The Fat Boy Summer Road Trip 2014 - Day 1

Day one of the trip had me leaving Portland behind on the train via Amtrak's Empire Builder on route to Chicago where I will have a wait before changing trains.  I love train travel, and have since I discovered it in college.

Crossing the Columbia River Draw Bridge

Crossing the Columbia River Draw Bridge

The train leaving Portland crosses the Columbia river into Vancouver, WA before heading East up the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side of the river.  There are some great views on this section of the trip, and the first afternoon and evening is one of the most scenic on Amtrak's route.

The Bistro Box served for dinner out of Portland was ok, but needed a little help.

The Bistro Box served for dinner out of Portland was ok, but needed a little help.

Leaving Portland the Empire builder has a viewing car with a cafe downstairs but no dining car, so dinner the first night was a boxed affair.  The choices available were limited to shrimp or beef, so I selected the Burgandy Beef Tri-tip.  The beef was flavorful and tender, cooked a little farther towards well than I would prefer but when trying to serve a variety of people and keep under refrigeration that is often the case.  The fruit was fresh and tasty, not over ripe as sometimes can be the case with this type of meal, and the dessert was creamy and delightful.  The only thing that didn't really work for me was the veggie selection.  A mushroom and broccoli combination that might have been good warm was decidedly not when served cold and tossed in some type of vinaigrette.



After dinner I decided to open the bottle of Teeling Irish Whiskey the folks at Caskers sent me to review for a first tasting.  Made in Dublin since 1782 The Teeling hasn't been available in the United States since the revolution.  With whiskey making such a resurgence in the Americas they decided to begin export in January of this year.

This is a smooth whiskey for a type normally known as a shot not for sipping.  As a shot it was so smooth with great sweetness and depth on the finish that I decided to try it on the rocks as well.  Over ice it loses what little bite it had on the nose and leaves the sweet aromas derived from its rum cask finish.  The sweet malts hit the palate first, followed by a little spice before a slightly fruity finish.

 In all a very nice close to my first night aboard my favorite train.


Dinner Tonight: Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

Unique ingrédients kick-up frozen meatballs

Sweet and Spicy Meatballs


 4-6 Servings
 5 minutes
 2 hours, 5 minutes


    • 2 lb bag of Frozen Meatballs
    • 1 can (8 oz.) Jellied Cranberry Sauce
    • 1/4 cup Siracha chili sauce
    • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
    • 2 tbs. Brown Sugar
    • 2 tsp. Lemon Juice


    1. Thaw meatballs
    2. Combine remaining ingredients in crock-pot on low, mixing thoroughly.
    3. Add meatballs. Cook for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes


Serve alone on toothpicks as an appetizer, or for a meal over white rice

Dinner Tonight: Redeye Mole Chili

I was looking for a new dinner recipe a few weeks ago and stumbled across this great recipe from Rachel Ray for Redeye Mole Chili.  The combination of sweet spices from the mole with a classic redeye sauce (a southern specialty featuring coffee) makes a unique and new addition to my recipe box.  Give it a try, you won't be sorry.

Redeye Mole Chili


 6 servings


    • 3 cups beef stock (if using ground beef) or chicken stock (if using ground turkey)
    • 2 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 4 slices lean smoked bacon, chopped
    • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef sirloin or ground turkey
    • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    •  Salt and pepper
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed
    • 1 15 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
    • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
    • 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
    • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
    • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 cups shredded or crumbled extra-sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1 small red onion, finely chopped


    1. In a large saucepan, bring the beef stock and ancho chiles to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and puree.
    2. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef, increase the heat to high and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the yellow onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes; season with pepper.
    3. Stir the tomato paste into the chili for 1 minute. Stir in the ancho liquid, black beans, tomatoes, coffee, paprika, coriander, cocoa and cinnamon and simmer for 5 minutes; season with salt.
    4. Serve the chili in shallow bowls. Top with the cheese and red onion.

Dinner Tonight: Shredded Beef Sandwiches

Chuck roast was on sale at the store this week, so I picked up about a 4 pound package.  I was looking for a new way to do it for dinner tonight, and found a great shredded beef recipe here.  

The beef was tender and juicy like I couldn't believe, and the family raved that I should do them again soon.  The tanginess of the vinegar married amazingly well with the other spices to give this an amazing flavor.  A couple words of advice:  First, I used Apple Cider vinegar instead of white.  It changes the flavor, but mellows out the flavors in my opinion, especially when combined with the brown sugar.  Second, bread choice is going to be critical to this recipes success.  When it says "Hoagie Bun" it isn't talking about some sandwich bun next the the hamburger buns on the shelf at Safeway.  You need a nice crusty roll that is going to hold the juice from this meat without soaking through or melting, while still absorbing the liquid so it doesn't all end up on you.  Resist temptation to dress this up with cheese or other sauces and let it stand on it's own.  I could see some sliced pickled peppers on this as a garnish and to add texture, but nothing else would feel right on this bun.

This was a great western take on the Italian beef sandwiches I remember from living back east, and it will be a regular on our menu here at home.  I can see doing this one when we go camping this summer in the dutch oven over the fire.  An amazing meal.

Dinner Time - Gluten free Mini Tamale Pies

OK, before all my mexican-american friends start yelling at me, I know this only bears a passing resemblance to a tamale.  I didn't come up with the name or the recipe, I found it here, and you can complain to them!  

That being said, these came out amazingly good.  The dough was a little dry, could probably use a bit more chicken broth next time.  The flavor was amazing, and the fact that they are so nicely self contained means I can do smaller versions for appetizers, or larger ones in a big muffin tin for larger portions.  The crust is so good I think it will work as a way for me to do quiches in the future as well.  An amazing new slice of FatBoyHeaven!

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Dinner Time - Stuffed Peppers

I love stuffed peppers, especially on a cold night. I haven't made them for a while, and thought tonight would be a good time. I took a couple shortcuts to make it easier, and they turned out great!  A nice, simple gluten-free dinner that got rave reviews.  I used Yellow bell peppers this time as they add a nice sweet counter point to the acid of the tomato, without the harsh flavor that green peppers sometimes bring to this dish.  You can also use a mix of spicy italian sausage and ground beef to add a little kick to this one.  

You can find the recipe here.

Cooking with Beer Wednesday: Braised Boneless Beef Ribs

Braised Beef Ribs served over riceOne of the things that happens in every household is opening the fridge and finding leftovers that are too good to toss.  Tonight I got to thinking about the leftover French onion soup I made the other night, and had an idea.  If I added a beer to it, there would be enough liquid to braise some beef!  Boneless ribs were on sale, so they got added to the plan.  Here's what I did:

Pre-heat your oven to 350.  Brown 3-4 pounds (6-8) Boneless beef ribs in olive oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven.  Add 2-3 cups of that left over french onion soup along with a bottle of beer.  Throw the covered dutch oven into the oven for 2 hours.  Increase the heat to 400 and remove the lid of the dutch oven so that about 1/3 of the liquid evaporates (about 30 minutes).

Serve over white-rice and enjoy your little slice of fat boy heaven!