FU! Intro and Advice

I want to include some cooking or signs that cooking is a part of my life on my portfolio. Originally, I had planned on having one recipe per category. However, as the portfolio developed the recipes looked out of place. I don’t want a single page/section of cooking, at least at this moment I don’t want to do that. At this moment, I am toying with using the introduction (here is a link to a different intro) and advice section from FU! Crockpot.  Give the intro and advice a read and let me know what you think. I am still on the fence, and I have some time to go a different direction.

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FU! Crockpot

The Kitchen Upstairs

One man’s quest for sanity and good food in the face of adversity

This is not your typical cookbook. There are recipes, plenty of them, but along with each recipe is the story of how this all came to pass. Let me start with, we cooked every at least once and we liked them. No need to give you recipes for food we did not even eat, and let me tell you there were plenty of those.

The only equipment required for these recipes is a slow cooker (3 quart), a small George Foreman Grill, a cutting board, and assorted tools-knives, cheese grater, forks, and spoons (ours were all plastic). A measuring cup or two would be great, but we did not pull one of those out of storage until 2 months in. Finally, if there is an ingredient we had difficulty finding we will tell you where we found it. Lemongrass comes to mind.

How did FU! Crockpot come about? A little back-story. First, the original title was FUCK YOU! Crockpot. I was complaining about having to cook dinner in the crockpot in a room that would make most dorms giggle. Over time and discussion, the titled morphed into The Kitchen Upstairs and back to FU! Crockpot.

Second, my wife was looking for a new college to finish her Pharmacy Degree. At the time, we had an apartment with plenty of room to cook. Barb found a college, unfortunately, due to timing we needed another place to live until we moved to the new college. Her parents were nice enough to let us move in with them and that was the extent of it. We had talked about cooking for them as a way to pay for our stay. Barb’s mother declared that she “loved” to cook and would not share the kitchen. This was fine with me after I saw the kitchen, if there was a single space without grease, mold, thick layer dust or debris on it, I might have considered cooking, but since there wasn’t, my wife and I decided it was best to avoid the kitchen.

After a couple of months of eating out and blowing a lot of money, I was not happy, and we were no longer healthy like when I used to cook all of the time. Desperate for an answer that would result in us saving money, which we needed for the move, and to get all of us feeling better, my wife suggested we use the small crockpot. Since we could not use the kitchen, I began cooking in our room on the second floor.

Let me tell you that first meal was like a slice of heaven. At least three nights a week with enough leftovers to last for days. Suddenly, bills were paid off, there was money in the bank, and we were feeling better. We added a George Foreman Grill, mini-fridge, and cutting board to allow me to do more than use the slow cooker. Slow cooked food was our primary diet for those months. I wrote down recipes and kept notes. When we finally moved out of the kitchen upstairs, I had a desire to put our experiences into a fun cookbook. You are holding the fun.

Enjoy.

 

Crockpot Advice

I learned everything you are about to learn by reading or through firsthand experience. Seriously, several dozen slow cooker cookbooks and months of experience later and this is the advice you get from me.

The lid is clear for a reason. There is no need to take the lid off to “see” the food, to “smell” the food or to “taste” the food. I am horrible at all three; you will find me constantly checking the dish, usually “taste testing.” Here is the “official reason” why, each time you open the lid, you add 20 minutes to the cook time. Sounds long, the reality is opening the lid does increase the cook time. However, it is not 20 minutes per instance, more like 20 minutes overall. If you are like me though, you will still open the lid to see when the dish is “done.”

Preheating is not just for stoves. This was both a revelation and a “Duh!” thing to learn. Until I learned that piece of advice, I tossed everything into the crockpot and then turned it on. Turn the crockpot on before you toss stuff in, dishes cook in the right amount of time and burning is lessened because the food is sitting a shorter period of time.

You can boil water in a crockpot. You can boil water in a crockpot. Seriously. It takes a lot of time and is not effective. If you, like us, find yourself stuck in an area without a usable stovetop, this works. Turn slow cooker on HIGH, put water in, and ignore for a long time. Eventually, the crockpot will get hot enough for the water to start a low boil. Put anything in the water and the boil will go away, but give it some more time and it will start up again.

Noodles! Noodles are a pain in the ass! We have done several dishes that had noodles and a few that we thought could use noodles, the results were mixed. The best advice that I have is to follow the recipe and it should work out. Egg noodles turn to a thin mush very quickly. If you decide to use them, add them near the very end of the cook time; last three minutes or less and watch closely.

Pork Fat RULES! Despite what you may think, you can cook bacon in a crockpot. Whole strips are a pain because they will stick together and to the crock. When you try to stir or move the bacon around it breaks apart. Slicing thick-cut bacon into smaller pieces works better and cooks evenly.

Elbow Grease: If I had to choose one feature that I like best about crockpots, it is they clean up easily. I don’t care how badly charred, burned, or otherwise stuck to the sides a dish got, with a few minutes of soaking in hot soapy water, and some scrubbing, the crock is clean as new. However, this does lead to the thing I like the least you cannot season it.

Cleanliness..: Is everything. Wash your hands! Wash your cutting board! Wash everything! Clean hands, tools, and dishware after handling any raw food. Do not use utensils that touched raw food on cooked food. Keeping things clean will keep you from getting yourself and others sick.

Measurements are..: Guidelines, not hard and fast rules. If you like more of one ingredient, use more, but in small increments. Do not just double up. Add a little more, taste, and repeat until you get the flavor you want. You CAN double up or halve an ENTIRE recipe if you need to make more or less.

Times are..: even more of a guideline than ingredients. Every crockpot, every piece of equipment, is different and you know how it works. Our crockpot, for example, cooked everything 1 to 3 hours FASTER than the recipes stated. Our George Foreman Grill had a “sweet” spot where everything cooked at the right temp and a “suck” spot where it took forever to warm up. So get to know your equipment and use that knowledge when cooking.

 

 

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Crock of Chicken Soup

Our girl is finally asleep on the floor. Barb is starting to feel better. Our girl is not. Such is life around here. With sick people in the house my head turns toward making soup, chicken soup. And after watching the movie Chef, I enlisted the assistance of our boy to make this crock of soup…yeah we will keep that name.

Equipment

7 quart slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 64 oz of chicken broth
  • 2 to 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 to 4 tsp pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sage
  • 2 tbsp butter
  •  1/3 cup cream

Directions

  1. Turn on slow cooker to low, allow to preheat
  2. Trim fat off of chicken
  3. Pour chicken broth into slow cooker
  4. Add chicken breasts
  5. Add bouillon cubes. I tend to add 1 per 2 cups of broth if I am using the low sodium broth
  6. Cover and allow to cook for 2 hours
  7. While the chicken is cooking prepare all of the vegetables and gather spices
  8. At two hour mark, check chicken, if done or close to done add:
    1. All vegetables
    2. All spices
  9. If chicken not done cook for a half-hour, then add all vegetables and spices
  10. Cook for an additional hour, remove chicken:
    1. Cut chicken into cubes and return to crock or
    2. Shred chicken and return to crock
  11. Add butter and cream, stir to mix
  12. Cook for an additional half-hour
  13. Turn heat down to warm and serve

There you have a very quick chicken soup using ingredients found around most houses or easily at the grocery store. The amount of any ingredient can be increased or decreased without affecting the over all flavor. Optional ingredients to add could include cubed potatoes, bacon (near end of cooking or as a garnish), chives, or noodles. Noodles can be added to the crock or cooked separately. I recommend cooking separately, only because my experience with noodles and slow cookers has been disastrous.

Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to a week.

Back to tending to the sick. 🙂

 

 

 

FU! Intro

Second Time Around

angry_chef-12160Three years ago I wrote an angry, but useful crockpot…whoops better change that to slow cooker cookbook.  We had just finished eight of the longest and most grueling months that we had ever experienced as a family.  We came out of that crucible with two things; a stronger bond as a family and FU! Crockpot.  There were a few other things that we left with, but those are best left in the past.

The original FU! was angry, I think I have said that a lot, poorly written, and poorly organized.  People who did read FU! were kind enough to not tell me those things.  I appreciate that.  However, looking at the copies I have now I acknowledge just how bad the original was.  A year ago, I set out to revise FU! partly because I wanted to fix my mistakes and partly because I was learning about page layout, typesetting, and printing from Andrew and Mary as part of a class.  They taught me a lot, but they graduated and I, like I do, moved onto another project.

I had my reasons, mostly bullshit ones like I don’t feel like doing this or that or…blah blah blah fucking blah.

Over the summer of 2014, I spent a lot of time teaching myself about cooking.  Cooking like writing is a skill that you can always learn more, and I had a lot to learn, and I learned a lot.  All of that learning got me inspired to a.) write down all of the recipes I used and b.) take yet another look at FU! But…I didn’t do anything.

Four or five days ago (not that that amount of time will mean much to those reading this much later), Sandy, professor, advisor, and quasi-mentor as part of a lesson had the class take personality tests.  I think personality tests are so much shit. I have said so before and I will say so until the day happens that I cannot give false results on them.  I did take these honestly, and what I found out was what I already knew, but really had never dealt with; I am a starter, but not much of a finisher.  This really got under my skin.

And here we, well you are now, reading the intro to the 2nd and majorly revised edition FU! Slow Cooker.  Yeah, I know not as sexy as FU! Crockpot, but slow cooker is more accurate and less lawsuitable.  So what will you find inside?

Less anger. I have moved on since then.  There will still be some shits and fucks, but they are there only for authenticity’s sake.  Trust me you won’t even notice after the fourth or fifth one.  More than the cursing, there will be recipes for you to use in your slow cooker.  These will have better…well everything; ingredient lists, instructions, variations, and little tidbits to go with each one.  Oh, another big change, there will be photos.

So…flip the page, look at the table of contents, and find something delicious to eat.

Personality Realization

I’m a starter, an idea person, a creative type with the soul of a clown, a clown with attention span of a gnat, that always forces me to blow something at the last minute.  Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but there is some truth to that.  I love to start projects and see them to the conclusion of their first or second draft at which point I tend to shelve the project and move on.  I think I have written about how these blogs are written on the spot.  I may have an idea during the day which I will write down, but I don’t write out whole blogs, I just sit in front of the computer or iPad and write.  The words and ideas forming in the air and I grab them and put them here.

I have known about this problem of mine for a long time, but I haven’t really addressed the issue before.  I don’t know why, it’s not like I have a problem confronting my own issues, but this one for whatever reason I have never tried to correct or at least deal with. I have just accepted that I can do and because I can do I have not bothered to try to finish beyond what I have done.  I am sure that those who know me understand as they have seen the piles of tabletop games that are “finished” as in they work, but have not been taking to that final level or the short stories that got a rough draft, a second draft, and then a bunch of notes before being shelved.  Or in this case FU! Crockpot.

FU! Crockpot is a cookbook that I wrote.  Maybe crockbook is more correct.  I wrote, self-published (thus I thought I had finished), and then…well let me back up a bit.  For a period of 8 months before we moved out here we lived with Barb’s parents.  I will skip over everything and wrap up with those 8 months were not good, but the result was an angry cookbook.  If you have read some of my angrier posts on Scrawlings of a Mad Man try to imagine recipes with the anger.

A couple of semester ago, fast forwarding now, I took a class that I thought was going to teach me how to use anything other than Word to layout books, pamphlets, and other printed media, not that anyone uses paper anymore.  I did end up learning a lot more than now to layout a book on programs other than Word thanks to two students Andrew and Mary.  They didn’t have to teach me all that they did, but they did and I have been very grateful ever since.  Even if my computer choked on the programs.  To teach me what I needed to know we used FU! Crockpot.

Then class was over and I moved onto another project.

So after taking a bunch of personality tests, which got under my skin, but not for the usual reason of they are easy to manipulate-you are looking at the guy who took a personality test that told the HR people of Target that I would steal from them, but I would be honest enough to tell them about my thieving ways-no what got under my skin was that I was irked that there was some truth to that I don’t finish projects.

Which is where this post comes from, since I spent the summer and last couple weeks of school studying cooking, and actually cooking, a lot of cooking I pulled out my marked up copy of FU! Crockpot and have decided to finish the project. But instead of working from a book mindset, I will be working on the book here. One page at a time.  So when you see the FU! Crockpot sub-category under Food Thought that is what is going on.  Hopefully some of you will kick my ass when I falter.

SO on Comfort Food: v 2, Issue 2: Potato Bacon Soup

Today is a raining, dark day suitable for bundling up, reading books, watching TV, and eating food that makes you feel better.  Before we moved here we lived near several Tim Horton’s.  For those not in the know, Tim Horton’s is a coffee shop from Canada.  Barb loves Tim Horton’s.  As the resident non-coffee drinker I like Tim Horton’s soups.  When we were stuck in the hell that was our residence before we moved up here we learned how to make a pretty good homage to Tim Horton’s Potato Bacon soup.

I present to you our Potato Bacon Soup from FU! Crockpot.

Potato Bacon Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Applewood Smoked Bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 pound Pepper Bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced thin
  • 4 large potatoes, cubed, skin on
  • 2 red potatoes, cubed, skin on
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 cups 1/2 and 1/2
  • OR 3 cups of milk and 1 cup of cream

Directions

Cook the bacon until crisp.  Do not cook until turned into carbon, but until very crisp.  You want as much bacon grease out of the bacon because whatever grease is left in/on the bacon will get into your soup when you add the bacon in (see below).

Pre-heat the crockpot on HIGH.  Into the pre-heated crockpot, put everything except the bacon.  Make sure that the milk, cream, and/or half-and-half is to the top of the ingredients.  Allow everything to cook for two to three hours.  Check to see if potatoes are fork tender.  If the potatoes are fork tender, add in the bacon and taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for an additional half-hour to hour.  Check potatoes they should be very soft.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve with bread.

Enjoy.

Speaking Out on Comfort Food: v2, issue 1: Shredded Pork and Slaw

Yesterday I gave you an overview of the cooking that was going on here, but I was in a hurry and didn’t give recipes…okay I thought that I had put them on here already. Oops.  Today I make amends.

This recipe is in FU! Crockpot, just in case anyone happens to own my cookbook and says “Hey, you are plagiarizing this guy.”  Yes I am plagiarizing myself and I revel in that fact. 🙂

Shredded Pork

This is just how I get the pork shredded and juicy.  The BBQ sauce is a separate recipe and yes I will include that.

Equipment

  • 1 5 quart crockpot

Ingredients

  • 1 Pork Roast, 3 lb
  • Seasonings of your choice
  • 1/4 cup of water

Instructions

Into your crockpot pre-heated on LOW put your pork roast, butt, shoulder (just depends on what your local store calls it).  For best results slice pork into large chunks.  Coat the entire pork in seasoning.  Do not go lite on seasoning.  Go overboard.  When it comes to seasoning I do not have one particular mix.  If you will be using the pork for shredded BBQ sandwiches use a mix that goes with that flavor.  Add water to cover the bottom of the crockpot.  Put cover on and walk away.

Six hours later check pork.  Take a fork and stick into pork, if the meat falls apart easily then you can remove the pork from the crockpot.  If the pork does not fall away easily, put cover back and check in an hour.  You cannot over crockpot the pork, so do not worry about that.  I left my last pork in the crockpot for over 12 hours and the pork was still juicy and tender.

Not Making BBQ

Now is the time to shred the pork. Pork and fat will be HOT so be careful, but now is the time to get all of the chunks of fat out and off of the pork. Chunks of pork without fat should break apart in your hands easily making the task easier.  You are now done.

Making BBQ

If you are making BBQ follow these instructions.  After the pork has been removed from the crockpot, empty the crockpot of the most of the liquid.  Leave just enough liquid to cover the bottom. Leave the crockpot ON.  Now is the time to shred the pork. Pork and fat will be HOT so be careful, but now is the time to get all of the chunks of fat out and off of the pork. Chunks of pork without fat should break apart in your hands easily making the task easier.

Toss the pork back into the crockpot.  Add the following:

  • 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s) You can add more sauce if you want a saucier BBQ or less.
  • 2 tablespoons of honey or one generous squirt around the crockpot
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar

Then mix together and leave on LOW for a half-hour to an hour to cook and mix together.  Again, there really isn’t a cooked to long for this.  You can modify your BBQ sauce as you desire.  If I want more kick I will add a tablespoon of sriracha or other spicy kick.  For deeper flavor, a teaspoon of garlic infused balsamic vinegar and/or two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.  What I am trying to illustrate is that you can modify the BBQ base in any direction you want to go.

Apple Slaw

This is a quick and easy slaw recipe that Barb came up with.

Equipment

  • 1 Food Processor

Ingredients

  • 1/4 head of cabbage
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage
  • 1 big carrot
  • 1 big granny smith apple
  • 1 jar slaw dressing (we use Marzetti’s)

Instructions

Use the food processor to chop everything up.  Make sure to core the apple and peel the carrot first.  Mix together in a bowl.  Add slaw dressing of your choice and season with salt and/or pepper.

There you go.

I personally like a good bun with a bit of mayo on one side, some shredded swiss on top of the mayo, then some BBQ pork, and top with some slaw for one hell of a good, but messy sandwich.

Is Crockpot Addiction…

a real thing that I can or should seek treatment for?

Tiniest Crockpot in the WorldI had, prior to today, three crockpots.  A huge 7 quarter (I believe that is how big) and 2 three quarters. I am a big fan of using crockpots, I even wrote a crockpot cookbook.  I have tried to use all three at one time, but the best I could do and have most of the food go away was two crockpots.  As of today, I have added one Little Dipper Warmer which is the smallest crockpot I have ever seen and if I am being totally honest, totally useless.  I can’t cook a meal in it.  I could warm up a can of soup or a cheese sauce-no not fondue-a cheese sauce.  I could keep other sauces from getting cold.

If I was really being creative I could pack the Little Dipper Warmer in my backpack and take it to class with me.  Sit near a plug, crack open a can or some leftovers and by middle of class break out the spoon and go to town during lecture.  Having a warm crockpot of something would make the blog class go by a little faster or give the classroom that home crocked meal smell that everyone loves.