Pressure Cooker Chicken, Bacon, and Lentil Stew

February 20, 2018

Although I’m usually hesitant to acquire new kitchen gadgets, our 10-year-old crockpot has been living with a broken lid hinge/handle for a few years now and has generally seen better days. My husband had expressed interest in pressure cooking a few times over the past couple years, so when Amazon offered the Instant Pot Duo Plus at an excellent price on cyber Monday, I made a rare impulse buy with the justification that I could replace the crockpot and also have a pressure cooker/rice cooker/yogurt maker all in one appliance. (I’ve since learned that many people think the Instant Pot’s slow cooker function is sub-par, so I’m going to test it out for myself before finally getting rid of my trusty old crockpot.)

The only experience I’ve had with pressure cookers is watching my parents cook rice and beans in their old stovetop “jiggler” style cooker, which always made me a bit nervous. But the new electronic countertop cookers have a lot more fail-safes built in, so after reading through the manual to learn more about the pressure cooking process, I started out with a simple batch of plain basmati rice. Success!

My next step was to find some good recipes for actual meals. Although I generally prefer to cook out of cookbooks from sources that I know extensively test their recipes (versus just searching the internet for recipes), my current cookbook collection didn’t include any pressure cooker books. So I turned to Serious Eats, one of the few online sources I trust to produce great recipes. I already had all the ingredients for this chicken stew, so it seemed like a perfect recipe to get started. It turned out perfectly, and I’ve since fallen in love with pressure cooking as a way to prepare easy meals that I can throw together while the kids are napping and still have time left over to get other things done.

Depending on what you’re making, pressure cooking isn’t always faster than stovetop cooking, but the advantage is that with an electronic model, you don’t have to monitor it once the cooking starts. So far I’ve made mostly stew-type meals (including a lot of Indian curries), which is what this type of moist-heat cooking excels at. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more pressure cooker recipes to share over the coming months! Enjoy!

Pressure cooker chicken, bacon, and lentil stew

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Spinach Gnocchi Gratin

February 17, 2018

Wasting food always gives me a massive guilt trip. Even though I know I can always compost spoiled fruits and vegetables rather than throwing them in the garbage, it always feels like such a poor use of resources (both financially and otherwise). So when I had most of a one-pound bag of cooking spinach and a small amount of heavy cream left over last week – both on the verge of getting too much past their prime – I was on the hunt for a recipe to use them up ASAP. This spinach gnocchi gratin in the Gourmet cookbook turned out to be a perfect fit.

So as soon as both my kids were down for naps at the same time, I figured I had just enough time to complete this recipe: about 1 hour. These aren’t the more common potato-based gnocchi you usually find on Italian restaurant menus; instead they’re based on French pâte à choux dough made by cooking flour in melted butter and water/milk on top of the stove and then beating in eggs. But rather than piping the dough onto baking sheets like pâte à choux pastries, these gnocchi are dropped by spoonfuls and par-cooked in boiling water, then baked in a casserole dish with a sprinkling of good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

This recipe uses a few separate pans and bowls, but you can maximize your pan efficiency by using the same pan for the spinach and dough. While the spinach cooks, start the water heating in the large pot for boiling the gnocchi, then while the spinach is draining in the colander, use the former spinach pan to make the dough.

This also has quite a few more steps than most recipes I’ve made lately (having a toddler and a 3 month old doesn’t lend itself well to many of the complex recipes I used to make all the time!), but it sure did feel good to make something a little “fancier” for once rather than frantically trying to complete the laundry or stay on top of toy clutter, which is my usual naptime activity. :) Enjoy!

Spinach gnocchi gratin

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Pressure Cooker Chicken Congee

February 4, 2018

I’d never tasted congee until I made it for the first time a few weeks ago. Initially the description of this Chinese rice porridge sounded unappealing and bland – rice cooked to mush in lots of water? But I kept seeing it described as the ultimate homey comfort food, perfect for cold winter nights or nursing a cold. Basically the Chinese version of how western culture uses chicken soup. I decided to give it a try, and I’m so glad I did!

So when a mild stomach bug made its way through our house this weekend, hitting me first on Friday and my husband Saturday, I cooked up another batch. It was the perfect food for our unsettled stomachs, filling but not too heavy.

This pressure cooker version, adapted from Two Sleevers, includes chicken thigh meat for protein, and garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce for just the right amount of savoriness. Depending on how long your pressure cooker takes to pressurize, the congee can be ready from start to finish in under an hour. Enjoy!

Chicken congee

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Matcha Tea Granola

January 24, 2018

I was out on maternity leave during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I ended up making several DIY food gifts for my family for the holidays. This granola was one of them. I’m always looking for more inventive ways to use matcha tea powder (like my favorite matcha tea cookies), and I thought this recipe posted by Bakerita sounded delicious and easy to put together (especially with having a newborn to care for). Turns out it was indeed both easy and tasty, and I’ve made several more batches for myself over the past few weeks!

If you didn’t know that there was matcha coating this granola, I’m not sure that you’d be able to place the flavor in a blind test. It provides a slight earthiness to offset the sweetness, which I enjoy but my husband does not. Fortunately my dad tends to enjoy the same flavors that I do, so after the jar I gifted him was all consumed, he looked up the recipe and made some for himself too!

One thing to note: this granola doesn’t stick together in clumps once baked. I don’t personally mind granola with a finer texture, but if you’re looking for chunky granola, you’ll need to modify the sweetener/oil to match a recipe that provides the texture you prefer. Enjoy!

Matcha tea granola

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Microwave Mocha Mug Cake

January 10, 2018

The whole concept of baking in the microwave sounds bizarre to the modern cook – microwaves are only for reheating leftovers, right? But when microwave ovens were first taking off as the must-have kitchen appliance in the 1970s and 1980s, there were all sorts of cookbooks released with recipes ranging from baking cakes to “roasting” whole chickens(!). Fortunately since then people have seemed to realize that microwaves aren’t a one-size-fits-all miracle do-everything kitchen appliance (and I wouldn’t be surprised if we viewed the current rash of electronic pressure cooker cookbooks the same way in 30 years – prime rib in an Instant Pot? Heaven forbid).

However, there is one type of baking for which microwaves work somewhat well, and that’s the single-serving “mug cake.” Sometimes I’ll get a craving for warm, gooey chocolate cake – like a single-serving lava cake – but don’t want to spend the time (or ingredients) to make a recipe that serves 8 people. Plus I want to enjoy the cake NOW, not in an hour! Microwave mug cakes are perfect for this purpose: they generally take less than 5 minutes start-to-finish. And as a bonus, they only dirty a single mug and a measuring spoon or two!

This version from Serious Eats uses the addition of instant coffee to kick the flavor up a notch, and incorporates chocolate chips for some extra-tasty melty chocolate bits. Perfect for satisfying your chocolate craving on a cold winter evening. Enjoy!

Microwave mocha mug cake

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Passion Fruit Cream Pops

December 28, 2017

Right now it’s only 5 degrees F in upstate NY, so this is quite an out-of-season recipe to be posting for my local friends! But I’m sure some of my readers live in warmer climates where you can comfortably enjoy frozen treats all year round. :)

I love the flavor of passion fruit so this recipe jumped out at me when I was flipping through the cookbook Paletas (by Fany Gerson). The base is a rich custard made with half-and-half, which makes these a more decadent dessert than the typical frozen pop.

I’m looking forward to making these again once the winter is over. Enjoy!

Passion fruit cream pops

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Poppy Seed Coffee Cake with Cardamom Streusel

December 27, 2017

Doing more housecleaning of blog post drafts that I started and never finished!

This streusel cake that I made for one of my former coworkers’ birthdays gets elevated beyond a standard poppy seed cake with the addition of cardamom. The streusel topping provides textural contrast to the soft crumb of the cake. Great dessert when you’re looking for something not-too-rich and slightly out of the ordinary flavor.

Recipe is from the Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook. Enjoy!

Poppy seed coffee cake with cardamom streusel topping

See recipe