Amy’s Hearty Bean Soup

Amy’s Hearty Bean SoupSo, How’ve You Bean?
I have had an Instant pot for a little over a year now. And, while I love it, I really hadn’t been using it more than one or two times a month. (I have friends who say they use theirs constantly. But, I always wondered what they were making because I always seemed to be making the same recipes over and over, mainly pulled pork or some sort of stew.) During the summer months, I didn’t use it at all figuring it was just as fast to grill and the whole point of the Instant Pot is to make stuff faster.

Lately, I have been leaving my Instant Pot out on my counter because I feel like I am using it every other night. Probably because I AM using it every other night…

My daughter gave me a couple of Instant Pot cookbooks for Christmas and I have been having a great time going through them and making all of the recipes that appeal to me. It is a testament to the power of a good cookbook because I have a number of Instant Pot cookbooks and none of them have lit a fire under me like these two. They have even inspired me to do my own experimenting. You can find them here is you are interested:

Most of my experiments have involved dried beans. I love cooking with dried beans but I really haven’t done much in the past because the old fashioned way is kind of a pain. First, you have to soak ‘em overnight then you have to cook them for long periods of time. That’s time I don’t always have and can be a roadblock when you’re craving a good bean soup for dinner. But, by playing around with new recipes, I have figured out how to make my own bean-filled creations happen in the span of an hour. Until recently, I was a bit intimidated by cooking beans in a pot because I didn’t have a recipe with beans intriguing enough to try it. I found one for a barley side dish with mushrooms that was great and that was all it took to get me going crazy with beans.

For example, I had a bag of the Zürsun Paris Bistro Beans that we sell here in the store in my pantry and I had been wanting to use them for a while. So, I got a ham shank from our Meat Department and threw it in the Instant pot with the dried beans, some sautéed onions, diced carrots, and fresh thyme along with a few cups of chicken stock. After about 30 minutes of cooking using the Multigrain setting, I had a very hearty hot bean soup that was fantastic. The meat on the shank fell off the bone and added some protein to the mix as well as great flavor. Served with some crusty French bread, it was exactly what I wanted for dinner on a chilly night.

I didn’t really follow a recipe but if you are interested in trying it out here’s the rough idea of what I did…

Amy’s Hearty Bean Soup
Yields 6 Servings Read more…

Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes

Roasted Gochujang ChickenSpicy New Year
After the holiday season, things tend to get spicy. At least they do for me. When trying to decide what I will have for dinner, I tend to shy away from foods that are similar to the kinds of cuisine I just ate for the last three weeks of the previous year. More often than not, this means I tend to pick food options of an Asian nature that have some serious spice. Gone are the demi-glace and hollandaise. Bring on the Sriracha, curry, and vindaloo…

Truth be told, the foods of the holidays are awesome but they are firmly based in the traditional in that there are usually nicely roasted meats with savory sauces. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of savory sauces and nicely roasted meats! But, by the time January rolls around my taste buds require something with a little kick to jolt them awake. This year’s weapon of choice is Gochujang.

In case you haven’t noticed, Korea’s gift to the culinary world has taken over menus everywhere and I am totally okay with that. I have become addicted to this stuff and what it does to the humble chicken.

True, roasting a chicken does actually fall into the “nicely roasted meats” category but you can never go wrong with roasting a chicken no matter what time of the year. I made the recipe below the weekend after Christmas ’cause I just needed something different. The printout is now in my drawer full of “keeper” recipes as requested by my husband. (This is the gold standard of recipes I have made over the years…) I did end up doubling this recipe and roasting two 3-pound chickens. The leftover meat was used to make Korean fusion tacos topped with Asian slaw for New Year’s Day feasting….

Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Read more…

Refrigerator Soup

Refrigerator SoupI don’t know what it looks like in your fridge after the holidays—but I can tell you there are a lot of leftovers in mine. Some are starting to show signs of becoming a science experiment and are ready to be thrown out. But, others are the remnants of a very tasty week-and-a-half. This is when I need to get creative.

At the end of the holidays, I always have a lot of random leftovers. A carrot or two here, a parmesan rind there, or that last handful of Blue Lake beans that we didn’t use. Occasionally, there are bones left over which I use for making stock. Sometimes it’s beef, sometimes it’s chicken, and if I am really lucky there’s a ham bone. And always there are leftover herbs because inevitably you only needed half of the bunch of parsley that you bought.

These are the days for what I call “refrigerator soup”. There is no set recipe. The only requirement is that you use up what you have. If you are lucky enough to have beef or chicken bones, make some stock. If you don’t have bones, the second carton of chicken or beef stock that you bought and didn’t use would be perfect right now. If you have a leftover ham bone, I would throw it directly in the pot with the veggies and then add water.

As for what goes in the stock, I generally start with onions that I always have on hand. I dice them up and sweat them in some olive oil. After that, it’s whatever strikes your fancy. Got carrots? Chop ’em up and throw them in. Same with any other veggies like potatoes and celery or green beans. Bell Peppers work well here too. Add some chopped garlic if you like and any fresh or dried herbs you think would taste good. Found can of diced tomatoes? Why not drain it and throw them in too?

Add your stock, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for an hour or so. At this point, you can add a can of beans, or some cooked pasta, or rice. Alternatively, you could put it all together in a blender and make a blended soup. It’s totally up to you, but in the end, you have a warming bowl of goodness for lunch or dinner. And, you used up what was left in your fridge. Probably the best part is you didn’t have to leave the comfort of your home…

Danish Pebernødder Cookies

Danish Pebernødder CookiesDane Good Cookies
If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I come from a big tribe of Vikings. In one corner of the ring you have my dad’s side of the family, The Swedes. In the other corner you have my mother’s side, the Danes…and there really is no contest. The Danes outnumber the Swedes by a significant amount. Because of our familial makeup, it makes sense that many of our holiday celebrations have Scandinavian roots. This is no more apparent than in our Christmas cookies.

Scandinavians are fantastic bakers. In fact we can trace a lot of tasty treats back to the old country. The Danes even have an entire category of breakfast named after them. Where they really shine, in my opinion, is with their cookies. It wouldn’t be Christmas in my family if there weren’t any Gingie cookies. I have written about them before, and you will be happy to know that I have gone through two batches already. I will be making two more batches this weekend to hand out to friends. Can’t let Sweden have all the glory though. I will be making traditional Danish Pebernødder along with them.

The Danish people love their warming spices especially at Christmas time. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves are wildly popular flavors that are found all through Danish baking recipes. Pebernødder (or Peppernuts) contain all of the above but they take spice one step further by adding white pepper for some kick. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a large Scandinavian population, you might be able to find these spices already mixed in specifically for Pebernødder this time of year but it’s just as easy to do it yourself.

These cookies are tiny little addictive balls of crunchy goodness that you can eat by the handful. The good news is this recipe makes a lot of them. They are great with a hot cup of tea or coffee or even better with a glass of milk for Santa…

Danish Pebernødder
Makes about 200 small cookies
Read more…

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes

Amy’s Fat Pants PotatoesAny Way You Slice It
I have a number of kitchen tools that I just can’t live without. Some of them I use on a daily basis (like my mini prep) but other tools only come out occasionally. These tools are worthy of their spot in the cabinet because they make quick work of whatever I am doing. My tortilla press is one example. My mandolin is another.

If you do not own a mandolin, I would highly recommend you put it on your Christmas list. It doesn’t even need to be one of the super-expensive freestanding kind, though those are pretty nice. The only requirement is that it be sharp because to do what it needs to do, you gotta have a sharp blade. Just watch out for your fingers. It’s really easy to take off the tip of your finger. I speak from experience!

Don’t let the danger turn you away, though. A mandolin can be the key to crispy homemade potato chips or really fantastic gratin dishes like the one below that I like to call Fat Pants Potatoes. I only ever make these during the holidays because if you eat them more often than that you will have no choice but to wear pants with a little give in them.

If you don’t have a mandolin, never fear. A similar result can be found using a food processor with a slicing blade or by even, gasp! using a knife like most people.

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes
Adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…