The Mardi Gras season is here, it’s time to partake in King Cakes. And for those folks who live outside of south Louisiana, a King Cake is a rich, sweet yeast bread baked in an oval shape and decorated with the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. Often the pastry has a filling such as cream cheese, praline or fruit which makes this tasty bread even better. King Cakes are an integral part of Mardi Gras holiday merriment and they fill the bakery section of grocery shelves from early January to Mardi Gras Day (this year it is March 1). It is common practice to take one of these pastries to work to share with co-workers for a morning treat. Yum.
Let’s cook “Kumquat Marmalade.” And just what are kumquats? These tiny edible “oranges” pack some punch. My mother-in-law has a backyard kumquat bush which is loaded with fruit this year. You eat the small, whole citrus-type fruit, including the rind, spitting out the numerous seeds found in the pulp. Kumquats are about the size of a cherry tomato and taste like a pungent orange. I find that eating the entire fruit is a little overpowering. Instead, I made a small batch of “Kumquat Marmalade.” It was was delicious, especially when served with cream cheese and crackers. Making marmalade — one jar at a time — is quite easy and not difficult at all.
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).
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.
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.