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?

 

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!

 

 

 

Double Chocolate Brownies

Double Chocolate Brownies 1

Last year, my husband was informed that he would need to start traveling for work.  His company’s parent is located in Amsterdam, so he boarded a plan and crossed the pond for the first time in his life.  I wasn’t jealous.  I swear.

Jake and I stayed behind and did our best to pass the time while Daddy was away.  To make the separation a little sweeter, Jeff brought me back a tin of Belgium cocoa that was the best, most delicious cocoa I have ever tasted in my life.  Within days of him being home, I was in the kitchen trying to decide what to use my new cocoa in.

I opted for my favorite dessert of all time:  brownies.  Double chocolate brownies to be exact.

I have made these brownies a few times over the past year and have informed Jeff that every time he goes to Amsterdam, he is to purchase at least one tin of cocoa.  If he wants to continue to have these brownies, that is.

Double Chocolate Brownies 3

For Valentine’s Day, my little cooking buddy and I whipped up a batch of these brownies as Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.  We also shared some with Jeff’s parents as a thank you for watching Jake as we went to dinner at J. Alexander’s.  (Side note:  avoid that place on Valentine’s Day.  Unless you don’t mind waiting 3 hours for a table.  The sad part?  We even called ahead.)

Later on, Jeff’s mom told him the brownies we gave her were the best brownies she’d ever had.  That says a lot because we live right down the road from a grocery store who is famous for their Killer Brownies!

The next time you want to make something delicious for a loved one, try these brownies.  They’re simple, easy, and insanely good.  Just be warned you may not be able to get rid of that person after.

Double Chocolate Brownies 2

Double Chocolate Brownies
(from allrecipes.com)

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*.  Prepare a 13×9 pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Add in the flour, cocoa, and salt until mixed well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spread evenly in the pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Double Chocolate Brownies 4

Mini Mexican Pizzas

Mini Mexican Pizzas 5 EditedI have a weakness for Mexican food.  The cheese, the spicy flavors, the deliciously seasoned meats.  What’s not to love?  I also have a weakness for meals I can prep ahead of time and keep in my fridge or freezer for those nights where I’m racing the clock to get dinner on the table.

Last month, during Retail Crunch Time 2014 (otherwise known as Christmas), I threw these little babies together really quick one night and popped them in the oven.  They were delicious!  Neither Jeff nor I could believe how yummy they were!

Plus everything is better in mini, right?

(Sorry it took me so long to get this one up, Mrs. Linda!)

Mini Mexican Pizzas Edited

Mini Mexican Pizzas
(adapted from this recipe)

5-6 large whole wheat tortillas
1 cup lean ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
1/2 cup salsa (I like Kroger’s version of Tostitos salsa)
1/2 packet dry taco seasoning
1/2 can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can refried beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
Optional:  black olives, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sour cream

Preheat oven to 425*.  Spray muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.  I believe this recipe made 18, but I can’t be positive.

Lay out your tortillas on a flat surface and cut out rounds to fit your muffin tins.  I want to say I ended up going with a 3″ diameter round that fit in my muffin tins but as it was over a month ago and my brain isn’t quite as young as it used to be, I’m having a tough time remembering.  Some blogger I am…

Press each round into the muffin tins.  They don’t have to be perfect or even go all the way up each side.  They just have to cover a decent amount of the surface area of the muffin tins.

In a small bowl, combine your turkey or beef, salsa, taco seasoning, corn, black beans, and refried beans.  Stir to combine.  Scoop about 1/8th of a cup of the filling into each cup.  Top with cheese (divided equally) and bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and everything is warmed through.

Serve with toppings if you choose.

Mini Mexican Pizzas 4 Edited

My favorite part of this recipe was how the tortillas got a little crispy on the bottom.  Mmm…this are definitely going on next week’s cooking list!

15 Minute Pad Thai

IMG_7593editedOne of my favorite meals of all time in Pad Thai.  I have a hard time not ordering it whenever I go to my favorite Thai restaurant, Thai 9.  (PS…if you love Thai food, or even if you’ve never had it, GO to Thai 9.  Soooooo good.)

I’ve tried making Pad Thai before, but it’s a little daunting.  Lots of ingredients (some hard to find) and it’s kind of involved.  Alton Brown makes it look easy but, hey, it’s Alton Brown.

IMG_7592editedThe other night I was playing around with some stir fry and decided to add a dash or so of a dressing I had in the fridge.  Wow.  Jeff and I agreed it tasted JUST LIKE PAD THAI!  It was awesome!

Now, it’s no replacement for the real, authentic thing (or as authentic as you can be in the mid west), but it’s definitely a great stand in until we get the time to head back to Thai 9.

IMG_7594edited15 Minute Pad Thai

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
3 packages ramen noodles
1/2 bottle Ken’s Steak House Asian Sesame Dressing
3 eggs, lightly beaten
wok oil (or vegetable oil)
Optional:  bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, lime wedges, basil

In a wok (or large frying pan), heat your wok oil over medium heat.  Sprinkle your chicken with salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink.  This step takes maybe 5 minutes depending on the size of your chicken.  I like to cut mine into bite sized pieces so it’s quicker.

Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the flavor packets to your water and cook your ramen according to the package.  Mine usually says about 3 minutes.  Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the pan, add a drizzle more oil to the pan.  Turn the heat up to high (most Asian food is cooked at a very high temperature) and add your ramen.  Keep the ramen moving a bit so as not to burn it.  After a minute or two, make a well in the middle of your noodles and add your eggs.  Stir your eggs without bringing any of the ramen into them until they are lightly cooked.  Then you can start incorporating your noodles.  Your goal is to have the eggs slightly scrambled and then add the noodles so the noodles get somewhat cooked together and clump slightly.

Add your chicken and your dressing.  Go a little light on the dressing at first and adjust to your taste.  I like to add maybe 1/3 of the bottle, toss to coat, and then let cook for a minute or so.  The sauce thickens slightly and clings to the dish even better.  If I think it still needs some flavor or looks a little dry, I’ll add more dressing.

Your options to top this dish are pretty vast.  Traditionally Pad Thai is made with bean sprouts, but I’m not a fan so I leave them out.  It is also usually topped with Thai Basil leaves, chopped peanuts, and a wedge of lime.  One of the great things about this dish is you can keep most of the ingredients in your pantry at all times and whip it up when you are running late from work.  The downfall is I had none of these optional ingredients on hand at the time of cooking, hence no “optionals” in the photos.

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Oh well.  It still tasted incredible.

Caesar Cornflake Crusted Chicken

caesar chicken

Continuing with the theme meals that are so prevalent on the blog lately, this dinner is another great one to have in your arsenal.  It’s quick, easy, and extremely delicious.  It’s definitely a crowd pleaser.  Throw in some rice and a veggie and you’re good to go!

Caesar Cornflake Crusted Chicken
1 pound chicken breasts, butterflied
1 cup Caesar dressing (or more if desired)
2 cups corn flakes cereal, crushed
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425*.  Put your Caesar dressing in a wide dish (I tend to use cake pans).  Put your crushed up corn flakes in a second dish.  Lightly spray a broiler pan or something similar (like a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet) with nonstick cooking spray.

Dredge each of your chicken breasts first in the dressing, then in the corn flakes.  Place on rack.  Repeat for all breast pieces.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes on 425*.

*You may need more dressing and/or corn flakes if you don’t have enough to cover all your pieces.

That’s it.  Simple as that!

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage Cream Sauce

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Another one? In less than a week? I know…I amaze myself too.

I’ve been really trying to cook for the family lately. We all love pasta and sausage and…well…cream. So when I saw this dish, I quickly added it to my dinner plan.

This dish came together super fast and it was DELISH! Not the healthiest meal but definitely a tasty one.

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage Cream Sauce
1 box bowties
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups heavy cream
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil. Cook bowties according to package directions.

In another large skillet, cook sausage and red pepper over medium heat, breaking into pieces. Once cooked, add onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent, then add tomatoes, cream, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and let bubble away while pasta cooks.

Once pasta is done, drain and add to sauce. Toss to coat, then let cook in the sauce for a minute or two. This allows the pasta to soak up some of the sauce.

To serve, top with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Of course, the little boy only ate the pasta. I’m beginning to think he’s part vegetarian!

Mexican Chicken Thighs

chicken thigh

What’s this?  A RECIPE??  No way.

Hello, blog world.  I’ve missed you terribly!  You guys know I’m super busy and quick, easy meals are a necessity in my life.  Well, this one couldn’t be easier.  You take some chicken, dust it with dry rub, let it sit, and then cook it.  Seriously.  It’s simple.  Try it.  Tomorrow.

Mexican Chicken Thighs
1 pound chicken thighs
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup salsa (or to taste)
1-1.5 cups taco cheese

Preheat oven to 400*.  Season chicken thighs with taco seasoning, really rubbing the seasoning into the thighs.  Let sit in the fridge at least one hour or overnight.  Brown chicken in olive oil over medium high heat.  Transfer chicken to a baking dish.  Cover with salsa and cheese.  Bake at 400* for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve with sour cream, avocado, or any other toppings of you choice.

I served this over chicken flavored rice and it was yummy!

Also tastes great in a tortilla.
tortilla thigh