Category Archives: cooking

The Cuisinart: For the Grater Good

I’ll admit I’m a kitchen geek. I love my Vitamix, my Kitchen Craft and Americraft Cookware, my Instant Pots, and my KitchenAid stand mixer. I didn’t need a Cuisinart. I just wanted one.

So this year I asked Santa for the 14 cup model, rated the best by America’s Test Kitchen for 2017. Christmas came early for me this year. Yippee!

What makes me want a food processor? I’ve had two, neither of which did what my Kitchen Cutter does (and without electricity!). Not abandoning my Kitchen Cutter, either. But there are food processors and then there is the Cuisinart. My new Cuisinart slices tomatoes! I kid you not. It grates cheese, cuts butter into brown sugar or flour, and  blends creamy sauces.

Here is my lightened version of Scalloped Potatoes using my Cuisinart and a stainless steel cake pan. You can make it without a Cuisinart or cake pan, of course, but my way is fun and easy.

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RECIPE

Lightened Scalloped Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 Russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces Neufchatel cheese
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Using the slicing blade to the food processor, slice potatoes and onions. Set aside.
  3. Switch to the grating blade. Grate mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
  4. Switch to the mixing blade. Combine Neufchatel cheese with the chicken broth. Process until creamy smooth.
  5. In a square or round baking pan, layer half the potatoes and onions. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Repeat with a second layer. Then pour the Neufchatel cheese sauce over all.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  8. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until potatoes turn slightly golden.
  9. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Merry Christmas to me!

 

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Easy Weeknight Pot Roast

We don’t eat much red meat, but when we do, I splurge. I buy only meat from grass-fed livestock that has no added hormones or antibiotics. We enjoy pot roast, but a traditional recipe cooks hours. I’m about “hasty” meals, so here’s my version. I promise it’s just as yummy as the slow-cooker version. Using a packet of soup mix saves time with your spices. It’s all there, including salt and pepper. You need only an hour total for this Hasty Tasty Meal.

RECIPE

Easy Weeknight Pot Roast

I use a pressure cooker to reduce cooking time. Since so many of you have asked for Instant Pot meals, I used my 6-quart Instant Pot. However, the recipe works in any pressure cooker, electric or stovetop.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 pound beef roast, any cut
  • cooking spray (I prefer Pam®)
  • 1 packet dehydrated (low-sodium if available) onion soup mix
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, quartered (or 6 whole baby Yukon golds if you prefer). Peel if you want, but after cooking, the skins slide off easily.
  • 2 yellow onions, quartered or roughly chopped
  • 2 sweet peppers, sliced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth (Yes, chicken broth* not beef broth) or water
  • ½ pound carrots (I prefer Bunny Love Organic)
  • Slurry of 1 Tbsp. corn starch mixed in 2 ounces cold water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the pot using the sauté setting. When the display reads Hot, spray generously with cooking spray and add onions.
  2. Using the dehydrated onion soup mix, dry-rub the meat thoroughly.
  3. Slice meat into 1½ to 2 inch pieces. Add meat to the pot to brown.
  4. After a couple of minutes, turn off the Instant Pot. Add garlic and tomato paste. Stir.
  5. Pour in the broth. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pot, incorporating the flavors into the broth. Add sweet peppers if using.
  6. Place the potatoes on top the meat.
  7. Seal the Instant Pot and program (using either the meat or manual buttons) for 30 minutes. If your model has two pressure settings, select high (which is the default).
  8. While meat cooks, prepare the slurry, and slice carrots into 1″ pieces.
  9. After 30 minutes, hit Cancel and allow pressure to drop on its own for 10 minutes. Then release remaining pressure and carefully open the pot.
  10. Add the carrots, replace seal, and return the Instant Pot to pressure for 0 minutes. Allow pressure to drop on its own completely before opening the pot.
  11. Using a large spatula, lift the meat, potatoes, and carrots onto a platter. Tent with foil to keep warm.
  12. Using the sauté button (Never cover the pot with the lid while using the sauté function), bring cooking liquid to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. As soon as the liquid begins to thicken, turn off the pot, remove it (careful! Use your silicone mittens for this) to a heatsafe trivet or folded towel, and gently pour it into a measuring cup or gravy boat to serve.
  13. Serve platter with a drizzle of the gravy and a dinner roll.100_1510

Why use chicken broth instead of beef? Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a store-bought beef broth that tasted good. There’s an artificial, almost “tinny” taste to it. Yet chicken broth or stock is mild and actually brings out the umami flavor of the meat. If you have neither, use water. It’s only a cup and it’s better to go plain than bad-tasting for your cooking liquid.

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Filed under cooking, Healthful Eating, kitchen equipment, potatoes, pressure cooking, Instant Pot, Roast beef

Product Review: Instant Pot Duo Mini 3-Quart 7-in-1

When I first purchased an Instant Pot last year, I had no idea how popular the brand was. I selected it because of its stainless steel pot because most electric multi-cookers have coated aluminum pots, and inevitably that coating flakes off and into my food. Ugh! Soon the enthusiasts  (AKA Instant Potheads) had sucked me into their cult. There are hundreds of online groups and blogs devoted to this wonder appliance. Sales of Instant Pot skyrocketed. Soon supply fell behind demand and waiting lists developed. Wow. What had I gotten into?

IPs

I’m already a pressure cooker veteran (I now own six! Don’t judge me. :-P) and won’t give up my reliable stovetop models, but I quickly saw why the Instant Pot was and is popular. Its safety features and ease of operation boost the confidence of even the non-cooks in its cult following. I suspect Instant Pots are making a dent in the fast food industry’s profits because Potheads stay home now and cook for their families. And brag about it!

If you have a 6 quart Instant Pot, the most popular size, there are a few things you need to know about the 3 quart Mini. First, obviously, is size. The Mini has a smaller footprint and capacity. You can’t cook a large chicken, turkey breast, or ham in it. But you can cook poultry parts or a small ham. It’s perfect for making side dishes, like beans, vegetables, or grains. If you want boiled eggs, the Mini does the job and is ideal for cooking only a few.

Second, the wattage. The Mini uses less power than its big sister, yet I saw no significant cooking time difference with the exception of brown rice. Brown rice needed 28 minutes followed by at least 10 minutes natural pressure release. My 6 quart Instant Pot does the job in 22 minutes followed by natural pressure release. My stovetop pressure cooker takes 15 (and at least 10 minutes natural pressure release), so there is a difference. Just remember brown rice takes at least 50 minutes the conventional way. I also needed additional time for cooking dried beans. My anasazi beans take 30 minutes (plus natural drop in pressure) from dry to done but were too firm after 30 minutes in the Mini. However, most foods cook exactly the same as in the larger Instant Pot.

Finally, accessories that fit your 6-quart will not fit the Mini. The Mini comes with its own trivet, though, as well as the rice cup, spoon, and ladle. And it has a good cookbook and instruction manual. I expect Instant Pot to introduce a new line of baskets, glass lids, and racks for the smaller size Mini, though.

Bottom line: If you don’t own an Instant Pot and are undecided, buy the Mini. If you fall in love with the Instant Pot, you can always add a larger Instant Pot later and keep the Mini for side dishes. If you live alone or cook mainly for a couple, this Mini limits you to smaller pots of food but should work for you. If you have an RV, this Mini is the perfect size to travel with.

Or if you’re like me and crazy about cooking, buy both the Mini and the 6-quart. And the 8-quart, too. You, too, can join the Instant Potheads subculture!

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Farro 

I’ve tried quinoa and steel cut oats. They’re okay but my new grain passion is farro. It’s akin to brown rice yet twice as nutritious. I like the nutty flavor and chewy texture.  It also cooks more quickly than brown rice.  Stovetop it cooks in about twenty-five minutes, but I cook mine in my pressure cooker. Pearled* farro cooks in five minutes with a natural pressure release.  I cook up a double batch of plain farro and refrigerate it for later use in salads, heated for a breakfast cereal, or added to a recipe designed for rice, risotto, or orzo. I don’t flavor mine when I cook it, although you could. Give farro a try in any dish you’d typically use rice or risotto.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Farro

Makes 4 half-cup servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Organic Farro (I use Italian Pearled)
  • 2 cups filtered water (you can go a little shy of 2 cups in a pressure cooker because there’s no evaporation)
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

Instructions:

  • Add all ingredients to the pressure cooker pot. Seal lid and bring to pressure.
  • Cook under pressure 5 minutes. Remove from heat (hit cancel) and allow pressure to drop on its own.
  • Carefully open pressure cooker and stir. Season as desired.

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*Pearling removes the outer husks

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Hasty Tasty Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is the quintessential comfort food, especially when you’re under the weather. But why pay for sodium-laden canned soup when you can make your own? For this batch of soup, I used the Instant Pot. The recipe is good for any pressure cooker. If you modify it for the slow cooker, don’t use frozen ingredients.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes 4 one-cup servings

I make my own chicken stock and store it in the freezer. I also keep a supply of frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts and thighs. Using a few pantry and crisper items, I can pull out a jar of stock and a thigh and have delicious chicken noodle soup ready in an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. cooking oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced carrot
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher or pink Himalayan)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (I use Mrs. Dash garlic and herb)
  • 1 frozen boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 pint chicken broth or stock (mine is frozen, but thawed will work)
  • 1 pint water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 serving pot-sized linguine

Directions:

  • Preheat the pot (on the Instant Pot use the sauté button). Add oil when the pot is hot.
  • Sauté onions, celery, carrots, and pepper for two minutes. Stir frequently.
  • Add salt and pepper. Turn off heat.
  • Add the water. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pot of fond left on the bottom.
  • Add the chicken, chicken stock, and bay leaf.
  • Seal lid and bring to pressure, either by using the manual setting for 30 minutes or the soup setting, which on my Instant Pot defaults to 30 minutes.
  • When time is up, turn off cooker and allow pressure to drop on its own (approximately 15 minutes).
  • Carefully open cooker. Using a long handled utensil, break apart the chicken and stir soup.
  • Add the linguine, cover pot, and allow residual heat to cook the pasta through (approximately ten minutes)
  • Remove bay leaf and serve. (If you have fresh herbs, add them before serving)

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Cleaning Up Dirty Rice

My family loves spicy food, especially Creole and Cajun. One of our favorite dishes is Dirty Rice. Traditionally, Dirty Rice is made with rice and leftover livers, gizzards, and hearts from poultry. There is plenty of bacon fat and butter, too. Because I’m the only one in the family who will eat liver, and because we try to follow a heart-healthy diet, I’ve had to lean up and clean up traditional recipes.

Here is my version of Dirty Rice. I use the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, but I’ve made it in my cast iron dutch oven, stovetop, too. Just add cooking time and a bit more broth if you aren’t pressure cooking.

RECIPE

Not-too-dirty Rice

Makes 4 meal servings or 8 side servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces turkey sausage
  • 1 Tbsp. safflower or Canola oil + 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups medium grain brown rice (white rice will overcook)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced (should be green, but we like red)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Cajun seasoning mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat pot without the lid using the sauté setting. When it’s hot, add the oil and butter.
  2. Brown the ground turkey sausage.
  3. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and rice. Sauté.
  4. Add the garlic and Cajun seasoning mix, remove from heat (hit “cancel”) and stir to “bloom” the spices.
  5. Pour in the broth and deglaze any cooked-on goodness to enhance flavor.  Secure lid to cooker, and set for 20 minutes (If using a stovetop pressure cooker, cook for 15 minutes).
  6. When cooking time is up, remove from heat (hit “cancel” and unplug), and allow pressure to drop on its own a minimum of 10 minutes.
  7. Release any remaining pressure. Carefully open lid and stir to fluff the rice.
  8. Taste test and add salt or pepper as needed.
  9. Serve as a side or main dish. Be sure to bake cornbread to go with it.

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New Orleans Style Red Beans With Rice

We love the spicy flavors of New Orleans style dishes, but we need to watch our waistlines. So I’ve lightened one of our favorites, red beans and rice, by using chicken sausage. I also serve with cooked brown rice instead of traditional white rice to boost fiber.  By soaking the beans, I shorten the cooking time and avoid over cooking the sausage.

Although my recipe uses the pressure cooker, you can cook it stovetop. It will take more time, but either way, you’ll end up with a healthy version of New Orleans style red beans and rice.

RECIPE

New Orleans Style Red Beans with Rice

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces chicken Andouille sausage, sliced in ¼” rounds
  • 8 ounces dried red beans, soaked at least 3 hours or overnight
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Cajun seasoning mix
  • salt
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat pressure cooker pot and add the olive oil.
  2. Sauté the onions, peppers, and celery (known as the trinity in New Orleans).
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  4. Add garlic and Cajun seasonings and stir for 30 seconds or long enough to “bloom” the spices.
  5. Add sausage and broth, and then seal cooker.
  6. Bring to pressure and cook 15 minutes (Or if using an electric pressure cooker, cook 20 minutes).
  7. Allow pressure to drop on its own at least 10 minutes.
  8. Release remaining pressure, carefully open lid, and serve in bowls over 1/2 cup brown rice.

*If you prefer tomatoes in your red beans (we don’t), stir in a can of diced tomatoes after cooking the beans as soon as you open the pot. (For fiery hot beans, use tomatoes and green chilies!) The residual heat will warm the tomatoes through without cooking them to mush.

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