Category: healthful meals (page 1 of 2)

Hasty Tasty Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is the quintessential comfort food, especially when you’re under the weather. But why pay for sodium-laden canned soup when you can make your own? For this batch of soup, I used the Instant Pot. The recipe is good for any pressure cooker. If you modify it for the slow cooker, don’t use frozen ingredients.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes 4 one-cup servings

I make my own chicken stock and store it in the freezer. I also keep a supply of frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts and thighs. Using a few pantry and crisper items, I can pull out a jar of stock and a thigh and have delicious chicken noodle soup ready in an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. cooking oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced carrot
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher or pink Himalayan)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (I use Mrs. Dash garlic and herb)
  • 1 frozen boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 pint chicken broth or stock (mine is frozen, but thawed will work)
  • 1 pint water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 serving pot-sized linguine (or your choice)

Directions:

  • Preheat the pot (on the Instant Pot use the sauté button). Add oil when the pot is hot.
  • Sauté onions, celery, carrots, and pepper for two minutes. Stir frequently.
  • Add salt and pepper. Turn off heat.
  • Add the water. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pot of fond left on the bottom.
  • Add the chicken, chicken stock, and bay leaf.
  • Seal lid and bring to pressure, either by using the manual setting for 30 minutes or the soup setting, which on my Instant Pot defaults to 30 minutes.
  • When time is up, turn off cooker and allow pressure to drop on its own (approximately 15 minutes).
  • Carefully open cooker. Using a long handled utensil, break apart the chicken and stir soup.
  • Add the linguine, cover pot, and allow residual heat to cook the pasta through (approximately ten minutes)
  • Remove bay leaf and serve. (If you have fresh herbs, add them before serving)

Easy Ratatouille

Ratatouille, or a veggie stew of Provence, is versatile and delicious. Originally French, it gets its flavors from Herbes de Provence, a distinctive blend of dried herbs that typically include savory, lavender, marjoram, fennel or tarragon, oregano, thyme, and rosemary .

I’m still playing around with pressure cooker recipes, and this dish is ideal for HASTY TASTY MEALS UNDER PRESSURE (my work-in-progress). It’s also great for meat-free Mondays (or whatever day you want to go vegetarian). When I make ratatouille early in the week, I divide it into batches for weeknight meals. I add chicken and noodles for a chicken veggie stew, or broth and cannellini beans for a quick pasta fazool. I serve it as a stew over rice or puree it as a sauce and serve over pasta with fresh-grated Parmesan cheese. 

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Note: For my readers who live in higher elevations, keep in mind my elevation here in Florida is about 100 feet. You will need to add cooking time if you live above 2000 feet.

RECIPE

Easy Ratatouille

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced in ½” pieces
  • 1 cup crimini or white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 28-oz. can tomato puree
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste 
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • (optional) fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat. *
  2. Add onions, peppers, and celery. Saute 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and Herbes de Provence. Stir until fragrant.
  4. Add eggplant, carrots, and zucchini. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add all other ingredients except optional fresh basil. Close cooker lid and bring to pressure.
  6. When pressure is reached, lower heat but maintain pressure. Cook for five minutes.
  7. Remove from heat. Allow pressure to drop on its own. (May take up to 25 minutes)
  8. Carefully open cooker and ladle contents over bowls of rice or pasta, if desired. Garnish with a fresh sprig of basil.

Ratatouille stores well up to three days in the refrigerator. It freezes well and keeps for 4-6 months in the freezer. 

*Electric pressure cookers cook for 8 minutes.

Not-So-Dirty Rice

My family loves spicy food, especially Creole and Cajun. One of our favorite dishes is Dirty Rice. Traditionally, Dirty Rice is made with rice and leftover livers, gizzards, and hearts from poultry. There is plenty of bacon fat and butter, too. Because I’m the only one in the family who will eat liver, and because we try to follow a heart-healthy diet, I’ve had to lean up and clean up traditional recipes.

Here is my version of Dirty Rice. I use the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, but I’ve made it in my cast iron dutch oven, stovetop, too. Just add cooking time and a bit more broth if you aren’t pressure cooking.

RECIPE

Not-so-dirty Rice

Makes 4 meal servings or 8 side servings

Ingredients:

    • 12 ounces turkey sausage
    • 1 Tbsp. safflower or Canola oil + 1 Tbsp. butter
    • 2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 ½ cups medium grain brown rice (white rice will overcook)
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 rib celery, diced
    • 1/2 bell pepper, diced (should be green, but we like red)
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp. dried Cajun seasoning mix
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat pot without the lid using the sauté setting. When it’s hot, add the oil and butter.
  • Brown the ground turkey sausage.
  • Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and rice. Sauté.

  • Add the garlic and Cajun seasoning mix, remove from heat (hit “cancel”) and stir to “bloom” the spices.
  • Pour in the broth and deglaze any cooked-on goodness to enhance flavor.  Secure lid to cooker, and set for 20 minutes (If using a stovetop pressure cooker, cook for 15 minutes).
  • When cooking time is up, remove from heat (hit “cancel” and unplug), and allow pressure to drop on its own a minimum of 10 minutes.
  • Release any remaining pressure. Carefully open lid and stir to fluff the rice.
  • Taste test and add salt or pepper as needed.
  • Serve as a side or main dish. Be sure to bake cornbread to go with it.

Your Garden Variety Dinner

Some of my fondest memories of my father are of our runs together. One day, a couple of years before he died, we stopped near the end of our run at a neighborhood produce stand. Dad bought an assortment of fresh vegetables grown right there in the man’s backyard. I promised to cook whatever he bought. He spent about six bucks, total, and my family sat and ate as if it was Thanksgiving dinner.

We love vegetables, especially locally grown, fresh produce. Our favorite summer dinner is a fresh-from-the-garden vegetable plate. If you haven’t taken advantage of the produce grown in your area, now is the time to indulge.

Don’t restrict your menu. Plan your meals around what looks good and fresh, even if you have two or three green veggies. Corn on the cob, squash, potatoes, beans, broccoli, tomatoes…it’s all better when fresh-picked. Steam, grill, roast, sauté, pressure cook, microwave… Any way you slice it, cooking fresh produce is healthy, tasty, and good for the local economy.

KITCHEN TIP: Add a little bit of butter for flavor. A tiny amount goes a long way. I freeze butter and use a hand grater to add it to cooked vegetables. Isn’t that a grate idea? 😉

HASTY TASTY BROCCOLI

While I embrace using pressure cookers, there are some dishes less suitable for cooking under pressure. I prefer my microwave oven or stove-top steaming for quick-cooking vegetables like asparagus and broccoli.

The best broccoli is green, tender, but still crisp. If you want brownish, limp flowerets, cook as long as you want. But we prefer broccoli cooked about three minutes (depending on the wattage of the microwave oven) in an oven-safe bowl covered with a wet paper towel. The only water needed is what clings to the flowerets or spears when you rinse them before cooking. That’s it. Hasty and tasty!

catfish4

(Broccoli served with catfish and steamed yellow squash and wheat roll.)

Chicken Taco Bowl

We love Mexican flavors and Southwest cuisine, and I love pressure cooking, so here is my version of a spicy taco bowl. It’s faster than messing with taco shells and making filling, so it’s a hasty and tasty meal for taco night. Enjoy.

RECIPE

Chicken Taco Bowl
Makes 5 – 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (frozen or thawed)
  • 1 cup dried black beans (not soaked)
  • 1 cup brown long grain rice
  • 12 ounces salsa or 1 regular size can Rotel® diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 2½ cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 ounce chili  or taco seasoning
  • 8 ounce block Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • (optional) fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:

  1. In the pot of a pressure cooker, place chicken, beans, and rice. Pour salsa and broth over them. Add 1 ounce chili seasoning mix.
  2. Seal and bring to pressure. Cook 18 minutes (stovetop) or 23 minutes (electric).
  3. Remove from heat (or hit “cancel”) and allow pressure to drop on its own. Natural depressurization takes approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Carefully open cooker and stir. Chicken should easily shred, or you may remove it, shred it separately, and stir it into the rice and beans mixture. Top with cheese and cover. Do not return to heat.
  5. After a minute or two, the residual heat will melt the cheese and the taco bowl is ready to serve with optional garnish.

Variation: add 1 cup frozen corn kernels before adding the cheese.

Use leftovers for yummy burritos.

Chicken Bean Burrito with Salsa con Queso

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. 😉

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. 😉 

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.

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!

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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.

For creamier oatmeal, increase time to 12-15 minutes and allow pressure to drop on its own. Cooking creamy grits takes as long as the traditional cooking method, but it’s much easier because you don’t need to babysit the pot.

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

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