7 layer dip

Quick Look_______________


Here's an easy recipe that's perfect for post-Bible study snacks. It goes well with those huge $3 bags of tortilla chips at Costco and is an effective way to eat up extra tortilla chips before they get stale.
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 0 minutes
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Labor Intensity: You may want 1-2 people to help
  • 20 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 1 ounce package taco seasoning mix (about $1-2 at safeway)
  • 16 ounce can refried beans (about $2-3)
  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened (about $2-3)
  • 16 ounce container sour cream (about $3-4)
  • 16 ounce jar salsa (about $3)
  • 2-3 large tomato (under $1)
  • 1 bunch green onions (under $1)
  • 6 ounce can sliced black olives (a few $)
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 8oz, $2-3)
  • 3 avocados (optional, usually expensive)
  • Total: about $20.00

Directions_______________

  • Pour the beans on a 13x9 baking tray
  • [optional] cut avocado and mash. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Spread on top of bean layer
  • Mix the cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl. Add the taco seasoning and mix together.
  • Spread seasoned cream on top of the beans.
  • Add a layer of salsa.
  • Chop tomato and add a layer on top
  • Chop green onions and sprinkle on top
  • Drain and sprinkle black olives over the pan
  • Top with Cheddar cheese.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

You can add the 7 layers in any order you wish. If you want to double the recipe, you can use a large aluminum tray instead.

[Possible side dish] Serve with tortilla chips.

Roasted Garlic

Quick Look_______________



Roasted garlic is very easy to make and can compliment many dishes (like mashed potatoes) or be served on it's own as an appetizer.

  • Prep time: 3-5 minutes
  • Cook time: 45-60 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 10-15 whole garlic bunch (shouldn't cost much at safeway)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Some kind of herb (rosemary, thyme, oregano...etc)
  • Total: $ very little

Directions_______________

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Peel off excess skin off the garlic by rubbing it gently. You don't need to break apart the cloves. Keep the whole set intact.
  • Slice off the root end of the bunch.
  • Pour a spoonful of oil over each bunch
  • Sprinkle lightly with salt and herb
  • Place all garlic onto baking tray
  • Add 1/8 inch water to tray (just enough for a thin layer)
  • Cover top with foil
  • Bake for 45-60 mins

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

If the garlic is starting to sprout a little and has a little green in the center, it's still ok. If the sprout is large, you may not want to use it. Each person can eat 1/2-1 bunch.

You can spread this on a buttered loaf of bread for garlic bread. You can also mash this into potatoes. It goes well as a side dish for steak.

The roasting makes the garlic smooth and soft. The strong pungent flavor breaks down during cooking.

[Possible side dish] Serve with potatoes or steak!

Tutorial: how to get tender meat

The three college campus fellowships of Gracepoint Fellowship Church just had the NSWN yesterday and grilled 1100lbs of meat. In a previous post, I stated that cooking the kalbi to well done actually makes it more tender. I'll explain the principles in this post.

There are 2 things that make meat tough: myosin deformation/shrinkage and overabundance of collagen. It sounds technical (and it is) but it's not too hard to grasp. Let's break it down....

Muscle fibers (myosin) shrink and compress when cooked. It's like squeezing a sponge, the water leaks out and the compressed material is dense, tough, and dry. Also, it results in a gray-brown color as the red blood cells are destroyed. This occurs when crossing from medium to well done.

I mentioned collagen in a previous post. In many cheaper cuts, there is an abundance of these tough fibers called collagen. Collagen unravels as it's cooked and forms gelatin, leaving the meat tender.

Tender cuts (like filet mignon or a good ribeye) have little collagen and will be tender. You don't want to cook it past medium if you want to keep it tender.

Tougher cuts have lots of collagen which you want to break down through heat, but you want to avoid over cooking it as it will become a bit tough. That's why I like to slow cook it until medium. The long time allows the collagen to break down, but it's kept cool enough to prevent it from becoming overdone and dry.

So why does Kalbi become more tender when fully cooked? The answer is in the marinade. There are meat tenderizers in fresh kiwi, pineapple, or papaya that break down muscle fiber. When cooked to well done, the fibers shrink, but the enzyme tears up the fibers so it's not that tough, even when bound together. The high heat helps break down the collagen further. The result is broken down collagen and muscle fibers that are broken down and not tough. The more you cook it, the more collagen you break. Just make sure it doesn't dry out. Also, the cooking process helps make it a little firm rather than chewy, easier to tear apart.

So why not add tenderizer to everything? You could buy the cheapest meats and throw in some kiwi and get tender meat. Here are the limitations... marinades cannot penetrate beyond 1/2 inch thick, so you need it thinly sliced. Next, tenderizers have a tendency to cause meat to have a "mushy" texture. we don't want our meat to be mush. The enzyme breaks down meat too much usually and there isn't enough structural toughness to chew on. Imagine the difference in tenderness between a fine steak and a piece of kalbi. The steak has substance you can chew and bite into, yet you don't have to chew much. The kalbi tears apart too easily. Tenderizers are an effective way to make cheap, thin cuts of meat tender, but you can't replace the tenderness of a good ribeye steak.

Fresh whipped cream

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There's nothing quite as sweet as good Christian fellowship, like at Gracepoint Berkeley, but fresh whipped cream is still pretty nice :) . If the only thing you ever had was the aerosol can type or Cool Whip, then you haven't experienced true whipped cream. I like to serve it with fresh strawberries, on top of pies, and cakes/shortcakes. It's a fun dessert to serve at small group or home group. [DISCLAIMER: this is not necessarily healthy! Make at your own discretion!]

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 0 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/Easy - Don't overbeat it or underbeat it.
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream (about $4 at safeway or $5 for 1/2 gallon at costco)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (you can use normal white sugar if that's all you have)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • Total: about $4.00

Directions_______________

  • Chill cream in fridge
  • Freeze a metal bowl (if you have one) and mixer beaters in freezer for 15 minutes
  • Pour cream to cold bowl and add sugar
  • Beat on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. (more info below)
  • Add more sugar if desired and mix into cream.
  • Chill in fridge or briefly in freezer before serving

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

You can use a cheap hand mixer or a large stand mixer. They will both work for this. If using a hand mixer, move up and down, side to side. Try to use a bowl that will submerge the beaters. A tall, narrow container like tupperware may work well.

Stiff peaks is a term that's used to describe what the cream looks like. Beat it for a while and when you stop it should hold it's form. If the cream settles back into a bubbly liquid, it's not ready. If it holds it's form (ridges and little peaks) and slowly starts collapsing to even out, it's called soft peaks. When it holds it's form after you stop and retains it's shape, it's called stiff peaks and it's ready.

When you overbeat it, it will break emulsion and the fat and water will separate. The fat will make hard clumps and you get butter! If you see hard clumps, you overbeat it. The sugar actually protects the cream by interfering with the whipping process. It slows everything down so you have to beat it for a very long time to overbeat. It also means it will take longer to get to stiff peaks.

Here's a video on you tube that explains the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGprjY12_Sg

[Alternate variation] You can add a 1/2 tsp of almond extract. I like to even substitute the sugar with a little cherry syrup found in a jar of Maraschino cherries. 1 tsp of sugar is 4 grams, just figure out how much sugar is in the syrup and do the conversion.

[Possible side dish] Serve with fresh strawberries or on any fruit plate. You can also serve with pancakes.

Tutorial: How to cut onions without crying

When it comes to cooking, it's not just recipes. There's some things you can learn which can make cooking a more enjoyable experience.

[Science lesson of the day] Onions contain an enzyme called alliinase which react with sulfur compounds in the onions. When the cells are broken, the compounds are free to mix together - its similar to when you snap a glow stick and the 2 liquids are free to mix and it starts giving off light. The reaction between the enzyme and onion results in gases that are released into the air and dissolve in your eyes, forming sulfuric acid. The acid stings and irritates the tissues and causes you to tear up to dilute the acid.

How can you prevent this?

  1. If you cut an onion underwater or under running water in a sink, the gases dissolve into the water instead of your eyes.
  2. If you chill the onion before cutting, it will have less free energy for the enzyme to react. If you remember from CHEM 1A, rate of reactions double every 10C. That means a chilled onion will be 4 times slower enzymatically than a room temperature one and should produce less tear inducing gas.

If all else fails, you can wear goggles to shield your eyes.....or ask one of your friends to cut the onion for you :)

Kalbi BBQ

Quick Look_______________



The 3 college ministries of Gracepoint Fellowship Church (acts 2 fellowship, koinonia, kairos) go into hypermode as we prepare for the upcoming school year. One signature dish that we have been doing for years is Korean bbq, serving meat called Kalbi. The picture above is some brothers grilling the 1000+ lbs that we do for the UC Berkeley campus. The good news is that you don't have to wait for New Student Welcome Night to enjoy this tasty meat...
  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes
  • Cook time: 30-45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself, but why not call some friends over?
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 6 cups soy sauce
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 large onion (under $1 at safeway)
  • 2 bunch green onions ($1 safeway)
  • 1 Kiwi ($0.50 safeway)
  • 30 peeled cloves of garlic (about 1 lb at ranch/koreana for $2)
  • 25 lb short ribs or beef chuck (you need to cut chuck 1/2 inch thin) (chuck is about $2/lb on sale)
  • Total: about $55

Directions_______________

  • Chop onions into 2 inch pieces that will fit into a blender
  • Chop off the root tips of the green onion and put in blender
  • Peel the kiwi, or cut in half and squeeze the insides into a blender.
  • Add garlic to blender
  • Fill with enough of the soy sauce to fill blender 1/2 way, you may have to add above ingredients in multiple batches.
  • Blend everything.
  • Pour all ingredients (except meat) into a large bucket or stockpot.
  • Mix everything to make it homogenous.
  • Cut the meat thin (it should be no thicker than 1/2 inch at most) This may require time and labor.
  • Put the meat into large ziplock bags or large plastic tupperware. Avoid storing in metal containers as it may react with the meat.
  • Pour enough marinade to submerge meat. You may need to make more.
  • Squeeze out all air and seal ziplock if you store it that way
  • Store overnight in fridge.
  • Grill meat over flame or you can pan fry it on a stove.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

Cook the meat to well-done. It seems counter-intuitive, but because of the nature of the meat and the way it was marinated, it reaches optimal tenderness when fully cooked, just don't overcook to the point of burning or drying out.
Beef chuck is the cheapest way to go. Just cut it thin, it may be difficult and time consuming. Be careful not to cut yourself. You can buy the actual kalbi short rib at Chinese markets, like ranch, for about $3/lb on sale.
[Possible side dish] Rice, salad, bread rolls

Nutella-Banana wontons

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This is an easy desert snack and another way you can get rid of over-ripe bananas. Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread and it turn warm and gooey in this fried wonton. It's like those sweet nutella crepes you see on Telegraph, but crunchier! You can make this with your small group and it'd be something fun to do after Bible studies!

  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10-30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself, more fun to work with a few others.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 1-2 jar(s) of Nutella [in the peanut butter section of safeway for about $4]
  • Wonton skins [about $2 at safeway] - get about 60-90 skins
  • 1 bunch ripe bananas [about $2 at safeway]
  • 1 egg
  • vegetable oil
  • Powdered sugar [optional]
  • Total: about $8.00

Directions_______________

  • Cut the bananas into 1/2 inch coins.
  • Crack and mix an egg in a bowl.
  • Pour 1 inch of oil in a pan/pot and place on medium heat.
  • Spoon a little nutella and a banana slice into the center of a wonton skin.
  • Brush egg on the edge of the wonton.
  • Fold the wonton diagonally and pinch edges to seal it tightly.
  • Fry wonton until it turns light brown. You may need to flip over if not submerged
  • Remove from oil and sprinkle powdered sugar on top [optional]
  • Allow it to cool for 3-5 minutes before serving, inside may be very hot!

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

Don't overfill the wonton, it will burst and spill out into the oil. I would err on the side of underfilling them. You can try a few and then adjust accordingly to figure out how much is the optimal level.

Make sure the oil isn't too hot and burn the wonton. Turn down heat as necessary. Pull it out when it turns 1 shade lighter than you want. It continues to cook after you remove it from oil. If it looks the right color in oil, it will be too dark when you pull it out.

[Possible side dish] If adventurous, you can serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Crispy Tacos

Quick Look_______________


The picture above is carnita crispy tacos from Gordo's on College Ave in Berkeley. Many of us at Gracepoint love to eat there and these tacos are fairly easy to make. I listed instructions on making carnitas in a previous post. In this post, I'll show you how to make crispy tacos quick and cheap using one of my favorite Mexican sausages! [DISCLAIMER: these tacos are not necessarily healthy! Cook at your own discretion!]

  • Prep time: 3-5 minutes
  • Cook time: 10-30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 12-15 lb Chorizo [$3.99 for a 3lb log at smart and final on international] You can also use ground beef, but it's not as tasty as chorizo.
  • Corn tortillas [$3-4 for 90-pack at smart and final or costco]
  • Sour cream [~$4]
  • Guacamole (optional)
  • Salsa (optional)
  • 1-2 lbs Cheese [I like mozzarella, pepper jack....just about any kind, sliced or shredded. 1lb is about $3-$5 on sale]
  • Total: about $30.00

Directions_______________

  • Stir fry chorizo in a pan or skillet as you would ground beef.
  • Pour the chorizo into a bowl and set aside, you can drain excess oil if you like.
  • Place a tortilla on the pan or skillet with a small spoonful of oil and on medium/low heat.
  • Place some cheese on the tortilla and when it melts, add a few spoonfuls of meat
  • Transfer the taco to a plate and add sour cream/guacamole/salsa....etc
  • Add another small spoonful of oil and new tortilla to the pan.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

On a large skillet, you can fry 3 tortillas at a time. I would utilize all 4 burners if possible. That way you can crank out up to 12 tacos every 3 minutes.

Gordos dips the torilla in a pot of oil. You can do that as well, but I think you can use less and just add a small spoonful.

You can prep everything and bring an electric skillet to the dining room and cook these tacos on the dining table as you eat.

Be careful the tortilla doesn't burn. Turn down heat as necessary.

[Possible side dish] Serve with salsa chipotle sauce and tortilla chips

Smoothies

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It's not really something you would serve at dinner. These smoothies can be a great snack during fellowship after Bible study or other hang out time.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 0 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 1 gallon fruit juice [$4-5 on sale at safeway. You can also use frozen concentrate]
  • 1 bag of ice (8lbs) [$2 safeway or wherever]
  • 8-10 lbs frozen fruit [about $2/lb at smart and final or costco]
  • 1 gallon ice cream [about $6 for a 5-quart tub]
  • Total: about $30.00 to $35.00

Directions_______________

  • Blend 1 cup juice, 1 cup fruit, 1/2 cup ice, 1 cup ice cream in a blender.
  • Each blend should produce 24 oz, enough for 2 people.
  • [Possible recipes]
  • Apple juice, 1/2 frozen strawberry + 1/2 banana, vanilla ice cream
  • Orange Juice, frozen strawberries, orange sherbet
  • Pineapple juice, frozen strawberry, pineapple sherbet, 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • Pineapple juice, banana, pineapple sherbet
  • Guava juice, frozen peaches, frozen strawberry, pineapple sherbet
  • Apple juice, frozen blueberry, banana, raspberry sherbet/vanilla ice cream
  • Raspberry juice, banana, raspberry sherbet
  • Milk, 1/2 cup peanuts, banana, vanilla ice cream

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

I would recommend the Vita-Mix blender for this. Ask your staff/director if they have one or access to one. It's about 1300 watts (almost 2 horsepower!) compared to an average blender with 350 watts.

These smoothies are Jamba Juice style and are made thick. If your blender can't handle it, you can cut down the ice or add a little more juice to thin it out. You may have to turn off the blender for 2-3 seconds and/or shake the canister and start blending again if too thick.

[Possible side dish] N/A

Pulled pork sandwich

Quick Look_______________

I do enjoy a bbq brisket sandwich, however I enjoy a good bbq pulled pork sandwich just as well. Pork shoulder is about $1.49 on sale and could go as low as $0.99/lb on sale. I think brisket has a better flavor, but I could make twice as much meat at this price! Traditional North Carolina pulled pork is slow cooked in a charcoal grill or in a slow cooker. I'm posting a quicker method of cooking.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hrs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 15-18 lb Pork shoulder/country style ribs [$1.49/lb on sale]
  • Salt (I prefer coarse kosher salt)
  • Black pepper
  • 1.5 cup vinegar
  • 2 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cups BBQ sauce [I like cattlemen smoky, $8 for a 2pack at costco]
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 spoonfuls tabasco or other hot sauce (add to taste)
  • 48 Buns [12 pack for $2 at smart and final or costco, I think costco quality is a bit higher]
  • Total: about $45.00

Directions_______________

  • Pour all ingredients into a large stock pot (except buns!)
  • If the meat has bone, cut around the bone and discard.
  • Cut the meat into long strips, no thicker than 2x2x6 inches
  • Add water until it's submerged or at least 2/3 submerged.
  • Heat pot on high until boiling then reduce to medium/medium-low heat for 2 hrs
  • Check on meat after 1 hr, stir meat so top is on bottom...etc
  • After 2 hrs, the meat should fall apart easily.
  • Use 2 forks and pull the meat until it forms shreds. If it is not tender enough to do this easily, cook for a little longer.
  • Serve with sauce or coat with fresh bbq sauce.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

You can cook the meat the night before and then reheat before serving.

One tip is to boil the leftover sauce in the pot until it gets concentrated and then stir the shredded meat in the new reduced sauce. Check on the sauce and taste often to stop when it is concentrated to your liking. Or you can use fresh BBQ sauce if you like.

[Possible side dish] chicken salad, corn bread, potato wedges

BBQ Beef brisket sandwich

Quick Look_______________

I would have to say brisket is my favorite meat under $2/lb. It has great flavor and once you get past the toughness, it becomes quite tender. Just roast it in the oven and follow a few principles and you'll be enjoying tender meat. I actually recomend my other recipe for this.
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 12+ hrs
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/Easy. If trimmed incorrectly, the meat could become too tender.
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 20-25 lb Beef Brisket [$1.89/lb at smart and final on international/42nd]
  • Salt (I prefer coarse kosher salt)
  • Black pepper
  • oil
  • burgundy or red cooking wine (optional) or you can use beef broth base from smart and final (optional)
  • 48 Buns [12 pack for $2 at smart and final or costco, I think costco quality is a bit higher]
  • BBQ sauce [I like cattlemen smoky, $8 for a 2pack at costco]
  • Total: about $55.00

Directions_______________

  • Choose meat that is lean. One side has fat, choose the cut that has the thinnest layer of fat.
  • Preheat oven to 190F
  • Trim the fat off the meat. Leave 1/8-1/4 inch still on the meat to keep it moist. You can trim off about 50-60% of the fat.
  • Score the fat (make cuts into the fat, but stop when you hit meat or just before. You want to make 1/2 inch horizontal and vertical checkerboard cuts across the fat)
  • Rub the whole meat with oil
  • Place the meat in an aluminum tray. You may need 2 aluminum trays for this.
  • Pour 1/4 inch of cooking wine, water, or beef broth into the tray on top of the meat (it should be a little, just enough to keep the meat moist) The meat should not be swimming in juice.
  • Sprinkle 1 spoonful of salt into liquid, sprinkle some black pepper as well
  • Pour bbq sauce to coat meat, you can pour some into liquid as well.
  • Place in oven for 12 hours. You can score the meat the night before and pour in liquid into tray in morning. Place in oven and leave to work. It will be ready at 7pm when you come back, ready for small group/homegroup dinner.
  • [Alternate cooking] Put it in oven at midnight. Check on 1/4 inch water level and tenderness, drain or add liquid in morning before work. Come back at 5pm and serve. It will be cooking for 17 hrs this way. It should be very tender.
  • Flip the meat over to lean side and look for lines. They should be running diagonally, cut perpendicular to these lines (cutting against the grain). Cuts should be 1/8 inch thick
  • Drain the drippings and pour into a bowl if people want it on the side. You can also trim off the fat from the meat before serving.
  • Coat the meat with bbq sauce. Serve with buns. Serve drippings on the side if people want to pour a spoonful on sandwich.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

If the fat layer isn't trimmed enough, the fat will melt and will surround the meat. Since oil transfers heat much better than air, it may overcook and become too tender. If this happens, shred the meat and serve as pulled beef bbq sandwich.

Beef brisket is a cut of meat that you want to cook all the way. The tough nature of the fibers requires it to be kept at a high enough temp to become tender, but also cooked. Tender steak meat is better medium rare. Tough roasting meat is better fully cooked, but not overcooked to dryness.

[ADVANCED TECHNIQUES] Separate the tip from the flat. If you look at the meat fat side down, near the pointed end you can see another layer of fat sandwiched between the meat. There are 2 muscle groups here with different grain. Cut through the fat layer and trim it. It will start to separate the 2 muscles as though you were unzipping it. You will inevitably cut into 1 muscle, but it's ok, just minimize it. The pointed end is rather small and rests upon the rectangle flat. The fat layer between the 2 muscles actually insulate the meat and prevent heat transfer. Trim the fat down to 1/4 inch.

Place a meat thermometer into the brisket. It should be kept at 140F to 155F as long as possible. Adjust oven by opening door to cool or turn off to keep meat at this temperature as long as you could. This requires monitoring, but at this temperature, all the tough fibers break down, but it's cold enough to prevent the meat fibers from shrinking and losing water retention properties.

Some references There's alot more info on meat science out there if you want to know optimal temperaure for meat tenderness and juiciness.

[Possible side dish] chicken salad, corn bread, potato wedges

Tutorial: how to roast meat pt.1

To feed people with a budget of $2 or less, you will probably have to use tougher cuts of meat. However, these cuts tend to be very flavorful if you can get around the toughness. One easy way to prep these meats while minimizing labor is to roast the meat. It seems intimidating at first, but it's actually very easy.

Read more.....

Jambalaya

Quick Look_______________

This recipe comes from Jon Chou. I made some modifications to the ingredients and had to round up or down a little to get it to fit into bulk ingredients. It should work fine. It's a complete meal with rice and meat, all you need is a large stockpot of this, plates, and spoons.
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 45-60 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/Easy. Be careful the Jambalaya doesn't burn on bottom-very common
  • Labor Intensity: Having 2-3 extra people could really help.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 8lbs Boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh [about $16 on sale]
  • Black pepper
  • 8 medium onions [5lb bag for $3.50 at safeway]
  • 8 Bell peppers [$8 safeway]
  • 1 pk kielbasa sausage [$9 for a 3lb package of evergood kielbasa @ costco]
  • If you have it in your budget, I'd recommend getting another pack of sausages.
  • 6 cups chicken broth [$3-4, jar of chicken broth base at smart and final on international, aisle 6. Just add water. Or you can get chicken broth at costco for a little more, but save a trip!]
  • 6 cups water
  • Stewed tomatoes ($3-4, 1 lg cans from costco, about 6.5lb) Diced tomatoes will work too
  • Cayenne pepper (add to taste, maybe 1-3 tablespoons)
  • Rice (15 cups)
  • 2 stalks celery (optional)
  • chopped green onion as garnish (optional)
  • Total: about $46.00

Directions_______________

  • Pour chicken broth and water in a pot and heat on high until boil.
  • Cut up chicken into pieces as you would for curry
  • Cut up onions, bell pepper, and celery into chunks
  • Slice up sausages into 1/4 inch coins
  • In large stock pot, cook onions for a minute, breaking all the pieces apart
  • Add chicken; cook until there's no more raw chicken; add a little pepper
  • Add hot chicken broth, diced tomatoes, bell peppers and sausages
  • Add cayenne pepper; bring to boil
  • If too tangy, add a little sugar to taste
  • Wash rice
  • Once it's boiling, add rice (and try to get everything under the water line--maybe add a little water, but water should come out of the bell peppers too)
  • Once it's boiling again, bring down to low-med heat. Stir occasionally (so bottom doesn't burn); rice cooks in 30-45 minutes (just check it constantly)

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

I helped make this dish one time and one lesson I learned was that it would be easier to make this in 2 large stockpots rather than 1 larger one. It was hard to stir this much and the bottom inevitably burns. You can even distribute among 4 smaller stock pots and stir all of them occasionally. This would utilize the heat of 4 burners rather than 1 and cook it all faster as well as make it more managable to prevent burning. It would help to have an extra person so each person watches 2 pots instead of 4. You could recombine into 1 large stockpot at the end to make transport easier.

[Possible side dish] N/A

Tortilla Chips

Quick Look_______________


I love eating fresh chips from Mexican restaurants. It tastes alot better than the bagged kind and it's easy to make. If you have an extra hand to make these, I'd recommend it.
  • Prep time: 2 minutes
  • Cook time: 20-30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Labor Intensity: Easy enough to do on your own, though an extra hand would be nice
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 90 count bag of palm sized corn tortillas [$3-$4 at costco, safeway, wherever]
  • salt
  • oil
  • Total: $3.00 -$4.00

Directions_______________

  • Cut the tortillas into quarters.
  • Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a pan or use a deep fryer.
  • Heat stove on high.
  • Drop tortillas into oil and fry until light brown, stir it around occassionally and make sure to flip them.
  • Drain from oil and place in a basket with paper towel on bottom.
  • Sprinkle with salt.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

This is an easy side to make, but it means you are pretty much dedicated to it for about 20-30 minutes. When I make Mexican food, I assign someone to just do chips. If you have the resources, it's a great dish. But in a busy kitchen with limited manpower working on burritos, I'd just recommend the bagged kind.

Don't put too many chips in at once. They clump and stack up and oil doesn't get between them. Also, you may have to pour in more oil depending on what size pan you are using and how much you are making.

Take out the chips when they look light brown. They will turn a bit darker after they are removed. Your first batch may be a bit too dark or light. Play around with it a little.

Sprinkle salt from 2-3 feet above the chips. At In-N-Out, the people doing fries are instructed to salt at shoulder level above the food. This makes the salt evenly spread.

[Possible side dish] Serve with salsa and tacos/burritos

Carnitas

Quick Look_______________

When you want Mexican food, there's nothing like carnitas, chips, and salsa. When pork shoulder is on sale, I'd recommend making these. There are tons of different carnitas recipes out there. Tradition calls for slow simmering in lard and coke. I've come up with a similar recipe without the lard...
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 90-120 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/Easy. You may have to adjust oven temperature/time as there are variances among different ovens. Just make sure it is cooked to tenderness, but not too tender.
  • Labor Intensity: Easy enough to do on your own, though an extra hand or two would be nice to help cut all the meat
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 12-15 lbs pork shoulder [about $18-$22 on sale]
  • 90 count bag of palm sized corn tortillas [$3-$4 at costco, safeway, wherever] or you can get flour tortillas
  • salt
  • oil
  • coke/pepsi
  • paprika
  • cumin (optional)
  • chili powder (optional)
  • cliantro (optional)
  • Dash of soy sauce (optional)
  • 1-2 onions [under $1]
  • 2-3 limes [about $1]
  • sour cream [$3-4 safeway]
  • shredded cheese [$5 safeway]
  • Total: about $35.00

Directions_______________

  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Cut the pork into pieces no larger than 2-3 inches on any side
  • Sear all sides of the meat on a hot pan or skillet (while other person cuts meat)
  • Place pork in a baking tray/aluminum tray
  • Pour a little oil to coat the pieces and sprinkle on paprika, cumin, chili powder and whatever seasonings you like
  • Pour in 2-3 cans of coke. It should be about 1/4 inch deep. You may need more or less cans.
  • Cover with foil tightly and place in oven
  • While meat is cooking, dice onions and chop cilantro into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Remove foil after 45 min
  • After 1 hr 30 min, check on the meat, it should be tender. If it is not tender, put back in oven (up to 2.5 hrs total). Add 1 cup water if the pan is dry.
  • Remove from oven, drain, and tear apart the meat.
  • Add seasonings, salt, and pepper to taste (about 1/4 cup salt read here)
  • Squeeze lime over the meat to taste, or you can slice and place wedges on the side
  • Add a dash of soy sauce to make it more savory (optional)
  • Serve with tortillas, sour cream, cheese

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

The coke will add sweetness to the meat, but will be mild as it carmelizes.

There may be alot of oil in the pan at the very end. Drain prior to serving. Leave it in while cooking to keep it moist and prevent it from drying out. For this reason DO NOT trim the fat off when cutting the meat. It will all render into oil which you can drain later. By removing fat, you have a higher chance of undercooked or overcooked meat. You can trim off fat after cooking if it is still there.

The cooking temp/time is largely dependant on how much you are cooking and the type of oven. I can do 6lbs at 375F at my home oven in 1.5 hours. It takes about 3 hours at 550F at the North Loop oven to cook 55lbs. You may need to adjust based on your quantity and oven strength.

You can steam or microwave the tortillas to soften them prior to serving.

[Possible side dish] Serve with salsa, chipotle sauce and tortilla chips

Chicken Salad

Quick Look_______________


If you been around long enough, I'm sure you had this salad at one point. It's easy to make and it's really good. When I normally serve salad, there are leftovers. Somehow this one always seems to go quickly
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 10-15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Labor Intensity: Easy enough to do on your own, though an extra hand would be nice
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 5-6 heads of romaine lettuce [$3-4 at costco]
  • 2 cans of mandarin oranges [$2-3 at safeway]
  • 4 lbs chicken breast [$8 when on sale at safeway]
  • Wonton skins [$2 at safeway]
  • 1 bunch green onions [less than $1]
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • dash of soy sauce
  • Total: somewhere under $20.00 (if you already have other ingredients)

Directions_______________

  • Slice chicken into 1/2 inch x 1 inch strips
  • stir fry the chicken
  • drain out liquid as it comes out of chicken
  • Set aside the chicken
  • slice the wonton skins into 1/2 in width
  • deep fry the skins for seconds, until light brown
  • you can pour 1/2 inch of oil into a small pan to deep fry
  • chop green onions
  • tear lettuce into salad size pieces
  • pour oil, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, pepper and soy sauce in a bowl and mix well or pour into a jar and shake well
  • mix all ingredients, top with green onions

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

The salad tastes better cold so you may want to do all the work the night before and refrigerate it. Then shake the dressing, assemble and serve.

[Possible side dish] You can eat this with almost any dish!

Kitchen tool of the month: Meat Thermometer

Whenever I roast meat in an oven, I always use this meat thermometer. 10 degrees could be the difference between rare and medium rare. You insert the probe into the center of the meat and put it in the oven. The cable will come out of the oven door and connect to the display on the counter. The main appeal is that you don't need to open the oven and insert the thermometer to get the temperature every time, but get real time data on the meat. It takes out the uncertainty out of cooking meat. You can preset the alarm and when the meat is cooked to desired doneness, it will alert you. I set the alarm 10°F before so I can monitor the last minutes. I can put it in and hang out in the living room worry free!

Here are some numbers...
120°F-130°F very rare to rare
130°F-140°F rare to medium rare
140°F-150°F Medium to medium well
150°F-160°F Well done

But when roasting in an oven, there is carry over heat to account for. Therefore, I cook until 5°F before the desired temp. For me, I cook beef roasts to 130°F to serve at 135°F.

Chicken must be heated to 165°Fand Pork must be heated to 145°F.

Honey Butter

Quick Look_______________


Again, I'm not really posting anything exciting, but's it tastes great and it's easy to make, and cheap. This is an excellent spread for cornbread or fresh baked dinner rolls

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: none
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: Easy enough to do on your own.
  • Make as much as you think you need for your group

Ingredients_______________

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup honey
  • Total: somewhere around $2.00

Directions_______________

  • Let the butter sit out until it gets very soft, or microwave to soften, but not melt.
  • Mix butter and honey with a hand mixer.
  • Pour into serving bowl and chill in the fridge before serving.
  • You can chill in freezer, but don't chill beyond 10 minutes or until it gets too hard.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

If you don't have a mixer, you can use a whisk and beat quickly. If you don't have that, you can use a fork and beat furiously. It does get harder without the right tools.

Margerine can substitute, but I'd recomend butter. There is a difference in spreadability and flavor.

It originally calls for 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup butter. I found that I like it 2:1 honey to butter rather than 1:1. You can try it and adjust ratio to your liking.

Don't over beat the butter, it will break out of emulsion and the fat and water will separate. High speed mixers can do this if you beat for a long time (over 5-10 minutes)

[alternate variations] I like to add 1/4 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp almond extract and then beat together. You can also sprinkle a little cinnamon for flavor and color.

[Possible side dish] This goes well with cornbread or fresh dinner rolls