Today, we make a long overdue return to Double-Decker Dinners! This pressure-cooker recipe theme is all about finding the right combination of foods that compliment each other to round out a satisfying meal, and also happen to harmoniously take the same amount of time to cook together in my Instant Pot. This challenge never fails to pique my culinary imagination, so stay tuned – more experiments are in the works.Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Chicken Marsala + Parmesan Polenta”
Bonjour, my friends. To begin this month’s pressure-cooking extravaganza (Insta-Pot-tober??), let’s kick off with something special: it’s French, it’s fancy, and it’s a double-decker one-pot wonder:
Layer 1 is the classic French braise featuring chicken, bacon, wine, vegetables & mushrooms: coq au vin. (ooh la la!)
Layer 2 is a basket full of quartered potatoes and whole garlic cloves, which happen to steam to mashable perfection in the same pressure-cooking time as your main course. (sacre bleu!!)
“#1. Make a Lot of Soup”
This was the first directive scribbled to myself on a note titled “Foodprep Strategy,” a deliberate attempt at eating well and staying sane in this time of post-moving–new-life-upheaval. New year, new city, new kitchen, new climate, new grocery stores, new work-from-home transition, all around brand new routine.
In my disoriented state, emerging from a maze of cardboard boxes to hit the ground running as Dinner Captain once again, I turned to soup. Nourishing, crowd-pleasing, inexpensive, efficient to cook in large batches, quick to reheat, and warming for cold bellies… soup has been serving me well.
I’ve never competed in a chili cook-off, but if I did, this is the contender I would bring to the ring.
Since spying the recipe in an issue of Cooking Light years ago, it’s been a go-to for me and for Grant. I have to give him credit, as he’s taken the recipe on as his specialty – he really makes a mean pot of chili! And as much as I love to cook, there’s something extra-tasty about a home-cooked meal where somebody else does the home-cooking, am I right?
I was surprised to see mixed reviews on the magazine’s recipe post (different strokes for different folks, I guess!) but it’s my all-time favorite and makes an appearance on our dinner table several times every year (that’s a lot for a variety-junkie like me).
This chili has exceptional depth and richness from bitter unsweetened chocolate and smokin’ hot chipotle peppers. I make just a couple of tweaks from the original recipe: most notably, I cut back on the brown sugar (you could cut it out entirely, but I find that just a bit helps balance the heat and round out the tomato flavor) and I add a splash of vinegar at the end for brightness. I also prefer my chili with kidney beans over pintos, and usually only add a single can (but it can certainly accommodate another if you like it bean-ier).
In the recipe below I’m sharing my adaptations and instructions for cooking under pressure (in my case, with Instant Pot). If you’re not on board with pressure cooking, no sweat – we’ve made it plenty of times on the stovetop in a dutch oven before embracing the energy-efficient and flavor-concentrating qualities of my favorite electric pressure cooker.
I believe Instant Pot’s “chili” mode is set at 30 minutes, but for this recipe I’m satisfied with a quicker cooking time of 10 minutes using manual mode.
The beautiful thing about home cooking is that you can make it exactly how you like it – so cook it, tweak it, make it your own!
Most of the time, I love to cook. But some nights, I wish dinner would just cook itself.
Thankfully, I finally figured out the solution to my problem. And knowing myself, I really shouldn’t be surprised that it involves Instant Pot, my loyal kitchen companion. I’ve learned that with the magic of pressure-cooking, I can effortlessly cook chicken breasts from frozen. Yes, STRAIGHT FROM THE FREEZER! Each pound yields enough shredded meat for dinner + leftovers for 2. The chicken steams itself into tender, moist perfection with the help of whatever flavorful liquid your heart desires. Along with the rest of my Instant Pot recipes, it’s really been a game-changer for my weeknight cooking. If you’re a fellow pressure-cooking devotee, read on for the simple steps!
Start with about a pound of frozen chicken breasts. It’s difficult to tell, but this photo actually shows a single very large breast that weighs a full pound. Optimal cooking time is affected by the size of your chicken breasts (more on that later).
Then decide what you’d like your chicken to taste like. You’ll want 1/2 cup of something tasty, and 1/2 cup of water to dilute. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and I’ll share some of my favorite combos below, but for this example I’m keeping it simple: storebought salsa!
After you mix in the water to make a full cup of liquid, pour it over the chicken in your pressure cooker. Close the lid and set the cooking time based on the size of your poultry portions. On the low end of the spectrum, small 4-6 oz. portions of frozen chicken cook through in about 15 minutes, while the large 16 oz. cut above needs 30 minutes; if your portions fall somewhere in the middle, adjust accordingly. I’ve used both the manual setting and poultry program on Instant Pot, and have not observed any real difference in the results.
After the cook time is up, let the pot rest for 10 minutes to naturally release pressure before opening the lid and and removing the chicken to shred it. If by chance you find that your chicken is undercooked, never fear – just shred it as best you can and return it to the pot with Slow Cooker or Saute mode turned on until it’s cooked through.
And tada! It really is that easy. This is a glimpse at the finished product from my post on Chimichurri in a Hurry.
On weeknights, I throw the chicken and sauce into the cooker, and then begin my relaxed 30-minute countdown/meditation of figuring out what else is going into our dinner. I might be reheating leftover brown rice and chopping up fixin’s to top burrito bowls, or I might be toasting buns and tossing a side salad, or whatever else sounds good in the moment!
Or on weekends, I can take a couple of minutes while I’m at home to cook up some healthy protein that I can bank on later in the week. For example, the salsa Insta-Chicken from these photos later went on to play a starring role in a killer taco pie / enchilada bake (you can thank fellow RD blogger at Fearless Flying Kitchen for the recipe).
And the real beauty of this technique: endless flavor possibilities. Variety is the spice of life, of course! Starting with the easy Mexican chicken we walked through in the photos, here are 5 of my favorite flavor combinations that I’ve tried so far:
Simple Salsa: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
BBQ: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce + a splash of apple cider vinegar for extra tang
Teriyaki: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup soy sauce + 1/4 cup orange juice + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar + a squirt of sriracha
Cuban Mojo: 1/2 cup water + 1/3 cup orange juice + juice from 1/2 lime + 1-2 cloves of minced garlic + 1/2 tsp. cumin + salt/pepper
Spicy Korean: 1/2 cup water + 2 Tbsp. gochujang + 2 Tbsp. honey + 2 Tbsp. soy sauce + 1 Tbsp. sesame oil + 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
OK, I lied: I can’t stop at 5! I’m going to continue to update this post with more simple sauces whenever I try one that strikes my fancy. Fellow experimenters, I’d LOVE to hear about your successes in the comments!
Honey Dijon: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup whole grain mustard + 1/4 cup honey + hot sauce (if desired)
Lemon Garlic Herb: 1/2 cup water + juice from 1/2 lemon + 2 cloves minced garlic + 1/2 tsp. dried basil + salt/pepper
Jamaican Jerk: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup molasses + 2 Tbsp. lime juice + 2 Tbsp. orange juice + generous sprinkles of dried thyme/allspice/salt to taste + a handful of fresh sliced garlic and ginger (and hot peppers if desired)
Chile Verde: one 10-oz. can green enchilada sauce (no need to dilute with water)
Thai Curry: 1 cup canned coconut milk + 1-2 Tbsp. Thai curry paste of your choice (no need to dilute with water)
If you’re looking for more healthy + delicious food to cook up in your Instant Pot, check out my other recipes here!
And that’s what this project is really all about: eating well. Life gets crazy and complicated, but it’s so important to make it a priority to take care of our well-being. If I’ve helped even one person to feed themselves good food with a minimum of stress and a maximum of flavor, I consider that a win.
For our last venture into effortlessly balanced one-pan meals, we’re going Greek! This wholesome meal is built on fresh veggies and lean protein, and made irresistible with savory Mediterranean-style flavors. If you’ve already been tuning in for this series, I’m sure you’ve got the hang of this method by now. But let’s take one last time to break down exactly how simple this is…
This year’s theme is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” and I’m celebrating by biting into an exciting new series of recipes inspired by USDA’s MyPlate. I’m a big fan of the simplicity of this food icon, designed to make it easy to build a healthier diet, one plate at a time. If you ask me, striving to make your plates look more like MyPlate (with half of the real estate covered by fruits and veggies) is one of the most straightforward ways to shift your eating habits to become healthier than ever.
For this recipe series, I’m calling my invention the MyPlate Bake. The concept is to follow the MyPlate formula of 1/2 veggies + 1/4 carbs + 1/4 protein, and roast it all together on a single sheet pan. This results in a healthy home-cooked dinner for two, made from scratch with whole food ingredients, in under an hour (prep and clean-up included). Believe it!
I’ll be updating the blog every week this month with a tasty new variation, so stay tuned! First up is an instant classic that I already know will be a go-to in my kitchen: the Maple Dijon Chicken MyPlate Bake.
Fall is taking its sweet time making its way to San Diego. And the infinite scroll on my Pinterest feed just offers too many pages of impeccably styled autumnal foods for my own good. With the allure of cool days and pumpkin-everything, there’s only so much more I can take of ice water and chopped salads for dinner. If you’re in the same boat, I wish I had a better solution than this one: let’s pretend. This week, I suspended my disbelief long enough to fire up the oven and whip up this roasted seasonal squashy treat. So worth it!
The result was savory, satisfying, and absolutely LOADED with nutrition. And while it gives off the vibe of a fancier weekend dinner, this thing is a 40 minute meal! I can hardly think of an easier way to break into the new season and fulfill your hearty home-cooking dreams.
You know those nights when you come home from work, you have no plans for dinner, you haven’t thawed anything from the freezer, and your veggie crisper has seen better days? Life is hard. These things happen. But instead of settling for mediocre take-out (and the regret that follows), wouldn’t you rather sit down to a big, bountiful, made-from-scratch skillet of healthy dinner like this?
It doesn’t have to be as hard it sounds, I promise. Not with this recipe in your back pocket. It’s made mostly from pantry staples, it’s drop-dead easy, and it’s FAST FAST FAST. I’ll give you the run-down!
After spending a weekend with the family, I felt like my return to apartment life could benefit from some real home cooking. Time for a Mom Recipe, you know? I don’t know if Spring has sprung where you are yet, but even here in southern California the nights are chilly enough to encourage stewy, braise-y dinners. So readers, today you’re lucky enough to learn about one of our most popular family recipes: my mom’s chicken cacciatore.
Cacciatore is Italian for ‘hunter,’ and as I understand it, the idea behind the dish is that hunters are able to pick up wild mushrooms while out in the forest. I don’t claim any real Italian authenticity, but the thing that sets this recipe apart is the sauce. Ohhh, the sauce… It’s tomato-based, but doesn’t really even taste like a tomato sauce. Some kind of magic alchemy goes on between the wine, broth and aromatics that yields something complex, herbaceous, and completely revelatory.