Friday, September 22, 2017

Green Bell-Pepper Casserole with Rice and Barley in the Instant Pot



Here's an easy "unstuffed" green-pepper casserole for the Instant Pot pressure cooker. Sometimes I add sliced, black olives. Sliced kale also works. It is a forgiving recipe and leftovers taste even better. Serve with a bit of sour cream and, of course, mashed potatoes.

  • 3 large, green bell peppers
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1-2, 14-ounce cans diced, fire roasted tomatoes, juice and all (I use Heinz)
  • 1, 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1, 10-ounce can beef broth
  • 1/2 cup Heinz 57 Sauce
  • 6-8 whole all spice berries, crushed
  • 1/2 cup raw, long-grain rice
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 -2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • optional: Chipotle chili powder according to taste/heat (a few shakes is all one needs)

Chop green peppers. Do not dice. If chopped too small, they disintegrate under pressure. Chop onions.

Saute ground beef, onions and peppers in the instant pot on the "medium" setting. Once brown, add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes. Add all other ingredients. Mix well. Taste for seasonings.

Secure lid to Instant Pot. Seal vent. Cook for five minutes on regular setting. Allow a natural release. Remove lid. Serve as is or remove to a casserole dish and sprinkle with cheese of your choice. Place under broiler to melt.


Friday, August 25, 2017

SOAP!


As an artist, I sold soap for years! Four thousand bars a year, to be kind-of-exact. Those sales allowed me to pay bills ... rent ... so I could produce art!

Those days, sadly, gone. But, happiest, most productive years of my life ...

I miss SOAP!

Here is my first batch since I was forced to leave my studio and home in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Formula came out great! Saponified easily ...

Old soaps ... Lake Michigan Cottage Soaps ...

New soaps?

Flat-Earth Soap Works ...

Stay tuned ...

SCENT? Wow .. Floral base of lilac and rose ... Earth scents ... Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Nag Champa..

Never,  ever,  buy commercial soaps!






Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chicken Thighs with Mustard over Rice and Kale







Rice versus beans. Which is your preference?

Like potatoes, both are staples of world cuisine. 

This recipe originally began with white beans. And lemon. And capers. And Dijon mustard. Since I am not a mustard fan, I unexpectedly fell in love with the succulent and savory mustard-coated chicken. It was a wonderful surprise!

The bean mixture ... not so much ...  The texture was "rough, " a bit gritty, and it certainly needed more time to soften and to mature in the oven then called for in the original recipe. Worse, all those savory chicken drippings were drowned in the overpowering acidity of capers and lemon. And, I wanted something GREEN with it.

I spent several days challenging the cuisine-side of my brain for additions/cooking times to the beans.

Then I had a revelation: Just get rid of the beans! Just use rice!

But,  for one or two people, making rice is tedious. Dirty up another pan and for what?

Enter Uncle Ben's Ready Rice. Instead of opening up a can of beans -- open up a packet of this rice!

I love this product. It comes in many flavors, including plain.



Throw it in the microwave and it is done in 90 seconds. No pot to clean up. If using it in a baking recipe (such as this one),  just throw it in the casserole dish right from the packet and allow it to cook in the oven.

So, instead of the beans, I simply substituted this easy wild rice and added some chopped kale, onion and butter. Delicious.

But don't stop there. Once, I also added a jar of drained mushrooms along with the rice-kale-onion mixture. Once, I added baby fingerlings, cut razor thin, along with the rice and kale. This is one recipe where you can get creative. Artichoke hearts? Why not? Spinach? Of course!

Here I used rice, kale and thinly-sliced purple potatoes.


This is an easy, one-dish meal. I do not recommend chicken breasts for this recipe. I once used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and the results paled in comparison to the bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. The latter made the best basting juices for the rice/cheese mixture.

It is important to liberally season the underside of the chicken thighs. I like a bit of dried, crushed thyme. Bell's seasoning. Especially Cavender's all-purpose Greek seasoning which is pretty much available is most American grocery stores.


  • 3-4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on OR two chicken-leg quarters
  • 1 packet Uncle Ben's Ready Rice (Long Grain and Wild variety)
  • 4-6 large kale leaves, stripped from rib and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced onion or shallot (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 liberal tablespoons fresh-grated Parmesan/Romano cheese (I confess, I use the canned with great results)
  • 3-4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Chicken seasoning of your choice (but always include a bit of thyme)
  • 10 x 7 casserole dish
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper 

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.

Lightly grease a 10 x 7 ceramic or glass casserole dish.

Liberally season underside of chicken thighs with choice of seasonings.

Add rice packet to casserole dish. Add greens/onion, garlic powder, cheese.

Massage in the butter. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.

Place chicken thighs on top of rice mixture. Coat each thigh with 1 tablespoon mustard. Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.



Place casserole in the upper third of oven. Roast for 35 minutes or until 165 F degrees. If desired, place under broiler for just a minute or so to blister the chicken.






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sloppy Joes in the Pressure Cooker

If it ain't sloppy, it ain't no Joe! Oh, YEA!

Squishy, soft bun is a necessity. The "sloppy" is an indulgent, rich, smoky-burst of tomato-based barbecue flavor.


Add some finely-chopped sweet onion! Even cheese!




Or just go naked. Chips ... Of course! Note the rich mahogany color from adding brown sugar.

The rural, Midwestern, middle-school cafeteria where I taught for 14 years served up Sloppy Joe's I remember to this day! Often, they were served with "government-issue" sticks of yellow cheese. Good cheese, I might add. Or tater tots.

This recipe is based on that cafeteria-memory ... but with a bit more of an adult palate.

An authentic Sloppy Joe has well-balanced, complex flavors: A rich vinegar/tomato base that plays against a saucy, smoky, brown-sugar sweetness. Just a bit of heat. And of, course, it has to be sloppy!

I've tried this recipe with: Ketchup. Barbecue sauce. Chili sauce. Taste test after taste test, I have settled on a forgotten, classic, American staple. Heinze 57 Sauce.

I use the one in the glass bottle.


I like a bit of heat, so I added one tablespoon of A1 Sweet Red Chili with Garlic Sauce. If you don't have that on hand, a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce should do the trick or use what I suggest in the recipe ingredients below.

I have now made this recipe several times. Just today, I had a young associate who works with me at the grocery store try them out. He said he wanted to "lick the container." 'Nough said.

The pressure cooker just does something to amalgamate all these flavors. Without a pressure cooker? Just slow simmer on the stove for an hour or so. Monitor the thickness.

  • 1.25-1.50 lb ground chuck, 80/20 mix
  • 1 cup diced red or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons dried, minced onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 6-8  tablespoons light brown sugar (start with lesser amount)
  • 1 tablespoon A1 Sweet Red Chili with Garlic Sauce
  • OR
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (add a pinch of Cayenne)
  • Heinz 57 Sauce, 3/4 cup (add a bit more if needed)
  • 1, 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar (start with lesser amount)
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker, saute fresh onion, pepper, celery, in butter and olive oil set on medium saute mode just until onion begins to brown. Add garlic and smoked paprika. Stir and cook a few minutes more. Add meat. Stir and incorporate until pink disappears.

Add wet ingredients. Add mustard powder, dried onion. Salt. Pepper.

Add brown sugar. Allow to simmer a bit. Taste. Re-season if necessary.

Lock lid on Instant Pot. Set vent to lock position. Process 5 minutes. When time is up, use a natural release. When the safety button sinks, remove lid. Simmer on saute, LOW setting, 15-30 minutes uncovered, until desired consistency is achieved. Stir occasionally.