Cooking With Cheryl

Welcome to the new home of my cooking blog, Hasty Tasty Meals. Archives from the old site are still available at chefcheri.wordpress.com.

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I hope you enjoy my blog posts from my kitchen. Feel free to comment! 

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? 😉

New Orleans Style Red Beans with Rice

We love the spicy flavors of New Orleans style dishes, but we need to watch our waistlines. So I’ve lightened one of our favorites, red beans and rice, by using chicken sausage. I also serve with cooked brown rice instead of traditional white rice to boost fiber.  By soaking the beans, I shorten the cooking time and avoid over cooking the sausage.

Although my recipe uses the pressure cooker, you can cook it stovetop. It will take more time, but either way, you’ll end up with a healthy version of New Orleans style red beans and rice.

RECIPE

New Orleans Style Red Beans with Rice

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces chicken Andouille sausage, sliced in ¼” rounds
  • 8 ounces dried red beans, soaked at least 3 hours or overnight
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Cajun seasoning mix
  • salt
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

 

Chicken Andouille Sausage

Directions:

  1. Preheat pressure cooker pot and add the olive oil.
  2. Sauté the onions, peppers, and celery (known as the trinity in New Orleans).
  3. Add garlic and Cajun seasonings and stir for 30 seconds or long enough to “bloom” the spices.
  4. Add sausage and broth, and then seal cooker.
  5. Bring to pressure and cook 15 minutes (Or if using an electric pressure cooker, cook 20 minutes).
  6. Allow pressure to drop on its own at least 10 minutes.
  7. Release remaining pressure, carefully open lid, and serve in bowls over 1/2 cup brown rice.

Add to presoaked beans and cook 15 minutes under pressure

*If you prefer tomatoes in your red beans (we don’t), stir in a can of diced tomatoes after cooking the beans as soon as you open the pot. (For fiery hot beans, use tomatoes and green chilies!) The residual heat will warm the tomatoes through without cooking them to mush.

Serve over a scoop of cooked brown rice.

Raising a Stink about Cabbage

Remember walking into Grandma’s house when she had cabbage cooking in her kitchen? The entire house smelled like rotten eggs, right? Grandma insisted that cabbage was good for you, though, and you should eat it. She was right! According to many sources (such as Good Health All), cabbage is effective in fighting digestive, cardiovascular, and blood sugar issues as well as serving as an anti-inflammatory and vitamin source. It’s a nutritional gold mine.

So why did it stink up Grandma’s house? She cooked it too long! Overcooked cabbage produces hydrogen sulfide gas, the source of that rotten egg odor. To avoid raising a stink in your house, don’t cook it like Grandma. Cook it fast. What better way to cook a vegetable quickly than in a pressure cooker?

Here’s how.

  1.  Quarter or shred your head of cabbage (or separate the leaves for cabbage rolls). Wash and drain.
  2. Add 1½ cups filtered water to the bottom of your pressure cooker pot. If using an electric pressure cooker, set for 5 minutes.
  3. Place cabbage in a strainer or steaming basket placed over the cooking water on a trivet or rack.
  4. Seal cooker. If using a stovetop pressure cooker, bring to pressure and then time for 3 minutes.
  5. After the 3 (5 on electric) minutes under pressure, remove from heat (select “cancel” on the electric model). Carefully release pressure.
  6. Open the cooker and season the cabbage with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar*.
  7. Carefully remove the cabbage and serve.

(*Just a pinch. It’s optional, but Grandma was right about the sugar. Trust me.)

That’s it. If you quickly cook cabbage just until done, you won’t stink up your kitchen. Promise.

Steamed Cabbage

NOTE: Pressure cookers vary, so your cooking times may, too. The 5 minutes works on my particular electric model, and the 3 minutes is perfect in my stovetop pressure cooker. You may need to adjust your cooking time.

Pasta in Sauce?

If you’re a purist and want your pasta cooked separately, you can skip this post. The Hasty Tasty Meals Kitchen is about shortcuts, and cooking pasta in the sauce is a time-saver if done correctly. But it can be tricky.

I cook pasta in the sauce in skillet meals, casseroles, and in the pressure cooker. The safety instructions for pressure cookers warn against cooking foods that foam, like pasta or grains, but don’t let that stop you. You just need to exercise caution. I do oatmeal in its own bowl on a trivet above the water, for example, with no problem. I’ve seen countless posts on Instagram and Facebook of beautiful lasagnas made in an Instant Pot or other brand multi-cooker under pressure in a springform pan. It can be done.

When making pasta dishes in my pressure cooker, I prefer Mueller’s Pot-Sized dried pasta. It’s smaller length makes it a perfect fit without breaking. 

Here are the rules when cooking pasta, whether by itself or with other food.

  1. Add a teaspoon of oil.
  2. Don’t allow pasta to touch the bottom of the pot.
  3. Spread dried pasta in a single layer as much as possible and don’t stir.
  4. Use sufficient liquid to cover the pasta.
  5. Cook for only half the recommended time.
  6. Allow pressure to drop on its own for a minute then release in short spurts.
  7. Stir.
  8. Add cheese or other dairy products.

If you follow these steps, you’ll have satisfactory results. Why go to the trouble to cook a spaghetti dinner in a pressure cooker? Clean up! I have one pot to clean. One. That makes me a happy cook.

RECIPE

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • one pound ground turkey (or beef–you choose)
  • one teaspoon cooking oil
  • one 8 ounce can mushrooms (do not drain)
  • 8 ounces dried spaghetti
  • 1 15½ ounce can tomato sauce + 1 empty can water or broth
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the pot of the pressure cooker and brown the ground turkey in the cooking oil. If using an electric pressure cooker, you can just choose any setting that allows you to saute with the lid off. Salt and pepper as desired.
  2. Remove pot from heat (or hit Cancel on an electric model). Layer pasta over the meat spread as thinly as possible to prevent clumping.
  3. Add the can of mushrooms, the tomato sauce, and the water or broth over the pasta. Do not stir.
  4. Sprinkle garlic and seasonings over sauce.
  5. Seal the cooker and bring to pressure. Cook 5 minutes.
  6. Allow pressure to drop on its own 1-2 minutes, then carefully vent the cooker to release pressure.
  7. Open the cooker and stir (use a long handled utensil because contents are hot!).
  8. Sprinkle with a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Residual heat will melt the cheese.
  9. Enjoy!

Note: You may use this method with other shapes and sizes of dried pasta. Just cook under pressure for half the time recommended on the pasta’s box.

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.)

In Defense of Canned Soups…

I try to cook with fresh ingredients. Usually. But sometimes–you know those times when you’ve been working and suddenly you’re faced with a hungry family without a dinner plan–you’re tempted to order pizza. Again. Been there, my friend. So without apology, I present the emergency one-dish meal using (gasp!) canned condensed cream of whatever soup.  Yes, I know the sodium content of canned soup is high, and there are other additives I’d rather avoid.  But what’s in that pizza you’re tempted to order? Sometimes we compromise.

All you need in addition to the soup is pasta or rice, some leftover (or canned) meat and/or vegetables, and cheese. There are endless combinations, and any combo produces a reasonably healthy meal in a short time. If you make it in one pot, cleanup isn’t overwhelming, either. One-pot meals are a great use-up of leftovers, too, like that one serving of green beans or that half cup of corn kernels you just couldn’t bear to put down the disposal.

I use a pressure cooker, but I’ve also made this dish in an electric skillet. Whatever works best for you. 

Here’s an example, but feel free to substitute ingredients you have available.

RECIPE

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 10½ oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 10 oz. chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup dried cavatappi or similar size pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup fresh asparagus, sliced in 2″ pieces
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • (optional) fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Layer the cooked chicken in the bottom of the pot of a pressure cooker. Spread pasta on top the chicken.
  2. Pour the soup and broth or water over so that all pasta is submerged in liquid. Scatter the minced garlic on top.
  3. Close lid, bring to pressure, and cook 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat (or hit Cancel on electric models) and release pressure. Carefully open lid and stir in the vegetables.
  4. Cover and let the vegetables cook in the residual heat. There’s no need to return to heat.
  5. After about 10 minutes, open and sprinkle cheeses over the top. Cover for another 3-5 minutes or until cheeses have melted.
  6. Serve garnished with optional fresh basil.

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. 😉 

Hasty Tasty Potato Salad–Updated

NOTE: I recently revised my method after trying This Old Gal’s method. If you aren’t familiar with This Old Gal, check out her blog at https://thisoldgal.com. The author Jill Selkowitz calls herself an old gal, but she is younger than I, incidentally. 😉  Although my recipe differs, I’ve adopted her method of cooking potatoes and eggs simultaneously. It’s a real game changer in making potato salad. Thanks, Jill!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.  Here are the step-by-step instructions for her recipe. Try it for your next potluck 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
  • ½ 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. Place the 4 eggs on top the potatoes.
  2. Secure lid to pressure cooker and cook for 5 minutes stovetop or 6 minutes electric.* Allow pressure to drop on its own for 5 minutes before releasing.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare dressing in a large bowl by whisking together mayonnaise, mustard, salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Dice the celery and onions.
  5. Carefully release remaining pressure and open pressure cooker.
  6. Remove eggs from pot and place in cold water.
  7. 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.
  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.

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