Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ropa Vieja in instant pot

This was a combination of several different recipes.

2.7 lb beef flank steak
salt and pepper
1 cup frozen chopped onion
4-5 cloves garlic
1 cup beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups frozen bell peppers (the ones Keith got were all green peppers)
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup parsley flakes
2 tbsp white vinegar

Season meat with salt and pepper
Preheat instant pot on saute mode, then sear steak on all sides and set aside.
add onions and garlic, cook until soft.
Add broth to deglaze
Add tomatoes, peppers, oregano, cumin, bay, then put meat back in
pressure cook on high for 40 minutes
10 minutes natural release
remove meat to plate, shred with forks.
blend sauce with immersion blender
mix in parsley and vinegar.

Result:  Flavor was nice.  I would've preferred to have the mix of red, yellow, and green bell peppers instead of just green.  there was way too much liquid in the pot.  Next time, I think I can skip the beef broth and just go with the liquid from the can of tomatoes and that released from the onion, peppers, and meat.

Cuban style black beans with brown rice

1 lb dry black beans
3 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Worcestershire

Add all ingredients to pot and pressure cook 22 minutes
natural release at least 10 minutes
blend or mash a bit to thicken juice

Results:  Nice.  A bit bland.  Consider cooking in broth instead of water.  Or adding a bit more seasoning - oregano, maybe?  There wasn't a ton of liquid, I prefer a bit more to soak down and flavor the rice.  Maybe would add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup water next time.

Brown rice - 2 cups rice to 2.5 cups water, add a spoonful of bacon fat for flavor, pressure 23 minutes on high.

Tuscan chicken pasta

based on this recipe.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (mine came out to 2.07 lbs)
splash cooking oil
dash salt and pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 cup chopped frozen onion
1 tsp basil
Garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
dash red pepper flakes
4 1/2 cups chicken broth (used BtB)
1 cup milk
14 oz penne pasta
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cup grated parmesan (used the dry kind, not fresh-grated)
4 oz dried sun-dried tomatoes
several large handfuls (about 4 cups?) fresh spinach and baby kale

Rub the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, paprika
Preheat pot on saute, then add dash of oil and sauce chicken (in batches) until browned on all sides; set aside.
add onion, saute until soft
add broth, seasonings, milk, pasta, and lay chicken on top.
Pressure cook for 5 minutes.
Quick release pressure
Remove chicken and set aside.
Stir in cream cheese until softened and fully distributed
Stir in parmesan, tomatoes, and spinach.
Chop chicken into bite-sized chunks and stir back in.

Result:  Tasty.  Made a lot - I divided into 8 portions which were a generous one-dish meal.  I froze some portions and they thawed and reheated just fine.  Keith seemed to like quite a bit.  If I made it again, I might try mixing in some additional veggies?  Some diced red/orange peppers, maybe.

Lemony Lentil Soup

This came from with some variation.

Splash of cooking oil (recipe recommends olive oil)
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced onion (I used frozen chopped)
5 cloves minced garlic
6 cups veggie stock (I used Better than Bouillon)
2 cups red lentils (14 oz bag)
2/3 cup corn (I used frozen)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp curry powder (recipe said 1.5, I screwed up and read wrong line and put in 2)
pinch saffron
pinch cayenne
2 tbsp lemon juice
(recipe recommended lemon zest but I didn't have on hand)

Heat pot in sauce mode; when hot, add a splash of oil and cook onions and carrots in them for 5 min or until onion is soft.  Add garlic and sauce for another minute or so.  Add all other ingredients except lemon; pressure cook for 8 minutes.  Allow natural release for at least 10 minutes then open.  blend a bit with immersion blender to create a creamy texture.  Stir in lemon juice.

Results:  Not bad.  A bit too intense, flavor-wise.  Maybe make a weaker broth base next time, and cut back a touch on the curry powder.  Also maybe up the lemon or add in lemon zest next time.  The texture was quite thick, especially on reheating.  I think it might be good to add a bit more liquid to have more of a soup-like texture.

For next time:
Acquire lemon zest
Add 2 cups additional water
use a bit less curry powder

Monday, May 28, 2018

Closet thoughts

I have a LOT of clothes. I have a considerably smaller set of clothes that I truly love wearing. Reasons why I don’t wear clothes are varied:

  • Too small
  • Too big
  • Damaged or worn
  • Not flattering
  • Not my aesthetic anymore
  • Nothing to wear it with
  • Inconvenient to wear:  no pockets!

Meanwhile I find myself craving new clothes even though my enormous, privileged, first-world closet is pretty full now. 

And, I have a yen to do some sewing. 

So I have this idea I will try to narrow down my closet to a smaller subset of clothes - things that meet all the following criteria:
  • Fits well and in good condition
  • Has something it will go with (which hasn’t already been tabbed as going with some other outfit)
  • I enjoy wearing it. 
Then I will see if that is enough clothing or still have too much... I would define “enough” as at least a week or two of outfits for a category like casual, formal work, casual work, etc.  I guess I would define “too much” as more than a month of same?  Also need to consider summer and winter. 

From there, I would like to start building “capsules” (as seen on the internet) of clothing that can be recombined into different outfits. So for trips, could just grab a capsule or two and be ready to go. But that level of organization would also require some planning for maintenance - 
  • Do I store capsules together rather than sorting clothes by type as I do now?
  • How to remember what goes in which capsule?
  • How to maintain the capsules through the laundry cycle?  (Sew in grranimals tags?)

Rejected clothes will largely go in my growing pile of things to try to refashion, so I can get creative without spending a bundle!

So, here goes. Going to post now as a commitment to myself!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Beef Stroganoff in the Instant pot

Not a truly authentic one since I used stew meat cut in chunks - I gather the truly authentic recipe would use flank steak cut in strips?

Beef Stroganoff
-          Dash of canola oil
-          1 tbsp butter
-          2 – 2.5 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes - mine was barely 2 lbs
-          1 ½ cup chopped onion (frozen or fresh) - used frozen
-          16 oz baby bella (cremini) mushrooms
-          1 1/2 cups beef broth -  used BTB beef
-          2 tbsp flour
-          1 tbsp dried minced garlic
-          2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
-          1 tsp salt
-          1 tsp black pepper
-          ½ tsp dried thyme
-          ½ tsp parsley flakes
-          ½-1 cup plain greek yogurt - used a full cup and more
-          Barley or noodles, cooked separately - did barley, which worked out great.
Mix flour with seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic, thyme) and then toss with meat to coat the meat.
Turn on pot to saute setting.  When hot, add oil and then saute meat until brown; remove to plate.
Add butter to melt, then add onions; cook until starting to soften.
Then add mushrooms, cook until reduced in size by half.
Add broth and Worcestershire sauce, make sure bottom of pan is deglazed and then add meat back in
Set pot to manual, high pressure, for 15 minutes.  Allow 10 minutes pressure release.
Turn to saute.  
If very runny, suck up some broth and mix it with 2 tbsp cornstarch, stir into sauce with setting on saute to thicken.
In a separate measuring cup, stir some broth into your yogurt until soft and creamy.  Then add to pot and stir until sauce is nicely thickened.

Barley - in separate batch - ratio is 1:2.5 which is about the most water I've seen in any recipe.  I think I did 22 or 23 minutes.  

Result:  there was definitely too much broth, so it required corn starch to thicken.  And then, it was maybe too hot?  Because even though I mixed broth into the yogurt separately first, it still separated when I added it to the broth.  And then I kept adding more yogurt in hopes of fixing it and the new stuff kept separating also.

Despite that - it tasted really good.  Rich and a bit tart just like it's supposed to.

Next time, I will cut back the liquid a little so maybe we won't need the corn starch.  After some googling, I think the dairy separation was due to the yogurt being cold and the beef broth being boiling.  I will try to prevent the separation of the yogurt at the end by setting the yogurt out to come to room temperature when I start the beef to cooking, put the yogurt in a much bigger container and mix a lot more of the liquid into the yogurt a bit at a time in the separate container, and perhaps let the whole mess cool a bit before I add the yogurt.  

The barley ooked up nicely, though it was a bit sticky - I didn't rinse it first, that probably would have helped.  And I think I like the combo of stroganoff and barley better than over noodles even.  Yum!

Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant Pot

This was, once again, a consensus recipe composed of several online sources. I should really capture the sources and credit them, but I forgot to do that.

·         2 lb boneless skinless chicken (breast or thighs) - I had a bit under two pounds of boneless skinless breast tenders.
·         1 – 1 ½ cup plain greek yogurt - used 1 1/2
·         3 tbsp lemon juice 
·         1 ½ tbsp garam masala
·         2 tbsp dried ginger
·         2 tbsp dried garlic
·         1 tsp ground coriander
·         Splash of oil
·         1 cup diced onion - used frozen chopped
·         2 tsp minced garlic
·         2 tsp ginger paste
·         1 tsp paprika
·         1 tbsp garam masala
·         1 tsp turmeric
·         1 tsp corander
·         1 tsp cumin
·         1 can (14 oz) diced tomato
·         1 can tomato sauce
·         ½ cup chicken stock
·         1 1/2 cups half and half.  I ended up using a "fat free" product I bought by accident.
Basmati Butter Rice 
·         16 ounces basmati rice (white)
·         2 cups water
·          3 Tbs butter
·          ¼ tsp salt

·         Cut chicken into chunks
·         Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl, mix well with chicken, cover, and leave in fridge at least an hour and ideally overnight.
·         On day of cooking – turn pot to saute mode.  Add a splash of oil.  Add in the onion, cook until softening.  
·         Then add the spices, stir a few minutes until toasted and aromatic.
·         Add chicken chunks in batches, brown them. Remove from pan.
·         Add broth, deglaze
·         Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken, stir well.  
·         Add trivet and second pan.  In second pan mix all rice ingredients.
·         Switch pan to manual high pressure and set for 5 minutes.  
·         When complete, allow natural pressure release for 10 minutes.
·         Then remove lid and return to saute mode.  Slowly stir in cream and cook until sauce is thickened.
·         Serve over rice.
Experience and results:

Well, this recipe is edible but can definitely use work.

The sauce was far too watery, and by the time I added enough cream to make it at least somewhat thick, it turned out to be an enormous amount of sauce for the amount of chicken.  Also, the chicken ended up tasting/seeming more like it was stewed rather than grilled - breaking up into fairly small pieces and no sense of tasting "browned".  

As I was cooking it, the initial onion + seasoning mixture cooked to kind of a slurry, so when I put the chunks of chicken in to cook they didn't really brown at all, they just kind of stewed.  The extra yogurt marinate in the chicken contributed to this effect, and I probably put too much of the chicken mixture in the pan at once.

The flavor of the sauce wasn't bad - the tomato flavor was a bit brighter than the effect I was going for.  That could be resolved by adding more cream, which I didn't want to do because it was already too liquid and sooo much sauce.

The pot-in-pot cooking resulted in rice that was delicious.  Note that the amount of rice fully filled the bowl I used.  The overall pot was so full that some of the red sauce from below seemed to have bubbled all the way up to the lid and then dripped down into the rice a bit, which made the rice tinted a bit red and flavored a bit.  Not really a problem.  

For future tries, here are some of the things I'll change:
  1. More chicken, and instead of cutting it up into small chunks in the marinade, I'll do bigger chunks (whole tenders) through the browning stage, then cut up the pieces after they're browned.
  2. Instead of browning the onions and spices first, will brown the chicken first, in smaller batches, and will sort of shake the excess yogurt off the pieces before browning.  That way they can get truly browned.  Once those are done and out of the way, will toss in the onions and spices, and will add the remainder of the yogurt marinade to the mix when I return the chicken pieces to the pot just before pressure-cooking.
  3. Reduce the recipe liquids - skip the half-cup of chicken stock entirely.  Maybe do tomato paste instead of tomato sauce?  
  4. Use real half-and-half instead of whatever was in the fat-free stuff.  I'm afraid whatever they use to thicken the fake stuff breaks down under heat?
A couple of other observations - I bought a tube of ginger paste to use instead of chopping my own ginger or using dried ginger.  This was super-convenient but I think that the couple tsp I put in the recipe (um, is that tsp?  I wonder... maybe I used tablespoons?) was about all that was in the tube.  If so - not a very good value.  So will probably look for larger-quantity prepared fresh stuff, or will convert the recipe to dried ginger.  

And, I bought some whole grain naan from the store which ... was perfectly tasty as bread but neither of us felt it really captured what we love about restaurant naan.  Will try a different product or skip that next time.