Monthly Archives: March 2006

Nutritious delicious beef stew in the pressure cooker

Okay, my husband says THIS is the keeper! I made variations of it before, but I think I am ready to present an actual recipe….

NOTE: Many pressure cooker recipes don’t clue you in that it can take 15-25 minutes to come to pressure and also that much time to come back down to “natural release” pressure after cooking. It all depends on how full the pressure cooker is. [Never fill a pressure cooker more than 2/3 full – unless the bulk of what is filling it is a watery veggie like cabbage, etc. ] Pressure cooking is still quicker than stove-top in most cases, but do incorporate the “up to pressure” and any “natural pressure release” into your cooking to serving schedule!

Okay, here is a great recipe:

around 3lbs chuck cut up in chunks – maybe 1 1/2 inch or so pieces, give or take.
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp or so olive oil
4 or 5 medium onions, halved and sliced thin – 1/8 inch or so
8-1o oz fresh sliced mushrooms
3 smallish carrots, diced (1/8 inch or so – not an exact science, here!)
1/2 cup red wine (can substitute apple juice in a pinch)
1 smallish butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1 1/2 or so inch chunks
1 cup stock (whatever – beef, chicken, veggie)
2 or 3 bay leaves, depending on size
thyme – about a tsp – to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and then brown the beef in the pressure cooker. Stir a lot at first – it sticks! About 6-8 minutes (or so) until all sides are browned. Remove beef and set aside.

Scrape up any bits from browning the beef and put onions in pressure cooker over medium heat and cover (just a regular cover, not with the total pressure cooker with gasket!), in between stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. (If it seems really dry, add a dash more olive oil) Then add diced carrots and sliced mushrooms and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Do this at least until onions are starting to turn brown, but not getting burnt.

Add the wine (or apple juice) and cook until the liquid reduces by half.

Add stock, butternut squash, bay leaves, and the browned beef and put pressure cooker cover on and heat on high until it comes to pressure. Reduce burner temperature to high medium or whatever keeps the pressure on high. High pressure for 15 minutes, then remove to a cold burner and let pressure reduce naturally. (Do not ever do a quick pressure release with beef! It will make the meat tough!) [Quick pressure release can be done by running the pressure cooker under cold water – a technique used in and useful for many recipes – but NOT for beef!]

Once the pressure has gone down and you can open the pressure cooker, stir to find and remove bay leaves and also to get the butternut squash to dissolve into the broth. Yes, the squash will just dissolve – no chunks will be left. This is my inadvertant invention when I wanted to use up some squash a time back when I was messing around with this recipe. The squash thickens the broth and adds all sorts of nutrients without being obvious.

If you are on a low-fat diet, you can strain the liquid and degrease it, and then add it back before doing the following.

Bring the stew to a slow simmer, and add thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for at least 5 minutes to let flavors meld. (If you used apple juice instead of wine, a bit of lemon juice and parsley will go well, in addition to or instead of the thyme)

This is a low carb recipe. I didn’t mean to create it as such, but, no potatoes, no rice, no flour or cornstarch, or even kudzo (!) to thicken it…it is low carb since the butternut squash thickens it. And, my “meat and potatoes” husband loves this beef stew. A keeper in our family, anyway!

working on upgrade of pork chops,rice, cream of mushroom

Well, nothing like starting a part-time job outside of the home to slow down blogging! I just finished my second week, so hopefully I am settling into my new schedule and will post more often again.

The other night, I made that old stand-by: pork chops baked on a bed of rice and cream of mushroom soup. My husband loves it – and it certainly qualifies as “comfort food” for all of us brought up in the 50s and 60s. Although, I suspect that it still makes frequent appearances at dinner tables. It is so easy! BUT – I am getting bored….

So far, this is what I do: four bone-in regular (versus thick-cut) pork chops. [on Manager’s Special sale at Shaw’s, of course!]

I always use bone-in chops for this.They add flavor, as well as entertainment at dinner for those who like to knaw on bones. 🙂

4 pork chops
3/4 cups long-grained rice
1 can Campbell’s Healthy Choice ™ cream of mushroom soup
1 cup water
3 medium carrots, chopped about an inch thick
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper

I mix the soup and water right in the casserole (9×12 or so), then add the rice and spread around, then the carrots and peas.

For the first time, I browned the chops first, first seasoning them with salt and fresh ground pepper. I think it made the chops more flavorful and more tender. The browning seals in flavor and moisture and helps keep the chops from being steamed versus roasted, I think.

Place the chops on the other stuff, and sprinkle with paprika. Then, cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. It can sit for a bit in a warm oven, too, if folks aren’t quite ready for dinner.

Fresh mushrooms are an option that I have used before. Cream of celery soup with the fresh mushrooms is good, too. BUT – I need some seasoning ideas… Perhaps a curry flavor?? Nah – that would be too weird a change for comfort food – that would be a whole new recipe sans cream of anything soup. Anyway – I’ll keep thinking on it. Be nice to spice it up a bit (so to speak).

Tonight I am doing roast chicken – butterflied and cooked at 500 degrees. I have about 2 1/2 lbs of yukon gold potatoes sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch tossed in 1 Tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper in the bottom of a broiler pan lined with oiled foil, with the chicken on the top part of the broiler pan – rubbed a bit of olive oil on the chicken, too and sprinkled with pepper. This recipe is courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The taters roast up basted in the fat from the chicken above it. VERY yummy! I am going to steam asparagus (on sale at Farmland til Sat 3/25) to accompany.

When butterflying the chicken, I cut the backbone out. I’m saving that to make chicken stock, along with the carcass of the rest of the chicken after it is consumed. Or, maybe I’ll do one stock with the carcass and use the uncooked backbone to supplement a veggie stock… Decisions, decisions!

Amazing pork roast

Well, it was worth the wait. I had a three lb boneless pork shoulder roast. the netted kind. Not on sale (unusual for me!) but it is an economical cut. Geez, maybe it was on sale. I know I paid just around $6 for it… Anyway…

The first time I prepared this sort of roast, I used a recipe from my Meat cookbook (see link of cookbook) that calls for browning the roast on all sides in olive oil, putting it in a covered casserole just big enough for it, pouring off the fat from the frying pan and adding white wine (or vermouth – I always keep that on hand) chicken stock, and maybe something else, bringing it to a boil and pouring it over the roast. BUT, I forgot! This recipe calls for 40, yes 40! peeled whole garlic cloves to be put in with the roast before pouring the liquid in. I did that last time and it was super. But this time:

I sliced a few apples and onions thinly, used a bigger covered casserole to accommodate the extra ingredients, and only put a few garlic cloves in before pouring the boiling liquid over the entire dish. Covered, let it slow roast at 350 for about 1 1/2 hours, and removed the roast and put the apples/onion mix in a saucepan. Hmmm, I let it cook down a bit. But I can’t remember if I added cornstarch to thicken… No, that was the cabbage and green bean side dish…

Along with very simple mashed potatoes (just a little butter, salt and pepper, and room temperature milk (creamier taters if the milk is warm or room temperature – I use evaporated milk that I keep in the fridge and thin it with hot water) I discovered a VERY COOL veggie dish.

So, I still had red cabbage in the fridge. And frozen french cut green beans…. I actually found a recipe for cabbage and green beans online! I really have to start getting these recipes up on another site to link to from here… But, if I remember correctly, it had a stock base with … dang. Some liquid base that also included vinegar…and cornstarch. Cook menstrum til thick, add the cabbage, and simmer for 1/2 an hour or so, then add the beans. Oh, now I remember…The recipe called for chicken bouillon and the reserved liquid from canned beans. I used chicken stock and some vegetable stock that I had on hand.

It was really good, and it well-complimented the apple/onion sauce that went over the pork.

Very delightful meal. Steve didn’t even complain about having it two nights in a row! definitely a keeper. Just scrumptious, as my dear friend Lori would say about a really tasty meal.

An aside – In conversation a month or so ago with my father-in-law, Grump mentioned proudly that his wife (sadly, now deceased) never served the same thing two nights in a row. Well…THAT explains my husband’s aversion to my following the way my mother cooked. You know – the roast on Sunday, same meal on Monday, and as many variations as she could think up for the following nights until all was used up! Luckily, I have adjusted – Steve will eat the night before’s leftovers for lunch. And, when it is something he REALLY likes, I can get away with just reheating for dinner the next evening. 🙂 Ah, the compromises of marriage!

Tonight – I got a good deal on New York Strip steak. Steve is always happy to grill, and I am making baked sweet potato “fries” and will steam some zucchini (to be served with melted butter with fresh lemon added as a very light sauce) to accompany. Why zucchini? Just happened to catch my eye at the store, today.

I’ll have an added challenge to meal preparation as of next week. I just got a very cool part-time job. Only Tues-Thursday and I’ll be home by 4:00 pm. But, sometimes I do start marinades earlier, and also start thinking about what to cook earlier (I work from home, otherwise) so I’ll have to do some additional pre-planning. Okay – this has gone on long enough!

quickie dinner

Tomorrow, a boneless pork shoulder roast (the netted kind). Didn’t get going on it soon enough this evening.
Tonight, I am using the last pound of frozen chicken tenders from Trader Joes. Defrosted them on the counter for about an hour then chopped them up while still a bit frozen.

sauteed garlic in the wok (used peanut oil tonight) then added thinly sliced carrots – julienned but not really thin – and cooked til pretty soft. Removed the carrots, cooked the chicken. In the meantime, I cooked 3/4 cup rice in 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (made that the other day with leftovers backbone and wings from a chicken I cut up, skinned, and froze)

Removed the chicken, wokked the rice for a bit to get it halfway to crunchy. Added frozen peas, then some chopped parsley. A sprinkling of tamari and toasted sesame oil, too.

Smells good – will soon find out if it tastes good!

nothing like “mouse-itis” to hamper cooking :(

I was going to make pea soup tonight. However, my “mouse” wrist is killing me. It is also my “chopping” wrist. Okay, time to seriously try the left hand for the mouse. And do sausage and pasta for dinner – with not many ingredients in the accompanying salad!

Arrrgh. Well, pea soup tomorrow, then. I am going to use ham hocks for the first time. I usually wait until I’ve cooked a bone-in ham, but my favorite brand (Cooks) is not on sale and we did have one within the past month. I’m kind of a ham snob. I don’t by the kind with “water added product” or whatever on the label.

I finally discovered that Farmland (my favorite local market in Wakefield MA) has a stash of ham hocks in their freezer section! Assuming they do the trick, that means not having to wait to cook up a ham to make really good pea soup. I just don’t like it as much unless the peas are cooked with a ham bone of some sort.

About ham – have you ever heard this definition of eternity? Two people and a ham. But, if you freeze leftovers for sandwiches and make a nice pea soup with the bone and scraps, it goes a lot more quickly!

Okay – time to visualize a happier wrist. If I can’t use the computer and can’t chop veggies, I’m in big trouble!