Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Pork and Sauerkraut (Electric Pressure Cooker)

OK, so it's been a bizarro day since I had to cancel plans with friends to see to two sick kitties who wish to be spoon-fed (I wish I were kidding), but I was able to use my trusty Instant Pot Duo to test a New Year's good luck specialty: Pork Loin with Sauerkraut. As you will see in the pic, it came out a hair dry when I tried to split the difference between two suggested cooking times, so I'll offer you a range from the lower end to where I tried it. It was so tasty despite this that I just had to share! Cooking is one of those things that involves a lot of trial and error. I'm also going to share a new Amazon Affiliate Link, which will give me a teensy bit of money if you use it to buy this model of Instant Pot:  Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W
I'm becoming a pro at photographing brown food, don'tcha think? Anyway, it's super simple, like Sunday suppers of yore. I grew up with a mish-mash of lucky New Year's foods, with pork and sauerkraut from Mom's family and black-eyed peas from the African American neighbors who helped nurture me when I was very young. From what I've read, this is eaten on New Year's Eve in Germany, but on New Year's Day in German American communities. The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania news website has a nice long list of church and fire hall fundraisers where you can get your good luck meal, but those of us in other parts of the country will need to make our own luck 😊. This should make about 6 servings and take about an hour total. The apple will balance the salty sour cabbage and make for a lovely yet simple meal.


  • a roughly 2.5 pound pork loin (note: not the tenderloin, which is smaller)
  • 1 Tbsp each olive oil and butter
  • one onion or a couple of shallots
  • one apple
  • one pound jar plain sauerkraut (not one of the fancy flavors in the refrigerated section)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (if the kraut doesn't have them already)
  • salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
  • 2 c liquid: dry white wine, beer, broth or water. I used water with 1/4 c white wine vinegar. 
  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt, pepper and granulated garlic over the pork loin. If you can, do this a few hours or a day ahead. 
  2. Turn on the saute or brown function on your electric pressure cooker. Add oil and butter. Let it heat up until it's hot enough for searing--you don't want to put the meat in too early because the piece is pretty big, and the temperature will drop too much for good browning if you do. 
  3. Let pork sit and brown for at least 5 minutes before you try to turn it to brown the other sides. If it sticks when you try to lift it, leave it until it releases easily. 
  4. In the meantime, mince the onion or shallot (tiny bits) and dice the apple (small cubes). 
  5. Drain the sauerkraut. If you're very salt-sensitive or don't care for the flavor much, you can also rinse it. 
  6. When the pork is browned on all sides, remove it from the pot and toss in the onion or shallots. Stir.
  7. Once the onion/shallots are soft (just a couple of minutes), add the liquid and use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to scrape up the yummy brown stuff from the bottom. Stir for another minute. 
  8. Add apples and kraut to the pot and lay the pork loin on top. Lock the lid and set the cooker on high for 15-20 minutes (I did 20 and it was a bit dry, but if your loin is over 2.5 lbs you might want to err on that side. Next year I try 15 and update). 
  9. Once the pressure cooker has finished coming to pressure and cooking, allow 10 minutes of natural release time before you release the rest of the pressure. CAREFULLY release what's left in there and remove the pork and kraut from the pot. Serve over your mash of choice: cauliflower, white bean, or (non-AH) potatoes. Enjoy the good luck all year! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Spice Sorghum Cookies

For my new AH readers, this recipe is a definite "field trip" away from how I'm currently eating. However, I'm now much choosier about those things, and I made the choice to try out this recipe from the family annals because it was so important to my grandparents.
My Grandma Irene used to come and visit us in the Philadelphia area around the holidays, or in May when the azaleas were in bloom. If it was a holiday visit, she was sure to be in the kitchen working on her stollen, but I also remember that sorghum cookies were very important to her. I didn't really understand why, but now I know that they were one of her remaining connections to my Grandpa Fred, who had passed away when I was just five.
The ones on the right are underbaked. Make sure they get a nice deep golden brown. 
Grandpa's family was made up of the Sevier side, which had come over and fought in the Revolutionary War, and the Farnbach side, which had had to flee Bavaria in order to avoid being arrested for poaching on the king's lands. Branches of both families landed in Calhoun County, Illinois, a very rural area that was very Southern in many ways. Sorghum syrup, made from a grain but tasting like a mild molasses, was very common and inexpensive there. Grandma couldn't find it in Philadelphia or Phoenix, where she lived, so what we usually had were actually molasses cookies. Molasses is a perfectly fine substitute, but thanks to a friend who had been in Indiana on business and Amazon Prime, I was able to get my hands on sorghum syrup pretty quickly.
It turns out that sorghum flour is also gaining in popularity because it's gluten-free, so I decided to use that as well. My first attempt was a flop, since I didn't realize I'd have to add more flour to keep it from being too cakey. My second attempt is a success, and an adaptation of one of the amazing recipes my uncle rescued from Grandma's copy of a book of recipes from the kitchens of Calhoun County. I pared it down considerably, as the original recipe starts with a HALF GALLON of syrup (directions include "mix in a dish tub"), and needless to say would have made more cookies than my little city kitchen could handle. It still makes about 4-5 dozen cookies, and they get better as they age. This recipe has more liquid and less fat than most modern cookie recipes, and calls for a lot more sorghum than any other recipe I found online.
First, take out 1 stick of butter to soften and preheat the oven to 350. Stir 2 Tbsp baking soda (yeah, it sounds like a lot, but it works) into 1 cup of whole milk or buttermilk until dissolved. 
Mix the stick of butter and 1 cup granulated sugar. It won't look lovely and creamed like when you make other cookies, you just want to get it in evenly. Add 2 c sorghum syrup, 1 beaten egg, the milk with the soda in it, 1 heaping tsp each ginger and cinnamon, and 1/2 heaping tsp nutmeg (preferably freshly grated). Mix well.
Start adding in 6 cups sorghum or all-purpose flour on very low speed, 1 cup at a time. Hold a dish towel around the bowl if the flour starts flying out. The original old-school recipe doesn't say how much, just "until you have a stiff dough." My aunt Rosalie took one for the team and measured about 24 cups for the original giant recipe! It must have been to make enough for the whole parish or something. 

Stir in 3/4 cup each of raisins and chopped walnuts. The original recipe didn't use this much proportionally, as these were very special expensive ingredients back in the day. I found these really delicious and inexpensive ones at the winter farmers' market on my way to work. Almost as fresh as if I had cracked them myself like the ladies of Calhoun County would have done.
Scoop the dough onto a greased cookie sheet--I still use butter as I don't care for the taste of cooking sprays. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar if you can find it. A good bulk section can be your friend for this ingredient. This sugar was $5.99 a pound in the baking aisle and $1.99 a pound in bulk. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes. You'll want to let them get nice and brown so they aren't too soft because of the low fat content. I usually pull cookies sooner because I like chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies soft, but that doesn't work as well here. They taste good the first day, but they taste GREAT the next day and age well in an airtight container.
I hope you try them and enjoy them! Should be 4-5 dozen cookies depending on the size of your scoop.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Tepache (Fermented Pineapple Drink)

Pineapple Tepache: 2 quarts, 2-6 days

In Mexico earlier this month, Momma and I enjoyed two blissful days at a beach club on the Sea of Cortez. We had to pre-pay about $27 per person, but this money went toward the same amount of food and drinks, and we ate and drank very well within that. The first day, I discovered something new to me on the cocktail specialty menu: a drink of rum, coconut cream, and something called tepache I had to ask about.

Well, as it turns out, it's a drink made from pineapple (or just the peels) and piloncillo, an unrefined form of sugar. The peels of the pineapple hold the yeast that causes the fermentation, so there's no need to add a "mother" of any kind, although some add beer after a few days to speed it up. There are many variations of the recipe, of course, and I'll keep experimenting to find my happy number of days of fermentation. Start out as I did with about four days and you should have a lovely, refreshing mini-trip to the tropics in your fridge for way less money than a plane ticket. BTW: the local 99 Cents Only had ripe pineapple and piloncillo in stock, so this was super cheap to make! 

-1 small ripe pineapple
-1 8 oz piloncillo or 1 cup dark brown sugar if you can't find it
-1 cinnamon stick
-3-5 whole cloves
-2 qts water

1) Cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Scrub the outside with warm water (no soap!)
2) Cut up the pineapple and put in a large jar (3 or more quarts), peels, core and all. You can even just use the peels and core if you want to use the fruit for something else.
3) Heat the water to dissolve the piloncillo or brown sugar. Add the cinnamon and cloves, then cool to room temp or thereabouts. Once cool, pour over the pineapple.
4) Cover the jar with several layers of cheesecloth or a tea towel, held on with a rubber band.
5) Let sit in a warm,, dry place for 2-5 days, testing every day to see if it's where you'd like it to be.
6) When a white foam appears on top, skim that off. You can keep letting it ferment for another couple of days after that if you like sour drinks or more fizziness.
7) Strain out the pineapple (you can eat the parts with no skin) and filter the Tepache into a large jar or pitcher. It might need to be filtered twice if there are little white things floating in it, but you can use the cheesecloth in a fine mesh sieve to get out most of the cloves and pineapple skin debris.
8) Serve over ice or mixed into a cocktail. Enjoy your mini tropical break!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pinot and Porcini Pot Roast (Instant Pot recipe) with Garlic White Bean Puree

I'm not sure how I got my mind set on Pot Roast, but I'm so glad I did! The rainy season came early to California this year, and we're all grateful for the rain but a little bummed to miss what's usually the nicest weather of the year, September and October. Pot roast is the ultimate Sunday Supper, hearty and, while time-consuming even with a pressure cooker, very simple. With such a heavy dish, though, it's important to have something fresh on the side. While the roast does its thing, steam some nice baby carrots and make a little salad with a light vinaigrette--you can even use the tender parts of the carrot greens for the salad. 

This serves 6 for a seated meal and takes about 2 hours total if you use the jus as is rather than letting it cool to make a thickened gravy with the fat, shaving at least an hour off the time for a traditional pot roast. Recipe card at bottom. 
The other accompaniment I have here is a Garlic White Bean Puree from Fine Cooking Magazine. It tastes almost like mashed potatoes because of the cream, but with a lower glycemic index. It's a bit of work, but you can speed it up with two cans of beans instead of dry, or sub mashed potatoes if those are fine for you. 

1. Prepare the mushrooms and the meat: At least 20 min before starting, put 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms in a heatproof cup or bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over them. (If porcinis are unavailable or too pricey, get shiitakes instead. I got these in the bulk section, labeled by the horrifying price per pound, but about $4 for an ounce as opposed to $6 for a small packet.) Set a heatproof coffee cup or ramekin on top of the mushrooms if they're not submerged.  

Season a 3 pound beef roast (chuck or brisket, whichever is on sale) with salt and pepper and let the meat absorb the seasoning while the mushrooms soften. Leave in the big pieces of fat for flavor--you'll be able to remove them once it's cooked. After the 20 minutes are up for the mushroom soaking, pour off the liquid, being sure to let any grit stay at the bottom of the first cup, set aside to use as the broth for the roast, and chop the reconstituted mushrooms. 

2. Brown the roast and chop the onions: press the "saute" function of the Instant Pot (or pre-heat a heavy oven-safe Dutch oven). Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and wait until the display reads "HOT" before adding the meat in. Also use pot holders to take out the inner liner and give the oil a good swirl before adding the meat because it will have settled around the edges. 
Let the meat sit on one side for at least 5 minutes before lifting up to see if it releases easily from the pan. If it doesn't, it needs another minute or two. When it's browned on the one side, turn it over and brown the second side. Remove it from the pot and set aside for a minute. 

3. Deglaze the pan: Pour in 1 cup of Pinot Noir and 2 Tbsp tomato paste and stir for a few minutes, scraping up the yummy browned bits on the bottom. Let the wine simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol, or it'll be trapped in the pressure cooker and not cook down.  (Options: you can use another kind of red wine if you like, but Pinot and Mushrooms are heavenly together. If you don't want to use wine, sub 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 1/2 c water.)
4. Build the layers and roast: Cut one medium to large onion in half and then into to 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. These will start out as a nice little bed for the roast to rest on and then melt into delicious semi-oblivion in the sauce. 
Lay the slices of onion into the reduced red wine at the bottom of the Instant Pot (it's possible that it has turned itself off of the saute function by now, and that's OK, but if that happens during the simmering, put it back on). Put the chopped reconstituted mushrooms on the onions, and then lay the browned meat on top of that. Being careful to strain out any dirty silt at the bottom of the mushroom liquid, pour that over the top of everything. 
Set the IP on high for 55 minutes (for a 3-pound roast--add or subtract 5 min if you go up or down a pound in weight of meat). Lock the lid and let it do its thing, including 15-20 minutes of natural pressure release, before you open it back up. Do your fresh sides, clean the kitchen, or take a nap! 

5. Slice and serve! The pot roast differs from other long-cooked meats that are meant to be shredded or pulled in that it's served in beautiful slices. Remove the meat and place on a cutting board to slice up. Serve over mashed beans or potatoes with ladlefuls of the jus from the pot and your lovely steamed veg on the side. 

6. Gravy thickening options: thickening up the sauce isn't necessary, but it can make the sauce even lovelier. 
-If you use cornstarch, you can make a slurry with 2 Tbsp of that and 2 Tbsp cold water. Stir into the jus before serving. 
-If you are serving the roast later in the day or the following day, you can chill the whole pot in the fridge after letting it come down to room temp on the counter. This will let the fat in the jus rise to the top and harden, and you can take some of that fat off to use in a roux (might as well keep italicizing the fancy French words). See that lovely fat? Take about 3 Tbsp of it off and melt it in a pan on the stove. 
Whisk in 3 Tbsp chickpea flour (if you're an Always Hungry? devotee like me) or 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour and cook for 3-4 minutes until the flour taste is gone. You won't be able to see it turn from white to brown like a butter or oil roux, but why add additional fat when you can take it right from the dish? 
Ladle in the jus from the roast a little at a time until it's all incorporated. Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if needed. Now dig in already! 

Recipe card: 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

I'm working on a warm wintery pot roast post, but in the meantime I got my CSA box and some new photo backdrops today, so I'm too excited to not post this! Delicata squash is beautiful and easy to prepare because you don't have to peel it. I'm sticking with my Instant Pot for butternut and pumpkin, but this beauty gets roasted in the oven.

This particular squash looks like an abstract painting with pretty colors and ridges. Here is mine against my three new backdrops--hee hee. I tried to order two but once again missed the last confirmation click and ended up with a giant bunch of broccoli. Sigh.
Preheat the oven to 400 and wash off the squash. Everything in my CSA usually arrives clean, but it's best to be safe. Slice it into 1/2 inch rounds and clean the seeds out of each ring. Put the rings in a bowl and drizzle 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over them. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt and a little black pepper, then toss the rings around to make sure the oil and seasonings are evenly distributed. Line them up on a baking sheet, lined with foil if you want for easy cleanup.
Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and then check. They should be super soft so you can eat the skin easily--I got some that was underdone at a restaurant once and it wasn't pleasant. If they're not soft enough, turn them over and put them back in for 5-10 more minutes and check again. Because these were done in just the 20 min, they were only brown on the one side. Just put the pretty side up. No big deal.
Serve with your favorite protein and a salad. I hope you enjoy them like I do. I just want to eat the whole thing, but I'm saving some for tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkin, Turmeric, and Ginger Soup

There were a lot of things I could have done with the pumpkins I cooked for this other post, but with fall weather slipping back into the Bay Area and another impending rain storm due next week, I really wanted to make a soup. A lot of recipes out there really lean toward sweet, with additions like brown sugar and apples, but I wanted to keep it savory. It's really simple, and can be adjusted to better suit your tastes with more or less ginger, added paprika, whatever makes your heart happy.
Serves 8


  • 1 medium or 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 small stalk celery and 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger (a Microplane is ideal)
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh yellow turmeric (you can find this and the fresh ginger at a good supermarket)
  • 2 lbs cooked pumpkin (or 2 15 oz cans, or one 28 oz can, just make sure it's plain and not with added pie spice)
  • 4 c vegetable or chicken broth 
  • 2 c water
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • garnish: sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Warm the butter or oil in a stockpot over medium heat and add the onions. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt on them. Keep the heat around medium low so you don't caramelize the onions, just let them sweat a little and become translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the celery, carrot, ginger and turmeric, and soften another two or three minutes. 
  3. Add the pumpkin and stir to combine with the veggies, sauteeing for another minute or two.
  4. Add 1/2 tsp black pepper. If you're using low sodium broth, add another 1/4 tsp salt. 
  5. Pour in the broth and the water, bring to a boil,  reduce to a simmer and let cook, covered, for about 30 minutes for everything to come together.
  6. Use an immersion blender to puree everything together. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and stir in cream. 
  7. If desired, swirl in some sour cream and sprinkle on some toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy! 

Sugar Pie Pumpkins, oven or pressure cooker

My CSA box has brought lots of lovely goodies to my door, and since it's customizable I was able to add a second pumpkin to this week's delivery. I thought it would be a great chance to play around with different ways to prep them and see what works for me. Sugar pie pumpkins are the kind you want to buy to eat, as opposed to the giant Jack-O-Lantern kind. Ironically, they're not as sweet as, say, a butternut squash, which explains why those are so much more popular. Each of these was about 2 lbs and yielded about 1 lb of edible pumpkin. Summary of directions at the bottom. 

I decided to try oven roasting and my electric pressure cooker. 

To oven roast, I first started pre-heating the oven to 425 (it didn't set off the smoke detector today--woo hoo!) and quartered the pumpkin. You have to have a VERY sharp knife for this and do it carefully. Don't try to cut through the stem because it's extremely hard. Put the tip of the knife in just below it and cut down from there, then turn the pumpkin over and complete the circular cut. Pull the two halves apart. 

With a big spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. Separate them, tossing the stringy stuff in the compost and saving the seeds to roast later. Yumma yumma. 

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly oil the foil. You can use cooking spray, but I think it tastes funky. I just drizzle on a little olive oil and spread it around with my fingers. You can use a neutral tasting oil if you're going to use the pumpkin for pie or another dessert, but I'm going to make a savory soup. 

When the oven reaches 425, put in the pan and set a timer for 20 minutes. After that time, turn the pieces over and put them back in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes and start checking the pumpkin for doneness at that point, adding 5-10 more minutes at a time if needed. It's done when the skin get soft and a fork goes into each piece very easily.

Remove from the oven when done and let cool before peeling, or serve as is as a side vegetable. I hated winter squash as a kid but learned to like it eating it just simply roasted like that. Puree if you want to use it for desserts, or cut in chunks for other things. 

For the electric pressure cooker: set the rack in the inner liner and add 1 cup of water. 

Put the whole pumpkin on the rack--yep, the whole thing--and set the steam program for 12 minutes (more time for a pumpkin over 2 lbs, less for smaller or a pumpkin cut in half). Secure the lid. After the 12 minutes are up, let the pot cool down for another ten minutes and then carefully release any remaining 

When you open the lid, voila! Let it cool down before you try to peel it. 

Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle. As above, cut up the pumpkin in chunks and serve with your favorite seasonings or puree for other recipes. Here are both after they were cooked:

So, which method did I prefer? I really enjoyed the pressure-cooked one more. The texture was better and the flavor wasn't any less sweet than the roasted one, even though that technique is supposed to caramelize the natural sugars. HOWEVER, the seeds that were removed before cooking were a lot easier to separate from the yucky stringy stuff, so next time I'll cut it in half and remove them before using the PC...I'll cut back the time to 7 or 8 min. For other squashes like butternut and spaghetti, I'll keep cooking them whole. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Homemade Ricotta Electric Pressure Cooker recipe made with my Instant Pot Duo's yogurt button, yields about 2.5 cups ricotta, takes 30 minutes to an hour depending on how long warming function takes, but no babysitting it. 

I was a little confused when I first found out that you can make ricotta in a pressure cooker, until I figured out that you don't put it under pressure, you just use the yogurt setting to bring the milk gently up to a safe temperature to make the cheese. This is technically not a true ricotta, the name of which means re-cooked because it's made from the whey left over from making mozzarella, but it's delicious and it fits wherever a true ricotta would. 
This is one of my current favorite things to eat, although I think I like it better with a pear instead of an apple. Diced fruit, a teaspoon of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg...perfect as a snack or dessert, or add toasted nuts for a fall version of Ina Garten's breakfast ricotta. Use it in lasagna or cannoli--anywhere you'd use ricotta from the store. You can, of course, make ricotta using a pot on the stove or even a microwave.  I like this option because I don't have to worry about scalding the milk with one of the other techniques. 

All you need are these few ingredients...instead of white vinegar I've tried using lemon juice, but kept having to squeeze more lemons because the ones I had weren't very acidic. I've tried using white wine vinegar, but the kind I can afford left a funny taste in the cheese. You can also use just whole milk, but the texture is better with a little cream. 
Into the Instant Pot or other multi-cooker with a yogurt function, put 

  • 7 cups whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream (or 6 c milk and 2 c cream, or 1/2 gallon whole milk).
Lock on the lid and press the "Yogurt" button. The display should say 8:00, and then you press "Adjust" once so it says "BOIL". Once it comes up to 180 degrees, it will beep and the display will say "YOGT".
 Press the cancel button twice so the display changes to "OFF". Open the lid and use a wooden, plastic or silicone (not metal in a metal bowl) to stir in 

  • 1.25 tsp sea salt
Then slowly add, stirring wi 
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) distilled white vinegar--I use the Tablespoons so I make sure I stir in a little at a time
As the vinegar starts to transform the milk into curds and whey (yup, just like Little Miss Muffet), you won't see the curds but they'll start forming. 

As you stir in the last of the acid, the curdling will become more visible. Let sit for a couple of minutes while you set up the strainer. 

To strain, you can use two layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, both available online or at Whole Foods (other markets should at least have some cheesecloth). 
Set the cheesecloth or bag in a fine mesh strainer set over a deep bowl. This bowl wasn't deep enough, so I had to dump some of the whey into another bowl. Oops! 

Let the curds strain for 5 minutes for softer ricotta, 15 minutes for drier ricotta for making lasagna or gnocchi, or up to an hour for something harder and more paneer-like. 

Enjoy as you would store-bought ricotta, although you might not enjoy that anymore! 

Every time I do it I feel sad that so much whey comes off, but the good news is that you can use that whey in place of water in baked goods and smoothies. It's much more palatable and less acidic than the whey that comes from making Greek yogurt, so you can actually sip some of it if you like. Kinda tasty!