12 August, 2020

At home DIY during a pandemic. Things in the kitchen.

I know I was raised maybe a bit differently than many men of my gneration, Yes I do a lot of DIY stuff, that also includes things such as cooking and baking. Now most DIY bloggers / vloggers aren't also kitchen bloggers / vloggers so I would certainly understand if you seem a bit confused by my posting this.

Recent posts I have seen elsewhere where so called kitchen experts report on what they think are useless kitchen gadgets and what works well, and with the advent of the COVID epidemic, and what that has done to of all things, production of otherwise shelf stable goods like pasta, has motivated me to do some blogging on the subject as, well I disagree with the so called experts...Here is my list, and my justification for why I disagree...

#1. Kitchenaid stand mixer. The expert claims they don't like them because they rarely use it, takes up counter space, and generally speaking just collects dust. Fair enough, but NOT what is happening in my kitchen. Our Kitchenaid stand mixer is the 5qt Artisan series in Empire Red, it's beautiful and VERY useful. My only complaint is that the power of the motor at 375 watts sometimes, not often, but sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. It has a drive hub for a myriad of accessories that extends its usefulness, and with us cooking most meals at home now, the mixer gets used at least once a week, which is a little bit less than our blender, but still more than enough to justify its existence... Since they are related, I am going to talk about the accessories next..

#2. Spiralizer. My wife had me buy a Vegetti, the handheld one, we loved the result but hated using it, it is a handheld gizmo you spin over the vegetable to make long stringy spirals of veggie "pasta. Using it is a royal pain in the hands. So she saw the "Vegetti Pro" on the shelf at our local grocery store, this one is honestly a little better, it took a little bit to set it up initially, and then it was a hand crank gizmo that spun the veggie, but it was made of mostly plastic, and just, well I am afraid to use it for fear of cranking it and breaking the plastic. So that is a big nope from me. Now if you have seen my youtube channel you know I have a pretty serious weight problem, and I am working on that. Reducing simple carbs is a MUST for me, and I am working with our dieticiain on that. I can buy pre spiralized veggies at the grocery, for 4+ times the cost of regular, and they tend to go funny quickly, no thanks. I found a knockoff brand for the Kitchenaid spiralizer, the deluxe 7 blade set with a peeler, and it while not cheap, wasn't too expensive when factored into how expensive pre spiralized veggies would be over a year... It has blades for multiple size spirals, plus thick slices, and coreing, so overall not a bad tool. The item is the X Home Spiralizer and costs considerably less than the actual Kitchenaid unit. Not that I have anything against the official one mind you, my budget just barfed at that idea. The tool is easy to use, not too bad for setup / take down once you do it a few times, and is pretty easy to clean with a nylon brush. Now mind you, I do these, and I do paleo recipes for actual pasta, which requires...

#3. Electric Pasta maker. Now the kitchen "experts" were talking about a dedicated countertop machine, and I am too cheap, and in love with multi function machines to even consider that, but they also recommended a manual crank pasta roller and cutter. I am too lazy to do that. Instead I opted for a rather unique Kitchenaid accessory. The Antree 3 in 1 pasta roller / cutter. Most of the Kitchenaid pasta rollers and cotters require you swap them out between functions. This one just requires you install it once to use it, and use the right slot. I am experimenting wiht various recipes for paleo freindly, low or no carb pastas and I think I have come accross a really workable recipe. You will be seeing VERY soon here a quick slap together pasta trying tree project to support this... And the driving force behind me wanting / needing to make my own pasta is availability. The only pallateable low carb pasta on the market that I have ever come accross is Dreamfields, which since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic has been missing off of our local store shelves, and my Amazon subscribe and save has failed to deliver twice. And I want my grilled chicken fetuccini marinara!

#4. Meat Grinder / sausage stuffer. The claims are they don't get used often enough, and I must admit, okay this does NOT get a lot of use, but once hunting season is over, I can pay extra to have the processor grind up the less desireable bits, or I can ram it through a grinder with some fatty pork cuts to keep it from being too dry, and some spices and make pan sausasage, bratwurst, or a lovely jalapeno cheese venison sausage. We also use it when chuck goes on stupid cheap sale to make and freeze ground chuck. Same happens with turkey as we can often get free turkeys around thanksgiving, debone and grind up the turkey for ground turkey, chicken etc... There are 2 size grinding plates so I can make a grind for regular ground meat, or chunkier for a chili grind...  And the one we chose was made by Antree, again compares favorably to a Kitchenaid, works perfectly with the mixer, and decently priced. Yes it is more work in the kitchen, but labor from my hands in the kitchen is a LOT less money paid to the butcher for ground meat if I shop right, which brings me to the next item on the list. 

#5. Vacuum food sealing system like a Foodsaver, or Seal a Meal. The complainers say they aren't useful, the would rather just use zipperbags. Well sorry, but if used correctly, the vacuum sealed system prevents freezer burn, and when we use it with our harvest, or cheap buys, allows us to save a LOT of money on the meats we want in our diet. Our unit is a FoodSaver, and while it is not the model I am going to link to, it is the older version, and when I say older, it was a wedding present kind of older, but has most of the top end features. You really don't need this fancy of a machine. Just a simple one will do the trick but if you want to go fancy with a vacuum sealing system, then check this out!

#6. Garlic press. Now I am not going to bother with the link here, You can find a garlic press at just about every single grocery store kitchen gadget aisle, and yes you CAN smash garlic cloves with the side of a knife, but if you have any experience with using that method you know they bits are never really small enough, and you never really extract the full flavor from the garlic that way. My Dad made his Chili pressing garlic in with an old garlic press, and that is the way I am going to do it. Sorry not going to change for someone who says I am doing it wrong. 

#7. Food processor. Okay I sort fo agree, and sort of disagree, you see we have the older Original Ninja Kitchen System with Auto IQ that came with the bullet blender bottles as well as a food processor attachment, and we use the tar out of that food processor attachment. Mind you, we gifted our original Cuisinart food processor to a family member who never had one. They make FAST work of slicing and scredding veggies and cheeses. They are a bit of a nuisance to clean, but again, not something that is an undue buren. We find it easy to prep, dump contents, hand over to the other person in the kitchen to quickly wash it out and hand it back while we are doing other prep with different tools. We tend to do holiday dinners at our home and cook the whole nine yards. I have tried it using a top quality chefs knife and no food processor, ended up with blisters. No thanks. IF you can find the Ninja that has the food processor attachment, I HIGHLY recommend it instead of a dedicated food processor. We love our Ninja blender, and the accessories make it one of the most used small appliances in the house...

#8. Lemon juicer / squeezer. Sorry but if you don't use yours not my fault. We've got one of those squeeze the handles together citrus juicers that we use on oranges, lemons, limes, you name it. I don't care if you are going to brag you squeeze your orange juice by hand, I want to extract the juice, not bragging rights! This should be another grocery store find.

Now some areas where I totally agree with their so called experts.

Professional quality chefs knives. My wife got on a Pampered Chef kick as a freind of hers was a distributor for a while, and while many of their items just don't hold up over time, the knives have been wonderful. 

Cast iron cookware. Unfortunately my home is all electric and we have a sealed induction cooktop which scratches easily by cast iron, but I do have cast iron that we use camping and it makes cooking on a Coleman gasoline stove easier than cooking at home!

21 June, 2020

DIY, in the kitchen. A guys approach to the best instant pot refried beans.

I know, I know, I have been away from the blog for quite some time. Sorry about that. I've had far too much life going on, and what not work, or family time I have had wrapped up, has been invested in my Youtube channels, so the blog got neglected. Heck even my channels got kind of neglected. 

Anyway, my Fathers Day treat as it were, is for one of my favorite meals, however my wife is terrified of the pressure cooker, so I figured since I was doing that, I would share with you the recipe and some thoughts. Enjoy!

Having been raised with a serious DIY ethos, it should come as no shock to anyone that my DIY includes cooking as well. And I am actually known to be a very good cook by my friends. I often get asked for certain dishes once folks try them. Yes I have had some duds, but I also have had some real winners. And some of them, not all of my secrets, I will share with you here.

One of my biggest issues over the years has been just the amount of time and effort some dishes take to prepare, so I tend to be a fan of time and labor saving devices in the kitchen. Enter the Instant Pot.  I bought ours a few years ago honestly, with the main intention of being able to jam a whole frozen chicken in it with some broth, sprinkle some easoning on the outside and cook the thing for dinner should we forget to prepare or even thaw anything for dinner…

I have been struggling with various Instant Pot recipes, many of the recipes I find online are either horrid, or I am just too dumb to get it right, so I often end up with wasted food (money) or just a disappointing meal. It would seem that many folks just aren’t all that forthcoming with good recipes, or they are just bad cooks that share lousy recipes.

The BEST Instant Pot Refried Beans (I have found yet).

My beautiful wife and I are Texans, her a native, and myself blessed by God to be here in my adult life, and as such we tend toward Tex-Mex cooking. One of the items that used to be a shortcut for us was always a let down, canned refried beans. Even the best of them are just, meh…

Now with most of the Tex-Mex dishes we love, substandard refried beans won’t do, and we have tried so many different recipes, with so many miserable failures, that when we found one that was “close enough” and modified it to our tastes, the results ended up being delicious and more importantly, repeatable!  We use these as a side dish for Tamales, and while we know not authentic, in tacos and fajitas, and on weekends, with Migas con Barbacoa… I’ll post up a recipe about Migas later.


Before I give you my recipe, I need it to be clear, I am assuming you know how to safely operate an instant pot, a hand / immersion blender, and know what the consistency of refried beans should be. It is very difficult to describe in writing, so I am trusting you just know this.

Now do you want to get on with the recipe?

Prep Time. 5 min.

Cook time. 45 min.

Post cook processing time. 15 min.

Total. 1hr 5 min.

Yields approximately 4.5 cups.

Serving size .25 cup

Calories per serving. 21.3


Tools and equipment needed.

  • Hot pads or oven mitts.
  • Instant Pot, you can use other brands, but I don’t know the controls on them, make your own adjustments. I have written this with the Instant Pot IP Duo 60 6qt model in mind, make your adjustments accordingly.( NOTE: If I did not already own the IP Duo 60, and was in the market for an instant pot, I would give the 8 quart DuoCrisp some serious consideration as it adds air fryer, and with the right accessories, dehydrator functionality https://amzn.to/3ehvMDD)
  • Immersion Blender. Otherwise known as a hand blender, or stick blender. You can use a handheld potato masher as well,  the idea is to smash the beans smooth and mix with the remaining liquids.(https://amzn.to/3hKaiS9)
  • Measuring cups and spoons.(https://amzn.to/3hNBK1d)
  • House power, generator, solar power with inverter, whatever it takes to reliably power your instant pot. (For those of you new to my Blog, I deal with Camping a lot. This recipe can be done in the camper, IF you have power).
  • 5qt stainless steel mixing bowl and a stainless steel colander that fits inside of that.
  • Clean fork.
  • Sealable glass bowls to serve and store. The 2 cups of beans when done will slightly more than double in volume when done. Consider storing in a 4 cup container and using the rest when they first come out!

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans sorted and rinsed. (sorted means to insure there are no bad beans, and no foreign matter in their midst that sometimes happens).
  • 1 tsp natural sea salt.
  • 3 Tbsp Fiesta Brand Extra Fancy Pinto Bean Seasoning. (https://amzn.to/3enncmW)
  • 3 Tbsp strained bacon drippings.
  • 7 cups water
  • 3 – 4 bay leaves


  • Take the inner liner from the instant pot and fill up with fresh, cool water to the 7 cup line. Return liner into Instant Pot.
  • Using the colander if not already rinsed, rinse the sorted beans, shake dry and pour into instant pot.
  • Add pinto bean seasoning, bacon drippings, salt, and bay leaves.
  • Put lid on instant pot, and set vent control to the pressure / non venting setting.
  • Plug in instant pot, and set it on the Bean / Chili setting. Adjust the cook time to 45 minutes.
  • Let the instant pot go through its cycle, and come down on pressure on its own. I believe the manual calls that naturally depressurize.
  • Once depressurized, typically at the 55 minute mark, remove the lid, and with a clean fork pick out the bay leaves.
  • Take the mixing bowl, place colander inside.
  • Using the hot pads / oven mitts, CAREFULLY remove the liner with the beans / liquid mixture and pour into the colander. Replace the instant pot liner.
  • In one motion, lift, let the liquid drain just so that it isn’t pouring out, dripping is okay, move the colander to the instant pot and pour the beans back in. This should have retained just enough liquid, but set the mixing bowl with the liquid just in case you need some to thin the bean mix out a touch.
  • Using the immersion blender, blend beans until smooth and creamy texture. If the final mix is too thick, slowly add no more than ¼ cup of liquid if not less at a time and mix until you come up with the right consistency.
  • Serve with your favorite Tex-Mex dish as an ingredient, or as a side dish itself with maybe cheese and onions…