A Year Of... interesting things

Shredded Beef with Root-beer Sandwiches

Short of regular sandwiches, this is quite possible the simplest recipe I can think of.

You take beef, rootbeer, and BBQ sauce and combine them in a slow cooker. Put on bread. Eat.

With that out of the way, the beef ends up quite tasty - even though I couldn’t really taste the rootbeer’s sarsaparilla, but it feels as if it requires more. I think something slightly acid makes a good side or additional topping; coleslaw probably works great, pickles do too - as long as they’re not too dill-y.

For my taste, I threw together some onion with salt and vinegar. Some of us added pickled banana peppers - those worked great too.

As far as the bread goes, I would (and did) use something other than regular hamburger buns. My local HEB bakery makes these great hamburger rolls - a bit larger and softer than regular burger buns and quite tasty too. While I love pretzel buns, I don’t think they would work. Garlic bread might. Sourdough definitely would.

The limited ingredients and ease of preparation makes this a great recipe for social gatherings; where burgers are appropriate, this is an upgrade.


Pierce the raw meat a few times with a fork - it’ll help the juices go in.

Select a delicious root beer - preferably something craft that uses real sarsaparilla root. Do not use diet rootbeer


  • 3-4 lbs extra lean beef roast
  • 1 can or bottle of 12 oz root beer (get 2 - I’ll explain)
  • 1 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (get a bottle of at least 16 oz)
  • 6-pack of hamburger buns (see above)


The ingredients, as stated above are for a smaller 3.5–4 quart slow cooker. If you have a 6 quart one, you will need more liquid.

I would increase the quantity by 1.5x or maybe even 2x: instead of a can of rootbeer, use 2, instead of a 1.5 cups or BBQ sauce use 2 or even 2.5. Save some BBQ sauce for serving.

You want the meat completely covered in liquid, preferably with a bit on top to allow for evaporation.

  1. Puncture the beef with a fork.
    Lay in greased cooker.
    Mix rootbeer and BBQ sauce; add to cooker. Cook on slow for 8-10 hours.

When done, shred the beef with two forks - it’ll come apart really easy. Scoop on buns with BBQ sauce and some sort of side.

Serves 6.

  • calories: 690;
  • fat: 11g;
  • cholesterol: 202mg;
  • carbs: 68g;
  • sugar: 36g;
  • protein: 70g;
  • sodium: 2000mg; potassium: 2600mg;

Cycle 7 Slow Cooker - Family Favorite Casserole

For the next cycle of two weeks, maybe even 4 weeks, I’m going to try slow-cooker recipes because I’ve never cooked with a slow-cooker before and I would like to understand its benefits and limitations.

The first recipe was by far selected simply based on what I had available in the house since a rainy day made it unlikely to go out to the store.

The recipe is called Family Favorite Casserole and as far as I could tell it was quite simple: throw in some ground beef, some veggies, and a can of mushroom soup.

I can do that.

The results may not look pretty, but due to some liberties I’ve taken I ended up with another delicious meal on my hands.

Family Favorite Casserole

I don’t really know who’s family found this to be a favorite (the author’s, I guess), but I can tell you mine liked it.

The additions I made to the recipe definitely had something to do with it.


Hands-on time: 10-20 minutes, cook time: 6-10 hours on low or 3-4 on high.


  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups baby carrots, cut in thirds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • I can (10.5 ounces) cream of mushroom soup, condensed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

My additions:

  • 2-3 slices of maple-peppered bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 2-3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped


Combine all ingredients except milk, macaroni, and cheese in greased 3 1/2 to 5-quart slow cooker.
Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on low heat for 6—10 hours or on high heat for 3—4 hours.
Stir in milk and cooked macaroni during the last 30 minutes of cooking if on low heat or the last 15 minutes if on high heat.
Sprinkle grated cheese over top.

Serve with buttery steamed asparagus.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Massaman Curry

I remember getting Massaman curry once or twice at Thai places and always liking it, but not loving it, and as a result it wasn’t the go-to dish even with a large group.

The recipe I followed didn’t produce the rich brown curry that I remember ordering, but instead ended up somewhat liquidy and pleasant, but not rich taste.

Masaman Curry

It’s supposed to look close to this instead:

Matsaman nuea

Anyway, I’m determined to make it again and find a better recipe because it’s an interesting curry that’s somewhat aside from the norm.

In a way if feels closer to a north-Indian curry (not that I’m an expert), with the addition of typical Thai ingredients: lemongrass and coconut milk.

The history of the curry is intriguing because it’s not a native Thai curry – even the work massaman is borrowed – but instead a take on a Thai curry heavily influenced by Muslim spice traders.


About 25 minutes hands-on time, about 1.5 hours total.


  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 large dried New Mexico Chiles, halved lengthwise, seeded, and torn into large pieces
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 (14 ounce) can lower sodium beef broth, divided
  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 3 cups thinly vertically sliced onion
  • 1 pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound small white potatoes, halved
  • cup light coconut milk
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
    Add first 6 ingredients; cook 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring frequently.
    Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
    Place spice mixture in a food processor; add lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and 1/4 cup broth.
    Process 1 minute, scraping sides occasionally; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
    Add onion; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
    Stir in spice mixture; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
    Add beef, and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
    Stir in remaining broth and water, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
    Stir in tamarind paste, salt, and potatoes; bring to a simmer.
    Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until beef is very tender.
    Remove from heat; stir in coconut milk.

Serves 6 (serving size: 3/4 cup)

  • calories: 239;
  • fat: 7.2g;
  • protein: 19.3g;
  • carbs: 23.5g;
  • fiber: 3.1g;
  • cholesterol: 49mg;
  • iron: 2.8mg; sodium: 347mg; calcium: 45mg

Simmered Cabbage with Beef, Shan Style (Galaam Oop)

Finally reached the best dish I made this week (and honestly in quite a while). It was so good I almost ate it all before the family had a chance to try any.

My version followed the recipe with one minor addition, which accidentally is probably what made it so delicious: I didn’t feel it had enough beef so I’ve thrown in one HEB sausages. That just took it to the next level.

Galaam Oop - Simmered Cabage with Beef, Shan Style

This recipe comes from northern Thailand from the Shan people of Myanmar, who use the slow simmering method of cooking – oop – with a very small amount of water and oil, allowing for the water within the ingredients themselves to contribute and release the flavors.


Takes about 30-40 minutes to make and while not overly involved, some stirring is involved.


  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 cup thinly vertically sliced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 pound ground sirloin
  • 4 cups finely shredded cabbage (about 1 small head)
  • 1 cup thin plum tomato wedges (I used regular Roma tomatoes)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Heat a wok (you need a lid) or Dutch oven over medium heat.
    Add peanut oil to pan and swirl to coat.
    Add shallots, salt, turmeric, and red pepper; cook 3 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring frequently.
    Add beef, cook 2 minutes or until beef begins to brown.
    Add cabbage and tomato; toss well to combine.
    Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook 10 minutes or until cabbage wilts.
    Stir in peanuts cover and cook 10 minutes or until cabbage is tender.
  2. Serve with cilantro leaves.

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)

  • calories: 238;
  • fat 15.9g (sat 3.2g, mono 7.4g, poly 4.3g);
  • protein: 10.9g;
  • carbs: 15.7g;
  • fiber: 3.4g;
  • cholesterol: 180mg;
  • iron: 21mg; sodium: 628mg; calcium: 59mg.

Classic Pad Thai

Another dish that, while not bad, did not meet up my expectations.

The recipe from Cooking Light was a little bland and lacking in spice and comparison with other online recipes showed that a good deal of ingredients seemed to have been left out.

It wasn’t an unpleasant dish; if the aim is to produce a restaurant-style pad thai, this is not the recipe for it.

Classic Pad Thai


Takes about 45 minutes and almost all of it it’s hands-on.

I don’t know where to find the dried shrimp that the recipe calls for. My grocery store (HEB), which is surprisingly well stocked, did not have it – I’m sure an Asian grocery store would though.

Dried Shrimp
Also known as kung haeng (Thailand), bazun-chauk (Burma), and ebi (Indonesia), sun-dried small shrimp provide a layer of umami (savory) flavor in Southeast Asian cooking. They’re often tossed into simmering dishes to rehydrate the shrimp and release the flavors, but sometimes the dried shrimp are just added whole. They can even be ground to a powder and sprinkled like salt as a seasoning. Don’t confuse dried shrimp with shrimp paste, a more pungent fermented paste known as kapi (Thailand), terasi (Indonesia), and belacan (Malaysia).


6 ounces uncooked flat rice noodles (pad Thai noodles) 1/4 cup rice vinegar 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced banana pepper 3 ounces extra-firm tofu,sut into thin strips 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 1 tablespoon water 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce I tablespoon fish sauce 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 1/8 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided 3 garlic cloves, .mince 1 (2-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thigh, cut into thin strips 4 cups fresh bean sprouts, divided 3 green onions, trimmed, crushed with flat side of a knife, and cut into 11/2-inch pieces 1 tablespoon small dried shrimp 1/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, chopped 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves


(Start by heating the wok right at the beginning - it will get properly hot by the time its needed)

  1. Prepare noodles according to package directions; drain.
  2. Combine vinegar and 1 tablespoon sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves.
    Add banana pepper; set aside.
  3. Place tofu on several layers of heavy-duty paper towels; cover with additional paper towels.
    Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally.
  4. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, lime juice, and next 3 ingredients (throUgh fish sauce).
    Combine eggs and salt, stirring well.
  5. Heat a large wok over high hear. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat.
    Add garlic; stir-fry 15 seconds.
    Add chicken; stir-fry 2 minutes or until browned.
    Add pressed tofu; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned.
    Pour in egg mixture; cook 45 seconds or until egg begins to set around chicken and tofu.
    Remove from pan; cut into large pieces.
  6. Add remaining 1% tablespoons oil to wok; swirl to coat.
    Add 2 cups bean sprouts; green onions, and dried shrimp; stir-fry 1 minute.
    Add noodles and soy sauce mixture; stir-fry 2 minutes; tossing until noodles are lightly browned. Add reserved egg mixture; toss to combine.
    Arrange remaining 2 cups bean sprouts on a platter; top with poodle mixture.
    Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

Serve with vinegar mixture. Serves 4 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups noodle mixture and 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar sauce)

  • calories 432;
  • fat 19.1g (sat 3.6g, mono 8.3g, poly 6.1g);
  • protein 14.3g;
  • carbs 52.7g;
  • fiber 36g;
  • cholesterol 110mg;
  • iron 3.3mg; sodium 640mg; calcium 80mg