Sunday, May 26, 2013

minimum mess, minimum cost, maximum benefit

I was fortunate to grow up in a family of good cooks.  None were chefs or gourmet cooks or anything of the sort - they were all country folk and they cooked what they raised or found economical at the grocery store.  I married a woman who said she did not like cooking but was nevertheless a very good cook.  When we divorced after 22 years of marriage, for the first time in my life, I had nothing to eat!

So I learned to cook...

These will not all be recipes per se, some of it will be general things that applies to a lot of foods or methods.  Some of the foods might appear fattening.  I doubt that any of them are because I'm 65 years old, 5' 10", weigh about 145 pounds and have for 40 years.

Cooking meat in a crock pot:

You can cook ribs, the country style, meaty ones are best, pork chops, etc. (pork) this way:
Take them out of the package and put them directly into the crock pot.  There is no need to wash them and do not add water to the crock pot or salt.  Let them cook until the grease cooks out.  The "when" here is not critical.  Tilt the pot so you can dip out most of the liquid/grease.  You need to leave some for flavor and also to prevent the meat from drying out.  I dip this out into a coffee mug and after it cools a bit, put it in the refrigerator (more about this later).  See Excess Pot Liquid below.

Now to flavor the meat:  I use different things depending on what sounds good at time and what I have on hand.  Soy sauce is good.  Pour it liberally over the meat.  At this time you can also add potatoes and whatever other veggies you like.  With soy sauce I like potatoes and carrots.  It is a good idea to place the potatoes kind of carefully on top of the meat to prevent it drying out as it finishes cooking.  One word of caution.  Do not add a lot of veggies.  Too many will cause the entire thing to be watery.

If you like BBQ sauce - Hunt's, etc. - add water to it where the consistency is that of buttermilk - or there about.  With this I coat both sides of the meat.  You can add potatoes to this as well and they will be tasty.  Here it is absolutely critical that you don't add too many potatoes.  Just a few and the sauce will be really good.  Too many and the sauce will be watery and will kill the BBQ taste.

If you don't mind eating left overs, this is dinner for a couple nights.

One problem with the BBQ sauce is cleanup.  The sugar in the sauce makes baked on spots that is tough to clean.

Cleaning the crock pot:  Some of you might have a much better way of doing this.  If so, please post it.  I take a couple of plastic grocery bags, put one inside the other in case of leakage and then dip out everything in the bottom that is solid.  This goes in the garbage.  Next you can add some dish cleaning fluid and water to  the pot, rinse it around a bit and pour it down the drain.  Add more cleaning fluid and water and let the pot soak overnight if that doesn't bother you.  Next day you can finish cleaning pretty easily with a sponge.

You can do beef roasts the same as pork except I've never tried BBQ sauce on it.  I can't promise good results with beef.  Sometimes it will be really good; sometimes so, so and sometimes barely edible.  Of course a lot depends on the quality of the beef - I look for marbeling (Google says this is not a word - think marble), but in my opinion it is a crap shoot.  I've never had any luck with a cut that says "butt" so avoid that unless you are in a mood to experiment.

Excess Pot Liquid:
Okay, now for the stuff you dipped out of the pot.  Set this in the refrigerator after it has cooled a bit. In a few hours the grease will form a clean cap of grease on the top and below it will be a jelly like substance.  I have not figured out a good way to separate the grease from the jelly but I use both.  The grease can be used  for cooking pinto beans or anything that needs some fat added.  You can also use it for frying things such as fried potatoes.  Simply dip the grease off the top.  A little of the jelly will be on the underside but no worries. It is tasty stuff and will only add to the flavor of whatever you are cooking.  I give the jelly to my cat.  He loves it.  You can also use it in gravy.  I never do that as it gives gravy a very silky consistency - some people like that.  I don't care for it.

NOTE:  There will be more recipes in the future as time permits posting.


  1. Hi David
    Saw you came by my 'blog', and appreciate the comment on my late father-in-law.

    I episodically enjoy putting posts up, I started in 2008 when my son was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, using his emails home to give people some idea of what it was like for our guys out in the weeds over there. It sort of progressed, if that's the word, to the current blog. I also have an inactive one about a 4 month road trip I took.

    I look forward to reading your entries, good luck with it.

    Oh yeah, cooking. What I've taken to doing is going to a local butcher and getting a 5-7 lb brisket, doing a dry rub, and baking it in a bag for 6 or so hours at low heat. The leftovers give a geezer bachelor meals for some days, in various guises.

  2. We have some things in common including a Father-in-law that we held in high regard. I lost mine last year. He was 84. He was a big man - a logger and hunter. When I first married he wouldn't have much to do with me and didn't for several years. Eventually that changed. When my wife and I divorced he told me I would always be his son-in-law. That never changed.

    My time in the service was Viet Nam. I appreciate what your son and the soldiers who have gone before him have done and are doing in Afghanistan.

    The brisket is a great idea! I need plenty of protein in my diet (bit of a low blood sugar problem) and meat is pretty much a necessity. Thanks for stopping by and I'll be stopping by your blogs often to see what you are having to say.

    1. What years were you there (Viet Nam)? I was there 66-68, with a sojourn back in '67 for a couple months at Bethesda Navy Hospital. I was a corpsman with the Marines, 3rd MarDiv .
      Henry (my son) is thankfully out now, he was a Ranger, and I'm glad he's out of that. He had tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and is not complimentary about their military.

      I'm retired, moved to Montana in 96 after Cary died, and spend most of my summers fishing. The winters get long, but it's a small town and easy to live in, one can't go to the store without running into people you know.

  3. I left going over to Nam right after Christmas '68. I was with a transportation unit stationed at Long Binh...not sure if that spelling is right, it's been a long time. To be honest I didn't see much of the war but of course there were no front lines over there. Still where I was, was a walk in the park compared to most of the country.

    I live 3-4 miles out of Phil Campbell, Alabama. It's real small too and the same is true about the Piggly Wiggly here.

    The winters here run the gamut. I remember when it was 6 degrees on Christmas day and when just a long sleeve shirt was enough. We don't get a lot of snow though. Usually, it rains and then turns colder.

  4. I've had good luck putting dry rub on a beef roast, adding a few drops of liquid smoke, wrapping the whole thing in aluminum foil and cooking it in the crockpot for 6-8 hours. Sometimes we add veggies for the last couple of hours. Most times we don't.

    Oh, and if you freeze that excess pot liquid, the fat should form a disk that you can peel right off the top of the frozen jelly.

  5. Chris, thank you very much for the tip about freezing the pot liquid. Of course that will work, it just never occurred to me. This means I won't have to be concerned with using the grease or throwing it away. Until now I wouldn't save it for very long because I figured any jelly stuck to the grease would have a short shelf life.

    I've never used liquid smoke. Will try it along with the way you cook the roast soon.

  6. Hi David, I didn't comment on your main blog as I didn't follow the story, coming in so late. But I love crock pot cooking. I always use cooking spray, like Pam, before I put in the ingredients. Just spray the entire inside. Clean up is quick and easy.

  7. That's a great tip on the cooking spray. Thank you! My crock pot is in the sink now soaking. :(

    Just in case you change your mind on my story...I try to write each part kind of like an episode on TV so that it is not necessary to read the previous parts. That said, I'm not always successful but some of my readers did begin reading quite awhile after I began writing it. And that said, I know many people do not like serials. Truthfully, with some shows on TV, I wait until the season is over so I don't have to wait a week to see what happens in the next episode.