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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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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Fridge Monster Spits out Cherries from Freezer

My excuse is I have a very small kitchen. That’s my excuse for just about everything. Like why when you open the fridge door does it look like a wall of food. The same with the pantry door.

My excuse is I can stand in the middle of my kitchen and touch the sink, stove, counter island, and fridge (but not the pantry).

But the truth is, if the kitchen was bigger, it would still be the same. I’d just have a bigger fridge with even more stuff in it. And a bigger pantry with more things in it.

My daughter opens the fridge door, stares at all the full shelves and declares there is nothing to eat.

Of course there’s nothing to eat because the fridge is full of fruits, vegetables, and condiments, like four kinds of mustard and a similar number of hot sauces. There are jars of green, and red curry pastes; red, and white miso; chili sauce, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce; ketchup, regular mustard, and pickle relish; red salsa, green salsa, guacamole; Worcestershire sauce, horseradish; and enough jams to host the queen’s birthday tea party.

There are multiple varieties of carrots, bok choy, Napa cabbage, lettuce, peppers, leeks, onions, cucumbers, a mango, oranges, lemons, limes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pineapple in there.

And, of course, there is butter, creamers, coconut milk, anchovies, preserved lemons, various bouillon, waters, and lots of homemade salad dressings in various quantities.

There is no milk.

I need to get some.

The pantry has no fewer than four types of rice noodles; five kinds of rice; various pastas too numerous to list; most kinds of flour; vinegars of various countries; every kind of food coloring; golden syrup, molasses, Karo; nuts, lots of nuts; baking chips of many flavors; brownie mixes; and half a bag of chips. And a bunch of other stuff that I have to use a flashlight to find.

My daughter likes to stand in front of the cupboard and shake her head in disgust.

She does not bake.

I have all of these things because I grew up in a house with two brothers. Food barely made it into the refrigerator before it disappeared. I baked because cookies lasted a nanosecond in our house.  I baked when I went to college because it was cheaper than going to the bakery. The same with cooking. By my sophomore year, I lived in an apartment. In Boston. It is not cheap to eat out in Boston. But Boston had great markets. I would take the T (public transport) to the North End and come home with bags (also on the T) filled with fresh vegetables, bread, and meats. And shove them into an apartment-sized refrigerator. Sometimes I had more than fit into the refrigerator, which meant I would go on a cooking binge. Of course, the freezer wasn’t very large either. But it only usually had ice and ice cream.

So, clearly I have a problem. This summer, when I start Meadballs as a dinner service, I will have to use a rented commercial kitchen. The concept is fresh seasonal foods. My pantry will need to be minimal, since space will be at a premium. That won’t be too difficult since the fresh vegetables will be the star, condiments will be in supporting roles.

There are times when you can turn take fresh fruits and preserve their natural flavors to use at other times of the year. This week I made some room in my freezer by pulling out a bag of frozen local sour cherries. Instead of something sweet, I turned them into an accompaniment to a pork loin roast that I had grilled. In my case, I roasted the cherries to concentrate the natural sugars, then adapted a recipe from Laurel in Philadelphia to create a conserve by adding them to a mixture of brown sugar, vinegar, miso, mustard, garlic, and port to kick dinner’s butt. Combined with roasted broccoli, this dinner was a great.

You don’t have to have sour cherries in the freezer to make this – all you need is some sour cherry preserves, which is in most grocery stores either with the jams and jellies or in the specialty food aisle.

This will turn grilled pork chops or chicken into a special dinner on a weeknight.

It will certainly be on my menu when the cherry season arrives.

Tastefully yours,

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Sour Cherry Sauce with Mustard and Miso
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic; cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the jam, vinegar, miso, mustard, water, and Port. Bring to a simmer,k stirring until all of the water and Pork have been reduced and all you have is a thick jam - 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Stir in 
a a tablepoon water if too thick.

  2. Can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
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Spring Closet Cleaning

Spring cleaning consumed the past two weekends. The warm weather is partly to blame. My daughter shares the rest.

Sometimes she helps me get dressed. A teen with a keen fashion sense of her own, I run outfit combinations by her from time to time when I’m trying to burst out of my uniform of leggings, tunic sweater and turtleneck. It’s the perfect way to hide the winter calories.

But, come the start of spring, the layers give way to … muffin tops and insecurity when getting dressed. My winter uniform hides a myriad of sins that spring strips away. As a result, I stand in front of not one, but two, closets filled with clothes.

And I have nothing to wear.

So I proclaim.

My daughter got tired of having her head bitten off when she dared say I looked “just fine.”  She politely suggested I call “that lady you interviewed who helps people with their closets.”

She was referring to Marian Taylor, owner of Simple Solutions for Living.

Clearly, I needed a closet intervention.

Marian not only assists the closet impaired like me, she specializes in downsizing. She helps people move into smaller homes (or new homes), especially empty nesters transferring to new digs without kids and seniors moving into assisted living.

If you have a parent moving – she’s the best. She makes the move so easy – and takes the stress off the the children by acting as an impartial arbiter of what stays and what goes. She doesn’t throw anything out unless you want her to, but she does have the tact to inquire just why you are keeping it.

She used this approach with my closet, which was filled with trips down memory lane: the skirt from Greece that I’ve worn once; the dress I bought when I didn’t have anything to wear to a funeral; the pants I bought on sale without trying on. Then there was the stuff that didn’t fit. And the stuff that looked great when I was a brunette, but does’t look so hot now that I’m a blonde.

By rehanging all my clothes – in order or color by category – we also discovered I had quite of few of the same items in the same color – just hanging in two different closets. Did I need 4 black skirts ? No. I don’t. Other people may have a different answer.

She also took the time to show me pairings of clothes. She took a blouse I liked, but had never worn, and matched it with a sweater I already had. I wore it this week. Now, when I head into the closet, I don’t stand there staring. I can see immediate outfit ideas.

Marian has a nifty app that allowed us to total up the charitable value of the clothes headed to the City Mission.

When we finished, she suggested a new organizer from ClosetMaid that would give me twice the space for the shirts and sweaters using a double rod system.

Marian is also a rep for Cabi, a clothing line that makes capsule dressing easy and fun. The colors coordinate from season to season. After cleaning so much black out of my closet, it was time to replace it with navy, which is much more flattering for me.

That was the weekend of Feb. 25. During the week, I ordered the closet organizer for my clothes. And other one for my shoes.

So the following weekend, I installed the closet organizer. It only took about 4 1/2 hours – it would take a pro a lot less. I think I spent an hour trying to find the studs in the closet wall. I spent another hour  to 90 minutes hanging and organizing.

The shoe organizing took another 90 minutes, 45 of which was assembling the new shoe rack. It is designed to hold 50 pair of shoes. Fifty should be plenty. I had to discard about 30 pair of shoes – some I could only wear for an hour or two because they hurt so much. Turns out I have a lot of black shoes.

Again – I’m a blonde now. Blue and beige are better choices.

But the new rule is: One in, one out (preferably two).

All this organizing means dinner hasn’t been particularly organized this week. Fortunately, I subscribe to one of those home meal prep delivery services. I’ve been trying out Hello Fresh (I’ve also tried Plated, Blue Apron, and Home Chef). I’ll write more about these later.

So I had a box with pork chops, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts. I wasn’t fond of the recipe and directions, so I winged it. In less than 20 minutes, we had dinner. I pan seared the pork chops and finished it with a peach glaze from some peach preserves I had in the fridge. The Brussls sprouts were easy – they just went into a 400 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 10 to 12 minutes.

I hauled the Kitchen Aid out and attached the spiralizer and had sweet potato noodles in minutes. You could blanch them, but I tossed them into a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. They could have gone into the oven with the Brussels sprouts if I had been thinking.

Sometimes we all need a hand with the basic tasks of living. Thanks to Marian, getting dressed takes just minutes. And thanks to the various meal services I’ve been trying, I was able to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Now, if only those meals arrived already made …

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Pork Chops with Peach, Whiskey and Mustard Glaze
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. Pinch ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoons garlic powder<
  4. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  5. 2 boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  8. 2 tablespoons peach preserves
  9. 2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey
  10. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  12. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Season each pork
  13. chop generously on both sides and rub the mixture into the meat.
  14. Heat a nonstick oven-proof skillet on medium high heat. Add the olive oil and the seasoned pork chops. Sear on each
  15. side for 2 minutes to get a nice crust. Remove pork chops from the pan.
  16. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the whiskey and bring to a boil, then add chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 mintues then stir in peach preserves, and mustard. Whisk to combine. Turn off heat.
  17. Return chops to the pan and turn several times to coat with the peach glaze. Place pan with chops in oven and roast until done, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  18. Let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes before serving, then spoon some of the glaze from the pan over the chops.
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