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?

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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?

 

Stuffed Shells

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One of my least favorite things in the world is leaving work at 5PM, getting in the car to drive the 35 minutes (or longer as I travel on the interstate…in rush hour…most of the way) home, and realizing I didn’t plan for dinner that night.  My boys like to eat at 6PM, so if I didn’t plan something earlier in the week, it’s pizza or take out for dinner.  Not that they complain about that mind you.

I like to do my meal planning, shopping, and meal prep on the weekends so when it’s crunch time, I already have a plan.  Plus things like sloppy joe, pre-cooked Dad’s Spaghetti sauce, or this little recipe are the perfect make ahead meals for Jeff to throw together at the last minute when I have to work late!

As you guys may know by now, Allrecipes.com is one of my favorite places to go for meal inspiration.  One day I was perusing and a little gem of a recipe popped out at me.  I thought it looked intriguing, so I added the ingredients to my grocery list, cooked it, and the rest is history.  Now we have Stuffed Shells at least once every few weeks.  It also freezes beautifully.  The recipe makes two 6×9 pans of shells or one 13×9 pan.  It’s also a great meal to take to someone who recently had a baby or moved into a new home!

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Stuffed Shells
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1 box large shells
4 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp parsley
**In place of the oregano and parsley, you could just use a couple teaspoonsful of Italian seasoning
1 jar pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350º.  Cook your shells according to the package.  There should be a shorter time on the box specifically if you’re going to further cook the noodles in the oven.  I think mine is 9 minutes or something like that.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, eggs, garlic, and seasonings.  **Hint:  if you want to sneak in some veggies, replace 1-1.5 cups of the ricotta with pureed cauliflower.  They’ll never know… 

Drain your pasta and rinse with cold water until the noodles are cool enough to handle.  Prep a 13×9 or two 6×9 pans with cooking spray and a little drizzle of the pasta sauce (just enough to barely coat the bottom).  Transfer your filling to a large Ziploc bag.  Cut one of the tips off the bottom of the bag to turn it into a piping bag.  Fill your shells with the filling and then place filling side up in the pan.  Top with the rest of the pasta sauce and the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until everything is hot and gooey.

Make a double batch and freeze in some foil pans.  These shells make a terrific meal on a cold, snowy night with a large loaf of crusty Italian bread and some salad.

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.

Frito Chili Pie

IMG_7550editedOne of my absolute favorite things my high school had for lunch was Frito Chili Pie.

That’s “walking tacos” to some of you.

IMG_7551editedCrunchy Fritos topped with deliciously spicy chili and gooey cheese.  What’s not to like?

The other day when I was meal planning, I thought about making chili.  Then Frito Chili Pie popped in my head.  It was settled.  I spent some of Sunday afternoon standing in my kitchen making a yummy pot of chili.  Even Jeff said so.

Wanna make your own “walking tacos”?  It’s pretty easy.

IMG_7553editedStep One: make a batch of your favorite chili.  I used this award winning chili recipe from Allrecipes.  I had made it before and it was just a little too spicy for me, so I halved the chili powder and the hot sauce.  I think it was the perfect spice level for us.

Step Two:  assemble.  Fritos in the bottom of the bowl, top with chili and a sprinkle (or three) of cheese.

That’s it!  It’s soooooooo easy.  And equally delicious.  Plus, what smells better than a pot of chili simmering on the stove in the middle of winter?

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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