Friday, April 29, 2016

Apple Ginger Fizz Cocktail

Quite a while back, I sampled some Piehole Whiskey flavors and listed them in a holiday gift guide. Recently the company sent me more samples, so instead of sipping it over ice, I decided to start having fun with cocktails.

I decided to use the Apple Pie Whiskey (the other flavors are Pecan Pie and Cherry Pie). But what other flavors could I put in the cocktail? I had some ginger beer - the non-alcoholic type - and then I decided I needed a little extra sweetness to counter the spice of the ginger beer.

The result was pretty darned tasty.

Apple-Ginger Fizz

1 ounce Piehole Apple Pie Whiskey
1/2 ounce creme de cacao
Ginger beer, as needed

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add the whiskey and creme de cacao. Fill the glass with ice. Stir and serve.

I've received product from Piehole Whiskey several times. It's always tasty!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tropical Slushie

The weather here hasn't made up its mind yet. One day it's sunny and 70, and the next, we have predictions of snow flurries. I waffle between want to make soup and thinking about churning ice cream.

Summer isn't here, winter won't leave, and spring has completely let go of the rudder and is letting this seasonal ship lurch from one temperature range to another.

This cocktail reminds me of summer weather, beaches, tropics ... warm things. But that doesn't mean I have to drink it during warm weather - these flavors are welcome when there's a chill in the air, too. I mean, who doesn't want to think about summer when spring is threatening to spit snow at you?

Thanks to Smirnoff for continuing to support this blog.

Tropical Slushie
Makes 2 drinks

1 ripe banana
1 1/2 cups orange juice (or any orange/tropical blend)
3 ounces Smirnoff Sourced Pineapple flavor
1 generous cup ice

Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. The drink is likely to separate in layers as it sits, so portion it into two glasses before that happens. Serve with straws.

If you're into garnishing, a wheel of fresh orange or a skewer of fresh pineapple would be lovely.

Products and companies I love:
The FTC says that bloggers should disclose their relationship with companies, including when a blogger has purchased a product from a company where a previous relationship existed. I've worked with a lot of companies in a lot of different ways over the years, (some sponsored posts, and some products sent for review) and I continue to use - and buy - products from these companies because I like the products.

For this post, products from companies I have (or had) a relationship with are liquor from Smirnoff, Ball drinking jars, a Vitamix blender, Casabella ice cube trays, and straws from Bambu.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Grits with Corn Cob Stock

When I was a kid, I adored corn on the cob.

Okay, I still adore it. But when I was a kid, I'd eat the corn off the cob, then I'd roll the cob around in the leftover butter on the plate, and I'd suck on the cob like I was still eating corn off it it, but just sort of hoovering out the last bits of flavor.

Fine. Okay. I might still do that. When no one is looking.

I mean, really, do I have to admit all my bad habits?

The point I'm wanting to make is that there's a lot of good flavor in that cob. You can't eat it ... but you can use it.

Recently, I had the book Up South in my hands thanks to a cookbook exchange group I belong to, and one of the recommendations was to make "corn stock" from corn cobs and then use that stock to make grits. I didn't try it at the time because there was no fresh corn around.

It's still not close to corn season here, but there was fresh corn at one of the local grocery stores, so I figured I'd try this corn stock thing. I didn't follow the recipe in the book (it's since been passed to the next person in the group) but I figured it couldn't be all that hard to extract flavor from some cobs.

I don't know if it matters if you use raw or cooked cobs that you've cut the kernels off of. I had two of each. But it might be kind of ... not great if you used cobs that people gnawed the corn off of. Or just not great to think that you did that.

I also included a few of the inner green leaves from the corn. My mom always used a few of them when she boiled corn on the cob, so I figured I'd toss a few into my stock as well. If you think that's weird, just leave 'em out.

Grits with Fresh Corn Stock

4 corn cobs (after the kernels are removed)
4 inner light green corn leaves from cobs (optional)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup grits (not instant)

Put the corn cobs and corn leaves in your pressure cooker (I used my Instant Pot) and set to high pressure. Cook for 10 minutes, then let the pressure reduce naturally for at least 10 minutes before venting the remaining pressure.

Remove the cobs and the leaves. You're likely to have some bits of corn floating in the water. That's perfectly fine.

Add the salt and butter, then add the grits while whisking.

When the grits are added, put the lid on and set the Instant Pot to the Porridge setting, with a time of 20 minutes. If you don't have an Instant Pot, just set it for high pressure for 20 minutes. When the time is up, let it reduce pressure naturally for at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes if you get distracted. The longer you leave it, the softer and creamier the grits will be since they keep cooking during this time.

Vent any remaining pressure and remove the lid. The grits might look a little watery, but as you stir them, they'll thicken up. If you don't serve right away, they'll get even thicker, so you might need to add a bit of water if you're not quite ready for them.

If you have leftovers, refrigerate them. When you reheat you'll need to add water for sure.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Super-Simple Non-Dairy Rice Pudding #Sponsored

I'm a huge fan of rice pudding. It's one of my favorite desserts, and it's pretty simple to make, particularly if you take advantage of the quick-cooking time of a pressure cooker.

Since I prefer my rice pudding chilled, I still have to wait for it, but at least I'm not standing at the stove stirring or waiting for it to cook for hours using a slow method.

The one disadvantage to making rice pudding in a pressure cooker is that if you use a dairy milk, the milk can form a "skin" as it cools, and then you need to either remove the skin or break it up and stir it in, if you don't mind the texture.

I actually do mind the texture.

But I've found that non-dairy milks don't cause that skin to form. Even better, non-dairy creamers add richness and flavor and sweetness, so you don't have to add a lot of extra ingredients.

This time around, I used Silk Soy Creamer, but their other creamers would work just as well - and you get to choose flavors! I got my creamer at my local Safeway store, right near the rest of the coffee creamers. If it matters to you, Silk is enrolled in or verified by the Non GMO Project's Product Verification Program.

This post is sponsored as part of a promotion for Earth Month and "Every Cart Counts" where the sponsors will buy shoppers their cart of groceries when that cart contains one of the participating products. Wouldn't that be cool to get a whole cart of groceries for free? And particularly when that cart is filled with healthy and environmentally conscious foods, which is what this promotion is about.

Anyway, back to the rice pudding. It's a lovely dessert that tastes rich but is very cost-conscious. It's wonderful as-is, or you can garnish it with a bit of whipped topping and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Rice Pudding with Silk Creamer

1/4 cup arborio rice
1 cup Silk soy creamer
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in the pot of an electric pressure cooker. Stir to combine.

Set the pressure cooker for low pressure and the timer for 15 minutes. When the time is up, let it rest for an additional 15 minutes before venting any remaining pressure.

Open the lid and stir. It might look watery at first, but the rice will plump and absorb more water after the pressure is released. It will also thicken a bit as it cools.

Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until well chilled. Serve in pretty bowl. Top with a dollop of whipped topping if desired, and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg, if you like.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Albertsons Safeway. The opinions and text are all mine.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Three-ingredient blue cheese dressing

Blue cheese dressing seems so fancy, but it's really pretty simple. The flavor is mostly from the cheese, so you want to let that shine.

This dressing has only three ingredients, and it takes just a few minutes to prepare. I think the flavor is better after it's been refrigerated for a while - the blue cheese flavor seems to infuse the creamy dressing rather than just being bits of blue. But it's not a bad thing that it improves with age. If you're making this for a party or event, you can make it the day before, so it's one less thing to do on party day.

I was tempted to add herbs or other flavorings to this - a pinch of hot pepper or perhaps some other spice. But then I realized that additions would just take away from the blue cheese flavor. And if I wanted something else, I could simply add those flavors to my salad. Some fresh chopped parsley, perhaps?

You can make this as smooth or as chunky as you like. Just blend longer for a smoother dressing. But I do like the little pops of blue cheese, so I left it a little bit lumpy. The dressing gets thicker when you refrigerate, and the thickness depends a little on how this your Greek yogurt is. If it's too thick, just mix in some milk or buttermilk to thin it - or you could even add water to thin it. Or, you can leave it thick and use it as a dip for vegetables.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise mayonnaise
4 ounces blue cheese, cut into chunks

Blend the yogurt and mayonnaise in your blender until combined. (You could also do this in a food processor, or by hand, but a blender makes it sooo easy.)

Add the blue cheese and pulse until the blue cheese is in bits as small as you like. Or keep blending until it's smooth, if that's what you prefer.

Taste and add salt or pepper, if desired. I liked it the way it was, but, hey, it's your taste buds you need to please.

Transfer to a container and refrigerate until needed.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pressure Cooker Cream of Tomato Rice Soup

I've been on a tomato kick lately. Seems like everything I make has tomatoes in it - fresh tomatoes in salad, tomato sauce in a side dish, diced tomatoes in something else. I've been craving pasta with tomato sauce, but haven't made it yet.

So, when I made some baby back ribs by starting them in my Instant Pot, I saved the resulting broth and decided I should use it to make soup. Pork stock and pork broth don't seem to be very common, but my mom ALWAYS started her tomato soup with pork stock.

So, of course ...

I made tomato soup.

In the Instant Pot.

It was sooooo easy, it was ridiculous. I mean, I'm used to soups that simmer forever on the stove, but this was done in no time. Even the rice.

You might wonder why I use evaporated milk in this recipe. There are actually two reasons. First, it's thicker and creamier than if I used regular milk. More milk, less water, basically. Second, it's less likely to curdle than regular milk.

If the milk does curdle, it's not going to kill you. It doesn't actually taste much different. But you end up with little tiny milk bits that give the soup a less-smooth texture.

Curdling happens because you're mixing milk with an acid. It's what you do on purpose when you're making something like lemon cheese or a fresh farmer's style cheese. But it's not what you want to happen when you're making tomato soup.

Make sure you're using evaporated milk, and not sweetened condensed. If you use sweetened condensed, this will probably be awful. And then you will hate me and send me strange emails about your weirdly sweet inedible soup.

Pressure Cooker Cream of Tomato Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled diced
1 teaspoon salt (to taste - consider whether your stock is salty or not)
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut in thin coins
1 quart stock*
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (tomato puree is also good)
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1/4 cup long-grain rice (I like jasmine rice)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk (NOT CONDENSED!)
Fresh herbs, for garnish (optional)

*I like pork stock for tomato soup, but chicken or vegetable stock is fine - homemade or your favorite store bought. In a pinch, you can use water.

Melt butter on saute setting in the Instant Pot (or other brand of electric pressure cooker). Add the onion as soon as you have it diced. Add the salt. Cook, stirring once in a while. Add the carrots as soon as you have them sliced. Continue cooking until the onions are softened and no longer have their harsh flavor.

Add the stock, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine. Sprinkle the rice on top. Close the Instant Pot and set for high pressure, 15 minutes.

When the time is up, release the pressure. It will be boiling furiously. Let it cool down a bit, then pour in the evaporated milk slowly, while constantly stirring the soup. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if desired.

Garnish with some thinly sliced basil leaves, or other fresh herbs of your choice, if desired.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs

Mmmm. Ribs, potato salad, and asparagus!
Way back in the stone age, when I was a mere youngster, my mom always boiled pork ribs before slathering them with sauce and finishing them in the oven. I know, the horror of it all.

But ... it's the best we could do. There was no back yard or barbecue grill or smoker. There were pots and ribs and an oven, though.

If I have to admit it, those ribs were pretty good. Obviously, they weren't smoked. But they were tender and juicy and saucy and just fine. And since I'm being honest here, I've had smoked ribs that weren't great.

After a few people told me how great the Instant Pot was for cooking ribs, I decided to give it a go. I mean, why not? I looked online and found tons of recipes. A few proclaimed that the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender. Which is fine if you want them that way. Me, I prefer a little more toothsomeness. Yes, I want them tender. But I don't want them totally falling apart if you give them a strong glance. I want them to have a little fight left.

I'm happy with the result I got. I would have been happier if I had a working broiler or a normal oven to finish the ribs. But for ribs that never saw a grill or smoker - I sure as heck can't complain.

And, yes, of course you could use a different brand of pressure cooker. There are plenty to choose from.

Pressure-Cooked, Oven-Finished Babyback Ribs

1 or two slabs of baby back ribs
Water, as needed
Apple cider vinegar, optional
Salt, optional

Put your ribs in your pressure cooker. I sort of coiled mine up so they were sitting on the protruding bone ends. I'm sure they'd be fine cut and stacked as well. Add about an inch of water to the pot along with a splash of apple cider vinegar (optional) and a pinch of salt (also optional).

Put the cover on the pressure cooker, set it to the seal rather than vent, and set the cooking time for 15 minutes at high pressure.

When the time is up, turn the pressure cooker off and let the ribs rest for 15 minutes before venting any remaining steam.

Stick a fork in a rib to test the tenderness. If you need to cook a little longer for your preferred tenderness, do so, and make note of how long you like your ribs cooked for the next time you make them. At 15 minutes plus the resting time, my ribs were fork tender, but not soft.

Remove the ribs from the cooker, place them meat-side up on a baking sheet (line it with foil for easy cleanup) and slather with your favorite sauce.

Heat your oven to 250 degrees and put the ribs in. Cook for another 30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and grabbed onto the ribs. Cook longer or less, if you like. Or slather with sauce and just put them under your broiler for a few minutes.

Serve hot with more sauce on the side. Because more sauce is never a bad thing.

I received my Instant Pot at no cost to create a blog post for 37 Cooks, but my obligation to them is loooong over. I'm just having fun now.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Creamy Goat Cheese and Chive Grits

I totally love grits. It's become sort of a joke in the cookbook-swap group that I belong to - if there's a grits recipe in one of the books, I'm probably going to make it.

When I got The Up South Cookbook by Nicole A. Taylor, I was happy to see that there were several grits recipes to choose from.

Or, actually, I made two of them. The first one had cheddar cheese and blue cheese mixed in. That was really good with the hint of blue cheese. But the interesting thing about that recipe was that it used corn stock - basically corn cobs simmered to make a corn-only vegetable stock.

At this time of year, I don't have fresh corn hanging around, so I used a basic vegetable stock. But when fresh corn is in abundance, I'm going to make corn stock for sure.

So anyway, the next grits recipe that struck my fancy was one that called for goat cheese and chives. The flavors sounded good, so I decided to make it. The first time ... the goat cheese I had on hand seemed a bit off. I ended up making grits with feta cheese instead. It was good, but not particularly pretty.

So I bought goat cheese. I had chives growing, so I harvested a nice handful.

And then I decided to make the grits in my Instant Pot. Why, yes, I might be getting addicted to that thing. I'm having a blast creating and adapting recipes for it. And it's nice to be able to have food done quickly.

These grits are super creamy. Probably the creamiest I've made since a slow cooker grits recipe or maybe the Tyler Florence grits recipe that included actual cream. But this one was faster and easier than either one, and required no stirring.

Right out of the pot, these were super-creamy and loose. Just like any other grits, they got a bit solid when refrigerated. This is great if you want to fry the grits, but I like them soft. That softness and looseness can be adjusted by adding more liquid (water or milk are my usual choices) as you reheat.

Creamy Grits with Goat Cheese and Chives
Adapted from The Up South Cookbook (Baked Grits and Fresh Chives) by Nicole A. Taylor

4 cups water
1 teaspoon Better Than Bullion vegetable or chicken stock concentrate
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarse grits
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Put the water, stock concentrate, salt, grits, butter, and pepper in the Instant Pot. Give it a stir. Place the lid on, make sure the knob is set for sealing, and push the porridge button. Make sure it's set for 20 minutes.

When the time is up, let the cooker stay on the "keep warm" setting for 15 minutes before turning the machine off and releasing any remaining steam.

Remove the cover and stir or whisk the grits. They will look a little watery, but they'll be nice and creamy after you stir. Add the goat cheese and stir until the cheese is melted into the grits. Add the chives and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.


The recipe in the book calls for baking the grits in ramekins with an egg on top, until the egg is cooked. You could also serve the grits with a fried or poached egg on top. Or just serve them plain.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Super-Simple (and really fast!) Oxtails

Okay, fine. If you don't like oxtails, just look away. I happen to love them. My mom made them often when I was a kid, and I couldn't get enough of them.

They do look sort of ... dangerous and prehistoric and caveman-like, though. Which, I guess, is part of their appeal.

And there's really no delicate way to eat them. Sure, you can try to go at them with a fork and knife like a civilized person. I start that way with the larger pieces. But when I always end up picking up the bones and ... well ... slurping the rest of the meat off.

I guess I'm really not that civilized, despite living in a well-equipped cave.

Speaking of well-equipped, the latest toy to show up in my kitchen is the Instant Pot DUO 60. I got this little charmer through 37 Cooks, a group blog I belong to. I already had a pressure cooker (okay, fine. I have several), but I'd heard so many people swooning over the Instant Pot, I knew I had to give it a try.

The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker and slow cooker, but it's got some special features as well that make it a little more foolproof for the average cook.

Like the buttons that are pre-sets for particular types of foods. No need to look up how long it takes to cook those basic items - you just press the button.

Or, if you want to cook something using your own recipe and timing, you just choose the manual function. Or sear. Or slow cook or warm. Or steam. Or whatever.

Did I mention that it has a lot of options?

It's no wonder people are crazy about this appliance. It does a lot.

Since the whole point of an Instant Pot is to make dinner fast and easy, I decided to create a super-easy recipe. I used a little cheat - a jar of sofrito. While in theory you can make your own sofrito, the one in a jar has a spice that I've never seen anywhere - culantro.

Nope, that's not a misspelling of cilantro. It's a different herb. It's sort of like cilantro, but it's not. Just like marjoram isn't oregano.

Oxtails with Sofrito

3 pounds oxtails, trimmed of excess fat
1 onion, diced
1 12-ounce jar Goya sofrito

1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Place all ingredients in your Instant Pot. Put the cover on and make sure the knob is set for sealing and not for venting.

Press the "meat/stew" button and make sure it's set for 50 minutes.

When the time is up, turn the cooker off (or, if your Instant Pot has the feature, you could simply set it ahead of time to not go to the warm setting) and wait 15 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure.

Serve immediately (skim off any excess fat on top of the sauce, if there's a lot) or transfer to storage containers and refrigerate. I like stewed meats best if they've been chilled and reheated, but it's up to you. If you refrigerate, the fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easier to remove. Just pull that off, reheat, and serve.

I served these with polenta, but they'd be great with rice, potatoes, or noodles to sop up all the extra sauce.

I received the Instant Pot through 37 Cooks at no cost to me.

You can follow Instant Pot on Twitter or Facebook. Want to chat with other Instant Pot users? There's a very lively Facebook group dedicated to the pot! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Vegetable Soup - Easy to make vegetarian or vegan!

It seems like every time I get a new gadget, I make a million recipes in it. When I got my Vitamix, I had smoothies every morning for breakfast. And maybe for lunch. And blended cocktails. And  ... well, all sorts of blended things.

I didn't post a lot of recipes because, well, it was smoothies. Lots of bananas disappeared, but I wasn't being particularly creative.

Now that I have an Instant Pot, I'm having fun pressing buttons and seeing what it can do. One night, I was thinking about soup. I had chicken stock, canned tomatoes, fresh vegetables. It was 10:34 and I seriously wanted to make the soup that late at night. But then I decided it would be just as easy to make the soup the next day for lunch.

So that's what I did.

To make this soup vegetarian, simply swap in a vegetable stock for the chicken stock. To make it vegan, omit the butter or use olive oil instead. It might sound a little odd to add butter or oil to a soup, but this soup has no meat that would normally provide fat. It's not necessary, but it adds a little bit of richness.

The mild Hatch chilis don't add heat to the soup - if you prefer a spicy soup, use hot chilis. Or you can pass hot sauce or sriracha at the table for those who like it hot.

Vegetable Soup

1 quart chicken stock (I use Kitchen Basics if I don't have homemade)
2 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
1 14.75-ounce can creamed corn (or corn kernels, your choice)
1 4-ounce can mild diced Hatch chilis
1 cup sliced carrots (about 3)
1 cup sliced celery stalks (about 3)
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup jasmine rice
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in the Instant Pot and give it a little stir. Set on "soup" setting and turn time to 12 minutes. When the time is up, release the pressure. Serve hot.

I received the Instant Pot though 37 Cooks in order to create a post on that site. I'm not obligated to continue posting about it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Very vanilla rice pudding under pressure

I'm a huge fan of rice pudding, and I keep fiddling around with recipes. This one is vaguely based on another one I made recently. And that recipe was based on a recipe in the Great Big Pressure Cooker Book.

I totally love that book. The best thing about it is that it gives you variations for both electric and stovetop cookers. I happen to have both types of cookers.

Sometimes I even use both pressure cookers for different things at the same time. It happens.

So, anyway, I loved that original rice pudding recipe and made it several times. But this time I decided to switch it up a bit to make it a little, um ... looser. Creamier. And since the Instant Pot has a button labeled "porridge" I decided to use that to cook the rice. Hey, might as well make it easy, right?

Very Vanilla Rice Pudding (Instant Pot recipe)

1/2 cup arborio rice
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (you can use less. I'm a vanilla fiend)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg

Put the rice, milk, sugar, water, vanilla extract, and salt in the Instant Pot. Put the lid on and make sure the knob is set for sealing rather than venting.

Press the "porridge" button and make sure it's set for 20 minutes. When the time is up, let it sit at the "keep warm" setting for 30 minutes, then turn off the machine and turn the knob to vent any remaining steam. Remove the cover.

Whisk the egg in a bowl. Add small ladles full of the hot rice pudding to the egg, stirring constantly. When you've added about a cup of the rice pudding to the egg and the mixture is warm, pour the egg mixture back into the Instant Pot, stirring as you add it.

Turn the Instant Pot to the saute setting and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Don't let it boil. Transfer to a storage container and allow it to cool a bit, then refrigerate.

Serve chilled with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired. A dollop of whipped cream is nice, too. Just sayin.

I received the Instant Pot through 37 Cooks for a post on the group blog. I am not obligated to continue posting about it on my blog. I'm just having fun.