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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Business is Cooking Along

Meadballs opened its doors – officially as an inspected and certified kitchen – on August 4, 2017. Bits and pieces of construction continued for another month, and I had a lot of kinks to work through.

Anyone who has moved will be familiar with some of this story. And anyone who has started a business will be nodding as well. First, I had to put everything away. And then I had to move it after I didn’t like where it was. I still can’t always locate things – and the kitchen is less than 1,000 square feet.

There were things I found I needed along the way. Like all new pots and pans. I don’t have a range – or open flame – because I didn’t want to have to vent with a kitchen hood (think $10,000). So I have induction burners. Which are great – but require a particular material and pot bottom to work. 

Then I bought the wrong sized sheet pans for the ovens.

Then it was soooo hot that the freezer kept sweating – even more than I was.

But after about 6 weeks, I started to get the hang of the place.

From a business standpoint, there are always things to work out. And from a personal point, I know it takes a minimum of six weeks to learn a new routine. Indeed, it took about six weeks to figure out what that routine was.

Originally, I thought I would deliver food on Thursdays and have the weekend to myself. Hah. Most people go out on the weekend. They want food for the week – meaning Monday. So that means cooking on the weekend.

Do I go to the farm on Thursday, or Friday? When do I get the other stuff? How do I know what I need? 

There’s a big difference between sometimes cooking for 20 people (family gatherings), and always cooking for 20 people. My sister didn’t mind sometimes getting the short-end of the salad bowl. People who pay do mind.

Then there were the times I would load up the bags and just cry. I was tired. I was dropping things. I had to reopen containers that I thought were finished and add the finishing touches that I found in the refrigerator just as I was about to leave.

Then there were the dishes. Loads of dishes. Mounds of dishes. Piles of dishes. And no dishwasher, except me. Because dishwashers for commercial kitchens are expensive. And I am not. And I would still need a 3-bowl sink whether I had a dishwasher or not. Sometimes I cried just looking at the dishes.

And then there is the farm, Post Farm, in North East. Where they are incredibly generous with their knowledge. And helpful. And pretty much anything you could ask for in a farm. But it’s a farm and there are things on the farm that I am allergic to. Only I didn’t know that. So one week – the first week they trusted me in the fields by myself – I had on shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. By the time I finished with the broccoli, welts covered me. Up my arms. Down my legs. And I was crying again.

Keep in mind, I am 54 years old. I have started 4 magazines. I had to close one of them. I have done financials. I have done budgets. I have cooked since I was 9.

And I’m crying.

Because being in business for yourself is hard. You can put something off until tomorrow, but it is still waiting for you then.

But I love it.

I love the freedom to  paddle board on Lake Erie when I have something i

n the oven for an hour. I love that I can walk the dog along Walnut Creek each morning before I start business. The dog does not go into the kitchen.

I love my customers, who look at my menu sometimes and ask if I really meant to add cheese to every single dish. Politely. And with concern – that perhaps I might be clogging all of their arteries and then I would have no customers. And then I can laugh. And adjust. And thank them.

And crying is OK. And hard work is OK. And washing the dishes is OK. And mopping the floors is OK. Cutting myself is not OK, but now I put down the knife when I realize I am too tired. And I make bread. Because making bread is about the most relaxing thing I can think of some days (after walking the dog on the beach).

And you realize the world doesn’t end when you have welts all over your arms and legs. Take 2 Benadryl and go to sleep for 14 hours. You will be amazed at how you feel. And how thankful you are to have a lovely 15-year-old daughter who brings you a ginger ale. And who doesn’t think you are crazy for starting a business. And incredibly supportive parents who let you convert a basement space into a business (that you paid for out of your retirement stash).

And you are thankful that all these people believe in you. Indeed, they actually pay you to make them dinner. And deliver it.

I am blessed.

Thank you all.

And if you want to order, just message or e-mail me on Facebook from Meadballs Meals.

Best

Marnie

Marnie@Meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Business is Cooking Along
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
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Scape Your Way to a Great Fourth

Garlic scapes were a mystery ingredient to me a couple of years ago when I first spotted them at a farmer’s market. Green, somewhat curled, they appeared to have a flower pod on the end.

It is a flower bud. Scapes are the green tops of garlic plants, which are removed in June to grow a more robust garlic plant. The flavor is milder than garlic, but you use a whole bunch so be careful.

Garlic scapes are the green curls in the center right of the photo.

There are quite a few ways to cook with garlic scapes. My personal favorite is to make a pesto  or chimichurri sauce with it.

For the pesto, I follow a traditional pesto recipe, substituting a bunch of scapes for the requested garlic. You will need to chop your scapes into about 1-inch or 2-inch pieces in order for the food processor to handle them. I haven’t tried mashing this with a traditional mortar and pestle, and don’t recommend it.

Some scapes are fairly soft throughout the cutting. Others get woody toward the end closest to where it was cut. Stop chopping and discard into the compost bin once you get to the tough part.

PESTO

My general recipe for pesto is:

4-6 cups of basil leaves, stems removed

1/4 cup parsley, stems removed

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, cut into smaller pieces for the food processor

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (although you can use sunflower seeds or toasted walnuts). I prefer the taste of pine nuts because that is what I was taught.

Generous pinch (or more) of kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (this is a raw sauce, so use the best EVOO you can get) – plus more for topping the sauce off

Combine basil, parsley, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, salt, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the food processor. Pulse until all are chopped. With the processor running, add remaining olive oil.

If you are not using immediately, scrape into a glass jar. Cover with olive oil (prevents the pesto from becoming black by sealing out the air). Cover with a lid and refrigerate.

For a variation on the pesto, try swapping out 1/2 or more of the basil with kale or arugula.

USES: Use it to top pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to thin it out once it is on the pasta. Rub it all over and under the skin of a chicken and grill or roast the chicken. Add a couple of tablespoons it to cream cheese and use it as a filling for chicken breasts. Mix a couple of tablespoons with a stick of butter and spread on a cut loaf of bread make a divine garlic bread.

Pickle

You can also pickle scapes – although this is not something I have tried. You can check out Serious Eats for the recipe.

I haven’t tried it because I usually don’t have enough left to pickle.

Quiche

Use the scapes to make a quiche. This recipe includes ham, but you can omit it, substitute bacon. Or, for a purely veggie quiche, add some sautéed leeks and chard. This recipe is from The Artful Gardener. 

Pizza

Buy some pizza dough, if you aren’t into making your own, and try this combo of brie and scapes. 

Your own variations can include alfredo sauce, red peppers, feta cheese, and scapes. I’d throw in some hot pickled peppers, too.

Chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri sauce is traditionally served with grilled steaks. I like the zestful combo of the garlic scape, herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil – and think you can serve it with chicken, a meaty piece of fish (think swordfish or halibut), or a mixed veggie grill that includes eggplant, Portobello mushrooms, and zucchini.

Chimichurri can be made a number of ways – such as with and without cilantro, or with and without red pepper flakes or jalapeno. The basic premise is parsley and other herbs, lemon, vinegar, garlic, and olive oil (plus salt and pepper).

Personally, I like the cilantro and jalapeno. If you don’t, then skip them.

The recipe follows.

Go Fourth and enjoy some garlic scapes!

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Garlic Scape Chimichurri
Servings
cup, approx
Ingredients
Servings
cup, approx
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended. You can check consistency. If you like it chunky, stop here. If you like a more finely chopped (more like a pesto), then continue pulsing until you get the right consistency.
  2. I like to let it rest for about 15 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.
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Mmmm – it’s Memorial Day weekend!

Erie blooms in May. Not that it doesn’t have its moment in other months. But it seems that after har-umphing through February, March, and April, the community finally starts to shed the gray skies and attitude and come to life again.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with hunkering down through snow, sleet, and dismal rain. We all need a rest in order to burst forth with renewed energy.

An example of this is my schedule in the past week. Last Friday, May 19, I was handing out cherry cheesecake parfaits at Gallery Night hosted by the Erie Art Museum. I was hanging out in the basement with filmmaker Tom Weber, who was screening his new film about Erie, and entrepreneur and caterer Tammy Lyn Fox, who is planning to transform the former Greg’s Place in the basement into a kitchen incubator for those starting out in the food business – from bakers to spice makers.

The basement started filling at 7 p.m. and steamed in until the last cheesecake disappeared just before 10 p.m.

Down Home Days, sponsored by Karen Duran of Duran’s Farm Fresh Foods in Waterford, kicked off Saturday with the Chef’s Cast Iron Challenge. Eight teams volunteered to cook mystery ingredients over an outdoor fire in several categories (fruit, protein, etc.). The mystery ingredients were revealed hours before they need to present dishes to judges. I was one of the judges in the fruit category, where the secret ingredient was dates. These teams were outstanding, coming up with dishes such as chocolate baklava, jerked chicken and dates, stuffed pork chops, scones (mmmmm), and three separate dishes from the Lucky Charms.  Swine Dining, with the superb pork chops, won overall.

On Monday, I headed down to Meadville to meet with Chauteau Christine owner Christine Yamrick, who left her newspaper job to follow her heart with her divine retail space in Meadville and Indiana, Pa. There’s something for just about everyone here – from gifts, to beautiful bags, to clothing, to jewelry. Think preppy meets bling. And more. Christine will be a vendor at the wonderful Barber National Institute Ladies Only Luncheon in November. The lunch is a major fundraiser for BNI, which helps so many special needs children in our community (including my own).

I rejoined Fox on Tuesday for the Mercy Center for Women’s Purse and Pearl luncheon at the Bayfront Convention Center. Fox, who owns Taste of Zion catering, was selling her lovely compound butters. Trust me, her Mediterranean and Garlic Parmesan are to die for (I’m a savory person on this front), along with her new Thai Curry (red). But if you are a pancake, scone, or English muffin fan – she has plenty of options, such as orange cranberry, cinnamon, maple pecan, etc. All kinds of entrepreneurial women were selling before the luncheon, such as Park Lane’s Valerie Weaver (aka the mall’s fashionista on the local news), Simply Scarves Janet Kassir, Studio Z’s Sue Zimmerman, and so many more.

On Wednesday, I was meeting with the lovely Keegan, from South One, and Luke, from A. Caplan Co. Keegan is a kitchen designer with extreme talent, having transformed my parents’ kitchen from dull to breathtaking with a giant lake view. Anyone who loves to cook knows about Caplan in Waterford, but many not know they also work in conjunction with South One on kitchen work. These two talented individuals are helping me with the kitchen planning for Meadballs, my dinner delivery service that will start this summer.

Later Wednesday, the snowbirds (aka my parents, M&D – Mike and Del or Mom and Dad) returned. So winter is officially over.

Thursday I was in Urbaniak Brothers, the butcher shop with the best meats, to stock up for the Memorial Day weekend. You can’t go wrong with anything there, but I have kale growing so some hot Italian sausage was just the ticket for a quick dinner. All I did was grab 2 handfuls of kale, 2 cloves of garlic, a half pound of sausage, some olive oil, and some cooked pasta. I had made macaroni salad earlier in the week, and instead of tossing the water out, I cooked what was left of some shells. Once drained, I refrigerated until I needed them.

The Russian Troika Festival starts this afternoon at the Church of the Nativity Community Center, 109 German Street, and runs through Sunday at 9 p.m.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Let the summer begin!

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Kale and Sausage Pasta
This is one of those recipes that you can play with. Add more kale, substitute chard, or spinach. I used hot Italian sausage, but you can use any kind you like.
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. See note below about cooking kale with pasta if it is older or tougher.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet (large enough to hold the pasta), add olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Then add garlic and saute for about 1 minutes. Add sausage (casings removed) and crumble with your spatula. Cook until no longer pink. If you kale is young, add now and cook for about 2 minutes. Then stir in pasta (or pasta and blanched kale) and stir to combine over heat. Remove from heat and serve.
Recipe Notes

If you are using a more mature kale leaf: I drop the kale into the boiling water with the pasta during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Then drain with the pasta and stir the whole mess in with the sausage and garlic and olive oil.

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