Tag: Cooking

Beef stock in 2 hours with an Instant Pot

Beef stock in 2 hours with an Instant Pot

It is amazingly simple to make beef stock in a couple of hours in an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot.  Oh, and you can also call it “beef broth” or “bouillon” or even “bone broth” if you want. It’s a terrific stock base for making sauces and gravies and freezes very easily. We put ours in pint freezer containers. Thus you are maximizing effective work time, the types of alkaline water and reducing the instances of staff needing to leave their work area to get a drink.

So, all we did was take some left over beef ribs from our holiday roast. We froze them last month and got them out for this recipe. You can just as well use steak bones. Those used in long cooking pot roasts would be less useful because the stewing process leaches out the flavors your want to capture. Here are our ingredients.

  • 6 beef ribs or other steak or roast bones
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 10 stems of parsley (still growing in our garden)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp salt
  1. Put all the ingredients in the pot liner, and fill with water to the Max fill line.
  2. Press the Soup button and set the time to 120 minutes.  In the Instant Pot, the Soup setting keeps the liquid just below a rolling boil, so the stock doesn’t become cloudy

    .

  3. When the 2 hours are done, let the stock cool naturally, which could take up to another hour, until the pressure has released.
  4. Using tongs, remove all of the large pieces of bones and veggies.
  5. Strain the stock through a colander to catch any other meat or veggie debris, and scoop the broth into freezer containers.  When they are mostly cool, pop them into the freezer. They are ready for your next cooking adventure.

It is important not to add more than a small amount of salt, because some recipes call for you to reduce the stock to a small amount, and that would over-concentrate the salt, making the dish too salty.

January Thaw beef stew

January Thaw beef stew

This simple stew recipe is just what need on a cold morning or during the sort of thaw we are having now. It will probably cool back down, and you’ll appreciate this tonight and any night soon! What makes it so special (and so easy) is that it uses crushed ginger snaps! It’s 5 minutes work and about 2 hours in the oven! Or, you can do it in an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot and have it done in half an hour!

You can crush ginger snaps quickly in a food processor, or in a bag using a rolling pin. They not only add flavor, they thicken the stew.

beef-in-casserole

  • 1 to 1 ¼ lb stew beef
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tb brandy
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup ginger snaps
  • 1 10-oz can beef or chicken stock (In a pressure cooker, reduce this to about half a cup)
  • ¾ cup dry red wine
  • 1-2 Tb chopped parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. Place the sliced onion in the bottom of an oven-proof casserole.
  3. Mince the garlic and add over the onions.
  4. Add the beef, brandy, stock, red wine and crushed ginger snaps.
  5. Sprinkle on half the parsley.
  6. Cover and bring to a boil on the stove top.
  7. Then place in the preheated oven and bake for two hours.
  8. Check to make sure the beef is tender. It may take a bit longer, depending on your oven.
  9. Serve over noodles or rice.

Instant Pot

  1. If you do this recipe in an Instant Pot, brown the onions and beef in a skillet and  pour heated brandy over the pan and ignite it. This prevents alcohol fumes from coming out of the Instant Pot’s steam vent.
  1. Remember to use less liquid in the Instant Pot than in a casserole disk, The ¾ cup of wine plus about half a cup of stock is plenty, because little evaporates while cooking. Select the Stew setting for 25 minutes, and you’ll have a delicious meal.
  2. Serve over noodles or rice.

The original version of this recipe, published over 30 years ago in the Columbus Dispatch reminded you to give individual greetings to each of your fruit trees in January. Always a good ides.

Is Orgreenic Cookware a scam?

Is Orgreenic Cookware a scam?

If you are like us, you have been bombarded with ads for Orgreenic Cookware: we sometimes receive 4 or more E-mails a day from them. In addition, their ads are embedded in lots of web sites we visit. Other people report seeing their infomercials any number of times.

We set out to compare the Orgreenic pan with the 10” All Clad pan we bought at Williams-Sonoma in Westport.

If you try and get any information on these products, you discover that they have bombed the web with fake or almost fake review sites, all of which have very positive things to say about their cookware. There are some critical comments at Complaintsboard and at Chowhound.

These products are made to be non-stick without a Teflon coating, which many people prefer to steer away from. So their ads emphasize that you can cook “without oil, butter or grease.”

Based on the negative comments on the latter two web sites, we decided not to order directly from the company (Ozeri.com makes these pans). Too many people had trouble with credit card overcharges, and having an entire set shipped to them instead of the single trial pan. Further while the offer of the day is two pans for $19.99, you have to pay shipping on the second one, as well as on any “free offer” they also include.

If you go to their web site, you will find that they want your credit card number before they tell you what they are charging you for: never a good sign.

Instead, we opted to order the pan from Amazon. It is actually shipped from a company called As Seen on TV Guys (also called Telebrands Inc.). We paid $26.99, with no tax or shipping charges, and there were no hidden free offers. The pan arrived in two days.

Despite the picture on the Amazon web site, the pan came without any box or recipes, wrapped in bubble wrap and stuffed into a Tyvek Priority Mail envelope. Despite the indestructibility claims of the infomercial, there was a small dent and chip in the pan when it arrived. And the accompanying materials indicated that they would replace it but would charge a $7.95 shipping charge, which seemed rather unreasonable. Why should we pay for their mistake?

A small circular insert paper in the pan said that the pan should be seasoned before use. We’ve never had to season a pan before: a simple but annoying procedure. You are to pour a film of oil in the bottom of the pan, coat the sides and heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Then pour it out and let the pan cool. Wipe out the excess oil. You are supposed to repeat this twice yearly.

beaded-dropletsPouring a film of oil into this pan is actually quite difficult, because the ceramic surface is non-porous, and the oil tends to bead up instead of covering the pan smoothly. To make sure, we washed the pan with soap and water before trying again.

We then poured in enough oil to cover the bottom and heated it until it began to smoke. This can make quite a smell in the house, and you should open the windows or make sure your exhaust fan is running.

Now, when you season a cast-iron pan, you are really making a thin polymeric layer on top of the porous iron. In the case of these ceramic-coated pans it is not clear why we are doing this.

Further, you are supposed to hand wash the pan rather than put it in the dishwasher, which might spoil the seasoning. This was an annoying discovery, to say the least and certainly would keep us from buying more of them.

all-clad-vs-ogreenicWe weighed the pan, which is probably supposed to have a 9” diameter (but is unlabeled). It weighed in at 23 oz. By contrast our only slightly larger All Clad 10” pan weighed 37 oz. So the Orgreenic pan is a substantial light weight by comparison.

Now for the cooking

We first tried to duplicate the fried egg they show in the infomercial. We warmed the cool pan over medium-low heat, and added one egg. Once it began to solidify, we tried to see if it would “slide around.” While it didn’t, it was easily lifted and moved with a spatula: the egg did not stick at all.

However, as in the video, the top of the “fried” egg is essentially uncooked. We tried covering the egg with a lid, but without any steam or grease it didn’t really cook. We ended up flipping the egg and flipping it back again after half a minute. At this point some of the white stuck to the pan in a streak, but you could wipe it off when the pan cooled.

Now, an egg cooked without fat is essentially a baked egg, and it really doesn’t have a lot of flavor. In fact, the egg was rather tough, and when we flipped it over, we saw why: it had formed a fairly hard coating underneath. It wasn’t overcooked, just hard and not all the tasty.

 

baconWe also tried cooking a couple of strips of bacon, as one of the Chowhound comments remarked that the bacon stained the pan. We had no trouble: it cooked fine, and all the bacon debris was easily removed with a little soap and water.

The whole idea of cooking without any oil or grease is bizarre on the face of it. Flavors are carried in the fat. So, no matter how you use this pan, it is just a non-stick pan you can use whenever you need something that will fry or sauté something and clean up fairly easily.

The pans are fairly cheaply made compared to our All Clad pan (which is about $77) and it looks like it isn’t very hard to nick the coating, so it isn’t clear what the advantage actually is.

The Orgreenic telephone/web sales is very close to a scam according lots of commenters, but the pan from Amazon did arrive and was indeed non-stick. We really aren’t interested in pans we have to season every few months, though, nor ones you shouldn’t put in the dishwasher.

 

 

Scrambled eggs in an Instant Pot

Scrambled eggs in an Instant Pot

There have been dozens of experiments on making hard cooked eggs in electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot. Our conclusion was that you want to use low pressure to keep the whites from getting tough and cook them for only 5 minutes, releasing the pressure right away to prevent overcooking.

Similarly, people have experimented with soft-boiled eggs in a pressure cooker. We decided it was a waste of time because cooking them is so quick anyway.

And, likewise, poached eggs seemed  more trouble than they were worth in the Instant Pot, and hard to get out of the little ramekin or egg cup, even when you used non-stick spray. We recommend using a saucepan for a few, or using a big kettle when cooking for a crowd.

But what about scrambled eggs? They present some special problems because they are so easy to over cook and they often stick the fry pan. And for a crowd, there might be some advantages to the pressure cooker.

A little experimentation suggested we were right. You can make any number of scrambled eggs in a bowl and steam them in the Instant Pot. And they come out well. There isn’t any huge time saving here, but there is some consistency. And, you don’t have to keep stirring and monitoring the pan every few seconds. You do still have to take them out pretty expeditiously to keep them from overcooking, though, but they probably won’t stick to the pan the way scrambled eggs often do.

We tried this recipe for one person (2 eggs) and for 2 people (5 eggs) and it was pretty easy once you arrive at the timing for your bowl configuration. We recommend 7 minutes.

Our recipe uses a bit of butter, since fat carries the flavor better. Don’t leave it out.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tb milk (about)
  • ½ Tb butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Spray a small, heat-proof bowl with non-stick spray.
  2. Break the 2 eggs into the bowl.
  3. Add the milk, salt and pepper, and beat with a fork until more or less uniform.
  4. Add the butter.
  5. Put 1 cup of water in the Instant pot and add the trivet.
  6. Set the bowl on the trivet, and close the pot and its steam vent.
  7. Set the pot to Steam at low pressure  for 7 minutes. The pot will start chugging away, heating the water, and then start counting down from 7 minutes.
  8. Release the pressure immediately after the timer is down and open the pot. The eggs should look mostly cooked.
  1. Stir them up with a fork to see if they are cooked through. Don’t worry if there are a littly liquidy, they will continue to cook in the bowl for another minute or so. If they really seem way too undercooked, just put the lid back on for a minute or so and they will cook some more. You want them to be sort of creamy, not really hard.
  2. Remove the bowl using a hot pad and fluff the eggs with a fork. Serve right away while still hot.
Date bars: rich holiday treats

Date bars: rich holiday treats

Date bars and cookies are always part of the holiday season, perhaps because of their Middle Eastern origins. Soft flavorful date bars take about a hour to make, and keep very well. This recipe is an old family one, adapted from an old Betty Crocker recipe. (Note that date bars are very different from Singles’ Bars.)

For the filling

  • 1 ½ cups pitted dates, cut up
  • 1 ½ cups raisins
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water

Mix the above ingredients in a saucepan and cook with occasional stirring for 10 minutes, until smooth and thickened.

For the cookies

  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • ¼ cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Cream the butter and shortening in a mixer and add the brown sugar. Mix until smooth.
  3. Stir in the flour, salt, and soda and mix until uniform. Stir in the oats and mix thoroughly.
  4. Press about half of the crumbly mixture into the bottom of a greased 13 “x 9” baking pan.

spread-dates

  1. Mix the chopped nuts into the date mixture and spread over the bottom layer.
  2. Sprinkle the remaining crumbly mixture on top and press down slightly.
  3. Bake until light brown, about 25-30 minutes.
  4. While warm, cut diagonally from corner to corner and then  in parallel to the first cut about an inch apart. Repeat between the other two corners, making diamond shaped bars.
  5. Remove when cool. Makes about 2 dozen.
Easy breakfast scones

Easy breakfast scones

Scones are little more that sweetened biscuits, and just as easy to make. Usually people add some fruit, such as raisins or dried cranberries, but you don’t have to. These are an easy weekend breakfast you can make in less than half an hour. This recipe is adapted from one by Steven Valenti who adapted his from Martha Stewart.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 5 Tb sugar
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 Tb chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit
  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, using a whisk.
  3. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender.
  4. Add the milk, and stir in with a fork until just moistened.
  5. Knead the dough together on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Pat the dough into a 1 inch thick round and cut it into 8 wedges.
  7. Place the wedges on a baking sheet, covered with baking parchment.
  8. Brush the tops with milk and sugar.
  9. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Cool briefly on a wire rack, but serve while still warm, with plenty of butter.

Seven layer cookies

Seven layer cookies

You make these really simple cookies by just pouring 7 things into a baking pan and baking them for half an hour. For the butterscotch chips, see if you can avoid the Nestle ones that have a sort of artificial taste to them. The organic and trendy section of your grocer may have other kinds. You can also use Reese’s peanut butter chips instead.

  • 1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (6 oz pkg)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 oz pkg)
  • 1 14 oz can Eagle brand (sweetened) condensed milk
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave, 2 minutes at 50% power works well.
  3. Pour the butter into the bottom of a 10 x 13 baking pan.
  1. Add the graham cracker crumbs, followed by the coconut, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips.
  2. Pour the Eagle brand milk over the chip mixture.
  1. Top with the chopped nuts.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes.

Cool and cut out squares to cool further on a wire rack. When completely cool, cut the squares into smaller cookies.

Sour cream Christmas cut-out cookies

Sour cream Christmas cut-out cookies

Christmas cut-out cookies are a holiday tradition in many families. These delicious, but simple, cookies have been part of our family tradition for at least 3 generations. The sour cream keeps the cookies moist, and the icing helps them stay that way. They don’t last long in most families!

If you have sour cream, butter, sugar and some cookie cutters, these aren’t very hard to make. And you can ice them with your whole family.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (preferably unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 31/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Butter cream icing(below)
  • Colored sugars
  1. Combine the butter and sugar together and cream using an electric mixer.
  2. Add the sour cream, baking powder, soda, salt and vanilla.
  3. Add the eggs and mix well.
  4. Add the flour to make a soft dough.

batter

  1. Cover the mixer bowl with foil and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for an hour or so.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  3. Take out only about a quarter of the dough at a time, and roll it out on a floured board, keeping the rest chilled.
  4. Cut out the cookies and place on baking parchment on a cookie sheet, or directly on a greased cookie sheet.
  1. Bake for 7-9 minutes until the edges have only just started to brown.
  2. Cool the cookies on a wire rack and ice with butter cream icing and decorate with colored sugars.

Butter cream icing

  • 1/4 lb (one stick) butter
  • 1 lb confectioners’ sugar
  • About 1/4 cup milk
  • Soften the butter by pressing the wrapped stick with your hand or a rolling pin. Cut into pieces and place in a food processor. Add the confectioners’ sugar and pulse until uniform,
  1. Add the milk, a little at a time until the icing is smooth and spreadable. Mix food coloring into portions of the icing so you have several colors available.

Ice the cookies and decorate with colored sugars. Let them dry for an hour or so before boxing them up.

Superior Mac and Cheese with little effort

Superior Mac and Cheese with little effort

This recipe is based on one we have been making  for many years, and was based on one my mother made years ago. We never used boxed mac & cheese because this is so much better and takes not much longer.And the ingredients are very simple!

ingredients

You can use one cheese (say, cheddar) or a mixture of cheese, but you want to avoid much Parmesan or aged Swiss-type cheese like Emmenthaler,  because they are really too salty for the cheese sauce. Probably most important for simplification is that you don’t have to grate the cheeses: just cut them into small cubes. They’ll all melt fine. Some people like to add some American cheese. It doesn’t have a lot of taste, but it does impart some smoothness.

  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, cubed
  • ½ cup young Swiss cheese, like Boar’s Head
  • ½ cup any other cheese you like, even American
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper or 1 red  sweet pepper or both, cut up
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb wieners, slit open
  • 1 lb box of macaroni shells
  • Bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Slice the wieners lengthwise so they will heat through, and place them in the bottom of a casserole.

4. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil, and cook the macaroni about a minute past the al dente stage. Make sure the macaroni is fairly well cooked, so it doesn’t absorb the cheese sauce.

5. Drain the macaroni and pour over the wieners in the casserole.

6. Saute the onion and peppers in olive oil in a saucepan until soft.

7. Add the cream and heat slowly. When warm, add the cubed cheese and stir while heating until the cheese is mostly melted in.

8. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

9. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until bubbly and starting to brown. Serve at once.

bubbling

Easy cheesecake in a pressure cooker

Easy cheesecake in a pressure cooker

If you follow the world of electric pressure cookers, like the Instant Pot and similar devices, you will perhaps have heard of the idea of making cheesecake in your pot. While this sounds a bit crazy, there is a really good reason to give it a try: uniformity. Cheesecakes can be difficult to make without over-baking them, leading to cracked, dry cake that people leave on their plate.

Making a smooth, creamy cheesecake is not just the province of expert bakers: you just need clear, repeatable instructions. There is an AllRecipes.com page on the details of making cheesecake, suggesting a water bath for uniform heating and cautioning you not to succumb to lower-fat cream cheese, that doesn’t have sufficient fat to set up properly.

You can also find a very nice cheesecake recipe here, but it requires that you leave the cake in the closed oven for 6 hours after baking at low temperature, followed by chilling in the refrigerator.

We decided to try out making a cheese cake following the fairly standard recipe and procedures given by Jill Selkowitz, who writes an excellent, if somewhat prolix, blog under the name ThisOldGal. So, this is her New York Cheesecake recipe with reduced discussion (but not reduced fat). This recipe is quite simple and you can do it in about 45 minutes. You still have to chill the cheesecake for several hours or overnight, though, so it is firm enough to cut.

To bake a cheesecake in the InstantPot or any of its cousins, you need a small spring form or drop bottom cake pan. We bought a Kaiser Noblesse 7” springform pan at our local kitchen store, so we could make sure it fits. The actual pan base is about 7”, but the interior of the pan only 6 ½ “.

For the crust, we used Nilla wafers, but you could use graham crackers or any kind of cookies you like.

The Crust

  • 24 Nilla wafer cookies (about ¾ cup when crushed)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 ½  Tb butter, melted

The Filling

  • 16 oz full fat cream cheese (2 8 oz packages)at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp grated lemon peel
  • ½ tsp grated orange peel
  • 2 eggs, at room  temperature
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Top Layer

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp sugar
  1. Melt the butter in a microwave for a minute at 50% power.
  2. Chop up the Nilla wafers in a food processor or blender. Add the butter, and process until smooth.

3. Butter the inside of the spring form pan and press the crumbs to the bottom and sides of the pan so they go up the sides and inch or even two. Put the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the crust.

4. Wipe out the food processor, and add the cream cheese, cut into 1-2” pieces. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla.

5. Grate the lemon and orange peel into the processor bowl using a microplane grater (or any other sort of grater). Pulse until smooth.

6. Add the eggs and egg yolk and pulse until again smooth.

7. Add the cream and fold in with a rubber spatula.

8. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour in the filling.

9. Cover the pan with a layer of paper towel to prevent water from soaking in, and then with aluminum foil.

10. Put the trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot and pour 1 ½ cups water.

11. Make a sling of some aluminum foil (we used heavy duty foil) so you can lift the hot pan out after cooking. Put  the sling in the pot and put the cheesecake pan on top of it.

12. Close the pot and cook at high pressure for 37 minutes. Allow the pressure to subside for about 15 minutes (normal release) and open the pot.

13. Lift out the baked cheesecake and unwrap it. If there is any water on the cheesecake surface, dab If dry with a paper towel.

14. Immediately spread the sour cream topping over the hot cheesecake, so it incorporates itself into the cheesecake. The cake may still be jiggly in the middle but will set up on standing and cooling. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for about an hour.

15. Chill for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Serve with berries dotted with whipped cream.