Tuesday, September 15, 2020

BBQ Chicken in the Instant Pot

I've been working from home full time since the middle of July, but starting this week, my coworkers and I have been assigned one day a week to be in the office.  My day is Wednesday.  Which means tomorrow morning, I'll have to get up a little earlier, and, more stressfully, pack a lunch!

Thanks to the rain dump that Hurricane Sally is causing over the region, I expect I'll be stuck inside the office building and that the day will be gloomy, kinda like it is today.  So while last fall and spring I was able to enjoy a picnic lunch midday, that won't be the case tomorrow.  What to do? What to do?

I've been reading about how to make chicken in the Instant Pot - there's even a Poultry button on the front of the model we have.  When Publix had a BOGO free sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts a few weeks ago, I bought some and put it in the freezer.  The Internet says the Instant Pot doesn't really care if your chicken is fresh or frozen rock solid, the cooking will be the same.

Erin over at Meaningful Eats has an Instant Pot BBQ Chicken recipe that she posted a while ago, but there are still people discovering it and commenting on the success of this method.  Bonus, it's gluten-free as well!  I thought pulled BBQ chicken sounded like something that could form the basis of a few meals including an office lunch.

I didn't have exactly the same ingredients as her recipe, but the modifications worked.  And the technical parts of the recipe were key to the success of making this in the Instant Pot.  Here's what I did, in order of adding to the Instant Pot:

1 1/4 c. Progresso chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, partially defrosted
1/2 tsp each of garlic powder, paprika, and salt
2 T dried minced onions
3 T brown sugar
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 c. G. Hughes BBQ Sauce

Manual, high pressure, 15 minutes, 10 minutes natural release, then QR the remaining pressure.

Temp check of the chicken showed it was cooked through, so it was time to shred.  The chicken pulled apart easily but still maintained moisture and had flavor infused. The "sauce" left in the pot was pretty runny; it would be okay over rice if you were going to use serve it right away, but not for having a "saucy" sandwich.  Of course the recipe says add additional sauce after the chicken is done, so that wasn't surprising.  And I still have a half-bottle of the G. Hughes.

I intend to use some of the chicken on top of a salad for lunch tomorrow - a sort of BBQ Chicken and Salad.  I also think I'll put a serving's worth into the freezer to see how it keeps.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Beans and Taters

My brother-in-law is in charge of cooking the beans in his house, and with good reason.  He has mastered the Instant Pot for turning dried, hard, potentially gaseous beans into a hearty, flavorful meal.

All the Instant Pot books rave about how much better beans cook and taste when made in the pressure cooker, so it only makes sense that my next venture involved cooking beans.  Of course all the books say "it depends" for how much time, which beans to use, how much water, how to season, etc., but my sister-in-law wrote down the instructions for me.

For this first venture, I used pinto beans and northern beans, 1 c. dried of each.  The key is to cook them for a few minutes, drain the water, and then add new water along with whatever you have on hand for seasoning.  Pre-cooking the beans and rinsing helps eliminate (or at least greatly reduce)whatever chemistry creates the gassy-effect that beans have on the digestive system.  

For seasoning, I used about 1/2 c. finely diced celery (2 small stalks), 1.2 c. chopped baby carrots, 2 tsp. of dried minced onions, two generous shakes of Worchestershire sauce, 2 tsp of salt, and three shakes of black pepper.  I measured the amount of water necessary to cover the beans plus 1/2 inch (my 6 qt pot required 3 1/2 c. water to reach the desired level).

Since I hadn't cooked beans in the Instant Pot before, I started with 20 minutes on high pressure with natural release.  I checked them after the pressure released and they had been left in the pot for about 35 minutes after the pressure cooking stopped.  The pinto beans were still a bit crunchy (like a soft nut) so I restarted the pressure cooking for another 5 minutes which was just about right.  Next time I'll start with 23 minutes rather than 20 and see if that makes a difference. 

I didn't have any ham or bacon to add to the beans while cooking; as such, they needed more salt at the table. I'd recommend adding the ham for additional flavor rather than risking adding too much salt while cooking.

We like "taters" with beans, and these Simply Potatoes brand traditional mashed potatoes are both a convenient and delicious addition to an inexpensive meal.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

An "Egg"cellent Lunch

One thing about working from home is that it's easier to have variety for lunch.  When I was working from the office, I would pack my lunch each day, and it usually consisted of a pb/j on frozen gluten free bread and a bowl of something salty/crunchy.  Or maybe leftovers from dinner two days ago.  Or the emergency can of soup from my desk drawer if I was running late.

But working from home means I have not only time, but access to the kitchen, so I don't have to necessarily plan ahead nor have to make my midday meal portable.  A fresh salad, a grilled cheese sandwich, a grilled hot dog or burger.  And today, I had Egg Salad.

I love egg salad, and I just about got the egg boiling process to near perfection.  And then I gave my egg pot to my older son when he moved into his own apartment.  But cue the arrival of the Instant Pot.  After my successful water cook of yesterday, I was ready to try hard-cooked eggs.  So during my mid-morning break, I set up the Instant Pot and re-read the instructions I found online for eggs.  I got an accessory kit to go with the Instant Pot so I would have an egg stand for it. I preloaded the inner pot with the egg stand, added 1 cup of water and gently placed 7 eggs, one in each circle.  Lid on, secured and locked, seal checked, vent checked, plugged in, set the time for 6 minutes, and waited.  About 15 minutes, the beeper sounded, time to QR the pressure, and move the eggs to an ice bath for a minute.

I don't know if it's about how well cooked the eggs were, or maybe the ice bath was just the right temperature, but I have never had hard-cooked eggs peel so easily.  And the whites and yolks were exactly how I like them, each evenly cooked, none over-done.

I put the eggs in a new Pyrex covered bowl I recently bought to replace some of the other things that found their way to apartment(s), used my Pampered Chef pastry blender to chop the eggs, and then dressed them with a dollop of Kraft mayo, a few squeezes of Publix yellow mustard, and several heaping spoonfuls of Vlasic dill relish.  Then let it rest in the frig until lunch; so fresh and delicious!

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Instant Pot for Beginners, by a beginner

My sister-in-law uses her Instant Pot several days a week, and while visiting over the Labor Day weekend, she used it every day.  Dried beans one night, boiled eggs the next morning, rice to go with grilled fish for dinner, and a beautifully creamy potato soup for lunch.  When we've visited in the past, I've watched her use it from afar; it was too scary to me when it was time to release the pressure.  But this weekend, after watching the variety of uses, and tasting the easily prepared foods, I decided it was time to add this kitchenware to our collection.  

Our boys have both moved out of the house in the past eight weeks, taking several of our dishes, pots and pans, and small appliances with them, so we actually have room for a new addition.  I ordered it during the car ride home Monday afternoon, and then requested several Instant Pot books from the library.  The mail person delivered the pot and DH picked up the books from the library today.

So late this afternoon, I pulled the device out of the box and read every word in the instructions and the safety guide, checked out all the pieces and parts, and set it up on the counter with plenty of space around it (just in case, you know?).  I read through one of the library books that covered the basics and made recommendations for foods to try as a beginner.

The instruction book and the library book both suggested the first recipe to be 3 cups of water.  That way you learn how to use the machine, what the basic buttons do, and how to release the vent (apparently referred to as QRing - or Quick Releasing - as opposed to NR - natural release of the pressure that's built up).  And you don't have to worry about exploding eggs or burned chicken.

There are many blogs and websites dedicated to cooking in an Instant Pot, and I am glad someone else has done the trial and error. I'm looking forward to trying out a few things and hopefully simplifying my meal planning / food prep for the week.

Now that I've mastered cooking water, I think I'll try eggs tomorrow.  The concensus seems to be 1 c. water, 6 eggs placed gently on the insert, and on high pressure for 3 - 7 minutes depending on how runny or hard you like your eggs.  QR the pressure, put the eggs into an ice bath, then peel.  If it goes okay, we'll be having egg salad by lunch!  If it doesn't, ours will be the house with the windows wide open and the sulphur smell wafting.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Meal tracking while gluten free and prediabetic

I am thrilled to post that my ttg-ita levels are in the normal range (0-3 is normal; mine is 3) after starting at over 100 just over a year ago. I feel confident in my ability to eat gluten-free and to avoid cross-contamination.

However I am not thrilled that as a direct result of my body healing inside and now absorbing calories and nutrients it had previously given me a "free pass" on, I gained weight (which is very common among people with celiac disease if they are not given proper counseling) and my body is now pre-diabetic.  In addition, my cholesterol is now considered high.

So I asked my doctor for help in getting this all under control and corrected before it becomes problematic.  She went to bat for me with our insurance company and secured services for me with a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about celiac disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol.  I met with the doctor and the dietitian this week and am armed with a notebook, a food log, and some specific targets for my daily nutritional composition.

I'm taking pictures of some of my meals to supplement the documentation of my food log in case we need to troubleshoot anything along the way.  I don't want to get into a rut of if it's Monday, it must be chicken night - so maybe you all could offer suggestions for foods to try to change things up along the way.

So here we go.

Wednesday's lunch was at Sonny's BBQ. I ordered the Lunch Special which was sliced pork, plain baked potato, and a side garden salad with their fat free honey mustard dressing.  I looked up calories, carbs, and protein before going. The dietitian told me that potatoes are not my friend so when I have one at a restaurant, cut it in half to have the right amount of carbs for the meal.  My husband was with me so he ordered a side salad and a side of baked beans for his lunch since I was giving him half of my potato.  Here's what else I learned - sauces will use up your carbs allotment in no time, so use them sparingly!

Wednesday evening dinner needed to be something quick because we attend Bible classes. I had not had time to go shopping during the day, so I had to use what we had in the house, plus make something that the family might eat as well.  For dinner, I put a homemade BBQ sauce over some cooked ground beef I had in the freezer to make a pseudo-sloppy-Joe.  Frozen broccoli florets in the steam bag filled out my plate.  Again, the sauce added additional carbs to the meal besides those that were in the broccoli. I used a smaller plate and you can see that half is filled with vegetables.

Thursday was my younger son's 18th birthday, so I wanted to bake him a cake and make him dinner while he was at band rehearsal.  I can't eat the cake because of the gluten, so no worries about having to figure out how to balance the calorie and carb-load that would bring.  Dinner was grilled chicken cutlets (on the George Foreman grill, super easy and fast), boiled carrots, and the leftover steamed broccoli from Wednesday.

Friday night lights - yep, I spend many a Friday night at the local high school football stadium in support of my son's marching band (he's one of the drum majors), so that meant dinner had to be early and quick.  So salad and some of the leftover BBQ ground beef from Wednesday made a good-enough dinner to get me out the door.  I used Ken's Lite Honey Mustard dressing on the iceberg lettuce with grape tomatoes.  Normally I get the romaine lettuce in the pre-torn bags but the iceberg was on sale and cheaper by the head.  This tided me over until we got home at nearly 11 PM.

Saturdays are typically the one day a week that we go out for a meal as a family, but the younger boy's day was filled with volunteer work. So instead of going out, we ate at home.  For lunch I made a chef's salad with iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes, sliced ham, and honey mustard dressing. I added some sunflower seeds for crunch since no croutons are allowed!

Saturday evening dinner: baked chicken, Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, and broccoli florets. It might look plain, but it tasted delicious!

I have a couple of books checked out from the library with recipes and meal suggestions that I hope will offer some variety. But in the meanwhile, I'll keep working at this to improve my health.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gluten Free at Paradiso 37, Downtown Disney

Before leaving Walt Disney World, my friend and I spent a few hours at Downtown Disney. While there, we stopped in to Paridiso 37 for lunch. Paradiso 37 has a menu spanning North American, Central American, and South American cuisine. As usual, our server ask if we had any food allergies, and when I mentioned my gluten allergy, he went to get the chef. While waiting for the chef, I looked over the menu and decided that the grilled chicken tortilla salad looked like it would be safe minus the tortilla chips. Mixed greens, salsa, roasted corn, grilled chicken, and a citrus vinaigrette. It was delicious!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gluten Free at Liberty Tree Tavern and Saratoga Springs Resort, Walt Disney World

Another trip to Walt Disney World means another chance to experience dining gluten-free Disney-style. For this trip, we had plans to eat at the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom. This has been a favorite dining location for us for many years. They serve a variety of foods including turkey, dressing, and vegetables, salads, burgers, and various pasta dishes. My favorite has been the Colony Salad which is a bed of fresh lettuce topped with Craisins, nuts, apples, and grilled chicken. Because we marked our reservation with a gluten allergy, the chef came out to check with us about that. I told him that pre-Celiac's, I liked the colony salad. He confirmed for me that the colony salad is, indeed, a gluten-free option. I thought it probably was, but it does not hurt to confirm. It was as delicious as always.

The next afternoon, we did not have lunch plans but were just hanging out at the Saratoga Springs resort. We had stopped at a nearby grocery store to get food for the rest of the family but I did not know what I wanted. So when we returned to the resort, I checked out the offerings at the Artist's Palate which is the food court at Saratoga Springs. I knew they serve soups, flatbreads, and salads. I had not eaten there before, so I checked the menu carefully and made my selection before entering the line. Because of my gluten allergy, they asked me to consult with the chef. I told him that I thought the Saratoga salad with chicken sounded like it might be a good option without the croutons. He confirmed that for me. It is very similar to the Colony salad I had at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The Saratoga salad with lettuce, Craisins, dried blueberries, and walnuts with a lemon poppy dressing. I have included a picture of the Saratoga salad. It was delicious and plentiful. In fact, I think I like it better and it costs about five dollars less. There is enough that two of us could have shared this.