Being Sociable

For a tech geek, I have been pretty slow at adopting social media. Until recently I used Facebook mostly as a news feed and if I tweeted you had better be upwind ;).berryjam.ru

But I recently have been dipping my toes in the digital waters, and I kind of like it. It lets me give my readers previews of upcoming blog posts. It also gives me a place to post neat pictures or ideas that may not ever make it into the blog,

So here are the places you can find me elsewhere on the great wide interwebs:


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Kung Pao Chicken

I’ve been working on this recipe for a while. It started out as the marinade for my Spicy Asian Shrimp and evolved from there.

Please make an effort to find both the black bean sauce and the Sichuan peppercorns. The sauce adds a lot of depth and heat to the dish and the peppercorns provide that unique tingling/numbing sensation that offsets the heat.

1 pound chicken (I used tenders), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup peanuts
4-6 dried whole tien tsin peppers
½ cup sliced scallions, chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup baby spinach

Marinade
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1  teaspoon cornstarch

Kung Pao Sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Put the chicken pieces in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over them. Turn to coat, then squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it up, and stash in the fridge while you prepare the sauce.

Combine the chili paste, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, wine and cornstarch. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the cornstarch is fully incorporated.

Heat a wok with oil over medium-high heat. Before the oil begins to smoke, add the chilies and garlic. Stir-fry briefly until the chilis are slightly blistered and black and oil is slightly fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Pour in sauce and mix to coat the other ingredients. When the sauce is thickened and shiny, stir in peanuts, cilantro, and spinach. Mix to coat, reduce heat and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Garnish with thinly sliced scallions, and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is a quick and tasty dish that saves us from the nutritional horrors of take-out. It’s sweet, sour, salty, and hot all at the same time.

The Nutrition:
1 1/2 cups is 435 calories and 9 Weight Watchers points. Adding the cilantro and spinach and cutting back on the peanuts makes this a much lighter recipe. Serve it with a little brown rice and a lot of steamed broccoli and it is very filling.

One year ago – Warm Up Wings & Tenders
Two years ago – Ze Boeuf

Spicy Asian Pork Meatballs with Cucumber Salad

My dear wife told me that we had some ground pork that needed to be used. She was willing to make pork-something for dinner, but lacked the inspiration to decide exactly what to make.

I was otherwise occupied and didn’t have the time to cook, but I could spare a couple of minutes on the interwebs to find a recipe. I pulled up these two great recipes from the National Pork Board that looked tasty, showed them to her, and off she went.

I love it when a meal comes together.

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium lidded bowl, toss all the veggies together. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, and red pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the veggies, seal the bowl, give it a shake, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

1 pound Ground Pork
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic chili paste
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

Mix together all ingredients and form into small meatballs. Fry the meatballs in a 10-to-12-inch skillet over medium heat. Fry for 3-5 minutes or until browned and crisp. Turn and cook the undersides for another 3-5 minutes more, about 6-10 minutes total or until an instant read thermometer reads 160°F. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

Serve the meatballs over some steamed rice with the salad on the side. Drizzle the whole works with a little sweet chili sauce or Sriracha to spice it up a bit if desired.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Quick, tasty, and healthy – what’s not to love. The pork meatballs were rich and just packed with flavor. The sweet and tangy salad set them off nicely.

The original recipe called for making the pork into burgers to be grilled and served on buns. Add a little Sriracha mayo to it and I think that that would also be a tasty way to go.

The Nutrition:
Makes 4 servings at about 300 calories and 7 points per serving without the rice.

One year ago – Cottage Bacon
Two years ago – Habanero Hot Sauce

From My “I-just-gotta-make-this-sometime” List

We are traveling this week and I will be grill-less for the 4th. Since it seems that I always have more recipes squirreled away than I have the time to make, I thought I’d share some dishes that I’d be cooking this week if I had the chance.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Ancho-Tequila Glaze Recipe, Steven Raichlen

Pinoy Pork Skewers, Grill Grrrl

Crema di Limoncello, Simply Recipes Recipes

Balsamic Pork Belly, She cooks…He cleans

Tsunami Spin Wings with Sweet Tamarind BBQ Sauce, Nibble Me This

Roasted Tomatoes, Our Life in Food

Fennel Syrup, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef

Shrimp with Redeye Gravy over Cheesy Grit Cakes, Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

Bo ssäm (pork brûlée), Indirect Heat

Have a great 4th of July!

General Purpose Rub v1.5

This is the second version of what I hope will be a stock barbecue seasoning that I can use as the base for a variety of recipes. For the code geeks out there, this is a “dot release” with a few little tweaks, but no major changes. I increased the sugar and salt, dialed down the lemon zest, added some thyme and chili powder, and bumped up the allspice.

3 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried lemon or orange zest
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Combine everything in a shaker jar and stir to combine and break up any lumps. Makes about 2/3 cup.

The rub smells and tastes great, but the real test will be when it meets a rack of ribs. Soon, very soon…

Adios…

By the time you read this, my dear wife and I will (hopefully) be “knee deep in the water somewhere” in Vieques, Puerto Rico. I’m looking forward to eating as much fresh seafood and tostones as possible, relaxing on the beach, enjoying the local rum, and generally taking it easy.

While I’m not quite sure what’s going on in this video, I love the song and anything with Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffett in it has to be good.

Hasta luego!

Gluten-Free Holidays

Living with Celiacs is a bitch, sorry. And the holidays do nothing to make it any better. Here are some (hopefully) helpful tips and tricks to get through the meals to come without getting sick or making somebody else sick.

If You are a Guest with Celiacs

It’s not all about you –  It’s Celiacs, not cancer. Everybody’s got issues, and the last thing you or anyone else wants to do is spend the holiday worrying your host or discussing the current state of your GI tract.

The single best thing you can do is to clearly communicate your dietary needs with your host, privately and quietly, well beforehand. I send out the Cooking Gluten-Free for Celiac Family or Friends? Please read this first! post to all of our friends and relatives before the holiday season. It helps put everyone at ease and takes the focus off you.

It is all about you –  It’s your job to take care of yourself and keep healthy. Ask questions, stick with foods you know are safe, and don’t be afraid to bring foods you know you can have.

I typically ask if I can bring at least one side dish (usually something that’s tough for most folks to make gluten-free), bring my own GF bread, and squirrel away some GF snacks that can get me by if there’s really nothing safe to eat.

If You are Hosting a Guest with Celiacs

Do your best – Celiacs is complicated (even for the folks who are living with it), and gluten can show up in damn near anything. Communicate, try to understand the issue, and minimize any chance of contamination.

Just to be safe, double clean all your cooking tools, cutting boards, and prep area. If you think your ingredients may be contaminated, replace them or have a new one on hand to use for your guest. My mom, for example, loves to make peanut butter cookies. She keeps a jar of peanut butter for me and one for the grandkids, so if they stick a knife in it, it’s not an issue for me.

Look for recipes that are naturally gluten-free. The fewer ingredients the better. If you are uncertain, provide an ingredient list for your recipes or, better yet, send the recipes you’re thinking of making to your guest ahead of time to check. My dear wife always offers to bring any GF items needed to make the dish work. Sometimes the ingredients can be hard to find and they’re always expensive, so this way everyone wins.

If you buy or make a GF dish, make sure it stays GF by keeping it covered, moving it away from any gluten-containing foods, and by using dedicated utensils. Do encourage everyone to use the spoons that come with the dish or dip, not to be “fancy” but swiping a wheat cracker through the spinach dip is not pretty, especially if the person with Celiacs doesn’t see it to know that it’s been contaminated. If you have the space and are serving buffet style, consider having a dedicated GF area, perhaps on a different colored table cloth, so that folks are more aware.

Don’t be afraid – The last thing any host needs is more stress for the holidays. If you don’t get the whole Celiacs thing or aren’t comfortable making GF dishes, just let us know in advance so we can be prepared. Most folks with Celiacs are used to making the best of it and working around the issues.

For Hosts and Guests

Forgive, forget, and move on – Accidents happen. Aunt Bertha may not like you, but she probably wasn’t really trying to kill you with the flour that she forgot was in the scalloped potatoes. By the same token, if a guest gets sick, don’t blame them. Nobody chooses to have Celiacs, and the reaction they are having is not a comment on your cooking. Treat it like any other sickness and give them the space, time, and privacy to recover.

Wishing everyone happy (and safe) holidays!

Refinished Dual-Function Metal Top

Warning: this post contains Big Green Egg-specific geekery that’s kinda cool to me, but may be a bit boring for the non-Eggers out there.

The Dual-Function Metal Top (DFMT) that sits on the top of my large Big Green Egg and helps to control the temperature had gotten pretty grungy. Enough crud had built up over the years that it was hard to turn the daisy wheel to make small adjustments, so I decided to clean it by running the Egg up to nuclear temps and putting the top in for an hour or so.

When I recovered the DFMT the next morning, I was reminded of the line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?” Not only was all the crud gone, but so was whatever finish the metal had had. I was left mostly with rusty cast iron.

I debated treating the top like a cast iron pan and just seasoning it with oil, but I like the look of the black top on the Egg and decided to paint it instead.

Two coats of Rust-Oleum high temperature black satin paint  and the top is as good as new.