Instant Pot, kielbasa, pineapple, napa cabbage

Photographically, this meal needs some color. A few cherry tomatoes will do. So will some fresh herbs. My photography self, and my food stylist self reject this set on the basis of color. It's easily fixed but I'm hungry.

Know what's amazing about napa cabbage? When you chew the white part the cells burst and fill your mouth with water, a pleasantly mild cabbage flavored water, this time with pineapple flavor and faint smoky sausage flavor included. It's awesome.

This time the Instant Pot is used for sautéing and for slow cooking, with the venting valve open so pressure does not build up. 

I did not show the three kielbasa sausages or the fresh pineapple or the large napa cabbage. But I should have. They're simple straightforward ingredients. The spices are inside the sausages.

It takes a bit of fiddling around imaging how you'd like this done the regular way without an Instant Pot stovetop and basting inside the oven. 

Without an Instant Pot, you get the water and sausages boiling first then put the regular pot in the oven and let it baste for hours. How many hours? I don't know. I've always overdone it to four or five hours to turn the sausages into near marshmallows.

When the sausages are done then add the vegetables to cook but not turn to mush.

Same thing with the Instant Pot. 

The pot is turned onto sauté for four minutes with water and sausages to get the steam going inside the pot. With the venting valve open so that pressure does not build.

Then cancel.

Then set slow cook for four hours. 

It will shut off by itself and keep the sausages and liquid warm.

Four hours later the sausage failed to turn soft as marshmallows. They still had resistance in their casings. So the timer was set for 4 more hours and I fell asleep.

The pot stops cooking at four hours and holds on warm. 

Wake up and add the pineapple, which doesn't need to be cooked, and the napa cabbage. Sauté for ten minutes to cook the cabbage and overcook the sausages with valve open so pressure doesn't build up. The napa cabbage is cooked as I like it, and I don't care how the pineapple fared, but it actually did fine, held its shape and imparted its pineapple flavor to the broth. The pineapple affected the broth more than the smoked sausages affected the pineapple.

Here's a side-by-side taste-test for you to do for yourself.

These pineapples were $1.00 at the grocery store but they are all rather small, hard and green. I picked out the two with the most gold color and that had a faint amount of give when pressed. 

They say to smell their bottoms, but come on, they all smell the same. This is Denver, not Thailand, not Maui.

They will not get more ripe on the counter. They will not develop more sugar. They will only soften and ferment, and they'll start doing that within a few days.

Also buy a tin of pineapple. It will last forever in your pantry.

Cut the pineapple into chunks and open the tin of pineapple and taste both one after the other.

Behold the difference in quality. In texture, in flavor, in acidity and in fresh bright happy goodness.

Goes like this: Pineapple Comparison

Tinned <--------Vast expanse of difference in quality --------> Fresh 

Honestly, there is no reason to buy that tinned crap for anything. What are you a survivalist prepper? 

quiche pressure cooked

The pie shell is pulverized cheese and bacon breadsticks blended with butter the same way a Graham cracker crust is done.

Two types of cheddar cheese, one has maple and it's intriguingly good and the other has whiskey and that's even better. Sandwich ham.

The custard is five small egg yolks plus two small whole eggs, sour cream and milk.

raw ↑ cooked ↓

potatoes, re-heated hamburger and baked beans pressure cooked

The potatoes are on the bottom in flavored water. 

These are re-heated leftovers except for the potatoes.

There was no advantage in doing it this way. The microwave would work as well and so would straight boiling. 

Nevertheless, it's a very good meal. So good I did it three times.

rice and beans, hamburger and egg breakfast

The dots on the egg are ancho chile. Ancho is the ripened and dried version of green fresh poblano chile. 

I got mixed up with chipotle which is smoke and dried ripened jalapeño peppers. So now I have two containers of the much milder ancho chiles. Eh. Boo hoo, too bad for me.

The hamburger has a small amount of cooked oatmeal and crushed cheese and bacon chipotle sourdough breadsticks processed to breadcrumbs. They weren't that good as breadsticks. Too tough. So they've been replaced with the thinner and lighter more delicate version made with regular yeast.

The rice has scant sugar and rice vinegar. 

The beans have excellent applewood cured bacon, Sherry, garlic and tarragon and balsamic. 

latkes, applesauce

OMG, do you know what this tastes like? It tastes exactly like a delicious fresh apple. Bright as can be with brilliant apple flavor, pow, right in the kisser.

They're not Jewish. They're not kosher. Mine have shrimp, ham, and bacon. 

Fine. Potato pancakes then.

The idea of hors d'oeuvre-like topped latkes comes from a YouTube video uploaded by The Nosher here.

zucchini, yellow squash soup Asian style

Chicken bits and broth the remainder from 4 chicken thighs pressure cooked in their own dish inside a pressure pot with water for the pot. So, no cleaning necessary for the pot.

There wasn't much chicken broth left so most the liquid here is water. The Asian flavoring for the soy-broth are brilliant.

1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon dry Sherry substituting (with sugar) for Japanese mirin
1 level teaspoon sugar

Those things together in a few cups of water make a delicious soup broth. It's basically the same thing that goes into sukiyaki broth. Along with all the blended flavors from the added ingredients.

This same type of flavor ingredients goes very nicely in miso soup. Along with a sort of tea made from steeping kombu seaweed and bonito flakes.

I've been really enjoying adding tofu to things. It's very nice in soups.

honey ham and jalapeño pizza

With mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, red bell pepper and white onion, mushrooms, olive and shaved garlic. Then, cilantro and basil.

3/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 rounded tablespoons semolina flour
5 rounded tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon oil

The white flour added in increments until a stiff texture is reached with no sticking to the hands. It's mixed with a dinner knife until it can be picked up and stretched, like a pizza then into a snake then into a ball, pizza, snake, ball, pizza, snake ball, and so on until it stretches nicely and becomes soft.

A disc of dough is rolled with a rolling pin in cornmeal top and bottom.

Unbaked ↑ Baked ↓ 

sourdough cheese and bacon breadsticks

With chipotle.

These are 1/3 sourdough starter. 1/3 whole wheat. Those two things vitiate the light airy delicately brittle nature of the original. The original is so much of nothing that it presents the cheese and bacon and chipotle flavors effortlessly. These are tougher, thicker, crunchier, stronger flavored so the cheese and bacon and chipotle are nearly lost, but not entirely. They are disappointing and I won't be doing this again. The original idea is better.

I was afraid of that the whole time. As they were proofing I kept thinking, this is my last chance to trash the idea and squash the four trays back into a dough ball for regular bread. And I kind of wish that I did. Now I must eat them all knowing I could be eating breadsticks that are 100% lighter and more impressively flavored with less flavoring ingredients. An entire cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano went into this sourdough version where 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano goes into the original version yet the taste come through better.

baked ↑                                   unbaked ↑

They grow in the oven and sometimes stick together

All of them must be re-baked at lower temperature to dry them out. The idea is zero moisture. Even the cheese must be baked dry.

The light in the room changed. I looked out the window to this. Dec. 19, 2017.

Caprese salad

Breezy and cheesy and easy not queazy or sneezy nor teasy or wheezy.

I saw this in a bowl at the deli and copied it. What the heck. They used perline mozzarella and I used regular mozzarella and cut it into cubes. Their mozzarella looked like little brown nuts. They charge a fortune for the simplest things.

I saw this Balsamic in the section for weird foods from places unknown, apart from the other regular vinegars, and I must say, odd as it is, it's the best Balsamic I've tasted. It's actually sweet. It would make a good syrup.

berries and cornflakes

The berries offered now in grocery stores are outstanding. Just think of the things you can do with them. 

Here's the thing that's weird. 

A few years ago I became very ill right when I was out of milk and cereal. That day I had also boiled the bones of a very large red snapper in preparation of bouillabaisse and right as it's done I can no longer tolerate the scent of fish permeating my apartment. I had to take out the trash but I was too weak to move. And I couldn't shop for the plain things that I craved. Milk and cornflakes. 

So I ordered online from the store that I usually go. 

I wanted plain cornflakes. I selected the brand that I know on their website.  

When they delivered they had substituted for the cheapest cornflakes they offer. I didn't even know they existed. But what is there to cornflakes? Smashed corn that's steamed and baked. I'm guessing.

Cornmeal is bland compared with ground up popcorn kernels. No comparison. Popcorn seeds into an electric coffee mill, boom, instant fresh cornmeal. I do this all the time and now I use commercial cornmeal that's been oxidized by being milled before being stored and transported and sitting on shelves only for pizzas as ball bearings to slide off the tray into the oven. Because they're virtually tasteless compared with popcorn kernels milled on the spot.

They also substituted organic milk for regular milk and delivered half what I ordered while keeping the total cost approximately equal. I wanted gallons of milk, not half gallons.

And since I was so sick, and because my yearning for this simple meal was so great, that first bowl of cornflakes and milk was the most excellent thing that I ever tasted and that experience left an enduring impression. I re-live that moment every time I eat these cheapest of all cornflakes and regular whole milk. Now it's the only type that I care have. Everything else is worse.

At the store these cheap excellent simple cornflakes are on the bottom shelf in one tiny unobtrusive spot while all the various brands of vitamin enhanced flakes and puffs and various grains with nuts and hard little raisins and colored ersatz marshmallows and cocoa all coated with sugar dominate row upon row of shelf upon shelf of an entire grocery store aisle. 

Care to hear something weird?

Okay, goes like this. 

I have a nerve disorder with a few strange manifestations having to do with eye-hand coordination and thought processing, that leave my doctors just shaking their heads. I've described it to them several times and each time they just go, "Well, hmm." It's not so bad as it once was but one place that it happens reliably is the cereal aisle in the grocery store. First there's the fluorescent light. Then there's the very long row of boxes. Then there's the scanning the boxes for type and then for brand. The influx of information through the eyeballs reading the boxes causes my head to literally jerk away to force me to stop looking and stop reading. Fighting it is ridiculous. Several times, very many times, I stood there resolute in determination to scan the cereal boxes and find my selection. I could scan for two seconds and my head jerks away. I force it back for two seconds and my head violently jerks away. As if a giant's hand is actually pushing my head. I look again, jerk away again. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. Look, jerk. And I realize I'm on camera and whomever is observing me must think I'm spazzing out. And I am!

For years I had a way of managing this situation. 

I walk down the cereal aisle and look straight ahead. I'd allow information about type and brand to come through periphery vision. These are wheat, these are rice, these are oats, these are corn. Then stopped in front of the type, say Raisin Bran, sneakily and slowly allow brand information to come through by periphery but without actually looking at the boxes directly. Not reading them. Then finding my type and brand then I'd allow direct straight on vision knowing I have only a few seconds to identify the selection then stop reading the boxes. With out-of-focus vision I'd confirm the decision then escape the cereal aisle. 

When I tell this to family physician and to specialists there is absolutely nothing they can do to help me. They can't even fit it with all that they know. And yet that is my reality. 

I must now pray. To thank God for allowing that syndrome to pass. That whole thing that I described is much lessened now. But if I spend too much time scanning the cereal boxes and reading then I feel the syndrome returning, feeling similar to the feeling that signals the onset of epileptic attack. 

There are other similar situations. Washing dishes underneath soapy water and relying on touch sense in warm water. The eye-hand-mental processing shorts out and my hands jerk out of the water violently. I put them back in and feel for service ware underneath the suds. Jerk! Feel, jerk! Feel, jerk! And that's actually dangerous because knives are in there. Most frustrating. I learned to wash dishes differently because of this

It also happened hammering brads for upholstering. Eventually I had to give up. I couldn't help my friend with his dining room chairs. And that was a bummer because that task was right up my alley. But it was impossible for me to hold the tack and whack it with a hammer, one after another.

Buttoning a shirt is another spazz out situation. 

And oddly, this hasn't affected typing nor communicating in sign language. These things I've described made me fearful it would spread to those things too eventually, but it hasn't. I have no idea why not because the situations are similar. And that's two more things I must pray to express thanks. 

The Deplorable Gourmet

This is a cookbook produced by the website Ace of Spades, assembled from recipes submitted by Ace of Spades readers and commenters referred to as the Moron Horde. The commentariat at Ace of Spades is likely one the most unique you'll see anywhere online. These are regular people across the United States interested in current events. They hold a broad range of opinions on everything. Each post at Ace of Spades gets thousands of fairly terse comments attached to them. To a large extent they know each other by this online connection so they've formed a kind of community. For the most part they did not support the female Democrat candidate for president thus the name, Deplorable Gourmet.

$15.00 on Amazon. $6.00 Kindle. You know, this is one book where maybe Kindle version is better. 374 pages of tight information. No photographs. The index shows the names of commenters not the names of their recipes. The table of contents is outlined. So there is no listing of all the recipes. You'll have to find them by category or by the author's name. 

The writing style shifts somewhat recipe to recipe while adhering to the tone that you'll see online at Ace of Spades site. Irreverent. While oddly respectful in a sideways manner. Wit of the heartland. A conversational style disregardful that this is a cookbook and not Ace commentary. For example, nearing the end I had to set down the book and laugh out loud and taking a good while to recover from hysterics reading  lin-duh fell recipe for Unknown Blackbean Soup. She starts her simple recipe, "One of the simplest 'homemade' soups evah!!! I pulled this out of my ass one night." 

I was hopeless tied up laughing at that. I had to stop reading. 

Recipes handed down. Others invented while drunk. Others invented by need or by shortage of sensible ingredients. A lot of recipes call for pantry ingredients common before obesity epidemic of America. One recipe called for spam, for example, many call for tinned fruit and vegetables. There is a heavy reliance on commercial items, tinned tomatoes preferred over fresh, packaged seasoning, packaged dressing. I noticed three recipes for tinned pineapple but none calling for fresh pineapple. Packaged onion soup, tinned soup. Lots of things with cream cheese. Tinned beans preferred over soaking dry beans. Lots of Velveeta cheese. I began to think these are people who don't care to cook. 

Like so many entries, lin-duh fall's recipe is not even a recipe. It's just what you do with tinned beans. You jazz them up with diced onion and garlic and dry herbs and chicken broth, olive oil and sour cream and hot sauce. Have them with rice if you feel like it. See? They're all pretty much like that. They're not even valid recipes. They're what you do when you scrounge. No sense in even writing down measurements, it's all common sense. But what's interesting is how utterly simple. Nearly all the recipes are like this. While we've come to thinking in terms of texture and color and blending flavors in balance. We think, how do we expand this to hit every taste sensation. To lin-duh fall's recipe we'd consider altering the pH with vinegar and including something sweet to expand the flavor profile to sweet/sour and enhance the black bean experience. We'd be thinking what fresh herbs we have available and what spices might be useful, with dry herbs our third choice. We'd consider including an alcohol. And all that is already habitual. 

Nobody makes their own pie crust.

Intermingled with outdated and slipshod pantry-heavy convenience items for recipes that aren't even valid recipes, just convenience things tossed together, pre-shredded cheese, tinned jalapeños and tinned tomato put in a bender, instead of real cheese and fresh vegetables, there are also real gems, serious food by thoughtful cooks collected through their travels or worked out by trial and error over time. This book is a complete mixed bag. It you're looking for something uniquely great, this book has it, and if you're looking for something fast to whip out, this book has that in abundance. It shows very clearly how Americans across the whole nation cook and the things that Americans eat.

It also shows clearly why Americans are fat. 

I don't like paperback books. I strongly prefer books bound with hardcover. That is my book-prejudice. And that is one reason why my bookcase is loaded with pop-up books. Those do not come in paperback form. That is by far my largest category of books in a bookcase that takes a whole wall. Second largest category is cookbooks, and those hardly ever get read. They're read once and then become reference book thereafter. I look at one of the cookbooks for reference maybe once or twice a year. Everything else is online. I'll watch fifteen videos of women making handmade pie crusts and not bother opening the baking bible. I don't now if I'll ever return to this book for reference. I cannot see myself asking it anything. It is a fun book to read just to hear people talking about their food, their personalities shine through brilliantly. It's a wonderful collection but that's about it in terms of actual usefulness or for getting any ideas. Say, you want to make Christmas cookies, or a peach pie, or a snack nut bar. This book will not be the first place to go for ideas. The internet has all that and more in abundance plus demonstration with video. For me, this book was good for a very large chunk of America. The whole time I kept thinking it's helping me understand my neighbors and my family's extended families. I just came from a sister's daughter's wedding. My sister married into an American farming family smack in the American heartland and my mind was blown how they do things. And food is a very large part. This book helped me comprehend them.

And everyone is fat.

Almost. A nephew has kept himself thin. This book is an epiphany that goes like this, "oh, so that's what's going on."

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