In Defense of Canned Soup…

I try to cook with fresh ingredients. Usually. But sometimes–you know those times when you’ve been working and suddenly you’re faced with a hungry family without a dinner plan–you’re tempted to order pizza. Again. Been there, my friend. So without apology, I present the emergency one-dish meal using (gasp!) canned condensed cream of whatever soup. 

All you need in addition to the soup is pasta or rice, some leftover (or canned) meat and/or vegetables, and cheese. There are endless combinations, and any combo produces a reasonably healthy meal in a short time. If you make it in one pot, cleanup isn’t overwhelming, either. One-pot meals are a great use-up of leftovers, too, like that one serving of green beans or that half cup of corn kernels you just couldn’t bear to put down the disposal.

I use a pressure cooker, but I’ve also made this dish in an electric skillet. Whatever works best for you. 

Here’s an example, but feel free to substitute ingredients you have available.

RECIPE

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 10½ oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 10 oz. chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup dried cavatappi or similar size pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup fresh asparagus, sliced in 2″ pieces
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • (optional) fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Layer the cooked chicken in the bottom of the pot of a pressure cooker. Spread pasta on top the chicken.
  2. Pour the soup and broth or water over so that all pasta is submerged in liquid. Scatter the minced garlic on top.
  3. Close lid, bring to pressure, and cook 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat (or hit Cancel on electric models) and release pressure. Carefully open lid and stir in the vegetables.
  4. Cover and let the vegetables cook in the residual heat. There’s no need to return to heat.
  5. After about 10 minutes, open and sprinkle cheeses over the top. Cover for another 3-5 minutes or until cheeses have melted.
  6. Serve garnished with optional fresh basil.

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Filed under Asparagus, casseroles, cooking, mushrooms, pasta, pasta dishes, poultry, Recipes

Chicken Taco Bowl

We love Mexican flavors and Southwest cuisine, and I love pressure cooking, so here is my version of a spicy taco bowl. It’s faster than messing with taco shells and making filling, so it’s a hasty and tasty meal for taco night. Enjoy.

RECIPE

Chicken Taco Bowl
Makes 5 – 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (frozen or thawed)
  • 1 cup dried black beans (not soaked)
  • 1 cup brown long grain rice
  • 12 ounces salsa or 1 regular size can Rotel® diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 2½ cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 ounce chili or taco seasoning mix
  • 8 ounce block Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • (optional) fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:

  1. In the pot of a pressure cooker, place chicken, beans, and rice. Pour salsa and broth over them. Add 1 ounce chili seasoning mix.
  2. Seal and bring to pressure. Cook 18 minutes (stovetop) or 23 minutes (electric).
  3. Remove from heat (or hit “cancel”) and allow pressure to drop on its own. Natural depressurization takes approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Carefully open cooker and stir. Chicken should easily shred, or you may remove it, shred it separately, and stir it into the rice and beans mixture. Top with cheese and cover. Do not return to heat.
  5. After a minute or two, the residual heat will melt the cheese and the taco bowl is ready to serve with optional garnish.

Variation: add 1 cup frozen corn kernels before adding the cheese.

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Filed under Cilantro, cooking, Healthful Eating, Mexican, poultry

No Grits, No Glory

No Grits, No Glory is the title of a book (Southern Ghost Story #1) by my author friend, Elaine Calloway. She lives in Georgia, so I’m assuming she likes to eat grits as much as she likes writing about them. Elaine, if you drop in for a visit, I’ll cook you some. 😉

I’ve revised my method of cooking grits since I bought my first electric programmable pressure cooker, and grits are now a regular dish on the menu in my home. Here’s how I do it.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Grits

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup grits (NOT instant! No self-respecting Southerner eats instant grits.)
  • 4 cups + 1 Tbsp. water

Directions:

  1. Preheat your pressure cooker, either stovetop or electric. Add butter to melt.
  2. Add grits and stir. Add salt.
  3. Carefully pour in water and gently stir.
  4. Seal cooker and bring to pressure (or if electric, set for 7 minutes).
  5. Cook under pressure 5 minutes stovetop, 7 minutes electric. Then immediately remove from heat (or hit “cancel” on your electric cooker.
  6. Allow pressure to drop on its own (referred to as “NPR” or natural pressure release.)
  7. Carefully open the pot. Using a long handled spoon, stir vigorously until grits thicken (Be patient. This can take a minute.)
  8. Serve immediately, or melt in 1/2 cup cheese for cheese grits.  CAUTION: Grits will continue to thicken, so if you aren’t serving immediately, delay opening your cooker. Evaporation doesn’t start until you break the vacuum seal on the cooker.

Pressure cooking grits takes as long as cooking them on the range, but it’s easier. You’re free to prepare the rest of your meal instead of standing over an open pot stirring. I’ll take that trade any day.

There you have it. Be sure and check out Elaine’s book No Grits No Glory for more Southern flavor. It’s a fun read. I’m ready to tackle the entire Southern Ghosts series now.

And remember, y’all don’t have to be Southern to enjoy a bowl of grits. 😉 

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Filed under breakfast, grits, Healthful Eating

Hasty Tasty Potato Salad

My mother-in-law Rachel taught me how to make tasty potato salad. The only changes I’ve made is in using a pressure cooker for the potatoes and eggs. It may not read like a “hasty” recipe, but the time saved is in organizing the steps. So here are the step-by-step instructions for her recipe. Try it for your next pot luck dinner or picnic.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 onion, chopped (sweet onion is best)
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Pepper to taste
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut potatoes into quarters or 2″ sections. No need to peel. Place in a steaming basket or trivet over 1 cup water in a pressure cooker.
  2. Secure lid to pressure cooker and cook for 7 minutes stovetop or 10 minutes electric.* Allow pressure to drop on its own for 10 minutes before releasing.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare dressing in a large bowl by whisking together mayonnaise, mustard, salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Carefully remove cooked potatoes from the pot and remove peels (they’ll slip off easily). Cube potatoes and add them to the dressing. Gently toss.
  5. Rinse pressure cooker pot and add another cup of water. Place 4 eggs on trivet or steamer basket, secure lid, and cook under pressure for 2 minutes, electric or stovetop. Allow pressure to drop completely on its own.
  6. While eggs are coming to pressure, chop the onion and celery. Add to the potatoes and dressing.
  7. Remove eggs (after pressure drops completely) from pot and place in cold water.
  8. Peel and chop or slice eggs. Gently toss with the potatoes, onions, and celery.
  9. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika, cover, and refrigerate. (Flavors are best if potato salad is made a day ahead)

*Electric pressure cookers do not reach the pressure levels of stovetop pressure cookers, so you need to adjust the time for many recipes.

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Converting Recipes for Pressure Cooking

Thousands of people received an electric programmable pressure cooker for gifts during the holidays, or purchased one during the black Friday sales. Dozens of social media groups offer recipe exchanges and tips. One frequent question that I see on a daily basis is “How do I convert my slow cooker recipe for the _________(insert brand name of electric pressure cooker)?”

As a veteran pressure cooker cook, I feel qualified to address this question. I hope my recommendations help you. Here’s an example: A favorite slow cooker recipe of ours is slow cooker chili, based on Hurst’s HamBeens brand Slow Cooker Chili. I substitute ground turkey for the beef and Rotel for the diced tomatoes. I also use 1 quart chicken broth and 3 pints water instead of using all water, but otherwise I follow the recipe on the package.
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First I turned on the pot and browned the onion and turkey. Then I added all other ingredients and sealed the pot. I cooked the recipe on high pressure for 40 minutes, followed by natural release. The beans were tender yet not too mushy, and the chili was delicious. However, the finished product was a little soupy for our preference.
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However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution (that is, too much liquid) when cooking dried beans. Also, reheating the leftover chili evaporated any excess moisture. Therefore, the only conversion I suggest is cooking time. Each pot differs in buttons and settings, so you’ll have to consult your own manufacturer’s manual or website to know how to set high pressure for 40 minutes.

Where did I get the 40 minutes? I consulted the cooking chart for dried beans (without soaking) and used that time. Since beans take the longest cooking time, that’s what you should choose. If you’re a Crockpot veteran, you already know there’s a range of cooking time when slow cooking. There’s also a range with pressure cooking, so if I tell you 40 minutes and someone else tells you an hour, cook for the minimum time. It’s easy to check for doneness and bring the pot back to pressure to add cooking time. The contents are already hot, which means your pot returns to pressure quickly. 
Note: If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 35 minutes followed by natural release. The electric models take a tad longer to cook.
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Safety first. The new cookers are the safest yet, but you have to follow the rules. Don’t overfill (2/3 pot for most dishes, 1/2 pot for bean dishes) and always use liquid. Even the shortest cooking time requires a minimum amount of liquid to reach pressure. Read your manual. If instructions are missing, either visit the manufacturer’s site or contact them.

Final word of advice: Cook! Don’t leave your new cooker in a box in a closet. Use it. Experience is the best teacher. Also, join a group or two on Facebook and read through their posts. You’ll find answers to your questions, and you’ll learn there is no one way to cook a dish. 

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Filed under beans, Chili and Stew, Healthful Eating, kitchen equipment

Easier Mashed Potatoes

You can buy already made mashed potatoes, frozen mashed potatoes, or–Heaven forbid!–instant dry potatoes. But why would you when it’s easy and inexpensive to make your own? 

Before you bail on this post with mumblings about peeling potatoes, keep reading. I have a trick (well…actually I learned it watching Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on PBS) for skipping the potato-peeling chore. Unlike Martha, I use a pressure cooker, and that speeds up the process even more.

Here is my step-by-step instructions for easier mashed (or however you like ’em) potatoes:

  1. Pour one cup water into the pot of your pressure cooker (or whatever is the minimum liquid for your particular model).
  2. Place a rack or steamer basket over the water.
  3. Cut your (unpeeled) potatoes into 1/8ths or equal size pieces and place the pieces on the rack or in the basket.
  4. Secure the lid and bring to pressure. Cook on High for 10 minutes.
  5. Quick-release the pressure, carefully remove the lid, and open the cooker. Stand clear of the steam as it’s dangerously hot.
  6. Remove the potatoes and peel. The skins on cooked potatoes lifts off easily and quickly! What a labor saver.
  7. Mash or prepare as desired, adding your ingredients of choice.

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Potatoes steamed over water instead of boiling in water retain more natural flavor and nutrients. This means less added salt or fat.

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Filed under cooking, Healthful Eating, kitchen equipment, potatoes, Vegetables

Basic Barbecue Sauce

It happened again. I had pork I wanted to make BBQ sandwiches with, so I made my own sauce. Thought it was time to revisit this post from 2012:

I had leftover pork roast and wanted to make pulled pork barbecued sandwiches, but I couldn’t find a bottle of barbecue sauce in either my fridge or pantry. No problem. I made my own, and in …

Source: Basic Barbecue Sauce

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