Archive for the ‘Main dish’ Category

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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

See recipe

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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

See recipe

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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

See recipe

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Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale

January 24, 2016

This red lentil dal is another easy recipe I clipped out of Food and Wine (February 2015) during my recent magazine purge. Dal is the Indian word for dried split peas or lentils, and is also used to refer to the thick stew made from them.  We had it as an accompaniment at most meals when I visited India in 2010 (including breakfast!); I fondly remember scooping up mouthfuls with delicious homemade chapati. This recipe adds kale as a hearty green to bulk up the stew, so this would be suitable as a light main dish (accompanied by a salad and some crusty bread) as well as a side dish.

I never really jumped on the kale bandwagon of a few years ago (which still seems to be going strong, although I hear it mentioned more often now in the form of green smoothies), but I don’t dislike it and am happy to try recipes that make good use of it. This dal recipe doesn’t specify the type of kale to use; even though I have more familiarity with the Tuscan variety, I bought the more common curly-leaf variety this time. The recipe only used about half the bunch, so now I need to figure out something to do with the leftover kale in the next couple of days! The type of chile peppers is also unspecified: the recipe just calls for “small red chiles.” I ended up buying Fresno chiles, which have a kick but didn’t overwhelm the dish with spice.

Overall we really enjoyed this lentil stew! The coconut milk adds just the right amount of background coconut flavor without being overly coconut-y. Recipe has been pasted into my binder of ones to keep and make again!

IMG_9016_out

See recipe

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Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs

March 3, 2015

Two summers ago I bought myself a subscription to Saveur magazine. I enjoyed browsing through it, but most of the recipes either didn’t appeal to me upon reading through the ingredients/directions, or turned out to be duds. There also seemed to be a large percentage of articles about travel, whereas what I usually look for in a cooking magazine is good-sounding, well-tested recipes. And some pretty food photography. That’s it. I like the recipes themselves more than I like reading someone else’s story about their visit to the place of origin. :) So I let my subscription lapse. I can always browse recipes on their web site for free, and I don’t have to wade through ads or allow paper magazines to pile up “just in case.”

However, this is one recipe of theirs that we really enjoyed. Classic Italian meatballs in savory tomato sauce are amazing, but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit! The sauce is still tomato-based, but the lack of Italian herbs and the addition of brown sugar and sour salt/lemon juice take these in an entirely different direction. I found rice to be an interesting inclusion in the meat mixture – not something I ever would have thought of to use inside meatballs, but the texture works well! I’m also not positive where the “potted” part of the name comes from… usually “potted” refers to a way of preserving meat/food. I’m guessing it’s that the meatballs are braised in the sauce rather than being fried/baked: “potted” like “pot roast,” maybe? A google search for “potted meatballs” indicates that this is primarily a Jewish technique for meatballs.

Either way, these were delicious, and really easy to make without using tons of dishes. Not quite quick enough to call it a weeknight meal, but I’d say not more than 45 minutes if you multitask the sauce and the meat. Enjoy!

Sweet and sour potted meatballs

See recipe

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Carolina Chicken Salad

February 18, 2015

I’m still alive! My new job (well, I’ve been at it for 6 months now, so I guess I can’t really call it “new” anymore) is awesome. However… there are always a lot of different projects going at once, and I have to juggle many different problem solving possibilities in my head at a time, so it’s much more work mentally than my old job ever was. Which means my brain starts to feel pretty “used up” by the end of the day and I really don’t feel like blogging or doing much of anything else that takes mental energy. I love the work though! I’m really glad I took the leap – my unique IT/pharmacy skill set is perfect for this position.

Another thing that been keeping the blog way down on the priority list is… pregnancy! Yes, my husband and I finally decided in the fall that it would be a good time to start trying to have our first child, and we were one of those lucky couples for whom it didn’t take much time at all! I’m currently 21 weeks along, and our daughter is expected to arrive end of June/beginning of July. So far everything has been going really well – I barely got any morning sickness (just a slight touch if I got hungry, but having a snack took care of that right away), and no weird cravings or food/smell aversions. The one symptom I did experience during the first 3 months was a lot of tiredness. Not really the “I can barely keep my eyes open and I’m going to take a 3 hour nap” type, but more the “I sat down and I don’t have the motivation/energy to ever get up” type. Very similar feeling to when I had mono in the fall of 2013, just without the fever and strep throat on top of it. :) I guess having mono was actually good preparation for first trimester of pregnancy!

Because of the pregnancy, I decided it wouldn’t be prudent to give up anything food-related for Lent this year. Instead, I’m giving up Facebook and reading fanfiction. Those are currently my two biggest time-sucking activities online, so I’m trying to put what energy I do have into things that are more productive, like finally updating this blog, for example!

So this recipe is a yummy one from my childhood. I would guess that my dad probably got it out of Gourmet magazine or Bon Appetit however many years ago. It’s a great weeknight all-in-one dinner salad, since it’s got plenty of veggies and protein, and doesn’t take too long to put together. The dressing is both tangy and sweet, and the olives add a nice briny touch. My parents would usually use leftover cooked chicken, but I’ve picked up a rotisserie chicken on the way home specifically to use for this recipe… fast and easy. It’s supposed to be garnished with tomato wedges too, but I didn’t have any on hand the day I took this photo and my husband doesn’t really like big chunks of tomato anyway. Enjoy!

Carolina chicken salad

See recipe

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Smoked Sausage Cassoulet

February 10, 2014

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on the weekends cooking a few large main courses, for the purpose of having leftovers for the entire week. This cassoulet from the Bon Appetit Cookbook has been one of my favorites so far; I’ll admit that I made it 2 weekends in a row last month! The first time I used four different kinds of sausages from the public market, which turned out to be pretty expensive all added together. The second time I just picked up a few links of kielbasa from the grocery store, which wasn’t quite as fancy or authentic, but was a lot easier on the food budget. :) Next time I think I’ll use primarily kielbasa and throw in one package of fancy andouille for variety.

This recipe definitely has a very different flavor profile than the lentil-based cassoulet I made over the summer. That version has no tomatoes, instead including carrots and celery as a vegetable component. This cassoulet also has a thinner consistency: because the beans are canned and not cooked from dry, they don’t soak up as much cooking liquid as the lentils in the other version. This initially might cause you to think you were making a thick soup rather than a hearty stew, but the next day it thickens up considerably.

Although the original recipe says it can be made up to 2 days ahead, honestly this kept really well in my fridge for a whole week without any issues. It reheats wonderfully in the microwave as an individual serving; just keep the topping in a separate container in the fridge. It’s fine to sprinkle on the topping un-reheated because the heat from the stew warms it immediately, and that way it stays crispy. Enjoy!

Smoked sausage cassoulet

See recipe