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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Spring tips for grilling season

The goslings are in the creek. The fish are spawning. The daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are up. The tomato seedlings are getting ready for transplant. The radishes and lettuces are sprouting.  I’d say the sun was out, but that may be stretching the truth a bit in Erie. And the Golden Snowglobe contest is finally over.

Spring is here. Erie won.

My non-competitive nature could give a hoot about the latter. I’m ecstatic about the former.

I’m a spring kind of gal. I was born in the spring. I’m like a plant. I thrive on sun, water, and warmth. If I never wear another pair of jeans, turtleneck, or sweater again, I will be a happy camper. That’s because I’m a dress and skort kind of gal. Goes with spring, summer, and even parts of fall.

I’m also a grill kind a gal. Give me fire and I’m a happy cooker. I cook with both the Big Green Egg (charcoal) and a gas grill. Depends on my mood. And tastes.

I have lots of toys for winter cooking. Each year I add another (or two). In the fall I added the InstaPot. Makes a mean broth, mushroom risotto, beans, and more. Sous vide cooking (hot water bath) was also a hit. Makes an awesome poached chicken and salmon. Both devices require little attending (the sous vide even works off an app on my phone).

Yet nothing gives me more cooking joy than fire – whether it be for fish, steak, chicken, pork, lamb, or even vegetables. I make a really mean grilled ratatouille. And pizza. And cobblers.

Each year I’m honored Karen Duran asks me to be a judge for Duran’s Down Home Days Cast Iron Cookoff at the Waterford Fair Grounds – May 19 and 20. The teams cook over an open fire in various categories over the two days – vegetable, dessert, protein, etc – using secret ingredients they find out on cooking day. The competitors are amazingly creative in their use of the secret ingredient (some coming up with 3 variations on one plate) and their dedication. One year it snowed.

5  tips for cooking protein over an open fire:

  1. Pound your chicken breasts so they are uniformly thick, about 3/4 of an inch.
  2. Brine your chicken, turkey, or pork. The night before, fill a zip baggie with 1/3 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup sugar in 2 quarts  water (Serious Eats). You can add seasonings like lemon, rosemary, thyme, peppercorns. Add your chicken or pork (this works for about 2 pounds) for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. Remove from brine and pat dry about a half hour before cooking. Brush with a neutral oil. You can add a rub at this point.
  3.  For steaks, I like to  dry brine/r. You can read more about it here and  here.I rub the steaks with salt and pepper (or seasoned salt and pepper).  Place on a rack on a baking sheet (or a plate) uncovered in the refrigerator the night before cooking (ideally 24 to 72 hours). Alton Brown wraps his in paper towels and does this 4 days before cooking. I rarely think that far ahead. Remove from fridge 30 to 60 minutes before grilling.
  4. For fish steaks (tuna, swordfish, salmon steaks), make sure it is well oiled. I like a semi-neutral-flavored oil like sunflower/olive oil blend. Or use canola oil. Do not use extra-virgin olive oil because that is not for grilling. I do not use “vegetable” oil because that is soy based and I’m sensitive to soy. For traditional oven-baked fish, I will also use the grill (keeps the smell outside and adds a little extra flavor.) Just cook it on a sheet of heavy-foil with the edges folded or crimped up to keep the juices from running out.
  5. Use a timer. Yes. I use a timer and I’ve been doing this for nearly 4 decades. Cooking times depend on thickness and the protein. In general, I flip after 5 minutes. I then cook another 3 to 5 more minutes. A thermometer will be your best bet for telling the doneness of chicken (technically 165 degrees), but if you take a knife point to the middle of a chicken breast and insert about 1/4 inch – see if the juices run clear. That’s a good sign.

I’m a huge fan of an espresso rubbed grilled steak – sliced – and then served on top of a salad. It’s a sure taste of spring. You can buy the rub – or make this one from Ina Garten.

You can find as many different recipes for grilled steak as there are for grilling it. I’m a big fan of direct heat, high, on both sides. You do need to be mindful because if you are cooking a ribeye or New York strip with a nice fat ratio, you might get grill flare ups. Best to stand by so your steak isn’t cooked beyond repair.

3 tips for steaks

  1. Don’t poke when grilling. Or squish. Or squash.
  2. Flip once.
  3. Don’t cut until the steak has rested for 5 minutes. This allows the meat to settle, relax, and retain those lovely juices.
Print Recipe
Grilled Steak Salad with Espresso Rub
Follow this recipe to grill steak. Then slice thin over your favorite greens, along with some cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, cucumber. Blue cheese crumbles are also an option. A drizzle with balsamic vinegar and some olive oil completes the salad. A loaf of fresh bread rounds out your meal.
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle kosher salt on both sides of each steak. Not so much that is is encrusted. Think at least 1 teaspoon - remember kosher or sea salt, not table salt. Grind fresh pepper on both sides. Place on a rack over a plate or pan lined with foil. Put in refrigerator 24 to 72 hours before cooking. Do not cover.
  2. Remove steaks from refrigerator about an hour before cooking. Brush steaks with canola oil (or any neutral oil) on both sides. Rub each steak with about 1 tablespoon of the espresso rub. All to sit at room temperature while you prepare your grill.
  3. Over high heat, grill steaks on one side for about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (an internal temperature of 135 degrees F), 5 to 7 minutes for medium (140 degrees F) or 8 to 10 minutes for medium-well (150 degrees F).
  4. Remove from grill. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing thin.
  5. In the meantime. Place a mound of greens in the middle of each plate. Arrange cucumber, tomato, onion slices around the outer edge of the greens. Top with sliced steak, pouring any additional juices on top.
  6. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles if desired.
  7. Enjoy!
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CSA Challenge with Meadballs

If you follow my Facebook page, either Marnie Mead or Meadballs Meals, my Instagram account, or Twitter account, m_meadballs   then you have seen some of my postings labeled #CSAchallenge or #Meadballs.

The point of these is to show what produce is arriving weekly at Erie County’s farms, or at least the farms I shop, and how I cook with it. This is to give you a taste of what Meadballs will be all about.

So on the first week that Post Farm’s CSA had produce, this is what I cooked:

The most fun was turning collard greens into wraps for enchiladas. Plus I learned to make a red enchilada sauce from scratch, which tastes a lot better than the canned stuff.

Each week there are some of the same products as the week before, scapes and kale, for example, have been consistent. But as the season progresses, more color starts coming into the basket.

This past week I turned bok choy into a noodle bowl topped with Alaskan salmon. While the salmon isn’t local, I do buy from local sellers. And the dish is built around the bok choy, with the salmon as a complement. For the garlic scapes and the lettuces, I created a grilled steak salad topped with chimichurri sauce, which is a sauce made with garlic, cilantro, parsley, other herbs, a dash of lemon, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Quiche is one of my favorites for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – especially when it is warm out. The greens come together nicely with some garlic, olive oil, and hot pepper. They get a swirl of kale pesto and land in a homemade crust with local eggs (Taylor Farms just down the street) and cream.

The final dish, bottom right, was a grilled pizza with caramelized cabbage and onions, which I finished with with some cognac-soaked golden raisins and some vinegar. This created a dish that had the right notes of sweet, sour, crunch, melty. The homemade crust was topped with smoked gouda and mozzarella cheeses and then finished with the onion/cabbage. Cabbage is divine this way, developing a rich flavor and sweetness. I have no idea why my Irish relatives insisted on boiling cabbage when they could do this.

Good thing I didn’t learn to cook from my Irish family. The Italians (by marriage) and my Jewish neighbors were much more influential. I’ll credit a college boyfriend for introducing me to real Chinese food in Boston, where I also learned how to prepare fresh seafood.

What this all stirs up are meals from Meadballs, which will be priced at about $10 to $12 per person for dinner and delivered either to your home or to a central drop spot. There will be three meals each week in a cooler bag. All of them will be prepared in my new kitchen, which currently is under construction. The plumber was here this week putting in the lines for the sinks; the electrician added the lighting and the outlets. Next up – paint and a polished concrete floor. Then the equipment will be delivered from A. Caplan in Waterford, which will be hooked up by Dobrich Electric and Longo Plumbing. If all goes according to schedule, I will clear the Health Department by the first week in August.

I have to admit, it was pretty frightening dipping into my savings to do this. While a relatively simple renovation, wiring, plumbing and equipment add up. My research showed anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 – depending.

That’s a pretty wide swing – but when you are talking about a kitchen exhaust hood costing $25,000 or more, it does add up. Since I’m not frying food, nor cooking over open flame indoors, that was an expense I could avoid. I still wound up on the lower side of the middle of that figure.

This is a no-loan operation. That is one thing I get from the Irish family. Invest in yourself first – don’t grow beyond what you can afford. That’s what started my grandfather in the newspaper business in 1888, and that’s what I’m doing nearly 130 years later. Although his investment was more like $250.

I digress. What if you want dinner from me?

Well there will be a couple of ways to do this:

I will post on Facebook what the weekly menus on Wednesdays or Thursdays. You can PM me, call me, e-mail me, or come to http://Meadballs.com and place an order. I will be able to take credit card/debit card orders using Square. You will be able to sign up for a flight of 6 or 12 weeks of meals (to take a break, just let me know), or 1 week at a time. Prices will be lower for those who sign up for multiple weeks. I’ll have an introductory

Some friends will be testing meals out over the next month. I’ll expand sampling beyond immediate friends and family once I have my license. You’ll be able to contact me and we can make arrangements to try out a sample meal then.

I’ll keep blogging details. And photos of the construction, as it comes along.

In the meantime, I picked up week 4 from Gordon Post’s farm in North East. Lots more greens, but more colorful veggies are coming soon; the tomatoes are between golf balls and baseballs. Blueberries from Conn’s Blueberry farm just down the road from Post should be ripe next week too. I picked up cherries from Mobilia Farms in North East and will be working with pork chops in a cherry sauce.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the cabbage and onion pizza, which was inspired by Blue Apron.

Enjoy

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Caramelized Cabbage and Onion Pizza with Smoked Cheese
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring dough to room temperature.
  2. Heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit or prepare grill.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt butter with the olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add onion and cabbage, along with about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grindings of fresh pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes until the cabbage and onions have turned a golden color and lost all of their liquid. Stir in raisins in cognac, vinegar, red pepper flakes (start with half and add more if you like), and thyme leaves. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the cognac's alcohol has cooked off. Allow to cool. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. While the cabbage cooks, lightly oil a rimmed cookie sheet. Or prepare your grill with a pizza stone.
  5. On a clean counter, use your hands or a rolling pin to gradually stretch your pizza dough to the desired shape (either the size of the sheet pan or your pizza stone). If it springs back while you are stretching/rolling - give it a 5 minute rest, and roll or stretch again. Repeat until the dough is the right size. Transfer to the sheet pan or to a pizza peel coated with cornmeal.
  6. Top the dough with the two shredded cheeses, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Top with the cooked cabbage combo. Brush exposed edges with olive oil.
  7. Bake or put on the grill either in the pan or on the stone, and cook for about 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through, Remove from the heat and brush crush edges with more olive oil. Let stand about 5 minutes before cutting.
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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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