Sunday, December 24, 2023

Lamb and Lentil Soup

Second time making a lamb soup. It worked well the first time, so naturally I'm messing with the recipe and adding lentils.



  • 1 pound of ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp of lamb tallow
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 long thin carrots, diced (you could probably use two stout carrots)
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • Salt, pepper, dried thyme, and dried rosemary to taste
  • 1 cup of brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 quart of low-salt chicken broth (beef broth or some wild homemade broth mix should work fine)
  • Ditalini and/or fregula sarda tostata pasta


  1. Brown the lamb in the lamb tallow over medium-high heat with some salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the lamb to a bowl.
  3. Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot and sauté with salt, pepper, and herbs until softened.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until its not terribly pungent.
  5. Return lamb to pot and add lentils. Stir
  6. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Cover and simmer on low heat for an hour.
  8. Add pasta and simmer another 20 minutes.
Not an affiliate link, but here's a link to the pasta I used.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Chili with White Beans

This was something of a fluke. I thought I had black beans in the cupboard. I was wrong, so Great Northern Beans it is.

It's a chili, so most of this is improv.
  • 1 lb of ground beef (roughly)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 generous tbsp of chili powder (I actually filled the cap of the container)
  • 1 tbsp of cumin (the cap again)
  • 1 pinch of Mexican oregano (not what you were thinking, you deviants ;)
  • Salt and pepper (too taste)
  • Beef stock (as needed)
  • Corn meal (as needed)
On this occasion, I sauteed the diced onion and pepper over medium-high heat in a bit of grapeseed oil along with some salt and pepper, then added the garlic. I put that aside on a plate while I browned the beef, then everything went back into the pot along with the tomatoes, beans, and remaining spices.

I added enough beef stock to deglaze the pot and cover the ingredients, then left it to simmer for an hour or so. I added the corn meal toward the end as a thickener and let it simmer another 15 minutes or so.

Served with a spoon of sour cream.

Chili is pretty forgiving, and this turned out quite nice.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Whiskey and Lillet, Round 2

 For a second attempt, I've just changed the ratios to see what happens.

  • 2 oz Tullamore Dew
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Properly stirred with ice this time before putting in a chilled cocktail glass.

As expected, this version features the whiskey more, which is good, but it's still mild ingredients. I think I'll try a different bitters next time to see what that does. Failing that, it might be time to try some real citrus.

Whiskey and Lillet

I suppose this will need a name once I finish tinkering with it.

I decided to do something simple with ingredients I had on hand, so I mixed Tullamore Dew with Lillet Blanc in equal proportions. It's not exciting, but it's certainly not bad. There's somewhere to go with this, but I haven't figured it all out yet.

A couple of dashes of orange bitters helped, but it needs something else. Might try some citrus next time.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Leftover Pilaf

I made a venison stew for Thanksgiving, and it went over quite well, but after it was over, I had a lot of broth leftover. Inspired by Wilderness Cooking, I figured it would make a good pilaf.

Making this required one cup of rice and two cups of venison broth (which happens to be how much I had). These went into the Instant Pot and got stirred together. Just to give it some meatiness, I added some frozen meatballs and little smokies.

From there, all I had to do was set the pot for rice and wait for it to be done. I wouldn't call this a fancy meal by any stretch, but it made a very nice lunch.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Chicken Tortilla Soup

 This went rather well, so it should be shared. This is another Instant Pot recipe.

The ingredients aren't too complicated:

  • 2 chicken thighs, well coated in salt and pepper.
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped into thin bits
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced (no cores)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • ~1/4 cup green salsa
  • Chicken stock
  • ~1 tbsp corn starch

Started with the celery, peppers, and onions in the pot on sauté with some salt and pepper until softened.

As they were going, I also put the chicken thighs in skin-side down to brown that up a bit.

As the veggies were soft, I put the corn starch on them and stirred them around.

When a fond was forming from the veggies and chicken, I added enough chicken stock to deglaze the pot. After that, I added the salsa and the rest of the chicken stock (enough to just cover the chicken) and stirred everything together.

I then put the lid on the pot, made sure the pressure valve was "closed", and set for Soup.

When all was done, I just ladled it into bowls and crushed some tortilla chips on top.

And I think this one was a winner.

Sous Vide Barbecue Ribs

Had some pork ribs, so I tried to make some sous vide barbecue. Not my best work, but lessons were learned.

The dry rub went into the bag with the ribs and got sealed a few days before the cook. Nice thing about sous vide cooking is that you can take a vacuum-sealed bag out of the freezer and put it straight into the water bath.

These cooked at 151 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. I have no complaints about that.

I did not pay enough attention to the rub, though. Too much salt, not enough sugar. I'll need to properly measure next time.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Woodland Heights Sour

I was thinking of making some New York Sours to enjoy while prepping the Thanksgiving dinner, but I don't have any rye or bourbon on hand. I do have Irish whiskey (Tullamore Dew). Can't call it a New York Sour if you're changing the base spirit, so Nena looked up the name of the Irish neighborhood in New York. The internet says that Woodland Heights is "Little Ireland", so that's what we're going with until someone of Irish descent corrects us.

  • 2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 oz Simple syrup
  • 1 Egg white
  • 1/2 oz Red wine

Going to go with adding the whiskey, lemon juice, syrup, and egg white to the shaker and doing a dry shake. Then we'll add ice for a second shake. We'll pour into tumblers and top with red wine (Yellowtail Pinot Noir -- it's what I have open for cooking).

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks

I had an urge to make lamb shanks. 

About 2pm I did the preparation.

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • Konriko Greek seasoning (to taste, should have used more)
  • 1 cup beef broth

The vegetables got a very rough chop, everything got coated in seasoning and it went into the Instant Pot with a cup of beef broth on Slow Cook for 4 hours.

After the slow cook, I removed the lamb shanks and added:

  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup rice

I put the beef shanks back in so they'd be on top, then closed up the pot and set for Rice.

I feel like this is a good approach, which gives a sort of East European pilaf result. That said, it could probably have benefited from even more Greek seasoning, or at least more salt.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Vividora Cocktail

 After watching an Anders Erickson video on the Boulevardier, I was intrigued enough to want to make something like it myself. I do not have bourbon or Campari in the house at the moment, but I do have Aperol, and I do have an Italian vermouth: Carpano Antica; it's old, but Wine Saver seems to have kept it good, so here we go.

  • 1.5 oz Bumbu Reserve XO rum
  • .75 oz Aperol
  • .75 oz Carpano Antica
I just poured these into a tumbler over a big block of ice and stirred. An orange twist would be a good garnish, but I didn't have one or anything I would consider a suitable alternative, so no garnish.

I am pleased with the result. It needs a proper name.

Update: I'm going with Vividora, which seems to be a more-or-less equivalent Spanish term.

Chicken Paprikash Soup

Surely I am not the first to think of it, but the thought of Chicken Paprikash Soup occurred to me, and I decided to make it in the Instant Pot.

I used...

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • about 3 tablespoons of sweet paprika
  • plenty of salt and black pepper
  • olive oil
  • chicken stock
  • pasta
  • sour cream
  • white wine (optional)

I first put the chicken thighs in a large mixing bowl with salt and pepper and tossed them until well coated. I covered the bowl and set them aside.

I then peeled the carrots and chopped all the vegetables into smallish chunks and put them in the Instant Pot with some olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked them on sauté until they were softened. It probably wouldn't hurt to add some mushrooms at this point, but I didn't have any on hand.

When the vegetables were ready, I added the paprika and stirred it all well. I then added the chicken thighs. I added enough chicken stock to almost cover the chicken, then I added wine to finish covering the chicken.

I put the lid on the Instant Pot and set for Meat/Stew. When that was done (default of 45 minutes), I removed the lid, added some pasta, put the lid back on, and set for Soup.

When done (default 30 minutes), I let it stay on Keep Warm until dinner time.

Stir in some sour cream at serving time. We also had some French bread with ours.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Grandpa Got Devoured by a Shoggoth

 To the tune of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"...

There was something in the forest,
Set the dogs to bark and bay,
Grandpa loaded up his shotgun,
And went to see himself what lay that way.

Grandpa got devoured by a Shoggoth
Trying to prevent catastrophe
People say there are no Elder Horrors
But as for me and Grandma... we believe

Grandpa came upon a clearing
Where some men had built a fire
They were dancing 'round a statue
Of something evil hideous and dire

The men's chant opened a portal
To a dark and awful place
Grandpa realized with horror
They had just betrayed the human race


Something started through the portal
A foul pseudopod that smelled
Grandpa fired with both his barrels
Hoping he would blow it straight to hell

His shots only made it angry
And it hastened through the gate
Grandpa knew he must act quickly
Else the world would meet an ugly fate


So he struck one of the chanters
With the butt end of his gun
As the cultist fell unconscious
All their evil magic came undone

But before the monster vanished
Grandpa felt its cold embrace
It engulfed his struggling body
Then it disappeared without a trace


Now you listeners may wonder
How I learned of Grandpa's end
I was chanting in that circle
Pity Grandpa didn't understand

Grandpa got devoured by a Shoggoth
Fighting to defend humanity
People say there are no Elder Horrors
But as for me and Grandma... WE BELIEVE

Instant Pot Lamb Stew

 I figured I might as well write down some of these recipes somewhere.

I was originally planning to make lamb shanks, but although I had seen them at the grocery store recently, they weren't available on the day I went shopping. Here's what I ended up using.

  • 3 round-bone lamb shoulder chops
  • 2 carrots (one was quite large)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 pinches of salt
  • Several generous grinds of black pepper
  • A pinch of dried thyme
  • A pinch of dried rosemary
  • Enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the Instant Pot
  • Red wine
  • Beef stock

Roughly chop and dice the vegetables into a bowl. Add salt, pepper, and herbs, and toss them around a bit.

Set the Instant Pot to sauté. When it's hot, add the oil and vegetables and cook until they've softened up bit.

While the vegetables are cooking, de-bone and cube the lamb into bite-sized pieces. I saved the bones to make stock later.

When the vegetables are ready, add the lamb. Put the cover on the Instant Pot, make sure the pressure valve is in the closed position, and set the pot to Stew. When the cycle is complete, it's ready to serve.

I served mine with some take-and-bake French bread, and I recommend putting the bread in your bowl first and ladling stew over it.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Bethesda Game Rant

This is nothing new, but I hope Bethesda gets its act together for future RPG releases, like Starfield, Elder Scrolls VI, and the ever so distant Fallout 5. I'm far from the first to say this, of course, but I'm going to rant anyway.

The big issues are factions that you can choose to work with or join. In Fallout 4, the factions tend to become mutually exclusive after a point, and that's a good thing. Not so much in Skyrim. The Empire and the Stormcloaks are enemies and mutually exclusive, but that's about it.

There's the Companions, and they have the rival Silver Hand organization, but the Silver Hand are just bandits by another name who happen to have silver swords in their inventory. There is one named Silver Hand character, but he has a randomly generated appearance and no dialogue. You can't choose to side with the Silver Hand instead of the Companions, and there's no backstory to explain their rivalry. Many gamers have inferred something, but there's nothing official.

Siding with the Companions isn't much of a deal, either. There's a quest, but it has little to do with the stated purpose and goals of the Companions as an organization. Furthermore, the game fast-tracks you into it; you don't have to do anything special to join the "inner circle" and get involved in the Companions quest. Completing it and becoming the Harbinger doesn't really give you any authority, either; the Companions don't treat you any differently.

The College of Winterhold quest is likewise fast-tracked, not requiring any demonstrable mastery of spell-casting to start or complete. Completing it makes you the Arch Mage, but it's a title with no authority; none of the mages treat you any differently. All you really get out of it is a nice bedroom.

The Thieves' Guild has an extremely elaborate quest line, and starting it does actually require doing some thievish things, at least. Becoming the Master of the Thieves' Guild confers no authority, of course. Everything proceeds the same. Also, there's no option to oppose the Thieves' Guild as a quest, despite the fact that there's a character -- Mjoll the Lioness -- who sounds motivated to join such a quest.

The Dark Brotherhood is little better. As with the Thieves' Guild line, it's almost as if the developers want to reward evil behavior. As usual, becoming the leader of the Dark Brotherhood doesn't really confer any authority. There is an option to oppose and destroy them, but it's short and offers no substantial rewards, so why would anyone do that?

The Dawnguard offer a nice option to be good or evil, even if the paths are pretty similar and end exactly the same way. At least neither faction pretends to put you in charge without any meaningful authority.

Back in Fallout 4, there's the obvious example of the Minutemen. You can easily become the General, but it's a position with no authority; you don't assign people to missions, you just get them from Preston or the radio and do them yourself.

Neither the Railroad nor the Brotherhood of Steel ever pretends your in charge, although it would be nice to see characters like Rhys show more deference when you start out-ranking them (if you complete the main quest with the BoS, he apologizes once, then goes back to being a dick).

The Institute, on the other hand, DOES pretend to put you in charge, but that allows you to make one decision that has no significant effect on the game. The Institute's actions in the game don't even make much sense, given their stated motivation. They want to be left alone in their ivory bomb shelter to pursue their research, but they can't resist meddling in things happening on the surface. They occasionally need materials, but they could get those quietly instead of acting like raiders with clean clothes. They grow food, they make medicine, they have a variety of high-tech tools: they could easily trade for the things they need from the surface, and no one would know where they were hiding out. Nonetheless, they're dicks every step of the way, and even when you become the Director, there's nothing you can do about it.

In short, when I join an organization in the future, I want it to mean something. If I become the leader, clients should come to me with requests, which I can then do myself or assign to members of the organization.