Category Archives: Gadgets

Pressure Cooker Italian Beef

It’s just like crockpot Italian beef, only faster.  I’m liking my Instapot cooker more and more.  It’s the only way I make stock these days – just pile in the bones and odds and ends of celery and carrots and what-not with water and give it an hour on the timer and you’re golden.

Anyway back to the beef – sear a good chunk of that on sale chuck or what have you, cover it with some of your stock, add a couple of coarsely chopped onions, a handful of garlic, Italian seasonings (basil, thyme, oregano, parsley), and a jar of pickled pepperoncini.  The peppers are not as important as the juice.  You can add some red pepper flake to spice it up.  I set the timer for 75 minutes – it was easily shreddable when done,I baked some rolls to go with the beef.  I’ve been using the reliable KA bun recipe for several years now.  My hamburger buns usually turn out better looking than these hoagie type rolls but I’m working on that.Bonus Bea pic!


Gadget Post – Ball Jam Machine

I don’t have the recipe down yet  The recipe booklet that came with the machine give reduced sugar variants on the recipes.  I went with the reduced sugar recipe for some blueberries that I bought frozen.  The recipes all claim to produce 2 pints of jam but I have had two batches produce 3 pints when I followed a recipe.  The strawberry recipe I found online and was for Splenda, the blueberry recipe was from the booklet.  Neither produced jam that set.  Both were pourable.Not a big problem but it has been disappointing so far.


I thought we might have a gadget post on the new jam machine but so far it’s been more of a pancake syrup machine.  We tried to make a sugar free strawberry jam but even with the no sugar needed pectin it didn’t set up.  Might have to adjust the cooking time or go for reduced sugar rather than no sugar.The last of the homemade bacon.  I used most of it in a new version of the tomato bacon pasta salad:This about the same as the last one – I did go with rotini pasta this time, and added sliced black olives and shredded cheddar.  I used a store bought ranch dressing in this one, plus a bit of sour cream and a few dabs of that homemade garlic mayo.  I am constantly amazed on how much liquid the pasta can soak up overnight.  Kept adding ranch dressing from the bottle until it was all gone.Mrs J made an apple pie/crisp/crumble.  Not sure what to call it.  The bottom crust is made from crushed vanilla wafers with butter.  The top is a Martha Stewart recipe flour/brown sugar topping mixture with cinnamon.  We love it!  Mrs J is saying it’s her favorite of all the apple cobblers/pies/whatevers.  She had her doubts about the ‘nilla wafer bottom crust, was worried it would get too mushy so she baked it off before she added the apple filling.Random comfort food dinner – ham with fingerling potatoes and green beans.  The trick is to simmer the ham hocks with onions in either water or chicken stock for a few hours.  You want the onions to practically dissolve into the broth and the ham to soften enough to pull away from the bones.  Add the beans and potatoes during the last hour or so.  This is not a stir fry – you want the green beans soft, not crisp.  Or heavens forbid, with a snap!  Eat these with cornbread and sweet tea.These were an experiment with using the toaster oven on its slow cooker setting.  That setting gives you two options, slow and slower.  One is for 4 hours and the other is for 6.  I have no clue what the temps are set to.  I went with the 4 hour setting using a metal pan with a lid but I think the chops ended a bit dry.  I didn’t add any additional liquid to the pan, the bbq sauce and dab of pineapple went on in the last hour.The bone-in rib eye was good, the cauliflower and potato roasted with garlic was fantastic.Kroger had a sale on ribs, they sold three full racks in a sealed plastic package.  I went ahead and cooked them all up, ate one the same day, and froze the other two.  This is the last of that batch.  The onion rings are those cheap kind made from processed onions, I found a partial bag when I dug out the ribs and decided to use them up.

Ham Steak with Redeye Gravy

A perk from having one of those single cup coffee brewers is that when you need just a little strong coffee for a recipe it’s just a minute or two away.  I made a half cup of dark roast for this one and just dumped it into the skillet I seared the ham steaks in (after removing the ham).  Thickened with a little cornstarch it made a pretty good gravy.

Butter Beans

These went from dry to done in just a couple of hours thanks to the Instant Pot pressure cooker.  It probably could have been done quicker but I was a little leery of the cooking tables.  I have a vague memory of being disappointed in some pintos I cooked following their data.  I decided to simmer them for an hour then give them an hour in the cooker.  They cooked in chicken stock with a chopped onion, bay leaves, pepper, salt, dried thyme, and a couple chunks of cured ham.

Well, It’s Kind of Cooking

I have a nice London Fog jacket that the color just wasn’t working for me anymore. It was this pale, celery green and while the jacket is in great shape, it felt dated.  But it seemed wrong to get rid of a London Fog.

After looking for a new jacket for an upcoming trip, I couldn’t find anything as well made as this one. So I thought, I wonder if I could dye it? Being a poplin – polyester/cotton blend – it wasn’t going to be an easy dye job. But Rit just came out with a dye that can be used on synthetics.

It was suppose to work well on blends. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it shot. I think it turned out really well. Even dyed the green buttons, green zipper teeth and pulls.

It’s a bit wrinkled – I’ll dig the iron out later (sure hope it still works, lol)

It’s a high heat dye, so you have to do it the old fashioned way – on the stove in a boiling pot. I stirred it for 30 minutes and then rinsed and rinsed – finally gave up and decided to rinse it the remainder of the way in the washing machine – still took three rinse cycles.

Now I want to dye more things….


Mmm… Fresh Tomato Soup From Scratch


Mrs J picked some tomatoes the other day, enough that it was worth the trouble to bring out the juicer:This is a Breville unit, and it makes juicing a snap – separates the skins and seeds and fills the little container with juice and foam.  Dump the juice into a big pot and start boiling.  It will can foam over at first so you have to watch itWe started with about 5-1/2 quarts, added a pureed sweet onion, a dash of ground cloves, allspice, some chicken base, salt and pepper, and reduced that to about 2 quarts.  Don’t go overboard on the spices, it is going to concentrate the flavors as it reduces.  They do add a great aroma to the kitchen!  You can always add more when it’s thick enough.  I suppose you could add thickeners to it and not reduce it all the way, I may test that with the leftover soup to stretch it out some. Add a grilled cheese sammich and you have the classic lunch.  I had some odds and ends of cheese so I used them in these, a bit of Swiss, provolone, cheddar, Monterey jack, and American.  Olive oil is a tasty substitute for butter when you grill.

Stewed Tomatoes

Our tomatoes are coming in slow this year but and the squirrels are a problem but we are getting some. I had a bowl full of tomatoes that I needed to use, not enough to make it worthwhile to set up the juicer to make sauce or soup.There were plenty to make a pot of stewed tomatoes.  I added a green pepper and a bit of onion and simmered them down for a half hour or so.  You can add green chilies and make your own Ro-tel style tomatoes – add to cheese sauce for a killer nacho dip.They are also great with elbow macaroni.I decided to can these in my pressure canner.  It was a good chance to really give that big burner on the new stove a good run.  These got processed at 10 lbs pressure for 25 minutes per the Presto guidelines.

New Stove!

Mrs J has be after me for years to get a new range, the old one was tottering along sans a functional self cleaning cycle.  We sprayed its oven chamber down with cleaner and left in on all night but it was still a job to get it halfway clean.

This one is a GE Profile dual fuel range, gas burners on top and an electric oven.  The center burner on top is an elongated oval, the center grate swaps out for a cast iron griddle.Here’s the maiden batch of cookies.  They came out rather well.  The oven is wifi enabled, and there’s a smart phone app.  I set it up and played with it while baking the cookies, it doesn’t really do anything that you can’t do more easily using the controls on the stove.  One plus, though, it syncs the clock with the cloud, though it’s not clear from the docs just who it checks in with, and on what schedule.

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Salad

This is my new all time favoite potato salad of the month!

Thanks to Balloon Juice commenter NotMax for the tip and a recipe.  I went with another recipe for purely logistical reasons:  The Paprika app can strip recipes from a page where there is only one recipe but it struggles with comment sections.  We like Paprika, it’s an android app we put on tablets because the larger screen puts the ingredients and directions on the same screen.  Here’s a screenshot of the recipe page for this potato salad, the tablet is a Galaxy Tab S2 9.7″:

The app works on phones, too, but you have to swipe and scroll to get the same info.  There is a windows desktop app but they want more money for that then we want to spend for very little added utility.NotMax’s recipe says to refrigerate for at least an hour so I presume the salad is good cold.  We opted to reheat it for this tasty lunch.