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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in easy, IP, Soups, on March 17th, 2022.

So very easy to make in the Instant Pot. 

A post from Carolyn. For quite awhile I’m been reading a blog called Ministry of Curry. And I’ve made several of Archana’s recipes, since I’m a lover of all things Indian food. This recipe isn’t Indian – that’s not to say they don’t eat barley in India – – – I have no idea, actually. But there are no Indian spices here, as this is very much a simple, lightly seasoned mushroom and vegetable soup with some added barley. I started out with her recipe, although I altered it. You can find thousands of mushroom barley soup recipes on the web and there may be nothing all that unusual about this one. But I’ll just tell you it’s a good stick-to-the-ribs kind of cold-weather soup for these cool/cold evenings. The easy part is that it’s made in the Instant Pot. Love that pot.

A few weeks ago I was out in the desert at the 2nd home (condo) my daughter Sara, her husband John and I purchased in 2020. We’re in the process of renovating it now, and that will likely take a long time to finish. As I write this, the guest bath (mine) is getting a total makeover – new shower and tile, new cabinet, fixtures, lighting. Except for a vessel sink and granite countertop the bathroom was circa 1985. Old. Tired. Eventually we’re going to vinyl (wood-like) plank the floors in the whole house, but for now it’s tile. Anyway, I got sidetracked there – – I wanted to make a batch of butter chicken and the recipe I’ve posted here (that I just love-love-love) is made in the Instant Pot. Well, shoot  – we didn’t have an Instant Pot at that house. So, I went to Costco and bought one. I don’t think I could function anymore without an Instant Pot in my kitchen. My most common use for it is making hard boiled eggs (the 2-10-2 method – 2 minutes manual pressure – 10 resting – release pressure – then 2 minutes in ice water). I eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast seven days a week with a little yogurt and fruit on the side.

So back to this recipe . . . am I giving all of you TMI? . . . I went to a local market and got some bulk barley (I can’t tell you the last time I bought or ate barley), a big honkin’ leek, onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, etc. This soup doesn’t inherently have any protein in it – although barley has some – but when I reheated bowls of it I added in some chopped up rotisserie chicken so I would have some protein. But many of the heated bowls I ate as is, no protein. It’s very filling, let me say. I really liked the addition of sour cream on top that gets mixed in as you eat it. There’s a little bit of tomato paste in the recipe (good umami flavor), and I also used mushroom soup base (try amazon) that is a regular fixture in my frig. And over a pound of mushrooms. And I added some sherry wine to it also. Every time I heat a bowl of it the sherry aroma wafts from the steam.

As with all soups, this one tasted so much better the next day and I’ve been eating away at it for a week with enough to put some in the freezer too. It’s very filling – a scant cup is plenty for me for lunch.

What’s GOOD: just the wholesomeness of it – healthy, hearty, filling. So very easy in the Instant Pot (15 minutes, that’s it). The chopping up of all the veggies took a lot more time than that! Good for freezing. Good umami flavors throughout.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mushroom Barley Soup in the Instant Pot

Recipe By: Adapted from Ministry of Curry
Serving Size: 6

1 pound mushrooms — crimini
4 tablespoons EVOO
4 tablespoons dry sherry
1 large leek — or two medium sized ones
1 1/2 cups onion — finely chopped
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 cups celery — thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups carrots — diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons mushroom base — a concentrate
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup parsley — minced
GARNISH:
1 cup sour cream

1. Slice half of the mushrooms. Dice the remaining half.
2. Set the Instant pot to sauté mode and heat half of the oil. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooking sherry as the mushrooms start to stick to the pot, cooking for additional 2 minutes. Remove cooked mushrooms with liquids and set aside.
3. To the Instant Pot add remaining oil, leeks, onions, garlic, and celery to the pot. Sauté for 2 minutes. Next, add mushrooms and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add carrots, tomato paste, bay leaves, barley, salt, pepper, and mushroom paste and water.
4. Pressure Cook for 15 minutes followed by natural pressure release. Remove bay leaves.
5. Stir in the reserved mushrooms. Cool soup and for best flavor, refrigerate overnight. Reheat then garnish with parsley. Serve hot with bread. You can also add a dollop of sour cream as a garnish.
Per Serving: 290 Calories; 16g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 735mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 107mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 833mg Potassium; 190mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, IP, on November 8th, 2021.

This post comes from Taylor, Carolyn’s granddaughter. 

This part from Taylor. This is such a special cheesecake recipe! One of my dear coworkers, Candy, was famous for bringing this to birthday celebrations at work. Our department went all out for birthdays and Candy was known for her baking! Everyone had requests for what their special birthday treat would be. This was always mine. After my sweet friend Candy retired, she passed the famous cheesecake recipe on to me to continue making it for celebrations. It was an honor to take this on and while it may not ever taste the same as hers did, it sure is a good cheesecake! There are some special additions I’ve included that make it that much more delicious.

This additional info from Carolyn.  At right is a photo of Taylor – at her nursing school’s “white coat ceremony” recently. I was privileged to be the family member who helped her put on her coat. Taylor is living with me while she attends nursing school through Concordia University near where I live. Taylor is my daughter Dana’s daughter. Home for her is near Placerville (east of Sacramento). A few years ago, after she graduated from Sacramento State (with a BS in Health Care Administration) she began applying to nursing schools, which took awhile. She worked in a clerical job in the ER at her local community hospital while she applied to nursing schools. That’s where she met Candy. Anyway, now Taylor is in Concordia’s accelerated nursing program (13 months long, rather than the more traditional 2 years) and when she graduates next August, she’ll have a 2nd bachelor’s degree (this one a BSN). After that she’ll probably go back home to Placerville, study for and take the nursing exam, then try to find a job in the Sacramento area.

Taylor isn’t a cook – she’d be the first one to tell you that – but she does like to bake. As I write this, Taylor made some wonderful cookie bars recently that will be posted eventually. I’m just loving having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a great companion, helps me out when I need things done around home, and we have a lot of fun together. Although she doesn’t have a whole lot of extra time – she’s in classes, working a day a week at a local hospital (part of her nursing program) or studying like crazy on her days off.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

Recipe By: adapted from Pressure Cook Recipes
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
10 whole graham crackers — finely ground, 120 grams
3 tablespoons unsalted butter — (42g – 56g) melted (3 to 4)
1 pinch sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar — or less if you prefer it less sweet – start with 2 tsp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
BATTER:
16 ounces cream cheese — (454g) room temperature
2 large eggs — room temperature
2/3 cup sugar — (133g)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120g) room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch — (16g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract — (10ml)
2 pinches sea salt
TOPPING:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
CHERRY TOPPING:
15 ounces cherry pie filling

NOTES: Use a hand mixer, not a stand mixer, as it overmixes the batter.
1. Place cream cheese, eggs, sour cream on counter-top to reach room temperature. Then, melt the 3 – 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. This step is critical to the success of the batter.
2. Crust: Finely grind in a food processor. Or place the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Then, in a small mixing bowl, mix finely ground graham crackers, a pinch of sea salt, brown sugar together with a fork. Mix in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Mix in roughly 3 – 4 tbsp unsalted butter until the mixture sticks together.
3. Line the side and bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment paper. Do not butter parchment paper. Pour in the graham cracker crumbs mixture. Gently press down the crumbs with a ramekin or Mason jar to form an even layer. You can also use a spoon for the edges. Blind bake crust in a 325°F oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely before continuing.
4. Mix cornstarch, 2 pinches of sea salt, and white sugar together in a small mixing bowl.
5. In a medium mixing bowl, briefly break up cream cheese by beating it for 10 seconds with a hand mixer using low speed. Add in HALF the sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds). Scrape down the sides and hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula every time a new ingredient is added. Add remaining sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds).
6. Add sour cream and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Beat until just incorporated using low speed (20 – 30 seconds).
7. Blend in the two eggs using low speed, one at a time. Mix until just incorporated (about 15 – 20 seconds with a hand mixer and less time if you are using a powerful stand mixer). Try not to overmix on this step.
8. Scrape down the sides and any batter on the hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula and fold a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Pour batter in cheesecake pan. Tap cheesecake pan against the counter to let air bubbles rise to the surface. Burst the air bubbles with a toothpick or fork. Tap until you are satisfied. Ensure the surface is clear of air bubbles or fork marks.
9. Place a steamer rack and pour 1 cup water in pressure cooker. Bring water to a boil (Instant Pot users: Press manual/Pressure Cook and set the time to 28 minutes). When the water begins to boil, place cheesecake pan on the steamer rack with a foil sling right away. *Caution: Don’t wait too long to place the cheesecake in pressure cooker, as it’ll affect the cooking time. Place it immediately once the water begins to boil. This prevents too much water from evaporating. Immediately close the lid with venting knob at venting position. Turn venting knob to sealing position and let it pressure cook at high pressure for 28 minutes and full natural release. It should go up to pressure in roughly 1 minute. Natural release will take roughly 7 – 9 minutes. Open the lid gradually. Absorb any condensation on the surface by lightly tapping it with a soft paper towel.
10. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature with the lid open in the pressure cooker. Or place it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
11. After cooling for 10 – 15 minutes, carefully run a thin paring knife between the sidewall and parchment paper to release the cheesecake from the pan. Pull the slightly wrinkled parchment paper lightly to straighten it out for a smooth side.
12. Once the cheesecake has completely cooled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 – 8 hours (preferably overnight).
13. Before serving, add sour cream mixture and spread it out fully to edges. Pour cherry topping over the top and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to get the topping cold.
14. Serving: Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and cut into wedges to serve.
Per Serving: 551 Calories; 32g Fat (51.3% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 365mg Sodium; 29g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 110mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 220mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

Posted in IP, Pork, on November 19th, 2019.

herb_garlic_pork_tenderloin_IP

Tender, juicy, and oh-so easy in the Instant Pot

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you have probably figured out I’m a pretty experienced cook. Not a chef – just a regular home cook. And you’d think I’d know how to make just about anything. But I have had to learn the ins and outs of the instant pot. I love the thing, use it once or twice a week to hard boil eggs (which are just the best way). And make soups and stews in it. As a family of one, though, I generally don’t cook a pork tenderloin anymore (except for guests), just because it leaves me with a lot of leftover meat that may or may not be all that juicy when reheated.

Yet, I’m a sucker for learning something new. My local Bloomingdale’s has a very small demonstration kitchen right in the middle of the cookware department. I was walking nearby after I’d been into the store to buy a couple hundred dollars worth of Nespresso pods for my beloved machine. My Nespresso machine needs to be buried with me – I want it in heaven. Oh, I’m going to be cremated . . .well, that presents a problem, doesn’t it? Not much good to have a cremated Nespresso. Oh I’m getting way off topic, here! Anyway, I noticed there was a cooking class going on, I paused, and grabbed a flyer. And now I’m on the mailing list. The classes are ridiculously cheap/free. All I had to do was buy myself a $10 gift card which I could use as a gift or for myself – which I did – I bought the OXO Good Grips Silicone Egg Rack, plus a flat rack that’s not metal for the IP too. I’ve used the egg rack already – my hard boiled eggs are now much more yolk-centered, which I like. Haven’t yet used the rack.

Back to business – so I signed up to take the pork tenderloin class for the IP. The chef, Sandra Hauser, gives classes a couple times a week. Many aren’t interesting to me, but this one was, and we were served the pork, mashed potatoes and an Oreo cheesecake (made in IP – will share that recipe soon).

First she made a fresh herb rub with a lot of garlic in it. After the tenderloin was oiled well with EVOO, she rolled the meat around in the herb rub, then sautéed it in the IP – just a couple of minutes on each side. Then she added some big sprigs of herbs, some chicken broth and set the IP to cook for ONE MINUTE. Yes, one minute. Once the IP had finished that part of the cycle, she began watching the timer on the IP itself, which starts counting up once it’s finished. She waited 10 minutes, quick released the pressure and removed the pork to a heated platter, then tented the meat with foil. She turned the IP to sauté again and boiled down the pan juices. Meanwhile she’d made a monstrous mound of mashed potatoes (no I didn’t eat even one bite) and served both with the pan juices.

You can’t really tell from the picture that the pork is perfectly cooked. She gave advice about that – if the tenderloin is about a pound, the meat needs 10 minutes of resting time after the one minute under pressure. If it’s more like 1 1/2 pounds per tenderloin, then it needs about 13 or 14 minutes rest time. So be sure to weigh the tenderloin before cooking this. The meat was perfection. Just the right kind of pink in the middle and very tender and juicy.

What’s GOOD: the meat was ever so tender and juicy. Perfectly cooked. Who knew? The IP is quite a magical piece of equipment. Just have everything else ready and finish up during that 10-14 minutes of resting time. The meat does like to sit after it’s out of the IP for a few minutes, however. That’s when you boil down the pan juices. So very tasty. Yes, I’ll be making this next time I have house guests.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Easy dish.

printer-friendly PDF and Mastercook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

IP Garlicky Fresh Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Recipe By: Cooking class at Bloomingdale’s, South Coast Plaza, 11/19 (Sandra Hauser)
Serving Size: 3

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon EVOO — for pork
2 tablespoons EVOO — for searing
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
HERB RUB:
1 large garlic clove — finely chopped (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
GARNISH:
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced

NOTE: You may use dried herbs in this – use a teaspoon dried in place of a tablespoon fresh.
1. DRY RUB: Combine all ingredients and set aside.
2. Remove any silverskin from the pork tenderloin. Rub the small amount of EVOO on the pork, then gently pat the dry rub on all surfaces.
3. Heat IP on saute function and add the remaining EVOO, then add the pork and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. No more than that, or the pork will begin to cook through.
4. Add the chicken broth to the pot along with the sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Close and lock lid and set IP to manual cook for ONE MINUTE. Yes, one minute. As soon as the one minute sound occurs, start a timer for 10 minutes or watch the screen on the IP. If the pork tenderloin is about a pound, you’ll want to let the IP sit for 10 minutes (meanwhile, the pork will continue to cook at pressure, but in off position). If the tenderloin is closer to 1-1/2 pounds, set timer for 12 minutes. Quick-release pressure at appropriate time, use instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, looking for 140°F. You can replace lid and bring back to pressure for another 2-3 minutes and read temperature again. Don’t overcook the meat or it will dry out.
5. Remove pork to a heated platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
6. Turn IP to saute and reduce the pan juices by about half, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Slice tenderloin on the diagonal and pour pan juices over the top. Garnish with Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 417 Calories; 23g Fat (47.4% calories from fat); 53g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 148mg Cholesterol; 760mg Sodium.

Posted in Gundry-friendly, IP, lectin-free, Soups, on February 25th, 2019.

chix_enchilada_soup_GFLF

EASY to make soup in the Instant Pot. Lots of flavors to savor.

So, Carolyn here – I’m still alive and well – I made this soup yesterday and it was so good I knew I needed to post it. I was supposed to have a group of friends over to my house to watch the academy awards last night, but a few days ago my Tivo went kaput – everything about my entertainment system goes through the Tivo. Tivo is sending me a new one, free, but it won’t arrive for about another week. Therefore I have no TV to watch in my family room. So we had our academy awards potluck dinner at someone else’s home. And I made soup.

Because I had a whole chicken in the freezer, I chose to use it instead of the chicken thighs noted in the recipe – I used the same timing – so you can do that too, if you choose.

Into the Instant Pot went the chicken, some diced tomatoes (canned), a can of chopped green chiles, an onion chopped up, a shallot minced, a package of chili seasoning (or taco seasoning), a bit of extra ground cumin, canned enchilada sauce and chicken broth. I set the Instant Pot on “soup” for 20 minutes. I let it slow release for 15 minutes, then fast release. The chicken was removed to cool, then I shredded up all the meat from the chicken.

Meanwhile, I used the immersion blender on the broth part, added in the sour cream and crème fraiche, added back in the shredded chicken and let it reheat briefly. Don’t let it boil or the soup part will separate. Then I cut up the garnishes and let everyone help themselves. If you want tortilla chips, smash a few to garnish the soup (I didn’t because I didn’t think it needed it, plus I can’t have tortillas on my diet).

And how am, you want to know? I’m good. Very busy. Have a done any painting yet? Only a little. PEO has been taking up a bunch of my time lately. I’m taking a trip to San Francisco with 3 girlfriends next month which will be great fun. My grandson has been accepted at Clemson in the Fall, although he hasn’t officially told them yet (he’s interested in bio-science) – Clemson is where his sister goes to school (she’s a junior there), although she’s in Argentina studying this semester and is really struggling with the dialect. She got accepted to do a medical internship at a fertility clinic in the city where she is living. And she starts her semester classes later this week, all in Spanish (or, this Argentinian dialect, I should say). Sabrina is planning to take the MCAT in the fall to be accepted to med school. She’s the one who started out wanting to be a vet, but I think she’s certain now she wants to be an MD or a PhD research doctor. My other granddaughter is finishing her senior year at Sacramento State and hopes to go on to get a Master’s in Nursing. By the way, I’m still keeping up the “Currently Reading” section of my blog (left sidebar of the main page) in case you’re interested. Last summer I couldn’t WAIT for winter to arrive. Be careful what you wish for, right? It’s been SO darned cold here in Southern California. Coldest on record almost. But it’s been going on for weeks now. I had to dig to find more coats and wraps because it’s so cold even in the daytime.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was. I could have made it a day ahead, but as it was, I made it just before I toted it to my friend’s home. The flavor of the soup part is really, really good. Lots of Mexican flavor too. It was filling (and fairly low calorie too) and everyone thought it was really good.

What’s NOT: only the shredding of the chicken meat, and that took about 15 minutes, tops. I’m glad I still have some, because I’ll be having it for my lunch today.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup (also LF and GF)

Recipe By: adapted a lot from All Day I Dream About Food (blog) 2019
Serving Size: 8

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — or you may use chicken breast meat
3 cups canned tomatoes — canned
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
1 medium shallot — peeled, minced
1 package taco seasoning mix — or chili seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 ounces chopped green chiles — canned
10 ounces red enchilada sauce — Frontera brand if you can find it
salt to taste, if needed
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup creme fraiche
grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado for garnish

NOTES: I used a whole chicken (smaller sized one) but used the same 20-minute timing and it was cooked through just fine.
1. Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, shallot, enchilada sauce, chiles, and seasonings in the bottom of an Instant Pot . Pour the broth overtop.
2. For the Instant Pot, seal the lid and make sure the vent is on seal. Set to the Soup Function for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
3. If you want to use a slow cooker, place the lid on and set to low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
4. When cooking is complete, remove the chicken to a plate, cool and shred the chicken meat. Remove about 1 cup of the hot broth to a bowl and whisk in the sour cream and creme fraiche, then whisk this combo back into the pot. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add chicken to the pot.
5. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot with grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocados.

Per Serving: 308 Calories; 18g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 123mg Cholesterol; 1110mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, IP, pressure cooker, on February 12th, 2018.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach

Goodness, me. This was so easy to make. I could even make this for myself for dinner, and then have leftovers.

Christmas morning I usually make something special for breakfast. My cousin Gary was visiting, and although he wasn’t feeling very good, still he knew he should eat, so I whipped this up in the IP. It was my first IP recipe I tried, and it turned out really well. My cousin has to eat GF, so going crustless was the way to go anyway. I was perfectly happy with the results.

I did research using the IP for quiche, but found several recipes, so I knew it was a successful thing to try. I had some baby spinach in the refrigerator that needed eating anyway, so I kind of combined two recipes and made it a quiche Lorraine style but with added spinach. Daughter Sara gave me an IP cookbook called Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast. This recipe, with my modifications, came from that book.

The quiche ingredients were standard, starting with some thick sliced bacon that I sautéed for awhile to get it rendered out and crispy. There was hardly any fat in the pan anyway since the bacon I used was so meaty. The onion was cooked through, then I cooled and cleaned the IP pot. Meanwhile I mixed up the quiche ingredients (eggs, milk, cream, S & P, Emmental cheese, spinach) and the bacon and onion, of course. The rack is inserted into the IP, then the quiche, loosely covered with foil (you don’t want steam to get in there – it would ruin the chemistry of the quiche). It was pressure cooked for 10 minutes, rested for 10, then quick released.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach_wedgeI’d shredded a bit of extra Emmental and sprinkled more of it on top and stuck it under the oven broiler, just so it would have a bit of color. One thing about pressure cooking . . . you can’t get good color unless  you brown things before, or broil them after. It took no time at all to broil it for a few minutes. I let it rest for a couple of minutes because it was so hot, then cut into 4 portions and served it along with some yogurt and fruit.

What’s GOOD: it was basically a 2-dish prep (IP pot plus the ceramic baking dish) so there was easy cleanup. Loved the quiche. It may not have had the same consistency as a traditional oven-baked quiche – almost like eggs done in the microwave – but it was good and hit the spot. I liked the addition of spinach, even though it’s not traditional for a Lorraine type quiche.

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless you really miss the crust.

printer-friendly PDF and Master Cook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

IP Crustless Quiche Lorraine with Spinach

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Instant Pot Obsession
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon butter — (for coating baking dish)
3 slices bacon — chopped
1 small onion — sliced thin and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh spinach — coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper — or black
1 1/4 cups Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type
1 cup water — for steaming
TOPPING:
1/3 cup Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type

1. Prepare a 1-quart round baking dish (that fits in the IP) and coat the bottom and sides with the room temp butter.
2. Using the IP saute function render the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove and set aside. Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is fully translucent and soft. Remove and set aside. Pour out any extra grease from the pot, cool, then clean the pot and replace into the IP.
3. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk and cream, then add pepper and remaining salt. Add half the cheese to the mixture along with the spinach, bacon and onion, and pour it all into the prepared, buttered baking dish. Add remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil – not tight – but enough so steam won’t get into the dish. Install rack in the pot and gently place quiche dish on top of the rack. Add water to the bottom. Use manual pressure for 10 minutes, then let sit for 10 minutes as a natural release, then quick release.
4. Open IP, remove quiche, using the rack handles and set on countertop. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
5. Add extra cheese to the top of the quiche and place under broiler just long enough to get some nice golden brown color to the top (watch carefully), remove, allow to cool for about 3-5 minutes. Cut in wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 386 Calories; 31g Fat (71.9% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 250mg Cholesterol; 519mg Sodium.

Posted in IP, Pork, pressure cooker, on February 8th, 2018.

IP_spareribs_bbq

Oh yes, mouth watering happening as I look at that photo. So quick and easy.

The other day I discovered an ancient package of pork spare ribs (not baby backs) in my freezer, back when my DH and I bought a part of a Berkshire pig. It had unique wrapping, so I knew – and it had a date on it. 2011. Wow. It’s been in my freezer for nearly 8 years! I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be all that good, but guess what? It was wonderful. Maybe because it was packaged well to begin with!

With my new instant pot sitting on my kitchen counter, I scanned websites to find a recipe that would work. Sure enough, found one at the blog called iwashyoudry. Shawna had used baby backs, but I presumed the cooking time would be similar. First I removed the thin tissue along the back of the ribs. It’s a bit of a nuisance to have to do that, but I did it anyway, knowing the dry rub would reach all the inner meat if I took the time. Then I combined the dry rub – a little bit of brown sugar and a bunch of spices. A very good mixture, I think! Into the IP they went, to rest on top of the IP rack, leaning up against the sides of the pot.

Once the meat was in, you add some water, apple cider vinegar AND a tiny jot of liquid smoke to the bottom of the pot, making sure you don’t wash off any of the spices sticking to the ribs. Having used liquid smoke in the past I wasn’t altogether sure I’d like it – but  using just 1/4 tsp gave the ribs just a hint of smoke. The meat cooked under high pressure for 23 minutes (Shawna cooked her for 25, but spareribs have less meat on them, so I chose 23). It rested for 10 minutes, then quick release.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler during the last couple minutes of resting time and prepare a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and have at the ready your favorite bottled BBQ sauce. Lay them on the baking sheet and brush that on. Broil just until beginning to get crispy brown. Remove and dig in! For mine, the ribs were nearly falling off of the meat, so I just took the bones out and had a nice little plate of just meat. And sauce. And spices. All good tasty stuff! My thanks to Shawna for a great recipe that works!

What’s GOOD: you can have ribs on the table in a little over 35 minutes or so, that taste like you’ve spent hours smoking and tending to them. When you haven’t!! Loved the combo of spices in the dry rub and with using just a little bit of BBQ sauce to finish them off; these were perfect! A keeper.

What’s NOT: really nothing, other than ribs have a lot of fat, so for me, they’re a real treat. Not something I’d fix on a regular basis.

printer-friendly PDF or MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot BBQ Spareribs

Recipe By: adapted slightly from I wash you dry (blog)
Serving Size: 4

3 pounds pork spareribs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke — optional
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1. Remove the thin lining from the bottom side of the ribs by running a butter knife under the skin and then using a paper towel to grip and remove completely. (This allows the dry rub to reach the meat underneath.)
2. Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper in a small dish and rub all over the ribs.
3. Place the rack in your IP/pressure cooker and place the ribs inside the pot, standing on their ends, wrapping around the inside of the pot. It’s okay if it leans against the pan. Pour in the water, apple cider and liquid smoke (if using), being careful to not wash off any of the seasonings.
4. Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Pressure cook on high for 23 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the way.
5. Carefully remove the ribs from the pressure cooker and set on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, and broil for 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Per Serving: 686 Calories; 51g Fat (67.4% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 165mg Cholesterol; 994mg Sodium.

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