September 27, 2016

Pasta Salad

Pre-made dried pasta. Imported from Italy, for Reasons.
The first US presidential debate just happened. It was a stark reminder that we, as a nation, are rapidly approaching that important time when Baseball, Football, and Hockey are all happening at the same time. We're gonna need snacks. And since I've already posted some recipes for a whole bunch of different dips, as well as an awesome potato salad recipe, it's time to delve into the world of pasta salad. And let's be clear: there are a lot of different kinds of pasta salad, but when it comes to randomly eating while watching sports, I go with a basic pasta salad. Some people differentiate this kind of salad by calling it "macaroni salad," but I'm not about to limit myself to one kind of pasta to use. I'm not ready for that kind of a long-term commitment.


1 lb. Pasta (I prefer a rotini or fusilli, but any smallish pasta shape will do. Follow your heart! By which I mean "use whatever you have lying around.")
8 oz. shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 Bell Pepper
1 Red Onion
1 TBSP Sour Cream
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

One of the things I like about this recipe is how simple it is. You could pretty much make it while you're watching the game. So I guess the first thing you'll need to do is make some friends who like watching sports. After you accomplish that, and then somehow convinced these people to come over to your gross home, it's time to make some pasta. Pretty much every pre-made pasta ever has directions on it, and following those is a good way to go. But if you can't be bothered to because you're busy, lazy, or already threw out the container, boil up some water. Add in a large pinch of salt, and then your pasta. Stir it, and then boil it for about 10 minutes or so. The party line is that you want your pasta to be "al dente," which translates to "to the tooth" and means the pasta is cooked but still firm, offering resistance when chewed. Why this is supposed to be implied by "to the tooth" is one of the great mysteries of culinary history, along with the correct pronunciation of worcestershire, and who really killed Chef Boyardee. Once your pasta is sufficiently toothy, drain it and toss it in a bowl.

could have used a green pepper so it wouldn't be the same
dumb color as the cheese. But orange peppers were on sale. 
If you planned ahead, you used the 10 minutes your pasta was cooking to dice your vegetables and to mix together your dressing. But you were watching 30 seconds of football, interspersed between ads for beer and Cialis, so let's do it not. Dice up your pepper and onion, and throw them in with your pasta. Then mix together your mayo, sour cream, and vinegar, and add it in the bowl as well. Toss the whole thing together until it's well coated. And...that's pretty much it. Like I said, simple. Throw it in the fridge so that all the flavors have a chance to get to know each other, hit it off, get married, have little flavor babies, get divorced, and die alone in Utah. At least an hour. Or, as it's known in the NFL, 10 minutes of gameplay. Enjoy!

September 20, 2016

Vegetable Fried Rice

Exports of the Riceland include rice, brown rice, and meth
There comes a time in every man's life when he must eschew the brightly colored fried blobs of inauthentic deliciousness sold to him by American Chinese restaurants, and seek out something more legit. Something more culturally relevant. Surprisingly enough, that turns out to be fried rice (the existential journey's over and you didn't even have to leave the restaurant. You're welcome) Apparently, despite the fact that it seems custom-made for US restaurants, fried rice goes back pretty much forever in China. Like any respectable cultural dish, it developed as a way to force a family to eat the leftovers that are just lying around. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. That seems about right. When you've got a whiny family breathing down your neck for food, for the third time this week, and all you've got in the fridge (or...root cellar, or whatever they had back in ancient China. Probably not fridge.) are some scraps of random vegetables, and leftover rice, you'll get to inventing pretty quickly. That's how fried rice, and probably also the wheel, justified homicide, and divorce attorneys, were created.


3 cup Water
1.5 cups uncooked Rice (You're gonna want something in a long-grain rice for this. Short grain rices are good for things like risotto, where you need a lot of starches released into the dish to hold everything together. That's not what we're doing, so keep that mess away from fried rice.)
2 Eggs
12 oz. frozen Peas and Carrots 
1 standard-issue Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 bunch Green Onions (The part of "scallions" will be played by "green onions" today. The two terms are completely interchangeable, but when I say "scallions" I get angry hand-written letters from my mom telling me I'm a disappointment.)
1 TBSP Canola Oil
3 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp ground Ginger
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil

The first thing you're gonna need to do is make your rice. Unless you like sad and crunchy fried rice that gets stuck between your teeth, which makes you a laughing stock at the winter formal. Again. So take your rice, shove it into a pot along with water your water, ginger, an average-sized human's pinch o' salt, and 1 tsp of your soy sauce. Let those guys swim together and really get to know each other. An awesome icebreaker is fire, so bring that pot to a boil, cover it with a lid so that nobody escapes, and simmer it for 15 minutes. Turn off the fire, uncover the pot, and stir that nonsense around with a fork to help keep it from forming a massive, dense clump of rice and sadness. That's the rice part down. Now we just need to work on the fried part.

Slice your onion, and toss it in a large sauté pan (or a wok, if you've got the disposable income to buy things like woks) over medium-high heat, along with your canola oil and an average pinch of salt. Cook that mess for about 5 minutes before adding in your peas and carrots (pro-tip: defrost the peas and carrots first to have your dish turn out more "delicious," with even fewer "needless expensive dental bills"). Cook those together for another couple minutes, when the peas and carrots are heated through, and the smell coming off of your pan starts getting aggressive with your nose.

Chopsticks added because I'm apparently fancy.
Use this time to thinly slice your red pepper into little strips. Add your dainty red pepper strips into the business end of your pan along with another pinch of salt, and cook them for another minute. Then form an empty well in the middle of the pan, beat your eggs so they won't try to escape, and throw them in to the well (I had a joke about throwing a sack of adorable kittens down a well but I decided it was in bad taste. And now I'm struggling to not make a joke about cats being "in bad taste" in traditional Chinese cooking. You're welcome, political correctness enthusiasts). Stir the bejeezus out of the eggs so that you end up with small, evenly cooked egg bits, instead of a big dumb egg-patty that's burnt on the bottom. Chop and stir in your green onions, and then unceremoniously plop your rice down on top of your vegetables and eggs. Add in your sesame oil and the rest of your soy sauce, and stir that sucker up. Let it cook for a couple minutes, stirring regularly, to let all the flavors really get in each other's business, and that's it! A big steaming pile of vaguely-authentic deliciousness! Get some friends together and gobble it down on it's own, or pair it with some of the other authentic Chinese dishes you prepared, like your famous "Number 87 with extra sauce."

September 13, 2016

Caramel Cocoa Puff Treats

It kind of makes you wonder what's in their "non-real" cocoa.
I've thought long and hard about the issue that's plaguing our one-great nation. Namely, why I seem bored, or at least unenthused with Rice-Krispy treats. We can all rest easy, because I think I've found it. The weak link in the marshmallowy chain that makes them so...uninspiring. It's the Rice Krispies. They're puffed up bits of rice. That's the worst thing I can think of. It's like taking air, and wrapping it with stale, less flavorful air. And sure, the argument could be made that their bland taste and small flat shape makes them the ideal vehicle for big marshmallowy flavor and texture. If you hate joy and freedom. I don't buy that we have to start off boring to end up with balanced awesomeness. We can go big from the start, and ride that wave of deliciousness as far as it'll go. Or until the diabetic coma sets in. Either way.


2 Cups Cocoa Puffs Cereal
20 oz. Marshmallows (Some people might say this is too many marshmallows. Some people might point out that you'll end up with more marshmallow than cereal, and cereal is supposed to be the key ingredient. Some people are fools.)
1/2 cup Toasted Hazelnuts 
1/2 stick Butter
2 oz. Caramels (You can totally make your own caramels. Just make the caramel from this awesome recipe, except let it get to about 300 degrees, and when you stir in the butter, also add 1/4 cup of cream. Or you could go to literally any grocery store and buy caramels.)

The first thing you're gonna need to do is toss your cocoa puffs in a bowl along with your Hazelnuts. Then it's time to prep your caramels. When I first started trying to prepare this recipe, I started chopping my caramels into tiny bits before adding them into the cocoa puff bowl (The Cocoa Puff Bowl would be a great name for a rap album from that brief period in the early 2000's when rap stopped taking itself way too seriously, and was ok being goofy and making fun of itself). Which mostly resulted in a sticky mess all over my knife, hands, and very soul. Then I learned that I could totally just rip off little bits of caramel, roll them into balls, and toss them in with the cocoa puffs, which had the result I wanted, and was way easier. So enjoy that tip, that rare glimpse straight through to my mind-brain. Or ignore it and spend all day and night cleaning caramel off of your everything. Either way.

Sure, it's a loose assortment of cereal, nuts, and caramel held
together by marshmallows, but I'm sure there's a down side
Melt your butter over medium-low heat, and then add your marshmallows in. Stir pretty constantly. At first you're gonna think something along the lines of "hey! The butter is keeping the marshmallow from sticking to the pan! This cleanup isn't going to be as bad as I thought!" This is a trap, to lure you into a false sense of security, just to crush your hopes later. But more on that later! Right now, you're stirring your marshmallows until they lose all distinct marshmallow shape, and are pretty much just a viscous white ooze, glopping around in that pot. Turn off the heat and take your bowl of cocoa puffs n' friends, look deep into their soul and then just toss them in the ooze. Stir all of that nonsense together until it forms a goopy and unmanageable wad. Grease up a 9x13 pan, and dump your cereal wad into it. Use your hands to press it down and into the corners. Yes, this will get your hands messy and sticky. Get over it. Stick the whole thing in a fridge for about 1/2 an hour to cool down and set. Then cut it into pieces, and devour. Seriously. Normally, I'd throw in something about how you could just eat it all on your own and hate yourself, or something. But these need to be shared. The word needs to get out. So now you have homework. Enjoy!

September 6, 2016

BBQ Chicken Tacos

Not pictured: tequila shots
Recently, a tier-3 vassal of some idiot politician made some dumb comment about lax immigration control leading to "a taco truck on every corner." Practically nobody has heard of this random flunky, including key members of his immediate family. For all intents and purposes, his opinion doesn't really matter. So naturally, it's all anybody has been talking about for a week. Because the news sells ads based on people watching, and they're more likely to watch when they're scared or outraged. So if there's nothing to scare or outrage people, it's time to make something that'll scare and outrage them. It's not uncommon, during a particularly slow news week, to see Anderson Cooper killing penguins at the the zoo. But I digress. The point is, now I have an excuse to make delicious delicious tacos. Also, yadda yadda xenophobia. Tacos!


2.5 lb Chicken Breasts
28 oz Crushed Tomatoes (This is gonna get cooked down with a lot of big flavors for a while, so you don't need to splurge on the best brand you can find. But it's probably still best to avoid products with names like "Big Jim's Sack of Backyard Tomaters.")
2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce 
1.5 TBSP Brown Sugar
1/2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 TSBP Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Hot Sauce
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder 
2 Limes
Corn Tortillas
Red Onion

The first thing you're gonna need to do check and see if you have a "slow-cooker," which is the network-television-nonsense way of saying crockpot. If you don't, you can still make this recipe, but life will just suck a little bit more for you. Even more so than it does now, which is probably a fair amount because you don't have a crockpot. Take your crushed tomatoes, and throw them in the crockpot (or, if you're one of the uninitiated crockless, a dumb old regular pot) along with the chicken, worcestershire, brown sugar, vinegar, chili powder, onion powder, hot sauce, salt, and garlic powder. That's pretty much everything. That's how you know it's gonna be a good recipe. When youp pretty much just shove everything together at once, flourish your hands like a terrible birthday magician, and say "cook!" Set your crockpot to high, cover it, and let it cook for 4 hours. Or, if you're using an analog pot, set it over low heat, cover it, and let it cook for 4.5 hours. Normally when there's some down time in a recipe, we use it preparing the next bit of cookery. But this is a 4 hour break. So go do something that takes almost 4 hours. Binge watch a TV show, go to the DMV, or watch the first 10 minutes of a Zack Snyder movie. Everybody meet back here in about 4 hours. On your mark...set...GO!

Not pictured: more tequila shots. All the tequila shots.
See you all on "why god, why?" Wednesday!
Welcome back! You're just in time for the fun part, and by "fun" I mean...cathartic, I guess. Take the lid off of your pot, grab a couple forks, and shred the bejeezus out of your chicken. It should be crazy tender and just kind of fall apart, but stab it repeatedly with your forks and rip it asunder just for good measure. Then add in the juice from your limes, stir that nonsense together, cover it with a lid again, and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Use this time (see, I told you) to chop your remaining vegetation, and to heat up your tortillas. Chop your avocado into slices, and chop your onion into itty bitty onion bits. Then set a pan over low heat, and toast your tortillas on both sides. If you like things extra delicious, add a little bit of oil to the pan before you do this. You're not deep frying them or anything, so just barely coat the pan. After about 30-60 seconds on each side, they should be fine. Then take your tortillas, stack them 2 deep so they don't just fall apart, add some meat, avocado, red onion, and a little bit of cilantro on them, fold and consume. You may have noticed you have a lot of chicken. That's because it's taco tuesday, not a day for the solitary eating of one taco, but a day for the mass gorging on tacos by the populace at large. So gather or hire some friends, get everybody together, and eat awesome food. Or just eat them all yourself. The important thing is, even though I still don't know the name of the guy who started all of this controversy in the first place., we managed to turn nothing into a massive public debate, thus saving the lives of all the cats living in Brian Williams' neighborhood. Also, tacos!