Uh…yeah…The Instant Pot

So…I couldn’t wait to get my new Instant Pot. I figured it would be a great replacement for the old crock pot, rice cooker, steamer and a pressure cooker I was never inclined to buy. Actually, the thought of using one was terrifying.  You see…my grandmother and her sister-in-law blew up tamales all over the kitchen once.  So my grandma never made them again and died with her tamale recipe. This could never happen to me if I never used a pressure cooker. End of story.

The above story probably happened over 50 years ago.  Surely technology and safety have both come a long way since then. The fact that the Instant Pot had pressure cooking as an option was not a deal breaker either way.  I have always made good use out of a crock pot – even made an outstanding lasagna in one more than once.  The rice cooker I had to let go had seen better days as well.  I might walk through some fear if by some slim chance I learned how to use the scary feature on this new gadget.

So I dove in.  Sink or swim my grandpa used to say. Why not see what all the hype is about and why don’t we do it on Saint Patrick’s Day with a corned beef?  A corned beef that was supposed to take an hour cooking time and 20 minutes of a “natural release”. I had to look up what that meant as well as “quick release”…and “venting” and…it goes on and on.  I think my initial issue was the seal around the lid.  Now it’s getting late and Mimi’s Cafe was having a corned beef special that night.  Off we went like starving animals in search of a quick meal.

We came back home and let the new kitchen appliance slow cook all night instead. Meat was good – cabbage…not so much.  I’m not giving up, but now I’m a bit obsessed in getting it right!  By the way, there are some great You Tube videos on how to properly set up an Instant Pot.  WAY BETTER than the instruction manual. So I’m going back to the drawing board and You Tube for more information.  Then I’ll come back here when I know something!

That’s my story – that’s my plan – and I’m sticking to it!

 

 

 

 

Dutch Oven Cooking

I love the idea of baking with a Lodge cast iron dutch oven.  I must admit I’m intimidated by them, though. Just the thought of cleaning the darn thing put me off. So I eased into learning everything I could about them. Have I put any research into action yet?  NO – but I have big plans.  So far I have baked potatoes and made appetizers in ours.  There were decisions to be made before beginning this “idea”.

First – what size should I get?  DO’s range from 8 inches to 24 inches. 12 inches is a good choice if you plan to feed 8 to 10 people. I chose a 10 inch because, like I said, I was easing in and we aren’t usually feeding a small army.  Why spend the extra money for a larger one if I decided not to master the art and give up anyway?

Next – all my research told me what was most important:  1). a rimmed lid. You don’t want ashes and dirt sneaking into the oven.  Most of the coals are placed on the top which must be turned consistently for even cooking by avoiding hot spots. All the pesky things you don’t want in there are dying to get in, 2). a tight-fitting lid to keep steam in and prevent burning. Finally,  3). a must – three legs to keep oven above the coals.

The brand and type is a personal preference.  I found my Lodge to be of good quality. They must know something after all these years too.

I must admit – I’m still in the testing stages, but I have to tell you –  I am looking forward to getting really good at it.  I even found a way to make the process less scary:41ulpnlrklDutch Oven Liners

Click on the above link to check them out.  They are inexpensive enough to be so worth it.

The below chart makes it so easy to see how much charcoal is needed for your recipe. It works, as long as you turn the lid every 15 minutes.  If you’re sitting around doing nothing anyway, it’s not a big deal – kinda ceremonial and feels like camping to me. Sure I could throw some potatoes in the oven, but what if propane is running low, or what if I don’t want to affect the temperature in the RV?

dutch-oven-temp-chart

This whole blog post is actually putting in black and white what I want to master. I’ll be posting recipes later on, but for now, my husband is aware of what’s ahead. He thinks our oven has become a heavy, useless tool sucking up valuable storage space. I’ll show him! HA!

Feel free to share some of your tips and recipes here.  I’d love to see them!

 

 

Thanksgiving on the Road

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Oh yes – it can be done.  There are lots of ways to pull off Turkey Day in a small space.  We did it last year and it was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had.  We have a new baby in the family now and her mom and dad (our kids) are hosting this year.  We couldn’t pass that up! So we will be celebrating in stix and bricks this year.

Every year I create the menu first – no matter where we have Thanksgiving.  Most times, it is the same.  Once in awhile I’ll add something new if the mood strikes.  Here is a sample of our traditional menu:

Turkey
Dressing
Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Green bean casserole
A veggie my husband will eat (corn) - I'd rather have brussel sprouts (IJS)
Fruit salad

And then there is dessert (oh how I’d like to get some lessons from my bestie, Claudia’s on her homemade pies), but unfortunately, my homemade desserts are not pies.  Those are provided by someone else. Mine are usually cake related (I can do that) or bakery bought.

There are so many ways to roast a turkey if you are in an RV.  Today’s technology has given us many gadgets for our appliance bone yards:

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Nuwave 20326 Pro Digital-Controlled Infrared Tabletop Oven, Black

 

This little handy tabletop oven fits a 16 pound turkey – along with a lot of other things.  It’s actually Convection, Conduction and Infrared.  A dream come true for those who love to cook and experiment in any kitchen.

Another option is a turkey fryer.  I understand fried turkey is delicious, although I’ve never tried it.  It kind of seems dangerous and less healthy, but I’m not judging.  With my luck, I’d set the whole campground and myself on fire.  But it’s a good way for the brave and experienced to get a bird done outside with no fuss and no basting.

Here’s how we did our first turkey on the road.  First, it was made easy by camping with full hookups.  I have (had) a favorite roasting pan.  It was the perfect size for a small roast, potatoes and carrots dinner all in one pan.  I was sure it would fit in our small oven, but it was just a bit too large.  So my husband sawed the handles off !  It fits perfectly now and I still get to use it.  We put a pampered chef stone in the bottom of the oven to disburse heat evenly, added an oven thermometer to monitor the eat and boo-yah – it worked!  I will definitely do this again – with or without electricity.  Propane is very useful and efficient!

Next – since I was on vacation and doing most of the cooking myself, I didn’t want to risk ignoring the turkey and ending up with a dry mess.  So I put some fresh garlic cloves in a self-basting roasting bag, washed and rubbed down the bird with olive oil, garlic and a poultry rub and threw it in the bag.  The best turkey we ever had. Period. And so easy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat the skin, I don’t care what the turkey looks like and the most important thing to me is moisture and taste.  So for us – it was perfect!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving – on or off  the road!  I know I’m definitely taking one day to indulge!

See you soon!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking on the Road

This category is reserved for different types of cooking while traveling, camping or staying in an RV while traveling – or not.

The way we cook has evolved over the years.  Initially, it was about using a dutch oven over a campfire and cooking outside on a Coleman stove or charcoal BBQ. We have an oven in our 5th wheel now and a microwave we use to store bread or pastries in.  I never have cooked in a microwave other than canned vegetables, frozen dinners and baked potatoes.

The first meal prepared in our travel oven was a Thanksgiving turkey.  My husband had to saw the handles off the roasting pan so it would fit, but it was delicious!  Last year was a first for me.  I made the dressing in a crock pot instead of stuffing the turkey like my grandmother and mother used to do.  There is something unnerving about that now. Women of today seem to think that is a pretty gross tradition. I have to agree – the turkey cooked faster and more evenly and the dressing was wonderful after spending all day in the slow cooker.

I’ll be adding recipes including our traditional Thanksgiving meal above, as well as campfire/outdoor cooked meals.

Bon appetit!