Zero Effort Chicken For Dinner

Between the humidity coming up from a storm in Mexico and the temperature gauge hovering around the century mark, cooking is the last thing I want to do, but with my surgery date now 10 days away, I know that I will be making very few meals for the family due to movement restrictions, so I’m doing the deed today. 😉

The pressure cooker is definitely a cook’s friend on days like this!  With this recipe you get a bonus of 2 recipes in one!  The chicken, plus a bonus flavorful chicken stock that I am using as the base for my cabbage soup.  Yum!

chicken-on-cutting-boardChicken is the universal meat from which can spring any meal.  My Mom’s go-to was the Zacky Farm’s Cut up Whole Fryer, seems like a good place to start, so that’s where I’ll start.  I’ll make it early today and then the mood I’m in about an hour before dinnertime will determine how it ends up being served.

Zero Effort Pressure Cooker Chicken + Yummy Chicken Stock

  • 1 – 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lb fryer chicken (cut up)
  • 2 TBLS Olive Oil
  • Zatarain’s Cajun Spice Mixture (Seasoned Salt)
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion
  • 1 – Large Poblano Pepper
  • 5 Cloves Garlic

It should only take you 5 minutes to get all of the ingredients into the pressure cooker.  After that it’s pretty much set it and forget it!

  1. Set your pressure cooker to the “Brown” setting.
  2. Pour the Olive Oil into the pressure cooker pan
  3. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and veins, then cut into about 1″ chunks and place into pan
  4. Peel and chop the onion into roughly 1″ chunks and add to pan
  5. Peel the garlic and add to pan
  6. Sprinkle the Zatarain’s seasoning on both sides of the chicken
  7. Place each piece of the chicken, skin side down (or on edge so skin is in contact with the sides of the pan) into the pan on top of the vegetables
  8. Allow the chicken to brown, undisturbed for about 20 minutes, then close the lid of the pressure cooker and set to cook under pressure for 30 minutes
  9. When cooking cycle has ended, allow the pressure to return to normal naturally

At the end of the keep warm cycle, release the lid and remove the chicken from the cooker to a large bowl.  It should be falling off the bones.  I take the time to remove the bones, skin and cartilage at this point and use a fork to do a gentle separation of the meat.

Leave the remaining vegetables and garlic in the pan with the meat drippings.  Skim ant visible fat and allow to cool.

If you aren’t using it immediately in another recipe, move the cooled Yummy Chicken Stock to a sealable container and refrigerate (up to 5 days) or freeze until ready to use.

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Did You Know…?

freezer_openThere are many foods I didn’t know could be frozen, saving me from the inevitable time when I need something like buttermilk, which I never have on hand when I come across a recipe that calls for it.  Learning this led me on an internet search to see what other seldomly stocked foods can be frozen for use later.

You Can Safely Freeze:

  • Buttermilk:  Fill an empty ice cube tray.  Freeze overnight and transfer frozen cubes to a freezer bag.  Keeps up to 3 months and each cube slot measures 1 ounce (1/8th of a Cup)
  • Bananas:  Freeze them overnight when they are at their ripest point (when skin is browning but not going bad) in their skins. Using a sharp knife slice the frozen bananas in half lengthwise and peel off the skins.  Store in freezer bags for use in smoothies.  Homemade Frozen Bananas: Put two frozen halves together with a popsicle stick between them and coat with melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle with/roll in nuts, coconut, or rainbow/other sprinkles and place on a pan lined with waxed paper.  Freeze an hour or two and enjoy for dessert.
  • Butter: This is particularly good to know since I rarely need unsalted butter and buy it 1 pound at a time (4 – 1/2 Cup cubes) when it’s on sale.  Now I can cut cubes in half  (1/4 C portions) and freeze them in freezer bags for later use!
  • Cheese: Don’t freeze whole chunks – it crumbles when you defrost and try to slice it.  Instead grate or shred it and freeze in 1 Cup portions in zip bags for recipes at a later date.
  • Eggs:  Remove the shells and freeze individually in snack sized zip bags.  You can also freeze egg whites separately from their yolks.  I’d recommend marking the bags with the number of egg whites or whole eggs you freeze per bag to make using later easier.  Frozen “pre-made” omelettes:  In a large measuring cup crack the desired number of eggs and whisk .  Stir in 2 TBLS milk, 1/4 Cup each chopped bell pepper (or any pepper you desire) and chopped ham (bacon, turkey, chicken breast, ground beef, sausage, etc.) and 2 TBLS chopped onion (if desired).  Pour into sandwich sized zip bags and freeze until needed. Great weekday breakfast option.  You can remove a bag to the refrigerator the night before to thaw, pour into a preheated pan to cook, sprinkle with a bit of frozen grated cheese & eat right before running out the door the next morning.
  • Garlic: Separate cloves but leave skin on and freeze in a doubled zip bag to keep freezer odor free.
  • Wine:  Unlike hard alcohol, wine does freeze solid.  Freeze in 1 ounce portions in an ice cube tray and transfer to a freezer bag to use in sauces or other recipes.
  • Yogurt: Measure it into 2 to 4 TBLS (aka 2 to 4 oz or 1/4 to 1/2 Cup) portions and freeze in zip bags.  Don’t forget to mark the bags for later recipe use.
  • Lunch meat: Can be safely frozen in zip bags for up to 2 months.
  • Bread:  You can freeze a loaf of sliced bread for up to 3 months and you don’t even need to thaw it before eating it. The freezer is a better storage option than the fridge, which can dry bread out.
  •  Milk / Half & Half:  Milk can be frozen for 3 months.  Half & half stays good for 4 months in the freezer, but never freeze heavy cream.  Cream doesn’t freeze well at all.  I never understood why my mother-in-law always shook the milk before pouring out of the carton, now I do!  She kept it frozen in the chest freezer in the garage and was breaking up the ice.
  • Grains:  Quinoa, farro and bulgur last 3 months in the cupboard but up to 6 months in the freezer!
  • Tofu:  Chop it in chunks and freeze for up to 5 months to add to smoothies, soups, stews, etc.
  • Tortillas:  That at room temperature, not in the microwave.

Important things to remember about freezing any food are:

  • Make sure you are using a bag or container meant for freezer use to ward off freezer burn, keep smells from escaping into the freezer, and keep your food fresher longer
  • Remember to mark the date frozen as well as the last date you should use the food directly on the bag or on a piece of tape with a permanent marker.
  • Don’t over stuff your freezer.  A well organized freezer gives you the ability to easily see what you have on hand and helps food freeze faster/stay frozen because cooled air can flow between and around the packages.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be 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 may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

That Goes Where?

I’ve never poisoned anyone with my cooking (that I am aware of), but I just found out that I have been storing some food items in places they aren’t supposed to be stored.

  • Apples:   They stay crisper in the refrigerator and last longer without spoiling.  Hmmm, ok.  Good thing to know, but I usually don’t buy more than a few apples at a time and keep them on the counter.  My house is always cool and I like them visible, making me more likely to eat one than grab a cookie or chips…I’m going to call this one a toss up.
  • Brown Sugar:  WOO HOO!  I’m storing this one right.  It belongs in the cupboard in a well sealed bag or container, not in the refrigerator.  I also saw a tip that it will stay softer/fresher longer if you put a couple of big marshmallows in the same container.
  • Coffee:  Beans will keep in an airtight container, open bag or can at room temperature for a week.  My Mom always kept her cans of coffee in the refrigerator.  Apparently that was wrong as moisture can kill the flavor making the coffee taste weak.  I keep my beans in the freezer, which is recommended for long term storage.  Yes!!!  Another staple I’m not screwing up!
  • Spices:  I am guilty of keeping spices much longer than I should, but at least I am storing them right. They belong in a cupboard away from heat ( so not one above the refrigerator or oven), light, and moisture to keep the oils from breaking down.  Exceptions are sesame seeds and poppy seeds, which need the moisture of the refrigerator to maintain their freshness. Toasted or plain sesame oil should be stored in the refrigerator as well.
  • Hot Sauce:  No need to keep them in the refrigerator.  They will stay good (and potent) for up to 3 years in the cupboard at room temperature.  Cool, I get to free up some refrigerator space.
  • Maple Syrup:  The expensive pure stuff needs to go in the refrigerator, the Aunt Jemima  (and other artificial Maple flavored syrups) is the cupboard.  Guess I have a new resident for those recently vacated refrigerator shelves!
  • Nuts:  Oops, I’ve been storing these wrong.  Almonds, walnuts and pecans are only good (once jar or bag is opened) at room temperature for two weeks.  To maintain the freshness of the oils within them, store in refrigerator up to 9 months and freezer up to 2 years.
  • Onions, Shallots, Garlic:  Don’t do as my mom did and store them in the refrigerator.  These need to be stored in a mesh bag or basket in a dry place with plenty of room for air to circulate.
  • Tomatoes:  Yep, I’ve been doing these a disservice too!  Tomatoes do not belong in the refrigerator, they’ll get mushy.  Put them on the cool counter.

Who knew?  Certainly not this girl!

Are you on Facebook?  You might be 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 may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

This Sauce Has Balls

saucehasballsMy husband, although his Mother was 100% Italian, doesn’t care for much sauce on his pasta.  I, on the other hand, love a thick meaty sauce, no matter what style noodle (even gluten free) we are eating.

I’m in the mood for spaghetti which means sauce that’s nice and meaty, with extra spicy balls for good measure.  Just the way I like it.  😉

Hearty Pasta Sauce with Balls

  • 1 lb  Fresh Ground Pork Sausage
  • 1 lb  Fresh Ground Sirloin (90/10 or 85/15)
  • 1 1/2 TBLS Salt-Free Garlic & Herb Blend Seasoning (Mrs Dash or McCormick Perfect Pinch)
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 TBLS Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Romano Cheese
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  1. In stand mixer, combine the pork and beef.
  2. Add the spices and cheese and mix until well combined.
  3. Pre-heat 1 TBLS Olive Oil in the pressure cooker pan. Set the machine to the Brown.
  4. Remove 1/2 of the meat mixture from the bowl and place in pressure cooker pan set to Brown.  Cook with the lid open, stirring to break the meat up, for 5-7 minutes then remove and drain off the fat.
  5. Replace pan on pressure cooker base and set to the Brown setting.
  6. Add the following to the pan, in order:
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 3 Stalks Celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  1. When pressure cooker returns to temperature, cook for 6-8 minutes until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, add 1 egg to the reserved half of the uncooked meat.  Form inch to inch and a half balls and set aside.
  3. Add 1 Can (6 oz) Tomato Paste to the vegetables, stirring until combined.
  4. Add 2 Cans (14.5 each) Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (with the juice) and stir well.
  5. Return the cooked meat to the pan.
  6. Add 1 Cup Good Red Wine (If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!)
  7. Stir and add the meatballs to the pan.
  8. Close the pressure cooker, set to high and cook the sauce for the full 10 minute cycle.
  9. Let the pressure return naturally then serve over cooked pasta with garlic bread.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be 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 may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Creamy Poblano Chicken Soup

chickenpoblanosoupAfter another Southern California winter week with temperatures over 80 degrees, I was looking for any excuse to make soup.  Today the Santa Ana Winds blew in and dropped the temperature to a “Brisk” 69 degrees so I rushed to get the pressure cooker and Vitamix working so I could enjoy my favorite cool night meal:

Creamy Poblano Chicken Soup

  • 2 Roasted Poblano Peppers
  • 1 Roasted Sweet Potato (or Yam)
  • 1 Roasted Small Yellow Onion
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 32 oz Chicken Stock (I use Emeril’s)
  • 4-5 Cloves Garlic Finely Chopped
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese (Room Temperature)
  • 1 lb diced chicken breast
  • 2 Cups Shredded Colby & Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Roast the sweet potato in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes on high.  Remove and set aside.
  2. Using the Brown function on the pressure cooker, roast the Poblano peppers, the quartered onion and the garlic in the olive oil for 10 minutes after the cooker comes up to temperature.  Remove from pan when done.
  3. Add the chicken to the pressure cooker pan and again set it to the Brown function.  Cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  4. Remove the seeds and stems from the peppers.
  5. Add peppers, onion, sweet potato, garlic, 1 Cup of the broth, and cream cheese to the Vitamix container.  Process on low to medium speed until well combined and smooth.
  6. Add the chicken to the Vitamix container and process on the low setting until chicken shreds and is no longer in chunks.
  7. Pour contents of Vitamix container back into the pressure cooker pan.  Add remaining 3 cups of stock, the shredded cheese.  Stir until well combined.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.
  8. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and select the Stew/Soup function.  After the machine reaches cooking temperature, cook for 10 minutes.
  9. When cooking is complete, release pressure, stir and serve soup while hot.

Serve with buttered toasted sourdough croutons, a dollop of sour cream and sliced avocado if desired.

**Vegetarian Option:  Don’t add the chicken if you would like to serve this as a side or keep it meat-free.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be 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 may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood