Instant pot living – Cheddar Broccoli soup

This time of year I really enjoy hearty vegetable soups – on dark and dreary late Fall and early Winter weekend evenings, there are few things more satisfying that healthy and filling wholesome vegetable soup. This new Instant Pot recipe feels like it’s destined to be a classic.

Ingredients
3 Tbsp Butter
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 small Onion, diced
1 large Carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Coarse Salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground Nutmeg
2 cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth, low sodium
1 1/2 lbs Broccoli Florets, fresh (chopped-shredded, about 6-8 cups)

Roux To Thicken

1/4 cup Flour
1/4 cup Butter

To Finish
6 oz Cheddar Cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 oz Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
2 cups Half and Half

Instructions

Gather all ingredients, and prepare all of the vegetables, and shred the cheese. It’s easier if you have it all ready to go.

Turn on the Instant pot’s Sauté setting. 
Add the butter and olive oil when it heats up. Then add the onion and cook for a few minutes.
Add the grated carrot and cook for a minute to soften.
Add the pepper. paprika, salt, nutmeg, and garlic. Cook for a minute, stirring.
Add the broth, and stir.

Add the broccoli, but don’t stir. Put the lid on and lock it in place. Set the steam release knob to the Sealing position.
Cancel the Sauté function. 

Then press the Pressure Cook/Manual button or dial. Then the + or – to select 5 minutes (High Pressure).

When the cooking cycle is over, let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes (5 minute Natural Release). 
Then Quick Release the remaining pressure by turning the steam release knob to the Venting Position. 
Turn off the pot.
If you want a creamier consistency, use an immersion blender. I like the slightly more rustic finish.

Mix the flour and butter together in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 15 seconds. Then mix very well until it is smooth.

Turn the Sauté setting back on and mix in the flour/butter mixture and stir until it starts to thicken.
Add the cheeses and stir in. Cancel the Sauté function and add in the half and half. Stir well.

Taste and adjust salt, if necessary.
Serve with some nice sourdough or cheese bread/buns.

Instant Pot Living – General Tsao Chicken in a jiffy

Prepare your chicken first by cutting boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite sized cubes.

Start cooking your rice or vegetables when you turn your Instant Pot on. 

Ingredients

400G chicken breast skinless and boneless, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce low sodium
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp ginger fresh, grated
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Oyster sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

Optional Garnish
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 green onions chopped

Instructions

Add the chicken pieces to the Instant Pot then dump the rest of the ingredients to it, excluding the cornstarch and water. 

General Tsao Chicken in an Instant Pot moment!

Stir everything well with a spoon.

Close the lid. Set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook setting – set the timer to 5 minutes.
Add 10 minutes of natural release. 

Carefully unlock and remove the lid from the instant pot.

Switch the Instant Pot to the saute setting (do not put the lid on). Transfer the chicken to a bowl using a slotted spoon. 
In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch and water together then pour over the sauce and stir. Cook for about 2 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the chicken back to the Instant Pot and turn off your Instant Pot by pressing the cancel button.

Garnish the chicken with sesame seeds and green onions. Serve over rice.

Instant Pot Living – Risotto in a jiffy

This recipe produces creamy, perfect risotto every time. 

Authentic and brilliant Mushroom Risotto in less than 25 minutes from start to finish? Oh yes!

This is best served right out of your Instant Pot to experience the best silky texture of the risotto. 

Reheating with a little extra water and pad of butter helps recreate the creamy original texture, for you leftover lovers.

Ingredients

1/2 pounds mushrooms thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, rough chopped or diced to your liking
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice or other short grain rice, but arborio is preferred
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups beef broth + 1 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded. Plus additional for serving.
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped. May use chives if desired.

Instructions

Heat a large cast iron or non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Add mushrooms directly to the pan without oil or butter. As the mushrooms begin to release their natural liquids, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt to help the moisture continue to release. My mushrooms were drier so I tossed in 1 tbsp of butter.

Stir occasionally until mushrooms become browned to your liking. You shouldn’t need to add any butter or oil to the pan but if you like, you can add about a teaspoon during browning. 

Remove mushrooms from heat and set aside.

Turn the Instant Pot to Saute’ and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the chopped shallots. 

Stir frequently until shallots begin to slighly caramalize, about 3 minutes.

Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil that’s already in the pan. 

Add 1/2 cup white wine. Stir and cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated. This takes less than a minute.

Add the beef broth/water medley to the rice mixture and stir briefly, making sure the rice is submerged.

Place the lid on the Instant Pot, turn steam release nozzle to Seal. 

Using Manual button and High Pressure, set time for 5 minutes. Pot will take about 3-4 minutes to reach desired pressure before starting to count down the 5 minutes. Once the cooking has completed and the Instant Pot beeps, let pressure release naturally for 4 minutes before turning nozzle to Vent to finish releasing the steam.

Remove lid from Instant Pot. Add, salt, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, and the sautee’d mushrooms. Stir until butter and cheese have melted. Add fresh chopped parsley. Stir again. Taste and add fresh ground black pepper and additional salt to your liking.

Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Fresh Tomato Basil Pasta

It’s a sure sign of summer’s forward motion towards fall when the garden baskets fill with cherry tomatoes and basil plants bow under the weight of their own bounty.

This simple pasta dish is vegetarian/vegan and is a delight paired with a voluminous red white.

Ingredients –

Fettuccine for pasta – fresher the better.
Olive oil
Cherry tomatoes – around 1 cup or so. Halved.
1/2 cup chopped basil (Fresh!) – and chopped fresh garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chili flakes
Balsamic crema
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Process

Put on salted water for pasta (enough for two people…)
Heat a saute pan with two tablespoons of olive oil.
When heat achieved (medium) put in 3/4 of the halved tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper (heavy on the pepper)
Saute for around 2 minutes – then add heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic and a sprinkle of chilli flakes to taste
Stir for another minute or so and add a 1/4 cup of white wine.
Turn heat down to low medium.
Take half of the chopped basil and throw it into the saute pan. Mix or stir. Cook for 2 minutes.
Drain the pasta.
Add it to your Saute pan. Mix to combine. Add 3/4 of the cheese and the remaining basil. Mix to combine.
Divide between two plates and garnish with remaining cheese.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee lover who appreciates simple dishes served with love… and wine…


Chicken Ramen BBQ for the Thrifty

This Chicken Ramen makes a delicious and flavorful ramen in about half an hour in your Instant Pot digital electric pressure cooker! I used the left over bits from a $9 BBQ Chicken from local grocery Thrifty Foods.

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
4 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup Fresh Miso
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 whole baby bok choy, both white and green parts diced
1 cup of leftover chicken bits.
4 cups low sodium chicken home made chicken stock
2 servings fresh Ramen noodles. We get our Ramen noodles in the produce section of the local Fairways chain.
Optional 1 soft boiled egg.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add the noodles and simmer for 3 minutes. Strain and rinse with cold water. Toss with just a little oil if necessary to keep them from sticking (mine already had a little oil on them, so I didn’t need to).

Set aside.

To prepare soup broth:

Add all ingredients except for noodles and bok choy to instant pot. Set to manual, high pressure for 8 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure. After cooking, use the quick release to release pressure. Open pot and stir in bok choy. Allow bok choy to cook in the hot soup for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in Miso.

To serve the ramen
In a bowl, place a serving of noodles, then pour the soup over them. Top soup with ramen egg (if desired), sliced green onions, cilantro and sesame seeds if desired.

Return to the now – Chapter one

Silence – what is it and where does it come from? Like the empty coffee cup, is it actually empty or waiting?

Contrary to popular belief, the empty cup and saucer is not necessarily a bad thing. It offers optimism, hope and light at the end of that seemingly endless tunnel called life.

For me, the latter half of 2017 and the first 6 months of 2018 have been something of a challenge. Elder care and the death of a family member – always challenging things. But these are things that everyone encounters and has to process in their own way. From within the emptiness of the coffee pot comes a fresh batch of ideas. Every new day brings us alternative coping skills – or that innate ability to move forward despite feeling ankle deep wet concrete holding us back.

The loss of a parent brings unique emotional challenges. For some of us, it might be our mom or our dad – or even a special aunt or uncle. What I discovered about losing “mom” were the unexpected layers or strata of emotional responses and how when you least expected it, something would pop up and trip you up.

Like the weather: You cannot predict it with that much certainty. You do know that a rain is going to fall and the sun will shine in its glory once again. Just maybe not today or tomorrow.

LR123.mp3

or click here for the mp3 if you cannot see the above widget.

Spiked Sourdough Hybrid Dinner Rolls

I have a Sourdough starter that goes all the way back to 2008. I did not create it but got a sample a couple of years ago – and I have managed to not kill it.

Which is astounding because I hurtle every form of abuse and indignation in its general direction; starvation, neglect, disinterest… etc. OK, maybe it’s not that bad because it lives on.

For those who don’t know what a sourdough starter is: In its simplest terms, it is flour and water (those are ingredients that you provide…) The environment (or the World around you…) provides the “natural” yeasts. It is easy to say that they “exist” within the flour that you provide, but yeasts (and molds) are everywhere around us.

And in my case, my Sourdough starter which was created in a neighbourhood around 12 km away from where I live must have evolved after it was relocated. Which is to say, while there are “yeasts” everywhere, they are not all the same and they each (collectively) impact different flavours on the different creations (breads, rolls, scones, even pancakes!) you come up with.

So: Sourdough starter is flour, water and a wild yeast that, yes indeed, creates a ferment. Ferment creates alcohol and gas, which is the leavening that we are looking for.

The ferment in the bread making process also fundamentally changes the flavour and the structure of the gluten in the finished product. I could devote 100 pages to what is going on with bread starters and natural bread making. It’s all on the internet but I will integrate my spin on it here if anyone is interested (use the comment field!) Anyway. Onwards.

This recipe is a “spiked” sourdough – meaning there is some powdered yeast that is going to accelerate the process – significantly – reducing some of the nutritional benefits of the longer “ferment”.

Ingredients

1 cup sourdough starter
1 1⁄2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar or 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 -4 cups flour (1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat.)
butter, melted

Instructions
Lightly oil two 1/2 dozen muffin tins (or 3 for smaller rolls)
In a large mixing bowl combine starter, water, yeast, salt, sugar and oil.
Stir in flour, adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough is manageable.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead well.
Place dough in a bowl and cover, set in a warm place to double in size.
When double, punch dough down and with lightly floured hands, form into rolls.
Place in muffin tins and let rise until doubled then bake approximately 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
Last 5 minutes of baking, brush with melted butter and return to oven.

These are mad delicious right out of the oven – this recipe makes 12 big rolls or 18 slightly smaller rolls. You can freeze them as well, but trust me: They are not going to last!

Living with the Zoom H24 24-channel digital recorder

Recently one of my colleagues at the University of Victoria loaned me one of his studio tools that he was thinking of parting with – The Zoom H24 24-channel digital portable recorder.

Now for the record, way back when I first started recording multi-track style I was using a cassette tape based TASCAM 244 – 4 tracks of audio on a cassette… and that was mono tracks. Granted, the Beatles recorded some amazing music on recorders not much bigger than that… but I am not them.

Anyway. Armed with a couple of good microphones, headphones, a guitar, ukulele and a bass guitar I came up with a bunch of sample demos (warts and all…) way faster than I could have on my PC based audio work-station. Here is one. Trust me: Listen on headphones or ear buds!

Gear: APEX Floating plate microphone and Shure SM81 condensor microphone.
Cort acoustic guitar, Kala Ukulele, Godin bass – and three vocals provided by yours truly.

The Zoom H24 digital recorder is jam packed with features and to be honest, I likely utilized less than 5% of its capabilities. For instance, the R24 offers eight inputs on combo connectors that can accept either XLR or ¼” balanced or unbalanced cables.

Click on any image for the bigger view!

All inputs can handle mic/line/instrument level signals, and Input 1 can also handle low impedance signals from passive electric guitars and basses.

I took advantage of the phantom power (+24 or +48 volts) which can be applied to up to six inputs, allowing the use of professional grade condenser and floating plate microphones. I use Chinese made APEX cardioid patterned plate microphones at around 1/10th the price of a German made Neumann U-87 (which sounds utterly dreamy with the right voice!) and for my voice, it’s just fine. I use the SM81 for picking up some of the features of my acoustic guitars but plugging directly into the R24 works just as well.

The Zoom H24 can record 8 tracks at the same time and works really well if you are a band that wants good isolation for fine tuning after a recording session. I found that I could easily eat up 8 tracks with just a couple of guitars or a ukulele and some vocal harmonies. Another great feature is the ability to bounce, swap or transfer tracks around with the press of a button. Example: I have my microphones plugged into inputs 2 and 3. When I get the take that I am happy with, I “bounce” those tracks over to Channels 4 and 5 and carry on (having now left tracks 2 and 3 to record on again.)

The Zoom H24 has velocity sensitive drum pads and built in rhythms – and I never got anywhere near them. There are hundreds of effects for most electric stringed instruments and a wide variety of mastering algorithms for mix-downs that I could literally fill a page commenting on. Bottom line: If you are a singer or guitar player or podcaster who wants to produce broadcast ready materials or demo’s worthy of a listen with the pro’s, this could be the right tool for you.

In the following “sample” I used a single APEX microphone to record one lead vocal, two harmonies, 3 tracks of guitar picking or strumming, an electric bass track and a ukulele – there is at least one jarring rhythmic error in this track but you get the general idea. Singing and playing aside, it is pretty amazing what you can do quickly.

The manual is fairly helpful but you do need some background in the concepts of recording and mixing – and there are a few useful YouTube videos for getting started.

Break it to them gently – with the ZOOM H24 24-channel digital recorder

Break-it-to-them-gently-2018.mp3

Thanksgiving – Life in the coffee time-tunnel

Way back in 2008, I popped into Cafe Roma on Commercial Drive in Vancouver – a cafe that has more than a little history for this old part of Vancouver and for me, a big piece of childhood memory too!

One sunny mid-week Spring day, Dave, a contributor to the CoffeeCrew.com website, and I sample the espressos and cappuccinos and taste some delightful locally baked treats.

It reminded me of a unseasonably hot June of 1968, some 40 years earlier, as I walked down East 6th Avenue, Vancouver, towards Commercial Drive.

This was the first trip off of Vancouver Island and the first trip on the fairly new B.C. Ferries and what started as a day trip turned into an overnight adventure as mom decided to hook up with some cousins in the big city.

Mom, who grew up in a multicultural enclave in Montreal, Quebec and spoke 3 languages, including conversational Italian, had brought me over to Vancouver for the weekend to visit the Pacific National Exhibition and to see a piece of the big city. And what a cultural shock it was for a 11 year old to see something so different than sleepy small town Victoria B.C.

Mom’s cousins lived on East 6th Avenue around 2 or 3 blocks from Commercial Drive – a big old character house the likes of which I had never seen before. The original block of houses remain in Vancouver to this day and walking the tree lined sidewalks in 2018 is like a trip through a time tunnel.

On a Saturday morning in June 1968 I started the day with my cousin Dennis by heading out for an exploration. Only in the late 60’s would it seem perfectly normal for a couple of 11 year olds to head out into the urban jungle for a look see.

Turning onto Commercial Drive on this sunny Saturday late morning, Dennis and I walked down wide sidewalks past Italian delis, corner grocers and bustling cafes.

The street had a life of its own. From a child’s perspective, everything seemed brighter, louder, busier and decidedly more fragrant. For a naive kid from small town Victoria, I might as well have been on another planet.

The aroma of strong coffee, cured ham and fresh fruit drifted over the concrete beneath my feet. I stopped for a moment in front of a busy cafe. It seemed to be packed with men, young, old, mostly old men entangled in a circle of loud conversation and broad hand gestures. They spoke Italian, a language my Montreal raised mother used with me when she was displeased.

A young couple caught my eye. They seemed disconnected from this humming umbilical of community.

A girl, likely in her twenties, wore a canary yellow sun-dress and her male friend a wool suit. The suit seems softened by a few years worth of wear and somewhat sticky considering that it was a hotter than usual summer. Between his sips of strong looking coffee from an impossibly small cup and her demurely drawing from something that looked like a milkshake, they talked in a musical banter – words only they appeared to understand.

Dennis grabbed my shoulder and pulled me along. I looked back at the couple nodding and laughing. The girls hair moved up and down held in place by a daisy-yellow hair broach. Now walking again, Dennis steered me into a green grocers hardly a door away from the cafe. With 90 cents in my pocket, a lot of money for 1968, I bought a Butter-finger chocolate bar, some pixie-sticks (fizzy candy in a paper tube) and a cola.

We exited the store and turned left towards the cafe again.

Caffe Roma is now buzzing louder as we strode towards my cousin’s avenue. The table where the young couple sat was now empty save for a cup and a glass. I spot them exiting onto the boulevard, hand in hand, her dress burning a permanent image into my mind, the itchy smell of his suit offering contrast. They vanished into a pulsating hive of urban humanity – a Saturday morning blend of shoppers, smokers, the odd smattering of fashionably clad hipsters and one wide-eyed child – me.

I look in the cafe window again flashing forward to the present. I stand outside of Caffe Roma on Commercial Drive and time has stood still just for me. The reflection in the window looks alternately young and slightly older.

Clouds pass by offering a broad selection of flattering light. CoffeeCrew contributing member Dave watches me for a moment before holding the door.

“Colin, let’s get some coffee…” he says.

The smells and sounds of the the Cafe and the street envelope me like an old gloved hand. For a moment I hold in my palm the paper tubes of fizzy candy and a half-eaten chocolate bar. Dave asks again, “What are you going to have, Colin?”

I order my usual when I am in a cafe for the first time – double espresso and a snack. In this case, they have very tasty looking apple turnovers. I get one.

The intensity of the Italian coffee and the tangy sweetness of the pastry are the perfect match. As I sip the beverage and feel the caffeine perking within me, I can almost hear the whispered conversations of the young lovers from so long ago at a nearby table. Where are they now? Have the years been kind? Most likely, their grandchildren are half-grown up, much as I was in 1968. I think about my marriage, now almost 2 decades in length, and how in places like these, time just stands still.

In the final moments before we leave for our next stop on the drive, the owner pops by to gather up our spent cups. I tell him the coffee is fabulous. His expression is priceless and without words – a combination of ‘of course it is son…’ and ‘I have a cafe to run today…’

As we step onto the still vibrant sidewalk of Commercial Drive, two ten year old boys approach on skate boards. One sails past me like a low flying seagull.

The other swishes to a stop and is immediately hypnotized by the activity in the cafe, the noise, the smells, the starling chatter of the old men.

The cycle continues season by season, year by year through the generations. We are thankful for our memories and the time we have ahead of us. Thanks for the memories Vancouver!

A few months later in 1968, Jimi Hendrix would play a stellar concert at the Pacific Coliseum and a couple of weeks before I arrived in Vancouver Robert Kennedy would be assassinated in Los Angeles during his presidential bid. Here in 2018, Caffe Roma is now part of the history books – but while in Vancouver, you can visit The Drive – Do so. You will be glad you did.

Living with the Instant Pot – Pot in pot steel cut oats

We have had our Instant Pot less than 1 week and we are firmly in love with it. Ours is the 1000W 6 quart. We have a 7.5” Steel bowl that we put to use for a “pot in pot” process classic.

What is pot in pot? Well, you add the requisite cup and a half of water to the bottom of the Quick pot stainless steel insert. Drop in the trivet. And then drop in a suitable bowl that fits well. The 7.5” standard stainless steel bowl is perfect. Doing porridge or oats this well takes a few minutes longer BUT it is as tasty (if not more so) and the clean up is a breeze!

Measure out 1 cup steel cut oats.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the oats
Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the oats
Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.

Combine.

Add 2 1/2 cups of cold water into the mix – stir well.

Peel and chop one apple into small cubes.
Add to mixture.

Add this to your 7.5” stainless steel bowl and put on top of the trivet into the Quick Pot – that already has a minimum of 1 cup of water (I add 1.5 cups water for good measure).

There is a porridge setting for the Quick Pot. So, when you are ready – locked and loaded as it were: Press the porridge preset and you are off to the races. Steam time is 7 – 10 minutes and 10 minutes of natural pressure release.

We add pecans, dried apricot bites and dried cranberries to the oats (and some milk, cream or almond milk) but the options are as limitless as your imagination.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert always on the look out for something simple and delicious.