How To…

The recipes that led to my eventual pressure cooker purchase were part of a feature in September’s Good Housekeeping.  It gave the basics behind slow cooking, pressure cooking, and roasting, and featured a couple of recipes for each method.  I made the following recipe with boneless chicken thighs during a chilly fall weekend.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/easy/a34144/spanish-chicken-peppers/

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lb. assorted small chicken parts (cut breasts into halves)
  • 1 lb. mini sweet peppers
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 c. light mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Baguette, for serving

Directions

  1. Toss chicken and peppers with oil, salt and pepper. Arrange on baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes or until chicken is cooked (165 degrees F).
  2. Stir together mayonnaise, garlic, and smoked paprika. Serve chicken and peppers with garlic mayo and baguette. 

    ABOUT 500 CALS, 39 G PROTEIN, 10 G CARBS, 34 G FAT (7 G SAT), 2 G FIBER, 595 MG SODIUM

Instead of mini peppers I chopped a couple of red and yellow peppers into squares (I halved the recipe).  The mayo was simple to make, and once the pan was in the oven the dish was totally hands-off.  This is an easy meal for a busy weeknight, especially if you prep the peppers beforehand.   You could throw everything in a zip bag the night before and just dump it in the pan when you get home.  The chicken was moist, the peppers were lightly charred, and the mayo brightened it up and brought the elements together.  Serve with a side salad and you are good to go.

Verdict: a keeper!  Easy enough for a weeknight but also impressive enough for guests.  I might double the peppers or serve this with couscous. You could easily switch the veggies, too.  Roasted tomatoes would be beautiful, or maybe some parsnips?  Let your creativity or personal tastes be your guide.

Aside:  Don’t let the high calorie count fool you– the 2.5 pounds of chicken in the original recipe was reported to serve 4 people.  That’s more than double the recommended serving size for chicken (10 oz. vs. 4 oz.).  I knocked this down to a 250 calorie count for Client (even with the mayo sauce) by cooking a 4 oz. portion.

 

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My tiny roasted chicken on a giant plate.  4 ounces is the proper serving size!  Next time, more peppers!
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Pruney Beans

My husband and I were recently talking about prunes with another friend and they didn’t believe me that the trend now is to call prunes dried plums.  Because prunes = old people. This recipe was (I think) in a recent issue of my Costco Connections magazine.  I tore it out from somewhere and there is absolutely no publication information. I was happy to find this recipe on Sunsweet’s website after an internet search.

http://www.sunsweet.com/recipes/green-beans/

Sweet and Savory Green Beans

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 tsp each: salt and dried marjoram
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup Sunsweet® Amaz!n™ Diced Prunes
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels. Drain all but 1 Tbsp of bacon grease. Add shallots and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat to soften. Add green beans and seasonings; cook and stir for 5 minutes more or until green beans are crisp-tender. Add prunes, sherry, and cook until excess liquid has cooked off. Season to taste with pepper and crumble bacon over top.

Nutritional Information
Total Servings 4                                            Serving Size 1/4 cup
Calories per serving 132                              Fat 3.5g
Cholesterol 10mg                                          Sodium 312mg
Carbohydrates 21g                                        Fiber 5.5g
Sugar 6g                                                           Protein 6g

I followed this recipe exactly (that never happens!).  The only thing I would have done differently is to cut the green beans at least in halves.  They looked beautiful, but they were a little awkward to eat.  You could easily use frozen green beans and cook them a little longer to get to the crisp-tender stage (or more if you like your veggies softer).

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Verdict:  Delicious!  My husband didn’t love the prunes, but I would make and eat these again.  I loved the contrast between the sweet prunes and the acidic sauce.  I might try them with dried cherries instead of prunes.  Husband would probably like that better.

Obsession

It’s official.  I am obsessed with my pressure cooker.  I am going to pressure cook everything in the house.  The release of pressure at the completion of cooking time is ridiculously entertaining to me, and I can’t stop thinking about the next thing I will make.

This was the other recipe Good Housekeeping featured in the September issue in their article about how to pressure cook.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a34130/butternut-squash-risotto/

LEVEL: Easy
SERVES: 4

Ingredients

1 tbsp. oil
2 medium shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 leaves sage, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. Arborio rice
4 c. lower-sodium broth
1 lb. chopped butternut squash
1/2 c. Grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions

  1. In a pressure cooker in oil on medium, cook shallots, garlic, sage, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add arborio rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add lower-sodium broth and butternut squash. Lock lid; cook under high pressure 6 minutes. Release pressure; stir in Parmesan, remaining salt, and pepper.
ABOUT 465 CALS, 11 G PROTEIN, 91 G CARBS, 7 G FAT (2 G SAT), 5 G FIBER, 890 MG SODIUM.The only change I made to this recipe was to use 2 teaspoons of butter instead of the oil for the initial browning.  It was all that was left of a stick after holiday entertaining and I wanted it gone.  Pressie worked like a charm this time; I clearly have figured out what I’m doing with her.  When I released the pressure, my husband had just gotten up; I was excited to show him the dramatic moment.  He actually covered his ears! One cat went tearing out of the kitchen; another sat in the doorway with his ears flattened and a worried look on his face.  Poor boys. I danced with glee.

When the pressure was fully released and I opened the lid, I was a little worried because it looked like there was a lot of liquid left.  But when  I stirred in the salt, pepper, and my parm-reggiano cheese blend, the liquid disappeared and the consistency was perfect.  The flavor is out of this world.  Rich, creamy, and thick, most of the squash cooked down from the cubes to soft little bits scattered throughout the pot.  Peeling and chopping the squash took me more time than the actual cooking.  If you bought pre-cut squash, you could have this impressive meal on the table in under 20 minutes. Verdict: a definite keeper as a side or a main dish!  I’m on a hunt for more risotto recipes to make in the pressure cooker.

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Happy Birthday to Me

I’ve  been toying with the idea of getting a pressure cooker for a little while now.  I was always terrified of this seemingly old-fashioned appliance.  It was almost certain that I would blow it up and be cleaning the kitchen for days afterward.  Good Housekeeping recently (September 2015) ran an article with “how to” recipes (roast, slow cook, etc.). They published 2 recipes for the pressure cooker and gave their best pick appliance recommendations, emphasizing how efficient pressure cookers are and how  much time and energy they save. Since I had torn out the page for the roast chicken recipe on the back, I went searching for the original article.  I came across their online reviews of different models and brands.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/appliances/pressure-cooker-reviews/g2036/best-stovetop-and-electric-pressure-cookers/

I was hooked!  How much time could a pressure cooker save me?  Stew in 30-70 minutes? Our favorite beef stew takes almost 4 hours, and it is high maintenance. Pork roast in 20 minutes? Sign me up.

I had birthday money to spend, and I was also hoarding a couple of Williams-Sonoma gift cards that needed a good purpose.  I found GH‘s top pick online (Fagor Innova stovetop 6-quart), and happened to hit on a 20% off one item and free shipping, no restrictions.  It was also just a couple of days before Christmas, so the thought of avoiding the mall and taking advantage of the pre-holiday shipping push was quite tempting.  SOLD!

My confirmation email said that my estimated delivery was December 25.  Well, I didn’t believe that for a second, but hoped my new toy would arrive the day after.  Long story short, there was no urgency on Williams-Sonoma’s part and my pressure cooker didn’t arrive until December 30.  Fine, whatever.  I was a little on the busy side anyhow, and didn’t even take it out of the box until 3 days later.

My first attempt with Pressie was to make some Asian BBQ chicken thighs for client.  I browned the thighs, added the sauce, locked the top, and waited.  Thin wisps of steam started to come out of the valve, so I set the timer and turned down the heat.  After 6 minutes, I turned the valve to release the steam.  Nothing happened.  I was expecting some dramatic Navy ship whoosh, but, nope.

So I finished the thighs by reducing the sauce, stuck my thermometer in to check the temp, aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, done.  Temp was right on, but I don’t think it worked the way it was supposed to work (and yes, I read the manual).

On to GH’s lentil chili, the recipe that led me to Pressie’s eventual purchase.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a34131/chipotle-lentil-chili/

LEVEL: Easy
SERVES: 6

Ingredients

2 chipotles in adobo
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. chili powder
4 c. lower-sodium broth
2 c. brown lentils
1/2 tsp. salt
Avocado, for serving
Cheddar, shredded, for serving
Cilantro, for serving
Tortilla Chips, for serving

Directions

In food processor, puree chipotles, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes; pulse in whole peeled tomatoes until chopped. In pressure cooker in oil on medium, cook onion, green pepper, and chili powder. Add tomato mixture, broth, brown lentils, and salt. Lock lid; cook under high pressure 12 minutes. Release pressure. Serve with avocado, cheddar, cilantro, tortilla chips.


ABOUT 310 CALS, 19 G PROTEIN, 52 G CARBS, 4 G FAT, 18 G FIBER, 870 MG SODIUM

So the day I decided to make this chili, I was out running errands and happened to have walked out of the house without my phone.  I had planned to look up the recipe to make sure I had all the ingredients, but realized once at the grocery store that I couldn’t.  So I didn’t have any sun-dried tomatoes on hand, but I had recently roasted some tomatoes, orange peppers, and artichokes in olive oil.  I chopped that up in the food processor with the garlic and chipotles.  I used orange pepper instead of green and diced tomatoes instead of whole (and I didn’t put them in the processor, I threw them in as is).  I also used up about 3/4 of a cup of mushrooms that were leftover from our New Year’s Eve stuffed mushroom recipe. (put them in the pot with the peppers in step 1.  I had 2 open bags of lentils in the pantry–just red, and mixed green, red, and black.  Both open bags equaled 2 cups, and I love to get stuff used up, so in they went.
I locked the lid and waited.  When steam started to come out, I set the timer.  After 12 minutes, my lentils were still on the crunchy side and the broth hadn’t absorbed.  I read the troubleshooting section of the manual, and realized I wasn’t creating enough pressure to get the pressure indicator to stay up (meaning my liquids weren’t creating enough steam for a long enough time before I was setting my timer).  I got it boiling again, and this time, the indicator popped up and stayed up.

When I released the valve after another 10 minutes, I got my Navy ship whoosh.  It whooshed while I washed some dishes and kept whooshing while I took the recycling out to the bin.  It was very dramatic and exciting! Just what I was waiting for.

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Verdict: As for the chili, I think the lentils ended up overcooked because of my false start.  But the chipotles were tangy and spicy and the overall texture was what I consider a good chili consistency– thick and not too much liquid.  I will definitely make this one again when I have the right ingredients on hand– and now that Pressie and I understand each other.