Instant Pot Magic: Let’s Cook Dried White Beans & Smoked Cajun Tasso

I love my Instant Pot for many reasons. One is speed. Some foods, such as dried beans, cook much faster when using the pressure setting on an Instant Pot. Now I can cook healthy dried beans in a reasonable amount of time (rather than all day). Although there are differences between types of beans, I have developed a “template” recipe for cooking white beans –Navy, Great Northern, cannellini or lima beans. This is a one-pot recipe; everything is done in the Instant Pot. No need to soak the beans overnight. The Instant Pot does that function. Then add seasonings, smoked Cajun Tasso or other smoked meat, the soaked beans and let the Instant Pot finish the job. No need to keep checking on the beans as the Instant Pot regulates the temperature and keeps track of the cooking time. In addition to being a tasty meal, dried beans are full of healthy fiber and other nutritional benefits. So, let’s start the New Year with some healthy dried beans cooked in an Instant Pot. Here is a bowl of white beans and ham (made with Navy beans).

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Dynamite Shrimp Appetizer

My “Dynamite Shrimp” appetizer is an absolutely delicious way to serve shrimp. It is inspired by the appetizer served at P.F. Chang’s Restaurant where shrimp tails are dipped in tempura batter, fried and then coated with a sriracha aioli. Yum! For the past several years, one of our winter holiday family traditions has been to enjoy a meal at a P.F Chang’s Restaurant. The atmosphere, variety of menu choices and presentation of the oriental foods can’t be beat. This year our favorite dish was “Dynamite Shrimp.” I decided to make a variation of the dish at home. We all agreed that my shrimp appetizer tasted just as good as P.F. Chang’s version and, surprisingly, it isn’t that difficult to make using common household ingredients.

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Instant Pot Magic: Spaghetti with Diced Tomato & Meat Sauce

For me, the joy of an “Instant Pot” is all about the challenge. I am starting out the New Year with another of my “Instant Pot” experiments. Can you cook spaghetti with diced tomato & meat sauce in an Instant Pot? Although cooking pasta on the stove in one pot and meat sauce in another pot really isn’t difficult, an Instant Pot does save several steps and it reduces the number of pots that you have to wash. (And that is so important.) Plus, homemade spaghetti sauce tastes better than any commercial one, in my opinion, and it is easy to make. As an added benefit, the homemade sauce can be made so that it is not high in sodium (salt). Spaghetti with meat sauce has always been one of our favorite “go to” suppers. With a “never give up” approach; I made this simple recipe over and over in an Instant Pot trying to get the process perfected.

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DIY Cooking: “Crispy Buffalo Chicken Wings”

Crispy chicken wings and drumettes make a great appetizer to serve at an afternoon gathering while watching some of the many televised football bowl games coming up this week. I experimented with several recipes and found that it is extremely easy to make these hot little appetizers at home if you just follow a little common sense advice. Of course, you can drive to a restaurant such as Buffalo Wild Wings and pick up an order or have the food delivered. But why? These homemade chicken wings are crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and are so easy to make. Just put a simple dry rub on the wings and bake. Yes, these wings are baked; not fried. So tasty.

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Brined and Roasted Boneless Turkey Breast with a “Touch” of Cajun Spice

Is my family the only one who doesn’t like traditional turkey and fixings for Christmas? After getting up at the crack of dawn to begin roasting the turkey and spending what seems like “hours” in the kitchen to fix the perfect Christmas dinner, I finally got the message. My family really doesn’t care for turkey and dressing or all the ceremony that goes along with carving the turkey. For several years I quit serving a turkey dinner at all. But, I like turkey. This year I plan to cook a small boneless turkey breast instead of a large bone-in turkey for Christmas. For a Louisiana twist, this turkey recipe is full of spices and great flavors. It is very tender and well-seasoned. This surprisingly simple recipe is a “keeper.” I have made it several times to fine-tune the recipe for our Christmas gathering. Each time, the turkey quickly disappeared.

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A Small Orange Streusel Coffee Cake

Here is coffee cake recipe which is just right for the holidays, “Orange Streusel Coffee Cake.” For a Louisiana twist, I am using satsumas growing on the tree in my backyard in the recipe. Coffee cakes are easy to make, they are tasty and the citrus flavor in this recipe gives a holiday flavor. As the cookbook author stated, “you can’t fail.” That’s my kind of cake. With a streusel topping, you don’t need an icing. This coffee cake makes for a simple “hurry-up” breakfast during the holiday season, a pastry for an afternoon break or a dessert for supper. Just add a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped topping.

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DIY Christmas Gift Project: Cookie, Muffin and Bar in a Jar Mixes

What unique gift can you give the family who likes to cook? This year, I am making each family member an individualized “Cookie Mix, Muffin or Bar in a Jar Mix.” The basic premise is to include the dry ingredients for the dessert in the jar. The “chef” provides the eggs, butter, vanilla extract etc; which are added to the mix and baked. Of course, you must include the instructions on how to prepare the baked desserts. Sort of like a boxed cake or brownie mix but much more creative (and homemade). The sky is the limit on what recipes can be adapted for this DIY Project and what ingredients can be added. Hey, you can’t find a store -purchased box mix for Matcha Muffins. Here is a batch of my “Macha Muffins with Cranberries” made from my “Jar Mix.” Not only is this a creative gift, but the muffins are extremely tasty, too.

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Black Walnut Cluster Kisses for the Holidays

The holiday season is a great time to bake cookies. Do you know of anyone who can object to receiving a plate of homemade cookies? I love to bake during the holiday’s, but don’t need to eat many of the rich cookies and desserts. So, let’s bake cookies and give them away (well, most of them)! This season I am making a tried and true cookie recipe, “Black Walnut Clusters,” and I am adding a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each cookie for an extra “pop” of chocolate and a festive appearance. This cookie recipe is a favorite with the flavors of chocolate and black walnuts in a rich vanilla cookie. It is simple and quick to mix up.

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Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Flan

I’ve always wanted to make a “Flan” and was excited when I stumbled across a recipe for “Pumpkin Flan” in a vintage cookbook. It is another prefect recipe for Thanksgiving and the holidays. A custard-type dessert with caramel topping is by far my husband’s favorite dessert. In Louisiana, custard flans and a similar dish, crème brûlée, are standards on most traditional restaurant menus. I can always guess what dessert we will order when we go out to eat. This recipe for “Pumpkin Flan” is a baked custard using whole eggs, spices, cream and pumpkin puree. It includes a hard caramel glaze. This recipe, or at least the caramel glaze, is tricky to make. I included fresh pumpkin pulp from my “sugar pumpkins” in the custard which gives this flan a definite Thanksgiving “pumpkin pie” taste. The “Pumpkin Flan” turned out great including my caramel glaze. Creamy and smooth. Delicious.

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Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl

Is there anything else for dessert other than pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? “Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl” might be an idea. This dense, moist cake has both pumpkin flavor and the spices of pumpkin pie. With a cream cheese filling swirled into the batter, you don’t need an icing for this cake. It uses a one-bowl cake concept and is easy to mix up. Plus, it can be baked a day or two ahead of time. This cake might make an alternate dessert if you want something different to serve in addition to or other than pumpkin pie. With the flavor of pumpkin pie, but not the texture, this cake is quite tasty especially with a dollop of whipped topping.

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