Quarantine Cuisine

We have thirty more days ahead of operation #StayHome to stop the spread of Coronavirus. So for the month of April, I’ve challenged myself to creating as many meals as I can from my freezer and pantry, without a visit to the supermarket.

It’s particularly challenging because I prefer fresh foods over canned or frozen. I haven’t a garden, thanks to the deer who thought we planted vegetables just for them. But we fall into the vulnerable demographic and I’m determined to make this work.

I won’t post every meal, but as often as possible I will share the interesting (?) menus and dishes I develop. So who’s with me? It’ll be fun.

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Beef and Mushroom Stew

We love all meat yet try to limit our consumption of red meats. So I developed a recipe for beef stew that uses only half a pound of meat. By adding a pound of mushrooms, I boost the umami taste. I sneak in more vegetables, too.

This is a pressure cooker recipe that’s easily adapted to slow cooking. By using the pressure cooker, we get that cooked all day flavor in about half an hour.

Recipe

Beef and Mushroom Stew

Makes 4 one-cup servings

  • 1/2 pound beef (chuck or round works) cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced and cleaned
  • 1 cup broth + 1 Tbsp (reserved for slurry)
  • 2 tsp. Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 small red or gold potatoes, sliced or cubed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat cooker pot.
  • Add oil.
  • Generously salt and pepper the beef.
  • Brown the beef on all sides, then remove from pot and set aside.
  • Sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms 1 minute.
  • Add cup of broth, deglaze bottom of pot, and return the beef to the cooker.
  • Seal and cook under high pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare slurry by combining Worcestershire sauce, reserved broth, and cornstarch.
  • Remove pot from heat (or hit Cancel if using electric) and allow pressure to drop on its own.
  • Carefully open pot and add potatoes and carrots. Reseal.
  • Bring to pressure and cook 1 minute under pressure.
  • Remove from heat, allow pressure to drop 5 minutes on its own, then release remaining pressure.
  • Carefully open the cooker and check vegetables for doneness.
  • Stir slurry again right before adding it to the pot. Return to heat (or use sauté mode on electric models) just until sauce thickens.
  • Remove from heat immediately and check for seasonings. Add salt and pepper if needed and serve.
Beef and Mushroom Stew

Adding fresh chopped parsley before serving adds flavor. Unfortunately, I was out of parsley when I cooked this stew today. Next time …

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Mashed Potatoes for Two

If you think you can’t enjoy mashed potatoes without sacrificing your waistline or health, think again. For my Mashed Potatoes for Two, I use 1 pat of butter…real butter, no substitute. A pat of real butter is 1.5 tsp. or 50 calories. That’s 25 calories per serving. The butter adds plenty of flavor with a tiny amount of fat.

For my recipe you need only two russets, a pat of butter, salt/pepper, and a cup of water. The water goes into the pressure cooker. The peeled and halved potatoes go on a trivet above the water.

Pressure cook 15 minutes, allow pressure to drop 5 minutes on its own, then quick-release. Reserve the cooking liquid. Carefully remove the cooked potatoes to a bowl and add the butter to melt with the potatoes.

Using a fork, mash and stir the potatoes. Add a tablespoon or two of the starchy cooking water to loosen the mash. If mixture is still too stiff, add more of the cooking water. Season to taste.

That’s it. Potatoes boiled in water lose much of their flavor. By steaming potatoes above the water, you retain the natural flavor and nutrients. There’s no need to add anything beyond the small amounts of butter and cooking water for creamy mashed potatoes.

Add mashed potatoes to your Hasty, Tasty meals. Serve with fat free gravy, if desired.

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Hasty Tasty White Bean Chili

Looking for an easy post-holiday meal using leftover turkey or chicken? My friend Linda Young introduced me to a recipe on the can of Bush’s White Chili Beans called White Chicken Chili. I made a few changes and liked the result so here’s how I made a hastytasty chili from leftover turkey.

Thanks to Bush’s Beans for the original recipe and delicious White Chili Beans.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty White Bean Chili

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced cooked turkey
  • One yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. Canola, safflower, or any neutral tasting oil
  • 3 cans Bush’s White Chili Beans
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1 pint turkey or chicken broth (can, carton, or homemade)
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt to taste
  • (Optional) fresh cilantro
  • (Optional) grated cheese and/or sour cream for toppings

Directions:

  1. In a 4 quart pan, sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat.
  2. While onions sauté, purée the contents of one of the cans of Bush’s White Chili Beans.
  3. Add broth to the sautéed onions and deglaze the pot.
  4. Add puréed beans, Rotel, cream of chicken soup, 2 cans beans, and the cooked turkey.
  5. Cover and simmer over low heat 15 minutes.
  6. Add garlic powder and salt.
  7. Serve topped with your choice of toppings. I like fresh chopped cilantro and tortilla chips.

This recipe is easily adapted to slow cooking or pressure cooking.

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Pork Tenderloin—Hasty and Tasty

My grocer had pork tenderloins on sale this week buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO). Pork tenderloin, not to be confused with pork loin, is a lean and tender cut ideal for a Hasty Tasty Meal. It’s easily over cooked, which is why it’s crucial to distinguish tenderloin from loin. Yet it’s also difficult to pass up a BOGO, so I decided it was time to master pork tenderloin.

Baking or roasting pork tenderloin using a meat thermometer (internal temperature of 145°) is a foolproof cooking technique, yet I wanted to use my pressure cooker. Why? We’re campers and don’t travel with an oven or even a microwave oven. But I do have a 3 quart Instant Pot Duo Mini in my travel trailer. Even when “roughing it,” I like to prepare good meals.

I experimented with steaming the tenderloin on a trivet over the liquid as well as braising in the cooking liquid. I tried chicken broth, water, and apple juice for the cooking liquid. All techniques produced edible meat, but here’s my favorite and most successful recipe.

RECIPE

Hasty Tasty Pork Tenderloin Roast

Serves Four

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1.5 pound
  • 2 tsp. Canola oil or your choice vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1 apple (gala or Granny Smith works well), sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat multi cooker on sauté mode.
  2. When heated, add oil and brown all sides of the tenderloin.
  3. Remove tenderloin to a plate. Add fennel, apple, and onion to the pot and sauté approximately 5 minutes. Salt and pepper. Turn off heat.
  4. While vegetables sauté, use a sharp paring knife and make slits evenly throughout the meat to insert the garlic pieces.
  5. Pour water slowly into the pot. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pot of any cooked-on bits.
  6. Return tenderloin to the cooker and place atop the fennel, apple, and onion slices.
  7. Seal cooker and set pressure cooking time for zero minutes (or lowest time setting available).
  8. After cooking time completes, hit cancel. Do not allow cooker to “keep warm.” Allow pressure to drop on its own one minute and then vent.
  9. Open cooker, remove meat to a plate, and pour cooking liquid into a heavy duty blender (I use a Vitamix) to purée.* Return liquid to pot, and hit sauté.
  10. While liquid reduces, allow tenderloin to rest. Tent with foil to keep warm. After the cooking liquid boils down to desired thickness, turn off cooker and add butter. Salt and pepper sauce to taste. Slice the tenderloin and serve drizzled with the sauce.

Browned tenderloins cook quickly.

Whisk in butter right before serving.

Serve with sauce and side dishes of your choice.

*For a chunkier sauce, mash the cooked apple, fennel, and onion mixture with a potato masher.

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Another Pressure Cooker?

Yes, today I got the latest Instant Pot, the Duo Evo Plus. If you’re rolling your eyes and wondering why, read on.

If you own an Instant Pot, there’s no reason to upgrade, so relax. But if you’re in the market for a new one, check out this model because the Instant Pot company listened to all the feedback on what they could improve on their multi cookers and implemented suggestions into this model. Here’s what’s new and what I like:

  • Progress bar. No more guessing when the pot will pressurize.
  • Handles on the inner pot. No more awkward extractions with silicone mitts.
  • More cooking programs, although I still have flexibility to manually set time and pressure.
  • Spare gasket. I had to order spares for my other multi cookers.
  • Better venting. Reduces burn risk from steam during quick depressurization.
  • Flat bottom inner pot. If I want, I can transfer my inner pot to or from my stove.
  • It sterilizes. The sterilize function takes away the guesswork.
  • Everything but the outer housing is dishwasher safe. Everything.

I probably missed some improvement but give me time. It’s still new to me.

As of today, the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus is available only from Kohl’s or Williams and Sonoma, and preorder from Amazon.

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Product Review: NuWave Bravo XL Smart Oven

I watch cooking infomercials. I’m a sucker for new cooking gadgets. But my latest purchase, the NuWave Bravo XL Smart Oven, is the best of my purchases. (Full disclosure: I got mine through Amazon* because I wasn’t interested in the “free” premiums. But they’re a good deal if you don’t already have a pizza kit and a pressure cooker.)

I made room for the new oven by re-homing my 6 quart Power Air Fryer Oven to a friend. Much as I liked that product, I much prefer this one for five reasons:

  • It carries a one year warranty vs. a 60 day warranty.
  • It’s stainless steel instead of plastic.
  • It’s wider, accommodating much of my regular bake ware.
  • It’s more multi-functional, with 12 presets.
  • It has a built in temperature probe that automatically shuts off the oven when food reaches the desired temperature.

As an air fryer, it’s great. My first effort was frozen breaded shrimp and frozen crinkle fries. I did not spray with oil, as was suggested. After selecting Air Fry on the menu, I cooked the shrimp and fries ten minutes at 400°. We gave the meal a thumbs-up.

Air fryer shrimp and fries.

Next I baked frozen chicken breasts using the temperature probe. (I had to allow about 30 minutes thawing before I managed inserting the probe, so it works better with unfrozen food). It’s tricky cooking white meat poultry to a safe temperature without drying it out, which is why the temperature probe feature attracted me. When the oven shut off, the meat was perfectly cooked.

Cooking frozen chicken breast

I tried a frozen pizza (it fit!), toast, hash brown patties, burgers, and a dinner plate reheat (worked just like restaurants). I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this appliance can do. I’ve used my Pampered Chef stoneware, my stainless, and my NordicWare pans. If a pan is safe for a regular oven and fits, it can be used in the NuWave Bravo XL.

The capacity is one cubic feet, making it a bit larger than its closest competitor (and the competition carries only a 90 day warranty). Suffice it to say, I am sold on this oven and recommend it without reservation.

*NUWAVE BRAVO XL 1800-watt Air Fry Convection Oven with Flavor Infusion (FIT) Technology with Integrated Temperature Probe for Perfect Results; 12 Pre-Programmed Presets; 3 Fan Speeds; 5-Quartz Heating Elements

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IXBMS6M/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_fpUwDbZ9C945P

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