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Dinosaur Meat (or, Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes).

The year my husband and I got engaged, we flew to California to spend Christmas vacation with his immediate and extended family.  It was the first time he’d brought me home, and I got lots of stories from his childhood.  One of my favorites was that when he was young, he believed for years (the first time my mother-in-law told the story, I think it was until he was ten; he gets older every time she tells it! 😉 ) that this particular meal was made of actual dinosaur meat.  (He defends his younger self by reasoning that he’d heard of mammoths and such being found relatively intact, preserved in ice.  Why not dinosaurs, too?  And why wouldn’t they sell the meat to grocery stores?  Why would parents lie about such a thing?  Aw, he was so trusting.)

So, we call this meal “Dinosaur Meat” in our house.  (It’s actually corned beef and cabbage with potatoes.)

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes.

We make it every year for St. Patrick’s Day, and a couple other times just for fun.  It’s an easy crockpot meal, and it smells soooo gooooood.

Seriously.  Half the time, I make it just so I can smell it cooking all day.  I don’t actually like corned beef (super picky eater here; I make this one for the hubby), but I love the way it smells.  So. Good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • Slab of corned beef, with seasoning (mine was a little over two and a half pounds)
  • Head of cabbage
  • 6-8 red potatoes

And, of course, you’ll need a crockpot.  And I like to use these slow cooker liners to cut down on clean-up, but–fair warning–they end up leaking once every three or four times I use them.  Like this time.  Which is why the first half of the pictures show a liner, and the second half don’t (it leaked so badly this time that I just pulled the liner out from under the cooking meat).  But they do help the other sixty-six to seventy-five percent of the time….

Quarter potatoes.

Quarter potatoes.

First, wash and quarter the red potatoes.

I am the master of making things fit.  (You should see me pack a suitcase.)

I am the master of making things fit. (You should see me pack a suitcase.)

Begin arranging potatoes in the crockpot.

Of course you can just dump the meat and potatoes in the crockpot any which way, but I prefer to fit as much in there as is physically possible.  I always arrange a ring of potatoes around the bottom before I put the meat in.

Add meat.

Add meat.

Add the meat.  (See how nicely those potatoes cradle the meat?  No wasted space!)

Add rest of potatoes.

Add rest of potatoes.

Add the rest of the potatoes.

This is why we buy corned beef.

This is why we buy corned beef.

This is the packet of seasoning included with store-bought corned beef.  This is what makes it smell so heavenly.

Sprinkle seasoning.

Sprinkle seasoning.

Sprinkle the seasoning over the meat and potatoes.

Cover with water.

Cover with water.

Add enough water to fully cover the meat and potatoes.

Turn it on.....this is an important step.

Turn it on…..this is an important step.

Cook it on high for 6-8 hours.  You’ll want to flip the meat over every once in a while, but otherwise, just sit back and enjoy that wonderful smell wafting through your house.  (I don’t even know what it is in that packet that makes it smell so good….it just does…..mmmmmm……)

When you get to 1-2 hours from the end…

Eighth cabbage.  Quarter, then halve?  Halve, halve, halve?  Whatever, you want eight chunks.

Eighth cabbage. Quarter, then halve? Halve, halve, halve? Whatever, I like it in eight chunks.

…wash and cut your cabbage to add.  I like to cut it into eight chunks; it fits better into the crockpot that way, and the pieces are more manageable.

Add cabbage.

Add cabbage.

Add the cabbage to the crockpot.  Add more water as necessary.

Hey, where'd that liner go?  Did you even notice?

Hey, where’d that liner go? Did you even notice?

I check it every so often to make sure it’s all mostly submerged, and stir it around a bit to cook more evenly.

Done!

Done!

The potatoes and cabbage will be nice and soft by the time it’s done, and the meat should be fairly easy to pull apart.

Please ignore the dirty dishes on the counter.  (I have children.  We make memories.)

Please ignore the dirty dishes on the counter. (I have children. We make memories.)

I make my husband handle the corned beef, because I don’t like meat.  He fishes it out of the crockpot and uses forks to shred it in a bowl or in the container we’ll put the leftovers in.

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…and he samples it repeatedly, until I forcibly pry the forks from his fingers and push him away from the counter so I can take another picture before dishing our servings.

Shredded.

Shredded.

He claims that the larger grain of the meat was one of the reasons he believed his parents about it being dinosaur meat.  Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Dinosaur meat!  And some other stuff.

Dinosaur meat! And some other stuff.

We told Kaylie, our three-year-old, we were pretending it was dinosaur meat, and then somehow the cabbage got renamed “alien brains”, too, so now this meal is just really weird.  (Any suggestions on what we should call the potatoes?)

Dinosaur meat, alien brains, and potatoes.  One of these things is not like the others...

Dinosaur meat, alien brains, and potatoes. One of these things is not like the others…

For your cut-and-paste convenience:

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes

  • 1 slab corned beef, with seasoning packet
  • 1 head cabbage, quartered
  • 6-8 red potatoes, quartered
  1. Arrange meat, seasoning, and potatoes in crockpot.  Cover with water.
  2. Cook on high for 6-8 hours.
  3. Add cabbage for last 1-2 hours of cook time.

And that’s how we make dinosaur meat!  Enjoy. 🙂

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Pesto Cream Pasta.

Confession: When it comes to cooking, I like to cheat.

There are some things that are better made from scratch (like pizza dough), but if I can take a shortcut by using something pre-made, or dried instead of fresh (I killed all my herb plants), I tend to do it.  It’s easier, and often cheaper, and those are things I value more highly than making a dish taste marginally better by sticking to a complicated or labor-intensive recipe.

I still remember the day I discovered The Pioneer Woman.  I was still in the “PIN ALL THE THINGS!!” phase of my Pinterest relationship, and I admit I went a little nuts.  I even went so far as to print off several pages of cut-and-paste recipes gleaned from her website, some of which I managed to maintain the momentum to actually try within the week.  One of those was her Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce.

Pesto Cream Pasta.

Pesto Cream Pasta.

I love pasta alfredo, but my hubby finds it too plain, so the pesto in this dish gives it that extra kick of flavor.

I’m sure it’s better her way.  But making pesto from scratch?  Fresh basil is pricey, and homegrown, in my house, is, well, dead.  (Seriously.  Black thumb here.)  And pine nuts?  I think that was the deciding factor in going with jarred pesto instead of attempting to make it myself, because I have no idea what aisle the pine nuts are in at the grocery store.  (And I really am lazy enough for that to scare me away.)  So I cheated.

I’m glad I did.  Simpler works better for me, and this dish is still really good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • 8-12 oz pasta (we like veggie pasta)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp jarred pesto

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Cook pasta according to package directions.  (I went with about 8 0z this night–for me, the amount depends on whether this is the main course or a side.)

Most things that start with butter and heavy cream end well.

Most things that start with butter and heavy cream end well.

While the pasta cooks, heat the butter and heavy cream over medium-low heat.

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(I get so bored waiting for things to melt or boil.  Not a patient person.)

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Once the butter has melted, add the pesto and parmesan.

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Stir to mix.

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When the pasta’s done…

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…drain it.

You know how when you make a sauce, and then pour it over something, there’s always quite a bit remaining, clinging to the sides and bottom of the saucepan and refusing to drip out at a reasonable rate?  (Again, not a patient person.)  There are two ways around this: either dump the pasta into the sauce (instead of the sauce onto the pasta), or…

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Dump two-thirds of the pasta back into the pot it cooked in (or into a serving dish), and pour the sauce over it.  Dump the remaining third of pasta into the sauce pot, stir to coat…

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…add it to the rest of the pasta and sauce.   No sauce wasted!

Pouring the pasta into the sauce is simpler, but I always end up cooking the pasta in the bigger saucepan and the sauce in the smaller one, and I’ve learned the messy way that there is not room to stir the pasta and sauce in the small one.

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And there you go!  Easy pasta, but not alfredo-boring.  I love it!

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

  • 8-12 oz pasta
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp jarred pesto
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. Heat cream and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Add pesto and parmesan; stir.
  4. Toss pasta in pesto cream sauce.

Enjoy!  (And if you have time to try it the “real” way, I’d love to hear from you how they compare!)