Thursday, March 1, 2018

Instant Pot Sesame Chicken

This is one of my favorite go-to weekday lunches!  It's fast, easy, and full of flavor.  It also makes me nostalgic, because when I was pregnant, I used to crave Chinese food.  This dish doesn't rival an all-you-can eat Chinese buffet (I may have needed a few of those for each pregnancy!), but it comes close.

Instant Pot Sesame Chicken (adapted from this recipe)

2 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (I use four ounce chicken breasts from Schwan's, partially frozen)
1/2 C. coconut aminos or soy sauce
1/2 C.  honey
1/2 C. Water
2 T sesame oil
1/4 C. Tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic if desired
Red pepper flakes, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. Tapioca starch or cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 C. cold water
Sesame seeds for garnish if desired

Place chicken in instant pot liner and season with salt and pepper (I probably use about 1/4 teaspoon of each).  Whisk next five ingredients together and add garlic cloves and a few shakes of red pepper flakes if desired.  Pour sauce over chicken.  Place liner in instant pot and seal with the lid.  Set on manual high pressure to cook for 14 minutes.  (If your chicken breasts are very large or completely frozen, you may need to add a minute or two.  If your chicken is completely thawed, subtract a minute or two).  When the cooking time is complete, do a quick release.  Remove chicken to a pan, press "cancel" on the display and select "saute" function.  Add starch and water mixture to the liquid in the instant pot and stir.  It will take just a few minutes for the sauce to thicken up. After the sauce thickens, press "cancel" and then select the "keep warm" function.  Meanwhile, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Then add them back into the sauce.  Place the lid on top, and your meal is ready when you are.  When ready to serve, garnish with sesame seeds if desired.  Serve with cooked rice and an extra shake of red pepper flakes if you like a little kick!
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Our Favorite Granola Bars

I have made this recipe so many times that I have it memorized!  The kids love these granola bars, and they are relatively easy.  I have adapted the recipe to make a large batch so that it lasts at least a week in my house.  You can halve it for a 9 by 13 sized pan or quarter it for an 8 by 8.

Our Favorite Granola Bars (adapted from this recipe)

2 cups honey
3 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups quick oats
6 cups rice crispies or Cheerios or a combination of both
1/2 to 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, place in freezer preferably the night before (use Enjoy Life brand to keep dairy free)

Combine honey, peanut butter, and brown sugar in a large microwave--safe bowl or pitcher.  Microwave for two minutes, stir, then microwave 2 minutes again and stir to combine.  (My microwave is 900 watts, so you may need to adjust your microwave times.  You want a nice, consistent mixture with the sugar dissolved.).  Stir in vanilla.

While your mixture is microwaving, place oats, rice crispies, and/or Cheerios in a large bowl.  Spray a 15 by 10 inch pan with nonstick spray.

Pour peanut butter mixture into bowl and stir to combine.  This can take a little bit of time and elbow grease.

Next, pour it into prepared pan.  With greased hands or the bottom of a measuring cup, flatten it slightly.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  (Note: it's best to have these in the freezer beforehand to avoid having the chips melt as you are packing down the bars.) Continue to use hands or the back of a measuring cup to pack the bars down evenly.  You made need to spread the chocolate chips out a bit as you go to keep them well-distributed.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set up; then cut into bars.  I like to wrap them individually so they are ready to go for snacking, lunch boxes, etc.  However, Saran wrap can be such a pain to work with.  I have started laying out a long length of Saran wrap on my table or counter.  Then I place several granola bars, top-side down, on top of the Saran wrap.  I use a scissors to cut in between the bars and then wrap them up.  It works so better than trying to cut off individual squares of Saran wrap and wrapping them one at a time!

Hope you love these as much as we do!

Ready to mix.

Press slightly into pan before adding chocolate chips.

Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

Press down firmly with a flat measuring cup.  You may find that the chocolate chips start to melt slightly.  To combat this, have them in the freezer beforehand.

Lay out a long strip of Saran wrap on your table or counter.  Put bars, top side down, on top of Saran wrap.  Cut in between the bars with scissors and wrap up.  This technique is much faster than trying to wrap the bars individually.  I have to tell you, my husband saw me doing this and was impressed with my ingenuity!

Enjoy in lunches, for an afternoon snack, or whenever you need a little something to get you through to the next meal!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Creamy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes

So I kept seeing recipes on Pinterest using an Instant Pot.  I thought I didn't need one.  But, finally, this Christmas, I got one.  And. . . I love it!  I use it almost every day, and I'm wondering how I ever did without it.

If you are like some people that I know, you may have an Instant Pot sitting in your closet because you are intimidated to use it.  My advice--don't be!  Just pop that thing out and get cooking!  An easy recipe to start with would be hard boiled eggs.

One of the reasons I wanted the Instant Pot was because my friend Keara told me how easy mashed potatoes were to make in it.  My kiddos love mashed potatoes, and I make them fairly often.  However, I really dislike having the potatoes boiling on the stove and then having to drain them with little ones at my feet.  Enter the Instant Pot, and mashed potatoes are on the menu a lot more at our house!  Happy Mommy and happy kids!  Plus, you can make them an hour or so ahead, put the Instant Pot on "Keep Warm," and have the potatoes ready when the rest of your meal is.

I have been using my Instant Pot so much that my husband once jokingly asked if it would clean his boots.  I told him to use the "boot" setting!  At any rate, I made these mashed potatoes this morning (probably at least the fifth time since getting my Instant Pot), and I wanted to share the recipe.

Note:  this recipe is for the 8 quart capacity Instant Pot.  You may want to scale back slightly for the 6 quart size.  Also, my family likes really creamy mashed potatoes.  If you want yours thicker, just scale back a little on the milk.

Creamy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes (Adapted from this recipe)

5 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups plus 1/8 cup water
1 stick butter, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 1/4 cups milk, warmed

Place potatoes, water, and 6 tablespoons butter in your Instant Pot crock.  Put lid on and set to manual for 6 minutes.  Once it is done cooking, do a quick release of the pressure and remove the lid.  (I like to put the milk in the microwave at this time to warm so it will be ready when I need it.)  Add salt, pepper and cream cheese, and mix with a hand mixer or potato masher.  Add sour cream and continue to mix.  Add milk, about a half cup at a time, until desired creaminess is reached.  Place remaining two tablespoons butter on top (this is optional, but I love the way that the melted butter looks on top!)  Place lid back on and keep the Instant Pot on "Keep Warm" until ready to eat.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake

We love breakfast for supper at our house.  I like to make a large breakfast casserole, and then we have leftovers to eat for several days afterward.  This recipe is one of our favorites.  Use your food processor to shred the sweet potatoes, and it comes together quickly.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake

2 large or 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
8-10 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 - 1 pound sausage, cooked and crumbled  (make your own if you want one with no sugar added.  I like this recipe.)
1/2 cup coconut milk (or any other milk desired)
16 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 by 13 pan with coconut oil.  Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and add milk.  I like to use an immersion blender to mix these up.  Tip:  if you are using canned coconut milk, use the immersion blender first to mix up your coconut milk in a small glass pitcher.  Then add the half cup to the eggs and blend together.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir.  Pour into prepared pan.  You may have to spread the sweet potatoes around a bit to distribute evenly.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until eggs are done.  Let set 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tip:  To save time, use 4-5 precooked, frozen sausage patties.  Just microwave enough to thaw and then cut into small pieces.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hearty Beef Stew

So, I finally did it.  I got a picture of my beef stew so that I could get the recipe recorded on my blog.  Then when I went to edit it. . . wow! when you enlarge the image of your crock pot on your monitor, it doesn't look quite as great as you thought it did when you snapped the picture!  Alas, I am not a photographer.  In truth, a hurried snap on my phone is as good as you're going to get on this blog!  Please go ahead and try this recipe, though.  It really is delicious!

Please note:  this makes a large amount.  Be prepared to freeze some or halve the recipe if you don't have a large crew to feed like I do!  Also, I do not cook with onion as my husband cannot tolerate it.  By all means, add some onion if you like!

Hearty Beef Stew  (influenced by this recipe)

3 pounds stew meat
4 cups beef broth
6 oz. can tomato paste
3-4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
20 or so baby carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine in crock pot and cook on low for 8-9 hours.  Stir every now and again if possible.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cashew Beef Stir Fry

Last week I needed a quick meal to get on the table for lunch.  I found a recipe that I had pinned for Cashew Beef Stir Fry, and it fit the bill nicely.  I made enough modifications to the recipe that I decided to post it.  I will definitely be making this one again.  If you have your beef pre-cooked, it comes together in a jiffy.  Here's the recipe.

Cashew Beef Stir Fry (adapted from this recipe)

2 pounds hamburger, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow or red pepper, chopped
1/2 pound fresh or frozen asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I have a jar in the fridge!)
6 ounces coconut aminos (Use soy sauce if not paleo)
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (Use corn starch if not paleo)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup raw cashews
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste

In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.  Add the peppers, asparagus pieces, and garlic and cook until they begin to soften.  Next, add the beef, ginger, and coconut aminos and heat through.  Meanwhile,  toast  the cashews in a small skillet over medium heat for about five minutes or until browned and fragrant.  Mix the arrowroot powder with 1/4 cup water until smooth.  Pour into the beef mixture and heat until sauce begins to thicken.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the cashews.  Serve over rice if desired, and shake on some red pepper flakes if you like a little heat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have made a lot of different chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years, but these are by far my family's favorite!  I have made them so many times that I have the recipe memorized.  Recently, we were in Colorado at my husband's parents' vacation home, and of course we had the need for some homemade cookies.  They looked so pretty on the counter that I thought I'd better get a picture so that I could share the recipe here.

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, slightly softened  (see note)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 small box instant vanilla pudding (3.4 ounce size)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour (see note)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter, sugars, and pudding mix for 2-3 minutes in electric mixer.  Meanwhile, mix flour, baking soda, and salt if using.  Crack eggs into a separate container and add vanilla.  Add to butter mixture and mix until well incorporated.  Gradually add flour mixture--I add about 1/3 at a time.  Finally, mix in the chocolate chips.

Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop the cookies onto parchment-lined (or slightly greased) baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 11 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges.  Leave cookies on cookie sheet for five minutes or so before removing to rack or parchment paper to cool completely.

Note:  If your butter is very soft, you may need to chill the dough for a while before baking.  For high altitudes, add 1/4 cup flour.  Also, if the cookies spread more than you would like, increase the flour a bit the next time or chill dough a couple of hours before baking.  I like to scoop the dough into balls first and store in a container in the fridge.  When I'm ready for cookies, I simply place the dough on the cookie sheet and bake away!

Hope you enjoy this family favorite!

There are many different flavor variations for this recipe.  Please see this recipe for details!

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