Dinner and Dessert in an Instant (Pot)

The inner domestic goddess in my has been calling lately. She’s a taskmaster that one. I have to make lists to keep up with her.

It started with a skirt that needed shortened. Every two years I buy an ankle-length skirt thinking I can wear them in summer. They look sooo comfortable, and so cool. And they are. But they do not flatter with my figure – my best assets are my legs. And long skirts cover them up.

So I wanted to shorten a skirt that I bought last year. And down the rabbit hole I went. Once the sewing machine and I reconnect, a whole bunch of projects spring to mind. Like a new headboard cover in a flamingo print. Then I needed to make a matching pillow – with tassels.

Then I needed to move the bureau. And then I moved into the living room – where the couch needed new pillows. Then on to redoing the bins in the kitchen. Then outside to the deck, which needed washed (Clorox makes an amazing deck cleaner that is better than a power washer – if I am operating it.). This made me rethink the outdoor cushions. And those bushes that have been bothering me.

And so on.

I haven’t been to the gym in a week. Who has time?

I’ve even been multi-tasking when I walk the dog.  I now walk with a plastic bag and a long stick to pluck the dead ones out of the surf and the creek. Planting a dead fish and an eggshell or two with your tomato plants is the perfect fertilizer combination. There I was squatting along Walnut Creek this morning with a long stick trying to snag a floater for my garden. I am not fishing. These are dead fish. I seem to have some things in common with the turkey vultures, who, I swear, are watching this process.

It works. I had a magnificent crop of tomatoes last year.

We could speculate as to why I am on this roll. Avoiding other tasks, perhaps. Preparing to be a full-time nursing student in the fall – certainly a possibility. Before we get all psycho-babble about it, the real reason is that I don’t like sitting in the basement with the sewing machine in the summer. I like to grow tomatoes because I like to eat tomatoes.

And, in the late spring and summer, I can make a meal out of what I have planted — salads with fresh herbs, and soon radishes, and some grilled protein (or not). By mid-August, I will have tomato and cucumber salads with freshly baked bread, and I will be in heaven.

The result of all of this domesticity is that I’m too exhausted to make dinner at night.

Thankfully, the Instant Pot is pretty handy. And it can handle frozen chicken breasts and thighs. I plunged deep into the back of the freezer to find some breasts and thighs that had been there for about six months or so (and was pretty pleased to find them lurking there), and dropped them into the Instant Pot, along with a cup of Franks Red Hot sauce and a couple of tablespoons of butter. In less than an hour (30 minutes of actual cooking time), I had dinner, plus leftovers. The shredding was the most work of the whole dish.

My handy Instant Pot makes both dinner and dessert.

The first time, I just loaded it onto a bun with some slaw on top (you can add some blue cheese dressing or blue cheese crumbles if you like), and added some sliced cucumbers as the salad (two veggies – I win!)

The cold leftovers were great for lunch – I made a broccoli slaw (mayo, vinegar, sweetener) and piled it on the bottom. Put the shredded chicken on top, garnish with tomatoes, cucumbers, or whatever is handy  – and viola, a healthy lunch.

Instant Pot Buffalo chicken on top of a broccoli slaw, with an avocado topper.

I do enjoy my veggies – but at heart, I’m a fruit lover. And dessert with fruit is one of my absolute favorites (except that stewed rhubarb thing I had in Paris about five years ago). Sometimes I am happy with fresh fruit and mint from the garden. But not at the moment. I am craving creamy and cold.

And the bloggers in love with the Instant Pot (a pressure cooker) swear that this thing makes cheesecakes and other desserts. Yeah, yeah, yeah. My bread machine promised that it made jam, but I I didn’t see the point in that. So why use the Instant Pot for cheesecake. After all, you still have to mix the ingredients up (crust and filling).

Two reasons:

  1. You don’t have to use a water bath (the ideal method for cooking a cheesecake to keep it creamy and not crack the top).
  2. You don’t heat up the house.

The hardest part of this recipe is:

  1. You have to find the springform pan that fits your pot. A 6- or 7-inch pan works. I had to order on Amazon. By this summer, you might find them at TJ Maxx or Marshall.
  2. Cream cheese must be room temp. This is true regardless of how you are cooking it – conventional oven or the pressure cooker.

It cooks in about 35 minutes – but you have to add on time for the pressure to build, and then vent naturally – so it takes about the same amount of time as the oven. But, let me tell you, cheesecake without the bain marie (water bath) is a dream. Especially in the summer (which will get here eventually).

It’s not very pretty when it comes out. That much I will tell you. So I made my typical topping of plain Greek yogurt, brown sugar, and lemon zest to cover the top. Then I topped it with mounds of blueberries that I had tossed in apricot jam (made last year). The jam gives the blueberries a glossy look. You, of course, could just buy a container of lemon yogurt, or vanilla yogurt, or whatever flavor you like, and skip that step. You can also skip the step of glossing the blueberries.

This is not a compensated post, BTW. I only write about products I use and love.

See you at the farmer’s markets soon

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.co

m

Print Recipe
Blueberry Cheesecake in the Instant Pot
Course dessert, dinner, lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 5 hours
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert, dinner, lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 5 hours
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Prepare the 7-inch springform pan by putting it together, then lightly coating with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and spray again. Cut an 18-inch piece of aluminum foil. Place a paper towel in the middle of the foil. Place pan on top of foil. Fold foil up around pan (so that it protects from leaks). Have extra foil go straight up the sides of the pan - you will use this to help lift the pan into and out of the Instant Pot.
  2. In a food processor, pulse crackers until nearly crushed. Add melted butter and sugar and pulse to combine. This should have a crumbly/sandy texture. Press into the bottom and sides of the pan. I like to use some plastic wrap or parchment on top of the crumbs and use a heavy mug or bowl to press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  3. Beat the room temp cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer or your hand mixer until combined. Add in the yogurt or sour cream and mix for 30 more seconds until smooth, add in the flour or tapioca starch, salt and vanilla. Add in the eggs and mix until just smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Do not over beat this.
  4. Pour into crust.
  5. Pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of your Instant Pot. Place the trivet that came with the pot into the bottom, with the feet folded up.
  6. Once the pan is in the Instant Pot (make sure you have the rubber ring in), secure lid. Make sure vent is on "sealed." Press "Manual" and set time for 35 minutes. Let the pot release the pressure - do not manually release.
  7. When the cheesecake is done. Remove the lid. Use foil to lift out of pot. Allow to cool for 1 hour. Then refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
  8. In the meantime, stir together yogurt, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
  9. Take cheesecake out of refrigerator. Remove foil, then remove from the pan. The parchment will help you remove the cheesecake from the bottom of the pan, but you may need a metal spatula to help get it started. Remove parchment from bottom. Plate cheesecake.
  10. Toss blueberries with apricot jam. If your apricot jam is firm, then microwave in a glass bowl first for 15 to 45 seconds. Stir. Then add blueberries and stir to coat.
  11. Spread yogurt mixture on top of cheesecake. Heap blueberries on top. Enjoy. Should make 6 slices.
Recipe Notes

This recipe is adapted from Cookies and Cups. I love the Ritz crackers in the crust - but you can use your favorite graham crackers. To make GF, I have successfully used GF graham crackers.

I like the use of brown sugar in this recipe - it lends a depth with the molasses that I enjoy. If you don't have any, certainly you can use regular granulated sugar. If you have just a tablespoon or two sitting in the bottom of your bag or container - DO use it in the yogurt topping.

If you are not a fan of lemon, or don't have lemon zest, substitute 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Tip on lemon zest: Any time you are juicing a lemon, zest it first. Put the zest in a sandwich baggie and keep in the freezer.

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Taste Testing in Business

The vegan menu launched in January. Better salads came in February. The beginning of 2018 is shaping up to be a time to retool.

Which is perfect for a new business.

Anyone remember Facebook when it first came out. There were no photos, let alone videos, emojis, etc. And Google was second to …. just about everyone. Anyone still use Bing? FIrefox?

If you are  in business, any business, you must be attuned to what the audience wants. Nut-free was always in my business plan (my father has a nut allergy), so when the request from a celiac suffer for gluten-free came in, I did my best. I can’t say every dish is a hit. There are some restrictions to GF foods – the replacement flours still have a gritty taste so they don’t work with all baked goods, for example. There are some professional baking companies – such as Udi’s – which does a wonderful French bread. You need to know when to turn to the experts.

But for some GF offerings, nut flour is the way to go. Hazelnut flour, almond flour, coconut flour, are all great. They aren’t really “Flour” in the way that wheat flour has gluten, which gives it an elastic quality that traps air bubbles and gives cakes and breads their rise (not just the yeast).

For my vegan customers – flour is just fine. But eggs and dairy are not. Once again, some of the nut flours and milks are the secret ingredients to a lovely sweet. That and flax-seed, which you crush and mix with water. I don’t know how it does what it does, but it works.

So some weeks making a chocolate cake involves 3 different recipes. Good thing I like cake. And the funny thing is some weeks the vegan cake may taste the best of the three. Go figure. The GF cakes, now that I use a lot of nut flours, are also very good. They have a dense and rich quality that traditional wheat flour doesn’t.

And then there was the real surprise recipe – tahini brownies. The recipe below is adapted from Ambitious Kitchen – and made vegan. I love the flavor meld of the nutty tahini and the chocolate for the brownies. It’s a more adult flavor than adding peanut butter.

Meadballs is still a work in progress, but I like to think each week is another step in the right direction. There are other requests that I haven’t been able to meet just yet, but I’m working on it.

A year ago, this wasn’t even a blueprint. So I know that things can change quickly. You just have to adapt.

And, this winter, wear snowshoes. I can’t believe I picked the snowiest winter on record to launch a business that involves delivery! Beats the year, I launched a magazine, that was followed by a stock market downturn and housing market “collapse.”

That magazine is still  in business.

Sometimes good ideas can outrun bad markets (or winters).

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

 

Coming soon – Meadballs in Ireland.

Print Recipe
Tahini Brownies
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 square baking pan with foil or parchment. Coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the tahini, coconut sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract and flax eggs.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, almond flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing to combine. Add chocolate chips into the batter.
  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan.
  6. Bake for 22-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake.
  7. In the meantime, make chocolate drizzle by melting coconut oil and chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds and stir. If chocolate is still chunky, microwave another 30 seconds and stir. Everything should be melted together.
  8. Drizzle over warm brownies. Optional: Sprinkle sea salt on top.
  9. Cut into 16 squares.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

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Breakfast in Paris

J’adore Paris. It’s as simple as that. After my first trip, 27 years ago, not so much. But we’ve both mellowed a bit, Paris and I. She is more accepting of visitors, especially if you make an attempt at being polite in her language – bon jour madame or monsieur goes a long way. As does s’il vous plait, or please. I am more tolerant of her idiosyncratic bureaucracy – things open and close according to forces that are not in my control; if someone can’t help you, wait 10 minutes or 24 hours, and, often, they can or will. I don’t know why. C’est la vie.

Terrorism has changed a lot of life. There are now threat alerts posted at major locations. There are armed – as in machine gun armed, military personnel in the subway checking ID and at attractions patrolling. The Eiffel Tower base is now barricaded do prevent explosive vans from blowing the whole thing, along with the people visiting, up.

But a lot hasn’t changed. Parisians get up. Get on the subway. Stop at cafés. And have croissants – some much better than others. But nearly all better than what we can buy here.  Our guide noted, however, that doctors recommend eating no more than 3 per week.

We weren’t there to listen to doctors. We were there to eat and drink in all things Paris – from the croissants, to the metro, to the churches, to the museums, to the shops, restaurants, cafés, and, to even have a picnic dinner in the park watching the Eiffel Tower put on its nightly light show while men with green plastic bags hawked Champagne, wine, and beer to fellow visitors. It was heavenly. Where else could you buy a salted caramel and chocolate Pot de Crème in a supermarket.

This visit, in addition to buying the Seine River cruise and the Catacombs tickets (if you buy in advance the line is only about 30 minutes instead of the normal 90 minutes to 2 hours or more), I booked a 3-hour croissant class at La Cuisine Paris. The cooking school, which offers classes in English and was highly recommended in a New York Times review of cooking classes.

It certainly lived up to its reputation. La Cuisine Paris offers many classes, including a market shopping class that includes making lunch or dinner, macaroons, baguette, etc. But, for my daughter and I, learning to make the basic French pastry was the ultimate experience.

Our teacher, Guillaume, was from Marseilles and trained in Lyon – the epicenter of French cooking. His English was perfect, as was his ability to teach to all levels in our class, which included a Canadian student who had spent the year in Paris and whose mother told him to come home having learned how to cook something. There were several amateur pastry makers – American and Canadian, two novices (including my daughter, 14), and a Paris dweller.

We learned the three keys to the perfect pastry – butter (must be at least 82 percent butterfat which is typically found in European butters but not American, which requires 80 percent), technique, and time.

About the butter – this is really crucial. Guillaume recommended we buy President in the United States. Or basically any French butter. I didn’t really understand until I read Dorie Greenspan’s article on the difference in how the French make their butter.  Here is an article on the various types of butter you can usually find in American grocery stores and how they stack up. They aren’t cheap – you are going to pay about 150 percent more for half the butter. If you are going to make pastry, this is not the time to go cheap. I’ve done it. You will regret it. Because you will have about 24 hours invested in the process of rising, rolling, laminating, baking, etc. If you are going to do all of this, don’t try to save $2.

This goes back to the basics of cooking. When you have one star ingredient – in this case butter – make sure it shines.

I’m giving it a shot here in my U.S. kitchen. I bought butter yesterday – and I’m being daring using a U.S. butter cultured in the European fashion (the ratings are recommended, but not as high as Plugra, which is the best and I couldn’t find). The dough is rising as I write.

Right now, though, the best ingredient you can find in our area is strawberries. I went out on Sunday – complete with jet lag and 84 degrees – and picked 8 quarts. I will be back this afternoon because all of those berries are turning into fancy little shortcake cakes. Not the biscuit kind, but the ones made with a sponge cake, a lemon simple syrup, lots of whipped cream, and berries. Lots and lots of berries.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. And I’ll keep you posted on the croissants.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line with parchment and grease parchment. Or use mini paper cake pans that you have coated in cooking spray.
  2. Cut off tops of strawberries and thinly slice half of them, leaving remaining berries whole. Mix sliced strawberries with superfine sugar and half the lemon zest and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs and egg white on high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually pour in 1 1/4 cups sugar. Whip on high speed until mixture is a pale yellow and thick, 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. Fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Fold in milk, vanilla and butter until completely combined. (I melt the butter in the milk when warming in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds).
  5. Gently pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and peel off baking paper. Let cool completely. If you are using mini cake pans, bake for 15 minutes, then check, and turn to evenly distribute heat. Check again after 5 minutes.
  6. To make syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup) sugar, 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and optional pepper. Simmer on medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining lemon zest.
  7. Whip heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.
  8. Using a serrated knife, horizontally slice cake in half. Generously brush each cut side with lemon syrup. Place the bottom half, cut side up, on a cake plate. Spoon sliced strawberries and any juices over it. Spread half the whipped cream over strawberries. Place the other cake half on top. Spread remaining whipped cream on top. Garnish with whole strawberries and drizzle with more lemon syrup for serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cooking at New York Times. Recipe by Melissa Clark with some modifications by Marnie Mead.

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Happy Pi Day

There are so many reasons to love Pi Day. The chief among them is that it inspires people to make pies, even if National Pie Day was in January. I know that makes no sense. But that is the joy of Pi Day.

For those of us who didn’t study math with any great enthusiasm, pi was just 3.141592 (rounded, of course, to 3.14). It first came to my attention in 2015, when the numerals lined up to 3/14/15, or March 14, 2015. I made a French silk pie, with a whipped cream pi symbol, π.

With the frightful weather outside, today was a good day for making pies inside. It’s also citrus season. The two combined to inspire today’s pie, which is Lemon Chess Pie. Why it is called chess pie is somewhat uncertain. That this is Southern is not in dispute. The rest is kind of murky. There are some theories on What’s Cooking America that it really was a term for cheese pie. There is no cheese in it, so it seems a bit of a stretch.

Even the ingredient list can vary by chef. The filling is lemon juice, sugar, egg, butter, and some cornmeal. Some recipes call for milk, cream, flour, cornstarch. Adding milk or cream will create a fluffier filling. The recipe I like has no milk or cream, so the filling is pure lemon flavor – a lot like lemon bars.

On this snowy Pi Day, this Lemon Chess Pie is a little taste of sunshine.

Enjoy

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Lemon Chess Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pie crust into a pie pan, cutting off any excess overhang. Refrigerate crust while you make the filling.
  2. Add sugar, salt, cornmeal, and cornstarch to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs (4 eggs and 1 yolk). Beat on medium to medium-high until the mixture is pale and sugar is fully incorporated. With the mixer running, add the lemon juice. Then pour in melted butter in a thin stream. Continue beating for about 30 more seconds.
  3. Pour the filling into chilled pie shell.
  4. Bake the pie on the bottom shelf of the 375-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set. The top should be golden brown.
  5. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before cutting and serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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