Author: Cheryl Norman (page 1 of 2)

No Grits, No Glory

No Grits, No Glory¬†is the title of a book (Southern Ghost Story #1) by my author friend, Elaine Calloway. She lives in Georgia, so I’m assuming she likes to eat grits as much as she likes writing about them. Elaine, if you drop in for a visit, I’ll cook you some. ūüėČ

I’ve revised my method of cooking grits since I bought my first electric programmable pressure cooker, and grits are now a regular dish on the menu in my home. Here’s how I do it.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Grits

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup grits (NOT instant! No self-respecting Southerner eats instant grits.)
  • 4 cups + 1 Tbsp. water

Directions:

  1. Preheat your pressure cooker, either stovetop or electric. Add butter to melt.
  2. Add grits and stir. Add salt.
  3. Carefully pour in water and gently stir.
  4. Seal cooker and bring to pressure (or if electric, set for 7 minutes).
  5. Cook under pressure 5 minutes stovetop, 7 minutes electric. Then immediately remove from heat (or hit “cancel” on your electric cooker).
  6. Allow pressure to drop on its own (referred to as “NPR” or natural pressure release.)
  7. Carefully open the pot. Using a long handled spoon, stir vigorously until grits thicken (Be patient. This can take a minute.)
  8. Serve immediately, or melt in 1/2 cup cheese for cheese grits. ¬†CAUTION: Grits will continue to thicken, so if you aren’t serving immediately, delay opening your cooker. Evaporation doesn’t start until you break the vacuum seal on the cooker.

Pressure cooking grits takes as long as cooking them on the range, but it’s easier. You’re free to prepare the rest of your meal instead of standing over an open pot stirring. I’ll take that trade any day.

There you have it. Be sure and check out Elaine’s book No Grits No Glory for more Southern flavor. It’s a fun read. I’m ready to tackle the entire Southern Ghosts series now.

And remember, y’all don’t have to be Southern to enjoy a bowl of grits. ūüėȬ†

Hasty Tasty Potato Salad

My mother-in-law Rachel taught me how to make tasty potato salad. The only changes I’ve made is in using a pressure cooker for the potatoes and eggs. It may not read like a “hasty” recipe, but the time saved is in organizing the steps. So here are the step-by-step instructions for her recipe. Try it for your next pot luck dinner or picnic.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 onion, chopped (sweet onion is best)
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • ¬Ĺ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Pepper to taste
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut potatoes into quarters or 2″ sections. No need to peel. Place in a steaming basket or trivet over 1 cup water in a pressure cooker.
  2. Secure lid to pressure cooker and cook for 7 minutes stovetop or 10 minutes electric.* Allow pressure to drop on its own for 10 minutes before releasing.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare dressing in a large bowl by whisking together mayonnaise, mustard, salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Carefully remove cooked potatoes from the pot and remove peels (they’ll slip off easily). Cube potatoes and add them to the dressing. Gently toss.
  5. Rinse pressure cooker pot and add another cup of water. Place 4 eggs on trivet or steamer basket, secure lid, and cook under pressure for 2 minutes, electric or stovetop. Allow pressure to drop completely on its own.
  6. While eggs are coming to pressure, chop the onion and celery. Add to the potatoes and dressing.
  7. Remove eggs (after pressure drops completely) from pot and place in cold water.
  8. Peel and chop or slice eggs. Gently toss with the potatoes, onions, and celery.
  9. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika, cover, and refrigerate. (Flavors are best if potato salad is made a day ahead)

*Electric pressure cookers do not reach the pressure levels of stovetop pressure cookers, so you need to adjust the time for many recipes.

Converting Recipes for Pressure Cooking

Thousands of people received an electric programmable pressure cooker for gifts during the holidays, or purchased one during the black Friday sales. Dozens of social media groups offer recipe exchanges and tips. One frequent question that I see on a daily basis is “How do I convert my slow cooker recipe for the _________(insert brand name of electric pressure cooker)?”¬†

As a veteran pressure cooker cook, I feel qualified to address this question. However, I’ve had to learn my way around my new Instant Pot. In a way, I’m a novice, too. I hope my¬†recommendations help you. Here’s an example:

A favorite slow cooker recipe of ours is slow cooker chili, based on Hurst’s HamBeens brand Slow Cooker Chili. I substitute ground turkey for the beef and Rotel for the diced tomatoes. I also use 1 quart chicken broth and 3 pints water instead of using all water, but otherwise I follow the recipe on the package.

First I turned on the pot and browned the onion and turkey. Then I added all other ingredients and sealed the pot. I cooked the recipe on high pressure for 40 minutes, followed by natural release. The beans were tender yet not too mushy, and the chili was delicious. However, the finished product was a little soupy for our preference.

However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution (that is, too much liquid) when cooking dried beans. Also, reheating the leftover chili evaporated any excess moisture. Therefore, the only conversion I suggest is cooking time. Each pot differs in buttons and settings, so you’ll have to consult your own manufacturer’s manual or website to know how to set high pressure for 40 minutes.

Where did I get the 40 minutes? I consulted the cooking chart for dried beans (without soaking) and used that time. Since beans take the longest cooking time, that’s what you should choose. If you’re a Crockpot veteran, you already know there’s a range of cooking time when slow cooking. There’s also a range with pressure cooking, so if I tell you 40 minutes and someone else tells you an hour, cook for the minimum time. It’s easy to check for doneness and bring the pot back to pressure to add cooking time. The contents are already hot, which means your pot returns to pressure quickly.¬†
Note: If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 35 minutes followed by natural release. The electric models take a tad longer to cook.

Safety first. The new cookers are the safest yet, but you have to follow the rules. Don’t overfill (2/3 pot for most dishes, 1/2 pot for bean dishes) and always use liquid. Even the shortest cooking time requires a minimum amount of liquid to reach pressure. Read your manual. If instructions are missing, either visit the manufacturer’s site or contact them.

Final word of advice: Cook! Don’t leave your new cooker in a box in a closet. Use it. Experience is the best teacher. Also, join a group or two on Facebook and read through their posts. You’ll find answers to your questions, and you’ll learn there is no one way to cook a dish.¬†

Easier Mashed Potatoes

You can buy already made mashed potatoes, frozen mashed potatoes, or–Heaven forbid!–instant dry potatoes. But why would you when it’s easy and inexpensive to make your own?¬†

Before you bail on this post with mumblings about peeling potatoes, keep reading. I have a trick (well…actually I learned it watching Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on PBS) for skipping the potato-peeling chore. ¬†Unlike Martha, I use a pressure cooker, and that speeds up the process even more.

Here is my step-by-step instructions for easier mashed (or however you like ’em) potatoes:

  1. Pour one cup water into the pot of your pressure cooker (or whatever is the minimum liquid for your particular model).
  2. Place a rack or steamer basket over the water.
  3. Cut your (unpeeled) potatoes into 1/8ths or equal size pieces and place the pieces on the rack or in the basket.
  4. Secure the lid and bring to pressure. Cook on High for 10 minutes.
  5. Quick-release the pressure, carefully remove the lid, and open the cooker. Stand clear of the steam as it’s dangerously hot.
  6. Remove the potatoes and peel. The skins on cooked potatoes lifts off easily and quickly! What a labor saver.
  7. Mash or prepare as desired, adding your ingredients of choice.

Potatoes steamed over water instead of boiling in water retain more natural flavor and nutrients. This means less added salt or fat.

Barbecue Sauce

I had leftover pork roast and wanted to make pulled pork barbecued sandwiches, but I couldn’t find a bottle of barbecue sauce in either my fridge or pantry. No problem. I made my own, and in the time it would have taken me to drive to the nearest store.¬†

RECIPE

BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup catsup
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
¬Ĺ tsp. smoked paprika

Directions:

Mix together in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Cool.

Variations: Add 1 tsp. each chili sauce, freshly grated ginger, and lemon zest for an Oriental barbecue sauce; Increase maple syrup to 2 Tbsp. for a sweeter barbecue sauce; Add 1 tsp. cumin for a southwestern smoky flavor (or substitute chili powder for the paprika).

Yield: 12 ounces

This recipe is so easy I’ll never shop for bottled sauces again!

Hasty Tasty Steel Cut Oats

I like my grains whole and my food fiber high, so I decided to try steel cut oats for my morning oatmeal. Steel cut oats take a long time to cook. There are even recipes for slow cooking them overnight so they’re ready to eat the next morning. That isn’t my idea of a Hasty Tasty Meal.

Then I read an article about pressure cooking steel cut oats. I’ve been a pressure cooker enthusiast since the early 1970s, so this article got my attention. Now I eat steel cut oats for breakfast, and my oatmeal cooks in minutes. From start to finish, my oatmeal is ready in half the time it would take to cook stovetop, and I don’t have to stand over the pot and stir.

Here’s my recipe for a single bowl of oatmeal. (Note: Do NOT use the directions on the box of steel cut oats. You need only a 1:3 oats/water ratio when cooking under pressure because steam is trapped and there’s no evaporation.)

100_1428Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 3/4 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup water for the pressure cooker

Directions:

  1. Add 1 cup water to the pressure cooker pot.100_1427
  2. In a microwave-oven-safe bowl (my old Corelle works just fine), combine steel cut oats, water, and salt. 
  3. Place bowl on a rack or trivet (Most pressure cookers have either a trivet or steaming basket accessory you can use to keep the bowl above the water)
  4. According to your manufacturer’s instructions, close the lid and bring to pressure. After it reaches pressure, lower heat just to maintain pressure and time for 5 minutes. (If using an electric model, select 8* minutes on the timer)
  5. Allow pressure to drop naturally (approximately 15 minutes).
  6. Carefully remove the lid, and then lift the bowl from inside the pot (I use silicone mittens for this as the bowl will be hot).Stir the oatmeal until thickened. 
  7. Add brown sugar or fruit as desired. Enjoy!

100_1429

To make 4 servings, use the pressure cooker pot and combine 1 cup oats with 3 cups water. Add 1/4 tsp. salt. Also, add a teaspoon of butter, if desired. Follow the same time and pressure as for one serving. Stir and then serve directly from the pot. Makes 4 one-cup servings.

**The pressure is slightly higher in stovetop pressure cookers, which is why I suggest a longer cook time for electric models.

Green Beans and Mushrooms Under Pressure

For a quick side dish, snap and string green beans while the water heats in your pressure cooker. Better yet, buy a package of ready-to-cook green beans. Toss them in with a package of cleaned, sliced mushrooms, and you’re minutes away from a delicious vegetable dish.

RECIPE

Green beans and mushrooms under pressure

Serves 4 — 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed.¬†
  • 1 pound fresh sliced and cleaned white mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or grated
  • ¬Ĺ tsp. Kosher salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • ¬ľ tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • (optional: ¬ľ cup chopped onion and ¬ľ cup chopped sweet pepper)

Directions:

  1. Add water to the pressure cooker and preheat.
  2. Add beans and mushrooms to the pot.
  3. Cover the beans and mushrooms with the garlic, salt, and pepper. (Add chopped onion and pepper if desired)
  4. Secure lid to pressure cooker. Bring to pressure.
  5. Cook two minutes, remove from heat, and immediately quick-release pressure (Be careful! The steam can burn).
  6. Using a slotted spoon, move the beans and mushrooms dish to a serving bowl. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin is rich in nutrients and abundant in the fall. Whether you puree your own or buy canned, you can enjoy pumpkin in a variety of dishes. Canned pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie filling!) makes this cake a hasty tasty quick bread. I use the Vitamix to make the batter, but a mixer works, too. The maple glaze is optional.

RECIPE

Pumpkin Cake

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¬Ĺ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¬Ĺ tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. Egg Beaters¬ģ
  • 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin
  • 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar (for glaze)
  • 1 Tbsp. real maple syrup (for glaze)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350¬į F.
  2. Spray inside of a 8¬Ĺ” X 4¬Ĺ” loaf pan or a small tube cake pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a 2 quart mixing bowl or pitcher, combine all dry ingredients. Form a depression in the center. Set aside.
  4. In the Vitamix container (or a mixing bowl) combine the pumpkin and Egg Beaters¬ģ starting at Variable Speed 1. Gradually increase speed to 10 then High. Run for 20 seconds.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the center of dry ingredients and fold using a spatula or spoon. Don’t over mix. Batter will be stiff.
  6. Spoon batter into the loaf pan and place in the oven.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Remove cake from pan and cool on a rack, at least 30 minutes.
  9. In a small plastic food storage bag, combine powdered sugar and real maple syrup. Seal bag then snip a hole in one corner to create a small piping bag.
  10. Drizzle the cake lightly with the glaze and serve.

Variations: If you prefer a less dense cake, use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour. Add ¬Ĺ cup nuts for more fiber and flavor.

Note: Cake will be dense and moist.

Yield: 12 servings

Turkey Breast in a Slow Cooker

Six-quart Gourmet Cooker

Six-quart Gourmet Cooker

Just because you aren’t expecting a crowd for Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy turkey. Buy a turkey breast and slow-cook it a day ahead. (Or if you are expecting a crowd, buy a turkey breast to supplement the big bird in your oven.)

The bonus in slow-cooking a turkey breast is the homemade stock. One 6 pound turkey breast produces about a quart of rich stock (I don’t add any liquid to the pot). I strain and skim fat from the juices. Then I use it for sauces, gravies, soups, or seasoning vegetables. Stock freezes well, too.

Defat the juices for making gravy

Defat the juices for making gravy

This recipe is my usual except I’ve added a butter/hot sauce rub. (My husband loves spicy¬†cuisine. If you don’t, simply swap the hot sauce with poultry seasoning.) ¬†¬†Regardless of how you season your turkey breast, the slow-cooking method is the same.

RECIPE

Slow Cooker Turkey Dinner With a Kick

Serves 4 + leftover turkey for future meals

Equipment: For the full meal recipe, you will need a six-quart slow-cooker. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 6 lb. turkey breast, thawed
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 cup hot sauce, your choice
  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 carrots, whole
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and halved

Directions:

  • Spray the inside of the slow cooker pot with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In the bottom of the pot, arrange the potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.
  • In a measuring cup, combine the softened butter with the hot sauce. Add salt and dried thyme.
  • Rub the turkey breast thoroughly with the butter/hot sauce mixture, carefully lifting the skin and getting the mixture beneath it.
  • Position the turkey breast over the vegetables so that the slow-cooker¬†lid will fit. Cover.
  • Cook on the highest setting for two¬†hours.
  • Reduce the temperature to medium or medium/low (depending on the controls of your model slow-cooker) and continue cooking for at least five more hours. If you lift the lid to view the turkey breast, you may need additional cooking time.*
  • After a total of six hours of cooking, check the turkey for doneness using a poultry thermometer (or meat thermometer with a poultry setting). Remove turkey from the slow cooker when it’s done and allow it to rest on a carving board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Carefully remove the potatoes and carrots to the serving platter. Strain and reserve the broth from the pot for gravy or flavoring stuffing mix. Broth also freezes for future use.
  • Slice the turkey breast meat into serving pieces, arrange on the platter with the carrots and potatoes, and serve with other side dishes of your choice.

I prefer slicing the turkey and reheating it the next day in gravy. The turkey adds flavor to my gravy, and the gravy keeps the turkey moist. 

Product Test: Electric Air Fryer

I resisted purchasing an air fryer for about two years. While friends, acquaintances, and infomercials assured me I would use one, I resisted. We don’t eat a lot of deep-fried foods, so why bother?

But curiosity overcame my objections and I purchased one, a GoWise USA 3.7 quart model. Then I began my tests.

First, I picked up fresh catfish fillets at my local Publix. I washed my new electric air fryer according to the instructions and sprayed Pam in the basket. After dipping the catfish in egg and then a light coating of flour/cornstarch, I placed the fillets in the basket of my electric air fryer. I selected the Fish setting for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, I gently turned each fillet to ensure even browning. My husband and I enjoyed catfish fillets that tasted deep-fried! So far, so good.

Next, I cooked a frozen hash brown patty on the Fries setting for 6¬†minutes, turning the patty after 5¬†minutes. Perfect! Better than any fast-food breakfast hash brown patty because it wasn’t greasy.

I cooked frozen, breaded veal cutlets (from Omaha Steaks) on the Chicken setting for 20 minutes (again, turning at the halfway point) for veal Parmigiana. As good as any restaurant!

Frozen french fries were the best, and took only 15 minutes for shoestring-size fries. After about 8 minutes, I shook the basket to expose all sides evenly. Better than our favorite burger chain because there’s no grease!

Finally, I tried kale. I’ve always wanted to try making kale chips but just didn’t feel like heating up the oven. The electric air fryer acts as a mini-convection oven, and will make any vegetable into a chip with nothing more than a spray of Pam. Kale chips took 20 minutes at 320 degrees. It doesn’t cook a lot at a time, but that’s no problem since I’m the only one in my household willing to eat kale chips. ūüėČ

According to Harlan Fowler, author of the GoWise USA Air Fryer Cookbook, regular bacon cooks well–very crisp, but it leaves a puddle¬†of rendered fat in the pan. (Not a bad thing if you need rendered bacon fat for a recipe, but messy for cleanup). Yet the instructions state to avoid cooking fatty meats like sausage, and I think bacon qualifies as a fatty meat. I won’t cook bacon in my air fryer. I do look forward to trying his recipe for sweet potato fries, however. Love sweet potato fries!

 I have more testing to do, but I already know this purchase will work for me. The electric air fryer is a welcome addition to our kitchen. 

 

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