Dump-it-in-there Chili v1.0

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Chili con carne with fresh Rosemary and Baking Cocoa Powder
Note: For now, links in this post are not affiliate links. If that changes, we’ll let you know.

Chili (con carne)! One of our favorite foods to make in the slow cooker—hm, no, let’s not kid ourselves… One of our favorite foods to make. Period. It’s fun because you can just dump everything in the slow cooker and keep adding and adjusting flavors as it cooks. You get plenty of time to evolve the flavors, blend them in, and see what makes sense to add or what’s missing from it.

For us, chili always varies a little depending on what we have in the pantry and fridge. Cans of tomatoes with sauce, tomatoes with green chilies, corn, kidney beans… Then your freshly-chopped jalapeños, onions, carrots… And seasoning with whatever makes you happy—but that still goes well together, of course… You don’t have to, but why would you do that to yourself?—Here, I used adobo, extra salt & pepper, gochugaru, hot Hungarian paprika… Italian seasoning? Indeed. Extra garlic powder, fresh minced garlic… And as shown in the above image, fresh rosemary, (chopped very finely to let it blend into the chili), and baking cocoa powder (unsweetened; not sure sweetened would work well for a chili).

Side note: Dave got the idea to use chocolate for the chili from Cincinnati chili—the one that’s used as a topping for spaghetti… Which still makes me shiver, but alas, my husband likes it.

Dave reminded me afterwards that I had forgotten to add cumin, a staple of chili, so we sprinkled some in after serving… Quick recovery, (certainly wouldn’t have blended in as well as if it had been cooked in, but quick recovery nonetheless).

The best part about having a multi-purpose slow/pressure cooker? You can sear the meat in the slow cooker itself before you start dumping the rest of the ingredients in it. If you are one to embrace the joy of diminished mess, you’ve reached home ♡ Back to the meat, I seared ground beef with a splash of chicken stock. We usually prefer, (for all intents and purposes, not just chili), less than or equal to 85% lean beef for greater flavor, but if you don’t want as much fat or having to drain the fat, you can use a leaner option. For the time being, though, I can’t say with full certainty that I saw (tasted) added value to the searing with chicken stock—personally, Dave’s drifting away from using chicken stock due to its pungent flavor and scent, and I share a bit on his view, though perhaps to a lesser extent.

Finally, two tricks we particularly like to do for chili:

  1. If the chili is too watery/thin, you can use a thickener such as corn starch or, our favorite, corn meal/flour such as Harina PAN or Goya’s Mazarepa.
  2. If the overall flavor of the chili is too heavy from all the meat and sauces, I like to lighten/brighten it a bit with lime.

So as I mentioned above, as the chili slow-cooks, you can keep tasting the chili and think about whatever flavors/kicks it might be missing and continue to add items as needed. My suggestion is: add little by little to make sure you don’t over do it or accidentally overpower items you didn’t intend to.

The slow cooker is your canvas. Have fun.

Happy splattering, 
Kika & Dave

Dump-it-in-there Chili v1.0

  • Servings: 4+
  • Time: ~6 hrs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This first iteration of our Chili con carne does not have actual measurements yet—it was mostly written from memory—so feel free to experiment and add items little by little. Since it takes a while to cook, you have plenty of time to tweak throughout the whole cooking process.

Always prep the ingredients before beginning to cook!

Equipment

  • Slow cooker (with a searing option if possible)

Ingredients for the Beef

  • Ground Beef (~1.5 lbs; 85% lean)
  • Chicken Stock (optional; a splash; either salted or unsalted)
  • Adobo seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Gochugaru

Ingredients for the Chili

  • Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce (1 large can)
  • Tomatoes with Green Chilies (1-2 regular cans)
  • Corn (1-2 small cans)
  • Kidney Beans (1-2 regular cans)
  • Jalapeños (~2; finely chopped)
  • Onions (~1; finely chopped)
  • Carrot (~1 large one; finely chopped)
  • Adobo seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Gochugaru (to taste)
  • Hot Hungarian Paprika (to taste)
  • Italian Seasoning (to taste)
  • Garlic Powder (to taste)
  • Minced Garlic (to taste)
  • Rosemary (to taste; very finely chopped)
  • Baking Cocoa Powder (unsweetened; to taste)
  • Corn Meal / Flour (white; to taste)
  • Lime (squeezed juice; to taste)

Directions

A. Searing the Beef

  1. Turn on the searing setting on the slow cooker.
  2. Once it’s hot enough, (test by flicking in a few water dropletsdrop in the ground beef.
  3. Add the following items to taste:
    • Chicken Stock (optional; a splash; either salted or unsalted)
    • Adobo seasoning
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Gochugaru
  4. Once the beef has browned, turn on the slow cooker setting.
  5. Proceed to step B.

B. Making the Chili

  1. Drop the prepped Chili ingredients in the slow cooker:
    • Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce (1 large can)
    • Tomatoes with Green Chilies (1-2 regular cans)
    • Corn (1-2 small cans)
    • Kidney Beans (1-2 regular cans)
    • Jalapeños (~2; finely chopped)
    • Onions (~1; finely chopped)
    • Carrot (~1 large one; finely chopped)
  2. Season with/add the following ingredients to taste:
    • Adobo seasoning
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Gochugaru
    • Hot Hungarian Paprika
    • Italian Seasoning
    • Garlic Powder
    • Minced Garlic
    • Rosemary (very finely chopped)
    • Baking Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
    • Corn Meal / Flour (white)
    • Lime (squeezed juice)
  3. Continue to mix & taste for the remainder of the slow-cooker timer (~6 hours).

C. Serve

  1. Serve in a bowl to keep warm.
  2. Top with any of the following:
    • Cheese
    • Lime
    • Corn Tortillas
  3. Enjoy.

fin


References

[1] “Chili con carne” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_con_carne
[2] “Cincinnati chili” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnati_chili

Our First Apple Pie

Our first apple pie! Made from hand-picked McIntosh apples. It was fun.

In order to make our first apple pie, we went looking for apple pie dishes. We found some that were priced over $70, which made us chuckle while exclaiming a, “ho ho, rich people! Ohh… Haha {tear}.” We then went to Bed Bath & Beyond and came across this pie plate* which already came with a recipe on it and cost only ~$10. Sooo, yeah! We went with that. It became obvious rather quickly that you had to take a picture of the recipe in order to use it, though, unless you have some mad memory skillz

All in all, we were happy. We used our hand-picked McIntosh apples, and it wasn’t a revolutionary, dethrown-the-Gods-from-Olympus sort of deal, but it was a pretty yummy pie for a first try, especially when warm—even when reheated, which is a big plus!—and it was easy to make. I will admit I thought it was a bit too salty at first, though Dave liked it that way. On the plus side, though, he found this Alton Brown Whipped Cream Recipe which balanced the flavors a lot better. I was surprised by how simple it was to make this whipped cream recipe by hand—I mean, Dave did it, not taking credit here or anything, but it turned out to be pretty easy for him to make.

The crust was a bit tough—crumbly?—to maneuver, drier than I expected—and yes, I expected Play-Doh consistency, not sure yet if this makes sense or not—but then you just roll it into your flat circle, cut stripes, and then you interlace the stripes (carefully so they don’t fall apart). I will say, though, that even reheated it was purty good. Gosh darn, now I want pie.

* Just sharin’; not an affiliate link.

Warm wishes,
Kika & Dave.

References

[1] Bed Bath & Beyond Pie Plate with Recipe Link, https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/product/10-inch-decorative-ceramic-apple-pie-plate/1046872531?Keyword=apple+pie+plate
[2] Whipped Cream Recipe by Alton Brown at FoodNetwork.com, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/whipped-cream-recipe.html

Spaghetti alla Carbonara + Asparagus Casserole

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Asparagus with Cheese Casserole
Dave’s first attempt at Spaghetti alla Carbonara plus a side of Asparagus with Cheese Casserole
Unrelated note: We got a new tile background at Home Depot and were super excited to it try out for the picture.

Sunday November 20th, 2016

Dear Blag,

On a weekend much like this one, except with a different date… Since it was last weekend… Dave (!) got around to finally trying a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara[1].

“The tricky aspect about making carbonara,” he said, “is that the sauce is primarily made of egg, which is dropped raw into the pasta—after drained—and mixed vigorously. If you drop it in too early, when the pasta is still too hot, your risk getting scrambled eggs. If you drop it in too late, with the pasta cooled past a certain point, you risk having raw egg in your pasta. You want to mix it in just at the right moment so that the heat of the pasta combined with the stirring turns the eggs into a nice, creamy sauce.”*

Thursday November 24th, 2016

Dear Blag,

Sorry I didn’t finish my thoughts the other day. Right now we’re super full from my in-laws’ awesomely** delicious Thanksgiving lunch (linner? Since we’re too full for dinner?) to think of much more to add to the carbonara story. Althoooough, long story short, we re-added the pasta to the pan because it seemed like the egg was still a bit raw. Dave thinks it was due to the recipe asking for eggs at room temperature, and ours were still cold from the fridge… The re-throwing in the pan is typically a big no-no, but fortunately the pasta was still pretty creamy afterwards, even though the picture makes it look drier than it was.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is essentially eggs, cheese (some variation of parmesan and/or pecorino), bacon (we used pancetta), and black pepper. There’s different stories behind the origin of pasta carbonara, with perhaps the word “carbonara” implying it was eaten by coal workers or maybe that the black pepper resembled coal flakes.[2][3] Overall, the general consensus seems to be that the dish originated around the mid-20th century in the Lazio region of Italy, which is where my dad’s family is from! And which is where Rome is too. So there you go.

Here’s the recipe for the Spaghetti Carbonara, from the NY Times Cooking section. Below is the recipe for a super quick side dish of Asparagus with Cheese Casserole, which I’m not entirely sure it can be considered a casserole since it’s not cooked slowly, but let’s call it a casserole. It’s one of my favorite side dishes to make to add some greens to the plate.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving,
Kika & Dave.

* I used quotations, though I might’ve embellished his words a bit since it’s been a week already… Still has the “Dave Seal of Approval,” though.
** This is an actual word?? Adverb. Sweet.

Cheesy Asparagus Casserole

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 10min
  • Difficulty: Super Easy
  • Print

One of my favorite side dishes to make. Please do not be intimidated by the complexity of this recipe.

Equipment

  • Oven Broiler
  • 9×9 Metal Cake Pan or Casserole Dish (if you have a larger size, just push the asparagus to one side)

Ingredients

  • Asparagus (2 cans, 15 oz.)
  • Sliced Cheese (my preference is ‘Murican Cheese, Dave likes Asiago)
  • Butter (regular, salted)

Directions

  1. Open Asparagus cans.
  2. Drain liquid from Asparagus cans.
  3. Place asparagus in pan/dish; stack in layers of 2-3 asparagus.
  4. Throw in specs/dollops of butter (evenly spaced) over the asparagus.
  5. Place slices of American Cheese over the butter/asparagus stack; (enough so to cover them, layers of 1-2 slices).
  6. Place in the oven. Set to broil high.
  7. Watch until the cheese is browned. (Only a couple of minutes).

fin


References

[1] “Spaghetti Carbonara” by Ian Fisher from New York Times Cooking http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12965-spaghetti-carbonara
[2] “Carbonara” Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonara
[3] “History of Spaghetti Carbonara” by Clifford Wright at CliffordAWright.com http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/4/id/117/

TIL: Korean Crushed Red Pepper ≠ US Crushed Red Pepper

Spicy Pork Bulgogi
Our first attempt at Spicy Pork Bulgogi! Ok so, not quite like at my favorite Korean places, but still purty good first attempt, with a donkey’s kick worth of heat.

Gochugaru (고추가루)

Monday November 7th, 2016

This past weekend we had some friends over for an evening of at-home cooking. Jeremiah made yet another awesome apple strudel and Dave made some Moscow mules, a tortilla soup, and our first attempt at spicy pork bulgogi. Unfortunately, there was no belly space left for Alex’s eggies in a basket to commemorate the 5th of November.

The reason why we’re sharing this post today, though, is because of the spicy pork bulgogi. We followed a pretty good recipe from Food.com that is also absurdly/amazingly simple to follow—literally mix the ingredients, let marinade for a while, then dump it in the pan and cook at medium high heat, serve (preferably with white rice).

ERROR #1: The recipe says to use “2 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes.” Dave says, “Hm, we don’t have Korean red pepper flakes… Should we just use regular flakes?” I say, “YEEaaaahhh, use regular.” David hesitates. I insist, “Just use regular! It’s fiiiineee…”

ERROR #2: David suggests using just one tablespoon of pepper flakes—this coming from a guy that doesn’t consider heat to be heat unless it’s “hotter than an Indian summer on Alderaan”… (I give up, this is the pun you get). But then again, his suggestion was also in consideration of our friends. AND STILL, I say, “No Dave, one must follow a recipe and then modify accordingly.” Haha, foolish Kika *says mildly-wiser Kika to less knowledgeable Kika from the past through psychic exchanges*

You might be able to conclude from this that the dish packed more heat than needed—or less!?!? No, it was more… Oh sorry, you were trying to guess.. Well, forget what I said and guess again. *Reader makes a guess out loud* You’re correct! It probably packed more heat than needed. But then again, there’s still more that’s solely wild estimation. You see, not only is there a difference in heat between Korean pepper flakes and typical pepper flakes, they also contribute very different flavors.*

For any redditors out there, here’s some key takeaways from a Reddit thread on the topic of Korean Red Pepper Flakes, or, Gochugaru:

  • Gochugaru is made from a different kind of pepper than typical crushed red pepper**: It is made from “Chungyang” red pepper, which is about 12,000 to about 23,000 Scoville units, making it milder than your typical red pepper flakes which place in the 30,000 to about 50,000 Scoville units range.***
  • You can find different levels of coarseness for gochugaru. Fine gochugaru, which seems to resemble cayenne powder in texture and color—using Google and Amazon as my friends here—is usually used for making gochujang (sometimes written as kochujang) sauce. The vast majority of recipes will request (or assume) you use the coarse kind, though, kimchi included.
  • There is a big difference in aromatics between gochugaru and typical crushed red pepper, with gochugaru being described as smoky, sweet, even earthy, and some users even attributing an almost fruity and/or floral taste to it. The phrase “a cross between an ancho and Hungarian paprika” appears in the thread.
  • Gochugaru are sun-dried, which gives them a different flavor than regular-dried chili flakes.****

With my head emotionally (and spiritually because I’m not literally doing this right now) tilted against the window deep in sad thought, wondering why we couldn’t be blessed with proximity to an H Mart, I comfort myself with the idea that I can actually order gochugaru through Amazon and get it in just two days. Without leaving the house. But then again, I have to work tomorrow. And it’s election day too. Sooo, before I make further judgments like, “maybe we can use a bit less soy sauce?” or, “hm, this is good, but it’s not quite like the recipes from my favorite Korean restaurants,” I’ll have to:

  1. Vote.
  2. Order the coarse gochugaru.
  3. Not ignore the recipe’s only two warnings of not substituting the gochugaru or the gochujang sauce.
  4. Maybe marinating the beef longer by leaving it overnight?
  5. Actually follow the measurements on the reci—what, really, Dave? You tweaked all over? You’re telling me this now? After I’m almost done writing this whole post—it’s ok, babe, it came out awesome… No, I know now that you had to adjust for more pork… We’ll just try it again with gochugaru too.

And yes, voting comes first, because without democracy, capitalism, and ‘Murican Freedom *insert ‘Murican flag waving elegantly in the wind in front of fireworks and a passing eagle* I couldn’t order foreign items at will from the comfort of my couch. It’s like witchcraft, really. The awesome kind.

So once you’re done voting or not voting because you can’t vote, are too disturbed to vote this year, or can’t vote in the US and your country’s voting is not tomorrow or anytime soon, also make sure to go over “15 Essential Tools & Ingredients for Korean Cooking” if you want to one-up your Korean food cooking skills. I sure do.

From cold Massachusetts, wishing you a warm week,
Kika & Dave.

* A claim we’ll need to scientifically test ourselves.
** “Crushed red pepper flakes are generally made up of different types of chili peppers, including cayenne, ancho and bell.”[3]
*** You can still purchase them in different levels of heat, though, with “maewoon” (매운) meaning spicy and “deol maewoon” (덜매운) meaning mild (literally, less spicy).[4]
**** We’ll need to look into the typical industrial methods for drying red pepper flakes. Please remind me to look into this. If you forget, no worries, I’ll randomly remember at a family gathering in ~20 years.

References

[1] Spicy Pork Bulgogi Recipe by Jelisa, at Food.com http://www.food.com/recipe/spicy-pork-bulgogi-29690
[2] “Korean red pepper flakes – how different are they from typical pepper flakes?” Question made by user themadnun on r/AskCulinary on Reddit.com, https://m.reddit.com/r/AskCulinary/comments/4jkx2f/korean_red_pepper_flakes_how_different_are_they/?utm_source=amp&utm_medium=comment_list&compact=true
[3] “How to Make Crushed Red Pepper Flakes” by Christine Wheatley of LEAFtv, https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-make-crushed-red-pepper-flakes/
[4] “Hot pepper flakes – Gochugaru 고추가루” at Maangchi.com, http://www.maangchi.com/ingredient/hot-pepper-flakes
[5] “Beyond Kimchi: 15 Essential Tools & Ingredients for Korean Cooking” by Matt Rodbard of Food52 — Culinary Arts, February 26, 2016, on Curious, Presented by Startford University http://curious.stratford.edu/2016/02/26/beyond-kimchi-15-essential-tools-ingredients-for-korean-cooking/

Venezuelan Arepas with Shredded Beef

venezuelan arepas with carne mechada
(Top left) Carne Mechada in the Pressure Cooker (Top right) Arepas on the Pan (Bottom) Arepa with Carne Mechada

Saturday September 10th, 2016

On this day, it was Dia Mundial de la Arepa! (World Arepa Day!). Even amidst the bizarre food shortening situation in oil-rich Venezuela, let us have them in our thoughts—and wish a cascade of good fortune to people like my cousin who opened up his first food business in Caracas!—hoping they can have full pantry shelves again.

Alas! Let us return to the marvelous topic of arepas. Arepas are a form of flatbread made with corn flour which you can stuff with whatever [edible item] your heart desires. It is the breakfast hamburger of sorts, though Venezuelans also have them for dinner, often going to the “areperas” in the wee hours of the night after partying. If you’ve ever had pupusas, yes, they’re similar to them, though each country will swear by their own recipe**, and you can also find Colombian arepas[2], and other recipes, some which are made with the yellow corn flour instead of the white one and make me go, “That’s not an arepa, that’s a cachapa, but I’ll eat it anyway ’cause it’s good,” etc., etc.

So to celebrate World Arepa Day, we made Arepas with Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef) and White Cheese, which ideally would be a semi-firm, slightly salted cheese such as the so-labeled “Queso Para Freir“, but our grocery store had none so we used mozzarella cheese. Worked WONDERS. And for the steak we used skirt steak as one of his suggestions, (the other being soup/stew shank, which I realized just now after translating it with mighty Google, since I didn’t know before how to translate “lagarto”).

Amongst our wondrous wedding gifts, we got the Armando Scannone cookbook, “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” from our beautiful friends the Ferreiras. Here, Scannone provides a superb recipe for carne mechada—which made me all the more excited since it was our first time making it!—with the title “Carne Mechada Frita con Cebolla y Tomate.” In the recipe, though, he cooks the meat a bit in the oven and then pan-fries it, whereas we used one of our other awesome wedding gifts: the mighty pressure cooker (courtesy of my aunt and nonnos in Italy) which turns any hard meat into a juicy soft-skinned delicacy. Now, the recipe does call for a bit of ketchup, which some of you (including Dave) might find preposterous, but believe us when we say that both Dave and I loved it, and the flavors blend amazingly together.

micocinaii
Venezuelan Cookbook: “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” by Armando Scannone

Sunday September 20th, 2016

We’re still extending the celebration and making it for our friends this week, so we hope you get to make them too and share in on the awesomeness! Recipes for the Carne Mechada (Shredded Beef) and the Arepas near the bottom.

We extended the arepa celebration by sharing it with our non-Hispanic friends during game night. Always a big success! *Thumbs up*

Thursday November 3rd, 2016

Hm, took me almost 2 months to post this post… (And now I’m posting about posting a post**).

A few notes to the video at the top:

  • For the arepas: Add the water and milk as well as the salt and sugar before the corn flour, that way you can the latter combo into the former one to make it more uniform before you start to solidify it with the corn flour.
  • Slowly whisk in the corn flour so as to get a uniform mix (instead of a lumpy mix).
  • We realized we should use the brush to butter the arepas, not the pan.

* VENEZUELAN AREPAS ALL THE WAY! YEAH!! *CHEST BUMP*
** WE MUST GO DEEPER. (Hm, lots of yelling in the footnotes)

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1hr 15mins
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

An iconic Venezuelan item. Great for arepa filling or as part of a larger dish, often accompanied by rice, beans, and plantains.

Carne Mechada Recipe (as modified for pressure cooker) from: “Carne Mechada Frita con Cebolla y Tomate” by Armando Scannone in his book “Mi Cocina II: A la Manera de Caracas”.

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker
  • Medium Sauce Pan

Preparing-the-Beef Ingredients

  • Skirt Steak (1 lb)
  • Onion (3/8 cup [grated])
  • Garlic (1 Clove)
  • Oil (1 Tbsp)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1/2 Tbsp)
  • Ground Cumin (1/8 Tsp)
  • Ground Black Pepper (1/4 Tsp)
  • Salt (1 1/2 Tsp)
  • Red Bell Pepper (OPTIONAL; 1 small Pepper [sliced])

Beef-Sauce Ingredients

  • Tomato (1 Cup [optionally skinless; deseeded; finely diced])
  • Red Bell Pepper (1/4 Cup [deseeded; deveined; finely diced])
  • Onion (1 Cup [finely diced])
  • Oil (1/4 Cup)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1/8 Tsp)
  • Ketchup (1 Tbsp)
  • Salt (1/2 Tsp)
  • Ground Black Pepper (1/8 Tsp)

Directions

  1. Preparing-the-Beef Steps

    1.  For marinade, add to a bowl and whisk together:
      • Onion (3/8 cup [grated])
      • Garlic (1 Clove)
      • Oil (1 Tbsp)
      • Worcestershire Sauce (1/2 Tablespoon)
      • Ground Cumin (1/8 Teaspoon)
      • Ground Black Pepper (1/4 Teaspoon)
      • Salt (1 1/2 Teaspoon)
    2. Rub skirt steak all over with all of the marinade.
    3. Let marinate for 1/2 hour.
    4. After done marinating, sear the steak on both sides (you can do it directly on the pressure cooker if it gives you that option).
    5. Add steak with marinade into pressure cooker (or leave it in pressure cooker if that’s where you seared it).
    6. **Optional** Add the red bell peppers (a small handful [sliced]).
    7. Add water to the minimum fill line of the pressure cooker.
    8. Lock pressure cooker and cook according to its “meat” settings. (In our case, our pressure cooker‘s default “meat” setting was 12 psi for 40min).
    9. [If making arepas, you can begin making them before proceeding to making the Beef-Sauce]
  2. Beef-Sauce Steps

    1. Add oil (1/4 Cup) in a medium sauce pan.
    2. Heat on stovetop at medium high.
    3. Add the onion (1 Cup [finely diced]), and cook until softened/translucent, typically 3-4 minutes.
    4. Add the following and cook for about 5 minutes:
      • Red Bell Peppers (1/4 Cup [deseeded; deveined; finely diced])
      • Tomato (1 Cup [optionally skinless; deseeded; finely diced])
    5. Add the following and cook for 4-5 minutes:
      • Worcestershire Sauce (1/8 Teaspoon)
      • Ketchup (1 Tablespoon)
      • Salt (1/2 Teaspoon)
      • Ground Black Pepper (1/8 Teaspoon)
    6. [You can then begin shredding the beef and set to low heat once the timer goes off]
  3. Shredding Beef and Mixing with Sauce

    1. Once the beef is done cooking and the pressure cooker is done depressurizing—if it has a release pressure button, you can use that to accelerate the depressurizing process—open the pressure cooker.
    2. Pick up the beef with a set of tongs (or fork or whatever your preference. (Forget the sliced bell peppers or eat them as a side or reuse in another recipe).
    3. Keep the beef broth from the pressure cooker (you might need to add some to the beef sauce).
    4. Set the beef on plate or kitchen board.
    5. Pull apart the beef with the tongs/fork(s) until you have a good set of beef strands.
    6. Add beef to beef sauce currently in sauce pan.
    7. Mix beef and beef sauce at medium heat for about 2 minutes (add beef broth as needed if it seems a bir dry).
    8. Remove from heat.
    9. Stuff and arepa or eat on its own.

fin

Arepas

  • Servings: 4.5
  • Time: 30min-1hr
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Equipment

  • Frying Pan
  • Oven

Arepa Ingredients

  • Corn Flour Goya or Harina Pan (2 Cups)
  • Water (1.5 cups)
  • Milk (1.5 cups)
  • Salt (1 Tsp)
  • Sugar (3/4 Tsp)
  • Butter (about 1/4 Cup [melted])

Directions

  1. Making the Dough

    1. Add the water (1.5 Cups) and milk (1.5 Cups) in a medium bowl.
    2. Add salt (1 Teaspoon) and sugar (3/4 Teaspoon).
    3. Mix.
    4. Slowly add and whisk in the corn flour.
    5. Let settle for a couple of minutes (until flour thickens).
  2. Cooking the Arepas

    1. Heat a frying pan to medium heat.
    2. Grab about a fistful of dough.
    3. Shape dough into a round flatbread (about 1/2-inch thick, 4 inches in diameter)
    4. Butter each side of the uncooked arepa.
    5. Place on the pan and add as many arepas fit on the pan.
    6. Flip arepas once browned.
    7. [Arepas may be done once both sides brown, or for better results proceed to step 8]
    8. Turn on oven on low broil setting.
    9. Place arepas (with both sides browned) inside oven, (place them on a baking tray or directly on the oven racks).
    10. Cook in oven until arepa shell is slightly hardened (knock on them to test, they should sound hollow).
    11. Once done, take out of the oven.
  3. Preparing the Arepas
    1. Cut arepa through the side to make a pocket, or so as to open the two circles in half with a joined side.
    2. You can remove a bit more dough or leave it all, butter the inside and fill with beef, cheese, scrambled eggs, beans, or whatever your heart desires.

fin

References

[1] “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” by Armando Scannone, 2012. (Earlier versions available from some resellers on Amazon.)
[2] “Latin American Cuisine: Colombian Arepas” by Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/04/latin-american-cuisine-colombian-arepas.html

Mead: What is it and how do you make it?

We got the Valley Cyzer Apple Honey Wine half-hiding there on the left side. Locally-made in Western Mass by Green River Ambrosia.

Mead! The ancient drink. One of the world’s oldest fermented beverages and the reason behind the word “honeymoon”—good thing Dave and I did not drink it after the wedding, if the mead had been “proper,” we’d currently have a bun in the oven! (Side reminder that Dave and I need to learn how to make our own bread).

So… What do I mean by all this nonsense? Let’s start from the beginning. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water, with at least 50 percent of the fermentable sugars coming from honey.[1][2]

And what was all that about the bun in the oven? Well,

“Mead was a part of the rituals of the Celts, AngloSaxons and Vikings. It was believed to have magical, healing powers even capable of increasing fertility. The word honeymoon is derived from the practice of the newlyweds drinking mead for one month (a moon) after the wedding. If the mead was “proper,” a son would be born nine months later.”[1]

If you would like to read further on the topic, you can read the rest of this cool article on the Art and Science Behind Making Mead. The article provides you a background on mead as well as (perhaps more importantly) a guide on how to brew it yourself for those enthusiastic home-brewers—we’re looking at you, Varun—including basic mead recipes/formulae and several variations with diversified flavors. Interestingly, mead-brewing equipment is similar to that used in brewing beer, even though the current licensing for brewing mead classifies it as a wine.[2]

We stopped by Nejaime’s Wine in Lenox last weekend and got some Valley Cyzer Apple Honey Wine. My first thought upon tasting mead: “This tastes like the best beer I’ve ever had!” Even though it’s obviously not beer per se, but that’s what my mind decided to feed me on instinct. The alcohol content felt comparably mild at first, though, and after a few sips it felt as strong as regular wine, and then as strong as vodka—you will not find a high tolerance to alcohol in this household… Mostly because we fall asleep before being able to “tolerate” it.

The labeling behind this sweet alcoholic nectar can spark a bit of controversy, though, since mead is often considered to be a specialty beer and there is some discrepancy between honey wine and mead, so that some consider them to be the same thing while others emphasize their differences, with mead having a higher percentage of honey, often having grain or herbs, and being aged longer than honey wine.[3] On a less technical note, Dave and I found that after leaving our honey wine open for a while and/or overnight in a mug in the fridge, the flavor of honey becomes a lot more prominent. (Not sure whether there were other factors—perhaps even involving perception—involved. Will have to further test this hypothesis.)

Found the National Honey Board site if you’d like to “Discover the natural wonders of honey”!

References

[1] “Making Mead: the Art and the Science” by the National Honey Board http://web.mit.edu/adorai/Public/makingmead.pdf
[2] “The Alchemy of Mead” by Dawn Hibbard at Kettering University, 2006  https://news.kettering.edu/news/alchemy-mead
[3] “What’s the Difference Between Mead and Honey Wine (T’ej)?” by Joel MacCharles of WellPreserved.ca http://www.wellpreserved.ca/whats-the-difference-between-mead-and-honey-wine-tej/

Fruity Smoothie: Attempts at Healthy Living

MangoMintGreenSmoothie
(Feeling healthier just looking at this picture)

Diary

Thursday August 4th, 2016.

I sat in my desk in anxious wait for the end of the work day. After coming across before-and-after pictures of K-Pop singer Park Boram, I was finally determined like never before to lose weight and strive for the life of health and fitness celebrities have bombarded me with. Dinnertime comes, and sure enough I fall victim to Wendy’s temptations and order a cheese and grease mini fest of fries smothered in cheese, spicy chicken nuggets, and a Jr. Cheeseburger.


Friday August 5th, 2016.

First day of attempting my “diet” of a smoothie for breakfast and lunch. I’m proud of myself, you see, because, overcoming my typical disdain for grocery shopping, I purchased nearly all of the ingredients for four different smoothie recipes on the phone app I recently installed, very simply called “Smoothie Recipes,” which parades a green icon with a mason jar.

“What ingredient(s) is/are missing?” Might you ask, enveloped in your rising fascination for my daily routine. I will tell you. It was only flax oil, which Dave and I were unable to find. Nevertheless, we got ahold of the well-renowned chia seeds, whose purpose eluded me until yesterday’s purchase, when Dave informed me of their usage as a dietary supplement. “Ahh, they’re not consumed in the hope that you might grow a well-trimmed topiary in the shape of a cartoon icon in your very own stomach,” I wish I had said. The rest of the list was comprised of rather typical smoothie ingredients, such as strawberries, bananas, blueberries, tropical fruits, citruses, spinach, beets, the Cali-worshipped kale, as well as both coconut milk and coconut water.

SmoothiesSetup
Smoothie supplies with bonus aloe vera (recipe inclusion pending)

Back to the “diet,” smoothies are rather delicious* and a source of nutrition I trust highly to extend—or at the very least not shorten—my lifetime, much unlike protein meals that require I drink them nearly-immediately after mixing with water. I soon found out that might be due to the terrifying odor of insecticide emanating from the drink when you leave it in the sink for about half a day, sitting in its container, nervous the stench might expose its devious plan to slowly assassinate unknowing fitness enthusiasts.

Smoothies on the other hand, I trust them. A few of the more new-age-fad-like ingredients might seem more suspicious, but for the most part, they’ve ascertained their place in our evolution and food chain. I even feel highly revitalized already. We live in the mountains, but I’d often turn and say to Dave, “Camping!? We’d die! There’s bears and wolves and coyotes and raccoons and fungi, Dave! It’s utter darkness against the elements and we’re original city [suburb] dwellers!” Even when Dave was perhaps sitting quietly staring at his phone screen.

There’s no way I would’ve considered camping previously without the presence of a well-trained, Rambo-like camp (…) man (?). Smoothies change things. I feel outdoorsy and near-instantaneously savvy in the workings of nature. Purchased fruits, veggies and seeds? Why not camping equipment? Scratch that, climbing equipment. If my exceedingly-fit cousin with an extensive side career as a rock climber in Colorado can do it, why can’t I? I will tell you, I can. I drink smoothies now. I will let nature guide me into becoming the nature guide that guides others away from their own demise. Health as my path, deliciousness as my sword.

All kidding aside, I have decent hopes for this new lifestyle—the one about drinking smoothies, not rock-climbing; we’ve established I’d die in that one.

*They can also be chewy, like today’s smoothie, made with beets that I liquified rather poorly in our Ninja brand blender. This chewiness makes it feel as if I was chewing on an actual breakfast, making me half-forget it is in fact a drink, and nulling my usual need for consumption of bread items. More typically, a toasted bagel** with everything.

** Unfortunately, toasting a bagel with everything burns the garlic bits, making it slightly more bitter, but which I found to be a necessary evil against New Yorkers’ wishes to not toast their bagels, (but then again, their bagels might be far different from the ones I get at work here in the Berkshires).


Saturday August 6th, 2016.

SmoothiesBlender
Mango Mint Green Smoothie prep. (Do not let the outside fruits deceive you, those were merely for decoration)

Dave and I had a Mango Mint Green Smoothie from the Smoothie Recipes app. I replaced a third of the mango portion with papaya and added the two [edit: Tbsp] of chia seeds. I poured mine into a mason jar based on pop culture traditions and Dave had his in a regular glass, due to his mild resistance to “Hipster” culture #Cristi. Dave said it was so delicious he’d be willing to pay a significant amount of money for this. I said, “How about $12?” to which he replied, “maybe $8 [for the glass].” Worth it.

MangoMintGreenSmoothie
$8-valued glasses of Mango Mint Green Smoothie with decorative fruit and aloe vera plant.

[Edit | Sunday, August 21st, 2016] : I would definitely recommend purchasing the ingredients listed for 4-5 recipes if you’re planning on making one a day, since some fruits can spoil rather quickly. (Made the mistake of purchasing 3 peaches and 3 pears without prior plans for them… Only one of the peaches made it in less than a week, hoping the pears will make it to tomorrow. Tragic). So yes, learning to be a responsible consumer of fresh produce is part of the process. Here are some of our favorite recipes so far:

  • Mango Mint Green Smoothie. Mild tweaks:
    • Mango: 1 Cup (instead of 1.5 Cups)
    • Papaya: 0.5 Cup
    • Chia Seeds: 2 Tbsp (which the author suggested as optional)
  • Blueberry & Mango Immune-Boosting Smoothie. We didn’t have baobab powder, so I didn’t use that, but added the following:
    • Chia Seeds: 1 Tbsp
    • Coconut Milk: 0.5 Cup
    • Papaya: 1 Cup
    • Kale: 1 Cup
  • Kiwi Mint Smoothie. Delicious, just a bit tart, so we added:
    • Banana: 1 whole one (if it’s a large banana, you can use half)