Category Archives: American

Coconut cold-brewed coffee

Recently, I found myself starting my mornings with all the energy and drive of a depressed sloth, so I went back to my trusty coffee recipe to wake me up in the mornings.

My wife, who loves coconut, asked me about adding some coconut flavour to the original recipe. I could have hit the restaurant supply store and bought another flavour syrup, but since I had coconut milk in the cabinet, I decided to modify the original recipe instead. Besides, coconut milk has a fraction of the carbs of evaporated moo juice, and is friendlier to the lactose intolerant and anyone on the paleo diet.

This is probably the simplest recipe I’ll publish, since I tend to like tweaking and adding, but it is perfect to wake you up- and if you are doing the zombie walk already, I doubt you’d want to put nineteen ingredients together!

Be warned- this makes strong coffee. Strong, like, it’ll curl the hair it puts on your chest. You may want to use less coffee grounds if you prefer a less robust pick-me-up.

(makes two servings for most people, or one serving  for the insomniac or if you want frantic energy and possible heart palpitations)

  • 2/3 cup coffee grounds
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • sugar or other sweetener to taste

Starting the night before you expect to need caffeination, put the coffee grounds and water in a one-quart mason jar, shake once, and put in the refrigerator.

Sleep well, dreaming the the energy you’ll have in the morning.

Strain the coffee into another quart mason jar. I find that a canning funnel with a coffee filter in it, with a strainer on top to pin the coffee filter in place, works well. It’ll take ten minutes or so for the filter to let the coffee through.

Discard the filter and grounds.

Add the coconut milk to the coffee, shake once, then sweeten to taste (I started with 1/4 cup of splenda, which makes fairly sweet coffee).

Serve over ice.

Cold-brewed coffee

I like iced coffee.

I don’t like single-use appliances. My kitchen is too small to house anything that doesn’t have at least two or three purposes. So a coffeemaker, while convenient, just isn’t going to work for me.

Our local purveyor of coffee and bad-for-diabetics-food, AKA Dunkin’s, serves cold-brewed coffee. Cold brewed coffee has less bitterness than traditional hot-brewed coffee, a true benefit for super tasters such as my wife.

I tinkered up a recipe for my own cold brewed coffee, since I don’t like the crowds and prices at the coffee shop.

If you’re caffeinating a crowd, you may need to use a large jar for this; I use a quart mason jar, which is plenty enough for two. The coffee is quite strong, as brewed, so if you prefer black coffee, you’ll want to reduce the amount of ground coffee you use.

This recipe is for two servings, but it multiplies easily. If you want less caffeine, use the same amount of coffee grounds but use either all decaf or a mixture of standard coffee and decaf.

Cold-brewed iced coffee

  • 2/3 cup  ground coffee
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 1 12-oz can of evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar or substitute
  • (optional) two oz coffee flavoring syrup (Irish cream flavor is the current favorite in our house)
  1.    Put the coffee grounds and water into a mason jar, shake a few times to get the grounds wet, then leave in a refrigerator for four hours to overnight.
  2.    Strain out the coffee grounds with a coffee filter. It’ll take a few minutes, as the liquid is cold.
  3.    Add the evaporated milk, sweetener and any flavor syrup, shake, and serve over ice.

Quick Shrimp Alfredo Bake

Here’s a bit of a change of pace. I actually remembered to take pictures this time!20160930_1515411


I usually get into a sort of creative trance when I cook.


It’d be pretentious to call myself an artist, but the trance is similar to that of a musician really getting into a song, or a writer really when the story is flowing.

sautée turns into braise
Add cream

I just don’t really see the world outside of my saucepan. Grabbing a camera, even if it occurred to me (I’m not a visual person), would be an unwelcome intrusion.

add pasta
Stir in pasta

This is my apology to you for the paucity of photographs in my normal blog entries.

add cheese
Ready for the oven

This time around, I was visiting my parents. They have attractively matched cookware and a better-lighted kitchen than I do; so I took a handful of pictures.

Ready to serve
Ready to serve

Please pardon the quality– this was a mobile phone.

Alfredo is a lot simpler than most people think. This version is not terribly genuine (roux and mozzarella) but it is quick and simple. If I were cooking for date night I’d’ve gone for the full traditional recipe, but this was a quick dinner with my parents and a chance to try out a new recipe.

The recipe comes from Delish, a site that Mattfood dreams of being when it grows up. It’s called Garlicky Shrimp Alfredo Bake. I used the recipe as inspiration, changing a few things because I like garlic (and I forgot to buy tomatoes).

  • 1 lb penne
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. medium  shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella plus 1/2 cup saved aside
  • 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons saved
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1.    Cook pasta to al dente, which is just a bit firmer than most folks prefer to eat it. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2.    Melt one tablespoon of butter in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the shrimp, garlic and two tablespoons of parsley. Sautée until shrimp is pink, about two minutes per side, then remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and save them. Leave the rest in the pan.
  3.    Add the rest of the butter. When it has melted and stopped foaming, whisk in the flour. Keep stirring until the mixture has darkened a bit (about like coffee with a lot of cream), then add the milk and chicken broth. Mix well and bring to a simmer.
  4.    Add cheeses (saving out the extra 1/2 cup of mozzarella) and stir. Once the cheeses are well melted and combined, return the shrimp to the mix and add the cooked pasta. Stir well (but gently) and spread the mixture evenly around the pan.
  5.    Sprinkle the reserved cheeses on top of the pasta mix and bake for 5-7 minutes.
  6.    Set oven to broil, and broil the mix for 2-3 minutes. Check often, because there is a fairly short period of time between ‘nicely browned’ and ‘looks like a lava rock.’

Serve with something green and bold- broccoli is a traditional alfredo favorite but a salad with spinach or mustard greens would work too.

The tragic aftermath
The tragic aftermath

Road Snacks – Beef Jerky at home

We’re taking a road trip. A few years ago we had an RV, so I could travel and cook at the same time (not as we were driving, but you know what I mean). Now we have a Prius, so we get five times the mileage, but the kitchen facilities are somewhat more limited.

At my budget, road food tends to be served under a crown or a big yellow M. It’ll keep you alive (for a while) but if there’s a lowest common denominator, this is it.

Road snacks should be tasty, tidy, able to survive without refrigeration, and nutritious- in that order. Since I’m going low carb, cookies and the like are off the list. So, what is a good protein-y road snack?

I picked up dry roasted peanuts during my last stroll through Costco. Costco doesn’t sell small packages- I think it is around a bushel. Should last through any number of road trips. But peanuts, while they are a low carb snack, get a wee bit dull. But beef jerky can have quite a range of flavors.

So yesterday, during the height of the Texas summer heat, we went back to the restaurant supply warehouse and spent quite a long time looking through the beef roasts in their meat walk-in cooler. The fact that it is 45 degrees in there encouraged me to check every roast slowly.

I picked up a six pound roast for $20. Unlike my normal steak guidelines, I looked for one with as little marbling as possible- fat is not your friend in jerky.

Once home, I trimmed the roast into about two inch thick

The fat on the outside should be trimmed off.
The fat on the outside should be trimmed off.

steaks with no visible fat. Then I sliced the steaks into strips about 3/8 of an inch thick. That’s about 1cm, for the civilized folk out there. The actual thickness doesn’t have to be very specific but as much as possible you want all your pieces to be nearly identically thick so that they cook and dry at the same rate.

I made three batches and marinated them overnight- one A1 sauce, one oyster sauce, and one random mix of black soy, worcestershire sauce and sweet chili sauce.

I’m cooking each batch separately in the Nuwave for three hours at power 2, with some soup spoons elegantly jammed under the cover so that moisture can escape.

I’ll post more in a few hours when the first batch (oyster sauce) comes out.

Anti-pasta salad redux

My previous post, the low carb antipasto, was nutritious but too bland. With a July 4 cookout approaching, I made a double batch with a few modifications for more flavor.

Chicken wasn’t on sale this week, but steak was. Since this is a double batch, I picked up two pounds of somethingorother steak.

Now, the flavor upgrades:

  • double strength ranch dressing
  • double the capers
  • sear the steak on a gas grill
  • salt the cukes
  • dance naked in the moonlight

  • 8 cucumbers
  • 2 ts salt
  • 4 bell peppers
  • 2 onions
  • 2 lbs steak
  • 2 lbs bacon
  • 1 cup capers, drained
  • 3 cups ranch dressing
  1.    Peel the cucumbers, remove the ends, and slice in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds, then slice the halves again lengthwise. Cut the resulting spears in 1/2 inch sections. Put the pieces in a large collander and toss with salt. Let rest for two hours or more (refrigerated, over a bowl to catch the juice).
  2.    I used a packet of ranch seasoning meant for a gallon, and made two quarts instead. I used half mayo and half yoghurt. You could use buttermilk instead of the yoghurt but the cucumbers release a lot of water, so I opted for the thicker dressing. You’ll use three cups of the resulting dressing.
  3.    Cut the peppers and onions into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  4.    Trim the steak well, then grill on a hot gas grill to about medium. Cool the steak then slice into 1″x1/2″ pieces, and add them to the mixing bowl. Good strong grill marks will pay you back with a burst of flavour.
  5.    Cook the bacon to crispy (using your favorite method- microwave or nu-wave work well) then crumble or snip it into small pieces in the mixing bowl.
  6.    Add the capers and ranch dressing and stir to coat.
  7.    Shake the cucumber pieces in the collander to drain out the last of the juice, then add to the bowl and stir to coat everything. Serve cold.

Some attractive add-ins would be cherry tomatoes, banana peppers, sliced Greek olives or cubed sharp cheddar.

Low Carb Antipasto

I’m an Italian-American. I’m also a diabetic. Pasta calls me sweetly, but tries to kill me. It’s a dilemma.

Some foods are just not in my healthy future. Fettuccine Alfredo, my luscious tasty friend, is right out. I’ve looked at alternatives but a poor substitute is worse than no fettuccine at all, so I just wish. But there are other families of food that I can modify.

Antipasto is a perfect summer food. In western Texas where I live, the temperatures amble up into the low hundreds in June- that’s above 38 degrees Celsius, for the civilized folks out there. The idea of roasting a chicken for dinner has all the appeal of getting dental work performed by one’s bitter ex-wife.

My family has several favorite recipes for antipasto (all from my mother, who is a wonderful cook). Alas, they all pretty much start with a pound of pasta. So I was looking for a pasta-free antipasto. What could fill the role of the pasta: a good, mild, filling base for the rest of the salad?

I’ve heard of various miracle noodles- shiritake, for instance- but could not find any in my local stores. I could use rice, but getting away from carbs is the idea. I have made antipastos and simply left out the noodles but they were dense, gloopy, and unbalanced.

I used to have a ‘recipe’ for pasta salad which was more of an algorithm- take one from this group, two from that group, etc. I’ll see if I can unearth it if there’s any interest- it was good because no matter what was on sale that week, a decent pasta salad could be made without worry.

A local supermarket had a good sale on cucumbers, which seemed like a good match to the job. They certainly won’t distract from the leading flavors, am I right? They lack the chew of pasta, but they have next to no carbs, so I grabbed four.

Peppers were cheap too, so I grabbed three healthy orange ones. Bell peppers tend to be sweeter as they get brighter- green peppers have little sweetness unless you caramelize them, and purple ones, while pretty, are a chore to eat.

I’ve recently been experimenting with different recipes of ranch dressing, so I have plenty of it in the fridge. I used two cups in this recipe. European antipastos frequently are moistened with oil and vinegar, but I was working from the memory of a recipe with a yogurt/mayo moistening, so ranch wins for today.

Cucumbers are not pasta. They made that obvious in my first attempt, which was more like a chunky summer soup than a salad- I had only drained the briefly, and they released a dismaying amount of water. The second batch worked my better, with more draining, but still left a fair puddle in the bottom of the bowl. I’ll try salting and pressing them next time.

  • 4 cucumbers
  • 3 bell peppers, colorful (orange, red or yellow)
  • 1.5 lbs flank steak, thin sliced
  • 2 cups ranch dressing
  • 4 oz capers
  • 1 onion, minced
  1.    Peel the cucumbers and halve them lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds, then slice each half in half again, and cut the spears into about 1/2″ sections.
  2.    Put the cut cucumbers into a gallon Ziploc bag. Cut one corner off (smaller than the pieces so that only water can get out) and suspend it over your sink. Let them drain for an hour or so. If you own a salad spinner, you might well use it instead.
  3.    Grill the steak over a hot fire until rare or medium but well-marked. let cool, then slice across the grain.
  4.    Core, seed and cut the peppers in 1/2″ or slightly larger cubes.
  5.    Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix.

Some possible add-ins would be crisp crumbled bacon, banana peppers, black olives, or cherry tomatoes.

UPDATE   Drop the steak, add in 1.5 lbs of chicken breast (cooked and rough chopped) and crumble a pound of bacon in. Chicken Bacon Ranch Antipasto.

Grilled Pizza Bachelor Style

I’m not a bachelor, but sometimes I do think back on the simple days when I had no worries beyond how to stretch a twenty to cover a week’s groceries.

small pizza on grill
It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

This week, friends delivered my long-neglected gas grill. It lit up perfectly, as though I hadn’t left it in the raw desert for a year. And I remembered why I’d missed it so.

Gas grills are simple creatures. Turn the knobs, sacrifice the hair on the back of your hand to the fireball, and you have a cooking tool that requires nothing more than a cold beer and a steady hand.

My son came home from school right after I set the grill up. He’s a fan of pizza, and with my Nu-Wave dying we hadn’t had pizza for a few weeks, so I made a simple bachelor pizza.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Poverty is at least an uncle. I didn’t have yeast but I have large tortillas- there’s a crust. simple tomato sauce, cheese, some giant pepperoni, and we had a thin-crust pizza in about ten minutes.

They joy of bachelor cooking is that almost any substitute will work. Don’t have tortillas? Pita bread, lavash, or sandwich wraps will work. Any spaghetti sauce can work. I used muenster cheese buy7 mild cheddar, colby, or monty jack will work fine- just avoid the stronger cheeses. Make this with gorgonzola and I won’t be held responsible!

My gas grill is an old friend. It has a few quirks, lacks a few knobs, and doesn’t cook things quite as evenly as a younger, better grill might. If you’re blessed with a good grill you may not need to rotate the pizza while it is cooking.

  •    1 burrito-sized flour tortilla.
  •    1/2 cup tomato sauce
  •    1 cup shredded or sliced mild cheese
  •     1 oz pepperoni
  1.    Start the grill on high. Clean the grates.
  2.    Pour the tomato sauce in the middle of the ‘crust’ and spread it almost to the edges. Ideally it should cover the ‘crust’ thinly enough that you can still see the crust a bit- if there is too much tomato, the pizza will be soggy.
  3.    Spread most of the cheese evenly over the tomato sauce.
  4.    Add your pepperoni and/or other toppings.
  5.    Place the pizza on the grill and lower the cover.
  6.     Every three minutes, rotate the pizza 90 degrees to keep cooking even.
  7.    Pizza is done in about ten minutes. The crust should be neither floppy nor brittle- if you lift up an edge and can see just a bit of charring and the whole bottom sort of a dark blonde, the pizza is ready.


Wedge Salad

Wedge salad is simple- four ingredients. Where most green salads have onions and radishes fighting for dominance, wedge salad is clean and pure, relying on the freshness of the lettuce to carry the day. If you don’t have really good lettuce, you’ll want a different recipe.

If you do have access to good, fresh iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes, you’re half way to a salad that is striking and delicious. It is a great accompaniment to almost any meat or fish; it pairs particularly well with lighter dishes, though I wouldn’t complain to see it served before a lasagne either.

Either Ranch dressing or bleu cheese dressing can work well with this salad- I’d suggest using Ranch unless your audience is used to the strong, pungent, wonderful flavor of bleu cheese. It’s also worth considering the rest of the meal- if you’re serving this with salmon, Ranch is much less likely to overwhelm the mild flavor.

  • 1 head of FRESH iceberg lettuce, refrigerated
  • 1 lb bacon, preferably thick-sliced
  • 8 oz cherry tomatoes
  • Ranch dressing (or bleu cheese dressing), one bottle
  1.    Peel and discard the outer few layers of lettuce.
  2.    Pick up the lettuce, point the stem down, and strike it sharply on a study countertop. What you want to do is just barely cave in the stem, so that you can pull it out.
  3.    Slice the head of lettuce into six even wedges. Place one wedge on each plate, pointed side up.
  4.    Cook the bacon to crispy. If you have  NuWave oven,  I’ve found that 12 minutes works well. Drain the bacon well. If you’re using a frying pan to cook the bacon, save the bacon fat.
  5.    In a large frying pan, heat up the bacon fat to almost smoking and dump in half of the tomatoes (be careful- adding cold tomatoes to hot oil WILL cause spitting). Once the tomatoes have blistered, about two minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel and cook the second batch.
  6.    Crumble the bacon and distribute it evenly over the lettuce wedges.
  7.    Add enough dressing to cover about 50% of the wedge. Drizzling it in lines makes this even more attractive.
  8.    Add the tomatoes- they’ll want to roll off of the wedges but if you can get one or two to nestle in the lettuce it enhances the appearance.
  9.    Serve immediately as a first course of a larger meal, or as a light meal on its own.


Eating on the Cheap: Rice and Beans (but not boring)

Rice and beans is a dish that has fed many a poor family. It is cheap, filling, and (if done right) can be quite tasty.

Unfortunately, all too any modern cooks seem to think that the two ingredients in the title are all that should be there, and wind up with bland stodge.

A local supermarket had a few decent sales one week, including bacon and mustard greens. I thought that adding them to rice and beans would make a decent dish.

I started with the beans, since they take the longest. You can use canned beans, but I like working from dried beans; it is cheaper and they have a more distinct texture when cooked than canned. I took two cups of dried pinto beans, sorted them (you can find grit and even pebbles!), and left them in a Dutch oven on the stove, covered, with about two quarts of cool tap water.

(eight hours later)

I emptied the beans into a collander, left them to drain, and rinsed the Dutch oven. Then I put six cups of low-sodium chicken broth into the Dutch oven, heated it to a boil, and added the beans. Once the water was boiling again I turned the heat to low, covered it, and ignored it for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Then, the rice. I heated two tablespoons of bacon fat in the Dutch oven, over medium heat. Once the oil was hot (not quite smoking) I added two cups of long-grain white rice, stirring to coat with the oil, then left it alone for three minutes, stirred well, and left the rice for an additional three minutes. At the end of this step, the rice had some pale/translucent grains and a few of them were slightly browned.

I added diced onions and bell peppers. If I were making a jambalaya, I would have added celery, but this was shaping up to be vaguely Italian, so I stuck with those two, and added garlic after a few minutes.

Now, I opened up the pot of beans and added the rice and veggies, stirred to combine, then re-covered it and left it simmering for an additional thirty minutes.

I have a NuWave oven, so the bacon is simple. I laid out about  half a pound of bacon on the taller rack, set the oven to 12 minutes and carried on. If you’re not blessed with a NuWave, you’ll want to crisp up eight ounces of bacon over medium-low heat.

Mustard greens are dark green, leafy, like spinach but more so. They pair well with the garlic and bacon in this dish. Unfortunately the stems are very tough, so the next 15 minutes was spent stripping the leaves so that the stems could be discarded. I also ripped the leaves to roughly two inch squares.

When the beans and rice are done, turn off the heat, stir in the mustard greens, and re-cover. Crumble the bacon (or chop it) and stir it in as well. The leaves will wilt and turn bright green.

This version of rice and beans is good straight out of the pot, but also works well in the fridge for a few days.


Easy Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff is a fairly simple dish, but it is distinctive and satisfying. I’ve seen many recipes that miss the point by either overcomplicating things (fifteen ingredients is egregiously complex for this dish- we’re not making Boeuf Bourguinon here) or oversimplifying them (Campbell’s Cream of Something soup).

Thin slices of beef and mushrooms in a creamy gravy, all over egg noodles. Not rocket science, but the recipe (unlike most) doesn’t really take well to modifications. I have never seen a successful vegetarian variant, for instance, and adding ingredients quickly turns this into a misbegotten beef stew.

  • 1 lb beef sirloin
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 TB butter
  • 6 oz sliced mushrooms
    • White mushrooms and baby bellas both work fine.
    • Portobellos can work if you like mushrooms and have the budget.
  • 6  scallions
  • 1 can of beef gravy (10 3/4 ounce)
  • 2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Slice the beef into bite-sized pieces, cutting across the grain, then sprinkle with pepper. Start the egg noodles
  2. Cut the green onions (or scallions) into fine pieces. Keep the green parts in one dish and the white parts in another.
  3. Add one tablespoon of butter to a dutch oven or large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and stopped foaming, sautèe the mushrooms and white parts of the onions for eight minutes. The mushrooms should be softened and the onions somewhat translucent when this step is done.
  4. Remove the cooked veggies to a bowl, wipe the pan clean and return to heat.
  5. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, then sautèe the beef until browned- should be about two to three minutes.
  6. Add the balsamic vinegar and gravy, and heat until it is simmering evenly, then remove from heat.
  7. Stir in sour cream, then sprinkle with the reserved green parts of the scallions. Serve immediately over the egg noodles.