Braised Beef Brisket in the Instant Pot

I am all about comfort food lately, but between shopping, baking, running 1000000000 errands, wrapping gifts, etc., I haven’t had a whole lot of time to enjoy extended cooking sessions. So, I got creative this week and adapted my favorite braised brisket from Guy Fieri’s cookbook for the Instant Pot so I could have what is typically a Sunday dinner on a weeknight. Here’s how I did it:

I seasoned the brisket and browned it with the Instant Pot set on the Sauté setting. It took a little maneuvering, but it worked:

Next, I chopped up some shallots, carrots, onions, celery, and leeks, and put them on top of the brisket:

I combined a bottle of chili sauce with some beef broth and poured it over the top:

Then, I closed the pot, and set it to 60 minutes on Manual. When it was done, I did a quick pressure release. I turned the brisket over, and added a bottle of Shiner Bock beer to the pot, being sure to baste the meat with the sauce and veggies. I closed the pot and set it to 30 minutes on Manual. When it was done, I let it the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then did a quick pressure release (however, if you have time, I would let the pressure release naturally and let the brisket rest for another 20 minutes in the pot thereafter for best results. This isn’t necessary per se, but I think braised brisket could always use a healthy rest period).

So, this is what it looked like. I removed the brisket to a cutting board and set aside. I broke out the immersion blender, and blended the juice/sauce/veggies in the Instant Pot until combined into saucy deliciousness. After slicing the brisket, I returned it to the pot for a quick sauce bath, then served with more sauce spooned over the top:

It was dang tasty, and nearly effortless.

Braised Beef Brisket in the Instant Pot

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 to 5 pounds beef brisket
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1- inch rings
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and cut into thirds
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1- inch chunks
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into thirds
  • 1 bottle chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 12-ounce beer, at room temperature ( I like Shiner Bock or Amber Bock)

Season brisket with salt and pepper. Set Instant Pot to the Sauté setting and when hot, add canola oil. Brown brisket on all sides as best you can. Top brisket with onions, leeks, shallots, carrot, and celery. In a small bowl, whisk together chili sauce and beef broth, and pour over brisket. Secure lid on Instant Pot and set to Manual for 60 minutes. When cycle is complete, do a quick pressure release. Turn brisket over, add beer to Instant Pot, and baste brisket with liquid and veggies. Place lid back on pot, and set to Manual for 30 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 20 minutes then do a quick pressure release.** Remove brisket to cutting board and slice. Using an immersion blender, blend the liquid and veggies in the Instant Pot until smooth. Return brisket to the Instant Pot, cover with sauce, then serve, topping with more sauce if desired.

**If you have the time, let pressure release naturally and let brisket rest another 20 minutes or so after the pin drops**

 

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Finished Kint–Amy Scarf

I had my very first Yarnbox lingering in my stash, and when this pattern popped up on Ravelry, I knew I finally found the right match it to go with this delectable yarn.

The pattern is super easy, and this yarn is absolutely awesome. It’s a mix of fine merino and baby alpaca, and one that I will definitely be ordering again.

Pattern: Amy Scarf (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Big Bad Wool’s Pea Weepaca in the Teal, Tree Frog, Night Owl, Leaf, and Water colorways. (It’s fingering weight, by the way)

Needles: US size 4

Notes and Mods: The original pattern called for more colors, so I added rows to make up for only using 5. I also just kind of played fast and loose with it. I discovered that, after knitting the first five color sections, repeating them all would make the scarf too long (especially since wet blocking would add length). So, I just tacked on an additional section of the first two colors (switching them so the scarf would start and end with the same color. Ultimately, I lost at yarn chicken, so the last section is a few rows shy of what I planned, but it’s not noticeable when wearing the scarf. Since this is for me, I wasn’t that concerned about it.

8 Gift Ideas for Knitters, and What You Should Not Buy Without Actionable Intel

After spending an inordinate amount of time shopping online yesterday, I was ready to hit the ground running today and spend some money locally. Not 15 minutes after dropping the kids off, the school called and Bean is sick again…sigh. We had to take her to the ER a couple of weeks ago, so the fact that she is sick again so soon is frustrating.

Anyway, if I can’t get my Christmas shopping on, I can have a cocktail and give you some gift ideas for the knitter or fiber enthusiast in your life:

  1. A yarn club subscription. I recently posted about my love of Yarnbox, but there are dozens of suppliers to choose from. This makes a great gift because most knitters are yarn-obsessed and who doesn’t like a treat in the mail? These can be on the more expensive side, but they are definitely a thoughtful gift that all but the Grinchiest knitter will love.2. Knitter’s Pride Knit Blockers. These things are the bomb, and most knitters would love it set or two. They help save time and create more even edges. I have a set, and I swear by them. Good prices too for a mid-range gift. I think one set will set you back about 25 bucks.3. Cute knitting-themed shirts or mugs. These can be easy stocking stuffers, or a super-affordable gift if you are in a situation where you need to spend under a certain amount, like an office gift exchange. You can find these at places like Knit Picks, Café Press, and Etsy.4. Cute stitch markers. I go through a lot of stitch markers, and I am always in need of more. Etsy is definitely the place to look for a fun selection, and you will be supporting handcrafters as well. These are usually affordable, and can be a great individual gift or an add-on.5. A handmade yarn bowl. Again, Etsy would be the place to look for these. They come in so many styles, which means you can find one to fit even the most eccentric knitter’s personality. 6. Personalized tags for knitters. I love adding a personal touch to my gift knitting (for those who have not been booted off the knit-worthy island), and these are not something that most people will splurge on consistently. As a southern girl, I love all things personalized and would monogram alllllllll the things if my expendable income allowed such.7. Along those lines, these types of knitting tags offer a cute way to alert people of the fiber content and washing instructions. Mighty handy, and again, just not something many knitters have lying around.8. As always, a gift certificate to your local yarn store is never a miss. If you don’t have a local yarn store in your area, look at online options, especially hand-dyers. Just avoid certificates to big-box stores because their selection is rather limited for a real fiber enthusiast.

Now, for the cautionary part. Most knitters always have their eye on new needle sets, knitting bags, spinning wheels, yarn kits, or other high-dollar accessories. Trust me, every knitter out there has a wish list in the back of their minds. However, like most people who are passionate about our hobby, we are also VERY PICKY about our core tools. While these make great gifts if they are on your knitter’s wish list, you need to be sure that you know exactly what they want while shopping. For example, I cannot stand knitting with bamboo needles, so brand new expensive set of bamboo interchangeable needles would totally miss the mark. So, if you can get your hands on intel about what they specifically want, go for it! Otherwise, play it safe. If you do want to invest in a big-ticket wish list item, you want to be sure that it’s right, which makes you awesome-sauce!

**Remember, these ideas are mine and mine alone. No one pays me or gives me crap, because I’m just not that cool. There’s no links or affiliate business going on up in here. Also, if you do see an ad on my blog, that’s from WordPress, not me and I have no control over that deal**

 

Cajun 15 Bean Soup in the Instant Pot

I survived Thanksgiving week, which ended up being a relaxed, fun holiday despite the fact that I made more food than any reasonable person should. We ate leftovers for days, and I cranked out 4 big casseroles for the freezer with the remaining turkey. For the holiday, my sister brought a Honey-Baked Ham, and afterward, we froze the ham bone (that still had a good chunk of meat on it) for later use.

A leftover ham bone (or leftover ham in general) is the perfect foundation for 15 Bean Soup, which I typically cook on the stovetop with the above mix. However, I decided to adapt it to the Instant Pot so I could get it done, start to finish, after getting the Heathens from school.

First, I did soak the beans for barely a couple of hours, but I think you can get by without that if necessary. I added the ham bone and rinsed beans to the Instant Pot:

Then, I added 8 cups of water. I did not add salt because the ham itself is pretty dang salty, and the seasoning packet to be added later also contains salt. I put the lid on, and set it to Manual for 50 minutes on high pressure (note–with that much liquid in the pot, it takes about 20 minutes to come to pressure, so plan accordingly). Once it beeped, I did the quick pressure release, and removed the ham bone. I carefully removed as much meat from the bone as possible, then returned the meat to the pot while discarding the bone. I then added a minced onion, three cloves of minced garlic, a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, the juice of a lemon, and the seasoning packet:

I put the lid back on the pot and reset it to Manual for 10 minutes. Once was it done, I did another quick pressure release, stirred, and served with cornbread:

The original recipe calls for sausage and sautéing the onion and garlic. While you can do this with sausage, ham hocks, or generally any smoked meat, I think the Instant Pot negates the need for unnecessary sautéing steps. Overall, we used up every last scrap of ham, which is a good thing because Honey-Baked Hams are not cheap…which is probably why they are so dang tasty. If you want to stretch this, you can also serve it over rice, but I like it as is and my scale could not justify any more calories…like at all…ever. If you need me, I’ll be at the gym.

15 Bean Soup in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

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  • 1 pkg. Hurst’s Cajun 15 Bean Soup Mix
  • 1 ham bone with leftover ham if possible
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Remove seasoning packed from beans and set aside. If desired, soak beans for a couple of hours. Place ham bone and leftover ham in Instant Pot. Add drained beans and 8 cups of water. Place lid on pot and set to Manual for 50 minutes, then do a quick pressure release. Remove ham bone from pot and remove as much ham as possible from the bone. Return ham to the pot and discard bone. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and seasoning packet to the pot and stir. Return lid to pot and set to Manual for 10 minutes. Do a quick pressure release, stir, and serve.

Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas…Because It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Ok, so if you are just joining us, here are some helpful past posts regarding my favorite holiday, specifically my Thanksgiving Planner (which is still my proverbial holiday bible of organization and recipes), the What I Wish I Knew post, and if you want to see a diatribe about the disappearing Thanksgiving, click here. Thanksgiving is my personal Superbowl, and I’ve cooked for crowds both large and small. I love it, but since I cook sooooo freaking much food, I really do need leftover ideas, because the Heathens will balk at eating the same meal for three days afterwards. My leftover approach is two-fold: have a selection of dishes that I make and freeze, then a selection of meal ideas to take us through the long weekend. After spending a small fortune on Thanksgiving, you can bet your behind I’m going to stretch those leftovers like crazy.

So, here’s some options:

Make and Freeze

  • Turkey Tetrazzini–I now use Pioneer Woman’s recipe which I love. I make several batches and freeze them for easy, weeknight meals. The bacon and peas add a great dimension to the turkey and it definitely is a taste profile that is approachable to all of us. I put it in foil pans, and wrap in both foil and plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Just be sure to remove the plastic before baking.
  • Turkey and/or Ham Pot Pies–I confess that this is the one post-Thanksgiving dish where I take ALL the shortcuts. I use refrigerated pie crusts, canned soups, canned veggies, and fresh herbs to feel better about myself. I assemble and freeze, then defrost and bake until golden and bubbly. If you are burnt out from cooking, these are a way to get something in the freezer in 10 minutes or less.
  • The ham bone (usually with a few scraps on it)–I freeze this by itself and make 15-bean soup later (crockpot or Instant Pot).
  • Stock–I simmer the turkey carcass with aromatics and freeze for later use.
  • Soups, chili, casseroles etc–These are viable options and pretty much any chicken soup or casserole you can freeze, just swap in the turkey.

Meals

  • The Thanksgiving Panini of Awesomeness–We use the gravy like mayo, then basically pile everything on it, including turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and more. If it’s lying around, it can go in. Grab some French bread and panini all the leftovers into delicious submission.
  • Along those lines, we slap some ham and American cheese between two glazed donuts and panini those in the waffle maker…because it’s sinful and delicious, and waffling makes everything better.
  • These Monte Cristos, but instead of tomato chutney for garnish, I sauté a little chopped (fresh) jalapeno in butter, then add leftover cranberry sauce, heating until it’s thinned down and sauce-like (think sweet and spicy). These sandwiches are much easier than a mess of the traditional frying.
  • “Funeral Sandwiches”–Google it, but ham has never been happier…except in that donut panini thing. Bear can put down a whole tray of these.
  • Similarly, mix up some turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, fold into won-ton wrappers, and fry until golden. Wonton and egg roll wrappers offer plenty of options to mad-scientist your way through creative leftover mash-ups, just wrap the mess up and fry it!
  • Here’s some of my Food Network ideas: Stuffed Pork Chops (made these and love them),  I haven’t tried these Crispy Turkey Bites, but they are on the list, and this stuffing/mac and cheese mash-up looks so crazy, it may be good.

Overall, my best advice for leftover management is to be creative, but don’t wait until this week *cough, cough* to come up with a plan next for next year. I jot down ideas all year long as I see them, so that, come Friday, I have 10 different plans waiting in the wings so I stretch the most expensive meal of the year into endless adventures in decadence. I’ll see you at the gym come Monday.

 

Thanksgiving Menu–2017

Welp, I finalized the Thanksgiving menu. Overall, it’s all do-able, and I’ll make the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot to free up burner space.  Otherwise, it’s going to be an adventure.

Best be hitting the gym now…

Yarnbox Versus Knitcrate–Which One I Like and Why

So, earlier this year, the husband and the Heathens gifted me a 3-month subscription to Yarnbox, which is a monthly box subscription for knitters/crocheters. I love yarn, and I love getting packages, so this was the absolute perfect gift. After my three months was up, I wanted to branch out and see if other subscriptions were just as satisfying, so I gave Knitcrate a try for a couple of months. Ultimately, I cancelled that one and went back to Yarnbox.

(Note, I subscribe to Yarnbox classic, and since cancelling my Knitcrate, they have changed their plans so my old subscription would now be considered the Artisan crate, which looks like it has come down in price since then.)

So, what’s the appeal of a yarn subscription? I get to try new yarns that are not typically at my LYS, and discover something new every month. However, before I go into why I favor the Yarnbox, here’s the points of comparison I started with because all of us fiber geeks are as diverse in preference as it gets:

The Yarn–I want to see quality and quantity for the price, and I think Yarnbox wins out (see below). I like variety as well. Yarnbox lets you set some preferences about colors, yarn weights, etc., so you can better tailor what you will get to your taste. For example, you can say “never send me brown yarn,” if you have a hate on for brown. To my knowledge, Knitcrate does not let you set any preferences, but this could have changed since I cancelled. I believe both boxes sell any leftovers so you can snag an extra hank if you love something and want a bigger project’s worth of yarn.

Patterns–Both boxes come with a couple of patterns. For some, this is part of the value, but not for me. I am super picky about patterns, and I don’t waste time knitting a pattern I’m lukewarm about. Ravelry is my playground when it comes to pattern hunting. If you place a big emphasis on the patterns that come in these boxes, you should check out their respective groups on Ravelry to get a feel for them.

Extras–Knitcrate Artisan came with a small extra or two each month. Yarnbox typically does not, though they did include a Soak sample (wool wash) in last month’s box.

Cost/Value–They are about the same (now, not when I had Knitcrate), though Yarnbox offers discounts for pre-purchased subscriptions, rather than month-to-month, but this is immaterial to me since I do month-to-month.

So, let’s take a look at some of my Yarnboxes:

These are just a few, but each month, I feel like I’m getting introduced to new yarns, new companies, and the quality and yardage for the cost is great. I’ve only been disappointed one month out of about seven, but that was more about my personal taste. Also, I get lots of colors but never anything I hate.

My first month of Knitcrate came with a cute keychain charm, a wooden llama needle gauge, and here was the yarn:

Don’t let the picture fool you, these are pretty small hanks, though they are of good quality, (for comparison, this Knitcrate provided 340 yards of sport weight yarn, while the above Yarnbox with the purple Sugar Bush Bliss was 525 yards of sport weight ). Also, they come from a very well-known company with wide distribution. The next month seemed more promising with two bigger hanks and…scissors. But dear lort, the color:

Trust me, it’s a lot brighter than the picture looks, and just not me. However, I was happy with the quality and discovering a new yarn brand that wasn’t such a big player, so it definitely was more of what I expected than the first month.

So, after a couple of months, I realized I was underwhelmed by my Knitcrates. I think the notions idea is cute, but in reality, it’s stuff I don’t need. I have 25 pairs of scissors and about 10 needle gauges (especially since all my interchangeable needles have one included). I’d rather put those dollars toward more yarn than on the chance of really redundant accessories.

Remember, patterns are not on my priority list, so both boxes are equal in that aspect. What sealed the deal was the chance that I would be paying for yarn that was just too far outside of my preferences. Also, at the time, my Knitcrate Artisan was about 10 bucks more a month than my Yarnbox, but I think they have since lowered the price, so take that for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, I think Yarnbox appeals to me because I feel like I get great new yarns, learn about new companies/indie operations, and I get to have some preferences while maintaining the surprise. So, take my opinion with a grain of salt, and I’m going to get back to my knitting.

***The usual disclaimer: Neither of these companies know me, because I’m just not that cool. My opinions here are all my own, and nobody gave me free stuff, or solicited my blog, or promised me a cameo in the next Kanye video. I just like talking about yarn…and food…and my abject hate for warm weather in November.***

 

Fresh Purple Hull Peas in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

So, I’ve been playing with the new gadget. Overall, the Instant Pot is pretty handy. While I think some recipes I have seen go overboard in trying to make it the end-all-be-all, “lets cook everything in it” wunderkind, I still can see using it a couple of times a week. Thus far, it’s worth the investment.

My awesome neighbor dropped by a couple of days ago with a big bag of freshly shelled purple hull peas from the farm. Score! Local food and purple hulls I didn’t have to shell myself? Can’t beat that with a stick. I knew these would work fairly well in the pressure cooker, so I tossed them in and ended up with perfectly cooked, delicious peas in record time. Here’s how I did it:

Fresh Purple Hull Peas in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

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  • 6 cups shelled purple hull peas
  • 1 ham hock
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/2 TBS plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (divided)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • splash olive oil (supposedly this helps beans/peas not foam like crazy, so I added it as a precaution)

Place peas, ham hock, chicken broth, 1/2 TBS of salt, pepper, and olive oil in the Instant Pot/pressure cooker. Attach lid and set pot to “manual” for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Taste peas for seasoning and add remaining salt if needed.

One thing I really appreciated about cooking the peas in the pressure cooker was that I did not steam up my kitchen by simmering them on the stove for hours. The heat index is 102 degrees today, so you can see how that also helps tip the scales onto the “it’s ok I splurged on a trendy thing” side. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Down the Rabbit Hole–Yes, I Bought an Instant Pot, Tell Me It Will Be Ok?

Y’all, I’m not an impulse buyer. I am also from the Alton Brown school of thought in that my kitchen has no room for “uni-tasker” gadgets. I don’t fall victim to infomercials, nor do I see the value in random items such as a perfect pancake silicone insert, countertop rotisserie, or even the microwave omelet cooker. I’m fairly old-school in that my electronic kitchen gadget staples include:

  • Kitchen Aid professional mixer (yes, it has to be a professional with the arms and clip-on bowls, not the screw-on bowls. If that’s what my grandmother and mother used, that’s what I’m using. My mom’s lasted 20+ years)
  • Cuisinart food processor
  • basic hand mixer
  • blender
  • immersion blender (for hot stuff, as I’m accident prone)
  • slow cooker (and even then, I have a Hamilton Beach model where you can put the metal pot insert on the stove top to sear meat then transfer directly to slow cooker so you aren’t dirtying up a separate pot/skillet)
  • a waffle maker (in which I waffle way more stuff in than waffle batter. Doughnut, ham, and cheese paninis anyone?)

As far as non-electric gadgets, the most eccentric I get is a slap-chop device which I need to finely mince stuff when my knife skills won’t cut it and the food processor can’t handle that small of an amount of garlic, jalapenos, or shallots consistently. It’s like the middle child between my knife skills and food processor. Ultimately, my drawers are full of multi-use basics with no “as seen on TV” foolishness to be had.

So, back to this whole Instant Pot craze (which we all know is a brand name for an electric pressure cooker). I’ve seen a ton of recipes using it on popular food blogs and Facebook. It was one of the most purchased Black Friday items last year. But surely, it’s just another gadget craze that shall pass, right?

Well, dang it if I didn’t get sucked in. I read recipes, reviews, applications, and kept shrugging it off as a splurge I don’t need. That is, until this weekend at the camp…oh this weekend…when a bad bout of heat stroke and plenty of time resting on the couch led me back down the Instant Pot rabbit hole. After two delirious and dehydrated hours scrolling through Google hits (while trying to keep my stomach from permanently exiting my body), I decided I just had to have it. And so, I bought it today, because those delirious conclusions hung on like a leech despite my recovery.

Now, what the heck am I supposed to do with this thing? I Pinterest-pinned a bunch of stuff, but I better put my shiny new Instant Pot to good, successful use fast in order to redeem my detour into random kitchen gadgetry.

Any ideas? Send help fast!

 

The Summer of the Fish

It’s no secret that we love to fish, and now that Bean is older and a wee bit more patient, we get to go a lot more often. Thus far this summer, we’ve fished the waterways of south Louisiana, a local lake, and down on the shores of Galveston. We still have plenty of side trips planned (assuming the brutal Louisiana heat doesn’t cook us to death), so I hereby declare this the Summer of the Fish!

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