Let’s Get Cooking

As a retired military person who was single until he was 23 years old, I learned to cook originally to survive.  My last 3 years in the military I was asked by the unit to be the dining facility manager.  There, under the guidance of one really good cook, I learned how to not only not kill myself with what I cooked, but how to make eating a pleasurable experience.  This page is dedicated to sharing recipes that I’ve either come up with, tried and found really good, or other general cooking knowledge and tips.  As I add more information about cooking, it will be added on to this page.

1.  If you have an old recipe that just isn’t coming out like Grandma used to make, try using a soup spoon for a tablespoon and a regular spoon as a teaspoon.  It was not uncommon in the days of yore for people to not have measuring spoons and cups.  A few of my paternal grandmothers recipes don’t turn out worth a darn if you using measuring devices, but if you use the spoons mentioned above and a regular coffee cup for a one cup measurement, they come out pretty close to how grandma made them.

2.  When making pastries with fresh fruit, save the peelings and put them out for God’s other creatures to enjoy.  I have one spot on our property where I always do this and when I walk up to that spot, it’s rare that at least one doe doesn’t pop her head up to see what I’m bringing today.

3.  Take the seeds from apples and grapes; and the pits from peaches, plums, cherries, etc. and plant them randomly in the country.  DO NOT plant them on someone else’s property without permission.  Since I live in the country, I plant them around my fencelines mostly.  Now, I have cherry trees, apple trees, peach trees, plum trees and grape vines coming along nicely in only 5 years.

4.  Presentation (that’s what they call it on those fancy cooking shows), or how your food looks is an important part of whether or not dining is enjoyable.  If it does not look good, many times your guests will get the pre-conceived notion that it must not taste good.  With some dishes this is more difficult than others, but do what you can.

5.  Flavor is the #1 important issue in cooking.  Not only the initial taste, but the after taste too.  With every food you serve, it is good to have the guest be able to taste and enjoy several individual tastes in every bite.

6.  The last part of the dining trifecta to go with Presentation and flavor is the portion.  If you are serving, make sure they get a proper portion.  You don’t want to give them too much that might entice them to over eat, but you sure as heck don’t want to give them one of those foo-foo restaurant portions either.  My wife talked me into going to one of those foo-foo restaurants with her once.  When they brought out the main course, the plate was 90% empty other than some swirls of something on the plate.  Evidently they were charging $10 per spoonful.  I left the restaurant hungrier than when I arrived and I left a tip that was appropriately proportional to the size of my meal compared to the cost.

7.  Never serve a meal that you have not taste tested before serving.  If it doesn’t taste good to you, it is doubtful your guests will enjoy it either.

8.  Always ensure your guests have gotten their food before you make your own plate.  They are the guests and you are the host.  If by chance there isn’t enough, you don’t want a guest to be the one shorted.

9.  I don’t have pastry dough perfected yet.  Shoot, my pastry dough is still more play dough than pastry dough.  Anyway, I remember Grandma telling me once the secret to her dough was using 7-Up or Ginger Ale (I don’t remember which) instead of water to make her crusts so flakey.

10.  If someone enjoys your food and asks for the recipe, share it.  The chances of them ever making a recipe you perfected as well as you make it is very slim.

11. If you make a lot of fruit pastries, many require adding lemon juice (helps keep the fruit from discoloring).  A good way to do this is get a small refillable spray bottle and fill it with either fresh or bottled lemon juice.  If you’re supposed to add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, put half of the fruit in a bowl and spray the fruit three or four times with the spray bottle.  Then add the rest and repeat the sprays.  You’ve add an appropriate amount and the spray distributes the juice more evenly over everything.  Then just store the bottle in the fridge when you are not using it.

The first recipe I’ll be adding here is my GI Beans.  Military style baked beans always left me not too excited about having them when I was still in the military.  But, we had an Army Cook in Germany that could turn dirt into baked alaska.  This guy was good.  He showed me how he made his baked beans and then I spent 20 years after that tweaking it until not only I liked them better, but the airmen at my last duty station enjoyed them too.

Without further delay…….

GI BEANS

  • One Large can of pork and beans
  • 1 large Vandalia Onion
  • 1 lb hickory smoked bacon
  • 1 ½ TBL crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 ½ TBL mustard powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Liquid smoke
  • ½ cup catsup
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Open the can of pork and beans and remove excess liquid.
  3. Pour baked beans in a deep oven proof dish
  4. Cut bacon into 1” strips and fry until about half done
  5. Dice the onion and add to the bacon
  6. When onions are almost sautéed, sprinkle with liquid smoke and fry until done
  7. Pour the brown sugar evenly over the beans
  8. Sprinkle the mustard and peppers over the beans
  9. Add the catsup
  10. Pour the bacon and onion mixture over the beans
  11. Mix thoroughly and cover
  12. Bake for 2 hours or until the beans are boiling
  13. Uncover the beans and mix
  14. Bake for 1 more hour
  15. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before enjoying.

Decadent Brownies

This is a really easy recipe and eating these brownies leave you feeling guilty. All you have to do is buy your favorite brownie mix or make from scratch and prepare per the directions.  Just before you stick it in the oven, open a can of a berry pie filling (my favorite is raspberry pie filling) and swirl the contents of the can in on top of the brownies.  Bake them per the directions/recipe.  They come out gooey and totally awesome.  I have made these with raspberry pie filling and strawberry pie filling.  Both are delicious, but I am more partial to raspberries.

Garbage Salad

Mom used to make this and the first time I saw it, I had no doubt that it violated the presentation rule for preparing food.  You take your normal salad, add broken up doritos, top that with either loose burger meat (around here we call that maid-rite meat) or taco meat, top that with some cottage cheese and then add your favorite salad dressing.  I always add sunflower seed kernels, bacon bits, and croutons to mine.  It is a smorgasbord of flavors in every bite!

Cheesy Hash Browns

In a 9×16 glass baking dish fill it halfway with shredded hash browns.  Add a thin layer of velveeta cheese and then fill the dish to almost the top with more hash browns.  Pour half a can of chicken broth over the potatoes and then top with a thick layer of shredded cheese.  Pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for at least an hour.  When you can see the layer of velveeta in the middle has melted and the top is also melted, it should be done.  Some ovens take longer than others to get everything to temperature.  This is one of our favorites with my beef brisket.

Quick N Easy Beef Soup

This is a quick and easy recipe when you have leftover beef roast, steak, brisket, or any other red meat.  The wife and I make this with leftover steak from our date nights.  That’s right, we’ve been married for over 32 years and I still have to take her on dates.
Ingredients:

  • Leftover beef
  • 2-4 packs of Lipton’s Instant Onion Soup (Depending on how much meat you have)
  • 1 package of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 TBL of black pepper

Preparation

  1. Dice the leftover beef into cubes
  2. In a stock pot, make the onion soup per directions on the package
  3. Bring soup to a boil and add the pepper, beef and vegetables
  4. Lower the heat and simmer for one hour
  5. If flavor is weak add beef bouillon to taste

Sweet N Sassy Brisket

Tenderize one brisket with a fork or other penetrating tenderizer and place in pan.

Pour one bottle of Kraft’s Zesty Italian Salad Dressing over the brisket and rub into both sides.

Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours

Remove from refrigerator and pour off excess dressing

Generously rub both sides of the brisket with Sweet N Spicy dry rub (see below)

Recover the pan and return to the refrigerator overnight

Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and uncover 45 minutes before smoking

Save the liquid from the pan when placing the brisket in the smoker

Smoke at 200-225 degrees for 1 to 1 ¼ hours per pound fat side up with Mesquite wood chips

Mop the meat every hour

Remove from smoker when internal meat temperature reaches 160 degrees

Cover and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Sweet N Spicy Dry Rub

1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

2 TBS Sea Salt

1 TBS Black Pepper

1 TBS Paprika

2 TBS Fajita Seasoning

1 TBS Garlic Powder

1 TBS Onion Powder

1 ½ TBS Mustard Powder

1 ½ TBS Cayenne Pepper

1 TBS Chili Powder

1 TBS Crushed Red Pepper

Mix ingredients thoroughly and place in airtight container. Refrigerate when not in use. If stored for long periods, remix before using. This rub also works well on other red meats.

Hot Brisket Mop

Mix one can of Coca Cola, the excess liquid from the marinating pan, 1 tsp of crushed red pepper and 2 TBS of the dry rub. When mopping, lightly but generously coat both sides of the meat without removing any bark that has built up.

Serving the Brisket

  • Remove the excess fat from the brisket
  • Cut the brisket across the grain in thin strips
  • Serve plain or with BBQ sauce of choice OR Italian Dressing
  • The thin end of the brisket will be well done and the thick end will be medium rare to medium

Goes well with:

  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Cheesy Potatoes
  • Cheesy Broccoli
  • GI Beans
  • Corn
  • Tai Pad Noodles

MEXICAN TATER TOT CASSEROLE

As far as I’m concerned this is about as close as you can come to a cheap imitation of mexican food.  But, I really enjoy it once and a while.

1 bag of tater tots

1 lb ground beef

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 bag shredded taco blend cheese

Brown and crumble the 1 pound of ground beef.

Pour half the bag of tater tots in the baking dish and top with the browned ground beef.  Fill the rest of the dish with tater tots.  Mix the taco seasoning with the recommended amount of water and pour over the top of the potatoes.  Top with the package of taco (or mexican) blend cheese.  Bake uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour.  My kids used to like to sprinkle on some hot taco sauce when they got it on their plate.  I enjoyed it au naturel.

   CHOLLA TOK

(CHOLLA CHICKEN)

Have you ever wanted to make an asian dish, but didn’t know how?  Well, here’s an easy Korican (A mix between Korean and American) dish that I haven’t had any complaints on yet.  Cholla is a province in South Korea where the people are known for the ability to cook fantastic meals.  Tok (pronounced talk), is the Korean word for chicken.  We left Korea while my kids were still young and once in the western world again, they just started calling it Cholla Chicken.

While trying to come up with a BBQ Sauce in Korea (where they didn’t sell it at that time), I came up with this basic sauce.  After a few modifications it became a dish served over rice.

Ingredients

3 cups of Ketchup (the cheaper, the better)

1/2 cup margarine

3/4 can of beer (once again, the cheaper the better.  I used to make it with Hamms, now Milwaukee’s Best)

3 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic

1 yellow onion sliced thin

1 bunch of green onions sliced thin (including the tops)

1 can of bamboo shoots

1 can of water chestnuts

1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper

3 tablespoons of dry roasted sesame seeds

1 1/2 boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced thin for stir fry (the butcher at the grocery store can do this for you)

PREPARATION

In a wok or deep pan melt the margarine and then add the ketchup, garlic, onion, and red pepper.  Mix well and once brought to a light boil add the chicken. Lower the heat to medium and frequently mix the ingredients until the chicken is almost fully cooked.  At this time add the water chestnuts, green onions, bamboo shoots and the sesame seeds.  Mix again and bring the heat back up to high to finish cooking the chicken.

Serve over a bed of sticky rice for a great meal with a little zip to it!  Enjoy!

My latest creation for exciting my taste buds is……………………

FAJITA BURGERS!

INGREDIENTS

1 pound ground beef

1 pkg of hamburger buns of your choice (I like the onion buns)

1 pkg of Taco Bell fajita seasoning (I hate TB but their seasoning is ok).

1/6 cup water

1 pkg real bacon bits (I know fajitas don’t have bacon in them)

1 green bell pepper

1 red onion

1 pkg taco blend shredded cheese (also not usually in fajitas)

Mayo or Miracle Whip (I prefer MW)

8 jalapeño peppers

Tabasco sauce

Butter or margarine

PREPARATION

Mix the Taco Bell fajita seasoning with the water and blend well.

In a bowl, blend the hamburger, bacon bits and seasoning and form into patties.

Sprinkle both sides of the patties with Tones Fajita seasoning and set aside

Cut the bell pepper and onion into thin strips and then sauté them in butter.

Finely mince the jalapeños

In another bowl, mix 4 heaping tablespoons of mayo the minced jalapeños and a couple shakes of Tabasco.

Grill your burgers to your desired state of doneness (rare, med, etc)

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

Lather both sides of the inside of the bun with the mayo mixture

Place your burger on top of the bottom half

Sprinkle on the shredded cheese

Add the sautéed onions and peppers

Cap it off with the top half of the bun

ENJOY!

Afterburner Chili

This chili recipe has won 8 cookoffs now.  If you do use this in a cookoff, please give credit where credit is due.  Thank you.

2 lb ground beef
2 lb italian sausage
2 lb slab bacon
1 vadalia onion
4  tbs minced garlic
2 tbs liquid smoke
1 jar of Hot Salsa
2 jars of Medium Salsa
Chili Powder
1/2 tsp cumin

1 cup water
Start off by cutting the bacon into 1″ strips and dice the onions
Fry the bacon until almost done and then add the onions and liquid smoke
Fry the bacon & onions until onions until translucent
Take the onions and bacon out of the grease and add the beef and italian sausage in.
Crumble the sausage and beef while it cooks.
When the sausage and beef are browned, drain off the grease and add the bacon and onions back in with the sausage and beef.

Pour in the three jars of salsa and one cup of water, cook until the mixture is hot.
Add the cumin and then sprinkle the mixture with chili powder until she’s got a nice coating over the top (I never measure the chili powder for some stupid reason). I’d guess its about 6 tbs.
Stir and lower the heat to a simmer.  After simmering for a bit, the chili should have a chili aroma to it.  If it does not, sprinkle more chili powder over the top.
Let it simmer for a couple of hours and then eat up. Chili will be a little spicy.
For the award winning part, after its simmered for a couple of hours let it cool and put it in the fridge overnight. Reheat the next day and it’s an award winner!

Orange Glazed Chicken Breasts w/Raspberry Sauce

Ingredients
2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
2 oranges
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbs minced garlic
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 btl Raspberry Sauce

Preparation
Wash the breasts thoroughly and puncture each breast repeatedly with a fork or knife and place in a bowl. Add the ginger root, orange peel, garlic, maple syrup, and pepper. Cut both oranges in half and squeeze all the juice from both oranges over the breasts. Then with a spoon, scoop out the left over pulp from the inside of the rind and add to the breasts. Blend completely and then place in the refrigerator for at a minimum 30 minutes.

Place the breasts in a pan over medium heat and cover. Every 4-5 minutes flip the breasts over in the pan and cover again. A golden glaze will build up on the chicken. The size and the thickness of the breasts will determine how long to cook. Once both sides have build up a golden glaze the check the chicken to make sure it has been thoroughly cooked.

Place the breasts on plates and pour the remaining orange glaze over them. Then, take the raspberry sauce and pour a light coating over the breasts. This chicken dish goes very well with Corn on the Cob, cucumber salad, or whatever your imagination can conjure up. If you have leftovers, cut the chicken up into cubes and add to your favorite salad! Bon Appetite!

DELICTABLE MEATLOAF

Ingredients
2 LBS OF GROUND BEEF
1 JAR OF REAL BACON BITS (FOUND WITH SALAD TOPPINGS)
2 HEAPING TABLESPOONS MINCED GARLIC
1 MEDIUM ONION FINELY DICED
1 CUP KETCHUP
2 EGGS
BREAD

Preparation
In a large bowl thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except the bread. Take a bread pan and line the bottom with bread. Form the meat loaf over the bread in the pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375°F and then place the meatloaf in the oven. After one hour take the loaf out and let it set for 10 minutes. The bread in the bottom of the pan will absorb any grease from the other ingredients. Slice the meatloaf and serve. Made this for the first time today and it was a winner!

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