Easy Tamale Pie

This post will be lacking in pictures because we neglected to take any. Mostly, I thought this dish would be fair to middling, but shockingly enough it turned out so delicious that we MUST share!

Get yourself some of this stuff:
1 pound ground beef or bison
1 (15-ounce) can ranchero beans
1 jar medium salsa
1 (12-ounce) box corn bread mix
Ingredients called for by corn bread mix
cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large sauté pan, brown meat, breaking up any large pieces. Drain well and return to stove. Add beans and salsa, stir to combine and simmer over medium heat 5-7 minutes. Let cool slightly then spoon into a 9x12-inch casserole dish. Prepare cornbread batter according to package directions. If desired, mix drained green chiles into batter. Grate cheese and sprinks on top of meat/bean misture. Carefully spoon over top of cheese/beef mixture. Smooth out to cover. Bake 15-20 minutes until cornbread is lightly brown and filling is bubbling.

EAT UP! It's really yummy and totally easy and I will certainly be making this about 20 billion more times.


Mediterranean Chicken

This is pasta being cooked. Rigatoni to be precise. You will want to do this at the appropriate time. About 8 to 10 minutes before your ready to eat. I am tired of moving pictures around and dealing with blogger's issues so I am just leaving this one here. The real beginning of this post starts now:

So two years ago, when Flibberty and I had been dating all of a few weeks, I had a Sunday off work. I drove from Judith Gap to Billings, staying the night and getting up to drive back to the JG at 4AM MONDAY morning. Those were the good old days. When I was happy to get up ridiculously early and drive 100 miles to work. I mean, I still would be happy to do that, but I don't have to now. So... you know, whatever.

Anyway, I made the following meal at Flib's house for the Oscars. Five(ish) of her friends came to watch the Oscars at her house that night and not one of them so much as looked at this wonderful meal. They all claimed they were full, it may have been they didn't trust me -the stranger from up north- or something. I don't know.

It was their loss, cuz this is a good meal, and it's simple, though it may be a bit costly in the ingredient list. It is sort of the closest thing I have to a signature meal. I got the basics from a friend of mine, but modified it (cuz I hafta) to make it my own.

We made this pictured batch about two weeks ago and got photo documentation, cuz it is important to take pictures of your food. I figured since at this moment I am alone (Flib flew home to see family for the weekend) and watching the Oscars it would be a good time to put it out there for everyone.

This meal turns out great every time. Like most things I do, cooking or otherwise, I do not have an exact recipe. As always though, there is a solid framework to build upon. I like to do everything in life as if it were a painting I guess. Perhaps my motto should be: "Someone build me and easel and stretch some canvas. I have a metaphorical painting to do." Anyway. Here goes.


You will need:

-Some sort of stove or Superman's laser vision

-Some sort of large pan for cooking stuff and pot for boiling pasta

-A pound of boneless chicken breast.

-Olive oil.

-A garlic bulb.

-A small jar of artichoke hearts.

-Sun dried tomatoes, either in a bag of dry ones or a jar the ones where they are preserved in olive oil. If you want grow your own and dry them out yourself. I assume there is a sun where you live.

-Pitted kalamata olives

-A jar of Capers (don't use them all, unless you really love capers)

-A small can of tomato paste

-Cream/half and half/skim milk...(you choose the fat level)

-Feta cheese

-Maybe basil, parsley, etc.

-Rigatoni, Penne, or whatever pasta you like. (Bronze cut pasta absorbs flavors better, so buy the good stuff with visible pores. Also, usually it says if it is bronze cut on the box.)


Julienne the chicken breast. The thinner and longer the better in my opinion.

As usual, I am ahead of myself. I rely heavily on the wisdom of Alton Brown, who recommends always mincing the garlic first. So do that and let it sit.

Add the chicken to some good olive oil and cook it up.

Have you heard about olive oil tastings? They have them like wine tastings I guess. I have not attended one, but I did smell our olive oil and noticed it is a bit fruity. I suppose if you have sophisticated palate the finer points would matter. Personally, I just go with the least expensive extra virgin olive oil. Maybe someday I won't make my olive oil purchases using the same rules of purchase that lead homeless people (and college students [oh, yeah, I drank it in college, semi-often]) to the Mad dog 20/20 'wine'.

Once the chicken is cooked you can add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichokes.

Then add the olives and capers. Just a healthy amount. Flib thinks the olives are too salty, so I have to clean up hers when she's done eating. Next add the tomato paste and cream or milk. Add enough so it makes a nice sauce.

Add the feta and anything else listed above that I forgot. Let it all get melty and such. Your pasta should be done now. I think tossing it all together works best for taste if you plan on serving the whole batch at once. If it is something that will be leftovers though I would leave it separate so you can have fresh pasta when you have the leftovers.

Maybe it is just called a julienne also -but I don't think so- anyway... I can't remember what else they may call it at the moment, so I will just say we cut fresh basil into ribbons for this batch. It makes for a good garnish.

So there it is. We tend to shred Parmesan over it too. Of course -as you know- some good bread and wine will always help to make any good foods better.



Half assed title thing, part 3

Bobikies(sp?) and Sour Kraut.

This post should have been done long ago. Also, there are few pictures, so bear with me.

Get bobikie things from Caroline's mom at Christmas. They are like these little tiny buns. I am half norwegian so I should know about this, but I guess maybe I wasn't paying attention while I was growing up.

Pour two kettles of boiling water over the bobikies and then fry them in butter.

Add a can of sour kraut (if you can, get the sour kraut from a Mojave hippie) to the mix and eat.

It was delicious. I am a proponent of these things.

This is the left over kraut after we ate all the bobikies. We put the leftovers on brats from the meat market. They, too were delicious.

P.S. Someone should really comment on how to correctly spell bobikies, cuz I just guessed without checking. Thanks.


The title of the last post, part 2

So I came home from school the other night and some cookies were made, but not frosted. The frosting didn't turn out I was told. The cookies were, moist and springy and delicious. I don't know what they were, cuz Caroline had little interest in talking about them. I guess she didn't like them. I don't know.

I started adding powdered sugar and vanilla till I got what I thought was good frosting. I frosted a cookie,

The garlic behind the bowl was not used in the recipe, it is just pictured for the hell of it.

and ate it. Put the frosting in the fridge and went to bed. The next morning the cookies seemed dry and not so good (I may or may not have sealed their container causing the dry out issue, nothing can be proven though). So, I have been occasionally eating them but not quickly.

I started putting the frosting on other stuff. Pistachios turned out to be the most delicious. It sort of tastes like the pistachio portion of spumoni ice cream. One of my favorites.

Jeez, I need to cut my finger nails, or at least my thumbnail

So there it is. Let us now review the recipe:

Ingredient list:

Sugar, milk, butter, vanilla, cookie, and pistachios, other stuff.


1: Come home to cookies that were already made.

2: Mess with the syrup mixture in the bowl, adding this and that till it becomes frosting.

3: Dry out the cookies so that you end up using the frosting on other stuff laying around.

4: Frost everything within knife range, then taste test.

5: Record the series of events in a really half-assed manner.

I now submit that it would be a good idea for frosting to just be a part of the kitchen staples, like butter, or salt. It is very versatile. This doesn't seem like a good ending, but hey, what you gonna do?


A hodge-podge of backlogged cooking experiences posted in a really half-assed manner: Part 1

How half-assed is really half-assed, you ask?

Well, it would be a minor inconvenience for me to think of how to answer that. So... that is about how half-assed 'really half-assed' is. Seriously, though, you'll see just how half-assed at the end of this.

Ok, here's what we're looking at: We are just going to blow through these real quick like, cuz the camera has had its fill of pre-through-post holiday dining. Some of the pics in its' SD underbelly have been digesting since...well there is one picture of the dog from October 7, but the oldest food related pic is December 9. So we will start with that meal.

Recipe one: Some sort of pork chop concoction

Get some pork chops, good thick ones, from the local meat market. Don't get them from sprawl mart or megalow mart cuz they just aren't as good.
Add some olive oil to a cast iron skillet, enough to coat the bottom completely. Crank the heat up. As one of my co-cookers in high school foreign foods class once said "you ain't cookin' if you ain't cookin' on high." I do not follow this philosophy always, but here it is apt.

See the olive oil smoking?

So, you want to wait till the olive oil JUST STARTS to smoke, NOT A SECOND LONGER THOUGH! You don't want to start a fire. Unless you do, in which case you aren't following my recipe. You are a pyromaniac doing something else.

Anyway, watch it close, once you see the oil just start to smoke add the pork chops, I can't remember if I seasoned them or not, probably though. So add some seasoning.

Sear for two minutes on the first side, then flip them, a tad longer on the second side as some of the heat will have been sunk into the chops so the pan will be less hot. two and a half to three minutes tops. Searing meat to brown changes the chemical compounds to tastier configurations!

Now a week before, or at least a few hours before you should have made some apple sauce. In this case I believe I used some old Honeycrisp apples. They say never use Honeycrisp for cooking. Who is they and why do they say don't use Honeycrisps for cooking, you ask?

I don't know, but I suspect it probably is sac religious (In the words of Homer Simpson: Mmmm sacrelicious) to not eat them raw.

If I may digress for a moment: Honeycrisp are the most delicious apples ever, so they should be just eaten raw. If you have not tried them, it's TS (Time Spending) for you till next fall. As a further digression these wonderful apples almost never made it to the world at large. They were grown on an experiment station for the University of Minnesota and the test tree was slated to be cut down, as it had a bad winter, but one of the apple tasters got a crunchy bite of one of the apples a few days before the Cherry tree's equivalent to George Washington's axe made it to the apple bearing wonder tree, and the rest is history. Now they have only been commercial for like five or ten years or something. I don't know, don't check my facts, cuz this is just a half-assed story I am trying to remember, and I am still on my first cup of coffee this morning. The apples taste best when grown in the Midwest, I guess there are some Honeycrisp orchards in Washington state and such but that is not the ideal climate for Honeycrisps, so for the full experience, go to a Midwest orchard next fall and get a Honeycrisp. I am so seriously, you guys.

The only reason I used the Honeycrisps is cuz we bought a truck load and I cut up the bruised, gashed, and otherwise hurt apples and made them into an applesauce. I cut the apples into small cubes. Added a bunch of cinnamon, some brown sugar and the Cockburn's port, then cooked it a long time. There may have been some water too, I don't remember.

So, when I say make apple sauce, I emphasize the sauce part. Be sure to use the Cockburn's Port in it.

Why Cockburn's you ask?

If you asked that you obviously don't yet realize that my heroes include Beavis and Butthead, Wayne and Garth, etc, etc.

Once the chops have been seared pour the applesauce all over them. Oh, I may have added some lemon juice to the apple sauce too, but I think it would be better to put the lemon on the pork before cooking, let it soak in for a half hour, maybe equal parts apple juice and lemon juice, as a marinade, that sounds good. I will try that next time. You should too.

Anywho, put the sauce on the chops which are still in the skillet then stick the skillet in the oven. I don't know how long, because I go by temperature. We use a digital thermometer, stick the probe in the thickest part, mid meat, and close the oven. The display stays outside the oven obviously, so the wire just runs out the side. It is oven proof but NOT waterproof, trust us on that. It is not our first meat probe.

Once the it reaches whatever temp you like it is ready to go. Oh, you should have made sure there was applesauce under the pork chops too, The bottoms get really done if not, plus more apple flavor gets in the chop if it is surrounded bottom, sides and top. Back to the temp, good chops can be medium to well, you won't get sick. I like to stop at 145-150F with chops, then rest them 5 minutes, they continue to cook a bit longer.

That's it. Serve it with what ever the stuff in the picture is, or make your own sides. It looks like mashed potatoes and stuffing. We are trying to eat more veggies and less starch now, so we would replace one of the above sides with peas or broccoli or something.

So, this food turned out good for us. This post turned out good for me and you, the reader. I say that cuz I planned on putting several more meals, all of them including the above with little detail and lots of pics. For some reason blogger locked up and would only let me do 5 pictures, or how ever many are up above there (I am not going to take the time to go back and count). So you got more detail, and I had fun making lame puns. I will have to make this a series I guess. I might even get to another one today.


Oh Fudge!

Let’s talk about candy for a moment, because candy is one of the most finicky of things to cook. I mean, essentially candy is an edible chemistry experiment, so of course, it’s just up the alleys of your chefs at this here website. You see, we love learning not just about how to make something, but why that something is created when you do this, that and the other to it. It’s always a dorky day here at Chez PID.

Okay, so we decided to tackle fudge. I LOVE fudge, love it! Brett’s mom made fudge every year for Christmas, so we thought it appropriate, and also fun, because there’s loads of learning to do and we got to buy a new gadget. (you need a good candy thermometer to make candy, don’t even try to get cheap about this one, get the candy thermometer at this place, because it rocks)

First, let’s talk about the stages of candy cooking. For this information, we consulted our Guru, as well as the mostly out-dated “The Joy of Cooking.” (I say outdated, because the book continually refers to housewives, as if housewives are the only ones doing the cooking, and many of us are neither houses nor wives).

Candy Stages:

Stage 1: thread at 215 degrees and if dumped in water it makes a brittle thread that can be stretched with the fingers (????)

Stage 2: Soft Ball at 234 to 242 degrees and if dumped in water it makes a limp, sticky ball that flattens when removed from the water (fudge)

Stage 3: Hard Ball at 250 to 266 degrees and if dumped in water it makes a hard ball that holds its shape when removed from the water but is still pliable (caramel)

Stage 4: Soft Crack at 270 to 290 degrees and if dumped in water it makes firm strands that can be stretched or bent when removed from the water (toffee)

Stage 5: Hard Crack at 300 to 310 degrees and if dumped in water it makes stiff, firm threads that break easily when removed from the water (lollipops)

So all of this staging is due to crystallization, which is what makes fudge and all candies so damn difficult (and also so much fun!) Luckily, there are ways to slow down this crystallization, and these ways also make for tasty treats. You just have to add some stuff that will keep the sugar from crystallizing, like butter, chocolate and milk.

Here's a blow by blow of the Joy of Cooking "Chocolate Cockaigne" (no idea why they call it that) recipe.

What you'll need:

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon half and half
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 oz. grated unsweetened chocolate
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup broken nutmeats

What you do:

Place some half and half in a pot and bring it to a boil

Then you add the chocolate, sugar and salt, and let it all melt

Bring this tasty looking liquid to a boil at medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce to medium heat, and cover for 3 minutes. You have to cover it because the steam will clean the sides of any potential crystals, because we don't want any crystals yet.

Now you should put your candy thermometer in your delicious chocolaty goodness, and set it for "soft ball" stage, or 234 degrees

And then you wait . . . . But while you wait, you can prepare your dish. If you're playing along at home, please get yourself an 8X8 glass baking dish. We don't have such a thing, so I used this weird 9X6 baking dish that I think maybe came from Ikea and was maybe called Ulldeenplatz or something

Anyway, butter your dish and then put some parchment paper in it.

Once your candy thermometer tells you you've reached 234 degrees, remove from heat, and let cool down to 110 degrees but DO NOT TOUCH, JOSTLE, SNEEZE ON, OR OTHERWISE CONTAMINATE YOUR FUDGE. If you disturb the fudge, it will become very very grainy because you will make BIG crystals that you don't want. However, now is the time to add your butter, in cute little pats, just on the surface of the fudge. You may watch it melt, because that's kind of mesmerizing, but DO NOT breathe on the fudge for it is very sensitive

Once the thermometer dips to 110 (which takes approximately a lifetime) you should add the vanilla and the nuts, and stir as though you were in some sort of bizarre stirring contest wherein speed mattered. Basically, you just need to stir like a crazy person. Why stir like a crazy person? Because now you want those crystals, oh yes, you want lots of tiny crystals so that your fudge will be nice and smooth and the more stirring you do, the more little crystals you shall have. You have to stir until the fudge looses its sheen and starts to dull, or your arm falls off, which ever happens first.

Then you spread it in your prepared pan with a silicone spatula. Did I mention you should be using a wooden spoon for everything else? Well, you should.

So then you let it cool on the counter (do NOT put in fridge) for about 2 hours. It's a painful 2 hours, because the smell of chocolate will try to kill you. But, creamy, fudgey goodness will be your reward.

Until next time. Over and out.


Blueberry Muffins

How to make blueberry Hockey Pucks

Step the first, gather your ingredients:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (do you see that I have frozen berries down there? This will be an important, and disastrous detail later)

Step the second, Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Step the third, In a large bowl, stir together milk, egg, and oil. Add flour, baking powder, sugar.

Step the fifth, add blueberries; gently mix the batter with only a few strokes. Notice that blueberries are turning batter a lovely shade of purple.

Step the sixth, spoon batter into muffin tin. Hope that baking will "cook" the purple out.

Step the seventh, ask dog for advice on the very purple state of my muffins. Receive offer to lick bowl.

Step the eighth, decide to add "streusel" topping to muffins, in order to hide disconcerting shade of batter.

Step the ninth, bake for 20 minutes.

Step the tenth, confess to future husband that you may have doubled the amount of blueberries needed, and maybe also used frozen berries even though the recipe called for fresh. Watch as future hubby questions whether you were raised by wolves. Allow him to comment that the finished product is rather dense and more suitable for slap shots than breakfast. Force him to eat muffin anyway.

Culinary Lesson Learned: DO NOT USE FROZEN BERRIES WITH THIS RECIPE AND (it's a two fold lesson) DO NOT USE EXTRA BERRIES.

The End.