Instant Pot Korean Beef | Cooking Through Construction

IMG_9418editedIf you ask my boys, they’ll tell you we rarely have the same thing twice.  I have a handful of favorite recipes that I make over and over again, but usually I’m scouring the internet and my cookbooks looking for new and different things to try.  Sigh…I miss my cookbooks, packed away until the kitchen is completed.  The boys often have to request a meal they miss if they want me to make it again.  Jake has meatball subs in the request pile right now actually.

One of my go to meats to cook with is ground beef because it’s a meat Jake doesn’t usually have an issue with.  Some of his favorite meals include meatballs (see above), meatloaf, and sloppy joe.  Oh and the spaghetti with meat sauce from Wednesday.  You’ll notice all of them have ground beef as the base.  So when I was making my weekly meal plan last weekend and wasn’t inspired by anything on Pinterest, I googled “low carb ground beef recipes” to see what I could come up with.

IMG_9421editedYou see, not only am I cooking without a kitchen, I’m trying to lose a couple pounds before my best friend’s wedding in early April.  I’ve done a decent job so far, but to be honest I’m starting to lose track a bit!  With a night of burger eating in my future, it’s not looking too good…  Yikes!

Anyhow, I searched for the recipes and came across Korean Beef Bowls, which sounded interesting.  I love Asian flavors so anything that has Chinese, Japanese, or Korean in the name is probably up my alley.  Furthermore if they include garlic and ginger, I’m in.

I read through the recipe and decided it was a go!  The best part was I could make everything in my Instant Pot or on my stove, whenever I get that back.  And, unbeknownst to me, the boys were going to love it!  Quick, easy, and a crowd pleaser.  I think that fits the bill in my house.

IMG_9417editedKorean Beef Bowls
(adapted from this recipe)

1 tbsp sesame oil
1½  pounds lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 heaping tbsp garlic paste)
½ tsp Stevia drops (or ½ cup sugar)
½ tsp molasses
¼ cup soy sauce
½ tsp fresh ginger (or use the Gourmet Gardens paste…seriously I love this stuff)
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp honey (if desired)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Sriracha (if desired)

Turn your Instant Pot on saute and heat your oil.  Brown your ground beef, breaking it up as you go.  Drain beef if needed.  Add your garlic, Stevia, molasses, soy, ginger, and crushed red pepper flake.  Cook for 5 minutes until flavors have combined.

This is where I deviated a bit from the original recipe.  I tasted the recipe and decided I wanted it a bit sweeter, plus I have an issue with fake sugar sometimes.  It leaves a taste in my mouth I don’t always love, so I added a drizzle (or two) of honey.  I believe it ended up being about a tablespoon.  Then I stirred it up again and tasted it.  Yum!

I served the beef over Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice (a HUGE timesaver in my house) with a drizzle of Sriracha and a sprinkle of scallions.  Both boys raved about it and Jake finished an entire plate!  And it wasn’t small either!

If you are truly trying to do low carb (like I should have been), you can serve this over cauliflower rice instead.  I’m not a big fan of cauliflower so, while I try to get on board with this trend, it can be hard for me sometimes.  Regardless, this beef is worth a try.  Jeff commented that it would be good in tortillas too.  Asian tacos…future blog post maybe?

Instant Pot Pasta with Meat Sauce | Cooking Through Construction

IMG_9398editedHave you ever come home from work and thought, I’m way to tired to stand over the stove making dinner.  Girl, me too.  It happens all. the. time.  But I just can’t make myself order takeout night after night.  Not only am I trying to lose weight, but we are trying to save money since we’re basically redoing our entire main living area.

I asked Jake what he wanted for dinner on Saturday and he said pasta.  Now, you may be thinking “how are you going to cook pasta if you don’t have a stove, Bethany?”  I’m glad you asked.  By now, you all realize I love my Instant Pot.  And hopefully by now, you’ve taken the plunge and bought yourself one!

You can just throw a bunch of stuff in your instant pot, press cook, and go.  Set it and forget it, right?  Pasta, it turns out, is no exception!  Guys, I may never cook pasta in boiling water again!  It’s seriously that easy and super quick.  Plus the tomato sauce soaks into the pasta so the flavors are incredible!

IMG_9400editedInstant Pot Pasta with Meat Sauce
(adapted from this recipe)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1.5 pounds ground beef
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 box penne pasta, dry
1 jar pasta sauce
Water (fill up the pasta sauce jar ½ way, then shake to get every last bit of sauce)
1 squirt basil (optional)

Turn your IP on to Saute.  Add your olive oil and onion.  au-new-branding-basilLet onion cook for a few minutes before adding your beef.  Cook beef until brown, using a spoon to break up the meat along the way.  Once meat is browned, drain if necessary.  Add beef back to IP.

In with the beef, add salt and pepper to taste, garlic, dry penne pasta, pasta sauce, and water.  If you so choose, add in a squirt of basic paste.  What is basil paste?  It’s amazing stuff.  There’s this company called Gourmet Garden that is just awesome!  They make lots of herbs prepped and ready to go, eliminating the prep work.  I hate peeling ginger and GG has it already in a tube!  They also have cilantro, garlic, lemongrass, and Thai seasoning just to name a few.  I get them right in the regular grocery store next to the herbs in the plastic containers.  I’ve never seen the Thai seasoning though…I’m still on the lookout.  “True” cooks will probably sneer at the mention of these types of items but you know what I say to that?  I’m a mom to a relentless, question-asking 5-year-old, who works 50 hours weeks on her feet outside the home.  I’ll take whatever shortcuts I can.

After you get all your ingredients in the pot, mix to combine, then put on your lid, making sure to turn your knob to sealing.  Set the IP to manual for 5 minutes.

Once the IP beeps, release the pressure.  When you take the lid off, you’ll notice it looks like there is a lot of water on the top and you’ll probably think the pasta didn’t cook enough.  Take a deep breath and stir the contents one more time.  Then taste the most delicious, perfectly cooked pasta you’ve ever had!  The water that’s on top mixes in to the rest of the dish and creates a perfectly creamy, saucy dish.  Think of it as the standard cup of “starchy cooking water” Rachael Ray tells you to remove every time you cook pasta.

I’m not kidding…I may literally never boil water for pasta again for the rest of my life.  I can have amazing, delicious, perfectly cooked pasta within 20 minutes of coming home from work AND only dirty one easy to clean pan.  Uhhh…yes please.

While the pasta was cooking, I made salad and toasted some bread.  Because it’s not pasta night without mama making a sandwich!  Have I convinced you to get an Instant Pot yet?  Don’t worry…I have more tricks up my sleeve.  (And, no, I’m not affiliated with IP.  I just sincerely love their product.)

 

Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

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Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)

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Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?

 

French Dips | Cooking Through Construction

I moved all our kitchen things to the basement last weekend so I had to start my basement cooking early.  Jeff didn’t really understand why I wasn’t using the kitchen for my cooking, but I explained to him that I had all my cooking accoutrement downstairs already plus I was eager to see how difficult the whole process would be.

I decided to make an Instant Pot meal, which turned out really well!  I even made some of my Crispy Parmesan Zucchini to go along with it.  Yum!

I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to cook in the basement, but it was really no trouble at all!  I just thought of it like camping…with all my necessities of home.  The only thing I’m missing downstairs aside form an oven is my sink, but I’ve made do so far.  I have a plastic bucket I keep downstairs with me and I throw all my dirty dishes in it while I cook.  Then, after dinner, I take the bin upstairs and hand wash everything and let them dry.  In the morning, I take everything back downstairs and put all of it away.  Organization, people.  That’s the key.

My whole goal throughout this blog post series is to give you guys a list of recipes you can make without an oven.  I figured this would be good to know if you’re ever in this situation or, say, camping at a campsite that has electricity.  Sure, I know the whole novelty of camping is cooking over an open fire, but sometimes you’re too hungry to wait for the fire to get hot enough!  Let’s face it.  It’s also just a great way to share the recipes I’ve had success with in my Instant Pot because that’s what 90% of my meals are going to be!

These sandwiches were very yummy.  The key is choosing the right cut of meat.  I made a similar dish the night before and chose poorly.  Learning from my mistake, I paid closer attention to the recipe and looked for that particular cut of meat this time.  Yay!  It worked!

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Does anyone else have this guy’s voice running through you’re head when you make a good decision?  No?  Just me?  Ok then…

French Dip Subs
(adapted from this recipe)

  • 2.5 pound chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1 14 oz can of low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 6 soft rolls
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese

Turn your Instant Pot on to saute and add your vegetable oil.  While the pot heats up, season your chuck roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Brown the roast evenly on all sides and remove from the pot.

Add your onion to the pot and, if needed, a touch more oil.  Cook on saute for a few minutes until the onions are soft.  Next, add your red wine and cook until it reduces by half.  After that, you’ll want to add your beef broth and bay leaf.

e116506f-e73c-443d-a128-9a082b526fe8_1-a55483223214ff9d9a02b8e3af2c2045I have been loving Better Than Bouillon lately!  I never even knew about this product, but it’s awesome!  It’s basically broth that has been condensed all the way down to a paste.  When you’re ready to use it, you just mix it with boiling water.  I was lazy and used room temperature water, which worked just fine.  Telling you, people, you make due with what you have!  And, bonus, it comes in lots of flavors and is a fraction of the broth in the box!  I also happen to love those broth boxes too, but seriously this stuff is awesome.

After you add your broth and the bay leaf to the pot, hit Warm/Cancel to cancel the Saute.  Then put the lid on, making sure the pressure valve is set to sealing.  I sometimes forget this step!  Then hit the Meat/Stew button and let the pot do it’s thing for 100 minutes.  You’ll want the pot to let the pressure release naturally for about 25 minutes before you open the lid.  I was famished at this point and could barely wait for the pot to beep, let along the pressure to release on it’s own.  But I did it!  And then proceeded to eat about ¼ of the roast while I was preparing dinner!  It was soooo good.

Remove your roast from the pot CAREFULLY because it falls apart that easily.  Shred the beef with a couple forks.  Then strain the liquid in your pot to get all the onions, etc, out of the broth.  This is your au jus you’ll want for dipping.  At this point, I varied from the recipe I used a bit.  I put the beef back in the sauce to get the beef all juicy.

Meanwhile, I split the rolls (I got to bolillo rolls from Kroger, which we LOVE) and toasted them in the toaster.  When they were nice and golden, I spread the toast with a little butter, topped them with the beef, and finally with provolone.  I let the heat of the roast melt the cheese and served!  They were seriously delicious.

The boys enjoyed the sandwiches while watching a traditional February movie favorite…The Polar Express. 

According to Jake, not quite as delicious as the meal I made last night, but still.  Stay tuned to see the first pictures of kitchen demo.  Coming soon!!

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

img_9050I have this love/hate relationship with vegetables.  Most of the time, if I’m being honest with myself, I hate them.  At least most of them.  I’m looking at you, broccoli.  I blame my mom and her weekly chicken broccoli casserole for that one.  😉 Love you, mom!

But…when I find a way I love them…I really love them!  I already wrote about my Zucchini Crisps, but since then I have found a new, better, easier way to make zucchini.  A way in which I could eat them every day and not get tired of them!  There are but two ingredients (four if you count salt and pepper) in my little love affair food.

Zucchini and parmesan.  That’s it!  Guys, it’s seriously so good.  And so EASY!  It’s perfect for those busy weeknights when you have to throw a side dish together quickly.

img_9052Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

1 medium zucchini
¼ cup parmesan (give or take)
Salt and pepper
Optional:  other seasonings to give different flavors to the zucchini.  My favorites are Sunny Paris and Sweet Curry from Penzeys

Preheat oven to 400°.  Cut zucchini into ¼-⅛” rounds depending on your preference.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and optional seasoning if you desire.

Place rounds on a nonstick cookie sheet.  Sprinkle each round with a generous pinch of parmesan cheese.  Full disclosure, I don’t ever measure so it may or may not be ¼ cup.  I like a small mound of cheese on my zucchini so it melts down and gets all crispy when it cools.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is tender.  I have cooked it for 10 minutes and the zucchini is still a little chewy as well as the 15 minutes, which makes the bottom of the zucchini somewhat more caramelized and crispy.  Either way, it’s a winner!

 

 

 

Pizza Bites

img_8783I have been reading Damn Delicious for a few years now.  Her food is…well…damn delicious!  She’s also a wonderful photographer and has a great sense of humor.  While I was groggily flipping through Instagram the week of Christmas, I stumbled upon this recipe for Cheesy Pizza Bread.  I immediately pinned it onto one of my Pinterest boards and within a week or so, I had made it twice.  Jake tried it the first night and demanded it the next night for dinner again.  It’s super quick and easy to whip up on a busy weeknight, though it’s not exactly figure friendly.  Since I made this recipe the first time, I have made it at least three or four other times.  It’s definitely a keeper in our house!

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Pizza Bread 
(adapted from this recipe on damndelicious.net)

1 16 oz tube biscuits, cut into quarters
¼ stick butter, melted
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
¾ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp oregano
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pizza sauce
½ cup pepperoni chunks (I get a roll of pepperoni and chop it into small cubes)
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella or several slices of fresh mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400º.  In a small cake pan sprayed with cooking spray, arrange your biscuit pieces in an even layer.  In a small bowl, mix butter, parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic powder, oregano, and salt.  Combine well, then spread evenly over the biscuits.  I like using a pastry brush for this part.  Next, top the garlic buttered biscuits with the pizza sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 14-16 minutes or until cheese is melted and biscuits are cooked.

Confession: I could eat an entire pan of these myself.  I won’t…but I could.  I don’t think I won’t anyhow…

 

Buffalo Chicken Nugget Wraps

I have decided I hate vegetables.  And fruits.  And all I want to eat is cheese, bread, and meat.  Pretty typical mental state when I decide it’s time to shed pounds.  Sigh…one of these days I’ll reach my goal weight again!

In the meantime, I scour several websites looking for the next yummy meal I can eat to help me get to that weight I desire.  Skinnytaste (as I’ve mentioned several times in the past) is one of my favorites.  She has a ton of great meals and even inspired me to ask for an Instant Pot for Christmas.

The other day I was checking out my Instagram feed when I happened upon one of her posts for Buffalo Chicken Nuggets.  Well…this is right up my alley.  We in Casa de Bethany love anything buffalo.  Except for Jake.  He’s kind of a wuss.  I mean he’s five but still.

She served her nuggets with bleu cheese on a skewer, but I decided to make a meal out of mine.  One thing I decided to change…she did about half regular bread crumbs and half panko.  I prefer some extra crunch so next time I’m going to do at least ¾ panko (if not the whole mixture).

Note:  these nuggets aren’t spicy at all.  In fact, Jeff stated that he would have liked them to be even more spicy.  I could have easily remedied that by using the Franks Red Hot like the recipe called for instead of the Buffalo wing sauce I chose.  Her stuff tends to be a little spicier than I like, so I was a little nervous.  Next time, I’ll go with the Original Franks.

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Buffalo Chicken Nugget Wraps
(adapted from Skinnytaste)

½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder (or more if you like it hotter)
⅛ tsp black pepper
½ cup panko bread crumbs
olive oil spray
2 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Original sauce
2 tsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
Ranch dressing
Iceberg lettuce

Preheat oven to 425°.  In a shallow dish, combine garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, black pepper, and panko bread crumbs.  In a separate shallow dish, combine hot sauce and olive oil.  Dip chicken chunks into the hot sauce mixture then the bread crumb mixture.  Place on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Lightly spray bread crumbs with olive oil spray.

Bake at 425° for 8-10 minutes then flip.  Spray once more with cooking spray and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.  Serve in lettuce cups with ranch dressing.

For a delicious side dish, try my Zucchini Crisps!

 

Instant Love

Instant Pot.  Where the heck have you been all my life?

instant-pot

Gina at Skinnytaste has been talking about her Instant Pot (IP for short) for a long time and I just thought it was a pressure cooker.  Oh boy, was I wrong!  Apparently, this little baby can do pretty much everything but your dishes!  I received one (actually two) for Christmas and immediately went about finding the perfect first recipe to make in it.  I settled on a Skinnytaste recipe for starters.  It seemed only fitting since she was the main reason I was inspired to put it on my wish list to begin with.

Now, I’m not a huge soup person, but when I was meal planning this weekend (as I do every Sunday…more on that in the future), it was chilly and dark outside.  A big bowl of chicken soup sounded perfect.

This chicken soup, however, is not your traditional chicken soup.  When I think of chicken soup, I think of chicken, veggies, noodles, and delicious broth.  This soup has bright cilantro, creamy avocado, and pillowy potatoes with not a pasta noodle in sight!  After all, it is a Skinnytaste soup!  Served with a delicious Chobani yogurt, it’s made for wonderfully simply but scrumptious (and surprisingly filling) meals this week at work!

chicken-soup-2Skinnytaste’s Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup For My Soul
(from the Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook)

6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions
4 garlic cloves, minced (I like the jarred stuff from Trader Joes)
1 medium tomato, chopped (I left this out…not big on tomatoes)
6 small potatoes, halved
½ red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chicken bouillon (in the jar) or 2 cubes dried
2 bay leaves
3 ears corn, halved (I also left these out because it’s not corn season)
Avocado (I use ½ for each bowl but I’m into that sort of thing)

Turn your IP to saute and add your olive oil.  While your pot heats, sprinkle your chicken with salt and cumin.  I added a little pepper too because I’m a spicy gal.  Saute your scallions and garlic for a minute until fragrant, then add your tomato.  Cook until soft.  Add the chicken, potatoes, red bell pepper, ¼ cup of the cilantro, 5 ½ cups water, bouillon, and bay leaves.  Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, then quick release your IP.  Add corn to pot and cook on high pressure for an additional 3 minutes or until corn is warm and potatoes are cooked through.  Remove bay leaves and serve.

chicken-soup-1I liked mine with an extra sprinkle of cilantro, half an avocado diced, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Quick, easy, and hits the spot!

Stay tuned for more creations involving my new kitchen love!  I’ve already made a meatloaf and potatoes dinner, brown rice, butternut squash, and salsa verde chicken in it since Sunday!  I can’t wait to tell you how they turned out.  Hint:  keep watch for that meatloaf recipe…

New Year, New Me (Cheesy, Right?)

OK, so it’s been…a minute…since I blogged.  Several people have asked me why I haven’t blogged in over a year and, to be honest, it’s TIME!!!  Busier store, busier kid, busier life.  When you’ve got a million things going on, blogging is very easy to say “eh…later” to.  But in the spirit of remembering recipes and life events, I’d like to get back to it.  So…here goes.

What’s new?  So many things have happened in the last year plus that I really don’t remember.  (My memory is shot…I can barely remember conversations I have with people a day or two later.  It’s bad.)  So we are going to focus on what’s current and go from there.

First off, I got a couple new toys for Christmas:

I’ve been wanting a smoker for a loooong time especially since some of my neighbor-friends have one and have had us over a couple times to sample the deliciousness that results in their hard work.  I’m currently sitting on my couch typing this blog post smelling wood smoldering away outside.  Mouth=watering.  Results to come soon.

I’ve also been really needing an instant pot.  I had a pressure cooker I murdered a few months ago (how?  Jury’s still out on that one…), so this gorgeous girl was a MUST!  If any of you read Skinnytaste’s blog (and seriously if you haven’t, you should), you know she uses her Instant Pot at least a few times a week.  Being a busy working mama, pressure cooking is a no-brainer!

So far, I’ve made the beginnings of Salsa Verde Chicken Taquitos and Chicken Soup in it, but I’ve seen everything from ribs to cheesecake made in it.  I’m extremely excited.

Oh yeah…and see that bottle behind the instant pot?  My best friend of over 15 years is GETTING MARRIED!  She asked me to be her maid of honor and I’m beyond excited about it.  April 2017 baby!

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Jake is now five.  FIVE.  Shaking my head to myself as I type that.  He’s SUCH a stinker but man is he a cute kid.  He’s definitely my child…he gets frustrated at not being able to do that smallest things and everything is SO DRAMATIC with him!  I wish I didn’t know exactly where he gets it…

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He’s very smart though and extremely athletic.  So far we’ve gotten him involved in soccer, swimming, basketball, and ice skating.  I’m thinking about adding gymnastics (because the kid loves to tumble and be goofy) and art class (because he’s pretty artistic too), but we’ll see.  He’s sweet and lovable unless he’s tired and then he turns into a devil! We gave up naps on the weekends about a year about, but recently we’ve been adding them back in because he seems to need it.  He’s growing.

We spent some time at the end of last year cleaning out the basement so he could have a play area somewhere in the house that was all his.  Before, he just had a small section of the family room for his toys but, after a little elbow grease and some organization, he has a whole big area just for him!  We got some rubber mats for the hard concrete floor and put all his big toys down there for him.  For his birthday, we bought him a basketball goal that would fit downstairs as well.  It really works out nicely especially with our cold Ohio winters!

img_8295Jeff and I are doing really well.  We’ve finally decided to pull the trigger and do something we’ve been talking about since we moved in.  We are RENOVATING THE KITCHEN!  We met with contractors in the summer last year and had a follow up meeting in December.  We should start work some time in March and I cannot wait!  I hosted Thanksgiving this year and will be taking on that holiday as “my” holiday going forward.  The whole time I was cooking, I kept thinking, “This is the LAST time I’ll have to cook Thanksgiving in this kitchen!”  Here is what our kitchen looks like currently (minus about 7 years…)

I’m beyond excited about a new kitchen.  We are removing a wall, adding a large island, rearranging our lighting, painting, replacing cabinets, changing flooring, the whole enchilada.  Mmm…enchiladas.

Those are the current highlights in our house.  Happy New Year!  Here’s to 2017!

Caramel Apple Pork Chops

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I have this habit of listening to podcasts on my drive to work.  I used to get audiobooks from the library, but they tend to lose my interest because they are several hours long.  I got on the podcast kick a few years ago when I was planning a trip to Disney World.  Yes, there are podcasts about Disney World.  Good ones, in fact.

Speaking of good podcasts, have you listened to Serial?

Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story – a true story – over the course of an entire season.” – http://serialpodcast.org/

Anyhow, obviously I’m into cooking, so I began looking for a podcast that talked about my favorite subject.  That’s when I found The Splendid Table“the show about life’s appetites.” Since then, I’ve been listening to this podcast pretty regularly.  They tend to talk about seasonal cooking, so here recently it’s been all about apples, butternut squash, and comfort food.

This got me thinking…I need to cook with apples more.  I love apples, but I rarely use them in my cooking.  Why?  Who the heck knows.  After a quick search of my favorite website, allrecipes.com, I came across a recipe for caramel apple pork chops.  I love caramel, I love apples, and I love pork chops if cooked the correct way!

IMG_0319editedToday was the perfect day to make this dish.  It was a gorgeous fall day outside, with the air slightly crisp and the sun shining.  Jeff and I both loved the dish.  As for Jake…well…he liked the raspberries I gave him.  😐

IMG_7490editedCaramel Apple Pork Chops
(adapted from this recipe)

2 thick cut pork chops
salt & pepper to taste or meat seasoning such as Penzey’s Northwoods Fire Seasoning
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (can substitute other tart apples)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vegetable oil*
Boursin cheese (optional)

Remove pork chops from fridge, sprinkle with seasoning of your choice, and let come to room temperature as you prepare the rest of the dish.

Combine apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium low heat until apples are tender, stirring occasionally.  Mine took about 20 minutes to get to the consistency I wanted.  Full disclosure:  I forgot to peel my apples.  Learn from my mistake…peel yours.

IMG_7494editedAfter apples have been cooking for approximately 10 minutes, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the vegetable oil (*or in my case bacon grease as I was also making my Warm Potato Salad) to the pan.  Cook pork chops on medium heat for about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature is 145º.  I like using a meat thermometer with my pork and beef because I tend to overcook it and my guy hates overcooked meats.

Remove from pan when pork chops are cooked and let sit for about 5 minutes.  To serve, top with caramelized apples.

Well, here’s what happened when I served the dish.  Jeff ate the pork with the apples and said it was just OK but it was missing something.  When asked what he thought it needed, he said he wasn’t sure but maybe “something creamy like cheese but also a little tangy?  I don’t know…”  My quick thinking produced the remains of the Boursin cheese I’d purchased for my Harvest Salad.  He added a little touch of the cheese to the pork and he could not quit raving about the dish.

IMG_7498editedSo to sum up…add some Boursin.  Everything’s better with cheese, right? (Ignore the crappy picture…I was too excited to eat to worry about composition of this photo.)

And just because he’s so stinkin’ cute, here are a couple pictures of my little guy from this weekend.  Can you believe he’ll be FOUR in two months???  #slowdownkid

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