Friday, October 30, 2015

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup

The other evening I was browsing through Pinterest. This may come as a shocker, but I rarely go on Pinterest anymore. Their promoted pins and picked for you pins are so annoying. I rarely see anything my friends have pinned because of them. To my surprise, I saw a picture of a delicious looking soup made with pearl, or Israeli, couscous, chicken, and all sorts of good aromatics and spices. (I can't even write the word couscous without pronouncing it like Kahmunrah in Night At The Museum 2) The recipe was posted in full, but I tracked back to the original post at this blog. It's called "cold-fighting couscous chicken soup." I don't have a cold (knock on wood), but it sounded so good that I had to make some on this chilly (for Texas) rainy fall day, with a few tweaks. I used my pressure cooker, but this would be super easy on the stove top. (note: the aromatic pastes I use are the brand Gourmet Garden)

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup

1 small onion (or half a large) finely chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (I quarter it to rinse, then chop)
2 carrots, sliced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 T garlic paste 
1 T ginger paste
1 T lemongrass paste
1 t chili paste or crushed red pepper flakes
1 t parsley paste
1 t turmeric
1 8.8 oz bag of Israeli couscous
1 boneless chicken breast, diced in small bite sized pieces
4 + cups chicken stock (I used one carton and it made a very thick soup)
1 t TrueLemon (or juice from half a lemon)
1 t TrueLime
1 t chicken base (it's like chicken stock concentrate - I used it instead of salt) or salt to taste

Set your pressure cooker to saute, drizzle some olive or canola oil in, and add your onion, carrots, celery and leeks. I let them soften for a couple of minutes while I was cutting up my chicken breast. Stir in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili and parsley pastes, followed by the turmeric. Add the couscous, stir to coat with the herbs and spices. At this point, cancel from saute mode so that everything doesn't get too hot and scorch. Next, add in the chicken, chicken stock, lemon/lime juice or the True Lemon/Lime crystals (I love the convenience of these crystals) and the spoonful of chicken base or salt if you're using. Place the lid on your cooker, close up, and move the vent knob to seal. Set on high pressure for 5 minutes. Vent with quick release method when timer goes off.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Chicken And Dumplings - Comfort Food At Its Finest

We have another addition to the Instant Pot family. My Mom mentioned to my sister that she might like one as a group present for Christmas. Not being able to wait, my sister and I got her one for her birthday, and it arrived this week. She was surprised! She asked if I'd ever made chicken and dumplings. I hadn't, but I was willing to try.Truth be told, I've only ever had them once, many years ago. Man, I am glad I did, it was so delicious. This recipe is a bit of a mashup, because I am not capable of following recipes, and I refuse to use canned soup in my chicken and dumplings.

Instant Pot Chicken And Dumplings 

1 T olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t poultry seasoning
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
2 T flour
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk

With your Instant Pot set on saute, drizzle in your olive oil. Season your chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pot and brown for about 5 minutes per side. Your chicken may break up a bit when turning over. That's fine. I used two forks to shred it a bit.  Next, add in your onion, celery, seasoning and chicken stock. Set your pot to high pressure for 12 minutes. (I like my chicken really, really done).

While the chicken is cooking mix together the Bisquick mix and milk, making sure you get all of the lumps out. The dumpling dough needs to be a little less stiff than if you were making biscuits, but not runny like pancake batter. You need a consistency where you can spoon it out and shape it in to an oval.

When your timer goes off, do a quick release of the pressure. It will take a minute or so, so take this time to mix the half and half and the flour together, making sure there are no flour lumps. This will thicken the chicken mixture, which will be really soupy when you take the lid off. Remove the lid, and stir in the half and half, and then the frozen vegetables. Next, carefully spoon the dumplings on top of the hot chicken mixture. I used one soup spoon to spoon mixture out of the bowl, and a second soup spoon to push the dough on to the chicken mixture. Space the dumplings out evenly. Put the lid back on your Instant Pot, leaving the vent open. Let the dumplings steam for about 10 minutes, then remove the lid.

Spoon out your delicious chicken and dumplings in to a bowl and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Soba with Green Onions And Edamame

I am a cookbook hoarder. I admit it. *shuffles feet* Recently I posted a picture on FB of a whole stack of cookbooks that needed homes. A number of them are already with their new people. So what do I do? Go out and buy two more. In all fairness, I am trying to eat more vegetables (me, mind you, The Aussie wouldn't touch this stuff), and they are vegetarian cookbooks. They're also gorgeous!

Costco is a dangerous place for me when they have lovely cookbooks on display. I should blame them for my cookbook habit since I get so many of them there.

I've spent several evenings, before it gets too dark and before the bugs come out, browsing through these books. The pictures alone make me want to make these recipes. I joked that they make me want to cook eggplant, and I really don't like eggplant.  One picture that I thought looked so gorgeous was this one. I know the lighting wasn't great, but trust me, it is a beautiful picture.

The picture goes with the recipe for rice noodles with green onions and edamame. Strangely enough, considering I didn't care for edamame the first time I ever had them (mushy, like lima beans), I had a bag of edamame in the freezer. In fact, I had a lot of the ingredients from this recipe, so I made it during lunch today. Since I am absolutely INCAPABLE of actually following a recipe, mine looks nothing like this. In fact, I made a whole bunch of substitutions because I used what I had. It was delicious.

Soba Noodles With Green Onions, Edamame and Green Beans (inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe from Plenty More)

1 bundle of soba noodles
2 tsp oil
1 bunch green onions cut in to bite sized pieces
1/2 half Hatch chili pepper, diced (I had it, never had them before, didn't know if it was hot...)
2 "peppadew-style" peppers, diced (addictive little things, aren't they?)
1 cup edamame
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 tsp garlic paste *
1 tsp ginger paste *
2+ Tbsp cilantro paste *
1 tsp sesame oil
1 small drizzle of chili oil
2 Tbsp ponzu sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp True Lime powder

* I adore the squeeze tubes from Gourmet Garden. I don't care what food snobs say, these are great.

Bring water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan and cook the soba noodles for 5 minutes, or as directed on the package.

In a saute pan, over medium high heat, drizzle the oil in to the pan.  When it is hot, toss in the onions, edamame and green beans cook for a minute. (I used this time to dice the peppers) Stir in the chilies, garlic paste, ginger paste and the big squeeze of cilantro paste. (The original recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped cilantro. My little AeroGarden doesn't grow that much so I used my trusty squeeze tubes.) Stir to combine. You can either mix the "sauce" ingredients in a small bowl or just add them directly to the pan, like I did.

Drain the soba noodles and rinse quickly with cold water. Add them to the pan of vegetables to coat them in the sauce. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2015

BBQ Jackfruit Burrito

I recently my friend Galga Runner posted a link to an article about 21 food things only a San Franciscan would understand. The cover picture to the article was a humongous, gorgeous burrito, overflowing with fillings. The picture made me drool. It also made me want a burrito. Now. While I do live in Texas, I rarely go out for Tex-Mex food. The closest taco place is, in my opinion, no bueno. In a similar manner that I feel perverse pride in never having eaten a Krispy Kreme doughnut, I feel that same strange pride that I have never been to Chipotle. What's a girl to do? Raid the pantry.

Beans of some sort? Check. Rice? Leftover in the freezer, check. Avocado? Half of one in the fridge, check. Something meaty and BBQ-like? *stops short while sifting through my mind palace* Nope. Much to The Aussie's dismay, I've started eating a LOT less meat. What to use? Then I remembered. I have a can of jackfruit in the pantry. I bought it a while ago after hearing about jackfruit being used as a meat alternative because it cooks down and shreds like pulled pork. Why the heck not. I grabbed the can, my bottle of BBQ sauce, a few other goodies and got cooking.

Irony of all ironies, I didn't have any flour tortillas in the freezer so I had to run out and get some. Oh, and I forgot to use the avocado too.

BBQ Jackfruit Burrito

1 can of jackfruit (packed in water not syrup) drained, and roughly chopped
~ 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
2 T ketchup
dash of liquid smoke
1 t chili powder
1 t garlic powder

In a pan over medium heat, lightly saute the jackfruit. Pour in the BBQ sauce and ketchup, stirring to coat the jackfruit. Add a little water if it's too thick. Add the spices, stir, cover and reduce heat. Simmer until soft, stirring occasionally. This took about 30 minutes. When it was soft, I mashed it with my potato masher. It really does look like pulled pork!

While the jackfruit was cooking, I sliced up half of a bell pepper and half of an onion and sauteed until soft. Since my pressure cooker was busy, I opened a can of pinto beans (I used the kind with jalapeno) and heated them up along with the brown rice and some corn I had in the freezer. The slaw topping I used is the veggies from an Asian chopped salad kit I got at Costco and some coleslaw dressing. The cilantro and crunch of the cabbage really added to the burrito.

I have never made anything like this, but I will again. It was filling and delicious. I was so excited to eat it that I forgot the avocado and cheese. It didn't need it. Yum.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Easy Coconut Seafood Curry Soup

One of the real pluses to working from home, aside from having the critters with me all day and wearing pajamas yoga pants every day whenever I want, is being able to cook whatever I feel like for lunch if I have the ingredients on hand. Today I started thinking about seafood. After a bit of rummaging around in the freezer, I found the last bag of mixed seafood. I buy the huge bag from Costco and then divide it in to smaller portions that are easier to store in my freezer. Also in the freezer were some individually wrapped portions of cod, some frozen homemade chicken stock and a bag of stir fry vegetables. From the pantry came a can of lite coconut milk, cloves of garlic and an onion, from the refrigerator came half a can of mushrooms that were leftover from last night, a quarter of a tomato, half an orange bell pepper, and red curry paste. (Note: When I was done cooking, I added a splash of rice vinegar, soy sauce, a squeeze of lime and snipped in some Thai basil that is growing in my aero garden)

Since I am all about the gadgets, I pulled out my Instant Pot (don't tell the Cuisinart PC that I brought this back from the ranch) and set it to saute and drizzled in a little oil. While it was heating up, I thawed the chicken stock in the microwave and sliced up  half of an onion in to half moons (lengthwise strips). In to the cooker they went to soften. Next, I sliced the pepper in to thin strips, sliced the garlic, and tossed them in to cook. I had a good rounded spoonful of curry paste left in my jar, so I spooned it in, stirring it in to the veggies. I cancelled the saute mode, and literally dumped in my frozen stir fry veggies, the mushrooms and tomato, the frozen seafood mix (there was about two cups worth in my bag), two frozen cod fillets, 1 cup and a half of chicken stock and the can of coconut milk. I closed the lid to the IP, set it to high pressure for 5 minutes and walked away. In hindsight, I could have done a little less time, but the fish fillets were thick and I wanted to make sure they were cooked through.

Here it is just before closing the pot. It could have been an epic failure. Since I don't often use recipe, I just never know if something will turn out as well as I think it will. For the most part they do, but cooking with a pressure cooker adds a level of unknown if I've never made something before.

When I was releasing the steam I could smell the aroma of seafood, and it smelled good. Fingers were crossed. There was some splatter on the inside of the pot, but the soup looked great. The fish was cooked beautifully, and so was the calamari. Shrimp are easy to over cook, but I didn't mind so much since they were small. The frozen veggies were soft, but that was to be expected, and helped make the soup soft and soothing. Since shrimp can be salty, I didn't add any salt in the beginning. I tasted the soup, added a splash of soy sauce, a splash of rice vinegar, a squeeze of lime juice (I couldn't find my TrueLime because it was sitting on my desk next to my water glass), and snipped in some Thai basil leaves. I am so please with how this turned out. If you were cooking on the stove, you could add the shrimp last so they aren't over cooked, but I just wanted to see how it would turn out if I basically dumped everything in and set it to cook. It didn't disappoint.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bounce bounce bounce - fun with JumpSport

So, I stepped really far outside my comfort zone at Fitbloggin, and signed up for the lip sync competition that was sponsored by JumpSport. My group, The Fitbloggin Bellas, was lucky enough to have been chosen the winners, and we each got a fitness trampoline. (Full disclosure: The value of the grand prize was divided between the five of us. We were able to chose a fitness trampoline that equaled that value or apply that amount towards the model of our choice.) My trampoline is the JumpSport 250 . Here's a picture from the JumpSport site.

I was so excited when it was delivered. Here's Sparkie inspecting the package.

Here are all of the parts laid out, and I'm ready to attach the legs.

Here's a close up of how the leg fits in to the frame. You use the allen key, which is provided, to bolt the leg to the frame. It is very solidly made. It took less than 10 minutes to attach all of the legs.

The elastic bands on some of the other models can be adjusted to give you different tension settings. The 250 is non-adjustable, but since it's just me that will be using it, I'm fine with that. I'm not sure I'd want to be messing with these huge knots, especially since there are so many of them!

Here she is, fully assembled and ready to play.

I just did my first full workout during lunch today. You really work up a sweat using a fitness trampoline! It's fun, but it's also work! The basic workout DVD that came with the trampoline was good. It has people demonstrating three levels of the workout, which I appreciated. I can work up to the advanced level at my own pace, and not worry about falling off! (You are "talking" to someone who's fallen off the side of a treadmill, so that could happen.) They make it look easier than it is. There are also a lot of good rebounder workouts on YouTube. What I really love, in addition to how well this is made, is how quiet it is. No springs squeaking, no creaking. The dogs were in the room with me the whole time and none of them were bothered by it in the least. My Bear is a spook who jumps at loud or unexpected noises, and he just laid there on the floor napping. This is a serious bonus in my book.

Who said by baby steps can't be bouncy ones. ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Easy Vegetable and Seafood Paella

It's no secret that my husband is a picky eater. I cook a lot of dishes that he has no interest in eating. Luckily, I have the opportunity to cook dishes that I'm interested in eating during my lunch hour.  I have also been trying to cook from my pantry and freezer so that I use things up before shopping for more. Yesterday I spied a bag of mixed seafood in the freezer. Usually I make bouillabaisse, but I didn't want to make that for lunch. I rummaged through the pantry and decided that I would try to make paella. Since I'm trying to cut back on eating meat, I wanted to make it a vegetable and seafood paella. I also wanted to use up a bunch of veggies I had in the not-so-crisper drawer. I know that I totally did things out of order, but hey, it worked. :) Some will say it isn't a true paella if it isn't made with chicken, or with sausage. Oh well. I will go with my version of paella today and enjoy it.

Vegetable and Mixed Seafood "Paella"

2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (4 really large baby bellas)
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 c white wine
1 orange bell pepper cut in thin strips (use what ever color you have on hand)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can artichoke heart quarters, drained
2 cups frozen mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari, mussels, scallops)
2 cups broth
1 small pinch saffron
1 t smoked paprika
1 T garlic powder
1/2 t salt

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. When pan is hot, drizzle in the olive oil. After a minute the oil should shimmer. Add your diced onion and stir around. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes, then add in the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. At this point, I should probably have added the rice, but I didn't, I added the mushrooms. Feel free to do it in reverse order. I added the mushrooms and then the rice. Stir the rice to make sure it gets a light coating of the olive oil, and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, I de-glazed the pan with the white wine, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the bell pepper, diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts and the seafood. Pour in the broth and the spices, mixing everything together so that the broth is distributed evenly.

Turn down the heat to low and cover. I set the timer for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, I stirred the mixture to make sure the seafood was cooking evenly, covered it up and set for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, I removed the lid, stirred again, raised the heat to medium to cook off excess liquid for a few minutes.  Before serving, check your seasoning and remove any mussels that didn't open.

I have a confession to make. For lunch, hot, it was delicious. For leftovers cold, it was even more delicious. When I was packaging the leftovers later I was eating more. Then I spied the muffaletta olive salad in my fridge. This is a mixture of marinated olive pieces, carrot, small bits of cauliflower that I get at the antipasto bar at Kroger. I've made "Spanish" dishes that had olives in it, why not this. So I spooned some in to my bowl with the cold paella. It was absolutely delicious. It added just the right briny kick to the dish.  Perfect. My second confession. I just had cold paella for breakfast. I'm a happy girl.