A Question of Convenience

I don’t even know where I got this book. I was shifting some boxes and it just fell out. That’s the problem with being a Crazy Cookbook Guy … I’ll pick these things up and forget about them sometimes. It is not even the sort of collectible cookbook I usually buy, I mean, it is too new (2005). It might have been a gift, but frankly I just don’t remember where I got it. The “$1” sticker is a strong indicator that I might have found it at a yard sale, but sometimes the twenty-five cent sale books have old yard sale stickers, so it is hard to tell. Most of those books end up clumped together though … in one of the growing number of tubs I have.  Anyway, fate put it back in my hands and now I feel compelled to share it with you, my dear and loyal readers.

Mini-Mart à la Carte by Christopher Rouser & Victoria Traig is actually an interesting little book. As the title implies, it presents a number of recipes based upon things you could buy in your neighborhood convenience store. I have to admit, a lot of thought went into this book. Years ago I envisioned something along these lines for fanciful recipes, like using so many packets of sugar or salt, or my favorites, or making a quiche with x number of small half and half creamers. That’s about as far as I got.  These guys take that idea and moved it to an entirely new level. They should go on Chopped.

Now some of the ideas are just silly, like The Kevin Bacon where the chef is instructed at one point to sculpt a brick of cream cheese into a likeness of Kevin Bacon. I mean, it doesn’t even have bacon in it, just Bac-O’s. Other “recipes” are decidedly simple, like their version of franks & beans, something they call Weiner Bean Bucket. Poop on a Pringle is very simple, and awful sounding … bean dip on a Pringle topped with a piece of Vienna Sausage. Mmmmmm.

imageA couple did catch my eye, though. The Trojan Horse is very interesting indeed. If I ever go on Hell’s Kitchen I will serve a variation of this to Chef Ramsay as my signature dish! Basically, you trim and hollow out a brick of Spam and sculpt pieces to resemble a … Trojan horse. image

There are no Greek warriors inside, you stuff it with Cheese Whiz. Pure Genius. And look at it … a veritable piece of art.




imageAnother dish that I thought was cute, albeit simple, was the Corn Dog Kabobs. image

You cut away sections of the corn dog and using the stick as a skewer you separate sections with tater tots. I mean, what a great idea! And Kids would love these!


This book runs the gamut … 100+ pages of this stuff, including Pigs in a Poncho (hot dogs in a tortilla), New England Spam Chowder, Sardines Rockefeller, Fish Sticks Amandine … it goes on and on. Drinks include The Pink of Health (Smirnoff Ice and Pepto-Bismol) and The Mickey Rourke (Mickey’s Malt Liquor and Strawberry Soda). Desserts are not left to chance with Ho Cakes (made with any Hostess product, whipped cream and almonds) and Creamed Candy Corn (candy corn and butterscotch topping). I’m just scraping the tip of the iceberg off my shoe here folks. This blog would be as long as the book itself if I continued.

It’s a fun read … and even has some fun convenience store trivia. For instance, it claims that 1 in 9 people in the US will eat at least one hot dog in a convenience store every year. That’s a scary thought. Some of those people can vote too … and serve on juries. Think about THAT while you’re pumping your gas.


Dealing with Pressure

A few weeks ago my trusty 40-year-old MirroMatic failed.  Oh, I’m sure it is repairable, there are like three things that can go wrong with a pressure cooker and two are easily repairable and even the third can be repaired.

imageAh, but the thing about it is, pressure cookers have come a long way in 40 years.  So I asked for a fancy new electric cooker appliance for Christmas.  The Instant Pot combines ostensibly six functions in one.  Realistically, it is probably like three or four, but we’ll let them have a little leeway with what they claim.  It can function as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker and a steamer.  I forget what the other two are supposed to be, saute and something else I think.  I don’t care.  Four items are good.  There is a newer model that covers seven functions but near as I could tell, the seventh function was as a yogurt maker … didn’t really need that so I went cheaper.

I have to say, it functions pretty well as a pressure cooker.  It also does the job as a slow cooker.  Haven’t tried the other functions but did use saute to brown a brisket prior to slow cooking.  It has a really nice stainless-steel pot that seems very durable.

This leaves me to find new recipes … and sadly, due to a lapse in my organizational abilities, your crazy cookbook guy can not easily find his pressure cooker cookbooks.  I sought out some facebook groups … they are a trip.  Mostly new owners, like me.  Well, not like me because I am a seasoned pressure cooker user.  Yes, it has a lot of fancy pre-timed buttons for cooking soups, stews, poultry … that sort of thing, but it also has a manual setting where you can set the timer yourself.   With that, you can use any pressure cooker recipe … which is what I have been doing.  Most of these other newbies seem more obsessed with things like hard boiled eggs and oatmeal.  Who needs to do those in a pressure cooker?  I mean, I do old-fashioned rolled oats in the microwave at 80% power for four minutes.  They’d cook in three minutes but they tend to boil over so I opt to lower the power so it cycles on and off and the bubbles die back down.

imageAnyway, I delved into my old MirroMatic pressure cooker manual, which already has more recipes than the book that came with the Instant Pot.  I found the first recipe I ever cooked in the old pressure cooker, Porcupine Meatballs.

I found the first recipe I ever cooked in the old pressure cooker, Porcupine Meatballs and made that as my first Instant Pot dish.  They were delicious and came out about as pretty as they ever did in the old one.  Maybe prettier.