Thursday, May 18, 2017

Instant Pot, Again

My love-hate relationship with my instant pot continues. I decided to make chicken quesadillas for dinner last night and my cousin's wife posted a while back about cooking chicken in the instant pot then using her Kitchen Aid to shred it. I figured it would be easy-peasy. Not so much. The instructions she linked to said they cooked 6 pounds of chicken for 12 minutes on high pressure. I had five chicken breasts, probably about 4.5 pounds, and cooked them for 12 minutes. Two were cooked perfectly, the other three weren't cooked all the way through. I shredded (with a knife) the two I needed for dinner and put the others in the microwave to finish cooking. Not really saving myself much time there. When the others were done I shredded them and packed them to freeze for another couple of meals later.

Impressions this time? The chicken that cooked was nice and juicy but the fact that I had to finish them in the microwave was a disappointment. The adventures will continue and hopefully I'll find something besides hard boiled eggs that comes out perfect.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Instantpot, Take 2

I am still super on the fence about the instant pot. I'll admit it makes super great hard boiled eggs, but it's an expensive way to do that. As for regular food I've definitely had mixed results. The one chicken dish I made came out fine (it was the recipe that needed tweaking for more flavor, not the instant pot). I cooked dried beans, total mixed bag, literally. Some of the beans were still hard, some were perfect, some were overcooked. I took my favorite black bean soup, read a similar recipe on Food Network so I could adjust mine to the instant pot and it came out great, even starting with dried beans.

I've seen people say that they throw frozen food in, adjust the cooking time a bit longer, and it comes out fine. Didn't work so fine here. Last night I was going to make sesame chicken and my chicken thighs were frozen. Looked at some recipes, estimated the cooking time, threw in the ingredients, and hoped for the best. Big fail! I'm just glad dinner was edible. After I released the pressure and took the lid off, the chicken was only partly cooked and the sauce was seriously starting to burn on the bottom of the pot. Big bummer. I took the thighs out and finished them cooking on the stove and rescued what sauce I could. At least with the finish of the pot it cleaned up easy. I think the main problem last night was that the thighs were frozen in a block, not individual, and I couldn't get them apart. Although really, I'm not sure it would have gone any better if they were individual frozen blocks; I think the sauce still would have burned anyway.

At this point I think I'll keep it and keep searching out recipes, trying them but I'm not wowed by the instant pot.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Key Lime Bars

Happy Easter! For dinner today we had grilled pork tenderloin (just salt & pepper on the grill, so good!), bacon wrapped asparagus, and rice with leeks. I totally forgot to put out the fruit salad that my mom made. For dessert my mom brought pineapple upside down cake and I made key lime bars. I had made them a while back for something at church and they were so good. They're a quick and easy take on key lime pie, which I love, and they also are just the right portion size. Actually I should probably call them "key" lime bars since I used regular limes, not key limes. The recipe is sort of a combo of two different ones from Martha Stewart.

Key Lime Bars
makes 9-16 bars depending on how small you cut them

4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 c sugar
1 sleeve graham crackers, broken
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime

2 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c fresh lime juice (about 5 limes)
whipped cream (optional topping)

Preheat oven to 350*. Blend graham crackers in a food processor to get crumbs. Mix all crust ingredients together. Butter the bottom of an 8x8 pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press crust into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk. Add the lime juice and whisk until smooth. Pour filling into cooled crust; carefully spread to edges. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan, then chill at least an hour before serving. Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into 9 medium or 16 small squares. Top with a spoonful of whipped cream before serving.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Irish Week

Last week was Irish week around here; most nights I made something Irish for dinner. One was a hit but the rest were so-so and of course the corned beef on Friday for St. Patrick's day was delish. I'm not sure what exactly it was we didn't like about the first few recipes, maybe the Guinness (which is always better on draft), maybe some other ingredient or mix of ingredients. Nothing was horrible and maybe a few tweaks would make them better.

We tried bangers and mash with Guinness gravy. I think the problem with this recipe is that the Worcestershire sauce was a bit strong and just overpowered the Guinness a bit. It was still good, I'd probably make this one again, cutting back on the Worcestershire.

Another day was beef and stout pie. I think the problem here was operator error. I should have cut the puff pastry larger so it sat more on the dish and didn't sink into the stew. This one will probably be made again.

The Irish potato pie was probably the big hit, although this one did have it's issues as well. It ended up on the greasy side, partly because the directions weren't totally clear. It has bacon in it as well as a lot of butter to cook the potatoes in initially. I think the grease needs to be drained/left out when you pour the potatoes into the puff pastry. Really good flavor in this though. Definitely will try this one again.

We finished the week with corned beef and cabbage with roasted potatoes and carrots. As always it was really good. I love my crockpot for cooking corned beef; put it in in the morning on low and it's ready at dinner time. I used the leftover corned beef and potatoes to make hash Saturday morning and the leftover cabbage was chopped up and cooked with bacon for a quick easy dinner Saturday night.

All in all a good week of eating.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa

I used the instantpot again. I hadn't really planned to the other night but it fit the need. I was looking for a Mexican recipe but didn't want chicken since it was on the menu a couple of other times last week. I found something I thought looked good (we'll see how the other two like it) and it was made in the crockpot. Sarah said to make it in the instantpot so I could test out all the functions. Good idea there. Plus it was easy - the instantpot was on the dining room table while my crockpot is put away in the cabinet. We'll see how this works out, especially since I got things going a bit late.

After making this I'm not sure it's a total keeper but it was good. Sarah and I thought it needed more heat/spice/something (I used regular fire-roasted tomatoes since I couldn't find ones with chiles and I used mild enchilada sauce in deference to Bob). I'm not sure Bob liked it much at all. As for the instantpot it worked fine as a crockpot; could have just as easily have made it in a crockpot.

Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa
serves 4-6

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can yellow corn, drained
2 15-oz cans mild or medium enchilada sauce
1 15-oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 c uncooked quinoa + 1/2 c water
4 oz cream cheese (light is fine), room temperature
salt & pepper to taste
1 c shredded Mexican style cheese
optional - chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, sour cream

Stir together the beans, corn, 1 can of enchilada sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, quinoa, water, cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well to make sure the cream cheese is mixed in. Pour remaining can of enchilada sauce on top, then sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook on high 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Uncover, top with cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, and sour cream.

from Creme de la Crumb

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Instantpot Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I used my instant pot again today. Still have mixed feelings about it. I don't think it really was any faster to make mashed potatoes in it (really all you're doing is cooking the potatoes, you still have to mash them). The one advantage of cooking the potatoes this way is that you avoid the messy boil over that usually happens, at least when I'm boiling potatoes. This would come in handy at Thanksgiving or some other time when I have a lot of things going on the stove but still need to get the potatoes cooked.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 c chicken broth or water
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 milk (may need more)
salt & pepper

Put the potatoes, broth, and garlic into the instantpot. Cook on high manual pressure for 25 minutes then do a quick release. Drain and put into a bowl; add milk and butter and mash. Add more milk if needed to make them creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: you can use more or less potatoes and still cook them the same amount of time

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Like so many others I got an Instantpot for Christmas. I'll admit I was really on the fence asking for one because I wasn't sure I'd get much use from it. I've got a crockpot I like, it will be just the hubby and I soon, and did I really need another appliance in the kitchen. I'm still on the fence but I've at least by this point pulled it out of the box and used it to make hard boiled eggs several times. I also cooked beans once but that had mixed results.

I've decided, after some nudging from my cousin, that I need to get on the stick and use it. I have several things on the menu this week to give it a try. Tonight I'm making Asian sesame chicken, one day for lunch this week I'm going to make sweet potatoes, and I have about three other recipes that I want to look through and decide which one to try.

I think one of my issues is that my crockpot is either bigger or just a different shape that makes it seem bigger so I think some of my "throw a hunk of meat in the crockpot and let it cook" recipes will still work better in my crockpot even though this has a crockpot function. I'm also not sure how to transfer some of my other recipes and make them work in a pressure cooker. I'll give it a go with what I have above and figure it out as I go along.

If you have any tried and true instantpot recipes please share!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup

Today was a good day for soup, we had about 3" of snow last night and while it mostly melted today it stayed on the cold side. I mentioned making soup and Sarah mentioned a corn and bacon chowder, which sounded really good only problem is that Bob doesn't like chowders or cream based soups. Little does he know what he's missing. I may still make the chowder some other time. After perusing my pinterest soup board I found this one which sounded good. It was quick and easy to pull together which was good since I had some things come up right at the time to fix dinner.

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup
serves 4-6

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 c diced carrots
1 c diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c orzo pasta
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
4 c loosely packed spinach
salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery, and garlic; saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, orzo, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and stir to combine. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.

Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Apple, White Cheddar, and Spinach Salad

We usually have our nice Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. I like to keep things easier on Christmas day so I can enjoy the day and not spend it in the kitchen making a fancy dinner. I enjoy the fancy dinner, I just want to be able to spend the time on Christmas with family. This salad was really good, a light counterpart to the potatoes au gratin.

Apple, White Cheddar, and Spinach Salad
serves 4 as a side salad

about 6 c fresh spinach
1 large apple, cored and sliced very thin (Gala, Fuji, or similar type apple)
1 c grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 c dried cranberries (plain or orange flavored)
1/2 c sliced almonds or walnuts

Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c honey
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt & pepper, or to taste

To make the vinaigrette add all the ingredients to a small container with a lid. Shake well to combine, taste and tweak seasonings as necessary. In a large bowl, toss together all salad ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss again to combine. Leftover dressing will keep covered in fridge for a week.

modified from Averie Cooks

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Olive Oil Taste Test

We have been blessed by family and friends that travel and bring back gifts. In this case it was olive oil. My mom went to Greece (with my nephew) and Portugal (with my niece) and an employee of Bob's went to Italy. We've been waiting for a night to have all/most of us together to taste test the oils and see if there was a difference. Wow, was there, at least for some of us. Bob said that he tasted no difference between them. Whitney and I liked the Greek oil best.

Our method - I bought some soft French bread from the grocery store and poured the oils into dishes. It wasn't a blind tasting, we knew what we were having. It was just the bread and olive oil.

The results - Whitney liked the Greek oil best. She said that the one from Portugal had a fruity taste and an odd after taste that she didn't like. The one from Italy was ok. I also liked the one from Greece best. I didn't notice the fruity taste of the Portuguese oil but didn't like it as much. Maybe it was just more olive tasting and I don't like olives. The one from Italy had a strong garlic taste to it which I didn't like. It was also very strong smelling. I find it funny that Bob is the only one of us that likes olives and he couldn't taste a difference between the oils and neither Whitney and I like olives and we could taste a difference between all three.

It was a fun evening. We rounded out our dinner with roasted vegetables (cauliflower, mushrooms, and zucchini) and pepper-pepperoni salad.