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Apple Crisp for Breakfast, That’s a Thing, Right?

…asking for a friend. ūü§Ē

A few weeks back, the city once again sent out an alert: the apples in the city apple orchard were ready to be picked. So for the love of all that is holy, come and relieve them of these apples. Branches break, people get zonked by falling apples, the ground gets covered, so they seriously encourage people to “come and get it.” They are as organic as they come – other than some pruning, the city does nothing to them.

Photo from City of Longmont

Roger’s Grove Nature Area consists of 54.9 acres adjacent to the St. Vrain Greenway and includes Fairgrounds Lake, trails, a shelter, outdoor amphitheater, restrooms, native landscaping, demonstration gardens and an apple grove with fruit free for your harvest! Design and construction of the nature area was primarily funded by the Roger and Roberta Jones Foundation. Roger Jones (1915-1995), enjoyed walking along the river with his wife Roberta (1913-1992). Both educators in the St. Vrain Valley School system, the Jones’ wanted to contribute an environment for children and adults to visit, learn and enjoy. Roger’s Grove was developed as a nature area, arboretum and outdoor learning center.

…there are about 50 apple trees, of eight varieties, planted at Roger’s Grove, and they have not been sprayed with pesticides.

With all my apples, I made my¬†Perfect Apple Crisp, recipe here, with a bit of twist. I came away with quite a few apples, and while a few are good to eat, most are better for baking. They sat in my fruit drawer for a week, and I decided I needed to do something with them, especially since I didn’t know if any of them were buggy – I didn’t want the bugs to multiply.

So I dumped them all in the sink, washed them and then sliced them up. I put them in my Multi-Pot (Instant Pot twin) and threw in about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a dash of salt and just enough water to keep it from burning before the apples let go their juice. I set it for three minutes, assuming much of the cooking would take place while it pressurized. It was a good call.

I did the fast-release method, and the apples were perfect. Still had some shape and I thought would be great for baking. I had planned to freeze some, but best-laid plans and all, I instead went on an apple crisp spree. I’ve baked three in the last two weeks. Mmm–mmmm.

Oh, and those chicken thighs – I’ll put that recipe up later. Until then…



 

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Multi-Pot Recipes: Ropa Vieja

I love ropa vieja salad bowls. I made two big batches the past few weeks in the Multi-Pot electric pressure cooker. The second batch, pictured above, I forgot the onions. Not sure how I did that! I thought about putting grilled onions in after the fact, but that would have meant more cooking. I always omit the olives, no mistake there.

For whatever reason, and you can probably deduce from my minimal posting the last few months, but I’m really off cooking. The best I do each week is either grill up a bunch of things one night or make large batches of something in the multi-pot and serve it over rice or lettuce for the next few days. It’s not necessarily pretty, but gets us through the week, along with the fresh veggies that are abundant. We are just about out of corn-on-the-cob season, and I’m sad.

Meanwhile, I’m so not in the cooking mood, that is a store-bought tortilla bowl. Which I never do, it’s so easy to make your own.

Ropa Vieja

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 lbs chuck roast, round roast or flank steak
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped or pureed (1 can crushed tomatoes substitute)
  • 1/4 cup green olives (oh, so very optional)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh leaves)
  • 1 tsp salt (more if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (more if desired)
  • cilantro for garnish

In the pressure cooker, heat oil and brown meat on all sides. Add remaining ingredients (except cilantro…and in my case, olives). Check your electric cooker guide, I cooked mine on the meat setting for 1-1/2 hours. I let it depressurize and then shredded the beef with a fork.

You can also use the slow-cooker method and slow cook for 8-10 hours.

Serve with tortillas, over rice or on a salad. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

 

Garden Fresh: Jalapeno Relish and Easy Salsa

My garden was hit with both hail and an infestation of earwigs. I managed to get a small crop of tomatoes, jalapenos and potatoes despite the destruction. The ducks have been great at keeping the rest of the pests at bay, but earwigs are nocturnal, so they managed to escape the duck patrol.

My dad and youngest brother sent home cucumbers and jalapenos on my last trip, so I decided it was time to put everything to good use before they went bad on my counter.

First up, Easy Salsa, recipe here.

I love pickled jalapenos, so I wanted to pickle some this summer. I have had plenty, but I thought if I was going to do that, it wouldn’t hurt to have extra from my brother. Add my dad’s huge English cucumbers and I got a fresh, spicy combo that is terrific on everything, especially grilled hot dogs. Yum.

Pickled Jalapeno-Cucumber Relish

  • 10 large jalapenos
  • 1 large cucumber (or two medium)
  • 2 tsp fresh dill (opt)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, quartered
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar

jars, blender, saucepan

You can rough chop all the vegetables, since this will be run through either a food processor or blender. If you want to tone down the spice – remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapenos. I did not peel the cucumber because it was garden fresh.

I added just a touch of dill – because I thought the cucumbers would need it. It’s not overwhelming and it could easily be omitted.

In the saucepan combine water, vinegars, sugar and salt. Bring to a low boil

In the blender or food processor, add jalapenos, cucumbers, herbs and garlic and just enough water to cover. Pulse until all the ingredients are finely chopped. Add to boiling mixture, bring back to a boil, reduced heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before adding to sterilized glass jars.

I did not can this recipe – jars will last about two weeks in the refrigerator. I froze several of the jars and they should last a good six months.

As a side note – those are grapes from my vines. I have one red vine and one concord vine. Last year they were barren, the year before they tasted like concord grapes, this year the vines are overflowing and taste sweet and are almost seedless. This fall I’m going to espalier them to create a screen and hopefully keep the dogs out of them. It’s been a challenge this year. Bixby loves to pick them off the vines and grapes are not good for dogs.



 

Wood Grilled Pizza For The Win

Little D wanted pizza tonight and I asked if it would be all right if we tried cooking it on the wood pellet grill. Since the answer was yes and it was an inexpensive Red Barron frozen, I felt we had nothing to lose.

It was delicious. Like the best frozen pizza I’ve ever made. Can’t imagine I’ll ever make it any other way. Can’t wait to try it on a fresh, homemade one next.

I followed the directions on the box for oven baking it. The crust was nicely browned without burning, but I think it could have been crisper. I think the only thing I would change would be to preheat the grill to 500 degree F, add the pizza and reduce to about 375. That should crisp the crust without burning.



 

Multi-Pot Electric Pressure Cooker: 4-Minute Potato Salad

Photo of yummy potato salad by JeffreyW, of course

At the last-minute yesterday, I decided we needed potato salad at our cookout. Luckily, electric pressure cooker to the rescue.  Four minutes cooking time, about 10 minutes prep. I left potatoes and eggs in the fridge to cool while we ran around. Added mayo, mustard, some dill pickle juice just before dinner and served with grilled hamburgers and corn. Yum.

Perfect Picnic Potato Salad

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • mayo and yellow mustard to taste – I used less than a cup of mayo and about 1/4 cup mustard – but I know some people like a lot more. I added a 1/4 cup of dill pickle juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the steaming basket to the pressure cooker. Add cubed potatoes (and you don’t need to be too fancy with cutting the pieces – just relatively same size for uniform cooking). Place washed eggs on top of the potatoes. Close the unit, set to steam for 4 minutes. When finished, use the rapid release method to ensure eggs don’t over cook and potatoes stay firm.

Add eggs to a cold water ice bath. Remove potatoes and drain excess water. Add to large serving bowl.  Peel eggs, wash and cube. Add to potatoes. Let cool completely before mixing so as not to turn the potatoes into mush.

Once cooled, add remaining ingredients and fold until well mixed.  Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 easily



 

New Smoker/Grill

I’ve been wanting one for a while. This week seemed like a good time (why, how would you celebrate your new book?).

It was easy to put together and a breeze to operate. It is electric and uses wood pellets. It has a flame feature so when you want to sear that steak, you can do so easily.  It has temperature settings and a great meat probe.

I’m not sure Bixby approves. He’s suspicious of anything bigger than him.

I’ve grilled chicken, hot dogs and Italian sausage. Tomorrow I’m having a get together and I’m doing Chicken Kebabs.

Looking forward to a lot of summer grilling and I might even try to smoke a brisket.

I’m going to have a house-full all next week and then I’ll be on the road for a while, but I’ll have my computer with me, so I’ll try and do a few posts. I’m sure there will be a lot of good food. I’m wanting to try and create a strawberry-lemonade cake.

Until then…



Dinner Menu: Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork, Pineapple Slaw and Lemon Tarts

Had company over on Friday and went all out on the menu

On the board:

  1. Pulled BBQ Pork Sandwiches
  2. Pineapple Slaw
  3. Waffle Fries w/special sauce (recipe here)
  4. Spinach Salad
  5. Lemon Tarts

Pulled BBQ Pork

I used the electric pressure cooker for this and it was great. I marinated the pork in apple cider vinegar and adobo seasoning overnight. I browned it in the pressure cooker, than cooked on high for 45 minutes, using the liquid from the marinade and enough water to come up to about 1/2 of the pork loin.

Once it was finished, I released the pressure, shredded the pork, added about 1/2 cup of Baby Rays Sweet and Spicy BBQ sauce and turned on the slow-cooker feature and let it sit uncovered for 2 hours until company arrived.

If you don’t have time for the slow-cooker, turn up the heat and let the liquid reduce by half before adding BBQ sauce.

Serve on toasted rolls with Pineapple Slaw 

Pineapple Slaw (pictured above)

I saw a similar recipe when looking for cooking times for the pork. And it was a great addition to the pulled pork sandwiches.

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (I used green, but you can use red or a Napa)
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, crushed
  • 1/2 apple, shredded
  • 4 green onions chopped (including greens)
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (opt)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Mix all ingredients together and let set for at least 2 hours for flavors to meld.

Lemon Tarts

When I was in Paris I was on the hunt for tarts – specifically lemon tarts and strawberry tarts. Strawberries were out of season, so I had to settle for raspberry. The lemon were by far my favorite. They had a shortbread tart (the raspberry ones were pastry) that worked well with the tart lemon filling.

Lemon cream filling

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter in the top of a double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Cool thoroughly before putting tarts together.

Okay, so all the recipes for lemon filling wanted a double-boiler.  I started with one, but after 5 minutes of stirring and not thickening, I changed over to a saucepan and whisked it for 5 minutes while it boiled and thickened and had no issues with it burning or sticking.  High altitude may have been the reason for my original troubles.  Water boils at a lower temperature here, so the double boiler may not have offered enough heat to thicken the sauce.

Shortbread Tart

  • 1 cup butter
  • ¬Ĺ cup sugar
  • 2 ¬Ĺ cups flour

baking sheet

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in flour and mix well, then knead for 3-5 minutes until dough forms a ball.

Press dough into mini-tart pans.¬†Prick each with a fork . Bake for 15-20 minutes at 300¬į¬† Cool thoroughly before assembling tart.

To assemble – add lemon filling to each cooled tart. Top with whipped cream and serve with crushed raspberries.

This made a lot of tarts, so I refrigerated half of everything and I’ll be making more for dinner guests later this week.



 

Multi-Pot Recipes: Cooking In Two Layers, Shredded BBQ Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

I’ve been using my multi-pot electric pressure cooker a lot. I’ve been making my standard pressure cooker recipes, including a delicious pot roast¬† (recipe here – although I’ve been using¬† whiskey instead of wine and really liking the flavor)

My multi-pot came with both a steamer tray and a steam basket. The former is so you can steam instead of boil your food and the latter so  you can cook two items at once. On a busy day, I may not cook fancy, but with a pressure cooker  you can put together a quick flavorful meal in a few minutes.

I thought it was time to give the steamer basket a try.

First up – the steamer tray. The one that came with the multi-pot is basically a wire rack. The one from my stove-top pressure cooker is a flat tray.

I wondered if it would fit and sure enough it did. So I started with that one, since I was more familiar with it. What I love about the steamer tray is you can infuse whatever you’re cooking with lots of flavor by placing a spice packet (I use unbleached coffee filters and string) under the tray, add just enough water to cover the tray and cook as usual.¬† Super flavorful when pressure cooked.

I made Chicken in BBQ sauce and mashed potatoes:

Shredded BBQ Chicken

  • 3 small boneless chicken breasts
  • salt & pepper
  • red wine vinegar
  • water
  • spice packet: rosemary, sage, garlic, oregano – crushed together and tied into a¬†flat spice packet to fit under the tray

Lightly salt and pepper chicken breasts. In the multi-pot add enough liquid (1/2 water and 1/2 red wine vinegar) to barely cover the tray. Add spice packet, steaming tray and then chicken breasts.

Now it’s time to add the potatoes in the steaming basket.

Mashed Potatoes

  • 4 potatoes (I like yukon gold, but any will do), washed and cut into eight pieces each)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place the steam basket into the multi-pot and add potatoes.

Now it’s time to attach the lid and cook according to directions – use the time for the longest cooking item, in this case the chicken (15 minutes vs. 10 minutes for the potatoes).

Once the cooker has depressurized, add potatoes to a large bowl to mash, heat milk and butter in microwave until butter is melted and add to potatoes. Mash and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm.

For the chicken, remove from the pressure cooker to a plate. Remove spice packet and liquid (I save the liquid and freeze for soup base). Shred chicken (I use two forks, pulling in opposite directions) and then add back into the multi-pot along with BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Rays – sweet & spicy – is my favorite) and turn the multi-pot to WARM. Let simmer until everything is heated through (a couple of minutes).

Serve with steamed buttered green beans for a quick evening meal.¬† It’s not fancy, but it’s also not fast food. ūüėČ

This technique can be used with many items – instead of BBQ you can skip the vinegar when cooking and then use the liquid, along with milk, butter and flour to make a quick gravy after the chicken has steamed. Shred the chicken, add to the gravy and serve over potatoes.

Use this two-tier technique with pot roast, ribs, pork roast… etc.

I think I’m going to try lemon juice, chicken and rice for my next concoction.

Note on steamer tray – I made my first batch of mashed potatoes without it and the potatoes were watery. The next batch I switched to the steamer tray and they were smooth and creamy. Lesson: steam whenever you can instead of boil.

For all the Multi-Pot recipes, bookmark this link.

Next Multi-Pot recipe will be Sesame Chicken. Until then…



 

Coconut Lemon Cake Revisited

I visited family for Easter and it seemed like a good time to make my Coconut Lemon Cake. It was a hit – though my niece would have preferred a less tangy lemon curd. I will admit, I made it super lemony because my brother and I both love lemon.

Here’s the original recipe.

I made a few changes.

For the cake, I substituted coconut oil for both the oil and butter. When I originally made the cake, I didn’t keep coconut oil in the house, now it’s a staple. This upped the coconut flavor in the cake itself.

For the lemon curd, I flipped the water/lemon juice amounts. Using 1 cup of lemon juice and only 1/2 cup water. This upped the tartness substantially, so be prepared!

For the layers – this time I cut down from 4 to 3, using pie pans for the cake pans. This made for a much sturdier cake without losing any of the flavor – especially with the super tart curd.

Nom-nom. I really could have eaten the entire cake myself.

I’m off to do more prep on the vegetable garden. I have a hoop and 6 wall of water, so I’m hoping to get a head start later this month.

Depending on how the harvest goes, I’m definitely going to get a vacuum sealer to make freezing veggies easier. I. Do. Not. Can.

Are you planning your garden, yet?



Multi-Pot Recipes: Beef and Barley Soup

Yummy photo by the great JeffreyW

I have used my Multi-Pot consistently for the last few weeks. I made two batches of soup, pulled pork, pasta sauce and two batches of rice. The first batch of rice I was all cocky and used the simple pressure cooker setting and my own time – because you know, I’m the Queen of Pressure Cooking¬†– well, that didn’t turn out very well. I mean, it was great sticky rice, but I was going for light and fluffy. So the next batch I used the Rice Button! I mean, come on, a pot you can just push RICE and 10 minutes later have fluffy rice – why was I fighting it??

The buttons on this brand are easy and intuitive to use. It does help that I’m familiar with what times work well with my stove top cooker and there are good resources in the booklets that came with the machine to help pick timing.

My first batch of soup was to make Beef with Barley Soup:

I used this recipe (click here). I was excited to try out the browning feature and the pressure cooking setting.

I quickly and easily sauteed the onions and browned the beef with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Then added the remainder of the ingredients, sealed it shut and turned it to the Meat/Stew setting and set it for 30 minutes.

It took it 10 minutes to come to pressure – which didn’t surprise me because I filled it to the highest mark allowed.

The soup was delicious РI could easily leave it on warm, open the lid and let sit and fill the house with yummy soup smells as long as I desired.  It was good and tasty. And clean up was a breeze Рjust tossed the insert into the dishwasher.

The one part of this electric pressure cooker that has been a learning curve for me is the quick -release method. I am so used to taking the pot over to the sink and running cold water over the top. With this, they say to just turn the pressure valve to open. Which sounds easy-peasy.  EXCEPT it spews greasy, starchy steam all over my kitchen cabinets.

The solution is fairly simple – I grabbed an old kitchen towel and cover the valve with that as it releases. Takes a bit longer, but no mess and no risk of a scary steam burn.

So for this recipe, I’d give the Multi-Pot a solid¬†A.

I know, I know I promised a puppy update…give me a few minutes. Until then…