Cooking with Mrs. Twist – The Instapot

New to the Instapot generation, I am just now sticking my toe into the water of the possiblities I can create in this magical vessel.  I purchased it last November during the Amazon black Friday sales and I’ve made maybe two recipes in it.  It was intimidating because most IP cookbooks just give you ingredients and basic instructions, but not how to work your machine.

Miss Bee gifted me with a fantastic book that I think may help me overcome my fears of “the machine.”  I am sure in about 10 years, the size of the Instapot as we know it today will be much smaller – kind of like the size of microwaves back in the 70s that were as big as Buicks and came on their own rolling cart. We gave one to Mother one year for Christmas. She cried.

Enter the book that is a must for your library — the Instapot Bible by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough authors of 32 cookbooks.  I like this book because they tell you how to work your Instapot in the first section of the book.  Each recipe has been tested in every authorized IP model.  So, there is no fear in when to do what – especially whether or not you should release the steam which seems to scare the beejeezas out of everyone who still has their IP in the box! They literally walk you through each and every step.  It’s foolproof.  You just need to know what size IP you have which will say in your owners manual or on the box.

Miss Bee selected three recipes for me to make and ALL THREE have been amazingly easy to prepare and delicious to eat.  So much so that she has asked for the chili mac at least twice and I’ve only started cooking from the book in the last few weeks.

Instapot Chili Mac – my IP has a saute feature (which I recommend you choose the pot that has the saute feature) so you can cook your ground meat and your onions in the IP without having to cook in two separate pans.  Once browned you dump everything into the IP, including uncooked pasta. 15 minutes later, and little mess, you have a giant pot of love topped with shredded cheese.

Next for a potluck at work, I made their Mac and Cheese. OMG.  This is so creamy and much better than the baked version because it doesn’t get dry or crunchy on top.  I used both white and orange sharp cheddar, but they suggest other varieties of cheese to use to change it up.

And here’s the IP Monkey Bread.  In my Facebook post I said I might just give up cinnamon rolls #myspiritanimal for this monkey bread.  Gooey, buttery and full of cinnamon goodness.  All I needed to buy was a can of biscuits, all the other ingredients were in my pantry.  This would be a perfect baked good to take to brunch or as a hostess or Christmas gift.  You prepare it in a springform pan, but I didn’t have a small enough one to fit down inside the IP, so I used a small bundt pan and it worked great.  I inverted it onto a pie plate once it was finished (hence the messy presentation in the photo).

I wish I could link to the recipes, but the authors don’t have a website to access recipes.  Amazon lists it for $15.72, but you could check with your local library and check it out first to see if you like it.  I know you will.

Let me know if you purchase the book and what you make!

Homemade Mango Salsa

I love this time of the year when produce is beginning to hit the stands and sprout in our own gardens.  We were a little late putting in our vegetable garden this year due to the late frost and rainy spring (I am definitely NOT complaining, because Texas heat is coming).  I look forward to our hot and sweet peppers making their appearance.  Be sure to check back to see our “Galvanized Garden” we are putting the finishing touches on thanks to my friends at Jabo’s Ace Hardware – my offical HWT blog sponsor. You can check out the first video we made on how to prepare for proper drainage in your containers on my Home with a Twist YouTube Channel hereBig favor — if you could please subscribe to my channel it allows me to have very own YouTube address for my blog rather than just a series of letters and numbers.

Anyway, since grilling season is also here, homemade savory and sweet salsas always make an apperance for dinner.  I love this recipe from My Turn for Us blog because it’s not too hot.  You could always add in heat, but if you like a milder salsa, this one packs its punch with fresh mango!

Ingredients
  • 1 Mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion. chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (I used 2)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • salt to taste
Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients, cover and chill in fridge until ready to serve
We served it with grilled salmon, but think fish or breakfast tacos, pork tenderloin and shrimp.  Oh, my.  Summer is coming folks!

Green Beans, Mushroom Soup and French’s Onions: The Famous Side Dish

Source: Southern Living magazine

This an interesting story from the Washington Post of Dorcas Reilly and her famous green bean casserole.  It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for Mr. and Miss Bee if I didn’t make her beloved side dish for them every holiday.

It started with a call from the Associated Press and a question: What’s a good recipe for a vegetable side dish that features common pantry products?

In 1955, the AP, like other newspapers and magazines of the time, was running a feature of an easy-to-make Campbell’s Soup side. The question came with a caveat: the recipe had to be built around green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, two items most Americans regularly had in their homes in the ’50s.

The request fell to the Campbell’s Soup Co. test kitchen in Camden, N.J., an arm of the company that focused on coming up with recipes for its products. Dorcas Reilly, a supervisor for Campbell’s home economics department, was tasked with leading her team to figure out what could be done. The group would test and grade recipes repeatedly. Only a perfect score would qualify it as ready to go. In November of that year, Reilly and her team settled on what would be first known as “the Green Bean Bake,” an easily adaptable six-ingredient recipe of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper and French fried onions that takes 10 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake.

“We worked in the kitchen with things that were most likely to be in most homes,” she told NPR in 2015. “It’s so easy. And it’s not an expensive thing to make, too.”

When Campbell’s started to put Reilly’s recipe on the cans of its cream of mushroom soup in 1960, the popularity of the dish hit new heights. More than 60 years since the dish was invented, green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving staple, with an estimated 20 million-plus American households expected to serve it this year, according to Campbell’s.

Throughout her life, Reilly, a culinary trail blazer during a time when women were often on the sidelines in corporate America, remained astonished at the success of a dish based on green beans and cream of mushroom soup, one referred to by Campbell’s as “the mother of all comfort foods.”

Best BBQ Baked Beans

baked beansJust in time for July 4th, this recipe for BBQ baked beans is a Southern Living recipe I’ve had in my file since 2007.  They are so good anytime, but especially when a cookout is in order.  I make mine in the crock pot so they can simmer on low for several hours.  But, you can also bake them in the oven if you are short on time.

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef (optional — I don’t include the meat when I make the beans)
10 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 (15-oz) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can of pork and beans, undrained
2 TBL molasses
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder

Cook onion, and if desired, ground beef in Dutch oven, stirring until meat crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.  Stir in bacon and remaining ingredients, and spoon into lightly greased 2 1/2 quart baking dish.  Chill for 8 hours, if desired.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, stirring once. (I usually cook them at 250 for a few hours if you have the time).

For the crock pot version, I saute the onion in olive oil on the stove, then dump everything into a greased crock pot and stir it all together.  I cook on low for several hours  stirring a few times during cooking.  I also double the recipe if I am serving for a crowd.

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil soup and grilled cheese are at the top of my best-of list.  Soup is a perfect dish for winter and when I found this recipe for Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup on Pinterest from Cafe Delites, I wanted to give it a try.

 

First, I always wash my vegetables with Thieves fruit and vegetable spray.  It’s all natural, filled with essential oils and smells amazing.  It’s really important to clean your vegetables thoroughly before you slice or eat them.

You roast the tomatoes and garlic in the oven first and it makes the house smell heavenly.

 

For step four I don’t have an immersion blender, so I ladled the soup in batches into my food processor to make it creamy.  I think you really need to blend the soup because otherwise you might be overwhelmed by the skins from the tomatoes.  It brought the ingredients to a creamier state perfect for dipping your sandwich.

For my grilled cheese I always use English toasting bread from the bakery and extra sharp cheddar cheese I slice from the block.  It just oozes deliciousness.

Plate it all up on the cutest soup and sandwich set from Sur la Table.  And, since the soup is red why not serve it for your Valentine on Wednesday!

Potluck Broccoli Salad

My sweet niece gave me a wonderful cookbook for Christmas – Love Welcome Serve:  Recipes that Gather and Give by Amy Nelson Hannon.  I swear I want to make everything in this book – every recipe sounds so delicious!

Starting with this recipe for Broccoli Salad.  Our neighbors had a get together for Super Bowl and I took this dish.  It transports well, makes enough for about 8-10 people and I think would be a perfect side salad with sandwiches, too.  Don’t be afraid of the mayonnaise and sugar addition; it makes the perfect sauce.

Ingredients:

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 large head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 cup cashews

Put the raisins in a small bowl and splash them with a few tablespoons of water.  Heat them in the microwave for about 15 seconds, stir them, and let them soak in the water so they’ll plump up and become tender.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.  In a medium bowl, toss together the broccoli, red onion, and cashews.  Drain the raisins and add them to the mix.  Stir in the mayonnaise sauce and coat everything well.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

 

Crock Pot Lasagna

Using my Crock Pot is one of my favorite ways to cook a weeknight meal. Pile all the ingredients into the pan, put the lid on, set the timer and when you get home it smells like dinner!  Here is an easy recipe from Eating on a Dime for Lazy Day Crock Pot Lasagna.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of frozen cheese ravioli (25 oz)
  • 1 lb of ground beef, browned
  • 3 cans of crushed tomatoes (14 or 15 oz each)
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon of Garlic Salt
  • 4 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large skillet brown the beef completely and drain off any remaining fat.
  2. Stir in all the cans of tomatoes, and seasonings.
  3. In a 6 quart crock pot, cover the bottom with some of the sauce.
  4. Then place a layer of ravioli across the bottom.
  5. Then place a layer of the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Continue this until all the meat sauce and the ravioli is used.
  7. You want to end with the meat sauce on top.
  8. Then top with the leftover mozzarella cheese and add the parmesan cheese on top (completely optional).
  9. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  10. Turn off and let it sit for about 15 minutes before you serve. Cut and serve.

Here it is in the Crock Pot after it was done.

I served it with a salad and probably would have also included garlic bread if I had remember to bake it.

Buzz over to my Pinterest board for more Crock Pot recipes.  Have a great week!

Vegetable Au Gratin

I found a delicious recipe from Buns in My Oven on Pinterest recently for a Summer Squash Gratin.  By definition “au gratin” is a dish sprinkled with bread crumbs or cheese, or both and then browned.  Mother used to make au gratin potatoes and scalloped potatoes.  I think these are a combination of those two comfort dishes.

I pinned the recipe here to my Pinterest vegetable board.  I added my own twist by including sweet potatoes and slightly more heavy cream for the added vegetable.

One of my favorite kitchen items, are these white, porcelain baking dishes from Sur la Table (they are on sale right now).  I have six different sizes from half to six quart and they nest together perfectly in the cabinet. White dishware is the perfect way to showcase your creations because the food is the star!

Ingredients:

1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium potato
1 medium sweet potato (I added this)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I increased it to one cup since I added the sweet potato)
4 ounces extra sharp white cheddar, grated (I used an entire package of Cracker Barrel)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the zucchini and yellow squash to between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Slice the potato into paper thin slices (I used a mandolin – be very careful).
Place all the sliced vegetables into a bowl and toss to mix them up (I didn’t do this, I just layered them one variety at a time)
Place a single layer of mixed vegetables in the bottom of a buttered 2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the cheese.
Repeat the layers twice more and pour the heavy cream over the top.
Cover the dish in foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
I served it with grilled salmon and it was perfect.  And Miss Bee enjoyed it, too!

Summer Salad: Avocado Lump Crab Salad

It feels like it’s 120 degrees in Texas during the months of July and August.  A cold salad for dinner is a great option to keep you and your house cool.  But sometimes I get tired of the usual “lettuce and tomato” cast of characters.  Sunday after a day by the pool we enjoyed this refreshing seafood salad.  It was perfectly filling.

I have had Gina Homolka’s SkinnyTaste recipe for Avocado and Lump Crab salad pinned on my Pinterest salad board for a while.  It is very easy to make and keeps in the refrigerator for next-day leftovers.

AVOCADO AND LUMP CRAB SALAD

  • 1 medium Hass avocado (about 5 oz avocado)
  • 4 oz lump crab meat
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt and fresh black pepper
  • 2 leaves butter lettuce (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine onion, lime juice, cilantro, tomato, olive oil, 1/8 tsp salt and fresh pepper, to taste.
  2. Add crab meat and gently toss.
  3. Cut the avocado open, remove pit and peel the skin or spoon the avocado out.
  4. Season with remaining 1/8 tsp salt and fill the avocado halves equally with crab salad.
  5. This makes 2 servings, place on two plates with lettuce if you wish and serve.

I chose to serve it along side some steamed shrimp, but you could nestle it on top of lettuce like she suggests.   Gina always lists the Smart Points and calories in her recipes, along with other nutritional information.  This serving is 5 SP, 178 calories and 9 carbs.

I have both of Gina’s cookbooks — the SkinnyTaste Cookbook and the Fast and Slow book.  Both have easy, doable recipes that are light on calories, but big on flavor.

How to Host A Fish Fry

We hosted our neighbors for a July 4th fish fry.  One of the smartest aspects of our outdoor kitchen is the gas burner we installed.  It’s perfect for cooking a big pot of beans, a shrimp boil or a fish fry.  And, the best part is that the odors of fish stay outdoors and don’t heat or smell up the house.

Mother taught me years ago how to fry catfish.  She’d mix up yellow cornmeal with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I also like to use Louisiana New Orleans Style breading mix.  It’s usually right by the butcher case and I pick up a bag every time I purchase fish.  It has all the same ingredients and it’s pre-measured.

I buy large catfish pieces and cut them into thirds when I get home.  It’s easier to fry small pieces and the fish cooks more evenly.  I rinse the fish and place it in a bowl with water and ice so it gets good and cold. This makes the batter adhere and helps coax the coating to get real crispy.  Set up a “dredging” station with your fish, a long dish of the breading mix and a plate to put your cooked fish on.  And, of course a cocktail.

I prefer to fry in a cast iron skillet.  Pour in canola oil and turn your burner on medium.  Wait until you can drop in a sprinkle of water and if it sizzles, your oil is ready.

Using a fork or your fingers, take a fish piece from the bowl of iced water and dredge into the cornmeal.  Keep turning the fish over and over until it’s good and coated.   Get three pieces ready then transfer them with tongs into your skillet.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Since I was cooking for a crowd, I turned the inside oven to 200 degrees and placed cooling racks onto cookie sheets.  After each batch of fish was ready, I placed them onto the cookie sheet and kept them warm in the oven until we were ready to eat.

After the fish was done I moved onto fried shrimp.  I like to start over with fresh oil because by the time you finish cooking all the catfish, the bottom of the pan has alot of cornmeal.  I always turn the fire off and with oven mits pour the hot grease into a large empty can. It will pop and sizzle so practice extreme caution.  Just make sure no one is around and you are careful and slow with this step.  Put your skillet back onto the burner, pour fresh oil in and turn the burner back on.

This recipe for fried shrimp is from Helen Corbitt via my friend Allison Fogle.  Allison’s mother used the same recipe and she shared it with me.  I will never fry shrimp any other way.  Period.

Mom’s Fried Shrimp

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 pound large shrimp (uncooked)

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt

36 saltines, smashed with the fingers

Beat the eggs and the milk.  Clean the shrimp and split down the back to butterfly.  Dip in the seasoned flour, then the egg and the milk, then in the smashed saltines.  Fry in deep fat (I use Canola) until golden brown.  It just takes a few minutes.  Serves 4.  I doubled the recipe for 10 people.

The saltine crackers create a crunching coating that is so delicious.  This could easily be a weeknight dinner it’s so easy to prepare.

I found cute “fish fry” newsprint waxed paper liners and red and white checked cardboard trays on Amazon to serve the fish on.

Everyone brought a side salad and we added hush puppies we cooked in the outdoor pizza oven.  Everything was set up buffet style and we sat on the patio at tables set with cloth linens, candles and seashells.  The warm, evening breeze was perfect as we sat around the table eating and laughing. It felt like we were on vacation at the shore.

We have the best group of neighbors and really enjoy spending time together.  It was the perfect way to celebrate not only love of our country, but love for each other.  It was a fun spin on the traditional outdoor cookout.

Have a blessed July 4th with family and friends!