10.15.2014

Three Bean Chili (Pressure Cooker Friendly)

As I'm sure you guys have seen on my blog, my Facebook, and my Twitter and Instagram accounts, that I am OBSESSED with my new pressure cooker, the Instant Pot IPDUO-60.  Here are some of my favorite things about it:

It has made my kitchen cleaner.  Not only do I not require different pots and pans to saute, steam, and cook everything, but I haven't had to cook separate meals for my husband because he has been enjoying a lot of what I have been making. (More about the husband in another post.)  Also, as the Instant Pot is heating up, cooking, and depressurizing, I can easily have time to clean all of my prep dishes, set the table, and set out Tupperware for any leftovers.  The Instant Pot itself is also super easy to clean!  I made oatmeal the other day with not quite enough liquid, so some stuck to the bottom.  I had it washed out in just a few minutes with soap and water.  No scrubbing!

It has made me more sane.  Not only has cooking with the Instant Pot been easier to clean, it has given me back some sanity when I'm in the kitchen.  Instead of running back and forth between sauteing, chopping, and stirring, I can set my meal to go and leave it until its ready (or when I'm ready, thank you warmer).  No stirring involved!  And because the Instant Pot cooks faster than other methods, I don't feel like I NEED to multi-task to get a meal on the table in a timely matter.  I have been enjoying getting all of my ingredients ready to go, then starting with the Instant Pot, rather than jumping from the cutting board, to the stove top, then sink, and back again.

It has made my kitchen quieter.  When I imagined getting a pressure cooker, I was thinking it would be loud and make noises similar to a steaming teapot.  Wrong!  The only time the Instant Pot isn't perfectly quiet is when the lid opens and closes (happy little notes), it beeps to let me know it has started and finished, if you are sauteing something (which goes really quickly because it can get so hot), and if you do a quick release of pressure rather than a natural release at the end of cooking.  I'm sure Kevin would tell you (as he is trying to watch football) that my old kitchen cooking with pots and pans was much more disruptive.

It has helped me to be better organized.  Many of the recipes I have made so far include dried beans.  Because of this, I have been planning what I will be making a day or two before so that I can soak the beans while I am at work the day that I plan on using them.  I feel like I can also plan for the perfect amount of leftovers for lunch the next day for Kevin and I.  When I used to make things on the stove, I would have a difficult time estimating quantities and end up with too much food.  I would get sick of the leftovers and have to toss a lot out.

It makes meals more flavorful.  When cooking meals in the pressure cooker, you often have to add more amounts of spices, probably due to the lack of evaporation in the recipe and the reduced time in cooking.  That being said, once you do add the extra spices, your food comes out cooked perfectly and wonderfully flavorful.  I have found that I haven't wanted to add salt to anything I have cooked in my Instant Pot.

It has saved and is going to save us money.  Let's do a little bean math!  Just in this last week alone, I have made recipes with the equivalent of about 15 cans of beans (Keep in mind that my husband has been eating 1.5+ cups of beans a day, and we had my parents over to visit for the weekend).  At my grocery store, a can of low sodium beans costs around $1, making our weekly bean consumption equal to $15 worth of cans.  BUT, because of the pressure cooker, I have been using dried beans in all of our meals.

15 cans = 22.5 cups of beans
1 lb dried beans = 8 cups cooked beans
1 lb dried beans = $2
22.5 cups beans = 2.8 lbs dried beans = $5.63

That saves almost $10 in one week alone!  That equates to over $500 in savings over a year.  That number alone makes the pressure cooker worth the money!

Now, on to the recipe!  I made this in my pressure cooker as adapted from Lorna Sass' Black Bean Chili recipe from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  I started with her recipe and added in extra veggies, different beans, and different spices.  While this recipe was made in a pressure cooker, it can easily be done on the stove top or in a crock pot with pre-cooked beans (amounts in parenthesis).  Please see the instructions below for each adaptation.

Three Bean Chili
Time: 
    Pressure Cooker: 10 minutes prep, 12 minutes high pressure, 10 minute natural pressure release
    Stove top: 10 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking (with canned beans)
    Crock pot: 10 minutes prep, 4 hours high/8 hours low (with canned beans)
Servings: 6-8


Ingredients:
    Soak:
        2/3 cup dried black beans, soaked for 8 hours (or 1 1/2 cup cooked black beans/1 can)
        2/3 cup dried pinto beans, soaked for 8 hours (or 1 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans/1 can)
        2/3 cup dried red beans, soaked for 8 hours ( or 1 1/2 cup cooked red or kidney beans/1 can)

    Saute:
        1 tsp cumin seeds
        2 cups onion, chopped
        1 Tbsp minced garlic

    Add:
        3 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth, boiling
        3/4 cup carrots, chopped, about 2 carrot sticks
        1/4 cup celery, chopped, about 1 celery stick)
        1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
        2 Tbsp mild chili powder
        1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
        1 1/2 tsp cumin
        1 tsp smoked paprika
        1/2 tsp coriander
        1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

    After Pressure Cooking:
        1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
        1-14.5 oz can tomato sauce

    Topping Ideas:
        fresh cilantro
        fresh parsley
        cashew sour cream (recipe from Helyn's Healthy Kitchen)
        green onions
        nutritional yeast
        roasted red peppers
        black olives
        favorite hot sauce
        shredded vegan cheese



Pressure Cooker Instructions:
1.)  Rinse and pick over all of the dried beans.  In a large bowl combine all of the dried beans and cover with water.  Allow to soak for at least 8 hours.  Drain and rinse after soaking.
2.)  In the pressure cooker, saute the cumin seeds, onion, and minced garlic for 5 minutes, adding vegetable broth or water to prevent burning as needed.
3.)  Add the remaining ingredients, reserving the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for after pressure cooking.  Stir well and lock lid into place, with the venting valve closed.  Set to manual high pressure for 12 minutes.  Once 12 minutes are up, allow the pressure cooker to go into warming mode for 15 minutes.
4.)  After 15 minutes, turn the warming unit off and quick release any remaining pressure, OR allow pressure to come all the way down naturally.  Stir in the can of diced tomatoes and can of tomato sauce.  Allow to cool and thicken with the lid off if time allows.  If you find the chili isn't thick enough, blend 1-2 cups in a high speed blender and return to the pot, or use an immersion blender.
5.)  Serve hot with any of the topping ideas above.



Stove top Instructions:
1.) Drain and rinse the 3 cans of beans.
2.) In a large dutch oven, saute the cumin seeds, onion, and minced garlic on high heat for 5 minutes, adding vegetable broth or water to prevent burning as needed.
3.)  Add the remaining ingredients including the diced tomato and tomato sauce.  Stir well to incorporate.
4.)  Bring to a boil, and then lower heat.  Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may need to add more liquid as needed to achieve your desired chili consistency.  If you find the chili isn't thick enough, blend 1-2 cups in a high speed blender, or use an immersion blender.
5.)  Serve hot with any of the topping ideas above.

Crock pot Instructions:
1.) Drain and rinse the 3 cans of beans.
2.) In a frying pan on the stove top, saute the cumin seeds, onion, and garlic for 5 minutes.
3.) Add all ingredients, including the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, to the crock pot.  Stir well to incorporate.
4.)  Cook covered in the crock pot on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  You may need to add more liquid as needed to achieve your desired chili consistency.  If you find the chili isn't thick enough, blend 1-2 cups in a high speed blender, or use an immersion blender.
5.)  Serve hot with any of the topping ideas above.

Amy's Notes:
I have not tried this recipe on the stove top or crock pot, but I assume the results will be deliciously similar.

With the pressure cooker method, you can decrease the cooking time even more by using canned/cooked beans.  If this is the case, I would reduce the cooking time at high pressure to 7 minutes with a natural pressure release.  Just use your best judgement as you change the recipe!

This chili is wonderfully flavorful!  I have been enjoying it on its own with some of the toppings above, but it would also be great served on any type of baked potato; with a cooked whole grain like brown rice, barley, or quinoa; or with tortilla chips on the side.  This time, I served mine with nutritional yeast, cilantro, green onions, and roasted red pepper.

Health and Happiness,

Amy

10.10.2014

Flu Shots and Why I don't get them

Hi everyone!  I wanted to write a quick post about flu shots, as it seems to be about that season.  At my work, our health insurance offers flu shots to anyone who wants them for free.  So if they are free, why don't I participate, you might ask.  Good question!

Ok, this is NOT a post to try to guilt anyone into getting or not getting a flu shot.  I just thought I would present my personal reasons for not getting one in case anyone could identify with me and make a more conscious decision for themselves whether or not to get the flu vaccine.  It should be noted that I am not a health care professional, but have done research in understanding how vaccines work and have my own opinions as a result of that research.  I encourage all others to be active learners when it comes to their own health, and to please consult a physician as necessary.

Often times when I ask people why they get a flu shot, they give me reasons like "well, just because I always do", "doesn't everyone?", and "because it was free, so why not?".  I don't know about you, but I would like to make more educated decisions about my body and what goes into it than just saying "why not?".

I have never gotten a flu shot in my life (nor do I ever plan on getting one), and I can probably count the times I have had the flu on one hand, give or take.  All of the times I had the flu, I was a child or teenager and was in school, where sharing germs is as regular as sharing homework answers.  Often times, as my mom would undoubtedly well remember, my two older brothers and I would catch the flu from each other and result in a household of passing around the flu for a week or two.

First off, now I am 24 and I haven't had the flu since I was in high school.  Even when I was in college and the swine flu was spreading like wildfire around my campus, I didn't get so much as an upset stomach.  When I'm going on the better part of a decade not having the flu, I don't see why I would want to get the shot.  It would be like loading extra air into your car tires unnecessarily because you got a flat tire once.

Secondly, each year's flu shot is designed to protect against the "most likely" flu virus strains of the year as predicted by CDC (Center for Disease Control) research.  So what happens if an uncommon flu virus springs up (such as the swine flu in 2009)?  It doesn't matter if you have the flu shot or not, you're just as vulnerable as everyone else.  From the CDC:

"How effective is the flu vaccine?  How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. [...] During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it’s possible to measure substantial benefits from vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness. However, even during years when the vaccine match is very good, the benefits of vaccination will vary across the population, depending on characteristics of the person being vaccinated and even, potentially, which vaccine was used."

So if the vaccine isn't well match for the year, "tough sh*t", and even if it is well matched it might not work for you for a multitude of reasons.  If a vaccine has such ambiguity surrounding its effectiveness, why would you want to put a foreign matter in your body with the ability to affect your immune system in any way?

Thirdly, I believe in relying more on your own immune system than in medicines and vaccines.  I am a firm believer that the best thing we can do for the immune system is to give your body whole, nutritious plant foods and let it do its job.  I don't like to get in my immune system's way of trying to take care of me.

Even if I do get sick with a common cold, I don't throw cold and cough medicine down my throat.  I make sure to load up on more veggies and drink plenty of water, as well as clean common surfaces and change my bedding daily.  For an extra immunity boost, I like to get a couple of oranges and munch on those for some added Vitamin C.  I did just that with my cold I had on Monday and found that most of the bothersome symptoms were gone in a day, and I feel back to normal today (Friday).

Lastly, I don't find myself to be a high-risk individual for contracting the flu virus.  I work in an office at a personal desk, so I rarely share germs with others.  I have good hygiene habits, especially in public places (i.e. washing my hands and not touching public surfaces and then touching my mouth, eyes, nose).  I rarely, if ever am in contact with the elderly or young children, so I wouldn't have the risk of passing a virus on to someone more vulnerable.  I eat a diet filled with immune-supporting foods, rather than the Standard American Diet filled with immune-limiting foods.

With all of that being said, please remember to use your own judgement with your body and what you decide to put into it.  I am happy to hear others' opinions that are presented in a constructive and respectful manner, so please leave comments if you would like to add to the conversation.  Any and all offensive comments will be removed.

Health and Happiness,

Amy

10.09.2014

This Instant Pot and I are going to be best friends!

Hi folks!  Earlier this week, on Monday, I received one of two packages I had been waiting for: Lorna Sass' Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  I had mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I was looking into getting a pressure cooker and a cookbook to go along with it.  I settled on this cookbook, which was published in 1994, to start my love affair with pressure cooking because...

1.) Chef AJ recommends the book here,
2.) the reviews said that this cookbook is almost completely vegan besides occasional suggested cheese toppings that could be replaced with nutritional yeast if I really wanted,
3.) the reviews said that even non-vegetarians will love (a.k.a. my meat and potatoes husband), and
4.) most reviews raved about their favorite recipe and I wanted to TRY THEM ALL!

Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

After spending most of Monday evening reading soaking up its recipes and tips, and fantasizing about myself with a clean kitchen and an electric pressure cooker quietly and rapidly cooking my delicious healthy food, I hopped onto my computer to check the shipment tracking on the InstantPot IP-DUO60 that I had ordered at the same time as the book.

Amazon said it hadn't even been shipped! :(  I knew it was due to arrive anytime between October 7th to the 10th, but it was the 6th and it hadn't even left the warehouse!?!  Poo poo!

After going back to work on Tuesday (I took Monday off to recover from Leavenworth, and actually ended up with a little cold to nurse), I spent all day thinking about what recipes I wanted to make out of the book and how I wished my Instant Pot would get here sooner!

Around my lunch break on Tuesday, I checked with Amazon again for the tracking.  Hopefully it had left the warehouse by now....  It said "Delivered"!  How on earth that could happen is beyond me, but it was waiting at home for me!  After a few more hours crawled by, I left work to stop at my favorite farmer's stand to pick up some produce I would need, and then headed home.

I eagerly unpacked my produce and opened my lovely, large InstantPot package!

First thing I did: read the getting started directions of course, I am a woman!  Then I washed the new parts and started a quick soak on some chickpeas for a soup I was planning on making for dinner.  Normally I pre-soak my beans, but when a pressure cooker is just waiting to be used, a quick soak would have to do.

Little did I know, the pressure cooker also works to quickly quick-soak dried beans.  A normal quick soak involves bringing a pot with dried beans up to a boil for a few minutes, then allowing the beans to stand in the hot water off of the burner for 1 hour, before then cooking the beans for 2+ hours to get them edible.


A quick soak in a pressure cooker combined 1 cup of dried chickpeas (all I needed for the recipe, but it would fit more) with 3 cups of water.  I locked the lid and set the InstantPot to high pressure for 20 minutes, then allowed the pressure to come down naturally.  This took a total of about 35 minutes to quick soak, rather than 1 hour plus.  This step could also be avoided by soaking beans overnight, which I will do from now on, but this night I didn't expect my PC to be here so soon.

(Sorry, I wish I had more pictures of the process to share, but I was just too excited to get started that I forgot to grab my camera.  More pictures will be coming when I get the hang of things!)

While the beans were cooking, I prepped the ingredients for the soup, and even had time to clean up the kitchen.  After draining and rinsing the quick-soaked beans, I filled the pot with all of the ingredients for Lorna Sass' Chickpea Soup Italiano.  Set the pot for 16 minutes at high pressure, then allowed the pressure to come down naturally, for a total of around 30 minutes.

During the times the pot was cooking, there were no sounds, no dreaded hissing of the pressure cooker horror stories you may have heard.  There was actually no times that I felt that it felt unsafe, which is a relief.

I had the Chickpea Soup Italiano for dinner that night and it was delicious!  I sent Kevin to work with the leftovers from the half batch the next day. (His pictures aren't as pretty as mine would have been ;)).
Chickpea Soup Italiano from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

After packing away the leftover soup, I made a half batch of Lorna's Garlicy Lentil Soup.  Since lentils cook even faster than dried beans, this soup only needed 7 minutes at high pressure, with a natural pressure release.  I found that I needed to add a bit more stock at the end than it had called for, but it made for a nice thick lentil soup.  This was my lunch today and the day before, and the wonderful aroma alone may have convinced a coworker of mine to get the same pressure cooker.


Then, this morning I steamed my breakfast kale in it.  This went super quickly with only 3 minutes at high pressure and a quick release.  No pictures of this, sorry.

As you can tell, I'm super giddy about my new pressure cooker.  I may have a bit of an hiatus of creating recipes for the blog as I explore how to use this new wonderful contraption, but I will keep you guys posted on how I'm doing through some of my other social media accounts (see top right of blog for links).

Health and Happiness,

Amy