Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

I acquired an Instant Pot a couple years ago for Christmas. When I first used it, I basically viewed it as a super fast Crock Pot and didn’t explore any of its unique functions. My parents would tell me about the dishes they used it to make – curry, fish, ribs, the list goes on – but I never experimented on my own. Its main use in my kitchen was to cook chicken at a high speed.

Clearly I’ve been under-utilizing the Instant Pot. I have a cookbook with 200 recipes, a Pinterest account, and access to the internet, so there’s reason to neglect this small appliance anymore.

My initial inspiration for dusting off my Instant Pot was a craving for Indian food. My dad’s made a couple Indian dishes in his Instant Pot that my mom’s raved about, which tempted me to read some recipes. I found a recipe for chicken tikka masala and decided I needed to try.

Cooking with the Instant Pot was simple. Seriously, it couldn’t be easier, and I can’t believe I didn’t try before. There are a variety of settings which makes it so versatile, but the settings are few enough that it isn’t overwhelming and hard to screw up if you follow the recipe. An added bonus is how easy clean up is, because there aren’t many pots and pans used. Many recipes only require the use of one pot. I’ll definitely be using the Instant Pot more often.

Other reasons I need to use the Instant Pot more often are to perfect this recipe, and be able identify potential flaws in other recipes. This dish lacked flavor, and I only used half the chicken called for. Had I used the correct amount, it would have been so bland. Next time I’ll add a little more spice. I’ll also add some vegetables. Potatoes or bell peppers would be a welcomed addition, bringing texture and flavor.

The dish wasn’t all bad, though. The chicken was tender and I got to eat basmati rice, which I love and don’t eat often enough. I’m excited to experiment more with the Instant Pot, and to make more Indian dishes.

Recipe from The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Marante

Lemon Dill Hummus

Mid-December my coworker and I took a day-long business trip, and she was tasked with supplying appetizers for a meeting. She picked up lemon dill hummus on a whim, and neither of us could quit raving about it for weeks to come. This week I was craving hummus and decided to recreate that Sabra magic in my own kitchen.

I used this classic hummus recipe and added an extra lemon and dill to taste. Another edit I made to the recipe was peeling the skins off the chickpeas before mashing them in the food processor, per my aunt’s tip. This made for a super smooth texture and took away any grit that sometimes accompanies hummus.

My entire week was spent munching on this hummus with fresh cucumber slices. A perfect summer snack!

Quick Summer Meal

As much as I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, some weeks I’d rather just eat cereal for supper, and this has been one of those weeks. Sadly, I ran out of Raisin Bran and my only option was to cook. Since my pantry failed me and I had to make something, I decided it was going to require very little effort, so I settled for the easiest of all dinners: a sheet pan meal.

Sheet pan meals are a dream when you’re lazy, and I often am. There are endless options, they taste amazing, and they’re nutritious. I opted for lemon chicken and bacon-wrapped asparagus. Here’s what to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butterfly 1 chicken breast and pound down so it’s an even thickness throughout. Place on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and lemon pepper. Wrap 2 bundles of asparagus stalks in slices of raw bacon. Place on the baking sheet with the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Bake for 25 minutes.

I love sheet pan meals. Simple, quick, delicious. I see more in my future.

Chicken Pizza Quesadilla

I had every intention of running to the grocery store today, but time seemed to tick faster than usual and spending the evening watching television in my pajamas was far more appealing. In an effort to consume something more substantial than raisin bran, I scoured my larder for makeshift meal ingredients. My promising findings consisted of chicken, tortillas, leftover pizza sauce, and cheese, resulting in a chicken pizza quesadilla. All the best recipes are created in desperation, right?

To make: start by cooking 1 breast of cubed chicken in oil over medium heat. Salt and pepper. In a separate pan, melt 1/2 tbsp butter over medium heat and lay a tortilla in the pan. In the pan with the chicken, simmer 1 cup of pizza sauce. Top the tortilla with the chicken and pizza sauce mixture and add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Add another tortilla on top. Once the bottom tortilla is crispy, flip the quesadilla and leave in pan until the second tortilla is crispy. Remove from the pan and enjoy!

Lemon Chicken Pasta for One

In case I haven’t publicly professed my adoration for pasta enough, let me do so once more: I love pasta. Therefore, in my quest to amass an arsenal of recipes for one, I need a trove of pasta recipes. One with a lemon butter sauce and wilted spinach is of utmost importance to perfect.

To start, boil linguine in salt water. Use about 1/8-1/6 of the box. Cut up half a chicken breast into small cubes, salt and pepper, and cook in an oiled pan over medium heat. Melt 1/4 stick of butter in the pan and add 1/8 tsp of minced garlic and 1/8 tsp of parsley. While butter is melting, add 1/2 cup of spinach and the juice of 1 lemon. Add noodles once al dente. Toss to smother noodles in lemony, buttery deliciousness.

Making this dish couldn’t be simpler, and when portions are smaller, ingredients cook faster making time in the kitchen minimal. And, although it’s pasta, it’s pretty light, making it a great weeknight summer meal. Enjoy!

Chicken Piccata

When I was 18, I ordered chicken piccata for the first time, and my life was forever changed. With tender chicken, a rich and flavorful lemon butter sauce, and salty capers, it’s impossible not to swoon over this Italian dish. Chicken piccata is a meal I order any time I see it on a menu, and after learning how quick and easy it is to cook, I wanted to recreate this palatable entrée at home.

When choosing a recipe, I was sure use one created by someone with a penchant for Italian cooking, so I chose Giada De Laurentiis’s. I adapted it slightly to serve one instead of four, and to fit my palette, which has an affinity for anything salty and lemony. This required lessening the amount of meat, oil, and butter, but adding extra capers and lemon juice.

For the chicken, I butterflied one breast and pounded it down, which I will be doing any time I sauté chicken moving forward, as this gives the chicken a more consistent thickness, allowing it to cook evenly throughout. No one wants pink chicken. I used my meat tenderizer, but a rolling pin works, too. However, if you use a rolling pin, be sure to cover your chicken with cling wrap beforehand to avoid sticking.

Next I dredged each piece of lightly seasoned chicken and placed them in the pan already teeming with oil and butter. While those cooked, I readied a mixture to deglaze the pan and serve as the base of my sauce, which consisted of lemon juice, capers, and pasta water. The recipe called for chicken stock, but I opted for pasta water since it has more flavor than pure water.

After the chicken had cooked on both sides, I let it rest while I deglazed the pan, added butter, and simmered the sauce. Minutes later I added the chicken back in, taste-tested, and seasoned a bit more. All that was left to do was play “That’s Amore,” open a bottle of red wine, and pretend I was in Italy. Okay, I didn’t do that, but I should have. Next time.

What I actually did was prepare a plate and snap a quick and, sadly, unappealing picture before devouring my incredibly satisfying meal. I’m happy to spend hours cooking and baking to make something delicious, but I wish the joy of savoring food weren’t so ephemeral. My scrumptious piccata was gone just as quickly as it came. Thankfully it’s easy to make, so I’ll be enjoying it again soon. Maybe next time over mashed potatoes or arugula. The joy of eating may be fleeting, but the joy of cooking is eternal.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/chicken-piccata-recipe2-1913809

BBQ Chicken Nachos

Quarantine’s got me craving comfort food, and comfort food is just a euphemism for carbs. I try not to keep tortilla chips, one of my favorite carbs, at home because I’d eat chips and salsa for every meal, but the world’s in a crisis, so I have two party-size bags of tortilla chips in my cupboard. What better way to utilize tortilla chips and indulge in comfort food than nachos?

Traditional nachos are amazing, but I was in the mood for a twist. A barbecue chicken twist. I slow cooked the chicken for eight hours on low in my own concoction of apple juice, brown sugar, chili powder, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Typically I slow cook my barbecue chicken in root beer and a store-bought barbecue sauce, but this time I eschewed my go-to in favor of my own flavor, which was a total experiment.

After four hours in the slow cooker, I tasted the marinade to check the flavor and shred the chicken. I added more brown sugar to thicken the marinade, however it already was incredibly sweet, so I also added garlic powder, more salt, and red pepper flakes. Another four hours later I celebrated every spice I added and congratulated myself for shredding the chicken when I did. Shredding the chicken halfway through cooking allowed it to soak in all the flavor and moisture, giving it both an appealing color and robust taste when complete.

I wanted to incorporate some elements of a traditional plate of nachos, so I opted for Pico de Gallo. Pico is equal parts delicious and easy to make. All it takes is a chopped onion, chopped tomato, chopped jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste. So fresh, so simple. The perfect flavors to top barbecue chicken.

In addition to Pico de Gallo, I topped my nachos with a simple cheese sauce. To make this, I melted butter; added and simmered milk; seasoned with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne to taste; folded in shredded cheddar and mozzarella; and stirred until melted. Whipping up these toppings couldn’t be easier.

Once all my toppings were prepared, it was time to assemble. The secret to good nachos is similar to dressing when you’re unsure of the weather: lots of layers. My layers were chips, chicken, chips, chicken, cheese, Pico. Toppings can be layered and alternated with chips in any preferred order and should be ubiquitous to ensure a desirable chip-to-topping ratio.

The nachos were tasty: ample toppings, symbiotic flavors, balanced textures. And while I enjoyed my meal, I likely won’t use the leftover chicken for another plate of nachos. I received the comfort for which I was searching, and now I’m ready for something new. Thankfully barbecue chicken is versatile and can be used for several dishes, or eaten on its own. But I’m more thankful that I now have two dips for devouring all my tortilla chips. The party-size bags won’t last long.

Croissants

I made croissants. I grappled over what clever story to seamlessly infuse into this post, but ultimately landed on a straightforward introduction. There’s no motive, no purpose. I just love croissants and wanted to trying making them from scratch, so I did.

And let me be clear: baking croissants is a PROCESS. It’s a process that requires fastidiousness and tenacity. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but it is time-consuming and demands attention to detail. It takes an entire day before you’re able to bask in the flaky, buttery goodness that is this French specialty. If they weren’t so tasty, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. However, if you love croissants and love baking, it’s a worthwhile process.

These layered wonders are labor-intensive and involve many steps, most of which are rolling out dough, folding, and refrigerating. The first step, though, is to mix the dough and chill overnight, a quick beginning in stark contrast to the subsequent steps.

The next day of baking begins by cutting butter into 1/2 inch pieces, arranging them into a square, and rolling, and rolling, and rolling. Rolling butter is tough. The pats are sandwiched between two pieces of parchment paper, and parchment paper is incredibly slippery. Rolling and beating down butter is exponentially harder when it’s slipping and sliding like a wet bar of soap. I tried holding the parchment paper in place with various items on my counter, but all attempts were futile. Flattening a butter square to its proper size is achievable, but not without significant effort. I’ll be nursing rolling pin blisters for the foreseeable future.

Once the butter is flattened, it goes back into the fridge to chill while the dough is rolled out. Thankfully the difficultly of rolling out the butter was offset by the ease of rolling out the dough. Once the dough is wide enough, the butter is laid in the center and the outlying flaps are folded around the butter, rolled out, folded again, and chilled. These steps are repeated a few more times, each with a nuanced fold. This results in those flaky, buttery layers. After folding the dough more times than you’d fold paper to make an origami bird, the dough’s chilled for an additional two hours.

Two hours later the time comes to roll out the dough a once more. This takes about as much time as rolling out the butter as the dough needs to span nearly three feet before it’s thin enough to be cut into triangles and rolled up to proof. The dough yields twelve rolls with ends left over.

I tasted the leftover dough out of pure curiosity, and no dough, no batter, no mix of any kind has ever been so delicious. The only explanation is the butter center that seamlessly spread throughout the entire dough with every fold. Butter really does make everything better.

I left to run to the grocery store while my dough proofed, and came home to dough that was exactly the same size, just a bit puffier. I concluded the baking sheets weren’t in a warm enough spot for the dough to rise, so I moved them under a light and turned up the heat. After rereading the recipe I discovered that the dough doesn’t need to get much bigger, just swell a bit, and decided that, twenty-seven hours after starting, my croissants were ready to be baked.

Although they didn’t turn out picturesque, the croissants tasted delicious. These little wonders are everything: buttery, flaky, savory and sweet. The layers are worth every second I spent pounding the butter into oblivion. I’m not sure who first baked croissants, but I owe him or her my sincerest thanks and praise. What an invention. On par with microwaves, if you ask me.

One Thanksgiving, maybe 6 years ago, my mom made store-bought crescent rolls. The little pop-open roll yielded about eight rolls, and I am the only person at the table who ate one. And by one, I mean all eight. I ate every single roll before my mom could even suggest passing them around the table. I absolutely love crescent rolls, but homemade croissants are better. Mom, I think next Thanksgiving you can skip the crescent rolls. I’ll bring these instead.

The recipe called for a double egg wash, one before the proof and one immediately before baking, so I tried one pan with the double egg wash and one pan without. Next time I’ll skip it entirely and see what happens, as I’m not sure the egg wash was entirely necessary.
Recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/homemade-croissants-5277802