “Microwave Magic” cookware – patented technology to cook burgers (and other foods) in your microwave in minutes.
With proprietary technology, the unit steams, vents and browns ground beef with less mess and hassle than your usual cooking methods.
That’s right, no spattering grease or clean up from a skillet, no pre-heating your outdoor BBQ just to use for a couple of minutes.
As the internet’s acknowledged “burger expert” (LOL), I admit I was skeptical. If you’re a regular reader, you know that even if I have a product that CAN be microwaved, I usually opt for the conventional oven method.
So the trial began. I took a pound of 85/15 chuck and divided it into four portions and pre-seasoned (Generally Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning). The utensil has three pieces – a collection tray, the burger tray, and cover. The burger tray has pinholes in the bottom of the wells to allow fat to drip through to the collection tray – and yes, that means a healthier burger, as well!
Since this is the first time I have used this tool, I experimented with time, and after six minutes in a 1000w microwave, I produced a perfect medium well burger. I was amazed, truly, starting to eat the burgers, that there was absolutely no taste or texture difference than if I had fried or grilled the burgers. In the pic, you’ll even notice the patty browning, generally associated with direct heat cooking!
Here’s the even better news. A minute in soapy water and the Microwave Magic cookware is clean and ready to go. No wiping the range top, no scraping the grill grates. Sweet.
Microwave Magic kitchen tools will soon be available at selected outlets everywhere including TV shopping channels; until then, get ’em here. Dishwasher safe, unbreakable, and made in the USA! Highly recommended.
Microwave Magic Cookware
I don’t remember the last time I made lasagna at home….it’s been years. During the reign of the late Mrs BurgerDogBoy, the dish was pretty much her purview. Before she set out to actually try and kill me, she messed with me once by trying to sneak turkey Italian sausage past me in the dish, and it wasn’t out of a health concern, but merely because that’s what the store she went to had, and she being she, was far too lazy to venture on to another store. Whatever.
My recipe is far more elaborate and work than it need be, as with all my pasta dishes, the red gravy (meat sauce) is the thing. My basic recipe is here, and it’s best consumed or otherwise used the 2nd day.
I cook down a buncha Roma tomatoes (with a cup of red wine), simultaneously sauteeing chopped garlic, onions, fennel, oregano, and basil. Brown a pound of 80/20 ground beef and a pound of hot Italian sausage, combining with the sauteed vegetables for 20-30 minutes before adding to the cooked down tomatoes. You may desire to toss in a small can of tomato paste (or commercial sauce) as a thickener, but not too much, and avoid ones that have added sugar.
Layer lasagna noodles, meat sauce, spinach leaves and mozzarella/provolone cheese mix, repeat until you reach the top of your baking dish (I like my lasagna deep). I don’t use ricotta, obviously. I like the flavor and texture imparted from the traditional Italian cheeses. My mother used to substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta, but only probably because nobody in our town had ever heard of ricotta back then. We barely had heard of Italy.
Bake an hour at 350. (BTW, I use “oven ready” lasagna noodles – no boiling required). Let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. Or cut into serving size pieces, put in ziplocs or tupperware and freeze.
I used to have a couple thousand dollars worth of barbecuing gear. Got disposed of when I wasn’t looking to fuel somebody’s addictions. Oh, well. So I’ve been looking at smokers again, and I spotted these “in oven smoking bags” made by Camerons. They are a couple-three bucks, and come in a wide variety of woods: hickory, mesquite, apple, alder and others. They are widely available online, but I found them at Gander Mountain (locator).
The instructions are somewhat idiot proof. The bags contain wood chips, seasoning, and hardwood syrup. Open the bag, fill the bag with food, place in pre-heated oven, heat for appointed amount of time, remove bag from oven, remove food from bag. I thought I’d try pork chops and salmon.
(There is a caution on the bag to be aware of California Proposition 65. I’m too lazy or disinterested to look that up, however.
I will have to look up some “recipes” however, to see if I can figure an appropriate time and temp for these projects. There are some suggestions on the package, but not for what I have in mind. By the way, relevant to nothing? These bags are made in Finland. (The country, not the town in Minnesota).
The packaging is deceptive, the actual foil package is about 2-3x larger than the sleeve it comes in. I wasn’t expecting that. The bag is big enough for a small chicken or roast, for sure.
Very detailed instructions, and some recipes, are included. Basically, it calls for preheat to 475, put bag on lowest shelf, then reduce heat to 375 for balance of cooking time.
I put in four salmon filets, brushed with butter, and some fresh dill sprigs, for about 25 minutes total. This worked out well, and besides, no mess! Just toss the bag when you are done! It’s not a really heavy smoke, but it’s present and flavorful.
Oven smoking recipe
The other day I wrote about popping my cherry with home meal delivery service, HelloFresh. I had received a pack of three meals (for two persons), a salmon meal, which I reviewed, chicken with orange glob, and peppercorn steak. I made the chicken but won’t bother to review it, despite following the recipe to the ‘t’, the orange flavor wasn’t really present, and the chicken was kind of rubbery. I didn’t spend enough time with the packaging, but it sure had the texture of being one of those “may contain a solution…” products. Those proteins are beyond my palate. The raw fennel/lettuce/orange salad (with white wine vinegar and EVOO) was good, but I have made that many times in the past.
The peppercorn steak? A piece of beef, a sauce made from shallots, stock, water, pepper and sour cream, roasted potatoes, and creamed spinach, also with sour cream. Spinach was great, sauce was easy, but I personally think a whole shallot in less than a half cup of sauce is going to be a rather strong flavor hit for most people.
Potatoes are fine, but oven roasted potatoes are something else I frequently make at home. I added some diced garlic prior to baking, as that’s the way I like them.
The recipe called for pan frying the steak for four minutes a side, which I did, and produced a steak in the rare category. This is a very lean piece of meat, and those who insist that beef flavor comes from fat may be disappointed. I was disappointed that there were a couple of streaks of gristle.
The steak is a step up from say, Omaha Steaks or Schwans, and a step down from your local (the real kind, not the grocery one) butcher. Overall, it is a pretty well-balanced meal, and my favorite of the three I received.
I won’t be joining their plan, at about $11.50 a plate, I think I can do better at the grocery, and since with these “kits” one has to prepare and cook the ingredients, there is really no benefit for me.
Also? I think it would be better if the recipe cards were larger, with each step illustrated by photos, and a larger font. That’s all.
Hello Fresh Review
Hello Fresh Review
Mahi Mahi? Isn’t that dolphin? No, but you sure hear that from a lot of people. The common name (Mahi Mahi is Hawaiian) is dolphinfish (one word), and like so many things in the English language, similar words cause confusion. This fish is no relation to Flipper. It is also known widely as Dorado.
The fish are found in warm off-shore waters, can live to be five years old, grow to twenty pound and can be very colorful. (Picture left).
Trader Joes sells a pack of four Mahi Mahi burgers in their frozen aisle, and they can be done on the grill, pan fried, or baked. I opted for the skillet, 4-5 minutes each side say the instructions.
The ingredients are very straightforward, mostly the fish, with a little oil, spices, canola oil.
It’s attractive in appearance for a ‘fish-burger’, tho not right out of the box.
I dressed mine with White Castle tartar sauce and Vlasic Dill Pickle Chips, with a pinch of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (I put it on most things, in fact). Delicious.
These are easy to fix, low in cals, fats, and carbs. A good alternative to beef patties for your kids, let them decorate it the way they want.
Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger
A few years ago, I was offered a job running a home meal delivery company; it was an interesting concept, but there were bound to be some chemistry problems with the founders, so I passed. But I have noted the growth of the segment over the years, and how many different niches the industry has broadened into. You can get fully prepared, heat and eat, or cook yourself meals sent to your home monthly, school lunches for kids, special diets for diabetics, gluten free, low carb, whatever.
HelloFresh.com delivers fresh meal ingredients and recipes to your home weekly – in packs of meals for two, four, or more. The cost is about $11.00 per plate. Each box contains ingredients for three meals. The company claims the meal ingredients are fresh, wholesome, and healthier than purchasing ingredients elsewhere.
The price is pretty spendy compared to many other programs. To compare equally however, be advised that HelloFresh includes all ingredients needed, while some other programs require you to supplement with fresh vegetables and fruit that you purchase locally.
I can’t tell you much about the company, there isn’t an “About” section on their website, nor does their contact info reveal their physical location. I don’t really like doing business with e-companies who don’t list a physical location – that’s just a personal quirk with me.
I was able to ascertain through other resources that the company was originally a German start-up, and has raised hundreds of millions to expand globally. It has a number of competitors in the segment. (Plated, Blue Apron).
Someone thought I should try this service out, so I received one week’s shipment ($69 value), three meals for two:
- Chicken a l’Orange with couscous
- Peppercorn Steak with spinach and new baby red potatoes
- Roasted Salmon with cherry tomatoes and green beans
Below are pics of the entire package, how the meals are packaged, and a spread of the Chicken a l’Orange meal ingredients and recipe card.
If you’re interested in these kind of programs, do a little search online, and you’ll find heavily discounted introductory offers, enabling you to try them out at a more reasonable cost before committing to a long term delivery program.
I don’t understand why all of the companies offer only three meals per week, but I am sure their research bore that out – maybe people eat out the rest of the time, or dive into leftovers?
The “meals” are not packaged with the ingredients together – instead there is a “protein portion” in the box, and a produce/fruit/starch portion of the box. Especially if you are trying to reach people who are not very proficient in the kitchen, but want to be, I’d package ingredients together and dumb down the recipes. Just my opinion.
Ingredients are furnished by boutique suppliers, the beef comes from USDA Estb. M5221-P5221 Home Food Services of PA, Bristol, PA 19007 (pictured below). They are also in the home meal delivery service, looks like the are similar to Schwans.The Chicken is from P18414 MB Consultants LTD, South Fallsburg, NY 12779. No indication on the salmon.
As I started to say above, cooking, assembly is easy enough for an accomplished cook, but not so much for beginners. While the ingredients are “quality,” portions are small, and at $11 per plate, you could obtain much better value elsewhere, or even buying ‘heat and eat’ products at WalMart or your preferred local grocer.
The recipe cards list 7-8 steps, although that is kind of deceptive, as each “step” may require 3-4 steps. I don’t think the instructions are simplified enough for beginning cooks, as a phrase like “cook until fragrant” will mean nothing to most people. “Trim the green beans” might also be misunderstood. Also, beginning or inexperienced cooks might take the instructions as “absolute” and there is no such thing in cooking, as burgers and ovens are often operating at temperature variances, and gradations (low, medium) will vary from unit to unit as well.
The ingredients produce an attractive plate, and probably an ample serving, but for the time involved, and cost per serving, in my opinion, it’s not worth the trouble.
Olive Soup Recipe
Traveling in Eastern Europe, I became quite a fan of hearty soups, especially in Poland, where my one of my favorites became “Dill Pickle Soup.” I was thinking about it the other day, and thought, “hey, why not, olive soup?” So I gave it a try and it’s wonderful.
- 1 T Penna Crema Verde Olive Spread
- 2 T Penna Crema Negra Olive Spread
- 6 T EVOO
- 1 C pitted, unstuffed, diced, chopped olives (I used home brine cured fresh Penna greens)
- ½ medium onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Qt chicken stock
- 1 C heavy cream
- 6 T flour
- Seasonings to taste, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
Make a roux with 6 T flour and 3 T oil, cooked and stirred until it’s a dark paste.
Soak your diced olives in water for an hour to remove some of the salt, if desired.
Add 3 T oil, garlic, onion, and 2/3rds of the olives to a skillet, saute while stirring until the onions are sweated.
Take the skillet contents, along with 1 C of stock and puree in your food processor.
Place mix with balance of stock in sauce pan, simmer for 15 minutes, add cream.
Continue to simmer while adding the roux, stirring constantly until the soup thickens.
Add seasoning to taste, and garnish with remaining chopped olives.
(OK, garnishing with chopped olives didn’t work – they sunk!) This is a delicious soup on its own, but it might also be great if you use it as a base, adding rough chopped vegetables or salad shrimp!
Before there was “siracha” and “chipotle” everything, there was Vidalia Onion everything. Vidalia onions are sweet, and grown in certain areas of the U.S. state of Georgia, only. It has been Georgia’s official state vegetable for 25 years. Who knew states had official vegetables? Not many do, here’s as complete a list as we have found.
While the onions can only be grown in a small geographical area, products with their flavoring can be made anywhere, by anybody, as long as they meet certain content requirements. One can order the onions or said products online, of course.
There are any number of co-packers or contract manufacturers willing to slap your store or establishment name on their Vidalia onion product, and one that I picked up was from an Illinois farm product store, “Vidalia Onion Cucumber Dill” Salad Dressing.
Ingredients include: Soybean oil, Cucumbers, Water, Vidalia Onions, Cane Sugar, Vinegar, Egg Yolk, spices and preservatives, and comes in a 12 oz bottle.
The onion flavor is pronounced, and the dill subtle. For my taste, reversing those would be better. It’s very creamy tho, and will certainly please many. Vidalia Onion products are here to stay, not sure we can say the same for siracha and chipotle. One hopes not.
I eat fair amount of salad, especially with garden grown ingredients, and no matter how many different flavors are rolled out, my favorite dressing is still Litehouse Chunky Blue Cheese.