Archive for the ‘Weeknight’ 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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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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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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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta

March 19, 2014

Brussels sprouts are easy to hate. As kids, most of us encountered mushy, sulfurous, overcooked sprouts and immediately wrote them off forever. But it seems that people have finally discovered that their flavor is highly dependent on cooking method (caramelization = good, boiling = bad), and as a consequence, they’ve actually become quite trendy as a seasonal offering on restaurant menus. I’ve also seen them served raw, shaved as a salad.

This fast and easy recipe from the Gourmet Today cookbook roasts simply dressed sprouts at a high temperature, creating those tasty browned bits that have such awesome flavor. I didn’t have pancetta or bacon on hand so I just used some leftover ham. This worked fine in the recipe, although it probably wasn’t quite as flavorful as the pancetta would have been. Overall, a great weeknight side dish!

Roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta

See recipe

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Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta

January 24, 2014

When I was growing up, my parents frequently made huevos rancheros for a quick vegetarian supper. If you’ve never heard of it, huevos rancheros is a Mexican breakfast dish: the basic idea is eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce/salsa, served over tortillas and sprinkled with cheese. Like many kids, I hated runny egg yolks and insisted that my parents cook my eggs until they were essentially hard boiled. But now my taste in eggs (and my appreciation of food textures) is a little more developed. :)

I was looking for a quick dinner idea a few weeks ago, preferably something I could make with what I had in the pantry, and I found this recipe in the December 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. It sounded very similar to huevos rancheros, but when I read further, it turned out that this version is actually a north African dish! I didn’t have any pita bread to serve with it, but we had naan bread left over in the freezer, and that worked just as well as an accompaniment.

The inclusion of chickpeas in the sauce gave the dish some body, and the tangy feta went perfectly with the spicy tomato flavor. I loved the way this dish turned out; my husband was a little bit more ambivalent about it. He’s never really cared for mixing the flavors of eggs and tomatoes though, so I wasn’t expecting it to be a favorite. I think it grew on him though because I made it again the following week and he didn’t complain! :)

Eggs poached in tomato sauce with chickpeas and feta

See recipe

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Tunisian Chicken with Potatoes, Raisins, and Lemon

November 5, 2013

We had a wonderful visit this past weekend from our good friend Dave (who also was my husband’s college roommate). He lives in another part of the state now about 3 hours away from us, so unfortunately we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. Over the past few years he’s become interested in learning to cook, but he doesn’t really get many opportunities to cook much at home, so we decided we would turn the visit into a cooking extravaganza weekend! On Friday night after he arrived, we picked out some recipes to make a multi-course meal on Saturday and a simpler supper on Sunday, keeping in mind the produce we’d be getting from our CSA this week (our CSA farm sends out an email every Thursday telling us what we will be getting at Saturday’s pickup; it’s super handy for menu-planning to know ahead of time!). Saturday morning we went to the Public Market, which he’d never been to before. Then we began our cooking marathon!

For our big Saturday dinner we made wine-braised chuck roast with onions, red cabbage with apricots and balsamic vinegar, and roasted acorn squash with maple-soy glaze (the side dishes I don’t have pictures of). So delicious! But obviously a lot of work, definitely not an everyday or even an every-weekend type of meal. Sunday morning we made oatmeal for breakfast (no apple topping though), we whipped up some fettuccine for lunch, and then ended the day with vegetable potpie. Still more than what I’d make on a typical weekend, but Sunday’s recipes were faster and easier, and we covered a good range of cooking techniques. Overall a very successful and delicious weekend!

This stovetop braised chicken recipe from Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh cookbook isn’t related to any of our weekend cooking, but I had made it a few months ago and decided now would be as good a time as any to share it. :) I don’t cook African food very often – something new to try is always exciting! Placing the chicken into the pot without browning it first saved a lot of time, but I knew that would sacrifice flavor in the end result, so I made sure to salt the chicken pieces under the skin and let them sit while I was prepping the rest of the ingredients. I also only had tiny potatoes, so I just cut them in half rather than cutting larger ones into chunks. We really enjoyed the end result: salting the chicken beforehand definitely made the chicken more flavorful than it would have been otherwise, and it’s mostly a complete meal-in-a-pot (adding some greens on the side wouldn’t hurt). The recipe takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, making it just do-able for a weeknight meal. Enjoy!

Tunisian chicken with potatoes and raisins

See recipe

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Spiced Salmon Kebabs

October 29, 2013

The weather probably won’t be good for grilling much around here until next year as it just frosted last night, but we might be able to sneak it in once or twice more if we’re lucky. So I figured I’d share an easy salmon recipe that I actually made back when my parents came over for Memorial Day but never got around to posting! The recipe was published in the June 2013 issue of Bon Appetit as an easy summer grilled dish, but the ingredients are available year-round.

While the grilling itself goes super fast (the pieces of fish are small and therefore cook quickly), the wooden skewers do need to be soaked in water for an hour ahead of time to keep them from igniting on the grill. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t use metal skewers instead to save time though, if you have them on hand. They just won’t look as pretty on your plate. :) I do like that the recipe calls for 2 skewers per kabob: this keeps the pieces of salmon and lemon stable on the grill so the kabobs can be flipped easily. One thing that could be improved was that a lot of the “chunkier” bits of the spice mixture (the oregano and sesame seeds) either didn’t stick to the pieces of salmon in the first place, or fell off during grilling. The oregano also doesn’t retain its green color after being on the grill, so if I make these again, I think I will mix a little chopped oregano and oil seprately to brush on after grilling for a little more color.

We all thought the flavor of these kabobs was great, the perfect amount of spice to complement the fish without being overwhelming. A nice lighter (and easy) option for the grill! 

Spiced salmon kabobs

See recipe