Jun 26 2011

DIY Pastrami

Posted by Seth in Food

I’m a fat Jewish guy – of course I love Pastrami.   Normally I enjoy it over at Harold’s Deli, but Lee and myself  got some good deals on corned beefs at the restaurant depot (I’m talking sub $2 a pound).  These things were bohemoths, the smallest ones we could find weighed in at 15 pounds. 

Besides boiling to make some delicious corned beef, I decided to throw part of one in the smoker and make some Pastrami.  It’s pretty routine as far as bbq goes..  rub, smoke, slice, and eat! 

Because I bought a corned beef already in the brine (you can go ahead and work for weeks to do your own, have fun with that), and there is salt in the rub, I want to get some of the salt out of the meat before cooking.  Put the corned beef brisket in a big pot of water and let it soak in the fridge for 4-6 hours before smoking, changing the water out a few times. This will get a good bit of the salt out of the solution.

The rub consists of:

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seed
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorn
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 8 cloves minced garlic

Finely grind the seeds and peppercorns in a spice grinder. Take the brisket out of the pool of water and dry it (if you went this route), then combine all of the ingredients above and rub the brisket nice and good. 

Pastrami, out of the smoker and rested

Place it in a 225 degree smoker, but don’t do a heavy smoke like you would a pork butt or bbq brisket – you want a light smoke for pastrami.  I went with hickory and apple, light amounts at a time.  You can t ake the pastrami off of the smoker when it reaches 165 degrees, and place in a tin foil tent and let rest for 20 minutes, then slice against the grain.  The end temperature is a big subject of debate on the Internet, it seems.  For BBQ brisket, I’d let it go to 185.   I took this Pastrami off at 165, I will probably let it go to 175 next time to see the difference.  It wasn’t bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but I think the extra 10 degrees would help with tenderness.

Pastrami sliced up. Sorry for the crappy pictures, I forgot to take a picture with a real camera before I ate it all.

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May 20 2011

DIY Raised Bed Garden – Part 2 – Security and Irrigation

Posted by Seth in Gardening

Continuation of DIY Raised Bed Garden Construction

It became apparent about 2 hours after planting some of my first vegetables, that I would need some sort of security fence around the plants. The squirrels or birds around my house seem to think it is fun to chop the plants in half and leave them for dead.  Originally, I made a wooden frame with some plastic poultry netting to keep them out, but I knew that was temporary and I needed something more permanent.

Cage installed, and you can see the tomato/cucumber trellis as well.

I took out my tomato cages and changed over to a trellis system, using some electrical conduit – this stuff is very cheap and easy to manipulate. To do that I needed to buy the conduit pipe cutter, so I figured I would get my money’s worth out of the investment in that tool.  I decided to use some 3/4″ EMT conduit along with some tent frame pieces that you would normally find vendors using to build tents at outdoor flea markets and shows.  Above is what I came up with, a nice “box” around the plants, that has plastic netting on all sides to keep out the creatures.  The temporary wood structure worked great, I’m sure I’ll get many a season out of the metal version.  It’s also hinged on one side so it just swings away.   You can find the pieces you need via a google search, mine came from http://www.ysbw.com/ .

1/4" Drip line connected to 1/2" main line

The next item I wanted to tackle was an automatic watering system.  I started to clear out the area along my fence to make way for some items like berries, and melons, and along with the second bed I built, I had things to water that were not so easy with a regular sprinkler. On top of that, sprinklers suck – they spray the leaves and it’s hard to get the roots in the beds soaked properly.  I decided to build a drip irrigation system and permanently install it.  Pieces for drip irrigation are available at Home Depot and Lowes under various brands, but right now the shelves are pretty barren because of the time of year, so I suggest buying online. I went with Drip Depot.

The systems are very simple to set up.  On top of that, they are efficient.  You will only be soaking the roots of your bed, for exactly as long as you need, so it doesn’t waste water. Mine runs on a timer, for 75 minutes each day at 5:30AM.   

 Basically, you hook it up to your hose outlet, run a main line near your beds, then branch off smaller lines to directly feed the plants. It literally takes minutes to install.  Mine took a little longer as my garden is nowhere near the hose hookup, and I opted to bury the 1/2″ line in the ground all the way to the garden.  The main line is called 1/2″ poly tube, the feeder hoses are 1/4″, and your garden hose hookup is a 3/4″.   At a minimum for the “foundations” of the system, you need:

That’s it for the foundations, then you need to accessorize in order to be able to water the plants.  How many emitters do you need? Well that depends on your plants. I did a good bit of reading to figure out which plants required which amount of water.  What I gathered is that Tomatoes needed the most water while peppers and just about everything else in my garden was good with 12″ spaced dripline running on either side of the plants to soak the roots.  I highly recommend a hose timer, so the garden waters itself. This Orbit one (and ones that look like it) had great reviews, that’s what I went with.

To water the plants, you have a variety of emitters to choose from.  My raised beds use mostly 1/4″ drip line which just plugs right into the 1/2″ main line with barb fittings.  The lines also need to be plugged at the end just like the main line, so you’ll need 1/4″ goof plugs for each run.  My raspberries and blueberries that are in the actual ground have adjustable drippers on them so that I can crank up the water as they grow if I need to.

Drip line for peas, and adjustable emitter on the oregano

Do some reading, and piece together what you need. My total investment for the irrigation system was about $100.  I work at night, and I travel a lot, so having this on an automatic timer is worth the $100 for peace of mind.  Plus, I don’t have to wake up at 5:30am and water the plants, ever!

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May 16 2011

A Little Goes a Long Way…

Posted by Seth in Food, Good Deals

I know many of my friends took advantage of the Saturday/Sunday Triple Coupon deals at Pathmark… I sure did.  If you didn’t, well I hate to be rude, but you’re an idiot.  Keep an eye out because rumor has it they will be back, if I were you, I’d snatch a nice assortment of $1 coupons (the maximum they will triple) either from the paper or a coupon clipping service.  I had a nice collection of $1 coupons for things that cost around $3, and many things were on sale, so I ended up walking away with a bit of free stuff.

Triple Coupon Day Haul

For once I didn’t walk away with a bunch of body wash or cleaning products …  some real groceries that will last quite a while. I spent about $30 total out of pocket for all of the above – I took advantage of the huge discount as some of this stuff would not come this cheap again.

10 Bottles of Tabasco – free
8 Boxes of Popcorn – free
8 Boxes of Chex Mix 100 Calorie snacks
6 Bags of Quaker Rice Cake Snacks
2 bags of herr’s potato chips – free
2 bags of tortilla chips – free
2 bottles of Bailey’s coffee creamer – free
4 packages breakfast sausage – .50/each
2 pounds of mozzarella – $1/each
6 bottles KC Masterpiece bbq sauce – free
3 bottles soy sauce – free
4 bottles Teriyaki marinade – $1/each
9 bottles Frank’s – free
2 bottles Budweiser bbq sauce – free
6 Weber seasonings – free
12 Wacky Mac pasta – free
8 Garden Delight pasta – free
2 hot dogs – $1/each
6 cans Shave Gel – free

So if you’ve been following, you know I make my own frozen dinners.  Following the theme of this post, I picked up two small roaster chickens for about $10 from the store, and put them on my rotisserie (charcoal, of course).  Using the chicken, along with rice and vegetables that I already had in storage and were cheap or free, I made myself about 16 dinners.

Rotisserie Chicken Dinners

No need to waste the leftover chicken parts.. they all went in to the pressure cooker and I made some chicken stock. I got almost 7 quarts!

Chicken parts, vegetables, into the pressure cooker for stock

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May 04 2011

Upcoming Pathmark Coupon Deals

Posted by Seth in Good Deals

If you have been keeping up with the coupon nerds, this shouldn’t be news to you.

May 6,7,8 Pathmark will be doubling coupons up to and including $2

May 14-15 Pathmark will be tripling coupons up to and including $1.

If you have any coupons more than $1, I would use them this weekend.  Save the ones less than $1 for the 14th and 15th. I haven’t seen the Pathmark ad yet, but just looking through my stash, there will be some very cheap stuff to be had. Enjoy.

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May 03 2011

Provolone wit please.. wait.. is this is an egg roll?

Posted by Seth in Food
 
Cheesesteak Egg Rolls

Here’s my take on Chinese food crossed with Philly – Provolone Wit Cheesesteak Egg Roll.  You’ll want to do the preparation at least a day in advance before you plan on serving these.

Ingredients  (recipe makes about 22-24 egg rolls, depends how generous you are with the filling)

  • Very thin sliced Ribeye steak.  You can find this at the butcher, or I find it easier (and cheaper) to go to the H-mart (Korean grocery).  The amount I used to do this post was a little over 3 pounds

Thin Sliced Ribeye

  • Sharp Provolone, diced into small pieces. The good stuff, don’t get crap
Diced up Sharp Provolone Cheese
  • Sweet onion, about 2 medium ones, diced up
  • Egg roll wrappers  (DO NOT USE SPRING ROLL WRAPPERS, they suck for this application. You’ve been warned)
  • Ketchup (optional flare: mix with truffle oil)

Truffled up Ketchup

  • 1-2 eggs, beaten and in a bowl 

Preparation

Ribeye in the pan

 

  1. Heat up your pan to medium-high heat. Toss in as many slices of steak that lay flat.  They will cook quickly, maybe 30 seconds a side, tops. You just want to quickly take the red out, don’t overcook them. Do this for all of the steak, and whatever you do, don’t even think about getting rid of the juicy goodness left in the pan.  Transfer the cooked steak into some sort of vessel on the counter for cooling.

Cooked Ribeye.. takes about 45 seconds

2. Once you’ve cooked all of the steak, toss in the onions and back the heat down to medium. Cook them til they start to become translucent and brown a little.  Toss them around in the juicy goodness left behind from the steak.

Assembly

Egg Roll Assembly area

  1. Organize all of your ingredients around a work area, as pictured. Lay the empty wrapper on your work area, they are not perfectly square and I prefer the long side to be top to bottom.
  2. Smear on some ketchup

    Take a spoon and shmear on some of the truffled up ketchup on the empty wrapper.

  3. Pile on the insides

    Add steak, cheese, and onion. As I add the steak on, I rip it apart into smaller pieces, that way you don’t have all of the steak yanked out on the first bite and the eater left with an empty egg roll wrapper.

  4. First fold

    Time to roll it up. You can follow the instructions on the egg roll wrapper, or see my guide here. First, fold the bottom corner up into the middle and over the ingredients. Make sure the ingredients are on the inside of that crease otherwise they will come out when you cook… no bueno

  5. Fold the left and right edges over, then roll upwards. Again, make sure everything is tucked in.  Paint on some egg wash on the top flap and roll all the way, the egg will act as glue and seal it up. Place on a rack and keep going.

That’s it, after a short while you’ll have a ton of Egg Rolls. Put them in the freezer so they set up, at least overnight. I let them freeze solid on the racks, then transfer to vacuum sealed bag for cooking at some later date.

All Rolled Up

Cooking

  1. Preheat your Deep Fryer to about 355-360 degrees, this should be about the setting for Chicken.
  2. Drop in egg rolls, don’t crowd the fryer with too many or you will end up with defrosted egg roll mush and not crispy goodness.
  3. Fry to Golden Brown and delicious.  Remember, the inside is already cooked, so we are just cooking the outside and reheating the inside, melting the cheesey goodness.  I like my egg rolls crispy on the outside but still chewy dough on the inside.
  4. Transfer to rack to cool for a few minutes, serve quickly and enjoy.

If  you want to cook these and reheat later, you’ll want to microwave for about a minute to heat the inside, then move to an oven at 350 until about crispy.  This seems to be the only way to preserve the crispy skin.

Cooked Cheesesteak Egg Rolls

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Apr 27 2011

Pathmark – triple coupons starting 4/29-5/1

Posted by Seth in Good Deals

Yep .. watch this thread and the coupon nerds will find you free stuff

http://www.afullcup.com/forums/pathmark/469645-pathmark-triple-coupons-possible-deals-april-29-30-may-1st.html

There is a limit of 10 coupons per person per day – bring friends.

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Apr 21 2011

Cheap Frozen Dinners at Acme (Albertsons) 4/22-28

Posted by Seth in Diet, Good Deals

Ok ..  pretty good price here.  Some of this stuff isn’t half bad if you load it up with hot sauce like me.

Acme/Albertsons has Weight Watcher’s Smart Ones Classic Favorites and desserts on sale for $1.79 or $1.29. Buy 10 and you get $5 off instantly. Below is a coupon for another $4 off 10. Makes them cheap.

Coupon – $4 off 10 Weight Watchers smartones

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Apr 21 2011

Processing, Take 2: Hummus

Posted by Seth in Diet, Food

Thanks to Wegmans and some well placed coupons, I now have a huge stash of Chickpeas aka Garbanzo beans.  So, I decided that I’ll be making my own Hummus and giving it some of my own twists.  You all know by now that I’m on a diet, Hummus isn’t particularly my first choice of snacks, but do what you gotta do.  Put it on top of a cocopop and it’s not too bad, and it’s low calorie and filling.

Tahini

Toasted sesame seeds for tahini

Let’s talk Tahini.  It’s required for Hummus.  It’s just sesame seed paste.  If you can’t find or make it, from what I have read, just omit it from the recipe.  Unless you can get bulk quantities of sesame seed, I suggest you just buy Tahini, since the per pound price of it will be less than the actual sesame seeds. Lucky for my I scored a 5.5lb jug of them at the restaurant supply in the neighborhood of 12 bucks.  Expect to pay $5-8/pound at a grocery store.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups Sesame Seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups Olive Oil (Extra Virgin, of course)

Yield: 4 cups Tahini

Preparation

  • Preheat your oven to 350F.  Put the seeds on a baking sheet, and toast them for 5-10 minutes.  You do not want them to brown or burn, that’s bad.  The picture above was after about 6 minutes.  Let them cool for 20 minutes.
  • Put the seeds in the food processor and add the oil. Blend for 2 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides as necessary. You want a thick but pourable texture, add more oil and adjust blending time if you have to.

everything into the processor, and you have.. Tahini

Protip: DO NOT spill the seeds all over the oven or kitchen floor.. it is not awesome. trust me.

Storage: In my favorite container, the Ball Mason Jar. This will fill up 2 pint jars perfectly.  In to the fridge, will keep for months.

Hummus

Use this to make your basic plain old hummus.  We’ll get on to customization later, the first part is the original stuff.

  • 2 15oz cans Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans),drained, but save the liquid
  • 6-8 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons Tahini
  • 4 gloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper (fresh cracked, of course)

Preparation: Everything goes into the food processor and you’ll be blending 3-5 minutes (stopping and scraping when you have to).  Add back some liquid from the beans if you need to, you want a nice, spreadable paste. That’s it ! Easy, eh?

The recipe above makes a container-sized batch pictured here:

Hummus w/ Sundried Tomatoes

Hookin’ it up

This is really easy.  When the hummus is done, it’s time to hook it up. How about adding some of my favorite buffalo wing suace? We now have QSL Buffalo Garlic Hummus.

How about some of those sundried tomatoes I have hanging around?  Toss some of them in and pulse until they are chopped into pieces, or keep on going for a smoother texture. Also use the Sundried Tomato Olive Oil as a substitute for the regular stuff.

I also have plenty of canned jalapeno’s around, toss some of them in and squeeze some lime juice in.  Now you have Jalapeno Lime Hummus.

Add roasted red peppers.. voila.

The combos are endless…  do what you think will taste good!

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Apr 14 2011

DIY Raised Bed Garden

DIY Raised Bed Garden

Now that I finally have a yard to call my own, it was time to retire the notion of having container gardens on the back porch, and get a more permanent solution going.  In speaking with my neighbor (who was born in the house 2 doors down), he mentioned he was having some problems in the past two years with his vegetable plants producing well. He had the soil tested and there is some organism or soil balance that is not good for vegetables.

I knew I would have to dig up and till part of my yard to make a garden.  After hearing what the neighbor had to say, I was not interested in planting in the existing soil, so I decided to go with a raised bed.  There are a few big advantages of a raised bed garden.

  • Good drainage
  • Control of the soil
  • Less weeding
  • More accessible (hey, I’m old – if I don’t have to bend as far, that’s a win)

I had a simple design in mind and headed to Home Depot for materials.  Use this as a guide, if you want bigger or smaller, obviously, get less wood. Materials cost me in the neighborhood of $100 and I did this on my own in an afternoon.

  • Six 8-foot 2″x8″ pressure treated boards.  Get two of them split in half into 4′ sections at Home Depot if you can’t find your circular saw (like me). You can also use Cedar or Redwood, but the cost is significantly higher
  • 1 5/8″ weatherproof deck screws. These should be in the same aisle as the lumber or on an end cap near it. I got the box that came with the star bit, makes them easier to drive
  • 3″ weatherproof deck screws
  • Metal strapping and corner braces, these should also be near the decking material / lumber aisle
  • Weedblocker material – black fabric looking stuff that you will find in the outdoor section. I used up a 3’x50′ roll.

You may find that your 8′ boards may differ in length by a little bit.. unfortunately this happens with cheap lumber.  Cut them to length before starting, or trim it up afterwards with your circular saw when you eventually find it like me.  Mike Holmes isn’t coming by to inspect your work, so do what you can to make it look the best.

Picked a spot for the garden, and did a rough layout

Go find a nice sunny spot, the more level the better, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Lay the wood out on the ground, making sure it’s square,and mark the ground where you will dig.  Once that’s done, start digging.  I dug a trench about 4-5″ deep and layed one of the long sides in the ground, leveled it off, then went around and dug the rest, leveling and squaring it up as I went along.   Once two corners matched up, I put in 2 of the 3″ screws per corner to hold the rectangle form together temporarily.  It doesn’t have to be perfect,  but definitely make sure it’s level and square or it will look goofy. 

Dig in progress. One side at a time, leveling and squaring as you go along. I hope your soil isn't as rocky as mine!

Once all four sides are done, you should have a nice wooden rectangle sunk into your yard, screwed together at the corners, with a pile of dirt somewhere.  I just threw the dirt back in the middle, it will mean I’ll have to use less topsoil for fill later on.  Double check that everything is level, all the way around, and square (diagonal measurements corner to corner should be the same or close).  To level, add or remove dirt where necessary, and tap the wood down into the ground with a mallet so that it won’t settle later.

Trench done, rectangle together

After you take a break and admire your accomplishment, the rectangle has to come out of the ground. I flipped it up in the air and laid it next to its permanent home.  Once out, I lined the trench with the weedblocking fabric, and then put the rectangle back down on top of it for the last time.  Be careful with the fabric, the stuff I got ripped pretty easily. Make sure you leave at least a foot or two of overlap towards the inside of the bed, because you will tie this in with some more of the fabric later on.

Weed block fabric is down, underneath the wood and overlapping the inside of the bed

Install your corner bracing from the inside with your 1 5/8″ decks screws.  Also, make sure there are at least 2 3″ screws through each corner face. 

You can now start backfilling the inside of the bed towards the wood. Make sure you get the dirt under the weedblock fabric, we do not want any of the crap dirt below to be in contact with the good dirt we will add later.Once everything is filled in nice and tight from the inside, cover the rest of the exposed dirt with the weed block fabric, overlapping the border you already have. It should look like the picture below.

Screw all of the strapping material into the bottom half of the rectangle, then place one board at a time on to the second floor of the bed and screw in from the inside.  Check for level and square as you go before tightening.  Screw in all strapping, corner braces, and each corner face (3″ screws for corners). The more the merrier, get it nice and secure.   Try not to pass out from being upside down with the drill when you finally stand up from the blood rushing out of your head.

Weedblocker fabric in place

 

All secure - ready for soil!

 

And that’s about it for construction.  All you need to do now is backfill your trench, and fill up the bed with soil.  You will need to do some math on the size and depth of your garden to figure out how many cubic feet of dirt you need – in my case it was about 1.4 cubic yards. The picture at the very top of the page shows what 800 pounds of topsoil in there looks like (40 pound bags are 98 cents at lowes and home depot for the cheapo stuff).  Fill the bottom 2/3rds with cheapie stuff, then get some nice potting soil for the top layer.

Next step ….. irrigation

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Apr 13 2011

Easy $100 saved at Shoprite this week

Posted by Seth in Good Deals

One of the receipts.. $60 saved, $23 spent. I'll take it.

This was an easy one.. ended up with a bunch of (for the most part) healthy stuff that I definitely will not waste.  Except for a few, all of these coupons you can print on the Internet at home.  They all coincide with store sales too.  If you have more than one computer, you can print more coupons.

My Shoprite (most of south Jersey) doubles coupons but only up to $1.  So if you have a 75C coupon, you’re only getting an extra quarter.  If I had the time, it would have been worth the extra savings to drive to Central Jersey (Hamilton), I think that is the closest one to me that fully doubles. 

I don’t remember exactly which coupons came from where, but they are all on Smartsource.com , Coupons.com , or Couponnetwork.com . Go to these sites and print up coupons for:

  • Cinnaburst Cheerios (you need quantities of 3 – explained below)
  • Pillsbury stuff – quite a few of these – print everything but the pie crust, so Crescent Rolls, Sweet Rolls, Cookie Dough, Italian Rolls, maybe one more (I forget). Print 2 of each.
  • Kellogg’s Raisin Bran
  • Birds Eye Steamers Frozen Vegetables
  • I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter spray w/ olive oil
  • Silk Soymilk (click here for that one, it’s $2 off, register and fill out the questions, it’s worth your time)
  • Nestle Chocolate Morsels – for baking

Other coupons, I found these in the Smartsource mailing that comes to my house in the middle of the week in what I thought was junk mail!!

  • $1 off 2 International Delight coffee creamers
  • $1 off Sorrento block of Mozzarella cheese
  • $1 off 3 Dole canned pineapples

You’ll need a Shoprite Price Plus card, you can sign up for one at their web site. 

Go to Cellfire.com and link up your Shoprite card, and activate all of the electronic coupons for all of the stuff you just printed..  you’ll get extra cash off on top of sales and coupons.

That’s it. Go to the store, grab items for each coupon you have, and go ring it up.  Make sure you get exactly 3 boxes of Cheerios, because when you check out, you’ll get a coupon printed for a free gallon of milk on your next trip.  I had 6 coupons for Cheerios so I made 2 separate trips to get more free milk.   Also, grab an 18 pack of Shoprite eggs, those are free with the 2 I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter sprays.

So for about $50 out of my pocket(I splurged on some Skinny Cow Ice Cream that was on sale :) ), I took advantage of $101.57 in savings and got the below mountain of food, stuff I won’t have to buy again for quite a while.

  • 6 Boxes of Cheerios
  • 4 Boxes of Raisin Bran
  • 3 bags of Nestle chocolate chips (oh yeah, it’s brownie time)
  • 8 Pillsbury items – crescent rolls, cookies, bread. I’ll bake these and freeze them, probably
  • 12 bags Birds Eye Steamer frozen veggies – broccoli, corn, mixed veggies
  • 2 Half-gallons of Lite Silk Soymilk (low calorie, far away expiration date)
  • 1 Pound Sorento Mozzarella cheese\
  • 3 cans Dole Pineapples
  • 2 Spray butters
  • 2 bottles non-fat flavored coffee creamers – 32 servings each, nice
  • 1 pack of Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches (they were on sale and they taste good)
  • 18 pack of Eggs
  • 2 gallons of Milk, free on my next trip

The store deals expire 4/16.

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