Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

I love baked beans but hate all of the preservatives and calories from the sugar that come with the store bought canned varieties.  This 4th of July I decided to try my hand at making my own.

I learned a few things by doing so:

  • Even though you can put the dried beans right into the pressure cooker and shorten the prep time, DON’T SKIP SOAKING THE BEANS.
  • Soaking the beans removes most of the indigestible sugars (which can cause gas) and re-hydrates the beans evenly so they are as plump and beautiful as they were when they were fresh.  Pre-soaking the beans also allows the skins to be receptive to absorbing the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Use as many unprocessed ingredients as possible

Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

  • 1 pound dried Navy (White Northern) beans
  • 1/2 pound thick cut (from the butcher if you can) uncured smoked bacon (no nitrates or nitrites) – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped (or 1+1/2 tsp jarred chopped garlic)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBLS Bourbon (I use Maker’s 46)
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 TBLS corn starch
  • 2 TBLS cold water

Rinse dry beans in cold water in a colander, removing any debris.  Soak beans using either 1) the Overnight Soak Method (8-12 hours in a bowl or pot of cold water covered with a lid) or 2) following the Pressure Cooker Quick Soak Method:

  • Put the beans in the pressure cooker. For each cup of rinsed beans, add four cups of Degas-Cook-Soak-Beans-Coverwater
  • Add a teaspoon of olive oil (this keeps the foam down)
  • Bring the contents to a boil with the lid open using the BROWN setting
  • Quickly close and lock the pressure cooker lid and pressure cook for 15 minutes at high pressure
  • Open the pressure cooker using a Slow Normal release – open the valve very slowly
  • Drain and rinse the beans under cold running water

Prepare the sauce base:

  1. Using BROWN setting – cook onions until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add garlic and bacon and cook until bacon is almost crispy
  3. Stir in brown sugar, and then the bourbon, scraping up all the brown, crispy bits from the bottom
  4. Add the chicken broth, mustard, molasses, maple syrup, ketchup, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined
  5. Return beans to the pressure cooker and close lid
  6. Set to High pressure and cook for 90 minutes
  7. Once cooking is complete, allow 10 minutes for the pressure to return to normal naturally, then release the remaining pressure and open the lid
  8. Turn pressure cooker to Brown setting.
  9. In a small dish combine the water and cornstarch.
  10. Stir the mixture into the beans and cook until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency.
  11. Remove from the pressure cooker to a serving dish and enjoy!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

*** Vegetarian Option:  If you want to make these vegetarian, don’t add the bacon.

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi

creamymushroomspinachgnocciThis recipe is #FastFillingandFlavorful which makes it a perfect weeknight choice.

This dish serves 4-6 and will pair well with a dry white wine like this 93 Point $16, 2015 Casablanca Valley Arboleda Chardonnay from Chile or this 90 Point $22, 2017 La Marea Kristy Vineyard Albariño out of Monterey County on the Central Coast of California.  Open one of these bottles of wine, add a crisp green salad and you’ve got an elegant #MidWeekFeast.

Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi with Creamy Parmesan White Wine Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 dashes Italian seasoning
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • 1 pound uncooked potato gnocchi
  • 1 generous handful baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
  1. Add the olive oil to a skillet on medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
  2. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the Dijon mustard and white wine. Let it cook for a minute or so.
  4. Add the cream and gnocchi. Wait until the sauce just starts to boil again, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the spinach, cover the pan again, and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. You can add a chopped up cooked chicken breast to this when you are adding the spinach into the sauce if you want to add meat.
  7. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt & pepper. Give it a taste; gnocchi should be soft. If not, continue to cook for another few minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with more Parmesan cheese grated over top if desired.

For weeknight cooking I am always looking for recipes that combine three criteria:

  1. No exotic or expensive ingredients I have to search high and low for
  2. Ready in thirty minutes or less
  3. Can be made with meat or without

This recipe fit all of these plus two others that make it a winner in my book:

  1. When a main dish recipe can be doubled so it can be a side dish or a lunch later in the week
  2. When one of the ingredients is wine or the finished product naturally pairs with wine #GirlsGoneWine approved! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally cool enough in California, at least once the sun goes down, to justify getting the stock pot out to make a hearty soup that can serve as dinner with a big salad & crusty bread that can then live on as a couple of workday lunches too!  Great for the wallet AND the waistline!  This soup is so rich, and has such depth of flavor, that it seems like a cheat meal, which is a plus during the non-stop holiday feast season.

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1  –  2 to 2+1/2 lb Butternut Squash (Peeled/Seeded/Chopped into about 1″ Cubes)
  • 1  –  Large Granny Smith Apple (Cut into about 1″ Pieces – seeds/core/stem removed)
  • 3  –  Large Ribs Celery Chopped
  • 3  –  Carrots (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 1  –  Medium Yellow Onion (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 4  –  TBLS Butter
  • 1  –  32 oz Container Organic Chicken Stock
  • 1+1/2 Cups Water
  • Freshly Grated Sea Salt (To Taste)
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper (To Taste)
  • Freshly Ground Nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
  • Cinnamon (1/2 to 1 tsp)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Pinch to 1/8th tsp)
  • Chopped Parsley (if desired)

Melt the butter in a medium stockpot and add the onions, carrot and celery.  Sauté over low heat about 10 minutes.  When onions just start to brown, add the squash, apple, salt, pepper, chicken stock and water.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring just to a boil.  When bubbles appear at the edges of the pan, reduce heat to low.  Cover pan tightly and simmer soup for 45 minutes until squash is completely softened.

Remove soup from heat and either process soup until smooth using your blender (I use my Vitamix) and returning to the pan after processed or an immersion blender as shown in the video.

Once soup is smooth, add the Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Cayenne.  Adjust spices to taste.

I came across a video that uses the same technique I use to make my soup, with slightly different measurements, and it’s much prettier, so I’ll give the standard #ShoutOut and #HighFive to Simply Recipes for producing a great (and quick) video that I can also use to demonstrate how to assemble my soup!

I’ve already been remiss at keeping up with my blog, so not having to produce a video is a definite bonus! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

Another Twitter video find when I was hungry…best part?  It’s from www.health.com!

buffalocauliflower

My sister Wendi and I fell in love with these when we went to San Diego and found a sports bar to watch USC football at before going to a Blake Shelton concert last year. I’ve finally found a recipe that comes close to what we had there!

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Wash a Large head of fresh cauliflower (About 1 lb).
  • Remove the outer leaves and stem and then cut to separate the individual florets.
  • Dry the florets and spread out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  • Sprinkle florets lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Put sheet in oven and roast for 20 – 25 minutes stirring once.

In a medium bowl combine:

  • 1 TBLS Butter melted
  • 3 TBLS Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or any kind you like)
  • 1 tsp Vinegar
  • Put roasted cauliflower florets into the bowl and stir with rubber spatula until all florets are coated with sauce.
  • Return coated florets to the cookie sheet.
  • Roast at 400° F for 5-10 minutes more or until cauliflower starts to brown.

Make the dipping sauce:

  • In a small pan over medium-low heat put 2 tsp Olive Oil and 1 clove garlic, minced.
  • Heat until garlic starts to brown.
  • Transfer garlic and olive oil into the mixing container of a blender or Vitamix.
  • Add 1/2 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt.
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 1 TBLS Parsley
  • 1 TBLS Chives
  • 1 tsp Dill
  • 1/4 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Honey
  • Pinch of Salt & Pepper

Blend until well combined.  Transfer to a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with the dip and ranch dressing on the side.

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

10 No Fuss Healthy Soups


If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Top 38 Diets of 2017

usnwrdietrankingsIt’s estimated that more than 45 million Americans, and an untold millions more worldwide, start a diet each year.  To assist those who are looking for the best and healthiest way to battle the bulge, U.S. News & World Report, the global authority in rankings and consumer advice, today released its annual assessment of the year’s Best Diets.

For the seventh year in a row, the DASH diet has been rated Best Diet Overall, followed by the Mediterranean diet, up from fourth place last year. The MIND diet, second last year, comes in third, and is followed by a four-way tie for fourth place: the Flexitarian diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, the TLC diet and Weight Watchers.

U.S. News’ Best Diets 2017 offers rankings of 38 diet plans across nine categories: in addition to the Best Diets Overall, this year’s lists can help people find the Best Weight-Loss Diets, Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets, Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Commercial Diets, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Best Plant-Based Diets and best diets for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

I’ve found links to all of the 38 diets with information about the diets.  I would Google any of the diets you are more interested in and pay particular attention to the opinions of people who have tried the diets.  For instance, the Engine 2 diet is one that is very difficult to stick to – it was developed by a professional athlete who was becoming a firefighter: so NOT like the rest of us.  Read the honest opinions and the pros and cons, especially the food limitations, so that you can make a well informed decision before committing to a diet.  It’s very depressing to fail at something when it could have been avoided if only you’d have done your homework beforehand.

Best Diets Overall

1. DASH Diet – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://dashdiet.org/default.asp

2. MIND Diet – Information, recipes, and more: https://www.southdenver.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Mind-Diet-for-web.pdf
2. TLC Diet (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://tlcdiet.org/
4. Weight Watchers – Information, diet books, meetings, recipes and more: https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/
4. Mayo Clinic – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://diet.mayoclinic.org/diet/home
4. Fertility – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/the-fertility-diet
4. Mediterranean (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: https://authoritynutrition.com/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan/
8. Volumetrics (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://guidedoc.com/volumetrics-diet-menu-plan-recipes
8. Flexitarian – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/flexitarian_diet
10. Jenny Craig – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.jennycraig.com/
11. Biggest Loser – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.biggestloser.com/
11. Ornish (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition/the-ornish-diet.aspx
13. Vegetarian – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp#.WG27pRsrLIU
13. Traditional Asian (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/traditional-asian-diet/recipes
15. Slim Fast – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://slimfast.com/
15. SparkPeople – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.sparkpeople.com/
15. Anti-Inflammatory (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/
18. HMR – Information, diet books, recipes and more: https://hmrgettherefaster.com/
18. Flat Belly – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/flat-belly-diet
18. Nutrisystem (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.nutrisystem.com/jsps_hmr/home/index.jsp
21. Vegan – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20773383,00.html
21. Engine 2 – Information, diet books, recipes and more: https://engine2diet.com/
21. South Beach – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.southbeachdiet.com/how-it-works/index.jsp
21. Abs (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.absdiet.com/uof/absdiet/abospl/
25. Eco-Atkins – Information, diet books, recipes and more: https://www.atkins.com/how-it-works/library/articles/the-eco-atkins-diet
25. Zone – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.zonediet.com/
25. Glycemic-Index (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.dummies.com/food-drink/special-diets/glycemic-index-diet/glycemic-index-diet-for-dummies-cheat-sheet/
28. Macrobiotic – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.nutritionsecrets.com/what-to-eat-on-the-macrobiotic-diet/
28. Medifast (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.medifast1.com/index.jsp
30. Supercharged Hormone – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.doctoroz.com/article/dr-natasha-turners-supercharged-hormone-diet-reset
30. Acid Alkaline (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/alkaline-diets
32. Fast – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/fast-diet-review
32. Body Reset (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.harleypasternak.com/index.php/body-reset-diet/
34. Raw food  – Information, diet books, recipes and more: https://draxe.com/raw-food-diet/
34. Atkins (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: https://www.atkins.com/
36. Dukan  – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://www.dukandiet.com/
36. Paleo (tie) – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://thepaleodiet.com/
38. Whole 30  – Information, diet books, recipes and more: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/

For Weight Loss

1. Weight Watchers
2. Biggest Loser Diet
3. Biggest Loser Diet
3. Jenny Craig
3. Raw Food Diet (tie)

Easiest to Follow

1. Fertility Diet
2. MIND Diet
3. Weight Watchers

For Heart Health

1. Ornish Diet
2. TLC Diet
3. DASH Diet

Best Plant-Based Diets

1. Mediterranean Diet
2. Flexitarian Diet
3. Ornish Diet

For Fast Weight Loss

1. Biggest Loser Diet
1. HMR Program
3. Atkins
3. Weight Watchers (tie)

For Diabetes

1. Fertility Diet
2. Biggest Loser Diet
2. DASH Diet (tie)

For Healthy Eating

1. DASH Diet
2. TLC Diet
3. Mediterranean Diet
3. MIND Diet (tie)

Best Commercial Diets

1. Mayo Clinic Diet
1. Weight Watchers (tie)
3. Jenny Craig

I have made it habit not to make New Year’s Resolutions, but want to wish good luck to all of us who may or may not be starting off 2017 with a diet or change in eating habits in our plans.

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Mushroom-Spinach Spaghetti

mushspinspagKnowing that tonight will be a long one while we stay up late to watch the results of Election Night 2016, I am prepping dinner for tomorrow night ahead of time.  A recipe I love, that has no sauce, is easy to assemble, throw in the refrigerator a day ahead, and, as a bonus, is one that my husband will take to work for lunch afterward without complaint!

Mushroom-Spinach Spaghetti

  • 1 Pound Spaghetti, Spaghettini, or Angel Hair Pasta
  • 24 oz Sliced White and/or Baby Portobello Mushrooms (I used a combination of both)
  • 4 oz Fresh Spinach
  • 1 Stick Butter (8 TBLS)
  • 2 TBLS + 2 TBLS + 2 TBLS (all separate measures) Olive Oil
  • 4 oz Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 TBLS Garlic and Onion Spice Blend (You can combine equal amounts of onion powder and garlic powder if you don’t have a prepared blend on hand)
  • Fresh Ground Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

mush1Put your stick of butter (8 TBLS) into a large skillet, I prefer a well seasoned cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat.

When your butter has melted, add your mushrooms and 2 TBLS olive oil poured over the top.  Cook, stirring occasionally so that mushrooms don’t stick to pan, for about 2 minutes, then add yourmush1a garlic and onion spice blend, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking and stirring the mushrooms for about another 3 to 4 minutes until most of the moisture has been absorbed by the mushrooms.  Remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

spin1Add 2 TBLS olive oil to the skillet and add your spinach to the pan.  Using tongs to toss the spinach with the oil, cook tossing constantly until all of the spinach is wilted but not cooked all the way.  Immediately remove from the pan to the samespin2 bowl as the mushrooms and stir the mushrooms and spinach together.  Set bowl aside and allow to cool while you prepare the pasta.  When your mushroom-spinach mixture has cooled, sprinkle your 4 ounces of shredded parmesan cheese over and stir it in completely.

Prepare your pasta according to package directions with one important change:  Make sure that you break the noodles in half lengthwise before you put them in the water.  When your pasta has finished cooking drain it and toss it with your remaining 2 TBLS olive oil then add it to your mushroom-spinach mixture.  Use your tongs to make sure your mushroom-spinach mixture is well combined and coating your pasta completely then either serve immediately or pour it into a 9 X 13 Pyrex baking pan and cover to keep warm.

mushspinspag

If you plan to make this a day ahead like I am, place covered baking pan in the refrigerator. To prepare for serving the next day, top cold pasta with a couple of TBLS butter (divided into small pats) and reheat in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes.  You can also just toss individual servings into the microwave. 😉

With this easy (and inexpensive) make ahead dinner, the only decision you’ll need to worry about making tomorrow night is which wine to drink!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood