All posts filed under: Ramblings

Supporting Dad Cooks Dinner – 2017

I know you’re getting a lot of requests for support during the holidays…so here’s mine! Give me your money! I want to go full Scrooge McDuck, and swim around in a vault of gold coins! Bwahahaha! Ahem. Sorry. DadCooksDinner is a labor of love. I spent over 800 hours in 2017 working on it. Over the years, the blog has gone from making no money to making…some money. Not enough to quit the day job, but enough to make filing taxes a mess. (Even a popular food blog like mine is not the path to a Scrooge McDuck vault of gold coins.) As the blog grows, I try to be more professional (professionalish?). And I pick up more expenses. A test roast here, a pressure cooker accessory there, better blog hosting, a new theme…it all adds up. To help support DadCooksDinner, please consider contributing in one of the following ways: Holiday purchases through my Amazon.com links If you buy anything on Amazon after clicking through one of the Amazon links on this page, I get a …

Jar of Frozen Turkey Noodle Soup | DadCooksDinner.com

Frozen Assets for a Sick Day

Remember when I said that having a few jars of soup in the freezer made me feel good? A stomach bug is hitting us hard right now. (I won’t go into more detail – this is a food blog, after all.) I’m not up to writing today’s post, let alone making dinner. No one really wants dinner, either. I hit up my Frozen Assets and pulled out jars of Turkey Noodle soup from last week. (And a few jars of Turkey Broth for those of us with extra-sensitive stomachs.) Now I’m back in bed, finishing this little blurb. Next up – falling asleep while watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, my favorite sick day movie.

Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank

Giving Thanks 2017

I see skies of blue and clouds of white. The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself what a wonderful world. – Louis Armstrong (by way of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole) Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! On this Thanksgiving, please consider a donation to fight hunger in my home town: Donate to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank [AkronCantonFoodBank.org] Thank you, and again, Happy Thanksgiving! Mike Vrobel November 2017

It’s A Wonderful Thanksgiving 2017

This post started as the last question in yesterday’s Thanksgiving Q&A, but I got on a roll…and it wound up being too long to fit. And…as always, I apologize in advance.   Thanksgiving is as much about logistics as it is about cooking. The menu is large, and the crowd is larger. Suddenly, the oven isn’t large enough, the stove doesn’t have enough burners, and there isn’t enough time to get everything done. (Even when I use my grills as second and third ovens.) Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd depends on planning, making things ahead, and not losing your head when chaos is swirling around you. So…how does a typical Thanksgiving look when I’m hosting the big dinner? Thanksgiving: Strategy vs. Tactics (vs. The Fog of War) Or, what happens when a plan meets the enemy – and the enemy is us. With apologies to Alton Brown. Romancing the Bird (A Good Eats Thanksgiving) inspired me and this post – but I didn’t realize that until after I finished writing. Monday: Dry brine the turkeys, put …

Grilled Turkey and Smoke Thermometer | DadCooksDinner.com

Thanksgiving Q&A 2017

I’m not cooking a turkey this year! I don’t know what to do with myself! Thanksgiving is at my parents’ house, and ever since dad retired, he has thrown himself into cooking. (Hi, Dad!) He’s looking forward to cooking the turkeys this year – and who am I to stand in his way? And, Dad definitely has the turkeys covered. He’s smoking one and cooking the other one on the rotisserie. We’ll have plenty of turkey. There is no need for me to bring another one. My contribution is a huge batch of mashed potatoes, and a slightly smaller batch of green beans. And being Dad’s sous chef when necessary on the big day. So…anyhow…This relaxing before Thanksgiving. It’s a good thing? I think? (He says, looking around nervously for something to dry brine.) This does leave me with plenty of time to answer blog questions. And boy, do I get questions. In the month before Thanksgiving, I’m part emergency hotline counsellor, part turkey intervention specialist. Here are some of my favorite questions I’ve been asked …

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Canada and Uk Readers – Can You Help Me Out? (Amazon Affiliate Request)

FCC Notice: I am an Amazon Affiliate – anything you buy through my Amazon links will give me a small commission, at no extra cost to you. (You’ll see why I’m disclosing this in a minute…)   [UPDATE 2017-11-26: Thank you to my Canadian and British readers! My affiliate accounts met the minimum sales numbers, and won’t be closed due to inactivity.] Hello! I apologize for this post in advance. (Not a good sign – I’m already apologizing in the first sentence.) If you are not from Canada or the UK, you can skip the rest of this post. I’ll have more recipes and food thoughts next time. All you’ll miss is the minutiae of a US based blogger trying to keep their Canadian and UK Amazon Affiliate accounts open. Still here? Great! Welcome, Canadians and Brits! (Or people who care about the nuts and bolts of food blogging!) The Big Ask Canadian and British readers – I need your help. Can you do me a huge favor and order something through my Amazon links …

A few of my pinch bowls | DadCooksDInner.com

Things I Love: Pinch Bowls

Get your %@#$ together with your @#$%$#@ing Meez -Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential Mis En Place – from the French “Everything in its place” – is how professional chefs think about their work. They have to have Mis En Place – shortened to Meez in the hustle of a restaurant kitchen. To serve hundreds of meals a night, everyone needs their prep work done, and to know exactly where it is at all times. “Get your Meez together”…usually punctuated with a few choice words…means that you’re not ready, that you’re falling behind. Meez is a great idea in home kitchens, too. Now, I don’t go as far as professional chefs. I’m only cooking a few dishes at once, and I can multitask my onion chopping while the meat browns, and make the salad dressing while the pasta boils – but I can feel the difference once I have everything prepped and ready to cook. Everything slows down, and all I have to do is cook. That’s when I can relax, and enjoy the process. (Unless I’m …

Throwback Tuesday: Nervous Pumpkin Chili

  Last week was my annual ChiliFest at work. I send out emails asking everyone to bring in chili and…they all do? Or, at least, so many people join in that we feed the whole first floor of our office, with plenty of leftovers. I’ve mentioned it before, but Chili is a great way to bring people together. I’ve tried to do potlucks at work before, and they did OK…but never great. But when I do a ChiliFest – that is, a potluck where I suggest people bring their favorite Chili – I get one of two responses: I make a pretty good chili. I’m in! I don’t make chili, but can I bring XYZ instead? (And my answer to “can I bring…” is always “Yes”, before they get to what it is they actually want to bring.) This is all the lead-in to today’s story. My friend Paul and his wife Chantal have known us for years. Chantal follows the blog (Hi, Chantal! Sorry to put you on the spot here!). Paul is a …

Rotisserie Grilling by Mike Vrobel

New Book Covers!

My new book covers are (finally) loaded for all editions on all stores! Whoo hoo! As my designer worked on my new blog theme, they asked if they could take a crack at my book covers as well. I think my old covers offended their design sensibilities. (Hey, I’m not a designer – those covers are what you get when you ask a computer guy to design something.) I jumped at the chance for them to clean them up, and love the new look: Now, the only thing that has changed is the covers – the interior is still the same, so don’t go out and buy a new copy. (Unless you’re me, in which case you bought one of each, just to have the new covers on my shelf.) [UPDATE: Sigh. The new cover is not showing on the paperback on Amazon yet. It is still working its way through their system. If you order the paperback now, you get the new cover…I’m pretty sure.]

The glass is half full | DadCooksDinner.com

What Can I Use Instead of Wine?

A question about my Pressure Cooker Beef Short Ribs recipe: Could I just leave the wine out if I don’t want to use alcohol or should I replace it with another liquid? If so, what is best? Some people can’t (or won’t) use alcohol in their cooking. I’m not one of them, but I understand where they’re coming from. I don’t want to get my guests blitzed by making beef stew, you know? I do use alcohol in my recipes, usually wine or beer. Sometimes hard cider, particularly with pork. I’m going to refer to “wine” from now on, because it is my go-to cooking alcohol, but everything I that follows applies to beer and cider as well. Also, this is pressure cooking specific – that’s what the original question was about – but the basic ideas apply to all types of cooking. Can I boil off all the alcohol? For my pressure cooker recipes, I always boil the wine for a minute before locking the lid, to simmer off some of the alcohol. Alcohol …

Removing a refrigerated fat cap | DadCooksDinner.com

What if I Don’t Have a Fat Separator?

After last week’s talk about draining ground beef, I have a follow up fat question. Reader Lysandra asked about the fat separator step in my Pressure Cooker Pot Roast recipe: What can I do if I don’t have a Fat Separator? I have three suggestions…maybe four: How to remove fat if you don’t have a fat separator Skip the defatting step. Who’s got time to let fat settle? Dump everything in a serving bowl and go. I do this more often than I’d like to admit, especially on busy weeknights. Let the pot settle, then skim. This is the old school method. Fat is lighter than water, and if you let everything settle, fat floats to the top of the pot. Do what they do in professional kitchens – get out a big spoon and start skimming. (In professional kitchens that is a large part of the saucier’s job – skimming the fat off of their sauces as they simmer.) I can scoop out a lot of fat this way, but it takes patience and a …

Drain Ground Beef? Why? | DadCooksDinner.com

Do you drain ground beef? Why?!?

Q&A with a Commenter on my Quick Chili in an 8 Quart Pressure Cooker video: COMMENTER: I’m surprised you don’t drain your ground beef. DadCooksDinner: What? Why in the world would you do that? COMMENTER: To drain off the fat. After cooking. Everyone does it. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? Every now and again I get asked “Why don’t you drain your ground beef?”. I was surprised the first few times I was asked. I had never heard of such a thing. Do I drain my ground beef? No! Why would I? Sure, it may get rid of some of the fat. But I want that fat in the recipe – fat is flavor. Speaking of flavor, I’m not just draining fat. I’m draining all the juices that escaped the meat – that’s even more flavor down the drain. If you worry about fat, buy leaner ground beef. “Ground Beef” is usually 70% lean, 30% fat. Maybe I could understand draining that. But, why not buy 80% lean ground chuck instead? …

DadCooksDinner T-Shirt in Black | DadCooksDinner.com

The New Theme Is Here! (And…T-Shirts!)

As you probably noticed, my new theme went live! Thanks to Jasmine and Chris at RXVP, I have a new design, logo, and color scheme. We’re still cleaning up the details and a few messes. (I apologize about the weird right-shift on Tuesday’s email – that should be fixed. And, if you were looking for last week’s Thermoworks Smoke Gateway writeup, it is back online.) In honor of my new look, I’m trying something new – blog swag – a limited edition run of t-shirts and coffee mugs. Want to proudly display your love of DadCooksDinner, and my new Pressure Cooker icon? You can order from my Teespring storefront: https://teespring.com/stores/dadcooksdinner [Teespring.com] Men’s t-shirts are available in black and white, Women’s t-shirts are in black and purple, and the coffee mugs are in black and white. If you want one, don’t delay – they are only on sale for two weeks. The sale ends September 29 at 11PM EST. And, yes, I am mainly doing this to get my own t-shirt and mug. If you order one, …

Working on a recipe video | DadCooksDinner.com

Nine Years of DadCooksDinner

The other day, my friend Judy said that Fall is the real start of the new year. “That’s it!”. She’s absolutely right – I think it’s the rhythm of the school year – but I always treat Fall as when I start new projects. (New Years Resolutions are for when those projects aren’t going so well…but that’s another story.) So, it’s appropriate that my blog anniversary is in late August. Specifically, August 20th, 2008. DadCooksDinner started when I posted a recipe (and I use the term “recipe” loosely) for Chipotle en Adobo Puree. It’s 2017 now – holy cow – and I’ve been writing here for 9 years. I’ve know I’ve been doing this for a while, but 9 years? That’s a lot of recipes. 2016–2017 recap As you probably noticed, I leaned into pressure cooking even more over the last year. This has been good for the blog, from a traffic standpoint; the Instant Pot is a cultural phenomenon, and pressure cooker baby back ribs, chicken legs, quick chili, and New York cheesecake are …

Theme Moving Day

If everything goes according to plan, as you read this we’ll be moving my blog to its new theme and color scheme. If not, I’ll be shaking my fist at the computer gods, and we’ll be trying again in a week or so. Wish me luck! [Update 2017-08-27: And…not this week. Darn. We’ve rescheduled for the week after Labor day. So, stop back in two weeks to see what’s up…)

Electric Pressure Cooker Tote Bags | DadCooksDinner.com

Electric Pressure Cooker Tote Bags

Question from a reader: Have you tried a pressure cooker carrying bag? Years ago, I bought a slow cooker that came with a travel bag. I used it a lot, especially for potlucks and my annual chili cookoff at work. Now that I have an Instant Pot, my pressure cooker is gathering dust in the cabinet…but I miss having that travel bag. So, when I got this question, I went over to Amazon to see what was available. I found two pressure cooker tote bags: the $30 Pressure Chef, and the $40 Quick & Carry; I ordered them both to see what I thought of them. (The things I do for my readers…like order more stuff from Amazon. Quick & Carry Travel Tote Bag The Quick & Carry is the fancier of the two bags. It has a main central pouch for the pressure cooker, with a zipper around the lid of the bag to lift the cooker in and out. It also has two zippered accessory pockets – one on the top of the …

Pressure Cooker Red Pepper Hummus | DadCooksDinner.com

The Case of the Missing Inner Pot

The cook at our house cooked rice in the instant pot, but since the stainless container was soaking in the sink from the previous use, the cook didn’t remember there was a container to put it in first! So it went directly into the bottom of the InstantPot. I’ve managed to get most of the burned and uncooked rice out of the InstantPot, but there are a few rice kernels inside. I removed the bottom of the InstantPot and was able to get more of them out this way also. Oil was used along with the water in the cooking process. – Commenter Treva Oh, Treva, I know exactly how this feels. Years ago, I was teaching Tim how to pressure cook his favorite side dish – black beans. This was a while ago – I think we were still using my Instant Pot Lux, or maybe my Cuisinart Electric Pressure cooker. Anyway, I showed Tim how to sort beans, and had him set up on the counter next to the kitchen sink. The pressure …

Sugar in Grilling Rubs? Doesn’t It Burn?

A question from reader Brian: “Why does every recipe I see for grilling rubs contain so much brown sugar, which burns nearly immediately on the grill? It doesn’t seem to add any real sweetness that I can sense, in the same way that I can tell where the salt, cayenne or paprika influences the taste. Seems odd to think that burnt sugar would be something I’d want to add to my ribs or chicken, and that the sugar is better left to sauce that you add after cooking.” I got this question from reader Brian (by way of my old friend Geoff) in a Facebook message. My reply to him turned into a rant, and then this post. I’ve warned against sugar and grilling in a couple of recipes, but never put my thoughts in one place on the blog. So, here’s my response: Brian, you’re right – grilling rubs with sugar in them are not a good idea. Sugar will burn, and I try to avoid it in rubs that are going over direct …

New York City | DadCooksDinner.com

The Big Apple (Road Trip Week 3)

New York City was hot, noisy, dirty…and full of energy, people, and fun things to do. We went to the top of the Empire State Building at night, and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on a gray and overcast day. We toured the Whitney museum and MOMA, piloted remote control sailboats in Central Park, and visited the somber memorial for 9/11. We enjoyed street cart kabobs and chili dogs, modern Sichuan at Café China, flat whites at Birch Coffee, the fried yard bird at Red Rooster Harlem, prosecco and rosé at Eataly, pop up food trucks on Broadway, table side guacamole at Rosa Mexicano, and a last day in the city breakfast at Balthazar. Now, after weeks on the road, we are relaxing on the shores of Lake Erie. I love traveling – but sometimes I need a vacation from my vacation.