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.









Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chicken Stock in the Pressure Cooker


Great soups have one common ingredient: homemade stock. Canned stock literally pales in comparison.


Usually, I put my stock pot on the stove just before I go to bed and let it simmer on low all night. It's a long process, but that slow simmer unlocks the best flavor.

Enter my Instant Pot pressure cooker.

I can now do in 45 minutes what I used to do in a entire night. That's right. Using my pressure cooker, I can now make the most incredible, richest, golden chicken stock in just 45 minutes. 


For chicken stock, I prefer chicken wings. They produce a rich, gelatinous stock. They can be expensive, so I look for packages that are marked down or on sale. Three pounds of wings will give you 5-7 cups of rich-tasting stock to use in your favorite recipes. If you are lucky, your grocer or meat market will carry raw chicken backs/carcasses. If you are really lucky, they will have chicken feet! Sometimes, I add a raw turkey neck for additional flavor. Some people add garlic and fresh herbs to their stock. I prefer not to. I want pure, unadulterated chicken stock. When I make an actual soup, I will add herbs and garlic then.

  • 3 pounds chicken wings, rinsed
  • 2 carrots (8 ounces)
  • 2 stalks celery (8 ounces)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Bottled water (avoid tap water)




Cut vegetables into one-inch chunks. Add to Instant Pot. Add rinsed chicken wings, salt and peppercorns. Fill with water just until the contents are covered by about one-half to one-inch. For my six-quart pressure cooker, that was just up to the 8-cup mark. Do fill over the "maximum fill line" in the pressure cooker. 

Celery leaves add much flavor.

Secure lid. Be sure valve is on "sealing." Set manual timer to 45 minutes. When time is up, quick release valve.

Carefully, slowly pour hot stock through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined colander.

Discard all wings and vegetables. The wings have done their job. Their nutrition is now in the stock.



Allow to cool and skim off any fat. There will not be much. Or refrigerate overnight and remove solidified fat from the surface. The fat is great for cooking/frying. In Yiddish, it is called "schmaltz."  

Covered stock can be kept in the refrigerator for several days or up to six months if frozen. It is worth freezing. I freeze in two-cup increments.





Notes: This is an Alton Brown recipe. I made my stock on the back porch. So easy and any spills, etc. were just hosed away.






Monday, February 27, 2017

Marinara Sauce in the Pressure Cooker

Mmmmm.... add a bit of cheese. Put in oven to lovingly melt .... Dip in bread.


I recently bought a ten-dollar jar of RAO Marinara sauce. It was worth it! I'm not a big fan of tomato-based sauces. For my palate, most are very acidic and "tinny." RAO was mild with lots of other flavors going on. It was great. But, at ten bucks a pop ...  that's a lot of tomatoe$.

Making a tomato-sauce can be messy. It usually simmers and bubbles for hours .... and all over your stove! So I got out my Instant Pot pressure cooker to see what I could conjure up. The result was delicious. The flavor ... wonderfully robust, not acidic, with a hearty chunky texture. And I could taste all that I had added: basil, Italian spices, onion, garlic.

It was better than RAO's

I used CERTO tomatoes for the whole and crushed. I probably added a bit more than the full cup of onions and maybe a bit more garlic. The brown sugar augments the acidity of the tomatoes and results in a beautiful, deep mahogany-colored sauce. Use a reputable and fresh blend of dried Italian spices. 

I doubt I go back to simmering and stirring a sauce for hours on end that spits up on my stove ....
  • 1, 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, broken up, CERTO brand
  • 1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, CERTO brand
  • 1, 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, TUTTAROSSA brand
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow onion including the juice
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion including juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried Italian seasonings (start with one tablespoon)
  • 10 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 2/3 ounce (19 g) fresh basil leaves (2-3 stalks)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided

Add two tablespoons butter to Instant Pot. Place setting on saute, medium heat. When butter has melted add the onions and saute just until they begin to sweat down and begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add all the tomatoes, brown sugar, dried Italian seasonings, basil. Bring to a simmer. Add remaining two tablespoons butter. Taste for seasonings.

Turn off saute mode. Place lid on lock and push vent to seal. Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes. Allow to release naturally. Remove lid and taste for seasonings. Add whatever more you think you need. Replace lid and pressure cook on high for another 10 minutes.

If you prefer a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender to break it up.

This is a great base. Next time I may add a bit of pork, such as some pork ribs, a small pig's foot,  or some Italian sausages. A handful of fresh chopped oregano ...




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ham with Green Beans, Potatoes and Tomatoes in the Pressure Cooker











I really enjoyed this recipe. It had super flavor. And color. And texture. Not too much prep. It's the kind of dish you keep going back for "just a wee bit more." This is somewhere between a soup and a stew, but it is definitely comfort food at its best. And, in the pressure cooker, only five to six minutes to cook.

One could use canned tomatoes. But fresh, sweet grape tomatoes are now such an affordable staple in grocery stores year-round, why bother?




Try not to use a powdered bouillon since they are mostly salt and chemicals. I use "Better Than Bouillon" whose first listed ingredient is actually ham! As an option, you may also add 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup.

I used what my grocery store calls "Pee-Wee" potatoes, all about one to one-and-one-half inch in diameter.

Do not omit the smoked paprika. 

  • 1, 1.5-pound ham steak with bone, sliced on the bias into pieces
  • 1, 9-ounce package cherry tomatoes (12-15)
  • 20-ounces fresh string beans, some cut in half, some left whole
  • 1 cup sliced yellow onion
  • 3 cups unpeeled fingerling baby potatoes
  • 1 10.5-can chicken broth
  • 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup (optional)
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon ham base
  • 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • pepper
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stem (optional)

Place Instant Pot on saute mode, medium setting. Add a bit of olive oil and butter. When melted, add onions and ham, ham bone, and sweat for several minutes. Add fresh thyme and garlic. Stir just until fragrant.


Add the chicken stock, one teaspoon bouillon, cream of mushroom soup (if using,) some fresh pepper and one teaspoon smoked paprika. Bring to simmer and taste for seasonings. If needed, add remaining teaspoon of the smoked paprika and bouillon. Add the fresh beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

Turn off saute mode. Secure lid. Turn vent to seal position. Pressure cook on high for 5-6 minutes. Allow to vent naturally.

Remove lid. Stir. If desired, pull out ham, potatoes and beans and place separately on a serving platter with the sauce. Or simply plate up. Serve with a bit of sour cream.







Thursday, February 9, 2017

Creamy Rice with Cheese and Italian Sausage (Instant Pot Pressure Cooker)




Rich. Decadent. Bursting with flavor. And so easy!

Use as a main meal with a side of salad and broccoli. Or use as a side with beef or chicken. Either way, this recipe is a win-win. It's even good, cold!

Because it's under pressure, cut the veggies a bit larger than you would normally. I have found the saute mode on the Instant Pot to be a bit on the hot side. To brown the sausage, keep it moving so it does not scorch. Sometimes I simply lift the liner out for a bit so it does not get too hot.


  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I use medium, not sweet)
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped (not diced)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped (not diced)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1, 8-ounce package sliced white mushrooms
  • 1, 2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained and rinsed
  • 1, 10-ounce can Rotel Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Chilies
  • 1, 14.5 can reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1, 16-ounce brick Velveeta Original Cheese
  • 1.5 cups raw, long grained rice (I use Uncle Ben's Converted Rice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Place Instant Pot on saute mode. Add a bit of butter and olive and saute green pepper, yellow onion and mushrooms just until they begin to turn a bit soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Last, add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove mixture to a plate.

Add a bit of olive oil to the IP and add sausage. Cook until no longer pink and it is crumbly. Keep the sausage moving so it does not scorch. Add the rice and stir for about one minute. If mixture is too dry, add a bit more olive oil.

Add the vegetable mixture. Stir. Add the chicken broth, Rotel tomatoes and smoked paprika. Stir. Taste for seasonings. Mix in the black olives. Allow to come to a simmer.

Shut off saute mode. Lock lid into place. Put vent on sealing. Cook on high pressure for five minutes.

When finished, allow to sit in pot for about ten minutes.

Vent the pot. Remove lid. Begin adding chunks of Velveeta stirring as you go until it melts. I use the entire brick, but you don't have to.




Friday, January 27, 2017

Creamy Yellow Rice with Shrimp in the Pressure Cooker


Really, who would not want to have this set before them?

Shrimp is always a favorite of mine. It cooks up in minutes and lends itself to garlicky interpretations, with added notes of dill or basil or lemon. In the Instant Pot, it is a cinch to prepare and takes only 4-5 minutes for a stunning and delectable meal.

Use the largest shrimp you can find. Here, I used Argentina Reds. For more flavor, you can leave the shells on. I chose not to.

  • 1 pound frozen shrimp
  • 1, five-ounce packet Mahatma Saffron Yellow Rice
  • Long grain white rice, not instant
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika or hot smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1, 10.5 ounce chicken broth
  • Water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon 

Add yellow rice to a measuring cup then add white, long-grain rice until you have a total of 1 1/4 cup. Add to pressure cooker along with fresh and dry seasonings. Mix.

Add chicken broth to measuring cup. Add enough water until you have a total of 1 1/2 cups.

Dot with butter.

Layer frozen shrimp on top.

Secure lid to pressure cooker. Move vent to sealing position. Cook on high 4-5 minutes. Allow to sit around 2 minutes than release pressure manually. Shrimp will be noticeably smaller, so don't be alarmed.

Remove shrimp to a plate. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan to the rice mixture. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary (I added several pinches pink Himalayan salt). Plate rice with shrimp on the side or on top. Serve with additional lemon wedges.










Thursday, January 26, 2017

Coca-Cola Pot Roast in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker


The sauce/gravy is amazing! Sweet from the cola, yet piquant from the chili sauce.


Late last autumn, I purchased an Instant Pot pressure cooker.

Why?

Well, since I returned to working full-time about a year ago, (as opposed to part-time retirement) I just don't have that much time to cook or to blog recipes when I do. I figured the pressure cooker would solve that problem. And, on many levels, it has. As an example, this roast that would normally take 6-8 hours in a slow cooker only takes 45 minutes in the pressure cooker. And it tastes better. Yes, you heard me correctly, only 45 minutes. For fall-off-the-bone spare ribs, 20 minutes!

Today's electric pressure cookers are not at all like those from forty or fifty years ago. I still remember my mom hefting this massive metal bomb from the bottom cabinet.  It hissed and spewed out steam like an old locomotive. Electric pressure cookers rarely shoot out geysers of steam, if any. Instead, they bring the recipe up to "pressure," and keep it electronically monitored so there is no steam during the cooking process until you "vent" the finished product. That's it. No bomb! And great for the summer!



Most electric pressure cookers are equipped with diverse settings. The Instant Pot, for example, serves as a steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker. It can saute. It also has settings particular to specific recipes such as soups, stews and beans. The more expensive models even serve as a sous-vide!

But, what no pressure cooker can do is brown and sizzle. Pressure cookers are best for recipes that require lots of moisture which is needed to build up the pressure. You can saute/brown chicken breasts before adding to the pressure cooker, but the skin will will still end up rubbery, not crisp. Some people remove the product to crisp under a broiler. To me, that just defeats the concept of a time-saving pressure cooker. But, what you can do .... invest in a mini blow torch specifically made for the kitchen. Brilliant.

Cooking under pressure reduces cooking time. What else does cooking under pressure accomplish? It intensifies flavor! Consequently, use less spices and aromatics. Especially salt and pepper.

Do not slice and dice your veggies. Leave in chunks, otherwise they will just melt under pressure. You want them LARGE.  I love cabbage. We should all love cabbage and eat more. Do not "shred" it. One-inch slices or chunks. Same with onions... Think one-inch slices.

The recipe below can be prepared in the crock pot. Just cook on slow for 6-8 hours.


Coca-Cola Pot Roast

For this recipe, use Mexican coca-cola which uses sugar, not corn syrup. It is easily found in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores. Do not sub ketchup for the chili sauce.




  • 1, 3-pound chuck roast, trimmed if fatty 
  • 1, 12-ounce bottle Mexican coca-cola 
  • 1, 12-ounce bottle Heinz Chili Sauce 
  • 1 packet Lipton's Dry Onion Soup Mix 
  • Garlic Powder

Lightly dust the roast with garlic powder. Pour in the coca-cola. Nestle roast in coke. Sprinkle the roast with the dry soup mix. Cover with the chili sauce.



Secure lid on pressure cooker. Place valve to sealing position. Cook on high for about 45 minutes. Allow to decompress naturally. Carefully remove lid. If  you want it a bit more fall-apart tender, re-place lid and bring to pressure for another five minutes or so. When finished, remove roast to serving plate. Mix juices and pour into a bowl for serving.

Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes or broad egg noodles.















Monday, January 9, 2017

Kitchen Bounty: Chili with Cheddar-Cheese Biscuits

Kitchen Bounty: Chili with Cheddar-Cheese Biscuits: There are two foods, maybe three, for which no two people will ever agree how to prepare: meatloaf and chili (the third is ribs). I suppose...