Category Archives: kitchen crafty

Mediterranean Inspired Couscous salad

Mediterranean (inspired?) Couscous Salad


–Broth or water
–Tomatoes (cherry, grape, heirloom, whatever you like)
–Crumbled feta cheese (small mozzarella balls work too!)
–Fresh basil
–Pitted Kalamata olives
–Lemon juice
–Balsamic vinegar
–Minced garlic
–Olive Oil

You might notice a severe lack of measurements. Yeah, about that… I just kinda eye-ball this kind of stuff. Sorry.


  1. Cook the couscous. 1 cup of dry couscous to every 1 to 1.5 cups of liquid.
    1. In a saucepan, bring your choice of liquid to a boil.
    2. Stir in dry couscous.
    3. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. Let it steam for 5-10 minutes.
    4. Fluff with a fork.
    5. Let it cool.
  2. While your couscous is steaming, cut your tomatoes into small pieces. Or not. If you like whole cherry/grape tomatoes, go for it. I would recommend dicing if you’re using regulation sized tomatoes, though.
  3. Slice your olives. Halves, quarters, whatever. Or not. Like ’em whole? Leave ’em whole!
  4. Slice your fresh basil into small ribbons (a chiffonade if you want to get all fancy French with it). You don’t want to use tons because it will overwhelm everything. Just enough for some flavor and color.
  5. Add your tomatoes, feta, olives and basil to a bowl
  6. In another bowl, add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Whisk until everything is combined to make a basic dressing. Taste your mix. Not enough acid? Add more lemon juice or vinegar. You don’t need much. Maybe start with a tablespoon of each liquid then add more or less to suit your needs. IF YOU WANT: marinate the tomatoes, cheese, olives and basil in the dressing for 30 minutes.
  7. Combine your cooled couscous, tomatoes, feta, olives, and basil.
  8. If you didn’t marinate, now is the time to drizzle some of the dressing onto your salad. Combine gently.
  9. Taste it! Add more dressing or whatever until it tastes the way you want it to.

Optional additions: Chicken, red peppers, broccoli, etc. Don’t like couscous? Have a ton of quinoa because you keep forgetting that you’re out of couscous? Use it instead! Play with it. Have fun.



3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup (or honey or agave or golden syrup. Cheaper option: 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar)
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or a vanilla bean

Powdered sugar for dredging


Stand mixer
Rubber spatula
Cooking spray/oil
Cling wrap


In the bowl of your stand mixer (you have a stand mixer, right? Because it’s gonna be bad times if you’re doing this with a hand mixer. If that’s all you got, don’t let me stop you), pour the 1/2 cup of cold water and sprinkle the 3 envelopes of gelatin over it. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup (or cream of tartar or agave, whatever. The point of these is to keep the sugar from crystallizing.), and 1/4 cup of water in a heavy saucepan. Feel free to use the vanilla bean here. Split and scrape the contents of a vanilla bean into your sugar. If your beans are dry and brittle, just throw the whole thing in there and let it cook. Turn heat on high and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved STOP STIRRING and let it boil hard for 1 minute. You’re making a sugar syrup to about soft ball stage (about 240F). If you used the whole vanilla bean, fish it out (NOT WITH YOUR FINGERS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD). Pour boiling syrup into gelatin, add salt, and using the whisk attachment whisk at high speed (start slow, hot liquid sugar is tasty napalm) for 6-12 minutes. While it’s mixing, it will go from “geez, this is just hot sugar, how is this gonna be soft fluffy marshmallows?” to “Hey! That looks like fluff!” You’ll know. If using vanilla extract, add it close to the end of mixing.

While the syrup is doing it’s thing in the mixer, prepare your pans. I like to use a 1/4 sheet pan. You can use a 9×9 or 8×8 square. Whatever works for you. Line your pans with oiled plastic wrap for easier clean up later, or just heavily oil the pan. This is important. Marshmallows. They’re sticky. So sticky. You can also spread a thick layer of powdered sugar in the pan. I mean, really, you want to do everything you can to not let the fluff stick. When the syrup has become fluff, oil a spatula and scrape the newly formed fluff into your pans. At this point, you will realize there’s not enough oil in the universe to keep you from making a sticky mess. This is why we have soap and hot water. Embrace it. Spread the fluff around as best you can to make it even. Realize you should give up the spatula and just oil your hands (water works too) and spread it as evenly as you can. Sift powdered sugar on top. Light coating.

Let the pans sit for a few hours. Yes. Hours. 4 at a minimum. If you just can’t wait, you have marshmallow fluff. If you CAN wait, you have solid marshmallows.

Remove your solid brick of marshmallow from the pan and place on a powdered sugar dusted cutting board. Cut. Squares? Sure. Use a oiled chef knife, scissors (really), or my favorite: pizza cutter. You can also use cookie cutters to make shapes. Itty bitty ones for itty bitty cocoa cup marshmallows. Big ones for just eating. Either way, cut them, dredge them in powdered sugar then store in an airtight container (Gallon ziploc bags are FANTASTIC).


Chocolate: Add a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder to the saucepan when you make the syrup.
Strawberry: Puree strawberries to get 1/2 cup. Add it to the cold water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top.
Coffee: Brew some strong coffee and use that to bloom the gelatin.
Peppermint: Use mint flavoring instead of vanilla. You can also use crushed hard candies, but I find that they melt a bit and make the marshmallows wet as they sit.
Chocolate Chip: add some (no idea how much) mini chocolate chips to the fluff. You can gently fold them in or whisk them in for about 5 seconds at the end. The fluff is still warm and they will melt a bit, creating cool looking swirls.
Chai: brew some strong Chai. Let it cool. Use this instead of the 1/2 cup of water to bloom the gelatin.
Caramel/Dulce de Leche/Cajeta: Get fancy. Swirl some caramel in your batch. Either in the bowl (slowly) or in the pan. This has never worked for me. I suck at swirling.

The possibilities are wide open. If you want a liquid (I’ve done Bailey’s and bourbon) add it to the bowl with the gelatin. If it’s a candy, add it at the end. If it’s a powder, probably best to add it to the syrup while it’s cooking.

Have fun, be careful. Sugar syrup is NAPALM.

I Gotta Cook This Liver

I love liver. A nice pan fried slice of calf’s liver is spectacular. High in iron, great protein. I feel good.

So what do I do with a sheep’s liver and a small amount of beef liver? MAKE PATE. A ton of it apparently.

6 containers of beef and lamb’s liver pate (and a possible burned out blender). The glass jars are 8oz each. EACH. Topped with clarified browned butter. See, the butter was supposed to just be clarified but someone left the fire on too long and….well, it smelled great.


  • A lamb’s liver. I have no idea how much. It looked to be the full liver. Got it from the farmer’s market
  • An order of beef liver that I got delivered from Greenling. It was a bit on the puny side.
  • 1 shallot
  • minced garlic
  • onion powder
  • powdered ginger
  • smoked sea salt
  • cream
  • Unsalted butter (KerryGold)
  • Bourbon
  • Port

Thaw and cut the liver into manageable chunks like an inch or less. Sautee your shallots in butter. Throw in your liver chunks. Realize that you aren’t really sauteeing anything because you overcrowded your pan. Add the garlic because it came from a jar. Cook the liver. Add some salt and the onion powder and other dried spices. Pour some bourbon because you saw it in a recipe. Pour in some port because you thought that was a good idea too (maybe a 1/4 cup of each. It’ll cook off). Cook until done.

Fish out your chunks to let cool a bit. Cook down the liquid because now it smells awesome. In a blender because you don’t have room for a food processor, add some of your liver chunks, some room temp butter (2 tbs), and some cream. You will note that I am using horribly inaccurate measurements. I would like this to be kinda chunky, not a mousse and I’m working in small batches.

Pulse the blender. Realize it’s not pulsing. Add more cream. Turn blender higher, watch as it eventually blends your precious work. Add more chunks. Watch as it stops blending and a horrible smell emanates. Realize the blender is smoking. Dump out partially blended liver into a bowl.

Start over with next set of liver, vowing to do better.

Repeat. Making sure to add all the golden liquid goodness you cooked down earlier.

Eventually have mostly processed liver pate that you can’t stop sneaking tastes of (you ARE tasting as you go, right?)

Scramble to find jars to hold this stuff.

Clarify a little, some, all the rest of the butter.

Pour it on top of the jars. Except for that Tupperware container. That’s lunch for a few days.

Store jars in the freezer because you were talking about liver pate with your mom and Thanksgiving is right around the corner and by god SOMEONE is EATING THIS.

Sunday Eats: Fish Sticks and Bacon Mac and Cheese

How. How are fish sticks and mac and cheese a Sunday eat? Well. I can’t just have fish sticks and mac and cheese. Okay, fish sticks, sure. Hit the freezer section and move on with life. But mac and cheese? Mac and cheese in any other house should take the 5 minutes required to cook the Velveeta Shells and add the packet of goo. Not in my house. I must make my own Velveeta. Why? BECAUSE I LIKE REAL CHEESE IN MY CHEESE SAUCE.

I don’t like bechamels. I have a great recipe for real mac and cheese that, while fantastic in the moment, is work and is only good for that one day. reheating breaks it. This is not what I want. I want a Velveeta. I want a loaf of cheese that I can cut off and have it melt consistently every time.

Homemade Velveeta

  • 10g of Sodium Citrate
  • 1.25g Iota Carrageenan
  • 4.5g salt
  • 280g of cheese (sharp cheddar, smoked Gouda, Edam, whatever you like, but REAL CHEESE not preshredded)
  • 75g of wheat beer
  • 100g water

Sodium Citrate : a stabilizer and emulsifier. Salty, acidic. does not require much.
Iota Carrageenan: Gelling agent usually derived from seaweed. This is what makes the loaf…loaf.

Heat the beer and water in a saucepan. Whisk in the Sodium Citrate and the Iota Carrageenan. Add the cheese and salt. Stir until it’s all good and melty and shiny. If you want it in a loaf, pour into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Otherwise pour into a plastic container. It will set fairly fast. But it’s worth it.

Tips: Use a good cheese. If you like strong cheeses, use them. Use a mix. I like smoked gouda and sharp cheddar. For a milder sauce, Edam and mild cheddar. Make it fancy, make it basic. It’s your cheese!

Now we come to the bacon. There was a time when I was curing my own bacon. Because it was fairly simple and cheap and I could cut thick slices with more meat than fat.

Lookit that bacon. Throw those slices into the oven at 400 or so until they’re cooked. Pull them out let them cool and chop up.

Boil your pasta. I used some freaky spiral elbow macaroni.  Whatevers. Add your cooked pasta to your serving bowl, scoop some of that homemade Velveeta (if it’s still warm), maybe a little milk if it’s too thick, then add your bacon. Mix. Serve. Eat.



Not pictured: Fish Sticks. They’re fish sticks. Who cares?

Sunday Eats: Baked Ziti

Sunday. I wanted baked ziti. But all of my previous attempts have been “meh”. It’s okay. It tastes fine the first day. Subsequent days? Not so much. But I found a recipe from The Pioneer Woman that spoke to me. It spoke to me in the language of cheese. Lots of precious, precious cheese. The Pioneer Woman and other food blog people like to show pictures of every step, complete with witty captions. Me? That takes work.


  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced (or a couple of teaspoon of jarred minced garlic because you forgot you don’t have any fresh cloves)
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Diced (or some dried, minced onions because you don’t eat onions on a regular basis)
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage
  • 1 pound Ground Beef (or your preferred GROUND MEAT PRODUCT)
  • 1 can (28 Oz. Size) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice (or a can of fire roasted tomatoes you happen to have on hand)
  • 2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce (or a jar of marinara that may or may not equal to 29 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (uh..I might have some oregano lying around)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (nope)
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 16 ounces, weight Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
  • 1 tub (15 Oz. Size) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1-1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated (or a couple of preshred bags from the grocery store, plus a container of small cherry sized or smaller mozz balls)
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 whole Egg
  • Fresh Minced Parsley (ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!)


Preheat the oven at 375.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Or don’t. Because you don’t have any onions or real garlic.

Dump a pound of GROUND MEAT PRODUCT and another pound of GROUND MEAT PRODUCT into the skillet and brown. I say MEAT PRODUCT because I don’t know what you like. I used ground turkey (93% lean) and ground Italian sausage. I would dare say that any GROUND MEAT PRODUCT combined with ground Italian sausage would work. Beef, lamb, goat, bison. Who am I to judge?

Now, you got your GROUND MEAT PRODUCT browning. Remember that you have some dried minced onions in the cabinet. Add some. Then you also remember that you have a jar of minced garlic in the fridge. Add some of that too. Cook it all up. You can drain the fat if there’s a ton of it. But if it’s pretty lean, don’t bother. You want it to have some flavor left.

Add a jar of marinara sauce that probably adds up to the 2 jars The Pioneer Woman used. Add that single 14.5oz can of fire roasted tomatoes you keep on hand because they come in very handy. Look at the meat and sauce in the pan. Realize you didn’t add the same amounts as The Pioneer Woman but it’s okay because your pan wouldn’t have held all that anyway. Let it all simmer as you realize you have other stuff to do.

Set a pot full of salted water to boil. Dump a box of pasta into it. As this is baked ZITI you should use ZITI. I happened to have ZITI. If I didn’t I would have used just about anything I have on hand other than strand pasta. Seriously. I’ve used penne, rigatoni, elbow, whatever you got. DO NOT OVERCOOK IT. You want more than an Al Dente bite. You want to go “hrm, that’s not cooked all the way.” It’ll cook in the oven.  Drain, rinse and cool the pasta. Really. Cool it. Run it under cold water, add ice cubes. Because you don’t want to wreck the cheese.

Make your cheese mix. Dump the container of ricotta in a bowl. Mix in an egg. Add a container of fresh mozzarella balls (DRAINED). These should be cherry sized or smaller. Add shredded Parmesean. Add shredded mozzarella. Because why not. Mix it up. The Pioneer Woman says not to mix it too well so that you still have clumps of ricotta. I say, that’s why you have mozz balls in there. In the end, it won’t matter. All that matters is that there is cheese.

Take about 4 cups of the sauce and let it cool. Mix that in with the cheese. Add the cheese-sauce mixture to your cooled pasta. Mix it just enough to get it kinda incorporated.

Now. Put half the pasta mix to your baking dish. Pour half the sauce over it. Add half the leftover (leftover. HAH!) shredded cheese over the sauce. Add the remaining pasta mix, then the sauce, then top with even more shredded cheese.

Bake it for 20 minutes at 375. Let it sit for FIVE MINUTE before you dig into it. Seriously!

Eat! Die in a happy cheesy bliss!

Things I would do different:
Use a bigger pot for the meat sauce. Definitely. So that I can use the right amount of sauce and tomatoes.

Sunday Eats: Real Damn Barbacoa

I like barbacoa. I’ve had it many places and as much as I hate to say it, my favorite commercial barbacoa is to be had at Taco Cabana. I know I KNOW! It’s oily and tender and so good. I’ve had Chipotle’s. It’s okay. I’ve had Lupe Tortilla’s. It was dry (DRY???). SO I struck out to make my own. I live in Texas for crap’s sake. So, not having any idea how to cook it, I had to do some research.


The first few recipe’s involved the history of barbacoa and traditional methods. Like slow cooking the entire cow’s head in the ground. No thank you. Then came the “better than Chipotle’s barbacoa!” recipes that required a chuck roast (whut?), many seasonings, and all day in the oven. This is most definitely NOT barbacoa. Then I found it. THE recipe. Simple. Perfect.


1.5 – 2 pounds Cow cheek meat (yes. cheek meat. HEB and Fiesta for me)
1 cup (or less) Beef stock

TRIM THE MEAT! You want some fat but not a lot. Seriously. DO NOT CHUCK ALL THE MEAT IN THE CROCK POT AND CALL IT GOOD. REALLY. So, trim the meat. Put it in the crock pot. Add the beef stock. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of cumin (measuring is for bakers!). Sprinkle some salt. 2 teaspoons maybe? Put the lid on it and cook on low for 8 hours. Cook until the meat is melty and yummy. remove meat with a slotted spoon and shred with two forks. Honestly you could look at it wrong and it’ll shred if you’ve cooked it long enough.

Optional: You can toss in a bay leaf while it’s cooking too. I don’t use bay leaves so I never have any on hand.

Serve: GOOD tortillas. Some prefer corn, I prefer flour. Especially the ones HEB makes in store. Nice and thin. Slater your meat on the tortilla, dress with cilantro and raw onion if you like, squeeze a lime wedge. Consume. Marvel in the fact that you made barbacoa and you can have it ANYTIME YOU WANT!

Note: my crock pot is on the small side. So about 2 pounds of meat will just about fill it. If you have a bigger crock by all means ADD MORE MEAT!


Holiday Updates


I have no kitchen.

Before I had no kitchen, I sweetened up that last batch of coffee vodka. It was a hit. Both with the ultimate receiver of this gift and with my coworkers. Yay! When I get my kitchen back (scheduled for three days before Christmas), I will be a cooking and canning fiend. Here’s what I am planning:

  • Apple Pie jam with real bits of apple
  • Triple Berry Sangria jam
  • Peach Mango preserves (one of my older recipes)
  • Lime Curd
  • Marshmallows (topped with stuff…man I hope it works out)
  • Caramels
  • Scottish Tablet
  • Coffee Liqueur
There’s other non Kitchen Crafty Crap(tm) that really I should have been doing. I mean, I had all frigging summer. Hrm…

It has begun….

First, I must revisit the last post. Hobo wine sucked. Sucked bad. Just…ewww. Filtering through paper coffee filters takes forEVER!

Now, with that out of the way I was looking in the pantry and saw a lonely bottle full of red liquid and grey fruit hiding in the deepest recesses. Oh right! Raspberry vodka infusion! It’s only been going for a year (eyeroll). I removed the zombie looking fruits and trasferred the sweet sweet nectar to a plastic (I know, I KNOW!) Barcardi bottle. Why? I need that Svedka bottle for something else. What was that something else?

Coffee infused vodka.

Yes. Being October, I was waaaay late on getting a good infusion for Christmas. Until I found a recipe that would work in 12 hours. Nice! From the Something Awful forums:

For a real quick coffee vodka, you can use the cold-brew method of making coffee, but substitute vodka for the water.

100g medium grind fresh medium-dark coffee, soaked in 750ml of vodka for 12 hours in the fridge, stirred several times during the process, & then filtered through paper coffee filters.

That’s it. 12 hours top to bottom.

It makes a really intense coffee vodka concentrate, overpowering if you drink it straight, but it’s stunning if you mix 50/50 with ice-cold milk, or Baileys for an even better flavour.
It would make an excellent addition to cocktails, especially mixed with chocolate liquers, & I imagine it would make an intense espresso martini.


Intense flavor in 12 hours. Right. So, Sunday afternoon I start the infusion. Tuesday night I filtered it. That’s…that’s way more than 12 hours. Way more.

I dipped the tip of my pinkie into the infusion and tasted it. Four hours later I was still tasting it. It was…foul. It very much needed to be cut. I added more vodka and put it in the pantry to age. I also siphoned off a bit and added sugar syrup for homemade Kahlua. I haven’t tasted it yet. I’ll let my resident guinea pig (and ultimate receiver of this concoction) try it out first.

Hobo wine

For Christmas I got a Spike Your Juice kit. It contains an airlock, a rubber stopper and 6 packets of yeast. You supply the 64 oz bottle of juice. Now that I have time enough at last, I decided I wanted some homemade hooch. The kit says that in 48 hours (!!!) I could have that sweet sweet liquor. Okay, cool! Before I started, I decided to surf around to see what the results might be. I stumbled on CNET’s DIY Weekend. The guys there had the same kit and the results were pretty good. So why not make it better? They decided to boil the juice and add honey and sugar  to up the sugar content. Then instead of letting it sit 48 hours, they let it sit for 2 weeks.

The results? “We have no idea what the proof is, but I’ve had shots of Jager with less kick.” Yessssss. I must haves it.

Sunday will be the end of week one of organic grape juice hooch. It is still merrily burbling away and probably still will be in another week. Muhahahahaha.

Ice cream results…

Oh god.

So, I found a recipe for malt flavored ice cream. I like malts. Malt sounds delightful. They even recommend swilring in dulce de leche. AWESOME!


I made the batch of malt base and did this odd sous-vide to cook the custard which worked pretty well for not having the “real” equipment (A freezer bag and a pot of hot water worked fine). I turned half the batch as is and the other half with dulce de leche. The recipe says to use sweetened condensed milk to really give it that store bought feel if you can’t get a hold of Cremodan. Great! But now I have this half can of sweetened condensed milk. WHat should I do with it? Make my own dulce de leche!

No. Do not want. Don’t ever try.

This…substance does not swirl. In fact it sets up like fucking concrete. No worries, say I. I’ll nuke it a bit then swirl it in. Nope. chunks of milky sweet boulders. Then I saw that I had some cajeta I bought at the farmer’s market. Surely this will…no. Not at all. *sigh* It’s all still tasty but just an utter pain in the hole.

Next up, avocado!

I used Alton Brown’s recipe and used whole milk from a local dairy. This was gonna be great! I mix it up and it is damned tasty. I stick it in the fridge…and forgot about it for about 5 days. No problem right.

Oh you would be wrong. So very wrong. The milk went sour or something. It…ugh. It was bad. I almost cried. So, I tried again that weekend. With not so awesome milk and a different recipe that called for coconut milk to make it really rich. Why, why did I change the recipe. This one was not as good but I turned it anyway and it’s still…not so good. Dammit. Now, maybe a scoop of this plus a scoop of candy and malt might be good.

Now, raspberry sorbet.

You know what? I’m just not even gonna go into details. If you have a known-good recipe, just follow it. Don’t try to wing it based on memory.