Make It Easy Monday

My introduction to the pressure cooker came about 30 years ago when one of my podmates, a reporter who covered a lot of rural Illinois, was telling me about the hot water he was in with his wife.

An avid outdoorsman, he caught a snapping turtle and was cooking it in the pressure cooker. Unfortunately, he hadn’t removed the turtle from the shell and the resulting pressure build up blew the lid off the pressure cooker. And blew turtle all over the kitchen.

His wife was not pleased.

Knowing I was a cook, he then shared the proper method for prepping a turtle for the pressure cooker. I won’t go into details. It’s not pretty, and it involves nails.

I haven’t been tempted by a pressure cooker since.

So, like a turtle, I had my head in my shell for the past 18 months as blog and food writers would go on about the joys of the pressure cooker.

All I could think about was turtle spatter on the ceiling.

Reminder that things change a lot in 3 decades.

It was fellow Fairview resident and Vegan Cheers founder who dragged me into the moment. Lisa Rose hosted a pressure cooking class at Whole Foods Co-Op. Suitably impressed, I did some research and found the Instant Pot.

It meets my criteria of a multi-purpose device – meaning it needs to be more than a one-trick pony. The Instant Pot can saute, slow cook, pressure cook, make eggs, cakes, etc.

The first experiment was to make a bone broth. This is a rather tiresome exercise even in the slow cooker. It takes me from 4 to 8 hours. The whole house smells like chicken soup. Not a bad thing. But it’s like living above a restaurant. A whiff is fine. A couple of hours is OK. Go to bed and wake up the next morning – not good.

The Instant Pot made beautiful broth in less than 2 hours. I was officially impressed. (This is not a paid post, BTW).

Next up, chicken salsa verde. Why? Because on Mondays my daughter has tennis practice. And she’s starving when she gets home. And because I drive her there and back, so I’m not home to make dinner.

This is easy-peasy. Chicken thighs, some seasonings, and salsa verde go into the pot. Less than 30 minutes later, dinner comes out of the pot. You can serve with tortillas, rice, as a salad. You get the idea.

So my lesson has been learned. Don’t let your past dictate your future. And clean out your cupboards when you find a new device (say, bye-bye rice cooker).

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Salsa Verde Chicken
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Add the cumin, paprika, and salsa verde.
  2. Set cooker to high pressure for 25 minutes or on the Instant Pot press the meat or poultry button.
  3. When the chicken is done cooking, quick release the pressure or allow it to naturally release (can take 10 to 20 minutes). Release the lid. Shred the chicken in the pot with two forks. There will be a lot of liquid in the beginning. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before seerving.
  4. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve with tortillas, rice, use in burritos, quesadillas, tacos, salads, etc.
  5. You can make ahead and freeze.
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When Erie is Like Florida

Weather and distance have been a recurring theme in the past week.

I left Erie to visit Florida for the President’s Day weekend … and then the temperature was warmer in Erie on Saturday than it was in Clearwater, Florida. Today, Erie will only be about 5 degrees cooler than where the some of the Erie snowbirds are flocking.

Erie has its own micro-climates as well. I knew this growing up, just didn’t know what to call it. In the summer we’d head to the beach from our house in Millcreek. When we’d leave the house, not far from the Millcreek Mall, where it would be sunny and warm. By the time we got to the lake, it could be 10 degrees cooler and cloudy.

Taking the kayak out onto Lake Erie in late February 2017.

This morning, I left my house by I-90 in Fairview and it was 57 degrees. I drove 5 miles down to the lake and it was 42 degrees, courtesy of the easterly wind coming off the 35-degree Lake Erie. As it shift to the south today, the temperatures will come closer. And I’ll be paddling on Lake Erie for the second time during the month of February.

It’s crazy.

I’m worried about the fruit trees being fooled into budding. As much as I love a 70-degree day in February, I love peaches throughout the month of August even more. And cherries. And plums. And apples.

I don’t dare dream of actually having spring in March in Erie. That’s just out of the question. Then we would really know the world was out of whack.

Before leaving for Florida, I had the honor of hosting a group of women called the Black Diamond Divas, a mastermind group of women who are part of the Coffee Club Divas. They are a fantastic group who are taking me to the next level of developing a business. More will come on that at a later date.

The challenge for making them lunch is the diversity of diets – namely gluten intolerant and vegan. Neither of these comprise my typical meal – but I do love a challenge. This Thai Quinoa Salad, adapted from FoodieCrush.com was perfect. Indeed, my daughter loved it the night before (I made early before so it could marinate in the dressing). I didn’t mention gluten free of vegan. She just declared it delish.

Hope you do too.

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

 

 

Print Recipe
Thai Quinoa Salad
For me the secret to the salad is two-fold: make your quinoa in a rice or pressure cooker and marinate the whole salad the night before serving. You can add protein, such as roasted chicken or shrimp if you feel the need for a more substantial dish.
Course lunch, Salad
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course lunch, Salad
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rinse quinoa under cold water. Cook according to package directions. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
  2. Add vegetables, quinoa, cilantro, and basil to a large bowl. Toss.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce, Braggs, limes, sugar, vegetable oil, sesame oil and red pepper flakes until the sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust to your liking (mainly checking for more heat or sweet).
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Can serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.
  5. Sprinkle peanuts over the salad before serving.
Recipe Notes

I like to use the multi-colored quinoa, just for color.

Adapted from FoodieCrush.com

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Fabulous February 14

The sun shining, the birds singing, the above-freezing temperatures – that’s what I love about February 14. The joy in my heart lies in the signs of spring, not romance.

I don’t ignore Valentine’s Day. Nor wish it away. I honor it with a trip to Romolo’s chocolates to buy an assortment for my daughter. While there, I was jostled (and this was last week) through the short aisles in search of confectionary perfection. What we do for love.

Today is also my brother’s birthday. Although only those close to him know the exact date. In order to escape persecution at school and work, he typically lists it as Feb. 15. My mother resisted the urgings of the hospital nurses to name him Valentino. Common sense was more powerful than the drugs.

I’m not sure when my feelings toward Valentine’s day turned away from romance. Childhood scars, I’m sure. The competition at school for the most gushy cards, most chocolates, and then, in high school, flowers, probably did the trick. I had braces through the eighth grade and made it to “Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed.”

Kissed plenty of toads since then. A couple of princes too. None seemed to know what to make of Valentine’s Day, other than to expect that some chocolates and perhaps some flowers might get them some favors in return.

Sorry.

The key to my heart lies with plane tickets to points south, where strawberries are in season and the biggest worry is tracking sand, not mud, into the house.

Until that day arrives, I’ll also be skipping the line for the chocolate-covered strawberries at Romolo’s. You can make your own in less time than it takes to wait. All you need are your favorite chocolate and some strawberries.

Now that’s sweet.

Lots of hugs and kisses,

Marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
So simple to make.
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Wash and dry strawberries, leaving the tops on. Allow to reach room temperature.
  2. Put chocolate pieces in a glass bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals until melted, stirring between intervals. (In my micorwave this takes about 1 minute)
  3. Place a sheet of parchment on your counter or a baking sheet. Dip each strawberry in chocolate and allow excess to drip off. Then place on parchment paper (or wax paper) and drag it about 1/2 inch so you don't get a pool of chocolate at the bottom of the berry.
  4. Add sprinkles or nut, if desired, before chocolate sets. Or melt some other type of chocolate, using the method above. Scrape into a pastry bag or zip-top baggie (then snip off just the very end). Drizzle the berries. The drizzle can be done after the chocolate hardens.
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February Fun: Sunday Sauce on Wednesday

I once wrote that February, for me, felt like a month of Wednesdays. Wednesday is a day you just can’t wait to be over because it brings you that much closer to the weekend. Once February is over, I’m that much closer to spring.

I could choose to just hunker down under the covers and wait for the month to pass. Instead I strap on the cleats, rain boots, or snow shoes – depending on the day – and stomp into the rain, wind, snow, sleet, mud, and trudge on.

It’s also a month I like to mix things up a bit. Otherwise, we’re just looking at one gray day after another. Thankfully there are fewer days.

Last year,  I mixed things up a bit. After a lifetime of being a brunette, about 20 of them involving various hair dyes, I wanted to embrace the gray. I knew I was mostly gray to begin with, because my hair coloring sessions were coming alarmingly closer together. I’d wake up, and there would be the tell-tale gray line of demarcation – brown vs gray. If you were taller than my 5-foot-6-inches, it was clear to see.

This was one of those seemed like a good idea at the time moments. I spent hours in a salon having the color stripped out, bleaching, and dyeing. I was using the experience for a story in a women’s publication, talking about the trend to go gray, or “granny hair.”

There are two things at work here, though:

  1. Granny hair looks great when you aren’t a granny. The glowing complexion of youth in contrast to the gray does not make you look old. Gray on gray does.
  2. It is surprisingly difficult to dye your hair a pretty shade of gray.

I was going for a silver that some of my Irish relatives with dark hair have achieved naturally, including my father.

Alas, I could not go gray unnaturally. Or at least an attractive shade of gray. I had various mixes of browns, mud, pinks, and battleship gray. In the end, I became a platinum blonde.

It’s closer to my natural shade than brunette. It requires less maintenance.

Along those lines, I have been mixing up meals. Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner. We tried appetizers for dinner – deviled eggs topped with salmon roe, and avocado toast topped with salmon.

Today we’re having Sunday sauce on Wednesday. Why?

Because Sunday sauce in a slow cooker is perfect for a weeknight meal. Plus, there was plenty to freeze for another night.

What is Sunday sauce? Sometimes it is called Sunday gravy. Essentially it is two or three cuts of meat cooked for a long time with tomatoes. I typically make mine with beef ribs, sausage, and pancetta. Some people use the ribs, sausage, and meatballs. You can serve it over spaghetti, penne, mashed potatoes, tortellini, or polenta.

Whatever day of the week you serve it, I trust you will enjoy it.

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce
If you are going to make this with meatballs, make your own meatballs (or buy frozen) and bake them so they are partially cooked through. Add them during the final 15 to 30 minutes of simmering.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings
people
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker, cover and turn it on to high. Add the sausages to the slow cooker.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add the pancetta. Cook until brown and the fat has mostly rendered out, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the red wine and stir to release any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. . Bring the wine to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and add the thyme, rosemary and water.
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree to the slow cooker.
  6. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low on 8 hours.
  7. Transfer the beef to a bowl and remove it from the bone. Shred with 2 forks or with a knife. Return the meat to the cooker (lid off) and simmer the sauce on high for 15 to 30 minutes longer.
  8. Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve over pasta, mashed potatoes, or polenta with grated pecorino Romano cheese.
Recipe Notes

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine

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