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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Easy Cook: A Small Batch of Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup

Autumn is the season for pumpkin, gourds, winter squash, apples and sweet potatoes. I look forward to cooler weather and all the fall produce. In addition to providing decoration for our homes and yards, pumpkin and winter squash are extremely tasty — when properly cooked. In my opinion, there is no comparison between freshly cooked pumpkin and the canned variety. My husband recently brought home several small “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Okay, now I get to cook them! But, I’m ready. These pumpkins have a very mild, slightly sweet flavor and can be used in many recipes. Today I made a small batch of absolutely delicious “Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup.” Although some recipes for this soup are complicated, this Thai-inspired soup is extremely easy to make. 

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Let’s Cook “Minestrone Soup” with a Louisiana Twist

I love a hearty soup on these cooler fall days which we are finally experiencing here in south Louisiana. Soup seems to take the chill out of the air and warm a person’s soul. So, today I’m making a variation of “Minestrone Soup” by including several seasonal autumn vegetables. I associate “Minestrone Soup” with Italian cuisine, although actually the soup precedes modern Italian culture and can be traced back to ancient Roman days. It was considered to be “poor man’s soup” where any and all leftovers were thrown into the soup pot. My soup certainly has lots of vegetables and beans which makes makes for a very colorful and flavorful soup. In my recipe, all the ingredients blend together — it is not overly rich, spicy or “heavy.” The soup is easy to make, and is a great way to increase the vegetables in your meals.

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Ridiculously Easy One-Bowl Oatmeal & Apple Cookies

My grandmother Ida’s pride and joy was her “Oatmeal Bars” which we helped her bake every summer during our visits to her Iowa farm. She was especially proud that you could make these bars using only one bowl. I decided to bake a variation of her recipe, but making cookies rather than bars. I had a very tart apple to use up and added this to the dough. The cookies turned out great. They are soft and moist yet chewy with plenty of apple and oatmeal flavor. The cookies are very simple to make. I used a large saucepan and “dumped and stirred” in the ingredients — one at a time in order. For further ease, I adjusted the ingredients so that most of them are “one” cup or “one” item. The hardest part of the recipe is peeling and chopping the apple.

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Easy Cook: Italian-Seasoned Baked Catfish Filets

Every now and then, it’s nice to have such a quick and simple supper entrée to prepare, that you can almost make it in your sleep. This “melt-in-your-mouth” baked catfish recipe is very easy to cook and it is also very tasty. There is no chopping, dicing, stirring or mixing involved. It is a great recipe to fix when I arrive home from work, exhausted, but still want a home-cooked supper. I have several of these “simple” catfish recipes. This first recipe involves a “secret” ingredient.

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Blueberry Cornbread

It is a pleasant problem to have too many blueberries. My backyard blueberry bushes are producing about 2 cups of ripe blueberries a day. In addition to sharing with neighbors, I’m scrambling to find ways to use all the blueberries. I love homemade cornbread and recently ran across a recipe for “Blueberry Cornbread.” I guess this shows that you can add just about anything to cornbread. I love “Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins” with pickled jalapeno bits and my “Hushpuppies” with green onions and Cajun spices. Why not make a sweet cornbread recipe with fresh blueberries? Yum!

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Family Favorites: Old-Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes

Mrs. Grossnickle made the best recipe of “Scalloped Potatoes” that I can ever remember. The dish was probably loaded with cream and butter. Not healthy by today’s standards, but very tasty. When I was growing up, the Grossnickles lived across a cow pasture which we could see from where we lived on a small hill. “Scalloped Potatoes” was served at almost every Sunday dinner after church and especially at holidays such as Easter. I am guessing that we were invited to the Grossnickle’s home for some of these meals and this is where I ate the “best” dish of “Scalloped Potatoes.” I consider this to be an old-fashioned “comfort food” and still like the dish after all these years; although with slightly less cream. For nostalgia, I’m making this dish again on Easter Sunday.

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Fabulous Turkey Makeovers: Best Ever Heisey Chipotle Chili

For Thanksgiving we served “Smoked Turkey Breast with Cajun Infused Spices” which we cooked in my brand new tabletop smoker purchased at Buc-ee’s — that Texas mega-road gas station and convenience store highway stop. The turkey was delicious; but what stole the show was the “Chipotle Chili” made with some of the leftover turkey breast. The chili recipe is a creation of my brother and his college-aged daughter. They did some cooking while they were quarantined in their Boston home this past summer during the pandemic. I believe that this dish is a “throw in the pot” stew made with ingredients which they found while sorting through their kitchen cupboard. Well, they got the seasonings just right and the chili has a great “Cajun kick’ proving that Yankees can indeed cook seasoned dishes. And it is a very healthy recipe which includes carrots, black beans, tomatoes and ground turkey rather than beef. I made the chili using leftover turkey. Here’s what I did to make this very, very easy chili recipe. But first, I must tell the Texas Buc-ee’s story and brag about my smoker.

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Cookin’ in the Kitchen: Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins & Pineapple

A recent survey showed that carrots are our country’s third most popular vegetable after corn and potatoes. (I wonder if this could refer to raw carrots rather than cooked carrots?) I do remember that carrot sticks were packed in practically every brown bag lunch that I ever ate when growing up. I can’t say that I loved the carrots, but I did tolerate them. Recently, Marie made a delightful carrot salad which is a delicious way to serve this vegetable. Marie’s recipe combines carrots with golden raisins and pineapple for a flavorful combination. And I used pre-shredded carrots to make this an easy “one-bowl” recipe. So while we are cookin’ at home, here is an easy variation of Marie’s recipe.

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Cookin’ in the Kitchen: Cowboy Baked Beans with a Kick — during the Coronavirus threat

Wow, so much has changed in the world in just a few weeks. It is hard to imagine at the start of 2020 that Louisiana and many other states would be under a “stay at home” order for the very serious health treat of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Our governor says that Louisiana has one of the fasting growing trajectories of this virus — due to the city of New Orleans and I’m guessing the tourist trade. Stay at home also means to cook at home. This includes being flexible and adaptable with ingredients on hand in your pantry. But who wants to spend all day cooking and washing dishes? For the next several weeks,  I’m going to post one-pot dishes which are simple to prepare and allow for substitution of ingredients. “Cowboy Baked Beans with a Kick” is one of these recipes.

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