Learning a pressure cooker, or in my case, an electric pressure cooker (brand Instant Pot) means trying out new recipes and seeing what it can do.

In the case of chicken noodle soup, the answer is a whole hell of a lot.

When I made it, I went online to see what the general suggestions, and recipe directions/ingredients are for chicken noodle soup.

The best suggestion, which I heeded, was to cook the noodles separately because of the difference in required cooking time.

Other included cubing the chicken before cooking it (for people using boneless chicken breasts or thighs) and suggestions on how much broth and water to include in the pot.

Finally, I was reminded that cooking bone-in chicken means leftovers will be a little gelatinous, from the natural binders in the chicken cartilage.

(See just the recipe here.)

Chicken noodle soup made (mostly) in an electric pressure cooker (Instant Pot). Bone-in skin-on chicken legs were used, as well as green chiles (Anaheim peppers).

I didn’t see any particular instructions on what to do with chicken legs.

Chicken legs are probably the cheapest meat I can get and when I went to the store to get ingredients, they were only $1 a pound, by far the best deal in the store.

They also go on sale for $4 for a 10 lb frozen bag.

If you’re looking for a cheap chicken soup, this is it.

I put the metal steam rack in the bottom, put in two chicken legs, the cut veggies (squash, zucchini, carrots and green chiles), poured in six cups (32 ounces) of chicken broth, a little water, half a bullion cube, locked the lid and turned it to 15 minutes .

After it finished cooking, and I allowed it to “natural release” for 15 minutes, I vented the unit and extracted the first chicken leg with a gloved hand and started taking the meat off the bone and putting into a bowl. Once both chicken legs has been stripped of their meat, I threw them back in the pot and started stirring. Meanwhile, I already drained the pasta and, after realizing everything would be easier in a larger pot, I transferred everything to the pot the pasta had been in.

I added the noodles and realized it lacked salt, so, remembering a Cook’s Illustrated I read on the topic, I grabbed my trusty light soy sauce, my trustier fish sauce and seasoned the soup.

Voila!

Unfortunately, for leftovers, the pasta continued to soak up the broth. I was fine with it, but one could have added a little more.

What did I learn?

Chicken legs or (bone-in) thighs work just fine, so long as you’re willing to fish them out, strip the meat off the bones and put it back in the pot.

 

Pressure cooker chicken noodle soup

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients

2-3 chicken legs (bone in, skin

6 cups chicken stock (48 ounces)

2 cups water

1 bullion cube (optional)

1 lb carrots

1 medium onion (optional)

1 zucchini, Mexican squash, yellow squash or other squash

2-5 green chiles (Anaheim peppers) or other peppers of choice, such as bell peppers or Poblanos.

1/2 to 1 lb pound mushrooms (optional)

Other vegetables as desired, including celery and garlic

Soy sauce to taste

Fish sauce to taste

Pepper to taste

1 lb noodles

Directions

1. Cut all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

2. Place the steamer rack at the bottom of the (electric) pressure cooker, then place the chicken legs on top.

3. Put the vegetables in the pot, followed by the chicken stock, the bullion cube (if using) and the water.

4. (Electric) Set the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Allow for 15 minutes of natural release, and then vent, if desired. If using a stove top pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

5. While the soup is cooking, in a medium pot, heat water to boiling. Salt the water, then add the noodles and cook as per directions.

6. Once the soup is vented, or the top can be opened, remove one chicken leg at a time and, being careful not to burn your fingers, with a fork, knife or both, remove the meat from the chicken bones. Cut the meat into the desired-sized pieces. Continue with the rest of the chicken legs. Add the meat back to the soup.

7. Drain the pasta and combine with the chicken soup. If desired, transfer the soup from the pressure cooker to the pasta-cooking pot.

8. Season with soy sauce and fish sauce, until soup reaches desired saltiness.

I’ve been a fan of curry pastes for a long time, as well as a fan of buying ingredients in bulk for cost savings.

I don’t just buy curry pastes in bulk. Potatoes, too, as well as chicken thighs when there’s a big sale.

Somehow, and I don’t know how, I alighted on the idea to combine all three of these things. It may have started with pan-fried potatoes, or maybe with oven baked chicken thighs (skin on, bone in). It may have its genesis in yellow curry fried rice, where I first learned that the (Thai) curry paste works incredibly well as a seasoning.

Before I go any further, I need to mention that this dish goes really well with at least tzatziki, and probably zhug as well.

Yellow curry paste!

Irregardless of how it happened, I then used yellow curry paste (the mildest of the pastes) as a seasoning for pan fried potatoes. All of this is being done in a cast-iron skillet, of course.

Finally, I decided that the best of all worlds is to put the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes, and maybe a few other vegetables and then bake to allow the juices and fat to seep into the potatoes, mingling the flavors.

The problem with chicken thighs is they take a long time to cook at a high temperature. It’s not so much a problem as something you need to be aware of going into the cooking process.

(Continued after the jump)

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So, what’s for dinner?

That’s always a problem, right? Pasta, or . . . What else is in the kitchen? Refrigerator? And the time factor? Do I need to go to the store?

In my house, there are a few things always on hand: vegetables, maybe some meat (leftover, marinated or unprepared), always uncooked rice (and often times, leftover sushi/vinegared rice, plain recipe).

For me, the easiest meal is often times the humble rice bowl. I cook up some rice in my rice cooker, I turn it into sushi/vinegared rice (blog post). Then, do I want to make sushi? Or a rice bowl? Or maybe onigiri? Or maybe, a few sushi rolls now and rice bowls for lunch tomorrow, and some onigiri (rice balls) for later? The options are endless.

Peppers, grilled chicken, cucumbers and seaweed, at the very bottom, sit on top of rice in this rice bowl.

So, what is the rice bowl?

Well, it’s simple. You make some vinegared/sushi rice, put it in a bowl, cut up some veggies into bite-sized pieces, maybe cook up some meat and cut it up too, then throw it all on the rice.

Which veggies? Well, cucumbers are always nice, as are avocadoes. If you thinly slice, then deseed lemons, they are delicious. Being in New Mexico, I always add green chile peppers (unroasted) as well as jalepenos. Nori (seaweed) adds much needed taste. Green onions are also a good addition.

What else do you have? Throw it in there! Leftover steak? Cut it up, throw it in. Same goes for chicken, pork, or other meats.

Add some soy sauce, maybe some spicy/Sriracha mayonnaise, maybe some eel sauce, (Link to Amazon; once I make my own, I will post the recipe and update the link. Your local Asian store should have it for cheap.)

Bam! You’ve got a simple, relatively healthy dinner. Veggies, a little meat. Sure, the rice isn’t particularly healthy, but it’s frugal. Very, very frugal.

Avocados! Taste delicious in rice bowls, as do lemons. Seaweed is also a must.

(I buy sushi rice, Kokuho Rose variety, in 40 pound bags to be as frugal as possible. I store them in five-gallon buckets with lids, a carry over from my days as a homebrewer.)

There you go. Rice bowls. Simple. Delicious. Easy.

Seaweed (nori) is the first thing to go on top of the rice.

See all the photos on Flickr, in high quality.

Realized you don’t know how to make sushi rice? Here’s the recipe.

Want just the rice bowls recipe? Right here.

Simple rice bowls

Makes: as many as you have rice for

Ingredients

Sushi/vinegared rice
1/2 to 1/4 cucumber
1-3 green peppers
1 jalapeno (if you like it spicy)
1 piece of cooked meat (heated up if desired)
1/2 sheet of nori (seaweed sheets)
1 avocado
1 lemon, thinly sliced
All other vegetables, cooked or raw, as you see fit
Other ingredients as you see fit, or have seen in a sushi roll
Condiments such as eel sauce, Sriracha mayonnaise and eel sauce or cream cheese

Directions

1. Cut up the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Cut the lemon slices into quarters.
2. Put enough rice into the bottom of a bowl.
3. Tear up the nori and place on top of the rice.
4. Put the cut up vegetables and meat, if using, on top of the nori, which is on top of the rice.
5. Heat up in the microwave for 30 second to 1 minute if working with leftovers or desire it hotter
6. Add condiments over the top and enjoy.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which means you need recipes! I am here to provide a few. Click the links for the recipes.

Alternately, all the recipes are listed here.

The sides

Sage sausage stuffing with sourdough bread.

Tastes fantastic.

Stuffing before being placed in the oven. Although cast iron is great for baking, it tends to burn the bottom of the stuffing. Glass is preferred.

Stuffing before being placed in the oven. Although cast iron is great for baking, it tends to burn the bottom of the stuffing. Glass is preferred.

Bacon Brussels sprouts

If the skillet isn't large enough do it in batches.

If the skillet isn’t large, cook the sprouts in batches.

Ugly beans

The gravy

Make-ahead turkey giblet gravy

Make-ahead turkey giblet gravy infused with port

Dessert

Pumpkin dump cake

pumpkin-dump-cake-with-cool-whip-900x600-3

Dump cake with non-dairy whipped topping, which looks like ice cream.

Cobbled pumpkin pie

For this dish, consider using the pumpkin mixture recipe in the dump cake.

Pumpkin pie after being baked.

Pumpkin pie after being baked.

Key lime pie (needs to be frozen)

It's the pie! Pre-freezer, though.

It’s the pie! Pre-freezer, though.

Boozy apple crisp

The boozy apple crisp is good. Not amazing, but good.

Really, just choose any dessert.

Drinks

The Holiday Mule

Sparkling Wine and Cranberry Cocktail

sparking-wine-cocktail-4-of-9-900x600

Cranberry juice and sparkling wine make a great combination for those who do not like the bubbly by itself.

The Ginger Beer Shandy

The ginger beer shandy casts a pretty shadow.

The ginger beer shandy casts a pretty shadow.

Glühwein

Way too hot. My bad! No boiling allowed!

Way too hot. My bad! No boiling allowed!

It was Friday, which meant the Hispanic grocery on Wells, Marketon, was having its one day sale. I looked at the ad and lo and behold, Swai was on sale. However, I had no idea what Swai is so I looked the confusion fish up.

The Iridescent shark (it’s not a shark) is actually a type of catfish (shark catfish, Wikipedia says.) It is, however, packaged as “swai.” Three names: iridescent shark, swai, and catfish. It’s a native to fresh water in southeast Asia.

Speaking of, which, one of its relatives, the Wels Catfish, is reported to jump out and eat pigeons. If only we had them in our fountains.

At $1.99/lb, I figured they must taste decent enough and if they’re anything like their North American cousins, the flesh should stand the test of the grill. So, I bought two packages, totaling 7.89 pounds. The fillets I bought were huge, the length of a small cookie sheet. I poured lemon juice on it, threw on some lemon pepper, pepper and garlic salt and let it sit for half an hour before throwing it on the grill.

The plain recipe is: here.

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Ostensibly, this is a blog about more than just food. About life! The food part of this post is about the taco dog: A hot dog with avocado, Tapatio and . . . Why not some cilantro? Honestly, I’ve yet to hear an argument against it. The other part is about my quest to read two books every three days, adjusted for length, or 200 pages a day.

I was off to a good start: I was really into Stefan Zweig‘s “Beware of Pity.” A good injection of drama into my otherwise ho-hum life. (I find there to be a very strong argument for soap operas, myself being a former subscriber to “Sturm der Liebe.”) It was like Downtown Abbey, with more Hamlet awkwardness and soliloquies thrown in. I’m currently being slowed by the often prose-poem of “The Hamlet” by Faulkner. But more on that later.

I had cilantro in the refrigerator. So I said, why not put some cilantro on it! Well, I exlaimed it. Didn't really say it. Then, I realized I had those pickles. Those  free pickles which therefore taste better.

I had cilantro in the refrigerator. So I said, why not put some cilantro on it! Well, I exclaimed it. Didn’t really say it. Then, I realized I had those pickles. Those free pickles which therefore taste better.

On to food, before I return to books! I bought a whole bunch of hot dogs, while they were on sale, for a party I was having. I’ve been slowly using the ones that remain to eke out a frugal existence. When I still had a can of sauerkraut, I used it. Now, I have a few extra avocados (five for a dollar) and the two can go together. Mix in some Tapatio hot sauce and some secret sauce (as used on fish tacos.) Some mustard and a dab of ketchup and there. A quick, frugal meal.

I started out by warming up a bun and cooking up a hot dog, either on the grill or in the pan. Then, I cut up half an avocado. Dog in the bun, mustard and secret sauce on top or in the bun, avocado on top, followed by the Tapatio.

While you’re at it, look and see if you have any cilantro and if you find some, why not put some cilantro on it?

Quick. Easy. Delicious.

It’s west meets west meets surprise cilantro!

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Since I’ve been unfortunately bereft of cash, I’ve moved much of my diet over to the produce that’s on sale for the week and brown rice. Brown jasmine rice, to be exact. The other part of my diet is using up whatever I have in the refrigerator. Recently it has been small dill pickles.

Eating so much rice quickly (soon I will move on the quinoa and the bulgur wheat I have stored) means I have to mix up what I’m doing with the rice. Early in the month, I made a conglomeration of black beans (I had cooked in the slower cooker,) chorizo and brown rice with ample amounts of onions, (home-made) salsa and Taptio (not home made.)

Curry rice with a wee bit of cilantro on top.

Curry rice with a wee bit of cilantro on top.

I then moved on to the stir-fry route with a failed General Tso’s chicken, made with broccoli. The sauce (made with apricot preserves) did not come out at all. (The point of the dish, to me, is the sauce, not the meat.) I considered it a failure. That left me with extra rice and no eggs. I didn’t want to just fry the rice — no eggs. Instead, I dug through the quickly-emptying refrigerator for my big container of yellow curry paste. Two pounds, to be exact, of spicy goodness. I poured some oil into the cast-iron skillet, put the curry in, let it disintegrate some and then threw in the rice.

Curry paste

Curry paste!

Had I other vegetables, or had I remembered the just-bought sack of onions sitting with the potatoes, I would have thrown them in. Good contenders range from potatoes to eggplant to broccoli and sprouts, peppers and tomatoes and squash. I then made a hole in the center of the rice, cracked for eggs, cooked and mixed them into the rice. I cut up cilantro I had bought for the purpose and threw it in, leaving a little extra to be used as a un-cooked garnish.

It serves its purpose. Now only, if I had vegetables left.

If you’re looking for a little extra somethin’-somethin’, then consider making some dill-heavy tzatziki to go with the curried rice.