The Wonder of Pantry Staples

Jen wasn’t feeling well, so I made dinner tonight in between work things. It worked, but it got me thinking about how much easier life is when you have a pantry of staples you can throw together to make something yummy.

Tonight’s recipe was a Mexican-inspired pork stew. Measurements are going to be difficult, but here’s what I rummaged from the kitchen:

  • 2/3 of a frozen pork loin
  • 2 big russet potatoes
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 glugs of dark soy sauce
  • 2 large dried ancho chilis
  • 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes and chilis
  • 4 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 2 big glugs of white whine
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • A bunch of random spices like cumin, dried cilantro, onion powder, etc

Aaaaaaand, here’s what I ended up putting together with all of that:

  • Chopped up the onions and potatoes
  • Soaked the ancho chilis and chicken boullion cubes in 6 cups boiling water for 10 minutes
  • Sauteed the onions in some olive oil until they started to brown
  • Added the garlic
  • Deglazed the Instant Pot with the white wine and let it simmer a bit.
  • Added the potatoes, tomatoes and chilis and the pork.
  • Poured the liquid and chilis over everything in the Instant Pot, put the lid on, sealed it and turned it on to the Soup setting.

Since the pork loin was frozen when I put it in, I quick released it when it was done, then pulled the pork out and cut it up into cubes. I put the pork back in the Instant Pot for 10 minutes to make sure it was cooked, and then served in a bowl topped with some sour cream.

It was delightful.

All of that to say that making dinner tonight I was struck by how easy it was to throw dinner together because I had the pantry staples to make dinner happen. Having things like dark soy, ancho chilis, canned tomatoes, etc made it possible to make dinner without it being an ordeal. It’s so much fun to have all these “toys” to play with!

So, get yourself some dark soy sauce and dried chilis, then play around!

Categorized as cooking

Accidental Greatness: Sriracha Chicken Quesadillas

I have accidentally created the greatest food ever: the Sriracha Chicken Quesadilla:

You need to:

  • Preheat the oven to 350
  • Slice two onions into quarter inch slices
  • Slice two bell peppers (or mini bells) into quarter inch slices
  • Four boneless chicken breasts


  • lay the onions out on a roasting pan or cookie sheet so there’s no overlap
  • put the peppers on top of the onions, again, no overlap.
  • drizzle olive oil over the onions and peppers, then salt and pepper.
  • put the chicken breasts on top of the peppers and onions.
  • salt and pepper the chicken then drizzle with olive oil.
  • squirt sriracha over the whole thing.
  • bake for an hour at 350.

Once it’s done, cut up the chicken, throw some into a tortilla with some of the onions and peppers and sharp cheddar cheese and then griddle that thing until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted.\
And now eat it all up.

I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t because I couldn’t wait.

Vegetable Stock in the Crock Pot

A simple title, but this is a really simple recipe. I decided after a tough week and after seeing someone mention it on Instagram, that I really needed 15 bean soup. Instead of just using water, I decided to try making homemade vegetable stock. I had some veggies and I have a crock pot. How hard could it be?

Not hard at all. I have a mammoth 6 quart crock pot, so you might need to reduce the amounts of things if you have a smaller one.

This is a mishmash of a bunch of different recipes I found online with most of the ingredients doubled and a couple added. This stuff comes out really savory and a lot richer (not subtle at all) than other vegetable stocks I’ve tried before – and way better than anything I’ve ever had out of can.


  • 2 small tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 smallish sweet onions, quartered
  • 1 bunch of celery, cleaned and w/ the butt chopped off. Leave the leaves!
  • A bunch of carrots, chopped up.
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of salt
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 squirt of Sriracha
  • 2-4 peppercorns (I put in 3x that many and it’s really peppery – it’s good, but a little goes a long way).


  1. Put everything in the crock pot
  2. Fill your crock pot up with water, almost to the top but not quite.
  3. Cook on low for 6-7 hours
  4. Strain out all the bits – mine came out a little cloudy, probably because of the tomato. If you care about that, then you might want to strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
  5. Let cool for 30 minutes
  6. Put it in the fridge
  7. Make something awesome with it later, or just drink it and get superpowers.

It ended up producing a little over a liter of stock – I think using fewer vegetables would have been just as effective and produced more stock.

I’m making 15 Bean Soup with mine, but you could use it for pretty much anything, or just drink it right up. We had more than would fit in the container for the fridge, so Jen and I both had a mug and it was great!


Merry Christmas, Now Make Fancy Butter!

Garlic herb butter on the left, Honey-Sriracha on the right.

We were invited to a big family Christmas Eve dinner and were supposed to bring an appetizer. We had an antipasto tray ready to go, but that wasn’t experimental enough, so we decided to make a “flight” of fancy butters to go along with the bread we knew would be there. They were a big hit, and really easy to make (it took longer to clean the mixing bowl and the whisk attachment than to make the butter). Here’s what we made:

Sweet Orange Butter – This is amazing. Sweet, very orange-rich, and would be amazing on biscuits, waffles or pancakes.

Garlic-Herb Butter

I think because we had lasagna, this one went the fastest.

  • 1/2 pound of softened butter
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 10-12 chive stalks
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic


  1. Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from their stalks
  2. Pulse all the herbs in the food process until they’re finely diced but before they turn into pesto.
  3. Throw everything in the mixer
  4. Whisk on low for a minute
  5. Whisk on high for a minute or two until everything is mixed in
  6. Refrigerate to firm it back up.

Sriracha Honey Butter

This one was an experiment, mostly because I love adding Sriracha to things. It turned out really well. I’m not sure what the food science is behind mixing fat and Sriracha together that turns things into deliciousness, but I love it. This ended up with just a tiny bit of heat (kids were eating it and not crying, that’s how little heat there is), but with a great smokey pepper flavor that worked really well with the honey.

  • 1/2 pound of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
  • 3 tablespoons of honey


  1. You don’t really need to measure things. I’m guessing as to how much I put in there, but it was basically those proportions – slightly more honey than Sriracha
  2. Throw it all the mixer
  3. Whisk on low for a minute
  4. Whisk on high until everything’s combined.
  5. Refrigerate to firm it back up.

We put them in creme brulee ramekins to serve (1/2 pound of butter ended up filling two ramekins, so you might want to halve the recipes for a smaller party).

I didn’t think making crazy butter would be so easy, or be so well-received. I’m going to have to try some more!

Leftovers Accomplished: Turkey Ramen

A finished bowl of turkey ramen

What do you do with your turkey carcass after Thanksgiving? My mom suggested making stock, so that’s what we did! And then I realized that we could turn that stock into ramen broth with just a few more ingredients and with the crock pot, we could do it with a lot less effort than it took to make Momofuku ramen broth (which my son and I took 12 hours to do one day – it was delicious, but a lot of work).

So, here’s my turkey ramen recipe, which turned out way better than I expected and was slurped up in minutes by my family.

  1. We took the turkey carcass, with some leftover meat on it, legs and wings (which no one in my family likes), tore it up and stuffed it disrespectfully into my 6 quart crock pot, then covered it with water. We’d smoked the turkey, so you may get different results if your turkey was roasted, but it’ll still be good.
  2. Crock pot it on low for 18 hours (really).
  3. Strain out the broth. I used a metal colander because I don’t have one of those fancy soup colander things. I just wanted to make sure I caught any bones and big chunks. The great thing about ramen broth is that you don’t have to be as diligent about skimming off fat as you would with a classical stock.
  4. After straining it out, I put the broth back in the crock pot with two packages of mushrooms (one shiitake, one baby bella), a chunk of jowl bacon and two ham hocks and let it go for another 18 hours. You could use bacon ends, a ham bone, just something porky to give it some extra punch. I also added some more water to get it back up to almost the top (I left about an inch between the broth and the top).
  5. With about four hours to go, I added 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce. It probably doesn’t matter too much when you add this.
  6. I didn’t have any ramen noodles, so I made pad thai noodles, which worked fine.
  7. Plating is pretty easy. In each bowl, I put:
    • 1 poached egg (I poached them in a sauce pan full of water and put the eggs in biscuit cutters to keep them together)
    • Chopped green onions
    • Grated carrots
    • Some chopped up leftover turkey
    • Finely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.

That’s pretty much it! The broth came out full of strong flavors, which matched well with the light flavors in the bowl.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the 12 hour process. This worked really well and should be super flexible.

The only thing I might do differently is to actually make the tare instead of just dumping in soy sauce, since it’s easy to make and super versatile. If I were starting from scratch and had it handy, I might also start with the konbu broth and then pour that over whatever poultry I started with in the crock pot.

If you come up with interesting twists on it, let me know what you do!

Cold Brew Coffee

2014-02-07 09.35.44-2

I love cold brewed coffee. It’s smoother than regular coffee, and depending on the beans you use, chocolatey too. It’s a great change of pace from a regular cup, and great in the summer. I’ve been playing with my recipe for a while and I figured I’d pop it up here so other people can try it out. First, equipment:

  • Takeya Tea Maker – It’s a small pitcher with a built-in basket for tea. I just use coffee instead. It makes cleanup and filtering a lot easier.
  • Good Coffee – This is a must. If you don’t have a local roaster, I’d check out Tonx. But, you probably have a local roaster. Find them. Become friends with them. Get good coffee beans from them.
  • A grinder that can do a coarse grind. I have a cheap one that works fine. Or, if you’re feeling spendy, you could jump up a couple brackets and get a nice burr grinder. I have a small manual Hario thing I use when I’m serious about the grind, but the blade grinder works for me for now.

If you have the 1 quart pitcher, you should grind enough beans for a 12-cup pot of coffee and put your grinder on the coarsest setting.

Once you have the coffee, put it in the basket, fill the pitcher with filtered water and then close it up and stick it in the fridge. I like mine super rich, so I usually let it steep for a couple days before I take it out. The professionals leave it in for up to a week, but two days is usually enough for me.

I also shake it up a couple times a day to stir things up and mix the grounds up a little. It’s probably just a placebo thing, but I think it makes better coffee to agitate it a bit.

After you’ve let it steep in the fridge, it’s time to filter it. The basket’s going to catch most of the grounds, but you’ll have some sludge in there that’s good to filter out. I pour mine through my drip coffee machine filter and that takes out 95% of the sludge. I have friends who use a french press for their cold brew, which works really well because you get to skip the filtering step, but I don’t yet have a large enough french press to make that work.

There you have it, my recipe for cold brew. What’s your recipe?

Making an Iced Latte With an Aeropress

I used to have access to a lovely espresso machine, which which we made many iced lattes. Now that I work from home, reproducing the silky luxury of those iced lattes has been a little difficult. Until now. I use an Aeropress for almost all of my coffee needs and have finally figured out how to make a solid iced latte:

  • Put the Aeropress plunger on the 3 line of the aeropress. You don’t want too much coffee or you’ll never get it cold. Plus, you want it to be strong.
  • 1 scoop of finely ground coffee (if you can’t do fine ground, that’s OK) in the aeropress
  • Pour almost boiling water over the grounds, stir, then set your timer for 4 minutes.
  • Fill your cocktail shaker with four ice cubes, sugar and milk or half and half to taste (I’d guess no more than 1/3 cup of liquid).
  • When the timer goes off, press the coffee into the cocktail shaker, shake the hell out of it and pour.
  • Enjoy.

It’s simple and makes a really good iced latte. And remember, the better your beans, the better your cup (I get all my coffee from Cup to Cup).

Happy coffee-ing!

Kevin’s OMFG Kabobs

There was a crazy sale on whole pork tenderloins at the grocery store, so Jen stocked up. We’ve cooked two so far, and I think we have at least four more in the freezer. Tonight’s pork-speriment was to make kabobs out of them… and they were so good, I have to share. Since Brian likes squirting the lemon juice bottle, there had to be citrus involved, and I like things a little spicy, so there was a bit of Cajun seasoning. Here’s what I did.\
h4. Ingredients

* 1 sweet onion (I should have used 2 – I ran out about half-way through assembling everything)

* 2 green bell peppers

* 1 bag tiny “dutch butter” potatoes

* 1 pork tenderloin

* 5 lemons

* 5 limes

* 1 small package of baby portobello mushrooms

* 1 small package of white mushrooms

* 1 pork tenderloin cut up into a billion approximately half-inch cubes (no smaller than that, some of them were much larger – it’s a lot of work, so do what you can – larger than a sugar cube, smaller than a Rubik’s cube).

* salt, pepper, and cajun spices

* 1 quarter cup of olive oil

* 1 quarter cup lemon juice

* 1 quarter cup lime juice

* 1 big ass ziploc bag\
h4. Directions

  1. Quarter the lemon and lime and put it into the ziploc bag
  2. Combine the lemon and lime juice, salt, pepper, cajun spices, pork cubes and olive oil in the ziploc bag with the lemon and lime wedges and mush them around until they’re all well mixed and looking evenly covered. Seal the bag well and put it in the fridge for a couple hours (I left mine in for 2 hour – just enough time to watch Mythbusters with Brian and then chop up the veggies). I know it sounds like a lot of citrus, but a whole pork tenderloin is a lot of meat.
  3. Chop up the onions and green peppers into kabob-appropriate sizes (if the green peppers and onions pieces are too small they’ll split when you try to put them on the skewers).
  4. Clean both packages of mushrooms and cut off the end of the stems (leave the bit in the middle – I cut the protruding stem bit to make more room on the skewer).
  5. Before you’re ready to start assembling everything, boil the little potatoes for fifteen minutes.
  6. Now, assemble your skewers. I usually start with some order to things, but get bored or run out of an ingredient halfway through and start assembling franken-skewers. I ended up with one at the end that was just pork and lemon and lime slices (but, damn was it good), and a couple that were just pork and potatoes.
  7. Grill ’em. Mine took about 20 minutes total.
  8. Eat ’em.\
    I’d never used potatoes on kabobs before, but they were great. They got a little charred on the outside, but were perfectly done on the inside. The best part was that they really picked up the flavor of whatever was next to them on the skewer. The second best part was not having to make rice or anything else because you had almost all the food groups (except bacon and peanut butter) on a single kabob. The only problem with all the veggies is that sometimes you didn’t get quite enough meat on a kabob… but that was a good excuse to eat more, and I guess we ate more veggies that way.\
    I think we ended up with a good 20 kabobs, including the weird ones at the end. We have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow night… but you can’t have them. They’re too good. That’s why I’m giving you the recipe so you can go make your own.
Categorized as cooking

How’d I Do On “The Omnivore Hundred”

A challenge is afoot! Very Good Taste created a list called the Omnivore Hundred and challenged people to post it to their blogs and bold the things they’ve eaten. So, here’s mine, most of them with commentary and I linked to the Wikipedia entries for the ones I’d never heard of:

  1. Venison
  2. Nettle tea
  3. Huevos rancheros – Many many times. I used to stop at Filiberto’s in Tucson on the way to work a couple times a week and get either huevos rancheros or a breakfast burrito.
  4. Steak tartare
  5. Crocodile – I had alligator sausage in Charleston, SC, so I’m counting this one.
  6. Black pudding – A couple times in Dublin. I prefer white pudding with fried eggs. Not a huge fan of black pudding.
  7. Cheese fondue
  8. Carp
  9. Borscht – My friend Becky had a Russian dinner after she got back from her LDS mission and we had borscht with sour cream. It was good.
  10. Baba ghanoush – Not a huge fan of eggplant, so this probably won’t be a repeat.
  11. Calamari
  12. Pho – Yesterday for lunch.
  13. PB&J sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi – In Bangalore and at a buffet in Herndon.
  15. Hot dog from a street cart
  16. Epoisses
  17. Black truffle – Not all by itself, but I’ve had several sauces with black truffle in them.
  18. ~~Fruit wine made from something other than grapes~~
  19. Steamed pork buns – Thanks to Cindy Li and Dim Sum Sundays!
  20. Pistachio ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes – Several times from Great Country Farms and other places.
  22. Fresh wild berries – We used to pick our own on the side of the road when we lived in North and South Carolina.
  23. Foie gras – Oh yes. At my favorite restaurant in the entire world in the South of France, L’Hermitage du Riou
  24. Rice and beans
  25. Brawn, or head cheese
  26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
  27. Dulce de leche
  28. Oysters – Yes, hated them, and now with my shellfish allergy, no more.
  29. Baklava
  30. Bagna cauda
  31. Wasabi peas
  32. ~~Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl~~ – Again, with the shellfish allergy, not going to happen
  33. Salted lassi – I love mango lassis from Shalimar, in Mountain View, CA. I’m not sure if that counts. I had a weird cucumber one, that I hated, so I’m assuming that was salted.
  34. Sauerkraut
  35. Root beer float
  36. ~~Cognac with a fat cigar~~ – Don’t drink or smoke.
  37. Clotted cream tea
  38. ~~Vodka jelly/Jell-O~~
  39. Gumbo – In New Orleans even, but again, stupid shellfish allergy, I can’t eat it again.
  40. Oxtail – In Germany as a kid. One of the strongest tastes I’ve ever experienced, I can still remember it twenty-something years later.
  41. Curried goat
  42. Whole insects
  43. Phaal
  44. Goat’s milk
  45. ~~Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/\$120 or more~~
  46. Fugu
  47. Chicken tikka masala – Once in India even, but I prefer Butter Chicken.
  48. Eel – as sushi, not a huge fan, but I’d try other kinds of someone served it.
  49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
  50. Sea urchin
  51. Prickly pear
  52. Umeboshi
  53. Abalone
  54. Paneer – At least three or four different kinds.
  55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – I used to get them occasionally as a kid, but I don’t like the sauce anymore, and since watching Super-Size Me, I rarely eat fast food.
  56. Spaetzle
  57. ~~Dirty gin martini~~
  58. ~~Beer above 8% ABV~~
  59. Poutine – No, but after hearing my brother describe it, I want to!
  60. Carob chips – Mom used to “secretly” replace the chocolate chips in cookies with carob chips. We always knew.
  61. S’mores
  62. Sweetbreads – In Paris at an amazing dinner with Daniel Glazman, Jen and his wife. Amazing.
  63. Kaolin – The only mention I can find of Kaolin is a clay or Kaopectate. If it’s Kaopectate, you betcha I’ve had it.
  64. Currywurst
  65. Durian
  66. Frogs’ legs – Max and I tried them at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Sterling. He liked them. They were OK.
  67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – All four!
  68. Haggis – In Edinburgh with Arun and a whole host of awesome W3C people. One of my all-time favorite dinners. The haggis was actually pretty good too.
  69. Fried plantain
  70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
  71. Gazpacho
  72. Caviar and blini
  73. ~~Louche absinthe~~
  74. Gjetost, or brunost
  75. Roadkill – Not that I know of… but I have lived in the Deep South, so who knows.
  76. ~~Baijiu~~
  77. Hostess Fruit Pie – Not in years, but I remember going through a phase where I loved the cherry ones.
  78. Snail – Several times, once in France.
  79. Lapsang souchong
  80. ~~Bellini~~
  81. Tom yum – I’ve had it at least once, but can’t think of where at the moment.
  82. Eggs Benedict – Jen gets this whenever she can when we go out for breakfast. I know we both ate it at least once on our honeymoon.
  83. Pocky – My sister introduced me to this one.
  84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant – I don’t know how many stars L’Hermitage du Riou has, but I’ve eaten there at least 8 times so I’m counting that.
  85. Kobe beef – At the Microsoft cafeteria in Mountain View during a CSS Working Group meeting as a hamburger. One of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
  86. Hare – At L’Hermitage du Riou – baby hare wrapped in bacon – the best meal I’ve ever had.
  87. Goulash
  88. Flowers – My brother and I ate dandelions once, and I know I’ve had edible flowers before.
  89. Horse
  90. Criollo chocolate
  91. Spam
  92. Soft shell crab – But not anymore… sigh
  93. Rose harissa
  94. Catfish – All over the South, fried in filets, on a sandwich, as nuggets. You name it, I’ve had it.
  95. Mole poblano
  96. Bagel and lox
  97. Lobster Thermidor
  98. Polenta
  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
  100. Snake\
    Of the hundred, there are a few I won’t do because they involve smoking or drinking, but I’ve tried 59 of the hundred, which isn’t too bad.\
    Things I’d add to the list:
  101. Ankimo – Monkfish liver, introduced by Alex Mogilevsky at a CSS Working Group dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant, Satsuma, in Mountain View. When it’s good, it tastes a lot like foie gras. Ask for it at your favorite sushi place. It’s rarely on the menu, even if they have it!
  102. Pylsurs – James McNally reminded my of them with one of his Iceland pics. We used to get them whenever we went to town when we lived in Iceland. Lamb hot dogs… yum.
  103. Club Orange – The best orange soda, hell, just best soda, on the planet. Like Orangina but with real flavor. You can get it imported from Food Ireland or just go to Dublin.
  104. Fanta Grape – The European version with real sugar.
  105. Sarsaparilla – Birch Beer would work too.\
    So, how’d you do?
Categorized as cooking

Cookies Are Yummy

Macro Cookies

In case you didn’t know, chocolate chip cookies are yummy. Max and I made a double batch while Brian was pretending to take a nap (he serenaded us over the baby monitor with babble-singing, then whining, then crying). They turned out really well. The keys?

  1. Use the Toll House recipe
  2. Mix the sugar and brown sugar before adding the butter and then break up any clumps before adding the butter.
  3. The butter should be about half softened / half melted
  4. Use about a half a teaspoon more vanilla than it calls for
  5. Use about half a cup more chocolate chips than you should
  6. Use half semi-sweet toll house chips, half Ghiradelli bittersweet.
  7. Cook them about a minute less than you think they need. There’s nothing better than a gooey chocolate chip cookie.
Categorized as cooking